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03 February 2007 @ 08:15 am
Prison Break Gen Fiction: Uncoding Michael  
Title: Uncoding Michael
Author: HalfshellVenus
Character: Sara (Gen-ish, romantic longings)
Rating: PG
Summary: There are messages within messages, and Sara often wonders just what Michael is saying.
Author's Notes: This theme came to me suddenly, with the ending of Episode 2.15, "The Message". The title uses "uncoding" and not "decoding," because while Sara has unearthed Michael's meanings again and again, she would so much rather he stop complicating absolutely everything. Also for my philosophy_20 Prison Break Series claim, here for the prompt of "Extrinsic."


x-x-x-x-x

The first was the red origami flower. He left it because it was her birthday, and whether it was more than that, she couldn't tell.

It was thoughtful, and it made her smile. Maybe that was enough.

It wasn't enough when she found out that Michael was married—found out the hard way, just fell across it like it was a random fact and not some very important aspect of his life that he'd entirely failed to mention. He said it wasn't marriage "in the conventional sense," reaching for some unnamed technicality. That was his only excuse.

Only it wasn't new or even believable. She knew about men like that—hell, she'd been played by men like that. How could it be anything other than what it looked like? He was in prison, he was lonely, and she was available. And oh-so-blind…

Next was the too-sudden kiss in the Infirmary. Michael's eyes were full of something unknowable-- a kind of desperation, it seemed-- and then he was kissing her and the world stopped for a minute or an hour, until she remembered that this was a bad idea, that there was no this, not anything firm enough to count on.

"Wait for me," he'd said.

Wait where? Wait until his next visit? Until he got out of prison? She had the clarity and self-dignity to say no.

But still, she fell for the story Nika told her. She believed that Michael truly cared, and for a moment she forgot to ask herself the question of who Michael really was—this soft-spoken criminal with no prior record, this man who was both evasive and sincere. She forgot that nothing in that meant she had to be part of it. She forgot that it is in the nature of criminals to lie…

The missing key— reappearing so smoothly with Michael's next visit—reminded her of all those things she'd forgotten. She was a means to an end. And she'd been foolish enough let herself believe that it was real.

Michael wasn't done with her after that. He apologized, he told her that he needed that Infirmary door open to save Lincoln, pleaded so tearfully for his brother. What could she do then, when she knew from before that it might be the truth? She'd seen the file Michael had gotten sent to her, she'd met with Lincoln's lawyers and tried to reason with her own father, and it had done no good. If not for that phone call— almost too late, it had almost been too late—Lincoln Burrows would be dead now.

Justice was not going to save Lincoln. But Michael still had no idea what he was asking her.

She wasn't sure later whether her tears were for Michael leaving, or for herself, for the everything that this was going to cost her.

When the swans starting coming in the mail, she wondered why.

Why that? She knew those pieces of paper were some kind of message, but why couldn't he just tell her like a normal person—because none of those disjointed phrases or phone numbers added up to "I'm so sorry, Sara," or "I'll help you through this," or even "I'm so grateful for what you did."

They told her that Michael was alive, and that he knew how to reach her.

But he'd always known that, and look where it had gotten her. She was going to lose her job, and she might wind up in jail herself.

Understand me, the swans were saying . I need something from you.

Where was I asked too much and I'm sorry, and here's how I'm going to fix it?

This was still all about Michael, and maybe it always had been. She knew that at a minimum, she deserved something for herself.

What she had was a life that needed resurrecting. She went back to meetings, began shouldering the responsibility for bad choices that couldn't be escaped now. She began to see some of her father's anger and indifference as frustration, as too many times down a road of hopelessness with someone who kept giving in to her demons-- two someones if you counted her mother.

She was so close to making it right when her world turned upside down again.

In a sewer, still shaking from barely escaping death for the second time, from the knowledge that her father was murdered and that she was next, she took stock of her situation. She had some cash, she had the clothes on her back, and she had paper swans.

The swans became hope then, with no other clear path for her future.

She pieced them together, cracked Michael's code of numbers into letters suggesting words.

A place and a time. A rendezvous. She ran toward the only answer she was offered, armed with a purpose and a dead woman's name.

She should have expected that it wouldn't be enough. The signs from the past should have outweighed the single possibility of anything being different.

