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Title: Dirty Diamonds
Author: Bigsciencybrain
Fandom: Burn Notice
Series: N/A
Character(s): Michael Westen
Prompt: #242 - Chiaroscuro
Rating: PG
Word Count: 669
Disclaimer: All characters are property of USA Network and Matt Nix.

Summary: Michael considers the city of Miami.

Miami glittered like a crown jewel. Golden sand and pockets of deep emerald wove in and out among sleek, white silver lines of glass and concrete. Tip Florida on her side and Miami would be the showpiece diamond at the bottom of the chain, swaying and catching the sunlight in a way that both dazzled and blinded.

The flight into Miami, the touchdown at the airport, how he stumbled to the motel where Fiona found him; those were all lost in haze of pain. Michael winced instinctively; ghost pain lancing through the ribs that had been broken in Nigeria. Or perhaps his memories were washed out by the reflective blaze of plate glass windows that stretch up the sides of the towering buildings. Those first days, weeks, months even, all he saw was the light. Miami was a blaze even at night, when sunlight gave way to neon and moonlight. It burned into his eyes until it felt like Miami itself would be permanently seared into his retinas, with or without the sunglasses.

It didn’t matter where he looked: water, beach, buildings, and highways. Everything shone, everything sparkled. A beautiful city that extracted its payment in visual pain. Go ahead and enjoy all she had to offer, she always got paid one way or another.

He had a grudging respect for her now; this glittering city that he now called home. Grudging because he still missed the parts of the world where just looking around didn’t leave his head aching. Respect because he’d seen into the heart of her and seen a kindred spirit. In the wind breathed out by the ocean, washing heavy and humid over the city. In the glistening pavement after a rain storm, washed clean from the dust and filth of the bright day.

Miami transformed herself even as he watched. She shifted, subtle and effortless, changing dresses and accessories like a woman choosing an outfit for a special occasion. He learned to sense her mercurial moods the same way he began to know when a storm was coming. It was a feel, a smell, a change in the air itself.

Faces changed, bikinis got smaller, broad shoulders darkened in the sun. They didn’t matter. The people were transient, the shifting sands over the city around them. Sure, each of them had a story and more than a few of them needed his help. Some could even afford to pay for it.

Every job he took added a facet to the diamond and gave him another glimpse into that deep, hidden heart beneath all the neon and sunlit glass. He saw inside the concrete walls where the mechanics oiled and turned the gears that made Miami possible. Drugs, booze, women; if you could call it a vice and slap a price tag on it then Miami would serve it up on a platter. A lot of people with eyes bigger than their stomach ended up over their heads. Somehow, he ended up being the one digging them out. That made Miami different than every other place he’d worked a job. With a job, he got in and he got out and he didn’t stick around to see what came next.

There were pros and cons of his new life. The good was seeing things turn around for people who deserved better. The bad was knowing there would always be another sucker, either unlucky or just naïve, reaching for that Miami was offering on that platter. Then there was his mother, but he wasn’t entirely sure what side of the coin she was. But like it or not, she was as much a part of Miami and his new life, his new home, as any of the people he helped. Another facet in the jewel.

Some days, Miami was a diamond and others, she was a cheap zirconium, but she was his either way. For better or worse. When he first arrived in Miami, the lights had blinded him. Now, all he saw were the shadows.
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March 2012

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