I haven't written any Prison Break stories yet, but being hooked on the show, and having it on haitus for now, I wanted to give it a whirl. This will focus on Lincoln and Michael, with current show and flashbacks. Flashbacks will be italicized.


Chapter 1

The night before Michael finally made contact with Lincoln, he couldn't sleep. He lay in his cell bunk, on the uncomfortable and thin mattress, feeling the anxiety churning around in his gut. He couldn't stop himself from the incessant question of whether this was a bad idea. But the primary thing on his mind was succeeding.

Michael was used to succeeding. It wasn't always easy, but he was extremely stubborn. And he knew he would simply have to be even more stubborn this time. Prison was an entirely new ballgame. It was like nothing he'd experienced before. He knew that no matter how much research and preparation went into it, there was no way to prepare himself for every angle.

Tomorrow, he knew he would see Lincoln. He knew he would be at the prison church services, and he would wait for him there. A certain amount of dread weighed him down. He wasn't exactly sure why. He felt a certain level of apprehension in seeing his brother without being able to fully prove himself and his plans. The only thing he knew was that Lincoln would not be pleased to see him in prison. He had to make sure he could explain to him.

It was quite a jump. From grad student to a couple years of success in the "real world"… to an armed robbery of a bank in order to throw himself into maximum security prison. It was one of the biggest explanations he would ever have to make.

He stared at the wall of the cell, at the bars, at the hard floor… and suddenly felt very empty inside. To be honest, he'd felt empty for quite a long time. This just cemented it. He hadn't been the same person in a long time.

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

A lot flashed through Michael's mind when Lincoln first saw him.

At first, it was simply the image of his brother so restrained. The chains, going around his waist, binding his wrists… From a distance he'd seen Lincoln out in the yard, separate from the rest of the prisoners, but now, up close, it was different. The sight of Lincoln so… tied down; it was hard to actually comprehend. Lincoln was not one to be easily restrained.

His walk was complacent yet discouraged. Several emotions went through Michael when Lincoln actually looked up and saw him. When surprised recognition paled Lincoln's face, Michael froze, feeling a moment of fear flicker through him. Fear both for his brother and of him.

"Michael."

Michael swallowed and just stood there. Suddenly it seemed so impossible. All of his plans seemed like such a far cry, a futile attempt at the impossible. It had barely even started, and suddenly he already felt like he had failed.

Lincoln walked towards him, and he stiffened. There was that look on his face. Disappointment. Michael hated that look. It was before he could even explain why he too was there. Why he, someone Lincoln had spent most of his life trying to keep from the streets, was right there with him in prison. Of course he would look disappointed. He would probably be mad. He didn't understand yet.

"Why?" Lincoln asked, looking more helpless than exasperated or angry.

Michael paused for just a moment, trying to take in his brother's look. The frustration on his face filled him with uncertainty, and a yearning to have a minute to explain.

"I'm getting you out of here," Michael explained.

Lincoln glanced away for a moment as a guard called his name, telling him to leave. He gave his brother another look and set his jaw. "That's impossible."

"Not if you designed the place, it isn't," Michael replied. It wasn't much of an explanation yet, but it was all he could muster for now. Lincoln didn't at all look convinced. He looked like another weight had been dropped on top of him.

That was it for now. There was no extra time for explanations.

When Michael left, Lincoln stood there, frozen and silent. Despite his sweatshirt and the warm room, he suddenly felt chilled. Michael in Fox River. Michael, his younger brother, who had no criminal record and no prior convictions. What had he done?

Despair settled over him and was only slightly shaken when the guard barked his name again. He reluctantly followed and made his way out of the small chapel. He wanted to see Michael again. Wanted to shake him, figure out what was on his mind. It was always impossible to find out what exactly was on his mind. Michael always had some big plan, some drawn out and lengthy explanation, and his mind never worked the same way as Lincoln's. This couldn't be any different.

Michael hadn't suddenly turned into a convict. There was something behind this. He'd said, "I'm getting you out", but what really did he mean?

He cursed to himself, clenching his fists and listening to the clink of his chains. In abandoning Michael yet again, this time through death row, he'd at least had the satisfaction of knowing Michael had something, a good head on his shoulders and a job, that would keep him taken care of. He'd still have Veronica, who would still mother him when he needed it, he had LJ to remind him of Lincoln and who he at least would see have a future.

Prison. It didn't make any sense.

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

Lincoln had just grabbed a can of paint when he saw Michael again, wearing the same blue coveralls as the rest of the convicts in PI. He gave him a puzzled look as he walked over. Michael had the same concentrated look on his face that he often had, concentrating so hard it seemed like it hurt. Looking at things, through things, differently than anyone else.

