Title: The World Ends With a Bang
Characters: Michael, Aldo Burrows
pbfic_exchange2 fic requested by: stealmy_kiss
Summary: This is wrong, so wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, who is this man??
Word Count: 1,489
Disclaimer: Paul Scheuring and a whole lot of other people who aren’t me own Prison Break.
Spoilers: Through ep. 2.13 (Disconnect)
Prompt: 073: Light
A/N: For stealmy_kiss, who requested gen angst with Michael and Papa Burrows containing unraveling, Identity, "We're more alike than you think. We each have our cause; we've both made sacrifices." It’s mostly angsty, with a touch of schmoop – hopefully not too much ;)
He has this dream sometimes, of a man with Lincoln’s broad build and his own sharp eyes. His conscious mind fills in some of the gaps of the dream when he’s awake with the small scraps of information he collects over the years – the man is tall, with salt-and-pepper hair and a wide mouth that might have smiled once, but never does in his dream.
He has another dream sometimes too, when life is at its darkest and he’s feeling a little less than human: of angry, murderous feelings and a man with gritting teeth holding out his hand. Sometimes he runs past, legs feeling like glue trying to hold him in place, and he fights against the hold to break away into the blinding sunlight of the outdoors. Free.
Sometimes he takes the offered hand, and he stands triumphant over a dying body, watching as blood spills furiously across the floor, filling the room like a flood and the only piece of color in the dream. He looks up at the man, the man looks down at him and squeezes their hands together, and when he wakes there is a sticky sense of fury and disgust with himself coating his insides.
He’s unprepared for the moment when those two men crafted almost entirely in his mind converge in reality to form the man who stands before him and calls himself “father”. He’s already wound so tightly because this isn’t how it was supposed to go and it’s yet another bump in the road that he can’t handle, one that sends him flying, spiraling so far out of control that he can’t quite see straight.
So he lashes out, striking with heated words and frosty looks, asking “how could you do that?” even though the words but you’ve done so much worse sit cold and complacent in the back of his mind. He hovers around Lincoln like a child, unable to move too far into his father’s gaze – unable, really, to even think of the fact that it’s his father’s gaze following him along the desert path. His hands clench and the sweat pouring down his back and beading across his forehead has less to do with the heat than the intensity of his desperate, out of control spin, because this is wrong, so wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, who is this man??
They talk a little – words tossed here and there, not quite as angry now that the initial burst of rage has simmered down to a slowly stewing bitterness – but it’s impossible to catch up on twenty years of separation in one hasty trek through the desert towards escape, no matter how hard they all try. So he compiles a list of questions and conversation topics in his head to bring up again later. He watches this man who is his father and uploads the image in his head – silver hair, worn features, small flecks of wrinkles around eyes that are dark, the way his and Lincoln’s aren’t – as conversations build in his mind.
He knows that it’s really his conscience, or some other more sensible part of his head, but it speaks with his father’s voice, reminding him that they are more alike than Michael believes.
No, no we’re not, Michael thinks in reply as he kicks a rock out of his way and watches his father cough against the dusty, dry desert air. I’m not like you. I won’t be like you.
We are. Much more so than you think. We each have our cause, and we’ve both had to make sacrifices. The image in Michael’s head gives him a long, even stare, dark eyes growing even darker. You’ve had to make sacrifices.
But not intentionally, Michael argues back. The four men continue walking as Michael notices his brother panting, and he struggles with the brief impulse to sling one of Lincoln’s arms around his shoulders and help him along. You left your family! You never came back for us, even when Mom died!
I did my best to keep track of you boys. You have to understand, I had to leave you!
For our protection, yeah. They turn a corner, Lincoln and Sucre argue over directions, and in his head Michael scoffs. We were your family.
You still are my family. The voice in his head speaks calmly, confidently, and Michael’s certain that this is how the real conversation between them will go whenever they have the time and energy for it. I’m as sure of that as anything now. You’ve given up everything for your brother, and people have died for it. I gave you up to protect you. In Michael’s head his father turns his eyes downward and has to stop speaking when he suddenly chokes on his words.
I’ve hated you for most of my life, Michael thinks, cold and biting as he watches his father watching him, staring at each other avidly as they trudge through the dust. And even now, I’m not sure if I don’t still.
I’m your father and I’m here now.
He is here now, Michael thinks. Is that enough? It’s hard to reconcile the man from all those years ago, the man he’s spent much of his life alternately reviling and in awe of, while also trying to forget, with the man currently trying to save his life. His father has attempted to explain himself and why he made the choices he has, but just as it’s impossible to bridge a twenty year gap in twenty minutes, so is it impossible to apologize for a twenty year absence under any circumstances.
And maybe no apology is needed – or maybe this should be the end of apologies altogether. For all of them. They’ve all done what they’ve all done, and all that’s left now is to move forward. Survive. Take care of each other and be better; not make the same mistakes that have brought them each to this point. His father can’t make up for his life with an apology or even his actions now any more than Michael can atone for the deaths of those hurt by Lincoln’s freedom with some money and some remorseful words.
There’s a plan to make all of this right.
He was wrong – nothing can make right what’s happened. But they can go on, they can endure, and they can save each other.
Michael looks over at his father with softer eyes now, gives him a half-smile by way of contrition and acceptance – I’ll get past your sins if you can get past mine. The other man slows his pace and tilts his head to the side a bit as if to say he understands.
A few more words are exchanged softly, less harsh and less tense than before, and none of them are the important words just yet; none of them are quite what he’s been thinking about, but he knows that they’ll get there just like he knows they’ll get to the plane and he knows that they’ll get to Panama and to freedom.
Gunfire shatters his thoughts, splintering them into tiny fractures along with his already long-gone peace and sense of calm, and once again they’re running.
And then he’s gone.
They take a moment to bury him once they’re able to stop running, and there’s nothing to say. Everything that was supposed to have been said, everything he’d been waiting for the opportunity for, everything he’d planned for is lost now to rocks and dust and his own mind. He wants to cry and scream and kick and destroy something because it’s too goddamn much and he couldn’t lose one more person, but now he has. But he can’t make himself move, can’t focus enough to scream, and he lets the tears fill his eyes, unsure of whether he’s mourning the loss of his father or missed opportunities and the conversation they’ll never really get to have.
So they move on. And he feels something burn in his chest, bright and fearsome and intense.
I’m not like you. I’ll make sacrifices, but I will never leave my family behind.
It’s Michael and Lincoln again now, Sucre gone to freedom and the brothers left behind to fight instead of flee. The burn in his chest only grows steadily more powerful as they continue on searching for their survival and freedom. It seems appropriate that they’re left now to each other, with nothing else but a shadow of his father’s voice in his head to spur him on.
He dreams again later, when the opportunity for rest finally comes and Michael can snatch back just a small bit of peace and calm. He dreams of darkness and cold and fear, and then a man with silver hair and dark eyes reaching out a hand to him. Now he takes the offered hand and pulls the man outside with him into the gentle sunlight of the outdoors.