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20 July 2007 @ 06:52 pm
Moments Past (1/1)  
Title: Moments Past
Fandom: Prison Break
Characters: Sara Tancredi, Michael Scofield, Frank Tancredi (various ensemble appearances, implied Michael/Sara)
Word Count: 6,068
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: 1.07, "Riots, Drills and the Devil II" & 1.08, "The Old Head"
Summary: Sara finds that the words that most elude her are the ones that are the most important.
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.




"Go!" Michael had ordered Sara with a single word, using an uncharacteristically loud and solicitous tone that hadn't given her any alternative to doing his bidding.

If Sara had perhaps briefly considered remaining steadfast in front of him to act as his shield from the lethal red laser targeting his chest, he would have still made up her mind for her. Even knowing it may very well have been his own death wish, Michael had made the decision for her to run to safety when her conscience wouldn't have let her make the decision on her own. Without hesitation, his arms, strong and insistent, had nearly catapulted her forward through the visitation room door.

For the second time in less than an hour Michael had risked his well-being to see to hers for no reason that Sara had been able to discern. He had sent her straight to the port in the proverbial storm happening around them while he had disappeared back into the violent upheaval of unruly convicts so unlike him.

Sara had stumbled outside, away from the mêlée of scattering inmates and deafening rounds spraying from submachine rifles and had been immediately flanked by sharpshooters armed for close quarters battle. The sounds of shattering glass and splintering wood had created a cacophony, but not one nearly loud enough to drown out the sounds of men screaming in rage and anguish as bullets tunneled with deadly aim through their chests like torpedos.

By the time Sara was able to gaze back into the doorway through which she'd come, Michael was nowhere to be found. The uncertainty of his fate - one of which she might have shared had he not helped her to narrowly escape it - had tilted her world, along with the immensity of the situation that had seemed to come crashing down upon her shoulders then and there.

At the time, it had felt to Sara as if Fox River might fall to pieces around her. The knowledge of the chaos of the riot raging inside its walls had seemed to shake the earth beneath Sara's uncooperative feet, along with the prison's sturdy limestone foundations. Even when she had finally found herself in the wide open refuge outside of the penitentiary walls, Sara hadn't been able to immediately convince herself of her newfound safety.

Only as she had become enveloped in the wreath of her father's arms had Sara been able to breathe a sigh of relief. In those proceeding moments of deliverance from a veritable hell, the shaking had stopped. The shaking of her existence, of the ground, of her knees. It had all ceased and been replaced by a sudden languishing as Sara had listened to her father peppering her name throughout a string of nearly nonsensical concerns. She had found herself going limp against the man's chest as she often had when she was a little girl; back when she'd been able to lean on him no matter what.

Yes, the turbulent shaking had stopped, but in its place had come a rhythmic trembling of legs and shoulders alike and the choked cries of her previously bottled fears. Sara had been able to feel her sorrows absorbing into the lapel of her father's suit jacket. A few stray tears, lone and grievous, had dared to squeeze out from below her eyelashes as she had listened to the familiar voice that she had hoped would comfort her rather than condemn her.

"Are you all right? Are you okay? I told you. I told you when you took this job, I knew something like this was going to happen. Didn't I?"

Sara stands frozen in front of him now - Governor Tancredi, her father, the man who swears that he knows best - and sees for the millionth time a man who knows nothing about her. And certainly nothing about what is best for her. He is looking at her like he has always looked at her; as if she is nothing but incendiary of constant disruption in his schedule. The one part of his life that refuses to fall neatly in line.

"I knew something like this was going to happen." He repeats himself and Sara feels her chin vibrating, her lips quivering somewhere between a sarcastic smile and a profoundly resentful frown.

"God, Dad, how about 'I'm happy to see you alive?'" She can't help but chide him when she has spent the last decade growing ever more weary of his indifference, but Sara does not for a moment believe that he is going to tell her what she wants to hear. Like, Sara, I was so worried about you and I'm so relieved to see that you're all right and I can't believe I could have lost you - it's reminded me of how important you are to me.

