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16 February 2008 @ 02:30 pm
Prison Break Gen Fiction: Walking In Your Shoes (PG)  
Title: Walking In Your Shoes
Author: HalfshellVenus
Pairing: Michael and LJ (Gen)
Rating: PG
Summary: (Pre-Series) Everyone has secrets that protect someone else…
Author's Notes: For the foxriver_fic February challenge, where I used the additional prompts of "cool, wet grass and bare feet," "a stuffed toy," and "a quietly shared secret." Written during a 60_minute_fics session with the prompt of "Bad News." Also for my prisonbreak100 table ("Children") and for my philosophy_20 claim ("Parallel").

x-x-x-x-x

When Michael rings the doorbell Lisa answers immediately, like she's already waited for him too long. She steps out onto the porch, closing the door behind her.

"Thanks for coming over, Michael— I really appreciate your doing this." She seems unsettled, though he would have thought she'd stopped caring a long time ago.

"I'm happy to do it. I know LJ was looking forward to seeing Lincoln today."

"I can't believe he got himself arrested again! It's like he doesn't care that he has a son, or that his behavior hurts other people too."

Michael has nothing to say to that. He's been down this road with Lincoln before, back when he was the child Lincoln was supposed to look after. "All we can do is go on with our lives. Without him, if we have to. So why don't I take LJ to the zoo instead?"

This was supposed to be Lincoln's Saturday with LJ, and Michael knows where they were going because Lincoln had been planning it for weeks— as soon as the weather got better, he said. Here it is, finally— a perfect, sunny Saturday after a week-and-a-half of gorgeous non-custodial days where the weather didn't matter.

"I'll go get him," Lisa says. "Why don't you come in and wait in the kitchen?"

Michael sits amid the dirty dishes and a half-eaten piece of toast and wonders if anything ever really changes.

"Uncle Mikey!" LJ comes tearing around the corner, fully dressed except for the missing tennis shoe on his left foot. "How come you're here?"

"I haven't seen you in a while," Michael says softly. "I thought we should go have some fun."

"Okay!" LJ hugs Michael from the side, beaming out from under his overgrown bangs.

"How about locating that other shoe, and then we'll go."

It takes twenty minutes to drive to the waterfront, during which Michael learns that LJ has a new best friend at school named Aaron and that they both hate girls and plan to play pro football when they grow up. "Really," Michael says, remembering his own ambitions of being a fireman or a chemist when he was LJ's age, and wondering why that combination never struck him as strange back then. "Do you like hot dogs?" he asks, already planning ahead to lunch.

"Do I!" LJ's grin is spontaneous and heartfelt, and Michael realizes that he doesn't know where that comes from— it's not Lincoln's smile, Lincoln's never been so carefree or innocent in his life.

When did he have the chance?

Once they get inside, LJ wants to go see the tigers right away— "In case they're awake"— and then the penguin house. Michael's glad they're getting the penguins out of the way early, because he can practically taste the smell in that place and much as he likes penguins, it's just too much.

After the primates, the bears and the elephants, LJ's dragging his feet a little and it seems like a good time for lunch. Michael gets both of them hotdogs from a cart vendor— the regular kind with ketchup and mustard for LJ, and a kielbasa dog for himself but no sauerkraut. They sit on a park bench in the sun, drinking 7up and eating their food in companionable silence.

"Can I take my shoes off and walk in the grass?" LJ asks when they're done.

"Sure, but let's check for broken glass first."

Michael's inspection reveals no threats, and after watching LJ scuff his toes through the soft grass and clover for a few minutes Michael takes off his own shoes and joins in. He's surprised at how good it feels, like something from his childhood he'd forgotten he liked. They didn't have a lot of grass where he grew up, and he always left the school grounds as fast as possible after school got out. This must be something he did when Mom was still alive, maybe on a visit to this very park.

"Uncle Mikey, how come Dad didn't come today? Mom told me on Wednesday he was going to."

Michael hates these kinds of questions. A kid LJ's age— only eight, young enough to believe that no-one he knows would ever do anything really bad… you can't tell him the real answer. But at the same time, Michael doesn't know how Lisa was planning to handle this, especially if Lincoln winds up going to prison again.

