I would like to thank my beta reader, Riter's Fury, for being awesome. And all you readers. You guys are awesome too.
Chapter Eleven "I Will Try to Fix You"
Jesse drove much slower on the way to Dani's office. For some reason, talking to Michael gave him focus, allowed him to think about all this in a more rational manner. Not entirely rational, though. Jesse had never claimed any semblance of pure objectivity. He usually thought it was easier to admit that he took things personally, but nothing about this was easy. Jesse remembered the desperation he tried so hard to hide when Riley had offered him information about his mom. He had been willing to give up everything but his friends. He wondered if he would still make that sacrifice for them. He hoped he would, but things had changed since Michael left. Sure, he was back for the moment, but he would be gone again too soon.
Jesse decided that he would do the same thing because he hadn't sold them out when he was facing life in prison, and that had to be worse than anything else Riley could throw at them, right? Jesse hoped so anyway.
He arrived at Dani's office just as she was getting ready to leave. She looked surprised—but not unpleasantly—to see him. It only took a second for her to realize this wasn't a social visit like last time.
"What's wrong?" she asked, worry coating her words.
"I need a favor," Jesse said. "I know this is a bad time, but it's important."
"Anything. What is it?" Dani leaned against her desk and crossed her arms.
Jesse held up the file. "I need you to find out if this information is legitimate."
"Looks like a lot of information? Where'd you get it?"
"I think Riley left it in my apartment."
"She was there? Did you see her?"
"No, I can't say for sure it was her, but—it had to be."
"Because this is a CIA personnel file. On my mom."
Dani reached out her hand, but Jesse didn't give her the file right away. "I'll do everything I can," she said. "After everything you did for me..."
"What did I ever do for you?"
"In between complaining about green Jello, you kept me from blowing the mission that took down my fiance's killer. I never really thanked you for that."
Jesse shook his head and handed her the file. "I never thought you needed to."
Dani met Jesse's eyes, and for a moment neither of them said anything. She held the file as if it would break into a million pieces if she weren't careful. It wasn't really the file she was worried about.
* * * Burn Notice * * *
Madeline had overheard a lot of what went on at her house that day, but she kept out of it for the most part. She watched though. She knew that Michael and Fiona were talking again without raising their voices. She knew that Jesse had discovered some unsettling information about his mother. As happy as Madeline was about Michael and Fiona, she worried about Jesse. She worried about all of them, but he seemed to be the one who needed it the most at the moment. She also worried about Charlie. He was being a tough guy, a lot like his uncle, but Madeline knew he was scared and feeling alone. She didn't know how to fix it. She didn't know how to fix anything. That seemed to be the story of her life.
It was time for Charlie to wake up though. If he slept too long, he'd have even more difficulty when bedtime came. He was already having nightmares as it was. Madeline tried not to think of it as she went into Michael's childhood bedroom. Charlie was still sound asleep on top of the covers where Fiona had left him. He had that look on his face though, that look that told Madeline his mind was far from idle. He was a lot like Michael that way, always thinking.
Madeline sat on the edge of the bed and reached over to put her hand on Charlie's shoulder. He stirred under her touch.
"Is it morning, Grandma?" he asked, rubbing his eyes as the late afternoon sun filtered through the blinds.
Madeline smiled. "No, honey, you just took a nap. Do you want to get up and play for a while?"
"I want to go home."
Madeline didn't know what to say. She didn't deal with death well, but she'd never had to explain it to a child. Charlie knew his mother was gone, but he was also two years old, and he wanted to go home.
"You're going to live here now, Charlie," Madeline said, hoping that was some consolation. She wouldn't have thought so.
"Until you grow up."
"Is Uncle Michael going to live here too?"
"No, he's just visiting."
"Good. 'Cause I don't want to share a room with him."
Madeline relaxed. At least he was off the topic of going home.
"But he'll come back and see us, right?"
Madeline knew how to lie when the truth was more harm than good. "Of course he will. He's gotta teach you to drive a car and..." Madeline halted. She didn't think she wanted Michael teaching Charlie anything else he knew.
"Can he teach me to shoot a gun?"
Madeline looked horrified. "Where did you get that idea?"
"He had one in his car before."
"I see. I think you'll have to be a lot older before you can think about doing that."
"Okay. Is it dinner time? I'm hungry."
