Characters: Lincoln/Michael (Slash)
Summary: Lincoln struggles to make himself heard against Michael’s conviction that he will ultimately leave for a better offer.
Author's Notes: Post-Escape, Established Relationship. This follows directly after “No Soft Tomorrow.” Written for the fanfic100 challenge, where I have the slash pairing of Lincoln and Michael, this is for prompt #86, “Choices.”
Lincoln woke to the sound of the shower running. His entire body ached, and his head felt like he’d been hit with a brick. He stared at the ceiling awhile, remembering the confusion of the previous night, and … his head hurt all over again. Michael had decided—for both of them, apparently—that more thinking was in order on Lincoln’s part. So given how great things had been between them, how close they had become in this private paradise, what exactly was he supposed to be thinking about?
There was nothing like being blindsided, and Michael could do it to him every time.
He sat up slowly, rubbing his hands through his hair. He could practically see the eggshell path laid out before him that these next few days or weeks were going to be taking.
It was enough to make a man go right back to bed and stay there.
Michael slipped right into the bedroom without even looking his way, and after a few minutes of staring at the closed door Lincoln decided not to push. He took his own shower, and the bedroom was empty by the time he needed some clothes.
He dressed and went into the kitchen. It, too, was empty. He appeared to be the only one home right now. So this was how it would begin. Avoidance and awkwardness and god knew how he was going to start putting all this right again.
Michael was still gone all through a slow breakfast and two cups of coffee. Lincoln was getting edgy. He didn’t like how things were going and there was nothing he could do about it right that second. Damned if he was going to sit around for hours and wait for the other shoe to drop. He put his dishes in the sink and headed down to the beach. He could walk it off, even run if he wanted to, and see where things lay when he got back.
After blowing off some steam for awhile, Lincoln came up through town about half a mile down the beach, and wandered through the neighboring streets before getting back to the house. The car was back. He wondered if Michael would be home, or if he’d slipped out onto the beach himself to further delay any chance for them to talk to each other.
He entered the house quietly. Maybe he’d caught Michael by surprise. His brother was out on the back porch, probably expecting Lincoln to come up from the beach below.
Enough dodging around. Lincoln went out the back door and leaned back against it, taking in the situation. There was his brother, a beer, and there were a couple of small bowls on the floor.
“What’s that?” he said.
“Cat food.” Michael’s gaze was fixed out at sea.
“I can see that. I mean, why?”
“There’s a cat that comes around here sometimes, that doesn’t look like it has a home. I like it.”
Lincoln frowned. “Skunks like cat food, too.”
Michael’s face was bland. “I can tell them apart.”
Lincoln started to roll his eyes at that, but noticed the corner of Michael’s mouth starting to turn up. “You just like fucking with me, don’t you?”
Michael’s face clouded over immediately, and his smile was humorless. “You know I do.”
God, he’d walked right into that one. “You’re not the only one that enjoys that, Michael.” His kept his voice quiet, and tried to let the sincerity speak for itself.
“It’s not a question of enjoying it, Lincoln. That part’s pretty obvious. But it’s more than that for me. This is something I need. And I’m not sure it’s at all like that for you.”
“Why would you think I don’t need it too?”
“Well, I’m not talking about needing sex. Everybody needs that. I’m talking about an emotional need to be with me.”
“But I am with you. I like being with you. I guess I really don’t see where all this doubt is coming from.”
Michael sighed. “It’s like this: I still think that if something came by—or someone—that you liked better, you could walk away like that. And for me, there’s no chance for there to be anyone better. This was all I ever wanted anyway. I’m not waiting for a silver lining— for me, this is it. This is already better than anything I’ve ever had.”
“So you think I don’t love you enough.” That had to be it, Lincoln thought.
“I don’t know,” Michael said quietly. “Maybe it’s not a question of how much. Maybe it’s a question of how real this is to you—and how real it can continue to be.”
Lincoln’s head was starting to hurt. This had the makings of so many impenetrable conversations he’d had with Michael over the years. Real. Not real. What was the question again? “Do you… think I’m confused about whether this is happening?” he asked. God, please let it not be philosophy. I’m not up for wrangling through that right now.
Michael looked at him kind of strangely. “I mean, have you thought about what happens when we get back to the regular world? Will we keep trying to be together? How will we manage that?”
Okay. This, he got. “First of all, we might decide we like it here. We might choose not to go back. Second, no matter where we are, what’s to stop us from going forward? We could find a place to live together, and it wouldn’t be anyone else’s business.”
