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Author's Chapter Notes:
Beta by Foxriverinmate
Alex was beyond tired. He had kept himself from nodding off for the past 24 hours as he sat by Lincoln’s bed, using a moist cloth to keep Lincoln’s face, neck and chest a little bit cool. It was odd that he should finally have the chance to caress Lincoln’s firm muscled chest like this, outline the contours of his face... Alex should have done it sooner when Lincoln actually would have had the time to appreciate it. He had become an expert at wasting a good thing and he had done it yet again, not making Lincoln understand... What an idiot he was.

Michael sat on the other side most of the time, probably mirroring Alex’s feelings. Michael didn’t just worry for his brother, Alex was sure of that. LJ was having a rough time with his father’s sudden illness and Michael had to divide his attention between his nephew outside and Lincoln inside the room. Michael had left Lincoln’s side an hour ago when LJ had run out in an unexpected outburst of emotion.

Alex’s stomach grumbled, but he didn’t pay it much attention. He took out the washing cloth again and tried to let some water trickle between Lincoln’s lips. The fever hadn’t gone down much and was truly assaulting his body in a terrible manner. According to the doctor they had to sit it out while the antibiotics did their job. Lincoln was a strong man and had a good chance of fighting it; still, there was always the risk and with their luck... Alex couldn’t do much except worry like hell.

Alex couldn’t tell the doctor of Lincoln’s earlier illness, the stress he’d been under, the gunshot wound to his leg he’d received only weeks before due to yours truly’s actions... “Get well Linc.” He whispered as he brought his face closer to Lincoln’s and kissed his warm forehead.

“You’re probably as hungry as I am.” Michael’s voice sounded loud, cutting through the silence.

Alex startled and jumped back. He hadn’t heard the man come in at all. He straightened; feeling caught doing something nobody was supposed to see and he looked at Michael with defiance.

“No thank you, I’m fine.” His stomach grumbled again and Michael raised an eyebrow. He didn’t say a word though and put a Styrofoam box and bottle of water next to him on Lincoln’s nightstand. Michael went back to his usual spot on the other side of the bed then and opened a box identical to Alex’s. He ripped off paper from a package that contained chopsticks, Alex noticed there was one next to his food as well. Michael tucked in all the while keeping an eye on Alex and Lincoln. It was a peace offering if Alex had ever seen one, although he had no idea why; unless the food was poisoned.

Seeing Michael eat the noodles, dripping with sauce, egg and vegetables, made Alex realize how silly it would be not to touch it. Michael was right and he knew it too. Alex’s eyes left Michael’s face and searched out the box. He hesitated once more, thinking about the fact that Michael had brought it to him, but then shrugged off that bout of paranoia. A minute later, warm food slid down his throat. It was heavenly and he couldn’t help but close his eyes for just a few seconds. He was aware of nothing more but the wonderful taste, just how hungry he really was and Lincoln’s labored breathing. It felt wrong to enjoy food so much when… he sobered quickly and opened his eyes again.

He looked at Lincoln’s face and silently wished him to wake up from his sleep. He’d been fevered the few times he had come back to them, but that was better than not hearing his voice at all. Alex missed it. He shot a glance at Michael who had finished his Chinese delicacy and was now drinking from his bottle of water, his eyes still on Alex.

Michael looked at him as if he wanted to dissect Alex, but it wasn’t the look of hatred and loathing Alex remembered. It was one of puzzlement and wonder. Alex didn’t have the energy to try and understand Michael’s actions, motives and mood swings though and chalked them up to worry for Lincoln. He picked up another healthy bite of noodles and vegetables and fleetingly thought of Pam; she had taught him how to use chopsticks with an amazing amount of patience. The memory should make him smile, but he couldn’t. He found his fingers itching to touch Lincoln’s face again, just to see if he felt a little bit cooler.

“You’re in love with him.” Michael suddenly said.

Alex swallowed his food, almost choked, and the room suddenly seemed too small and stuffy.

“What?” he croaked, eyes shifting from Lincoln to Michael.

Michael stared at him with that same expression he’d had before.

Michael crossed his arms and leaned back. “I couldn’t figure out why you hung onto Linc as you did. Even if you wanted to frame him for anything at all, it seemed too elaborate and, frankly, not very efficient. You don’t like inefficient plans and actions.”

