Author: To Be Revealed
Rating: PG-13 for language
Category: Gen, pre-series
Requested by: darkwriter69
Pairing/Characters: Michael, Lincoln, Dr Brighton, mentions of Veronica
Summary: An appointment looms....
Author's Notes: For darkwriter69, who wanted the brothers' teenaged years to be explored (especially with regard to their time with foster parents and how it has affected their lives) with the elements/themes of drug paraphernalia, alcohol and the line, "Don't tell me to talk about my shit to Doc Brighton, Linc, when all you do to escape is get hammered or high!"
“Get the fuck in now Mike or...”
“Or I'll climb outta this car, pick you up, slap you around and then throw you in.”
Linc was still leaning across the passenger seat, his voice surprisingly calm as he eyed his brother. Michael seemed to tighten the grip he had on his knees for a moment, dropping his head until his forehead rested on the damp jeans, and he nudged back a few inches closer to the dark wooden door.
He looked up as he heard the car door open. With a huge sigh and a brief heavenward glance he dropped his knees reluctantly and shuffled forward from underneath the small canopy that protected the side door to the library. It was still raining and he could feel his jeans cling to him as he walked slowly - as slowly as he dared - towards the car. Linc had sat back into the driver's seat and was now attempting a look of nonchalance as his fingers beat against the torn leather steering wheel. He failed. Turning his head again, he shouted out through the still open window and sheets of cold dismal rain.
“You little fucker, hurry up.”
Michael managed a small smile of triumph at managing to aggravate Linc even more, but even before the smile faded from his lips, he wondered why he was pushing Linc's patience. Why did he feel the need to torment his older brother? Was he still playing the same old game of finding Linc's personal line in the sand and then purposefully making him step over it?
'You're testing him Michael. You feel everyone in your life has abandoned you: your father permanently before you even had a chance with him, your mother reluctantly and painfully and your brother frequently, and in your eyes, selfishly. When he's back, you feel you can't trust he will stay, so you test him all the time. Are you surprised he responds in the only way he knows?'
The words of Dr Brighton seemed to ring through him and Michael bit his lip. He was right, and yet he still couldn't stop himself from pushing Linc, always waiting to see him crack, run off and bury himself in three day binges of drugs or drink or whatever he could lay his hands on. And when he did, there was always a moment of perverse satisfaction for Michael as the test in his mind warped into yet another judgement on himself. He had, once more, not been good enough to stop his brother abandoning him. He was the problem, his brother's actions were just a vindication of that. It didn't really matter how many times Dr Brighton discussed issues of self worth with him - he'd understood the theory after the first session - he just refused to accept that it applied to him.
He pulled open the back door of the sedan, wincing as the hinges squealed, and slid onto the seat behind the passenger side while his damp Jean-clad legs smeared dark patches across the tan leather of yet another car he didn't recognise.
Linc turned around, his mouth already open. Michael was sure he was ready to point out yet again that he wasn't a frigging cab, and for the little dweeb to get his ass into the front with him. Instead, he hesitated and turned back, switching the speed of the wiper blades faster as he pulled into the traffic.
“You're not gonna ask where we're going?” Linc questioned in a low voice. His eyes darted up to the rear view mirror, capturing the sulk that was already spreading across Michael's face. The younger brother didn't answer, instead digging his hands deeper into his jacket pocket. Linc couldn't help but notice how wet his kid brother was - even the thick cotton of the hoodie was clinging to his thin arms - and he failed to hold back a sigh. Why was he so crap at this stuff? Why did this kid always make him feel both sick with worry and shaky with anger?
He swore under his breath as a car pulled out in front of him, before once more turning his attention to Michael.
“No? So you did remember the appointment, you just chose not to go, huh?” He was met with sullen silence from the back seat. Pursing his lips, he pondered the wisdom of carrying on.
“A shrink that costs $200 dollars an hour isn't good enough for you, huh?" Silence.
