A/N: No longer a one shot, now series, what else is new? =) Much thanks to Amanda Hawthorne for the quick BETA and Daisy Day and Purdy's Pal for reading through both versions of this and to CJ for being CJ. Much love for all the reviews, favs and alerts!
"Are you kidding?" the guard asked.
"Oh, you see that look? That means he's not kidding."
"I'm going to need five minutes to get into position," Mike advised as he closed the blind before insisting the security guard doff his uniform.
When you've known a guy for over twenty years and you've spend the last five elbow to elbow with him down in the trenches while you're taking on the world, well, you kinda know what they're gonna say, what they're gonna do and how they're gonna reaction to something.
Yeah, I knew that look. That, "I don't want to hurt you but that doesn't mean I won't" look, just like he'd said to the guy a minute ago. I gotta tell ya, I was relieved to see that look again cuz, even if it was trouble for that guy, it was more like my buddy Mike than what I've been seeing on his face lately, looks that I ain't seen in years and some I've never seen and never want to ever see again.
Like when he'd run in expecting to still find Fi cuffed to the stairway instead a me. Yea, that look, the one somewhere between determined and desperate, that one Mike'd been wearing a lot lately, it'd disappeared pretty quick.
But right as I was telling him what was going on, suddenly my best friend couldn't look me in the eyes at all.
"She's turning herself in?"
Mike's eyes were wandering all over the loft, looking anywhere but at me while I was telling him why she wasn't there. "She said she didn't wanna let you keep working for Anson and she didn't wanna run and let the bastard get away."
My buddy still hadn't said a word, but I knew him well enough to know what was going through his head. That razor sharp mind of his was already picking my story apart before I could even finish telling the tale.
"She said this was the only way to end it." I dug into my pocket and gave him the note Fi had given me. "She left that for ya, Mike."
He glanced at the paper, but he wasn't really reading it. Brother, he knew a goodbye letter when he saw one.
"I'm sorry, Mike." I was apologizing for both of us, but Mike was already out the door, trying to delay the inevitable again. "I'm so sorry."
It wasn't but seconds later I heard the Charger peeling out. I think I could almost smell the rubber burnin'.
Delaying the inevitable. Was it really just four days ago I'd heard Tinkerbell holler that at him? Was it really just last Thursday when I saw Mike standing there, trying to talk her down?
Yeah, it was last Thursday morning. I saw another look on Mikey's face, one that ya don't see often. I'd heard her bitchin' at him all the way up the stairs before they ever came inside. Once they got in the door, boy, she let him have it. I've seen her mad at Mike plenty of times before, but this was a whole new ballgame, which meant just one thing.
Somebody hadn't gotten to put a bullet in Anson Fullerton.
Too damned bad.
I took another slug of my beer while they went at it. Well, actually, Fi went at it. Mostly Mike just stood there trying to explain why Anson was still breathing while she'd stalked around shoutin' at him. There was no point in tryin' to tell 'em the good news until she'd blown off some of that head of steam she'd worked up. Guess it was an improvement sorta. In the old days, she'd've slapped the crap outta him by now.
"I thought you were ready to end this! I thought we agreed!"
"Fi, it's like I told you before, if you had pulled that trigger, he would have won. You saw him, he's afraid of me, of us, which means there's time."
Man, it sure sounded like Mikey was the one who was runnin' scared, not Anson.
"Time for what?" she'd demanded.
"Time to find another way."
Oops, Mike'd really pulled the pin that time.
"That is just wishful thinking!" Fiona had exploded, her voice rising to a whole new decibel level. "You are just delaying the inevitable. There is no happy ending!"
Alright, that's enough of that."Knock it off, both of ya! Just stop yelling for a second and listen!"
Once I got their attention, it was pretty clear that this was the best shot we had to clear her name and nail Anson at the same time; my favorite kind of situation, big win for us and a big loss for the bad guy.
"Assuming you still wanna nail the bastard, right?"
I gotta tell ya, I was relieved when the little fireball finally agreed. It was about time we had something to move on, something that might put an end to this before anything else went wrong. We've all been livin' on the edge too long, especially Mike.
His idea of going after the SOB before we were ready had been a bad one, but there'd been no talking him out of it. It was probably better he was headed out to do a job with Pearce and not going to Tampa with me and Miss Trigger Happy.
"Mike, whatever job she's givin' ya, just be careful, will ya? I don't want you getting shot just before we cross the finish line."
