Wednesday, December 5, 2012

38 Weeks: The Ninth Week

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

On Sunday of the ninth week, Fi still wasn't really feeling better. The pills helped. She wasn't throwing up, as much. But not throwing up as much was not, by any stretch of the imagination, the same thing as not throwing up at all, or feeling anything even remotely like healthy.

Michael wonders what moron named it morning sickness. From what he can see, the only time Fi isn't feeling sick is the part of the morning between waking up and getting out of bed. Namely, about seven minutes.

She's lost all of the weight she put on. This has produced a strangely curvy and haggard look. Her cheekbones and orbitals are much too prominent. And once again he can count each vertebrae. Yet breasts, hips, and tummy are still more rounded than before. To some degree, she looks like a parody of fashion model chic.

He can hear her retching on the other side of the bathroom door. The first time that happened, he went in to offer comfort and whatever help he could. She made it extremely clear that one thing she did not want was him seeing her like that. So he left, and counted himself lucky she was feeling too tired to have done any damage to him while expressing that opinion.

He finished dressing. They're supposed to be going to his Mom's in an hour, but he isn't sure she's going to be feeling up to it. Madeline isn't a great cook, and they all know this, so for the last month they've been round-robbining the cooking. One of them goes to her place to make dinner, but this week it's Maddie's turn. Even on a good stomach his mom's cooking isn't easy, and roast beef, cooked a few steps beyond well done, a few steps beyond jerky, really, might not be a good plan for Fi.

The toilet flushes and he hears the sound of running water. He hopes that means Fi will be out soon. Sometimes one bout of vomiting seems to take care of it, and she almost feels normal after.

He hears the water shut off, but the door to their bathroom doesn't open.

A lot of the time, it doesn't.

Mike sat on the bed, looking at the ultrasound pictures. Tonight, no matter what, they are going to tell his mom and Jesse.

He's looking at the side shot. Arms, legs, finger and toe buds, supposedly the start of ears and fingernails. He flips to the next shot, the heart. The baby is about an inch long now, which means the heart is...about the size of a sunflower seed. He can remember the whooshing sound, and the sight of the blood moving through it.

As he thinks about that, sees the ultrasound image of the blood flowing in his mind, he remembers Nate's last heartbeat, and the feel of his blood as it stopped moving. Those images, sensations, vibrant in his mind, and suddenly keeping that tiny heart beating is the most important thing in his life.

And if that heart is going to keep beating, then it's best given to someone else. Someone who lives a safe, boring life far away from Miami, and the hundreds of enemies he and Fi have made over the years.

Setting a deadline for telling everyone isn't about making the decision. It's not like they've been waffling. They haven't been having long, fraught conversations about their options. They know what they're going to do. Mostly, the purpose of the deadline is to give them as much time to pretend as they can.

But as soon as they go public with this, they lose that ability to pretend, to fantasize about a life with the child and each other.

Fi comes out twenty minutes later, she's got makeup on and looks, well, if he's being honest, sick. Sure, it's better than when she's not got makeup on, but nothing about her says vibrant or healthy right now.

"How are you feeling?" It's a dumb question, and he knows it's a dumb question, but he doesn't have anything better in mind.

"Like I'm in the middle of the longest hangover ever."

"Do you want to skip this?"

She flops onto the bed. "Yes."

"You can. I'll go talk to her—"

"But I'm not going to."

"You don't have to do this. It's not going to be easy—"

Fi sits up and holds his hands. "I know; that's why you aren't going to do it alone. She's not just your mom. She's the grandmother of our child, Michael. We'll do it together."


It's a short drive. And, with the weight of what they're about to say, half an hour is going even faster than usual.

"I don't think I've ever looked forward to a conversation with my mom less." He was certainly dreading about telling her about Nate, but now, because he's had that conversation with her, this one is even more daunting. One more loss on top of a year packed with loss. One more moment of watching her eyes take in the details and see that something horrible is coming, one more moment of watching calm crumble into something terrible and terrifying.

Fi squeezes his hand as he parks the Charger in front of his mom's house.

"She'll understand."

"I hope so."

Before Nate died, he's sure she would have understood, and probably agreed that putting the baby up for adoption was the right thing to do. Now, though? Anything from looking at them calmly to bursting into tears and punching him is on the list of possible reactions.

They walk in, and Fi's still holding his hand. He appreciates the comfort of her touch, and is sure that his mom will see and know something is very wrong.

She's in the kitchen, messing with something on the stove.

"Michael, Fi, you're early." She quickly grinds out her cigarette and opens the window. Looks like Sam was right about not smoking around Fi.

"We want to talk to you," Michael says.

"Well, you're here, talk." There's a bit of a smile pulling at the corners of her lips. She knows half of what's coming next and appears amused.

Michael takes a deep breath, sure the next moment is going to go very slowly. "Ma, Fi's pregnant." And it does. It's an agonizing few seconds. He sees the grin break out on her face. She moves toward Fi, ready to embrace her, but then she notices neither of them are smiling. This should be good news, but they look like they're announcing a funeral. The grin falters, slips from her face, and she stops a step away from Fi, her hands drop from Fi's shoulders and fall to her sides.

She turns to Michael, and he can see fear and anger on her face. "That's not all of it, is it?"

"No. We aren't keeping the baby. It'll be safer raised by someone else."

The look she gives him is withering with its scorn and disappointment. "Bullshit! You've always been afraid of truly, fully, insanely loving someone, and this is just your fear coming out." She turns to FI. "And you." She shakes her head, looks mad enough to spit at Fi. "How could you let him convince you of this? I've always expected more from you."

