Characters: Lincoln and Michael (Gen or Slash)
Summary (Pre-series): After leaving prison, Lincoln searches for a sense of who he still is.
Author's Notes: For clair_de_lune's birthday, and her request for Michael and Lincoln and something soft and warm.
Also for fanfic100, this is "Air."
Nothing was the same inside prison, not even the simplest things like water, food and air. Except in the communal shower areas, the water was cold and tasted faintly of rust. Food was too tied up in power and control, too much like being a poor kid on the school lunch program where you ate things you hated just to fill your stomach and where fistfights broke out over desserts. Even the air was wrong, always too close and too tight. It was filled with the stench of sweat even in winter and rationed out in prison yard breaks that were too infrequent to keep a man on the near side of sanity.
Lincoln wasn't the same in prison, either.
It was when he got out that he noticed, three days into freedom after a two-year stint for a B and E. He was sitting on the roof of Michael's apartment building, drinking a beer so cold that the outside of the bottle was wet. A breeze stirred the rooftop, tickling over his bare legs and carrying the scent of hot tar mixed with tree blossoms. The city rose up all around him—muted traffic noises, radio music, and road construction filtering in from afar—and in that abundance of normalcy and activity, Lincoln realized that his shoulders had unclenched from a state they'd held for far too long. He was a man like any other now, out enjoying the heat and sunshine. He didn't need that ready anger or hardened shell just to survive, not here. In this world outside prison bars, those defenses were for dark alleys and bad neighborhoods and not for every living minute both waking and sleeping.
Michael was still at work, but he'd be home before long. Lincoln was happy enough to wait, knowing that they had time now—that no foster home placements or visiting day restrictions would break their relationship into scattered minutes, hours, months. It was such a relief not to feel desperate for that rare contact, and not to have to hide from Michael how hard all of the waiting in between actually was.
Lincoln had never liked being dependent on anyone else for his happiness. His father (and his mother, without meaning to) had taught him how dangerous that was. Finding it on his own, however, had proved even harder. On the bad days he found himself thinking that he could count through the really good times without using all the fingers on both hands. It was hard to believe that would ever change.
But when he came home three days ago to all the signs of Michael's independence and success, to the way Michael's eyes shined when they looked at him, Lincoln suddenly had the feeling again—so long forgotten—that things could be different this time, that he might finally have a future.
This was the constant truth in both their lives: even when things got so bad that Lincoln had utterly lost all hope, Michael would somehow still be living it.
Looking up at the sky—so blue, so incredibly open—Lincoln thought he might check around at the docks for work in a day or two, and see if any of his friends still had a handle on the construction trade. He was strong and he had experience, and it wasn't too late to start over.
A light wind curled over the rooftop, the air so soft and warm against his skin that it was like the comfort of a life he barely remembered. How could he still miss something he'd hardly even had?
The door opened behind him, and Lincoln turned.
"I see you've found the perfect way to enjoy the good life," Michael said. He was wearing his business clothes, minus the jacket, and though it was the end of the day his eyes still lit up for Lincoln.
The scent of his aftershave drifted past, as spicy and unique as Michael himself, and Lincoln felt a surge of happiness and possibility that almost made him dizzy. He reached out to pull Michael down next to him, the warmth from Michael's skin tingling across the mere breath of space between them.
Lincoln smiled in hazy satisfaction, contentment filling him in ways he'd rarely known.
He cherished the truth of that moment.
"Now it's perfect."
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(Sweet Charity remix of this story from Michael's POV (slash) is here)