So I waited around while Mike and Tinkerbell had danced around sayin' goodbye. The smart play would have been to give her a peck on the cheek and execute a cut and run, but lately Mikey's been pretty clueless when it comes to smart plays, which has really got me worried, I have to say
So, finally he's off to play CIA agent and she's standin' there with her arms crossed and her eyes closed. Yeah, I've seen her pissed at Mike before, but there was more to this. So, I moved in real careful and slow. I didn't wanna be the next target on her sonar.
"Sam, this is killing him," she'd stated softly without opening her eyes, her voice almost breaking.
Since I didn't disagree with her, I didn't say anything.
"When have you ever seen Michael so indecisive, so completely unsure of himself?"
I took another long pull of beer instead of answerin' her. Mike was pretty desperate right now, but I've seen my buddy in worse shape, a lot worse shape, a lotta which hadn't involved her, but comparin' this to Ireland or Incirlik wasn't gonna to solve anything right now.
"You know I'm right, Sam," Fiona had persisted. Opening her eyes, she'd started to move around the loft. She'd opened a compartment on the new headboard of their bed and had seemed to debate for a moment before pulling out a large serrated knife from one of the drawers.
"Whoa, whoa, easy now, sister."
"You should have seen him," she'd continued, turning the blade over and over in her hand as she stalked around the narrow space between the bed and the balcony doors like a caged animal.
I might not have been the brightest non-comm on the flight deck, I knew enough to' get outta her way when this side of her showed up. Hell, I'm just grateful she hadn't gotten out her H&K and turned me into target practice.
"One minute he had him in the kill zone, I had the bloody bastard in me sights, and then the next he was shielding him!"
Mike had what?
"Okay, so taking Anson on today was a bad idea, but you blowing his head off—"I had started to say until Fi whipped around. Yeah, I knew that look too, and it meant pain was about to be involved, lots of pain.
"You should have seen his face after he'd pulled Anson out of the way. I begged him not to listen to that slime ball! Michael knew I was going to kill him, to put an end to it today and he pulled that sonuvabitch out of the way and protected him, Sam, with his own body!"
Fiona had plunged the hunting knife into the dart board up to hilt. It'd quivered on the metal mesh around the stairwell on which it hung for a moment and then crashed to the floor.
"C'mon, think about it, missy." Even while I was defending Mike, the whole thing bothered me. What the hell could Anson have said? " Getting you off for a bombing you didn't commit is one thing, getting you out of a homicide ys did commit is something else, even if the CIA would have to thank you for killin' the bastard."
"Thank me? They ought to give me a damned medal! And you!" She'd crossed the remaining distance in a few rapid steps. "What the hell were you thinking talking Michael into working with that snake? This, this is your fault because you let-"
"Hold it right there, sister," I'd shot back. "I didn't want to do it either, but I didn't exactly have a choice."
I'd seen her glance back at the knife on the floor before lookin' back at me- not good.
"Look, Fi, I'm with you," I'd said real quick, before she could start up again. "But we've got a real chance to get ya in the clear and finally nail this guy. Now if you're done re-decorating, we need to get going. Tampa's five hours up the road. You can ream me out on the way."
And, man, did she ever take me up on that, all the way to damned near the Miccosukee Reservation out on the Alley. I had to promise Fi I'd make sure that the sleaze ball would make a southbound exit from a northbound gator before she'd finally let up.
I didn't like having to use Anson to save Beatriz, not one damned bit, and after what I'd seen in the loft that day, I kinda wanted to kick my own ass for letting the guy anywhere near Mike.
So, yeah, I've seen her hopping mad at Mike plenty of times before. Hell, even back in the day, when we used to compete over who was right and Mikey was monkey in the middle, sometimes I'd take up the other side just to set her off. Man, oh, man, now, I just hate it when I have to get between the two of them. I don't know how Mike put up with it all that time. Trouble is, Fi's not just mad this time, she's scared.
"Michael's on the edge of something very bad and you know it."
And she's right.
Jesus, I can't believe I said that. Thumbelina and I have had our differences, but we've also spent a lot of time together these last five years. Sometimes it feels like I've spent more time sitting in the front seat of a parked car with her than in the back seat with my lady friends.
Well, actually, heh-heh, Sammy's lady friends usually buy the car for well, heh-heh, er, ya know, instead of make out in it. They're classier ladies than that. The point is, sometimes it seems like I spend more time with that crazy Irish woman than Mike. I've gotten to know her a little better, better than I want to some days, but, you know, it can be kinda scary what we do agree on lately.
