Five Minutes to Midnight
Rating - R (possible NC-17 somewhere later in the series)
Warnings (for series) - Whole series (including Final Break) spoilers, violence, (probably) sex, cursing, death, het (canon and not-quite 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 second 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). See “Into the Dark” on ffn or my livejournal for the first in the series. Huge thanks to andacus for being my beta and mind-mate (as always) and totuesdaeschild for her encouragement and feedback.
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 - Finding out that Michael is still alive and has been held by The Company for four years might be life-altering for Sara and Lincoln, but it’s also just the beginning...
Accepting Michael’s death had taken time, months and years of denial and anger and feigned ignorance. With Jane’s words hanging heavily in the air - “Michael’s alive, Lincoln. And we’re going to get him back” - Lincoln wondered if accepting that his brother wasn’t dead would take just as long.
Jane and LJ were talking, heatedly discussing something, talking to him, but he didn’t hear any of it. Their voices rattled around in the background like the tinny sound of speaking through cans connected by a string, like he and Michael had done when they were kids.
“We have to tell Sara!” LJ declared, his voice breaking through the fog that was mucking with Lincoln’s head.
“No,” he insisted resolutely, speaking up for the first time since Jane’s revelation.
“What? Why not?” LJ asked, clearly stunned. “She’s got a right to know, dad. She’ll be so happy. Why wouldn’t we tell her?”
Linc ran his hands over his smooth scalp, eyes locking onto the image of his brother pacing on the monitor. So close, so fucking close, but so damn out of reach all the same. He wanted to jump through that screen, pummel whoever was holding his brother captive and pull Michael back into his house, into the real world. Sara would want that, too. She’d gone through hell after he’d died and the last thing she needed now was something as toxic as hope dragging her back down.
“She doesn’t need to know yet,” he said simply.
“She’s an asset, Lincoln,” Jane protested. “I have resources for this mission, but I don’t have everything we need.”
“You’ve got me,” Lincoln levelled with her, eyes boring into hers intensely. “You don’t need Sara.”
Her head quirked to the side and her eyes narrowed at him challengingly. And, shit, he knew this was going to be a battle. Sofia had given him the same damn look when he’d suggested that they convert the spare bedroom into a man-cave.
“Unless you’ve gone to medical school since last we spoke, then we need her, too,” Jane argued. “All we’ve seen of him is this feed and he’s not always in this room. We have no idea what kind of shape he’s in, not really. He won’t be the first person we’ve recovered from The Company and I can assure you that after four years of imprisonment, he’s going to need help in one way or another. But more than that, I’m not convinced he’ll go anywhere with anyone unless he sees that both you and Sara are safe.”
“Look, lady, I appreciate everything you’re doing here, but we’re not involving Sara,” Lincoln countered, putting his foot down. “I will bodily haul his ass out of there, but the doc’s not getting involved!”
The air was taut with oppressive anxiety and tension, the weight of this newfound reality bearing down on him like the world on Atlas’ shoulders. This was his brother, his responsibility. And he would save him, again, because they were family and they would always, always, save each other. He could no sooner forget that, deny that, than will his heart to stop beating. But Sara and Sofia and Mikey and LJ were family, too. They all needed him, too. Needed his protection with the eyes of The Company trained on them through their crosshairs. Even with his mind whirring at a breakneck pace, Lincoln’s thoughts felt sluggish. He was right - he knew he was right - and he wasn’t about to back down.
It was too much to process, too many new concerns, too many risks in all their lives that hadn’t existed for them twenty minutes ago. But Michael was alive.
Michael was alive.
He was staring at him, older, grayer, harried looking, but living. And the words just kept playing over and over in his head.
Michael’sAlive. Michael’sAlive. Michael’sAlive.
Maybe if he repeated it to himself enough times, it would soak in. This wouldn’t feel like the best and worst dream he’d had in years.
“Looks like that’s not your call,” Jane said, drawing him back to the here-and-now.
His eyes snapped up to the blonde’s face before following her gaze toward the back door where LJ now stood with Sara. He’d been so distracted, so encompassed by this, that he hadn’t even registered his son leaving. One glance at the look on Sara’s face told him he was too late to shelter her from this.
“LJ, what did you do?” he asked gruffly and mostly rhetorically.
“She’s got a right to know her husband’s alive, dad,” LJ responded.
Sara paid no attention to either of them, though Lincoln knew with absolute certainty that they’d have words at some point about him wanting to keep this from her. With what could only be described as tunnel-vision, she walked as if in a trance toward the laptop, kneeling down at the coffee table’s edge and drawing the screen nearer.
“Sara,” he said gently, not really sure what to follow it up with but hoping in vain to divert her attention from the screen in front of her.
She gave no indication of hearing him at all, one hand covering her open mouth and the other running over Michael’s form on the screen in front of her. He felt uncomfortably like a voyeur in that moment and, judging from LJ’s shuffling feet and Jane’s diverted gaze, he wasn’t the only one. There was so much rawness in her face, so much naked emotion in her wide, watered eyes and ashen skin that he couldn’t bare to watch.
“Sara,” he tried again and this time he felt her gaze shift to focus on him.
She rose up from the floor, shoulders set and tears blinked back. He could damn near see it as the rawness bled from her features and the determination set in her eyes. Suddenly, he wasn’t looking at the sister-in-law who’d cried on his shoulder and failed to cope so miserably for so long. He was looking at a prison-doctor-turned-fugitive, a woman who’d been tortured and kidnapped and incarcerated, who had never, ever lost her cool when it mattered.
