Title: Coiling Wind
Fandom: Prison Break
Characters: Michael, Lincoln (gen)
Prompt: 054: Air
Word Count: 1,592
Summary: Lincoln and Michael and driving and heat and wind and tattoos.
Spoilers: Takes place somewhere around ep. 2.05, so somewhat spoilery for anything up to then. Nothing terribly specific though.
Disclaimer: Paul Scheuring and a whole lot of other people who aren’t me own Prison Break.
AN: Taken from pamalax's prompt list here: "I'd sell my soul to the devil for short sleeves."
The air is thick and heavy out here, so thick that it feels hard to breathe, even with the windows rolled down and wind rushing in as they fly down the empty highway. Lincoln feels like he’s melting in the late springtime heat, and almost wishes for the constant air conditioning and icy cement walls of his cell as he feels a trickle of sweat make it’s way down the center of his back.
He catches himself before his thoughts stray too far in that direction, thinking no, no, never again. Rather be in Hell.
Stretching his arm out the window helps combat the heat, and he spreads his fingers apart to catch the wind in his hand for a moment before letting his arm hang limp against the outside of the car door. Wind rushes through his fingers, batters the bare skin below his rolled up shirtsleeve, plays with the hair dusting his arm. It blows through the window, swirls around him and inside his open shirt, down to caress his stomach and around to cool his sweaty back, and he tries not to think things like when was the last time… Just feel and relearn wind and air and freedom.
His brother doesn’t have the same luxury.
They’re sitting right next to one another, not two feet away in the same car, on the way to the same fortune and then same paradise escape – life – after that, yet Michael is unable to taste the same freedom that Lincoln does.
It scares Lincoln to think that his brother will never truly be free of Fox River. He holds the map on his skin like shackles forever chaining him to prison, and Lincoln can tell that Michael is just beginning to realize it now.
He watches out of the corners of his eyes as Michael flicks open the button of one of his shirt-cuffs, then quickly re-buttons it. He repeats this twice, then does the same on the other shirt-cuff before wiping a bit of the sweat off of his forehead with one hand and sighing heavily.
“It’s really hot,” Michael states obviously, his voice tinged with exhaustion. “I mean really… really hot,” he repeats, as if the heat has stolen away his vocabulary.
“Got that right,” Lincoln sighs in reply. He watches Michael’s hands fall into his lap and then ball into fists, tiny beads of sweat forming between his knuckles.
Michael sighs again and drops his head back to lean against the seat’s headrest. “I'd sell my soul to the devil for short sleeves,” he says with a sardonic smile.
Lincoln smiles slightly in return, but just for a moment before the fear crawls through his stomach once more, dragging anger along with it. He brings his arm back into the car and digs both hands into the steering wheel, stewing over things that he knows he shouldn’t. Future and freedom and entanglement and loss and he hates, fucking hates knowing that Michael will never be free, ever again.
It’s no one’s fault but your own, you know. He doesn’t mean to say the words out loud, but they tumble out of his mouth suddenly and against his will.
Michael blinks then turns to look at Lincoln. “What’s that?” he asks with an innocent tone, as if the words were spoken too softly for him to really have heard.
“Nothing,” Lincoln replies quickly, his first instinct to prevent an argument before it might start, but Michael continues to stare at him, and the anger continues to simmer. He amends to, “just that… I mean, shit Michael.”
He says it forcefully, and he can see the confusion quickly cross over his brother’s face. He hates when Michael makes that expression, equal parts hurt and concerned, and it always makes Lincoln want to hit something – or someone – for him.
“I just don’t get you sometimes,” Lincoln finally says, weary and sad. “Don’t get how you think, what goes on in your head sometimes.”
“Lincoln…” Michael begins, eyebrows knit together as he stares questioningly at his brother.
“This plan, everything… the tattoo…” Lincoln interrupts, continuing on as if Michael hasn’t spoken at all. “What the hell were you thinking?”
“I – ”
“I mean, Jesus, Michael! You can’t ever wear a short-sleeved shirt again! Least not in this country, and fuck, you ruined your whole damn life!”
