Disclaimer: I don't own Burn Notice, or any of the characters. This story has been written for fun.

This story is one BIG spoiler for S7 Ep01.

A/N: Many thanks go out to Amanda Hawthorn and Jedi Skysinger for reading thru this story for me and for Jedi Skysinger finding the time to do a BETA.

This dark tale came to life after watching the fight scene in the S7 premiere.

THE OLD MICHAEL WESTEN.

When you work deep undercover, there can be no line between who you are and what you do. You are who you need to be for the operation... It creeps into your soul after awhile.

The water is yellow, but he's past caring. He rinses his mouth out and watches the bloody saliva circle the drain. It's just another day in a life he hates.

The hand wraps go on easily…maybe too easy. He's done them up so many times, it comes naturally now. The knuckles are still swollen from the last fight, but it doesn't matter. It's only the second fight of the night. If - no, when he wins this one, they'll be another later and maybe another after that.

Filling a dirty shot glass with cheap local rum until the glass over flows, he stares blankly at his reflection in the old cracked and chipped mirror and barely recognizes the face staring back at him as his own.

He looks just the way his dad used to on a very, very bad day.

The sweet rich liquid burns the cut inside his mouth and, far more importantly, it dims the self-loathing and despair, which is etched into his soul.

"Y hora," comes his call to duty.

It is time. The crowds awaits. Maybe this will be the night he attracts the attention of his target and if not... He rolls his shoulders and cracks his neck. There's always tomorrow night. He's not going anywhere.

"You bring new meaning to the word despised." His new handler hadn't minced his words.

He steps out to a baying crowd, strangers' hands land on his back and shoulders. Cheers go up and he pushes his way through to the small open space to face his opponent. He barely registers the guy.

They extend fists and he walks forward as if in a daze... Or that is what he wants Mr. Mohican to think.

One of the most difficult skills to master in combat is taking a dive. It's the hardest thing in the world to see the opening and let it go.

A right hook knocks him back into the crowd, but he rolls with it. It's a lesson he'd learnt before his seventh birthday and had never forgotten. Turning back around, he ran straight into another punch, before blocking the third blow. After all, he couldn't look like a complete pushover and besides, when you've fought all your life, you don't let a blow to the ribs stop you in your tracks.

When an uppercut sends him horizontal, he does the same as before. It doesn't require thought. The urge to tense when being hit had been knocked out of him before he turned ten. His shoulders hit the floor, first taking the force of the impact, and then the back of his head. It hurts, or it should hurt, but he is comfortably numb thanks to the effects of the half bottle of rum he has consumed in the last two hours.

He lies there, staring up at the crowing audience surrounding him, not hearing the raucous catcalls or the shouts of encouragement. Instead he gets a sharp reminder of why he is laying on his back, half drunk and on his second fight of the night.

"Despised," "hated," "killer," "blackmailer," "thief," "enemy of the state"...

"They want your head on a pike!"

He gets slowly to his feet. Mr. Mohican is feeling very confident now... He has the kid exactly where he wants him.

The key to hand-to-hand combat is to be able to close the distance between you and your opponent without putting them on their guard.

Standing up, he takes the drink offered by one of his supporters. They know what is about to come. This isn't his first fight in this drinking dive. He has been here for seven months. He is the Tiger, El Tigre... a down and out foreigner wasting away in the Dominican sun after being thrown off a cargo ship for fighting with other crew members.

He knocks the drink back in one smooth gulp and stretches out his back. When he turns and faces his opponent, he lasers in on him: Time to take the kid out and make some money.

They don't teach any half-moves in combat training. There are moves designed to kill and maim as efficiently as possible.

This time he blocks the punch that comes in and throws one of his own. The guy is fast and slides inside his reach and now punches are hitting the back of his neck, but he doesn't care. He uses his elbows to strike back. It doesn't matter whether he is drunk or sober. He knows exactly how this fight is going to end.

He has Mr. Mohican's head locked under his arm and, for a fraction of a second, he braces. He is on the verge of separating his opponent's spine. The dark part of his soul is singing out for him to finish the move. "Do it! End this stupid kid. You're a goddamn killing machine, a weapon."

With a grunt, he takes back a little bit of his self-control and spins the guy away; letting him go. Giving him a chance to back down, to leave, because the predator who dwells in the dark places of his soul is free and can smell blood.

Mr. Mohican has found a bottle and it crashes into Michael's skull and he staggers, dropping to his knees and now he is on the floor with a strong arm about his throat choking him while powerful legs are wrapped around his center, holding him down.

He has been taken down by his own signature move. Struggling to breath, he grabs at the arm in an attempt to give himself a chance to catch a breath and it is that moment he sees the face, the man he has been waiting for. It is only a glimpse, but he is sure, choked half to death and in a drunken haze, he is still sure.

"You used to work with the sonuvabitch back in the good ol' days."

And, in that moment, the predator breaks free and takes control of the fight. There is only one way it is going to end. He stops the trying to break the hold and instead let's his attacker choke him. His fingers have caught hold of a jagged edge from the broken bottle and he strikes, scoring a deep cut to the kid's arm and with that he is free.

One kick and he is on his prey pounding away, releasing all his anger, frustrations, guilt and hatred.

His Mom lost a son, a boyfriend and a husband.

Nate was killed because the wind was blowing too strong and the shooter had orders to complete his task come what may.

Charlie was left to grow up without a father.

The agency that he had been willing to die for despised him, controlled him, turned him into what he was now.

His fists delivered blow after blow, breaking bones, splitting skin, tearing flesh. Michael gasped.

This wasn't him, not any more. The predator the agency had cultivated and grown had been caged years ago.

He sees his friends, his girlfriend, his mom sitting alone in their cells. He hears the threats from his new handler to have them all locked away for the rest of their lives. He sees Sam, bleeding out in his arms. He hears Fiona's voice as clear as day, asking the same question she asks every night in his dreams.

"What have you done, Michael?"

"I made a deal," he answers, and the look on her face almost breaks him.

Burke is standing in the shadows watching to see if the damaged former spy is still worth cultivating. He can't let this chance go. He can't risk losing the target. He has to do whatever is necessary to get the job done.

Michael raises his hands and makes a double fist.

Agent Strong wants him to become the man he was before the burn notice. He wants Raines' relentless sonuvabitch.

He takes a breath. There is nothing he won't do to keep his family and friends free. And with that thought, he brings his double fist down – hard and without mercy. The face below him shatters from the force of the attack and blood sprays upwards, covering him in a thin mist of scarlet.

"I'm proud of ya, Kid…" an all too familiar voice echoes in his head as he slowly climbs to his feet.