Characters: Michael/Lincoln (Slash, Schmoop)
Summary: In Illinois, autumn is fleeting…
Author's Notes: For maerhys, who wanted Michael/Lincoln and autumn. I'm just sorry this took so long!
Also for fanfic100 ("Fall") and schmoop_bingo (wildcard).
In Chicago, autumn was always too short. A few weeks of crisp mornings and the thin scratch of leaves against the sidewalk offered the promise of a full-blown display of colors and the apple cider aroma of farmhouse kitchens. The dream only lasted until the first snowfall, sometimes as early as October.
It was still a dream worth having.
"Let's drive out to the country," Michael said one Saturday, his skin damp from the shower Lincoln could have sworn was running just a minute ago.
"Like what, Wisconsin?" Lincoln was still on his first cup of coffee.
"No," Michael scoffed, then reconsidered: "Maybe. I don't think we'll have to go that far, though."
"To see cows?"
"No!" Michael waved his hands in frustration. "To find Fall. Trees, leaves…"
Pumpkins, Lincoln smiled into his coffee. Michael always wound up buying pumpkins. "Sure," he shrugged, "why not?" The truth was, Lincoln just liked teasing Michael—especially when he was so earnest. They hadn't been out of the city since Lincoln got sent to prison, and he'd only been released a few months ago. He was itching to get out of their apartment and onto the open road.
An hour later, they were heading through the city. It was a testament to collaboration, because while Michael had big ideas, Lincoln actually knew someone with a car they could borrow.
"We went on a field trip to a farm in grade school," Michael said, "but I don't remember it being hours and hours away."
Lincoln shrugged. "Everything's gotten so built up. Most of the farming's downstate now, and there's nothing but suburbs for miles outside the city."
"I just want some Fall color and hot apple cider," Michael said.
"We could stop at a 7-11, get some apple juice and put it in the microwave," Lincoln suggested. "Then park for a while in one of those neighborhoods with lots of trees."
Michael turned in his seat and looked at Lincoln, his expression horrified. "That's not the point."
"I know," Lincoln said. "I'm just kidding..."
"We can do that after we give up. Hey, no hitting the driver!"
"You are such a cynic," Michael commented.
"I have a dry sense of humor," Lincoln said proudly.
A half-hour later, they'd passed through Aurora and beyond. The landscape was gradually opening up, houses and buildings getting farther and farther apart. Just after Batavia, Michael suddenly leaned forward and pointed to something up ahead.
"Is that a farm?" he asked.
Lincoln squinted. He saw fences, trees, and what looked like a goat. "Could be. I don't think we can just drive onto their property and hang out, though," he said.
There was another farm after that one, then a grove of trees and a river followed by another farm.
"I think that's a fruit stand," Michael said.
"Sure looks like it."
Lincoln pulled off the road, and they got out of the car. The seemingly endless open space made him dizzy for a moment, after a lifetime of living in the city and a couple of years in a prison cell. He felt oddly conspicuous as he and Michael walked over to the group of tables covered with boxes.
"Lots of apples," Michael said. "Should we buy some to take home?"
"Why not?" They looked more interesting than the three kinds the grocery store usually offered. "And some pears, too."
Michael also wanted cider, no surprise there, so Lincoln urged him to buy a whole gallon. He figured they could heat it up at home if they wanted to, maybe get some of that longing out of Michael's system. "Where to next?" he asked, as they headed back to the car.
"We passed a river not too long ago. Let's go there," Michael suggested.
"Fine by me..."
Lincoln parked off the side of the road next to the river. He and Michael took the apples down to the river's edge and sat side-by-side on a pair of large boulders. The sun was just past the middle of the sky now, making the water sparkle as it stirred with the help of a welcome breeze.
The trees along the water were red and gold, leaves still thick against the bright blue sky. Lincoln pulled Michael close against his shoulder and let the surroundings slowly sink in.
"This is nice," he said quietly, and it was—the vivid colors, the soft rush of water (so different from the uneasy silences in prison). But being here with Michael was the best part of all.
"Still glad you said yes?" Michael asked.
"To what? Driving all the way out here? Sure."
"No," Michael said, pulling back far enough to kiss Lincoln hot and sweet and long. "I meant, to this…"
Michael spoke as if Lincoln might still change his mind and back out of this thing they had together that went far beyond being brothers and into something much more dangerous.
It reminded Lincoln of the night Michael first spoke of his own feelings, as if they were some deep dark secret. The truth was that Michael's face had already been broadcasting his naked need for too many years to count.
"Wouldn't change a thing," Lincoln said, kissing Michael in return and brushing his thumb over the stubble along Michael's jaw.
Michael settled in against his side afterward, and they watched the water flow past. "Lincoln?" Michael said.
"Yes?" Lincoln smiled as if he didn't know what was coming.
"Do you think we could drive a little farther up the road, and see if we could find someplace where we could buy a couple of pumpkins?"
-------- fin --------