Into The Dark (1/4)
Rating - R (possible NC-17 somewhere later in the series)
Word Count - 10k-ish
Warnings - Angst with a side of hope, canon-ish (whole series and Final Break), adult themes, references to violence and murder, mild cursing, rampant metaphor use, abuse of imagery themes, one or two probably incorrect internet translations of English to Spanish dialogue
Warnings for series - Whole series (including Final Break) spoilers, violence, (probably) sex, cursing, death, het (canon pairings), classical literature and mythology references, questionable knowledge by the author of science, medicine, code-breaking and the mechanics of shady multinational conglomerates who secretly rule the world
Author’s Note - This is the first of four planned stories that don’t directly violate canon, but take place after Final Break in an attempt to make it more palatable (and, to me, more poetic and satisfying). It will likely be several months before I begin to post the next story (to be titled “Five Minutes to Midnight”). Please understand that it’s plotty and detail-oriented and I want to have it well underway before I post any of it anywhere so that I can avoid backing myself into a corner.
On another note, Michael’s birthday is non-specific because they couldn’t get it straight in canon (I did research it, I swear). I had to make up Lincoln’s, too. The tone and storytelling style of these stories should shift some from story to story. That’s intentional for a variety of reasons. Huge thanks to andacus for the beta, the idea-bouncing and everything else (as always) and to tuesdaeschild and jennaxrose for the fact checking and encouragement.
Disclaimer - If it belonged to me I would have established that Christina Scofield had an horrific sociopathic evil twin that took her place after the lovely mother of both Lincoln and Michael died of liver cancer sometime in the 1980s. Since that didn’t happen... you know that nothing Prison Break related belongs to me.
Summary - In some ways, Michael is dead for 1507 days. In a lot of the same ways, Sara and Lincoln are too.
The low hum of fluorescent lighting was the first thing to invade his consciousness, a steady buzz that echoed in the back of his skull with increasing volume.
Pain bloomed next, bone-deep and seemingly everywhere. He throbbed, seared, ached throughout the whole of his battered body. After all he’d withstood, all he’d endured, he would have thought that he was used to pain, his threshold had always been high after all. It was really too bad he was wrong.
An inhuman sound, something like the involuntary moan of a dying animal rang through his ears. It took a couple of moments to realize that noise was him.
The world was bright and pink behind his closed eyelids and he fought to prise them apart, to take in his surroundings.
He was dead, wasn’t he? He was supposed to be dead. That was the plan. Then again, he thought ruefully, when had things ever gone according to plan?
Yellow-white light flooded his vision as his eyelids parted and soaked in the artificial glow of the room. He couldn’t turn his head, couldn’t really move, but even from his limited vantage point he could see both medical equipment filling the room and restraints clamped down upon his arms and legs.
If this was the afterlife, it was certainly nothing like he’d imagined.
“He’s awake,” someone said from somewhere behind him.
An older man clad in a white lab coat and a not-entirely-friendly eager smile peered over him a moment later, swarming his vision.
“Welcome back to the land of the living, Mr. Scofield,” the man grinned, his dark beady eyes unsettlingly excited. “Do try to stick around awhile?”
As he spoke, though, the man - the doctor? - pushed a syringe full of something into his IV and the edges of the world dimmed, color fading into grayscale as the darkness consumed him again.
Costa Rica was everything and nothing like what Michael had promised Panama would be. Long stretches of coastline and heavily treed mountainsides made for a picture-perfect postcard. But that was it: a snapshot of perfection that could never hold up under the weight of reality. Sara couldn’t live in a postcard.
She dug her feet into the sand, letting the grittiness work its way between her toes as the tide rolled out and the sun loomed low on the horizon of the Pacific. The capuchins spoke noisily somewhere in the branches behind her and birds she’d never learned the names of warbled their songs as evening drew near. The winds were calm, the sea was still, and there wasn’t a soul in sight save for her.
She was, for the first time in recent memory, safe. Safe and hollow. And the wrongness of it all stuck in her craw, heavy and sour. The dream, her dream, as Michael had sold it to her, was dead.
As the sun sank below the horizon, stealing color from the world as it went, she bit back thoughts of dreams half-realized and now-dead hopes for her future. Hand resting on her barely-swollen belly, she put one foot in front of the other, carving her own trail in the sand back toward her cabin.
“Did you remember to lock the door?” she asked, slipping off her shoes and unbuttoning her sundress.
“Of course,” he replied blankly.
As if it mattered. As if the people who had been after them were the sort to be stopped by a deadbolt. As if she didn’t know that as well as he did.
“Did you talk to Sara about...”
“I’ll do it tomorrow,” he replied gruffly.
