Characters: Lincoln and Michael (Gen, Deep angst, AU from mid-S1)
Summary: Season1 AU: this is the other possible outcome of Michael’s plan. The story contains a great deal of anguish and affection, but it is not slash. Bring Kleenex.
Disclaimers: I don’t own “Prison Break” or any of its characters. But sometimes I help give them a voice.
Author's Notes: For my prisonbreak100 claim of the Gen pairing of Michael and Lincoln, this is #71, "Broken."
Flanked by guards, Michael entered the dark section of Fox River that housed Death Row.
The tomblike quiet unnerved him. He knew there were a fair number of the condemned on the Row. The near silence was that of the dead, or of those who had stopped trying to live. That he understood it only made it even more unsettling.
“Here,” Patterson said. They stopped in front of a rusted iron door, and Michael waited through the routine.
“Step back!” Patterson called, then checked the cell. Michael was unchained, and let in through the door. Lincoln waited against the far wall, looking bleak and so much smaller than he should have.
“Two hours,” the second guard instructed, and secured the door behind Michael.
Michael walked over to Lincoln rapidly, embracing him hard and fighting down the surge of guilt and fear rising in him.
He had not saved Lincoln after all. Too much had gone wrong at all the wrong times, and they were still here. It was too late.
A sob burst out of Lincoln as he buried his head in Michael’s neck. These were the sounds of a broken man, and Michael had never heard them from Lincoln before—not in all these years, with all that they had been through. He could not stand it, and felt the depths of his own pain spilling over, joining the two of them in shared sorrow.
He tried to hold it back, to rein it in, because this was not supposed to be about him. He did not want Lincoln trying to take care of him right now, with what awaited him in the morning. He could not, even accidentally, allow himself to become that selfish.
He took a deep breath, and stepped up to the task. Biting his lip, holding his breath, he rocked Lincoln like a lost child, lending what comfort he could.
Gradually, Lincoln quieted, and his breathing eased. He swiped his wrist over his face, as Michael rubbed his back gently and surreptitiously mopped away his own tears.
Finally, Lincoln was able to pull back and look at him, smiling weakly.
“Does that mean you aren’t glad to see me?” Michael asked quietly. Lincoln surprised himself with a laugh, and just shook his head. He guided Michael over to the cot, and they sat for a few moments, huddled together and not knowing where to begin.
“I’ve written some letters,” Lincoln finally said. “For you and LJ. And Veronica. Pope too.”
“Do you want me to read mine now?” Michael asked.
“No. You should wait until after.”
“Can I take it with me when I leave?” he asked. Lincoln looked at him strangely, but just said, “All right. But they’ll deliver it to you anyway.”
“That’s okay. Better to be sure.” He reached out for it, and placed it carefully in his pocket. He looked down at Lincoln’s hand then, picking it up and holding it against his own.
“Lincoln,” he whispered hoarsely. They both knew what he was going to say, but it had to be said all the same. “I’m so sorry. I tried so hard, and I honestly thought we could pull it off.” His face twisted, and he swallowed over the lump in his throat. “I’m sorry I let you down.” He forced himself to meet Lincoln’s eyes, blurring through his own tears, because Lincoln just had to know how much he meant it.
Lincoln reached up to his face, brushing away the tears that were already falling. “I know,” he said. “I don’t blame you at all—I’m so grateful for all that you’ve done, all that you’ve put yourself through. We knew it would be hard, and that our chances weren’t good.” His voice shook. “But it matters so much to me that you tried. I never deserved to have a brother like you, and don’t think I don’t appreciate it.”
The words tore into Michael’s heart, and he broke. “That isn’t true-- you are a wonderful brother! I never expected you to be perfect. Never. But I know how much you sacrificed for me, how much of your own dreams you put aside. How can you not know that ordinary people don’t do that? They get selfish, they walk away. They don’t bury their own childhood so their brother can have one!” The sobs threatened to choke Michael, and he let Lincoln pull him close and cradle his head against his shoulder.
A surprising calm spread through Lincoln as he took all this in. Michael understood. Better than he had himself. He felt an inner peace that had not been with him in years.
