A/N - Changed Content Alert: This chapter has been reworked. Thanks to re-watching Sins of Omission, I realized I got the timeline wrong, which pissed me off because I like my version better, but no matter. I am nothing if not a stickler for canon, so minor changes ensue to go with a new chapter =) Part of this was inspired by Matt Nix's comment on a discussion panel that Larry gave Michael a "come to the dark side" speech

Covert intelligence involves lot of waiting around. Know what it's like being a spy? It's like sitting in your dentist's reception area 24 hours day. You read magazines, you sip coffee and every so often, someone tries to kill you.

He'd sipped his coffee, read his magazines and, as of yet, no one had come to introduce him to the next set of people who wanted to kill him. The room in which he was currently cooling his heels was as non-descript as any generic government office. There were tables and semi-comfortable chairs scattered around what looked like an over-sized break room with the obligatory fake plants and security cameras. He'd gotten bored looking for them about an hour into his stay.

The elaborate tea service sitting next to a sadly underused coffee maker gave the room a mild British flavor instead of American plain vanilla. He'd coaxed a half-way decent pot of joe out of it about three hours ago. He'd actually been thinking about Darth Vader of all things when the door opened.

"Mr. Raines," he acknowledged, surprised to see his old recruiter come through the door. Raines had changed little other than showing more signs of stress than the last time he had seen him. His dark blue suit was impeccable, but his eyes were pinched and wrinkled.

"Westen," his superior acknowledged. "Can't remember the last time I saw you when you weren't pretending to be someone else."

"That's why you recruited me? My acting skills?" Michael smiled and looked down at his plain black T-shirt and sweats. "I feel under dressed."

"It's not the same dress code in PT," Raines allowed, pulling out a chair on the opposite side of the table from where his former recruit sat. "I recruited you because you were an unstoppable son of bitch. Had to get you out of the Rangers before your talents went to waste." He smiled back and then it quickly faded. "Heard you'd gotten alittle too unstoppable."

When you're a spy, you're entrusted with a lot of secrets. Over time, you learn when to talk, when to listen and when to pray that some things have stayed a secret.

Michael ran his hand through his jet black hair absently. Or not, if it diverted Raines' train of thought.

"Still hurts?"

"Still itches where they shaved my head," he complained, rubbing the scar underneath his newly grown hair.

"They tend to do that when they're sewing your head back together," Raines observed dryly.

It had been a long debriefing. Actually, months worth of recuperating and then a long debrief. He had been concerned more than once that someone was thinking of putting a burn notice out on him. He didn't even want to think about what would happen if he found himself on the outside looking in. But in the end his talents, and his reputation within the FSB and the Russian mob, had proven too useful to the agency.

But he wasn't going to be working with Larry Sizemore anymore. On the one hand, they had what the agency called "phenomenal success" in achieving whatever objectives they were given over the three plus years they had worked together throughout the "Third Balkan War." Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Krajina, wars of independence to some, rebellion to others.

Larry seemed relatively sane compared to the insanity and atrocities Michael saw committed on a daily basis during the breakup of Yugoslavia. At least he could follow his covert partner's reasoning most of the time and Larry 's philosophy and methods perfectly suited the conditions on the ground. The pair had actually gotten a commendation, albeit secretly, for helping the Chechen rebels stave off the federalist Russian attack. It always inspired Michael's best work when it came to helping the little guy kick some bully's ass.

On the other hand, things had gone downhill between him and his former mentor since that ... thing in Chechnya and to say that their last mission together had ended very badly would have been more than a mild understatement. The brass had decided that Mr. Westen needed a vacation in the form of a nice, long deep cover assignment where Farsi and Russian were not the dominant languages.

As soon as he got out of the hospital wing, that is.

"Yeah, I was beginning to feel like Darth Vader with all that breathing equipment I was hooked up to."

Raines eyebrows bunched together. He was clearly wondering if his favorite spy was fit for duty after all. Michael took the magazine he had been reading and spun it around on the table between them so his boss could read the article.

"Look at the money he spent re-making those movies. Why, I remember when I couldn't get purchasing to spring for a bug that cost-"

"Please," the older man begged. "Tell me we're not going to have that discussion again."

"Well, unless you're here to tell me why I'm here, we don't have much else to talk about."

Raines barked a short laugh. "You're good, kid. We've had a request for a joint operation with MI6. They need a fresh face on this one and it won't take much work to sell the fact that you're an explosives expert that sometimes gets a little too close to his work."

Michael made a sour face and rubbed his scalp again. Damn, that itched and hurt.

"Here's the situation report." He reached into his jacket and laid the papers onto the table between them.

"9 February 1996 - Dockland bombing in the Canary Wharf area of London - two people killed, £85 million in damage to the city's financial centre. Sinn Féin blames ceasefire failure on UK's refusal to begin all-party negotiations until IRA decommissions weapons."

