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Author's Chapter Notes:
Doesn't really matter which way you read the series Yin and Yang, this one is a spoiler for 2x16 in places.


One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do
The Beatles - “One”





Dates.


Things like that, having a boyfriend, getting beyond first base, being part of a pair, hooking up for the middling term.


Second, third dates. Maybe even a forth, attempts at intimacy.....


.....she’d had them - splintered through her melodrama of life like fluffy bits in the bottom of a vase of roses. They were there. They added a certain viscosity to the often aqueous nature of her existence. They clung to her stems when all she really wanted was to stand tall and be alone. They made occasional demands, but most of the time they simply lingered and hovered, finally fluffing away. They lacked true substance most of the time. They often complimented her on her bloom and always tried to pluck the very best of her petals. They were extremely impressed with the display, but were easily deterred by the revelation of thorns - the prickly, feisty, tetchy burrs she wore along the length of her willowy body - she carried these like a impenetrable badge of armory.


Sara knew her coat of barbs existed, she was aware the opportunity it afforded her in the development of a relationship and she realized very early, the confrontative ruse it presented the plucker. Beautiful, alluring, sweet-scented, distinctive, jewel-of-the-garden, classically featured - yet amble too close, fondle too familiarly without care, and a explicit rebuke awaited the negligent prick.


There had been many of these potential partners confettied through her time.


Early on, before petals had fully unfurled and buds were brimming with the uncertainty of exactly what to do or where to go, prior to the development of her full protective briar patch.


School boys. Kids. Teen girl crushes. Older adolescents, some able to envisage the true magnificence of this particular blossom when the season finally decreed, others only interested in plucking the emerging buds from the fragile stem before anything had the chance to fully mature.


Like Boy Mountain J.


Sara Tancredi had manufactured a system for remembering her dates and attempts at coupledom by applying tags, regardless of whether the experiences had been positive or drop-dead hideous - she did this from the get-go. She never paused to wonder why, but the concept sprouted true significance when her body became a cess-pit for junk and gear and self-abuse.


Because then tags provided a token of added protection. Along with her razor droplets of thorn, tagging The People moving in and out of her veins allowed her to pretend they were having little effect on her - they were insignificant. Sadly, during the Calamity of Dire Addiction, this was entirely true.


People were simply not as important. Not as vital as the numbness, nor as intoxicating as the drilling of the drug through her blood.


Boy Mountain J arrived on the scene before The Calamity hit any form of peak, visiting her life briefly and with star-studded brilliance, momentary popularity, awakening understandings, flailing disappointments.


He was her first. It didn’t last. He was the quarterback, she was inept at cheerleading anything he did. He tweaked. She resisted. He plucked further, she was coerced into yielding something she was unsure about unearthing. He reaped and sowed. She neglected to reveal the damage to foliage that would remain dormant for years.


Come on Sara, you know you want it, it’s been a month....


It had been forty-six days, actually, and she was still doubtful.


You’ve been giving out those vibes, you’re gonna be known as a cock-tease unless you’re prepared to give out, skank....


It hadn’t been the first time he’d used this term on her, but she yearned for it to be a fleeting endearment, although she wasn’t naive enough to believe it was - and she was even more doubtful.


After all that I’ve given you, all that I’ve done for you.....


He’d dated her in full view of the gaggle of girls who wanted him for their own, he had escorted her to a party and made out with her in front of the clique of chic, he had discussed their future as a couple. He had met her parents. He had buttered them up with talk of sports and commitments and scholarships. No matter how apathetic her rosebud body was to his kiss and touch, she was mega-aroused by his school statue and community standing. The doubts just kept coming.


You can’t expect I don’t want it...come on....I know you wanna go slow, but how slow? Christ, I have needs, you can’t expect to date me without the full package, know what I mean? It’s either all or none with me as a boyfriend...........


He had started to touch her on their first date, she was not comfortable with the intimacy but never uttered a word. Progressively, he went further, deeper. Uprooting her very understanding of being grounded, being sensible. She never uttered a word. And finally, when he decided to go all the way and plough though the very depths of virgin territory, she never uttered a word. Because she wanted it, she craved the popularity and the acceptance of the in-crowd, the invitations, the post-game parties, the in-jokes, the rapport with special, important, significant people.


