Category: Lincoln and Michael (Gen)
Summary: What would life have been like for Michael and his family, if things had been different all those years ago?
Author’s Notes: Written for the prisonbreak100 challenge, where I have the Gen pairing of Lincoln and Michael. This is for prompt #82, “If.”
On the mornings when Michael wakes up before count, he lazes in his prison bed and thinks. Sometimes he is planning the schemes and inroads that need to happen that day. Other times, his mind is far, far away.
If his mother had lived, all those years ago… he wonders what his childhood would have been like. Would things have stayed the way they did when he was younger, with his mother working too much and then eventually getting behind in the rent so that they had to move again? Or would she have gotten paid more, so they could stay in one place for awhile? She might even have had the time to go on picnics, or to the museum, or even to the movies. And Lincoln might have stuck closer to home then, and kept his mind on high school instead of sex and dope and the wrong kind of friends.
But maybe she would have gone to night school instead, as a means to a better job. That would have left Lincoln taking care of him most of the time, and both of them being too responsible for themselves. Michael knows that he already lived that life. With his mother there, it would have been shorter and so much better, just knowing there was a reason for it. But the color of that life, that possibility that never happened, is barely one shade away from his past.
His mother hadn’t made it, and had been so terribly, painfully sick for the last year before she died. Looking back, Michael remembers how badly he wanted her to stay, just to know that she was still there. But thinking about it now, he couldn’t really wish for her to linger through that misery any longer than she already did. It was so hard for her, so awful, and she hung on as long as she could for the two of them. She was so brave, and finally just so tired… and he still misses her even now.
After his mother died, he and Lincoln were at loose ends for awhile. They struggled to maintain a situation where Lincoln could support them without coming to anyone’s attention. Any sign of Michael slipping at school—his work or his attendance—and Social Services would have gotten wind of the two of them. They would have become wards of the state, dragged off to a Home and then foster care. They probably would have been split up, and Michael knows that Lincoln would have dived right off the deep end much sooner without someone who needed him to be stable and productive. They were careful and sneaky, and somehow they made it until Michael was out of high school. He was with Lincoln and Lisa and baby-LJ that last year, but he stayed with his family. Even now, he thinks he must have used up an awful lot of luck during that time. He knows Lincoln certainly did.
He also knows his brother could have drifted off at any time in those difficult years. Lincoln could easily have left Michael to whatever fate claimed him, and lost himself in the quiet limbo of drugs and muted feelings and the chance to forget. And Michael knows Lincoln was tempted, and that he didn’t entirely stay clean during that time. But he did not leave. Michael will never stop being grateful for that.
It caught up with his brother eventually, the drugs and the aimlessness they produced. One bad piece of luck after another, one more bad decision, and soon Lincoln was in prison for a high-profile murder. Michael couldn’t believe it at the time, couldn’t figure out why his brother—who had a temper, no-one knew that better than he did, but for God’s sake this was murder and it was somebody important—why Lincoln would do something so final and so stupid. It didn’t make sense. Michael struggled with it, tried to get his mind around it even while his brother insisted on his innocence, and he finally settled on the simple and concrete notion that with all these conflicting dilemnas and no real motive… his brother probably was telling the truth.
And look where that had led them—both of them. They are pulled daily toward a fate that will destroy them both, unless… until… if only… This escape plan is crazy. It is dangerous, all of it. And for Michael, it was inevitable as well.
There was always the option not to do it. He could have decided that it would be virtually impossible to rescue his brother or to turn it all around, that the odds and even the rest of the world were against them both. Anyone else—really, any sane or normal person—would have admitted defeat against this impossible situation.
But Michael had not. And he could not. Because it was Lincoln, and that meant everything. And when Lincoln had had the chance, he hadn’t run out on Michael all those years ago.
And it was never a real choice anyway. Michael knows himself well enough to realize that. If he had stood back, had exhausted all the normal channels and then finally let it go, he would have lost his brother within the next few months. And then he would have gone home in a broken daze and thrown himself off the balcony of his high-rise apartment, leaving his accomplished, empty life behind.
Of all the things that have happened, all the heartbreaking twists that have led them to where they are, this is the single area in which Michael’s decisions might possibly change the outcome.
So he plots and plans—and hopes. And he knows all the while that when all is said and done… this is the only choice that makes sense.
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