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22 March 2007 @ 01:25 pm
Scars & Souvenirs (1/1)  
Title: Scars & Souvenirs
Fandom: Prison Break
Character/Pairing: Michael Scofield/Sara Tancredi, mentions of Frank Tancredi
Word Count: 3,028
Rating: PG
Spoilers: 2.07, "Buried"
Summary: Michael learns that even the people who seem the strongest eventually have a moment of weakness.
Author's Note: Prison Break and its characters have been manipulated here without the knowledge or consent of 20th Century FOX Television. I am not affiliated with the show, its production companies or cast members and no copyright infringement is intended.



...You peel all the layers of forever, you start the beginning of the end. Breathing is bridging the gap between black and light... - "SOUVENIRS" by THE GATHERING


***



Michael heaves the last of several cardboard boxes into the back of the Ford that Lincoln has so graciously offered a day's use of, his breath rushing from his lungs in a sigh of relief. He stretches his arms over his head, feeling the protesting muscles of his biceps loosen minimally as he observes what little room is left in the bed of the truck. The boxes create an irregular mountain of brown cardboard but Michael has arranged them as neatly as possible for space efficiency. They're less daunting this way, packed in and organized, than the way in which they had piled up little by little on the covered porch stretched behind him.


Over the course of the afternoon, boxes - crammed full and taped shut - had begun accumulating just outside of the front door of the late Frank Tancredi's home. Sara had packed them herself and deposited them there for Michael to deal with.

Watching Sara sort through her deceased father's belongings had been like watching her sort through memories of him - two things she'd been putting off for far too long. Some of the boxes she'd carried from the bi-level and placed down carefully, like lowering a sleeping infant into a crib; others she'd merely dropped or slid off of the elevated threshold with the shove of one foot. Michael has been careful to stay outside and soak up the late October sun; careful to give Sara the time she needs for the finality in this act.

Each time she appeared with another box, the varying expressions on her face, in her distracted gaze, had been sweet and sour - like the memories, like her treatment of her father's possessions - and Michael had not been surprised to note the growing degree of weariness etched around her eyes and mouth.

It has been six and a half hours already and Sara has only merely mumbled that she is coming close to being finished. The house boasts only seven rooms. Michael is glad that it is pre-furnished for its politician inhabitants - that Sara need only worry about her father's personal items and not the rest of the decor - or this awkward and unpleasant ordeal would be prolonged. Sara has made it clear that she never wants to return to 410 East Jackson Street if she can help it. Michael knows she wants a clean break after this painstaking experience and he wants that for her, too.

"You haven't really had the time to mourn, Sara. Not properly." Michael and Sara are stretched out on her bed, side-by-side. They are atop the slightly rumpled duvet cover, mirroring each other perfectly with their hands folded over their chests and their eyes on the ceiling above them.

"Properly? Michael, I don't think there's a proper way to mourn." Sara sounds exhausted and the words are dry, almost hoarse. Michael chances a glance at her face. It seems pallid, as if just talking about any of this is making her ill.

"But...you haven't really mourned..." Michael pauses, watches the corners of her lips twitch in some form of discomfort, "at all."

Sara rolls onto her side now, facing away from Michael as if she can deflect his probing mind; as if she can deter him from thinking about her and her well-being like he seems to do every waking moment these days. In the way that he wasn't able to before his exoneration - before his
brother's exoneration - no matter how much he would've liked to.

Sara tucks her arms up below her chin, cradles them to her chest as if to hug herself and pulls the pillow under her head closer. Michael can no longer see where her gaze is. He has a feeling she's closed her eyes.

"Sara?"

"I can't mourn something I never had."

"What are you talking about?" Michael sits up, his palms braced behind him on the mattress as he looks down on Sara's face in profile and realizes that he had been right. Her eyes are shut tightly, as if she can block out the world, this conversation...him. "You had a father one minute and the next..." his throat grows thick and the words feel a bit strangled as he finishes lamely, "you didn't."

"I've lost a Governor. Like the rest of the state. I haven't really had a father for years now. Our relationship...it...it was strained at best."

"You said that the two of you were working through things, Sara, doesn't that--"

"Let it go, Michael." Her eyes fly open and in the relative darkness of the room, the deep sepia of her irises are boiling with a mixture of irritation and abstracted sadness. She doesn't look at him even now - even though he is looking at her. He is always looking at her.

Michael quiets. He remains still, watching the muscles in her jaw tick, noting the small creases wrinkling her brow. Finally he lowers himself back down to the bed, again flat on his back. He re-folds his palms across his chest and returns his gaze to the ceiling, fighting the urge to be hurt by Sara's refusal to let him in to the parts of her heart that are still obviously ridden with pain; even if she refuses to admit it. Some days she's warm and open to him - to them - and the relationship they've been building from the ruins. Other days, like today, she is still lost in the past that neither of them can change.