Alex couldn’t speak; he felt very hot, enclosed. He craved his pills for a heartbeat and involuntarily looked at Lincoln again as if he would help him.

“You have absolutely no reason to want to try and keep Lincoln around, or stay around yourself. It all adds up, especially seeing you here with him.” Michael didn’t let up.

Alex shook his head and would have stood up if he’d had the strength, but his legs wouldn’t obey. The small box of food almost fell out of his hand, but he caught it just in time.

Michael seemed to gauge Alex’s emotional limbo, but still lumbered on. “Does he know?” Michael asked, simply and without pretense.

Alex didn’t know what to do. He felt like a rabbit caught by a pack of hunting dogs. He couldn’t run and he couldn’t lie, but he didn’t… he didn’t…

“Alex?” Alex dragged his eyes up again to stare right back into Michael’s blue ones. He swallowed and shook his head. “Do you?” Michael added softly, which was highly uncharacteristic of him.

“I don’t know,” Alex rasped and grabbed the bottle of water, unscrewed the cap and quickly took a large swallow. He almost coughed it out again, but calmed himself just in time. “He… it wasn’t supposed to be like this,” he whispered, wanting to bite his tongue to stop talking, especially to this man. He needed a way out, something to take the heat off him. “How’s LJ,” he added, still not thinking clearly but it was the best he could do.

Michael didn’t answer at first and narrowed his eyes just a fraction. “About the same as you are; confused and afraid. Get out of this room, Alex. I mean it. Take a walk and clear your head. It works and you need it. Linc will still be here when you get back. I… promise.”

It wasn’t a threat. It wasn’t ‘get the fuck out of our lives’; it was an honest suggestion that could help him. Alex didn’t understand. He didn’t understand any of it. He felt his fist almost breaking the water bottle in two and realized he was squeezing it.

He looked at Lincoln again. Still and white as the sheet that clung around his chest. A chest that was still going up and down, precious oxygen, even though it sounded painful and harsh, was still being pulled into congested lungs. Alex didn’t want to leave him, but if he really felt that way then… he shot a glance at Michael again; Michael who was watching him patiently as if he knew every sordid little secret in the world. Alex hated it. He had to prove that Michael was wrong. He could walk out and…

