Fandom: Burn Notice
Characters: Sam/Michael, Michael/Fiona
Prompt: 03. Trace
Warnings: Massive pre-series speculation. Mild slash.
Summary: Five Things Sam Never Told the FBI
Disclaimer: I don't own Burn Notice and don't make money doing this.
A/N: Written for winter_deaddrop hiatus ficathon. Very late, with my sheepish apologies. Also, written in response to 10_fics prompt 003. Trace.
So many thanks to st_aurafina for the beta and help with this piece. She definitely made this better. All mistakes are mine.
As always, feedback is welcome and appreciated!
Sam Axe is a man of limited principles, but they exist nonetheless. When the FBI asks him to report to them on the activities of one Michael Westen – he agrees because the price is right. He also agrees because he knows Michael would have done the same thing. A friend might share secrets, but not all of them.
The important secrets are safe, no matter how much the FBI offers or threatens.
That’s why Sam never told the FBI about the first time he met Michael Westen. It was at a small airfield that didn’t exist in the former Soviet Union. It was late afternoon, late spring, and late arriving.
“Hey, Sam.” Charles called him over to the com. “I’ve picked up our tardy arrival coming in from the north and it looks like they’re in distress.”
“Yeah?” Sam grabbed a pair of binoculars and looked towards the direction where the plane was coming from. “It looks like it’s listing to the left.”
“Yes, sir.” Charlie shook his head. “Their passenger seems to have arrived late, and needed to leave in a hurry. They took some damage to the left wing.”
“Huh.” Sam hadn’t lowered the binoculars. “I thought this guy was supposed to be covert.”
“He is, sir.” Charles sounded disgusted. “Apparently, he’s just not good at it.”
“Typical. Trust the suits to send us some green son of a bitch and hope that he doesn’t get us all killed.” Sam dropped the binoculars. “Put out an alert. If they crash, we’ll need fire and medics. If they don’t make it, we’ll need to make a speedy recovery.”
“Yes, sir.” Charles didn’t waste time saluting. He was already moving and Sam hurried towards the air strip, still carrying the binoculars. In the back of his mind, he was already planning for a worst case scenario. The last thing he needed was for the Soviets to figure out where the nice secret hidden US supplied airfield was located and raid it. If the plane crashed, they’d have about two hours to destroy everything and get the hell out of Dodge.
Stopping about three hundred yards away from the runway, Sam looked at the plane again. It was doing its best to line up with the runway and he held his breath as it started drifting too far left again before straightening out and touching down. A tense moment, filled with screeching tires and smoking engines, but eventually, the plane coasted to a stop.
“Thank fucking God,” Sam muttered, moving towards it warily. The engines were still smoking. “What the hell happened to you guys? You were supposed to be here two goddamned hours ago!”
The door swung open and a tall drink of water fell out, sprawling on the tarmac, with a groan. “Whoa! Hey!” Sam stopped and stared at the man with concern. Then he backed up as the guy threw up all over the runway. “That’s disgusting. What’s the matter with you?”
The other side of the plane opened and Ricky the pilot got out. “Turns out that Mr. Westen gets airsick.” Ricky looked smug.
“Only when you insist on turning loop de loops and fucking barrel rolls.” The guy, Michael, snarled from the ground.
“You were the one who brought along friends.” Ricky looked furious and Sam stepped between them.
“Hey, at least you aren’t dead.” Sam eyed the bullet holes in the plane and shook his head. “Some friends.” He walked over to where Michael was climbing to his feet. “Looks like you’re a fan of big entrances.”
Michael grimaced. “Not really, Mr…” he waited.
“Axe. Sam Axe.” Sam stuck out his hand and Michael pressed a disk into it.
“Then this is for you. Now, how do I get a ride back to civilization?”
Sam snorted laughter and flipped the disc over looking at it curiously. “Well you know that plane you rode in on?”
“Yeah?” Michael answered warily.
“It’s gonna take a few days to patch it up.” Sam reached out and clapped Michael’s shoulder. “So make yourself at home for a few days. You’re gonna be here a while.”
It took 48 hours before Sam stopped calling him the puker behind his back and started calling him Mike. That was one thing he never told the FBI.
Sam never told anyone that Michael was a funny drunk. Once the airfield butcher-excuse-for-a-medic had pronounced that Michael wasn’t on death’s door, but did, unfortunately, have two broken ribs, Sam broke out the emergency pain killer.
“Here.” He set the bottle of vodka down on the small table beside the chair where Westen was trying to relax. The room was deserted. Most of the soldiers stationed here were eating in the dining room or on shift, leaving Michael staring at a eight month old issue of Sports Illustrated. “You look like you need this more than me.”
“No thank you.” Mike refused, his face carefully neutral.
