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10 May 2007 @ 05:33 pm
Efflorescence (1/1)  
Title: Efflorescence
Fandom: Prison Break
Character/Pairing: Michael Scofield, Lincoln Burrows, Veronica Donovan, Sara Tancredi (and implied and not-so-implied Michael/Sara and Lincoln/Veronica)
Word Count: 4,612
Rating: PG
Spoilers: The vast majority of both seasons of the show, respectively. And then some.
Summary: ef - flo - res - cence [n] 1. The state or a period of flowering 2. An example or result of growth and development.
Other: This became a lot more long-winded than I'd originally planned and I spent almost more time writing it than I did thinking about writing it, which I assumed to be nearly impossible. I think this story has basically drained me of all life and will to do anything but sleep :)
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.



As Michael stands at the serviceable kitchen table in the apartment that he shares with his older brother, he tries desperately to remember a prior time in which he'd attempted to engage in the age old tradition of courting a woman with flowers. Then again, he realizes that "courting" isn't really something that happens in society today. He is barely seventeen years old but he knows as well as anyone who is older and has more experience with the female gender that chivalry is at least 99% dead. For every man that plucks a tiny flower to give to the woman that he loves in a simple gesture of affection, there is a man who buys an ostentatious bouquet of red roses in hopes of getting his next conquest to uncross her primly folded legs and climb into bed with him.

So maybe courting a woman with flowers isn't a tradition anymore, so much as an expectation, but buying your prom date a corsage is. At least, Michael thinks so.

He fingers the white cardboard box resting on the polished oak surface of the table; traces the square edges with his index finger and rubs the pad of his thumb over the gold embossing on the center of the lid that bears the insignia for Ashland Addison Florist Company.

He is afraid to open the box. If the corsage isn't right, he can't believe that anything following the exchange of flowers will be right, either. In fact, ever since he had mustered the courage to ask Corey to the prom, he had been regretting his decision. At least, after the initial shock in hearing her accept his offer had worn off. Because that's when the questions and doubts had begun to infiltrate his mind.

Michael is a worrier by nature and always has been. He has spent the last two weeks worrying. He worries that Corey only agreed to go to prom with him because she is his chemistry lab partner and fears feeling awkward after rebuffing him. Or because she needs Michael as her partner to save her often plummeting grade - especially now when it's so near to the end of the semester and the commencement of their junior year. Or that, worst of all, she just feels sorry for him.

He worries that sweet and temperate Corey just didn't know how to refuse him and he worries that he was the one who made the dire in mistake in asking her at all. It's not about simply being at the prom, after all. It's as silly a high school tradition as the all-important corsage and boutonnière exchange. But to Michael it's not about spending an evening doing everything he can to keep from actually dancing (something that would be disastrous with his two left feet). It's not because he's looking forward to bringing plastic cups of red punch to his date and her friends or even striving to feel comfortable in the one good suit that he owns that it is now becoming a little too short and narrow for his growing frame and broadening shoulders.

It's about grasping some semblance of normalcy for a brief time. It's about being able to be a teenage boy for a night instead of someone with knowledge and life experience beyond his years - the kind of life experience that the majority of his classmates couldn't possibly understand.

Sometimes Michael isn't even sure that his brother understands. Lincoln is in the same boat with Michael but he has always seemed far less concerned about what he has been missing out on in his hurried advancement to adulthood. Lincoln had even teased Michael about wanting to go to the junior prom when he'd first announced his decision to ask Corey to be his date.

This is what normal teenage boys do, Michael had explained to Lincoln. They go to prom.

That sentiment had wiped the bemused grin off of Lincoln's face and instead of plucking at the delicate underbelly of his brother's vulnerable side any longer, he'd offered Michael his help with having his suit dry-cleaned and the purchase of a corsage for Corey.

The corsage that Michael has yet to actually look at. He isn't sure why he's putting it off, especially since the box containing it is right there in front of him. Especially because he'd given Lincoln explicit instructions about just what he wanted and Lincoln had promised to see to the fulfillment of Michael's request.

White daisies and powder blue ribbon to match Corey's dress and pale eyes. That's what will be in the box when he lifts the lid, Michael assures himself. The flowers will be crisp and fresh and perfectly clustered and when he slides it onto Corey's wrist later this evening, she'll smile and tell him that it's perfect. He'll tell her she looks perfect and she'll--

"Have you seen it yet?" Lincoln's voice coming from behind him startles Michael and he backs away from the table's edge, only to bump into a solid wall of chest. He steps back forward and cranes his head over his shoulder to gaze at his brother with slightly widened eyes.

