Burn Notice: I don't own it, I just like to play with it.
After all the angst generated by the new season preview clips and press, I decided we all needed something lighter. This story starts out angsty, but I hope that it will speak to you of the brotherly love and devotion that two friends have despite all circumstances and situations. Enjoy!
My Friend Indeed
I've spent so much of my life depending upon myself to get out of scrapes. Way back, long ago, I had a team to count on, and again until recently I had people who were friends and not just team members. We came together through adversity, and clung to each other through the worst of times. Sam, who was as down and out as I was, and maybe even more so, allied with me to make a little cash until I could figure out who burned me. We forged a bond a long time ago, and I didn't realize just how strong it was until he so willingly agreed to work with me to get the desire of my heart. I'm afraid I wasn't very good in returning that devotion. Instead, I led him into situations he should have run from, like any sane person would. He stuck with me, and I learned after I was on my own how precious his friendship was to me.
God only knows the real reason for Fiona coming down to Miami to be by my side when I woke from a serious beating in Nigeria. Maybe she still felt something for me and wanted to provide support in some small way before I took my last breath. But I didn't die. Maybe she was a little disappointed by that, yet she came to my loft and snuck back into my life to torment and love me in equal measures.
Jesse's circumstances were my fault, and I felt so terrible about burning him that I took him in and hid the truth until he figured it out for himself. I see now that I wasn't doing him any favors, and at times the guilt is excruciating when I think of how much he lost getting involved in our 'merry band' as Sam referred to it.
My Ma and Nate paid for my obsession more than anyone, she losing a son, and Nate losing his life. Everything I did was for my own benefit all along and I never stopped to think about how it would affect my friends. Now I'm on the verge of being finished with the Agency, on my own terms, and I have no one on the other side of that invisible wall. I tried calling my Ma for advice, but the voice mail picked up. Before I could start to feel wretchedly sorry about myself, I remembered that she was entertaining Virgil. Virgil! Just the thought of his name makes me growl deep and low, balling my fists, wanting to punch something, preferably his grinning face.
When it comes to spy craft, intelligence gathering, and storming high security compounds, I'm the man. When it comes to other things, things that concern the people I love, I am a complete mess.
"Hello, this is Jesse. Leave a message, man, and I'll get back to ya."
I forced out a long breath and ended the call without leaving anything. I'd been trying to get a hold of Jesse for weeks, but he seems to be screening my calls. He never answers, and I don't blame him. All my hopes that we'd somehow formed a bond beyond friendship were dashed like a fine piece of crystal crashing to the floor. I was beginning to think that every close relationship I had was an illusion of my own mind.
There was only one person left to call, and it was foolish of me to think that he wouldn't help. Why I didn't bypass everyone and go to him at the start, I don't know. No, I do. It was that old enemy insecurity rearing its head and telling me that I didn't deserve Sam's friendship. Shaking my head at my stupidity, I pressed the speed dial for Sam's number.
"Hey, Mikey, how's it going? Haven't heard from you in awhile," Sam answered on the fourth ring. In the background I could hear splashing and kids shrieking and giggling.
"Where are you, Sam?"
Sam laughed. "Poolside, Mike. Where else would I be? There are a couple families here with kids. Hang on. No, Baby, stop that." His laugh was light. "Elsa, please. I'll be right back."
"Oh, you bet, Sweetheart." He kissed her, and I heard it over the phone.
Good thing Sam wasn't there, or he would have seen me cringe. The interaction between him and Elsa reminded me of everything I could have had and didn't because of my foolishness. The last I heard, Fiona was seeing some other guy, a perfect partner for her gun-running. I would have rather seen her stick with Sam doing odd jobs. Yes, I was jealous. How many times had she tried to tweak that dark side in an attempt to force me to show my feelings? I resisted because feelings are bad when you're a spy. Feelings leave one vulnerable in the field, and if I had any hope of coming back to her alive, I had to stuff everything I felt for her inside, in a tiny box in my heart, until I was free to release it. Yes, I was taking a risk in losing her, but if I shirked everything that had rained down after my being burned, God only knows how bad things could have been.
"Mikey, you still there? Mike?"
Sam's voice startled me back to the matter at hand. "Oh yeah, sorry, Sam."
"Sorry about that noise. This is the first time in awhile that Elsa's had to just sit and relax at the pool."
"No need to explain," I interrupted him. "You're lucky you still have her after everything I dragged you into."
