A/N: This is my first attempt at Burn Notice, so let me know what needs adjusting. The idea for this came to me because my cable box fizzed out during the season premier, and came back in to an exploding building, and I didn't know any better than Michael that Sam had gotten out.

I don't own the rights to Burn Notice, and I have no special permission to use the characters. I make no money from this, and I claim no ownership. Spoilers for 6x01, "Scorched Earth", 5x18, "Fail Safe", and 5x12, "Dead to Rights".

I step out of the Charger, striding purposefully up to the gate which provides the only access to my loft home. As I approach, I start to feel as though I've done this before. It's ridiculous, I know; I've done this a thousand times since moving in, and I know there is no real, rational reason to start questioning myself now. All the same, I stoop down, scanning the area under the fence for signs of unfriendly habitation.

As I straighten, satisfied that my sanctuary remains safe, I take a moment to fall into the memory of how the entire mess began, with Larry on the other side of the fence and a gun in my back. Larry's dead, I remind myself, shaking my head. Good riddance. I know better than to worry about factors that are no longer threats, and it's a long list, but somehow I can't shake the feeling that something big is coming.

On some level, I know it's easier for me to worry about the next big crisis, rather than try to cope with all the problems currently competing for my attention: Anson is in the wind; Pearce is starting to question her trust in me, I could see it in her eyes; Fiona is in prison. The idea that there is something out there, something that might be just a little more immediate, more manageable than the catastrophe my life has become, is oddly comforting.

As I enter the loft, I cross swiftly to the counter that separates the space at this corner of the loft into a semblance of a kitchen, bracing myself against the counter with both hands. I take a deep, shuddering breath, collapsing onto the chair that sits beneath the counter, trying to make sense of the day I have had, the day that is not yet over.

After leaving the chemical plant, I dropped Sam off a few blocks from the Federal building to retrieve his car. I wanted to do better, and Sam sure as hell deserved better, but after what happened this morning, watching Fi, I know it will be a long time before I'm able to drive down that road.

I went by Mom's house next, checking on her after the ordeal Anson had sent her into to try to buy himself some time. My hands ball into fists as I think of the look on my mother's face as she told me about what had happened, about shooting a man for the first time. I had hoped she would be spared from that for at least a few more years, going even so far as to hope that the first time she shot a man wouldn't be because of me, but I always knew that was a foolish dream.

It's times like this that I start to wonder what I'm doing here. I'm a poison, and everyone around me suffers for it, always have. Why had I ever thought it would be a good idea to set down roots here, around my family, around…. My mind flashes to Fi, turning to look at me as the FBI agent tightened the handcuffs around her wrists. I shake my head, thinking back to the afternoon I'm still trying to sort through.

Jesse's face was ashen when he met me on the sidewalk in front of Mom's. From Madeline's story, I had been able to surmise much of what Jesse told me about coming face to face with the gunman before he even spoke. The rest, I had seen in his eyes. I had been there, and I knew what Jesse was going to say before he opened his mouth. But he needed someone he could trust, someone who could listen.

Jesse shook as he spoke, telling me about every moment of the ordeal, letting the guy get the drop on him, seeing no way out, preparing for what was to come. Jesse had been sure he was going to die. He looked lost as he admitted it, and his knees had given out beneath him, sending Jesse against his car with a thump. He looked up at me, younger and more lost than I have ever seen him.

I have been in that situation more times than I care to keep track of, and I knew that Jesse's shock would wear off once he had something to do, something far from the house. I reminded him of the airplane we had blown up earlier in the day, implying that the CIA might just need some help with clean up. A few hours of physical labor would do Jesse some good, giving him distance from the nightmare he had gone through. Jesse seemed to know it, and before he got into his car and sped off through the residential neighborhood, he put his hand on my shoulder and flashed me a smile. "I, uh…look, man, Sam…he told me about…what happened. We're gonna get her out, Mike, we are."

Thinking about it again is too much. I brace my elbows against the counter, leaning into my hands and trying to think about anything but the last 24 hours, and all the people I was hurting. My mother shot a man today, a man who almost killed Jesse, a man who wouldn't have been in the house in the first place if I had made the right choice in the first place and let Fi kill Anson. Fiona had given herself up, gone to prison, to keep me from destroying lives for her. Sam…I pulled a gun on my best friend today. I almost killed him, and then I watched him die all over again.

The door to the loft bangs open unexpectedly, and as I listen to Sam's familiar footsteps approaching from behind, I try to wipe the guilt and the anger from my face, try to blank my mind so Sam won't see the wreck I thought it was safe to let myself become, just for a few minutes.

"Hey, Mikey," Sam's voice booms, as usual, from behind me. "Look, I wanted to come by and…hey, you okay?"

I don't want to turn, don't want to face him, not yet, but if I don't, he'll know something's wrong. The look I give him would have fooled almost anyone, but Sam isn't just anyone. He's known me too long, something I should have realized before even trying to deceive him.