It took all of his will power to stand and walk to the door. It took even more not to look at Lincoln as he opened the door and really walked out. He needed a minute to calm his rapidly beating heart after he’d closed the room’s door and taken his hand from the door knob.

~~~~~~

Alex had found a small bench near the motel’s front yard. It was quiet here, hardly any cars drove past and he was alone except for the motel owner’s pet parrot walking up to him now and then, yanking at his trousers. Alex assumed the animal wanted cookies or something, but since he didn’t have any he didn’t respond to the green feathered bird at all. After a few tries, the thing gave up, squawking as it ambled away instead of flying like it should. Alex tried to think. Was he really that attached to Lincoln? What would he feel if Lincoln, if he should-

He closed his eyes to bar that unbidden thought from his mind and held back the moisture he felt welling up behind his eyes. He didn’t like this feeling of helplessness. Nothing in this situation made sense. He had been hunting this man only weeks ago. Lincoln had hated him and Alex didn’t care; he’d just done his job. It was just as a convict and agent relationship should be, but somehow that relationship was the least of what they had. They’d had sex, very good sex, sure, but sex wasn’t love. How was it, then, that Lincoln stirred more than just his dick?

He’d fallen into this trap years ago with Tom. Had sex and then developed an infatuation with him. He was unceremoniously dumped when Tom found out. Was this the same as it was back then?

“Hey.”

Alex turned around to see LJ standing to his right, hands deep in his pockets, looking very lost. “Mind if I sit here?” LJ asked.

Alex motioned to the spot next to him and scooted over to give the kid some room. “How are you holding up?” he asked after LJ sat down.

LJ shrugged and looked at his hands. “I don’t know how this could have happened. Uncle Mike said that he had an accident preparing for the escape and then during the escape he was in water again, but still, my Dad’s tough you know? This isn’t like him.” The kid sounded positively scared and angry at the same time.

Alex felt a surge of fatherly feelings. It was inappropriate. “I agree it’s not, but during that accident he spent hours in dirty water. God knows what was in it.” He tried to comfort the boy with words. He wasn’t very good at it.

“Yeah, I guess-” LJ said and sighed. A flock of wild parrots flew by, squawking loudly but different from the pet parrot that was still around the motel somewhere. “You know I hadn’t seen my Dad for a long time, before I got sent to see him. You know, in prison.” LJ suddenly said when the birds had flown away.

Alex looked to his left to study the boy’s face. “Yes I’ve read about it in… you didn’t have a good relationship with him.”

LJ returned his gaze and shook his head.

“No, we drifted apart for a couple of years, just when you don’t see family much... He was in jail and I thought he was a deadbeat and a drunk. Mom said so and-” LJ dropped his gaze to the ground again.

Alex put his hands together and rested them on his knees, leaning forward a bit. “Your Mother might have been a bit mad because things didn’t work out between them. Parents are usually like that in a divorce; things get messy.”

LJ smiled a bit. It was a sad smile and it didn’t reach his eyes. Alex kicked himself mentally for not diverting the conversation from the boy’s Mother. Her murder must still be raw and now his Father was in danger of… dying too.

“Was it like that with you and your son?” LJ asked.

Alex didn’t want to talk about it, but he guessed he owed it to Lincoln to try and help his son. “No, my… ex-wife always tried to get me together with my son. I just let work get between us too often. I didn’t prioritize well.”

LJ turned, looking at him again. “My Dad used to come over in the beginning, when he and Mom were divorced, and we’d play ball. That was cool. We’d talk and I really thought he got me, you know? Like he knew everything? He’d bake the most awesome pancakes too, with berries and stuff because he said I had to eat fruit… But then sometimes he was away for months because ‘he had things to do’, but I know he was just back in jail then. I found out later and I hated him for it, and I thought he was a stupid…but now I know that-”

Alex risked it and put his left hand on LJ’s shoulder. “He’s a good man?”

LJ didn’t shrug off his hand, but Alex felt the tension leave him just a little bit.

“Yeah. He’s got a temper, you know.” LJ’s lips turned into a lopsided grin, even though his eyes were a little bit too bright, and Alex found himself returning the smile. “And he makes a mean breakfast with blueberry pancakes.”

Alex squeezed LJ’s shoulder and let go again. His eyes wandered to the jungle on the other side of the dirt road. This really was a nice place and he found he was more relaxed than before.

“Did he ever make one for you? Back in Panama?” LJ asked then and Alex whipped his head back to him a little bit faster than he wanted to. LJ shrugged again, so like his Father. “It’s not exactly rocket science seeing what’s going on between you two.”

Alex didn’t believe this. First Michael and now- “And what is going on between us?” Alex asked carefully.

LJ let out a short laugh. “Are you kidding me? The way you look at him and how he keeps defending you all the time? I don’t care that my Dad likes men once in a while, you know. I never saw one he’d been with, so it was easy. It’s not like he brought them home-”

Alex let out a strangled sound. He had no idea where it had come from, but he squelched the feeling he’d had back in Lincoln’s room.

“Brought them home?” he asked as if he was that green parrot. Why was it that he was tongue tied when anyone got on to this subject?

LJ looked down at the dirt; the pet parrot was back. LJ fished in his pocket for a piece of... was that bread? The parrot almost bit LJ’s fingers and LJ laughed at it. It was a genuine laugh and Alex could imagine him with Lincoln in this place; free, open and warm. “He mostly just scratched an itch in prison, I think. I know because Uncle Mike once made him go to this clinic because of his drinking. Man, that was one hell of a fight, but sometimes he had these moments, we all knew about it, but… I don’t really like you that much and I really don’t want to know what you guys have been doing but...” LJ rambled now; it seemed talking about this with the guy your Father slept with wasn’t that easy after all. “But you’re here and he asked you to stay, so-” LJ shrugged and stood, the parrot dancing at his heels, “it’s cool man, it’s just going to take some time to get used to it.” He avoided Alex’s eyes now, which was fine by him.

“He’s going to be fine, LJ,” Alex said a bit more roughly than he intended and LJ nodded before he walked away, throwing small bits of bread at the parrot who seemed to adore him with every feather in its small, annoying little body.

Alex took another swallow from his water bottle and returned to staring at the jungle. It truly wasn’t just sex. What was he going to do? What was Lincoln going to do and even if… there was Cameron and it wasn’t like they could… he sighed. He had a knack for getting in the most difficult situations. He really couldn’t imagine BBQ-filled evenings in the back yard of their white picket-fenced house. He sat there for a long time, thinking about everything, trying to find a solution for it all. When the bottle was empty he got up to throw it away and slowly walked back to Lincoln’s motel room.