Sara was sixteen and she thought sex would guarantee a tail-slide into social eminence. Instead it promised wipeout.


Sara was sixteen and on the verge of losing her mother, she lost her innocence in a number of ways that year.


Sara was sixteen, it felt uncomfortable, inadequate, really freaking stretchy and tearing and left her bleeding slightly. The very next day, Boy Mountain J called her to say he was sorry “and all that” but it was over, not slightly. Finished, finito. Dropped. Goodbye.


Sara was sixteen.


There were no public tears. Instead splotches of fibrous tissue cauterized any possible leaking from fixtures along the graceful lines of her stem. Her nettles. Her corsage of snag, her crown of fucking thorns. It sprang up and taloned into every potential partner showing vested interest. She couldn’t help it, she’d been burned and her coat of craw was the scar - invisible though it may be, it was dynamic in protecting the maturing Sara against the devastation of further attempts to deflower and destroy.


Jesus, it wasn’t merely physical. Every fucking thing about being part of a couple was fraught with anxiety for Sara - the concepts, the expectations, the procedures, the creed. There was only one partnership she was interested in for the long term, and like all good partners, she was giving and loving and intoxicating and aware of her needs and reliable and climactic and nurturing and blinding in orgasm and overwhelming in the mutual desire of it all. Sara had bequeathed the feminine gender upon her morphine mate, for no reason, for every reason, to replace a mother, to recreate the perfect companion and potential lover.


So she lived and attempted to love under the shadow of codependent soulmate. She needed morphine and morphine needed her - she loved to juice through her body and tipple the ends of nerves and deaden the crescendos of emotions. In turn, Sara loved the routine of needle prep, the subterfuge involved in securing a fix, the pathway of pin-point to vein, the sensation of the whirlwind coursing through her system.


They were a couple - not perfect, but compatible, and not great for each other, but good enough.


And The People and their tags simply came and came and went away and went again for what that was worth. Like Buster G, Tim_H Fix, Gym, Dr. Beard, Richard Head, Girl#1, Attitude-ass, Queen, Box-Car Boy, Dr Cocks, Scuzzballs #1 and 2......tags, tags, tags. Morphine and The People. Lover and The Tags. A Couple and The Others.


Until it became totally dysfunctional and the abuse set in. Sara had bruises and scrapes and headaches lasting a week. She often felt sick, she couldn’t do her job.


So she ended it - the relationship - she bid farewell to her favourite partner and shed more tears over the severance with her than with any of her previous companions. And her thorny veneer became more impregnable, especially with interest coming from members of her NA group, from patients she knew were bi-sexual or absolutely promiscuous. From ‘friends’ of her father.


Sara’s job at Fox River crucified any chance of her meeting a mate in the workplace unfortunately, because as a clean, almost thirty-something single, the hankering to find a new soulmate to spend time with was becoming more habitual. In the solitude of her apartment, closeted within the boundaries of her rose garden, she had small cravings for someone to enjoy domesticity with - shit, she realized she was a little lonely and this frightened her - someone to light candles and create an atmosphere for, someone to prepare food with, another to eat something else but takeout with, someone to grab from behind and hold to her chest, another to foot wrestle in bed, someone to fight over the bathroom, another to yank the duvet from in the middle of the night....


She was getting old. She was missing her morphine lady-love. She was searching for someone apart from Doctor Wanker, Banker International, Bull Bellick, Politician Pawn. She yearned to hold hands in a park and dance and cry at old and new movies and eat a whole tub of ice-cream - and to awaken to desire OR anger OR agitation OR the scent of another human being OR eyes watching her with disdain or lust or envy or need..... Goddamn, she was becoming a sop, a totally irrational, fucking desperado in search of a mate.


But she needed something. Warmth where there was indifference and colour where there was monstrous shadow. Shared oxygen. A bathroom with more than a single towel, even two dents in the cushions of her sofa where only a solitary body imprint ever manifested.