“So,” she said after a beat, her voice surprisingly clear. “What’s our plan?”
To Sara’s side, Jane was openly appraising the other woman, a thin, impressed smile gracing her lips. Sara’s quick-switch to a professional demeanor, her ability to focus on the problem at hand regardless of how personal it might be, had clearly surprised the other woman and earned her respect.
“Doctor Scofield,” Jane pronounced and Sara looked to the other woman for the first time since entering the room. “We haven’t met. I’m Jane Phillips. I worked with your father-in-law.”
“I know who you are,” Sara told her. “It’s good to meet you. What can you tell me about situation?”
Her brusqueness might have seemed rude or dismissive to some people, but Jane had never been one to mince words and Lincoln was pretty sure that all it had done was endear her to the other woman more.
“We have an inside man at the facility where he’s being held, which is on an otherwise-deserted island. As best as we can tell, The Company managed to resuscitate him after his electrocution in Miami and then successfully performed brain surgery to address his tumor,” Jane outlined.
“No signs of a recurrence?” Sara asked clinically. “Headaches? Nosebleeds? He’d hide them.”
“He’s surveilled constantly,” Jane said, shaking her head. “There’ve been no signs of problems on that front that we’ve seen. We aren’t able to access the other video feeds, but we know there are some and The Company views him as too large an asset to allow something like that to go unnoticed.”
“Why Uncle Mike? That’s an awful lot of trouble to go to for one man. What are they using him for?” LJ asked, brow knit in concern in a way that reminded Lincoln painfully of Michael.
“Code-breaking, we believe,” Jane said, glancing at her watch as she spoke. “It’s an educated guess, but we know that there are factions within The Company trying to get a firm grip on it with the General finally dead. He had assets - money, contacts, blackmail material - that could virtually ensure one group’s dominance over the other. But, since no one appears to have cinched the top spot, we believe no one’s found it yet. Or, at least, no one’s decoded it.
“As you are intimately aware, the General was quite fond of incredibly intricate security systems. If we’re right and that’s what they’ve got Michael working on, it's taken him four years and he still hasn’t finished the project. Given that, I think it’s safe to say that there are few people with the skill level to begin to decode the General’s data,” Jane finished, standing up as she spoke.
“You said you had assets,” Lincoln stated.
“I do,” Jane confirmed. “One of which is the jamming device blocking the bugs in your house right now from transmitting our entire conversation to the Company men camped out three-hundred yards to the south of your house.”
“What?” Lincoln asked, his voice raising substantially in volume.
“I told you that you’d been being watched,” Jane said, raising an eyebrow at him in thinly-veiled amusement. “Did you think I meant only visually?”
“Where the hell are the bugs?” Lincoln asked irately.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Linc,” Sara said, arms folded in front of herself as she shot him a warning look. “If there’s a faster way to tip them off that we know something, I’m not sure what it would be.”
“I’m glad to see one of you is thinking clearly,” Jane pronounced, closing the laptop as she spoke, it’s resounding click making Lincoln flinch, suddenly panicked and desperate to see his brother’s face again.
He must have said something about the laptop, but for the life of him he couldn’t remember doing so. Or maybe Jane was just far too perceptive, senses honed by decades of serving as some kind of soldier in a global undercover war.
“I have to take it with me, Lincoln,” Jane said, earning his hardened gaze. “You know that. I can’t leave evidence like this where we know The Company is watching. It was dangerous enough bringing it here in the first place.”
“If we fixate on that then we aren’t focused on how to get him back,” Sara added, her voice so much smaller than Jane’s but resounding so loudly.
“Also true,” Jane acknowledged, tucking the laptop under her arm before pressing her finger to her ear against a small headset that Lincoln hadn’t noticed before.
“I’m being told that the Company agents are getting concerned about the lack of noise being picked up by their bug,” Jane told them. “We’ll meet tomorrow afternoon. Three o’clock, exactly four miles due west of your dive shop. Our boat is called The Sea Queen. Until then, I don’t have to tell you to be careful about what you say, do I? Nowhere is safe. They are watching. They are listening. And if you mess this up, all of us are dead and Michael will spend the rest of his life in Company hands.”
She was going to leave it at that, her long gait striding steadily toward the door. For not the first time, Lincoln found himself wondering why Jane was going to such lengths for the sake of his family. Whatever she and Aldo had been to each other - friend, partner, lover or a combination of all of those things - certainly she’d fulfilled any obligations to them she might have assigned herself years ago.
“Hey,” Lincoln said, careful to avoid saying her name in case the bugs were working again.
Her steps stuttered and she glanced back at him, blonde ponytail swaying sharply behind her.
“Thank you,” he said, voice rife with sincerity.
She tilted her head in acknowledgement and tossed out a wink before slipping out the door into the inky dark of night.
The silence in her wake was palpable and it suddenly struck Lincoln as somewhat hilarious that now that the bug was most certainly working again, no one was saying anything to be picked up by the agents they now knew were spying on them.
Laughter bubbled up inside him, escaping in a loud and manic kind of way. None of this, not one bit of it, was funny. It was terrifying and hopeful. It was devastating and enrapturing. Michael was alive. Michael was a captive. And four years after finally escaping the whole conspiracy and securing their safety, they found out they’d never been out of danger in the first place. It was anything, everything but funny.
For all those reasons, Lincoln laughed.
Chapter Two (Part 1)
Chapter Two (Part 2)