Michael actually says goodbye before he leaves this time. Goodbye, and that he's sorry, and Fiona can see him biting back I love you because it's the cruelest thing he could possibly say right before walking out of her life again.

It doesn't help. Neither does the hand on her shoulder as she walks away, she tells herself. Nevertheless she lets Sam steady her, both of them moving with the same proud, stiff-backed precision that doesn't break until they're well away. By the time they're out of sight of the extraction point, they're leaning on each other.

Within a week, they're talking about Michael as if he's dead.

There are attempts to console Madeline. Fiona keeps her company just until Nate is able to make it back to town. Sam stays with the two of them for a few days, and for a while it's just like old times: he's protecting her under the guise of borrowing her guest room. But even his tireless warmth can only last for so long in the face of a hurt that intense, which Madeline understands and Nate doesn't. Sam retreats, and somehow finds that in this case retreating means going back to Fiona. Maybe he's accidentally grown to like her, the way she did with him, or maybe it's just because they're used to seeing each other in pain.

Days, they try to live as they have been: They cultivate a working partnership based in mutual respect and verbal abuse, and take on enough work to keep themselves active and financially comfortable. Sam makes decent backup on most of Fiona's bounty hunting jobs, even if he won't touch the gunrunning. And saving the world one innocent person at a time is more difficult as two people than as three, but they make it work because neither of them can imagine giving it up now.

Nights, they mourn quietly together. 'Quietly' because there's so little they can say. 'Together' because they've almost forgotten how to be alone. There are long evenings of alcohol – courtesy of the master drinker; Sam knows how to fuel the perfect combination of warm reminiscence and the need to get good and numb for a while – and long silences punctuated by soft voices that mix fondness with anger. Michael is the elephant in the room. When his name does come up, Fiona praises and curses him in the same breath.

Sam tells stories about him, funny ones and grim ones and ones he should be ashamed to repeat in the presence of a lady. He never quite reaches Fiona's level of outward emotion, save for one soft, impassioned God dammit, Mikey that she probably wasn't supposed to hear. His voice holds the same heartache she so frequently hears in her own, and for the first time she wonders if it has the same source. It's not something she ever suspected, but it doesn't particularly surprise her.

Eventually they fall into bed together. Sam proves that his reputation is more than justified, but however affectionate and attentive he is Fiona can tell he's reaching for the part of her that's also a part of Michael. She doesn't judge. She's doing the same to him.

He tries to apologize the next morning, as if she wasn't the one who initiated everything. She kisses him lightly before he can get out a full sentence, brushing off his apology with the assurance that it's not needed. They're adults, they're friends, they were both looking for a little comfort. No reason to let a one-time thing affect them.

After the fourth or fifth time it happens, they finally agree to stop calling it a one-time thing. Still just friends, still just comfort, but as long as they both understand that why should it be a problem? Fiona's given up on lying – to herself or anyone else – about caring for Sam, especially now that he's all she's got.

They actually sit down and talk about it, putting words to the unspoken understanding that, even if he's not exactly what she wants and she's not exactly what he wants, they're going to be there for each other for whatever length of time and in whatever capacity is necessary. Sam seems surprised that she needs to say it or hear it said; she became part of his family the second he agreed to be part of her team. She knows. She's met rottweilers with less loyalty than Sam. It's half the reason she stays with him, the knowledge that he's going to stay with her no matter what.

Truthfully, Sam is a valuable asset and a good choice almost every way she looks at him. It's the city that she's surprised she stays with. The first rule of nearly every career she's ever tried is "If the job goes bad, get out of there." And if the job this time was to build a life with Michael, it had certainly gone bad.

But if the job is just to build a life…

She likes Miami. Likes the sun, the shopping, the people, the unique business opportunities. She's carved out a place for herself here. The people who should know her name do, and the people who shouldn't don't. This city is hers; all she has to do is take it.

And if Michael ever comes looking for her, he'll know where to start.