Then,


he blossomed from the arid, turgid farrow of a jail. And she wanted and wanted and wanted and wanted until she forgot simply how to be herself, until she found him again.


And, in the ultimate paradox of her life till now, she rediscovered self within the succor of partnership.




****




One is the empty product.
One is the smallest positive odd integer.
One is a harmonic divisor number.
Facts about the number 1 from Wikipedia





Michael’s understanding of agenda items to do with couples was tarnished from the beginning, although there were times in his life when he wished for nothing else but someone who understood him to the infinite percentile.


He watched his mother wither. He saw her die.


He watched his father evaporate. He never actually saw him leave.


He watched his foster parents struggle to stay attached. He saw fragments and disintegration of love. He saw separation and anguish and cross-bows of hate sprung between life-partners, he saw marriage insurrection on a grand scale.


As a result, the Scofield brain found it difficult to process the idea of individuals being satisfied within a couple.


What did couples do?


As a youngster, it appeared that all they did was argue and fling the ugliest piece of mud they could find in their sties at the very marrow of their partner. This seemed to be blended with desertion and grief, and when enough sadness wasn’t evident, it was mixed with a little more verbal combat and hated, heated exchanges.


As a teen, Michael understood the mechanics of what generative partners did. The machinations of copulation and intercourse, the physical release associated with his maturing needs and desires, even the embarrassment at the inability to control the evidence of his awakening interest.


He knew what sexual couples did. He knew it was usually the responsibility of the male to be assertive and do the asking, and when he realized he lacked a certain confidence to go about this task of pursuing, he appeared to attract females who didn’t require to be consulted. This suited him just fine. It took away the whole anxiety related to the dating enquiry and left him to enjoy the ambience of the outing and her company. The only irony was the girls he were really attracted to - they never asked him on a date.


How did couples get to that point of intimacy where they could just do things?


In early years, Michael was never privy to the simple acts of coupledom. Like hand holding or the lazy drift of fingers on thigh. Or the simple eye exchange between two people totally connected, to quieten with a glance, to arouse with a leer, to suggest with an opening, to question with an inflection. Or the idea of a brief dash of lips during shared greetings and goodbyes, during moments of ‘missed you’, ‘thought of you today’, ‘hope you feel better’. He was totally devoid of the concept that the merest touch could convey a plethora of thought, emotion, insight, feeling. Hope and need. Comfort and compassion. Fabulous basic need. Admiration. Sheer no reason.


It was not until Lincoln and Veronica started their Creed of coupling that Michael became aware of certain features of the role. That sex could co-exist with sympathy, camaraderie and care were nearly as vital as coming, erections could work with empathy, nipples and nurturing were both important, and what one partner had between their ears was as interesting (if not quite as involving) as what they had between their legs.


Michael observed Linc and Vee closely. Next to them, from a distance, sometimes listening, often committing movements, reactions, expressions, touches, exchanges to his warehouse of memory. They were kind to each other. They were young, but mindful of feelings and needs and dreams. This isn’t to say that his ‘couple under the microscope’ didn’t fight or disagree - Vee and Linc were both passionate and opinionated - but Michael was able to digest elements involved in this behaviour as well, and categorized them for future reference when he became involved in his own Creed.


How did you know when you were part of a couple?


Perhaps this is what perplexed Michael the most.


He’d asked Lincoln that question when the Scofield Brain was in it’s mid-teens and undergoing an alarming metamorphosis. So many issues were confusing, so many questions and combinations running rampant and unanswered, creating combinations and permutations and excess.......


“What Michael? What?” Lincoln had gagged on a response.


The teenager outfitted with enough testosterone and adrenalin to ignite a largish power plant, repeated the question about knowing when it was you were involved with another person - “What were the signs?”


His older brother had shaken his head and grinned as if to say what the fuck is it about this brainiac dude? and all that actually ventured out of his mouth was: “I dunno, Michael. You just know....you know, know. You just know.”


But he didn’t. He wanted to, but he didn’t. And like every aspect of his life, he needed to know how.


Amanda R asked Michael out when he was nearly sixteen.


