Alex’s voice echoes throughout the warehouse, drawing the attention of everyone in the room. He’s going on about a driver, about someone he’d seen while out with Whistler. Michael listens, though he’s focused more on how Alex is talking, on the stuttered words and broken sentences.
It’s not surprising. Keen eyes scanning the masses, mentally cataloguing everything he sees--it’s something he’s done his whole life. It makes him feel prepared, like the knowledge he’s gathered by simply observing will one day come in handy. It’s a safeguard.
Alex in particular is an interesting person to watch. There’s something that draws Michael’s attention, something that makes it hard to pull his eyes away. It’s the way Alex’s body contradicts itself, the way his aura of control is betrayed by fidgeting hands; by full body twitches.
Sometimes it’s quick enough and subtle enough to be missed by anyone who isn’t Michael, by anyone who isn’t watching, waiting for it to happen. Other times, like now, it’s obvious. Awkward, irregular movements. A lack of eye contact. The inability to stay still. The stuttering.
Uncomfortable, Michael thinks. This--leading a chase, commanding a room--it’s his element, and yet it looks like the opposite.
“Find the driver, you find the cardholder,” Alex is saying, eyes landing on Michael for a split second before falling away again, head pointed to the ground.
Silence follows, and a quick glance around the room lets Michael know that more than a few people are impressed by Alex’s display. It confirms his initial suspicion--that they were going to need him much more than anyone had originally anticipated.
“Alright,” he says, pen tapping against the table top. “Then let’s get started.”
They find the driver easily enough, and Michael’s attention is too focused on the next step of the plan for him to fixate on Alex’s attempt at thanks. He tells himself it doesn’t matter, that there are more important things to worry about--which is the truth, plain and simple--but the words stick with him.
The others clock off in the early hours of the morning; retreating to their makeshift beds around two or three. Michael doesn’t--can’t--and neither does Alex.
He stays at the main table, fingers gliding over the pages he’s spent most of the day obsessing over. It’s obvious that his mind doesn’t turn off, that he won’t be able to stop thinking about what needs to be done until they’ve done it.
Michael knows what that’s like. He has the same problem.
“We’ll have to use the maid.”
Alex looks up, surprised to hear the voice. “How do we get the device on her?”
Michael leans back in his chair, hand rubbing at the back of his neck in an attempt to release some of the tension. “Sara,” he says. “There was no car, which means she uses public transport to get to work. Find out where, get Sara to drop it in her bag.”
“You think she can manage?”
“You think she can’t?”
Alex smiles, like a silent apology. “I’m just saying,” he says. “I’ve seen PTSD before, Michael.”
Michael’s arms cross over his chest, and even though he knows better, he still says: “She’s fine.”
There a defensive vibe to it, his tone leaving no room for an argument, and Alex holds his hands up in surrender. “If you say so,” he murmurs, turning back to the paper in front of him. “How do we get the device back?”
“You got a better idea?”
Alex sighs, and it’s almost a laugh. “Alright. How?”
“Consider it your lucky day,” Michael tells him. “You can play law man again. Someone will snatch it, you pretend to catch him. Get the device, hand the bag back. And then…”
Michael’s lips twitch, arms falling back to his sides. “Happy days.”
When they do get back to the warehouse, and Alex informs him that the device wasn’t in the bag, Michael wants to punch something. He hadn’t expected everything to go exactly as planned, but losing the device is a pretty big fuck up.
The room erupts with noise, accusations flying. He tries his best to block out the complaining, the insistent questions, but it’s hard. His head is pounding, his body exhausted, and the added stress isn’t helping.
“It means we’re going in to get it,” he says, voice too loud. It’s practically a shout, but he doesn’t care.
“You said that was impossible.”
Michael’s eyes squeeze shut, fingers reaching to pinch the bridge of his nose. He can’t stop the sigh that leaves him. “Yeah, well…” He leans over the table, palms flat on the surface, and looks over the blueprint. His mind is already generating plans, dismissing bad ideas before they’re even properly formed.
It’s their only shot, and they all know it.
They work well into the night--reviewing plans and information until it all blurs together--and yet Michael still feels like no progress is being made. There’s still no fool proof plan to break in, even less of an idea on how to get out, and having to stop every ten minutes to explain himself is taking more energy than he has to give.
He’s almost glad when people start going to bed. It isn’t a personal thing, not really. He just works better on his own, has since he was a kid.
Next to him, Lincoln is talking; explaining memories of their father that Michael doesn’t share. “Always running from something,” he’s saying. “Mum, us, himself. But the one thing he never ran away from was his belief that the Company needed to be taken down. And we got an opportunity to do that.”
“Then this is our fight,” Michael says. “Not theirs.”
“Man, this ain’t Fox River,” Lincoln tells him. “These guys chose to be here.”
Michael doesn’t say anything, doesn’t look up as Lincoln leaves the room, the words they got a choice echoing with every footfall. Even as the room descends back into silence, the words repeat in his head; over and over. His brother is right, and it’s something Michael has to remember.
He looks at the security information splayed out in front of him, staring but not really seeing. He’s in his head, trying to make sense of the situation they’ve been put it and coming up short.
The sound of a voice makes him visibly startle, and he turns to see Alex, looking at him with something akin to concern.
