The bed was empty when Sara woke. Michael's side held just the sheet and the thin summer blanket she must have kicked off at some point in her sleep. Not that the bed was empty when she went up to bed the previous night. No, Michael had been there, his quiet breathing a tell tale sign that he was asleep and if he were dreaming, all was well that night, no nightmares were detectable in his easy slumber.
Sara in all honestly, had been relieved to be able to avoid the time alone with Michael. And she wasn't even sure why. He had been nothing but kind to her since his return, what little time they had spent together. But not once had they been left alone.
Michael's game of touch football with James, his feigned tiredness so he could turn in early for bed…No his efforts hadn't slipped past her. Sara had seen through all of those things to what they really were, Michael's efforts to avoid being alone with her.
So she had figured she would be doing both of them a favor by staying away from the bedroom as long as possible. In fact, it was for this purpose that when the Hannah Montana movie she had watched with Jessie ended, Sara had stayed in the family room pretending to read until she found herself starting to nod off.
It was nearly two am when she had finally headed up to bed. Upon seeing that Michael was asleep, Sara had quietly but quickly dressed for bed and slipped beneath the blankets only to lie there in the dark.
But despite the late hour and her level of exhaustion, sleep had eluded her. Sara wasn't sure how long she had spent staring at the back of Michael's neck wishing that she could slip inside his head, if only for a moment, just to see what he was thinking. Or better yet, to see what he truly thought of her…
Now that he was back, her anxiety had eased, and things were back to normal, -well at least as far as her family was concerned- Sara hadn't been able to stop thinking about the day of the hike and what Michael's reaction to her near fall might have meant.
His reaction and the words he had spoken reminded her so much of his dream speak. Something about the desperation in his voice…Had the whole incident somehow reminded him of Angela? And if so, how…Better yet, why?
At some point Sara must have drifted off to sleep, but her mind traveled back easily enough to that very thread as she lay in bed, the late morning sunlight filtering in through the partially drawn drapes, lighting Michael's side of the mattress.
And as she had told herself the night before, Sara reminded herself again now, that this, that any part of Michael's past, was none of her business. Michael's private life was just that, his private life and she had no business sticking her nose where it didn't belong.
But this knowledge didn't stop her from wanting to know these things about Michael's past, from craving that closeness with him. The kind of closeness where you could share anything with one another…Sara had never had that with anyone…unless you counted Amy and that just wasn't the same thing.
But no, she wouldn't ask Michael a thing about his whereabouts the night he hadn't come home…Just as she would never ask him about Angela. Because the truth of the matter, and Sara had no choice but to acknowledge this in the bright of day, the answer that had all but eluded her in the still of the night, the truth was, Michael didn't want to share these things with her. Whatever feelings he may have for her, he wasn't 'into' her that way.
Whatever the rose had meant, and for all Sara knew it meant absolutely nothing…Michael hadn't left it for her as a romantic gesture…That is unless he had intended for her to tell everyone about the rose…
After all, everything really was just for show, wasn't it…The kiss on her forehead upon his return, the kiss under the clover…
Maybe that was why she was avoiding being alone with him now…Maybe because being alone with him when he was trying to avoid her, only made it all that much more clear that his attention was all just an act.
Maybe it was just time that she faced the facts, no one had ever truly wanted her…So why should Michael Scofield be any different?
He was on his tenth lap across the pool, hoping that if he pushed his body to exhaustion, his mind might follow suit, making him too tired to think about Angela.
Too tired to worry about her was maybe a better way of putting it, Michael conceded, but then there was reason to worry.
He had called Fox River first thing that morning, rising early despite the fact that it had taken him hours to actually fall asleep the night before.
What he had wanted to do when he hung up the phone, despite Linc's reassurances, was to jump on a plane and go to her…This need and the constant worry, when he actually tried to lay down and go to sleep, had kept Michael tossing and turning until finally around midnight he had fallen into a dead, and thankfully dreamless sleep.
