At the End of the Earth

Shakespeare's Lemonade

Summary: Michael has kept his distance from Miami since he returned to the CIA, but a spur of the moment visit to see his mom starts a chain reaction of heartbreak, death, and a slim chance at redemption. He will face his biggest adversary in an attempt to save what is left of his family.

Pairings: Michael/Fiona (eventually), Jesse/Pearce, Sam/Elsa

Warnings: Major character death later in the story. If that's something you don't want to read, then I'm afraid this story will not be for you. There will also be a considerable amount of violence and possible abuse/torture situations.

Chapter One "You Can Never Go Home"

A hectic mission in a top secret location was just what Michael needed to get his mind off the events of the last few months. But the mission was over now. He had come home to his new apartment in D.C. The place that had felt empty from the moment he stepped into it three months ago. There were no pictures on the white walls or knickknacks on the dark wood furniture. He hadn't had time to decorate, not that he had anything left after burning it all in the loft.

The hardwood floor creaked slightly under Michael's feet as he walked through the front door and set his keys on the dusty table in the entryway. The faint light of the growing dusk filtered through the high windows all along the opposite side of the building. There was one message on the phone.

Michael had been out of the country for six weeks, and he had one message. For most people, that would be some sort of miracle. He wasn't expecting any calls. As he listened to the automated voice announcing that the call came over three weeks ago, Michael hoped it wasn't anyone important. But it was. At least his mom was used to her calls going unanswered for months at a time. It didn't make him feel any better, but there was nothing he could do about it except call her back. Some small part of him was elated that she wanted to talk to him at all.

Dialing the familiar number, Michael wondered what he would say to her. She had just called to see how he was doing. There wasn't much to tell on that front, but he called back anyway. Before he unpacked or even took off his shoes, Michael called his mother. Six years ago, he wouldn't have bothered.

The phone rang a couple of times before Madeline's excited voice came over the line. "Michael! I wasn't expecting to hear from you," she said.

"Yeah, I was out of the country when you called," Michael replied. "I just got home."

"And how is everything? Oh, I know you can't tell me about your mission or anything, but how are you?"

"I'm good, Mom. Not much to report."

"Have you heard from Sam or..."

"No, just you. I wasn't expecting..."

"I know. It's strange without you here, Michael. I was getting used to it."

"So was I, Mom. I didn't want to leave, but—"

"You had no other choice. I know, honey. Sometimes I think I might have preferred Argentina. At least I'd get to see you then."

Michael looked at the clock on the wall in the entryway. It wasn't too late. "Tell you what, why don't I come down for the weekend?"

"Really? They won't need you for some mission or something?"

"I just got home from two months in a country I can't mention. I have a little time off."

"Well, only if it's not too much of a bother. I wouldn't want you to get in trouble."

"I am allowed to visit my family, Mom. The deal I made—it's like nothing ever happened."

Madeline laughed humorlessly. "Nothing," she said.

"You know what I mean." Michael tried to hide the tiredness trying to creep into his voice.

"Yes. When will you be here?"

"I'll check if there are any flights tonight. I'll call you from the airport."

"Michael—thank you. You really don't have to do this."

"I know, Mom. I want to."

* * * Burn Notice * * *

The last thing Michael wanted was another plane ride. He had been going non-stop for the last six weeks—much longer than that if he were honest with himself—and all he wanted now was some peace. For some reason, spending the weekend with his mom sounded like the best idea in the world. Michael considered the possibility that he might be losing his mind. There was a time not long ago that he would have given anything to leave Miami. He had joined the Army to get away, and he had planned on staying away. But somehow the last six years had changed everything. Michael had gotten a glimpse of what his life could have been with friends, love, but it was all gone now, and there was nothing he could do about it. At least his mom still wanted to see him.

