Title: Of Those Left Behind

Summary: Two moments in the life of Nate Westen.

Disclaimer: I don't own Burn Notice.

Notes: Rated T for allusions to Michael and Nate's home life.

When Michael leaves, he doesn't tell Nate. No one does.

He comes home one day and Michael isn't there. He doesn't worry, because he's not a worrier, not the responsible one. He barely even notices that Mike's gone until three days later, when he needs to borrow a fifty from him. He asks his mom when Mike's going to get home.

"He left," she says, cigarette hanging limply from slack fingers as she stares out the window.

"Yeah, I got that. I just wanted to know when he'll be back. I got a friend who needs a favor, and…" He leaves the sentence floating – doesn't commit himself, on that slim chance that his mother still believes he's her good little boy.

"He left," she repeats, not turning his way, or saying anything more. And suddenly Nate feels a chill up his spine, like he did that time Mike sneaked him into The Poltergeist and he saw that little girl in front of the TV set.

He believes in luck, and chance, and premonitions. He's good at putting his faith in them blindly. But he shakes this one off, because it's dark, and troubling, and shakes him somewhere inside. So he forgets it because it makes him feel anxious and slightly guilty.

He's good at doing that too.

All the same, he can never forget that look on his mother's face, staring at something he never could see.

The days pass by, Nate doesn't even know how. To be honest, he doesn't even remember them. He remembers special days, like that time he won ten grand at the races once – and although he doesn't remember how he lost it, he remembers getting the crap beat out of him when he can't pay up his bookie. He remembers the time his dad lost big at the races – he got beat up even worse then. Since Michael left, he's gotten very used to getting beat up. He remembers his dad's funeral. He remembers a couple of girls in between, vaguely. How seven years pass by without Michael he can't remember.

Until Michael returns.

Nate stands hanging back in the shadowy kitchen, arms crossed, sneaking looks at his brother between staring at his shoes and his mom. Because it's not Michael that's returned. It's a clean shaven, rigid, precise man who looks like he'd rather be at his own autopsy than with his mom and brother.

Nate can't figure out why that surprises him. It's the way Mike's always been. There's nothing different, except there is.

"Why didn't you call?" Mom asks him.

"I didn't see the point, since you found out my number anyway," Mike says with a smile that's gained in sarcasm.

"You disappear for years, barely a call since you left home, of course I was worried."

Mike says nothing, looking off to the side with narrowed eyes.

"Why didn't you come back?"

There's a long moment of silence, and Nate's amazed to find that his whole body is taut.

"There was nothing to come back to."

Nate says nothing as they move on to easier topics, at least nothing of importance. He spends the rest of Michael's visit at clubs and casinos. He doesn't even know when his brother leaves town.


It doesn't matter, he thinks to himself when he finally goes home and his mom is sitting by that same window. He takes a shower, gets his stash of savings from his room, and leaves again.

After all, there is nothing for him to come back to, either.

Comments and criticism always much, much appreciated :).