“'Course, it's not like I have nothing better to do than take messages from his snobby receptionist and explain why you weren't there this morning, right?”
“I didn't have the money for the bus ride down town.” Michael replied in a low, dull voice, although he knew it was the weakest of excuses. He'd been known to walk miles for things he wanted to see; a new exhibition at the Museum, a 'Children go Free' day at the Science park…
Lincoln sighed again, thinking similar things.
“So why didn't you ask for a lift?”
“Because at nine am this morning, we didn't have a fucking car!” Michael answered, curling his lips around the banned word with a mixture of relish and nervousness. Linc had been known to slap him for swearing, even after delivering a stream of profanity from his own lips. But it seemed that since Lincoln was now on a four lane highway, and there was a considerable gap between the two brothers in the car, there was enough to save him this time. Michael's shoulders dropped as he visibly relaxed a few seconds later, confident the slap wasn't going to happen this time.
“I would have borrowed one - and that's exactly what I did, you little prick - when she told me there was a chance he could still see you this afternoon.” Linc retorted.
Michael groaned. It seemed Dr Brighton was not going to let him slip out of these sessions as easily as the long list of other Doctors. He was beginning to think that the man was as quick and clever as his wall full of Certificates suggested. He'd certainly managed to tease more from him than any other so far, despite Michael constructing his usual barriers. That was the real problem. That was why he'd tried to dodge this session, and the few before. Brighton made him say too much, and Michael could not risk letting go.
“So whose car is it?” Michael asked, trying to steer Linc away from the subject of his erratic attendance at the psychiatrist.
“It's Derek's, or someone Derek knows, anyway. I've got it until tomorrow now." He checked the rear view mirror to see Michael's reaction.
"It's fast… real fast.” Linc added, with a look in his eyes that suggested he'd enjoyed finding out exactly how fast, on his way to picking Michael up.
“The seats back here smell,” Michael replied wrinkling up his nose. He could easily pick out one very recognisable smell. It was the sweet, smoky scent of dope, and it seemed to cling to the leather. He wasn't sure about the other. It reminded him a little of Linc's room when Vee had stayed over… or their sofa after he'd gone to bed and left them both watching a movie snuggled under a blanket. He realised it was the faint whiff of sex, the musky, heavy aroma that made him inquisitive, as only a thirteen year old could be. After all, his own body was beginning to play him now, and his few nervous explorations had left him feeling both excited and guilty in equal measures.
He had gone from trying to ignore Linc and Vee's indiscrete gropings from a few months ago to a curiosity almost bordering on stalking. He sighed. Sex, another thing Dr Brighton was always interested in exploring, especially since the whole Pershing Avenue 'thing'. After all, it was the reason the city had agreed to pay for therapy sessions for him in the first place. A young kid, possibly abused whilst in their care was not good PR, and they knew that even kids could hire lawyers. No, his sexual awakening, or whatever the guy had called it, was another reason to keep his mouth clamped tightly shut.
Linc's only response was “Well stop sniffing them,” as he weaved through the heavy traffic and checked the clock in the car. They would just make it, the opening was at three pm and it had only taken him twenty minutes to find Michael. Easy, really, when his brother's world consisted of school, the library, and their apartment.
“So… what do you and the Doc talk about, Mikey?'
It had seemed to Linc a pretty innocuous question, but then he saw his brother's reaction: a sudden tensing, an involuntary deep breath and then his head moving quickly to the window and the streets of Chicago washed in grey.
“Just… stuff.” His voice was tiny and weak, as if he was a young kid again, not the thirteen year old who had begun to shoot towards the sky.
Linc was now spending more time watching the rear view mirror than the actual road, and with a short deep 'harummph,' he pulled over, ignoring the blaring horn of the cab he'd cut across in the process.
Michael shifted up in his seat, checking the scene outside to confirm what he already knew. They weren't there yet.
