Worse than Being Burned

By Skye Silverwing

Disclaimer: If you recognize a character, it probably belongs to someone else.

Chapter 2: A Bad Day.

When you find yourself waking up in a familiar location after a traumatic event, it is very important to be able to quickly take stock of changes that may impact your situation. Presence of unfamiliar people or items can be a clue that something is wrong. Even more than that, though, is when even the familiar things are wrong.

Michael awoke to a throbbing headache and bleary eyesight. Above him, he saw the familiar ceiling of the loft. Something was wrong, though. The ceiling seemed too far away. As he turned his head, he saw the rest of his loft, and the strange feeling increased. Everything seemed out of place, oversized.

Hearing footsteps coming up the stairs outside, Michael decided to pretend to be asleep, hoping to get a drop on whoever was coming. A few moments later, he heard a key in the lock and the voice of his boisterous old buddy, Sam Axe.

"I don't know, guys, I talked to some of my buddies, but nobody seems to know where he could have been taken." Sam was saying, "I can certainly tell you that Kendra's friends are well connected. There was no indication that they were ever in Miami, let alone an indication of when they left."

Fiona sighed as she and Jesse followed Sam through the door. "I suppose that means that the kid is our only lead for finding him." She said.

Jesse sighed as well. "Yeah, it still doesn't make sense, though." He said, "Why would these bad guys wreck his car and then take him, leaving this kid behind?"

Michael opened his eyes, curious, only to see Fiona staring back at him.

Fiona glanced at her companions, and nodded to the bed. "Maybe we should ask him, then." She said, stepping over to the bed and sitting on it. "Hey, there, sweetie, we know you must be confused, but we need to ask you some questions."

Michael's brow furrowed. "Fi…" he said, "What the hell happened?"

A flash of confusion crossed the former IRA agent's face, and she looked between him and her companions. "How did you know my name?" she asked, casting accusing glares at Sam and Jesse, one of whom must have spoken with him without her knowledge.

Michael raised one eyebrow. "Why wouldn't I know your name, Fi?" he asked, trying to reconcile what had happened. "We have known each other for years."

Confusion played across Fiona's features, so Michael shifted his attention to the other two people in the room. "Sam. Jesse." He said, locking eyes with each of them as he shifted toward the edge of the unusually oversized bed. "What is going on?"

Sam and Jesse looked at each other, both seeming as confused as Fiona.

Sam adopted the smile Michael had seen him wear on several occasions when he had been trying to keep someone from panicking in light of the realities of the life of a former Spy. "We found you in the driver's seat of the wrecked car of a friend of ours." He said in his most reassuring voice. "A guy named Michael Weston. We are just wanting to know if you know where he is."

Michael raised one eyebrow. "Umm… I am right here, Sam. I am Michael Weston." He said, "Why would you…" He trailed off as his eyes fell upon the mirror on the wall. In the mirror, sitting on the bed staring straight back at him with wide eyes was a small boy that looked exactly like him when he was a child. "Oh."

.o0o. .o0o. .o0o. .o0o. .o0o.

Spies don't like to be compromised, but when you are in a situation where even your own teammates can't tell for sure who you are, sometimes you have to call in someone who can.

Madeline Weston was concerned. First Fiona had called her asking her if she had seen or heard from Michael, and now she had been called by Sam to come to Michael's loft "to clear something up."

Never a good sign.

Maddie knocked on the door to the loft and Fiona answered. "Maddie, it is good that you are here." The former IRA agent said, "Maybe now we can get to the bottom of this."

Maddie looked the girl up and down; she had a little hint of concern about her that did not bode well for this instance. "Fiona, I came right over as quickly as I could." She said, "What did you…" her words trailed off as she spotted Sam and Jesse and a small boy. She looked closer at the boy and realized that he was the spitting image of… "Michael?"

Fiona moved quickly to the older woman's side as she wavered and fainted, catching her as she fell and lowering her gently to the floor. She then looked up at Sam, and then Jesse, and then the boy that they had just confirmed to be Michael.

Michael looked back at her. "Is that proof enough for you?" he asked.

.o0o. .o0o. .o0o. .o0o. .o0o.

Sam had an uncomfortable look on his face as he held out the file to the miniature version of his best friend. "I don't like it, Mike." He said, "I tapped out all my best sources in the FBI, and the moment I gave them that name you gave me, and they all clammed up. It's like her employers have the whole Bureau spooked. The little that I did get is that Vermouth is not the kind of name you want to bring up in polite conversation, if you get my drift."

Michael nodded and looked through the file and held up a page. "What about this guy?" he said, reading the name off of it. "Agent… Black? The Bureau isn't as creative with its Codenames as it used to be."

Sam Chuckled. "Yeah, ain't that the truth." He replied, "Black was the head of the investigation into a crime syndicate based in Japan, until a few months ago, then he just vanished, supposedly on vacation. I'm thinking deep cover overseas. The kind of thing you don't tell anyone for fear of causing an international incident."

Michael nodded. "I agree." He said, "I think Black is our best bet for information. If he is on a deep-cover op, it will give us some leverage since he won't want the Japanese government snooping around his project."

Sam nodded as Fiona and Jesse returned, take-out in hand. "Anyway, by all accounts this 'Agent Black' is vacationing in Japan right now, and since he is likely deep cover, the only way we can get to him without blowing his cover is to go there and confront him directly." Sam summed it up, "Problem is, while getting into Japan shouldn't be a problem, financing the trip, lodging and the investigation is not going to be easy."

