Saturday, December 29, 2012

38 Weeks: The Sixteenth Week

A/N: Burn Notice romantic fluff with a side of angst. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.

On Friday of week sixteen, they went to a second adoption agency. This time, Michael didn't wear Armani. Fi dressed down, too, taking off her engagement ring, and though they both used their real names, they added thick southern accents.

By the time Michael was talking about having been laid off from his construction job three years earlier, and how he and Fi were the only support for his mother, who had dementia and tended to violent outbursts, the lady at this agency was very willing, eager practically, to sign them up as birth parents and let them start looking at prospective adoptive parents.

They spent seven hours looking at names and files and created a list of people they were deeply unenthusiastic about meeting.

Walking toward the Charger, appointments to meet with prospective adoptive parents set, Fi said, "Ellen might have been on to something."

"Of course she was. But that doesn't mean this is the wrong decision."

"I know. I just..."

"I know, Fi. Trust me, I know." And he does. He knows in his bones that given half a chance and any plausible excuse at all, he'll change his mind about this.

As he drives home, he thinks about the fact that apparently both Brennan and Management were able to keep families safe, despite very dangerous jobs.

But he also knows that he found, or at least guessed well, about Brennan's daughter, and if he could do it to Brennan, then someone else could do it to him.

And if someone can do it to him... That sends a chill through Michael. And that chill pierces through his desire to keep this child. Once upon a time, he was sure he was the smartest man in the room, that no matter the challenge, he was up to conquering it. Now, he knows better.

No, he doesn't want to meet with the couples they've picked out. No, he doesn't want to give this child away. But if this last year has taught him anything, it's that it doesn't matter how good he is, there's always someone better, someone coming from the angle he can't see, and all it takes is a few seconds to stop a heart.

And he knows, driving home with Fi, that he can give this child away. She can, too. It won't be easy. They won't like it. But they will survive, and go on, and know they did the right thing.

But if they keep this child and if something happens to it, it'll break him. It'll be the final trauma he won't be able to come back from. And he's awfully sure losing a child would destroy Fi, as well. So, no matter what Ellen may say, he's not going to change his mind, because he's sure he can't live with the consequences of changing his mind.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Original Fic Friday: Hunter's Tales Volume One: Billy Price

A/N: Vampires, snark, meta, all manner of good things lie within. Want to start at the beginning? Click here. Want to read it all at once? It's .99 at Amazon.

Chapter 6.

What to do about Jack? The immediate satisfaction of just tracking him to his home and eating him wars with the desire for the greater satisfaction of a real hunt.

An hour of that and I am just as undecided.

Better question, or at least a question I could likely come up with a real answer for: what to do about Billy? He is kind of cute...

Okay, stop it right there. This is not a YA paranormal romance. Do you sleep with your food? No! You don’t. (And if you do, I don’t want to hear about it. That’s a bit kinkier than I want to get, and my own tastes on the subject are already pretty damn broad.) Do you fall in love with your food and expect to have a long-term relationship with it? No! You don’t. I am a vampire. He’s a human. Basically, to put it in human terms, he’s a steer. Steer may be cute, they may, on rare occasions, make good pets, but really, the reason you keep them around is to get them nice and fat so you can eat them.

But, I do kind of like him. And, there is something to be said about occasionally breaking in an eager virgin. There’s a certain look on a guy’s face the first time… Anyway… We’ve way too far into TMI territory here.

Okay, it’s true that some of the young vamps do sleep with humans for fun. And it’s true that these days the humans more or less expect us to have sex with them before or during eating them. From what I can see, that’s about as exciting for the vamp as kissing your 97-year-old great-grandmother is for most humans. (And yet another reason I don’t go after humans anymore. I wear most male vamps out. What the hell am I going to do with a human? Please!) Usually, if we’re looking for a bedmate, we’ll turn them because humans just don’t have the stamina to keep up with us.

Oh, and for all you paranormal romance reading girls out there, heads up: sex is a learned skill. Turning into a vamp does not suddenly make you Mr. Romance or particularly good in the sack. Just like any other learned skill, you need time and practice. Expecting a vamp to be good at sex is like expecting him to be able to speak perfect French. If he’s put the time and effort into it, he’ll probably be better at it than anything you’ve
ever seen. If he hasn’t…

Here’s the thing; I’ve let several of the ones that hang out at high schools ‘seduce’ me, and they were pretty damn lame. I don’t know if they were still pretending to be teen boys, or they were holding back because they thought I was a human girl, but, even if I wasn’t dead, those few kisses wouldn’t have gotten my heart pounding.