This was Michael, after all. He had no real answers-- he wanted absolution instead. There was no plan for her, for them. He'd promised her that once, but it wasn't true.

Come with me. As if a fugitive was in any position to save her. As if three fugitives together wouldn't make finding any single one of them all the easier.

Maybe she was a coward, sneaking out while Michael was in the shower. But she didn't owe him any more chances to weaken her heart.

She wasn't proud of that choice—it was self-preservation. The irony of that hit her later, as she struggled to keep from drowning at the hands of another man she'd trusted not that long ago.

Desperation made her stronger than she knew how to be. She got away a third time—right out a window, crash-landing on a blanket of glass. She'd had so many drugged-up daydreams where she was flying, but the reality would come to her in nightmares after this now, she was sure.

She wasn't sure how she got through the next few hours, gritting her way through stitching herself up in a filthy bathroom. A hospital was the first place Lance would look for her. She was left to save herself.

A stranger stared back at her from the bathroom mirror, a woman with haunted eyes.

Everything before this had been a cakewalk, all those years with her mother's drinking, her own addiction, losing her father and her past all in the same week. All of it so simple and survivable. She just never knew it before now.

She got good at hiding. She had no place to go, no-one to help her. But she kept her cell phone on all the same. She could pretend that it was because Michael was the only one not trying to kill her, but she knew it was more. She wanted to hear from him. Running toward him was better than running away from everything else.

She thought Michael called her a few days later, but there was only silence. It could still have been Michael—that cryptic combination was just like Michael—but there was no way to be sure.

Until she saw him on the news, back in custody all over again.

She had never in her life been in a place as small as her motel room was in that moment. Her future was that room, for as long as she could hang onto it until she ran out of money. There was no-one waiting for her, no-one to watch her back. There was no-one who would know she was missing if she got captured and killed.

Wait, her thoughts reminded her. Just wait. She could panic when her options were gone.

The next few days were hard. She spent hours running through the phone book, sketching out ideas on the motel stationery. She thought about waitressing, bartending, and Mexico. If the words blurred in front of her eyes, there was no-one else to witness it.

She never expected to see Michael on the television again, not like that. He was free again, his brother beside him, and they looked like they were doing better than she was.

Michael's eyes held hers as he spoke to the camera—to her. His words fell on her ears like music, offering apologies, comfort… peace.

They sang inside her again and again, stirring up feelings she'd meant to leave behind. Feelings of hope, of barest possibility. Until finally, another feeling rose up with them.

There is a solution… Safe haven…. Every doctor's nightmare…

Those words formed their own context. They weren't free-flowing regrets or confessions—they were a code. A message within a message for her to decipher all over again.

She reached for The Book, the one she knew as well as her own name by now with years of A.A. and Narcotics Anonymous behind her. Leafing through it, the words leaped out at her—chapter headings that told her she was on the right track.

In the forward to the last one was a place again—she hoped that was the gist of Michael's plan. But Ohio was too far away, and maybe Michael didn't know that. Or maybe he thought it shouldn't matter.

She took the book over to the bed, leaning back against the headboard and fingering the pages while she thought.

Another chance—for her, and maybe for them both. With so little to keep her going right now, it was hard not to chase that glimmer of hope.

She would probably do it. Somehow, some way… She'd be there, or let Michael know that she wanted it, that she was willing to keep trying. He might let her down again—god knew he had a history of it already—but it was something, and she had nothing.

And if it didn't work out, she'd keep on going.

She wished that she could just talk to him, just get an answer and a clear idea of where things were headed.

But then she wondered if that was even possible. There was the situation—by definition uncontrolled—but underneath it was the foundation of Michael and who he was.

Sometimes she hoped that he and his promises would prove worth waiting for. Even if it was short-term or ill-conceived, she hoped that something there was real enough to fight for.

Other times, she wondered if it could ever be enough. Heartache aside, with everything she'd lost, she couldn't help thinking that even in this—these brief second-hand communications, these symbols of something else—Michael just kept demanding again and again so much more than he would ever be able to give.



