"I didn't think you would come." Billy greeted her the following day with a teasing grin.
"I gave you my word and here I am." Kate smiled as she lined up next to him to get her coffee.
It had taken her quite some time to get rid of her team. They didn't need to know that she was meeting with Billy; it would only draw more attention to her which was the last thing she wanted.
While slowly shuffling forward in the line they talked about yesterday's events. It was not the first time either of them had witnessed an incident like this and Kate was glad that she had gotten out of it unharmed.
Taking their coffee, Kate followed Billy to a table at the far end of the hall away from the noisy crowd. Small groups of people were splayed over the tables talking to each other. They sat down and observed the bustle for a while.
"This." Billy nodded in the direction where the noise was coming from. "It's driving me crazy sometimes. The noise, this cramped place. Not very helpful to come down after a mission."
"Yeah, tell me about that. Must be quite a change for you."
"Being in here, with all those people, and then heading out just with your spotter, completely alone. It's quite a difference."
Billy shook his head yes with a smile. She was a good observer and for someone he'd just met she knew him pretty well already. He liked her calm but playful manner and found himself very comfortable in her presence. Out of the spur of the moment, he made a decision.
"Come with me."
Kate shot him a questioning glance.
"We barely got here."
"I know. I want to show you something."
Reluctantly, Kate gulped down the rest of her coffee as she raised and followed Billy outside. They walked for about five minutes and she was about to ask what this whole this was about, when he suddenly stopped.
They were standing in front of a huge pile of empty boxes and all sorts of decommissioned gear. Kate, who'd never been to that part of the camp, shot her companion a questioning look.
"It's their backyard." he explained. "People rarely come here. That's why I like this place. It's quiet."
And Billy was right. As Kate took in her surroundings, she could not see a single soul. The noise of the more crowded parts of the camp was still there but it was a lot more muffled. She listened intently and even heard a bird sing.
What a peaceful moment in such a hostile place, she thought and a smile spread across her face.
"I knew you would like it." Billy said as he saw her smiling.
"Is that where you take all your girls?" she teased.
"No, but since I saw you disliking the noise and the packed camp as much as I do, I wanted to share this place with you." he said and the honesty and kindness in his voice made her temporarily speechless. "I come here when I want to relax. Just sit here, watch the others rush around."
"That's a nice idea." Kate smiled.
"Come." he said encouragingly, offering her a hand. She took it as she followed him up the pile. Once on top, they settled in front of some old boxes which had been used to transport ammunition to the camp. Leaning against them, they stretched out their legs and let their gaze wander over the camp. The pile was about 15 feet high providing a good overview on their surroundings.
"What do you think?" Billy asked her as he observed her askance.
"I really like it here, Billy. Thanks for showing me this spot." she replied with a genuine smile.
"You can come here whenever you want." he offered.
"No, I can't do that. It's your personal space to relax."
"I like to share." he smile with something in his voice that had Kate turn to him.
"Share as in 'You can come here when I am not' or share as in 'I could use some company.'?" she asked him.
Kate let out a little laughter as she caught him actually blushing.
"I don't know you very well, Billy Timmons, but you are a terrible liar."
"Fine, the latter." he could not help but reciprocate her smile.
They sat together talking about everything and anything for the next hours. Their hometowns back in the states, family, and friends. At some time, neither of them had the urge to talk anymore and they sat in a comfortable silence for a while, observing the soldiers walking around in the distance. Their mission, the war; it all seemed so far away for Kate. Then, suddenly, her pager went off. She silently cursed as she read the message.
"I have to go. Captain put us on backup patrol." she groaned and rose.
"When?" Billy asked.
"Departure in 10. I really need to go."
She was about to climb down the pile, but stopped. She turned to him, taking in the sight. Billy was leaning against the boxes, his stance relaxed but his eyes showing something she couldn't quite place yet.
"Thank you for showing me this place, Billy. It was really nice being here with you." she said with a genuine smile.
"Feel free to come here anytime." he replied returning her smile.
She nodded and was about to turn around, when she saw something in his eyes that made her halt. It was as if he was mentally debating with himself.
"When will I see you again?" he asked tentatively.
She gave him a small smile, quite humbled by his question.
"I don't know when we get back, but we keep in touch, OK?"
"I will." she said a little surprised about his farewell and finally descended the pile jogging back to the camp.
Billy watched her vanishing between the narrow rows of containers and sighed. For weeks he hadn't had the courage to talk to her and now she had been sitting with him the entire afternoon, chatting and laughing like they'd known each other their entire life. He really liked her and so he couldn't help but be worried about her heading out on a patrol; probably forced to engage in a fight once more. He couldn't quite explain this to himself, but he wanted her to be safe. He wanted her to return unharmed. He needed her to.
Back in New Orleans…
After being introduced to the men Billy was working with, Kate shook hands with each of his team members, but she could feel the reservedness and suspicion towards her. She had observed the strangers when Church had ordered their leader out of the room, so she decided not to take it personally.
Billy's voice roused her from her thoughts.
