"Thanks for the lift." Lincoln said, unbuckling his seatbelt and reaching for the door handle.
"Are you sure you don't want me to come in?" Durst asked him. "You boys may need a mediator."
The tone of his voice implied that he was kidding…trying to crack a smile from Lincoln after a long, exhausting night. But Lincoln new, there was probably part of William Durst that was totally serious and after what Lincoln had done, he could hardly blame him for worrying.
"No…we won't." Lincoln assured him.
Durst couldn't help but give Lincoln a skeptical look.
"I promise you William…It's never going to happen again."
Durst smiled and patted Lincoln on the shoulder.
"I know." He assured him. And he did. There was no doubt in his mind that Lincoln deeply regretted what had happened and he was also quite certain that Michael would bounce back from the incident a lot sooner than Lincoln would.
"Try to get some rest. I'll call you boys later today to see how you're doing."
Lincoln slid out of the seat and shut the car door. He watched as William pulled out of the driveway and waved as the car disappeared down the road.
As he made his way up the walk, Lincoln wondered what he would say to his family. There was no justification for what he had done. He knew that and was fully prepared to accept whatever admonishment and punishment his they chose to give him.
The house was quiet when he entered and he was surprised to find Michael asleep on the sofa. A surge of both relief and guilt washed over him as he stared at Michael, who didn't even flinch as Lincoln inadvertently allowed the screen door to slam shut behind him. Michael's right eye, though closed, was bruised and swollen and on his forehead there was a bandage, most likely covering the stitches it probably took to close gash he received when his head slammed into the coffee table.
"He's been waiting for you to get back."
Lincoln jumped. He hadn't realizes anyone had entered the room and was even more surprised when he looked up and saw Sarah standing in the archway that lead to the kitchen.
"Sarah, you scared the shit out of me." Lincoln admitted.
"Sorry." She replied quietly, offering him a friendly smile.
She looked different…More casual then he had ever seen her look with her long red hair pulled back in a loose ponytail and dressed in jeans and a v-neck t-shirt. But despite her casualness she was still stunningly beautiful and Lincoln could see why his brother had fallen so hard for her.
"Where is…" Lincoln began, but immediately stopped when Sarah brought her finger to her lips and motioned toward Michael. Lincoln nodded and quickly made his way across the room.
"Where is everyone?" He asked again, whispering as he and Sarah made their way back into the kitchen.
"LJ and Amber took the baby to the park." Sarah explained quietly as she made her way to the counter and poured two cups of coffee from a fresh pot. "They needed to get out for a little while so I told them I'd stay."
"Is he OK?" Lincoln asked her, glancing back at Michael.
"He'll be fine." Sarah replied, handing him a cup of coffee. "We just need to keep and eye on him for the next few hours due to the concussion."
Lincoln closed his eyes and sighed. How could he have been so stupid?
"Com one." Sarah said, taking him by the arm. "Let's go out on the deck and talk. I don't want to wake him."
Lincoln nodded and followed Sarah outside. Once out of the deck, Sarah sat down, placed her cup of coffee on the deck beside her and stretched her long legs out in front of her.
"Oh my gosh. What a night." She groaned, stretching her arms over her head before allowing them to fall back into her lap with a sigh.
"Were you at the hospital all night with him?" Lincoln asked.
"He was really upset. LJ too. I didn't want to leave them. Ya know?"
"Yeah." Lincoln replied shamefully. "Thank you for staying with them."
"You don't have to thank me." Sarah insisted, picking up her coffee and taking a sip.
"Yes I do." Lincoln shot back quickly. "Sarah, what I did last night…"
"Was not completely your fault." She finished for him.
"You weren't there." Lincoln reminded her.
"No, I wasn't." Sarah agreed. "But Michael was. He told me what happened. He was really worried about you."
"He was worried about me?"
"When he came to in the hospital and you weren't there…he knew something bad had happened. LJ and I tried to cover…told him you fine. But…he didn't buy it. He completely freaked out."
Lincoln said nothing, tracing his thumb aimlessly around the rim of his coffee cup as Sarah continued.
"Once he calmed down, he told me he had been in the hospital more times than he cared to remember in his lifetime. But every time he woke in a hospital room and he was afraid…you were right there."
Lincoln smiled despite the fact that there was nothing remotely pleasant about those memories.
"He said the only times you weren't there when he woke up, was when you were in prison. So when he woke up last night, in the hospital, and you weren't there…"
Sarah shrugged her shoulders.
"…he just knew."
Lincoln got up from his chair and walked to the far side of the deck; keeping his back to Sarah so she wouldn't see the tears starting to stream down his face.