"I'm with Fi on this one, Mike. The consequences of helping Anson—"
"The consequences are bad no matter what I do!" Mike had declared, glaring. "Now, I'm trying to find a way out of this,"
It almost sounded like a plea, but this wasn't the time for feel good optimism.
"Mike, we had a way out of this. It's gone!"
"No! We're not just giving up!" he almost shouted. "Now, check with your police buddies. See if they missed something." He was talking with his hands again, sharp chopping motions in the air showing how keyed up he was. "Fi- talk to one of your black market dealers—".
"Michael, we're running out of time," Fiona told him firmly.
Mikey sighed and did that little thing he does with his head when he's frustrated, especially with her.
"Those agents, Pearce and the others, they deserve better," her voice was low, but unyielding.
"And you deserve better than a life in prison."
Yea, that was true, but that wouldn't help us keep her outta jail.
"We have one more day," It felt like he was begging, but like he wasn't sure whether it was us or the Big Guy he was barterin' with. "Just, just a little while longer."
It seemed like Mike's words still hung in the air between me and Fi after he and Jesse had left. Me and Jesse hadda pretend we were invisible for a minute there while they said goodbye. I wasn't sure what bothered me more, the fact that Mike'd had a semi-public PDA or the fact Jesse acted like it wasn't the first time he'd seen one.
So when Little Missy had finally said something, sitting there at the bar still and staring out the kitchen window, she sounded almost desolate.
"Sam, if he does this, if he burns those people..." she'd swallowed back the tears and then got her voice back under control. "How long can we let this go on before he can't make it back?"
I had no answer for that. If someone would have told me four years ago that Michael Westen would willingly burn another covert operative, much less one under his command, I would have asked them what they were drinking and demanded they serve me one.
Hell, if someone would have told me three years ago that Mikey would've had Fiona move in, I would've demanded some of what they were smoking, too.
"He's grasping straws, Sam, and you know it as well as I do."
It wasn't like I didn't agree with her; it was just that I owed it to my buddy to try to talk her into doing things his way a little longer.
""I can't let him to do this," she'd pleaded, her eyes glistening. "This is destroying him. You know how he is. This is eating him alive!"
Ah, geez, Fi, please, not the water works. "I know. I know better than ya think, but we promised Mike we'd try-"
"How can you let him do that? I thought you were his friend!"
"You're damned right I'm his friend. What you keep forgetting, sister, is that I'm your friend, too. And I'll be damned if I'm going to let you turn yourself in without trying everything else I can think of first."
That set her back on her heels, so to speak. She stared at the floor while I read her the riot act.
"I've seen your Interpol file, so has Mike. Don't you think he knows what could happen to you? Don't you think I know what could happen? Do you think I don't know what will happen to Mike if something happens to you? I was there when he came back from Ireland. I saw what a hot mess he was- over losing you."
That's why I hadn't wanted my best friend mixed up with her again in the first place. I saw what it did to him to lose her back then. But I've also seen what he does to her. I've wanted to say something more than I have. Hell, I'm not about to play Dr. Phil with those two, good way to get my head blown off. Only now she's not hurting over what he's done to her.
"Anson is not going to let this go. You know I'm right, Sam. You know he's either going to kill Michael or he's going to use him up, bit by bit, until he's dead inside!"
Now she was hurting over what Mike was doin' to himself.
And so was I.
I knew then I would be seeing more of Mike's post-Ireland faces. I tried to man up and get ready for it while I was driving around every back alley in Miami looking for him.
There was no announcement on talk radio about a mad Irish bomber being caught, but there was also no news of a bloodbath down at the Federal Building involving a rogue CIA agent either, so I figured he had to be around somewhere.
As soon as I squatted down next to the Charger, I knew it was bad. He had her letter in one hand and... his 9mm in the other, not good... and he wouldn't look at me in the eye again as he accused me of letting her get away. Well, that is until he grabbed me by the scruff of the neck.
"How is that possible?"
"Mike, come on, man. What do ya want me to say? Okay, yea, yea, maybe I could have fought her off, yea, that's right. "
He was mad and he was hurt and he had every right to be, but he was also wrong.
"But did it ever occur to you that she was right?"
I could see I wasn't quite getting through to him, but at least he was listening. His look was puzzled as well as pissed.
