There’s a certain universal law that states any loud background noise will abruptly end at the most inopportune moment possible. It’s a phenomena Jane can’t help wishing she’d remembered a lot earlier.
It’s after dinner, and she and Sara are alone on the deck of the Big House, watching the black and cream lines of the waves as they wash onto the darkened beach and lazily slapping at their arms to dislodge the occasional sand fly. Lincoln and Michael are both inside, Michael starting the coffee machine and Lincoln ‘giving him a hand’. Jane suspects, however, the latter’s motives have more to do with checking the baseball scores than helping his brother make coffee.
Or perhaps, she thinks with a private smile, he’d simply wanted to escape. He’d made the mistake of telling them about the girlie magazine he’d found in LJ’s bedroom, and when Sara had teased him about checking his son’s DVD collection, Lincoln had blanched, frowned at them both, then vanished inside.
Jane studies the dark horizon, lazily counting the fishing boats dotting the inky expanse like fireflies. “John and I used to watch X-rated movies together, sometimes.” The words are out of her mouth before she realises it, and why she’s saying them to Sara, she has no idea. Perhaps she’s buoyed by two glasses of merlot and the knowledge their conversation is covered by the jazz music coming from inside the house. “After Catherine was safely tucked into bed, of course.”
Sara looks taken aback, but rallies quickly. “Been a long time since I’ve watched one.” She hesitates, then plunges back into the conversation with a determined breeziness that has Jane hiding a smile. “Any favorites you’d care to recommend?”
Jane chuckles, pleased that she is able to make such a sound after speaking the names of her lost husband and daughter names out loud. “I’m afraid I don’t remember any particular titles.” She glances over her shoulder to make sure their private conversation is still private, then back at Sara. “John liked to indulge my, uh, interests, though, so that’s something to keep in mind, I guess.”
"Gotcha." A faint blush creeps across Sara’s face, her gaze sliding across to study the dark ocean. After a long moment, she clears her throat loudly, her hands slowly twisting in her lap. “May I ask you something?”
Sara turns back to her, her gaze frankly curious. “Does Lincoln know?”
“That I’ve been with women in the past, yes.” Jane gives her a reassuring smile, knowing the real answer her friend is seeking. “That you were one of them, no.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
Too late, Jane realises the music is no longer playing and she and Sara are no longer alone. Her heart sinks as she and Sara turn in unison to find Michael standing in the doorway, looking faintly shell-shocked. She opens her mouth to speak - although God only knows what she could possibly say - then looks beseechingly at Lincoln, who is standing behind his brother and wearing an expression that’s only slightly less stunned.
To his credit, he does his best to come to her aid. “Who wants coffee?”
Unfortunately, his deliberately hearty manner only serves to accentuate the silence rapidly filling up the space between his brother and Sara, and Jane has to fight the urge to wince. She glances at Sara, who looks as though she wants the floor to rise and swallow her whole, then at Michael, who is looking at Sara as though he has a million questions and no words with which to ask them.
What the hell was I thinking? she berates herself, knowing that anything she might say will only make things more awkward. “No coffee for me, thanks,” she declines politely, catching Lincoln’s eye as she rises to her feet. Thankfully, he quickly grasps the notion that a swift and discreet exit might be their best option at this point.
“We might head home, then.” Lincoln claps his hand on Michael’s shoulder, and Jane knows it’s a gesture of reassurance as much as a farewell. “We still on for a surf in the morning?”
Michael tears his gaze away from Sara long enough to give his brother a quick nod. “Uh, sure.”
Pushing back her chair, Sara slides her hands into the back pockets of her jeans as she offers Lincoln and Jane a small smile. She doesn’t look at Michael. “Thanks for bringing the merlot,” she says cheerily, making Jane feel even more wretched. She looks at Sara, then makes a vague gesture towards Michael, who is now busily gathering up empty coffee cups with exaggerated care.
“Sorry,” she mouths, but Sara just smiles, her expression calm, and Jane is suddenly reminded this is a woman who has lived through prison riots and a bathtub drowning.
“It’s fine. Drive safely home, okay?”
Michael’s goodnight is distracted at best, and Jane finds herself quickening her step as she and Lincoln make their way towards their car in the driveway. “I’ve put the cat amongst the pigeons there,” she mutters unhappily as soon as they’re out of earshot.