Michael couldn't help but smile. It had been less than ten minutes since he'd heard the opposite order growled at him from across the street. But he was confused and rather wary of Linc's determined features as his older brother climbed out, walked around the car, and held Michael's door open.
“Get out and climb in the front, now, and be quick, I'm blocking the traffic.” Just at that moment, another car horn pipped noisily as it tried to negotiate the sedan. Linc turned towards the motorist, away from Michael, and slowly raised his finger.
Michael hesitated, and Linc moved his attention back to him. He considered his options: persuade, or grab? Choosing the more gentle approach he dropped his shoulders.
“You're still soaking and the heater only works in the front. Let's try and dry you off a bit before you mess up all the expensive furniture at the Doc's, huh?”
Michael couldn't think of a wisecrack, or even a reason, for not complying, so he slid out of the rear and made his way quickly to the passenger seat. His clothes were now heavy from the rain, and freezing against his skin. The thought of a heater blasting out was very appealing. Not that he would admit that to Linc of course.
Linc seemed to have forgotten his earlier question, but it had sent Michael into a flurry of retrospection.
What did he talk about to the Doctor? As little as possible, of course, but when he was really pushed, once the silence had become deafening, it was the past… mostly and mainly the last three years. It was only occasionally that the doctor strayed further back to when his Mom was still alive, excavating through the layers, trying to pinpoint when his problems had started.
The doctor asked him once about when he had actually realised that others didn't quite see the world as he did. He'd been discussing a possible diagnosis with Michael, a clinical reason as to why he was the way he was. The whole LLI thing had originally fascinated Michael; if they knew what was wrong then they could simply fix it, right? But it appeared whatever the LLI was, it was not that 'fixable'. Now, any discussion about it bored him rigid. It was what made him a freak, after all. He'd found the Dr Brighton's question difficult to answer. He'd tried, but failed to pinpoint a moment, an epiphany, just a growing weary realisation that he seemed to have to work a lot harder than others to feel normal… seem normal.
The doctor had obviously received a brief though, because most of the time he concentrated on Michael's time in the City's care. He'd found a list, a surprisingly long one, of all the foster and care homes Michael and, occasionally, Linc had spent time in. Michael had sneaked a look at the list when the doctor had been called to the receptionist's desk during one of the early sessions.
Twelve in all: nine foster, and three care homes. Nine addresses had been 'his' for a while. He could not bring himself to think of them as 'home', exactly. His fingers had slid down the list. At each line, a face or a house would become clear in his mind.
The first one, The Anderson's, lived across the city, but were willing to take two boys in at very short notice, just a day after their mother had ...and he remembered the phrase Mrs Anderson used so many times... 'so tragically died'. It had grated on him, and he never really knew why. It was almost as if she was enjoying the vicarious drama of the situation, and it was usually accompanied by her clutching at him and pulling him closer to her, until his face was buried in her shoulder and he could smell the lilac body talc already sour on her skin. Linc was always more wary, and had usually stepped out of her range by then.
Mr Anderson was a spectre, he left early in the morning, came back late in the evening, ate alone and disappeared into his study. Michael had never known what it was like to have a father, so assumed this was the norm and wondered why the kids at school made such a big thing sometimes of having a Dad. With some, it was a way of taunting him, with others there was always an element of pity behind the words. If Mr Anderson was anywhere close to what a Dad was like, he didn't see the point. Linc had tried to explain that the fostering was Mrs Anderson's 'thing'. They were her toys; Mr Anderson just wasn't interested in playing.
Those words were to come back and bite Linc, well both of them, five weeks later when Linc misappropriated some bottles of beer from the fridge. This was despite Michael hovering in the background with a concerned look etched into his young face and whispering words of caution to his big brother. Of course Linc ended up blind drunk and threw up over Mrs Anderson's back steps and potted plants. Mr Anderson had emerged from his study almost apoplectic with rage on hearing his wife's cries of distress and attempted to manhandle Linc back into the house, demanding that he clean it up. and throwing statements of 'grounded for a three months' around. Linc as always when faced with choices, picked the wrong one and pushed Mr Anderson back, causing him to fall catching his wrist painfully underneath him.
