Author's Note: Although this story is complete, I wanted it to maintain the same feel as a mid-season cliff hanger. So while these scene additions to reveal more than Long Way Back, they do not resolve anything. I hope you find them enjoyable!
Maddie looked through the nearly empty refrigerator then slammed the door shut. "Sam!" she called out, careful not to flick the cigarette hard enough to drop any ash on the floor.
"Yeah, Maddie," Sam replied.
"I need some groceries." She paused for a moment to shake her last carton. She was down to a single unopened pack. "And some cigarettes."
"Sure thing," he answered with a smile as he stepped into the kitchen. "I think you're running low on beer too," he said, peering into the refrigerator.
She heard Sam step back into the living room then lit her next cigarette off the previous. At least her hands had stopped shaking. They started shaking about the time Sam showed her how to prevent Sean from bleeding to death right there on the floor and hadn't stopped until this morning.
"Here you go... Keep this... Just in case," she heard Sam say softly. That only meant one thing: Sam gave Fiona a gun. Maddie took a long drag, then released it slowly.
"My H&K... Where'd you find it?" Fiona asked.
"Mike had it... He asked me to hold on to it," Sam replied.
Something else must be going on... Michael promised me she'd be safe now.
Her left hand shook ever so slightly. Sam knew she had the shotgun on the kitchen counter. He also felt the need to make sure Fiona was armed, even in her condition. Fiona was so tiny, she still couldn't do much without getting dizzy more than a day after getting hurt.
Maddie pushed down that little pang of guilt following her fond realization Michael'd spent more time in her home over the past two days than since he was young.
Once Sam left, Maddie made her way out to the living room and took a seat across from Fiona. Fiona sat upright and Maddie could see the exhaustion in her eyes. Fiona was holding the gun... strangely. Not so much as a weapon... but more like a cherished possession.
Fiona's hands moved in a flash, catching her off guard. Maddie hadn't expected her to cock the gun without warning. It was such a sudden, startling movement, the surprise caused Maddie to flinch and drop ashes on the floor. She frantically looked around but didn't see anyone about to storm the house. That was fortunate because the shotgun was out of reach.
Maddie realized her heart was beating a mile a minute when she looked down to make sure the carpet didn't get burned.
"Sorry, Madeline," Fiona said in a soft voice that only slightly betrayed weakness. "I'll clean that up."
"It's okay honey," Maddie replied. "Not the first time," she added with a smile. Unfortunately her right hand began shaking again after she pulled the cigarette from her mouth. She quickly put the cigarette back in her mouth before Fiona might notice the trembling.
Maddie heard the back door open and couldn't believe Sam made it back so quickly.
"Hi Mom!", Michael said as he stepped through the back door and into the kitchen.
"Hey, Fi," he added in a much softer voice before sitting down beside Fiona. When he placed his gun on the coffee table in front of them, Maddie became certain something else was going on that Michael hadn't told her.
She stood up and took another long drag. There wasn't any point pushing Michael because "it was complicated". It was always complicated. That answer generally was about all she got from him. After making it to the kitchen, she leaned against the counter top and stared out her back window. It was complicated.
"You didn't clean my gun after you used it, Michael," Fiona chastised a few moments later, just as Maddie lit another cigarette.
"I'll take care of it," he answered back. Maddie recognized his tone and could almost picture the briefest smile on her son's face. That was the closest he ever came to showing happiness and typically reserved only for Fiona. Both were speaking softly, but Maddie had long gotten over feeling guilty for eavesdropping on Michael's life.
"Strickler?" Fiona asked but Maddie didn't understand the question. Sam told Maddie that Michael killed Strickler to save Fiona. They were in the kitchen and she was pretty certain Fiona wasn't really sleeping. Maddie thought she was just lying down with her eyes closed when Sam delivered the news. Maddie knew she shouldn't have felt any pride knowing Michael killed Strickler, but she couldn't help herself, it was to save Fiona. Just the thought of it caused Maddie to choke up. Only in her upside down reality could that be so romantic.
Maddie never did like that Strickler guy. She hated the curtains he gave her. Fortunately Barry new a guy who was going to replace them in a couple days and she'd get the awful things out of her house.
Maybe Fiona just wanted Michael to tell her he killed Strickler?
After a few moments of silence, Michael just said, "Yeah."
"I'm so sorry, Michael," Fiona whispered but Michael interrupted her with a quick "I'm not."
Maddie understood now why Fiona held the gun with such reverence then took another long drag on her cigarette. Fiona must have pieced together Michael killed Strickler using her gun. Maddie swallowed hard several times and blinked her eyes rapidly. That didn't help much and she felt the tear still slide down her cheek.