She was pretty and popular, adept at getting what she wanted, hopeless at calculus, mutilating any attempt at studying the structure and function of human cells, cactus at geometry. But she had grown great breasts. She had permanently whetted appetites and this was amply conveyed by her artificially moistened lips, the heave and fro of her cleavage, her oh-so-always parted thighs, her selection of tops that got shorter and smaller and tighter each time they dated.


She was older than him and she wore him like another one of her faux leather handbags. Michael tried his array of couple ideas gleaned from ‘Linc and Vee observation’ on her. She wasn’t interested in the brief hand interplay, didn’t seem to understand any of the eye suggestions he tried to send her and Amanda was extremely adverse to friendly pecks on the check, touches to the hair, feathering on the lips.


It was all or nothing.


Amanda seduced and was seducible, she wanted sex and wanted it now. Amanda was demanding and demanded, she was totally spun-out and revolted by the fact that the first time she and Michael had sex, he ejaculated before she even felt him close by.


”Jesus Mike....what the hell? Haven’t you ever....fuck....”


“I’m sorry...so sorry....”


“Look at this fucking mess, what we’re you thinking....Christ...”


“I said...well, I’m so goddamn....um...”


“Well you certainly goddamn are....now get the fuck out of here......”



Similar woman pursued Michael as he matured from boy-man into XY Man. Once he earned full status physically and gained a certain level of control over his sexual urges, Scofield was pure luxury for the assertive woman - a specific female requiring the alluring fusion of looks, physique, job prospects, financial security, velvet voice. Yet, over time, his brain whirred and hummed and busied into areas unrelated to forging unity within The Couple.


His reservations developed and hypertrophied. His shyness grew with his heightened understanding of concepts related to engineering, structure, weight-bearing and blueprints. His self-worth dwindled until he only had the productive part of his brain to rely upon - at least he knew he was good at LOGIC and DESIGN and PHYSICS - because his value to other people (in his own mind, anyway) had hit rock bottom.


There were women, of course, and some of them also placed pieces of nothing in his ears about his attraction to members of his own sex.


Michael struggled.


He goofed socially, although taught himself rote answers and diplomatic entreaties for future use. He adjusted sexually, and committed concepts about the female form to the very soul of his brain so he could perform ably as a lover. He flattered rarely, although received copious, flowery forms of compliments whenever he was involved in romance or business or any of the elements of being a couple.


His soirees never lasted. Not relationships, soirees - flighty, flirty, breathy, breezy, lovely, lusty, little episodes peppering his ultimately lonely existence.


And when he started the background check into a solitary Rose Of Fox River, he found his loneliness even more exaggerated by the tiny snapshots dotting the walls of his minimalistic apartment. She watched him from passport sized photographs and Michael was sure her eyes were telling him something. He learned the best way to manipulate a Mafia man from his wall of doom, he was sure the young humanitarian was cautioning him with a look. He studied the ultimate route of liberation, he swore he felt a puff of exhaled air on his cheek as he leaned into the blueprints.


Michael met here for real and the twine binding his heart began to unravel.


He began his plan of flirtation and deceit and he felt the twine extend towards her as though opening a lifeline.


He wormed his way beneath her veneer and realized the twine had gently enveloped them both and he simply wanted it that way.


Michael left her out of need and recognized the twine would never snap, it was strong enough to hassle them together even though she carried some sharp, scissory thorns close to her end of their twine.


But for him, the strings were well and truly attached.




****




I’m not perfect, but I’m perfect for you,
Now I’m right on time
Grace Jones - “I’m Not Perfect” from “Inside Story”





“About before.......me too.”


He is so spiked by the time they have spent on trains and habituated in small places of privacy, he has to re-start his thinking mechanism each time he is asked to plan.


“Yeah”


She is unable to understand the complexities of what he is truly saying, but is keenly aware of the basis of his thoughts.


“You look like you need a strong coffee, can I get you one?”


He is attune to her needs from the start, has been able to read her like an engineering text book since the first day in the infirmary. They are having a break, he knows she needs a drink, he reads the want in the gemstones of her eyes.


“Thanks, just a little sugar please.”


She can’t help but smile and cautions herself against true fangirly behaviour - she can be catastrophically smitten without being silly and giggly. She receives his acceptance of her drink needs with a look she understands.


