Title:Where Do We Go From Here?
Summary:How do Michael and Madeline move on when the past threatens to drown them? Tags to 5.16.
Disclaimer:Not mine, just borrowing.
Author'sNote:The look on Michael's face after Madeline slaps him motivated me to write this. Granted, I re-wrote the slap so that it left a mark or three but I hope you like it. It's my first Burn Notice fic so please review!
Shock, fear, and pain – those were the three main emotions rolling through her son's deep blue eyes as he stares at her in disbelief. At the time she hadn't cared; a small part of her had even enjoyed the emotions she'd caused, him having caused worse to flow through her. Now that Madeline had stopped stewing long enough to realize what she had done, all she felt was shame
During the time of her marriage, Madeline Westen had spent more than a fair portion trying to protect her children from the wrath of her husband. When she could, she was their protector, their shield. She'd lost count of how many nights she'd gone to bed (Frank had fallen drunkenly asleep on the couch) and quietly cried. Each new bruise upon her body was more painful than the last and some nights she found it hard to sleep for the pain. She'd wake up the next morning and try to pretend that things were fine, that she was okay. But she knew Michael had seen how stiff her movements were and she knew by the fury in his eyes told her that tonight he would greet Frank while she hid with Nate in the boys' room.
Over the years, as Frank got older, the beatings lessened but they didn't cease entirely. She'd mercilessly screamed and pounded on her husband's unconscious form the night she ended up having to take Michael to the hospital to receive stitches in his cheek. She knew she should have left then and there but her desperate desire to hold her family together made her stay. That night, like so many others before, she swore she would never lay a hand on her son unless it was to soothe and comfort.
For thirty years that promise had remained unbroken, until today. The stinging of her hand reminded her just how hard she had slapped Michael and it broke her heart. For so many years she had remained her son's protector and now, she was his attacker, making her no different than her husband.
The sound of the Charger interrupted her thoughts and she snapped her head up to peer out the window. Michael slowly exited his car, his sunglasses hiding his eyes, guarding his expression from all around him. His jaw was set in a firm line, the muscle within twitching angrily in time with his heartbeat. Madeline knew from the stony expression that her son was angry but there was a definite hesitance there as well.
Michael closed the door of his car and looked around, checking for signs of danger as well as her presence. Madeline's breath caught in her throat when she saw a bruised scratch on his chiseled face. He turned slightly, and the small split in his lip only made it harder to breathe. God, what had she done?
Eventually, Michael made his way up the steps to her front door. He knocked and her heart sank. Michael never knocked; he normally just walked on in or headed straight for the garage. There must be something he wanted to discuss with her.
Madeline hastily jogged to the door and opened it. She looked at her son, trying hard to make eye contact but he deftly avoided her gaze as he strode further into the house. His posture was ramrod straight as he stood in the entry way, his hands hanging stiffly by his side. He kept his sunglasses on, which was strange for him but she didn't comment; she didn't know what to say.
When she came to stand in front of him, Michael took his sunglasses off. The emotions swirling through his eyes took her breath away but it didn't matter since he was the first to speak.
"I talked to Anson," he began. His voice was void of emotion and personality as though he were simply talking to one of his clients, planning a heist or attack rather than speaking to his mother. "He told me something I think you should know." Madeline wanted to ask what but she remained silent while she waited for him to explain further. "Dad's death wasn't natural."
"Michael," Madeline responded with a sigh. She had thought it was something far worse than Frank's death. "I may not be a super spy but I know that a heart attack is a natural occurrence."
"Not when someone arranges for it to happen," Michael countered evenly, easily capturing her attention. "Anson was using Dad to get information on me. When Dad started getting too curious, he had him killed but made it look like natural."
Madeline took out a cigarette, lit it and inhaled. As she exhaled she studied her son's eyes. Anyone that knew Michael knew that if you ever wanted to know what he was thinking or feeling, you looked into his eyes. It's all there. Try as he might, he could never build a good enough wall in front of his emotions to hide them from his mother.
A mask was at the forefront; the mask that he often applied when dealing with unsavory people, clients and acquaintances. It was his attempt at remaining neutral around her but it was quickly slipping. Behind the mask was anger but none of it was aimed at her. He was angry at someone, probably Anson, but he was desperately trying to keep it in control. Fighting for dominance with anger were mistrust and pain – both of which were aimed almost fully at her. She'd hurt him on so deep a level that he didn't know if he could trust her anymore.