He has no idea where the outburst comes from, but he can lose his shit just as easily as Michael can, and he knows that they both have been keeping a lot of things tightly inside lately. He’s not one for sharing his feelings – never one for sharing his feelings, even when he thought it was The End – but there’s nothing around to hit, and he’s driving the car so he can’t hit Michael.
He lets out a shaking breath when he realizes that he’s pushing eighty-five miles-per-hour with the car, anger giving him a lead foot along with his bark, and he takes a long pause and a deep breath to slow things down.
This gives Michael all the time he needs to finally interject, and he takes advantage of Lincoln’s brief silence.
“I’m sorry, would you like to go back to prison?” he asks tightly, eyes turned away from Lincoln now to glare out the front window. Lincoln rolls his eyes at that and glances over to see that Michael’s hands are still balled into fists in his lap.
“Don’t do that, you know what I mean,” Lincoln says, warning in his tone as a bead of sweat drips down the end of his nose. It almost makes the conversation worse.
“I don’t, actually,” Michael replies with a smooth, quiet inflection as he closes his eyes and taps one finger on the side of his head. “I thought you’d be happy to be out of prison, off of Death Row.”
“Of course I’m happy,” Lincoln says angrily. “But what about you?”
“What about me?”
Lincoln pauses for a moment, stares at the long stretch of empty road before them and laughs darkly, cynically. “You did the one thing to yourself that’ll make sure you’re never free again.”
“I don’t – ”
“The tattoo. It’s like a…” he trails off, unable to think of an appropriate term, then shakes his head gruffly and sets his jaw. “It’s fucking bad, Mike.”
“This tattoo got you out of prison,” Michael reminds him tightly. “It saved your life,” and Lincoln can hear this words I saved your life mixed in there somewhere.
“I know,” he replies, still just on the edge of fury because Michael just doesn’t get it. “But look what it’s done for you now. Anywhere you go, anyone you meet, that’s the first thing they’re gonna look at. You take off those longs sleeves and that’s all anyone’s gonna see of you, and they’ll know.” He barrels on, faster and faster, his words picking up steam with each sentence. “Shit, Michael, you think there’s a single person in this country who doesn’t know who you have a full-body tattoo?”
Michael is quiet for a moment, jaw set in a mirror of Lincoln’s. “It’s not full-body,” he says finally in a soft, pensive tone.
Lincoln lets out a huff, doesn’t reply to that.
“It was the only thing I could think of.” Michael sounds almost desperate, like a child who has done wrong trying to placate his parent. “I couldn’t remember all of that plans.”
“Come on, you’re a fucking genius, Michael,” Lincoln lectures. “And I don’t want to hear some bullshit about how you’re not that smart or something. You are and you know you are and you could have figured something out.”
“Why are you so mad at me?” Michael asks unhappily, voice almost inaudible, and it starts to break Lincoln.
“I just… it’s not going to help us anymore, it’s just going to hurt us. ‘Specially you. You’re gonna have that shit on you forever, it’ll never be…” He shakes his head, closing his eyes against the wind beating at his face and the idea of Michael marked and scarred forever.
Michael doesn’t reply to this and they’re both quiet for a long time. Lincoln suspects that Michael knows that he’s right, but his brother would never admit it. Michael turns to stare out the window and Lincoln realizes for the first time that his is closed. He wonders why that is.
Michael sighs softly and Lincoln feels the anger release some of its hold on him. His fingers unclench from the steering wheel slowly and he tries again to concentrate again on the wind blowing into his shirt, swirling around his neck and sweeping down his back.
“For what it’s worth,” Lincoln says hesitantly after a few minutes, unsure of exactly how to complete the sentence. “I mean, I don’t know if I’ve really said it or… just, you know, want you to know that – even though I said before, what it sounded like – ”
“Linc,” Michael cuts him off, sounding tired.
“Yeah,” Lincoln replies, wondering why it’s so hard to say. After all they’ve been through, everything they’ve done, this should be the easy part. “Just… thanks. You know, for – thank you. I’m glad…”
I’m glad you’re my brother, he doesn’t say.
Michael turns to him, blinks against a gust of wind blowing in through Lincoln’s window, and says “you’re welcome.”
Lincoln nods and the both go back to looking out the front window, staring at the road unraveling beneath them because there’s nothing left to say, and that’s the end of it.