"Huh?" Michael looks helplessly down at the corsage box as Lincoln indicates it in a silent gesture and nods his head rapidly in understanding. "Oh...not yet. I'm going to look...I just haven't. Yet."

"So get on with it. I stood around for twenty-five minutes at the florist's while they made it. It took a half an hour out of my lunch break. You can at least tell me if it's good enough for Carey."

"Corey."

"What?"

"Her name's Corey."

"Whatever, bro."

Lincoln props his hands on his hips in a display of impatience and Michael purses his lips into a thin, concentrated line as he delicately lifts the box's lid. His eyes settle on the contents and he is stunned into silence. He senses Lincoln peering over his shoulder again; senses the proud smile that his brother is wearing.

"What do you think, huh? It think it looks pretty great."

"Uh...it's, uh..." Michael stumbles over his words, gawking at the grandiose arrangement of pink tea roses, mauve carnations and baby's breath, all bound by a glitzy silver curl of ribbon that shimmers faintly in the sunlight streaming through the west-facing kitchen window. "It's...not what I asked you to get."

"Oh." Lincoln shrugs one shoulder, nonchalant as he shoves his hand into one of the pockets of his jeans. "I know. But...daisies? We may not have a lot of money, Mike, but we have some pride. I wasn't going to have my little brother giving a girl daisies."

"What's wrong with daisies?" Michael asks helplessly, still staring at the corsage that is so unlike what he'd imagined.

"You can pick them off a roadside, for starters. Girls like to know that you've spent money on 'em. That you want 'em to have the best."

Lincoln sounds so certain that it makes Michael's stomach drop in disappointment. His brother is apparently one of those men. The kind that can unabashedly replace simplistic good intentions with grandeur and not even realize it.

When Michael slips the corsage on Corey's wrist later that evening, just as the sun is sinking and casting the Chicago skyline in gold, she smiles just like he'd hoped she would. She tells him that it's perfect. He tells her that she looks beautiful. She blushes and heat blossoms in Michael's cheeks in turn.

He should be gratified. He should be pleased. Maybe Lincoln had saved him; maybe daisies hadn't been the right way to go to impress a girl. Not when the rosebuds and glittering bow had done the job in illuminating Corey's face.

But Michael only feels defeated. He feels defeated in realizing that maybe good intentions just aren't enough for a girl - at least not where flowers as a symbol of adoration are concerned. And the defeat is a damper to his mood that adheres to him throughout the night like the muggy May air, though he makes a valiant effort at masking it. Corey doesn't seem to see the frustration pitted deep inside of him.

But maybe that's because Corey doesn't see the real him at all.


***



When Michael next tackles the daunting task of choosing the right flowers for a woman, he decides he's going to do it his way. Consequence be damned.

It is not until several years later when Veronica graduates from Baylor. Michael is older and wiser (or so he hopes) and has come to realize that there are, indeed, women who still appreciate a gesture with no strings attached. He thinks that Veronica might be one of them.

Despite the fact that Veronica is his brother's girl and has been in some way, shape or form since childhood, Michael has never been able to help his feelings for her. He is resigned to being her friend and the little brother that she never had. He knows he won't ever - can't ever - be anything else. Not to Vee, the dark-haired tomboy across the street with eyes only for Lincoln and certainly not to Veronica Donovan, Attorney at Law.

Still, Michael is there for her. Available, accessible, proud and supportive. He makes the trip to Texas with his brother, flying American Airlines in a cramped center seat while Lincoln dozes beside him, oblivious to Michael's excitement to see Veronica. Veronica who is nothing to him. Not really. Or maybe it's the other way around. Veronica is everything to Michael, in the same way that Lincoln is everything to him. They are everything to him and it's exactly why Michael will never intervene.

Even so, he buys Veronica flowers. Just to show her that he cares. To show her that he admires all of the hard work she's done to obtain her degree. Lincoln buys Veronica flowers, too, but Michael isn't surprised that he purchases an oversized cluster of blood red roses. Michael chooses an arrangement of wildflowers.

He leans over the counter in the florist's shop, feeling a smile twitching to life on his lips as he watches the elderly woman putting his bouquet together piece by careful piece. Each stem has its own purposeful spot, each leaf a perfect place, each blossom a niche in the entirety. Michael directs the diligent woman with her downy white hair and she is only happy to comply, using her expertise to incorporate the flowers he's chosen.