"Michael," she began as she reached a hand up to the left side of his face. She wanted nothing more than to soothe the bruise away but she withdrew her arm when he flinched in response. It was barely there, his spy training having taught him well, but Madeline had seen it plain as day. She couldn't stop the tears that welled in her eyes at his reaction and when one spilled down her cheek he cleared his throat, his own eyes becoming glassy with tears.
"I have to go," he excused, putting his sunglasses back on and hiding his emotions from her once again. "I just thought you should know."
"Michael, wait!" Madeline called but it was too late. The Charger roared to life and her son peeled out of the driveway. Madeline stood shocked in her living room, staring at the door where her recently discovered son had just walked out of her life, probably for good; and it was all her fault.
Michael pulled his car into the area that served as a driveway by the loft then shut the engine off. His heart was racing faster than an Aston Martin in a James Bond chase and he needed to slow it before he entered his home with Fiona – the last thing he needed was her bombarding him with questions he wasn't ready to answer. Tears stung his eyes before slowly spilling down his cheeks. He winced when he wiped the ones on the left side of his face, the pain a reminder of what had taken place between him and his mother.
He hadn't been able to stop the look of shock that had crept into his eyes and had planted itself on his face. It was the first time his mother had struck him and at the time he had been transported back many, many, many years and, for just a second, it wasn't his mother who was standing in front of him ranting at him – it was his father.
The pain of the slap had just begun to make itself known when she had all but growled at him to get out of her house but it had been instantly drowned in the pain of his heart breaking. He was no longer welcome in his mother's home and that hurt far more than any bullet piercing his skin ever could. When he'd dropped by the garage to grab some supplies and she had coldly asked him what he was doing there, he'd barely had the breath to answer her question. If he had been any other person, he would have broken down and cried then and there but he'd been taught long ago not to cry – it did nothing other than show his enemies weakness.
When Anson had told him about his father, Michael knew that he needed to tell his mother but the thought of going back to the house, a place he'd come to think partially of as home and now a place where he wasn't wanted, almost made him decide not to say anything and simply not to talk to his mom ever again. Fiona, though, convinced him that his mom needed to know and that he should be the one to tell her. When tears had begun to well in her eyes, it had been too much for him and he'd needed to get out. There were many things he could take but his mother crying wasn't one of them.
"Michael?" Fiona called to him from the iron staircase but his conscious mind barely heard it. It was too busy replaying the images of his mother slapping him, the cubic zirconium on her ring cutting into the flesh of his cheek as it scraped across, and his father hitting him like the punching bag he was, often mixing the too together, for it to notice.
Another set of footsteps on the staircase, this set much heavier than Fiona's light ones, sounded and soon the concerned brown eyes of Sam Axe flooded his blank gaze.
"Mikey? Hey, Mike. What's wrong?" Sam reached out a hand and shook him, trying to break him out of his daze but still his conscious mind ignored the stimuli. He heard Sam say something to Fi but he didn't know what it was.
A feminine hand pressed against the left side of his face, instantly snapping him to the here and now and his right hand lashed out and grabbed it, stopping the hand from touching him. Immediately he inhaled so deeply it felt as though he hadn't breathed in days, his lungs screaming for oxygen.
"Michael," Fiona cooed gently. "Are you alright?"
Michael gave a forced smile, ignoring the tears still drying on his face. "Yeah Fi, I'm fine."
Fiona gave him a disbelieving look but didn't comment on his lie. Instead she took a deep breath. "Sam brought some beer, a lot of beer actually."
"Great, we'll have something to drink while we think." Michael got out of the car and headed straight for the solace and quiet of the loft. He heard Fiona and Sam following behind him so he left the door open as he made his way to grab a yogurt. Once the other two had made their way into the loft and closed the door, he asked the one question that no one had an answer to. "So, what are we gonna do about Anson?"
Sam watched Michael all during the evening. Both he and Fiona had heard the Charger pull up but when Michael hadn't shown after twenty minutes they had gone out to find Mike still sitting in his car. When Fiona had called out to him but had received nothing in return, Sam had become truly worried and was by his friend's side within seconds. He had been floored to find tears freely trailing down Michael's cheeks and to feel him shaking.
When Michael had come back from Madeline's with a massive red mark on his face, a bruise forming just below a scratch, a slightly split lip and a devastated look on his face, Sam hadn't commented simply because he didn't know what to say. If Michael didn't want to talk about it then no amount of chatter would make him. He saw shock cross Fiona's face but was grateful when she decided to keep her thoughts quiet. In his present state of mind, Michael was more than likely to snap in more than one way at anyone who said the wrong thing. It made Sam almost wish that Anson had appeared then and there; it wouldn't have been pretty.