Michael blinks, shakes his head to focus himself. “Yeah,” he says. “What’d you say?”
“We need to draw attention away from the house,” Alex repeats slowly, looking at Michael from the single desk. His face is cast in shadows, his glasses gleaming in the lamp’s light. “We do something that diverts their attention, makes them come out to see what’s going on. And then…”
“And then we sneak in while no one’s looking,” Michael finishes, eyes widening infinitesimally as his brain starts up again. He turns back to face the main table, sorting through the masses of paper until he finds what he needs.
Alex nods, stands and takes the seat Lincoln had just occupied. “I couldn’t--couldn’t figure out an exact way to do it, but… It’s a nice neighbourhood, right? So…”
Michael pulls the map of the street from the table and lays it out in front of them, hands sweeping over it to smooth the creases. He taps the location of the closest neighbour’s house, a grin pulling at his mouth as he tilts his head to look at Alex.
“The neighbour’s alarm,” he says, and his voice is traced with adrenaline. Like a new, plausible plan has got him excited.
“The neighbour’s alarm.”
Relief consumes him as his hand closes over the device, and he pockets it quickly, turning in the direction they came. There isn’t any time to stick around, and he’s ready to run right through the house and to the waiting car, but the sight of Mahone standing shock-still in the hallway makes him stop.
“Alex,” he says, voice a whispered shout. When Alex doesn’t react, he takes a step closer. “Alex.”
It gets his attention, but when Alex looks up, he looks vacant. Like he barely recognises who Michael is. It’s a little troubling, truthfully, but they don’t have the time. They need to get out, now.
Thankfully, Alex starts to move--following him through the house and out the back door. They both start sprinting once they’re outside, running as fast as they can to make it to the car before getting caught.
“You get it?” Sara asks once they’re a few streets away, the others not that far ahead of them.
“Yeah,” Michael breathes, pulling it from his pocket as proof. He isn’t looking at the device, though; his gaze pointed at the rear-view mirror instead.
The vacant look is back on Alex’s face, and when Michael looks for it, he can see the tremor in his hands. He wants to ask--wants to know--but he knows it isn’t the time for it. Alex opening up to him is a long shot in itself, and he doesn’t think Sara’s presence will help any.
So he looks away, leans against the car seat, and closes his eyes instead; the rest of the drive passing in silence.
Alex’s hands shake long after the phone has gone silent.
Felicia’s words echo in his head, and her promise to help should make him feel better, but it doesn’t. Saying the words out loud--admitting to someone what had happened--it makes it so much more real.
He shuts his eyes against the onslaught of emotion that threatens to break him, and takes a shuddering breath as memories play behind his lids. Flashes of Pam, still in the hospital, their baby boy held so delicately against her chest. Of a toddler-aged Cameron, still hiding behind his father’s legs when faced with someone new. Of a smaller hand held in his. Of a laugh, pure and sweet.
Of yellow tap and flashing sirens, of the way the officers’ hands had felt, harsh in their attempt to hold him back. Of a child sized gurney and crimson stained carpet, the familiar stench of blood thick in the air. Of Pam’s tear stained face, of the way she’d barely been able to lo--
Even outside, standing in fresh air, he feels like he can’t breathe. Like his body has stopped working. He gasps for it, eyes wide open now, back pressed against brick wall to help keep himself standing.
His hands itch for midazolam, for the calm, controlled feeling it had once offered. But he knows that it would be of no use, that momentary relief will do nothing in the long run. There is only one thing that stands a real chance in making him feel better, and the peace of a temporary fix isn’t it.
Thumb brushing the surface of his phone, Alex takes another deep breath; reminds himself that he will get to them in the end, that whoever murdered his son will pay.
It’s with that thought to calm him that he makes his way back to the warehouse, slipping through the door and standing to the side as the others talk. The board behind Michael is filled with new information, and he trails his eyes over it, trying to make sense of it in his head before he offers anything to help.
He can hear Sucre complaining, asking why Tuxhorn would have an email about London if he has no business there, and it gives him an idea. He steps closer to the group, takes a closer look at the board.
“Probably because the email is a code,” he says, announcing himself.
Michael turns to him, and Alex can tell that Michael knows there’s something wrong with him; that he recognises his dishevelled state and chooses not to mention it. He’s thankful for it--thankful that the two of them are similar enough that Michael knows it isn’t something to address in a room full of people, if at all.
And when Michael murmurs Alex, I’m so glad you joined us before turning back to the board, Alex knows they’re on the same page.
Returning from Anaheim brings some relief, not least of which is no longer being locked in a car with Lincoln. Even if his attitude seems to have pulled a one-eighty, Alex knows he’s not forgiven, and spending every second of the day anticipating a fight is taking more energy than he has to give.
The relief is short lived, though. The mention of a stargazer’s club sends him back to the past, and even as he tries to stay focused on the work, he can’t stop the memories it brings forth.
He covers his mouth with both hands, eyes glued to the familiar screen. The conversation around him fades to white noise, his mind in another place, a better place--where Cameron sits next to him near the window, one hand pointing to the screen and the other to the sky.