“What about LJ?” Michael asked. “And people coming over? They’re bound to guess at some point that we’re a couple.”
“Get extra bedrooms, pretend to use the one we don’t need. People have been doing that for centuries. It doesn’t have to be that complicated.”
“But would you feel comfortable living like that? Hiding out forever?”
“Compared to a cage with bars and nothing to look forward to but a date with The Chair? Yeah, I think I can manage that.” And Lincoln realized he might have gone a little too far there. Michael’s face had frozen. He tried to backtrack. “Okay… that came out wrong.”
“You think?” Michael stood up abruptly and started down the steps, his movements stiff and unbalanced.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa.” Lincoln chased after him and caught him by the arm briefly before Michael jerked away. “Michael!” he said. “Stop, please—don’t run off in the middle of this.”
Michael’s jaw was clenched, and Lincoln was just making everything worse. “You’re a fine person to talk about running out on things.”
“What? Is this about when I moved in with Lisa? We had a baby coming, Michael. I had to do that.”
“That’s not what I’m saying. You were ‘gone’ long before you left our house. Not always, and not every day, but mentally you’d checked out years before that.”
Lincoln sighed. It wasn’t like he’d ever expected Michael to forget about that, or even to forgive him, but—“You have no idea how much I regret that. Really. I’m sorry I didn’t do more all those years ago.” He touched Michael’s shoulder gently. “I’d like to think I’ve learned something since then.”
Michael still wouldn’t look at him. “All right. Can you tell me this, then: if Veronica were to come here and tell you she wanted the two of you to be together again… can you be sure you wouldn’t be tempted by that? Because if not, well, I kind of want to know that now. Where did you really want to be spending the rest of your life? Who did you want to spend it with?”
Lincoln thought about it for a moment, about everything Veronica was. She’d been his missed opportunity for so long, the “almost” he’d finally found after their earliest attempts had failed. He’d loved her too soon, back when they were just too young—when he was too young—and he’d wasted his chances chasing after other girls without realizing that that might just be an unforgivable thing. She’d never quite trusted him after that—and she was right not to. He’d flown from Lisa’s bed to hers and back again, pushing her love and every perfect part of her farther and farther away.
Part of him had always hoped there could be a time when it would all come together for the two of them, when it would finally be lasting and right.
Looking at that dream now, against the backdrop of these last few months with Michael, he saw the reality he’d never admitted. There had been love and inescapable desire, and yet they’d never really meshed outside the bedroom. Always pulling in different directions, with so many wrong moves and wrong motives, their words had crossed and collided without end. Their love had never been at rest for very long. That fantasy of living with a single heart in a shared life… was never meant to be. Beyond the blame of sexual distractions, there was a reason why Lincoln had never stayed. It was simply that the combination of the two of them had failed to persuade him.
In this short time he’d had with Michael, it was all so different. They’d been closer and more completely paired than he’d ever been with anyone. They had a shared depth of love that went beyond the bonds of brotherhood. Even with old irritations and conflicts— and misunderstandings like the one that had led them to today’s uncomfortable state—there was the willingness and the need to try. The drive to heal, to return to balance, propelled them together again and again. It was more than comfort and companionship. It was completion. And it was staring him in the face.
“No,” he answered.
Michael looked confused. “No to what?”
“No, I’m not waiting for Veronica. And she is definitely not what I’m looking for. Not anymore.”
The words tumbled unexpectedly out of Michael’s mouth. “But—why not?”
“Because…” and Lincoln moved closer, gently reaching for Michael’s arm again. “I can see now that something was always missing with her. Something basic and important that I didn’t even have a name for.” He stroked Michael’s arm softly, his fingers brushing over those tattooed images of death and damnation… and devotion. “You bring me so much happiness, so much peace. You make me more than I am. And all I have to do is love you in return.” His hand flowed up Michael’s shoulder and neck to gently brush over those flushed and waiting cheeks. “Even a guy like me can tell that’s how it’s supposed to be.”
Michael’s eyes were so large and lost, his mind still trailing a few words behind what Lincoln had said. The kiss arrived before the meaning that foretold it, and still he succumbed to it like everything about his brother he was never able to resist. He lifted and opened instantly, and then threw his arms around Lincoln in a crushing embrace when he finally realized what had been said.
Underneath everything he had expected to hear, Lincoln’s choice had not been No.
Unbelievably and impossibly… the answer was Yes.
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