"Well, sweetheart, I just want you to see what you're doing to yourself. I mean, there's nobody that is forcing you to be here." He speaks to her as if she's a child, using a tone that is meant to be placating, though it comes off as nothing short of patronizing.

Sara is not at all surprised that her father's words don't even come close to the ones she had foolishly been hoping for, but still his aloofness pierces her like a million tiny needle pricks; a sensation she is accustomed to but that never starts hurting any less.

Sara looks him in the eyes, tells herself not to weaken further under his gaze, and instead finds it in herself to acquiesce. "I know," she breathes a sigh, feels her shoulders sag as she disentangles herself from his arms. "Thanks, Dad."

As she walks away, Sara clings to a last, futile hope that he'll call after her. That he'll apologize for being so thick-skinned, perhaps pull her back into his arms and give her the comfort she wishes she didn't crave so badly. She counts her paces - one, two, three, four, five, six - and by the time she has reached a nearby ambulance and the pair of EMTs that are looking to inquire about her condition, she knows that she's on her own again. Her father has seen to the fact that his daughter has come out of a prison riot on her own two feet rather than in a body bag, and already he is on to more important things. She can hear him relegating in his no-nonsense politician's voice but she quickly tunes him out.

There is a man, almost a stranger to her, who cares more about her safety than Frank Tancredi does. Michael Scofield, Fox River inmate, the epitome of an enigma with his criminal record weighed against his baffling bright mind and selfless ways. He had cared. Sara reminds herself of this and is startled to find herself nearly smiling, the unexpected curving of her lips seeming both difficult and effortless all at once.

It is only when Sara realizes that Michael's fate is still a question mark that the smile fades as if slapped from her face. She sways on her feet, unprepared for the assault of sudden guilt and is grateful to be able to lower herself quickly to sit just inside the open tailgate of the ambulance.

Michael had risked his already jeopardized life to rescue her but she hadn't been able to do a single thing to rescue him. His criminal status had taken that option away from her before she ever had it and she hadn't so much as been able to acknowledge that she is forever indebted to him.

Thank you. It's all she had wanted to say. But just like every other moment spent with him, the moment had passed too soon.

***


Sara is still perched on the edge of the ambulance's floorboard over an hour later - long after the turmoil plaguing the innards of the prison has settled to a troublesome repose. The drastic change from riot to restoration had been accomplished by the force of Fox River security, police officers and National Reservesmen alike and though Sara has not been back inside to experience the aftermath, she has the sinking feeling - a vague intuition - that all is not as well as she has been told thus far.

When Sara looks up to find Alec Tracy approaching her with a clipboard tucked under his arm, she knows that her gut instincts are correct. Alec is the eldest of the correctional officers employed at Fox River and is a kindly man. He is soft-spoken and polite in a way that many of his fellow C.O.'s aren't and he treats the inmates under his watch with the same sense of respect and humanity that Sara swears by.

When Sara and Alec meet at random as the long work hours pass in the penitentiary, he is always ready with a grin and a wave for Sara. Alec's warm smile habitually does wonders to melt the chill of working in a barred-off, sterile room from Sara's bones, but this afternoon she looks at him and sees only a man heralding death and she freezes even under the orange mid-April sunlight.

When Alec extends the clipboard to Sara, every bit of doom is written on the deep lines of his face but still she takes the offering. Though they say little to one another that goes beyond pleasantries on any given day, their repartee is limited even further today. The conversation is two-sided but their phrases are short and clipped with the stress of the day weighing on them as heavily as the list of names printed out on the two papers attached to the clipboard.

By the time Alec walks away, Sara can barely remember the words they'd exchanged just moments prior, except for the few of choice that stick with her. Words like injured and dead are just as bold in her mind as they are on the papers she finds herself staring down at. But the names of inmates written in long, evenly spaced rows blur in front of her eyes and for a moment Sara is certain that the letters are alive and scattering on purpose; prolonging the defeat and grief of knowing how many of the men she calls her patients are gone for good.