Michael picks fragrant red freesia as the base and the tiny starburst-shaped flowers fill his head with their cloying scent immediately. Next come regal irises the color of a faded merlot that stand out in contrast against sunny daffodils and larkspur that remind him of the shade of pink cotton candy.

The daisies are an afterthought. They're fragile with their dainty white petals but make a bold statement amongst the other rainbow of flowers. Michael is silently relieved when Lincoln, holding his roses, makes no derogatory mention of the choice of this particular flower. Instead, as the florist wraps the entire bouquet neatly in pale blue tissue paper and gossamer white ribbon, Lincoln comments that Veronica will love it.

Much to his dismay, Michael feels his heart swell at the very idea and the rhythmically pounding organ seems to be too much for his chest to contain when Lincoln is proven correct.

Veronica is already clutching the roses from Lincoln when Michael hands her the bouquet and she seems to light up. She is already resplendent and glowing from her accomplishments and Michael marvels over the way that her fair face seems to radiate a joyful light. Her softly freckled cheeks are dappled in sunlight and those piercing viridian eyes stand out in a frame of satiny black hair.

The deep green robe she's wearing catches the breeze around her slim ankles and her small frame feels all but lost amongst the swath of material as Michael encircles her in his arms, minding the flowers she's holding as he accepts her hug of gratitude and delight.

"Thank you so much, Michael." She breathes the words and he breathes her. She's no longer wearing her cap and Michael is quiet initially as he takes in her light floral scent - one that puts the wildflowers to shame - with his nose buried into the top of her head.

"Congratulations, Vee."

"I'm so glad you came. And the flowers...God, they're gorgeous." She holds him more tightly and though Michael longs to keep her wrapped in his arms, his resolve is shaky and he pulls away with a reluctance he hopes no one gleans. Especially not Lincoln.

"You're welcome."

"Thank you," Veronica repeats, squeezing Michael's forearm with one hand. "Really."

Her gratitude doesn't waver until they are seated in her car, making the relatively short trip back to her apartment. Veronica had passed Lincoln her keys and he drives the little champagne-colored sedan while Veronica sits in the passenger's seat, holding both bouquets of flowers.

In the enclosed interior of the vehicle, it's not long before Veronica begins to sniffle. Her nose runs and she pats it daintily with a balled-up tissue and gracefully ignores the way that her watering eyes are leaving faint smudges of smoky black liner below her lashline.

From the backseat, Michael leans forward over the console to study the reddening tip of Veronica's nose and the glazed-over quality of her eyes and he makes the concerned suggestion that maybe she is having an allergic reaction to one of the flowers. She agrees with a carefully contrived tone that borders between certainty and assumption as she smiles mildly at him and it's only then that Michael is struck by the fact that it must be a flower in his bouquet doing the damage. Roses are Lincoln's requisite flower of choice and it's not the first time that Veronica has received them.

Michael apologizes profusely at sporadic intervals for the rest of the ride and even after they've reached Veronica's apartment. She continually reminds him that it's the thought that counts and that the allergy flare-up isn't his fault. She even goes so far as to tell him that she still loves the bouquet and she wastes no time in putting it in a blown glass vase, displaying it dutifully on her kitchen table.

Michael almost believes her...or at least he wants to. Until she puts the roses from Lincoln in a narrow vase made of crystal and places it prominently on the nightstand directly beside her bed. The same bed that Lincoln crawls into with her later that evening while Michael fits himself onto Veronica's couch with cramped legs and a frustratingly heavy heart.


***



The third time is supposed to be a charm but the third time is, interestingly enough, the hardest for Michael.

How do you choose flowers for someone you barely remember?

What Michael remembers about his mother nearly twenty years after her death is the way she always made her sons feel loved in the absence of their father. They wanted for nothing in her care.

As he makes the trek down well-kept and winding footpaths in Graceland Cemetery, Michael remembers his mother's warmth. He remembers her bright eyes and brighter smile and a lump forms in his throat as he remembers feeling helpless and frightened in seeing the disease draining her of not her fight and will to live, but of her strength.

Still, he cannot remember her favorite flower.

Michael had spent the entire drive to the florist's shop contemplating his choice of flowers, wanting to pick just the right bouquet for Christina's grave. Something warm and inviting like the late summer day lingering in the city. Something beautiful and colorful and vibrant to offset the bleak white granite of her headstone. Something as bold and resilient as a flower can be when flowers are, ultimately, fragile. Just like his mother had proven to be when even she - the strongest of souls Michael can recall ever knowing - had finally lost her battle with the cancer.

