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Author's Chapter Notes:
Beta by Foxriverinmate
“Sullins.” Alex managed to grind out. He quickly scanned for guns, cuffs, anything on Lincoln or the others. There was nothing. Sullins did grant him a glimpse of the heat he packed though; a thinly disguised threat. The man was good at that. Lang just stared at him with disappointment. She didn’t try to hide a damn thing and somehow that was worse. “You shouldn’t have come just to throw me back into Sona. I am sure the police could have handled it,” Alex said with thinly veiled sarcasm, trying to get a rise out of Sullins because he could.

Sullins didn’t respond as Alex expected. He just smiled as if he knew he was the winner here and Alex was only struggling in his death throes. “Oh we’ve worked something out. This time, you’re coming with us straight away.”

Alex felt chills going down his spine; this couldn’t be happening, not now. “There is no extradition-” he started, but Michael interrupted him.

“Alex isn’t guilty of drug smuggling. The Company framed him. A man named Kim. He died in a gun accident here in Panama.” The lie dropped off Michael’s tongue like oil. Alex marveled at the ease with which the master did it.

Sullins didn’t seem to be impressed though. “The investigation into the drugs… situation and Kim’s death has been deemed failing due to the involvement of the Company. While they sort it out in Panama, *Alex* has… issues to deal with in the United States.” Sullins didn’t deem Michael worthy of a glance. He just kept staring at Alex, contempt smoldering, because this time he really had something on Alex, due to Alex’s own stupidity. “The Costa Rican authorities will be informed, eventually. You’re familiar with short cuts like that, Mahone.”

“How did you find me?” Alex asked. He felt defeated, empty.

Sullins reached into his jacket and brought out handcuffs. From the corner of his eye Alex saw Lincoln tense. It surprised him that Lincoln had stayed quiet so far or maybe Alex was just hoping again for something that wasn’t there.

Sullins didn’t make a move to put the cuffs on; he just… dangled them, as if he wanted to savor the moment. Knowing Sullins, he probably did. “Your friend. Whistler,” he said with glee.

“Whistler isn’t his friend. He’s nobody’s friend,” Lincoln rumbled, almost growling, finally entering the conversation. “He’s slime.”

Sullins broke eye contact with Alex now, glancing at the man in the bed. “Mr. Burrows, I advise you once more to stay out of this.”

Ah, so that was it; Sullins had given them instructions while Alex was cleaning up in the bathroom. It irked him that Sullins spoke to Lincoln that way, but he bit his tongue; it wouldn’t do to make matters worse.

“What are you taking him in for?” Michael again and if the situation wasn’t so serious, it would have warmed Alex a bit.

Alex could see Sullin’s jaw lock before he let go again. The man didn’t like to be questioned, especially when his prey was standing right in from of him. In that they were alike.

“Mr. Mahone’s *arrests* of Mr. Abruzzi and Mr. Apolskis are in question. There is some new… information about their suspicious deaths.”

Alex waited for more. Patoshik, they couldn’t pin that one on him, but surely Shales would be the biggest…

“Before Mr. Whistler died he-”

“Whistler’s dead? How?” Alex interrupted him.

Sullins locked his jaw for real now and took a step closer and then another one, yanking Alex’s hand towards him. The metal slid around Alex’s wrist and he felt his heart beating louder, faster.

“Is that really needed?” Lang cut in; maybe because she had a bit of compassion left.

Alex liked to think she had. Lincoln balled his hands into fists and for the first time Alex felt real fear. He looked at Lincoln, trying to implore him to stay calm; he didn’t want this on his head too. Lincoln returned the gaze, but didn’t relax in the slightest.

“After that stunt he pulled in that hotel, it is necessary, you know that,” Sullins grumbled.

Lang sighed, the only sign of any emotion, and then started to tell him the truth. “Mr. Whistler was shot during an undercover operation he set up with Mr. Kellerman. A lot of people went down. He was taken to a hospital and was able to give some information and statements before he died. Among other things he gave us the email address you used and a message for you personally,” Lang told him, sounding all business as she always did, but there was something in her eyes. It could be imagination, or she really could be wanting to defuse the situation.

