Michael stared out the window looking at the roadside shrubs and trees all becoming a blur as the car zoomed down the highway. Next to him, sandwiched between both his parents, Mike was doing the very same thing. Sara silently observed both the men in her life; grateful her husband's masterful plan kept all of them safe. Her thoughts were abruptly interrupted when Lincoln turned to his brother.
"Why would they let us go, Michael? They had us if they wanted to. We could've been dead now."
He was clearly trying to make sense of it all, Michael could see him grapple with something – Lincoln had always worn his heart on his sleeve. Michael wondered what it may be and stayed silent, waiting for his brother to continue but he didn't. So Michael thought it best not to probe him in front of company, even if it was just their families. Lincoln wasn't the sharing kind after all.
"Sheba, pull over at the next stop. We need to switch cars to make sure we throw them off." Michael instructed, putting an end to the silence that hang in the air.
A few miles down the road, Sheba followed his instructions quietly pulling into a truck stop. She seemed cool and collected for someone driving a getaway car on the highway in a country they'd never been in. Her calm demeanor and the fact that he'd only briefly met her back in Yemen sometimes made Michael forget that she'd been through hell and back, much like the rest of them. Typically, fleeing your country amidst civil war definitely tops the list of potential traumatic experiences. This whole trip, she'd faded in the shadows as his plan asked very little of her but now she was showing what she was made of.
She killed the engine and Michael instructed them again. "We're splitting up. LJ go with your dad and Sheba. Sara and Mike you're coming with me."
Of course everyone but LJ was expecting this, he'd told them already they'd have to switch cars and split up to make it harder for the police to track them. Everyone obeyed and the Scofields were still piling up in their car as Lincoln already hotwired his and drove away. Michael struggled a bit to get the engine going, he definitely had much less practice than his brother. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead as thoughts of the car's owners coming back to find them trying to steal a car filled his head. After a few more attempts he heard the engine roar to a start and sighed with relief. Sara put her hand on his lap and squeezed encouragingly as they pulled onto the highway again.
Michael grimly realized this was his chance to prep them.
"There's something I have to say before we get to the airport." He began hesitantly. "I'm not coming back to the US with you straight away."
Sara's voice was filled with panic when she spoke. Apart from the odd work trip for either of them here and there, they'd never been apart since he had returned to them all those years ago. They never let each other out of their sight, the fear of their past lives ever catching up with them and finding them unprepared was always unspoken but the subtext of a lot of their decisions, like not letting Mike have too many sleepovers. And now it was all catching up with her, her biggest fear coming true.
"What do you mean, Michael?" was all she could manage.
Michael wanted nothing but to comfort her and tell her that everything was gonna be OK, but instead he stole a look at the backseat through the rearview mirror. Mike seemed stunned but held his gaze bravely, challenging him to continue. Michael returned his eyes to the road and kept them there as he spoke. His words came out even, measured – he had after all rehearsed them in his head numerous times.
"In order for us to come here to help LJ, I had to put myself back on the CIA roster. There was no other way. Nothing that would get us here fast enough and through flight restrictions. I had to do it."
Sara nodded slowly. She knew there must have been a catch to their arrangement; she just hoped it was one they could all live with.
With no objections from his audience, Michael continued. "They hired me without asking any questions because they know about the work I've done in the past."
"With Poseidon." Mike cut him off matter-of-factly.
Sara flinched at the mention of his name, but Michael nodded. "Yes."
"So you're breaking someone… out of prison?" Mike said quietly.
Michael was always afraid of the moment his son would grow up enough to understand that what made for incredible bedtime stories was really him just breaking the law and doing awful things to survive. He wasn't a Greek hero, flawed but good-natured; he was a man with skills that he consistently used to do something illegal. Granted his reasons were for the most part pure, but the ends don't always justify the means. Now he had to own up to it, come to terms with the fact that he'd set a bad example for Mike. That even though he won't be there to see him do horrible things, his son will know he's in a prison somewhere trying to cheat the system. And more importantly, both Mike and Sara will need to live the next few weeks of their life in the fear of not knowing where he is and what he's doing. He'd sworn he'd never leave them again, yet here he was.
"It's what I do." He said simply. He couldn't, after all, deny it.
Sara looked out the window and quietly wiped away the single tear that run down her cheek hoping they wouldn't notice her. Michael flinched as if he'd been slapped. Of course he noticed. They were like satellites orbiting around each other, he noticed her every move, her every change of mood. He knew he was hurting her, but he essentially had no choice. She knew he was waiting for her to say she understood, that she believed in him, but all she could do was sit there frozen in fear, disappointed in herself for not confronting him sooner. Maybe if she'd had time to think about this she could have prepared herself, braced herself for the time they'd have to say goodbye.
"So what's your… assignment?" she managed to utter. She struggled with the last word. Michael had shared all the details of his arrangement with Poseidon, but she hadn't lived through it with him. It was hard for her to see Michael's talents as a job that he would go and do, no questions asked. All the times he'd known him to use his skills it was for a reason. In the grand scheme of things, this time wasn't different either, nor was it different when he complied with Poseidon's demands after he knew her and Mike's lives were in danger. But somehow it felt different, the idea of him going into some prison to break out a stranger because the government asked him to do so.
Michael hesitated. He thought back to Agent Sullivan's "for your eyes only" instruction back at the airport. He wanted to share with them every single detail, every single worry, but he knew he'd be putting them at risk. So instead he chose his words carefully.
"I'm not breaking out some criminal, Sara. They want me to go rescue one of their own. An agent who got captured." He pressed his lips not wanting to slip up and offer more than what's absolutely necessary. He just wanted them to know he was rescuing a good man, not aiding some political agenda by breaking out a terrorist.
Sara wanted to ask more, but she knew his reasons for not elaborating, she was there when agent Sullivan had passed him the file and said he can't share any of it with her.
"Do you think you're well enough to do this, Michael? For God's sake you collapsed less than a week ago. You need medical tests, not to go on some solo rescue mission God knows where."
Michael's eyes flicked to the rearview mirror where he checked to see Mike's reaction again. This wasn't quite a fight, but he'd rarely seen any conflict between them. If something were to happen to him, he didn't want this to be what Mike remembers.
"I have no choice."
"How long? Where?" Sara pleaded.
"You know I can't say."
"Then what can you say? Just that you're leaving us again?" Mike said in anger.
It broke Michael's heart, seeing them like this knowing he was the one who was causing it. That he put them in this position to save LJ. He felt the weight of his decisions, he opened his mouth to tell Mike that his anger was justified, that he'd explain everything when he was back. But instead the world went dark as he gave in to the blinding pain that wiped him out almost instantly. He could hear Sara calling his name but it felt distant, like she was miles away, not right next to him. He tried to answer, to say he can hear her but that's when he felt even more pain as his head smashed against the stirring wheel and then he slipped into unconsciousness.