And now despite the facility's echo of reassurances, that Angela was fine and that other than a bit of congestion this morning, for which she was now receiving antibiotics, her condition hadn't changed…."Certainly no reason for you to cut your vacation short, Mr. Scofield," Michael could still hear Fox River's, head physician, Dr. Baur's voice as he tried to sound soothing.
Congestion…Was there such a thing as 'a little congestion' when you were in a vegetative state and the leading cause of death, for someone in said condition just happened to be pneumonia, an illness that at first could very likely appear to be nothing more than a cold with a little congestion?
It was all Michael could do now to keep from jumping out of the pool, running to pack his suitcase and heading out to the airport. His pace in the water increased as he transferred this urge into the breast stroke he was using to make his way across the pool…was that eleven laps or twelve…didn't matter…He pushed himself harder, swam faster…
He never even noticed Sara watching him from the bedroom window…
Michael had just stepped into the garden, hoping to make a quick phone call before anyone was aware of his absence. Sara, Katie and their mother Jill were still in the den going over the details for the up and coming wedding rehearsal dinner when he had decided to make his getaway.
But the truth was it wasn't Sara that would miss him. In fact, if anything she seemed to be trying to get rid of him lately. At least the thought had entered Michael's mind, if briefly. In fact, the idea had occurred to him that very afternoon, when shortly after lunch, Sara had suggested he hang out with her younger cousin.
Half an hour later Michael had found himself at an arcade with James, battling hordes of hungry zombies in the latest House of the dead video game mega hit. It had been a welcome distraction, he had to admit. It had gotten his mind off Angela, well sort of and if not, it was a hell of a lot easier pretending with James that nothing was wrong than it had been with the rest of Sara's family
Even Jessie had asked him what was wrong that morning at breakfast. He had used a headache as the excuse for his lack of appetite and quiet distraction. But how many headaches could he claim before they would, A. begin to doubt his sincerity, or B. insist he go in for a cat scan?
And Sara had dodged him once again after dinner.
Normally not one to want to hang out with her sister and mother, especially when they were settling in for a long wedding planning session, Michael had been surprised to hear Sara ask to join them that evening.
So no, it wasn't Sara Michael had sought to escape when he headed out to the garden, but rather her future brother in law Paul.
The men in the house had been left to fend for themselves that evening.
And while Frank had settled into a comfortable chair to watch something on the documentary channel.
Michael had thought himself lucky to escape the special about the black bear and its hibernation habits. But less than fifeteen minutes later he was wishing he hadn't tried so hard when Paul invited him to hang out and have a beer.
Lawyer that he was, Paul hadn't left so much as a loophole to escape this opportunity for male bonding, so Michael had found himself locked into a two hour plus conversation with the man. A conversation that moved from sports to politics and finally the most yawn worthy of the trio, Michael's legal needs.
Short of actually admitting he might need legal counsel if Kelvin were to screw him over back in Chicago -how's that for blowing something up Paulie?- Michael couldn't help picturing Paul's head exploding upon his admission that he was a prostitute and his pimp was being investigated by the Chicago PD.
Wasn't it Paul, who, shortly upon meeting, had inquired if Michael, as a part of his job as a structural engineer, got to 'blow stuff up'?
Nope, that wouldn't do at all. So, mind blowing details left for another time…or more like never…Michael had been forced to listen as Paul went on about the need for a last will and testament… But listen was the key word. All he had to do was nod and say, "Uh, huh," every once in a while and Paul was none the wiser.
And that was what Michael had done for a good portion of the two hours he had spent sitting across from the man. Well, that and sipping at his beer…Pretty safe territory for a guy whose mind, body and spirit longed to be elsewhere.
It wasn't until the words pre-nuptial agreement entered the atmosphere of Michael's consciousness that he made the excuse of needing to use the bathroom.