“What message?” Alex replied hoarsely, feeling caged now that he was cuffed and yanked along by Sullins.

“Something about your garden. That he’d taken care of your lawn in your absence and removed some ornaments. He said you’d appreciate the joke and was sorry he couldn’t be there,” Lang told him.

Alex let out a breath of air; Whistler had thanked him for doing nothing, in a way. He supposed he should be grateful, but he was still in a lot of trouble as a Fed gone bad. Dirty cops weren’t particularly loved by anyone, no matter the reason why.

Sullins yanked on the cuffs again, making them chafe, a small smile adorning his lips. Alex swallowed, knowing he would be taken away and there was nothing he could do without causing trouble for Lincoln. Alex whipped his head towards him, away from Sullins, and to the warmth he needed so much, the urgency of the situation weighing him down. He needed to tell Lincoln so many things. He saw Lincoln was struggling to get out of bed, Michael and LJ beside him, trying to push him back. It looked feeble, but Alex got the message anyway.

“Linc… Lincoln, please-” his voice cracked and Lincoln stopped fighting. His eyes looked angry and bright, the corners of his mouth quivering. “My boy, make sure he’s all right?” Alex whispered though it sounded like begging to his ears and he hoped that Lincoln understood everything that he didn’t say.

Michael stood straight, voice level and sure. “We will, Alex. You’re not alone in this now.”

Alex nodded sharply and then Sullins opened the door. “Enough of this. If I’d known you’d gotten this close with cons, Mahone, I’d have put you away long ago.” Sullins pushed Alex out and just like that, Lincoln was out of range, out of sight.

~~~~~~

Sullins hadn’t been lying. Once out of the room, they were in the car and off to San Jose airport in no time. It was a drive that lasted quite a few hours and Lang didn’t utter a word. Sullins gave short, sharp orders, made two phone calls and glared at him through the mirror, but that was about as much attention as Alex got. He tried to keep his mind busy thinking about the inane fact that Sullins had gotten a black rental car very similar to an FBI vehicle, or how pretty Costa Rica really was. It helped for a short time, but his mind kept going back to Cameron and Lincoln. He loved his son. He hadn’t shown it enough and he had been a stupid asshole but he loved him. Cameron was his flesh and blood, the only good thing he had left. And Lincoln, Lincoln... he couldn’t imagine living without him, but Lincoln said he could. Still, if he could have him, just now and then… he shuddered, trying to push dreams and possibilities away. He was on his way to court, possibly a crucifixion now that the FBI couldn’t have Scofield and Burrows. He was going to be lamb, sacrificial or not; a bloodthirsty crowd usually wanted to see blood and gore to satisfy something and if they were going to put him away, all his dreams would be moot anyway.

Within a few hours he sat on the plane, Sullins to his right, Lang to his left. Sullins had humiliated him even further by cuffing him to the seat. There wasn’t a person on the plane who hadn’t already seen the shiny metal around his wrists and Alex knew Sullins delighted in it.

“How about telling me what’s waiting for me?” Alex asked Lang as soon as Sullins was talking to a flight attendant, hoping to gain some insight.

She still wouldn’t look at him, but when he nudged her, just a little, she whipped around, something akin to sadness in her eyes.

“Dishonorable discharge, loss of pension, things like that for messing up with Abruzzi, but Apolskis… Did you gun him down without reason?” Alex swallowed and this time *he* looked away. “Alex, you owe me that much.”

“Things were complicated; they still are.” It was a bad answer, but the best he had to offer.

Lang snorted beside him, quite obviously not satisfied with his *best*.

Sullins pulled out a tray, putting a glass of water in front of him and handing Lang some bottled drink. “You try anything, anything at all and I’ll shoot you, Mahone. I won’t aim for non-lethal areas.” Sullins’ voice was cold and grating like gravel; the man had always disliked him and when people like that finally got the upper hand they got nasty. Alex could understand that. Yet he couldn’t help but feel a spark of ridicule. No matter how hard he tried, Sullins could never get the frightening Fed routine down. In the end, he was still a backstabbing desk-jockey. Scum to any lawman, except of course, the dirty kind.

“Richard, I’m starting to think you don’t like me anymore,” he needled just a little.

It got the response he expected. “Drink your damned water and shut up.” Sullins went on mumbling about Alex being a disgrace, but it was something he’d heard before. Whatever Sullins was going to say, Alex had already said it to himself a thousand times.

