Watching the preview for episode 7.10 "Things Unseen", made me think of what might happen, none of it pretty. So I came up with my own idea which probably won't happen, but I'm laying it out here anyway. Thanks to some not so gentle urging from Dusty (aka southpawokpoet), I put together this story in an afternoon. If you haven't seen Season 7 yet, don't read!
No Compromises, No Regrets
"Is there going to be a problem?"
"No, no problem."
"Good. Then take the shot. No compromises, no regrets." Sonya paused and her eyes were like two blocks of ice as she stared into his eyes and added, "Just think of it like a deer."
A deer? She's calling my friend an animal?
Sonya looked through the binoculars at the target as he waited at the drop spot, hands in his pockets, trying to appear casual. "Yes, only in his case, more like an elk." She looked at Michael again. "Do it. We're running out of time."
"There are too many people around. We, I, might hit someone innocent. You don't think James would have a problem with that, do you?" Michael was buying time, putting off the inevitable. If he didn't do this, he would lose his foothold in James's organization, and the CIA would have no back door in to destroy him.
Sonya wasn't stupid. She knew what he was doing. "If you can't handle it, I'll do it myself."
"No!" Michael pulled the sniper rifle away from her outstretched hands. He was breathing hard, sweat pouring down his forehead into his eyes. "No, if it's got to be done, I'd rather it be me."
She smiled. "Now you're talking. Get set up, we've lost two minutes arguing about this, and if there's any more time wasted, we'll miss our window."
Michael questioned the wisdom of sacrificing his friend's life when he was told the consequences of disobeying but not why he was doing it. He was told he had one shot, and if he failed, there would be a lot more at stake. The week before, he discovered that veering from James's values could cost a man his life. Not that his would matter after he did this, but for the time being, he was doing all he could to preserve his life and that of his friend.
With mechanical precision, Michael assembled the sniper rifle and screwed on a silencer to the end of the barrel. He set it in place, bolstered by the back of a chair. He blinked and ducked down, his eye lining up with the scope. He saw blackness until he flipped up the cover on the end, and then he saw a field of flowers that swayed in the wind. Only they weren't real blooms. It was a pattern splashed on Sam's shirt, and the movement was his shifting from one foot to the other.
Sam and Jesse stood on the street corner trying to look casual while they did their part in Michael's mission. They were told to look for a man in a gray suit getting out of a white car, and he was to approach them with a package. Wired for sound, Michael could hear every word they said.
"We're gonna get old waiting for this guy to show," Sam grumbled.
"He's fashionably late," Jesse responded as he glanced at his watch. "Relax."
"There's no fashionably late in the spy world, Jesse. Being late can kill people, you know?" Sam continued to scan the light traffic, both vehicular and on foot. "Mike, I think we got blown. Maybe we should try this another day."
"No, you stay put," Sonya barked. "Let this play out."
"Okay, I don't know about you Sammy, but I'm getting parched out here. Is it alright with her majesty if I go run over there to the bodega and get us a couple bottles of water?" Jesse appeared to be watching the street, but his eyes wandered to the window of the abandoned office where Sonya and Michael perched.
"Make it quick," Sonya replied.
Jesse nodded at Sam. "You whistle or something if you see anything. And be careful."
"Just go. I'll be fine."
Jesse would be anything but fine, because when he glanced at the window, he saw the business end of a sniper rifle held rock steady and aimed at the street below. Were they waiting for some monster that James wanted Michael to mow down? Maybe they were trying to nab someone and interrogate him, but that wouldn't make sense. Using a sniper rifle to hit someone with a tranquilizer was crazy. He and Sam could just as easily approach, distract, and shoot him up with something.
Sonya muted the mic and addressed Michael in a grave tone. "It's time. Do it."
Michael met her eyes, hoping that there might be a reprieve in them, or a sign that this was another test to see if he was loyal. He would do anything to convince James, but this... he swallowed back the bile rising in his throat. Sonya was dead serious. This was for real, and if he didn't take the shot, she would use the pistol that she gripped in her hand and kill him before taking the shot herself. He knew enough about her to be certain that she wouldn't care what she did as long as it was done. Her finger slipped over the trigger, caressing the guard before sliding into the gap between it and the conveyor of a deadly missile. Her eyes were almost black, and they scared him. She wouldn't hesitate like Michael. She would kill him and take out his friends as if they were a couple of flies under a swatter.