He'd sat in his car even after parking outside of the florist, listening to the Doppler effect of Chicago traffic but not really hearing it and instead hearing his mother's voice as if she were sitting beside him. With the memory of her hitting a nerve of reverie, he'd allowed a sense of melancholy to wash over him.

Clearly in his mind's eye, Michael had watched a scene from his childhood play out as if in footage; a documentary of what his easy and happy-go-lucky life as a five-year-old had been like. He saw himself as he was then, uncharacteristically small for a boy of his age, guileless as he'd pulled a handful of his tulips from his mother's very own flower bed.

The perennials had been enticing him from across the small square that constituted as their little family's backyard for days. Michael vividly remembers the way the flowers had looked, standing tall alongside the quaint townhouse's back wall, their satiny yellow blossoms seeming to cup the sun, making them glow a liquid gold.

When Michael had carried the fistful of uprooted tulips in through the kitchen, he had tracked clods of dirt across the linoleum and left visibly gaping holes in the soil outside. He had presented his newly acquired prize to his mother with the earnest smile of the little boy that he had been and instead of being upset or scolding him, Christina had been charmed to the core.

She had covered his chubby cheeks in a downpour of kisses and he'd clung to her waist, burying his face into the soft familiarity of her breasts to inhale her musky perfume. She'd cuddled him close and thanked him and put the tulips in a vase after carefully trimming their ragged stems. For days to come, the two of them had admired the petals unfolding as they continued to bloom on their windowsill.

The florist hadn't had any tulips.

Michael had been disheartened and disappointed at ending back up at square one. But he'd hid his bested emotions with a comely smile and reluctantly asked for half a dozen roses, drawing his inspiration from his mother's middle name, knowing that she would be the only woman he would ever buy roses for; if only in a far cry from Lincoln's flower-giving habits.

However, Michael's mild satisfaction in his choice had only lasted for a short time. Soon he'd found himself facing the daunting array of roses in a whole spectrum of colors, realizing that this choice might be more difficult than the previous one. He hadn't remembered his mother's favorite flower and, likewise, he can no longer remember her favorite color. Isn't even sure that he ever knew.

In the end Michael had decided that the roses should be lavender. The color had struck a chord with him; one that had made him think of the dress his mother had worn to mass as often as possible on tepid spring and summer Sundays. It had been her favorite. He recalled how she'd looked in it and how she'd loved the way it nipped in her waist and fluttered around her calves and she had often spun in a circle to see the drape of the skirt become full like a little girl instead of the thirty-something she had been at the time.

That dress itself had been his mother. It had embodied her. Joyful and fun-loving, classy and cheerful and steadfast. It had been lavender. And so are the roses that Michael carries with him now as he approaches Christina's grave.

He still can't remember her favorite flower or her favorite color and he can't be entirely certain that his choice was the right one. But as he looks down at his mother's final resting place like so many times before, a mound of fluffy white cumulus clouds drift apart and the sun peeks out, warming Michael's shoulders and the back of his neck.

In spite of himself and a need to feel foolish, it seems to Michael that Christina is smiling down at him and the roses that he's brought her and he is somehow no longer self-conscious of his decision. It may have not been the right one, but he knows now that it was not the wrong one, either.


***



When Michael leaves the origami flower in the infirmary to be found, he does not stick around long enough to see the reaction of its recipient.

As he is escorted by two heavily armed guards back to general population cell forty - back to four barren concrete walls and his eager cellmate who responds to his approach with a toothy smile - Michael can only hope that the tiny paper blossom is seen by the right pair of unsuspecting doe-like eyes.

Dr. Sara Tancredi is like no woman Michael can remember ever meeting before his time at Fox River. She is unlike (and more important than) the various female key players in his past and unlike he could have possibly expected. Even his vast range of research on the Governor of Illinois's only daughter hadn't prepared him for meeting her. For feeling the compassion and caring she evokes in him. For feeling the sparks of unforeseen chemistry flying between them more with every meeting.

Maybe those reasons had been elemental in reacting so strongly to Sara's quiet despair. Michael had been able to see the well-masked disconsolation on her pointedly down-turned face as clearly as he'd seen the floral arrangement from her father in the trash can, destined to be dropped in a dumpster well before wilting.