They 'd been packed and gone before nightfall, simpler that way, and had spent the next three weeks in a large and chaotic group home, a pattern Michael was to see repeated several times over the next few years. The home seemed to operate on a model of pure anarchy as the staff had long ago given up on imposing any control over the bunch of adolescents they were responsible for. Linc needless to say loved it. But the freedom had been too much and he was in Juvie before they were found a second foster home. The Authorities had apparently not been as impressed with Linc's driving skills as the boys he had been showing off to but it could also have been the lack of a licence or insurance or the ownership papers of the vehicle he'd 'acquired' and Linc became the reluctant guest of the Illinois department of Corrections: Juvenile division for the first, but certainly not the last time.
A couple of names had stood out on the list as beacons of good times amongst the depressing darkness of State managed childcare. Mrs Nikolaidis who channelled all her energies into baking and Michael had put on several pounds trying to work through the enormous dinners she used to serve up. She was widowed,and had never had children but was part of an extended Greek family of tens of cousins and sisters and nephews and nieces. The five months he spent there were pleasantly full of family parties and tables groaning with food. She even welcomed Linc after his stint in Juvie. Once reunited the brothers would retreat to their room most evenings, stuffed full of Moussaka or some other Greek delicacy. Linc would often lean out of the window even in the depth of winter to smoke a cigarette, a solid attempt to abide by the 'no smoking inside the house' rule. They would chat about school and TV and...anything. Linc would sometimes be quite cruel about Mrs Nikoladis's traits but Michael knew to look beyond his bluff and that Linc actually felt they'd ended up somewhere that wasn't too bad.
She would send the brothers to school laden down with packed lunches that could and sometimes did, feed the whole cafeteria and Michael ended many lunches licking the sweet honey from his fingers, the only evidence remaining of another Greek sticky cake.
Michael felt the warm air waft against his clothes and smiled at the memories of that placement. He'd loved her rather ramshackle home, still crammed full of books her husband had collected and which he had slowly started working his way through. He'd even managed to make a real friend at the school he'd been transferred to. A young black boy who lived a block down and they braved the rigours of the school bus together merrily chatting about the previous nights episodes of the Muppet's. Of course it wasn't going to last...she got ill, some lingering chest infection he seemed to remember. She quickly deteriorated and became too weak to care for them. Michael had fought to hold back the tears as they were driven away to another group home with just vague promises of a return when she was better. She never got better of course and in his mind he added her to the list of people who left him because he didn't deserve her.
They were only a few blocks away now and Michael began to nervously twist the bottom of his now drying hoodie between his fingers as Lincoln persisted at their 'chat'.
“So I guess the shrink still wants to know about all the foster stuff right?” He ended the sentence but didn't look at Michael, pretending instead to be focused on the road.
“Yeah he goes over that stuff a lot.” Michael answered, feigning boredom.
“Well that's good isn't it? I mean - I know we've not talked about that guy - ummm - the...” and Linc's bravery deserted him and he mumbled a vague “You know.” and failed to add 'the one they found dead.'
Linc managed a glance across and saw Michael tense again, and he sighed with frustration. He knew the bare bones of what had happened on Pershing Avenue. His social worker had trekked out to Juvie to tell him a couple of days after Michael had been found and as a precaution, hospitalised. But Michael had never been able to tell him about those days of questioning by doctors, cops, social workers, trauma specialists. By the time he was eventually released from Juvie, Michael was once again ensconced in a foster home and saying nothing, to everyone.
Lincoln didn't remember the name of that foster couple, it hadn't mattered. They'd been moved on fairly quickly, the couple had said they couldn't cope with Linc's aggressiveness and Michael's silent moods and days of not speaking or eating or communicating in any way. That was when the therapy sessions started.....and a series of psychiatrist's tried to unravel what had actually happened and how damaged Michael was.
