Sam Axe had a headache. It could've been for any number of reasons. Perhaps it was the fact it had been a while since he'd had any form of alcohol. There was a forgotten beer in his hand at this very moment but he was not quite aware of its presence. There was a simple explanation for this phenomenon, another possible reason for the headache he was fighting.
There were two other people in the same room as Sam. And they were arguing. Loudly. It was a miracle that a punch hadn't been thrown yet. The only reason Sam hadn't escaped to the balcony was that he'd never seen these two so angry at each other. If Sam wasn't there to interfere, someone could get killed. Though that someone might end up being Sam himself if this kept up for much longer.
"Fi, the whole reason O'Neill found us was because I'm out in the cold!"
"No, he found us because Strickler was a weasel, like I told you! If you had listened to me--"
"No, Michael! Strickler, however much I hate to admit it, was right about one thing. If you're going to get your old job back, I can't stick around. And even if you were to manage getting your job back with me around, you'd leave. So, really, why am I still here?" Fiona looked at Michael expectantly for a second. Michael's face was a strange mixture of rage and confusion and it seemed as if he were grasping for words. Fiona nodded curtly.
"Exactly." And just like that, she turned on her heel to walk out the door.
"Fi!" Michael called after her quickly. "Fi! Fiona!"
Part way out of the door, Fiona stopped and turned to glare at him. Sam saw a poorly concealed look of relief wash over Michael's face and winced.
"Have you ever realized, Michael," she started, her voice colder than ice, "that every time I walk away, you call after me but never try to actually stop me?"
The relief flickered out, replaced by an expression that was reminiscent of Wile E. Coyote after getting hit by a hundred pound weight. Sam prepared himself to get out of the loft and fast.
"I wonder why that is," Fiona finished lightly and, with a slam of the door, she was gone.
Suddenly Sam remembered the beer in his hand. Taking the opportunity to hide as Michael turned his shell-shocked stare on him, Sam drained the beer in one gulp, set it down hard on the counter and started for the door.
"No time to talk, Mikey, gotta grab more beer," he said, raising one hand defensively as he grabbed Michael's keys. He'd talk to the kid but now was not the time to tell him that Fiona did have a point. So he left Michael staring after him, eyes wide and mouth ajar.
In his hurry to get away, Sam didn't notice Fiona still hadn't left the premises until he got to the Charger. She was standing in his way, arms folded and eyes squinting at Michael's front door. Sam watched her warily for a moment, observing the calculating fix on her jaw.
"Blowing up his loft isn't going to solve any problems," Sam pointed out after a moment.
"It'll relieve stress," she replied tersely. Sam raised his eyebrows.
"Whoa, okay, I wasn't serious. Are you actually thinking of blowing up his place?"
"I'm considering it." Her eyes were still moving over Michael's loft critically. Sam frowned at her for a moment before coming to his conclusion.
"Right. Fiona, why don't we go for a ride?"
Finally she took her gaze off the building and turned a skeptical look to Sam. He forced a smile and grabbed her elbow, wheeling her around to the passenger seat of the Charger. He opened the door and stepped politely to the side to let her in. Fiona only stood there staring at Sam with suspicion etched in her every feature. Sam sighed.
"Look, Fiona, I'm on your side. Michael's being thick."
"So why can't I blow up the loft?" she asked, not convinced.
"Because you'll regret it," Sam replied, unsure of how to react to the off-settling question. "Trust me. Will you please get in the car?"
She stared at him for another moment before turning to sit in the passenger seat. Sam shut the door behind her with a sigh, then walked around to get in the driver's seat.
It was silent in the car as Sam drove, stubbornly keeping his eyes on the road. He could see Fiona shooting him curious looks every so often out of the corner of his eyes. Finally, as Sam pulled in the driveway of their destination, she frowned at the house.
"Why are we at Madeline's?"
"Because we can't talk at Mike's, obviously, I don't trust you at your own place, even if everything is still in boxes, this isn't a discussion for Carlito's, sadly, and I know you trust Maddy. Plus, it wouldn't hurt for you to see your brother."
