Wednesday, January 16, 2013

38 Weeks: The Twenty-First Week

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

When Michael first met Fi, he was awash in instantaneous lust and attraction. He might have even called it love, back in the day. Knowing how he feels about Fi now, he'd call it lust, though that isn't quite the right word, either. He doesn't have a good word for it. It was different than anything he had ever felt for any woman before, and vastly different from anything he's felt for anyone, since.
He was thirty when they met, so it's not like he was some teenager who had never seen a girl before. He'd been 'round this particular block a few times, and had certainly thought he'd been in love before. If nothing else, the fact that he had a fiancée back in St. Petersburg should have been a hint that he thought he knew what love was.
He didn't. Not then. Not after he met Fi. Not when he shot Strickler, though he certainly thought that was love. Not until over fourteen years later when he saw how much she loved him, saw her walk into FBI custody for him, and realized he was no less devoted to her, and that no matter what, he would spend the rest of his life proving that devotion.
But he did know that whatever that feeling that spread through him like the blood in his veins or the electrical impulses along his nerves the first time they met was, it wasn't the safe, rational, exuberant sensation other women had filled him with. What he had with Fi didn't make sense. It broke all the rules he'd been trained in and lived by, and he relished every moment of it until Card dragged him out of Ireland.
During that time, while he and Fi were wrecking mayhem through Northern Ireland and Europe, the idea that she had a family wasn't something terribly solid in his mind. She was so uniquely her own, the idea that other people may have shaped her didn't intrude in his mind. She was so wild, so devil-may-care, the idea that there were people she was bound to, people who would miss her if she didn't show, who she would miss if they vanished, never occurred to him.
Sure, he knew she had brothers, he met her through them, but parents, nephews and nieces, and sisters-in-law were all concepts that he hadn't bothered to think much about.
Until, about nine months after they had met, she invited him home for Sunday dinner.
Which was when he met Katherine Glenanne for the first time.
A bit over fifteen years later, and she hasn't changed much. She's still short, slim, and proud, though auburn-streaked white hair had gone completely white during the intervening years. It occurs to him that she has to be at least seventy, if not seventy-five, but she doesn't look that old.
He catches sight of her and Sean before she sees them, before Fi does. He nudges her, leading her attention toward the baggage claim area of Miami International. Fi nods, squeezes his hand, and they begin walking toward her mother and older brother.
Sean sees them, and breaks into a grin. Katherine begins to smile, too, as she sees Fi. They move more quickly, and soon there are hugs, and sooner yet, post-hug pulling away in shock.
Sean is grinning, which makes Michael a lot more comfortable. He wasn't looking forward to fighting the man.
"Did I not tell ya, Ma?"
"And so you did. I was still hopin' you were wrong. Well then, when is the little one due?"
"End of August," Fi says to her mother, and then turns toward Sean. "And what do you mean, 'Did I not tell ya?'"
"Please, Fi, it's been sixteen years since you two met, and now you're suddenly gettin' married less than two months after you get engaged? Of course there's a baby on the way!" He pets her stomach affectionately. "I was thinkin' you wouldn't be quite so far along. Been teasin' Ma about it for three weeks now."
 "It would have been nice to have had at least one of ya married for more than a year before the first baby showed up."
"Still might happen, Ma, Allan and I aren't married, yet."
"And knowin' you two, ya never will be."
"Now that's just harsh, Ma. Allan's right sweet on Kelly Anne, and rumor has it he'll be askin' her a serious question 'round about her birthday." Maybe to change the subject, or maybe because it seemed rude not to say anything directly to him, Sean said, "So, Michael, how are you?"
"I'm well, Sean. Thanks. Good trip?"
"Lovely. You'll have to thank whichever friend it was that got me that fake passport. Got straight through security with no problems."
"Good, Sam will be glad to know it worked."
"Sam did that for me?"
 "I told you about Sam, right Ma?"
"A few times. He's one of Fi's marvelous Yank friends. I didn't know he did documents."
"He can and does, but not too often," Fi answered. For a moment they all stood there quietly. It occurs to Michael that Katherine hasn't said anything to him yet, and that they're all just standing there in the airport.
"Let me go get your luggage. Then we'll take you to my mom's house." He heard Fi explaining to her mom and brother about why they weren't going to be staying at their place. Not only is the guest room not ready for anything besides wiring explosives, but they've decided not to do anything more with the place. The rent is paid up for the next two months, and after that...
They haven't decided where they're going after that, but somewhere far away from Miami.
The drive to his mother's house feels oddly relaxed and tense. Sean is chattering away with both him and Fi, but Katherine is very quiet. It could be she's tired. Belfast to London to New York to Miami isn't a quick trip, and at her age it must seem even longer. It could be the fact that it was in the high fifties and drizzling when she left, and that was a fairly warm day, and now she's way overdressed for topical Miami.
But mostly Michael can feel the weight of the words Katherine Glenanne isn't saying to him. Words she's been waiting to say to him for years, at least six of them probably, and he's not looking forward to that.
He pulls in and leads them into the house where he grew up. Sam and his Mom are waiting to meet the Glenannes.
Sean sees them and lights up. "Ma, this is Madeline Westen and Sam Axe, and the only reason I'm still here, breathin', is because these two pulled two bullets out of me, and then Ms. Madeline let me recover in her home," Sean says as he sweeps Maddie into a warm hug, then shakes Sam's hand.
Madeline's greetings are warm, effusive, and for the first time Michael sees a real smile of pleasure on Katherine's face. Maddie bustles her off a few minutes later, saying something about how she must be so hot in all that clothing, and getting changed into something more comfortable.

