Disclaimer: They're not mine; I'm just borrowing them for the night.
A/N: Fiona can't go back to Ireland, so Michael gives her the next best thing. Set after Long Way Back.
The tension in the room was palpable.
It wasn't as though there had never been tension between Fiona and Sam before - Sam took a perverse enjoyment in igniting her admittedly short fuse, and she'd thrown a beer bottle at his head on at least three different occasions since they'd started working together - but even Michael, who'd become skilled at ignoring their little spats, was getting distracted by the atmosphere.
After the fourth or fifth time Fiona paused in her work to glare daggers at Sam, who then paused in his work to roll his eyes at her in response, Michael set down the soldering iron and put his hands on his hips.
"What?" Sam asked innocently, and Fiona snorted.
"I think Michael wants to know why you're being so obnoxious."
"No, I think Michael wants to know why you're being so bitchy. Is it that time of the month, Fi?"
She slammed her screwdriver down on the table, reaching instead for the .45 caliber H&K on the stool next to her.
"I'll show you time of the month, you little -"
"Enough!" Michael grabbed Fiona around the waist, reaching for her gun as she bared her teeth in a feral snarl and launched herself at Sam. She was too experienced a shooter to loosen her grip when he got his hand on the gun, but he did manage to jam the web of skin between his thumb and index finger into the space between the cocked hammer and the spur. If she pulled the trigger, it would take a chunk out of his hand, but at least the gun wouldn't fire. "Sam, stop antagonizing her. Fi, if you pull that trigger and I end up needing stitches, I swear I'll make you regret it."
"If you moved your hand, I could solve both problems," Fiona snapped, but this time she let him take the gun from her. He uncocked it and tucked it into his waistband, making sure it was well out of her reach.
"Which one of you is going to tell me what the hell is going on?"
"Do you know what he said to me -"
"She's certifiably insane, Mike -"
"Never mind." Michael rubbed his hands tiredly over his face. "I take it back. I don't want to know what's going on. I just want the two of you to get over it so that we can get back to work."
Fiona and Sam both shot him disbelieving looks, but he kept his expression bland.
"Come on, kids. Kiss and make up."
From the expression on Sam's face, he was about to make a crude comment that was likely to get him killed. Before Michael could head him off, Fiona glowered at both of them and then stormed out of the apartment without another word. The door slammed behind her, echoing through the loft.
Sam whistled through his teeth. "That is one crazy banshee you've got there, Mikey."
"Sam." Michael's tone made it clear that he'd had enough for one day. "What did you do?"
"Me? She's the one who -"
Sam sighed, going over to the fridge to get another beer. "Honestly, Mike, I don't know what set her off. We were here, waiting for you to get back from your meeting, and we were just talking, and the next thing I know she's threatening to claw out my eyes with her bare hands." He took a swig of beer, then tilted the bottle toward Michael, pointing it accusingly at him. "You know she's been touchy ever since that business with O'Neill. Something I said must have hit a nerve, that's all. It's nothing."
"Fi doesn't get upset over nothing."
Sam gave him a disbelieving look and Michael sighed again.
"She doesn't get this upset over nothing." He hesitated. "Usually. Probably."
Sam shrugged, taking another drink. "I don't know what to tell you. She said something about a pub she used to go to in Ireland, I said something about this fantastic Kilkenny Irish cream ale I had once in Dublin, and suddenly she was at my throat. I can't explain it."
People skills weren't really Michael's strong suit. He was a pro at manipulating people, at getting them to think or do what he wanted them to, but that was more a function of his ability to sell his cover ID than anything else. Figuring out their motivations or why they did the things they did wasn't always easy for him, and it was doubly hard to interpret the meaning when it was Fiona doing something inexplicable. She left him shaking his head in bafflement on a regular basis. This time, though, he was pretty sure he knew what the problem was, but he was at a loss about how to solve it. He doubted Sam would believe him if he said that the reason Fi was so upset was because she was homesick.
"Hey, Sam?" he said instead, the glimmer of an idea starting to form. "Can you get me some of that ale?"
"What, the Kilkenny Irish cream ale? It's pretty hard to find in this country." Sam considered it for a moment. "Yeah, I think I know a guy."
"Good. Do it."
"Okay." Sam watched, puzzled, as Michael grabbed his sunglasses and his keys. "Where are you going?"
He ducked out the door without any further explanation, leaving Sam standing alone in his kitchen with a bemused expression on his face.
"I guess the job's on hold, then?" he asked the empty room. Shaking his head, he pulled out his phone and looked through the saved numbers for his old buddy who worked in import-export. He might not have any idea what was going on, but once he managed to get that ale, he could give it to Michael and wash his hands of the whole situation.
