“You are so beautiful,” he says, fingers groping blindly for hers as she hastily checks his vital signs, a light flush crawling up the skin of her neck.
She doesn’t pull her fingers away from his fast enough, the roughened pads of his fingertips ghosting along her left hand a beat longer than she ought to allow. He’s hurt, she has a job to do and they’re far from alone.
“Looks like the doc’s got herself an admirer,” Bellick’s voice pronounces haughtily, his voice grating on Sara’s ears.
“It’s the sedatives talking,” she says crisply, but she spares Michael a faint smile.
“It’s not just that though,” he says, his voice groggy and slurred in a way that’s ill-fitting for someone who plays his cards so close to his chest. “If you knew what I feel for you, what you do to me...”
Her pulse is pounding madly, her focus drifting back to his too-intense eyes. She knows they’re being watched and she’s sure any or all of them must hear her heartbeat quicken, her breathing go shallow and too rapid. But his eyes have pinned her in place and she can’t shake the weight of his gaze.
“You and every other sorry inmate in this place. Save it for your bunk-time, Scofield,” Bellick taunts, jarring her free and making her jaw clench in annoyance.
She’s glad Michael’s sedated when Brad says it because the comment seems to float right past him. It’s cheapening and degrading - to her, to them - and she’s pretty sure if Michael weren’t drugged at the moment he’d start something with the C.O. that would end with him in solitary confinement.
“I want so much from you, Sara,” he says, regaining her attention and heightening her anxiety, his words hearkening back to a conversation they shouldn’t have had just a day ago. “I want so much with you. To take you away from here, give you my name, give you myself.”
She can’t breathe, vision swimming in a way that makes her wonder if maybe she’s somehow been sedated too. It’s so big and so heavy and so earnest. She knows he means it, sedative or not, and that should scare her. Really it should. He’s an inmate. And, to be honest, she doesn’t know him half as well as she likes to think she does. But, God, it doesn’t. It makes her giddy and flushed and anything but scared because he’s Michael and she’s Sara and as wrong as all of this is, there’s more to it that’s right than not.
Bellick’s saying something, she knows. Probably something obnoxious and crude, but she doesn’t hear him. The laughter of the other C.O.s only rings faintly in the distance to her ears. But Michael... Michael she hears loud and clear.
“I can’t stop thinking about you,” he tells her, his voice low and his fingers trailing along the underside of her wrist where Bellick and his boys can’t see. “The way you smile. The way you laugh. How soft your skin is. The way your hair feels sliding between my fingers.”
It’s the guards stopping laughing that draws her attention back to the real world. Back to where Michael is a prisoner and she’s his doctor. Talk of smiles and laughter were all well and good. But the feel of skin and hair spoke of far more intimacy than she could easily explain away.
“Man are you a piece of work, lover-boy,” Bellick says, voice heavy with irritation. “Can’t you give him something to shut him up, doc?”
That is, quite possibly, the best idea that Bellick has ever had, Sara thinks.
“Katie,” she says, gently easing her hand away from Michael and turning to face her nurse’s sympathetic but suspicious eyes. “We can’t do this with him this... interactive. Let’s put him under.”
“You’re the doctor,” Katie replies by way of agreement and rebuke.
And she is. She is. But she’s more than that, too.
A lot of people talk with their hands, gesture wildly and without much awareness of what their fingers are saying. Not Michael. His movements are controlled, precise, exacting.
“One more day, Sara,” he says, fingers sliding along her forearm in a strange combination of intimacy and innocence. “One more day. That’s all I’m asking.”
She can’t look him in the eye precisely because she knows exactly what she’ll see there and it will be her undoing. His eyes will mirror his speech, his hands. She’s having a hard enough time keeping herself focused under his words and his touch; she can’t possibly maintain her sanity under his gaze, too. And she needs to be sane, to be sober. Like it or not, she can’t live her life drunk on him and high on the adrenaline rush of the police on her heels. God, she wants to though. As much as she’s ever wanted morphine or scotch, she wants him, wants this with him.
“Then go get cleaned up,” she says, her voice grittier than she’d like. “Keep this dry.”
He’s hesitant to stand, to walk away, and she wonders if some part of him knows that she’ll be gone when he comes back. The mattress creaks wearily as he rises from it, the dull noise filling their small room, echoing strangely in the space where words unsaid ought to reside.
“Sara?” he says after crossing the room, her name sounding heavy on his tongue. “I’m glad you came.”