So here he was, the fresh air of the garden washing over him, the night air feeling good against his skin as the light breeze moved through the leaves and ruffled his short hair.
Michael took a deep breath and stared up at the sky. Stars like diamonds lit the night, as if in audience to the moon; a moon that if not full, the naked eye, so enthralled, would insist it must be so.
And it was so quiet out here…Michael found himself sighing along with the wind…
It was just as he was about to open his eyes and reach into a pocket for his cell phone, that a hand was clamped over his mouth.
Michael went instantly into defense mode.
He had faced a few disgruntled spouses in his line of work, nothing like this, but thanks to his martial arts trainer, he knew how to handle himself in just about any situation.
The next thing he knew he was looking down into the surprised features of Bradly Bellick.
"What the fuck Mike?!" Brad spat out in a rough whisper. Michael had flipped him like a sack of potatoes.
Brad sat up, oblivious to the perfect view his spot on the ground afforded him. Flat on his back like that he would have had the best view of the moon and stars, had he cared to look up at them.
Now sitting, Brad was rubbing his lower back, still glaring at Michael who was fighting annoyance as he gazed down at his assailant.
"What the fuck? I should be the one asking you that question, Brad. Like for example: What the fuck are you doing sneaking up on someone like that? I could have easily hurt you."
"Could have? What the hell are you, a ninja in your spare time? Jesus!" after a beat, "A little help? Please?"
Michael grabbed onto his outstretched hand and soon Brad was back on his feet, his right hand moving instantly to massage his lower back.
"You don't remember the plan do you?" Brad accused, his eyes still glaring, as he stood staring at Michael.
"The plan?" all annoyance had fled to be replaced by puzzlement.
Sighing, Brad lowered his voice, "Tonight's the night." When Michael simply stood staring at him with no change to his expression…We're gonna grab Paulie tonight? Remember… The bachelor party?"
As clarity dawned, Michael's features cleared. "Right…tonight's the night. The Bachelor party's tonight."
"Uh, huh and we gotta grab the groom- to be and split. That is if we want any chance at some fun."
At Michael's new look of puzzlement, Brad sighed and this time he did look up at the sky, not to enjoy the view, but as an expression of his annoyance. After a beat or two, he lowered his gaze and looked squarely at Michael, studying him.
And then speaking quietly…conspiratorially, "Come on Mike, it's the only way. You know as well as I do, Katie ain't gonna want her boy having that much fun. So we steal him away for the night...have him back first thing in the morning so there's no chance he will be late for that rehearsal dinner shin-dig thing...What do you say?" Brad rubbed his hands together excitedly then, "You in"?
Michael sighed as 'the plan' became clearer. They were going to kidnap Paul and take him to a surprise bachelor party; a surprise for him, and apparently, a surprise for Katie as well by the sounds of it.
Shit… And he had agreed to this? After how many drinks? But then Michael remembered the car ride. Brad had started talking about a bachelor party for Paul and Michael had tuned him out. Shit! Katie would not only be surprised, but she was sure to be pissed as hell when she realized what happened.
Was he in? Well, he had to admit he hadn't thought about Angela and his own troubles once since Brad had slipped his fingers over his eyes…And pissing off Katie? That would just be a bonus…"Okay...Okay, let's do this. Let's break him out."
"Now you're talkin'! I knew I could count on you, Mike! Let's do it! Booo-yaaah, baby Boo-yaah!"
As she sat listening to her mother say that they should have gone with the lobster instead of the filet mignon for about the fifth time in what had to be only twenty minutes, Sara felt her mind begin to wander. And its chosen path led straight to Michael, of course.
So far, she thought she had been successful at giving him what he seemed to want; time away from her. But Sara wasn't patting herself on the back for this accomplishment. No, if anything these thoughts left her feeling even more empty and alone.
But soon this would be over, and when it was she would be back in Chicago….alone. When this was all over she would very likely never see Michael Scofield again. So she might as well get used to it.