Likewise, I’m pretty damn sure Anne Rice never met a real vampire. We don’t get off on eating. Even the best meal of your life wasn’t a literally orgasmic experience. It’s not for us either.

Okay, all clear now? Good.

Back to Billy. I do sort of like him, the kind of fondness one might have for a particularly cute kitten.

But now that I know what is up with him, keeping him around could only mess up my chances of catching Jack. One thing most vamps don’t go for is the girl who already has a visible boyfriend.

Of course, keeping him around might be fun, and that’s also the point of this. After all, there’s nothing that says I can’t outright hunt a vamp, instead of letting him think he was hunting me.

But just a straight, outright hunt would be awfully fast. Find vamp. Follow him home. Break in. Kill him. In, out, and done—not a lot of finesse there.

And not a lot of finesse is boring. I might as well eat humans if I’m not going to bother with finesse.

I can try seducing the vamp. Try being so fabulous that he’ll want to be seen with me. Make him decide to drop Evie and move up the food chain.

Well, it’ll be a challenge. And, if I’m going to be popular and cool, I could have friends, like Billy.

Might be interesting.

It would certainly be different.

It’s pretty close to midnight. Time for me to go to sleep. Yes, we do sleep. Just like with humans, as we get older we need less of it. Three, four hours does me just fine.

Tomorrow, I’ll be fabulous.

Chapter 7.

“You look nice,” Billy says as he slides into his seat.

“Thanks. Wanted to be pretty today.”

“You’ve succeeded.”

I am pretty today. I skipped the black clothing and went with a pink cheongsam, white leggings, and cute, little pink pumps. I left off my Goth makeup and went for something that emphasizes how good my skin really is.

I have my hair in its usual bun, hair sticks at the ready, with a few artfully curled tendrils wisping about, looking soft and romantic. I’m so damn cute it would make a puppy cry. With any luck, it will also intrigue Jack.

It seems to be working. He’d checked me out three times by lunch. That was a start. Give it a while longer and he might actually decide to talk to me.

I set my glamour so that everyone near me will feel a desire to get a little closer. They’ll look in my direction and want to know who I am and what I’m doing. It’s subtle; most of the humans won’t even notice they aren’t the ones generating the desire to go check out the new girl.

By the end of the day, I’ve said hi to close to fifty people. There’s a small clot of them chatting with me in each class. Jack’s in my sixth period class, and he did look my way when I walked in with a collection of teen girls all babbling away about my outfit. I look back at him and smile. One of the other girls saw him and starts cooing about how cute he was.

I agree with her and let the wash of blather rush around me.

A brief fantasy of glamouring them all into shutting up and just following me around flits through my mind. I smile at the image and dismiss it. I’ve never had a herd of minions, though I’ve met some vamps who have. Herds of minions are for the people who don’t like hunting.

When the final bell rang, I’m sure of one thing: I am not cut out to be popular in high school. The vast vapidness of it is killing off IQ points at close to fifty an hour. Too much more of it and I’ll be a talking monkey.

So, back to plan A? It’s a bit late for that. I can just ditch this town and go looking for the next one. Maybe head back to Charleston and go for a different sort of hunt. Been a long time since I’ve done an urban hunt with prey that acted like an adult.

That sounded good. Catch Jack. Eat him. And then get out of high school for a while.

I was sure of one other thing: the crowd of kids kept Billy away. He vanished shortly after English.

No point on being here if I’m going to be surrounded by morons.

So, tomorrow I’ll be me again. I’ll hang with Billy. And at the end of the day, I’ll track Jack to his lair. In, out, and done. So much for finesse. The day after tomorrow, or the day after that, I’ll head home: back to warm air, soft breezes, blue, blue skies, and my Charleston single.

My cell buzzes, pulling me away from my image of home.

“Helen Grace?” I don’t recognize the voice. It’s an adult woman.


“Hello. This is Rebecca Price, Billy’s mom. We’ve had to take him back to the hospital, and he wanted me to call you.” For a second, I wonder how he’s got my number, but then I remember that I friended him on Facebook and my cell number is listed there.

“Oh. What’s happened?”

She sounds like she’s in danger of starting to cry, but holds it together to say to me, dispassionately, “He got a nap this afternoon. He woke up with a massive headache, unable to see.”

“What room is he in?”