Michael had continued to wring the hem of his hoodie in a display of tense anxiety as his brother continued the torture of trying to talk to him about....that.
“I mean, you keep too much stuff trapped in your head Mikey, it might help if you can tell someone...even if you couldn't tell me. “ There was possibly just the slightest hint of anger in Linc's tone. He'd tried to keep it out but it was still hard to accept that Mikey hadn't been able to talk to him about the three months in the house of that bastard.
Michael didn't reply, although his fingers were now twisting the fabric into tighter and tighter creases.
“So...you are telling him everything aren't you? I mean they can't help if you don't...”
Michael exploded, startling Linc at the strength of his words as he spat them out towards him.
“Don't tell me to talk about my shit to Doc Brighton, Linc, when all you do to escape is get hammered or high!"
Linc's mouth opened and closed several times but no sounds came out. Michael was still glaring at him, willing him to deny the truth that he'd finally voiced.
Linc was still struggling to reply, several responses had reared up but each one of them seemed weak in the face of his brother's accusations.
He did spend a lot of time stoned, or drunk, but then so did a lot of his friends although admittedly they didn't have the crushing responsibility of a kid brother to look after. That was the problem wasn't it....he was constantly trying to pretend that Mikey wasn't there. He wanted to be one of the guys, because that made him feel good but there was his kid brother always hovering on the periphery of his life. Reminding him that they need the money for rent, for the power, for his school lunches ….and Mikey was right every time and that just made him madder and somehow easier to do the exact opposite and blow it on a small bag or a six pack. Michael had become a second conscience and unlike his own weak-willed version, it took rather more than one beer to block out his silent disapproving looks when he made yet another bad choice.
Linc had worked through this argument in his head so many times it made him dizzy. He loved his brother, he was the only thing left in his life that was good...well except for Vee... yet time after time he screwed it up and left them without enough money to eat or put the heating on or replace the jeans that were now flapping above Michael's ankles because he insisted on chasing the brief highs of drink or drugs.
Linc pursed his lips as the car slowed down and turned into the small car park across from the Dr Brighton's office. He knew he'd neglected Michael, and on two occasions now he'd gone further than that. He'd slapped him. Actually it had been way more than a slap, the bruises on his brother's skinny body the next morning had attested to that. He had never felt so remorseful in his life when he saw the damage he'd inflicted on Michael but it hadn't stopped him repeating it again just weeks later.
He could have blamed it on being high the first time, stupidly drunk the second but the truth was in both cases Michael had pushed him...needled him and he had snapped. His control gone, he had hurt the person he should have been protecting and for a few brief hours his resentment at having to be responsible would dissipate only to be replaced with crushing guilt on his part whilst Michael played the reluctant martyr. Linc shook his head as if trying to shift these dark thoughts like a dog shaking off unwelcome dampness.
Michael had fallen silent and was now looking out of the window his shoulders hunched down. They were here and he was just minutes away from facing his nemesis and their weekly cut and thrust. The insightful, probing questions of Dr Brighton against Michael's carefully constructed parries. It was a game that Michael had to win. Because if he lost it, if he actually let the man break through his barriers and find out the truth - then the Doc would know too much....way too much.
He would know what actually happened in the house on Pershing avenue and he shuddered at thought of repeating those memories to anyone.
He would know that Linc couldn't handle the responsibility of looking after a kid brother, and probably didn't want it anyway.
He would know that Michael did not deserve a chance at happy families because some people just didn't and being a freak didn't help.
He turned to his brother who was now attempting a reassuring smile whilst simultaneously raising his eyebrows in the direction of the light stone building across the steeet. The message undeniably meaning 'we're here, get out, it's for your own good'.
He wished he could explain to Linc how utterly wrong he was, that if he did actually reveal his 'shit' to the Doc then he'd be on the Children's Services bus on his way to another group Care home in the blink of an eye and well before Linc had a chance to punch anyone...and he was never gonna let that happen.