When you're a spy, you have to learn to control your emotions. When everything is riding on your ability to maintain your cover or complete a mission, it's extremely important to show no fear—or sorrow, or pain, or happiness, or anything for that matter. Sure, you might give the occasional amused comment to annoy your target, or maybe you risk your life to save someone you didn't necessarily have to save, but that's all a part of the job. Sometimes, a spy has to be a robot. You can't show any weakness, and in some cases that means you can't show any sort of emotion whatsoever.
But that doesn't mean you don't feel it.
There's a big difference between choosing not to react to something, and not caring about it at all. Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to be a sociopath to be a spy. In fact, sociopathy is somewhat frowned upon in that particular field, mostly because of that annoying tendency they have of acting only in their own interests. The point is: you don't have to be a robot to appear as one.
But every spy has his limits. Sometimes, the robot gets upset. Crying robots are a messy business, you know: they get all rusty, and sometimes can be an electrical shock hazard. Same with spies, more or less. You can be fantastic at compartmentalizing, but once you run out of compartments, you end up a rusty hunk of dangerous circuitry.
Not a great thing to put on a résumé.
Every Robo-Spy has his limits. Once you reach yours... Well, just try your best not to electrocute anyone.
"How's it coming, Fi?"
There was a hint of agitation in Michael's voice as he answered Fiona's call. Why she had insisted on his waiting outside, he didn't understand. Sam would have sufficed as a watchman, and two getaway drivers were just unnecessary.
"Hello to you too, Michael," Fiona's lilting voice said in reply. Her accent always came out a little bit more when she was excited. "I've just set up the tripwire. Now for the real fun."
Funny how practiced his Now-isn't-the-time-to-blow-someone-into-bite-sized-pieces Tone had become over the years.
"I brought the whole bag of C4, you know." He could hear the playful (but only half-joking) smirk in her voice. "Wouldn't it be quicker and easier just to blow them up? Ka-boom! Problem solved!"
"Fi." This time it was the We-really-don't-have-time-to-argue-about-blowing-them-up Tone. "How much did you hook up to the wire so far?"
"Only a block...or five."
"Fi!" He was seriously running out of exasperated ways to say her name.
"Oh, alright, alright. I'll disconnect them." Fiona sighed loudly. "You really are no fun, Michael."
Michael wasn't listening. He was distracted by the familiar black Mustang approaching the house, an hour before it was due to arrive.
"Forget it, Fi. Just get out of there, now." He could hear her cease movement on the other end of the call.
"Michael, I'm not done! The C4 is still–"
"Now, Fi! He's getting out of his car."
The dial tone was like a death knell in his ear when she hung up. But hanging up was good. Hanging up meant she was getting out of there.
Michael's fingers tapped the steering wheel as he watched the large man enter through the front door. Any second now, Fiona would come running out of the house, and they would leave the gangster to his minor, non-life-threatening explosion, which would hopefully get him off of their client's back. Or at least make him paranoid enough to lie low for a while.
Any second now.
"Come on, Fi..."
Michael's fingers tap-tap-tapped faster and faster against the wheel.
"She'll be fine, Mike," Sam assured him from the passenger seat. "She's probably hoping Aldo finds her, just so she can beat the living daylights out of him. I kind of envy her, actually. What I wouldn't give to get a few solid punches in on that rotten–"
"We all would, Sam," Michael cut in, interrupting what most likely would have been a very long, colorful description. He wouldn't have blamed him — Aldo deserved that and more — but he did find Sam's abuse of the English language tiresome at times. "She should have been out by now, don't you—?"
Before he could finish his thought, all Hell broke loose, and the entire house was going up in flames. The cacophonous explosion reached his ears as the windows shattered outward, and clouds of violent fire and smoke burst forth from them, billowing out like a great paroxysmal inferno.
When you're a spy, you learn not to go into shock. That can wait until later, most of the time. A mission is about the here and now, and you have to be ready to recover in a split second, assess the situation, and act immediately.
Acting rashly isn't going to get you anywhere but six feet under. Split-second decisions brought on by fear and adrenaline, such as, say, running into a burning building, would be categorized under the "Acting Rashly" label, and they rarely, if ever, end well.
Michael Westen didn't care.
All he cared about was that Fiona hadn't come out of the house, and the house had exploded, and the house was on fire, and Fiona was still inside. He didn't feel his hand unbuckling his seat belt and throwing the car door open, nor did he feel the concrete pounding beneath his feet and turning to grass. The first sensation he processed was the heat radiating in waves off of the house as he drew nearer. And then something heavy slammed into him from behind, and he was lying on the dry lawn, eyes still trained on the orange pyre before him..
"Mike, you can't go in there. You know you can't, Brother!"
He struggled under Sam's weight, but the fall had left him winded, and the truth of it all was slowly permeating his consciousness and paralyzing him.
"FI!" Michael stilled for a moment, and then doubled his efforts. It took everything Sam had to keep him down. "Sam, get off of me! Let me go!"
Didn't Sam understand? Fiona was in the house!