He let out his breath and turned back to the scene. Jesse was walking away to the small shop a couple doors down. He would soon be out of range. Sam, ever reliable, stood in place as if an 'x' had been engraved on the sidewalk and that was where he should stay. His loyalty would be fatal one day. Michael always feared that. He spit out the gum he'd been gnawing, lined up his shot, and before he could think about it again, he squeezed the trigger.
One second Sam was standing alone on the street corner, making flirty eye contact with a beautiful young woman who caught his attention, and she smiled at him as she walked his way. In the next second, something like a hot poker sliced through his chest. The beauty screamed, her hands plastered to the sides of her face in horror as blood spattered against the wall nearby before Sam crumpled to the pavement, a shocked look on his face.
Michael watched as Sam went down, blood flooding out of the wound and pooling on the formerly pristine concrete. He didn't dare pull away from the sight. Seeing it through the scope, the flatness created by the lenses made it seem somehow unreal, and putting down the rifle would require him to face the fact that he probably killed his friend.
"Let's go. We have to take care of things." Sonya tugged on Michael's arm. "Come on, before the cops get here!"
Not thinking, Michael dragged himself to stand and he stared at the scene below. People were on their cell phones calling for help, once they determined that there were no other shots coming. Jesse fought to get through the forming crowd, and a stranger was already at Sam's side assessing his injury.
Sonya was right, they had to get going before anyone else got involved. Michael tucked the rifle into a bag, zipping it shut as he ran out of the room and followed Sonya down the fire escape on the side of the building. An ambulance waited, and the doors in back were wide open.
"Hurry! We've got to change," Sonya exclaimed.
In less than a minute, Michael put on a white shirt and got into the driver's seat. He hit the lights and sirens and drove through the alley. He almost hit a pedestrian trying to cross in front of them, but the man jumped back at the whoop of the siren. Michael spun the wheel and turned right to the intersection and screeched to a stop at the corner.
"What happened here," Sonya asked as she and Michael hustled to Sam's side with the gurney and medical equipment.
Michael had to fight the urge to glare at her. How could she deliver that line so cold and collected like she didn't know? He had no time to ponder that. The sight of a stranger pressing a woman's sweater into Sam's bleeding wound was proof enough that time was running out for Sam. It turned his stomach to see what he'd done, and his mind flashed back to nearly two years before when he held a gun on Sam. He threatened to shoot his friend if he didn't let Michael go after Anson himself. He'd been so ashamed of his actions back then. How had he come to this, being willing to kill his best friend to get what he wanted?
"We've got to move now. We'll stabilize him in the ambulance," Sonya said. "Please, Sir, step aside. We've got this."
The stranger stared at her as he stood, disbelief and horror in his expression. "Ma'am, I'm a doctor. I work at Mercy Hospital. I can help..."
"I'm sure you can, but we've got this," she answered him. Her eyes wandered to Jesse, who knelt beside Sam's head, shell shocked by what he'd seen. "You, do you know him?"
"Yeah, he's my... my friend," Jesse managed to speak. He was afraid something like this might happen, but he couldn't believe that Michael would actually pull the trigger.
"Help us with him, get him on the gurney," Michael spouted, the words flowing without thought from his mouth. He couldn't think of anything at the moment but getting Sam to the hospital. But he doubted that Sonya would take him there. He could only hope that his loyalty would be worth this one small favor, and maybe Sam's life would be spared.
Jesse and Michael hefted Sam's limp body and lay it on the sheets, which instantly turned red from the blood that flowed from him. Michael covered him with a blanket, snapped the belt across his waist, and he and Jesse hurried to get Sam inside the ambulance. Sonya followed with the equipment and slammed the doors behind them. Seconds later, she jumped into the driver's seat and raced away with sirens blaring.
"Where are we going, Mike," Jesse asked.
"I don't know. Hopefully the nearest hospital," Michael answered.
"I can't believe you did it, man. I saw you up there, and... I really thought you'd figure out a way... uhoh, he's stopped breathing. He stopped breathing!"
Michael was closest to the bag that he used to force oxygen into Sam's failing body. With each squeeze, he said a silent prayer that this would work and Sam would survive. Jesse ripped open Sam's shirt and cut the undershirt beneath it to attach the sensors for the EKG. Michael couldn't keep from staring at the hole that burped dark red blood like a lazy geyser, the hole he'd put there. His stomach clenched, threatening to toss the little bit of his last meal. Swallowing helped, and focusing on Jesse as he spoke.
"He's got a rhythm, but it's not good. Look at that."
"I, uh, I don't know how to read one of those things," Michael said, the true excuse sounding lame in his ears. It was obvious even to him that Sam was fading fast. They would never get to help in time, his best friend would die even as he did everything he could to save him, and it would all be his fault.