Michael's face, the memory of his hand reaching like some kind of Godsend from the ceiling above her flashes across Sara's mind at that moment and she shudders involuntarily in a combined wave of nausea and wonder. With goosebumps still feathering her arms and the hair on the back of her neck prickling, Sara drops the clipboard beside her unceremoniously and pushes it aside with a swipe of her palm like unwanted rubbish. She tries to tell herself that she'll look at it in a minute; in just a minute, after she's prepared herself to read the demise of human lives in black and white...but she knows she is only lying to herself.

Sara cannot read that list. Not yet. Not until she has to. Not until she has somehow come to terms with what reading it may mean. Not when the continued comfort of ignorance is more seductive than the urge to know the truth and put her mind at ease.

So she latches on to the first distraction that arises.

Sara notices Prison Industries coordinator Ron Walken striding purposefully across the manicured lawn and sees only opportunity in his presence. The opportunity to preoccupy herself, the opportunity to ask a question that's been eating at her ever since those stolen minutes of sanctuary in the crawl space with Michael hours earlier.

"Hey, Ron." Sara is calling out a greeting to the man before she thinks it through or gives herself the chance to decide that maybe she doesn't want an answer to her question. Someone - an EMT - offers Sara a red plastic cup and she accepts it deftly without taking stock of what's inside of it. Her eyes are on the man slowing in front of her as if on command.

"Dr. Tancredi." Ron turns to face her, his thin fingers easing the manila folder in his hands into the closed position as he looks down at her with a smile that's brilliantly white against his dark skin. "Glad to see you made it out alive."

Sara laughs in spite of herself, hoping that the brief outburst doesn't sound as terse as it feels leaving her throat. "Yeah. Me, too. Um...question." Ron makes a hollow sound of acknowledgment and Sara gazes down into her cup, noting for the first time that it seems to be filled with orange juice. "Why'd your department assign inmates on P.I. to do a toxic mold removal project?"

Sara for some reason expects a hasty answer and is surprised when a short length of silence ensues. When she looks up, she finds tangible confusion etched on Ron's face.

"What...toxic mold project?" His words play with just as much earnest dismay and suddenly Sara is sure that her expression is mirroring his to a tee.

"In the, uh...in the crawl space in A Wing." Sara tries again, hoping clarification will jog some sort of memory but instead Ron is shaking his head, looking less perplexed and more certain.

"P.I. didn't go there. We'd never assign inmates to do that."

Sara stares at him now and can barely bring herself to hold her mystification in check. With a slow, deep breath she is able to calmly nod her head, all the while hoping that Ron won't be able to detect her disappointment. How could he know that she had been counting on him to provide her with the explanation to put her crowded and jumbled mind to rest on at least one front?

Suddenly all Sara wants is to be alone with all of her precursive thoughts and the haunting recollection of shattered blue light reflecting through the darkness of the crawl space from Michael's eyes as he'd lied to her. Alone with the discomfort that knowing Michael would lie to her at all pits in her stomach. Alone with the returned realization that she may never get the chance to confront him. Not if his name is on that list.

So Sara casts Ron an unsteady smile that she is confident that he'll only read as weary and gives him the dismissal that he is probably looking for by now. "Okay. Sorry..."

"No problem," Ron replies with that same winning grin that says their little chat has been no skin off of his back and he has turned to go even more quickly than Sara is able to launch herself to her feet, snatching the previously discarded clipboard and leaving the untouched cup of orange juice in its place.

***


On the abrupt trek from the hustle and bustle of Fox River's front courtyard to her designated parking spot in the employee lot behind the prison's barbed wire adorned back wall, Sara had barely been able to contain her mounting emotion. The clipboard clutched to her chest had felt like lead weighing her down with its foretold enormity and she had done everything in her power to keep herself from sprinting for the trusty champagne-colored sedan as if demons were at her heels.