~~~~~~

“Now your ex-wife’s murder, that’s been cleared up. Your son might have been confused after the murder. That is probably the reason why he was calling out for you, not accusing you. A psychiatrist made that clear two days after it had happened. As you know, the people behind the Burrows’ case were found guilty of it all. Mr. Kellerman got to them before this thing was blown to greater proportions, but-”

Alex tried to focus, but all he could think of was Kellerman exacting revenge for him, killing this Wyatt guy. He had been told about it, but it didn’t sit right. He was supposed to have done this for Pam, not the slime he’d worked with. He sighed and let his lawyer ramble on.

“Even though you have served in Iraq with bravery and your record as an FBI agent is exemplary nobody will ignore the implications concerning David Apolskis death. I am certain a judge and jury won’t let you off the hook. Take the deal; you’re quite lucky they offered you one at all.” His lawyer spoke quickly and precisely, a mixture of passion for his job and already giving up on this one; the crooked cop.

Alex had been in Chicago for over three weeks now. There had been some meetings with the D.A, a lot of interviews with Sullins and his buddies and, most noticeably, a visit from Paul Kellerman. He was quite sure it had been Kellerman who had orchestrated the deal he was offered. There was no need for his testimony when Michael and Lincoln could tell their story, not to mention Whistler’s deathbed gurgles and Kellerman’s intel.

They’d put him in prison blue, but separate from gen pop. He was grateful for that. No matter how physically fit he prided himself to be, he wasn’t going to survive that as an ex-Fed. One who had hunted inmates at that.

“Give me a bit to mull it over,” he finally answered.

“Fine, you do that, I’ll drop by tomorrow and we’ll plot our strategy, if one is needed.” Wilson, that was his lawyer’s name, said as he packed up his files in a black leather briefcase.

Alex didn’t say anything else. He just wanted to know about his son and Lincoln. He hated the restrictions, not being able to talk to anyone else but the law. No newspapers, no TV, he was aching for something, something to help him to get through it all. Sometimes at night he would imagine having Lincoln in his arms, other times he replayed days with Cameron, just playing with him or reading stories. He remembered some of them, but trying to re-tell them out loud only made him hurt more, so he stayed silent and used his memories like old video cassettes and picture books. Used them over and over again.

When Wilson left Alex knew the door would open and he would be escorted back to his cell. He was lucky to have the small, bare office for meetings like this at all. Small favors for lawmen, although the downside was the death sentence hanging over your head from the other inmates. The door opened and Alex stood, ready to be led back. It wasn’t a guard though. “Lincoln!” he all but gasped.

“Hi, Alex; sorry it took so long to get back.”

The grin on Lincoln’s face lit up Alex’s world. He jumped to his feet and almost rushed closer, but the cuffs around his wrists were in the way and Lincoln knew exactly what that was like for he hugged Alex close to his chest. Alex fought to keep his emotions in check, but to finally see a friendly face, to be able to feel this again... “Are you okay?” Lincoln said after a moment. “‘Cause I brought somebody else.”

Alex pulled back, trusting his voice to work steady and clear. “You did? Who?”

Lincoln smiled again and Alex was reminded of a naughty boy. He took a step back when Lincoln walked to the door and knocked. It opened and this time Alex choked up for real. “Cameron!” His voice sounded foreign to his ears. He was faintly aware of Lang standing behind his son when he fell to his knees and had his crying child’s arms around his neck.

“Daddy, I missed you so much!” was what he heard first then everything faded away and it was just him and Cameron. He tried to stroke his son’s hair, murmured into his ear and rocked him as best he could.

He heard Lincoln talking in the background saying something that wasn’t directed to him. “You’d think they’d show some heart and un-cuff him for this.” It sounded gruff, annoyed.