In normal circumstances, say, before Nate died, before the last year where every pillar of his life but this family was ripped away from him, Michael would have taken a deep breath and responded in a cool, even if that coolness was only a skin-deep veneer, and rational method.

But he can't do it now. He's too emotionally exhausted, and the image of their child's heartbeat won't leave his mind. "Bullshit?" He yells it, and Madeline flinches away, while Fi grips his hand. "Do you think I like this? Do you think Fi and I just want to dispose of an inconvenient child?"

The part of Madeline that flinched vanishes, and all that's left is five feet of fire, leaning toward Mike, wanting to fight, wanting to hurt him as badly as she's hurting right now. "Yes! You'll always take a little pain in the short term to avoid emotional entanglements, to avoid having to love something." And he's sure nothing his mother has ever said has cut him this badly. "If you're not going to keep it, you should just have an abortion and be done with it. Sitting here torturing all of us for the next seven months is just cruel."

His brain slows to a crawl. There's literally nothing going on in there.

He hears Fi, from what sounds like a very long distance say, "I left the IRA because I wouldn't kill innocent people; you think I'm going to start with my own child?"

"Please. Don't get high and mighty with me. It's not a child, not to you. If it was a child, if it was your son or daughter, you wouldn't give it away. You give away things, not children. You're both being cowards, and I don't want either of you in my house. Leave!"

Fi tugs him, still in shock, out of the house. They're half way to the Charger when his mom opens the door and yells, "People like you don't deserve children!"

Three hours later Sam shows up at their door, with Jesse in tow.

"You told your mom."

Michael hands him a beer as Sam settles in at the breakfast bar. Jesse leans in next to him and takes another beer.

"Yeah. She didn't take it well."

"We know," Jesse said. "That was the least comfortable meal in the history of food. By the way, you don't tell me in person, I get to find out from your mom?"

Michael sighs, and Jesse feels like an ass. He was trying to lighten the mood, but seeing how wounded Michael looks makes him want to kick himself. "Jesse, Fi and I are going to have a baby and then give it away. We were planning on telling you tonight at dinner, but we told my mom first, and she kicked us out of the house."

"I know. I'm sorry. Where's Fi?"

"In our bathroom. She cried until she started throwing up again, and I've been ordered not to stick around for the throwing up. If you're willing to risk getting your head cut off, you can go in and see if she wants company."

"I'll do that." Jesse stands up, goes to the fridge, grabs one of the Gatorades for Fi, and heads to the bedroom.

"How's she doing?" Michael asks Sam.

"Angry. Really, really angry. Embarrassed. Jesse and I went over exactly how many of your biggest fans are still out and about, and how some of the ones who aren't have a track record of getting out. Detailing how Simon managed to get free of a super secret, super high security facility once already seemed to bring home the idea that you've got very dangerous enemies. I think that got through angry, but then there was sad. Mourning. I think she had fantasies of the four of you all doing family things together, like Christmas and birthday parties, and now it's gone. She'd gotten some baby clothes and toys, and when we got there she was packing them up and getting ready to take them back."

Michael's posture slumped, and he got up, got himself a glass and poured a shot of scotch. "I know the feeling." He shoots it back and heads into their bedroom. The door to the bathroom is open, and he can hear Fi and Jesse's voices. He goes to the nightstand and gets the pictures.

In a second, he's back with Sam. He lays out the pictures. "This is our child, Sam." He touches the pictures. "And these are the only sorts of pictures we're ever going to have of her... him... We won't be there for Christmas or birthdays. We won't band aid scrapes, or teach him to fight. He'll never learn how to turn a cell phone into a tracker, or how to turn kitchen equipment into firebombs. But he'll also never be used as a pawn. He won't get kidnapped, held for ransom, or killed for revenge."

He touches the picture again. "We'll never know if he has his mother's eyes or mine, but he'll be safe."

He hears the front door close, and his mom, crying, walks into his arms. "I'm so sorry, Michael. I am so, so sorry."


A/N: Okay, I can hear you all thinking, "Keryl, what the hell? Fluff with a side of angst! I've been crying for three chapters now, what sort of fluff is this?" ;) Okay, not really, but I know from the comments that some of you are concerned about this.

I'm a novelist by trade. (Really, go to Amazon, search Keryl Raist, you'll find three novels. I wrote them.) 38 Weeks was my NaNoWriMo, and I made word count. As a novelist, I'm a firm believer in the fully rounded plot arc where an issue will arise, different options for dealing with the issue will be floated, tried, and eventually discarded, finally a solution will be chosen and everyone will get behind it. Likewise I'm a firm believer in the character arc, where whatever issue is driving the plot will cause the characters to change over the course of the story.

As of 11/30 I'd written the entire the first draft of 38 Weeks, so I can promise you the following:

A. I will finish this. You aren't going to be left hanging at week 23. I'll be updating every Saturday and Wednesday from now until March 13th.

B. Sad stuff will resolve, but not right away. Multiple potential solutions to the issue will be explored. But on the sad front, this was the worst, hardest chapter. It perks up from here.

C. The fluff will return, and it will be glorious clouds of cottony joy.

D. But not so fluffy that Mike and Fi go horrendously OOC. It'll be Burn Notice fluff.

E. There is a happy ending, and when I write a happy ending, I happy the ever-living-snot out of it. None of this we're-at-peace-with-the-sad-stuff sort of endings for me, or you, dear readers. Nooo... happy is coming, and it'll be way happy. There are five weddings in the epilogue. Characters you haven't even met yet are going to get a happily ever after.

F. You'll be glad you kept reading.

Okay, see you at on Saturday, with Week 10, where there will be no crying.

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