By the time she had reached her vehicle, her hands had been trembling so badly that Sara would not have been able to unlock the car door had it been necessary. Luckily, her tendency toward trust that no one would want to steal a car that is nearly half her age had facilitated her comfort in leaving all of the doors unlocked - just like every other day.

With her purse, her phone and, most importantly, her key ring still lying on the desk in her office, Sara has never been more grateful for one of the many habits that her father scolds her about. Nor has she ever been more grateful for the spare key tucked inside the magnetic box attached just in front of one of the car's wheel wells. Even if she were to linger even longer and endure the stigma seeming to hang over every acre of Fox River's grounds long enough to be allowed back inside to retrieve her belongings, Sara knows she wouldn't be able to do it.

She wouldn't be able to walk back through those electronically operated gates made of bars, much like replicas of the ones that make up the front of each general population cell. She wouldn't be able to walk the long white-walled hall that acts as a pathway to the infirmary, wouldn't be able to stand in front of the reinforced glass windows that overlook her own niche in a monstrous building and not see Michael. Not picture him perched on a chair, waiting for a shot of insulin. Not be struck by the fact that for some reason, his life is hanging in the balance of that stupid clipboard's pages - as if reality hasn't already chosen his fate.

So instead, Sara climbs into her car.

Sara's car, over the years, has become her safe haven. She feels more relaxed here than in her apartment with the ability to key the ignition to life and just flee on a whim. She feels more safe here than outside amongst people and places and climate with the power to lock the doors and shut the rest of the world out. But in Sara's safe haven, she is not safe from herself.

With her long legs folded into the space below the steering wheel and her torso fitted back against driver's side seat, Sara is finally in a place where she knows she is well-founded in allowing herself to confront all that she is feeling - and has been suppressing - since first word of the riot had come through over a C.O.'s radio in sick bay.

In the enclosed space, Sara can feel the light cotton of her shirt beginning to stick to her skin but she can't be positive as to whether the sudden wave of unbearable heat is because the interior of her car is as hot as it would be on any summer day regardless of the fact that it is only spring or because being on the verge of truth has her sweating under the pressure. She is shaking just as badly now as she had been upon exiting the prison and she can barely hold the clipboard still enough to see its attached pages even though she is bracing it with both hands.

On the top of the front page in underlined red ink are two numbers, labeled with terms that cannot be mistaken. Thirty-six injuries and twelve fatalities. Sara does the quick addition as her vision begins to fray around the edges, struggling to comprehend the blood bath involving forty-eight inmates and who knows how many prison personnel. Just trying to focus enough to continue reading beyond the damage toll is an undertaking that Sara is still not prepared for and she is suddenly so woozy that it feels as though her head isn't quite attached to her shoulders.

Still, she has to know once and for all whether or not her fears have been unfounded and so she begins skimming the list, bypassing name after name of men that she knows without ever really registering a connection. When Sara finds that she's come to the end of both pages without recognition, she starts at the beginning and this time is cognizant of every letter of every name on every line. She ignores the unsavory churning of her stomach and the thickness in her throat as she searches for a misspelling or misnomer and when she finds none, she re-reads the list for a third time.

This time Sara counts the names, dragging the nail of her index finger down the page to help her swimming gaze stay in line. Twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven, her eyes have begun to drown in the uprising of tears that pool in her lower lids but she blinks the moisture free to her cheeks and keeps going. Thirty-two, thirty-three, thirty-four, her tongue feels like a wad of cotton and her mouth is so dry that she can't swallow back the acidic flavor of fear and relief clashing so instead she chokes on each breath. Forty-six, forty-seven, forty-eight, she finishes without finding what she has been looking for and suddenly Sara knows without a doubt that she is going to be sick.