“Daddy!” Cameron said again and started crying. Alex lifted his eyes up to Lincoln who looked right at them, face impassive, but his eyes… he walked closer and squatted next to Cameron.

“Cameron and I got to know each other these past few weeks. We’ve both had a rough time and Cameron helped me through it, didn’t you buddy?” Lincoln talked slowly and softly.

Cameron nodded his head, even though his face was buried in Alex’s neck. The small body was shivering with grief, but Alex could feel him easing up again.

“That’s great, Cam, you helping Lincoln like that,” Alex whispered.

Another nod against his neck. “Uncle Linc said you helped him too.”

Alex looked Lincoln straight in the eyes and saw an answering commitment there. It would be all right; whatever happened, Lincoln was here to help. “He helped me too, Cam; we helped each other.” He peeled his son off him so he could look at him. The tears had wetted his boy’s face, etching out sadness in its most basic form. “Are you going to let him help you?” He could see so many problems, so much pain in his son’s eyes it hurt him to look at his child, but he did, because he was responsible and he loved him. God, how he loved him.

“I want you,” Cameron whispered innocently as only a child could. Alex started to wipe the tears away, mindful of keeping the chain of his cuffs from Cameron’s face. “Why are you wearing bracelets, Daddy?” The boy immediately asked. Now that Cameron had calmed down somewhat, he showed his inquisitive side. Alex would have been proud if not for the fact he didn’t know what to say.

“That’s for his job, Cameron. You see, he’s undercover and he’s doing some really brave things, remember? I told you about all the people he saved,” Lincoln cut in and Cameron briefly turned to look at him.

Cameron nodded, looked back at Alex and smiled a little. He attacked Alex’s neck again and Alex held him. Maybe he could talk to him when Cameron was a bit less emotional. Matter of fact, just like he should be. He mouthed ‘thank you’ to Lincoln and he got a wink in return. He sat like that, crouching, Lincoln close to him and Cameron in his arms, for at least five more minutes.

Then Lang cut in. “We have to go, Alex. Burrows can stay a few more minutes, but Cameron… the judge won’t have-” Alex got the hint. They’d had to pull some strings to get Cameron here at all and if he ever wanted to see his son again…

“You have to let go, Cam, I have to go back to… work,” he lied, choking up as he tried to keep the cracks out of his voice.

“But I don’t want you to go. You’re always working!” Cameron let go, but tears were starting to stream again. He was as upset as Alex was.

Alex grabbed Cameron by the arm. “I know, but I will be with you real soon and Lincoln will be-”

Cameron wriggled free. “I don’t want Lincoln, I want you! Why can’t you go with me now? Mommy she… Mommy-”

Alex couldn’t keep his tears from flowing. “Cameron, I promise, I will do everything, everything to be with you soon, but I can’t now. A bad… a bad man keeps me from-” his voice cracked and he couldn’t say anymore. Least of all since the bad man was he. He’d been worse than bad.

“Cameron, come on, this nice lady will take you for some ice-cream and I’ll be right there, all right?” Lincoln saved the day as he picked Cameron up and brought him to Lang. Alex could just imagine what Lang had to say about that idea, but she had no time to respond when Lincoln gave her Cameron to carry. “We’ll watch Happy Feet together and I’ll bake pancakes; what do you say?”

Cameron sniffled and didn’t respond, but Alex trusted in Lincoln’s ability with children. He had to for his own sanity.

Alex stood, wobbly and a bit stiff from sitting on the ground for so long, and looked at his son… “I love you, Cam,” he said seriously, too emotional for his own good.

Cameron turned his face towards Alex, cheeks wet again, but talking. “I love you too, Daddy.”

Lang left, probably averse to more outbursts of emotions. She was right, because Alex broke down right there and then. All these weeks alone with uncertainty, longing and fear his only companions, Lincoln pulled him close and held him as he cried. They didn’t speak, didn’t do anything but hold on to each other.

After quite some time a knock on the door shook Alex out of his post-emotional outburst. “Five more minutes max,” the guard groused outside and Alex pulled away from Lincoln, already mourning the loss of contact.