"Michael."

Picking up a bin of paint rollers, Michael looked up at him, almost a smile on his lips. "Step one."

"Step one, what does that mean?" Lincoln answered. "How did you even get PI?"

"I told you. I planned—"

"Come here," Lincoln commanded. "Talk to me."

Michael hesitated, glancing around. "Can we talk here?"

"For a minute. Look at you. What is this, Michael?"

"I told you."

"You told me nothing," Lincoln answered stiffly. "I don't understand, Michael. What did you do?"

"What do you mean?"

"Why are you in here?"

"I'm going to—"

"No," Lincoln interrupted, slamming the paint can down on the counter beside them. Michael flinched and a couple of the other cons glanced over for a second before returning to their own preparations. Lincoln tried to calm himself. This wasn't the time or the place, but he just needed to… "What did you do?"

Michael eyed him carefully, his blue eyes analyzing his mood. "There's no need to be mad. You're not gonna change what I did by being mad."

Lincoln stepped up to him, close enough to breathe on him. "You shouldn't be in here."

Michael looked around the room calmly. The calm look irritated his brother even more. The way Michael was looking around, like he knew this place better than anyone else did, after being here for how long? Lincoln couldn't stand it.

Michael answered, "I know what I'm doing, Linc. When I can, I'll explain it all to you. For now—"

Lincoln grabbed Michael's jaw in his hand, forcing his brother's chin up, making him look at him, silencing him. How he used to force him to focus. No more of this analyzing the room, the others, their functions. He had to focus. "Did you think," he demanded, "that I would be happy to see you here?"

"No," Michael admitted, trying to keep his voice from shaking. "Not right away."

"Is this my fault somehow?" Lincoln persisted. "Are you trying to punish me even more with this?"

"No. I told you, Linc. I have it planned out. You just have to trust me." He pulled away.

"Trust you? This is the stupidest thing you've ever done." Lincoln dropped his hands to his sides, shaking his head. "For a smart guy, you do some really stupid stuff, Michael. Really stupid. How long are you in here for?"

"I'm getting you out," Michael said, in a soft voice so no one else could hear. "I'm not just saying it, Lincoln. I have it all planned out." He had a glint in his eye. It scared Lincoln.

"This isn't one of your little projects at work, Mike. You can't just plan an escape from a maximum security prison. If it was that easy—"

"I know. Why won't you…" Michael grew frustrated. Didn't Lincoln even want the slightest bit of hope that he would get out of here? He was innocent. Why should he die for a crime he hadn't committed? Michael was going to get him out of here. As hard as it seemed. Michael had done plenty of hard things before, so had Lincoln. This would just be their biggest challenge.

"Just stop being mad and listen," Michael persisted.

"Mad, Michael? Mad doesn't begin to explain it. This isn't a game."

"Oh, really?" Michael shot back. "Death row isn't just a game?" He saw Lincoln raise his hand and narrowed his eyes. "Hitting me won't change it." It was more of a request than a statement.

Lincoln dropped his hands to his sides. He studied Michael for a moment before noticing the rest of the convicts ready to move onto the hall to paint. They only had a moment left for this talk. "I can't even protect you in here, Michael."

"I don't need you to," Michael answered stubbornly.

"You have no idea, do you?" Lincoln answered. He watched Michael swallowing uneasily. "If I make you nervous—"

"You don't," Michael retorted.

"You couldn't even defend yourself from kids that wanted your lunch money, Michael. You think you can survive the guys in here that—"

"I won't have to." His voice was stiff.

"Oh, you won't have to. Great, just great." Lincoln rolled his eyes. "Like I need anything else right now. You to worry about, in here."

"Don't worry then," Michael answered. He gripped the bin of rollers.

Lincoln picked the can of paint back up as a guard several feet away yelled for all prisoners to leave the supply room. "You think that's a choice I get to make."

"Lincoln." Michael set his jaw as his brother turned back to look at him. "After PI, I'll show you. Just give me a chance."

Lincoln paused, taking in his brother's imploring look, and then nodded. "Okay. Again, it doesn't seem like a real choice."

"I promise," Michael said with complete certainty, "I will get you out of here, Lincoln."

Lincoln just nodded and had to walk away. In Michael's clear gaze he saw that same devotion from when they were kids, the way Michael used to look up to him, before he turned into a complete failure. It scared him.

Michael watched him leave, an older version of himself. An older now jaded version. His face was prematurely creased with lines of worry, his eyes dark, with the knowledge he could count the days left in his life.

He knew he had to keep his promise.

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

After PI, Lincoln was calmer, as though he'd been able to think about everything. Michael hoped that would happen. After all, what was done was done. The plan was already underway, and there was no way to suddenly change his mind retroactively and not be in prison.