Roland’s voice draws him back to reality, and he looks up just in time to see him stand, to see him answer Michael’s calm a lot of people have died with a shout about how that was their problem, and Alex--Alex doesn’t think before he acts. He’s out of his seat in an instant, taking calculated steps towards Roland. He’s still shouting when Alex wraps both hands around his neck, the words only dying when he’s pushed against the table; Alex’s fingers pressing into his skin, restricting his airflow.
He hears a commotion around him, and it could be someone shouting his name, but all Alex can think of is Cameron--too young and too innocent to be caught up in his father’s mess, and he doesn’t care that Roland’s face is turning red, that his eyes are watering and that he’s struggling to breathe. All he cares about is Cameron, and right now his son’s faceless murderer may as well be the one on the table.
He only stops when Lincoln pulls him away, the sound of his shaky, shuddering breath drowned out by Roland’s choking for air, by the loud gasps that echo through the warehouse. Lincoln nudges him to the side, and Alex goes, one hand holding the other to halt the shaking that never seems to stop.
He tries to level his breathing, tries to get himself under control, but it’s a futile effort and he knows it. He hasn’t felt in control of anything for months, now. He tries to stay focused on the work like the rest of them, though the adrenaline is still coursing through his veins, making him feel unsteady on his feet.
But when Michael says they need to run, he runs.
The water surrounding the warehouse is nothing like a tropical getaway--it isn’t crystal clear with yellow sand, isn’t the picturesque backyard he’d once wanted--but it can be calming. Refreshing, even.
Especially now, when the world around them has mostly gone to bed. When Alex’s only company is the night sky and cool breeze, is the occasional horn in the distance, the gentle crash of water against concrete.
He’s sitting near the edge, legs crossed and body hunched in on itself; the file Felicia had sent held against his chest. He has no idea how long he’s been here--had come after his discussion with Lincoln--but he’s been out long enough to have watched the sky fade from blue to black.
The sound of someone approaching doesn’t surprise him, and he doesn’t need to turn around to know that it’s Michael. He’s been waiting for it, had known that Michael’s curiosity would get the better of him sooner or later--just as it would to him, had their roles been reversed.
He doesn’t look up when Michael sits next to him, doesn’t tear his eyes away from where he’s watching the ripples of the water. Michael doesn’t say anything at first, just sits, looking into the distance.
“Lincoln told me,” he admits finally, not adding anything more than that.
Alex exhales, fingers brushing over the envelope in his lap. He isn’t exactly surprised. “Then I’ll tell you what I told him,” he says, still not looking at Michael. “I can do my job.”
“That’s not why I’m here.”
“I want to apologise.”
Michael’s voice is low enough that it almost gets lost in the wind, but Alex hears him. It makes his mouth twist into a bitter smile, one that falls away seconds after it’s formed.
“You didn’t kill him.”
“Neither did you.”
Alex huffs, the noise a pained puff of air, and turns to Michael. “They did it because of me. Because they wa--” He cuts himself off, head shaking, and looks down again. He can’t finish the sentence, can’t talk around the lump in his throat.
Michael seems to get the message. He quiets, foot playing with a spare crate, the wind rustling around them. And then, “Come inside.”
“Last I checked, my presence wasn’t exactly welcomed.”
“Maybe not before,” Michael doesn’t deny, “but you got Roland to shut up, which means you’re practically a hero now.”
Alex snorts, tilts his head to look at Michael. “What, no smart comment about not choking teammates?”
“Would you listen?”
“Then no.” He looks back to the warehouse, the windows glowing with light. “Just come and eat dinner. Get warm.”
“It’s not that cold.” It’s a lie. It’s freezing, but he’s been sitting on the dock long enough now that he’s gone numb.
For him, that’s an improvement.
Alex can see the smile on Michael’s face; the mix between exasperation and mirth. “Get some sleep, then.”
Alex offers an amused huff; like the idea of sleep is nothing more than a mere joke. “I’m not keeping you here, Michael.”
“You’re not,” Michael agrees. “But you do look exhausted, and passing out isn’t part of the plan. We’ve got five more of these things to find, and I’m going to need your help.”
Alex sighs, but eventually stands, watches Michael do the same. “Don’t tell me I’ve made it onto the list of people you care about.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
Shrugging, Michael answers, “It does mean I might break you out of prison one day.”
“You already did that.”
“Yes, but that wasn’t for you.”
Alex’s mouth twitches, a hint of a smile. “With any luck, there won’t be a prison for you to break me out of.”
Michael dips his head in acknowledgement, opening the warehouse door for Alex to pass through. “One can hope.”
Michael knows their situation is far from ideal. He knows that, given the chance, they’d all be far away from the warehouse; trying to pull together the remnants of their broken lives. But here they are, and like it or not, here they have to stay.
For him, the days blur together. He doesn’t focus on time outside of deadlines, doesn’t care if it’s two in the afternoon or four in the morning. He’s living not day to day, but card to card. Plan to plan.
He knows it’s not healthy, but he doesn’t care. Can’t care. He wants it over with, as quickly as possible, and if that means losing sleep to plan, well. It wouldn’t be the first time.
Currently, he’s staring at pictures of the LAPD, taking notes on the uniform so Sucre knows what he needs to buy. He feels rather than sees a body creep up on him, and he turns from the laptop to see Alex, one hand flat on the table as he all but leans over Michael.
“You won’t find the badge,” he says, looking over the frames of his glasses to inspect Michael’s screen. “They’re careful with those things.”
