Characters: Lincoln/Michael (one-sided Slash)
Summary: How do you escape someone who is at the center of everything you are?
Author's Notes: This was my Prison Break Fic Exchange Round 5 story for neverendingview, based on a quote that was one of her prompts. Also for fanfic100, and prompt #91, "He."
Growing up poor—the abandoned baggage of a man he'd never met—Michael had always thought other people had it better.
When his mother died, he found out better wasn't everything. The life he used to have didn’t seem so bad when it turned out he could have it worse. And did.
Michael's first foster placement was a nightmare—the anger of a man wound too tightly and the punishment of a boy who wanted things to have reasons. Life was pain and the darkness of a closet, and why didn't Lincoln save him? Why didn't Lincoln come?
When the nightmare ended, life at the Children's Home was a haven in comparison. But it didn't last: Lincoln got into trouble stealing money for drugs and got shipped from there to Juvenile Detention. Michael was alone again after that… and he wasn't ready.
There was little that he had left, and its name was Lincoln, always Lincoln—for better or worse.
Michael didn't know how to be Michael without Lincoln, and he didn’t know how to just wait for those eighteen months to be over. Instead, the next time he was placed with a family he went to the opposite extreme: he decided to become everything Lincoln was not.
He studied and read more than ever, like the universe depended on it. Every word and equation put more distance between who he'd been before and who he was becoming. He was no longer the lost and lonely boy who pined after his brother's attention and approval. He was shored up, walled off, and focused on his own cerebral path.
His foster parents ran interference on Lincoln's phone calls, shielding Michael from them. Where that contact had once provided comfort, it brought only sadness now. Michael's resolve to be rid of all those feelings—of that longing—would crumble at the first husky caress of Lincoln's voice.
The past was stronger than even the brightest of unknown futures. It could open every last fortress of denial, for it had formed all the locks along the way.
Michael never expected to live with Lincoln again, despite Lincoln saying it during every one of those phone calls Michael hadn't been able to escape. When Lincoln got out of Juvie, he hunted up some old friends and got a job. Three months into probation he also got an apartment, and he was set for Michael to join him.
Michael couldn't help saying yes.
It was overwhelming at first, being back with Lincoln. Two years of absence had only made it worse.
Every smile wound around Michael's heart and left him breathless. It was like stepping out of endless fog to finally glimpse the sun.
Michael's foster parents had been kind to him—had even loved him, he thought. But it was nothing like this, nothing like really mattering to someone else. Simply being loved so strongly—because there was no question that it could ever be any other way—was more addictive than good grades or the illusion of self-reliance.
Michael never even had a chance.
He felt himself changing again, always thinking too much about Lincoln. It went from missing Lincoln, the way he had during his first foster home stay, to a kind of obsession with his brother. Michael missed him even when Lincoln was there.
Michael found himself hanging on every word and touch like a starving man living on crumbs. Just a hand on his arm or leg or shoulder lit him up like Christmas, his body vibrating and stomach fluttering with the thrill. He wanted that feeling all the time, wanted more—wanted all of Lincoln's attention focused on him. He wanted something he didn't have a name for, and when he finally realized what it was he knew he couldn't have it. Ever. Not from his brother.
"Michael…" Lincoln's voice would begin, and it was so much worse late in the day when Lincoln was relaxed and the words were slow and silky.
I'm in trouble, Michael would think then, afraid of giving himself away with the slightest gesture or glance.
He was going to blow it if things stayed the way they were, and college was years away if he was lucky enough to have the money to go. Michael was shocked when the situation changed for him: Lincoln's girlfriend was pregnant, and she was moving in.
Life was about to get a lot weirder.
Michael thought that having her there would help, that it would remind him of who Lincoln really loved that way and how feelings like that were supposed to be.
Instead it was torture—endless kissing and hugging and goopiness. He couldn't stand watching it, finding himself frozen in place like he didn't know where to be.
The room he'd shared with his brother belonged to Lincoln and Lisa now; Michael slept on the couch. He couldn't imagine what they'd do when the baby came, because the place was already crowded enough with the three of them.
He should have stayed in that foster home while he had the chance...
