She’s not sure what she was expecting. The words safe house conjure up a picture of a dark and fortified hideout, certainly not this plain but clean wooden house in the outer suburbs. Once inside, though, the surroundings more than meet her expectations. It’s sparsely furnished, with heavy curtains at every barred window. “How did you find this place?”
Michael looks at her as though the answer should be obvious. “I took out a three month lease under another name the week before I was arrested.”
Ask a silly question, she thinks. “Is there anything you didn’t plan in advance?”
His eyes lock with hers. “A few things.”
She clears her throat. “Nice suit,” she says hastily, then wants to bite off her tongue. Perhaps it would have just been easier to tell him she can’t stop looking at him, that the sight of him dressed as though he’s just left a board meeting makes her feel as though someone has removed the bones from her legs.
He flushes, or perhaps she just imagines it. “Thank you.”
She glances at Lincoln, waiting in the hallway, a casually disarrayed contrast to his younger brother. “Not your style?”
He smirks. “Not really.”
She watches him as he walks away, then calls after him softly, “You’re limping.”
“Cop got off a lucky shot,” he informs her over his shoulder. “It’s not too bad.”
"I'll take a look at it for you." Without waiting for Lincoln's reply, she looks at Michael, now watching his brother with anxious eyes. “I don’t suppose you’ve got a first aid kit here?”
As an answer, he walks to the far end of the main living area and begins to rummage in a large duffel bag. A minute later, he holds up a store-bought first aid kit. She stares at him.
“Tell me - you were a Boy Scout at one point in your life, weren’t you?” It feels perfectly natural to be joking with him, to fall back into their teasing banter, and she’s not sure she likes it. She wants – she needs – for him to understand how much damage he left behind.
“Nope.” He flashes her a quick, faintly nervous smile. “I could never get used to the uniform.” He looks down at the kit in his hands, then sucks in an audible breath as he lifts his eyes to hers. “Do you want to talk about – all of this?”
A subtle flicker of disappointment dances across his face. “We have to, at some point.”
“I agree, and we will.” She can’t believe she sounds so matter-of-fact when she’s struggling to deal with the unexpected twist her afternoon has taken. Between her happy-go-lucky friend pulling a gun on her to Michael Scofield kissing her in the back of a rusty van, she’s having a little trouble keeping her balance. Giving herself an inner shake, she takes the first-aid kit from his hands and begins to look through it. “But right now, I just want to make sure that neither you or your brother are about to die from septicaemia.” Not only that, she thinks, Lincoln has obviously resigned himself to being her patient once more and is standing only a few feet away. She and Michael need to have that conversation, but she doesn't plan on doing it with an audience.
Michael's stubborn expression is all too familiar. “I’m fine.”
She gives him a “I’ll be the judge of that” look she’s quite sure he’ll recognise, then gestures for Lincoln to sit at the small kitchen table. “Where's the wound?"
He points to a spot halfway up his thigh, and she quickly debates the best way to go about this. Something about this setting makes what she's about to do feel less clinical and much more personal. It's not that it makes her uncomfortable, but perhaps she'll let her patient decide. "You can either roll them up or take them off.”
Lincoln gives her a look, then begins to roll up the leg of his loosely fitted trousers. She washes her hands at the kitchen sink, entirely too conscious of Michael's intent gaze watching her. A few minutes later, she draws up another chair beside Lincoln, then gently touches the edges of the bullet wound on his thigh. Michael, now crouched at her side, is still watching her every move. “How did you stop the bleeding?”
The question is directed at both of them, but she's not surprised when Michael answers. “Cayenne pepper.”
Taken aback, she lifts her eyes to his, instantly feeling the impact of his gaze like a kick to the stomach. “Very resourceful,” she finally manages to say, and means it.
He looks at her as if he wants to say something more, then glances at his brother. He gets to his feet and excuses himself, mumbling something about the bathroom.
Lincoln watches him go, then turns to look at her with blue eyes that are both eerily similar and completely different to his brother’s. “Just so you know,” he begins in the slow, dry drawl she remembers well, “following you was all his idea.”
She smiles as she begins to clean the bullet wound as gently as she can. “I’m sure it was.”
“Not that I put up much of a fight once I recognised your date.”
She feels her lips purse as though she’s been sucking lemons. “He wasn’t my date.”
“Glad to hear it.”
She shakes her head as she reaches for a fresh dressing. If she didn’t know better, she’d think Lincoln Burrows was indignant on his brother’s behalf. “He told me his name was Lance.”
Lincoln shrugs. “I don’t know his real name, but like I said, he’s definitely not one of the good guys.”
She nods. “Trust me, I believe you.” Her job done, she sits back on the hard wooden chair. “You’re all set.”