He glances at her briefly but mostly stares at his hands as he speaks, running the fingers of his right hand along the digits of his left.
She nods but doesn’t say anything, not trusting herself to speak at all now that they’ve finally made even the slightest bit of eye contact.
“It’s... there are some things we can do, you know,” he tells her suddenly, still playing with his fingers but staring at her uneasily.
“Do?” she asks blankly, her voice sounding far away to her own ears.
“Added protection... from the feds, anyhow,” he clarifies, seeming uncomfortable in his own skin as he speaks for the first time since she met him.
“Like what?” she asks, busying her hands with cleaning up the first aid supplies.
“There are certain... situations... where you can’t be forced to testify against someone.”
She drops the gauze and blinks, looking up at him.
“Spousal privilege?” she asks disbelievingly.
“Yeah,” he breathes, sounding a little relieved at not having to explain his line of thinking to her.
“Michael...” she laughs sharply - it’s not a pretty sound - and runs her fingers through her hair. “In case you’d forgotten, you’re married.”
“I know,” he winces regretfully. “But Linc’s not.”
She stares at him agape, brow knit and jaw tense. There’s a thousand things she feels in this moment - anger, disbelief, disappointment - but it can all be summed up by a single word. Frustrated.
“No,” she says darkly, finally.
“Sara, I just want the both of you safe,” he says, the weight of responsibility heavy in his voice. “If neither of you can be forced to give the other one up, that’s just one more safeguard.”
“I’m not marrying your brother,” Sara replied with great finality. “And even if I would, he wouldn’t. And even if I would and he would, neither one of us is in a position where we can waltz into city hall to apply for a license anyhow.”
“There are ways around that,” he tells her.
“Oh my God, you’ve researched this,” she says in astonishment, though - really - she should have figured.
“Sara...” he chokes out, having the grace to look at little embarrassed.
“Would you stop saying my name like that?” she asks.
“Like what?” he asks, confused.
“Like... like you’re caressing it or something. I’d really like to be mad at you right now,” she replies, standing and crossing her arms in front of her chest.
He spans the room back to her in three big steps, taking her hands in his and untangling her arms. She stares at their hands instead of his eyes because, for the moment, it seems the safer option. She has to leave - has to.
“You think it’s what I want?” he asks her, eyes piercing straight through her as his hands trace lines along her left ring finger. “You with Linc? You with any other man?”
She pinches her eyes shut because she can’t watch their hands. Not like this. Not when she hears everything he isn’t saying so loudly. Not when he’s rubbing circles around her finger like he’s tattooing a ring on it, branding it with his touch.
“I just want you two safe,” he implores. “That’s all I’ve ever wanted.”
“Yeah, well,” she says finally, blinking her eyes open and finally staring up at him, feeling like she’s drowning in his gaze and held in place by it all at once. “I refuse to make you my brother-in-law.”
“Yeah,” he breathes, resting his forehead against hers.
He sounds more relieved than anything, even though the whole thing was his idea. Their fingers are intertwined and his head is bowed to touch hers for a long moment before he draws back and leaves a lingering, mostly innocent kiss on her brow. She feels cherished, adored. She feels high on him all over again. And when he finally leaves to clean up in the other room, she knows she’ll still be here when he comes back out.
He’s talking to everyone - the whole world - but he’s speaking only to her. Alex Mahone has this figured out moments after watching the recording a second time, surrounded by too many suits and too few minds. What he’s saying to her, however, takes a bit longer to suss out.
“This isn’t about Terrance Steadman and it’s not about their innocence,” Mahone says when it clicks into place.
“What do you mean?” Agent Lange asks, her voice solid and expectant of answers she knows no one but Alex can even hazard a guess at.
“They’re not going after the president; They’re going after the doctor. I want everything we’ve got on Sara Tancredi,” Mahone follows up, voice increasing in urgency as he speaks. “Friends, families, pen-pals. If anybody so much as wrote her a thank you note, I wanna know where the hell they are. Now!”
“Alex,” Lange interrupts, her eyes darting back and forth between Scofield and Burrows’ twin gazes on the screen. “I think I know something.”
“What?” Mahone asks urgently, striding back toward his colleague.
“Just... rewind it a bit. Back to just before Burrows glances over at Scofield,” she requests.
“Do it,” Mahone orders the technician needlessly, a proverbial exclamation point on her appeal.
“Sara,” the voice on the flatscreen says solemnly, “I’ve tried to tell you this before, but the words have just come out wrong.”
