New A/N: I noticed FF is being weird about the breaks between scenes, so I'm reuploading the chapters to redo them. Sorry in advance if this bumps the story back up to the top. Not trying to be a diva, just trying to get the formatting right. :)
A/N: Let's get all this author's note stuff out of the way so you can focus on the story…
I don't usually write AU fic, but this is my piece for wickedpissaa as part of winter_deaddrop's AU ficathon and I kind of love it. My prompt was, "Fiona is taken to Ireland and Sam and Mike go after her." I was pleasantly surprised with how nicely the story fell into place.
Many many thanks to jebbypal and karendipitee for betaing such a big project. Superduper extra thanks to karendipitee for also being a sounding board for ideas right from the beginning. She constantly challenged my assumptions of where the story had to go and it turned out ten times better for that. I learned so much researching for this fic, it was a lot of fun. If you're at all interested in Ireland, I totally recommend Lonely Planet's book Irish Language and Culture. It's cheap and adorably tiny but packed with fun and helpful information.
Anyway, I don't usually say this, because I think it goes without saying, but thanks to Nix and the actors for letting me play with their characters. I learned a lot about writing after practicing with this fic and feel much more confident now to start working on some of my own, original ideas.
To prepare yourself to read, I would recommend rewatching "Long Way Back" up until the point where Michael leaves Strickler's condo after shooting him. That is where we pick things up here…
Fiona: The Client
Michael stalked out of Strickler's condo and dialed Sam's number. The seething rage that had just forced his finger to pull the trigger still burned deep inside of him.
"Sam, listen to me," he spoke quickly and curtly. "Strickler arranged for O'Neill to get out of the US on a cargo ship. He's been making regular calls to a charter fishing house on Key Biscayne."
"Well that must be where O'Neill has Fi," Sam said. "It's perfect. Those places are secluded, they've got private docks…"
"Perfect place to load a prisoner onto our transport boat. How's Sean?"
"He's finally stable," Sam replied.
"I'm coming to get you." Michael tossed the phone and the gun in the passenger seat, climbed in, and took off.
When you're a spy, you need to learn to control your emotions. You might pretend to be angry or depressed or just plain crazy, but underneath the act you need to be the one in control. When you lose your cool, that's when things start to go wrong. And when you're a spy…things can go very, very wrong.
The Charger rolled to a stop in a grassy picnic area a fair distance away from the fishing house in question. Michael and Sam climbed out and scanned the building and the docks with binoculars. From all outward appearances, it was just another typically sunny, Miami day. A breeze blew the palm leaves gently back and forth and the water glistened delicately. Neither of them spotted any guards securing the grounds and there weren't any boats at the dock.
"You sure this is the right place?" Sam questioned.
"This is it, Sam," Michael lowered his binoculars in frustration. "This is the address for the number Strickler was calling."
"Mike, it doesn't look like anyone's here."
Michael started walking back around to the driver's side of the car. "Get back in the car, Sam."
"Mike? What?" he questioned but followed the orders anyway.
Michael revved the car's engine and then sped full force into the chain link gate blocking their entry onto the property. He and Sam ducked behind the dash as they came to a stop, guns drawn, ready to fight in case their entrance brought anyone out of the fishing house. When everything remained quiet after a few moments Michael got out and ran toward the building, completely ignoring Sam's cries to wait for cover.
Two swift shots blew out the lock on the door and Michael kicked it open, sweeping his gun over the room before stepping inside.
"Damn it, Mike!" Sam yelled as he caught up. "You're gonna get yourself killed."
Sam could hear the twinge of panic in Michael's voice.
"Is this even the right place?" He tried to give Michael some hope. "Were they even here?"
"Look," Michael pointed out a water bottle and some empty foil-backed pill casings in the trash. He pulled the bottle out of the trash and shook it to point out the few drops of liquid that remained in the bottom of the bottle. "See that?" he asked Sam. The liquid was a bright blue color.
"I'm guessing that's not Gatorade." Sam whistled under his breath, "Rohypnol. Hell of a lot easier to get your prisoner from your fishing house to your transport ship, and then onto your cargo boat when she's too drugged up to protest."
"We're too late," Michael threw the bottle back into the trash and then kicked the can into the wall, leaving a sizable crack in the cheap, plastic container.