“I’ll be there to see him as soon as I can.”

She didn’t say anything, but I get the feeling she’s relieved to know her son has a friend who wants to visit him.

Chapter 8.

I’m not a huge fan of hospitals, but they’re way, way better than they ever were in the old days (defined as any time before 1980). Sick humans smell bad and taste worse. And, of course, the vast majority of people in a hospital are sick. So, for comparison purposes, imagine going to a grocery store where all the food is going off. Some of it minutes from rancid, some of it barely past its prime.

What, you don’t want to visit? Amazing.

The cancer ward isn’t all that bad. The chemicals sort of mask the smell of dying human.

I poke my head into Billy’s room.

“It’s not looking all that good for you, is it?” I say it like a joke, and he responds in kind.

“Nope.” He smiles in my direction, but I can see from the tilt of his head that he can’t actually see where I am. “Worse and worse by the minute.” His voice goes serious. “I turn eighteen day after tomorrow, and as long as I’m not in a coma by then, I’m going DNR. My parents don’t want me to, but… This is futile. It’s not worth a few extra days.”

I enter the room and stand next to his bed. “I didn’t press your mom for details. She sounded like she was about to start crying on the phone.”

“Tumor’s so big it’s pressing on the nerves that let me see. So no vision. It’s growing fast, so obviously the chemo isn’t doing its job.”

“Are you in pain?” I can’t smell it, but like I said, the cancer ward smells chemical.

“Nah. Got all the morphine I could possibly want.” He fumbles around for a switch on the bed. “Hit this little button and I’m just dandy.”

“So, you weren’t kidding about doing morphine for fun?”

“Only a little. It’s pretty nice. Nothing hurts; my mood is good; if my skin would stop itching, all would be zippy.”

“So what happens now?”

“Now… I’m here. I keep pumping myself full of drugs. Eventually, my brain stops functioning, I slip into a coma, and then…”


He smiles at me. “You know what they say: live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse. Would have liked a little more fast living, but you take what you can get.”
“That you do. Can I do anything for you?”

“This’ll sound dumb, but, can you read me my Facebook feed and update it?”

“Sure.” And that’s how we spend the next hour.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

38 Weeks: The Fifteenth Week

Image from

A/N: Burn Notice romantic fluff with a side of angst. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.

On Thursday of the fifteenth week, Ellen Muslen, who ran Anderson's adoption agency, looked at them as they entered her office and said, "So, tell me why you want to adopt."
"I'm sorry?" Fi asked.
Ellen looks startled, not expecting that answer. "You're Sarah and Abe Gunderson, right?"
"No. I'm Michael Westen and this is Fiona Glenanne. We're looking to put our child up for adoption."
"Oh. I'm so sorry." Ellen spent a long moment looking them over and then gestured for them to sit down while she looked through her files, found the right one, and skimmed over it. She nodded her head a few times as she looked over it and then looked up at them.
"Terribly, terribly sorry about that. I don't know why, but I've been thinking it's Friday all day. We don't get many couples, let alone..." She can't seem to find a polite way to say what she's thinking, so goes for blunt, "of your age or economic status on the birth parent side of the equation. So, tell me why you want to give your child up."
Neither of them answered for a moment, neither of them wanting to explain, let alone have to put words to this idea, and then Michael says, "It'd be better for everyone if we didn't keep this child."
"Uh huh." She flips through the file. "The information we have here says that you've kept up with your doctor's appointments and the child is healthy."
"From everything we can tell, yes," Fi answers. Getting the results of the nuchal fold test back last week and finding out the baby didn't have Downs Syndrome, Trisomy 13, or a host of other genetic abnormalities was very good news for both of them.
Ellen looks up at them again, seems to be studying them. Her eyes flick over their clothing, and settle on Fi's engagement ring. "Okay, let me be very blunt with you, we will not accept you as birth parents. Not for this agency."
"Excuse me?" Fi asks, though Michael is thinking it, too. He's never heard of anyone being turned down for trying to put a child up for adoption.
"That's a what, eight thousand dollar engagement ring? You're clearly in love. The address you have listed on the form is for a house that's in a pretty good school district. Your clothing is expensive, so you've got income. You've listed your job as security consultants, so you might be professional go-getters who can't stand the idea of taking time away from your business for a child, but the kind of person who fits that profile goes to an abortion clinic, not an adoption agency.
"I don't know why you are here, but I can tell you what I see when I look at you: two people who will change their minds. And I'm not about to allow you to get the hopes of my adoptive parents up just to crush them. Too many birth parents change their minds, and in Florida they can do that for up to two years after the birth of the child. Our agency does everything it can to make sure that when adoptive parents and birth parents agree to put an adoption in motion, it happens. So, in a word, no. We will not accept you as birth parents, you are too high of a risk."
For a moment Fi and Michael just sit there, too stunned to say anything. Then Michael begins to talk, "Fi worked for the IRA. I worked for the CIA. We both have enemies who wouldn't blink about using a child for revenge. This baby will be safer raised by someone else."
Ellen seems to consider this. She looks at both of them for a long time and then shakes her head again. "Most of the birth parents we get here are young, single women. They have boyfriends who couldn't care less about a baby, and parents who have the funds to deal with a pregnancy and career aspirations for their daughters. As they get older they'll go to school, build careers, eventually get married, and then have children later in life. They will be able to tell themselves that they couldn't possibly have raised the child they gave up, and knowing that they made the right decision will comfort them.
"We occasionally get couples. And without exception they are heartbroken by this. This is possibly the most traumatic decision a couple can make. It's bitter when a couple has to give up a child because they can't raise it. But once again, they'll take comfort in knowing they really couldn't raise a child.
"You two can raise a child; you're just scared. And maybe you're scared for good reason. But you want this child, and as day after day passes and nothing terrible happens, you'll regret giving it up. You will change your minds. As you get closer and closer to the birth, and this baby becomes more and more real, you'll decide it won't be that dangerous, and that you can cope with it, and you will change your minds. I'm not about to let that happen to any of my clients."
"But..." Fi begins.
"But nothing. Tons of people in this world have dangerous jobs and skeletons in their closets and manage to do a fine job of raising their kids. You will, too."
Michael and Fi stared at her, thunderstruck. "That's it?" Fi asked.
"That's it. Though I would counsel that you not try to find another agency to go through with this. All you'll be doing is breaking someone's heart."