She pulls off the gloves she’d found in Michael’s first aid kit – despite his denials, she swears he was a Boy Scout at some point – and gives her patient a quick smile. “Apart from the leg, you look much better than the last time I saw you.”
He doesn’t return her smile. “A lot’s changed since then.”
“I know,” she says, feeling the sudden urge to reach out to him, to connect. “I heard about your son, and I’m sorry. At least you know that Veronica will do everything she can to help him.”
His whole body stiffens, and he looks at her with dark, hollow eyes. “Veronica’s dead.”
She stares at him in shock, her stomach lurching coldly as her mouth opens and a single thick and stupid word comes out. “What?”
His throat works as he gulps down an unsteady breath. “They killed her,” he whispers, his eyes glittering. “They killed her and there wasn’t a fucking thing I could do to stop it.”
Pushing away her own distress, she reaches for his hand before he’s finished speaking - his voice strangled by the harsh, ugly truth of his words - then shifts her chair closer to his, recognising all the signs of delayed shock. “I’m so sorry,” she whispers as she gingerly slides one arm around his shoulders, feeling useless and helpless. “I’m so, so sorry.” He sits immobile in the circle of her arm, his head bowed, and she tries again. “This wasn’t your fault, Lincoln.”
“The hell it wasn’t.” The words are almost a growl, and she feels the tremor that runs through him.
“She believed in you.” She gently rubs the hard curve of his shoulder with one hand as she glances towards the other end of the room, willing Michael to reappear. She suspects this is a discussion that is long overdue. “Helping you was her choice.”
He swears as he lets out a shuddering breath that finally catches on a rough sob. He covers his eyes with one hand, and she tightens her arm around him, trying to hold him steady. When his shoulders begin to silently shake, all her feelings of helplessness and awkwardness fall away, and she holds him as close as he’ll let her, murmuring platitudes she knows he’s not really hearing. He struggles to gain control over himself and her heart breaks for him, for his son, for Veronica, for everything that’s been stolen from a man who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
After several minutes, he stops shaking, pressing the heels of both hands hard against his eyes. “Fuck this shit,” he mutters, then shoots her an embarrassment glance, his eyes red. “Uh, sorry.”
That he should care about swearing in her presence in such circumstances makes her want to smile. She knows next to nothing about their mother, but she knows now that the woman raised both her sons very well. “That’s okay.”
He pulls away from her slightly, and she lets her arm fall away from his shoulders. He gets slowly to his feet, testing his weight on his left leg, then gives her a sombre smile. “Thanks, Doc. For everything.”
She tucks her feet underneath her chair and looks up at him. “You’re welcome.” She likes him, she realises with a start, likes him for himself as much as for his brother.
He glances towards the end of the room - she realises then that they are both thinking of Michael - and mutters in a low voice, “He’s a fucking genius, but he’s got a lot to learn about a lot of things.” He watches her face carefully as he speaks. “You’ve got every right to be angry-”
She can’t stop the words from falling out of her mouth. “You got that right.”
“What you need to know,” he goes on as if she hasn’t spoken, his voice still rough with lingering grief, “is that everything he did, he did to save me.”
“I know that.”
He lifts one dark eyebrow. “You know, but I don’t think you understand. Not yet, anyway.” With that cryptic remark, he turns away and walks slowly from the room, moving towards the front entrance. She hears him checking the locks on the door a few seconds later, and she knows that their conversation is over. She stares after him, her thoughts darting in a dozen different directions. Both men had lost so much, and yet they hadn't hesitated to put their freedom at risk to spirit her away to safety. She's breaking several laws just by being here, she's sure, but she suddenly doesn't care.
“How’s his leg?”
She starts at the sound of Michael’s voice, glancing up to see him standing a few feet from her. He’s looking at her with an expression that’s both wary and eager, and she feels a flutter of sensation just below her heart. “He’ll be okay.”
He smiles, and she sees his shoulders sag in relief. “Good.” He takes a step towards her, then stops, suddenly looking much younger, his face soft and uncertain. “How about you, Sara?”
She swallows hard, but her throat still feels dry. “What about me?”
His gaze travels her face, lingering on her mouth before finding her eyes. “Will you be okay?”
They look at each other for a moment in silence. She’s still so angry – with him, with herself – and it still hurts so much and she knows she should just turn on her heel and walk away but she can’t and she won’t. She’s not a coward and she’s finished with running away. “I will be."
He smiles once more, but it's a very different smile this time. “Good,” he says again, then hesitates, his gaze searching her face. Finally - perhaps finding what he was seeking - he takes another step towards her, his eyes never leaving hers. “Let's talk.”