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He knew he shouldn’t have interfered.

He knew how risky it was, but he couldn’t help it.

How long had he spent studying that man?

It almost seemed like he had known him for years, even though the manhunt had gone on for a little over a month.

There was something fascinating in Michael Scofield, and he couldn’t deny it to himself any longer.

And killing that man hadn’t been a big deal; no technique in a fight, trusting only in his stance and muscles.

If they meant to underestimate him in that place, let them do it.

He wasn’t going to complain.

Alex had told Michael that he was his only chance to get out of that prison, and he still thought that, yet there was something else he had to think about while he watched the kid in a fight he couldn’t possibly win.

He had been scared when they had given the knife to that man, and he had reacted with his instinct only, in a way that he couldn’t really explain.

Because, what instinct could have lead him to save the life of someone he had tried to kill for so long?

He was sure that Scofield had never killed a man.

He would’ve let himself be killed just not to let his hands being stained in blood, and Alex knew that all too well.

What was it for him, instead?

After Apolskis and Patoshik, and Abruzzi and Kim’s lackey and...

Michael’s and Lincoln’s father.

And Shales, who had started this whole infernal game.

Oh, he remembered perfectly clear what he had felt killing him. He remember what had meant putting an end to such a poisonous existence, what had meant to eradicate that cancer from society.

Until he had started being scared, he had felt like the best man on earth.

And as a direct consequence to that action, for that single mistake that shouldn’t have been considered as such, now he was in that Panamanian prison forgotten by God and men, lacking an identity, lacking the respect society had owed him until a few days before.

Lacking a family.

Mahone had nothing to lose anymore.

And killing that man, now, had made him feel better.

That was a righteous cause. Michael was alive, and it was what mattered the most.

He saw him getting away from the crowd that had gathered around the corpse, screaming in a whole lot of different language that Alex couldn’t understand.

He rushed his walk, grabbed the kid by his wrist and forced him to turn.

“You’ve done what I said.” he asserted. “You’ve played dirty.”

He was expecting to see him smile, but there was no sign of amusement on Scofield’s face.

“Right. I’ve thought it was better to attack first, he didn’t seem very open to dialogue.”

Alex nodded, letting go of his arm.

“But you weren’t going to kill him, were you?”

Michael raised an eyebrow, getting closer, reducing to a few inches the distance between them.

“You’re the killer. And I think we’ve proven that.” he hissed, inexpressive, before turning away and starting walking again.

“Really, Michael?” Alex said out loud, walking with him until they were inside.

It was deserted.

The convicts were probably all in the yard playing vultures, and those that weren’t were watching it from above with Lechero.

“Do you really...” he went on, resting a hand on his shoulder and forcing him with his back to the wall. “Do you really think you’re much better than me?” he asked, shaking his head. “Do you want a detailed account of all the people Bagwell has tortured and killed since you’ve made him escape from Fox River or can you imagine that on you own?”

He saw him closing his eyes and sighing.

He saw the pain on his face, and he knew he had stricken the right chord.

“T-Bag wasn’t in my plans. He...” Michael bit his lip, avoiding his stare. “I was about to run with my brother. We had the boat and we would’ve been gone forever. If I’ve gone back to Panama it’s been just to make sure he was handed over to the authorities, you know that. After all, you’re the one who’s pretended to be Sucre to get to me.” he told him, and know he was looking him in the eyes. “Don’t ask me questions of which you know the answers, Alex. I never wanted for Bagwell to be free to walk the streets and kill whomever he wanted to. I didn’t...”

“You’ll never forgive yourself, will you?” the former agent asked, letting go of the grip but staying close enough to him so that he still couldn’t move. “But that’s how it went down, and you didn’t stop. And you didn’t because you needed your brother to be free, because you couldn’t let them execute him, you couldn’t let him abandon you like your mother and father had done before.”

Hearing about his father, Scofield got agitated, and raised a hand to Mahone’s throat.  

“You have absolutely no right of talking about him.” he snarled, tightening the grip before letting him go. “What do you want from me? I’ve already said I’m not going to help you getting out of here, and you know I won’t. You’ve got more than a reason to be here.”

Alex looked at him, suddenly sad, as if he knew he was perfectly right.

He sighed, moving away and leaning against the wall, bringing the hands to his temples.

“You’ve done it for your brother and I did it for my son. Tell me what’s the difference: Bagwell killing at least five people since he’s been out so that your brother could be free, or me that I’ve killed as much for Cameron to be alive. And know I’m in this damned place, sure that there’s a heaven waiting for me, because I’ve put all myself in it and with a Hell to pay among these walls, with the continuous weight of all I’ve done. I may be a monster to you, but don’t think I’m any worse than you or Lincoln.”

