Thanksgiving

When you're a spy, the first thing you learn is: no attachments, to anyone, ever. It's the most essential rule from your first day of training till the last breath you take. Attachments to people make you vulnerable, they make excellent leverage on you and it doesn't matter if they're family, friends or a casual acquaintance you happen to like.

The longer you're in the game, the easier it gets to keep people at a distance, to leave them without a word, to lie and to betray.

The longer you're out of the game, the harder it becomes.

I've been out of the game for nearly two years now and I'd never thought it possible that leaving Miami would become this hard for me. For two years, all I wanted was to be reinstated, to get my job back, get my life back. For two years, I haven't been thinking of much else than the burn notice and I got careless. I let my mom influence me, let Nate need me, and let myself become dependent on Fiona and Sam.

Before I got burned, these four people wouldn't have made it on the list of people I'd want to strand on a desert island with, yet they are the best team I could have wished for.

Tonight, I'm going to leave them, I'm going to disappear from their lives without word or warning. My name has been cleared, and I've been given a week to prepare. But how do you prepare a silent exit?

I know I'm doing the right thing and I shouldn't feel bad, but it's Thanksgiving and I'm eating my mom's turkey dinner together with my family of friends--and I don't wanna go.

My mom is looking as happy as I've ever seen her, lighting up yet another cigarette with the end of the other. Nate and Fi are bickering over who gets the last bit of the cranberry relish like she's the sister we never had. Sam eyes me speculatively over his beer and I know he knows.

He must know, well connected as he is, and he kept silent. Probably waiting if I will say something, probably trying to make my departure as easy as possible for all of us. I hold his gaze for a moment, willing him to understand that I don't have another choice. He nods, very slightly, then suddenly cracks a smile, winks at me and lifts his beer.

"Here's to Mikey," he says, just a tiny bit too cheerful. I lift my own bottle in a mock toast. "Here is to the team," I say and the beer tastes like acid as I down it.

Next to Sam, Nate lifts his bottle a little belatedly and Fi doesn't hesitate a second to use this distraction to her advantage and snatch the cranberries away from him. Nate reacts promptly, trying to snatch the bowl back and Fi holds it out of his reach, right in front of my nose. While she's busy watching Nate I take the bowl out of her hand and quickly gulp down the last of the cranberries. They help against the sour taste the moment before has left in my mouth and it also takes Fi half a minute to process what just happened to her cranberries.

With an adoring look of disbelief she hits me in the arm, hard enough to bruise, but I catch her wrist, lean over and give her a quick kiss that must still taste like cranberry. It does, because she hits me again as soon as I let go of her arm, but she smiles. I try to memorize her that way, flying hair, gleaming eyes and an amused laugh at me, because I know that after I leave tonight, she will never speak to me again.

Nate throws me a dark look, too, for the cranberries and also for the dent I left in his car the other day. He knows I will pay the repair and he also knows that I'll leave him enough money for the next repair, too, but that's how it's always been between us. I'm proud of my little brother. He's doing good with his limo service and as far as I can tell, he hasn't placed any bets for nearly a year. I just hope he stays on track now. I'll leave him the charger, I know he won't wager it.

That leaves my mom. I help her clean the kitchen, when we're done eating and Sam, Nate, Fi and a bottle of bourbon move to the sun room. I take the dish towel from its hook and wait for her to hand me the cleaned pot. "You won't be able to reach me the next couple of days," I tell her, trying to sound casual. "I'm going on a trip." She looks at me, a rapid succession of surprise, anger and fear clearly visible in her eyes. For a moment, I'm not sure if she'll drop the pot or throw it at me, but then she just hands it over, taking a deep drag of her cigarette. "You take good care, Michael" she says, cigarette-hand pointing at me for emphasis and I nod in agreement. "I will."

We clean the rest of the dishes in silence, and when we're done, I take the garbage bag and take it out through the back door. In the garage, I dump the garbage in its container, grab the duffel bag I deposited next to it, sling it over my shoulder--and hesitate.

I know I don't have any choice now, I know it's too late to turn back but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. I take a deep breath and start walking, quietly, through the garden down to the road. I have to force myself to ignore the light that shines brightly from the windows, to ignore the laughter that I can hear faintly from the sun room. At the road, I blink once or twice, bite my cheek and keep going. I don't look back. When you're a spy, the first thing you learn is: no attachments, to anyone, ever.

Two blocks down the road, there's a car waiting for me and I'm gone.

~fin~