Sam pulled up a chair of his own and grabbed two paper cups. “You look old enough to drink to me.” He eyed Michael skeptically. “Aren’t you?”
“I don’t really like it.”
“Type A personality.” Sam nodded, uncapping the bottle and filling both cups nearly to the brim. “But you’ll never sleep otherwise. Between the ribs and the memories of whatever earned you those ribs… you’re gonna need the booze.”
“I told you I don’t drink.” Mike answered coolly.
“Yeah, and I ignored you.” Sam shook his head. “Consider it medicine.”
“Consider it an order, then.” Sam raised an eyebrow. “At least, I think I outrank you.”
Michael’s lips quirked up in a small smile. “You sure about that?”
Sam shrugged and took a sip from his own glass. “I’m older… smarter… better looking. It’s a safe bet that I’m ranked higher than you.” He took a deeper swallow. “Now drink.”
“Yes, sir.” Michael’s smile didn’t get any bigger, but it also didn’t go away. Wincing, he leaned over and picked up the paper cup. He lifted it in a silent toast, and then took a large drink.
When he didn’t cough, Sam snorted. “Liar. If you can drink your vodka like a man, you do drink.”
Mike lifted one shoulder slightly in a shrug, his smile widening a bit. “So I drink. And lie. I’m a spy, what did you expect?”
Sam burst out laughing. “You’re more amusing than most of the spies I’ve met. They don’t throw up when the plane lands.” He watched, satisfied, as Michael took a deeper drink. When he breathed out, Sam saw a noticeable difference in his expression. “See? Good stuff. You’re relaxing already.”
“I could ask what you’re hoping for if you get me drunk.” Michael smirked. “But I know I’m not that easy.”
“You’re not my type anyway.” Sam retorted. “You’ve got pain in the ass written all over you.” Sam sipped again, watching as Michael took another large swallow. “You’re late to important events. You’re probably hell on cars – look what you did to my plane!”
Michael laughed, and then groaned and raised one arm to his side. “Don’t make me laugh.”
“See? You don’t even appreciate a good sense of humor.”
“Sure I do.” Mike countered. “I’ve just not seen one since I got here.”
“Now is that anyway to talk to the guy who brought you his own supply of premium vodka?” Sam grinned and shook his head. “Let’s add lack of tact and a terrible bedside manner.”
“Bedside manner, huh? Are you sure you’re not trying to get me drunk, Mr. Axe…” he stopped. “What’s your rank?”
“Call me Sam.” Sam waved him off. “You’re not under me. You’re not one of my men.”
Mike leaned forward with a leer. “Disappointed?
Sam smirked. “You’re drunk.”
“Am not.” Mike slurred and Sam burst into laughter again.
“Yeah, you are. But it’s good to know that you’re an easy drunk.” He leaned forward and poked Michael in the rib, making him hiss in pain. “And you’re still not my type. I like mine not broken.” Topping off both of their paper cups, Sam leaned back and watched as Michael sipped, thoughtfully.
“So what is your type?” Michael asked, leaning back and crossing his ankles.
“Cute butt, nice rack.” Sam grinned. “But I’ll settle for someone who only has one or the other.”
“Nice of you.”
“Eh,” Sam shrugged. “I make concessions when necessary.”
Michael looked around the dilapidated room with a grimace. “Around here, I’m guessing that’s pretty often.” He finished his drink. “Especially since you don’t like the broken ones.”
“Patience is a virtue.” Sam smiled. “And some things are worth the wait.”
“I hope you find someone worth waiting for.”
“Sometimes, they fall right in your lap.”
Michael grinned. “Lucky them.”
Sam never brought up Michael’s family, no matter how much the Feds pressed him. He only knew a little bit himself, and what he knew he’d pieced together from the few things he’d ever heard Michael say. He knew Michael had a brother and a shitty childhood. That wasn’t much of a shock – Sam didn’t know any spies who’d grown up in a fairytale home.
Michael had all the trademark signs of a kid who’d been knocked around. He never talked about his father. He had a particular loathing of bullies that came from intimate acquaintance with them.
Once the small plane was repaired enough to make the return flight, Sam flew it himself, with Michael as a passenger. “Why the personal escort?” Michael asked, climbing into the passenger seat warily.
“I just figured you might not want Charlie giving you shit all the way to the drop zone.” Sam smirked at Michael’s sheepish expression. “He’s still not forgiven you for puking in the cup holders.”
Michael shut the door firmly, muttering something about air sick bags as he fastened his seatbelt.
“Besides,” Sam continued. “I’m going to be very popular with the higher ups once I share with them that disk you brought me. It’s good to be popular with the higher ups. Sorta like having a proud parent.”
