Disclaimer: Burn Notice and all of its characters belong to Matt Nix and the USA Network.

Um, so I don't know how this had never happened before, but I had never seen "Shock Wave" before tonight, if you have not seen it and want to remain unspoiled, turn back now. SPOILER ALERT:

This means that I have never seen Nate dying. This means that I had never seen Maddie's reaction to Michael telling her that Nate was gone. This means that I had never seen Fiona getting out of prison and I had never heard "Fi, I'm going to need your more than ever". I am an emotional wreck right now, so I'm going to write this because Jeffrey Donovan breaks my heart with his beautiful face. Gah. So many feels. Anywho...here it is.

"Every gambler knows the secret to surviving

Is knowing what to throw away, and knowing what to keep.

'Cause every hand's a winner, and every hand's a loser,

And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.

And when he'd finished speaking, he turned back to the window,

Crushed out his cigarette, and faded off to sleep.

And somewhere in the darkness, the gambler he broke even,

But in his final words, I found an ace that I could keep.

You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,

Know when to walk away, and know when to run.

You never count your money when you're sitting at the table,

There'll be time enough for counting when the dealing's done."

-"The Gambler" Kenny Rogers

Being a spy, you would assume that I was the risk taker in my family. Truth be told, that wasn't me. That had always been Nate. From the "underground" poker tournaments when we were in high school, to the trouble he'd gotten both of us into with his gambling as adults, he was always living life on the edge. My mother had always told me that I was in charge and I was supposed to "keep an eye on him". I had never been very good at listening to my mother...

I thought that when he got married, and his wife got pregnant he would settle down a bit, but I should have known better. He was a Westen. It wasn't exactly in our blood to just "settle down". Which is why it shouldn't have shocked me when I showed up to find him with a gun to Anson's head.

"I'm scared." Nate whimpered, his eyes fluttering closed. My hand slipped to the side of his face.

"No, no, no, no, no, come on...come on!" I barked, my voice hoarse with the tears that burned in my throat. "Nate! NATE!" His eyes flicked open and focused on me for half a second before closing slowly, his body going slack in my arms. My baby brother was dead. The man that I was genetically hardwired to protect. And for the first time since I had joined the Army at seventeen, I had no idea what I was supposed to do next.

Sometimes, a gamble doesn't play out the way that you expect. The cards go south, the dealer wins the table, and you lose everything when you go all in. Sometimes, you should know when to walk away from a table while you're ahead. My brother had never been one of the people that could quite grasp when that was appropriate. I had always told him that it would get him killed one day. Perhaps I should have bitten my tongue.

A spy's life is spent preparing, learning languages, researching targets, practicing with weapons. You prepare so, when the important moments arrive, you're ready. But, there are certain moments, human moments, that no amount of training can prepare you for.

"Hey." Mom gave me a sweet smile as she looked up from the cutting board. I couldn't hold back the glisten of tears that coated my eyes. The smile fell from her face and she turned her body to face me fully. "Michael, what's wrong?"

"It's..." I swallowed around the thick lump in my throat before continuing. "Nate's gone, Mom." Her face paled as soon as the words left my lips. "He's...he's dead."

I expected the slap, but it still stung my cheek when her hand collided with it. Her screams of protests were lost in the creases of my suit as I pulled her to my chest.

As much of as pain in the ass my brother had been, he was still my brother. That meant that I loved him, no matter what happened. He had been my ace in the hole on more than one occasion, and I'd let him die doing an op that I should have carried out myself. The pain was damned near unbearable when I saw him collapse to that cement. It shattered my entire world.

Nate was dead.

Fiona was still in prison.

My mother hated my guts.

What the hell else did I have left?

"Took you long enough. I was beginning to think you didn't need me." I tightened my arms around her, pulling her closer to me and pressing my face to the side of her head.

"Fi," I paused, burying my nose in the crook of her neck and taking a shuddering breath to calm my nerves, trying not to let myself break down. "I need you more now than ever..."

"What's wrong, Michael?" She whispered, her fingers running over my back gently. I opened my mouth, but I couldn't find the words that I needed to tell her what I was thinking. Everything. Everything was wrong, and I knew that there was no way to change it back.

Sometimes all you had at the end of a poker tournament was fifty-two blood stained cards and a pile of shattered pokers chips. I could spend my entire life trying to figure out where things had gone wrong, trying to figure out why the hell my idiot kid brother hadn't known to hold his cards when he had a good hand, but that wouldn't do anyone any good. I was going to get revenge for his death, that was for certain, but sometimes you have to sit on a good hand until the moment is right and you can shock the dealer by leaving them without an ace to play. He may not have still been alive, but I was damned sure that Nate was going to be my ace in the hole one last time.

After all, he'd always been the gambler in the family.