Michael pulled the Hyundai to a stop. If he knew the owner had insurance, he'd total it out and do its owner a favor. Given how big of a piece of junk it was, he doubted the owner bothered though. So he left it as he found it... Just a few miles away from its original location. The police should have no problem finding it.
He wasn't thrilled about stealing it but he couldn't approach his mom's house undetected using the Charger. It was too loud and too unique and easily followed and monitored.
He did another scan of the neighborhood and saw nothing out of place. He shouldn't have any problem passing through the hedges and into his mom's back yard with minimal exposure.
Minutes later he turned the knob on the back door as quietly as possible then slid through the minimal opening into the kitchen. He crouched in the kitchen listening for footsteps before assuming he'd passed through the gauntlet without waking anyone. With that accomplished, sliding into his old room, unnoticed, was a piece of cake.
He gently set the duffle down near the foot of the bed. After taking a deep, cleansing breath, he debated only moment before leaning against the footboard to watch Fi sleep.
Fi still had not moved, so he let his mind drift. It had been years since he had the luxury of just watching her sleep. The last time he could recall was that night they spent in Nevele before hitting a bank in Ghent. He chuckled softly to himself at the memory.
They'd spent days planning the heist. After the success of their previous three jobs, Fi was the only one who still resisted his plan. Even Sean agreed with his plan. Eventually she acquiesced. He couldn't sleep so spent the entire night watching her sleep while reviewing the plan. However all of their planning was for naught because they just happened to hit the bank when the vault was open. They walked away with over 300,000 euros while causing no casualties.
Fi, returning his attention to the present, stretched her arms above her head thereby pulling her tank top up, revealing her belly button. "You haven't just watched me sleep in a long time," she said with a somewhat hoarse, but still soft, voice after twisting to her left.
Since she was awake, he set himself down on the edge of the bed then rested his right hand on her thigh. They exchanged a smile, but he provided no other response.
"What time is it?"
He looked at his watch, then answered, "just a bit after 5".
She just returned a confused look.
Michael cleared his throat then twisted his neck to the side. "Come on Fi," he said as he tapped her thigh. "Help me cover the window."
"What's going on?" she asked, but got up anyway.
He pressed his lips together fighting back a smile after he realized she just stood there in a tank top and a thong. He only included them in the clothes he retrieved for her as a lame attempt at humor... He hadn't actually expected her to wear them.
"What?" she asked again but he suspected she actually had a good handle on what he was thinking.
He sighed and sat back down on the bed. He stared at his feet for a few moments before feeling her sit down beside him.
"What's wrong?" Fi asked after taking his hand in hers.
He didn't look up and just swallowed hard. He felt her hand tremble just slightly. "Diego's dead," he said flatly.
"Not exactly sure... He called... He was drunk. Didn't make a lot of sense." He pulled her up with him. "Let's put the dresser in front of the window."
Once they tried to move the bed, they determined it wasn't moving without making too much noise.
"Let's pull the mattress off frame... Set it on the floor," she suggested.
He agreed. Once they had the mattress and box springs on the floor, moving the frame was a piece of cake. It gave them enough room to move the dresser in front of the window.
"You think they'd attack the house?"
He just shook his head. "But I don't want to take a chance," he added. "They took the effort to make his death look like a suicide," he said as he lifted a box from the closet on top of the dresser. "If they did that, they won't come at the house... Especially not in the daylight... It'll draw too much attention."
After they'd finished moving the furniture around, Michael sat on the edge of the bed and ran his fingers through his hair. He took a deep breath then reached into his duffle.
He recognized Fi's odd combination of glee and concern when he handed her the H&K G36K. "I was saving this," he paused for a moment to swallow as his throat turned suddenly dry. "For your birthday," he finished.
"Careful... It's loaded," he added once she raised the weapon to aim it. As he expected, her expression turned only serious. He tried to deflect her stare by leaning down to untie his shoes.
"I thought you said they wouldn't attack the house," she asked with just a hint of accusation in her voice.
"I also said I don't want to take any chances," he replied while unbuttoning his shirt. After he removed it, he could tell she still wasn't satisfied. "Trust me," he said after reaching across to place one hand over hers.
That seemed to mollify her a bit and she returned her focus to the assault rifle.
"It's got the two shot burst," Fi said.
"Yeah," he said with a smile. "It's not an export version, either," he added after standing up just long enough to drop his pants.
"Thank you, Michael", she said before leaning in to kiss his cheek. "It's a perfect addition to my collection."