“Pause it,” Lange orders as Burrows glances oddly at Scofield on the screen.
“Burrows is surprised,” Mahone says, his head ticking to the side as he studies the brothers.
“You think Scofield is saying something that wasn’t planned?” the analyst questions.
“Scofield doesn’t do anything unplanned,” Mahone counters. “But he’s saying something they didn’t plan. This is all him. Resume the tape.”
“I know it’s kind of late. But this is something that I’ve just got to say. The parting gift I left for you? I’d give it to you a thousand times over if you’d let me,” Scofield continues, looking as wholesome as a tattooed con-man on the run possibly can.
“So what did he leave her?” Mahone asks, expecting Lange to have the answer.
“We re-interviewed all of the staff and inmates at Fox River when Dr. Tancredi disappeared,” says an eager agent somewhere in the back of the room that Alex doesn’t recognize but probably should. “As far as we know he made her an ash tray when he was in the psych ward, made her an origami rose for her birthday according to the prison nurse and per several inmates he was seen folding an origami bird that was probably given to her as well.”
“I don’t know about that,” Lange replies. “But the rest of it is lyrics.”
“Pardon?” Mahone questions, surprise written across his face. “Lyrics to what?”
Lange commandeers a computer from one of the techs and quickly peruses the internet before finding what she’s looking for.
“Seriously?” Mahone asks, laughing as he runs his hands through his hair in frustration.
“Start researching origami roses,” the analyst suddenly suggests. “Maybe there’s a... a garden of a thousand roses or something that we can find them at.”
“Don’t waste your time,” Mahone counters. “It’s not a meeting he’s setting up.”
“What is it then?” the analyst asks.
Mahone turns the monitor swiftly toward the other man, gesturing to its screen, the lyrics to “I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Song” sprawled across the glowing screen.
“It’s a proposal,” he replies. “A thousand origami cranes are part of a marriage ceremony. The bastard just used national television to propose to his girlfriend.”
It’s kind of incredible that things can go from perfect to perfectly horrible in no time flat. But it’s even more incredible that this still surprises him.
One minute he looks up to see her standing on the bow of the boat, serenely looking like she stepped right out of his daydreams, right out of his plans. The next? There’s a gun pointed at them - his brother as close to death as he ever was with wet sponges attached to his head and his wrists bound to a chair. A shot rings out, a body falls and sirens wail in the distance. And, again, they run. Another marathon just as they finished their last.
As they find temporary refuge in the ruins of a long-ago abandoned building, footsteps too close and too many behind them for comfort, she nearly collapses out of breath and reeling from shock.
He scans the area around the building through holes in the walls large enough to fit the muzzle of a gun through. Details are, after all, his specialty. Three men to the east, four to the northwest, at least three on the south and footsteps still breaking branches as they encroach upon the shack. Each man with a Colt M16A4, thirty rounds per magazine, at least 300 bullets headed their way if they don’t give themselves up and no cover between the rickety structure and the treeline twenty feet around their perimeter.
All of it plays out in his head like a math problem: velocity, trajectory, angles. Probabilities damn near calculate themselves. If they fight now, here, they go down fighting. The only way they come out of this alive is by walking out that door before the bullets fly.
“You and I, we have a date, remember? Two limes. A couple of beers. Don’t forget that,” he finds himself telling her.
But as he says it, he finds himself wondering if that vision could ever have happened. Does anyone’s ‘happily ever after’ ever come true or is it just his family that’s been karmically screwed? It sure didn’t pan out for his parents, for his brother and Vee, for his brother and Lisa, even. Why should they be different? Why would they get to sail off into the sunset just because he planned it that way?
“We’re going to walk out of here together,” he’s saying, his voice oddly steady given the turbulence underneath. “We’re going to explain everything. And I’m going to do whatever I can to help you.”
She’s teary, but trusting, nodding fiercely and leaning into his deceptively strong arms. The framework of a plan forms in his mind, a terrible plan, one that - even if it works - doesn’t end well. For several moments, he’s convinced it’s all they’ve got.
“Two limes and a couple of beers,” she repeats brokenly, searching his face for reassurance or absolution.
And the plan, such as it was, crumbles away, too shaky in its foundation to hold up under the weight of hope written across Sara’s face.
It occurs to him, suddenly, finally, that his father left his mother, his brother drove Veronica away and Linc and Lisa fought for everything but each other. They forfeit their dreams the moment they gave up. He won’t give up. Not on her. Not on them. She deserves better than that and she wants more from him than a fall guy.