Soon Sam's desperation overrode his concern for Michael and he was deep in trouble with a sniper and Beatrice. Then he had the meeting with the Deputy Director to worry about and then he had the fact that Anson had taken him out of the equation. Now, all he had to focus on was Michael. Sure, Anson was still out there and was still toying with Michael but the most important thing right now was what had happened between Michael and Madeline. He would have just asked Madeline but Fiona had promised that she would do it so he was left to try and weasel something out of Michael.
"If you keep staring at me that way, I'm gonna think you want something more than friendship," Michael announced from his spot in the green chair, drawing Sam's attention to the fact that he was openly ogling his friend in concentration.
"Haha, no, I'm good with our friendship," Sam said, doing his best to laugh lightly. He had to try and keep Michael off his scent otherwise nothing was going to be shared tonight.
"She hit me Sam," Michael said seemingly out of the blue. The tone of his voice was distant but Sam heard the pain in it. He didn't know what to say so he did the next best thing – he said nothing. "She hit me then kicked me out… I've seen her angry plenty of times Sam, but I have never seen her that angry at me."
"Just give her time Mikey. She'll cool down." It was the lamest thing he could have said but Sam honestly didn't know what else to say. He knew their history and he would have never thought Madeline would hit Michael. He had to admit that Michael's life took a toll on everyone, including him sometimes, but Sam didn't think that Madeline would get caught in the cross hairs like she had and take it out on her son.
"Maybe," Michael conceded absently. "But I'm not sure I want to find out." Michael sighed heavily, the sound echoing loudly through the dead silence of the loft. "What good have I done her since I've been back Sam? Sure I've helped out a couple of her friends but mostly, I bring danger. I'm almost as bad, if not worse than Virgil."
"Whoa, hey there Mikey, no one's as bad as Virgil," Sam defended, giving a small smile when he saw his friend crack one as well at the joke. Sam sighed. "Look Mike, I know things are rough right now but this pity isn't you. You need to get off your butt, get over to your mom's and talk to her."
During Sam's speech, Michael's posture had gone rigidly straight in anger but he soon deflated with a sigh. He scooted forward, placing his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. The man looked positively exhausted and Sam's heart ached for him. The stress of the last few months was getting to his friend and if people didn't stop adding more, the ex-spy would crack.
Sam walked over to his friend and gave him a gentle pat on the pack. He ignored the way Michael minutely flinched at his touch and gave him another pat. "Go see your mom Mikey." He walked out of the loft, casting one last glance at his friend to make sure he was going to actually go. His portion of the "job" was done and now, it was up to Fi.
Fiona Glenanne sat at Madeline's dining room table, seething in anger that she was trying not to express. She hadn't been entirely sure what was going on in terms of the past but she did know that Madeline had struck her son, and pretty hard at that. In her opinion, no one hits Michael except her. When Michael had come home earlier, unresponsive and crying, she hadn't known what to do. So, she waited for Michael to go take a shower, an act he did almost immediately after he asked them all what they were going to do about Anson, before she squeezed Sam for information. Now that she knew exactly what had transpired in Michael's childhood, she was furious at Madeline for hitting him.
The older woman walked around her house in almost a daze, a cigarette hanging out of her mouth the entire time. Eventually Madeline landed at the coffee maker where she poured herself a cup and grabbed one for Fiona as well. She shuffled to the table, placing the cups down on the table while she eased into a chair.
"Madeline, I want to talk to you," Fiona began as gently as she could. Though anger burned through her veins, Fiona found she couldn't allow herself to unleash it on the person that had been like her own mother for the past five years.
"About Michael, am I right?" Madeline guessed. Her tone made Fiona's eyebrows shoot up in surprise. There was a growling note in her voice that wasn't normally there unless someone was attacking her or her family.
"Well, then I think it's time for you to leave. What happens between my son and me is my business." The way she enunciated the word 'son' told Fiona quite clearly that she thought the Irish woman had no right to be there but Fiona wasn't one to listen to such warnings.
"Oh, I think it's everyone's business," Fiona countered, leaning back in her chair and crossing her arms. "You keep drilling into Michael that his life affects us all. So how does that not apply to what goes on between you two?"
"Because this time it has nothing to do with him trying to get his job back!" Madeline snapped angrily.
"But it does," Fiona answered, completely unfazed by the other woman's anger. "The whole reason all this is happening is because of Anson. He is the one who set things in motion years ago. He is the reason why Michael was burned. He is the reason you met Bennie. He is the reason you and Bennie got along so well. The only reason why you're so angry at Michael right now is because he hid the connection from you. And the only reason he didn't tell you is because he wasn't sure how Anson would have used that against him!"
