“How does that have anything to do with me?”
Veronica took a deep breath and steeled herself for patience, not that it had done her any good in the past months. God, she felt her life slowly but steadily spiraling out of control and she knew whose fault it was: Lincoln and Michael, the damned brothers and friends of her childhood, were going to be the death of her, she just knew it.
She wondered what was worse, the idea of one of them getting closer his execution or the fact that the other one had just wasted his life away and she didn’t know why, sweet and merciful God help her.
“The judge is… hesitant, to put you in a maximum security prison.”
Michael’s eyebrows furrowed.
This time Veronica couldn’t help the incredulous look. Was he kidding her?
“Michael, you’ve led an exemplary life until now. The judge is clearly suspicious of what led you to commit your crime and she doesn’t want to put you where you don’t belong.” Knowing fully well what that kind of prison does to a man, she didn’t say.
“Okay, I can understand that. But what does the Sentinel & Guide Center have to do with this? Why not ask a psychologist?”
That was a good question, but Veronica had only speculations.
“Your status as latent. After the scandal of Jonathan May, the Council has taken particular interest in latent Sentinels or Guides who commit crimes. I can’t blame them.”
Oh, what a clusterfuck May’s situation had been: labeled as latent during his teenage years, the man had started killing other latent individuals after witnessing a murder. To this day, the reasons why he’d started going on his killing spree hadn’t been released and Veronica was sure that wouldn’t change for a long while. The S&G Council had received a lot of pressure, then, in keeping track of its latent percentage of population. So now here they were. Veronica didn’t know what a representative of the Council could do for Michael’s case, but she would accept any help they could get. Lord knew, Michael wasn’t helping himself at all. Quite the opposite, and again Veronica wondered if Lincoln’s conviction had somehow made Michael lose his mind.
“Just the Sentinel then.” Michael said and Veronica frowned, shaken out of her thoughts. “They will send a pair, a Guide and a Sentinel. I will see only the Sentinel.”
“Michael, it’s out of our hands.” she argued.
Michael gave her an impassive look.
“Just the Sentinel or I will refuse the meeting. It is within my rights.”
Veronica sighed and nodded. After all, Michael was right and she wasn’t going to insist, risking Michael’s only chance for a less harsh sentence.
Alexander Mahone didn’t know what to expect going into the interrogation room, but surely not what he found.
“Holy shit,” he exclaimed, “You’re-”
“Shut up.” his Guide (his Guide!) hissed firmly and Alex did. “Are they listening in on us?”
Alex was about to say no, that this meeting was private, but he couldn’t be sure so he took a moment to listen for any electronic device and found none. The room was equipped to keep out the most powerful Sentinels, but Alex wasn’t worried. If one was around, his instincts wouldn’t let him be so calm in the presence of his unclaimed Guide.
God, his Guide. His convicted Guide. What a mess.
“We’re clear. No one is listening in.”
The other man nodded.
He was still standing, a flimsy table and three chairs between them, and all Alex wanted was to leap over and touch this man, smell him, sense him. He’d never wanted anything more in his life.
“So,” he fished for something to say, since his Guide seemed to be content with silence. “You’re not latent.”
The other man snorted. His eyes were a pale blue someone could drown in. Alex had never wasted time waxing poetic on the male body, always more physically attracted to the fairer sex, but he would for this man, for his Guide.
They studied each other a bit more, tension rising quickly. Alex’ instincts were starting to act up and he took a deep breath. It was a bad idea when his lungs were suddenly full of the other man’s sweet but strong smell. There was sweat there and the smell of washed clothes, but underneath a faint trace of pines and roses.
“Focus on my voice, Sentinel. Dial down smell by three.” his Guide said and Alex tried to obey, focusing on the man’s voice, hoping it wouldn’t lead to a zone-out, but in the end the man knew what he was doing and Alex reigned in his sense of smell and exhaled in relief.
If there was something they couldn’t afford now, it was him going into a zone-out. A part of him was pretty sure the man wasn’t going to help him out of it and that was putting his Sentinel on edge, but Alex’ instincts were rarely wrong. This time he wasn’t glad of the fact.
He decided to sit down and regard the other man.
The man watched him quietly, but didn’t sit down.
“Why are you here?”
The man quirked his lips.
“Don’t you know?”
Alex shook his head.
“It’s the Center’s policy to not give information to the investigators when they send us out, so we can assess the honesty and emotions behind answers with no bias.”
The man snorted again.
“But you know I was convicted of a crime. How is that for having no bias?”
“I told you the policy, not that I agree with it.” he conceded. “But I can tell you that mundanes’ reports are usually so far off in their assessment of Sentinels and Guides that it is not such a farfetched idea.”
The other man looked at him closely once more.
“What?” Alex asked, unable to control himself.