"That line is getting less spiky. If we don't get to a hospital in the next couple minutes, we can kiss Sammy goodbye." Jesse choked on his words, and the emotion wasn't lost on Michael.
The scene before him flooded with his tears. He took his hand off the respirator to swipe away the moisture. "I'm sorry, Sam. I'm s-s-sorry."
Jesse yelled at Michael. "Here, let me take that." He kept up the airflow and toned down his voice as he said, "Sorry, Mike."
"No, I... I deserve that." He sat in the jump seat and watched Jesse take care of Sam, feeling useless and believing that anything Jesse did now was a hopeless effort.
The ambulance stopped with a jerk, and every muscle in Michael's body braced too late for the momentum that sent him tumbling to the floor. Jesse somehow managed to stay on his knees. The back doors opened and people in scrubs unlocked the gurney and yanked it out so fast, Jesse gaped at them, still holding onto the respirator. The leads from the heart monitor snapped and the machine whistled. Jesse and Michael ignored it. Instead, they jumped out of the back of the vehicle and followed the team that hauled Sam away.
He expected them to be at James's compound with its makeshift hospital, but Michael recognized it as a facility that had been shut down a few years earlier. As he and Jesse raced down the wide hall, he was surprised to see beds and equipment still inside, as if everyone had simply gotten up and evacuated, never to return. The emergency room floor had electricity, and the room in which they wheeled Sam appeared to be well equipped. The doors closed on them and one of James's men kept them outside. Michael watched through the window and cringed as the horror only compounded.
The medical team tried several times before they were able to shock Sam back to life. The nurses stripped him down with precision and covered him from chin to foot, leaving the wound exposed, but they draped sterile cloths around it. The doctor waited until the preparations were made. He looked up at Michael and Jesse, their eyes wide and staring through the window, and the doctor made a motion with his head. The goons outside the impromptu operating room pushed them away to sit in a couple of chairs nearby.
Michael's stomach rebelled after taking a bite of the cookie the nurse gave him. He tried to get up, but his world spun and his head was lighter than the clouds.
"Mr. Westen, please, lay down. You're going to pass out if you don't."
His butt hit the thin mattress and he let her push his body into the inclined back. She finished putting a bandage on his arm where the needle drew out the blood. It would never be enough. He could give a gallon and it would never make up for what he'd done to Sam.
"There, that's better, isn't it? Try to have some juice, honey. And you just relax for a bit. Trust me, you'll feel better in a bit."
Michael was certain he would never feel better if Sam died. Only his brother's death could haunt him more, so with Nate's blood on his hands, and now Sam's, he wondered how much more he could take.
"How're you feeling, Mike?"
Opening his eyes, Michael saw Jesse leaning across the space between them. "Jess. You're donating too?"
"I'm a universal donor, man. Wish I'd remembered that before, the last time Sam needed a transfusion."
"Don't worry, I'm sure Sam will forgive you." But will he forgive me, if he lives?
"Mr. Porter, are you going to be a better patient than Mr. Westen?" The nurse's voice sing-songed as she approached them.
"Oh, yes, ma'am." Jesse threw a smug expression Michael's way and settled into the table. "Just give me my cookie and we're all good."
Not knowing what would happen next, Michael decided to close his eyes again and rest. If James decided he'd failed and killed him in his sleep, it wouldn't matter to him. He promised Sam he would make things right, that he would find out who was behind all this and end it. Unfortunately, it would end them first. Maybe there was a special place in heaven for golden-hearted, mojito-sipping, crazy shirt-wearing, ex-Navy SEALs who gave up their lives for their friends. Although Michael himself pulled the trigger, Sam sacrificed himself by his own will plenty of times to deserve that designation.
"Michael. How are you feeling?"
He would recognize James's voice anywhere. Michael opened his eyes and stared at him, wishing he could kill him on sight. James smiled as if he could read his thoughts.
"I'm sorry that you had to suffer through that," James said in a soft, serene tone.
"Was this another test," Michael asked, hatred oozing from every syllable. "Did you think that my taking my friend's life would be the ultimate proof of my loyalty to you?"
"That was a part of this mission." James stood beside the exam table and folded his hands. "I really didn't expect you to kill him, much less shoot Sam. However, if by chance I'd misjudged you and you did take the shot, I knew you would find a way to seriously wound him, but not kill him." He glanced at Jesse and wore a smug smile. "I even thought that perhaps you would have warned Jesse and Sam, and you could have put together a very impressive ruse, right down to Sam faking his death."