"Well maybe he should have tried-"
"Ya just don' get it do ya?" Fiona yelled, her Irish accent coming through loud and clear. "Ya claim that ya can handle anything Michael's life throws at ya then ya get mad at him for the things he does. Then ya want him to give a psychopath more information to use against him just because ya want to know everythin', makin' him do even more things that ya don' approve of! Ya have no idea the tasks Anson is makin' Michael do and ya have no idea the strain he is under with every act he performs." Fiona's breathing was erratic as her own anger came to the forefront. She took a moment to calm it before she continued, "The only thing keepin' Michael sane is us, his family. And ya haul off and slap him! Do ya have any idea what that did to him? When he came home today he was cryin' and flinchin' at any touch."
"Fiona!" Michael's voice boomed through the house. Both women looked towards the doorway where he stood, surprise etched on their faces. He still had his sunglasses on but he gave her a warm enough smile as he walked in. "I think Sam needs your help back at the loft."
"Of course Michael," Fiona grants silkily. She throws Madeline one more angry glance before she gracefully exits the home, leaving Michael and his mom to work things out for themselves.
"I'm sorry," Michael apologized. He walked further into the house, sitting down at the table and taking his sunglasses off.
"Don't be. She cares about you and she's right," Madeline dismissed with a puff on her cigarette.
"Maybe," Michael conceded with a heavy sigh. He scrubbed his hands over his face, thankful they hid the wince the act elicited, doing his best to hide just how broken he actually felt from his mom. "But you were right too. I should have told you, warned you. I just didn't want to bring you into this unless I had to. I wanted to keep you safe."
"Oh please Michael," Madeline scoffed, "When have I ever needed you to keep me safe? Don't answer that," she added hastily when he opened his mouth to respond. "The point is, I'm a big girl and I think I've proved that I can take care of myself."
"Yes Ma, you have but this guy, Anson, uses everything he can get his hands on against me and I don't want you to be added to that list." Michael didn't know what else he could say without outwardly begging his mom to understand the situation he was in. She knew most of it now, thanks to Fi, but he didn't think she fully comprehended it.
The silence that descended upon them blanketed the room, stifling them until they felt they couldn't breathe. Neither one knew what to say, neither really wanted to bring up the past, or what brought this to this point so they remained quiet.
Michael was so lost in his thoughts that he hadn't noticed his mother get up and sit down right by him so when he felt a hand on his face, he jumped. "Sorry," he apologized when he saw his mom jump as well.
"No, I'm sorry," Madeline responded, her hand once again stretching out to gently touch his cheek. "I shouldn't have hit you."
"It's fine Ma. I'm fine," Michael assured with his trademark smile.
"No Michael, it's not," Madeline snapped. Her normally gentle blue eyes were blazing with anger and for a second Michael almost flinched away from the look but he knew it wasn't aimed at him. She was mad at herself for hitting him, for bringing back all those buried memories and he didn't blame her – he was mad too; he just didn't know who he was madder at – his father or Anson.
"You're not," she added in a whisper so quiet that he almost didn't hear her. "I've seen the way you flinched whenever someone gets close enough to touch you. I saw the fear in your eyes while I yelled. And I saw the unshed tears every time you've come by since. No Michael, you are not fine."
Michael chuckled though the situation in and of itself was not funny. He couldn't help it, he didn't know what else to do. "You're right Ma, I'm not fine." He grabbed her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze, "But I will be."
The two stayed in that position for unknown minutes, hours; hand in hand, arms snaked across the table, closing in the distance between their bodies and staring at each other without actually seeing one another. The memories of the house swirled in and out of clarity around them, the here and now mixing seamlessly with the then. It felt like they were in a mosaic that was constantly changing its picture, mixing them effortlessly into the paint as it moved.
Madeline was the first to break out of the daze. "Where do we go from here Michael?"
The ex-spy hung his head in defeat. Of course she would ask him the one question he didn't have an answer to! If ever there was a time when he wished he wasn't "Answer Man", this was it. He was so tired! Tired of having to have all the answers, tired of being the one everyone depended on, tired of being "Mr. Responsible", tired psychopathic people swarming his life like hornets and stinging where they liked. He just wanted it all to stop. For once, he wanted to be able to go on vacation and actually be on vacation.
With a heavy sigh, Michael gave his mom the only answer he had.
"I don't know Ma. I just don't know."
Well, what'd ya think? Tell me, tell me, tell me! :)