Burn Notice: I don't own it, I just like to play with it.
A little one-shot that just came to me when I was feeling creative but I was finished writing "Accidents Happen" and "Good Enough".
Rue the Day
Living in Nevada had its advantages. One of the biggest was how quickly she could get a divorce. Marrying Nate had been a mistake, a huge one. Yet Ruth would never regret Charlie, the son they had together. He was hers, all hers, and Nate only played a small part at conception. He wasn't there when Charlie was born, and so many nights when her son cried from teething or an upset tummy, who was there to hold him? Not Nate. He was off gambling or trying a new get-rich-quick scheme that always left them deeper in the hole than before.
Yes, divorcing Nate was a good idea. She walked away at the right time. He agreed to send child support, but she never thought she'd actually get anything. When the first check arrived, she cashed it immediately, in fear that it would bounce. But it didn't. And that surprised her. Something was actually starting to work for him. Friends told her he stopped gambling. She hated when they reported positive things about Nate, because the little bits of good news chipped away at her stony heart. A small shred of the love she felt for him still resided inside somewhere, and it took all her willpower to keep it locked away.
Nate went back to Florida.
Nate is starting up the limo company again down there.
Nate, Nate, Nate.
How she tried to get away from him, but he was always there! She wished she could forget, to wipe him from her mind. Or maybe he would just disappear so she'd never have to hear about him again. She hoped that moving to Reno would help. She found a job dealing blackjack up there, packed her things, and took Charlie away from Vegas and all the bad memories of Nate.
She'd been living there a month and hadn't heard a thing about him. Another check arrived, forwarded from her old address. Knowing it was necessary, with reluctance she sent him a letter with her new location and a short note telling him about Charlie's latest feats. At the last second, she added a new photo. For some reason, she figured she at least owed him that much.
Ruth finished feeding Charlie his lunch when she heard a knock on the door. Still relatively new to the area, she didn't have any friends or acquaintances yet. It was probably just someone trying to sell something. After setting Charlie down among his toys on the living room floor, she approached the door, looked through the peephole, gasped, and stepped back to open it.
"Michael. What are you doing here?" She knew he and his friends did some kind of spy work; maybe Nate asked him to stop in if they were in Reno.
Michael was alone. He glanced up and down the hall and returned his attention to her. "Can I... can I come in?"
"Uh, sure." She opened the door wider and let him inside, her eyes on him, looking for an indication of why he would be there.
Michael stared at Charlie sitting on the floor banging two blocks together and gurgling with the solid thumping noise. He looked up at Michael and grinned, showing off his little teeth.
"He's gotten big," Michael said.
"Babies do that," Ruth responded with a slight smile. "Would you like something to drink?"
"Uh, sure, I guess."
While she disappeared into the kitchen, Michael sat on the couch within a foot of the baby. Charlie discarded the blocks and crawled to him, then grasped his pant leg and pulled himself up to his feet. Michael chided himself for thinking about how the kid would wrinkle his pants. He studied the face that showed traces of Nate. He had his nose and chin. His hair was blonde like Ruth's but darker, and his eyes were dark blue. For a moment, Michael had to think about what color Nate's eyes were. How could he forget something like that? It wasn't like he was gone that long!
Ruth returned with a glass of iced tea. "It's organic. Hope you don't mind."
"No, that's fine. Thanks." He took a deep swig and set it on the end table where she placed a coaster.
Charlie saw the glass and his eyes sparkled. A smile crossed his face, and it reminded Michael of one of Nate's, the kind he sported when he was up to something devious.
"It's okay," Michael said as he gripped Charlie under the arms and picked him up. He set him on his knee. Charlie fussed, but Michael put an arm around his middle and kept him there. The look of frustration on the little boy's face reminded him of Nate and the times his older brother showed a lack of confidence in his schemes. With good reason, but he should have been more supportive. Michael should have been a lot of things, and now it was too late.
A sob escaped. He'd been trying so hard to stay under control. He made it to the airport, got on the plane, flew to Reno, got off the plane and made it this far without losing a grip on his emotions. But all it took was the mannerisms of a chip off of Nate, and he unraveled in front of Ruth. He was just here to tell her in person, not look for sympathy. Michael wrapped his arms around Charlie, pressed his face into the little boy's shoulder, and crumbled.
Ruth sat watching the display, dumbfounded. Her ex-brother-in-law was always so self-assure and in control of his emotions. What happened to him? Why was he here alone and crying out as if his soul was ripped from him? Getting a little worried for Charlie, she got up and slipped him from Michael's arms. Charlie whined and reached out for Uncle Michael, but she wouldn't let him go.
"Michael, what's wrong?" She waited until he'd gotten himself under control again to ask.
"I'm sorry," he replied as he sniffled and wiped at his face and eyes with a handkerchief. "I didn't come here to blubber all over Charlie."
"Why are you here?"
Michael looked up at her, his eyes still bright with tears, but his face registered that he was back to himself again. "I'm here about Nate."
Ruth sighed, her posture sagged, and she turned away. "I don't want to hear any more about him. I'm sick and tired of hearing things from our friends. That's why I moved here! I needed to get away from everything Nate!"
She looked at him again. His head bowed, fist gripping the soaked fabric, he looked as if she'd punched him in the gut. But it was only for a few moments. He recovered quickly, sniffled, and turned his attention to her.
"Well, you won't have to worry about that any more," he announced in a monotone that sent a shiver through her. "Nate's dead."
"What?" Her eyes couldn't have gotten any wider.
"Yes, he's dead. Someone shot him while he was trying to be... while he was being a hero. He helped us get the man who burned me. Someone shot that man, Nate was behind him, and the round went through both of them and a thick sign behind Nate."
Ruth pictured the scenario in her mind and flinched. She could almost feel the bullet passing through him. "Was he killed instantly?" She wasn't sure why she asked. It didn't matter. That small part of her that still loved Nate wanted to know that he didn't suffer.
"He died in my arms, Ruth. He said... he said he was scared." He dabbed at his eyes again. "I'm sorry. I should have just called you, but I felt like this was news you needed to hear in person."
"Thank you, Michael." She pressed her cheek into the side of Charlie's face.
"I, uh, better go now. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." Michael stood and hurried to the door. He stopped, turned back, and handed her a business card. "If you need anything, you call."
"Thank you." She got up and let Michael out of the apartment, then locked the door behind him. She had no intention of calling him ever, but the fact that he offered to help touched her. She stuck the card in a jar where she kept spare change and cash.
Ruth set Charlie on the floor again to play, and after she put Michael's glass in the dishwasher, everything was the same as if he had never graced her home. Yet she couldn't help but feel the shadow nearby. Nate had invaded her life again, briefly, to announce that he was gone. She would never hear about him again. Friends would never again give her news on what he was doing. It should have been a relief, but it wasn't.
That little piece of her that still loved him dove into a canyon and died that day. Strangely enough, she would miss it.