Disclaimer: Burn Notice still doesn't belong to me unfortunately.
A/N: First of all thank you so much to everyone who has supported me throughout every one of the stories I have written for Burn Notice and CSI. I have made some wonderful life long friends who enrich my life on a daily basis. I am blessed and forever grateful to have met some truly wonderful people.
Huge thanks as always to Purdy's Pal, DaisyDay and JediSkysinger for reading through parts of this. Special thanks to JediSkysinger for doing the BETA for me despite being incredibly busy.
'Scrambling off of the bed, he glanced down at his fully clothed body in confusion and hurriedly looked around the room while begging his subconscious mind to free him from this nightmare. Where was Fiona? What the hell was going on? For a dream, this felt all too real…'
So many things had been strained since Nate's death and Fiona's relationship with Madeline was one of them. Before she had given herself up to the authorities, Fiona had even thought of the older woman as her surrogate mother. At one time, she had even contemplated that Madeline had become more important to her than her own mother…that was until grief had laced its way into Madeline's heart and turned her from the mother Michael and Fiona both loved into a bitter shell.
Fiona had been prepared to let her feelings slide because she knew from experience how her mother had fallen apart after Claire died. She understood that grief was a process and that sometimes the person who was left behind could never recover…but she couldn't sit back and say nothing while the man she loved slipped further away into guilt enraptured grief.
They had said their final goodbyes to Nate Westen, an unsung hero who had paved the way for Fiona's release from prison. She hadn't been able to thank him in person even though she whispered her thanks to him in her dreams. Despite his annoying habit of turning up at inconvenient times when she and Michael were well on their way to intimacy, she still couldn't help but love him.
Fiona watched Michael worriedly when he sat on the edge of their bed in the same position she had left him a few minutes ago. She knew how desolate he was feeling right now because she knew all too well how he felt. Losing Claire had been almost unbearable and she too had endured the inevitable backlash from her mother's grief. She hadn't met Michael then, so she didn't have his love to help her through it. If she had then, she knew she wouldn't have taken out her grief on every one she had come into contact with.
"Michael," she spoke his name softly and waited for him to lift his head, but he didn't acknowledge her. She knew there was something going on with him and Madeline. But every time she asked him, he told her it was nothing.
Leaning against the bench in the kitchen, she watched him for a few more moments before she abandoned her silent vigil and moved around the bench to slowly make her way towards him. She spoke his name again, hoping that her presence was enough to chase his guilt away. But when he didn't respond, she moved closer to sit down next to him on the bed.
"I know it hurts," she whispered, as she reached out to unclasp his hands so that she could cradle one of them between hers. "I know you feel responsible—"
"I am responsible," he hissed, his words causing her to tighten her fingers around his hand. "He's dead because of me…my mom was right. I hurt everyone—"
Fiona's heart broke for him when she felt him shaking beside her. She knew he was going to take this guilt on his shoulders and allow it to fester because he didn't know how else to deal with it, but she also knew there was only one way to stop it.
"Your brother is dead because of me," she whispered, squeezing his hand tightly when his head shot up.
"No," he told her, shaking his head vigorously as he clasped onto her fingers. "No, Fi…it's not your fault…it never—"
"It is my fault," she insisted, her eyes holding his as she spoke. "I was the one who walked right into Anson's trap. If I hadn't tried to get you out when I killed Larry, then you wouldn't be in this mess and Nate would still be alive."
Shaking his head, Michael swallowed hard and lifted one of his hands to her cheek and held it there for a few moments while he tried to formulate the words that could convey to her just how much he loved her. His own eyes were brimming with tears and there was an ache rampaging around his body that he just couldn't seem to shake away; but when he was with her, she always made things seem so much more…bearable.
"I turned myself in…"
"No." Turning to face her, Michael dropped his hand from her cheek and grasped hold of her hands and urged her to lift her eyes to his. "There's been too much blame going around here lately."
Looking up, she regarded him thoughtfully as she shuffled closer; the sadness in his eyes luring her towards him. He had always held so much guilt within him, so much anger and pain. She knew how it felt to lose everything. She had lived through her grief of losing first her sister and then him…the pain had almost consumed her.
"Your mother is grieving. She's lashing out at you because she needs someone to blame." Her eyes softened when she saw the sadness in his gaze and all she wanted to do was pull him into her body and hold him there forever.