“Here, nice and hot, should hit the spot.”


He is immediately sickened by something more disgustingly sweet than the coffee he has just given her. He smiles wryly, hoping she won’t think he is a loser-poet with a full upper body tattoo. Her look is filled with promise. His eyes cast her very definite messages about later.


“Thanks Michael. Um, when we’ve finished our coffees, you really need to let me look at your burn.”


She is desirous of closer contact with him and she knows he is buzzing with the same anticipation. They have moved further away in time from their soft, romantic exchange in the bathroom, yet the tastes and pleasures linger in mouths like the aftermath of rich, dark chocolate.


“OK, well...maybe after? Tonight. Um, the burn?.......Here, Sara, give me that.”


He is sitting as close to her as humanly possible, tucked away on a bench seat outside the back of the cigar club. They have company in the form of his brother and Kellerman, but it doesn’t stop him from taking her hot coffee as she tries to wiggle into the coat she had recently discarded.


“Thanks, again. I was getting a little cold.”


She readjusts and takes her drink back from his hand, ensuring she lets her fingers blanket his in a mushroom effect that he is unable to relinquish. Instead, she simply changes her coffee to the other hand and leaves their entwined fingers coiled comfortably against her thigh.


“Think I could get used to this.”


He doesn’t mean hunkered down on a hard seat in the middle of the windy city.


“Mmmm, me too.”


She sips her coffee periodically and can’t decide what is more attractive to look at - his eyes, his lips or their finger partnership.


“I’ve already said that today.”


He gossips quietly into her ear so he is rewarded with a visual shudder of aural appreciation. He finishes his drink and quickly uses his available hand to tilt her head gently towards him and commence gentle stroking of her jawline.


“Yeah, I suppose we shouldn’t overuse the phrase, we’re not in a soap opera.”


She has a yen for another dark-chocolate velvet tongue quest, but understands the consequences of too soon, too public and the inability to still anything started in that particular line of enquiry. Instead, she brushes purposely parted lips against his and moves back, smiling.


He continues his jawline exploration, she continues smiling.


She tightens the weave on his fingers that mushroom on her thigh, he decides her smile is better than anything.


He reminds himself to work towards a daily period of smiling, she watches his lips as they recover from her brush and is fascinated by the reflection of true happiness.


She leans and takes his used coffee cup from the seat to deposit in the waste, he stands with her and they move together in the same direction.


He sees his brother smirk in his direction, but his own smile is unyielding.


She is aware of his brother’s transient teasing, but her own smile is unflappable.


Sara has experienced the concept of couple from a distance, sometimes observing friends, watching the rituals of colleagues, of college mates. She has been a disjointed member of a twosome, bound by certain interests and longings, but has displaced. Easily, indifferently temporarily.


This is different.


Michael has experienced the concept of couple from many angles, often observing, watching with intent, noting points of interest and focus. He has learned and failed. He has striven and found the favourable option of sole. He has been a disjointed member of a twosome, bound by certain interests and longings, but has displaced. Tepidly, unemotionally. Relieved.


This is very different.


She holds his hand as they wander like tourists towards their awaiting courtesy van.


He wishes he was escorting her to an awaiting luxury car and they were on their way to a five-star hotel.


She is taken aback as he opens the door for her.


He is enamored by her appreciative whisper of thanks and a wafting of fingertips at the very base of his skull.


Sara sits so close to him in the backseat of the car, she thinks a slip of paper couldn’t fit between their bodies.


Michael ensures one couldn’t by blustering his arm about her shoulders and adhering her to his chest area so
he is unable to breath without her feeling the implication.


She is not happy when they have to move.


He is determine not to move.


She lets Lincoln and Kellerman finalize the details of where they are to rest for the night.


He couldn’t care less if Linc and Kellerman get their own double room because he is fully booked this particular evening.


She has never pined to be one of a couple.


He has never yearned to be a couple of ones.


Until now - and she’s not prepared to subtract anything from this specific Number Two.


Until now - and he knows he will never ever reduce this particular couple by half.


They begin to create their own Concept of the Couple.



The End