He swallowed hard a couple of times before smiling and blinking rapidly. "I'm glad you like it." He blinked his eyes rapidly a couple more times trying to fight off the realization just how close he came to not being able to give her this, or any other present, ever again.
He wasn't sure how much longer he could stay awake. The past couple days were a blur and he suspected it was almost two days since he'd gotten any sleep at all and probably three since a full night. As exhausted as he was right now, he doubted he'd be able to sleep more than a handful of hours.
Michael laid flat on his back and felt the joints along his spine pop as his back relaxed against the bed. He picked up the second pillow and put it over his face. Although it smelled like Fi, he was too tired to be anything but minimally distracted. He heard her move around and assumed she was putting her present back in the duffle in case his mom barged in. He wasn't sure how his mom would react to an assault rifle in the house.
"Slide over," Fi instructed him by pushing against his shoulder. That caught him slightly off guard as she typically preferred on his right when they spent the night together. This time, though, she want him to make room on his left, toward the door.
He pulled the pillow off his face then set it next to him after making room for her. He couldn't help but smile when he saw she replaced her tank top with his shirt.
It turned out he didn't really need to make much room for her after all. Once she'd climbed in under the sheets, she'd pressed herself against his left side. He could see her facing him out of the corner of his eye and she was so close he could feel her breath at the base of his neck. He wasn't certain he could actually sleep in this position.
"I probably should be careful in case Madeline enters," Fi said with just a hint of humor and more than a hint of her Irish accent.
Michael just chuckled. "I would imagine my mom would be happy we're here."
"That's not what I meant," she whispered in his ear. "I'm not sure how she'd react to the rifle... Sam insisted everything was fine earlier."
"Yeah... You probably ought to make sure she doesn't see the gun."
Just as he was about to lose the battle against sleep, he felt Fi shift even closer against him. So close, in fact, that her cheek pressed against his shoulder.
The next morning Maddie woke up with a splitting headache. She stayed up well past midnight for Michael to come back, but he hadn't. As she waited for the coffee to finish brewing she chided herself for believing he'd ever change. He called that dump over the nightclub home, not this place.
Apparently not even Fiona sleeping in his old bedroom could change that.
After pouring herself a cup and lighting the morning's second cigarette, she gently rapped on the door to his old room. "Fiona, honey, would you like some tea?" she asked softly in case Fiona was still asleep. She had the door only partially open when she saw a flash of movement as Fiona yanked the sheet to cover something. Momentum carried her through the door and into the room without thinking.
It never occurred to her she might walk in on Michael and Fiona making love.
Maddie had accidentally overheard them once before, although she hadn't realized it at the time. Fiona was swearing up a storm at Michael, not even attempting to disguise her thick Irish accent. Between the walls and that accent, she couldn't make out much beyond Michael's name and a liberal amount of swear words. It went on for some time before either Fiona screamed herself out or Michael figured out the proper apology. She assumed the two had a fight over something Michael didn't do. The next morning Maddie attempted to sooth Fiona by sharing how infuriating Michael's father was, even though she loved him dearly. Yelling wouldn't accomplish anything with Michael or his father. Fiona's face was redder than hers, if possible, when Fiona hesitantly explained Michael liked it when she was vocal and apologized for the disruption.
There were many things Maddie learned about her son since his return to Miami that she'd never be able to unlearn.
Since Maddie hadn't heard any loud swearing from Michael's old room, she just assumed it was safe to enter. Fiona quickly yanking the sheet caused her to reconsider, but not before it was too late and Maddie was almost completely through the door. What she did see was a shock, but not the one she might have predicted.
Fiona sat on the floor eating a yogurt, wearing the same shirt Michael wore yesterday and looking as if nothing was amiss. However, the bed had been moved with the mattress placed on the floor and the dresser moved so it stood in front of the window. Various boxes from the closet were piled on top of the dresser, nearly blocking out all light from the window. Michael was face down on the bed as if asleep, but Maddie couldn't be sure if he was faking or not. She wouldn't put it past him just to escape an explanation.
Even worse, Maddie could clearly see the outline of the machine gun Fiona attempted to hide under the sheet. The thin, sea green cotton sheet did nothing to disguise the weapon.
She took a long drag on her cigarette and tried to play it cool, but wasn't sure how well she could hide her concern. "When did Michael come back home?" she asked trying to avoid the obvious questions of why the furniture was rearranged and why Fiona had a machine gun stashed away.
"A couple of hours ago," Fiona answered. It seemed like she was willing to play along with the charade.