When he nodded silently, she took the opportunity to urge his body backwards until he was lying flat against the mattress with his head on the pillow. He hadn't slept in such a long time and she knew that eventually, if he didn't get any rest, he would have a meltdown…just like she had.
"I can't sleep," he grumbled miserably. "Nate's killer is still out there—"
"And he'll still be out there after you've taken some time to rest," she soothed. "You won't be any use to anyone if you burn yourself out."
Michael turned his gaze towards her and followed the dark circles that hung beneath her eyes. She had already been through so much due to his actions and she had given up on a normal life a long time ago. She should have been married and had a family by now, but he had ruined that for her too.
"Why did you stay, Fi?" he asked and, even as he spoke, he could already see new pain forming in her eyes. He just couldn't seem to stop hurting her.
"You already know the answer to that question, Michael," she huffed, even though she knew it was only his grief talking for him. It would have been so easy to walk away from him, but she couldn't do that now. Maybe that had been her problem all along…she never could let him go.
"I lost you—"
"You left," she snapped back. "Or have you chosen to forget all about that in this pity party you've got going on?"
"No, Michael, I've listened to everything you've said to me over the years. I've heard every excuse you've ever come up with and I've seen right through every one of them. You were always trying to get away from me and I always thought it was because you didn't want me in your life."
"Fi, you know that's not true," he gasped out as he sat bolt upright so that he could face her. "Please tell me you know that…"
Swallowing the lump in her throat, Fiona lifted her eyes to his and bit back the hurtful retort that bubbled on her tongue. The raw pain in his eyes had always been her undoing. Lifting her hand to his face, she found herself relishing the slight stubble that scratched against her palm…it reminded her of how they were in Ireland so long ago.
"I do know," she whispered. "Card told me you didn't want to leave…he told me he had to force you…and I…"
Michael watched her eyes well with unshed tears as she shook her head and tried to swallow them back. He wished he could have told her back then. He wished that he could have left her a letter, a clue, anything that would have let her know that he loved her…but he only had thirty minutes and he'd spent most of them watching her sleep.
"It doesn't matter anymore," she sighed sadly. No matter how much time had passed since that moment, some days the pain was as raw now as it was back then and, no matter how many times she told herself that it was in the past, there were still times when the insecurity came back to haunt her.
She watched him for a few more moments before she lowered her hand away from his face and moved to stand up, but he surged forward to grasp hold of her hand.
"Where are you going?"
The look he gave her was one she knew all too well; he had the look of someone who was tackling abandonment issues of his own. Squeezing her fingers around his, she smiled down at him and shook away the sorrow that had lingered around her for so long.
"I was going to lock the door," she told him softly. "It's been a long day and we could both do with some sleep."
Releasing the breath he'd been holding, Michael nodded numbly and let go of her hand before he lay back down against the pillows. He couldn't even begin to comprehend how he had survived without her after he'd left her in Ireland. His life had never been the same and, even though he'd left Michael McBride behind him, the man had still been there inside him, longing for the woman that they both loved.
When he'd returned back home to Samantha, nothing had been the same. She'd tried to engage him in a bout of love making, but he couldn't. He'd just blamed his lack of interest on exhaustion, but even then he'd known that she wouldn't accept his excuses for long and that was why he left her when he did.
The feelings he'd thought he'd had for Samantha were nothing compared to the complete and utter love that he'd felt for Fiona. He'd never brought into all that romance stuff about love at first sight, he'd always thought it was a load of bull, but…that all disappeared when he'd met the woman he knew he would love forever…and he had.
Even after Fiona turned herself in and left him behind he'd known. He was an absolute mess without her and, since she's been released from her incarceration, he'd needed her presence more than he'd needed to breathe and he hated being away from her for any amount of time. He could only imagine how she must have felt that morning in Ireland when she'd woken up to find him gone without any kind of explanation.
He heard her click the lock closed, the sound bringing him out of his memories. He listened to her movements and the padding of her feet when she made her way towards the bathroom. He didn't think he would ever be able to be without her again. He wouldn't survive losing her, not again.
Closing his eyes he listened to the shower running and allowed the sounds to relax him. Just knowing she was a short distance away was a comfort, one that he was only now willing to acknowledge. She was his life…
When he opened his eyes a few hours later, he took a deep breath before he cracked open one eye. The sunlight was pouring in through the window and bathing glowing rays all over his body, but he blinked it away and rolled onto his side to grasp hold of the warm body beside him.