“What’s your plan?”
Michael shrugs. “We’ll have to break in.”
Alex steps back, takes the seat next to Michael. “Is that your answer to everything?”
A grin pulls at Michael’s mouth. “You ever been to one of these things?”
“Not for a long time.”
“Then you’re coming,” Michael tells him. “You, me, and Linc will go. With any luck, we’ll be in and out in ten minutes.”
Alex nods. “Any idea what we’re going to do about Bagwell?”
“Nope,” Michael admits. “And right now, I don’t care. Future me can worry about it.”
“Future you?” Alex asks, eyebrow raised. “I’d hate to be that guy.”
Michael stands, grabs the shopping list. “You have no idea.”
“Well that was…”
“Shit?” Lincoln supplies, pulling the car door shut. He’s already unbuttoning the police shirt, rubbing at his neck where the fabric had sat as Sucre pulls away from the building.
Michal sighs. “Would’ve been okay without the murder.”
“Look, man,” Lincoln starts, but Michael waves the words away.
“Better him than you.”
“He probably deserved it, anyway,” Alex adds, pulling the cap from his head and running a hand through his hair. “And we got the card, so who cares.”
“Someone must’ve seen us,” Brad says, sitting awkwardly between Alex and Lincoln in the back seat. “There were cops everywhere.”
Michael hums, fingers already flying across his phone’s keyboard, pulling up Self’s contact. “It’ll be dealt with.”
“Besides, we’re already wanted. What difference does it make?”
Lincoln’s words don’t seem to calm Brad, who can’t stop glancing out the rear window, looking for anyone who may be following.
“You think he recognised all three of you?” Sucre asks, glancing at Lincoln in the rear-view mirror before turning back to the road.
“Doubt it,” Lincoln tells him. “Maybe Michael. But doesn’t matter either way, he had no time to tell anyone.”
The car falls silent after that, the only sounds coming from outside. Michael watches the backseat in the rear-view; watches Brad’s nervous twitches and the way Lincoln’s leg jiggles, a sign that he isn’t as unbothered as he’d like them all to think.
Halfway through the drive back he catches Alex pull his phone out, brow furrowing as he texts. He sends more than one, like he’s having a conversation with someone, and then shuts it with a definite snap.
Michael sees him shift forward, feels Alex wrap a hand around the head of his seat. “I’m gonna be gone for a half hour.”
Michael leans towards him, looks over his shoulder. “Who?”
The way he says it tells Michael all he needs to know, so he doesn’t bother asking for more information. “Alright.”
Alex nods, sliding back in his seat. He crosses his arms over his chest, turns his head to look out the window, and stays silent the rest of the ride.
Working on the third card with the team split isn’t ideal, but it does go better than Michael had thought it would. He and Lincoln have always been a good team, and, aside from the complaining, Self isn’t half bad.
There are times where he catches himself turning, wanting to reach for Alex before remembering that he isn’t involved with this one, and that even if he were, he likely wouldn’t be much help now, anyway.
He can see him moving around the warehouse, though. Working alongside Sara and Roland to find Wyatt before Wyatt finds him. There’s an urgency to it, a desperation. As if Alex’s whole life depends on this one job.
It’s interesting to watch. The way he’s so obviously focused on one thing. The way determination seems to take over his body, the way it straightens his back, makes him steady--like it’s what’s keeping him together.
Absently, Michael thinks it probably is.
Dragging his eyes from Mahone, he turns to see Lincoln, bag of supplies hoisted over one shoulder, and nods. “Yeah.”
“How’d it go?”
Michael turns to the voice, gaze zeroing in on where Alex sits, huddled in the corner of the warehouse. He steps towards him, fingers brushing over the pages of plans he holds in his hand. “Okay.”
Michael’s lips twitch, the barest hint of a smile. “There were some complications,” he admits. “But we got it in the end.”
Alex nods. “Good.”
“What about you?”
Alex looks to him, draws his arms around himself almost protectively. He tucks his hands under his forearms, but Michael can still see the slight movements; the twitching. “What about me?”
Near now, Michael takes a seat a few meters from Alex. He glances to the papers laid out in front of him, things that have nothing to do with their next cardholder. “Sara told me about your conversation,” he says. “I know you’re going after Wyatt.”
Alex hums, noncommittal. Michael meets his eyes, notes the apprehension that rests there.
“Look,” he starts, sighing. He leans back in his chair, free hand running down the length of his thigh, smoothing out the fabric of his pants. “Sara likes to think that you won’t kill him. That we can do this without people getting hurt, and I get it. But I never thought you weren’t going to kill him. And I--” he sighs, looks Alex in the eye. “I want you to know that I’m not going to stop you,” he says. “Do what you have to.”
Alex nods again--a small, jerky movement. He hadn’t cared if anyone approved of his plans or not, but it is good to know that Michael isn’t going to stop him.
“And don’t die.”
The words bring a smile to Alex’s face. He shifts towards Michael, repeats the words that had once been said to him. “It almost sounds like you care.”
Michael dips his head, hides his grin. “Stranger things have happened.”
“I don’t miss this.”
Michael shifts his gaze from the road to Alex, noting the slouched posture before turning back. “Not a fan of stakeouts?”
