1. Chapter 1 by humanveil
“You gonna stand there, or are you going to come in?”
Michael’s fingers brush the bars of Alex’s cell, the movement making barely audible tapping sounds. He’s leaning against the frame, clear eyes shining in the low light. “Not asleep, then.”
Alex snorts, shifting on his bunk. Michael can barely make out the lines of his body, but the rustling of fabric -- clothes against stiff sheets -- lets him know Alex has moved. “You can sleep in here?”
Michael sighs, pushes past the bars and into the cell. “Fair point.”
He can see Alex clearer now; can see his body propped up on the bed, back pressed to the wall, legs stretched in front of him. He’s staring at Michael, watching him in the dark. Waiting for something.
“What’d your brother say?”
Michael shakes his head even as the new information on Whistler comes to the forefront of his mind. “Didn’t come here to talk about that.”
Alex shifts his head against the wall. “Why did you come here?”
Michael sighs again, dirt stained fingers reaching to rub at his brow. Slowly, he takes another step towards Alex’s bunk, waiting for permission before he sits next to the other man. Unlike Alex, he sits on the edge, body bent almost in half, elbows resting on either thigh.
Lifting a shoulder in a half shrug, he says, “Didn’t want to be alone.”
It’s whispered like a secret, like Michael doesn’t want to admit it. He doesn’t look at Alex as the words leave him; keeps his head facing the ground, eyes fixed on his hands. Alex doesn’t answer for a moment, but Michael can feel the heat of his gaze. Can almost imagine the look on his face.
“Yeah,” he says eventually, voice just as quiet as Michael’s had been. “Know what that’s like.”
Michael hadn’t expected that, hadn’t expected honesty. But he does appreciate it.
“Least we’ll be gone soon,” Alex continues when Michael doesn’t reply, the silence between them stretching to something almost awkward.
Michael huffs a laugh that doesn’t sound the least bit amused. “Not soon enough.”
He means it, too. He can feel himself slipping, can feel himself breaking. He isn’t meant for Sona, isn’t meant for the paranoia, the disorganisation. The constant stench of death.
But the more time he spends here, the more his body adjusts -- and he doesn’t want that. Doesn’t want to be accustomed to this.
It’s part of the reason why he’s here.
Alex represents something familiar, something that he knows inside and out. Part of him thinks that he ought to be scared -- knows that he wouldn’t be the only one, not after what everyone had seen Alex do in the yard -- but he isn’t. Quite the opposite, really.
“Lie down,” Alex repeats. He shifts forward, puts a hand on Michael’s back, fingers following the curve of his shoulder. “Sleep.”
“Try,” Alex murmurs. “Might be better, here.”
Michael lifts his face up, brow raised, lips twitching to an almost smile. “Why, because you’ll kill anyone who may try and hurt me?”
It’s said like a joke, his voice tinged with sarcasm, but there’s a very real truth there. A very obvious implication. Even with Sammy dead, paranoia is as much a part of him as his flesh and blood now.
Alex smirks, like it’s some kind of inside joke. “Yes.”
Michael rolls his eyes. “My knight,” he murmurs, but he does shift on the bed; allows his body to be manipulated by Alex’s touch.
They end up lying side by side, Alex’s back against the wall, head resting on his hand. Michael mirrors the position, but lets his head drop to the uncomfortable mattress, cheek resting on the poor excuse of a pillow.
They’re close enough for Michael to feel Alex’s body heat, to hear the even breaths. “Good?”
Michael breathes in, eyes shutting briefly as he nods. It feels odd to be this close to someone, this intimate. It’d been so long since his life resembled anything normal that this type of human contact felt foreign.
But it is good. More than good. He doesn’t trust Alex blindly, but he does trust him with this. Does accept the fact that Alex makes him feel safe enough to sleep.
The tension in his body drains, ebbing away bit by bit and leaving pure exhaustion behind. The bunk is small, definitely not large enough for two grown men, but Michael shifts forward anyway.
It’s with hesitant touches that Alex reaches back, spare arm curling around Michael’s thin torso and pulling him closer to his own body. Michael leans into it, drops his forehead to the crook of Alex’s shoulder, lips parting against skin.
He sighs softly when Alex’s hand wraps around his neck, calloused fingers dipping just beneath the collar of his shirt and resting on inked skin. Alex rubs his neck gently, traces a finger down the lines of his back in a way meant to soothe.
It works. Sleep pulls at his consciousness, and Michael isn’t strong enough to fight it. Not now.
“Sleep,” Alex says again, voice barely more than a whisper. Michael mumbles something incoherent back, too tired to properly reply.
Eventually he does drift asleep, his body relaxed in what feels like the first time in forever.
When he wakes, it’s with the sunrise. Beams of light infiltrate the room, falling through the window in the top corner and illuminating the bunk. Alex is still there. His arms are still swapped around him protectively, eyes open and staring, like he’d been watching Michael sleep. Michael’s face is still pressed into his collar, breath tickling the skin, pressing into the flesh to escape the growing light.
The previous night’s sense of calm is still present, too. Threatening to break as the chaos of Sona awakes, but there.
When he eventually untangles himself from the bed and moves back to his own cell, it’s what allows him to complete the next step of his plan.