Author: Cybertooth Tiger
Summary: We all fight not to become our parents
Characters: Michael, Fiona
A/N: I don’t own anything from Burn Notice.Spoilers up to the end of S7.
And you knelt beside my hope torn apart
But the ghosts that we knew will flicker from view
And we'll live a long life
So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
Cause oh they gave me such a fright
But I will hold as long as you like
Just promise me we'll be alright
- Mumford and Sons, The Ghosts that We Knew
Michael grabbed one of the loose rocks from the top of the stone wall and hurled it as hard as he could into the field, startling a magpie into a sudden flurry of black and white wings. The bird settled on a tree near the gate and eyed him dismissively. The quiet of the evening returned, broken only by the sound of Michael’s heavy breathing and the clunking of a bell as the neighbour’s cow grazed in the tall grass.
Michael’s breathing slowed as he looked around, doing an unconscious check of the perimeter from force of habit. A faint smell of peat smoke from the cottage up the road wafted through the damp air. Across the field and up the hill, the windows of the low stone buildings in the village caught the rays of the setting sun and transformed into squares of burnished gold.
The pub stood out above the others, shining with a promise of warmth and companionship and a pint or two, and he felt the pull. He wanted a drink.
Needed a drink.
In the old days, back in Miami, he probably would have gone and had one or several and regretted it in the morning, end of story. But that was before the Dominican Republic, before he’d had to pretend to be washed up and disenchanted. Everyone in his family had been addicted to something. His own drug of choice had been adrenaline. The high of the fight, the chase, the fear that at any moment his cover could be blown and he’d have to run for his life. But that had changed in the DR. He’d lived that cover too well, and he’d seen how easily he might change one drug for another. Since then he’d been able to control it, but sometimes, like now, it was more than a want that tugged at him.
He couldn’t afford to give in to a need. Not now that he had Charlie.
He clenched his fist, then stretched it out, his other thumb pressing deep into his palm.
Behind him, the door to the cottage creaked and he heard the crunch of Fiona’s boots as she crossed the gravel driveway. Her hand found the small of his back, sending a small circle of warmth through his shirt.
He straightened his shoulders and passed his hand over his face. “Yeah.”
“Because you kind of scared Charlie back there.”
His breath was sharp. “I know.”
“He’s just a little boy, Michael.”
“Jesus, Fi. I know. I – I’ll make it up to him. I’ll apologize. I just need a minute.”
“Okay.” Her hand slid around his waist and she tucked her head in against his chest. “I know it’s difficult, Michael.”
He could feel the strength of her arms, even through the thick wool sweater she wore. When he finally trusted himself to speak, his voice was thick. “I hear his voice coming out of my mouth and I –“
“Michael.” Fi stepped back and held him at arms’ length while she stared into his eyes. “Michael. Stop. You are not your father.”
He sighed. “Sometimes I think I don’t know who else to be,” he said quietly.
“Well, you’re going to have to figure it out, because you’re all he’s got.”
He could feel the stinging in his eyes that never seemed very far away when he thought about that. “If it weren’t for me, Charlie would still have his family, Fi.”
“That’s true.” She never pulled her punches and that one struck home. “But feeling sorry for yourself isn’t going to bring anybody back. We’re his family now, and he loves us. He trusts us. And if you ever speak to him that way again, I will kick your ass.”
He huffed. Smiled. “Like you could.”
“Oh, I could Michael. I most certainly could.”
He could have continued, allowed her to coax him out of his mood with her teasing, but her words had been too accurate. She might not be able to beat him in a fair fight, but he did deserve an ass-kicking. He shouldn’t have let a three-year old refusing to brush his teeth get to him. He was better than that, dammit. He’d endured so much more, delivered by so many more experienced people. But none of them had been so much like Nate. And every time Charlie didn’t listen, Michael heard Nate’s stubbornness.
If only Nate had learned to listen, he would have been the one getting his son to brush his teeth, and reading him a bedtime story, and trying not to yell. And Michael could have been the fun uncle, instead of the man responsible for keeping this small human safe. And even if he somehow managed that, he knew that one day, Charlie’s big brown eyes would look at him and fill with hurt, when he realized how deeply Michael had failed everyone else that might have mattered to him.
Except Fiona. And God, how close he’d come to failing her, too. He put his head down to hers and inhaled the scent of her – peppermint shampoo, and garlic and rosemary from the lamb she’d made for dinner. He took another breath. She smelled good, but there was something he couldn’t put his finger on.
“You smell different, here,” he said.
She looked at him, puzzled. Then she grinned. “Maybe it’s the lack of gunpowder. I haven’t blown anything up for months.”
He forced himself to smile.
“This is a peaceful place, Michael.” She caressed the side of his face, her thumb tracing the scar near his eye. “It’s okay to be at peace.”