Michael finds him on the floor of his cell, body convulsing, clothes soaked through with sweat. Alex doesn’t look up when he leans against the cell door, doesn’t even hear it when Michael calls his name.
Michael sighs, looks both ways down the hall and steps inside. He walks towards Alex, crouches down next to his shaking form. He repeats his name, voice gentle. There’s still no response.
He sighs again, shifts down to his knees. Carefully, he reaches a hand out, drops his palm flat on Alex’s shoulder and quickly snatches it back when Alex gasps, jerks away. He curls his body in on itself, like he expects to get hurt but doesn’t have the energy to fight back.
“It’s me,” Michael says, voice louder this time. “It’s just me. I’m not gonna hurt you.”
Alex does look at him now, head nodding almost frantically at Michael’s words. Still, his body doesn’t relax.
Michael tilts his head, furrows his brow. He look at Alex carefully, takes in the extent of his shaking. Takes in the unhealthy pallor of his face, the sweat dripping down his body; the clothes and hair that stick against skin. The helplessness of it all.
“You’ve never been through withdrawal, have you?”
Alex makes a noise, something between a groan and what could be called a laugh. “Not like this.”
He’d always given in. There had been times where he’d tried to stop, tried to quit cold turkey, but he’d always given in before he could get like this. He’d been able to handle the insomnia, the tremor of his hands. But the hallucinations, the visions… they’d always brought him back.
Michael nods, scans the room. “Luckily for you,” he says, meeting Alex’s eye. “Lincoln has.”
It had been years ago -- when Michael was still a teenager, when they were still living in a shitty apartment too small for two people -- but Michael remembers it. Remembers what to do, remembers how bad it can get. Even if he and Alex aren’t the best of friends, he can’t watch it happen and not help. Not when he knows he can make it easier.
He gets up off the floor, eyes the bed. The blanket is torn and the pillow is missing, but the mattress looks better than some of the others he’s seen. He raises a hand, pinches the bridge of his nose. “I’ll be back in a minute,” he tells Alex, already walking from the room.
It takes two trips, but he eventually gets what he needs into Alex’s cell. It’s the bare minimum, but Michael supposes it’s better than nothing.
He lays the blanket he’d brought from his own cell over Alex’s bunk and throws his pillow on top, grabbing the bucket he’d snagged and placing it next to the bed. He pulls one corner of the blanket down, preps it for Alex to lie down in.
When he’s done, he crouches down next to Alex again, helps him sit up and wraps an arm around his waist. “Come on,” he grunts, nudging Alex’s arm over his shoulders and pulling him up from the floor. They struggle to the bed, Alex’s breath heavy with the effort of staying upright. Michael eases him onto the mattress, makes him sit up.
“Try and get your shirt off,” he says, turning back to his pile of supplies. He’d managed to grab a few rags, and though they aren’t exactly clean, they’ll get the job done. “It’ll be more comfortable.”
Alex nods, tries with twitching hands to undo the buttons. He gets the first few undone; just enough to be able to pull the fabric over his head and throw it to the side.
“Here,” Michael says, sitting next to him on the bed. He hands Alex one of the cloths, keeps another in his lap. “Wipe your face.”
Alex obeys, brushes the cloth over his face, his neck, his chest. Tries to wipe the worst of the sweat away, to make himself feel the tiniest bit cleaner. He lets the rag drop to the floor when he’s done and leans forward, fingers clutching in the fabric of his pants.
“Here,” Michael says again, and this time he’s holding a cup of water. He pushes it into Alex’s hand, helps him hold it up to his mouth. “You need to stay hydrated.”
Alex downs it, and Michael grabs it from him, refills it with the bottle he’d brought and hands it back. Alex swallows half, keeps the cup clutched in both hands so it doesn’t spill with his shaking. When he looks at Michael, he looks more than exhausted.
“Why?” he asks, barely managing to get the word out. His voice is broken, uneven.
“Because I can help,” Michael says, sighing. “Would you rather I leave?”
Alex shakes his head; a small, jerky movement. He brings the glass back up to his mouth, tilts his head back to finish the drink and drops it on the bed next to him.
“Good.” Michael moves the cup, places a hand on Alex’s shoulder and nudges him gently. “Lie down,” he tells him. “On your side, back to the wall. Try and rest.”
Alex does as he’s told, struggling to his side. Michael stays seated at the foot of the bed, leans his back against the bunk’s frame and watches. He doesn’t say anything, just stares. Like he’s waiting for something.
Alex doesn’t know what he’s waiting for, and he doesn’t care enough to gather the energy to ask. He closes his eyes, curls into a fetal position to try and ease the muscle pain. It makes the tiniest difference, but the shaking, the aches. They don’t stop.
Alex doesn’t know how much time passes, his brain muddled with withdrawal. He can hear Michael talk to him but the words don’t register, can feel Michael touch him but doesn’t know why. He’s too preoccupied with trying to keep it together; with trying to ignore the growing nausea, the cramps.
When it comes, it’s with little warning. One moment he’s clenching his teeth together, shifting on the bed to rid his stomach of pressure, and the next he’s gagging, vomit spilling from him at a rate he can’t control. Thankfully, Michael is quick on his feet. He gets the bucket under his mouth before the vomit can hit the bed, gets an arm around his waist and sits him up before he can choke.
Alex’s eyes water with it, the drops running down his face alongside the sweat. He can’t stop; can’t stop the shaking, the gagging. It’s like he has no control over his body.
There’s a hand on his back, a warm palm rubbing slow circles up and down his spine. Although it doesn’t do much, it’s a reminder that he’s not doing this alone, and as ridiculous as it makes Alex feel, that’s more of a comfort than he’d ever admit out loud.
When the gagging eases, when he feels like he can breathe again, he sits back. Lets his head hit the wall. Michael passes him another rag, helps him wipe the residue from his mouth.
Alex rolls his head against the wall until he’s looking at Michael, eyes wide and unblinking. “‘Little bit,” he admits, voice hoarse. “Still feel like shit, though.”
Michael’s mouth twitches; almost a smile. “It’ll pass,” he promises, handing Alex more water. “You’ll feel better when it does.”
Alex grunts something that could be an agreement, his eyes closing momentarily. “‘snt this a waste of y-your time?”
Alex grins, a quick flash of teeth that disappears in seconds. He could ask why he’s staying then, but it might make him leave, and Alex doesn’t really want that to happen. He knows it’s not over yet, knows it’s going to get worse still. Knows that Michael can and will help him through it.
When he feels like he can, he lays back down, rolling onto his back this time. “Thanks,” he says, voice quiet. It sounds almost slurred.
“Yeah,” Michael responds, the word little more than a breath. He stands up, presses his nose against the inside of his elbow and reaches for the bucket with his other hand. “Repay me later.”
Alex curls his arms around his torso, like it might help the stomach pain. “How long will that take me?”
He hears Michael laugh quietly, hears a splash as he tips the bucket’s contents out the cell window. “I’ll let you know when you’re done,” he says.
Keeping his eyes open hurts his head too much, so Alex shuts them; listens to Michael as he moves around the cell. He can hear things being moved, can hear Michael’s steady breathing. Moments later, he feels Michael back near the bed, sighs gratefully when a cool, wet cloth is placed against his forehead.
“For now, just rest.” Michael’s voice is pitched to soothe, and Alex hums, feels the dip of the mattress as Michael sits again.
He thinks he can manage that.
Set between 3.09 and 3.10. Written as gen but can also be seen as pre-slash. Warning for Drug Withdrawal.