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Whoso List To Hunt

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Noli me tangere, for Caesar's I am,
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.
--Sir Thomas Wyatt

 

 

 

Fiona wakes with a start and blinks into the glare of a Florida morning. The room is stifling and she can't breathe, and Michael is lying so still and quiet she thinks maybe it really is the end this time, in spite of what all the doctors had said about it being a clean shot. Then she sees his fingers twitch and his chest rise and her lungs fill up with air too.

She watches to make sure his breathing is regular, and then she goes to the little mirror above the sink and looks at herself, then immediately regrets it. She has sheet-creases down her face from sleeping so hard, and her back aches from sitting in the chair. She looks old -– every second of her age -– and worn out and she hates Michael for making her look this way, for the stupid obsession that he can't let go of.

“Coffee,” she says to herself. “You can do that at least.”

When she pulls open the heavy door to his room, air-conditioning pours in and cools her face. She leaves open the door – looking back one more time at him to make sure he is still alive – before she goes out and down the elevator to the cafeteria. The food is ferociously bad but she is almost used to it, and even has gotten to liking the weird crumbly muffin in the plastic wrapping that they serve for a breakfast option. One muffin and one coffee later, she is back on the elevator and going up.

He lies just the way she'd left him: unmoving, the IV still dripping into his arm, the machines beeping their monotonous alarms. Not awake. Not capable. If only someone could tie him to this bed and keep him here, let him sleep away the years until no one remembered him anymore, no one except herself, and then they could leave Miami and this life and go be whoever they wanted.

Though she can't help it, she often dreams of Ireland. She can't go back there; she and Michael have too many enemies. But if no one remembered her, she'd fly back and drive into the countryside and find a cool green hillside to sit on. She is sick of the constant heat and humidity, the crowds and the blur of languages. And Miami is a little short on hillsides, both cool and green, unless one counted golf courses, which one most definitely did not.

She smiles to herself. It was a windy hillside at night, the first time she met Michael. An IRA deal between her brothers and they'd brought along a little hired muscle, a new guy who swaggered a little in his creaking-new leather jacket and had a gleaming white smile. Oh, he had been young, they both had been so young, and he had nodded at her and said he was pleased to meet her, and from then on he had called her Fee and she had lost everything to him, given it away really, without half thinking about it.

Behind her she hears a step and knows that it's Sam. He has come faithfully every morning, mostly to see how Michael is doing, though underneath he is anxious to get on with the job. If their roles were reversed, Michael would be the same way. It's in both of their natures. Getting shot, Michael would say, was definitely not part of the plan. As if this was all orchestrated instead of being one giant snafu after another. Fiona has felt for the last couple of years at least that none of them, from Maddie Westen on down, has had an ounce of control over their lives. She hates being played for a puppet and that's exactly what these people – whoever they are, and if she knew she'd visit their house with a few blocks of C4 – are doing to Michael and, consequently, everyone around him.

Sam comes up behind her and puts a warm hand on her shoulder. He pulls up a chair and when he sits down beside her, the kindness and concern in his eyes almost bring her to tears. That's how weak she is now, how un-Fiona-like everything has become. In the bad old days she would have laughed in all of their faces and walked away, poof, like Michael did when he left her the first time. Now her choices are limited to having none.

“How is he doing?”

“The same.”

“Have you been here all night?” Sam asks, probably taking in her frazzled hair and her sleep-wrinkles. “Why don't you go home and get some rest? I'll stay here with him.”

“I can't,” she says, and is not surprised to hear the pathetic desperation in her voice.

“Fee,” he says gently, and the sound of it makes her angry, and then it makes her start to cry, which makes her angrier, and as she is wiping her face with a coffee napkin and telling Sam angrily that she doesn't need him, that she doesn't need any of them, that she can't stand any of them, somehow she finds herself in his arms, getting a hug –- Sam is a fantastic hugger when he puts his mind to it –- and he is stroking her hair and telling her that Michael is going to get better and that everything is going to work out. Which is true, Michael will get better, but –-

“Everything will not work out,” she says with dignity, sniffling into his shirt. “You know it won't work out, I know it won't work out. Probably the whole city of Miami knows it won't work out. He's heading towards his death, Sam, and I thought I could stop him, but he will not listen to me, and it's all for a stupid job.” It hurts to even admit it, but if there's anyone she can tell, it's Sam, who can be trusted with all kinds of secrets.

“To a guy like Mike . . . .” Sam's voice trails off, and he lets her go. “People like you and me, we don't care what other people think of us. Mikey, he cares. He wants his good name back. It's not about the job. It's about that list of crimes his name is attached to. You see what I mean?”

Put that way, it sounds exactly like something Michael would say, with that patient look on his face like he's explaining it again for the thousandth time. It's something she's had to live with for a long time without really confronting it, and it roils around in her gut because she knows she's already lost the argument, that she lost it years ago without even fighting, when he was burned and he asked her if she would stay in Miami to help him. She and Michael really are opposites, think in different ways, solve problems differently. It's what makes them such a great team, but also what makes him the most frustrating man on Earth.

Sam hands her another napkin and then her bag, and she roots around in it for some foundation. Then, because it's Sam, and she wouldn't tell anyone else this, she says softly, “I was just hoping someday he'd give it up and we'd go away, and we'd make new names for ourselves.”

“What you have to accept about Mikey,” says Sam, and she looks up to meet his very understanding eyes, “is that he likes his name the way it is, and he wants everyone else to like it too. Including you. Especially you.”

“Excuse me, sir?” A nurse has appeared in the doorway and in typical sexist fashion is looking at the upright man in the room. Fiona rolls her eyes. “There's a telephone call at the nurses' station for this room? It's a Mr. Nate Westen.”

“I'll take it,” says Sam. As he leaves, the nurse closes the door behind him and Fiona sighs as the AC cuts off. The sun is blazing through the room's enormous windows, limning Michael's equipment and turning him into some kind of unmoving gold icon. Fiona scowls at the image.

“I'm going to help you get your name back,” she says darkly, “if that's what you want. But I'm not going to worship your every move. And if you try to leave me again, so help me, I'm going to find you, and I'm going to murder you!

“And that's a promise,” she adds for good measure. Then she sits down again, breathing in the humidity, playing for Michael, the way she always does, the waiting game.

 

- - the end - -