"This isn't over, Mike. We can still find her. We can still get her back," Sam tried to force his voice into its most assured tone even though he knew just as well as Michael how tenuous the situation was.
Michael pressed a thumb against the bridge of his nose and took a deep breath. "Yeah…yeah. You're right," he nodded at Sam. "Let's give this place a once over and then get out of here."
The drive back to Michael's mother's house felt longer than it should have given the speed Michael was going. They hadn't even gotten out of the car at Maddie's house before she threw open the front door.
"Michael!" she called. "Did you find her?"
The emotion in Michael's eyes as he looked over the roof of the car told her clearly that their mission to rescue Fiona had not been successful. "Sam?" she whispered as he approached her.
"Not yet, Maddie," was all he said before slipping inside to see if Sean was awake.
Michael retrieved the bag of rifles from the trunk of the car. The bomb they had planned to plant on O'Neill's boat and the dive gear sat in there too, almost mocking him. He'd come back for them later.
Maddie stood on the porch, waiting for Michael, the cigarette in her fingers forgotten and dripping ash on the cement stoop. "Michael," she whispered sadly with tears forming in her eyes. He stood there in front of her, holding the large bag over his shoulder. "What…?" she couldn't quite bring herself to finish the question.
Michael sighed heavily. "We were too late. They'd been there, but they were already gone."
A quiet, "Oh," was the only response she could muster. She laid a hand on his cheek and looked in his eyes. She saw an all too familiar pain there, the terrible, soul-cutting, backbreaking pain that she used to see when she'd bring a bag of frozen peas to his room after a fight with his father. In all the time that he'd been back in Miami, she'd never seen that look in his eyes until now. Not even when Sam was missing and they'd been holed up in a godforsaken foreclosure that Nate had called home. At least then he'd had a plan, had confidence that he could execute it successfully. Here he looked hopeless and it made her eyes brim over with tears.
"Ma…I…" he motioned for her to let him in the house.
She choked the tears back just enough to say, "Oh, yeah…sorry," and stepped aside.
He set the bag of guns down on the dining room table and she shut the door behind him. "I'll be right back," she muttered as she passed him and headed back to her bedroom to collect herself.
Sam was in the sunroom talking to Sean, who lay stretched out on the couch, his chest wrapped in gauze and ace bandages to keep some pressure on his wounds.
"What do you mean they're gone?" Sean asked. His voice was a little too loud and a little too angry to be healthy for someone who'd so recently escaped death.
"Sean, calm down," Sam tried to settle him. "This is not over, we still have some moves we can make. We're going to find your sister."
Michael walked over to them and Sean glared at him. "So, it's Westen now?" he said. "I trusted you." He used what little strength he had at the moment to lift an arm and point a finger at Michael. "I trusted you back in Ireland and I trusted you to take care of my sister here…look what you let them do to her. You were a liar then and a disgrace now." His voice cracked and he was forced to let his arm fall back to his side. "I should've taken my shot at O'Neill earlier when I had the chance."
Sam noted with growing concern the set of Michael's jaw and the tightness in his breath.
"Oh?" Michael said to Sean, barely restraining his anger. "And what good would that have done, besides getting all of us killed by his men?"
"We could have taken them out, Fiona and me together. Hell, even Fi could have taken them out by herself!" He was pushing himself up off the couch, into Michael's face. "You were supposed to take care of her! You-"
"I thought you were supposed to take care of her," Michael yelled back. "What? You came all the way over from Ireland just to get shot full of holes? You could've saved us all the trouble and just stayed home for that!"
"HEY!" Sam finally yelled and pushed himself between them. Sean's breath was coming in loud, wheezing inhalations and Michael was visibly shaking. "That's enough! Michael, go sit down," he pointed to the couch across the room and Michael glared at him but followed the order.
"Now," Sam continued. "Screaming at each other is not going to help us find Fi. Sean, Michael and I found a water bottle at the boat house that had been laced with Rohypnol." Sean sputtered and tried to sit up again but Sam pushed him gently back into the pillows. "No, that's a good thing," Sam said, trying to sound upbeat. "It means they haven't killed her and they're not planning to kill her anytime soon."
Michael continued to glare at him for being so confident with his theories but admitted to himself that Sam was right. "If that's the case," Michael continued for Sam, "then he must be going ahead with the plan to bring her to auction. He either doesn't realize anything has happened to Strickler or he doesn't care."