------- fin -------


 
 
 
am_sram_sr on February 3rd, 2007 07:42 pm (UTC)
es triste, estar sola tratando de sobrellevar todo, sin ayuda, porque ella misma hizo la opcion de no ir con michael, no creerle, ahora lo necesita, espero que lo hagan
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Venushalfshellvenus on February 3rd, 2007 08:38 pm (UTC)
Sara's position IS so sad-- she's there because Michael and Veronica didn't give up and kept poking into Lincoln's problem, and though Michael really didn't have anything much to offer Sara, that little bit is now the best thing she has left. :(

Thank you so much for reading and commmenting. :)
Tiger Lily: Sara 2.10tigerlily0 on February 3rd, 2007 08:05 pm (UTC)
nice
That was nice. I like the listing of all the messages-within-messages. Here's hoping that everything works out :-)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Venushalfshellvenus on February 3rd, 2007 08:41 pm (UTC)
Re: nice
Here's hoping that everything works out :-)
Since I'm not a Michael/Sara shipper, it doesn't need to work out that particular way for me.

But she deserves a better future-- and so much of what she had was so utterly and permanently destroyed. There's no-one to go "home" to anymore-- home is a deadly place, now that her father has been murdered.

At this point, Sara could definitely use a break. :)
unsingable name: sky michaelsaestina on February 3rd, 2007 08:38 pm (UTC)
I really, really like this. I love that there isn't a happy ending, and that the potential for one in the future doesn't look great. Sara's bitterness and frustration is so clear and justified, and that's something you rarely see addressed in the fan fiction world. Of course Michael's constant ulterior motives would be hurtful to her, and that's something I've never seen articulated so well as here.

I also love the simplicity of the language you use; I appreciate that you're not trying to do all of the work for me, if that makes sense. Thanks for the read.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Venushalfshellvenus on February 3rd, 2007 10:08 pm (UTC)
I love that there isn't a happy ending, and that the potential for one in the future doesn't look great.
It's funny, in reviewing episode recaps for this, Sara's story came and went in pieces, and when you add them all up they are so dark and scary in Season 2. The accumulation of bad things becoming worse makes her chances for the future look all the worse.

Sara's bitterness and frustration is so clear and justified, and that's something you rarely see addressed in the fan fiction world.
That's what really inspired this story. That last part of "The Message" finally clicked into my realizing that Michael makes everything so hard for her (even those times when he didn't mean to, she still can't know that). He demands far too much in terms of her meeting him on his "turf" (in terms of decoding his cryptic messages), and that hasn't lessened-- it's gotten worse. I'd be immensely frustrated in her position, because on top of what she's going through she certainly doesn't need that.

Of course Michael's constant ulterior motives would be hurtful to her, and that's something I've never seen articulated so well as here.
At some point, she simply may not be able to trust him any longer, because even when he means what he says there are still those other motivations that so often lurk underneath. And she doesn't deserve to have to worry about that.

Thanks so much for reading and commenting. This isn't a POV I write very often, and it's very nice to have people enjoy it. :)
sk56sk56 on February 4th, 2007 05:03 am (UTC)
Some very nice writing, but some even nicer thinking about the characters and their situation. Since we don't actually see them together very much in the series (or haven't up to now), the idea of 'second hand communication' is a powerful one.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sarahalfshellvenus on February 4th, 2007 06:50 am (UTC)
Since we don't actually see them together very much in the series (or haven't up to now), the idea of 'second hand communication' is a powerful one.
Yes-- in the first part of the story, she sees Michael more frequently but she's not sure what he's up to and there are lies and ulterior motives behind some of the things he does. And in the second part of the story, these messages that he sends her are always so wrapped up in mystery and double-encryption-subterfuge that it must just make her tired at times wondering what he's trying to say, and why he makes her work so hard to figure out what that is.
Rosie: pic#57767176rosie_spleen on February 4th, 2007 11:41 am (UTC)
Very nice, almost like a string of incidents and thoughts patched together which works well considering this is all their relationship has been up until this stage.

I especially love how you began and ended on the idea of things never being enough - like his early actions and deeds were never enough for her, and how eventually there is still a real question about this lingering.

The writers of PB have led Sara on an interesting path this season, do you think? They have tried not to paint her weak (doesnt run back to MS) they have tried to keep her intelligent, self reliant, able - which is quite refreshing for a female character in an ensemble cast.