"You were losing yourself, Mike. You were selling out everything you ever fought for."
"I was fighting for her!"
"By burning spies?" Now I was choking up, just like she'd done when she begged me to let her go. "Mike, you were betraying your friends." Just remembering the look in her eyes was tearing me up. "You were about to betray your damned government."
Then the look in his eyes, on his face, the words he said brought me back fifteen years in flash.
"What do I do now, Sam? What do I do?"
And there I was in a bar in London, trying to answer that same exact question and Mike had looked jus' as busted up and he had ahold of me jus' the same way.
"I've just been fighting for so long, Sam, and she was all I had left."
Well, Sandy she'd had given him a different answer back then. Who the hell knows if it was the right one? Yea, I guess, it seemed like it at the time. I don' wanna think about any of that anymore. I jus' know what the right answer is right now.
"Well, now you're just going to have to fight a little more."
At least I had gotten him moving and motivated again. That was better than falling apart like a two dollar duffel bag. I kept asking what he was going to do, what was the plan, but I already knew the answer. Yeah, Mike was mad as hell, but jus' as determined, too. I'd seen that look plenty times, like when he was helpin' a hurt kid, like when he busted me up over stopping him from taking money from Carla.
I just had a feelin' it was gonna take more than putting my mug in front of his knuckles to keep him from killing Anson. Not that the rat bastard doesn't deserve a bullet, but we had to get him alive to clear Fi. Not too sure Mike's thinkin' too clear on that point. Just Have to keep reminding him what the mission is.
He seems to be awful fast on the draw, too. Well, guess it's my job to try to hold the collateral damage down again while he gets this done as well. I warned Fi it wasn't going to be easy keeping Mike from going off the chain once she turned herself in.
He was so boiling mad while we were hunting down Anson's ride he couldn't even look at me again. But I knew what it was. It was my freakin' baby blue Tommy Bahamas shirt that sweet Elsa had got me two weeks ago that I've been wearin' for the last 24 plus hours because of him. It was the shirt I was wearin' when I told him I agreed with Fi and he was wrong to even think about burnin' anybody ever.
It was the shirt I was still wearing when I got back to the hotel and got a phone call from him asking me to go back over to the loft and keep an eye on Fi. The same freakin' shirt I slept in because Mikey found out he had to spent the night in the comm van with Pearce at the airport and he was worried sick, though he'd never said it, that Fi wouldn't stick to the plan and that she'd take off if he left her alone overnight.
Same damned shirt I was wearing when he found me handcuffed where he'd expected her to be.
So he'd been right, but she'd been right and I'd been right.
He'd been right about her. Fiona'd been writing a letter, the same one I gave him earlier today and packing up the materials on Anson, oh and enough armor for tac team when I got there. She was gonna bolt, but I guess she was still torn between running and turning herself in, so that slowed her down enough for me to catch up with her.
But she'd been right, too.
"Sam, it's not just what it will do to him if he does this. If he burns those people and it comes out, then he's out. He can't lose his standing at the Agency. He needs the CIA to stop Anson. He needs their muscle to make this happen."
Man, oh, man, it had my head reeling to hear her talk like that, but she was right.
"You have friends, if he still has friends, then you two can get this done from the inside and, if I run, I can hunt down the bastard, too, from the outside without worrying about who's toes I'm stepping on. If I turn myself in, they'll send me to a maximum security facility and I can take care of myself while you're hunting down Anson."
And of course I had been right, too. Guess there really was three sides to every story. It took most of the night to convince Miss Short Attention Span that she'd spend the rest of her life on the run once she took off and Anson might get away scot free and, if she turned herself in, it would break Mikey, break him into so many pieces I wasn't sure I could put him back together again.
She'd patted my cheek and told me I was better than all the king's horses and all the king's men and then she'd disappeared into the bathroom while I stood there with my mouth hanging open like some prize grouper.
But she'd finally agreed to give it one more shot and talk to the cops. ONE shot.
"Look Mike I know you're pissed, but you gotta know that I didn't wanna let Fi turn herself in but she was right. Things were getting outta hand."
"You'll never convince me that Fiona giving herself up was the right thing to do. Never."
"Well, that's why we didn't ask you."
Oh, yeah, brother, I know I'm going to be on the receiving end of those looks for a while. That ol' saw about looks that could kill, I think they musta been talking about you, Mikey. But ya know what? There was one tear stained completely devastated face I'll never get out of my head, not even until the day they bury me at sea.