Besides, it hurt too much lately anyways; being around him, knowing what she knew, that he just wished to avoid her…
These thoughts were interrupted by the squealing of tires and someone bellowing, "Boo-Yaah!" at the top of their lungs.
Sara was only slightly behind in following her mother and her sister Katie to the door. But once she had caught up, all there was to see was a strip of rubber on the driveway near the road and the acrid smell of burnt tires that lingered in the air.
Who ever it was…they were long gone…
The music was loud and Michael was drunk…maybe more drunk than he could remember ever having been, and that was saying something if you were to include his pre-Angela days.
Looking around at the ciaos of activity in the hotel room Brad had procured for the evening, Michael's blurry vision focused for a moment as they landed on Paul. The hottie on his lap was wearing little more than a smile…and well she was kind of wearing Paul Kellerman… Yeah, Katie would be pissed alright.
Not one to be unusually spiteful even while intoxicated, Michael grinned, tipped his drink to the two of them and then tilted his head back to gulp down the beer in his hand. But the sudden movement was maybe a little too much for Michael in his current state. When the lip of the bottle met his lips, he lost his balance and if not for the hands that came from behind him, he very likely would have landed on his ass.
"Hey, take it easy there babe; you don't want to hurt yourself, do you?" A pair of bright red lips were smiling at him.
Michael's eyes scanned over her. The woman attached to the bright red lips was one of the strippers Brad had hired for the party, Brandi wasn't it? "Yeah, like the drink," Michael remembered her response when one of Paul's friends from college had asked her earlier.
Even in his drunken state, Michael couldn't help but think that Brandi was looking at him like she would like to drink him down in one swallow.
She was tall, blonde, maybe twenty five, and she had a body to die for.
Michael thought maybe she could do it too…Drink him down, that is. "Gulp!"
"What?" Brandi leaned in closer to him, her lips grazing his neck as she sought out his ear.
Someone had chosen that moment to turn the already loud music a decibel or two higher.
"Never mind! I think you're too thirsty for me." Michael shouted in her direction. And then, not sure if she had heard him and really too drunk to even care, Michael staggered away from the blonde.
He was still talking, to no one and anyone as he walked across the room looking for a chair, "I gotta siddown."
At first he just spilt his beer and then he dropped the whole bottle. It rolled, until it came into contact with a table leg, but Michael took no notice of this. In fact he was still holding his hand out like the bottle was still in his grip, or maybe it was just for balance.
Unable to find a chair that wasn't occupied, he barely made it to a corner of the room, where he then slid down to a sitting position, and leaned his head back against the wall.
His last thought was that the room was spinning and damn-it, Brad should stop spinning the God damn room!
And then Michael was out for the count…
(The next morning)
It was well past noon when Michael slammed the car door shut, tapped it lightly and sent Brad Bellick on his way.
He was pretty sure Paul was wishing he had never been born, right about now. And if the look on Katie's face when they dropped her fiancé off was any indication of the amount of trouble the old boy was in then, "I pity the fool," Michael finished the thought aloud as he let himself in with the spare key he had been given to carry for the duration of his and Sara's stay.
He shut the door quietly, not because he didn't want to draw attention to himself, it was more to keep his already pounding skull from exploding. But he did like the idea of escaping upstairs without detection…At least until he started to feel a little more human.
The night before was still a jumble of drunken images in his brain and for some reason all Michael could remember was a blonde who wanted a big gulp…or maybe it was a slurpee?
God, his brain felt fried! And the more he tried to remember, the more it seemed to sizzle.
He just wanted a shower, another dose of caffeine and maybe another aspirin or two, and not particularly in that order.
Thinking he had actually made it through the house unnoticed, Michael slipped inside the bedroom and quietly shut the door behind him.
It was only when he turned around, that he realized he was not alone in the room.
She told herself to not look up at him, to just keep reading the book in her hands, but when he turned around, Sara found her copper eyes trapped within his blue ones and she was unable to look away.
