Characters: Michael, Westmoreland (Gen)
Summary: With Michael, hardly anything is as simple as it seems.
Author's Notes: Happy belated birthday to ms_genevieve, who wanted Michael and Westmoreland and checkers. I hope this hits the spot. :)
Also for prisonbreak100 ("Red") and writers_choice ("Appearances are deceiving").
By the time Michael had been at Fox River for a week, he still didn't have a complete sense of all the necessary characters in his drama. Some were fairly clear (like Abruzzi, who was more volatile than Michael had imagined), some were workable (his cellmate Sucre), and some were wildcards he hadn't even expected to be dealing with (Theodore Bagwell).
But Charles Westmoreland was the one he'd thought would be easier. Michael had been so sure that the chance to escape and reclaim his money would bring D.B. Cooper around immediately. Instead, the man continued to deny who he was, and he hadn't shown the slightest interest in Michael's escape plan.
It was puzzling. Frustrating.
It was a problem.
Michael was counting on using part of that money to fund the remainder of his and Lincoln's getaway.
Cell Block "A" was quiet after lunch in the hours before the Yard opened up. Michel walked down the hallway, on high-alert the same as always. When he got to Westmoreland's cell, he stopped. Westmoreland glanced up.
"Care for a game of checkers?" Michael asked softly.
"Suppose so," Westmoreland said, sitting up and setting aside his book. "Though I don't see what's in it for me, since you almost always win."
"If you win, I'll give you my dessert," Michael offered.
"What if you win?"
"Then we'll keep playing until I don't."
Westmoreland nodded thoughtfully and waved Michael in. "Red or black?"
Black got the opening move. "Red," Michel answered, sitting down on the other end of the bed, the checkerboard between them. He put his pieces on the black squares, and Westmoreland did the same.
"Your daddy teach you this game?" Westmoreland asked, after moving one of his middle pieces out.
"My brother." Michael brought out a piece on the left as a countermove. "Back when I was five."
Westmoreland moved another piece. "How long 'til you beat him?"
"Maybe two weeks." Michael brought a right-flank chip forward. "He threw the board and the pieces all over the kitchen. I ran into the bedroom and locked the door. We didn't play again for another six months."
Westmoreland lifted an eyebrow. "Not the kind of cozy family story I was expecting," he said mildly.
"We didn't have a lot of those." Michael jumped one of Westmoreland's pieces and took it. "How about you?"
Westmoreland looked at him cagily, as if he recognized a fishing expedition when he heard one. "Got a daughter. Haven't seen her in awhile—she lives out of state."
Michael watched one of his own chips get jumped and taken. "You must miss her."
"Sure do," Westmoreland admitted. "Still, it's my own damn fault I wasn't a better father or husband. And it was my own foolishness that landed me in prison." He looked up then, his eyes meeting Michael's. "No mistake about it—I belong here. Most everyone here does, though they like to deny it, like to imagine they're the last innocent men alive."
Michael was quiet for a moment, before deciding that he might as well be truthful. His half-truths and manipulations hadn't gotten him anywhere with Westmoreland anyway.
"My brother's innocent. Well, not innocent, but he didn't commit the crime he's sitting on Death Row for. He didn't kill anyone."
"Is that a fact?" Westmoreland jumped another piece and landed in an end-square. "King me."
"That's why I'm trying to get him out," Michael went on, "before the execution date. I had to rob a bank to get put in here instead of some county jail. I didn't hurt anybody, though."
"Apart from the stress and nightmares they'll be having for the rest of their lives," Westmoreland said wryly.
Michael stilled. He'd been telling himself it was a victimless crime, but Westmoreland was right. "I'm sorry about that part," he said softly. "But it was the only way to guarantee where I got sent, and I couldn't break Lincoln out of this place from the outside." He jumped one of Westmoreland's stragglers and tapped his own piece.
Westmoreland crowned it, and took his turn. "So you were serious about that escape plan, then."
"Yes." Michael was surprised—he hadn't realized anyone doubted him.
"What if you don't make it out?"
"He's my brother. If I don't get him out of here, they'll kill him. I have to try."
Westmoreland brought home another piece for crowning. "It could get bloody."
"I'm not planning on it," Michael said. "It's all set up to keep from injuring any of the guards on the way out." He jumped one of Westmoreland's kings, leaving a single piece free against three of his own. "Sometimes the outcome is big enough that you've got to be willing to lose."
Westmoreland made another move. "If you say so."
Michael boxed him in immediately, one step away from winning.
"Damn." Westmoreland jumped one of Michael's pieces out of formality, only to have Michael jump him in return and claim his final piece.
"Another game?" Michael said hopefully. Eventually he'd throw one, but he wanted to keep Westmoreland talking for awhile, maybe wear him down a little more toward the idea of coming along on the escape.
"Sure, why not. Haven't won that dessert yet." Westmoreland stacked his pieces in a pile, while Michael did the same. "Winner chooses. Pick your color."
Michael smiled, still working his own game under the one they played on the surface, stringing Westmoreland along to give himself more time to wield that necessary persuasion.
He made the choice that matched those long-term goals:
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