"Right," Sam agreed. "He probably doesn't care what happens to Strickler anyway as long as he's got Fi and can get out of the country."
Michael went on, "Strickler said he hired a cargo shipping company to get O'Neill and his crew out into international waters. If we could follow him, we could intercept the ship and get Fiona before it's too late."
"Mike, it's probably already too late for that," Sam said. "Our best bet would be to have someone intercept the cargo ship when it docks in Ireland. It'll take them at least a week to sail that far."
"You're right, Sam. I'm gonna have to get over there somehow."
"Whoa, wait Mikey! With your burn notice, you're not going anywhere. You try to leave Miami and the Feds'll be all over you. There's no way you're going to be able to do that."
"Yeah, Sam, there is." Michael stood up and ran for the door. "I'll be back. I'm gonna go see Lucy."
Lucy Chen, security consultant for a major commercial security firm in Miami and former spy, was absentmindedly checking her email during a meeting when a familiar voice in the lobby caught her attention.
"I'm sorry, sir," their receptionist was replying. "Without an appointment I'm afraid there's no way you're going to be able meet with Ms. Chen today." The receptionist raised her voice to speak over the man who was arguing with her. "There's nothing I can do, sir, she's in a meeting right now as we speak. If you would just tell me your name we could set up an appointment for next week and you could-"
Lucy looked around the room at her coworkers in the meeting. She smiled apologetically at them. "If you'll excuse me…" She gathered her things quickly and headed to the front desk.
"Sir, sir! It's just…I can't…I'm sorry, but!"
"Lucy!" Michael pounced on her like a starving lion who'd just spotted an antelope.
The death glare Lucy shot Michael silenced him at once. "It's okay, Sarah. I forgot I was doing some pro bono work this month," she gave the receptionist a knowing smile before turning back to Michael. "Come on back," she motioned for him to follow her.
She remained silent and completely professional as they walked down the corridors to her office. The glass walls of the offices allowed an easy view of sleek, modern furniture; lush, tropical plants; and the kind of technology Hollywood execs would dismiss as too over the top. She stopped finally at a door at the end of the hall and ushered him inside nonchalantly. After shutting the door firmly behind herself, she touched a computer panel off to the side that turned the clear glass walls of the office a frosted white. Another button responded with a chirp before she turned back to Michael and smacked him upside the head with her legal pad.
"God, Michael! What the hell is wrong with you? What was that out there? Have you completely lost it?"
He rubbed his head, surprised after the sudden attack. His head still ached from O'Neill's attack earlier. He refocused. "Lucy, I need your help. You've gotta help me."
"Michael, I'm not doing anything with you if you're like this. It's not safe and it's not going to be productive." She pointed to her private bathroom. "Go splash some water on your face and pull yourself together. I'm making you some tea."
The look on his face chilled her bones as he shuffled across the room. Not only was his behavior unsafe and unproductive, it was completely uncharacteristic of the man who had taught her so much in her early days in the field. She went to the phone on her desk and called up to the receptionist.
"Sarah? Cancel my appointments for the rest of the day, please."
At a company like Lucy's everyone knew better than to ask questions. "Yes, Ms. Chen," the receptionist answered simply.
Lucy was just heating the water for the tea when Michael reemerged from the bathroom. He still looked drained and dazed but at least he looked less frantic. She waved him to the couch. His complexion was shockingly close to the white leather.
"What's going on, Michael? You look terrible."
"They took Fiona," his voice was low and somber. He looked down at the floor between his feet. Lucy waited quietly for him to continue, her arms crossed cautiously over her chest. "There was a man who was trying to get me to work with him, Thomas Strickler. He was going to help me get back in, but…he didn't think that Fiona would help my case very much."
"That's understandable," Lucy said quietly.
Michael looked up at her intently. "Sure, maybe, but instead of letting me handle things, he decided to take matters into his own hands. He got in touch with an old enemy of Fiona and helped him kidnap her here. Fi's brother even came over to help, but they still got past us. They've got her and they're taking her back to Ireland to be auctioned off to her enemies…the highest bidder. I don't know how much you know about Fiona, but…"
"That's probably a lot of people," Lucy finished the thought for him.
"Lucy…I've got to get to her before anything happens. They're taking a cargo ship back to Ireland, so I've still got time. I just have to get out of Miami and get to her before the auction."