"He really loves you Lincoln."
"Yeah…well…I'm starting to think that might be his problem. He'd be better off without me."
"You don't mean that Lincoln." Sarah replied, getting up from her chair.
"Don't I?" Lincoln snapped at her as he whipped around to face her. "I punched him Sarah!"
"Yes you did." She conceded. "After he shoved you. You hit him, and he fell. It was an accident."
"That no excuse." Lincoln insisted, distancing himself from her once again as he walked to the opposite side of the deck.
"Honestly Lincoln! Do you think you're the only guy in the world who's ever gotten into a fistfight with his brother? It happens."
"Yeah well…it shouldn't happen to Michael." Lincoln shot back.
"What do you mean? Why?"
"Why shouldn't it happen to Michael?" Sarah repeated.
"Just answer the question Lincoln!" Sarah was practically screaming at him. "Why?"
"Because…because he's been through enough! OK? I've put him through enough!"
"And what about what he's put you through Lincoln?"
"What are you talking about?" Lincoln groaned.
"He gave up everything you worked so hard to give him growing up."
"Yeah…to save me."
"That doesn't make it any less painful." Sarah pointed out. "Michael knows that."
"There's still time for him to get it back." Lincoln replied softly. "That's all I want now."
"And he knows that too." Sarah insisted, walking over to Lincoln and placing her hand on his shoulder. "But Lincoln…that's the problem. You are way to invested in Michael's happiness and it scares him."
Lincoln gave her a dumbfounded look.
"What are you talking about?"
"He knows if it doesn't work out for him, you'll only be disappointed again. That's why he didn't tell you about seeing me again." She admitted.
Lincoln looked up when Sarah said this, but wasn't surprised by her declaration. He had suspected his brother had been hiding something from him for weeks now. He had noticed a change in Michael and it was a positive one. But at the same time, he had been distancing himself from Lincoln.
He's happy Lincoln but…" Sarah shook her head. "…I don't know. I think he's still afraid the rug is going to get pulled out from underneath him again. And he knows if and when that happens, it will hurt you just as much as it does him. He doesn't want that Lincoln. He wants you to be happy."
"That's…just stupid." Lincoln replied for lack of a better term.
"Yeah, well you do both have a rather dysfunctional concept of love. But…it is what it is."
Lincoln chuckled at this.
"What?" Sarah asked him, chuckling herself now. "It's the truth."
"Yeah. I know." Lincoln agreed. "It's just…"
"You aren't the first person to have told us that."
Lincoln and Sarah both spun around quickly. They had been so caught up in their conversation that they hadn't even noticed Michael open the sliding glass door and join them on the deck.
Michael smiled sheepishly at them as he stuffed his hands into the pockets of his sweatshirt.
"Veronica used to tell us that all the time." He explained to Sarah.
"Yes she did." Lincoln confirmed with a smile. "We may be dysfunctional, but we sure know how to surround ourselves with intelligent women."
Lincoln then crossed the deck and embraced his little brother. Michael reciprocated by wrapping his arms tightly around Lincoln and burying his face in his brother's shoulder. They both held onto each other for several moments as Sarah looked on silently. Finally, Lincoln spoke.
"I am so sorry Mikey."
"I know." Michael assured him.
Lincoln released his grip on Michael and took a step back to look at him.
"Are you alright?"
He reached up with his hand to touch Michael's swollen cheek, but Michael leaned back and brushed his hand away.
"I'm fine Linc. Really." He insisted. "Are you alright? I mean…you aren't going to get into trouble for this. Are you?"
"Well, I am on probation." Lincoln reminded him. But when Michael grimaced and turned away Lincoln quickly added, "But William's going to handle it. He thinks everything will be fine."
"It will be fine." Sarah agreed, quickly going to Michael's side. "Listen, I don't want you to worry about this right now. OK? You should be resting."
"I just woke up."
"I know." Sarah replied, snaking one arm around his waste and placing the other hand on his chest. "But I want you to stay on the couch and rest. You still have a concussion."
"Hey! Listen to the doc." Lincoln ordered him.
"Alright! Alright!" Michael chuckled, taking Sarah's hand and heading back toward the door with Lincoln trailing behind them.
"Hey listen. I could leave to alone if you want." Lincoln joked as they entered the kitchen. "I could run some errands. Maybe leave a little "do not disturb" sign on the front door. What do you think?"
"You're a real asshole. You know that?" Michael replied jokingly.
"I know." Lincoln replied, sliding the door shut. "But you love me anyway."