* * * Burn Notice * * *
A thunderstorm blew in that evening. Michael ended up making dinner for everyone at Charlie's request because, quote, "Grandma's food is yucky." Madeline actually seemed pleased with the delegation of tasks. She got to watch Charlie and Fiona play Army men while Michael and Sam were in the kitchen. The division of labor also afforded an opportunity for Sam to express some concerns he was having.
"I wish one of us had gone with Jesse," he said, seemingly out of the blue.
"Why's that?" Michael asked, turning down the stove as the pasta began to boil.
"He just seemed, I don't know, really edgy since this afternoon."
"Yeah?" Michael didn't see the problem.
"I mean before we found the file. When we were talking to Carrillo earlier."
"You think something's wrong?"
"Mike, I know something's wrong. Riley's messing with all of us, but it's getting to Jesse worse. You know she tried to get him to flip on us when she had him in custody, but you don't know that she used information about his mom to do it."
Michael seemed to be thinking for a moment. "The file," he said.
"When we rescued Jesse, there was a file of blank paper that he seemed very interested in. That must have been it."
"Yeah, I think so. Anyway, he was really worked up about it, even before we got back to his place."
"And what do you expect me to do about this?"
"I don't know. Talk to him or something."
"Talking's not really my department, Sam."
"Yeah, I've noticed."
"What do you want me to say?"
"That you'll try anyway. This isn't some guy off the street, Mike. It's Jesse. Our friend. You know, the one who refused the answers he's been looking for all his life because he'd have to sell you out to do it."
"You're saying I owe him, and I agree with you, but I don't know what talking to him would accomplish."
"He'll follow you—has followed you—to the gates of hell, just like the rest of us. He'll listen to you."
"Listen to me say what? 'You shouldn't try to find out who your own mother was'? I don't think so."
"That's not what I'm asking. Mikey, he's got an itching trigger finger. He always has, but this just made it worse. I don't want anyone to get hurt, but I have a feeling if that happens, it's going to be him."
Michael nodded. "This must be what it was like all those times you tried to talk me out of something crazy."
"I did succeed that one time."
"Yeah, 'cause you punched me in the face."
"As I recall, you hit first."
"No, I think it was you."
"Whatever. Point is, you'll talk to Jesse?"
"Yeah, I'll talk to him. If he ever finds the guy who killed his mom, I might just help him hide the body, though."
Sam rolled his eyes. "Yeah, I know."
* * * Burn Notice * * *
The rain was coming down in sheets off the hotel eaves as Jesse pulled up. He had stopped by his apartment to grab some things before checking into the hotel. He couldn't stay at home after Riley had been there. Part of him wanted to burn down the building, and he might have if other people wouldn't have been hurt in the process.
As he hurried into the main floor room and out of the deluge, Jesse thought it was useless. He wouldn't be getting any sleep. He just needed some space, a safe place. But who was he kidding. He never really felt safe anywhere. Well, there was that one time on the cruise ship when Dani was telling him to stop whining like a little girl. Jesse didn't know why he was thinking about that now, but something in the memory was comforting.
He turned the deadbolt in the door and looked around the plain room. It was one of those dingy, pay by the week places. Jesse didn't plan on spending a lot of time there. He kicked his shoes off and flopped down on the bed. He thought about turning on the TV, but then decided the noise would only irritate him.
He stayed like that for a long time. He contemplated the possibility that this was all just some cruel joke. That fate or whatever ruled the universe had let Riley out just to screw with all of them. It was worse than fighting off assassins or running from cops. There was nothing to do but wait and hope she messed up. Jesse had never been good at waiting.
The power went out around eleven at night. The storm was still raging on outside. Jesse's phone lit up the room with a text message. He scrambled off the bed and checked the message. It was from Dani.
I think I found something. Where are you?
Jesse rapidly texted his location, with a few typos, as his heart began to pound in his throat. He couldn't see straight to read Dani's reply that she was on her way.
Then he waited some more.
Jesse was pacing by the time Dani pounded on the door. He jumped at the noise and ran to the door. Jerking it open, he saw her standing there, soaked from the downpour, holding a leather bag to her chest. Jesse stared at her for a moment.
"Are you gonna let me come in out of this flood?" she demanded.
Jesse jolted back to reality and stood aside to let her in.
"Power's out?" she asked.
"Yeah, there might be a flashlight somewhere," Jesse replied. He used his phone to search around the room and found an emergency kit in the closet. He turned on the flashlight and came back to the middle of the room. Dani was sitting on the edge of one of the beds, still holding her bag.