"And that's what you need my help for?" she surmised.
"Please, Lucy," his voice strained. "I know this is big, but you know what this means to me. She's…she's…" his voice was cracking too much to say any more.
Lucy tried to make her voice soothing, "I know, Michael, I know." She knew more than anyone else that he was still on good terms with what it meant to be a spy and to have to stay unattached, how sometimes that was unavoidable, and the troubles it caused.
She brought him a china cup full of warm, brown liquid. Holding it in his hands, Michael marveled at how easy it would be to tighten his fingers a little bit more and just crush it. It was so delicate, so unlike most of the things he filled his life with. It reminded him of Fiona, tiny and breakable, yet able to hold up under intense heat. Fiona was smart, strong, and resilient, but no matter how tough she fancied herself, there would always be a part of her that was tiny and breakable and that's what made her human and not some magical superhero. She would do whatever she had to do to survive, he knew that, but he needed to find her before anyone could break her beyond repair.
He didn't know exactly how long he'd been staring at the tea in his hands, but when he looked up Lucy was typing and clicking away on the computer, bringing up windows and shuffling papers around.
"Okay," she said, sensing his eyes on her. "I think I've figured out a way to get us onto one of our cargo flights tomorrow night. It's headed to St. Petersburg, but I can arrange for a stop-off wherever you need to go in Ireland."
"Us?" he questioned.
Lucy leaned across the desk to look at him. "Yes, Michael…us. There's no way I'm letting you and Sam walk into this alone. It sounds like you're going to need all the help you can get. Plus…I owe you."
He shook his head, trying to dissuade her, "Lucy, you know you don't owe me anything."
"Michael," she rolled her eyes at him. "Look at me. Look around." She held his gaze. "I owe all of this to you and what you taught me. Please let me help you."
His lips formed a thin, tight smile as he nodded. "Thanks, Lucy. Call Sam later to get things set up?"
"I will," she smiled. "See you tomorrow."
After his stop at Lucy's office Michael drove back to his mother's house to brief Sam on the situation and gather a few supplies. Sean was out cold, exhausted after the earlier fight.
"So Lucy's gonna come with us? That'll be helpful," Sam commented as he sipped a beer.
"Yeah," Michael agreed. "Can you set up the details with her? I need to take care of a few things before we leave."
"No problem, Mike. I'll meet you at the airport tomorrow with Sean." He gave Michael a steady pat on the back and pushed a few pills into his hand. "Get some rest buddy. We're gonna need it."
Michael almost laughed at the understatement. "You too."
Maddie found Michael as he was just finishing up some packing in the garage.
"Yeah, Mom? What is it? I've gotta go."
"I know, Michael," she came over to lay an arm on his shoulder. "I just wanted to tell you, it's going to be all right." She felt the tightness he'd been holding in his shoulders for the past day release and he let his head hang down to his chest. She put the cigarette out in an ashtray and lifted his chin so he would look at her. "I'm not just saying that, Michael. I've been thinking today and I truly believe that this will all turn out all right. I mean, look at us," she motioned to the two of them. "Life can hand you a lot of shit, and Lord knows you and I have had enough for three lifetimes, but we're still here. We're still here and we're better than ever. It might be hard and painful but you'll get through this and be all right. We'll all be all right. Okay?"
He smiled…a tiny, sliver of a smile, but he smiled, and that was enough for her. "Thanks, Mom," he said, his voice low, and then pulled her in for a hug before turning to leave.
He was halfway across the yard when she ran out the door and yelled after him, "Michael!"
"Ma, I gotta go!"
"I know…just, don't forget to pack some clothes for her…for when you've got her. She'll want some clean clothes…her own clothes."
He nodded, and the sliver of a smile turned into a grin. It was the first time he'd pictured her, really visualized her, free and fine…Fiona in his arms again, Fiona curled up next to him in bed, Fiona fighting with her brothers. "Yes…thanks! Thanks, Ma."
He was just about to slide into the driver's side when she yelled again, "And Michael!"
"Ma!" he slammed his fist on the roof of the Charger.
"I love you, Michael. You be careful, you hear me? And you tell Fiona I love her too, okay?"
"I will," he paused. "I'll see you soon."
Maddie waved him off and then sat down on the porch to have another cigarette. It was going to be a long two weeks.