"Is this your first grandchild?" Katherine asks as Madeline shows her to the room she'll be staying in. Once upon a time it was Michael's, but it's been completely redone since those days.
"No, Charlie, Michael's brother's son, is almost two now. You?"
"Seventeen, counting this one."
"Seventeen?" Maddie says, in disbelief.
Katherine takes it at surprise that there are so few of them, though Madeline meant it in response to how many there were. "Normally there'd be more for a family our size, but Sean and Allan haven't married, yet."
"How many children do you have?" Fi doesn't talk much about her family, and it occurs to Madeline she has no idea how many brothers and sisters Fi might have.
"Has Fi not told you she's one of seven?"
"Seven?" The idea of Fi amid that many brothers and sisters staggers Maddie.
"Five boys, two girls."
"I didn't know Fi has a sister."
"Had. Our Claire died back in '85."
"Oh. I'm sorry."
"So were we. But that's long past and a dark topic for a happy day. Will we be meeting your grandson and other son?"
"No. Nate, my son, died last year. Charlie lives with his mother in Las Vegas."
"I'm sorry. That's the dark part of a hard road. I can tell you it gets better, but I know you won't want to be hearin' that yet."
"No, not yet. But thank you. So, tell me about your grandchildren..."


A while later, as he tends the steaks on the grill, Michael hears, "And I get off the plane, lookin' for Fi, and there they are, bold as brass and pregnant to boot! She hadn't said anything to any of us about it. Just, 'We're gettin' married, come to Miami, you'll enjoy the sun.'"
"I swear you could call those two 'Need to know only', I've been with them six years, hiding clients, letting them interrogate suspects in my garage. I went on the run with them when things went crazy last fall." Madeline gestures to the sun room, "That's where your son recuperated after I helped Sam pull a bullet out of him, but do they tell me anything? Not if they can possibly avoid it!"
"I'd be knowin' all about that. 'Protectin' me!' Like I didn't meet their father helpin' to smuggle explosives past the English! You'd think that one," she pointed at Sean, "invented explosives with the way he'd try to hide what they were doin' from me. Or that one, and the way she was always 'headin' off to Church.' Headin' off to political meetin's was more like it. And I was just supposed to sit there and knit and smile about it."
The term, 'getting on like a house on fire' occurs to Michael as he watches his mom and Fiona's commiserate about dealing with children like them. It also occurs to him how good it would be for his mom to have someone closer to her age, someone who had shared some of the same experiences, how she could really use a friend.
"Michael?" His mom calls out.
"Yeah, Ma?"
"How long 'til supper's ready?"
He pokes one of the steaks. "They're ready to come off now, so ten-twelve minutes before we can eat them."
"Good, I'll get the table set."