Lincoln shrugs as he pulls the car keys from his pocket. “They’ve been through worse.”
Unconvinced, Jane glances back at the house they’ve just left, fighting the urge to smack herself in the forehead. “Perhaps I should go back and apologise to Michael. At least try to explain-”
“Forget about them,” he interjects, leaning his arms on the roof of the car and fixing her with an unwavering blue gaze. “What about how I feel about knowing you slept with Sara?”
One hand on the passenger door handle, she raises her eyebrows at him across the car roof. “How do you feel?”
He blinks, indecision clearly etched on his face. Jane understands his dilemma. If it had been any other woman, she’s quite sure he’d be doing his best to drag every single last detail out of her. “I don’t get it,” he finally says, jiggling his car keys in his hand. “I mean, you and me, we weren’t anywhere near being together, but Sara and Michael-” He glances at the house, then back at her, frowning. “I guess I didn’t think she’d do that.”
Jane sighs. “It wasn’t about sex, Lincoln.” She hesitates, searching for the right words, knowing she could spend hours explaining and still not be able to make him understand. “We were camped out in that apartment trying to deal with the fact we’d lost both of you. She was hurting very badly, and I was the only thing she had to hang onto.” His expression softens, and she lifts her hands in a gesture of acceptance. “All I can tell you is that in that moment, it made just as much sense as anything else that was happening to us.”
He nods slowly, his gaze drifting over her shoulder to study the moonlit trees behind the house, and she can’t help wondering if his imagination has already begun to work overtime. “You want to know what I think?” he finally asks, and she nods, more than a little shocked by how much his answer means to her.
“I think we should go home and go to bed.”
There’s a rough, smoky edge to his voice, and she finds her fingertips curling into the cool metal of the car roof. She tosses him an easy smile, but she can’t ignore the fluttering of her pulse in several distracting places. “You’re a walking cliché.”
Flashing her a wolfish grin, he pulls open the driver’s door with an unhurried yet determined flick of his wrist. “You bet.”
As the roar of Lincoln’s car fades away, Sara leans against the wooden balcony and waits for Michael to look her in the eye.
He doesn’t, and the hollow space between her heart and her ribs seems to grow larger with every passing second. After a few interminable minutes of watching him wipe down the already spotless timber table, she clears her throat. “Aren’t you going to say anything?”
He straightens, his gaze meeting hers with obvious reluctance. “I’m not sure.”
Something cold settles in the pit of her stomach. Damn it, Jane.
“Take your time,” she says in the most casual voice she can muster as she pulls out the nearest chair and eases herself into it. “I’m not going anywhere.”
He glances down at his hands, as if surprised to see he’s twisting the dishcloth in his fingers over and over again, then back at her. After what feels like an eternity, he takes a deep breath, as if drawing strength from the purity of the warm night air. “Have you ever, uh-” His gaze darts away from her as he breaks off, looking more than a little uncomfortable, then tries again. “In college, I guess-”
“No,” she interrupts him gently. “I didn’t, actually.”
“So why did you-” He carefully folds the smudged dishcloth into a neat square, pressing it into his palm as he struggles for the right words. Finally, he looks her in the eye and settles for a simple, “Why?”
She’s asked herself the same question many times since that night in Washington, but now is not the time for a wishy-washy answer. “I thought you were dead,” she tells him, and the tense set of his shoulders seems to relax, if only a little. “I would have done almost anything to make the pain go away," she adds, determined not to fall back on any excuse other than her own fragile state of mind. "And the apartment was sadly lacking in morphine.”
His eyes darken, a muscle in his jaw twitching. “Right.” He shifts his weight from one foot to the other, long fingers tapping against his thigh. She watches him, her stomach fluttering with nerves, waiting. Finally, he looks at her, his oddly calm expression belied by the wounded tinge to his words. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Because I didn’t want you to know how quickly I went to pieces when I thought I’d lost you. The words burn into her thoughts like a brand, and it’s an effort to force her tongue and lips to form a different answer. “Because it wasn’t worth making you feel the way you’re obviously feeling now.” The legs of her chair scrape loudly on the wooden floor as she gets to her feet. “Because it meant nothing more to me than a good friend doing whatever she could to stop me from going over the edge.”