"Aw, come on now, I volunteered. Once I got on the Michael Westen is burned freight train, there was no getting off," Sam countered. I could hear his smile over the line. "I couldn't very well leave my best buddy hanging by his fingernails, could I?"
"If I recall, when we reunited you weren't exactly in the best situation yourself."
"True." Sam fell silent for a moment, and when he returned, there was a more sober tone on the other side. "You rescued me, again. Let's face it, I was heading down the wrong path, brother, and helping you brought me back to life."
He was right. "And you kept me from going off the deep end how many times." I grinned.
"Ain't that the truth. You're a high maintenance friend, Mike."
"That must be my problem. Why I'm alone..." I cut myself off. No feeling sorry for myself allowed.
"What's going on, Mike? You don't normally sulk."
"I'm not sulking." I defended too quickly, but even if I had waited, Sam already knew. He was too good a friend not to see it, even without being face to face.
"You are. So what's eating at you?" Before I could reply, he continued, "Hey, why don't you grab a pair of trunks, come on over to the hotel, and we'll hang out for the rest of the day? Or do you have something more pressing with the Agency?"
"No, I don't." The sound of those words brought conflict, with part of me sensing a load being lifted off my shoulders, and the other half anxious for a new assignment. Maybe that's why I was so on edge. Despite my misgivings, I answered, "I'll be there in about a half hour."
"Alright! We'll be at the pool, and I'll have an ice tea waiting for you."
"Anytime, Mike." He was smiling again when he said, "It'll be okay, whatever it is. Trust me."
"I do." After I hung up, I muttered, "But I don't know if you can help me with this."
I couldn't find my swim trunks. In all the clothes I owned, which weren't many, a few suits and mostly fatigues and black clothing, I didn't have a single swimsuit. I remembered that everything that Fi and I had burned up in the loft, except what we carried in our bags, and a stab of pain threatened to tear my heart in two again. I blinked at the wetness forming in my eyes. It broke Fi's heart to lose all those snow globes. If I could, I would travel around the world to every place she visited and try to replace them. Granted, I would never find the same ones, but I would do my best to get close enough.
The idea was madness, but as I tore through my dresser and my meager belongings inside, the insanity of it appealed to me. I hoped that Sam could help. First, however, I needed to find a swimsuit. I gave up and called Sam again.
"Hello," he answered.
"Sam, sorry I'm running late. I can't find my swimsuit."
"Don't worry about it. I'll get you one from the boutique in the hotel. By the time you get here, I'll be waiting in the lobby and take you upstairs to change. How about it?"
"Sounds great, except... you know I don't want anything too loud."
"It'll whisper, I promise," Sam joked. "Talk to you when you get here, Mike." He ended the call, and I had the distinct feeling that he would enjoy himself shopping for something that I may not like, but for him I would tolerate.
True to his word, the moment I handed my keys to the valet and urged him to be careful with my Charger, I heard Sam's voice and saw him trotting down the steps to meet me.
"He'll treat it like a baby, Mike, don't worry." He addressed the valet. "Isn't that right, Ty? One scratch and you're..."
"No worries, Mr. Axe. I'll take very good care of her," Ty answered with a gleam in his eye before turning away.
"See? I trust that kid with the Caddy, he'll take good care of the Charger." He placed a hand on my shoulder blade and directed me to the hotel lobby. "It sure is good to see you again."
"I never thought I'd say this, but I'm glad to be back in Miami," I said, and I meant it. I always thought it would take being dragged through hell and back to get it out of me, but the past seven years had been close enough.
Sam's touch on my shoulder was brief, and it felt good. It told me that I wasn't as bad off as I thought, that I still had him as a friend. He led me to the elevator, asking me about the Agency and how things were going. As we rode to the penthouse with a couple of businessmen and a bellhop carrying their bags, I gave simple, safe answers.
"It's going okay. Things are almost wrapped up."
From the corner, Sam turned to me. "Seriously? That means you'll be coming back to stay?"
The light in his eyes was unmistakable. I smiled, a tight stretch of my lips, afraid to be too committal. "I haven't decided yet."
"Come on, brother, you need to come home. I know you hate Miami, but this is where everybody loves you." He caught the eye of one of the businessmen looking at him funny. Ignoring him, he added, "Your family is here, and we all want you home."
The elevator stopped and dropped off both men and the bellhop. I was relieved and took a deep breath when the doors closed. "I don't know. Like I said, I haven't figured it out where I'll settle."