Michael’s expression went from slightly worried about the upcoming flight to utterly blank in the blink of an eye. “Hmmm.” Sam mused. “Sore topic. I can take a hint.”
When Michael still didn’t answer, Sam made a face. “That bad, huh? Well, I’m not that surprised. Your kind doesn’t typically scream ‘Beaver Cleaver’.”
“My kind?” Michael’s voice was flat.
“Yeah, the cloak and dagger types.” Sam shot him a sharp look. “And don’t try and go all monotone intimidation on me. It won’t work. You can’t fly a plane.”
Michael raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure about that?”
Sam hedged. “Sure enough. Most pilots don’t get airsick.”
“Most pilots weren’t beaten and shot before they climb into a tin can and did air tricks across half of Russia with the Soviet’s trying to track them down.”
“That’s what I’m saying.” Sam smirked. “That’s just another day in the office for someone like you.”
Michael grunted, his pallor going decidedly green and Sam changed the subject to distract him. “Where is home, anyway?”
Michael was quiet long enough that Sam wasn’t sure he’d answer. “Miami.”
“No shit.” Sam tapped some instruments to get a better reading on the plane’s direction, then leaned back. “I love Miami. There is this bar there – down on the old Main Street – that serves the coldest beers in the world. And has the hottest waitresses.” He paused. “At least they did back in the seventies.” He glanced at Michael. “It was called Petrone’s. Didja ever go there?”
“I wasn’t old enough to get into a bar in the seventies.” Michael answered with a small grin. “And I left Miami at the first chance I got. It’s a hole – nothing but sand and bad memories.”
Sam shrugged. “Guess you don’t have problems with homesickness then.”
“No.” Michael answered firmly, indicating the end of the conversation. “I don’t.”
The rest of the flight passed in a blur of random conversations about meaningless topics. It wasn’t until the plane landed that Sam brought up Michael’s comments about his home life. “Listen, Mike. Take some advice from someone whose been doing this a long time. You can’t change your past, but if you don’t watch it, it can continue to hurt you.”
“Are you telling me to let it go?” Michael asked.
“Nah, I wouldn’t say something insensitive like that. I’m just saying that you’re on the other side of the world from Miami. Nothing there can touch you now.”
“Hmmm.” Michael grunted. “What’s your point?”
“Keep your head in the game.” Sam gave him a quick sideways glance. “That’s all I’m saying.”
The next time Sam saw Michael again was three years later. He was a little smoother around the edges, a little more polished, but underneath it he was the same guy who got the job done – no matter what. Sam never told the Feds that they were doomed from the outset, because when Michael wanted to leave Miami, no one and nothing would stop him.
“Long time no see,” Sam said as Mike dropped into the seat across from him in the middle of a café in Berlin. “I trust you’ll be as good for my career now as you were last time.”
“I can see that you’ve climbed the ranks,” Michael noted. “A nice café in Berlin is a far cry from a grungy secret air base in Russia.” He nodded at the glass in front of Sam. “And you’ve moved on from vodka.”
“German beer, Mike. It’s the best there is!” Sam lifted the glass in a toast.
Michael smiled, the corners of his mouth curling upward and revealing straight white teeth. “It’s good to see you again, Sam.” He slid his hand across the table and Sam reached out, his fingers brushing the back of Michael’s hand until Michael pulled away slowly, leaving the small disk in Sam’s palm. Leaning back, he pocketed it absently, his attention fixed on the spy across from him.
“I’ve been wondering how you were getting along.” Sam spoke thoughtfully. “You’ve come a long way since the last time I saw you. Your name comes up more and more often as the go to guy in these parts.”
“Good to know I leave a lasting impression.”
“Don’t be too flattered.” Sam signaled the waitress to bring out more beer. “We were in the middle of Russia. You were more interesting to think about than the damn snow.” He eyed Michael speculatively. “You’re not going to try and get out of having a drink with an old friend are you?”
“I wouldn’t dream of it.” Michael relaxed into his chair, crossing his legs. “Besides, no one is shooting at me. It’s a good time to take a breather.”
“You never did tell me what happened that time.” Sam finished his beer with a long swallow.
“You never asked.” Michael countered. “You were too busy making fun of me for getting sick in your plane.”
Sam grinned. “Can you blame me, really? It was funny as hell.”
Michael grimaced. “Funny isn’t the word I would have used.” He lifted one shoulder in a lazy shrug. “But in retrospect.”
“Hell, it’s still as funny now as it was then.” Sam leaned forward with a laugh. “You gave my men a month of laughs.”
“And you?” Michael accepted the beer from the waitress with a grateful smile. She let her eyes linger on him as she gave Sam his second beer. “What did you get out of it?”
“A promotion.” Sam answered, amused by the waitress’s reaction. He watched her walk away. “And if you end up picking up our waitress, I’m not paying for your beer. I’ve been working on her for the last few hours.”