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Grand Gestures and Day to Day Life 6.18.1

A/N: What Mike was doing during the three weeks his friends were being debriefed. Want to start at the beginning? Head here.


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There's a point where your body just won't do anymore. When it just shuts down: your eyes close, your brain stops thinking, and your muscles refuse to do anything more strenuous than hold you in one position and breathe. Adrenaline and guilt will only keep you running so far and so fast, and when that last spike is done, your body stops with it.

There are stories from World War One, where men, coming out of the trenches, would be piled into trucks, standing. They'd have to duck every so often, low overpasses, low hanging wires, things like that. Heading towards the back, towards R&R, regular food, and no more random death falling from the skies, or rats, fat from meals of human corpses, skittering about, their bodies shut down, lost the ability to duck, and a few of them were decapitated when they didn't get down in time.

For Michael it's not quite that drastic. They put him in a room, and fear for his friends and Mom kept him up for what felt like hours. They brought in Raines to handle him, and as soon as he told Michael that everyone was alive and in custody, Mike shut down.

He stopped being able to focus. Raines would have to repeat questions two, three times, and even then Michael could barely answer. Words slurred, details slewed sideways and inside out. Eventually, it felt like forever for Mike, but was actually half an hour, Raines half-carried Mike into a cell, and left him to sleep.

When you're truly exhausted, your brain has a hard time shifting from awake to asleep. You get stuck in a sort of half-way dream land that looks remarkably like the land you just left.

He's in the ship, staring at Riley, wondering if she loves her life more than he loves his friends. He wonders if she has gone mad, or worse, because there's always a key to mad, though he's sure he can't find it in the time he's got. But there's no key to pride, and if she's too attached to her reputation, if she values the legend of Olivia Riley over breathing, she'll let both of them die, keep her name intact, and this will have been for nothing. They'll all burn, and he'll have gotten the easy way out, because he'll be dead.

He can hear himself yelling grenade, and things slow down, slow down into crystalized honey, and Jason is staring at him, begging for help, and he didn't help.

Nate says, "I'm scared."

Sam's heart isn't beating. He's pounding on his chest, and his heart isn't beating, and Michael can feel sane sliding away from him, feel it loosening its grip, rage, revenge, and fear, fear colder, harder, and more desperate than he's ever felt, melts his mind and severs him from the real world.

He half wakens, barely aware he's in a cell, stumbles to the john, pees, and collapses back in bed.

This time he doesn't dream.