Alex shakes his head. “I always got bored,” he says. “And, I mean--when I started out, my partner was an idiot. He never shut up. Used to drive me up the wall.”
They’ve been sitting in the car for hours now, staring at the dimly lit street. They’re waiting for Edison to come home, hoping to get the fourth card without having to use Plan B. Even if following him to the races is doable, this is infinitely easier, and if there’s anything any of them need right now, it’s easy.
“Is that an elaborate way of telling me to shut up?”
“I think I’d just tell you outright.”
Michael’s lips twitch, a brief smile that falls away as quick as it comes. He crosses his arms against his chest, fingers tapping silently against his bicep. “I hate the waiting,” he admits. “Always feel like there’s something better to do.”
“You know that’s exactly why your brother made you come tonight, right?” Alex points out. “So you’d have nothing but waiting to do.”
Humming, Michael shifts in his seat. “He thinks I’m overworking myself.”
“Aren’t we all?” Michael counters. “You sleep even less than I do.”
“But not on purpose,” Alex tells him. “You work through the night because you think you have to, I do it because my only other option is staring at the ceiling while listening to Bellick snore.”
Michael huffs, head turning against the car’s seat to look at Alex again. “And here I was, thinking you did it for my company.”
“That too,” Alex answers, sarcastic. “Watching you mutter to yourself at four A.M. is really what’s making this worthwhile.”
Michael laughs properly now, almost surprised to hear it. “You know that’s why I cut my hair,” he says, looking back at the street. “Before I started talking to myself, I used to tug on it--gave myself headaches. Linc chased me with the razor.”
Alex looks at him from the corner of his eye, voice faux sympathetic when he says, “That must have been traumatising.”
“Oh, it was,” Michael tells him. “My boyfriend broke up with me a week later. Said it was because he found someone new, but I’m pretty sure it was the hair thing.”
Alex leans his head against the window, allows himself to smile. “Boyfriend, huh?”
Michael nods slowly, not looking at Alex. “That didn’t come up in your investigation?”
“Everyone I spoke to said you had no personal life.”
“Mostly true,” Michael confesses. “But it did happen. Lincoln hated him.”
“That doesn’t surprise me.”
“He was overprotective,” Michael admits. “But he took good care of me.”
“Must have,” Alex murmurs. “For you to do what you did.”
Michael sighs, hands falling back to his lap. “You can ask, you know.”
Alex doesn’t bother playing dumb, just says: “Do you regret it?”
“Not at all?”
Michael exhales slowly. “There are things I wish I could change,” he admits. “People I want to bring back, things I wish I hadn’t done. But the initial plan? Saving my brother’s life? No.”
“You don’t miss your old life?”
Michael looks at him from the corner of his eye, contemplating. “I miss being an engineer the same way you miss being an agent.”
“I worked my ass off for that badge.”
“I know. Same way I worked for my degree,” Michael says. He could say more, but he doesn’t want to--doesn’t like thinking about everything he’d given up. So instead he says: “What about you?”
“Ever have a boyfriend break up with you over a haircut?” He keeps his voice light--playful, even--but there’s a deeper question there. One he’s almost scared to get an answer to.
Alex huffs through his nose, turns to look at Michael, a mixture of confusion and amusement on his face. “We’re playing Questions now?”
Michael shrugs. “Gotta pass the time somehow.”
“We’re not fifteen.”
“You don’t have to answer.”
“Fine,” Alex says eventually, slowly. “No. But they never got much of a chance. I wasn’t really the dating type.”
“I didn’t take you for a playboy.”
“I wouldn’t call it that.”
“Boredom,” says Alex. “Never liked sticking to one thing, back then.”
Alex lifts one shoulder in a half shrug. “I mellowed out in the army,” he admits, fingertips scratching lightly on the steering wheel. “By the time I met Pam I was over everyone’s bullshit. And now--well. I’m more than over it.”
Michael grins, chin tucked against his chest. “Ready to disappear into the woods and never show your face again?”
“It doesn’t sound so bad,” Alex tells him, truthfully. Being alone, surrounded only by nature--Alex thinks he’d like it. “But to answer your real question,” he continues, voice low. “Yes.”
Michael meets his eye, holds it for a second, and then looks away. “Your turn to ask a question.”
Alex shifts in his seat, thinking. He already knows the basic stuff, had discovered more than a bit in his original investigation, so questions like where were you born? and where did you grow up? are pointless.
“Why Bagwell?” he eventually asks, thinking back to prior months, where he’d still been trying to connect the dots. It was one of the things he’d never managed to piece together. Not definitely.
“Almost everyone you broke out of Fox River had a purpose in your plan,” Alex explains, “or you had another reason to do it. But Bagwell--I don’t get why you’d break him out.”
Michael sighs, leans against the car door. “There was a riot,” he says. “T-bag discovered the hole in my cell. Bringing him along was the only way to make sure he didn’t talk.”
“I take it that’s one of the things you regret?”
Michael’s mouth twitches. “Technically, you can’t ask two questions in a row.”
“We’re playing by the rules now?”
“Fair point,” Michael concedes. “We tried to get rid of him, but he’s like a cockroach.”
“Hard to kill,” Alex murmurs, finishing Michael’s thought. He nods, keeps his eyes on the street. “Your turn.”