Sara barely has the time to toss the clipboard aside before she has flung the car door wide open, making it bounce against its hinges as she drapes herself over the edge of her seat and vomits until she is sobbing. It feels as though the heaving goes on for too long and she can do little but cry through the taste of bile and soured coffee.

By the time her stomach is empty and the convulsions of its muscles do little but make her cough, Sara feels marginally better - if not weaker than she has been in longer than she can remember - and she sinks forward and allows her cheek to rest against the center of her steering wheel. Her eyes slip shut as she relishes a sudden breeze washing over the contours of the car and in through the still gaping door to cool her face, drying sweat and tears into her flushed cheeks.

He's okay, she reminds herself, waiting for the certainty to sink in and replace the guilt. The guilt of knowing that of all the names she read on that formidable list, the only name she saw was the one that, thank God, hadn't been there.

***


Close to two and a half hours later, the sun has set on the Chicago skyline visible outside of Sara's apartment windows and nine o'clock has finally begun its approach. Upon making it home after what had seemed to be the longest day of her life, Sara had been more than ready to climb into bed and burrow under the covers for the rest of the night. But it had only been a little after seven and so she had chosen a suitable time for bed.

Nine o'clock. Early enough to wage a war to get the sleep that will be necessary for her to face a new day without breaking down again like she had back in the parking lot. Late enough so as not to feel like she is choosing sleep as a way to elude the fears that have followed her home. Sara had spent the ensuing time curled up in the papasan chair in the corner of her bedroom, lost in reflection of the day's events while watching the time pass in the form of the consistent ticking of the hands of the clock on the wall.

At twenty of nine, she unfolds herself from her seat and wanders into the attached bathroom for a shower. But just the short walk from one room to the next is almost too exhausting for Sara to cope with and so instead of a shower, she chooses to draw a bath instead. Merely the thought of sinking into hot water seems to unfurl the tension in her muscles and her arms feel all but useless as she collects clean towels from the linen closet and pours a liberal amount of sandalwood oil below the stream from the faucet.

Just as she has started to undress, Sara is startled by the bleating of her cell phone coming from where she'd tossed it upon her dresser. Stripped to her underwear and struggling to free the tangle of her hair from the collar of her shirt, Sara makes the blind cross back into her room. The phone is still singing without fail when she finally flings her top onto her bed and reaches for it, flips it open before ever giving herself the chance to glance at the caller ID.

"Hello?" Despite the flat quality of her voice that even Sara can hear, the curiosity as to who would be calling her at this time on a Thursday night is just as audible.

"Honey, it's me. How are you doing?"

"Dad?" Sara's heart suddenly makes the leap from its rightful place behind the cage of her ribs into the base of her throat, lodging there so tightly that her voice is faint - disbelieving - as she speaks. "Dad...it's almost nine..."

"I know, Sara, I just wanted to see if you were feeling any better after...everything."

His voice is so soft and soothing that it's nearly foreign and Sara can't seem to stop the feeble tremor in her hand as she cards her fingers through the tousled strands of her hair, tugging at the ends of each lock in a nervous tick. Maybe she had been wrong earlier. Maybe he really does care. Maybe she owes him an apology for her hasty departure or at least the courtesy of answering his question.

"I'm fine, Dad. I'm just....fine."

"Just fine?" There is a short silence that pulses over the line between them and then her father's sigh carries through to proceed his words. "I was hoping you'd be doing better now that you have a little distance from that place. That...that...hellhole."

Hellhole? In just one word, his tone has morphed into one of distaste and Sara bristles in spite of the fact that at this moment in time, she can think of no word better than "hellhole" to describe Fox River. But she won't give her father the satisfaction of thinking that she for one second will agree with him tomorrow. Not when she's back at the infirmary, back at her job, back to life as she knows it. Her life, she reminds herself, does not revolve around a hellhole. It revolves around an oath to heal - whether the location is unconventional or not.