~~~~~~

He opened the door and was assaulted by just how hot it was inside and how much it smelled; it was damp and sweaty, the air thick with ‘illness’. He went straight for the window and opened it a little, just to get some air in. He would make sure it wouldn’t disturb Lincoln; wind or even a small breeze might not be good.

He was aware that the man who basically chased him out was still present and he knew Michael’s eyes were on him. He expected an answer, Alex was sure of it, or at least *something*. It was still more than difficult and he took a breath, didn’t look at Michael and said, “you were right.”

“Right? Alex?” a soft rasping voice that wasn’t Michael’s answered. Alex turned on the heels of his feet so fast that he thought he would continue to spin. Lincoln looked at him through fever-bright eyes, but with a little lucidity as well. Michael was up and went for water, presumably so Lincoln’s throat wouldn’t be so parched.

Alex didn’t know what to say for the third time that day, but thank God Michael saved him. “Nothing Linc; don’t you worry about it.”

Alex felt his lips curve into a smile and he swallowed the lump in his throat at Lincoln’s expression as he looked at Michael and then at Alex. Alex took the steps needed to get back to his chair. He grabbed Lincoln’s hand and softly squeezed it.

“How are you feeling?” he asked, letting his thumb draw circles on the back of Lincoln’s hand while Michael got some water into him.

Lincoln coughed a little and tried to get up. Michael and Alex moved as one to push the extremely weak man down. “Let me up, we have to…the jeep and Susan… Alex you need to relax, I’ll do it.” He babbled, obviously in a different world.

Alex leaned close to his face. “Lincoln, look, Michael’s right here and I’m just fine. LJ’s outside feeding a parrot. We’re just waiting for you to get well and then we can go to that house Sucre got you.”

Lincoln looked at him with eyes that really were too bright for his own good. “I’m sorry about your wife and son.”

Alex squeezed Lincoln’s hand a bit too hard and let up immediately. “It’s okay, Linc, it’s not your fault. My son’s… my son’s fine.”

Lincoln got a little bit antsy again and shook his head. “No, we have to get there. They’ll kill him if we don’t get Whistler out.” For a moment, Alex’s heart had started to beat very fast, but Lincoln was fevered and mixing things up; everything was fine.

“Linc, do you trust me?” Alex asked the sick man, his lover, his… whatever they were together.

Lincoln gazed at him, eyes too glassy for comfort, coughing and wheezing softly. He nodded. “You fought for it, you earned it.” He sounded well aware of what he was saying.

Alex smiled, encouraged, and he felt... something at those words. “Then trust me, you just need to get well. We’re okay, all of us.”

Lincoln shook his head again. “No I promised you. Your son, we need to get your son. Michael’s upset with me.” He sounded distressed, but he had stopped moving.

A few drops of sweat ran down Lincoln’s forehead. Alex let his other hand wipe them away. He deplored the lack of his washing cloth, but he needed to feel how Lincoln’s skin really felt. It was still clammy. “I’ll get my son; you don’t have to. You can stay here on the beach, with the… the pretty women and your family.” He swallowed the lump away, but he had to say it not so much for Lincoln’s benefit but for Michael’s.

“No… no.” Lincoln said, not accepting anything Alex was saying.

This time Michael swooped in and took Lincoln’s other hand. The door opened and LJ entered. LJ put a few bottles of water on the nightstand and sat down on the bed, close to his Uncle and Father. Alex saw LJ and Michael exchange a glance before they focused on Lincoln again.

“We’ll all go and get Alex’s son, Linc. We’ll go together. Don’t worry,” Michael said in a steady tone of voice that brooked no argument and gladdened Alex’s heart.

Once again the room seemed small to Alex and he grabbed onto Lincoln a little tighter. It felt like he was on probation, but that didn’t matter. He was allowed to stay. He was allowed to stay a little bit longer with Lincoln; maybe he had a right to something more than misery.