Silence bounced around the room like an echo and with it still ringing loudly in his ears, he turned to see her tight-lipped smile and closed-off gaze.
He sighed and pulled her slight frame into a tight hug, kissing the crown of her head by way of apology and grimacing at the pantomime of normalcy they’d somehow transitioned into. Sofia was a hell of a woman and she deserved more than this, more than the broken mimicry of domesticity. But he was too selfish to set her free and she was too stubborn to let him go. So, they fell into this pattern that bordered on normal.
Maybe if they repeated it enough, it would start to feel right. Maybe the wrongness of this ending would bleed away and by sheer will they’d all smile and mean it again.
“Get the lights, would you?” he asked, squeezing her shoulder as he let her go.
The world seemed easier without the harshness of light, room plummeting into night with the flip of a switch. It was easier to forget, here. Easier to lie with her in his arms, her skin under his hands, than to think of the brother who died for him, the sister-in-law who was widowed before her time, the niece or nephew who would never know their father. The world was easier at night, and he sighed in heavy relief at the close of day.
Michael Scofield, Jr. wailed his first cry at 12:01 am on a Monday, four days after he was due and well before Sara was ready. The symbolism wasn’t lost on her. His very arrival screamed of beginnings and endings and transition and she was overwhelmed from the get-go.
Her face was hidden behind a mask of tear-tracks that weren’t entirely happy but weren’t entirely sad either when the doctor allowed visitors in and her makeshift family flooded the small room: Lincoln and Sofia and LJ and Sucre. Family by choice - all of them. Her son’s family.
“I’d... I’d like you all to meet Michael,” she said, holding her newborn too tightly and choking on his newly gifted name.
She stared at her son’s face and smoothed the fine tuft of dark hair atop his head over and over again rather than look up at her family. Maybe she was afraid of seeing the same pain in their eyes that she knew lived in her own. Maybe she was afraid of seeing that it had waned some for them in ways it couldn’t for her.
They were quiet for a long beat, save for a masculine sniffle that she mistakenly thought came from LJ or Sucre.
“Pretty as his momma,” Sucre finally said, boisterous voice breaking the quiet. “Good luck keeping the girls away from him, Doc. You’re gonna need it.”
She smiled up at him, biting her lips together, “Thank you.”
They had all been thinking it for months, but it had been Alex who finally gave voice to the thing no one would say: Sara wasn’t coping.
“She hasn’t said a single word about herself,” he’d told them solemnly, his watery blue eyes staring at Linc and Sofia from behind the computer screen. “Not a word about Michael, either. It’s entirely about the baby or the house or you guys. It’s like she’s pretending she doesn’t exist. And sooner or later, Lincoln? Sooner or later it’s all going to catch up with her. It always does. Trust me on that one. You both need to be ready for when she breaks, for her sake and for Michael’s.”
Lincoln didn’t ask which Michael.
Mahone hadn’t even seen Sara in person since Miami and he could tell she was headed someplace dark. Maybe being three-thousand miles away made it clearer for him, somehow. Maybe distance, in this case, lent perspective. Or maybe he and Michael had always thought so much alike that he had some sort of insight to Sara that the rest of them were lacking.
In any case, they had all been watching, waiting for her to break, crumble beneath the heavy weight of widowhood and motherhood and lonesomeness. So it hadn’t been a surprise when two weeks before the first anniversary of Michael’s death, Sara had shown up on Linc and Sofia’s doorstep with the baby on her hip and panic and pain written in equal measure across the plains of her face.
It was early afternoon but a thunderstorm was rolling in over the mountains, black angry clouds blotting out the sun as they trekked westward. Sara jumped as thunder cracked in the shallow distance, so startled that Lincoln was surprised tears didn’t start raining down her face right there.
“Hey there, little champ,” LJ said softly, trying not to jar Sara as he lifted his cousin from the woman’s arms. “How about we go listen to some tunes. You like The Black Keys don’t you? Yes, you do!”
She could have leaned on any of them, could have needed Sofia - another woman to relate to - or Michael’s best friend to console her or even Mahone’s too-familiar mind to sound off against. But it was Lincoln whose shoulder she finally sobbed against and he felt like a traitor for wishing like hell she hadn’t. He wasn’t good with feelings, his own or anyone else’s, and he sucked at dealing with weepy women. But he owed it to Sara and he owed it to Michael and - hell - he owed it to himself, to man up and support this fractured family they’d all built together even if it meant having someone sob all over him.
He patted her awkwardly on the back with one arm as she crumbled against the sturdiness of his chest, honestly not knowing what to say.
“You’re okay, Doc,” he said finally, even though it mostly wasn’t true. “You got all of us in this with you whether you like it or not.”