Sam's forehead crinkles, and I can see the worry all over his face. "Mike, what's up? You look like hell." He waits for a moment, but continues when I don't answer. His voice is unusually quiet as he asks "Is this about Fi?"

I take another deep breath, trying to calm myself, to make sense of things, before I answer. "It's about everything, Sam." My voice is low and even, but I sound broken even to my own ears. "I don't know what I'm doing anymore."

Sam shakes his head, coming to stand beside me, leaning against the counter. "You're fighting, Mike. It's what you do, what you've always done."

I want to look up at him, but it's too much. I face the counter as I speak. "That's just it, Sam. I've always fought. Maybe…what if I'm tired of fighting? I've always had something to fight for, but Anson's used a world-wide net of influence to take away everything. Today—Sam, today he almost won, almost took away the last three people I have that make any of it worth anything." I'm turning my head up, looking up at Sam and all the pity in his eyes.

This life has always been easy for Sam, since the moment I met him, and I know the Navy Seal still buried under all the mojitos will always find a way to help people, to get out there and get the job done. That's the man I'm speaking to now. "Cut the crap, Mike. We both know what happens next, same as it always does. You pick yourself up, you dust yourself off, and you make a plan. The Mike Westen I know doesn't back down because it's hard, or because something big's on the line. Mike Westen mans up and gets the job done, and he doesn't quit."

And today, right now, that's all I can take. "I almost got you killed today, Sam!" I shout in his face, standing with enough force to knock the chair back behind me. "Fi is in jail. Mom and Jesse almost died today. But you…Sam, I need you. Why do you think I came for you in the first place, when those bastards dropped me here? I don't know what I'd do without you, Sam, and today, for 43 seconds, I watched that building burn with you in it, and I had to face the fact that I got you killed."

"But you didn't, Mike. I'm right here," Sam says, holding his arms out as if he has to convince me. "I'm always right here. You don't have to worry about me, brother, I can take care of myself."

"No, Sam, not with Anson on the loose. He's coming for me, and he's going to tear me apart before he does. He's spent years getting inside my head, and he knows how much I need you. And even if…." I trail off, trying not to think what I almost said.

But Sam won't let go. "Even if what, Mike?" he asks with just enough force to tell me he isn't going to be dropping it any time soon.

"Even if he doesn't, what's the endgame here? What we do isn't easy, Sam, it isn't safe, but we do it because there are good people out there who need us. We do it because no one else is going to. Hell, Sam, we do it because we're good at it. But one day, maybe tomorrow, maybe next year, maybe a decade from now, being good isn't going to be enough. I'm not sure what I'm going to do when that happens, Sam. I've only ever had to think about it a handful of times, but, after today, after Anson, after all of it, I can't keep pretending we're going to live forever. What happens, Sam, when someone else is faster, better, or just lucky? What am I going to do then?"

Sam looks me in the eye, as calm and sure as ever, and he talks to me like I'm talking about giving up, instead of thinking about his own eventual death. "I'll tell you what you're going to do, Mikey. You're going to go right down with me, in the biggest blaze of glory your little shadow world ever saw. We're legends, Mike, and we don't go down easy. We don't back off from a fight, we don't pull punches. We don't let weasely little psychiatrists pull our strings, and we don't slow down in the face of a challenge. You better listen up, Mike, because I sure as hell don't want to have to say this again. Yeah, we're going to die someday, but it's not today, and it better not be because of Anson. You're gonna dig your way out of this hole you're wallowing in, and you're going to beat him at his own damned game. Do you know why? You're Michael Westen, and it's what you do."

Sam stares at me for a long moment before nodding to himself and rounding the counter to grab a beer from the fridge. Without asking, I know he'll slide a yogurt across to me, and I know the conversation has ended. We won't talk about this again, and we won't tell Jesse or Fi about my moment of doubt. At the end of the day, Sam doesn't call me 'brother' because he likes the sound of it. He knows me, and he knows when I need a kick in the ass to get me started. He also knows that the doubts aren't gone, and that I'll be living inside those 43 seconds in the dead of night for days and weeks to come. And he knows there's not a damned thing he can do about it.

After picking the chair up off the floor, I sit down heavily, looking up at Sam standing across the kitchen. He's staring at me, waiting for me to speak first. "We should stop by Jesse's tonight."

Sam grins, taking a long pull from his beer. "Yeah, Maddie called. Sounds like the kid's a wreck. Not that she sounded much better. Where's Jesse now?"

I grin, picturing it. "I sent him to Pearce to help clean up that mess we made on the tarmac this morning." Sam laughs, and it's like someone's hit the reset button. Tonight, we'll laugh, we'll drink, we'll help Jesse to take his mind off the rifle he'll still see in front of his face, we'll stave off the next big catastrophe. Tomorrow, we'll go to work. It's what we do.

Let me know what you think. It only takes a second, and I get a lot out of it.