"What is it?" Jesse asked, skipping over the courtesies he should have offered. Like a towel.
Dani opened her bag and pulled out some computer printouts. "I shouldn't be telling you this because it's way above any clearance you ever had," she said. "But I know I can trust you not to get me fired." She handed Jesse the narrow stack of pages.
"I'm really sorry I had to ask you to do this," Jesse said, but his voice sounded automatic. He wasn't really paying attention to what he was saying. Using the flashlight, he scanned through the pages. "So she really did work for the CIA?"
Dani nodded. "The pictures confirmed that. I just had to do some digging to verify it."
Jesse looked up at her as if suddenly aware of what was going on around him. "What time is it?"
"I can't believe you came out here in a storm in the middle of the night... just for this?"
"Just? It seemed kind of important."
"Yeah. To me."
"Then it's important to me too. I have the original file in a safe in my office. I don't know how Riley managed to get a hold of it. Maybe she had it before she went off the deep end. She shouldn't have had it anyway."
"Then maybe whoever's helping her is even more connected than we thought."
"It doesn't sit well, anyway. I'm starting to understand why you guys are so paranoid all the time. I'm not sure who I can trust in the Agency anymore."
"Mike's paranoid. I'm just careful."
"You're all paranoid. It doesn't mean they're not out to get you. If the events of the last few days are any indication, they are in fact out to get you."
"Yeah, thanks for reminding me."
"Hey, are you okay with all this? I mean about your mom and everything. It must be a shock."
Jesse shook his head and switched off the flashlight to save battery. "I'm not sure I have the right to be surprised by anything these days. But to answer your question—No. Not really."
"I wish there were something more I could do."
"You've already done too much for me. You could get in serious trouble for this." Jesse waved the pages in his hand and they made crinkling noises in the dark.
"It's nothing you wouldn't do for me."
"Yeah, well, maybe I don't have so much to lose."
Dani was quiet for a moment. "I don't think so."
"What do you mean?"
"Just that you have friends who would die for you. I... have a job. It's not as nice as everyone makes it seem." Dani sounded lost. The flat tone in her voice was much clearer in the darkness.
"I know," Jesse agreed. "I guess I was kinda like that until Michael got me burned. Is that irony?"
"I think so."
"So, maybe you need to lose your job and join a gang of vigilantes, using your spy skills to fight for the little guy." Jesse laughed that nervous laugh he had when making a joke about something serious.
"Is that how you see what Michael does?"
"What he did, anyway. That's the reason I didn't go back to the DOD."
"You did help a lot of people. You still do. I wish I could feel like I'd accomplished anything like that at the end of the day."
"What you do is important. It matters to people." Jesse paused. "It matters to me."
"Guess you couldn't have gotten that file without me."
"Dani, that's not what I meant. It's the fact that you were willing to do it for me, no questions asked. You have friends too you know, and I don't know if I'd die for anyone, but I like to think I would for you."
"And Michael and Fiona and Sam."
There was a long silence, and Jesse noticed how dark it was. Dani sighed.
"Did I say something wrong?" Jesse asked.
"Not at all." There was a forced brightness in her voice.
"Dani, you're special. I mean, I don't know how to say this. It's not like I don't care about Mike, Fi, and Sam, but I think, I don't know, I can talk to you. Kinda like I used to talk to Fiona before, well, never mind."
Dani laughed. "Wow, you're really bad at this."
"I've had other things to do."
"If it makes you feel any better, you've definitely gotten my mind off all this crap with Riley."
"I suppose I should consider that an accomplishment."
"Yeah, you should. I've been looking for this information for twenty-five years. I tried over and over again to see case files on my mom's death. You confirmed she worked for the CIA in a few hours."
"Is it anti-climactic?"
"Not at all. This opens up a whole new flood of questions, and I'm sure that's exactly what Riley wants, but she's underestimating us. She doesn't know we've got you on our side. She doesn't know that I can count on you."
Dani smiled, even though Jesse couldn't see her. "I'm in this to the end, okay? I know I'm not part of the 'team' or anything—"
"We'll have a vote later. I'm sure you'll be unanimously accepted."
"You're funny." Dani's voice was so matter of fact. "Sometimes I forget people like you still exist."
"Of course they don't. I'm one of a kind."
"Yeah. Yeah, you are."