"Would you like some tea?" Maddie asked again.
"Please," Fiona replied with a smile. She wasn't the liar that Michael was, but then again, didn't have that broad fake smile he used when lying to her. It was his way of showing he wasn't going to tell his mother the truth, but didn't want her to believe whatever lie he made up. This way they could both pretend, both knowing whatever came out of Michael's mouth was a load of crap. It just seemed easier than arguing over why Michael wouldn't share the truth.
"Would you like me to bring it in here?" Maddie asked to find out if Fiona was at least willing to leave the room.
"Yes, if it's not too much trouble," Fiona answered in a way that caused a slight burning in the pit of Maddie's stomach.
That most likely meant Fiona wasn't willing to be too far away from the machine gun. Maddie had become used to concealed pistols at the breakfast table, but she wasn't yet ready for a machine gun and thankfully Fiona didn't try to push that boundary. She returned to the kitchen to boil some water and see if Sam might reveal anything.
Sam didn't show concern while he sat reading the paper and drinking a beer. He hadn't even closed the blinds in the sun room.
Maddie decided to take another crack at Fiona when she went in to deliver the tea. Fiona set the half eaten blueberry yogurt down next to her pistol then took a sip of the tea. Maddie took another long drag as Fiona closed her eyes and inhaled the steam coming out of the mug.
"Anything I should know about?" Maddie asked in a vague, opened ended way after exhaling a sizable smoke cloud.
"Madeline, I'm not going to lie to you," was all Fiona answered.
Although not entirely unexpected, that was not the answer Maddie hoped to hear and took another long drag to nearly finish off the current cigarette. Somewhere along the line, she and Fiona entered into an unspoken conspiracy where Fiona would not explain the situation as long as Michael was in a position to tell her himself. Unlike Sam, Fiona seemed reluctant to create a cover story for their adventures.
Therefore Maddie assumed Fiona wasn't completely out of danger, made obvious by the machine gun Michael must have brought to protect her, but Fiona rightly wasn't going to explain the situation. Fiona would insist Michael tell his mother.
"Okay," Maddie said with a smile that quickly turned to a frown once she left the room.
Maddie still had another information source and stormed into the garage where Sam had taken up temporary exile. "Sam, what the hell is going on?" she demanded.
He turned and smiled with his normal, "Maddie?" and tried to charm his way out. She wasn't a rich divorcee looking for a boy-toy, so she couldn't understand why he hadn't figured out by now she was immune.
"Cut the crap, Sam... Michael said Fiona wasn't in any danger and now she's... she's," Maddie had to stop for a moment because she'd gotten herself so worked up, she almost dropped her cigarette. "She's got a machine gun in Michael's room," she finished and just glared at him.
"Fi wouldn't have brought a machine gun into your house, Maddie," Sam replied. She could almost see the wheels turning as he tried to come up with some lie. "At most, she might bring a semi-automatic assault rifle," he added with a flair. "A small one," he said holding his hands out, roughly about the length of the gun Fiona hid under the sheet.
"How's that supposed to make me feel any better, Sam?" she flicked the extended length of ash toward his feet.
She could tell he was still trying to create a lie, so she took a more aggressive stance. It normally seemed to work with Sam. When cornered, he admitted the truth. "Is... Fiona... in... danger?" she said slowly, making sure to emphasize her point by pointing into his face with the fingers grasping her lit cigarette.
When Sam slumped, she knew she had him. "Look Maddie, I didn't even know Fi had an assault rifle in there... Mike told me Fi was safe but something came up... Something about Strickler." He paused for a while and see studied his eyes to see if he was lying to her. "Honest... Maddie... He didn't tell me anything. If Mike thought there was anything wrong, you'd be at the loft by now."
Maddie had to concede Sam that point. Even if Michael didn't tell her the truth, he always made certain she was out of the house if there was any serious trouble.
"Do you think they figured out Strickler was shot with Fiona's gun?" Maddie asked, although she really had no idea who they might be.
"No," Sam replied shaking his head. "Even if the Feds somehow could tie it to Fiona's gun, we made it look like O'Neil killed Strickler... They want him bad... They'll pin it on him."
She shook her head then turned. "Michael's going to answer some questions for once," she said under her breath.
"Maddie, wait," Sam said as he reached out to grab her arm.
She turned to glare at him and he quickly pulled his hand back.
"Mikey's been running on fumes since Fi decided to go home to Ireland," he said with a pleading voice. "Let him sleep... If Fi's in danger, he'll need the rest... If she's not in danger, he'll deserve it."