"I'm sorry Mike." Sam sounded upset, but resigned. "There's nothing we can do right now. I can't let you get yourself killed running in there like that."
"But she'll..." The shock was starting to wear off, and something icy and cold stabbed at Michael's heart. "No. No. Fiona! FIONA!"
Sam had to dig his fingernails into Michael's arms to keep a grip on him as he made another attempt to run into the house. Slowly, the once-imperturbable spy sank to the ground, the air thick with smoke and cries for his beloved.
10 Minutes Earlier
Fiona smiled gleefully as she attached a fifth block of C4 to the wire. She knew Michael would make her take them off later, but playing with explosives was just so much fun. She stood up to admire her handiwork before pressing the speed dial on her phone.
"How's it coming, Fi?" Michael's voice made her grin widen, despite the note of anxiety coloring his tone.
"Hello to you too, Michael. I've just set up the tripwire. Now for the real fun."
"I brought the whole bag of C4, you know. Wouldn't it be quicker and easier to just blow him up? Ka-boom! Problem solved!"'
"Fi... How much did you hook up to the wire so far?"
She glanced back at the gorgeous stack of explosives like it was her masterpiece, a hint of regret in her voice.
"Only a block...or five."
Or maybe more. Who really kept track, anyways?
"Alright, alright. I'll disconnect them. You really are no fun, Michael."
Fiona began to regretfully detach the C4, brick by brick. Ordinarily, she wouldn't mind a low-level explosion like the one this situation called for; however, the intended target was not ordinarily as despicable as Aldo was.
"Forget it, Fi." Michael's voice suddenly interrupted her work. "Just get out of there, now."
Fiona sighed at his ignorance.
"Michael, I'm not done! The C4 is still–"
"Now, Fi! He's getting out of his car."
Taking one last glance at the inordinately large pile of explosives, Fiona snapped her phone shut and crossed the room, thanking God that she was on the first floor. She threw open the window and squeezed herself through. Just before she dropped to the ground, she heard the sounds of the door being unlocked. She was cutting it close.
The moment her feet hit the ground, she began to sprint in the direction of the forest behind the house. She was only about halfway there when the air was ripped in half by a thunderous sound, and the force of the explosion that had caused it tackled her thin frame like a linebacker, bringing her face-first to the ground. She instinctively curled up and covered her head, waiting out the waves of pressure and heat assaulting her. After a few very long seconds, it was over.
Cautiously, Fiona stood and brushed herself off. Her legs felt like they were made of gelatin, and her hands twitched and trembled as her pounding heart began to slow. She turned toward the blazing house, admiring her handiwork, and made something between a smile and a grimace. Michael would not be happy with her...but it was very pretty.
Taking her time, she ambled back to the front of the house, making sure to stay a good distance away from it. She was almost around the corner, when a loud noise stopped her in her tracks.
It was a voice – a very familiar voice – and it was crying out as if in complete and utter agony. She hadn't considered the possibility of them getting hurt in the explosion, but now that she heard his voice she could scarcely breathe.
Before she had time to think, Fiona was sprinting to the front of the house. She tried to prepare herself mentally for the horror that would almost certainly be around the corner: the horror that could draw such an animalistic sound from the invincible Michael Westen. What she saw was not what she expected.
Michael was kneeling on Aldo's lawn, Sam's strong grip restraining him as he struggled against it. He was reaching out toward the burning building, as if by doing so he could reach what was inside. The most heartbreaking sight, however, was his face.
Fiona had known Michael a long time. She had seen him upset before, seen him angry or grieving. She had even, once or twice, seen him lose his composure entirely. This was different.
Never in her life had she seen this expression on his face. It was filled with fear, horror, confusion, and above all, grief – a grief that contorted his features, disfigured them until he wasn't the Michael she knew. His mouth kept moving, but it took her awhile to hear what he was saying.
As suddenly as she had halted, she began to run again. The realization of what had happened was ringing in her ears. Her only thought, her only objective, was to remove that awful expression from Michael's face, and to make sure that it never appeared there again.
Sam saw her first. His eyes widened with hope and then relief. Thank God. A silent message was passed between them, and then she had eyes only for Michael. Michael, who was frozen before the blazing ruins. Michael, who was still calling out to her, though his voice was no louder than a whisper.
"I'm here, Michael."
She knelt in front of him, placing a hand tenderly on the side of his face. When he didn't seem to hear her, she used her other hand to turn it in her direction.
"Michael, I'm here. I'm fine. We're all fine. ...Michael, look at me."
His glassy gaze finally tore away from the flames and rested on her face.
Without a second thought, Fiona launched herself at Michael, throwing her arms around him as if she'd never let go. He caught her easily, still in shock, and held her more tightly than ever before. Tears poured down her cheeks, and even Michael, the notoriously impassive, had to close his eyes to prevent them from spilling out.
"Fi. I thought..."
"I know." She pulled back to look at him, and he wiped the remaining wetness from her face. "I'm sorry, Michael."
"Hey." Michael drew her back into their embrace. "I'm just glad you're okay."
Every spy has his limits. Once you reach yours… don't let her go.