Category: Lincoln’s POV (Genfic)
Spoilers: Season 1 only.
Summary: Lincoln and the chaplain work toward better understanding.
Author's Notes: Written for the prisonbreak100 challenge. This is prompt #18, "Black". Also for philosophy_20, for prompt #16, "God."
Tuesdays are very much like Wednesdays, like Fridays. Other than P.I. duty, and the chaplain’s schedule for making rounds on Death Row, Lincoln’s days hold little distinction. Sometimes he sees Michael, and those are good days. Once in awhile there might be a visitor—it had been Michael before, but more recently it has been LJ, up until he went into hiding. There isn’t much of anyone else who wants to see Lincoln.
The walls of his cell are gray, cracked and stained from years of neglect. Sometimes Lincoln feels he is like that himself, on the inside. Colorless, damaged, altogether unremarkable. He may sit for hours, listening to nameless dripping sounds, wishing he had more to fill his thoughts. He is too edgy to read now, and there is no television. The days are long and the nights… longer.
On these drawn-out days, the chaplain’s visits have become welcome. Reverend Mailor is a change from the emptiness of Lincoln’s cell, and he is a good listener. It is rare in prison to talk to anyone whose cynicism isn’t going to bite you back in a matter of seconds, but Mailor is not versed in such unkind behaviors.
Today is his day to be on The Row, and Lincoln watches him enter now, black pants, black shirt, black Bible. Surely that color was once chosen to convey the seriousness of religion, to create a somber mood, but Lincoln cannot help thinking that it is primarily the color of death. Of despair. And yet churches still cling to it. What is the deeper message in that?
Lincoln remains seated on his cot while the guards work Mailor through the door in the usual security pattern. This has more to do with protocol than anything else. Mailor has nothing to fear from Lincoln Burrows, and he seems to realize that.
“Good afternoon, Lincoln,” he says, sitting down on the other end of Lincoln’s bed. There is no chair for him or for anyone else, as chairs do not survive long in Death Row. Lincoln always feels a little uncomfortable not having a seat for the chaplain—it seems too informal, disrespectful even.
“How have you been doing, Lincoln?” Mailor asks. Burrows has grown increasingly despondent over the years, as is to be expected for someone under a death sentence, but questions of remorse aside, this makes him harder to reach. Despite these difficulties, the Reverend has never given up on anyone yet, and Burrows isn’t about to be the first.
“Okay, I guess,” Lincoln says shyly. He knows he doesn’t have a lot to offer the chaplain, that he can’t really be what the chaplain expects or wants, but he doesn’t want to disregard the man’s kindnesses. Kindness is not to be repaid with indifference. Lincoln is old enough to know that now.
“Anything special on your mind?” Mailor asks. His voice is encouraging, unhurried. “I’m here to talk or to listen, whichever you prefer.”
“Well there is something I wanted to ask you, something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. It’ll probably sound ridiculous, but I haven’t been able to make any sense of it myself, and I need to know.” Lincoln takes a deep breath. He’s been holding off on having this conversation, but there isn’t a lot of time left for resolution. He makes himself say it. “I’m about to be killed… for something I didn’t do. How do I find faith, knowing that’s happening to me?”
Lincoln likes that the chaplain’s expression barely changes. He respects that in him, that the chaplain will answer a question in the spirit in which it is asked, regardless of whether he personally believes Lincoln is guilty or not.
“We have to have faith that God has a purpose for us,” the chaplain responds quietly, “That there are reasons for why things happen even when we don’t understand them. Even when we can’t hope to understand them.”
“So, am I a-- pawn, then?” Lincoln frowns. “Where's the fairness in that?”
Mailor speaks gently and earnestly as he leans toward Lincoln. “We tend to think with a human understanding of fairness, but God’s plan for us, for all of his Creation, deals with larger issues than the here and now, or with any single individual.”
Lincoln’s eyes drift up to the ceiling as he tries to breathe in some patience. He doesn’t want to offend the chaplain but that really doesn’t sound any better, and it certainly isn’t helping. “But the person who did commit the murder will still go free, and I’m still going to die. All I see is two injustices, and I don’t see what purpose that serves. I haven’t been the father I should be, I know that, but my son’s mother and stepfather have been murdered and he’s running from the law. And he’s about to be alone. How can that be good for him? How can that be fair? And my brother Michael, that I practically raised after Mom died… he’ll be alone too.”
The chaplain knows Michael, who is here in Fox River now as well, for an armed robbery charge. And Burrows’ son has been accused of killing that same mother and stepfather. It seems that violence and criminal behavior run in the family, from one generation to the next. Mailor thinks long and hard, trying to come up with the right approach. This kind of situation is always a challenge for him, trying to look past what has been done, trying not to judge but to instead offer the hope and salvation that has been promised to all men.
“Regarding your brother,” the chaplain begins, “Perhaps this is a means to help him… let go. To release his emotional dependence on you, and to become more of who he is meant to be. That’s one possibility.”
Lincoln chews on his knuckles for a moment, contemplating that. “But what if it doesn’t release him? What if he winds up caving in on himself instead? I mean, not that I’m that special or important a person, but I’m all Michael has. And I know how he is. He’ll take this hard.”