"I'm feeling better. I am...I just...need to rest. I'm going to go to bed soon and by tomorrow," Sara inhales a deep breath and gazes out the windows to her left, seeing herself - haggard and pale - reflected over city lights, "I'll be as good as new. Once I'm back to work." She can't stop herself from throwing the last bit in as a dagger that she knows will hit home.

"Look, Sara...about that..."

"About what?" She starts back into the bathroom now, her stride purposeful as she reaches the claw-footed bath tub and leans over it enough to turn off the water before it rises high enough to slosh over the edges.

"Work." He pauses again and Sara can feel his hesitation hit her in the stomach like a sucker punch. She knows that whatever is coming next, she won't like.

"What about it?"

"Sara, I had someone look into job openings at a few places and there's a position becoming available this month at Cook County Hospital and I thought--"

"What?" Sara is suddenly on alert, her posture rigid as she stands over the tub, staring down into the still gently waving water with shock painted on every feature.

"They're looking for a general physician, sweetheart, and it seemed like it'd be a good place for you to--"

"Dad, no," Sara's voice rises, somewhere between disbelief and the need to burst into hysterical laughter, "I don't want to work at--"

"Or Villa Scalabrini! There are a few jobs that need to be filled--" He tries yet again and, again, Sara interrupts, becoming increasingly horrified by what he is suggesting.

"The nursing home? Dad, forget it. I'm fine where I am. I'm fine. I told you." She is pacing now, from one end of the small bathroom to the other, her feet falling so heavily on the tiles that it stings the bare soles. "You really have no business having someone go job hunting for me. I'm not looking for a job." Sara stops now, nearly out of breath from a combination of adrenaline and exhaustion as she lowers herself down to perch on the lip of the tub.

"Sara..."

"Like I said, forget it." Sara's head drops forward, her chin hanging toward her chest as she scrubs a hand wearily over her face and shoves her fingers back into the hair at her temple. "I have a job. One that matters to me and I'm happy where I am."

"You're happy being held hostage by rapists and murderers? Happy risking your life every day just to make some...some feeble attempt at saving their lives? Sara, that's ludicrous. I've always known it but I thought that now...after what happened today, that you'd see it, too."

That supercilious tone of his is back and if Sara had the energy to hurl her phone at the wall to make a point of her displeasure, she would. Instead, she breathes out a bitter chuckle that is halfway to being a cry and turns sidewise, swinging her feet into the tub. Sara feels the heat of anger being replaced by the heat of hazy hot water and chooses to bring this conversation to an end with resignation - as always.

"Thanks for the call, Dad." Without another word and heedless of what he has started to say in reply, Sara snaps her phone shut and drops it to the floor with a clatter. She calms almost immediately in the blessed silence and in that moment feels drained of all life.

Still, the musty aroma of sandalwood acts as a further sedative and all Sara wants is to drown her sorrows in the bath before she even vaguely considers drowning her sorrows in a bottle of vodka. Plus, the bath is readily available and she realizes that not even alcohol is enough of a driving force to make her leave her apartment until the sun has peaked over the horizon again.

Too fatigued to even finish undressing, Sara braces her hands on the edge of the tub and lowers herself into it. As her head sinks back against the cool porcelain, the water envelopes her like a liquid anesthetic for her troubles and soaks immediately through the cotton camisole and panties that she is still wearing as it sends her hair afloat around her. For the first time since she had crawled out of bed in the morning, Sara allows herself to go limp, all but for where her toes press into the other end of the tub's wall to keep herself from submitting to the temptation of sinking below the surface entirely.

***


The next afternoon, Sara is still in the midst of sliding her latex gloves onto her hands when Michael launches into his usual attempt at perfunctory conversation, but he takes her off guard with his direct approach to the previous day's chain of circumstances. She had barely had more than a few moments after their initial greeting to adjust to his presence - to be thankful all over again for his safety - and already he is diving into territory she isn't sure she wants to chart. Not when she's doing her best to forget it.