He watches her as she makes her way slowly around the table towards him. “I understand if you’re angry.”
“I’m not angry,” he tells her, the words coming out in a hollow rush, and her heart twists.
“Maybe you should be.”
“Maybe I will be,” he shoots back in a voice that’s a little too calm. “But right now, I’m trying to understand.”
“I’m so sorry, Michael. Sorry I let it happen, sorry I didn't tell you, sorry you found out this way.” She’s an arm’s length away from him now, close enough to reach out and touch him. “I don’t make a habit of casual sex,” she adds quietly, and his face tightens, whether with anger or some other emotion, it’s impossible to tell.
“I know that.”
When she reaches him, he takes a step backwards until he’s leaning against the edge of the table, his long legs stretched out in front of him. His hands grip the edge of the table on either side of him, his body language neither inviting nor defensive. He looks at the wooden floor between his feet, then the swaying trees that surround their house. Finally, he looks at her. “Do I make you happy?”
Her heart does an odd little lurch, knowing he’s talking about sex and that the new uncertainty in his tone is completely her fault. “You do.” Taking one last step towards him, she covers his hand where it’s gripping the edge of the table and meets his gaze unflinchingly. “Beyond happy,” she adds firmly, then suddenly finds herself smiling and shaking her head in faint disbelief. “How can you even ask me that?”
“Seemed like a fair question to me, given the circumstances,” he says with a shrug, and she’s suddenly filled with the urge to shake him. Either that or kiss him until he can’t speak.
Perhaps she’ll do both.
"You make me very happy, Michael, trust me." Gathering up her courage, she moves to stand in front of him, her eyes locking with his. “If it helps, I’ll tell you anything you want to know.” A subtle flicker of panic crosses his face, and she quickly adds, “Or we don’t have to talk about it at all if it makes you uncomfortable.”
He flushes, suddenly looking several years younger. “Uncomfortable isn’t exactly the word I’d use,” he mutters, his obvious embarrassment not quite disguising the curiosity in his bright gaze. Sara studies him for a few seconds, then decides that while talking things through is always a good plan, perhaps it’s time to take this conversation to a more tactile level.
“Well, you know the old cliché,” she murmurs, her hands resting experimentally on his denim-clad thighs, pleased when he doesn't shift away from her touch. “Apparently many men would find such a revelation rather titillating.”
Something akin to hunger flickers across his carefully schooled expression, and she knows she has him. "Yes, I know." He frowns, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. "I've never really understood the attraction, to be honest.”
Liar, she tells him with her eyes, letting her hands slide a little higher up his lean thighs. “So, not something you’d be interested in discussing, then?” She leans forward until her breasts brush against his chest, her lips ghosting over his mouth in a feather-light kiss. When she hears his breath hitch in his throat, she presses closer, her hips fitting perfectly into the loose embrace of his thighs. “Not even if I promise to tell you every little detail-”
He lets out his breath on a shuddering sigh, his breath hot on her lips as he mutters her name in a thick voice. "Jesus, Sara-" He’s hard against her now, and the feel of him sends a flash of heat through her from breast to groin. “That’s playing dirty.”
She laughs, giddy with relief as much as desire. Despite his complicated system of beliefs and ethics, it seems Michael Scofield is more of an average guy than she may have ever suspected. The thought makes her grin. “My apologies,” she says lightly, making no effort whatsoever to ease herself away from him. “I’ll go make a start on the dishes, shall I?”
“I have a better idea.” His hands are on her hips, pulling her closer, the airy lilt in his voice telling her he’s prepared to deal with this unexpected piece of emotional baggage. He kisses her gently, shaping her lips with his, a slow tasting of her mouth that feels like a reclamation and leaves her breathless and wanting. “Maybe we should sleep on it.”
She winds her arms around his neck and rests her chin on his shoulder, feeling the steady beat of his heart against hers, almost keeping time with the soft crash and drag of the waves on the beach below. “I’d like that.”
Much later, pleasantly limp and scarcely able to summon the energy to move, she runs her hand lightly down the tattooed arm draped over her. He murmurs softly in his sleep, his arm tightening around her waist as he buries his nose in the tangle of her hair. She closes her eyes, letting the warmth of his body seep into her cooling skin, knowing they've weathered another storm and found each other waiting on the other side.