"Your Dad had something he had to do— something came up. But he told me he was really sorry he couldn't be here." Michael stops, because LJ's frowning and he doesn't look convinced. "He said we should get you something from the gift shop to make up for it," Michael improvises.

"Cool!" LJ says. He leans down and wipes his hands on the damp grass and then starts putting on his shoes. "I wonder what kind of toys they have?"

"I'll bet they have animals," Michael teases him.

As they head back inside the zoo, LJ takes Michael's hand. "If I tell you something, will you promise not to tell anyone else?" LJ asks quietly.

"Of course."

LJ leans in closer and Michael bends down to hear him. "Sometimes I wish my Dad was more like you," LJ whispers.

"Oh," Michael says.

He tries to make it sound casual, like they're only talking about the weather or LJ's favorite color. But his emotions are so much stronger, an unexpected mixture of feeling flattered but also hurt on Lincoln's behalf, and yet understanding exactly what LJ means.

His nephew skips on ahead while Michael stands there with those thoughts knotting him up inside.

Yeah. Sometimes I do too.


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


 
 
 
etherealflaim: happyetherealflaim on February 16th, 2008 11:39 pm (UTC)
Aww, how adorable. Little LJ. I loved it.

Also, I have to say I love how you write... Even though Lincoln never appears in your story, we still feel a range of emotions toward/for him, and his character still shines through.

When did he have the chance?
It's so true... Lincoln never really HAD a childhood, once their mom died, as it was stolen up in being a father too. Heartbreaking.

Yeah. Sometimes I do too.
I love how this line could be taken so many ways. And Michael probably felt all of them. He wishes his brother would be more like him, because then he wouldn't be in so much trouble and he wouldn't hurt the people he loves. He wishes it because then it would free him from having to make up for all of his brother's faults. But what he doesn't say but probably feels, is that he's glad that his brother is not like him, becaue by this point Michael probably knows that too much of his identity is caught up in his brother, and he would undoubtedly never wish that fate on anyone else.

I've been doing too much writing lately and not enough reading, except of other February challenge posts. I need to get back to reading your other slash/gen stuff, as it's absolutely beautiful.
~EF
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: MichaelInBarshalfshellvenus on February 17th, 2008 07:48 am (UTC)
Even though Lincoln never appears in your story, we still feel a range of emotions toward/for him, and his character still shines through.
That was one of the real goals of this story, both because it's for prisonbreak100 and I have the Gen pairing of the brothers there... but also because Lincoln's absence is the reason for the whole scenario here, and all the parallels with Michael's past in what LJ's going through.

I liked all the thoughts you had about the last line. The way Lincoln is causes pain for other people, and this is also one of so many times Michael will spend part of his adult life trying to fix his brother's mistakes.

because by this point Michael probably knows that too much of his identity is caught up in his brother, and he would undoubtedly never wish that fate on anyone else.
I love the way you put this. I've said in several slash stories (and a few Gen) that Michael is overidentified with Lincoln, but even in a purely Gen sense, the people that you spend your life waiting for define you more than they should-- sometimes more than the people who are actually there.

So glad you liked this one. I haven't done Michael and LJ together, so this was a good challenge. :)
sassy, classy, and a bit smart-assy: BurrowsBoysbadboy_fangirl on February 17th, 2008 05:01 am (UTC)
*points to the guts on the floor*

You see that? You gutted me.

Seriously, my stomach hurts for LJ, and for Michael, and for Lincoln above all that. Gah. I'd like to know what is it about these fictional characters that just grabs my heart so hard and squashes it.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: MichaelInBarshalfshellvenus on February 17th, 2008 07:53 am (UTC)
Eeeee!

Even though LJ doesn't know what's behind his father's not coming, he's already been affected by Lincoln's failings and the fallout is going to become so much worse down the road. Here, it's like he's still on the cusp of innocence about the reality of his father. The reader knows that won't last. :(

I struggled so with the title for this story, but went with the one above because Michael is both trying to fill Lincoln's shoes on this particular day and he has already been in LJ's shoes many times over. *sigh*

There's such bittersweetness even in the happiest moments with this fandom. And that's actually one of the reasons I find the pre-series stories interesting-- normally I like the during-canon stories, but the dynamics between the people in this family is so compelling that it transcends physical setting.