He felt better when he was able to explain to Lincoln his connection to the prison. He wanted to laugh when he showed Lincoln his 'blueprints' because the expression on Lincoln's face was priceless. He figured it was mostly horror since upon first glance the tattoo just looked enormous and mostly meaningless. That was the point. But it had more than meaning.

"You're ruining your life for this," Lincoln reminded him, with less animosity now, but still a sense of disappointment.

"I'm not ruining anything," Michael answered. He pulled his shirt on, covering up the tattoos. "I'm fixing something."

"If you fail… You'll still be in here. It's not like you get to go home once I die."

"I've never failed," Michael answered, and it was mostly true. He'd never failed anything that mattered. And this certainly mattered.

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

When Michael was sixteen, Lincoln went to jail for fifteen days on assault charges. Michael didn't even know the complete details, and he was kind of afraid to ask. He just knew that he had the apartment to himself for fifteen days. It also meant that Lincoln was probably going to lose his job and that Veronica would probably be calling him all the time to check up on him like he was a baby.

First it was sort of peaceful, but it got tiring after a while, going to school and coming back to an empty apartment. This had happened a couple times before, and he was particularly used to going to bed without being sure where Lincoln was, but he still never got used to it. One thing he was thankful for was that Lincoln rarely brought any friends back with him. None of his friends were much to speak of. And they had never come around without Lincoln.

Independence was boring after a little while, and he started to accept the invitations to go to a few parties during the week. Lincoln had always teased him for being "nerdy", but more than anything he usually found parties more overwhelming than anything else. Too much stimuli all at once, and too much to take in. He liked situations which he could control.

Which made the one night in particular that he came home even more ironic. The worst part was, he wasn't expecting Lincoln to be back.

But there he was, sitting with Veronica on the couch, glasses of wine in front of them as they watched TV.

When Michael stumbled through the door, his first instinct was surprise that they were there, but his second thought was surprise that someone could celebrate getting out of jail with wine. It seemed weird.

Next he just focused on how his plan to just drop into bed and fall into a deathlike sleep was gone.

"Michael," Lincoln began. "You're home late."

Michael frowned. "Why are you here?" He dropped his keys accidentally as he tried to close the door behind himself. He wasn't sure what time it actually was.

"I live here," Lincoln answered. He watched Michael crouch down and clumsily grab his keys. "Are you drunk?"

"No," Michael answered quickly as he stood up. A little too quickly, and he leaned back against the door for a moment to hold back some dizziness.

"Okay. C'mere, Mike," Lincoln persisted, waving him over.

"No, I'm tired…" The truth was, he didn't feel too well, and he really didn't like how he felt on top of that, even before he'd started to feel sick. His head was spinning, and it had been hard enough making it up the stairs to their apartment. He really didn't need Lincoln to get angry with him right now.

"Come here," Lincoln persisted.

"Why are you here?" Michael asked again, frowning. He started walking across the room, towards the bedroom, which they shared, and wondered if he was walking straight. The carpet seemed to be moving, like waves of the ocean. He wanted to describe it to Lincoln, but thought he'd get mad.

"It's been fifteen days, Mike," Veronica spoke up. "I told you yesterday he would be coming home today."

"You did?" Michael didn't remember. He'd started to ignore a lot of what Veronica told him on the phone. Most of the conversation was making sure he was eating and going to school, and making sure he was okay. He actually thought that the two of them had broken up so he was a little surprised she was so involved. She'd always been nice to him though.

"Yeah, I did," she persisted with a frown. "Are you okay?"

"Sure, yeah," Michael persisted, stopping just outside the bedroom. "I just didn't know it was fifteen days already. Well I don't know if that's an already or a finally..." He shook his head. "I always forget how long they'll put you away for. For whatever the hell you did this time."

"Michael," Lincoln objected. "Come on…"

"Why are you celebrating it, anyway? Wine and all…"

Lincoln pushed himself off the couch and started over. "What are you celebrating anyway, Mike? Don't you have school tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow," Michael echoed. The carpet was still waving around. "Nah. Tomorrow's a holiday."

"Yeah, what holiday?'

Michael made a face. "You don't even go to school. Gimme a break. Do you—You don't even have a job now, do you? So just… lay off… Like you… Laid off."

"Lincoln, don't get mad at him," Veronica objected, watching her boyfriend's face cloud over.

Lincoln grabbed Michael by his upper arms, looking at him sternly. "What's with the attitude? This what you've been doing while I'm gone, Michael?"

"No…" Michael objected. "No." It hurt where Lincoln was grabbing him. He should have expected this.

"Then what is this?"