“What’s your favourite childhood memory?”
“That’s your play? Get personal quickly?”
“Would you rather I ask what your favourite colour is?”
“It’s blue,” Alex tells him, definitely not smiling when he catches Michael roll his eyes. “No, alright,” he starts, trying to think of a memory. His childhood isn’t what he would call a happy one, but it wasn’t what he’d call tragic, either. Just average, with enough bad scattered throughout that he preferred not to think about it. “Alright,” Alex repeats. “We never had a lot of money, but around thirteen, fourteen--I saved some up. Ran away for the day, blew it all at the sweets shop. I knew it’d be hell when I went back home, but. You know.”
“It was worth it,” Michael finishes. There’s an odd glint to his eye when he looks at Alex, something between curiosity and surprise.
“Yeah,” Alex ends, and it’s almost awkward. He takes a deep breath, and the moment passes as if it never existed at all. “Favourite book as a kid?”
“Fiction or fact?”
“Only you would have a favourite nonfiction childhood book,” Alex says, sighting quietly. “Fiction.”
“I’m sure I will.”
“Sherlock,” Michael answers, and Alex snorts quietly.
“Lincoln and I were moved around a lot,” Michael says as way of explanation. “We didn’t get to keep much, but I managed to hold onto this book my mother used to read us--the one with the short stories. Linc read it to me after she died.”
“Is everything about you tragic?”
“Yes,” Michael answers, and his voice is playful now, relaxed. He and Alex--this is new for them, Michael thinks. They don’t really do relaxed. But it’s nice. Refreshing.
Something he could get used to.
They’ve moved closer, somehow, throughout the night. Michael is all but leaning into Alex’s seat, his head tilted to watch Alex, to stare at him. His face is half hidden in shadows, the light from the street illuminating the car in a soft glow and catching in pale blue eyes. They look almost grey, Michael thinks, with the way they are.
There is no reason for them to be this close.
He opens his mouth, the next question lingering on his lips, but he doesn’t get to the chance to ask. Alex shifts in the next second, fingers twisting the keys, starting the car, and Michael has to pull away before Alex notices their proximity. Before it gets weird.
“This guy’s not gonna show,” Alex says, pulling out in the street. “No point waiting around when we can get some rest.”
Michael has no choice but to agree.
By the time they make it back to the warehouse, it’s early morning and everyone’s already asleep. Michael eyes the boat, considers going to lie next to Sara, but he eventually decides against it. He knows she doesn’t sleep much, knows that disturbing her will ruin what little rest she’s getting now.
So he turns to Alex instead, looking at him in the light of the refrigerator. “You gonna sleep?”
Alex takes a drink from the water he’d grabbed, downing half the bottle in one go, and shrugs. “Might try,” he says. “There’s nothing we can do till morning.”
Michael nods slowly, and Alex stares, head tilting to the side; like he’s trying to figure Michael out. He has flashes of that night in Sona, the night that seems so long ago, now. He sees Michael curled against his side, sleeping for what must have been the first time in days, and he gets it.
“My bunk’s big enough for two.” It’s said nonchalant, like an invitation--something that’ll let Michael think it’s Alex’s idea. “And I stole Roland’s pillow.”
Michael laughs softly, hand rubbing at his face. “You think maybe we ought to be nicer to him?”
“Not really,” Alex answers, shutting the fridge. “You coming?”
He doesn’t wait for an answer, just walks off in the direction of the bed. He’s keeping it casual, knows Michael will overthink it if he doesn’t.
Michael hesitates but follows, and Alex smiles to himself. They walk past the others, down the row of bunks until they reach the end, where Alex’s bed is pushed against the wall. There’s another one on the other side of the room--Michael’s one--but neither of them so much as glance at it. Alex knows that, right now, Michael needs the solid weight of another body next to him, that he needs warmth.
“How do you wanna...” he asks quietly, trailing off. He slips his shoes off, fingers stalling at the waistline of his pants. He usually just slept without, but with Michael... He keeps them on, moves to pull the blanket back instead.
Michael slips in against the wall, turning to his side so his back rests against it, and Alex follows, pulling the blanket around them and resting a hand on Michael’s shoulder.
“Closer,” he murmurs, urging Michael to lean against his body; to let the tension go so they can actually get comfortable. “Relax.”
Michael does as he’s told, shifting against the mattress and letting himself breathe gently, willing his body’s stress away. It’s a tight fit, just as Sona had been, but it’s nice.
It does the job.
“I think I miss my bed the most,” Michael says, barely a whisper. He’s hardly had a goodnight’s sleep since well before Fox River.
“Count your blessings,” Alex responds. “At least this one has clean sheets.”
Michael snorts softly, the warm air tickling Alex’s neck, but doesn’t respond. He closes his eyes instead, lets the reassuring weight of Alex lull him to sleep.
The plan had been to wake before the others; to be out of bed and sitting at the main table before Lincoln had so much as stumbled to the shower.
Instead, Michael wakes to bright light and the sound of someone calling his name.
It doesn’t register as his name at first, just an incoherent noise in the distance, so instead of answering, he shifts against Alex’s frame, face nuzzling against the defined chest. He hums softly, trying to cling to the last threads of sleep.
