The first time Michael met Fiona wasn't exactly the first time they met. Mostly because he was Maxwell Corrigan III, heir to a fortune in oil and some hereditary grudges that could only be healed by superior firepower, and she was Angelique, demure assistant to a crazed Quebecian ("Ah ah, Quebecois, M'sieu Corrigan") gun-runner.
It was a match manufactured carefully over several months in a dark, cramped agency office nowhere near heaven.
The covers were weak but they played them and each other for about a month, and at the end of the deal they exchanged fake numbers and shook hands with reassuringly sincere smiles. Two hours later, Fiona and Michael exchanged punches and she swore she'd see him again real soon, screaming to be heard over the explosions while her crazed Quebecian fall guy tried to drag her back behind cover.
He didn't know he was staring until Sam tugged him down behind the half-wall as Fiona's car peeled out the compound and the final barrel went up.
"Man, she's really something, huh?"
"Yeah, Sam." It was the throwaway reply he always gave when Sam's appreciation was purely aesthetic, but then he registered the note of admiration - the underscore of amusement - and glanced over.
Michael grit his teeth and found a bland tone. "Don't you have a report to make?"
"Me? We, brother. And before she kills you, I'm not doing the paperwork on my own."
Michael spent the next two weeks in a state even Sam had to admit was paranoid, and Sam kept a routine so random even he didn't know which hotel he'd call home that night. Two weeks after that, Michael began questioning his own sanity when he realized he was a little disappointed that she'd stood him up.
Then it was Afghanistan - again - and he had other things on his mind.
The second time Michael met Fiona wasn't exactly the first time they met either. Mostly because he was hanging from a beam in some Serbian warehouse with a bag over his head and, honestly, he doesn't think it counts.
His kidneys disagree, but he stopped taking votes from them a long time ago.
He recognised her voice, even though the accent had lost the soft French lilt and picked up a guttural Ukrainian, straight out of Chernihiv's back streets. She was shouting at someone, maybe a few someones, maybe the world – like he could tell, the burlap sack never came off.
The words were muffled and he caught maybe one word in ten, so he tried not to panic when it sounded like she wanted to kill him. There was a chance she was just saying she wanted to make him a sweater; it never helped to jump to conclusions.
"You know," she said in heavily accented English a few hours later, "you should give them what they want."
"So they don't kill me?" The sack was, impossibly, even more uncomfortable when it was bunching around his nose. The urge to sneeze came and went and left him with watering eyes that blinking wouldn't clear.
Her hands were gentle as they cleaned the last of the blood from his chin but her laugh, not so much. "Oh, they'll kill you."
"Yeah, I'm not seeing my motivation." He flinched back from a light touch to his mouth but when nothing more came he tentatively let his head drop forward and found the straw. The water was tepid and oily and, objectively speaking, better than anything in the history of the world.
She sighed, dramatically. "I'm getting bored. There's nothing to do here."
When the straw fell away, he let it go. "Just so I'm clear: I should give them what they want so they can kill me and you can go shopping?"
The hand that hit him on the side of the head wasn't hard and at least he'd been expecting it. "Not just shopping."
"Kateryna." The voice was male and roughened, Michael estimated the speaker was in his fifties and a professional chain smoker; he could smell the nicotine through two days of his own sweat.
Marko Boykos, out of his hole at last.
With some concern, Michael found he was more interested in the man's tone than identity. His mind circled around the warm familiarity in that one word. Affection, even. And he couldn't see the man's arm snaking around "Kateryna"'s waist, but he knew it was.
Apparently, Michael was able to view a self-styled, genocidally expansionist, warlord with professional detachment … right up to point he went near a woman who wanted Michael dead in time to catch the sales.
Sam could never, ever know.
They worked him over for three days in all and when he finally managed to escape – and that's another story he's never, ever telling Sam - he didn't hesitate to call down fire.
He's still pretty sure she didn't know who he was then. Pretty sure.
The third time Michael didn't meet Fiona, they were just voices. And they weren't even voices speaking to each other: he was monitoring Rebel comms with some serious doubts about the Agency's belief that the Rebels weren't monitoring theirs right back.
