If he was asked to define Hell on Earth at this exact moment, Michael Scofield thinks, he would be tempted to simply wave a weary hand at his current situation. Then again, he's thought he was going to die at least three times in the last ten minutes, so maybe he's not the best one to judge.
Sweats drips into his eyes, making them sting, and each pounding step sends a quiver of agony through his calf muscles. As the footsteps over his shoulder grow closer and closer, he sucks in another desperate lungful of oxygen, pushing himself even harder, because he has no intention of letting his tormentor win this particular battle.
Five minutes later, he's bent over at the waist, his hands on his hips, gulping in as much air as his lungs will hold. The hearty slap on the back nearly knocks him off-balance, but the teasing jibe that follows is enough to make him pull himself upright. "Man, you'd better be in shape by the time number two arrives, or you'll never survive."
Michael swipes his arm across his face, wiping the sweat from his eyes to allow him to glare at his running companion. "Is that the voice of experience talking, or are you just being a pain in the ass?"
His brother grins, teeth flashing white in his tanned face. "Little from column A, little from column B." He flicks his wrist, and a small bottle of water arcs through the air between them. "Vee does most of the running after our two and she does it without breaking a sweat." He gives a good-natured roll of the eyes. "And you know how she is about exercising on purpose."
Michael chuckles as he catches the bottle of water, relieved that his straining lungs still seem to be working properly. Veronica's steadfast refusal to step foot inside her husband's gym unless it's to check the books and read over the staff's employment contracts has always amused him, but it seems to work for them. "Newborns can't run," he points out mildly, and Lincoln gives him a look of pure condescension.
"You'll see," his brother says in a cheerfully ominous voice. "You guys still coming to our place next Sunday?"
"That depends." Tilting back his head, he drains half the bottle in a few gulps, then grins at his brother. "Have you learned to cook hamburgers without burning the crap out of them yet?"
The insult, as always, rolls straight off Lincoln's shoulders. "One man's charcoal is another man's well-done, bro."
"We'll be there," Michael tells him as they begin to trudge back towards where they'd parked their cars. "We'll be putting in the usual appearance at the Executive Mansion on Saturday night for the fireworks, but Sunday is all yours."
It takes his brother a moment to reply – his mind is obviously still focused on the workout they've just done, one finger pressed against the pulse beneath his jaw, his gaze intent on his watch – but eventually he tosses Michael an openly curious glance. "How are things between you and old Frank these days?"
Michael takes a moment to consider the question. The road to forging a decent relationship with Frank Tancredi over the last three years has been a bumpy one, to say the least. Given the first stumbling block was Sara falling pregnant three months into their relationship, Michael decided long ago that things could only improve from there. "Not too bad."
Lincoln smirks. "I guess seeing as you've knocked up his daughter within the confines of wedlock this time around -"
Michael might be tempted to be insulted, but as usual, his brother has pretty much hit the nail on the head. Knowing it's easier to join them than beat them when it comes to Lincoln, he grins at him. "Yeah, we're hoping that little fact might even make up for getting married on a beach instead of in St Paul's cathedral."
"I wouldn't hold your breath." His brother laughs out loud, the sound almost startling in the pre-dawn tranquillity around them. "Vee's father might be a drunken bum, but at least he didn't give a damn about the wheres and whos when we got hitched."
Michael retrieves his car keys from the pocket of his sweats. "I thought he was going to AA?"
"When it suits him." He shrugs. "It's like Sara told Vee, it's not going to work until he actually wants to quit boozing. Until then, he's just going for the free cookies and coffee." He knocks his knuckles on the hood of Michael's SUV. "How's it running?"
"Pretty good," Michael says with a grin, reaching up to tap his fingers on the roof of the car he'd bought the day they'd discovered Sara was pregnant, trading in the Audi without a second's hesitation.
Lincoln eyes the keys in his brother's hand, a familiar smirk playing about his lips. "Just as well, man. Embarrassing to drive an Audi with such a dorky key ring."
Michael spins his car keys around on his index finger, making the small plastic space ship fly through the air. "You're just jealous you don't have one."
"That'll be the day." His brother rolls his eyes as he trudges the short distance to his own car. "When did she give you that thing, on your first date?"
"Third date," Michael corrects him, not bothering to suppress what he suspects is a goofy smile. It was three years ago, but the memory of Sara presenting him with the Millennium Falcon key ring she'd found on eBay is still as sharp as the day it happened. Of course, the key ring hadn't been the only thing she'd given him that day –
Startled, he looks across to see Lincoln staring at him, his hands on his hips. "Uh, sorry, what?"
"I said I'll see you on Sunday." His brother shakes his head, looking more amused than annoyed. "Bring beer."
Michael rolls his own eyes. As if he'd turn up to a barbecue at Lincoln's without beer. He's not sure he'd be let in the front door, only brother or not. "Say hi to Vee for me."
Home is only a fifteen minute drive, and the house is quiet and still when he lets himself in the front door. He'd initially resisted Lincoln's suggestion of an especially early run this morning, but now he's glad. The weekend stretches out before him, free and clear, two whole days to spend with the two people he likes most in the world.
He eases off his running shoes inside the door, and pads through the house, his sock-clad feet silent on the wooden floorboards. As he gently places his wallet and car keys on the dining room table, he looks - as he always does – at the framed photograph sitting on top of the bookcase and, as always, it makes him smile. The silver frame itself is nondescript, surrounding a candid photograph taken three years ago. He doesn't have to look at the back of the photograph to remember the note scribbled there; he's long learned it by heart.