It was Michael who broke the staring contest first, his head dipping down as he began to unbutton his shirt.
"Hey," just the one small word, loud in the intense quiet, as he moved through the room, his fingers busy at their task.
His shirt was half way unbuttoned when Sara finally responded with a quiet, "Hey," of her own, and tipped her head back down to her book, letting her hair fell over her eyes in a convenient curtain to hide her troubled features.
She knew exactly where he had been the night before; they had conveniently left a note. Michael's idea most likely...Or maybe Paul's. Sara doubted Brad Bellick, most likely the deviant mastermind behind the whole thing, would think to be so considerate.
"I'm going to take a shower." This was said as he tossed his shirt onto the chair by the door.
"Okay. Um, the rehearsal dinner is tonight, so you should probably shave too." Why had she said that? She wasn't his mother. If he wanted to go scruffy she should let him.
"Yeah, okay." And then the tension in the room so thick you could cut it with a knife, Michael slipped inside the bathroom and quietly shut the door, leaving Sara alone with her thoughts.
What are you looking at, asshole? This was Michael's silent question addressed to the scruffy looking man that greeted him in the bathroom mirror. It wasn't like he had done anything wrong. Men went to bachelor parties all the time, didn't they? And he was just playing the role Sara had paid him to play…How could she be upset with him for that?
If he had bowed out it would have looked bad…
But Michael knew the real reason, the selfish reason that had made him agree to go to the bachelor party in the first place....Angela...He had just wanted to forget for a moment, to forget that every moment he spent away from her, he was letting her down.
But it was Sara, he couldn't stop thinking about now, as he stared at his own reflection. He couldn't seem to get the memory of her hurt expression out of his head, her soft "Hey," in response to his greeting.
But why was she upset?
Was it possible that Sara blamed him for anything Paul might have gotten up to? Not that he remembered Paul getting up to anything, but if he did do something wrong, it wasn't Michael's fault. A grown man should be held accountable for his own actions…Shouldn't he?
His eyes held steady in the mirror, blood shot blue on blood shot blue.
Who was he trying to kid… Michael knew exactly how and why Sara could be upset with him; he just hadn't wanted to admit it to himself.
She was a woman, and some women got upset thinking about their guy going to a bachelor party.
But I'm not Sara's guy, Michael reminded himself. I'm just her paid escort.
His eyes held those of the all knowing stranger's in the mirror for a moment longer.
"Asshole," the word was said quietly and then he was stepping to the shower to crank on the taps.
Michael had a feeling it was going to take more than a shower, some aspirin, and another dose of caffeine, in any order you could serve it up, to make him feel human any time soon.
Sara's eyes never left the book she was holding, but she couldn't tell you any of the words that were written upon it.
As she sat waiting for her cue, the sound the shower would make as it came to life, she went over the last few moments in time. Each tick of the clock accounted for, from the moment he walked through the door to the moment the bathroom door had closed behind him.
And if Sara had thought she felt alone before Michael's arrival, she felt it a thousand fold now. But no matter what she was feeling, she knew one thing; she couldn't still be here, in this room when he came out of the bathroom….not unless she wanted him to see her cry.
The sound of the shower's spray set her into motion. Putting the book aside, Sara rose from her spot on the bed and made her way to the door.
Michael's shirt still lay where he had left it, on the chair. Unable to stop herself, she picked up the simple white dress shirt.
Why Sara had felt compelled to touch it, she wasn't sure. Maybe because it had been so long since she had last touched Michael himself. She certainly hadn't picked it up to inspect it like some jealous housewife.
But what ever the reason, Sara found herself holding the shirt, her body suddenly held straight as she went very still; as her vision blurred with the tears that had all this time stood threatening.
It was now, only now, that she would allow those tears to fall.
One moment they were as if frozen in place, and the next, they were washing away her sight, until Sara could no longer see the bright red lipstick smeared on Michael's shirt collar…