The only thing left, the only other option, is doing exactly what he told Sara in the first place. He will probably still be sent to prison, he knows. Maybe she will too. Maybe they’ll both be executed before they can get a word out. But, damn it, they’ll still be fighting for that dream of Baja (or Panama or Thailand or wherever they happen to be so long as it’s together). And that’s worth something. It’s worth everything.
“Sand in our toes and sun on our faces,” he confirms, brushing her hair away from her face. “For the rest of our lives.”
“For the rest of our lives,” she echoes, nodding in almost frantic agreement. And all at once, he knows, as terrifying as this course of action is, it’s the right one.
“I love you,” she says, throwing her arms around him and kissing him with pained desperation.
“I love you, too, Sara,” he responds, concentrating on the feel of her hand on his cheek, her body in his arms, because this, this is what it’s all about.
“You ready?” he asks.
She’s not. He’s not. But it’s as close to ready as they’re likely to get and they step out into the sunlight together.
When he said he had a plan to make all this right, so many months ago, she’s pretty sure this wasn’t what he meant. The boat is long gone, as is Panama and Baja and beers with limes. Truth be told, they went off-plan a long time ago. They’ve basically been winging it for months.
She’s sitting alone in a poorly lit motel room that charges by the hour and asks no questions, trying not to think about when the last time the sheets on the bed were likely to have been washed. The disposable cell phone in her hand stubbornly refuses to ring and she’s growing more anxious by the second. They learned the hard way not to split up and doing so tonight has made her incredibly uneasy.
As a way to occupy herself and pass the time, she’s resorted to reciting bone diseases alphabetically in her head, an old study trick from med school. She’s gotten all the way to fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva before the doorknob turns and the security chain goes taut.
“Sara? It’s me,” he says and she lets out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding as she rushes to the door.
She knows his voice by heart, has heard it in her dreams both asleep and awake for nearly a year now, but still checks the peephole before unlatching the chain.
“Took you long enough,” she says finally, letting him in out of the pouring rain and relatching the door before throwing her arms around him tightly.
He is soaking wet and she is too now, but that’s okay because it’s only water, after all. He kisses her hard, his hands against her face, rivulets of water trailing off his nose onto her cheek.
She sighs as the kiss ends. The feel of his lips against hers, his roughened fingertips against her skin reassuring her that he is there and whole and they are fine.
“Did you get it?” she asks finally.
“I did,” he confirms, a ghost of a secret hidden in the small smile on his face. “Want to see?”
He doesn’t wait for an answer but gently takes her by the hand and walks her over to the bed, pulling her down to sit next to him as he wrests an envelope from his coat pocket.
There is still a bounty on their heads, likely always will be. The government might not want them anymore - at least officially - but The Company certainly still wants them dead. In today’s world, identification is necessary but anonymity is life. This has proven a difficult obstacle, since most of the criminal element who can provide them with the former would happily rob them of the latter for the right price.
A pair of passports, social security cards, birth certificates and driver’s licenses slip from the envelope easily into her hand and she studies them with a discerning eye.
“This is good work,” she starts, glancing up at his anxious smile before looking back at the IDs. “Whoever did this is really...”
Her voice trails off as she looks beyond the holographic marks and the fonts and the lamination jobs to the details beyond. Cara Fox and Mitchell Fox. Cara and Mitchell Fox.
She looks back up at him, her heart pounding in her throat and her mouth parted a little in surprise. He’s giving her that half-smile she knows so well. The same balance of brazen and bashful that won her over so quickly a year ago, a lifetime ago, when she was a doctor and he was an inmate.
Her gaze breaks from him only briefly when she hears a flutter of paper and looks down to find another document has fallen from the envelope onto her lap: a marriage license for Cara and Mitchell Fox.
“What do you think?” he asks, sounding infinitely more nervous than any time she’s ever heard him before.
Her grin back at him is huge. And it doesn’t matter that they’re in a seedy motel or that they don’t have a plan or that people in every town on the planet seemingly want them dead. In this moment, she has everything she wants and it is all worth it.
“It’s perfect,” she says.
And it is.
Author's Chapter Notes:
I’m so late to the party on this show that I literally missed the whole damn party. I watched the entirety of the series over a span of three weeks just last month. Though I’ve been writing fanfic for nearly twenty years, this is my first Prison Break fic. It won’t be my last. I would hugely, tremendously, appreciate feedback. Thank you for reading!