"What do you want to drink?"
"I'm fine, thanks." she turned down his offer, but the look he shot her had her laughing.
"Come on, Kate! We have to celebrate our reunion."
"Be careful what you wish for." she smirked as she saw the happy sparkle in his eyes. Absentmindedly, she wondered what had set him in such a good mood, but she had no time to ask him.
"Can you at least give me a hand with the drinks?" he asked nodding towards the counter.
She followed him through the crowd and watched him talking to the woman behind the counter. It was obvious they knew each other and again Kate wondered what had brought him to this place.
"So, Church recruited you on a mission?" Billy asked as they waited for their drinks to be prepared.
"I wouldn't use the word recruited." she rolled her eyes. Billy shot her a questioning look. "He left me no other option."
"And I have always thought that you wouldn't take shit from anybody." he smirked.
"Billy Timmons, watch your mouth." she scolded him teasingly. Their banter came so naturally; it was like they'd never been separated.
Their drinks were served and they headed back to Billy's friends. Kate had barely set down the last glass when a sharp voice made her stop in mid-motion.
"I suggest you don't get all too cozy with each other." Barney snarled, his hands probed up against his hips.
"I'm sorry?" she said, turning to face the man how appeared to be the leader of the group. The hostility in his eyes as he reciprocated her look made her nearly wince, but she didn't even blink.
"You will have plenty of time for your games later, Ross." Church interrupted the pair. "Let's sit down and talk."
Kate and Billy complied and watched Church and Barney Ross take their places at the table. The CIA handler came right to the point.
"A few days ago, we got wind of a weapons deal which is about to go down in Serbia. A man named Rafael Silva has come into possession of a program that could override the software of every US-missile stationed in Europe. Word is that Mr. Silva has no interest in using this technology but intends to sell it to the highest bidder. And that's where you come in."
"Don't you have enough people to pull this kind of job?" Lee asked.
"Seems like he hasn't." Barney muttered. Kate observed the short look the two exchanged, but remained silent.
"We have gathered Intel, that Mr. Silva has taken a particular interest to sell to some radical parts of the Russian militia. We will bring in Ms. Evans as a potential buyer to retrieve the software. It is absolutely necessary that you succeed." Church urged them. "We have to prevent that the former cold war turns into a hot one."
"Why do we need her specifically?" Barney asked, having heard this particular detail for the first time as well.
"Ms. Evans is fluent in Serbian and Russian and since your two last missions were a little…" he paused with a vicious look "… let's say dirty, I recommend you take someone who specializes into this kind of situations."
"We don't need her." Barney said.
"I don't ask you, Mr. Ross." Church said harshly as he rose. "I'll send you the details of the buy as soon as my contacts have set up a meeting with Silva. Till then you will prepare Ms. Evans for the mission. Good luck."
And without any further word, he was gone.
Kate as well as the Expendables watched him leave; thunderstruck. She'd expected to be part of some kind of covered op, but she'd never done any kind of undercover work. And when it came to eastern European militia groups she preferred to stay the hell out of their way instead of making some kind of business with them.
Now, Barney's voice roused her from her stiffness.
"Did you know about this?" he asked her harshly.
"No." she replied and crossed her arms in front of her chest. She could stand unfriendly people but it was not her fault that Church was forcing them to work together. "Look, I don't like this whole thing and obviously neither do you. But I suggest you get over whatever problem you've got with me because it's not gonna help to finish this assignment."
She took the pen and one of the napkins from the dispenser on the table and wrote down her phone number.
"Call me when to start with the preparations. Have a nice evening, Mr. Ross." she said with a fake smile and rose.
The seven men watched her exit the bar.
"She's got quite a personality." Lee chuckled as he watched Barney pick up the napkin.
"Haven't seen anything yet." Billy smirked recalling the memories of the last time somebody tried to mess with her.
"You know her?"
The sniper nodded.
"We served together and…"
"Wait, this is the woman you wanted to take some leave to find?" Barney almost gaped. Billy shot him an apologetic smile.
"She needs to watch her mouth." Barney stated.
"She's a good person." Billy replied, feeling the need to protect her reputation.
"Is she ready for this mission?"
From the few minutes he'd seen her, he could tell that she still was a fighter and hadn't lost her smart mouth. And concerning him, he'd seen her in far worse condition back in Afghanistan. But something had definitely changed. She wasn't doing this by her own free will.
"I don't know." he replied earnestly.
Weighing his options, Barney watched his youngest team member. He'd known Billy long enough to see that a caring person was hidden under the covers of a though sniper and what he'd told him outside the bar was still present in his mind. Though he didn't like to bring in a new person into his team Barney Ross trusted the Kid's opinion.
"Go and find out." he said with a small nod towards to door.
"Will do that, Sir."
While heading back to her car, Kate's thoughts kept wandering back to the encounter at the bar. Even though she was still angry with this guy Barney Ross and that he was questioning her ability to take care of herself and to do this kind of job, she could not help but be happy that she'd seen Billy.