“I have no way to thank you for this,” he rasped and Lincoln walked to the table to pour a glass of water. Alex took it when Lincoln offered it to him.

“You already have. I promised, remember?” Lincoln spoke almost tenderly and Alex wondered if he did so because he deemed Alex emotionally unstable. Hell, he probably was. Lincoln pushed him to a chair and sat on the edge of the table himself. “It took some doing to get Cameron out of that house. They’d put him with a foster family with twelve kids, good people, but not what he needs. Your friend Lang helped there; you owe her.”

Alex nodded, filing it away for later use. He’d really thought she would hate his guts by now. It showed how much he knew about women. “They offered me a deal,” he said, asking so much more.

Lincoln looked serious. He looked at his hands, putting them together before he gazed at Alex again. “I know; eighteen months is a long time.”

Alex let out a shuddering sigh. “Twenty five years is even longer. I’ll have a rap sheet, no future in law enforcement,” he answered.

Lincoln took the glass out of Alex’s hands and took a gulp of water himself. “Michael and LJ are in Costa Rica.” A statement; Lincoln’s dilemma was quite clear. “They were here a week ago, but I made them go back. Michael will return for the trial to testify against the Company, but he’s not coming back to live here.”

Alex had expected that. After all, he hadn’t believed he would see Lincoln this soon at all. His mind raced. He knew what he wanted wouldn’t be the same as what would be good for Cameron, but he’d have to… “Can you take my son with you? If I have any rights left at all - I can sign forms, I could-” He still rasped. The water hadn’t helped, it seemed.

Lincoln leaned forward and kissed him softly on the lips, cutting off what he had said. “I said I’d help, Alex. I’ll try to do my best with Cameron. If you take the deal we’ll stay in touch and we’ll visit.” Lincoln kept his face close to Alex, his face between his large hands, wiping away tears with his thumbs as Alex had done with Cameron minutes ago.

“Will you take him with you to Costa Rica?” Alex whispered.

Lincoln kissed his forehead and then the door swung open to reveal the guard. Lincoln reluctantly pulled back and Alex knew the guard had already drawn his own conclusion from what he’d seen when he spoke.

“Visiting hours are over; back to the pen, Mahone.”

Alex got up and looked at Lincoln again.

Lincoln smiled. “We won’t forget you, Alex.”

It helped a little as he shuffled back to his cell, still reeling from the emotions, the love and sudden absence of it. Eighteen months; could he survive that? Would there still be anyone waiting for him if he was out? And like anyone in his position he felt a cold fear that Cameron would forget him; take on Lincoln as a surrogate father. Somebody who would be there the entire day, teach him things, would go out surfing, play…

“We won’t forget you, Alex,” Lincoln’s voice sounded in his head again and Alex closed his eyes, resting his head on his ratty pillow in an eight by twelve-prison cell. He tried to recall the smell of Costa Rica’s sea, the sea gulls and the sun, the sound of Lincoln’s laughter and Cameron’s arms around his neck. He had to have faith, but in the past that had always been Pam’s department.

~~~~~~

The next day he told Wilson he was going to take the deal. As expected the law was there within hours, shuffling papers around him to sign and all kinds of restrictions to agree upon. Sullins peeked in from time to time and Lang visited again. The small area had been so busy with people that he hadn’t been able to thank her though. He hoped that she knew anyway.

Lincoln and Cameron visited a week later. Cameron looked better and less emotional than he had been. Alex knew, he just knew Lincoln would be as good for his son as he was for Alex and he tried to hold on to hope.

The hearing came soon and he testified. Told everything he knew and more with the exception of the fact that he actually murdered people. When the D.A was happy, he was shipped off and this time his sentence truly began and he started counting. He’d never felt this alone when the bars of his cell door shut with a clang, shutting the outside world out in a quite effective way. His mind wandered to the cabin again. He lay on his bunk and grabbed one of his two blankets, rolled it up and held it between his arms. If he closed his eyes really tight he could imagine he was back there, and Lincoln was in his arms.