Michael looked at him straight in the eyes, as if he was trying to ascertain whether he was sincere or not.

He took Alex by his jaw, raising his face.

“Why did you kill that man if you already knew I wasn’t going to testify to get you out?” he asked, in a whisper that expressed well his tiredness, piled up during months of planning and projects, of escapes and always having to watch his back and protecting the people he loved, having to bear then the weight of failure.

Alex swallowed, shrugging.

“I don’t know why I did it. I... I’ve seen the knife and I didn’t think about it, Michael.” he sighed, resting his hand on the kid’s, still against his jaw, in a light and harmless touch. “I’m not a federal agent anymore. The government is not covering for me and I’ve got no further commitment to the people who wanted this to be over. And since I don’t have the order to kill you anymore to avoid the people I love to be killed, then I want you to stay alive.”

It was the only explanation he could give.

He knew it wasn’t all there, that it couldn’t, but he didn’t want to expose himself this much, not with him.

Because even though he got nothing to love, Alex still wanted to preserve those crumbs of dignity left in his body, without being forced to admit the fascination he felt for the man standing in front of him, without admitting how he had kept admiring that peculiar and brilliant mind during the whole manhunt, while he teared down piece to piece the riddle of tattoos on his skin and tried to understand what was going on inside his brain.

“If you keep going on like this you’re not getting out of here alive, you know that, don’t you?” Michael asked, calm, his eyes fixed on their hands, still unable to move his.

“It doesn’t matter. I’ve got no intention to stay here waiting to be killed for an reason.” he sighed again. “When I was in the army I’ve learnt that in war there’s no winning nor losing nation, Michael. In the end, we’re all losers in this game of power on our skin. They wanted you in Sona and you’re here in Sona. They wanted me to stop giving them problems and they haven’t blinked when you’ve dragged me down with you.” he smiled, bitter. “In the end, we’re only pawns in their game. If we’re needed alive we’ll be let live, if we’re needed dead they’ll kill us, if they need us to disappear then they’ll make us disappear. You were right when you told me I was never going to be able to have a life, that I should’ve left Pam and Cameron. You’re always...” he let go of his hand, turning and punching the wall. “You’ve always been right, damn it.” he hissed.

Michael touched his shoulder, forcing him to turn again.

“You still haven’t told me why I’m still alive, Alex.” he asked, then he paused and smiled, shrugging. “You’ve never wanted me dead, have you?” he added. “You’ve followed me all around the country and you didn’t want me dead. It’s... it’s absurd.”

Mahone lowered his eyes, pondering.

Perhaps it was true.

Perhaps he had never truly wanted for Scofield to die, perhaps that was why he kept missing him, perhaps...

What had he done with his life to come to this?

“I don’t know. I honestly don’t. I just know that you have a brilliant mind, or you wouldn’t have come to this. And I know that getting rid of the others has left a weight on my conscience, but I did it anyway. You, on the other hand...” with his hand shivering, for both nervousness and abstinence from Vatran, he touched his face, tilting his head. “I don’t know if I ever wanted to kill you. But you’re still alive and there’s got to be a reason for it, right?”

Michael hesitated, he couldn’t pull away from the other man’s touch, almost as if he was enjoying such a harmless gesture from him.

“I won’t testify. But...” he murmured, frowning. “We can find a way to get out anyway.” he explained, looking around. “I will never forgive you for what you’ve done to me and my family, Alex. But...”

“Ok.” Mahone said, prolonging his caress to his neck and shoulder, little aware of what he was doing. “Ok, Michael. I don’t want your forgiveness, I don’t deserve it. I just want you to assure me that, until we’re in, we’re together.” he found the courage to tell him, letting another meaning show beneath his words, sure that Scofield wasn’t going to miss it.

“You’ve just saved my life, I owe it to you. And I always pay my debts.” the younger one said, and finally pulled back.

Alex saw him walking away, but he didn’t follow him.

He liked to finally be able to stop and stare at him without the imperative of having to take his life.

He knew he could trust his word, he knew he was going to help him, but it wasn’t all he wanted from him.

He wished he could’ve heard him say that they could leave their past behind, that there was room for him in that so damn narrow circle of people he had learnt to trust.

He wished he would’ve told him that he understood the reasons that had lead Alex to do every single thing he had done, but he knew it was never going to happen, because Michael still had a conscience, whilst his was long gone.

He would’ve kept watching him. Again and again, watching and waiting a sign from him, anything to tell him it wasn’t over for him, that once out of Sona, if they were gonna make it, he still would’ve cared for him, that he wasn’t gonna leave him to rot.

Alex didn’t trust that hope, but he still could trust Michael.

He was a far better person than him, in the end.