Fiona racked a round into the chamber of her freshly cleaned Makarov, snapping the slide back a little harder than was strictly necessary. That was one of the nice things about guns: they were made to withstand punishment, so if you took your frustration out on one, you weren't likely to do any damage to it.
Her phone rang and she considered ignoring it, but the caller ID showed that it was Michael. Then she considered shooting it, but curiosity won out over irritation, and she decided to just answer it.
"Fi, there's a box by your front door. Go get it."
She considered his words, considerably more interested than she'd been a moment before.
"Is there a bomb in it?"
"Is there a...Fi, why would I put a bomb in front of your house?"
"Well, you didn't say you were the one who left the box," she pointed out reasonably, tucking the Makarov into the thigh holster under her dress before sauntering over to the door. The box was brown and nondescript, about the size of a microwave, and disappointingly bereft of explosives. Instead, it held a pair of gray corduroy pants, a green wool sweater, and black combat boots. "What is this, Michael?"
"Put it on and get over here."
"Michael," she started to protest, but he cut her off.
The line went dead. She dropped the phone into the box, folding her arms across her chest and making a face at the clothes.
"Hurry, Fi," she mimicked, knowing it was childish and not caring, but she grudgingly scooped up the box and headed inside to change.
When she got to the loft, Michael was standing on the stairs outside, watching her approach with a guarded expression. She got out of the car and spread her hands out to the sides, showing him that she was wearing the clothes he'd left her.
"It isn't exactly appropriate Miami beach wear, even for February," she pointed out, already uncomfortably warm in the wool sweater, and he smiled, crooking his finger in a silent come-hither gesture that sent an agreeable shiver down her spine. She sauntered up the steps, wishing he'd picked something that would let her show off a little leg, or even a little ankle, for chrissakes. She hadn't worn anything this covered up and boring since she'd left Ireland.
Thinking of home made her eyes sting, and she shook off the melancholy that threatened to descend on her again. Michael clearly had something planned - he had that look in his eyes - and she wasn't going to ruin one of the rare occasions when he indulged his practically nonexistent romantic side by pouting about her inability to go back.
When she reached the landing, he slid his arms around her waist, pulling her tight against his chest, and she realized he was wearing a thick cable-knit sweater that looked vaguely familiar.
"A little confused about our current latitude, are we?" she inquired with a laugh. Instead of giving her a flippant response, he moved his hands to her face, cupping her cheeks in his palms.
"Do you trust me, Fiona?"
She blinked at him, surprised both by the question and by the suggestion that he didn't already know the answer.
"Of course I do, Michael."
"Good." He produced a black scrap of fabric from his pocket. "Close your eyes."
She couldn't help but smirk as he tied the blindfold around her head, amused by this latest development. Between the two of them, she was far more likely to show up to a late-night rendezvous armed with a blindfold or handcuffs than he was. For an international man of mystery, Michael Westen's usual inclination was for disappointingly vanilla sex. Not that the sex itself was disappointing; far from it. He was as skilled with his body as he was with a shotgun or a soldering iron. Still, there was a lack of adventure in his bedroom preferences that occasionally frustrated her.
His left hand settled on her waist, leading her through the door, and she hummed with pleasure as his deft fingers slid under the hem of the sweater and brushed against her bare skin. The first sign that this rendezvous wasn't what she'd thought it was hit her immediately; rather than being too warm, she was now comfortable in her thick sweater and corduroy pants. He must've had the air running on high all day to make the loft this cold.
"Come on, then, Fiona," he murmured to her, in the Irish accent he'd been using when she'd first fallen in love with him, and she shivered again. "Have a pint wi' me."
"Michael Westen -" she started to demand, and he stroked her cheek with one long finger to silence her.
"Name's McBride," he replied softly. "Come on, Glenanne. I'll buy you a drink."
She let him lead her over in the direction of his kitchen, her head spinning, and the background noise that had first registered when she walked in the door got louder as they approached the counter.
"That's the pub," she identified slowly, mystified. "The voices - that's O'Rourke, and Cally, and Liam. Michael, what -"
"Shh. Drink yer ale, now, there's a love," Michael said, his accent thick and rich like homemade butter, and she inhaled deeply. He smelled like pine needles, she realized belatedly, like pine needles and firewood and good strong Irish ale. The way he'd smelled back when he'd been Michael McBride.
She took the mug he placed in her outstretched hand, and an experimental sip brought back the stinging in her eyes. It was Kilkenny Irish cream ale, the same kind he'd bought for her the first time they'd met, in a dingy little pub in Dublin. The sounds and the scents and the taste of the ale mingled together, and for one long, perfect moment, she was back in Ireland again.