Michael tried to sleep on the plane because even three hours of nothing to do left too much time to think. When that failed, he memorized the inf-light magazine and stared up the aisle at anything that moved. Somehow that wasn't enough. His mind kept going back to the last time he was in Miami, the moment when his whole world came crashing down around him. He had gotten everything he ever wanted, and lost the only thing he couldn't live without. His mom had been right when she said that Michael wanted everything both ways, and it drove him crazy not to have it. The only way he dealt with it was by throwing himself into work and not allowing any idle time to think.

Perhaps visiting his mom wasn't such a good idea. The rush of memories that came with the idea of being in Miami again was almost too much to handle. He didn't know how he was going to deal with actually being there.

Michael didn't expect to see anyone while he was there. It was only a weekend at his mom's house. The others probably wouldn't be around as much as they used to be. Michael couldn't bring himself to think of them by their names. The memory of the hurt look in all of their eyes made him ashamed to consider himself their friend. Maybe he never had been, maybe he was as selfish as they thought he was, and maybe he was a coward for hiding behind the "greater good."

All of Michael's efforts to silence his troubled thoughts had failed so far. Somehow the flight back to the U.S. earlier had been easier. Probably because he was still processing all the details of his mission and he wasn't thinking about visiting his mom. He had been thinking about going home and sleeping. Missions didn't used to wear him out like that. He was human; he got tired like everyone else, but he loved his work. He was happy, or thought he was. Now, he just wanted to get away from that job that had stolen everything from him, and he couldn't. He was stuck.

Michael leaned back in the airplane seat and sighed softly. He needed to chase these thoughts away. He couldn't focus on how much he hated his current circumstances because they weren't going to change. He just had to make the best of it as he had been doing that the last three months. The CIA had taken him back because he was a damn good operative. He knew it. It was the only thing he was good at. He wasn't a good friend, a good son, a good brother, or even a good boyfriend. He never had been.

So, maybe it was for the best. Maybe he was meant to be alone, and relationships really were too much of a liability. There had been some brief moments of delusion where he thought love made him stronger, that the relationships he had built over those six years were keeping him alive. Maybe they were. Maybe he wasn't alive anymore, just a shell of a human, a killing machine like Larry or Simon. At least they admitted it. Michael never would. He would fight it until the day he died, because he was a good person, and he wouldn't believe anything else no matter what evidence glared him in the face.

Finally, the plane landed in Miami, and Michael was able to find other distractions: moving through the airport, getting a cab, and gazing at all the familiar sights as the sun went down over the place he tried not to call home.

* * * Burn Notice * * *

Twilight was just settling in when Michael arrived. When he told her he was coming, Madeline had rushed out to get groceries so she could make him dinner. She knew her cooking wasn't that good, but she wanted to do something for him that he wouldn't do for himself. She did not consider yogurt a proper meal.

The warm smell of food mingled with the ubiquitous cloud of cigarette smoke. Through the open windows, Madeline could hear children playing and laughing down the street. One might think this was a normal home for a normal family. That nothing had ever blown up here, and no one had ever bled. It was an impressive facade.

When Michael came through the front door without knocking just as he always did, Madeline noticed a strange look on his face. There was something in his eyes she didn't think she'd ever seen before, a sort of sad contentment, as if he missed home. That couldn't be it, though. Michael had always made it very clear how much he wanted to get away from his past. Madeline put it out of her mind and went to greet her son.

"I wasn't expecting to see you so soon," she said as she pulled him into a gentle hug.

"Like I said, I have some time off." Michael made it seem like it was nothing, like he visited all the time, but the last six years had been an exception to the rule that Michael Westen did his best to avoid Miami.

"Well, I'm glad you're here," Madeline said with a smile. No need to bring up her questions just yet. "I made dinner. I know it's late, but I thought you might be hungry."

"Sure." Michael smiled back. "Sounds great."

"Just put your things in the guest room, and I'll get everything ready."

As Michael disappeared down the hallway, it was not lost on Madeline that even in the six years he spent here, he had never stayed at this house. Sam had, Jesse had, but never Michael. Madeline understood that. He had escaped almost thirty years ago. Why would he ever want to come back to the place he had suffered so much?

Madeline had no answer for that, and she didn't think Michael would have if she asked him.