"I mean, come on, Mike, what's a guy supposed to do when he sees his best friend heading down the path to hell, huh? Help you pack? Speed you on your way?"
"I knew what I was doing!"
"What you were doing was lyin' to yourself, brother. Why can't you see that?"
You were destroying yourself, Mikey, and you were killin' her watchin' ya do it.
"Stop the car!"
Yeah, you get to know a guy when you spend that much time working together, living together, having each other's backs day in and day out. You know their moves and sometimes you can stop 'em from making the wrong move, like when I kept Mike from running after Maddie when Anson baited him.
And sometimes ya can't.
"Okay, so how do we do this?
"I'm going after him."
"Mike, ya can't just barge in there."
I'm chasing after him, trying to get in front him with Pearce bringing up the rear.
"Save it, Sam. I'm going to end this now."
"You're not thinking straight."
Oooh, I didn't like that look. It was looking a lot like a ghost of black ops past.
"You didn't hear him gloating, gloating about how he's going to walk away from this, how he's going take everything from me. I'm not letting that SOB—".
"Stand down!" I bark, getting right in his face.
And then something I never expected to see got in my face.
"Not this time, Sam. Not this time."
Now there was a bad acid trip down memory lane if ever there was one. For a second, I thought I was back in Serbia. Never thought I'd see that guy again, but there he was.
Larry's Kid had a gun pointed at my face.
"Put that thing down." Pearce got his attention for a moment.
I'm not sure what was on my face, probably disbelief, disappointment, denial or anything else that means that I can't believe what I'm seeing. Didn't I help bury this guy for good some time back in '94?
Pearce is saying something, but it's not really registering with me.
"I can resolve this right now, Westen. I'm not letting someone who's pulling guns on his own team anywhere near Anson Fullerton. You stand down immediately or you take it up with me."
I'm just waiting to see if it's registering with him.
"I won't let him get away, Mike." It's more than a promise. It's an oath.
And that fast, the Kid is dead again and Mike Westen is handing me the gun. We went from pre-Incrik to post-Ireland in seconds. But, lemme tell ya, brother, those seconds of staring down the barrel of that gun felt every bit as long as the years that really came between those two landmarks in botha our lives.
I've been seeing a lot of Mike's post-Ireland faces lately and I'll probably see a lot more, but there's one I hope I don't see any time soon. Right now though, Mike's wearing that "aw-shucks, lil ol' me bust up that jukebox and take out half a bar full of jar heads with my bare hands?" look, the one that came right before he said, "I'm sorry, Sam."
It was a good thing we had friends in high places that day.
So I'll take the gun and the unspoken apology. That look was enough to say it all.
Besides, I have to go catch Anson Fullerton before anything else goes wrong.
Because the next look on Mike's face is another one I don't want to ever see again. That's a young Ranger I knew whose team had just got taken off the op, whose team had just gotten blasted over bad intel, who didn't want to stay behind while the more experienced SEAL team went to take care of business, who wanted to avenge the death of this team mates and was told he couldn't.
Dammit, I promised I wouldn't let the sneaky SOB get away, but I did. Dammit!
And so did Mike apparently, trying to keep me from getting blown up.
But it's okay because now we've both got something to be sorry for. We're back on level ground, Mike and me.
While he's standing across from me quizzing Pearce about what it's going to take to get Fiona outta prison and get our lives back on track, I'm thinking about what this is going to do to him in the meantime.
"What if I caught him? Would that be enough?"
"It's -a start," Pearce concedes. That's good enough for me.
"Well, a start's a start," I assure him, knowing it's never going to be that simple, but knowing every mission starts with a plan.
"Sam, I'm sorry." That, too, is a start. We're going to need to have each other's backs on this all the way.
"I'm sorry, too, Mike." And I wrap an arm around his shoulders because nothing I've ever been through with my brother in arms is going to be able to erase the sight of my little sister chained to the wall, hoarse from screaming and bleary eyed from crying and nothing is going to make me sorry I let her go. Any field medic will tell ya, sometimes ya gotta cut off a limb to save the man. So I'll bind up the wound like a good medic should and stand by him every step of the way until she's back where she belongs, cuz Mike is lucky to have her just like I told her days ago and because a SEAL leaves no man or woman behind ever.
"Come on. Let's go. We got work to do.
Because that's what ya do when you're wearing the good guy patch.