Title: Spaghetti Sauce and the Unlikelihood of Soulmates
Fandom: Prison Break
Notes: Takes place after 4.07 'Five the Hard Way.' Unbetad, crit welcome.
Summary: Alex's voice was light, but he was watching her closely. 'You don't believe in true love?'
Self was making Lincoln retell the story of the loss of Roland's device, as if he hadn't quite managed to believe it the first few times. Sara, unable to stand talking about it any more, walked away and sank down on one of the chairs at the long table in the middle of the room. She dumped her shoulder bag down in front of her and began emptying it.
Alex followed her. Perhaps he'd heard enough, too. When he pulled up a chair beside her she waited for him to say something, but there was just silence.
She tilted her head to look at him. 'What's on your mind, Alex?'
She expected a request for more detail about the Vegas debacle, but what he eventually said took her by surprise. 'You had your hair done.'
She just about resisted the urge to pat it. 'Oh. Yes. At the salon in the hotel, in the interests of dazzling our cardholder enough to let me up into his room.' She sighed. 'Bit of a waste of time, as it turns out. I didn't exactly fit his requirements. But thank you for noticing, Alex.' She gave him a wry smile. 'Do you think you could teach Michael how to do that? I had to tell him, and then his response was to ask if I kept the bill, so that we can claim the cost back from Self.'
He smiled. 'Michael's... kind of focused on the operation right now. And you've got to remember he's never had the right training: he's never been married. I may have had many faults as a husband, but not noticing a visit to the beauty parlour wasn't one of them.' The smile took on a bittersweet edge. 'It's an ability that saved my ass just as much as anything I learned in the Bureau.'
On impulse, Sara reached out and let her hand rest on his. He nodded once, almost dismissively, but he left his hand there for a second or two before he moved it away.
She carried on emptying the contents of the bag; empty sandwich and candy wrappers, a Coke can, a cheap jotter pad. She flicked through it. 'This is all the information we managed to get about the casino security arrangements, but the way they are? I don't think we've got a chance in hell of getting that device back. It might as well just go out with the rest of the trash.' She pulled out a glossy magazine and added it to the little pile of debris. As it landed on the table it fell open at a page splashed with the headline 'Are You Soulmates? Take our quiz and find out!'
They both looked at it. When she caught Alex's eye again, Sara lifted her chin. 'I want you to know that I wouldn't normally buy that kind of thing, but the gas station didn't have much choice and it was either that or spend the rest of the journey listening to Lincoln and Sucre invent new ways of skinning Roland alive. Which was entertaining for the first hundred miles or so, but there's only so much gore--or Roland--a girl can take.'
'I hear you.' Alex turned the magazine towards him, then looked back up at her. tiny smile played around the edges of his mouth. 'So, how did you and Michael score?'
Sara pulled it away from him and flipped it shut. 'The point of articles like that is to make you feel bad and inadequate about yourself and your relationship, so that you'll continue to buy their magazine in order to find out how to fix it.'
'That bad, huh?'
She let her head drop a little, and laughed. 'Worse. But honestly, some of the stuff they seem to think you should know?' She shook her head. 'Even if we were just ordinary people dating, rather than--well, whatever the hell this is, that we're doing, I can't imagine thinking that whether we like the same kind of spaghetti sauce would be relevant. I like carbonara. Michael? I have no idea.'
There was a short pause. Then: 'Marinara,' Alex said quietly.
She raised her eyebrows. 'You're kidding, right?'
He shrugged. 'We investigated him pretty thoroughly. That included going through his trash. I could probably tell you a lot about Michael's daily habits.'
'Wow. That's... both impressive and slightly disturbing.'
Alex gave a small snort of laughter. 'The story of my life. Or the Michael Scofield chapters, at least.'
Sara ran her fingers over the magazine's shiny surface. 'The thing is, what these magazines are trying to sell, it's nonsense. Soulmates... I mean, the idea that there is only one person, in the whole world and your whole life, that you can really love? Madness. Everybody is capable of loving different people at different times--or in different ways. We all have so many different needs, and sometimes they contradict one another, and to expect one person to satisfy all of them, all of the time...' She shook her head. 'It just doesn't work.'
Alex's voice was light, but he was watching her closely. 'You don't believe in true love?'
'Not this kind--the magazine kind, the sparkly movie kind.' She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. 'But then, I've never exactly been conventional when it came to this sort of thing. When we were kids, my cousin and I used to play Barbies and she'd be there with Ken and the house and the dog and the whole white picket fence jamboree. Me, I had the rest of the Barbies together, and sometimes they played with Ken but most of the time they were really quite happy on their own. When I got a little older I understood why her mom didn't really like me going over to play, but by then the fantasy had moved on too. My cousin was sat at home waiting for a prince with a white horse--or a Mercedes convertible, preferably--but by that time I was out there looking for a princess with a bottle of Jack and a strap-on.'
She looked at his face, and raised a hand to her mouth. 'Oh. I've shocked you.'
'No, no. Not at all.' He ran a hand quickly through his hair. 'Well, maybe just a little.'
She gave him a mischievous smile. 'What I'm trying to say is that this--' she picked up the magazine-- 'this isn't real life, for most people. But sometimes you don't know that, until it hits you. Until you get into a situation where there's this relationship, and it's not what other people would understand, or approve of. It's not what other people would choose for you. It might not be what you'd choose for yourself, if you had a choice. And it might be a little weird, a little outside the norm--it might not even be entirely healthy, because on one level it only exists because your life as you knew it is just... gone, and this person, the way this person makes you feel, is the only thing that seems constant, that makes you feel like you're still part of the world.'
She waved off the attempt at interruption. 'But on another level, that doesn't matter at all. Because the thing is, relationships like that--even if they're not healthy, even if they're not what Cosmo defines as normal, it doesn't mean they aren't real. It doesn't matter what other people think, it doesn't even matter what you think, because you can't walk away. Bottom line, it's not really a question of if you're going to try and make it work, just how.'
She broke off as Lincoln called out, 'Hey, Sara, you got a minute?' He motioned her over to where he was still standing with Self.
'Okay, just a sec.' She waved in acknowledgement and stood up, then turned back to Alex. 'Duty calls. Listen--why don't you come out to the boat later, when everybody's finished up here? We could talk some more.'
He got to his feet too, and smiled. 'Yeah. Sure.'
She searched his eyes. 'Is that 'sure' as in 'I'll be there' or as in 'screw that, you crazy broad?'
He ducked his head. 'Sara... you'll be fine. You and Michael. It'll work out.'
'Oh, I know that.' She smiled, then put out a hand and lightly touched his arm. 'Alex. You're a smart man. You know I haven't been talking about myself since the Barbie story, right?'
He stared at her for a long time, opened his mouth and then closed it again.
'Michael's heard all my stories,' she said. 'And the fantasies. And I've heard his. Funnily enough, he never saw any white picket fences in his future, either. Does that surprise you, Alex?'
'I... uh...' he took a breath, looked away for a second and then back at her. 'No. Maybe not.'
'Good.' She crumpled up the magazine and tossed it into the wastebasket under the table. 'So, you'll come by, later?'
'Yeah,' he said. 'Sure.'
She nodded. This time, he sounded like he meant it.