He can feel arms wrapped around him, can feel a warm hand pressed to the small of his back, calloused fingers touching the skin where his shirt had ridden up. It’s warm, comfortable. Safe. He has no intention of leaving voluntarily.
But the noise in insistent, and eventually he groans, hand rubbing at his face as he rolls away from Alex, back pressed to the wall once more. He opens his eyes, and then stills when he sees who’s there, no longer tired.
Lincoln has a hand on the bunk’s frame, eyebrows raised as he looks down at him. Behind him, Sucre has a smirk on his face, like his trying not to laugh. Michael glances to his left, finds Roland still snoring--thank god--and Bellick looking away awkwardly.
“Uh,” he starts, voice thick with sleep. He shifts again, sits up on the bed. “Good morning?”
Sucre’s face breaks out into a grin, and next to him Alex stirs, eyes cracking open to glance first at Michael and then to Lincoln. He, too, sits up; letting the blanket drop as he stretches, yawns. He doesn’t look disconcerted, and Michael has to give him props for that.
“Late night?” Lincoln asks, and Michael feels like he’s sixteen again, desperately trying to hide the boy in his bed so his big brother doesn’t see. It’s an odd sensation, one he’d never thought he’d feel again.
“Didn’t get back till three,” Alex answers when Michael doesn’t, standing from the bunk with tired movements. He grabs the device from where Michael had left it, holding it out for Lincoln to take. “Didn’t get the card, either.” He turns back to Michael, lips pulled in a half smile. “You gonna shower first, or am I?”
It can’t be happening, Michael thinks. It just--it can’t be. “You,” he says at last, though he hardly registers the word as it passes through his lips, too focused on the look on Lincoln’s face, on the question lingering behind his eyes. The accusation.
As he steps up and away from the bunk, he’s almost glad their planned day is so busy. It makes it easy to avoid the conversation he knows it coming.
Alex’s voice is croaky on the other end, his breathing just loud enough for Michael to hear. It’s shaky, Michael thinks. Unsteady.
He shuts his eyes as the line goes quiet, as he hears Sara approach him, as he hears her voice ask if he’s ready, and he thinks back to just moments before, to the conversation they’d had.
Sara’s words play in his head, and he knows what the obvious answer is. Knows that Alex might not have risked everything to get him out, but Michael can’t help but think that maybe--maybe he would have. Maybe he means more to Alex, now. Maybe--
He clenches his hand around the phone, thumb rubbing over its surface, and turns to face Sara. He knows that she knows something is up, that something has changed. Knows that she can read it on him.
He sighs, softly, quietly, and Sara stares, nods. Her eyes meet his, and Michael knows she understands. That she knows what he’s thinking.
“Okay,” she murmurs, hand trailing over his arm, and that’s all there is to it.
Michael snaps the phone shut, cutting Self off before he can finish his next question, and crouches down to grab the jump cable from his bag.
“You sure about this?” Lincoln asks, taking it from him. “Not the blackout, I mean--You wouldn’t do this for just anyone.”
Michael sighs. He recognises that tone from their childhood, recognises the real question Lincoln is asking. Still, instead of a proper answer, he says: “He’s valuable to the team.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“I just--” Lincoln cuts himself off, sighing. “You sweet on him?”
The words are blunt, said in that matter-of-fact way that Lincoln had always preferred, and that Michael had always shied away from. It makes him stop his movements, makes him look away from Lincoln’s face.
He doesn’t say anything, just shrugs in a way that could mean yes, but could also mean please stop, now. He knows Lincoln will take it as a mix of both.
“What about Sara?”
Michael sighs again, heel of his palm rubbing at his eye. “Sara says it’s okay,” he says, quietly. “We’re fine, Linc. It’s all… fine.”
Lincoln looks like he wants to continue the line of questioning, but his phone rings in the next second, and the conversion’s cut short by Sucre on the other end of the line.
Michael doesn’t look at Lincoln in the eye even after they get the go signal.
They end up in the car together, naturally, and although there’s not much talking on the drive back, Michael meets Alex’s gaze in the rear-view mirror. He tilts his head in a minuscule nod--like he knows exactly what Alex is thinking, like he’s already accepted the thanks and is ready to move on--and watches as Alex exhales slowly, as he calms down.
It’s reminiscent of the first cardholder, of Alex’s first attempt at thanks--only now their positions are reversed, and only now Michael isn’t quite sure how true you’re here because we needed you, not because we wanted you is anymore.
There is a change, after that. A shift in their dynamic.
Michael can’t explain it. It’s inexplicable, the way it happens. Slow and subtle, but there. There’s no time to fixate on it, not between the stress of everything that’s going on, but. Well.
He can’t help but notice.
It’s no more apparent than when it’s just the two of them, when it’s late at night and everyone else has gone to bed, when they’re sitting across from each other, bouncing ideas off each other--more casual now than they had been before. Than when Alex laughs with him, the sound echoing off the warehouse walls, when Michael finds it harder to hide his grin, to bite back his smile. When he finds it harder to stay away, to not lean into Alex when he stands over him, next to him, near him.
It feels an awful lot like flirtation, the way they work, the way they move around each other. Like their plans are innuendos--which is ridiculous, Michael knows, because it’s work, and yet...
And yet the feeling sticks, and he can’t shake it, no matter how hard he tries.
