No matter what he does, LJ can never get a handle on his dad. On Lincoln Burrows, public enemy number one:
Except he isn't, because he didn't do it.
Except he was going to do it.
He's a good man with a rap sheet.
He's a bad man who'd do anything for his family.
LJ wishes you could say just one thing about his father without qualifying it in some way. He can't compartmentalize like Michael, sifting everything into what's important and what's not, pushing the bad shit away like it doesn't have any consequences, like it never counted in the first place. He's never been happy with his father's shades of grey.
There's the man who used to make him blueberry pancakes â€" some dim memory in the back of his head, warm and comforting and special, even though he was never around much, and LJ always liked when he was. When LJ was younger, he spent almost every weekend with Lincoln. Just the way the custody dispute worked itself out. Hard-working mom with a steady job for the week, burnout dad for the weekends. Probably the only reason it happened was because his mom was such a bleeding heart. His father was on fucking Death Row and she still wanted them to have some magical bond that just wasn't there.
When LJ got a little older, the weekend visits stopped, and Lincoln only came around when he felt like it. At least that's what LJ thought. When he got a little older than that, he realized Lincoln only came around when he was clean, and that just… wasn't very often. LJ felt inconvenient, and the truth is he probably was. But Linc came anyway. And he still made those goddamn blueberry pancakes every Sunday, even on the days LJ woke up past noon and glared daggers at anything that moved. All the way up to the trial, when the only contact they had was through metal and glass. No more blueberry pancakes, only trite aphorisms about how LJ should grow up better. As if he wasn't trying fucking hard enough.
These days Lincoln is always around. So obviously there, in a way he never was before. There's too much to him, too in-your-face. LJ is dwarfed by him. Not scared of him, but always aware of him. A buzz over LJ's skin whenever he's near, a tight feeling in the pit of his stomach. Not a bad feeling, just something new, something added to the general adrenaline buzz you get from running away from your old life and starting a new one.
LJ feels old now. When he sees himself in the mirror, he realizes the look in his eyes is the same as his father's.
Although Lincoln never really felt like a father to him. Not in the way his mother's boyfriends tried to be, or the way his stepfather made it clear he never would be. Lincoln felt more like an uncle, maybe, like Michael, although Michael always felt like an older brother, or a cousin, or something. Family, but only because they wanted to be. Lincoln could have walked out of LJ's life fifteen years ago, when he walked out on LJ's mom. He didn't have to look back. He didn't have to ask for joint custody, or give LJ presents on his birthdays. Most of his birthdays. Whatever.
Point is, there's plenty Lincoln should have done and didn't. But there's a lot more he didn't have to do and did anyway.
LJ's just trying to figure out which counts more.