Hours later, after dinner, after dessert, after stories of Ireland, many of which Sam, Jesse, and his mother had never heard or imagined hearing, Katherine says, "Michael, come talk with me." He's been dreading an alone conversation with Fiona's mom, but it's inevitable.
He follows her outside to the back porch.
"So what sort of name is Westen?" she says as she inhales on a cigarette, yet another similarity with Madeline.
"Don't give me that. All of you Americans are from somewhere else, originally."
"I was born here, in Miami. This is the house I grew up in. You're staying in what used to be my room." The look she's pointing at him is very eloquently stating that he's not answered her question. "English."
"Mary, Mother of Jesus, a half-English grandbaby."
"Half-American. I was born here, my father was born in Tallahassee, his father was from Atlanta, and his father, as well. Before that I'm sketchy on the details, but I do remember my grandfather talking about his grandfather fighting in 'The War of Northern Aggression.'" He realizes that means nothing to Katherine. "The 1860s. My mother was born here. Her parents moved south from New York during the Depression." Another blank look. "The early '30s. We've been here long enough no one remembers the story of how we got here. We're Americans."
Katherine seems to think about that for a moment. Of course, everyone else in her family is not only Irish, but Irish so far back that the idea that they may have ever come from anywhere else is utterly alien. He's not sure if him being a Yank is something Katherine likes about him or holds against him.
She stares at him for another long moment before saying, "Fiona loves you, and you're the father of my granddaughter, so I will never treat you with anything but respect, but I want you to know that when I look at you, I see the man who looked me in the eye and lied to me about a murdered sister, a hatred of the English, and a life-long devotion to the cause. You sat in my home, drank my ale, ate my food, enjoyed my company, and lied to me about everything in your life. I will never forget that, and though I will never do anything to make your child think less of you, I will also never trust you."
Michael took a deep breath and said, "Fair enough."
"You never had a sister." It's the statement that gets to the heart of their relationship. That was his planned in with the Glenannes. If any family would be moved by an orphan with a taste for revenge based on a murdered sister, they'd be it.
"No sister. Just a brother, and he died last year."
"Your mum mentioned that." She's staring up at him, and he's got a clue as to what she's expecting from him.
"The first time I got to Ireland was three months before I met Pat and Sean. I was sent there to make contacts in the IRA and divert members who were passionately interested in making sure the war didn't end to other ends." The CIA had picked the Glenanne lads because they weren't major targets, but ran with men who were.
"Other ends?"
"Some of them ended up as CIA or MI5 assets. Some of them ended up dead. Some of them vanished into the Middle East or Colombia. If Ireland was going to calm down, the biggest troublemakers had to get out, so I helped to get them out.
"I'm not from Kilkenny. I've only been there twice, the first time to memorize as much of the place as I could, the second with Fi when I was showing her what was supposed to be my hometown." They'd done that up right. He even had three "locals" recognize him, and talk about his past and family.
"I was never part of the Royal Welch Fusiliers." His military background had to come from somewhere, so the Brits were willing to dummy up a service record for him, fairly similar to what he really had done, just for them, and ending with a dishonorable discharge for suspected sabotage. "I didn't join up with them to learn their tactics and use them against them. I wasn't ever a mercenary." Supposedly, after being booted by the Brits, he had vanished into South America as a merc, and from there to Afghanistan, and from there all over the world. He came back to Ireland and the IRA after his "sister" was killed.
"I was in Afghanistan in the '80s. And a lot of other places, though mostly Russia. I've never worked demolitions, though I was an explosives expert for the US Army Rangers. I've never been a professional safe-cracker, though I've certainly done enough of it to fake it.
"I was with the Rangers until 1987. Then with the CIA until 2006. Freelancing, for lack of a better word, since then. 
"I am a patriot, just not an Irish one.
"And I never lied to you about loving your daughter."
"You left her all the same."
"I did. And I've been lucky enough that she forgave me that."
"And how do I know you're stayin' now?"
Given what she knows about him, that's not a bad question. He thinks of a lot of different answers and discards them. 'You don't, but she does,' probably isn't going to do the job here.
"This time, I put the ring on her finger. And five days from now, I'll stand up before you, her, my mother, your son, all of our friends, our child, a priest, and God, and promise to be here for the rest of her life."
Katherine nods. That answer might not kill her fears, but she's a fair woman at heart, and knows that's as good as it's going to get.

A/N: I spent a while trying to think of who would be a good Mum for Fiona and found that shot of Helen Mirrin. I like this quite a bit and think it works.

No comments:

Post a Comment