Breathing deeply, he settled against the woman he loved and shuffled closer to kiss her bare shoulder, but stopped mid kiss when he realised that something felt wrong. Feeling around the covers that laid around his torso, he reached out expecting to feel the silken linens that Fiona had bought for their bed. But when his fingers touched a woollen comforter, all kinds of alarm bells resounded inside his head.
Opening his eyes fully, he looked at the floral curtains and felt his heart lurch inside his chest. Sitting up, he drew in a ragged breath as he looked around the room, none of the surroundings registering with him until his gaze fell onto a familiar wicker chair in the corner of the room. Swallowing hard, he turned sharply and looked down at the sleeping woman in the bed, her brunette curls falling over the pillows to cascade around her face.
Scrambling off of the bed, he glanced down at his fully clothed body in confusion and hurriedly looked around the room while begging his subconscious mind to free him from this nightmare. Where was Fiona? What the hell was going on? For a dream, this felt all too real…
"Michael," the woman asked tiredly, her voice breaking into a yawn. "What are you doing?"
Michael stopped still and tried to control his ragged breathing. How had this happened? He'd closed his eyes a short time ago, listening to Fiona's movements and allowing the sounds to soothe him, but he'd awoken to this weird alternate reality.
Looking down at his arm, he reached down to pinch himself hard, expecting the pain to wake him, but when he opened his eyes, he found himself still in the same bedroom that he'd stood in over ten years ago. Swallowing hard, his gaze fell down onto the bed and he could already feel the blood draining away from his face as his lips formed a word to utter a name that he hadn't spoken in a very long time…
Even after he'd spoken her name, she seemed to look right past him and for a moment he contemplated correcting his mistake of long ago by actually offering her an explanation as to why he was leaving so suddenly. But when he actually turned around to look at her, he came face to face with a younger version of himself.
"What is wrong with you?" she asked the other Michael Westen in exasperation when she pulled herself upright in the bed to watch him. "You come to bed late. You sleep in pyjamas; you never used to sleep in anything."
Stepping away to stand against the wall, Michael watched his younger self in total shock. She had spoken those same words to him so long ago, but he hadn't thought to answer her. All he had been focused on was ending his own pain and running as far away as he could. Had he really been so cold towards her? Shaking his head, he watched the scene unfold and felt the guilt wash over him. Why hadn't he felt the slightest inkling of guilt ten year ago?
"Ever since you came back from whatever hell hole they sent you to you've been distant." Pushing the covers back, she exposed her bare breasts to the man searching through the closet and waited for the lust to appear in the younger Michael's eyes, but he didn't look at her at all. Swallowing back her anger, she tried to hide the hurt in her heart by pulling the sheets back up over her chest. "What the hell is going on with you?"
"You know, I'm beginning to wonder how you managed to have any kind of relationship at all!"
The voice beside him sent shivers throughout his body and caused him to gasp in a breath. This couldn't be real. This had to be some kind of dream because why else would he hear things that weren't there? He turned slowly, reminding himself that the owner of that voice was dead, but nothing could have prepared him for seeing his brother standing beside the wall watching him with an amused grin on his face.
Opening his mouth to speak, Michael couldn't seem to get any words out but when he stepped towards his brother, he felt something else shift in the room and he seemed to be standing in some kind of bubble. Turning back around, he saw himself as he was all those years ago wearing the same lost expression that he'd been carrying around since he'd left Ireland. Those feelings of guilt disappeared all too quickly when he watched his earlier self stumbling over his own words.
Those feelings of remorse reared up inside him again, but they were muted by the reasons behind why he'd had to leave. He couldn't have stayed with her. He would have been living in a lie. But instead of telling her that he'd fallen in love with someone else, he'd just packed his stuff and walked away.
"You really know how to leave an impression," Nate chuckled. "Did you really just wake up one morning and walk away?"
"You're not here," Michael whispered, even though he didn't know what he was saying anymore. His brother was dead and Samantha was long gone, so why was he reliving this moment all over again. "I need to get back to Fiona. Where is she?"
"Oh, we'll get to her soon. You just need to watch this first…"
"I really don't," Michael told him quietly as he shook his head. "I left Samantha because I—"
"Because of what?" Nate pushed. "You didn't love her? You used her? What?"
"It was complicated. I came back home and…" Shaking his head, Michael turned away from his brother's image only to be confronted with watching his twin ignoring the woman he was supposed to have loved, as he rammed clothes into a bag before he just walked away from her without a backwards glance.