"After what you went through in the riot, I thought you might take a day off." Michael's voice is as level and easygoing as ever and though his words do not end with the note of a question mark that demands an answer of her, Sara's mind races for one that might be adequate.

She twitches slightly as the second glove snaps into place around her wrist and reaches for a square of gauze, hoping that Michael's keen perception doesn't ingest the miniscule unsteadiness in her hand when it completely belies the nonchalance of her reply. "Nah, I'm fine." Sara swabs rubbing alcohol over the sleek tattooed flesh until it glistens faintly; something to hold her attention so that she won't have to meet Michael's eyes. "I, uh, couldn't find anybody to cover for me, anyway."

Michael doesn't so much as flinch as Sara drives the tip of the needle into his arm and instead seems to be intent on watching her press the plunger down until the insulin has drained entirely beneath his skin. "I hope you don't feel like you owe me anything."

And there it is. The breaching of the subject that Sara has been thinking about non-stop since Michael's heroic rescue nearly twenty-four hours ago. And even with those twenty-four hours of restless waking thoughts and fitful sleep, Sara has not been able to come up with a single way to tell Michael just how much she does owe him. She owes him all of her gratitude. She owes him her life. Literally.

Her shoulders rise and fall in a preparatory breath that does little to calm her jittering nerves. "I do. I'm, uh..." She breathes in again, this time releasing the oxygen just a little too quickly so that what was meant to be a sigh spills as an audible whisper of her inner turmoil, "I really appreciate what you did for me."

Sara chances a glance at Michael this time, hoping to avert him from thinking that she's been avoiding his gaze but the eye contact, brief as it is, knots her stomach further and she looks away again just as quickly. Busying herself with discarding of the used syringe and its wrapper, Sara's ears ring with the echo of words unspoken that passes between them as much as a current of electricity that she has to try harder each day to ignore.

"But?"

But? But he'd lied to her.

Still not daring to meet his stare head-on, Sara begins rolling her gloves back down her hands, pulling each finger free one at a time simply to have something to linger over; something to distract herself. "But you...told me that you had been up in the crawl space for P.I. and...P.I. was never assigned to go there."

Finally having nothing else to preoccupy herself with, Sara angles her chin and looks directly at Michael, needing with every molecule of her being to see the truth - or another lie - on his face. But instead, she sees only a blank slate.

The silence is there again, surrounding them like some kind of invisible shroud and it's all Sara can do not to turn away. A ray of direct afternoon sunshine slants through the infirmary window and catches Michael's face, infusing half of it in a golden glow and leaving the other half cast in contours of shadow and Sara can't help but think that the contrast of dark and light is some despairing reminder of the man Michael seems to be. A cruel visual warning to a heart that is beginning to get too involved.

"We're done here, right?" He breaks the dragging moments of quiet so thick that Sara is certain he'll be able to hear the thudding of her heart with a voice that has turned off its current of warmth without warning.

She is stricken by the sudden change in his demeanor and by the continued chill of his features and suddenly all she wants is to beg him to stay just a few more moments; just to make him see that she only wonders because she cares. Perhaps a little too much for safety's sake.

"Michael, don't be like that. I just...I just want some answers." Sara's helpless tone speaks all that she can't about her confusion and the discomfort of being just outside of his circle of trust but her candidness seems to do little to soften his steely resolve.

Michael's cool monotone strikes Sara as much as his abrupt rise to his feet and his dismissal of not only Sara's chosen topic, but their brief time together entirely. "Thanks for the shot, Doc."

Though Michael still registers no expression, his unblinking crystalline gaze flashes blue sparks of what nearly seems to be fear but just as quickly, he has turned his back on her and Sara is left in the wake of his departure. She wants to call after him as she watches him go, to say something to make him stay, but she is as lost for words as she had been the previous day.

Thank you. It's all she had wanted to say. But just like every other moment spent with him, the moment had passed too soon.
 
 
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