Characters: Michael and Lincoln (Gen)
Summary (Pre-series to S1): It used to be something to cope with. Who knew that it was destined to become important?
Author's Notes: Happy belated birthday to tuesdaeschild! I hope this gives you a little lift, and restores some of the PB love.
Also for prisonbreak100, this is "Beginnings."
There were probably rules for how to deal with a genius younger brother, or at least some guidelines. Lincoln always wished someone would tell him what those were, so he didn't have to learn everything the hard way.
Showing interest in your brother's creations seemed pretty simple, at least when Michael was younger—and it clearly made him happy. But when Michael turned seven, something changed. Asking, "So what's this supposed to be?" might set Michael off for days. Michael could turn a question like that into a cycle of self-punishment faster than anyone Lincoln had ever seen—beating himself up because his Lego-structure or drawing wasn't obvious enough, or real enough, or whatever perceived failure must have kept Lincoln from being able to identify the thing at first glance.
Lincoln had learned years ago not to guess at what things were, thanks to the boy across the hall who used to specialize in drawing horses that looked like hippos, and cows built like eggs with horns and feet. But normal children just got angry when you misidentified their artwork—they refused to consider the possibility of their own limitations, whereas that was the only thing Michael ever focused on.
"You're a kid, Michael!" Lincoln always told him, but that leniency simply wasn't in Michael's nature.
Lincoln quickly discovered the wisdom of vague conversation: "How's that coming?" and "How much longer do you think that'll take you?" If Michael answered with details, the chances were good that Lincoln wouldn't understand them anyway. Instead, he just listened attentively, and avoided asking questions that showed he didn't know what on earth Michael was talking about.
By the time Michael was nine, Lincoln was pretty much faking his way through nearly everything. He actually knew what a buttress was, for instance, but he wasn't ready to debate the merits of the various types. Listening to Michael talk about which kinds were his favorites and the ways that each could be improved was definitely interesting (and the kid could really get wound up about it, too), but it was more complicated than that for Michael. It was as if those ideas lived inside Michael, colliding with each other and producing new thoughts, new experiments.
Michael's brain was a restless engine that never got turned off.
His drawings had changed over the years. Instead of the animals and landscapes of the innocent past, Michael tended to draw machines or buildings or sometimes the steps to execute an idea. At first, they'd looked like Wile E. Coyote diagrams to catch the Roadrunner. Now, Michael called them "schematics," and they were convincing (and sometimes complex). Why that obsession over diagramming and planning, Lincoln wondered. Where did it come from, and why did it keep on growing? It was as if Michael was trying to contain the universe into something that could be bound, captured and controlled.
After their mother died and they were dragged into the foster care system, Michael's preoccupation with those drawings and ideas increased. Lincoln almost felt as if he understood by then. Whether it was escapism or something else, it had to be comforting to force some part of the world to actually make sense.
Years later, Lincoln found himself on Death Row for a crime he didn't commit. His execution date was just weeks away, and the hours all blurred together now as he wondered How and Why and reviewed his history and all his many failures.
Michael was there, inside the prison, working some scheme to get Lincoln out that still didn't add up, no matter how you sliced it. But Michael believed in it, and Lincoln was losing the energy to try to talk him out of it.
Sitting in the chapel with Michael behind his shoulder, Lincoln would listen to the litany of preparations and plans that were supposed to somehow make the impossible come true. He didn't really understand it, not the interlocking pieces and players, nor even how the timing of it all could ever work out. Yet Michael was thoroughly convinced.
A lifetime of diagrams and designs had led up to this, as if Michael had been practicing for years toward a goal that neither of them could have foreseen.
Please, Lincoln thought, even though a miracle was far too much to ask for and he wasn't worth the risk to Michael or anyone else. But he was desperate and time was ticking by, and if anyone could pull off something of this magnitude, it was Michael.
Whether Lincoln understood any of Michael's plan or not wasn't important, just like all those times before when Michael had been the brainiac kid with the endless supply of extraordinary dreams. The only one who actually needed to understand anything was Michael; everyone else was simply caught up in the ride.
Trusting Michael was the only part left now for Lincoln to play. After that, one way or another—good or bad—the rest would take care of itself.
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