She sobbed something back that sounded like words but was muffled indecipherably against his shirt, so he pulled her back an arms length and looked her in the eye.
“He’s got Michael’s eyes,” she choked out, finally. “I kept thinking they’d change, but... no they’re his. How do I look at that every day and know he’s never coming back to me?”
Lincoln’s jaw clenched and his eyes stung suspiciously, but he didn’t have an answer and she was clearly looking for one. So he tugged her in tightly again, hoping she could draw some sense of comfort from his presence instead of some words. He’d always been a man of action. Michael was the one who would have had the right words.
“You’re gonna be okay,” he told her again, his voice sounding rusty. “You will.”
He honestly wished he knew that was true.
“Happy birthday,” said the old man with dark eyes and white coat.
Michael didn’t have a window, hadn’t seen the sun in who knew how long, had been in and out of consciousness for much of his early time in this facility. He had no way of gauging where or even when it was.
“Funny,” he said dryly, mostly because as much as he couldn’t stand the self-professed doctor, he was likely to be the only company Michael had all day. “It doesn’t feel humid enough for summertime.”
The old man was clearly pleased, dark eyes gleaming with the satisfaction of a hunter whose track had been sprung.
“It’s not,” he replied, his grin toothy and unsettling. “It’s November fourth... November fourth, Mister Scofield. Do you know what November fourth is?”
Every muscle in Michael’s body tensed up at the revelation, his back ramrod straight, his face impassive as he fought back ghosts of happy memories that threatened to drive him mad. Thoughts from another life.
“It’s the day I died,” Michael relented finally.
“No, Mister Scofield,” the doctor grinned wildly, looking every bit the mad scientist. “It’s the day you were reborn.”
He hated that he could see the truth in that. The then and the now so sharply different in every way.
“What do you want from me?” he asked finally, a question that had been looming on the edge of his mind since he’d regained consciousness months ago with screws in his skull and an IV in his arm.
“For now, Mister Scofield, we want only to give you a birthday present,” the doctor replied, extending his arm with a large manilla envelope clasped in his hand.
“Of course, we might... request... something in return at some point?” he continued, studying Michael as if he were a specimen in his lab.
Michael hesitated briefly before taking the envelope. His heart hammered loudly and his throat suddenly seemed too dry. A year ago, he might have refused, might have sought to deny this man, this doctor the satisfaction of a reaction. But this was not a year ago. He was not that man. Twelve months and he’d not heard an uncalculated word, not seen the sky, not felt a human touch that wasn’t cold and clinical or calculated.
Immeasurable to him as always, time slowed to a crawl as his fingers clumsily worked at the clasp on the envelope and a handful of pictures slid out onto his waiting palm.
“Oh my God,” he whispered, one hand white-knuckled on a soldered-down chair and his vision blurring with a sea of tears. “Oh my God.”
“Lovely boy, isn’t he?” the doctor asked, head ticking to the side as he soaked in the emotion of the scene, leaching it from the air. “Looks just like you. And his mother... well.. I don’t have to tell you how lovely she is, do I?”
“I swear to God, if you hurt them...” he seethed, vision washed in red as terror and hope and relief, all so dangerous, coursed through his veins.
“Now, whyever would we do that?” the doctor asked, brow furrowed in mock confusion. “We’re friends now, aren’t we Michael? And friends help each other. You will help us, won’t you Michael?”
He stared down at the top photo in his hand, eyes lingering along the the familiar lines of Sara’s face, the practiced way she balanced their son - he had a son - on her hip as she picked some fruit up at an open-air market.
The doctor’s words might have been mocking, calculated, but by God he wasn’t wholly wrong. The little boy, his son, was beautiful, so beautiful. Dark hair and light eyes and Sara’s fair skin and her easy smile. He wanted, more than anything, to hold that little boy in his arms for just a moment, kiss that dark hair and breathe in his scent and feel that little hand wrap around his finger.
But he couldn’t have that. Not now. Not ever.
Sara was smiling at the little boy and he was grinning back, face full of adoration. They were happy. They were safe. That was what mattered. That was always what had mattered.
There wasn’t a choice for him now. Maybe there never had been. Like Fox River and Sona and Miami-Dade Penitentiary. They’d found his weakness and he had no choice but to yield.
“Of course I’ll help you,” he said brokenly. “Now, I ask you again, what do you want?”
“All in good time, Michael,” the doctor smiled, seemingly satisfied. “For the moment, enjoy your birthday present. I’ll be seeing you soon.”
( ...Day 661, Day 904, Day 1179... )
( ...Day 1255, Day 1320... )
( ...Day 1479, Day 1507 )