The man leaned his head on the side, in an unequivocal inquiring pose.
“You don’t know my name either.” he stated, no question, no hesitation.
Alex flushed, even if it wasn’t his fault, but nodded.
“No. I’m Alex Mahone. I worked for the FBI until I came online two years ago. Now I work for the Chicago S&G Center.”
“Mm,” his Guide said noncommittally and Alex wondered if he was going to ask why Alex had left the FBI, something he didn’t want to talk about now. They had other, more pressing concerns after all. “My name’s Michael.” the man finally offered.
“What, Michael with no surname?” Alex asked jokingly, then more seriously: “Why are you here?”
“I robbed a bank.”
“Okay.” Alex said calmly. He could deal with robbery. “I can claim bonding rights and getting you out on parole if you didn’t hurt any-”
“No.” Michael stopped him coldly and Alex felt something awful and constricting tightening in his chest.
“What? I don’t-” he started, but Michael interrupted him again.
“If you ever want to bond with me, you will not get me out of here.” he enunciated clearly. “Do you understand?”
The threat was clear and terrifying because Alex knew Michael was going to go through with it. A part of him was ready to roll over and beg his Guide not to leave him behind. Alex realized horrified that he probably would do anything this man would ask of him. Anything.
But he needed to know something if he had to live with this.
“Why?” he asked in a whisper. “Why do you want to go to prison?”
Michael sighed and finally seated. In an instant his demeanor had completely changed, going from cold and assured to exhausted and weary. Alex ached seeing his Guide like this. How was he going to cope with this?
“Can I trust you?”
“Yes.” Alex answered immediately and truthfully.
Michael regarded him for a few, full minutes, as if he was trying to read his mind, his most intimate thoughts, and he probably was. He was Alex’s perfect match and if he had been able to hide from the Center for so long, he was a very high level Guide. They would probably become the Alpha Sentinel pair of Illinois and the surrounding area if they ever bonded. Alex had the potential and Michael did as well in return. The man was probably sensing every little nuance of Alex’s thoughts and emotions.
Then he sighed and Alex breathed out in relief.
“Lincoln Burrows. He’s innocent and he’s my brother. I’m going to break him out of prison.”
Alex froze for a moment, brain in overdrive, while his heart was in agony.
“Lincoln Burrows is held in Fox River.” he said, horrified.
Michael dipped his head.
“You-” Alex swallowed. “There’s a reason why Guides are not held in maximum security, Michael. Please.” he begged, uncaring of how he looked, how he sounded. God, his Guide in that kind of hell. “Do you know what damage you could suffer going there?”
Michael looked away for a moment. The air was suddenly thick with sadness and a special kind of despair. Alex’s brain scrambled to find a way to make Michael change his mind. Trying to think rationally, something came to him.
“How is it possible that he was convicted if he was innocent? His attorney requested a complete scan of him.”
Michael chuckled bitterly.
“Are you so naif as to think that just because they were a Sentinel and a Guide than they couldn’t have lied?”
Another kind of horror washed through Alex. That a Sentinel could have sworn something untrue and so help convict an innocent member of the tribe to death was unthinkable and a nightmare. If it ever came out, there would be outrage and their society as they knew it could crumble.
“It can’t be.” he tried.
Michael looked at him almost pityingly but didn’t try to convince or comfort him.
“It is probably worse. I’ve tried to investigate and delve as deep as I could, but it goes too high for me. I have no proof, just a bunch of hints and suspicions, and I couldn’t wait anymore to find a legal way to save Lincoln. So I’m breaking him out.”
Then, after a few, charged moments.
Alex startled and shook his head.
“You don’t have to apologize. I don’t have siblings, so I can’t relate, but I can understand. I’m just-” he shrugged, and then decided that he could go for the truth. Michael had just, after all, trusted him with his. “It’s just agonizing to think about letting you go there. Even if you have a solid plan, and I really hope you do, everything could go wrong. You could even die. Maximum security isn’t a walk in the park.”
God, Alex didn’t want to think about Michael surrounded by killers, rapists, pedophiles. He just thanked the heavens that at least by being a powerful Guide he could manipulate the other inmates, even if the backlash of being surrounded by so much darkness would be a tax on his own. A tax Alex couldn’t help him with. And he was sure Michael wouldn’t let him visit either.
He cleared his throat.
“Well, being on the run isn’t the life I had imagined I would have when people asked me years ago where I thought I would be in ten years, but if you promise me we’re going somewhere warm, I’m in.” he said, trying for levity, but his heart was in his throat. After all Michael didn’t owe him anything, even if they were made for each other.
Michael’s smile, the first one Alex had seen and he hoped the first one of many, was blinding and full of relief. Alex’s heart did a somersault.
“I hear Panama is beautiful in the fall.”