"I really don't feel well," Michael admitted as he tried to squirm out of Lincoln's hold.

"Look at me," Lincoln insisted. "You said you're not drunk. Since when are you lying to me?"

"Well, I'm not simply drunk…" Michael answered. He suddenly wished that was all he was, because then maybe he wouldn't feel so sick. The carpet looked stormy now. The waves were getting bigger.

"Then what?" Lincoln lifted his hand to tilt his brother's chin up, to see his eyes.

"I really…" Michael persisted softly. "I really don't feel…"

"Are you high?" Lincoln demanded. "Since when do you smoke?" When Michael didn't answer, Lincoln slapped his cheek. "Hey. Answer me."

That was when Michael bent over and threw up. All over Lincoln's shoes.

"Oh, God…" Lincoln pulled away, throwing his hands up in exasperation. "Fuck, Michael…" he complained. "You really just… God…."

"I told you…" Michael whimpered.

Veronica was up, and took Lincoln's arm. "It's fine…" she persisted, sighing. She should have known it was going to be stressful seeing Lincoln right after he got back home. But she had no idea Michael would add to the stress. She expected a fight or something between the two brothers, there always was when Lincoln was feeling apologetic about something and Michael was just feeling neglected. Michael always argued an apology, like he felt he didn't deserve it.

"How is it fine?" Lincoln retorted, staring at his shoes. "That's disgusting…"

Michael wanted to tell him it could've been worse. He'd thrown up a lot more outside in the alley before walking into the apartment building. But he was afraid to. Instead he said, "The rug isn't swimming anymore."

"What?" Lincoln gave him an incredulous look.

"C'mere, Mike." Veronica took his arm, pulling him towards the bathroom. They left Lincoln out there and shut the door behind them.

Michael stumbled into the small bathroom, feeling despair all around him and watching dancing linoleum tiles. It suddenly felt very unfair. He sank down to the floor next to the toilet, head in his hands.

"You okay?" she asked him. "Are you going to be sick again?"

Michael sniffled to himself. "No…"

"What is it?"

Michael rubbed at his eyes and told himself not to be a baby. Veronica already treated him like a baby. "He's gonna kill me…"

"No…" she answered. "Michael. He was worried you weren't home, but he's just tired. That's all."

"He'll kill me…"

"No. He just got out this afternoon… You have to give him a break too."

"He will though…" Michael persisted. "As soon as you leave…"

"I'm not leaving. And he won't. It's stress."

"I'm stressed…" Michael retorted irritably, wiping tears off his cheeks.

She crouched down next to him, ignoring the fact that he smelled like booze, smoke, and vomit. He looked extremely depressed and his eyes were filled with tears. Her heart suddenly went out to him. "Because of you or him?"

"Both… And because of the carpet."

"We can clean the carpet?"

"It's swimming."

Veronica just frowned at him. "Where'd you go tonight?"

"I don't know…" He rubbed at his face. "Some school friends. I don't really know… I hate… I hate how I feel right now… It's frustrating…"

She touched his cheek. "Make sure you're not gonna be sick again. I'll get you some water. Then we'll just go to bed, okay?"

"I guess." He wasn't sure what this whole 'we' thing was.

Veronica sighed and got up again, leaving him sitting on the floor, and closed the door behind her.

She found Lincoln on his knees outside, with a roll of paper towels and the garbage can from the kitchen. He was scrubbing at the carpet furiously. When he noticed her, he looked up with a sickened expression. "I haven't had to clean up his puke since he was like eight years old. I don't know what's up with him."

"Lincoln…" she said quietly.

"I really hope he puked all over the bathroom too," he persisted. "Is that what you're gonna tell me? So that I'll have more to clean up as soon as I'm done with this?"

"Honey." She shook her head. "No…"

"I threw out my shoes."

"Why?"

"Why? Veronica. Because they're covered—"

"Lincoln. Leave it alone. Your shoes will be fine; I'll clean them off if you want. It's just puke."

"Just puke?" he echoed.

"Lincoln," she persisted. "Just relax, okay? Relax, so you can go tell Mike you love him and we can all just go to sleep."

"Tell him I love him?"

"Well, don't you?"

"Not right now," he retorted. "I saw enough vomit in jail. I don't need to come home and—" He shook his head, interrupting himself. "Okay, okay. I'll stop. Look, you can go home if you want. I know this kind of changes everything. I didn't think Mike would pull a three-sixty on me tonight, you know?"

"He's had a rough week too, you know," she replied.

He raised his eyebrows, throwing a wad of discolored paper towels into the trash. "V. I know you're trying to make me not mad at him, but—"

"You think it's easy for a sixteen year old to be alone for over two weeks, Linc? I'm just asking you to take it easy on him. You forget how sensitive he is."