I'll swing by for some surgery later to fix you up, if need be. :)
tyrical: PB_Scofieldtyrical on February 17th, 2008 06:34 am (UTC)
This kinda broke my heart a little.
I relived my childhood.
Except I didn't have an uncle like Michael.
I just kept waiting by the window. Waiting...
It royally sucked. At least LJ had Michael.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: PB Final Hughalfshellvenus on February 17th, 2008 08:01 am (UTC)
I just kept waiting by the window. Waiting...
My sister's girls go through this-- never knowing if their Dad is going to show up for his custodial time or not. He won't cancel ahead of time because he likes to keep stringing my sister along so she can't make any plans to take the girls out of town, but he doesn't realize or care that he's stringing his children along too. :(

I mentioned in a comment above that it is so easy for the people you wait for to define you-- and so terribly unfair. But they have the power just by virtue of the situation.

Poor LJ has no idea that this isn't going to be an occasional thing, that his father will let him down over and over again as time goes on.

I'm sorry for the broken-heartedness. :( I see such strength in you, and over the last couple of years such increased confidence in your own value as a person. In the end, you are already in the process defining of yourself by you, no matter what came before. And that is as it should be. ♥
tyricaltyrical on February 17th, 2008 03:29 pm (UTC)
Hugs you! You make my heart smile.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 17th, 2008 05:53 pm (UTC)
:) Sometimes those important changes are easier to see from the outside, too, so just in case you were less aware of the transformation, I thought I'd mention it. :)
shaitanah: michael/mahone2shaitanah on February 17th, 2008 11:11 am (UTC)
Aww, that was cute! I'm kinda used to my Dad breaking promises as well... although not like Lincoln, thank God. LJ's lucky to have Michael. It's sad to think how everything turned out for them in the show.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: MichaelInBarshalfshellvenus on February 17th, 2008 06:00 pm (UTC)
Your icon is cracking me up!

It's sad to think how everything turned out for them in the show.That's one of the things I'd hoped to show with this story-- even though this single day is managed without LJ knowing too much of what goes on, it's only the beginning. And the secret he tells Michael at that end is going to become much more true. *angsts*
Maz (or foxxy!): Heartbreaktuesdaeschild on February 17th, 2008 04:03 pm (UTC)
This was so beautifully sweet and sad I felt like crying for poor little LJ; and for Michael too. But most of all for Lincoln.

it's not Lincoln's smile, Lincoln's never been so carefree or innocent in his life.

When did he have the chance?


How true that is? It's our parents that shape the kind of person we will become and because Aldo left and Christina died poor Lincoln was robbed of his childhood. And he seems to be perpetuating the situation, even if it's for different reasons, because we all know LJ won't be this innocent for very long.

Michael has nothing to say to that. He's been down this road with Lincoln before, back when he was the child Lincoln was supposed to look after

So yeah, poor Linc never had a hope, did he?

"Sometimes I wish my Dad was more like you,"

That killed me because it was so understandable but not really Linc's fault.

As always you write these characters perfectly. And you always seem to take a little piece of my heart when you do!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: PB slashhalfshellvenus on February 17th, 2008 08:48 pm (UTC)
poor Lincoln was robbed of his childhood.
Exactly-- with his father gone before Michael was born, and then their mother gone... Lincoln's true childhood was probably only those first four years. And though he was hugely imperfect at being a parent both to Michael and LJ... it happened to him awfully young, and not everyone is capable of meeting that challenge well. Especially when you don't get to choose whether you want the challenge or not.

And he seems to be perpetuating the situation, even if it's for different reasons, because we all know LJ won't be this innocent for very long.
That's the other tragedy, because I don't think he even realizes. If he were aware of it, it might keep him from doing it. :(

That killed me because it was so understandable but not really Linc's fault.
I can understand LJ thinking that. He loves Lincoln more, but kids can sense whether a person is "stable" or not. Michael was, and Lincoln wasn't.

Though Lincoln can't help who he is by nature, he could do a better job of keeping his nature from controlling him. It would be a real struggle, I think, but it wasn't only for him. :(

So glad you liked this, though I know it's really very sad under the bittersweet tone. LJ's innocence is the surface of the story, and the spiral into destruction that's already beginning is what's underneath.
Maz (or foxxy!): Heartbreaktuesdaeschild on February 19th, 2008 06:19 pm (UTC)
He loves Lincoln more, but kids can sense whether a person is "stable" or not. Michael was, and Lincoln wasn't.