June 15 1996 - Manchester Bombing - largest bomb attack in Britain since World War II. £411 million in damage. 200 people were injured in the attack, many of them outside the established cordon. Attack avoided any fatalities due to a telephone warning,"

"Interesting pattern," Michael commented after skimming the first few lines.

"The IRA has reinstated their ceasefire and entered into negotiations. Her Majesty is very concerned about this situation. The ceasefire has broken down before. They do not want to see another thirty years of violence. Your contact will brief you on the mission specifics when he gets here."

"And that will be-?"

"I'll bring you some fresh magazines," Raines promised as he got up and exited the room.

Michael sighed and went back to thinking about Darth Vader.

He was pretty sure he'd actually been more like ten when he'd pulled up the floor boards and snuck off to see Star Wars: a movie where the hero's whole family was either already dead or gets killed in the first hour and then the guy goes off and single handedly takes down an evil empire in European military uniforms. Like there was much chance of him missing that, locked door or not. And he'd learned a lot about how houses and ventilation systems were constructed in that adventure. He'd also learned that a backhand you weren't expecting could give you double vision that time, too.

He'd been smarter by the time the sequel came out. He'd learned how to remove the air conditioner instead of pulling up the floor, less time and effort required, easier to cover up your absence. Unfortunately, the McDuffie riots started five days before the premiere and he found himself on guard duty around his mother's house until his father and his cronies had finally shown up two days into it.

Frank Westen's face had been the strangest mingling of anger and amusement when he discovered that Madeline had taken matters into her own hands. She had armed herself and Michael. His mother never did trust Nate with a gun, not even then. Michael chuckled a little bit at the memory, although it reminded him that he had been thirteen when he'd cracked his first safe: his father's gun cabinet. Mrs. Westen's eldest son wondered briefly what kinds of childhood memories normal people had as he absently traced the outline of Vader's helmet with his index finger. .

There was something about those movies that continued to resonate with him for years, besides the dead family and the evil father thing. It was something about the way Larry had always encouraged him, even pushed him, to use his anger, his hatred, to release his dark side. He snorted, but the fact that it sounded cheesy didn't make it any less true. Not that he had required a lot of encouragement to do so.

He could take the years of stored-up pain- anger, betrayal, hatred- and focus it with laser-like precision on whatever target the agency had pointed him towards. There was a good reason the Russians had considered Michael Westen to be a team of covert operatives. He was a one-man wreaking crew. Once he had been paired up with Larry, he had become….

The door opened again, effectively ending his reverie.

The man who came in with Raines was short, ruddy-skinned, dark haired (black Irish Michael thought humorlessly) and middle aged. He was unshaven and disheveled. His leather jacket and jeans looked like they had been slept in frequently and recently.

"Meet your MI6 contact," Raines said. "Michael Westen, this is Robin O'Dowd."

Michael stood up and offered his hand. He kept his expression carefully neutral. His partner-to-be looked at him without ever moving to shake his hand and then turned back to Raines.

"Are ya fookin' kidding me?" he said. "Ya brought me a Ruskie. Ya want me to turn a bleeding Ruskie into a fookin' Irishman? Have ya lost yer bloody mind, Raines?"

"Pleased to meet you, too," Michael said evenly.

"Oh, it speaks. Saints preserve us. We're goin' to be lyin' in 2 north with a bowl of grapes and a bottle of lucozade."

Michael cocked an eyebrow at Raines, but made no other comment.

O'Dowd heaved a massive sigh. "Come on, then. Git over here and let's have a proper look at ya," he commanded.

Mr. Westen walked slowly around the table and stood in front of his contact, then crossed his arms over his chest.

"Ah, Mother Mary." He shook his head from side to side. "Can ya at least drink, man? Somethin' other than vodka, that is?. Can ya handle downin' the Black, then?"

Before Michael could answer, O'Dowd rounded on the other man, "What have ya done t'me? Why don' ya just blow me fookin' head off now and be done wit' it? Do one love would ya? I'll go and do it meself."

"I'm sure under your expert guidance..."

"Ya want me to turn thot Ruskie into a proper Irishman in less than a month? Yer barking mad, you are, Raines." He turned back to Michael, "Do ya know which way t' look when ya cross the street? Do ya know which side o' the lorry the tank's on? Do ya know wot a rosary is? Can ya say a Hail Mary? Jesus Christ, I'd like knack yer ballix in. Is there one bloody thing ya know about being a Mick?"

Robin O'Dowd never saw the fist coming that connected with his jawbone. He just found himself on the floor, looking up at Raines, who looked a little dumbfounded, and at Michael, who'd crossed his arms back over his chest.

"Well, then," he said, rubbing his jaw absently and making no move to get up, "now we're gittin' somewhere. Ya can do the hard drinking, two fisted brooding Mick, I think. The ladies love thot."

When you're a spy, you can't always choose your team. Sometimes you just have to work with what you've got and hope it doesn't get you killed. Or worse.