He kissed Michael’s face, and wiped the tears with the bed sheet. Suddenly, he did not feel quite as cheated. In the face of despair, he had been given an unexpected gift.
Finally Michael could look at him again, and Lincoln stroked his face and gazed at him, as if memorizing every last nuance of Michael inside and out. He leaned closer, and kissed Michael gently on the mouth.
Michael didn’t pull away, but just looked at him in all seriousness. “Why?” he asked.
“Because this is the deepest love I can give you,” Lincoln said. “And I’m running out of time.” He could barely get the last part out.
Michael nodded to himself, and kissed him in return. He moved his hands up to Lincoln’s face then, kissing the cheeks already wet with tears, kissing the eyelids that were squeezed shut and trembling. He kissed Lincoln’s forehead, the way he never had as a child, because kissing foreheads was what bigger people—parents, aunts, uncles—did. He had wondered why until now, because it never felt particularly special from the other end. But now, now he felt its appeal. It was a bestowment of love that demanded nothing in return. It had a sweetness all its own. Finally, he kissed Lincoln’s head. It was stubbled and rough, but it was Lincoln and it deserved to be cherished.
Then Lincoln kissed Michael, visiting all the same places but lingering last on the forehead— low and in the middle, up high, and next to each eyebrow. Each touch drew out memories of their past, of all they had been to each other, back when Michael had almost been Lincoln’s own child. All of their struggles and triumphs, all they had been through, was being remembered and acknowledged and laid to rest.
He held Michael finally, heads resting together and lost in thought. It had all been worth it, all the choices he had made on Michael’s behalf. There were other choices he regretted, but not these. Michael had been his greatest achievement.
It seemed they had run out of tears for the time being, and they sat up and leaned together against the wall.
“Lincoln,” Michael said after awhile. “I have to ask you something. Is there anything you want right now?”
“You mean, besides a miracle?” Lincoln said, and then immediately wished he hadn’t. But Michael had seemed to expect that. He didn’t look devastated, the way Lincoln had feared.
“Yes,” Michael said with a slight smile, “Besides that.”
“Well.” Lincoln debated whether to say it, but they were being honest with each other and this was the last chance he would ever have to say everything, good or bad. “I… could really use a straight razor.” He looked up cautiously to see what effect that had had.
Michael’s mouth tightened briefly, but he just nodded slowly. ‘I thought you might,” he said. “I have something like that with me. It’s the closest I could get.”
“Seriously?” Lincoln asked. He was incredulous. He’d been trying to protect Michael’s feelings, and had forgotten about his practical side. The side that would do anything for Lincoln. Even this.
“Yes,” Michael said quietly. “It’s inside my boot. But can you promise me… you’ll wait to use it until after I’ve left?”
“I promise,” Lincoln whispered. He put his arm around Michael and squeezed. “You’re the best,” he said. “I mean it.”
They sat for a moment. “So, you’re okay with that?” Lincoln asked.
“Yes," Michael answered. "It’s what I would want for myself. I can’t stand the thought of you lying awake all night waiting. I don’t want you to go through that. They cheated you out of justice… you can cheat them out of their circus.”
It sounded better in those terms. Better than disappointing Michael. Better than cowardice.
It was a choice. The last one he could make.
The heavy sound of boots approached, and they looked at each other, startled. Was their time up already?
Michael quickly unzipped his boot, removing his piece of narrow, sharp-edged plastic. Lincoln shoved it down the back of his pants, and leaned over to hug Michael fiercely.
“I love you,” he whispered. “Take care of yourself.”
“I love you too,” Michael choked out. “I always will.”
Holding each other close, they savored the quiet completion of their foreheads touching and hands stroking each others’ faces. They traded one last gentle kiss, but no words were spoken. Neither could bring himself to say goodbye.
“Step back!” came the order. Lincoln pulled away reluctantly, and moved to the rear wall.
His eyes never left Michael’s face, as his brother was chained up again and guided out of the cell.
Michael looked at him one last time, the light from the wall already forming a dim halo around Lincoln’s form.
The door closed, and he was led down the hallway again.
“I’ll see you soon,” he whispered.