Category: Lincoln/Michael (Slash, W.I.P.)
Summary: Solitary confinement and soul-searching.
Author’s Notes: Contains spoilers for Episodes 15, “By The Skin And The Teeth,” and Episode 17, “J-Cat.”
x-x-x-x-x Chapter 6: Contemplation x-x-x-x-x
So this was the SHU. Dank and smelly, a bricked-in box aimed at breaking a man down.
Coming here wasn’t part of the original agenda, but then going right down to the wire on the execution wasn’t supposed to happen either. Michael had continued on his mission to find a way out of Fox River after that. He had refocused his thoughts and formed new schemes, but luck had failed him again when parts of his tattoo were destroyed. Then, when confronted with the standoff between lying to Pope and implicating himself… Michael had just been too exhausted to rally in time.
God, what a day this had been. His shoulder was killing him and his mind was spinning…
“Michael?” Now the walls were speaking.
“Michael?” They sounded a lot like Lincoln.
“Michael!” It… oh. Lincoln was still in the SHU. His voice coming up out of the drain was not an illusion after all.
“Lincoln. I messed up,” Michael admitted, knowing it was an understatement that encompassed the entire last week.
“It’s okay,” Lincoln said, as if they were talking about something like burning dinner. “It is, Michael, really. You’ve been chasing the impossible for so long—it would take a miracle to be perfect on top of that.”
Michael’s eyes stung. He didn’t deserve understanding, not at a time like this. He had failed them both, and now they were shut away here from the rest of the prison, from any way to maneuver or create an escape.
The background of his mind turned over the picture of the tattoo, still trying to visualize the parts he needed then. His tired body would not swallow his determination and will—he would not let that happen for anything .
“I’ll figure something out,” he promised Lincoln hollowly. But he would. Even as the murky surroundings were stealing the will and intent from him by the minute, he would find a way or destroy himself trying.
It was much too quiet in Michael’s cell. His brother had always been the type for silence and pondering, but when Michael became this introverted it never meant anything good.
“Michael, talk to me,” Lincoln pleaded. He’d been in the SHU before, he knew how to shut down and wait it out. But Michael… his brother was the sensitive one, so easily affected by his environment—whether that was people or the place. The SHU tried to silence your rebellion, to dull your anger into a slow, containable throb. Lincoln could understand Michael withdrawing, because the SHU did that. It pushed you into yourself.
What he was worried about, with unpleasant reminders from the past, was the possibility that once inside… Michael might not come back out.
“I know this is hard for you, but try to stay with me, please,” Lincoln went on. “God, Michael…I wish I knew what to say to make you feel better.” Distracting Michael had to be better than letting him slip away into one of those waking coma states. Whatever they were called. Funks, or fugues, or something like that. Michael had been hospitalized for one of those once.
“Mom used to tell us stories,” Lincoln offered. “When we were worried, or we’d had a bad day. I could… how about… let me just think.”
Lincoln fished around in his brain for fairytales and fables that were now mostly forgotten. “Once, there were two brothers, who lived with their mother in the forest. Their house was small, and the roof leaked, but it was just them and it was good. They made their living by… uh… building houses for other people, and they had chickens and a garden in the back. Then one day a prince—I mean, wizard—came by the house and saw how hard they worked and how little they had to show for it. And he took out some magic seeds—uh, pebbles—and he… he… scattered them in front of the doorway. And then…”
It must be afternoon now, and Lincoln’s soothing voice had stopped maybe a few hours back.
Michael was tired. He’d fixated on the tattoo all day, trying to resurrect the missing pieces in his mind from what he remembered, what he could see. He’d never thought he would need that part of the tattoo, those tunnels that ran out from the Psych ward, but he’d had it done just to be safe. And now, now it had become absolutely and excruciatingly crucial. And if not for another goddamned pipe, this time the burning hot kind… he’d be in his cell, writing down the information he needed.