It turned out both better and worse than Michael had expected, when the baby arrived.
Michael spent long nights buried under pillows, trying to block out the noise of the baby crying and Lisa wandering through the living room and kitchen hoping to quiet him. There weren't enough walls in that apartment, not where Michael was—he'd have slept in the bathtub just for the privacy.
The library and his friend Johnny's house became his second homes.
"You're never around anymore," Lincoln would say when Michael showed up two days later already past dinnertime.
"There's no place for me to be here, when I am," Michael answered. Both of them knew it was the truth.
It didn't last, Lincoln and Lisa. The baby was cute, even Michael had to admit that (when LJ's diaper didn't smell and he wasn't fussing or crying). But a baby wasn't enough to cement something that was already broken before it started.
Soon it was just Michael and Lincoln again.
Having Lincoln all to himself was such a relief that it made Michael's head spin. The quiet in their apartment rang in his ears like the aftermath of a riot, and the air seemed focused on a single scent that was distinctly Lincoln: woodsy, musky and warm.
The week before Lincoln urged Michael to move back into the bedroom—with its single bed—seemed like forever. When it finally happened, Michael wriggled down into the sheets that smelled faintly of Lincoln and felt more at home than he had in years.
He thought about that all night long, lying awake next to Lincoln in the headlight-spattered dark...
Weeks went on, and if he woke up to the sharp-sweet thrill of Lincoln wrapped around him or kissed his brother secretly in those self-revealing hours of the night, there was no-one else to see it.
One morning Michael woke up hard and aching and pressed against Lincoln, and he felt a flash of panic. Why hadn't it ever occurred to him that reaching this point was inevitable, that things would surely progress to where his body would give him away in spite of all his careful control?
He rushed out of bed and into the bathroom, locking the door behind him. The face staring back at him from the mirror was shocked and sweaty—the face of someone Lincoln would grow to hate, if Michael couldn't keep a lid on all those unwanted urges.
Lincoln knowing was not going to happen.
Michael got in the shower, thinking and scheming under the endless flow of water. By the time he reached an answer, his fingers had pruned up like something from his bygone rubber-duck days. That innocence seemed a lifetime ago.
He went back to practically living at the library, losing himself in studying until he was too exhausted to think. Lincoln got a different job that paid a dollar an hour more, and went to swing shift. Michael was incredibly relieved.
Lincoln never came to bed before 2 or 3 am, and he was always dead to the world when Michael got up for school. On weekends, Lincoln stayed out late with his questionable friends, except for the nights that he didn't come home at all.
Michael missed him, but it was the best he could hope for. Right now, he was just biding his time until he went off on his own.
It took two more long and perilous years…
Going to college was supposed to save him. He threw himself into it, building an entire life that was not Lincoln, not in any way whatsoever.
Michael found other people that liked learning as much as he did, and they weren't often as smart as he was but it was better than high school had been.
He found a quiet boy with lingering eyes who lived off-campus and showed Michael all the things he could never hope to do with Lincoln. Tyler's kisses were the stuff of novels, and his hands knew more about what Michael liked than Michael knew himself. If it wasn't for classes and homework and midterms, Michael would never have come up for air.
He was doing much better, he thought, finally starting to get over that unhealthy fixation on his brother.
But when Lincoln would call on the phone, Michael's insides would twist and pull and ache.
Three more months of Tyler followed by a pretty girl in Freshman History couldn't change any of that.
It wasn't that Michael was afraid of going home to Lincoln again. It was just that summer courses were always cheaper, and the sooner Michael finished the sooner he'd be able to live on his own.
Lincoln sounded disappointed when Michael broke the news to him, but he couldn't let himself weaken. A certain amount of self-preservation was in order—before he did something really stupid.
Only that distance could keep Michael careful. His feelings were much easier to deal with when they rose up with a weekly phone call than when they'd ambushed him over dinner, or while sitting on the sofa with Lincoln, or in a shared bed in the middle of the night.
Fall semester was Differential Equations and Structural Mechanics, and not much else.
Spring semester, Lincoln got sent to prison. Michael sat in the hallway with the phone dangling from his hand, immediately regretting every choice he'd made since April of the prior year.