This piece of writing does that idea justice. Great, love it
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sarahalfshellvenus on February 5th, 2007 07:36 am (UTC)
I especially love how you began and ended on the idea of things never being enough - like his early actions and deeds were never enough for her, and how eventually there is still a real question about this lingering.
At the beginning, he was using her (whether she knew it or not), and his earlier actions were hints and maybes to gain her affection. And at the end, it's all so cryptic-- deliberately now-- and he's making her work so hard for such simple messages, and she still has to wonder what the reality underneath them is. Michael might think it's more, but can he follow through on it? At this point, she just doesn't know him well enough to tell.

The writers of PB have led Sara on an interesting path this season, do you think? They have tried not to paint her weak (doesnt run back to MS) they have tried to keep her intelligent, self reliant, able - which is quite refreshing for a female character in an ensemble cast.
Absolutely. Sara's character was one I initially liked, and then hated what they did with her when she became all about waiting around for Michael in Season 1. This season she's showing that grit and determination that got her through her past troubles and helped her survive working in a rough environment like the prison. That's the Sara I like, and she'd vanished for awhile. As a non-shipper, the relationship aspect doesn't do anything for me, and I really don't like it when it weakens both characters (it doesn't have to be handled quite that way). Surviving Kellerman alone was Sara's strongest hour in this season so far, that and patching herself up in the bathroom. Wow.

This piece of writing does that idea justice. Great, love it.
Thank you very much, Rosie! That means a great deal to me. ♥
merctales on February 7th, 2007 06:47 am (UTC)
When I saw that you'd decided to tackle Sara, I knew I was in for a treat. My instincts were right.

Michael wasn't done with her after that.
We're not even through the first season, and already it feels like he's asked too much from her, taken too much out of her.

Understand me, the swans were saying . I need something from you.
Where was I asked too much and I'm sorry, and here's how I'm going to fix it?

This has to be one of the most blinders-off looks at Michael and his motives that I've seen. Harsh, but so so true.

I love the way you phrase things. And I love this piece.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sarahalfshellvenus on February 7th, 2007 07:32 am (UTC)
When I saw that you'd decided to tackle Sara, I knew I was in for a treat. My instincts were right.
:D You are so sweet!

We're not even through the first season, and already it feels like he's asked too much from her, taken too much out of her.
No kidding. The leaving the door open-- when you see what it cost her, how it crushed her, you see that it was after all entirely too much. And I do understand that Michael had no other way-- and she understands it too here-- but it was still too much, making her choose to do that.

This has to be one of the most blinders-off looks at Michael and his motives that I've seen. Harsh, but so so true.
This comes in part of not being an M/S shipper, but also because at the end of "The Message" the whole cumulation of this really hit me. There were all the things at the beginning that she hoped for that he wasn't really saying (back where he was leading her on all the time), but the things he IS saying-- damned if he doesn't make her work for it, as if he's testing her and demanding that she prove herself worthy of his intellect. The "AA Book" message was bad enough, but I think it was honestly the swans that pissed me off more. After the effect that all of his choices and goals had on her life-- like a bomb going off in the middle of what she'd made of herself and the good she was trying to do-- to receive those cryptic notes in the form of the swans was just, argh. He owed her something much simpler and more complete than that, and I was glad when she shoved the envelopes away and ignored them for so long-- he deserved that entirely.

I love the way you phrase things. And I love this piece.
Thank you so much! I like how this one turned out, and though I wish the show weren't having her fall for Michael, it's still a challenge to write her viewpoint for that and then all the frustrations he's put her through along the way. Wish more people were reading this, but my M/L people are afraid of it I'm sure, and the M/S shippers probably avoid it because I'm a non-shipper. Oooh, this fence is uncomfortable. :D
mercurybard on February 7th, 2007 08:35 am (UTC)
You are so sweet!
You're a good writer, and I enjoy your stuff in general, and then seeing that you tackled a character who's outside your usual purview...well, I was expecting some different insight from most of the Sara stuff that's out there at the moment. And I got it (and recced it...hope that was ok).

He makes her work so damn hard to get just a few moments from him. I don't blame her for leaving him in the hotel room in his boxers back in NM or wherever the hell they were (all the bouncing around this season has got me turned around). For her to go after him after all the shit he's put her through--necessary shit, from his perspective, and if he could have put someone else through it (like himself) he totally would have but she was there--well, it's either the crazy kind of love or something like her old addiction. She was right not to trust it.

