When Michael needs a reprieve from his under-tight-control life and Lincoln has something to be forgiven for, they enter a vaguely charted territory. Lincoln takes care of Michael in the most basic way; Michael abandons himself to Linc’s nursing and authority. It reminds Lincoln a time when he was, or tried to be, his baby brother’s caregiver. It reminds Michael a time when he felt secure relying on his big brother.
It starts with Lincoln feeding him. Literally. He cuts his meat and his vegetables and brings them to his mouth. Sometimes, Michael is difficult. He won’t open up and Lincoln has to insist, to whirl and circle the spoon or the fork until, finally, Michael accepts the food. Lincoln rewards him with a nod and a quick stroke of his thumb on Michael’s chin.
Meal is followed with an inevitable “I need to pee, Linc,” and a trip to the bathroom. Michael relishes the escalation into intimacy, into regression and transgression. With huge eyes and a slight pout, he waits for Linc to take the hint, open his pants and fish about for his flaccid penis. Lincoln, who knows his part and his duty, only makes him hold on a bit because he enjoys watching him shuffle his feet with impatience while annoyance pinches his face.
Annoyance quickly disappears, anyway, as Lincoln bathes him. He soaps him up, rinses and lets water trickle down his back; he’s always cautious not to splash water in his eyes. And when bath is done, he softly towels him dry and helps him into his pajamas. He puts him to bed, tucks him in and hums a lullaby. The lullaby never fails to have Michael close his eyes and smile happily. The low rumble of Lincoln’s gravelly voice is so soothing, so calm-inducing; always has been, even when Linc was whispering the inane promise that everything would be all right and both of them knew better.
Some nights, despite Lincoln’s advice and vigilance, Michael manages to raid the kitchen’s cupboards and eats too much cake, peanut butter or whatever too-sweet food he’s into at the moment. When this happens, Lincoln chides him but – nice big brother that he is – keeps humming lullabies while rubbing Michael’s tummy until the ache subsides a bit. Michael will admit he enjoys the tummy rubbing a lot. Lincoln’s big and rough hands petting the smooth skin of his belly... He sighs contently and fights not to squirm in delight. Truth be told, he enjoys it so much that he indulges more often than he should in excessive food consumption – or merely pretends he has. After all, he has regressed, gone fifteen or twenty years back and has become a needy kid again, hasn’t he? He acts as such, and uses all the tricks at his disposal to get what he wants and needs.
For the sake of it, Lincoln scowls when Michael complains in a small voice and begs his brother not to leave him alone in the dark, but he caves in. Obviously. What would be the point of sitting by himself in the living room while Michael would be lying alone and awake in his bedroom? So they cuddle on Michael’s bed. Lincoln builds up a protective fortress in which no one can sneak, where no one can hurt Michael, not even Lincoln – especially not Lincoln. He enfolds Michael in his arms, and lets Michael plaster himself against him; he strokes his neck, his back, sometimes his hip. Lincoln never slips into the bed with him, though. Despite Michael’s repeated invitations and protestations that Lincoln will freeze and that he is cold, Linc always lies on top of the sheets. He puts an actual safety blanket between them, and nothing, no pleas or promises or alluring shenanigans, will make him remove it. Michael eventually complies, anyway; he has to since he’s released all authority into Linc’s attentive hands.
On those nights, unlike any other one, the familiar guilt attached to their twisted relationship is not shared. Lincoln absorbs it all; there is no remorse, no repentance in Michael’s desire. Lincoln, who’s usually so eager to kiss, stroke, lick, suck, fuck his brother, won’t allow more than an embrace and a kiss brushed on his brow, maybe a soft press of lips on lips. He will back off at the slightest hint of tongue grazing his mouth and reprovingly slap Michael’s tushy if he writhes and rubs himself a bit too insistently against Lincoln.
By then, Michael’s not flaccid anymore. Far from it. Lincoln can feel the heat and the hardness, even through the layers of clothes and blankets. Michael’s voice is a silky, innocent whisper when he looks down towards his belly and says, “What’s going on? It’s so hard. Why does it hurt so good?” Lincoln shushes him and tells him to go to sleep. If Mike comes in his pants merely from the warmth and the indirect contact, Lincoln doesn’t want to know. He’s not kidding; he really doesn’t want to know. Not on those nights that glow with a peculiar shine.