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Michael knows a thing or two about betrayal.

Trust was a challenge for him before his own second-in-command shot him in the back. It was a tough sell even before his best friend, the one guy who had enough confidence in Michael to give him a chance when no one else would, left forever without so much as looking him in the eye.

Trust is a dangerous fucking commodity.

So Michael Garibaldi is shocked when he finds himself putting his faith in John Sheridan. The man is nuts; he’s a wildcard. He may be the most dangerous man Michael has ever known. But he’s brilliant, and he’s good, and looking at him in the war room—brow creased with focus, shoulders tight with unfathomable intensity, eyes dark with wrath and sharp with clever tactics—looking at him in those moments, Garibaldi thinks there’s nothing this man can’t do.

So of course Michael fucks it up.

It’s not his fault.

It’s not his fault. God damn Bester, god damn Psi Corps, nightmare villains taking his life and twisting it up, making him wrong inside—hollowing him out and leaving him a broken pile of the worst possible choices.

“Penny for your thoughts?” Stephen asks, nudging Michael with an elbow and jarring him out of his dark thoughts.

“I’ve always hated that expression,” Michael evades smoothly. “What the hell is a penny? And anyway, maybe a guy doesn’t want to put his thoughts on the open market.”

“Maybe it’s just an expression.” Stephen’s tone is cajoling, but there’s also a hint of amusement sparking in his eyes. A noisy crowd rushes past them, jostling bystanders in their determined hurry, but relative quiet returns after they’re gone. Stephen is still watching Michael carefully. “You looked like you could use someone to talk to.”

It’s an appealing offer. If he can’t talk to Stephen about the disaster in his head, then who is there?

But even opening his mouth to admit that yes, maybe he could use someone to talk to… the admission seems too careless. Better to guard his guilt closer to the vest.

“Thanks,” Michael says, because he doesn’t want to seem ungrateful. “But it’s nothing.”

It’s everything. It’s all the noise in his head telling him he let Sheridan down. It’s every nagging doubt beneath his skin, the frigid fear lodged low in Michael’s chest, telling him he will always, always let his friends down.

It’s not his fault.

It’s not his fault, and maybe if he repeats it to himself enough times he’ll actually believe.

At the moment it’s the least plausible lie he’s ever tried to swallow.