"How can I forget," Lincoln muttered. "You think I don't feel bad already for what happened? It's not like I wanted to get locked up for two weeks. He's alone enough as it is."

"I know…" She ran her hand down his back. "Honey, I know… You just have to calm down. Think about it. We still have wine left… We'll have it as soon as he goes to bed…"

"I'm gonna have an ulcer, that's what I'm gonna have…"

Veronica spoke softly. "I told him I'd get him water… And he could just go to bed… Then me and you…"

"You told him, me and you?"

She laughed. "No, Linc. That's what I'm telling you now."

"Well, I hope the smell of puke turns you on."

"We could shower."

Lincoln smiled a little. "You're a tease."

She laughed. "There's that smile. I knew it was hidden inside somewhere, you grump."

He smirked. "Yeah, yeah…" He looked at the carpet disdainfully for a second. "This shitty carpet… Good thing it's a hundred years old."

"Let me get him some water, and I'll be right back."

Lincoln got to his feet, shaking his head. "I'll do it, V. You're doing too much as it is. Thank you, though. Just sit, and I'll put him to bed."

She sighed as he left for the kitchen.

Lincoln grabbed a glass from the cabinet and filled it with tap water. As he did so, he looked around the kitchen. It was really clean. In fact it was cleaner than when he'd left two weeks ago. Michael was pretty orderly, and it must've gotten on his nerves while he was alone. As Lincoln thought about the rest of the house, he realized it had been pretty clean as well. At least that was one thing he could count on.

He shut the faucet off and realized he probably should have washed his hands before touching the glass. Then he realized that it was Mike's vomit anyway and what should he care?

Veronica was cleaning up the rest of the carpet when he walked back inside. She threw a paper towel in the trash as he stopped beside her.

"Leave it, it's fine…" Lincoln answered. "Make him do it in the morning."

"Do you have carpet cleaner?" she asked.

He shrugged. "Maybe? I have no idea."

"I'll look. Otherwise we'll leave it," she answered, heading back to the kitchen where he'd just come from.

Lincoln opened the door to the bathroom and viewed his brother there on the tile looking miserable. He was leaning back against the tub wall with his head tilted back, his eyes locked on the ceiling. When the door opened, he abruptly moved his head straight. He looked at Lincoln in surprise.

Immediately his face scrunched up like he was going to cry. "I told you…" he said in near whimper. "I told you I didn't feel well." He shifted on the floor uneasily.

"I know," Lincoln admitted. "Don't get all upset like a girl, Michael."

"I'm sorry…" Michael rubbed at his face, rubbing away the tears that he could.

Lincoln walked over, flipping down the seat of the toilet to sit and holding the glass of water. "What's the deal?"

"I didn't know you were home," Michael admitted.

"So that made it okay? Look at you."

"I'm glad you are though," Michael persisted. "Even if you're gonna kill me."

"I'm not…" Lincoln almost laughed. He reached down and rubbed Michael's hair roughly. "What's the point, if you won't even remember it tomorrow?" he teased.

Michael turned his head into Lincoln's hand, absorbing the touch, and Lincoln's hand slipped to the back of his neck.

"I never know how you smoke this stuff…" Michael said softly.

"I don't," Lincoln answered, pulling his hand back. But it was a lie.

"My head's all… I mean the vodka was one thing… That's kind of fine… but… this…"

"Then why'd you do it?"

"I don't know. I thought… it might clear my head or something. My head's been more jumbled recently, and I…" Michael's brow furrowed. "There's so much going on with everything…" He stared at the sink.

Lincoln pushed the glass of water into Michael's hand. "Here."

"I'm not thirsty."

"Drink it anyway," Lincoln muttered.

"It makes me want to throw up."

"It's water." Lincoln closed Michael's hand over the glass. "God, Michael, you're so frustrating sometimes."

"Is it better in jail?"

Lincoln rolled his eyes and leaned against the cold porcelain back of the toilet. "Michael."

"Well, I'm just wondering. With me and the… Oh yeah… Lisa showed up with LJ on Sunday. She didn't know. She said—"

"Fuck…" Lincoln cursed, squeezing his eyes shut for a moment. "I should have called her. God, I'm fucking that up. I'm fucking that up so bad…"

"She said she would call you. He can ride a bike now," Michael persisted. "Without training wheels. I told him—"

"Just shut up, Michael," Lincoln persisted, clenching his fists. He shook his head, so angry at himself. "Just stop."

Michael froze. "What'd I do?"

"What haven't you done, tonight?" Lincoln answered irritably.