Thinking about her friend, she wondered what had motivated him to work with these men. She'd expected him to be still in the service and she was curious why he wasn't anymore. Walking through the narrow alley towards the parking lot, she suddenly heard footsteps approaching her quickly. But not the innocent light kind, no; they were heavy and fast and she'd been there enough times to know that this wasn't just a random person passing her.
She continued her walk and when the stranger had almost caught up with her, she whirled around, drawing her gun and pointing it at the stranger.
"Don't you move or…" she was about to continue when she recognized the person she'd aimed at. "Jesus Christ, Billy! How many times have I told you not to sneak up to me from behind!" she exclaimed and lowered the gun.
"I'm sorry. I should have known better." he said with a mocking smile and she could not help but reciprocated it.
"Yeah, you should have."
FOB Griffin, Afghanistan. A few weeks later…
Shortly after Kate and her team headed out for patrol, Billy returned to his bunk. Dusk was approaching fast and he had to prepare for a multiday mission the next day.
Going out, surveillance, patrolling, coming back… the days dragged on without anything exciting to happen. Whenever he was at FOB Griffin he would go to the place he'd shown Kate to see if she was there. But neither was she there nor did she show at lunch or dinner.
Four weeks passed without any word from her. When Billy returned from yet another exhausting mission, he went straight to his hideout. It had been a long day and the sun was almost setting, but he needed to clear his head.
Making his way through the empty corridors between the containers he suddenly noticed someone walking in front of him. It was a woman and something about her height and slender but still athletic frame seemed familiar. As she rounded the next corner, heading straight for the pile of boxes, he recognized her. It was Kate. Billy smiled and quickened his steps to catch up with her.
He decided not to call for her since he didn't want anybody to know that they were here. His steps were smooth and almost silent. He had almost reached her and already stretched out his hand to stop her, when she suddenly whirled around drawing her gun aiming directly at him.
"Whoa, easy Kate! It's me. Billy." he said raising his hands defensively.
It took her a second to process the information. Then she lowered the gun, shoving it back into her holster with an angry sigh.
"Jesus, Billy! What's gotten into you?! Sneaking up on me from behind!" she shoved him back; still a little shaken that she'd drawn her gun on him.
"Sorry, I didn't know…" he trailed off as he saw the look in her eyes. "I'm sorry." he mumbled and stepped closer.
"Are you OK?"
"I wouldn't have come here if I was fine." she snapped at him.
"What happened? You can tell me, Kate." he said, his voice kind and calm as ever.
"That's none of your business." she fired back instantly regretting her outburst. "I'm sorry." She ruffled through her hair.
"Can we just sit down and not talk?" she asked with a pleading look.
"Yeah, sure." Billy replied and followed her up the pile, sitting down next to her.
For a while they fell silent, just gazing at the darkening sky and the camp being lit up sparsely.
"You've been injured." Billy said at some point. It wasn't a question.
Kate turned to him.
"How do you…"
"You favored your left side when you climbed up here." he simply stated.
He'd been there enough times to know that she wasn't going to talk until she was ready. He wouldn't push her. And eventually, after a few minutes, she sighed and repositioned herself carefully.
"We were on this routine foot patrol, when some insurgents suddenly popped up and decided to ambush us." she said in a small but measured voice. "The guys stationed with the trucks couldn't provide cover fire without endangering the locals so we had to make a run for the vehicles. One of my team got hit and I supported him while we were heading towards the others. Two people clutched together like this make a nice target. I took two to the back but they didn't go through my vest. Hey, relax." she chuckled as she heard Billy gasp. "I am fine. Just a few bruised ribs and a sprained wrist because the impact knocked me over."
She made a small pause collecting her thoughts.
"We made it safely to the trucks without any further injuries. My team mate will be back on his feet in a few days, just a flesh wound on his thigh."
"But that's great, right?" Billy said but Kate groaned.
"Yes, of course! We were lucky and I should be relieved and grateful, but all I can think about is what if. What if he'd aimed higher and hit an artery? What if the bullet had gone through his vest? I've never come to close to see a friend die and suddenly I was so afraid that something terrible could happen to my team, my friends…" she trailed off.
"You were worried about your team?" Billy shot her a disbelieving look. "It was you who took two shots to your vest! You could have died as well, Kate!" he exclaimed.
It took him a lot not to laugh at the thunderstruck look Kate shot at him.
"Me? But I was fine." she deadpanned.
Billy could no longer stay solid. A laugh escaped him as he shook his head in amazement.
"Kate Evans, you are the most selfless person I know."
The young woman remained silent for a few moments. When she spoke up again, her voice was barely a whisper, but Billy could make out the fear within.
"It was such a close call."
On the spur of the moment, he reached for her hand, entwining her fingers with his, squeezing it lightly. Kate shot him a confused look but didn't withdraw her hand.
"You're not alone on this. Not ever." Billy said quietly as he redirected his glance towards the camp.
"Thanks." Kate whispered as they sat in silence, enjoying each other's presence.
AN: Reviews are greatly appreciated!