Fiona smiled and stepped forward, handing Sam one of the bags of food. "Actually, I have a lovely little flat in Tokyo, along with a sizable nest egg in Yen from a series of jobs I did for a Yakuza group a few years back." She said brightly. "And if I renew some of my old contacts, we can set up and do jobs like we do here."

Michael nodded. "I have some Yen in Japan as well." He said, "Though the last time that I had dealings with the Yakuza, let's just say Michael Weston's head is worth more in Japan detached from the body."

Fiona nodded. "Fortunately, you have an excellent cover." She said, setting a kid's meal in front of him, her eyes shining with mirth.

Michael looked at the colorful box, and turned to glare at his erstwhile girlfriend. "Fi…" he growled, fixing her with his best scowl. Unfortunately, the effect was entirely destroyed by his child-like face, so it only resulted in Jesse and Sam both cracking up laughing.

Michael turned his glare on Sam and Jesse, only causing them to laugh harder. Even Fiona started to giggle, and then she sighed. "I am sorry, Michael," She said her voice full of mirth, "It's just that you are far too cute to pull off that scowl."

Michael sighed, and opened the kid's meal, brightening slightly when he saw that it came with a yogurt.

Sam got a little more serious. "So, Mike, have you given any thought as to what your cover ID is going to be?" he asked.

Michael nodded. "I was actually thinking about Benson Kingsley." He said.

Jesse cocked his head. "Benson Kingsley?" he asked, "Where did you get that?"

Mike chuckled. "Never mind." He said, then he looked at Sam and Fiona. "Alright, so we are going to Japan. Honestly, if I could do this on my own, I would. Unfortunately, given my current state, I will have very little in the way of freedom of movement there, so Fi, Sam, I need you both on this one."

Sam frowned. "I don't know Mike, my lady friend is already telling me that she thinks I am spending little time with her, and now you want me to skip the country?" he said.

Mike looked up at his friend. "Sam, you are the only one that can get us in contact with Black and his team." He said, "We need you there. Besides, a lone woman with a child in Tokyo is not the best cover."

Sam frowned, but Fiona beat him to the punch. "You cannot be serious, Michael!" She said, "I am not pretending to be married to Sam again!"

Michael waved his hands placating. "It is only for the cover, Fi." He said, "You will only be pretending to be together while we are investigating."

Jesse stepped forward. "Yeah, this is all well and good, Mike," he said, "but what am I supposed to be doing while you guys are in Japan? Japanese is one of the Languages I never really needed to learn, and while you might be considered dead or missing, I am still a burned spy, very much on the grid. Not going anywhere."

"Which is why you will be staying here." Mike replied, "After all, I'll need someone to look after my mom, and with me gone, Vaan is likely to be out looking for a new 'friend'. And he likes burned spies, which is why he had us both burned."

Jesse's eyes widened. "He is the one who burned me?" he asked, "And you knew about it?"

Spies keep secrets, like other men keep photographs. Some big, some small. Some important, some not. Some mundane, some potentially dangerous. Finding and keeping secrets is what spies do, but sometimes, there is nothing to do but lay out all that you know and hope that it doesn't blow up in your face.

Michael sighed. "I spent the better part of a year trying to root out Vaan and his associates after they burned me." He said, "He turned it around on me and used me to burn you. I've been working to find a way to turn it against him and his shady government organization and get us both back in."

A look of betrayal crossed Jesse's face. "You were the one who burned me?" he demanded, he took a step toward the tiny former spy and then stopped, reconsidering. "I suppose this 'Vaan' will be the one who gets my attention for now, Mike, but know this: When you get back your old body, we are going to settle up on this one. Understood?"

Michael nodded, knowing full well that the "settling up" was most likely going to result in one of their deaths. For now, though, Jesse was going to play ball, for the same reason they all did. This mysterious crime syndicate was too big for any of them to ignore. It was bigger than any of their issues, and that meant doing all they could to put it right as soon as possible, before anyone else got killed.

.o0o. .o0o. .o0o. .o0o. .o0o.

Vermouth stared in horror at the report in her hands.

She had only just returned from her embarrassing episode in Miami and was beginning to wade through the long list of field reports that were her punishment for her failure. She had supposed that it was better than a bullet in the back of her head, which would have been the way of things if Gin had had his way. She had avoided that only because the Boss had declared that she was still too great an asset to the Organization, even after her failure. The paperwork was a far less painful punishment.

Or so she thought, until she had stumbled upon that report, the familiar name staring up at her like a deadly cobra. Tears threatened to well up in her eyes, but she ruthlessly suppressed them. She could not let the men tasked with guarding this room see her weakness. After all, the organization destroys all those that could slow it down.

There would be time for tears later. Now she had some digging to do. She shifted the stacks of the organization's most classified files, sparing only the slightest of attentions to each. It took her a few minutes, but she found a second file. It confirmed her fears.

Nodding to herself, she determined to look into the matter personally. She stood, nodded to the guards, and left quickly.

Behind her, the pair of files lay haphazardly atop the stack. Emblazoned across the first were the words "Akemi Miyano: Status: Terminated."

The second similarly declared "Shiho Miyano: Status: Missing. Standing order, locate and terminate on sight."

.o0o. .o0o. .o0o. .o0o. .o0o. .o0o. .o0o.

A.N. Okay so it is shorter than the first Chapter and it took a long time for me to do, but in my defense, I really had no intention of continuing it at all. Sadly, no one actually took me up on my offer to continue it for me, so I felt I needed to do it.

In any case, a fictional cookie for anyone who can figure out how I came up with Michael's "Benson Kingsley" cover I.D.

As always, I like constructive criticism.