The pattern repeats several times, he doesn't know how many. He'd pull, barely, out of joint gluing, mind melting sleep, stagger to the john, pee, gulp down a glass of water, and crash back into the bed.

When he finally wakes, truly wakes, he doesn't know what time, let alone what day it is. He's in a small, windowless cell, laying on a bunk. His head hurts, his mouth tastes horrible, his teeth feel fuzzy, and he smells bad. Fear does have a smell, a sharp, acrid reek with a cloying, sweet undertone, and it's permeated his skin and clothing, wending through the more common scent of unwashed male. He sits up slowly, vague half-dream memories of the past however many days letting him know that he's slept through at least one full day, maybe two.

There is a tray on the floor, and the food on it makes him realize he's achingly hungry. It's prison food, but good prison food. A hamburger gone soggy and cold, an apple, limp, greasy tater tots. A glass of iced-tea makes him realize they're treating him with kid gloves. He tries to eat slowly, tries to chew and taste, but he can't. Too hungry.

From his hunger level and the way he smells, he's guessing he's been asleep for more than three days. Probably not more than five.

The food stays down, definitely not more than five days. Go that long without eating, then stuff yourself, and you'll throw the food up after.

There's no mirror in the cell, probably a good thing. He can imagine how bad he looks, no need to see it. No shower stall, not that he expects one. There is a sink and fresh clothing: jogging pants, boxers, and a t-shirt. Not bad, not prison garb, but not his usual armor. So, kid gloves, but there's a fist, well, an open handed slap, in there somewhere.

He strips out of the clothing he'd been wearing, the same shirt and pants they caught him in, gives himself a quick towel bath, and wishes the sink was big enough to wash his hair in. It's not. So it'll have to wait. He's halfway to trying to comb through it with his fingers when he decides he'd rather not touch it. He doesn't need to know how bad it looks or feels.

New clothing makes him feel even more human, and a little less crusty.

He sits back down on the bed, meaning to think about what had happened, and try to plan, but before he's gotten through the second sentence of his internal monologue, he's asleep again.

When he wakes yet again, there is more food, which he bolts down before noticing what else has changed. His old clothing is gone and more fresh clothing, as well as fresh sheets, are sitting on the floor next to the tray of food.

He is in the process of stripping off the bed, Michael prefers a tidy, and better yet, clean, surroundings, and the sheets smell like someone who hasn't had a shower in more than a week has been laying on them for more than a week, when he hears the door open.

Raines is there, and that triggers some faint memories of maybe seeing him right after they brought Michael in. But at this point he's not sure if he dreamed that or not.

"First off, your friends and Mom are fine."

Michael sighs at that, then stiffens. Trusting Raines is a habit, one that he's used to, but as he gets more awake, he slides back into remembering why he no longer trusts anyone who isn't Sam, Fiona, Jesse, or his Mom.

"I'd like to see them."

"I can do that. Grab your towel and the clothing. I know you want a shower. We'll go by their cells on the way to the showers."


He walks by four cells in a row, and sees them all, safe, in one piece, sleeping. He especially notices that Sam's color is good, and that he's not hooked up to any medical equipment.

"What time is it?"

Raines checks his watch. "3:36."

"What day?"


It takes a good thirty seconds for Michael to remember that it was Wednesday when they caught him. "Did I sleep for three days or ten?"

Raines smiles. "Ten. We thought you might have been up for real the day before yesterday, but you conked back out again, and we figured we'd let you keep sleeping."

"We figured?"

"I figured. Your team has been talking. Jason Bly kept good notes, and the tech team was able to get a few pictures off the hard drive on his camera. Card kept good notes too; it just took us a while to find them. We've been getting piles of intel to go through. And you were so tired you were insensible the last time I tried to talk to you. There was no good reason to wake you up."


Raines nods toward the door next to him. "Shower's in there. Take care of yourself, and we'll talk."

His hand is on the door when Raines asks, "What do you want for breakfast?"

"I get a choice?"

"As long as I'm in charge, you do."

"How about the others?"

"You want to order breakfast for them, too?"

"Yeah, if I can."

"Sure. Why not?" Kid gloves indeed. Something about this was either going to go very right or very wrong, either way, he might as well get his friends something worth eating.  Raines grabs his smart phone, pokes it a few times, and says, "Shoot."