He sighed. Time to put that aside for awhile and see if he could come at it sideways later on. His thoughts turned to his new plan, to the changes in his approach he’d have to make. He was beyond just gaining access and setting things in motion. Now he was down to the harder aspects of deceiving and using people to force situations and knowledge he would need. He’d never wanted to have to resort to this, but he was out of options and they’d tempted Fate once already.
And one part of these changes in particular was going to test Lincoln’s trust in him now. Michael had better tell him before he heard it from someone else.
He lay on the floor, mouth near the grill, and began working toward breaking the news.
“Lincoln?” he whispered.
There was a slight scuffling noise. “Yeah?” his brother replied.
“Lincoln, I need to tell you something.”
“Sure. Go ahead.” As if it was the weather or a ballgame they might be discussing.
Michael took a deep breath, steadying himself to choose his words carefully. “All right,” he said. “This thing I have to tell you… I know you know part of it already, all the compromises and manipulations that have come into play in the last few months.”
“I know. And I know this hasn’t been easy for you. What you’ve had to be inside Fox River… that was never the person you were supposed to be.”
Michael pinched the bridge of his nose. Lincoln’s sympathy wasn’t making this any easier. “I’m trying to say that I’ve done things I’m not proud of. And also, at this stage I can promise… there will be more of them.”
“Don’t destroy who you are for me, Michael,” Lincoln protested. “I’ve spent my whole life making sure you’d be the man you wanted. Don’t give that dream up so easily.”
Michael huffed impatiently. “I appreciate that,” he said. “And I know you mean that in the best way possible. But that’s not where I’m going with this. I need you to just listen a moment and let me get to the end of it. Because it’s important.”
He concentrated on getting the words out. “So… here’s what I’m trying to say. Before… you know, before, I tried to get Sara to help us.” Michael rubbed his forehead with his hand. “I wanted her to consider the evidence Veronica had gathered, see if she could use it to persuade her father. And I don’t know what happened with that. But the thing is-- the part that matters-- is that that... might not be the end of it.”
“What do you mean?” Lincoln asked, his puzzlement evident in his tone.
“I mean, she likes me, and I might have to use that. Really use it, if you know what I mean. So if you hear of anything going on between us, between Sara and me… try not to take it to heart, if it comes to that.”
“Do you really want to do that to her?” Lincoln asked. Using people—and women in particular—was completely foreign to Michael’s nature.
“No,” Michael said softly. “But if I have to… I won’t hesitate. Just know that it’s not real, Okay?”
“Okay. But if you like her—I mean, really like her—that’s okay too.”
Now that was exactly the kind of thing that made Michael anxious. He couldn’t ignore those hints that Lincoln would give him up so easily, like this was just a temporary thing and they could move back like that into what they were before.
“Lincoln, that’s not going to happen. I mean it. My feelings for her would never be anything like the ones I have for you.”
“I—Michael… all I’m saying is, don’t give up on having a regular life because of me. I’m really not worth it.”
“So you’ve been telling me, for as long as I can remember! And I still don’t agree with you, obviously.” Michael could feel the tension burning in the back of his neck, and he forced his fists to slowly unclench. Calm down. Breathe. “So now that we’ve covered all that… let’s just skip on over to the part where I tell you again that it isn’t going to happen, and we just leave it at that. Okay?”
“Okay,” Lincoln answered. Michael knew that placating tone all too well, but his was neither the time nor the place to dig open this particular discussion.
He rolled onto his back, stretching and shifting his legs, wiggling with adrenaline. He was all wound up now, nowhere near ready for heavy conversations or for memory tricks to conjure up the tattoo. This wasn’t helping anything.
He ran a hand over his stomach, well below his pounding heart. The rough push of his shirt against his skin gave him a new idea.
“So, picture this… Say we were in a motel room right now—with a bed and sheets and everything. What would you do to me there on that bed? Where would you start?” Michael smoothed his voice out, made it teasing. “Tell me all the details, every taste and touch. And Lincoln? Make it good.”
Lincoln’s surprised chuckle echoed back to him, and the sound of it eased his mind. Michael settled in to enjoy it, freeing his mind and letting the words wash over him like sweet waters through a dry and dusty land.