"You didn't even get to attend his funeral, Sara," Michael says finally, at length. His voice is lower, uncertain, "I just think...maybe...you need closure. To make peace with his death. Somehow."

Sara doesn't respond.


Michael frowns as the memory of nearly a month prior dissipates and squints back at the open door of the house.

Sara has been putting this off for the last three months and Michael suspects that she would have done so for even longer if she hadn't been instructed - or perhaps "ordered" might be a better word - otherwise. The ex-Lieutentant Governor has stepped up in Frank Tancredi's place and along with assuming chief executive duties for the state of Illinois, he also has rightfully inherited this house for the duration of his leadership.

Michael leans into the lowered tailgate of the truck and tips his head toward the towering shadow that the Illinois Executive Mansion casts over him and the relatively humble Governor's quarters that Sara is still holed up inside of. He cannot begin to imagine how long this process would take if Frank Tancredi had actually lived in the manor. It's a beautiful piece of historical architecture. Built in 1855, it was first occupied by Governor Joel Matteson but no one has lived in it in decades, Sara had explained to him. Instead it is lavishly decorated, facilitating its use for state functions and guided tours. But it tells no story of the late Governor, of the man who had lived and died in the house just fifty feet behind it - nor the emphatically anti-grieving daughter he left behind.

The daughter that Michael hasn't seen for quite a while now.

One glance at the flat silver watch below the cuff of his thermal Henley confirms the fact that Sara hasn't emerged from the house with more boxes for him to pack in nearly forty minutes. In light of the discovery, Michael finds himself staring almost helplessly toward the house, lamenting the walls that keep him from seeing exactly where she is and what she's doing. He spent far too many days - in his cell at Fox River, in any given safe haven strung across the United States while literally fleeing for his life - wondering and wanting. Wondering where Sara was, wondering if she was okay, wanting to be with her, wanting to help her. It's something he can't stand for these days; not when he has the option to be at her side.

Michael takes the narrow steps of the porch two at a time and pushes through the front door that empties into the large foyer with its stately chandelier and hardwood flooring. Like a child waiting to cross the street he looks right and then left and, not spying Sara, has an inkling that she is on the second floor. From what he can see, the level he is on now is barren of all personal effects that might've once belonged to Frank Tancredi. Sara has done her job well, as hard as it has obviously been for her.

When Michael finally ascends the spiral staircase and comes to its crest, he finds Sara immediately. She is sitting at the end of the remote hallway, her back to one pristine white wall and her long, lithe legs stretched out in front of her toward the open door of what Michael suspects is the house's master bedroom. There is a stack of six identically-sized cardboard boxes blocking his way, but Michael weaves around them and has soon crouched down to Sara's level. She doesn't acknowledge him immediately. Instead her full attention is on a thin paperback novel held open in both of her hands.

"Sara?"

"Yes?" Her reply is instantaneous but she still hasn't otherwise made note of his presence.

Michael isn't sure what to say now that he actually knows she's listening and so he slowly, hesitantly plucks the book from her hands. He expects her to protest but instead her palms drop to her lap at the same time that her head lolls back against the wall. She stills and lets her eyes droop shut as he looks down at the slightly yellowed pages, reading aloud the first lines that he focuses on.

"'I'm glad it's a girl. And I hope she'll be a fool- that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool'". Michael's brow furrows as he speaks again, letting the book close as his fingertips run down its well-worn spine, "Sara, what is this?"

He has already answered his own question by honing in on the title by the time that Sara responds in a reticent tone, "F. Scott Fitzgerald," her eyes open now, lashes fluttering up as she lands a tired gaze on Michael's face, "The Great Gatsby. It was my favorite book back when...well, when I was younger. I can't tell you how many times I must've read it. I wore out two copies."

"So that's what you've been doing up here?" Michael makes an attempt at a playful smile, at an easy tone, "Sitting down on the job? Taking time out for a little silent sustained reading?" He hands the book back to her and she takes it, but places it now in a single cardboard box that is still gaping open, situated at her side.

"No. I just...I found...this box." Michael thinks he hears Sara's voice tremble but he can't be entirely certain.

He doesn't reply and instead simply watches her as she pulls from the box's depths a string of items, sitting each of them down on the floor between them. Michael takes stock of each as it appears. A fleecy teddy bear that has seen better days, faded from the loving hands of a child. A Mr. Potato Head lacking his silly features because they're all packed away in its built-in compartment. A stack of papers bound by multiple paper clips that sport the comments inked in red that make Michael think they are essays. A half-delfated swath of bubble wrap that falls open to reveal a snowflake-shaped ceramic Christmas ornament - its center is hollowed out to hold a picture and smiling back at him is a little girl with chubby cheeks and dancing auburn curls.

