Fandom: Prison Break
Character/Pairing: Lincoln Burrows, Sara Tancredi
Word Count: 1,575
Summary: Sara's realization that it is family, the luxury of having someone to hold your hand, that makes it possible to survive when death is staring you in the face.
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, it's production companies or cast members and no copyright infringement is intended.
It is polymethyl methacrylate that separates Sara from the newest death row inmate - acrylic glass. The glass alternative that is nearly three inches thick, along with cinder block walls that have been painted white and a heavy wooden door that locks from both the inside and outside. Together these things create a barrier between the small corner office that she calls her own and the Fox River State Penitentiary infirmary. Oftentimes Sara is grateful for the safety measures that are taken to protect her as she does her job, serving as the lone physician for the inmates at this maximum security prison. But on rare occasions, the same precautions seem unnecessary and almost a sort of degradation to the men she calls her patients.
She is amongst rapists and pedophiles, robbers and white supremacists and yet Sara tries to treat them with respect. More often than not it is because she receives the same respect as she bestows upon any given prisoner. There are exceptions, of course, but the exceptions aren't enough to change the way she operates. For the most part she believes in the old saying, "innocent until proven guilty," but these men are rarely here without being proven guilty in a court of law. The benefit of the doubt no longer exists for them.
Even so, the new prisoner does not strike Sara as a murderer. He is quiet, almost withdrawn. He is large, boasting muscle mass and brawn, but he speaks gently and often avoids her gaze. He is polite, cooperative and resigned to his punishment. Lincoln Burrows has only been here at Fox River for three weeks but it has been long enough for Sara to decide that he is not like her other patients. He doesn't try to be charming or convince her that he's innocent. He is not crass and doesn't shake her with lewd comments and innuendoes and inappropriate gestures. He is not proud of his status as a cold-blooded killer and doesn't act out just because there is nothing worse that he can look forward to when his fate is already the electric chair. Sara sees only one thing when she looks at him: sadness.
Sadness dulls his large, dark pupils and puts creases around his mouth. It radiates off of him in waves that touch Sara each time he is lead into the infirmary by armed correctional officers. It is fitting to her that he has no choice but to wear blues and greys when any other colors would be disrespectful to his own grief. If he really had been the one to kill the only brother of Vice President Reynolds, he deeply regrets it, Sara thinks. He does not flaunt his heinous deed like the other prisoners tend to do. And perhaps it is that regret that the air of sadness stems from, but something deep in Sara's stomach stirs when she sees him and she has always trusted gut instinct. Her gut instinct tells her that in Lincoln's case, the sadness is from knowing of his own innocence and realizing that he will never be able to prove it. His fate has been decided for him.
As Sara stands in front of the line of windows between her office and the infirmary, the tip of her nose is only a few inches from the glass. She shuffles through the papers in Lincoln's file in search of his vaccination records but she is not actually looking so she may never find them. Her gaze is trained on the man himself, sitting patiently on the edge of the exam table with both hands bound by unforgiving cuffs and for a moment she wishes he could be without them, just for a few minutes. He would not lay a hand on her. Sara can tell. It's gut instinct again. She understands that there is far less proof of his innocence than there is of his guilt and still she finds it hard to believe that there hasn't been foul play. Oh, it sounds ridiculous and she knows it. The story of Lincoln's trial came in the wake of his indictment for Terrence Steadman's death and has been a reoccurring headline for what seems like ages. The evidence is all there and Sara should refer back to "innocent until proven guilty" yet again. Lincoln Burrows has definitely been proven guilty, so why is it that she simply can't stomach it?
As she exhales a deep, uneasy sigh, Sara's breath creates a foggy spot on the glass and it draws her eyes away from Lincoln. It dawns on her that she has left him waiting for quite some time after an abrupt promise to "be right back." She doesn't suppose that he has anywhere else to be or why she should be concerned with making him wait until she is standing at the edge of the exam table, fitting the earpieces of her stethoscope into place.
Lincoln has been shifting a lot throughout the duration of his examination, his gaze often flitting to the clock mounted above the door and as she gestures with one hand for him to lift his shirt, Sara arches one eyebrow ever-so-slightly in amusement. "Do you have an important date, Lincoln?" She is merely teasing, doing what she can to keep the mood light, just as she does with all of her other patients - she feels she owes it to them when the ambiance at Fox River is most often and understandably somber.
Lincoln looks confused at first and then his expression shifts through a slow progression of surprised, embarrassed and then dismayed as he grasps the hem of his thermal shirt and tugs it up to expose his chest. Holding the shirt in place so that Sara can gently place the stethoscope's diaphragm over his heart, Lincoln angles his chin toward the floor and shuts his eyes, as if he's trying to listen for his heartbeat as much as Sara is. There is a suspended silence as she listens to the proof of Lincoln's life thudding a rhythm in her eardrums and a heavy sense of melancholy settles itself on her shoulders as Sara is reminded of the fact that in a few months, the sound will be gone for good and so will Lincoln.
Sara does not allow her face to reveal her thoughts, though, and as she removes the stethoscope from Lincoln's chest and her ears, allowing it to dangle around her neck, she smiles at him. It is not a smile of glee or even of sympathy. It is a smile to hide the pain that she wishes she didn't feel for him and she turns her back to him, jotting the beats per minute she's recorded onto Lincoln's chart.
Lincoln doesn't talk all that much, even when she talks to him first, and so Sara is startled when his voice reaches her ears like a low, uncertain caress. "Visitation hours today, Doc." His words are matter-of-fact and she can almost feel those burdened eyes boring into the length of her spine as she begins to unravel her blood pressure cuff from its case. "I just want to make sure I don't miss it. Are we almost done?"
Sara nods her head in understanding, turning back to Lincoln who is already offering her an outstretched arm, sleeve pushed up to his bicep. Again she is pleased by his accommodating nature and as she fits the cuff over the inside crease of his elbow, she sets his mind at ease as she replies, "I'll take your temperature once I'm done with your blood pressure and then I'll let you go - only need your vital signs today." She pauses then as she returns her stethoscope to her ears and slides the diaphragm under the cuff to where she knows Lincoln's brachial artery runs. "Are you expecting someone special?"
"My brother." Sara is startled when she glances up to Lincoln's face. It looks different from any other time she has seen it. There is a smile in place. A genuine smile, one that puts small dimples in his cheeks and softens the hard planes of his jaw. "My brother's coming from Chicago. I can't miss him." Sara realizes that this is the first time she has ever seen Lincoln Burrows smile and she feels herself become infused with warmth that radiates from the inside out. Lincoln is facing a horrible predestination and all it takes is the mention of his brother to make him smile. It makes Sara immediately glad to know that he has someone to hold his hand through his darkest hour. He has never spoken of his family in the past but by the look of adoration on Lincoln's face, Sara can deduce that his brother must certainly be something special and she finds herself smiling back at him.
"You won't miss him, Lincoln. I promise." As she inflates the blood pressure cuff, she puts her index finger to her lips to indicate that he should be quiet so she can listen for his systolic and diastolic intervals. But Sara has trouble concentrating on the sounds and the gauge on the cuff. She is too busy sending a silent thanks to some higher power for Lincoln Burrows' brother and the peace of mind that this man she has never met brings her. Maybe Lincoln isn't alone after all. Maybe he has somebody to see him through.