Especially when it hit 2AM and the recorder said, "Hello, Mister Agency man" in softly accented French.
He stared at it and then stood as quietly as he could, looking around the rattrap he'd called home for a week. There were cracked walls, an excessive number of lamps and sockets, old painted-over cupboards and loose, okay, loose everything. He could count the places a bugcouldn't be hidden on one hand.
"Don't bother, you won't find it. I know you're listening. And I know you're alone, too."
Quietly he reached over to cut the light on the desk and then padded over to the side of the window with a pair of binocs, taking an oblique look across the rooftops.
"Aren't you even a little bit curious how I know you're alone?"
"Not really," he murmured, trying to gauge the sensitivity of the bug. It didn't make any sense to bug this room; he and Brent had exchanged maybe three words in it. Which suited Michael.
There was a long sigh; he recognized the inflection, playful, as she had been in the warehouse. "You killed Marko, I should be the one ignoring you. We were developing quite a relationship."
He wanted to say, "It would never have worked out. You're barely thirty and he's a psychopath." He didn't, he didn't want her to know he was interested enough to read her file.
"Well if you're going to sulk."
He sat back down. "Hello, Miss … Rebel Woman."
A pause and then she said, "That's original."
He could picture her smile. "Agency Man?"
"Fine. You want to choose new callsigns? Something dramatic, like Blue Thunder."
"I really don't and … I really don't."
"Well what do you do for fun?"
He grinned. "No, I don't."
"Do you want to know what I do for fun?"
"Run guns to the highest bidder with an interesting cause and wipe out your competition with terminal enthusiasm?"
"Well work is fun, true, but there's more to life. Meet me in that bar down the street and I'll show you."
"How will I recognize you?"
He was expecting the threat then – "Don't worry, I'll recognize you" was his personal favorite, but high on the list would have been "I'm sure your partner will point you out."
She laughed. "Am I that easy to forget?"
The audio whined sharply and then silenced, the bugged phone had probably been destroyed.
He didn't go to the bar, because he wasn't stupid. He knew it was a set up, he knew it would be the worst idea in his career. And, if he absolutely had to be honest, because Brent chose that moment to drop by, only two hours late for his shift.
From the overpowering scent of perfume, Michael didn't have to guess what had kept him.
Brent's gaze tracked disinterestedly around the room. "Anything new?"
Michael glanced at the machine and then at the other man with a bright smile "Not a thing. But you know what would be fun?"
Brent, caught in the act of lowering himself to the bed, eyed him warily. "Yeah? What?"
Brent gave a heart-felt groan. That had been kind of fun.
And the thing about the fourth time Michael met Fiona was that she wasn't even conscious, and his heart was beating so hard in his chest it made him dizzy.
He'd been watching from a café on the waterfront when the boat moored just off the dock exploded and briefly turned dusk back to daylight. Pieces of burning deck were still raining when he ran to the pier and dived into the water.
Bodies had begun floating up as he searched, some blackened and some intact, and all dead.
The third time under he'd found her, struggling upwards with one hand still gripping a semi-automatic. It had been gone when they surfaced and so had her breath.
CPR was done on autopilot, two breaths and thirty pumps, two breaths and thirty pumps and desperately trying to forget the statistics.
When she finally gasped and spasmed against him, began retching as the water cleared her lungs, he held on and whispered words he couldn't hear. Her hands clawed at his arms as consciousness surfaced and then relaxed as it went under.
He'd have said they had to stop meeting like that, but he wouldn't have really meant it.
The doctor he found looked like somebody's grandmother, and she was. She was also the sister of a crime boss and had a natural understanding of secrecy and the importance of money over police involvement.
He left before Fiona woke up; he had reports to fake.
So the first time Michael meets Fiona it's nearly midnight and she's just a dark, rain-blurred outline as she leaves the bar ("'Pub', Michael. It's a pub. Call it a bar and they'll have your teeth") and walks towards his car.
She leans down enough to look through the open window and stares at him for too long. He opens his mouth to speak and she shakes her head.
The fifth time Fiona meets Michael she opens the car door, slides into the passenger seat, crosses her arms and says, "Well, finally."