"I just think that you're always gonna feel like an outsider everywhere else in the world." The elevator stopped again, the doors opened, and Sam led the way to the suite. "Does your Ma know you're here? She'll be thrilled, I'm sure." He unlocked the door with his key card and let me go in first.
My eyes roved the modern furniture. Nothing had changed since we used the penthouse as a temporary hideout, and even though it wasn't my place, there was something comforting in that. "I think my Mom is busy with Virgil." I slitted my eyes at him and said, "Thanks, by the way, for letting him know when she got home."
Sam chuckled with a nervous staccato I knew so well. "Sorry, Mike. He called and I told him, because he'd heard some chatter and was worried about Maddie. That's all."
I nodded. It wasn't Sam's fault. He was biased because Virgil was his friend, almost as good a friend as Sam was to me, and he trusted him with my Mom. I still didn't, although he did kind of redeem himself after that case where we got back the relief agency's drugs from the pirates. I wasn't ready to trust him completely, however.
"I left some stuff for you in the spare bedroom," Sam said, steering me toward the door. "I'll wait out here for you. I've gotta find the sunscreen before Elsa turns into a lobster again." He grimaced. "She turns into a banshee when she's miserable."
I laughed under my breath, trying not to be disrespectful. Sam understood. I knew it by his smile before he ducked into the master bedroom. I turned and entered the spare room, stopping cold at the sight of the bed. If I imagined hard enough, I might see Fiona there with her come hither smile. I opened my eyes and berated myself for being so ridiculous. I approached the bed and found a pair of bright red, knee length swimming trunks with two thin white stripes down the sides. I was afraid I would find a flowery orange travesty waiting for me. I should have known better that Sam wouldn't do that to me, and I felt ashamed for my lack of trust.
"Hey, you look great," Sam praised as I emerged from the bedroom in the red swim trunks, a pair of olive sandals, and a flowered shirt that had more green vegetation on it than flowers. It was more Sam's style, but I had to admit when I looked in the mirror, it wasn't half bad on me. I also couldn't help but notice that these days Sam could wear my shirts and get away with it, so if I didn't like it, he could always take it.
"Thanks," I said.
"Here's your ice tea I promised you. Let's go down to the pool." Sam offered me a glass just like his, and I took it.
"You did a good job picking out this outfit," I said as I glanced at my reflection in the elevator door.
Sam made sure the suite was locked up before joining me in the elevator and we made a straight run to the first floor. Elsa was still waiting poolside, and the electricity in her smile at the sight of Sam approaching her brought up another twinge of jealousy. Now I knew I really needed Sam's help if I would ever make this work. I couldn't deny it any longer. I loved Fiona and if I couldn't win her back, I would be like a rudderless ship. I'd never find a place to settle down, and Miami certainly would never feel like home again without her.
Watching Sam's hands on Elsa's back as he rubbed the sunscreen into her skin felt like torture. She moaned and the smile was one of pure ecstasy that spurred him on to take his time. From where I sat I could almost feel the heat generated by the friction of the skin of his palms riding over her back. I'd never really witnessed Sam in action before, and it was almost embarrassing, like being a fly on the wall as two people had sex.
I turned away. I couldn't take anymore. It only reminded me of Fiona and how being with her was like searing lightning in a summer storm, and sometimes just as violent. My tailbone often reminded me of hitting the wooden floorboards in the loft. My ribs ached from a recent injury, but it could very well have been from Fiona leaping atop in her zeal to have me.
My head whipped around and I saw Sam and Elsa staring at me. I gave them a toothy smile. "I'm fine. Why'd you ask?"
"It must be nice to be back in a place you know well," Elsa said. "I'm sure your Mom is happy." Her eyes, staring at me over her sunglasses, veered toward Sam. He was perched on the edge of her chaise lounge. She gave him a sweet smile as she said, "I know that Sam's excited you're back. After you called, he was almost as giddy as a little girl." She laughed.
"She's exaggerating," Sam deflected and leaned over to kiss her. "Aren't you, Baby?"
I knew better. To save him from further embarrassment, I said, "I'm going in. You with me, Sam?"
"Oh yeah. Elsa?" He stood and held out his hand to her.
"You just put sunscreen on me, Sammy. No way, I'm staying out here."
"Alright. Just be careful you don't stay on your stomach too long." He leaned over to kiss her one more time.
I wished that was me and Fiona. Wished it with every cell in my body.