Impulsively, she yanked off the blindfold and found Michael watching her with unreadable blue eyes.
"The pub," she said, the pieces falling into place, and she stroked her fingers along the thick green wool of the sweater he'd given her. "The ale, the sweater -"
"You had a sweater like that one back in Dublin," he said softly. "It wasn't your favorite, but it was warm, and you wore it whenever the weather turned cold. I always thought it was beautiful on you. This one isn't quite the same, but it was the closest I could find."
She tried to imagine Michael shopping for sweaters, comparing each one he saw to his memory of her from years ago, a mere slip of a girl with a big mouth and a devil-may-care attitude who wore wool and corduroy on the outside and lace and satin underneath. The image made her smile.
"Where did you get this ale?" she asked, taking another sip and rolling it on her tongue before swallowing it. "It tastes just the same."
"A buddy of Sam's," he replied, and she flushed, thinking of how unpleasant she'd been to Sam this week. She'd have to make it up to him - in secret, of course. It wouldn't do for him to think she'd gone soft on him after all this time.
"And the soundtrack?"
He pointed wordlessly at the portable CD player on the counter, and she gave him an incredulous look.
"It's a CD?"
"It started out as a cassette tape," he admitted. "Surveillance from that pub down by McCaskill's place. I converted it to CD when tapes became outdated."
"All these years, you kept a surveillance tape from the nineties? You? The man who can't even keep a cell phone for more than a week?" She shook her head in disbelief. "Pull the other one, it's got bells on."
"I kept the tape."
"Because you're on it."
She stared at him, those gorgeous blue-gray eyes lightening as she tilted her head to the side. "Play it for me, then."
He skipped the CD ahead several tracks, then leaned against the counter as Fiona heard her own voice through the speakers.
"- love to stay and drink another round with you boys, but I've work to do," a younger Fiona declared, her voice slow and sweet like honey.
"I'll walk you home," the younger Michael replied in a thick Irish brogue.
Her laugh then had been as brash and full of bravado as it was now. "I c'n take care of meself, Michael McBride," she said archly, and then it had been his turn to chuckle. She could see him in her memory, as clear as if it had been just yesterday, with a wry smile on his face and his arms raised in mock surrender.
"My mistake, my fair Fiona," he replied, and now she finally remembered the sweater he was wearing tonight. It was the same one he'd worn that night to the pub, where they'd met to make plans for one of a hundred bank robberies they'd committed together in the name of the IRA. He must have had a bug set up under the table.
"Good night, boys," her voice said from the speakers, and there was a brief round of goodbyes, and then the sound of a kiss. She'd kissed him on the cheek, she recalled, for no better reason than because she'd wanted to. "Good night, Michael."
Michael pushed stop on the CD player, not meeting Fiona's gaze.
"I played that part so many times, I wore out the first two tapes," he admitted, staring at the far wall of the apartment. "I used to listen to it at night before I went to sleep. In Baghdad, in Afghanistan..." His voice trailed off as he remembered those lonely nights, the times when Fiona's voice had been the only thing that kept him holding on. "Sometimes I'd just play it over and over. You'd say 'Good night, Michael', and then I'd say 'Good night, Fiona'. It was almost like having you there with me."
She stared at him, her lips parted in shock, suddenly unable to catch her breath.
"Michael," she whispered, her heart aching for him, and he flashed her that faux smile of his that never came close to reaching his eyes.
"I always wanted to come back to Ireland, but I was pretty sure you'd shoot me on sight after the way I left." He shrugged. "And now here we are. Sometimes things work out, I guess."
Fiona reached out to run her fingers along the line of his strong jaw, the sharp angle of his cheekbone, the scar that ran below his left eye. He stood still, watching her with the ghost of that smile still on his lips until her mouth captured his and she kissed him tenderly. He nuzzled her cheek, closing his eyes.
"I'm sorry, Fiona."
"For what?" she breathed against his lips, and he ran his fingers through the soft waves of her hair.
"It's my fault you can't go home."
He felt her pull away from him then, and steeled himself for whatever response she might make to that. The brush of her lips against his forehead surprised him, and he opened his eyes to find her smiling up at him.
"I wouldn't trade the time I spent with Michael McBride for anything," she told him, that familiar defiant spark in her voice. "And I wouldn't trade the time I've spent with Michael Westen, either."
He took a deep breath. "Even if it means you can never go home?"
"I can't go back to Ireland," she replied, stepping back into his embrace and resting her cheek against the sensible cable knit of his sweater as his arms wrapped automatically around her. "But this is as close a place as I've ever had to a home, right here."