"An egg-white only western omelet for Fi.  Sam gets bacon, extra crispy, scrambled eggs with cheddar on them, and biscuits if you've got them. My mom's not a big breakfast person, good coffee, cream, sugar, and a bowl of Cheerios, skim milk. Jesse likes turkey sausage and pancakes, butter, not margarine, and honey."

"And you?"

"Eight low-fat Breyer's blueberry yogurts."

"I'll see what I can do. Get cleaned up."

There are some pleasures that you just can't enjoy without going through rough patches. The exceptional feeling of water at precisely the right temperature streaming down your body after far too long without is one of those things.

The shampoo is cheap and smells like artificial green apples. In any other circumstance, he'd hate it. But right now, able to get clean, really clean, so clean his hair squeaks when he runs his fingers through it, the smell of the shampoo doesn't matter.

It's probably the longest shower he's ever taken. Though his time sense, usually awfully good, is pretty fuzzy right now.  

The towel feels like it's a mix of polyester and raw wood fiber. Probably the least expensive option you can get at whatever warehouse deals in these things. But really rubbing his skin dry feels awfully good, too. As he's drying off, it occurs to him that this is possibly the best it's going to be for the rest of his life. Depending on how the next however many days go, this might be his last solo shower, last chance to suck up as much hot water as he likes.

He closes his eyes. The board, this whole game since his burn notice, is empty. There are no more moves. Now it's time to wait and see what the ref had to say about how he played. And if he's lucky, very lucky, he might be able to get the only four pieces left on his side out of this with their freedom intact.

He gets dressed, walks out, and finds Raines waiting for him.

Michael puts his game face on and smiles. "Let's talk."

"Indeed." Raines hands him a yogurt, a spoon, and leads him toward the door at the end of the hall.


Interrogation is the art of getting people who don't want to talk to you to tell you things. Debriefing is the fine art of getting every detail of what happened out of people who probably don't want to tell you things, but are technically on your side and supposed to tell you everything.

Michael is not precisely sure if this is an interrogation or a debrief. The questions are soft, so is the chair he's sitting on, the yogurt is cold, and there's a pitcher of unsweet iced-tea, all of which leans toward debrief.

But he's not CIA, not anymore, and besides Fi, Sam, Jesse, and his Mom, there is no 'on his side,' and as much as he likes Raines, he's wary that this is just another step in an ever unfolding mess of angles and puzzles all designed to destroy his life.

He answers everything honestly, as best as he knows the answers. He admits to killing Card. He admits to wanting to kill Gray. He makes is immensely clear that Sam kept him from killing Gray, and that Sam was not in the room when he killed Card, while skipping how much Fi wanted him to pull the trigger. He stresses that even after Riley sent an armed squad of drug dealers in to kill him, that neither he, nor anyone on his team, killed or even hurt really, any active member of the CIA.

The room they're talking in has no windows. No clock. And the angle Raines is sitting at means he can't see his watch. Time passes. He talks. Eventually he's having a hard time following the questions and Raines calls time.

The next time he wakes up in the cell, there is a clock to go with the new clothing and food.

7:15 Monday. His normal wake-up time. For the first time in a very long while, he feels almost human.


They talk, a lot. He goes over the same ground again and again. Brady's death, Bly's death, Gray's death, Card's death, Nate's death, the Burn Notice, Simon, Anson, Management, every move of the game, every layer, every time he thought he had found the king, only to knock it over, call checkmate, and find that nope, there was one more hiding behind the pawns.  

When they finish talking, late each afternoon, he eats more and sleeps.

He dreams of Fiona.

Between dreams he prays that this... confession? Contrition? Whatever it is, buys her her freedom. He prays that he can do what he's promised Sam, that in fact it is possible to make this right.

Sometimes he dreams of Nate, and he wishes more than anything that he could take that back. But nothing can ever be taken back.


On Thursday Raines says to him, "We've got enough to move forward."

"So what happens now?"

"That's going to depend on you. Enough careers have crashed and burned over this that there are only two ways out. Here's the hard way: you and your friends all vanish. Due to the NDAA, and Fiona's IRA affiliation, you, Jesse, Sam, and your Mom can enjoy the rest of your lives in a hole in Gitmo. Fiona will, of course, be returned to the Brits. I'm sure they've got questions for her."

Unspoken is the fact that they'll die in prison. Fi first, someone will kill her, either when she tries to escape, or a hit will be called on her. His mom next. Heartbreak and old age don't lend themselves to long prison stays. Next Sam. He's healing up well from the gunshot, but he's still 56, and not in great shape. He and Jesse can look forward to what is likely going to be an excruciatingly long thirty or forty years in prison followed by an unmarked grave.