What the hell had happened while he'd been gone? Lincoln had never said anything worrisome, and things had seemed to be going pretty well for a long time by then. There'd been years of steady work and a regular income, and Michael had honestly thought Lincoln had grown out of all that trouble from his teenage years for good.
Clearly, he was wrong.
I left him alone too long.
Michael made it out of college before Lincoln made it out of prison. It was ironic: Michael was becoming a grownup and Lincoln had forgotten how to be one—or no longer cared to try. Either way, they were moving in opposite directions. Michael fought that as long as he could.
He went to work for one of Chicago's oldest architectural firms, hoarding his money to pay down college debt and save up for a two-bedroom apartment in case Lincoln needed a place to stay when he got released.
They were both all smiles on the day Lincoln came home, and he appeared grateful to Michael those first few weeks. They enjoyed some late-night conversations and a lot of Chinese take-out. But things soon became awkward between them.
Lincoln seemed embarrassed, with good reason, often giving the impression of wanting to go get drunk but holding off for fear of looking like he was backsliding. Michael had his own problems, namely the threat of slipping up. After all this time, he was as much a slave to his feelings for Lincoln as he'd always been.
Right back where he'd started.
Lincoln needed a job, Michael decided, and the motivation to get his own place.
He called Veronica, who was Lincoln's circling-back point the same way Lincoln had always been his. Maybe wanting to impress Veronica would get Lincoln moving. It certainly couldn't make things worse.
Life was patterns, always patterns, with Michael wanting Lincoln and Lincoln wanting Veronica. Lincoln finding trouble was a pattern too.
At first, Michael only suspected that it was drugs. Lincoln still had a job and that was something. But over time, that disappeared too.
Michael would have been happy to repay Lincoln for all he'd done, but this was different. This was like shoveling money into a black hole.
He'd longed for Lincoln to be as impossibly caught up him as he was in Lincoln, but it would never happen. This was his brother, and it couldn't be the way Michael wanted.
So what was he seeing now instead?
This new behavior was all wrong, very unlike Lincoln— clinging but never devoted, with something desperate under the surface. Was Lincoln happy to see Michael, or just ready to take whatever handout Michael might give him? And why couldn't Michael stop?
Things would start looking better for awhile, but then Lincoln would drift back into that limbo again. Michael was no longer sure Lincoln would take care of himself, even though that was his job and not Michael's, but damned if Lincoln was even trying. Michael kept trying to pull away again and again, but it never quite happened and he was sick of it. Was all this anger directed at Lincoln or at himself, for being unable to just let go?
He must have done too much, or not enough, when it all came down. The trouble Lincoln finally found was enough to swallow both of them with the darkness of its results.
On sleepless nights the nightmare replayed itself, but the ending was always the same. Lincoln was on Death Row, and Michael was left to deal with the loss of Lincoln, their future, and any last shred of hope.
He still didn't know what made him ask it. Or better still, why he hadn't asked it before in that Do not lie to me way.
Because when Lincoln told him he hadn't killed anyone, that just wasn't the answer Michael expected. That answer changed everything.
So many details, so much planning. Michael's life became single-focused again, on Lincoln and what it would take to save him-- right down to the last Number 27 screw. He lost himself in a sea of research, covering blueprints, machinery and schemes. And then he fell with finality into his master creation, transforming himself into an instrument to bring about Lincoln's freedom.
His belongings were sold or in storage now, and this motel room had been his home since giving up his apartment. He had supplies and money stashed around the Midwest, and secret purpose inked in artistry on his skin.
In the morning he would walk into a bank, and his life would change forever.
He would become wholly Lincoln's after that, linking his sanity and his very destiny to his brother's fate. But he had never been able to escape it, kept coming back all this time to the same place, the same feelings, the same hopeless need that only Lincoln could fulfill.
The difference was that this time he was choosing it, even had to.
So if the waters that were Fox River swallowed him whole, that was how it was meant to be. He kept being pulled back to the starting point, no matter how he tried to stay away.
Maybe it was exactly where he belonged.
-------- fin --------