"And exactly what discussion are we going to have?"
Sam grimaced at Fiona. "Let's go inside first."
Fiona gave him one last tight-lipped glare before angrily getting out of the car and storming through Madeline's door. Sam gave another long sigh before following. He was greeted by Madeline who was looking at him quizzically. She jerked her head behind her.
"What's up with her?"
Fiona wasn't anywhere in sight. Sam assumed she'd gone to find Sean and continue plotting Michael's demise. He shook his head at Madeline.
Madeline folded her arms and stared at him.
"She and Michael got in a fight," Sam said quickly. "She's planning on leaving."
Madeline's face fell. "Again?" she asked softly. Sam nodded.
"Yeah. I'm hoping I can convince her not to."
Madeline smiled warmly at him. "That's sweet of you, Sam. If you need my help..."
"Thanks, Maddy," Sam said with a wince as Fiona and Sean came into view. Sean went straight for the kitchen, Irish temper quite apparent.
"I still don' understand why ya want ta blow up McBri—Westen's place!"
"Stress relief!" Fiona exclaimed. "Surely you understand what that means!"
Sam stared pointedly at the siblings, trying hard to avoid the look of alarm Madeline was now giving him.
"And why are ya stressed? Why take it out on him? I thought you still liked him!" Sean reemerged from the fridge, a bottle of beer in his hand. He gave it a disapproving frown before popping it open and taking a swig. "Blech," he muttered. "Can't wait to get back to good Irish booze."
Sam made a mental note to someday check out what Sean was talking about.
"My reasons don't matter," Fiona bit angrily. Sean raised an eyebrow at her and looked over her head to catch Sam's gaze.
"They get in a row?"
Sam nodded as Fiona whirled around to see who Sean was talking to. Sam winced. If looks could kill. Or maim. Or make you spontaneously combust.
"Look, Fiona, you didn't see Mike while you were, uh... gone," Sam started cautiously. "It wasn't Mike."
Sean seemed to pick up where Sam was going with this. "He's right. Westen was a bit off. I mean, he'd been lecturin' me the whole time 'bout not usin' my head."
Sam nodded, grateful for the backup. "He wasn't the cool-headed and practical son of a bitch we all know and love. He was frantic. Woke up and ran out the door without thinking."
Fiona did not seem happy about the way this "discussion" was going.
"When we rescued you?" Sam continued. Fiona's eyes darkened at the word "rescue." "We had practically no plan. Plant the bomb, get you. That was the plan. I'll admit I was surprised at how Mike decided we should go about doing that. More of your style, really: make a big bang. I don't know, seemed like he just needed to keep moving." Sam paused, trying to decipher the expression on Fiona's tense jaw. "It was scary, Fiona."
The tension in the room was stifling. Everyone was staring at Fiona, waiting. She stared at Sam for a while before turning her eyes to Sean, then Madeline.
"Well, obviously, it didn't make a lasting impression," she said finally, tone curt. Sam opened his mouth to reply but Madeline beat him to it.
"Why did he kill Strickler?"
Fiona frowned. "Because he was a weasel."
Madeline shook her head. "That's why you would've killed him, dear. But why did Michael kill him? The only people who were there were Michael and Strickler. Michael doesn't just kill people. If he can get away with it, he won't. What happened?"
Sam stared at Madeline, impressed. The woman had a very good point. No one knew exactly what had happened in those few moments.
Fiona was staring at Madeline as well, who was now looking pleased with herself as she took a puff from the cigarette between her fingers.
"Talk to him, dear," she prompted. "Before you blow up his place or leave town or something else equally drastic."
Fiona glanced at them all again. Sean grinned at her encouragingly and she sighed, sounding annoyed.
"I'm not letting you all gang up on me ever again," she vowed before pushing past Sam and Madeline and walking toward the door. "Keys, Sam," she said, holding a hand out. Sam smiled, amused, as he reached in his pocket and threw Michael's keys to Fiona. Then she was gone.
A/N: I love reviewers and live for constructive criticism!