Maddie took a long draw and thought about it. "Fiona's going to tell Michael I wish to speak with him when he wakes up," she informed Sam in her sternest voice. She snuffed the cigarette out on the garage floor before heading into the kitchen for another.
She decided to hold off lighting another cigarette until she spoke with Fiona. She listened outside the door to avoid repeating her past mistake. After hearing nothing, she gently rapped on the door then poked her head in. Fiona wasn't sitting on the floor anymore and Maddie reflexively searched the room even though it was clear Fiona wasn't hiding from her.
Michael had shifted positions so he slept on his side facing away from the door. The mug and yogurt container sitting on the floor next to the mattress should have made the situation obvious. Maddie moved ever so slightly into the room, then pressed her lips together to control her smile when she just made out Fiona's hair. She backed out of the room, a little embarrassed at not being able to immediately recognize the lump under the covers was too large to be Michael alone.
Maddie decided Sam might possibly be right. Michael wasn't acting like Fiona was in danger. She took a deep breath and released it. She was probably just overreacting. She lit another cigarette before heading out to the garage. "Sam!" she barked as she walked in, catching him off guard and stopping him in his tracks. "Barry said you'd show me how to make a Mojito... He brought everything by yesterday."
Sam looked at his watch then back at her with questioning eyes. "Now?
Lunch was still at least an hour away but Maddie was in no mood to wait. "Now, Sam," she said with a puff of smoke.
Sam slapped his hands together before rubbing them around. "I like how you think, Maddie."
She'd worry about Fiona's machine... assault rifle... later.
Michael woke up tired, although at least no longer exhausted.
Almost immediately he became uncomfortably aware of his situation. Sometime while he was sleeping Fi decided to change positions and was now on his opposite side so his back faced the door. That wasn't the uncomfortable part... She'd pulled his arm around her and it mostly rested against bare skin. He assumed she had at least a good portion of the shirt unbuttoned.
He swallowed hard but otherwise remained completely still so as not to let her know he was awake. Assuming it was roughly mid-morning, mom was most likely less than twenty feet away with nothing but a thin wall between them. Even worse, Fi preferred making love in the morning over doing so at night.
Michael decided not to reveal he was awake and after a few minutes, Fi gave no hint she learned he was lying awake.
Instead he used the time to consider his situation. Exhaustion apparently hadn't completely addled his mind earlier and the conclusion he arrived at roughly around 4am still seemed coherent. Killing Diego because Michael was working with Strickler made absolutely no sense... for anyone but Management. The Company had no reason to eliminate Diego since he objected so strongly to Michael getting back in. Michael working with Strickler only confirmed Diego's view.
Management though... Management had every incentive to make this as messy as possible to discourage the cubicle monkeys in Washington. The more doubt they created, the less likely the Company would take the risk and lift his burn notice. If Management really wanted him dead, there'd be no reason to kill Diego. And especially no incentive to give him a chance to warn Michael.
Of course, Michael couldn't operate under this assumption until he had more information. Even worse, he no longer had any information channels outside Management itself. He needed a plan.
Obviously lying in bed with a nearly naked Fiona made formulating a plan impossible. "You up?" he whispered as quietly as possible.
"Yes," she answered back then intertwined her fingers with his.
In return, he pulled her closer then leaned in to gently kiss her neck just behind her earlobe. His thumb gently caressed the area inside her wrist, just below the palm. She responded with a barely perceptible purr in her throat. So as to confirm his suspicion, he slowly slid his hand down her abdomen.
"Michael... Wait," she surprised him by resisting the movement. She wrapped her fingers around his wrist then pulled his hand back to its original location.
That response was completely out of character for Fiona and he shifted to give her some space. It seemed he completely misread the situation. Apparently that wasn't exactly what she wanted and pressed back against him. She also pulled his arm tighter around her. "Let's just stay like this for a while."
"Sure," he whispered. He couldn't help but smile after realizing he'd let out a contented purr. That was very unlike him.
As he lay there with Fi's body pressed tightly against his, he carefully considered when and how to tell her none of what happened was her fault. O'Neil didn't suddenly come after her because she contacted her mother. No, Strickler wanted her out of Michael's life and searched for the most profitable way to make that happen.
Michael's decision to work with Strickler put her life in jeopardy... nothing she did.
He owed her that explanation. The guilt was his alone to bear, not hers. He needed to tell her soon but this morning probably wasn't the best time.
Michael allowed himself another little smile when he felt Fi relax against him. Her steady breathing led him to assume she'd fallen asleep.
They could stay like this a while longer. There'd be plenty of time to worry about the future later.