It all comes to a head after the fiasco with Bagwell.
They’re in the car, just the two of them. Michael’s gaze is fixed on Alex’s hands, on the way his fingertip trails over the edge of the ruined crane, his nail scratching over the fold. Michael reaches a hand forward and plucks it from him, almost without thinking, and their hands brush, the touch lingering perhaps a moment longer than it should.
“You tried to refold it,” Michael murmurs, copying Alex’s movements. He folds it again, now--straightening out the wings and pressing the head down again. Alex watches, hums softly.
They’re parked in the warehouse, with Bellick gone for a walk outside, and there is so much to do--even more, now that Gretchen has reared her head, now that Bagwell is involved, now that Roland has lost the device--but. This moment is theirs.
“It’s easy,” Michael answers, and he looks up through his eyelashes, meets Alex’s gaze from across the car. There is a heat there, resting behind cool blue eyes. Michael imagines it’s mirrored in his own.
“You should teach me,” Alex says. “Sometime.”
They’re not really talking about the crane anymore, Michael thinks, though he isn’t entire sure what they are talking about. Something to do with this thing between them, this tension. It’s been bubbling, he knows it has, and he’d felt it approaching its boiling point--back somewhere between a late-night talk and a phone call through bars--and. Well.
The decision to send Sara to Vegas hadn’t been an entirely selfless one. He’d thought, maybe, he and Alex…
“Stop overthinking it.”
Michael looks at Alex again, swallows, looks down. He doesn’t know what to say, how to answer, but then he doesn’t have to. In the next second, Alex is leaning across the middle of the car, is cupping his cheek, fingertips warm and rough as they tilt his head up, and they’re breathing the same air, so close it would take barely anything to kiss, and--
The first touch, when it comes, is gentle, is tender. It’s not what Michael had expected, but it is better than he’d imagined. Alex works his mouth open slowly, kisses him like it’s a practiced art, until Michael is panting, is moaning. Until they’re both aching for more.
“Not in the car,” Alex murmurs, and Michael wants to whine, doesn’t want to wait, but he follows Alex out, lets him lead them up the stairs, to his bunk.
There’s no time to do it properly, Michael thinks. No privacy. Bellick could come back at any second, and the others are set to return soon, but. He wants. Has wanted, for the longest time.
“Lie down,” Alex murmurs, hands sliding over his waist, and Michael looks at him, wants to ask if he’s sure, but Alex kisses the question off his lips. “I’m done waiting,” he says, and Michael nods once before settling down on Alex’s bed.
Alex’s body settles atop his own, his hands pushing Michael’s shirt up, his fingertips trailing over skin in light, teasing touches, and Michael grabs him, pulls him closer, pulls his mouth back to his. Alex grinds their hips together as they kiss, and Michael would feel embarrassed for getting so hard so quickly, only he can’t focus enough to care about anything other than touch, than sensation.
Suppressed desire--it’s the perfect precedent for desperation. He bucks up, matches every grind of Alex’s hips with his own, his fingers twisting in fabric, curling over the curve of Alex’s shoulders, keeping him close. Alex’s mouth curls where is kisses his jaw, his neck, and Michael feels fingers brush his abdomen, feels them fiddle with his fly.
He helps Alex, helps him remove their clothing, hands pushing and pulling until they’re both in a state of undress, with shirts half buttoned and pushed up, out of the way, with pants lying in a heap next to the bunk, their underwear sitting around their thighs, making it hard to move. But even then, even when each movement is awkward, stunted, it is enough. Is more than enough.
The feel of Alex’s hands on him, of Alex’s mouth on him--it draws a moan from Michael, makes him bite his tongue, makes Alex smirk at him, like he knows, like he’s proud of himself for reducing Michael to this.
“Please,” Michael whispers, the sound almost lost under the rustle of fabric, and Alex nods, kisses him again, lets their desperate grinding stop. Replaces it with the pressure of his hands, wrapped around both of their cocks, his movements eased by spit, by precome.
It doesn’t matter much that they don’t have the supplies, nor the time, to do it how they want to--doesn’t matter that Alex can’t lay Michael down, can’t torture him with slow, lazy touches, can’t make him fall apart in his hands with nothing but sweet kisses and well placed words. They wouldn’t last for it--too desperate, too needy, too happy to finally, finally, have each like this; like a closing act to a drawn-out performance, like the climax of their cat-and-mouse.
“Michael,” Alex says--growls, almost--and Michael comes, just like that; Alex’s name falling from his lips like a whispered prayer. Alex follows shortly after, his mouth seeking Michael’s, their kiss muffling his groan.
They end in a heap of tangled limbs, their heavy breathing loud in the otherwise empty warehouse. Alex’s body curls around his, his forehead dropping to Michael’s shoulder, and it’s nice, Michael thinks. Things will have to be dealt with later, but for now--Michael will cherish the rare spot of tranquillity while he can.
Later--when the others have returned, when the warehouse is filled once again with the hustle of movement, with the stress of work, with the sound of sighs and groans and general frustration at the predicament they’ve been placed it--Michael watches Alex.
Subtly, from behind his work, where no one will catch him. He doesn’t have a whole lot of optimism left, but he thinks--maybe--they might just manage to get the job done. That, afterwards, they might just manage to have a shot at together.
At least, he can hope.