"And the easy way?"

"You've spent the last six years on an ultra-high security, off-the-books internal investigation. Your adventures will have become the brainchild of Michael Hayden, who upon his swearing in as Director of the CIA in 2006, noticed that things were looking off, and sent you to investigate. You will, upon leaving here, continue with what is now an on-the-books, ultra-high security internal investigation. You will be given the tools to make sure that every last iota of this conspiracy is eradicated, as long as it makes the powers that be look good."

Michael holds out no hope for the idea that the powers that be might not be in on this. Either they're setting him up to cover everything up, or they're setting him up to die in the field. "And if they're in on it." It's a statement, not a question. Might as well get this out of the way, find out what it is they actually expect him to do.

Raines smiles, the look on his face cold and jaded. For a moment, Michael once again remembers what trust feels like. "Then you'd be in Gitmo, along with Sam, Jesse, and your Mom, and Fiona would already be enjoying the hospitality of the Brits. This offer comes right from Morell." Michael thinks for a moment, trying to remember who Morell is. Then it hits him. Morell is the current Acting Director of the CIA. Raines sees recognition dawn on Michael's face and nods. "The higher ups are more than embarrassed enough as is. But, the current higher ups weren't on the job when most of this went down. If they set you loose to take out whatever of this is left, they come out of this looking good. If there was any chance of you finding any dirt on them, they wouldn't give you the chance to do it."  

That actually makes a lot of sense. No one minds if the last boss, or better yet, the last administration comes out of this looking bad. "And if I do this?"

"As I said, the easy way. You get your bank accounts unfrozen. You get six years of back pay. You get to be the Hero agent who took down a conspiracy so deep that no one could be told you were doing it. Sam, Fiona, and your Mom get paid as assets of yours. Sam's Russian spy issue vanishes. Jesse gets paid as an asset and his record wiped clean. You get your record wiped clean. Fiona not only becomes a legal permanent resident of the United States, but her name also vanishes from every terrorist watch list she's on. Hell, we'll even bring Pearce back, clear her record, and put her on your team."

He leans his head back and closes his eyes. Almost everything he could have ever possibly asked for.

Almost. Over the years he's made hundreds, if not thousands, of implicit promises to Fi. And he's broken hundreds of them as well.

But in fifteen years, he's made exactly one explicit promise to her.  

An image of her forms in his mind. She's wearing that white dress, facing him, her hair blowing in the wind, as an FBI agent handcuffs her.

The imaginary version of him stands before her, his fingers cupped against her face, forehead to forehead, as her hair whips around them.

He can't remember the last time he kissed her. Can't remember the last time she smiled at him and the sum total of the emotions in her eyes was joy.

"I love you," he whispers to the image of the woman in his mind. He kisses her lips, her cheek, her ear, and whispers it again. "I love you, Fiona."

The imaginary Fiona does not respond.

He pulls out of the image, fully aware that this is probably the broken promise she cannot, will not forgive. This is the one issue he doesn't have enough trust built up for her to believe him. Years of putting the job first, of habits entrenched over a decade and a half will make this look like one thing, even if it really is another. As Sam said to him, even if you have good reasons, if you do enough bad stuff, you become one of the bad guys. And all the good reasons in the world aren't going the change the fact that there is exactly one promise he's ever made her, and he's going to break it.

But if the choice is Fi free and hating him or caged and in love, he'll free her and face her hate.  

He signs the paper, closes his eyes, seeing her in his mind again, this time, she's barreling through a shuttered window, yelling at him, "I'm tired of you making all the decisions in this relationship!" Tears threaten as he looks at that image of her, her hands wrapped around his, her life wrapped around his and placed in his hands. I'm sorry, Fiona.

He takes a deep breath to calm himself, wipes his eyes, and says to Raines, "Now what?"

Raines is deeply surprised to see Michael's on the verge of crying. This deal should be very good news. Hell, if Michael Westen had a Christmas list full of goodies for Santa to bring him, this deal would have been it. Maybe the tears are relief? He shrugs and says, "Now? You get changed. They get set free. And then you go and really, truly finish this."


A/N: And thus, dear readers, Grand Gestures must end until we get to season seven. 38 Weeks will continue on until March 20th. And I'm sure after that, I'll have a story or two to keep things fresh. Anyway, see you in the summer!