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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."
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."
"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."
"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!