"You threw away your flowers," Michael had pointed out, knowing that he was merely stating the obvious.

"I don't like getting attached to things if I know they won't last," she had eventually told him, busying herself with sliding the needle's finely hewn point under the skin of his garishly tattooed bicep.

"Why are you so cynical?" Michael's rebuttal had been swift, but perhaps only because he had been content in his private knowledge. Content in knowing that he might be able to show an undoubtedly cynical Sara - though she had argued moments later that cynicism is merely realism in disguise - that it's okay to get attached. That there are things in life that will last. Like the unsettling and continual growth of his feelings for her. Like the origami flower lying in wait in his pocket.

Michael had made it the previous night, carefully constructing it of glossy red and green paper. He'd started the project over more than once, had folded and refolded each crease for accuracy, tuning out Sucre's inane chattering while not moving from his spot at the small desk in his cell until he had finished. Gazing down upon his handiwork, Michael had not been surprised to recognize that the flower had come to resemble a whimsical miniature tulip.

The realization of his inadvertent artistic choice had made Michael smile and as he had dropped the feather-light paper flower on Sara's desk without explanation or fanfare on his way out of the infirmary, he had allowed himself to feel confident in thinking that it would somehow make Sara smile, too.


***



The next time that Michael offers Sara flowers, he doesn't have to wonder if he's succeeded in making her smile because he sees it with his own two eyes.

He doesn't bring her daisies or allergy-inducing wildflowers. He doesn't select roses nor tulips and they are far from being made of paper. He hasn't chosen to give them to her as part of some high school tradition or to mark a graduation or a birthday or for any reason other than wanting to make Sara smile. Just like he's always wanted to make her smile; ever since the moment he first met her and somehow found his conscious merging with hers.

The cluster of three red Tiger Lilies fits neatly into the palm of one of Michael's hands as he carries them home from the florist. He doesn't fret over whether or not he has made the right decision because he knows he has. He doesn't worry what his choice of flowers might say when he knows that they simply say, "I love you."

When Michael climbs the single flight of stairs to the second floor of their home, he finds Sara in bed, still sound asleep. Or so he thinks, until she rouses in his sudden presence, her lids heavy and come-hither even as she opens her eyes and focuses her gaze on him as he stands in the doorway to their room. She smiles at him in a drowsy fashion that softens her striking facial structure as effectively as it softens Michael's stomach into broad-winged butterflies. She doesn't stop smiling even as he joins her on the bed, the mattress sinking below his added weight.

Stretched out alongside her and propped up on one elbow and one hip, Michael holds the flowers up so that Sara is able to see them, though he doesn't extend them to her in an offering just yet.

As her smile only grows, Michael finds himself drowning in the light that seems to pool heavily in her dark eyes. He leans closer; allows himself to hover just over her as he lowers the lilies to the space just below Sara's nose. He isn't even sure that they have a scent but Sara inhales and he is aware of her chest rising and falling just below his with her breath.

He tickles the tip of her nose with one of the blooms, chuckles as she snorts softly in involuntary response and sobers as he feathers the silken petals over her cheek. He notes that her porcelain doll complexion is nearly as pale as the white linen sheets they're surrounded by, a flawless ivory below the lilies and their bold titian color - the color that had reminded him of Sara's hair when he purchased them.

The disheveled locks that frame her face have grown long again, curling about her bare shoulders, and with the length has come the burnished auburn that Michael hadn't even realized he'd missed until it had begun to replace her hasty brown dye job.

Michael fingers a few strands of her hair, frayed into an unruly tangle after a good night's sleep and Sara's eyes flutter shut in contentment. But he soon lowers the flowers between them and replaces their intimate caress of her face with his lips, allowing them to follow the chiseled path of her jaw back to her ear, whispering what Sara already knows.

"I brought you flowers."

"You brought me flowers," she murmurs the affirmation but is quieted when Michael covers her lips squarely with his.

He kisses her with the sweet sincerity that seems to finally be at the center of their life together, despite their sordid past and Sara kisses him back with what Michael knows is gratitude. Not an obligatory gratitude that is borne of the kind of flowers that he brought for her, but of the fact that he brought the flowers at all and Michael knows for sure - as he's known for all too long now - that she is that woman. The one who knows that less is more and that it really is the thought that counts. Sara knows that there is nothing about a flower - not the tiniest daisy by the side of the road or the most expensive and immaculately arranged roses - that can serve justice to how deeply he feels for her and her alone.
 
 
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