Dear Sara, the honeymoon was wonderful! We must catch up soon, but I was just going through the candids that the official photographer took during the reception and found this one. Thought you might like it as a souvenir of our special day. Hope you got his number! Love Bec xoxox
In the photograph, he and Sara are sitting at his table at the wedding reception. Sara is talking, her hands curved in the air between them as if she's making a particularly emphatic point. He's gazing at her, apparently completely oblivious to everything else around him. Michael smiles as he straightens the frame. His brother might say that nothing much has changed since then, but there is one little difference.
He stops at the first bedroom off the hallway, holding his breath as he silently opens the door. To his relief, Christopher is still asleep, his normally frenetic motion interrupted by slumber, his light brown hair clipped in a new haircut that reminds Michael very much of LJ as a child. Pulling the door shut with exaggerated care, he walks silently to the main bathroom to take a very quick shower. He would very much like to take advantage of the fact that their son is still asleep, but he doesn't think his wife would appreciate the earthiness of his post-running glow.
Wrapping a towel around his waist, he dumps his running gear into the laundry basket, then eases open the door to the master bedroom. Sara is still asleep too, her arms wrapped around one of his pillows, her bright red hair a vivid tumble against the green sheets. As he drops the damp towel onto the floor (mental note, he thinks, pick up towel before she sees it) and slides into bed beside her, she shifts restlessly, then rolls onto her side to face him. "How was your run?" Her voice is thick with sleep, but her smile is as warm as the sunshine beginning to creep through the wooden blind at their window.
She chuckles under her breath, curling her arm around his waist as he stretches out beside her. "How's your brother?"
"Annoying." Wrapping his arm around her, he pulls her closer, his body instantly coming alive at the feel of her against him. She smells of soap and sleep and Sara, and he wants nothing more than to kiss her from her throat to her toes and everywhere in between.
She smiles against the curve of his bare shoulder, apparently oblivious to his increasingly lurid thoughts. "What time are they expecting us on Sunday?"
"Uh, he didn't say."
"Well, they've held a 4th July barbecue every year since I met you, so I guess the usual time will be fine." She yawns softly, arching her back as she stretches her legs, her feet brushing against his. Her hand slides from his chest to his belly, then a little lower, then stops. "Um, Michael?"
He closes his eyes, giving himself over to the simple pleasure of her touch. "Hmmmm?"
She trails her fingertips up his bare thigh, then draws a teasing circle around his groin. "You're not wearing any clothes."
"I took a shower," he manages to say, his whole body tightening with anticipation of her next touch.
"Christopher is sound asleep, I'm awake and you're not wearing any clothes." Her voice humming with quiet laughter, she wraps her hand around him, making him suck in a sharp breath and dig his heels into the mattress. "Can you do the math here, or do I have to be pushy about this?"
Letting out his breath in a rush, he rolls onto his side, pushing one leg between hers as he peels up her sleeveless pyjama top with one hand. "I'm very good at math," he tells her with a smile.
Her pyjamas are soon lost in the bedclothes, her arms sliding around his neck as he reaches for her. Her breasts are fuller now, filling his hands as he bends his head to kiss each one in turn. Her fingers dig into his shoulders with each new scrape of his teeth and touch of his tongue, her body shifting restlessly beneath his, her breath coming faster, louder. When she arches her back, exhaling a sigh of pleasure as she tilts back her head, he needs no further encouragement. He scrapes his morning beard against her throat, tasting the goosebumps that rise up on her skin, then settles himself in the cradle of her thighs. "And how are we feeling this morning, Doctor Tancredi?"
"Pretty good," she murmurs, tightening his legs around him. "And you?"
He closes his eyes as he sinks into her in a slow slide of heat and flesh, a groan rumbling in his throat as her hips instantly rise to meet his, each languid thrust making him see stars behind his eyelids. "Great. Good. Couldn't be better. Oh, God, Sara-"
She kisses him, swallowing his groan of delight, her fingers pressing deep into the muscles of his back. Her skin is already flushed, the tight buds of her nipples brushing against his bare chest, her body slick and hot around his. It's always been good between them, right from the very first time, but pregnancy seems to agree with her in more ways than one, and he is eternally grateful.
She buries her face against his shoulder when she comes, shuddering beneath him with a muffled cry, beating him to the finish line by mere seconds. He slumps over her, feeling as though his entire skeletal system has been replaced with warm jello, his brain with melted Playdough. And that thought alone, he decides wryly as Sara strokes his damp back, is a sure sign he now thinks like a parent.
It's also a reminder there is one person he hasn't checked on this morning. Wrapping one arm around her hips, he slides downward until his cheek is resting on the swell of her stomach. "Good morning in there." He kisses Sara's navel, then presses his ear against the high curve of her belly. "Hey, I can hear the ocean."
"Idiot," his wife chuckles, her fingers snaking pathways through his cropped hair as the unmistakable sounds of their firstborn waking up start to filter underneath their bedroom door. "It's your turn, Scofield."
Feigning a weary sigh, he disentangles himself. "A man works five days a week, you'd think he'd be allowed a little more shuteye on a Saturday morning."
She pinches him somewhere very interesting, halting his efforts to leave their rumpled bed. "Sure, but only if his wife is a lady of leisure."
Between working as a counsellor at their local NA center and looking after one and a half children, he's pretty sure she doesn't qualify for that particular title. "Curse your legal mumbo jumbo."
Having hastily donned a pair of boxers, he pauses at the door, turning to study her. The forest green sheets reveal far more skin than they conceal, the contrast of her bright hair against them making him think of mermaids and oceans and bright June sunshine outside a gothic cathedral. She stretches languidly, her arms raised high above her head, then catches his eye. She smiles, her dark gaze glowing with lazy satisfaction. "Something wrong?"
He grins. "Not a thing."