Michael set down the glass of water on the floor and scrambled to his feet. "Fine. Fine. Fine," he sputtered, moving to walk away. Lincoln caught him by his arm and pushed him back. Unsteady on his feet, he sat down hard on the wall of the bathtub, sulking. He didn't know what to say now. Instead, he studied the toilet that Lincoln was sitting on, eyes moving to the wall, thinking about the pipes. If he looked down the linoleum would dance again.

"I'm sorry," Lincoln said simply. "It's not your fault, kid, okay?"

"I'm sorry too," Michael replied reflexively.

"I'm just mad about Lisa," Lincoln explained. "And not being responsible. I can't even take care of you, never mind a four year old."

"I don't need taking care of," Michael objected. "I just spent two weeks—"

"Look at you. Look at yourself and tell me you don't—"

"This is how you look almost every night," Michael pointed out. "This is just once, and I always go to bed before you, and you looked worse than this when you got arrested this time."

"I'm not sixteen."

"So when I'm your age I can go and—" Michael shut his mouth when Lincoln slapped the back of his head.

"No," Lincoln retorted. "And you know it, so tonight isn't the night to start that."

"I'm just saying…" Michael said softly. "If maybe you—"

"Enough, Michael."

"Ask Veronica…" Michael said quickly after just a slight pause. "She agrees with me." Then he flinched like he was expecting Lincoln to slap him again.

"I'm sure she does," was all Lincoln replied.

A moment of silence passed between them. Michael inched closer to him on the tub and leaned down to rest his head on Lincoln's lap. Lincoln sighed and patted his brother on the cheek.

"Just don't throw up on my pants too, because then I will beat the shit out of you."

"I'm not…" Michael muttered. "But I don't know where I'd throw up if I wanted to, since you're sitting on the only thing…"

"You're right." Lincoln pushed Michael off of him and stood up. "Wash up for bed, Mike."

Michael watched him leave, feeling a pang of disappointment at the very brief affection he'd gotten out of his brother. After two weeks, he just wanted to make sure he was still Lincoln.

He almost kicked over the glass of water before remembering it was there. He dumped it out and set it on the sink before looking at himself in the mirror. He didn't think he looked that bad. His eyes were just kind of red.

With a sigh he just brushed his teeth, getting rid of the taste of puke and alcohol. He washed his hands and briefly threw water on his face. He felt a little bit better. Throwing up had actually cleared his head a little bit. He was thankful for that.

He wanted to talk to Lincoln more. He saw Veronica sitting on the couch, watching TV like they had been when he first came in. "Where's my brother?" he asked her.

"In the kitchen. How are you feeling?"

"Fine," he answered, glancing down at the carpet. Its waves were softer now, he could just ignore them. He walked towards the kitchen and found Lincoln in there pouring more wine into the two glasses sitting on the counter. He watched him, realizing that Lincoln probably wouldn't want to talk to him with Veronica here.

"Lincoln," he said.

"Yeah, Mike." Lincoln finished the bottle between the two glasses and looked up at his brother. "What?"

"Are you gonna be mad at me tomorrow?" Michael walked over and leaned against the counter next to Lincoln.

"Not if tonight goes well." Lincoln indicated the wine glasses with a smirk. At least he seemed in a better mood. That made Michael pretty glad that Veronica was there.

"Because…" Michael persisted.

"Because?"

"Nothing…" Michael paused for a moment and then shifted over and gave Lincoln a hug. "I'm glad you're back."

Lincoln stood there for a moment, a little surprised, and then hugged him back briefly. Michael's arms were still around his waist fairly tight. "You're still drunk, aren't you?" Lincoln answered.

"I missed you," Michael persisted.

Lincoln rubbed his back. "Okay. I missed you too." Michael's grip stayed tight. "Okay, baby. Okay." He patted him on the back. "Enough, Mike."

Michael let him go. Lincoln turned away from him and took the two glasses of wine. "Go to bed," he said. "You'll feel better in the morning. And then you can clean the carpet."

"I thought you and Veronica were over."

Lincoln shook his head. "Not yet."

"How does she put up with you?"

With a smile, Lincoln answered, "You're still here too."

"Maybe we're both crazy. Although my shrink strangely denies it."

"Go to bed."

"Right." Michael took a couple steps away. "Oh. And wear a condom, Linc. One kid is enough."

"You should thank God that I'm holding two glasses of wine," Lincoln answered, "and just go to bed."

Michael didn't need to be told again. He knew he'd get an earful from Lincoln the next day anyway.

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

When Michael found himself pulled into an empty stockroom and shoved to the ground, the words of his brother passed through his mind in a fleeting instant. About how he wouldn't be able to take care of himself, and how no one would protect him. His talks with him in the chapel, their easy time to whisper, focused around this.