"Sorry to have disappointed you. I did what you asked. Sort of."
James's light laughter filled the small room. "You're right, you did. I'm glad you didn't kill Sam. He's quite useful to have around." He patted Michael's shoulder. "We'll talk later, after you've had some rest."
"Sam's not dead," Michael asked. A sense of relief washed over him, but he stopped it cold, afraid to believe a lie.
"He's fighting for his life, but yes, at the moment, he's alive. Your blood and Jesse's are helping to keep him that way." James smiled and nodded at Michael. "Get some rest, and we'll talk about the real reason why I put you in this situation today."
Jesse waited for James to be well out of earshot before speaking. "Man, I thought Anson was bad. James takes the cake."
Michael turned to Jesse. "Somehow, we've got to end this before one of us winds up dead."
"Well, you know I'm all for that. As soon as Sammy's up and on his feet, you know he'll be on board too." He bit his bottom lip. "Maybe this is a blessing in disguise. With Sam out of commission for awhile, maybe James will give us a little reprieve, and we can work out a way to take him down."
"I wouldn't count on it, but if I can buy us some time, I will." He slipped off the exam table and stood, testing his equilibrium. "Let's go find out where they're keeping Sam."
"He's just down the hall, Sir," the nurse said with a smile. "While you two were napping, he came to for a little while and was asking for you. He might be out again, but he'll still be glad to have your presence."
"Thank you," Jesse said as he hurried out of the room to catch up to Michael.
It wasn't hard to find Sam. He was the only patient, and the beeps and other sounds coming from the one room across from the nurses' station was a giveaway. One nurse sat behind the counter and smiled at them before going back to a book.
"Must be nice to be watching over one patient," Jesse muttered. He followed Michael into the room. They were both surprised to see Fiona sitting at Sam's bedside. She heard their footsteps and turned to them.
"Fi, what are you doing here," Michael asked. The idea of her getting wrapped up in this mess opened another crack in his soul. One of these days, he was bound to shatter, and he didn't want her around to see it.
"James called me at Maddie's. I was there, doing my usual Thursday routine. He obviously knows my schedule." She frowned, and the storm in her eyes told Michael she was changing things up very soon. "Anyway, he scared Madeline nearly to death when he told her that Sam was gravely wounded. I told her to stay with Charlie, and I would see Sam."
"Thanks, Fi. I don't know what she would do."
Michael stopped within a couple feet of Fiona, stared at her and wished that he could take her into his arms. The muscles in his face worked to keep his emotions from showing, but he knew that she could read him. His mouth twitched and his eyes blinked enough for her to know he was about to lose himself. Fiona came to his rescue and stepped forward, arms outstretched, and she pulled him into her. He'd almost forgotten how well her face fit against his chest, her nose tickling the skin above his open shirt collar. She smelled so good and the warmth he sensed coming from her gave him hope.
Sam groaned and took a noisy breath, breaking Michael away from his thoughts. He turned half out of Fiona's grip, and in the back of his mind he was pleased that she didn't pull away from him. Together they gripped the bed rail and watched Sam, hoping he would open his eyes. After a few moments his breathing evened out.
"He's asleep," Fiona said, disappointment in her voice. "He knows we're here, though. We can't leave him." She looked up into Michael's eyes with her own piercing him. "Even if James demands you go somewhere and do something else."
"He's giving us a break, I think," Michael assured her. "Hopefully until Sam recovers."
"That's good. We've been a team for so long." Fiona returned her attention to Sam and smoothed a lock of his hair away from his face. "I told Carlos I had business to take care of, and I wasn't sure when I'd be back. I'm not leaving until this is done and James is finished, Michael. You and I may not be together anymore, but I still... I still care for you, and I hate to see you under any man's thumb."
"Thank you, Fi."
"Yeah, I'll probably regret it later, but for now, I'm here." She stared at him. "Just promise me one thing?"
"Anything for you, Fi."
A spark of something like pleasure glinted in her eyes. "Don't ever do anything like this again, or I'll shoot ye myself."
Michael smiled and hugged her against his side. "Believe me, this will never happen again." Indeed, Michael decided that if it came down to one of his friends or him, he would sacrifice himself. He'd always been so focused on the mission and what he had to do to win, but he'd never counted on his friends and family being collateral damage. He was sick of it, and today it ended. James would go down before Michael ever pulled another weapon on Sam or any of the other people he loved. No compromises, no regrets, and consequences be damned.