I'm actually starting to like Sara as a character this season. Before, it was always "oh, she's just Michael's love interest", and while it was fun to crawl inside her head after "Brother's Keeper" and try and see the world like she did, I also didn't have any problems killing her off in fic (not maliciously...she was just there and female and it worked better to have her taken out by the sniper at the end of "Riots, Drills, & the Devil" then to have to keeping dealing with her). But they've really made her a strong character this season, despite all her flaws, and I'm in the weird position of enjoying the Michael/Sara kiss in "Chicago" because it gives two characters I'm behind a moment of comfort and...something human, but at the same time, really wishing this ship wasn't getting such focus from the writers at the expense of the rest of the show.

Damn, I'm rambling.

Oooh, this fence is uncomfortable. :D
*pulls another lawnchair out of the grass in the outfield and opens it up for her* We have beer. :D
alazysod on February 11th, 2007 03:53 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed this. Sara's frustration is abundantly clear.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sarahalfshellvenus on February 11th, 2007 07:06 pm (UTC)
I really felt it on her behalf, and if she isn't still thinking it then she should be.

Her father was murdered, several someones are trying to kill her and she's in hiding, and Michael is making her decode secret messages? I mean, I realize that he's having a bad time too, but that is really kind of assy on his part. :(
i want this to last forever: Tarzan Scornlinzi20 on June 21st, 2007 11:16 am (UTC)
This is great stuff. I love your writing style! And I think you captured Sara's uncertainty very well.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sarahalfshellvenus on March 14th, 2008 08:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Linzi! And my apologies for missing this comment-- I don't know how that happened.

I think you captured Sara's uncertainty very well.
Early Season Two was absolutely awful for her, in every possible way. To have Michael offer her something where she can't be sure exactly what it is OR what it means... does not exactly help. :(
Maz (or foxxy!): Stethoscopetuesdaeschild on December 21st, 2007 06:28 pm (UTC)
This is the second fic I've found that I would have missed if not for this fabulous new comm!!

Brilliant! This sums up Sara and her connection to Michael perfectly and I loved that one second she'd be filled with doubt and the next filled with hope!

Michael may have been demanding during Season 2 but I'm still convinced all he wanted to do was save Sara to redeem himself for involving her in all of this.

And maybe he needed to save her because he loved her.

Pretty powerful stuff, sweetheart, as I'd expect from you!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sarahalfshellvenus on March 14th, 2008 08:47 pm (UTC)
Sorry for such a late reply! Christmas really got away from me, and then things got buried in the inbox. :0

but I'm still convinced all he wanted to do was save Sara to redeem himself for involving her in all of this.
I think he did too, but his "style" of saving her was aggravating in all that he demanded from her. From her side of the fence it's almost adding insult to injury, whereas for Michael I think it's business as usual. How maddening!

And maybe he needed to save her because he loved her.
I don't really go there, as a non-shipper, and worse yet I don't think he knew her well enough to love her (though she was certainly infatuated with him).

One of the worst things is realizing how much he cost her by simply involving her even in the periphery of his plan. I don't think Michael considered the human element well enough in anything he did, except for how he was going to get people to do what he wanted.

Thanks so much for reading, Foxy! I need to remember to make my own recommendations to the comm. :)
Maz (or foxxy!): Sara Michaeltuesdaeschild on March 17th, 2008 05:47 pm (UTC)
No worries, sweetheart! I'm the last person in a position to complain!

I think he did too, but his "style" of saving her was aggravating in all that he demanded from her.

That's true; he was still a better option than Kellerman though...except her association with Michael still got her killed in the end!

I don't really go there, as a non-shipper, and worse yet I don't think he knew her well enough to love her (though she was certainly infatuated with him).

I think someone who writes Michael/Lincoln and Michael/Mahone qualifies as a non-shipper too, right?!! And yes, he didn't know her well enough to be sure he loved her but the seed had been planted and maybe time would have brought it to maturity? I think she was infatuated with him...she was certainly fascinated! Falling in love with him would seem a natural progression, though, wouldn't it?

Michael, despite his noble purpose, really was the master puppeteer, wasn't he? But I do think he was still genuinely sorry for involving Sara.

Always a pleasure to read your fics, sweetheart! And if I can find some spare time I should be making more recs too!! :)

*hugs*