"You don't go looking for trouble in here," Lincoln had told him, "it just finds you."

Lincoln thought he was foolish. Trusting C-Note for Pugnac, or Abruzzi, even worse, for information. How he could step into this prison and without the least bit of hesitation approach this people as part of his plan. The war between the blacks and the whites itself was enough to make him need to back down.

Michael ignored him, pushing Lincoln's words to the back of his mind. Even if his brother didn't believe him, he could put up with being pushed around a bit. He was smarter than most of the inmates and could talk his way out, connive his way out, of most situations. He could defend himself when needed and the rest of the time he would just stay out of trouble.

But now, as he felt the pain shoot up his legs from his knees hitting the hard concrete ground, he couldn't ignore the intense fear that crept into his gut.

Three guys stood there with evil grins on their faces. Michael tried to size them up, like he'd been taught to as a kid, find the strongest to the weakest. They all looked kind of strong.

"Just as pretty up close…" one of them sneered. He had scraggly hair and scar across his cheek. He stood with another taller man while the third stood by the door, as though keeping watch. "They were right."

"What are you—" Michael began but was soon cut off.

"Don't open your mouth…" the man warned him stiffly, withdrawing a jagged blade from his belt, "until I got something for you to put in it…"

The taller one laughed and approached him. "You look good on your knees, pretty boy… You should get used to that."

Michael narrowed his eyes, fear mixing with anger. He didn't want to react too hastily, but he started to climb to his feet. "Look, I don't want any trouble—"

"Then stay down." The man shoved him down, and with a strong hand pushed him down to the floor. "And you won't have any trouble at all." He pushed him down roughly, forcing him face down on the concrete.

Michael let out a jagged breath, the floor cold beneath him. The man's arm held him across his neck, pinning him. Michael remembered when Lincoln used to pin him like that when they fought. It was damn hard to get up from it.

"What do you want…" Michael asked.

"I think you know what we want…" the one with the blade replied as he walked around him. He dropped down to crouch and patted him on the seat of the pants. "I think you know exactly what we want."

A cold feeling went through Michael as the two men simply laughed.

"Fear is a pretty look," the man holding him down remarked.

"Sure is," said the other.

Michael yelled for a guard but immediately a hand was slapped over his mouth.

"You know, I knew he'd be a screamer," the man holding him said harshly. "Didn't I say so? But God damn. We ain't even started yet." He pushed his hand down over his mouth harder. "You know, it'll hurt less the first time if you just relax…"

Michael couldn't relax. He struggled as the man holding him took the blade and the other grabbed the waistband of his pants, trying to yank them down.

"Calm down," the man snapped as Michael writhed beneath him. "Jesus Christ."

Michael let out a muffled protest just as the man watching the door suddenly barked at them. "Guys. We got company."

Like an answered prayer, the two men jumped off of him just as the stockroom door slammed open and C.O. Bellick sauntered in, eyeing the scene. He looked at the two standing aside and down at Michael on the ground. "It's a little early for this, guys, let's wrap it up and get out. Scofield, get the fuck up."

"Boss, we just need five minutes," the man with longer hair answered slyly. "Show him the ropes."

"Not today, guys," Bellick answered. "I don't have time for this. We gotta be out on the yard."

The two strolled out of the room as Michael crawled to his feet, brushing off the dust from his shirt and pants. He felt Bellick's eyes on him and swallowed, looking up at him.

"You look pale, Scofield," the C.O. remarked with a bit of a sinister grin on his face. "Did I interrupt some fun?"

"Thanks, boss," Michael answered, moving towards the door.

Bellick leaned in the doorway, blocking his exit. "You understand the dynamics here, don't you, Scofield? A little bit against me, and I can make your time here a living hell. If those boys want a piece, they get a piece, you understand?"

"Sure, boss…" Michael persisted, eyeing the door.

"Good. I'm glad we have an understanding."

Michael moved past him, to the hall. He felt he'd done nothing to piss off Bellick, nothing to make him have any animosity for him. However, he felt the officer's scrutiny constantly, since the day he stepped into the prison. It made him nervous to have somebody watching so closely, particularly when there was so much to be done out of sight.

Sucre, Michael's cellmate, was standing a few feet down the hall and caught Michael's eye as he approached. Michael joined his side without a word as they walked with another line of inmates towards the exit for the yard.

"You okay?" Sucre asked.

"Yeah."

"I saw them pull you aside," Sucre explained. "I told the guard to check out the stockroom."

Michael nodded, swallowing a bit. He felt a bit shaken up by what had almost happened, but he tried not to let it show. He was pretty good at masking his tone, keeping an even and nonchalant pitch to his voice. "Thanks."