"MICHAEL!" she screamed after him as she scrambled out of the bed, not even bothering to cover herself. "MICHAEL…"
"Why are you showing me this?" Michael asked, hissing out his words when he looked back towards his brother. "This happened over ten years ago. I had to leave—"
Nate silenced him and pointed to the woman who had returned to the room to sink down onto the bed looking completely numb. There were no tears on her cheeks, just pure disbelief, and for one chilling moment. Michael thought she was going to break out into uncharacteristic sobs, but all she did was laugh. Shaking his head Michael turned to his brother and opened his mouth to ask for an explanation, but the scream that bellowed out behind him silenced whatever he was going to say.
Turning slowly, he watched Samantha yank open a drawer and pull out a t-shirt before she angrily pulled the garment over her slender body.
"Bastard," she hissed out when she stood up and kicked the drawer closed, anger spurring her onwards as she stalked around the room to pull open the closet door.
"What's this about Nate? I left her because I HAD to. I couldn't stay with her not after…"
"Fiona?" Nate asked seriously as he folded her arms across his chest. "That's why I'm here, bro."
"For Fi?" Michael's voice cracked when he spoke her name, forgetting all about the woman who was currently tossing every item of clothing onto the bed. "What about her?"
"You've left too many people behind, Mike. That's why they sent me here."
"You just told me it was because of Fi!"
"And it is, but you need to see what you do to the people you leave behind," Nate told him as he nodded towards the woman who suddenly slammed the closet door closed before she slumped down to sit in between the pile of clothes on the bed.
"I hope you rot in hell, Michael Westen," she seethed, her voice dipping unbelievably low as she got up from the bed and took one last look behind her before she stalked out of the room.
"That was harsh, bro, even for you!"
Michael shook his head in exasperation before he ran his hands over his face. Pulling them away, he tried once more to wake himself up. But to his dismay when he opened his eyes again, he was still in the same room.
"Okay, you've proved your point. I should have given Samantha some kind of explanation…I could have tried to tell her…" Turning away from his brother, his eyes wandered over towards the bed that was still covered with the various items of clothing strewn all over it. "It seemed the right thing to do at the time."
"I don't know…maybe now I would do things different, but it wouldn't change what happened." Sighing heavily, Michael turned back towards his brother and silently pleaded with him to end this torment and let him wake up, but when Nate slowly shook his head and pointed towards the bedroom door, Michael turned around again to see Samantha stepping back into the room.
"Sam," Michael muttered her name, his remorse filled voice breaking a little when he saw his ex-fiancée swipe a hand across her damp cheek. "I'm sorry…"
"Mike, she can't hear you," Nate told him quietly as he watched the mixed emotions flashing across his elder brother's eyes.
"I never thought I meant that much to her," Michael all but whispered when he kept his gaze fixed on the woman he had almost shared a life with. "I didn't think she really cared…"
"Well, now you know she did," Nate sighed. "Or maybe it was just you who didn't care."
Michael shot around to face Nate, anger flashing in his eyes. "Of course I cared!"
Nate held his hands up and watched his brother turn back around to survey the carnage he'd ultimately left behind. "I'm just sayin' it how it looks, bro."
"You didn't love her?"
Swallowing the lump in his throat, Michael slowly shook his head and averted his eyes. He couldn't take this anymore.
"You've made your point, Nate. I left Sam and I left Fi…can we just—"
"Actually, Fiona is next on my list," Nate nodded as he glanced back at his brother's solemn face. "Unless you want to stay here and—"
"Okay, then," Nate chuckled as he walked towards the wall. "I'll meet you there."
Michael watched his brother disappear and felt his heart lurch inside his chest. Turning back around sharply, his eyes widened further when he realised that he was still in Samantha's room and he could already feel the panic coursing through him.
"NATE!" he yelled. "THIS ISN'T FUNNY, NATE!"
When nothing happened, Michael shook his head from side to side and moved backwards until he was flush against the wall. Squeezing his eyes closed, he found himself repeating a mantra to whoever was listening to take him back to Fiona…he needed her…he needed…
"Thare ya are. I wa' beginnin' ta think ya'd stood me up."
Snapping his eyes open, Michael found himself face to face with the woman he loved and felt his whole body relax…until he realised that they weren't in the loft and she wasn't the Fiona he knew now, but rather, he was back and trapped in the day when he left her behind…