The chaplain turns the Bible over in his hands, its texture soothing, the answers waiting just inside the cover. “You are very important to Michael, and we cannot expect him not to grieve. But it would help to encourage him to let go of all of this, to move past it.”
“I can try, but Michael’s still Michael. He’s very stubborn.” Lincoln smiles briefly at that, but it fades. “He can be hurt so easily, and it goes so deep. I’m afraid he might stop trying, might let something happen to himself. Maybe not on purpose, but you know?”
“I will give him all the help I can to bring him through this. I promise you that.” The chaplain meets Lincoln’s gaze then, and his sincerity is reassuring.
“One thing worth considering, Lincoln, is that accepting God’s plan for you does not require that you understand it. That is what Faith is all about. It is giving up the need to reason or to understand, and just accepting what is.”
Lincoln smiles wryly. “You know, acceptance isn’t something I was every really good at. Not even after my Mom died.”
Mailor remembers now. Burrows was just a teenager when his mother died, and he was left alone with a younger brother to take care of. Their father had abandoned the family long before that. He sees something now of the pattern of Burrows’ pain, of his fears for his brother.
“There is a prayer you may be familiar with. It begins like this: ‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.’”
“Yeah, the Alcoholics Anonymous prayer. I’ve heard of it. I mean, not first hand. I did do a lot of drinking awhile back, but I like to think I’ve sort of… outgrown that now.”
“Well, the idea behind that prayer is that serenity—peace—comes from knowing when things are beyond your control, and then simply choosing to set them free, to turn them over to a higher power and accept the final outcome.” Mailor reaches for Lincoln’s arm, grasping it firmly for emphasis. “Serenity can be very powerful and reassuring when a man is in your position.”
Lincoln looks back at him, thinking through that idea. “The thing is, though… when a person has so little control over their life, it’s hard to give away the rest of it. Even if you’re really just giving up the illusion of control. Letting it all go seems like you’re welcoming more chaos, and that’s the last thing you want.”
Reverend Mailor knows that Burrows is not just talking about right now. He’s been through this before, perhaps barely survived it after his mother died.
This is the hardest part of Mailor’s work. It is surprisingly difficult to bring Faith to men who have so little that is good and bright in their lives. In their darkness, their despair, they do not often seek to grasp the glimpse of heaven that the chaplain shows them. Men in Burrows’ situation are even less likely to believe that it exists. They have so little personal evidence of its possibility.
“At this time, Lincoln, do you feel as if you have any control over your destiny?” Mailor asks quietly. This is an important question, and Mailor is walking the fine line between providing spiritual aid and alienating Burrows. He directs all his energy toward understanding Burrows, toward working through this with him.
Lincoln doesn’t have to think hard about the answer to this one. Michael believes that his plan can still change the outcome of things, but Lincoln knows that by himself, he absolutely cannot. “No,” he whispers.
“Then what is to be lost by letting God decide? Truly? Let your heart relinquish this burden, Lincoln. Turn it over to The Lord. Haven’t you carried it long enough?”
Lincoln can feel the beginnings of a weight lifting at the sound of these words, but he doesn’t quite know what it means yet.
“I can’t make any promises, Father,” he says honestly. “But… I’ll try.”
The chaplain pats his hand reassuringly. “That’s the first step,” he says. “If you can manage it, it will bring you great comfort. That is no small thing.”
Lincoln wonders briefly what would have happened if their church had had a minister like Reverend Mailor when their mother died. He can almost see what a different life he might have had for himself, one less desperate and driven to destruction. One with more to show for it than a sweet brother with a broken heart and a mutilated body, and a lonely and troubled son he barely knows anymore.
“I will be here all through the next few weeks, Lincoln, to offer guidance and support, to listen to whatever you want to tell me. Whatever it is that you need, I am here to provide it. Not because it is my job, but because it is my purpose. Please don’t second-guess whether to call for me—I will come, no matter what. It’s not an inconvenience, and it’s not a bother. It’s why I’m here.” Mailor cannot stress this enough. He must be sure that no-one suffers for lack of his services because they were hesitant or felt it was out-of-place to summon him. There is no more important work he has to do than this.
“Thanks, Father,” Lincoln says. He holds Mailor’s hand between his own, shaking it in farewell, and watches as the guards escort him out of the cell. The chaplain will be back tomorrow, brave enough to take on Lincoln’s troubles when even Lincoln doesn’t really know what to do with them. For a moment, Lincoln envies anyone’s ability to be that sure of himself, of anything.
Minutes later, his cell is quiet again, and all too empty. All that’s left is him and his thoughts, barely enough to sustain anyone’s soul.
His gaze returns to the wall, its surface gritty and hopeless. There are no answers there.
But that does not mean that answers, or hope, do not exist. After his conversation with the chaplain, Lincoln feels a change has happened, something so small it is almost unrecognizable.
Deep inside, fighting to survive in the mystery that is Lincoln’s reality, a tiny spark has surfaced. If he focuses hard, he thinks he might be able to keep it alive.
-------- fin --------