Kids are more astute than we sometimes give them credit for!

LJ's innocence is the surface of the story, and the spiral into destruction that's already beginning is what's underneath.

And that was so beautifully and accurately put!

&hearts:
PamalaX: ljhugdadpamalax on February 17th, 2008 04:49 pm (UTC)
I love this. I really love this!

I know I'm usually far more chatty than that but there really isn't much more to say than that.

Beautiful fic my dear lady!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: MichaelInBarshalfshellvenus on February 17th, 2008 09:54 pm (UTC)
:D So long as you like it, that's what I care about!

Thank you. :)
chanchito_z on February 18th, 2008 10:29 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you wrote Michael and LJ!! I love the idea of them together and the different ways Michael would react to being an uncle or, at times, a fill-in father. This is just how I'd see him, too. Cautious for LJ's safety, but also careful to keep his distance with LJ to avoid either of them becoming too attached to one another out of his love and respect for Lincoln, and perhaps because being with LJ is also a painful reminder of what he and Linc both missed. And what I love best about this story is Michael's sadness for Linc and what he missed, and what he is missing, even though it's tinged with his wish that Linc wouldn't let himself keep missing his son's life. Just absolutely lovely!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: PB Final Hughalfshellvenus on February 19th, 2008 06:54 am (UTC)
but also careful to keep his distance with LJ to avoid either of them becoming too attached to one another out of his love and respect for Lincoln, and perhaps because being with LJ is also a painful reminder of what he and Linc both missed.
Yes-- at this point, there's still hope that Lincoln won't go completely down that old road again, but at the same time Michael remembers it all too well from before and he knows the chances aren't good. And being with LJ is like reliving painful memories.

and what he missed, and what he is missing, even though it's tinged with his wish that Linc wouldn't let himself keep missing his son's life.
It would be so like Michael as a grown up to want LJ to have the things he missed himself, in part because he knows how awful it was not having them. All this innocence is right in front of him, and how badly Michael wishes it would remain innocence (and how hopeless).

So glad you liked this, Col! Happy Birthday (month) to you!
happy is as happy does: Michael and LJ (3x13) - Prison Breakhappywriter06 on February 29th, 2008 09:23 pm (UTC)
*wipes eyes* What you do to me. Man, even if I didn't kinda know what LJ was feeling, I'd be crying for him. And then I have to cry for Michael for being in this position - having been where LJ is yet knowing why Linc is the way he is. And then I cry for Linc because man, he never really had a chance. And I then I cry because it just gets worse. *grabs some more tissues* I love Michael and LJ fics. Their history is ripe for so much storytelling.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: PB Final Hughalfshellvenus on March 6th, 2008 06:07 am (UTC)
It's bad all the way around, isn't it? LJ's situation is only going to get worse, Michael's already been there and he remembers it too well, and Lincoln... his history helped make him who he was. Too much, too soon. :(

love Michael and LJ fics. Their history is ripe for so much storytelling.
I hadn't really thought of it that way (this is only the first one of these I've written), but when you put it that way, the parallels and contrasts between them provide a lot of opportunity.

I'm so glad you read this one-- you saw everything that was there, and understood it like you were one of the characters living it.
The Good, The Bad and The Lana: brothers no second chancethelana on March 6th, 2008 12:08 am (UTC)
Awwww, poor Michael, poor LJ, poor everybody! *squeezes them all*
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: PB Final Hughalfshellvenus on March 7th, 2008 09:06 pm (UTC)
It's so sad, knowing this is the beginning of the slide toward the end, as far as Lincoln and LJ's relationship is concerned. And Michael, who's been through it already and hopes it won't get worse (but sadly is so very wrong)... *sniffle*
(Deleted comment)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: PB Final Hughalfshellvenus on March 7th, 2008 09:07 pm (UTC)
And of course the end was like a slug to the stomach *sigh*
There's this ominous undertone to the whole thing for the reader, in spite of the fluffy surface, because we know where all of this is going to wind up in the next decade, and poor LJ and even Michael are still hoping...

So glad you liked it AND that you came back to read it! Thank you. :)