"Sara, is that you? You look so..." Michael trails off into silence abruptly as he glances up to find a few errant tears gliding down the planes of Sara's jaw. The warm smile he'd been wearing fades and in its place is a frown of profound concern. He can count on less than one hand the number of times he has seen Sara shed even a single tear.

"What? What's wrong?" Michael drops from his crouching position to his knees, his arms encircling her, enveloping her as she sinks against his chest. The tip of her nose is cold against the crook of his neck and her cheeks are damp. His stomach clenches and his heart feels like it has a kink in it.

Sara's posture is rigid in the corral of his arms but she doesn't pull away and Michael takes this as a sign to hold her closer. He clings to her fiercely and speaks against the top of her head, stirring flyaway strands of her hair with his breath. "Sara, it's okay, it's bound to be hard...dealing with your father's things."

"No. No, you don't...you don't get it." The sharp breath Sara exhales is ragged and her voice is muffled but still she doesn't try to evade his attempt at physical comfort. "They're not my fathers things. They're his...but...they're mine." She sniffles softly and nestles her face closer to his chest, as if hiding her tears is as good as stopping them. "The toys, the papers and drawings, the books...they're all mine."

Michael's head jerks slightly in a gesture of confusion. She's right. He doesn't get it. "If they're yours..."

"He kept them." Michael can feel Sara's jaw trembling against the base of his throat. "He kept them. He never had pictures of me on his desk when I was younger. He didn't save any of my mother's things after she passed away - just packed them up and shipped them off to Goodwill. He didn't know how to express...pride or love. He wasn't...the sentimental type. He never has been. But this box..."

Michael is beginning to understand. He squeezes her tighter and waits for her to complain. Still she doesn't.

"Why did he keep all of this? It's all so random but here it is...all packed together in a box at the back of his closet like..."

"Like he was just the same as any other father? Holding onto pieces of his little girl long after she's grown up." Michael offers his own conclusion to Sara's unfinished statement and feels renewed tears dampening the collar of his shirt.

"We hadn't been close in ages, Michael. God, we barely talked and when we did...we did everything we could to punish each other for this...this void between us that we couldn't figure out how to bridge. But he was my father. The only one I'll ever have and maybe if I'd tried harder," Sara draws in a fitful, gasping breath, "maybe if we'd tried harder we could've made amends. We never got the chance. And now...now we never will."

Michael can feel a sheen in his own eyes and so he closes them, letting himself meld into the strong, independent woman who is wrapped up in his arms - the one who at this very moment plays to his heart like a child who is very much lost and alone. He has been waiting for Sara to come to terms with her loss, waiting for the breakdown. He'd started to think that it might never happen.

"You loved each other, Sara. He knew that. Blood ties...they're strong. They withstand a lot." Michael laughs, but the sound is humorless. "I should know. I do know. And I'm sure your father did, too. He had to know that you'd be there for him if he needed you, in spite of the differences you couldn't put aside."

"But when he really needed me, when he really needed me--"

"You couldn't save him in the end, Sara." Michael thinks of his own father, Aldo's lifeless body cooling in his arms long after the onset of death. He involuntarily shudders. "It wasn't your fault. Don't ever think it was your fault."

"Maybe not," Sara finally tugs herself free of his grasp and sits up straight, her shoulders squared and the fair skin of her cheeks blotchy with emotion as she fixes a bleary dark gaze on Michael's face, "Maybe it wasn't my fault that he was murdered. But I'm the one who has to live with the knowledge that I'll never have the chance to set things right with him. And that - my stupid pride - is my fault."

Despite the anguish written all over her face and pulsing in her voice, Sara is rapid in her re-packing of the box, placing the things she'd taken from it back down on top of countless other keepsakes that her father had collected until it is full again and she can slide the flaps inside each other to close it up.

"I'm done here." Sara climbs to her feet, swiping residual moisture from her face as she reaches down to pick up the single box in both hands. She is trotting down the staircase before Michael has gotten up and he lets her go without complaint or immediate pursuit.

Instead Michael begins transporting the last six boxes down the stairs one at a time. He piles them first in the foyer and then carries each of them to the bed of the truck. They just barely fit in with the rest of the stack of boxes and Michael is surprised that he is able to close the tailgate. But he does - with a clang that speaks of a certain irrevocability - and goes to join Sara in the cab of the truck.

On the way home they don't speak and for once Michael doesn't fret over the silence. On Sara's lap is that cardboard box too filled with the memories of an estranged father to be stashed in the back with all the others and in Sara's hand is his own. For the millionth time he reminds himself: We'll make it through this together.
 
 
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