“What?” Michael smirked. “She’s not falling into your lap?”
“Things like this take time. I’m putting in the necessary work up front.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Sam demanded, slightly affronted. “I’ve got skills.”
Michael threw his head back and laughed. It was so genuine that Sam found himself smiling even though he wasn’t totally sure what was so funny. “I have no doubt you’ve got skills.” Michael reached up and wiped his eyes. “I was just thinking that it was too bad.”
“What’s too bad?” Sam demanded. “You just got here. You can’t possibly have decided that you were interested in our waitress in the time it took her to bring you one beer.”
“That’s true.” Mike shrugged, his eyes fixing on Sam’s intently. “I haven’t had long enough to develop a crush on the waitress.”
The afternoon heat suddenly chilled in comparison with the heat that flowed through Sam’s veins at Michael’s glance. “What are you saying, Mike?”
Michael smiled. “I’m just pointing out that I don’t have any broken ribs this time.”
“Uh huh.” Sam swallowed hard and shifted to hide the fact that the swallow wasn’t the only thing that was hard. “That is a rather interesting observation.”
A tiny flicker of uncertainty shot through Michael’s eyes and he took a deep drink of his beer. Setting it down, he spoke carefully. “I should go and leave you to finish picking up the waitress.”
“Now that’s not like you,” Sam tsked and Michael regarded him with a confused expression. “Giving up already? I didn’t take you for the type to walk away without getting your man.” Sam took another sip of his own beer and licked his lips. He liked the way Michael’s eyes followed his tongue. “I know that’s a Mountie thing, but you could stand to learn something from the Canadians.”
Michael smiled, the uncertainty leaving his eyes. “My apologies, sir. I’ll do better next time.”
“See that you do.” Sam leaned forward and pulled out his wallet. “But you can still make it up to me this time.”
“I’ll do my best.” Michael promised solemnly, his eyes glinting in unspoken amusement and lust. “Hurry up with the bill.”
After Berlin, Sam saw Mike several more times over the years. They became occasional lovers, colleagues, soldiers fighting the same wars on different fronts, but above all they were friends.
In the end, that's the most important secret he doesn't tell the Feds. He's Michael’s friend and he’s on Michael's side in this game. Seeing Michael show up in Miami had been like a punch in the gut. Michael would only be in Miami if he had no choice. Mike hadn’t been gone for more than an hour before the suits showed up, complete with threats to pull Sam’s pension and make his life a living hell.
Sam take perverse pleasure in not telling the FBI about Fiona. For one thing, they already know she's in town. For another, he doesn't want Fi angry at him should the FBI decide to pay her more attention. He and Fi already tread carefully around each other - she will probably never forgive him for that little incident where she got arrested for what she still violently proclaims was a legal transaction.
Sam would just as soon leave her alone. Truthfully, he'd just as soon Fi put a lot of miles between them, but he sees the way she looks at Michael and he sees the way Michael looks back at her and knows no one is going anywhere any time soon.
The three of them sit around Michael's loft, Fi and Michael both diligently working on something that Sam suspects will eventually make a loud BOOM and he watches them, deliberately casual. Every few minutes, one of them shoots a glance in his direction, too. They are in this together and every glance is a mixture of trust and wary caution, friendship and the promise of violence.
It’s strange to be working together again – small, petty operations that pay the bills and stir the memories. It makes Sam's blood run faster. Once a spy always a spy and spy games are never more fun than when matters of the flesh come into play – whether it is lust or violence. He doesn't mind playing. Not knowing the outcome is what makes it exciting.
Besides, he knows that Michael needs all the allies he can find. Sam knows that his preference for beer over Molotov cocktails nowadays means that Michael needs Fiona. When the bullets start raining down and the bombs start going off, Sam would rather have Fi on their side than not.
Spies don't have many friends, and Sam isn't the exception. Living off of rich women in Miami certainly has its share of good times, but at the end of the day, Sam would rather sleep in a rickety chair in Michael's broken down old loft than on silk sheets next to a stranger.
Mike is a blast of fresh air, stirring the monotony of retirement into a frenzy of action and Sam was slightly surprised to realize that he missed it. He missed Mike. He missed the danger. Hell, he’d even missed Fiona.
Sam doesn’t tell the FBI any of that. He figures that if they don’t realize it on their own, they’re a lot dumber than they look. Besides, it’s not really a secret. They knew that Michael would come to him before he knew that Michael had been burned. They’d counted on it.
Sam figured no one could blame him if he enjoyed his role to the fullest. He let the Feds buy him lunch. He tried to convince them to buy him beer. But at the end of the day, the important secrets remained secret.
That’s what friends do for each other.