"Hey, no problem, fish…" Sucre answered. "They always go for the new skin, you know? But you're my cellie, gotta watch out for each other."

"Yeah. Thanks, man."

"They touch you?" Sucre had a concerned look on his face.

Michael shook his head, not wanting to talk about it. The fear was still tingling through his veins and he tried to ignore it. "No, I'm fine."

"If they knew Burrows was your bro," Sucre continued, "they'd leave you alone. Except he's not in Gen Pop anymore, you know? But he was a bull out here."

"I can take care of myself," Michael answered simply. "I don't need a bodyguard."

"You do in here, papi," Sucre laughed. "We all need someone to watch our back. Especially in the beginning."

Michael nodded. He was going to reply but by the time they reached the yard, Sucre had already moved on in conversation to his girlfriend and how he'd met her. He started to tell him about conjugals and how much he missed her. Michael half-listened, thinking about his plans, and trying to calm down.

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

At PI, a hand on his back made Michael nearly drop his paint roller. He turned abruptly and was relieved to find it was only Lincoln. He looked down at the paint he'd splattered on the floor. Good thing there was plastic down. It wasn't much anyway.

"What's the matter?" Lincoln asked in a low voice.

"Nothing." Michael considered telling him about the screw out in the yard that he would use in his cell to unbolt his toilet. But Lincoln wouldn't understand it yet, and it was just the beginning of the plans. The less Lincoln knew now the better.

"Nothing," Lincoln echoed. "You're a terrible liar. It's all over your face."

"Nothing," Michael answered. "We're on schedule."

"On schedule… Michael, what's the matter?"

Michael shook his head, running the roller up and down the wall. "Remember when we painted that apartment? Blue. It looked so bad."

"Michael."

Michael looked up at him, brow furrowed. "What, Lincoln?"

"You had a look. What are you worried about?"

"I'm not. Schweitzer. Allen. We're on track."

"Schweitzer? Who the hell is that? Did he touch you?"

Michael almost wanted to laugh. "No. It's not a who."

"Michael, if you want me not to worry… then give me a reason not to worry." Lincoln gave him an intense look.

Michael set his jaw and continued to paint. "Lincoln, I can take care of myself. I know who I need, and who I don't… What I need… It'll all work out, we're on schedule."

"Right now, I don't care about your schedule," Lincoln answered stiffly. "I care about you getting out of here untouched."

"Well, there's nothing you can do from behind your chain-linked fence," Michael answered.

"I knew it. I knew this would happen. Who, Michael?"

"Nobody did anything to me."

"Then why'd you jump like that when I touched you?"

"Because you snuck up onme," Michael insisted.

"Michael," Lincoln persisted. "I told you this would happen. What'd they do to you?"

"Burrows!" a guard yelled. "Back to work!"

Lincoln nudged Michael. "C'mon. Tell me you're okay."

"I did. A million times."

"You don't look it."

Michael lowered the paint roller and stared at Lincoln. "Linc. How am I supposed to look? I have a million things going on in my head right now."

"You always do," Lincoln pointed out. "This is different. I just want to make sure you don't get hurt."

"I won't."

Lincoln didn't look like he believed him. He looked around the room, at the guard now talking to another inmate, and decided not to push the subject. "I saw Veronica."

Michael raised his eyebrows. "You did…?"

"She told me to call you off."

"Call me off?" Michael shook his head. "She doesn't know what I'm—"

"She guessed," Lincoln shot back. "Anyone who knows you would, Michael. You were a good kid. You weren't on the path to prison."

"So I finally cracked. It's not that hard to believe. The bank had too many ATM fees." Michael shrugged. "What's she say? She working on the case?"

"She doesn't believe me," Lincoln answered. "She saw the tape."

Michael paused. "What tape?"

"Forget it. It's not… It's not what happened…" Lincoln leaned his head back and sighed. "Nothing looks like what happened. She's… Well, shit, I don't know how much of Veronica I'll see again."

"Well, you fucked that up in more ways than one," Michael answered, beginning to paint again. He moved the roller up and down, feeling Lincoln's frustration pulsing off of him. "Look, Linc." He looked up to find a glare. "We'll get out of here."

"Two, maybe three years you can be out if you don't act up, Mikey."

Michael frowned at the affectionate name and Lincoln's serious tone. "With my plan, I'll be out much, much sooner."

"They catch you and they'll slap ten years on, no question, Mike."

"But they won't catch us."

"If you can survive in here long enough to do it."

Michael pushed the roller harder against the wall.

"Burrows!" the guard shouted again. "What do you think this is? Tea time?"

Lincoln stepped away, going back to his part of the wall. Michael returned to painting, thinking about what was behind his cell wall and what he needed to get there.

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

to be continued