Oh Four Thirty-Six
Spoilers: Possible up to season 4 episode 7
Summary: "It should have been obvious to them, by now, that Alex's realm of expertise lay mostly in figuring out complex puzzles, tracking people on the run and shooting them up. Though not necessarily in that order." Set after 4.07.
Disclaimer: Not mine, sorry!
Author’s notes: First PB fanfic, hopefully not the last. This was originally written in response to the "Alex needs a hug" challenge/fest, but then it grew a mind of its own and kind of ate my life.
Also, I'm French so I apologize if my grammar isn't always up to par. I did my best!
Oodles of heartfelt thanks to my best friend Mat, who betaed this live over Skype, even though he is a guy (!) and isn't (yet) interested in the pairing.
Oh Four Thirty-Six
A dream, a shadow in night's soft sounds (...)
He leaps awake to a call half heard,
repelling fear with his muttered words.
"A dream - not real, I'm safe; I'm home."
-- C. Martin
Alex woke up to the diffuse, unexplainable sense of not being alone. A quick check revealed nothing amiss in the sparsely furnished room, but a discreet shuffling noise caught his attention.
Moving without a sound, he slipped out of bed and grabbed his gun on the nightstand, the weight of the cold metal familiar and comforting in his hand. Thumbing the safety off, he crossed the room in silence, bare feet padding noiselessly on the concrete floor, opened the door in one fluid, practiced movement, aimed at the intruder, and froze.
He was former military, special ops, even; to say he was prepared for anything was an understatement. Except, perhaps, the sight of Michael Scofield quietly hyperventilating outside his door. At oh four thirty-six in the morning.
"Michael?" he asked, lowering his gun, mind instantly racing toward possible dangers to himself and the team. "Are we under attack? Is anyone hurt?"
Michael shook his head mutely to both questions. He looked terrible, pale and drawn, dark circles ringing his eyes. He was hugging himself tightly, shivering so hard Alex could hear his teeth rattling.
"Are you all right?"
"Alex," Michael muttered, the syllables of his name jumbled and nearly indistinct. "Please."
A furious Lincoln having changed his mind about smashing him into little pieces, Alex could have handled in his sleep. A visibly distraught Michael reduced to monosyllables? Not so much.
In all fairness, Alex would rather have faced Wyatt armed only with a water-gun.
What was it with people coming to him for emotional support? First Self, and now Michael himself. It should have been obvious to them, by now, that Alex's realm of expertise lay mostly in figuring out complex puzzles, tracking people on the run and shooting them up. Though not necessarily in that order. He was a former soldier and a cop and an ex-drug addict, his personal life was a complete train wreck, and what did these people want from him anyway?
If anyone here deserved a hug, it was him, dammit.
Instead, what he got was a structural engineer from Illinois on the verge of a meltdown, at oh four thirty-seven in the morning. Without a drop of coffee or fast-acting narcotics within reach.
To think one of Bureau's therapists had once called him paranoid when he had casually mentioned how catastrophe seemed to be dodging his steps. Ah! He spent his life surrounded by utterly incompetent imbeciles, and they wondered why he had ended up hooked on hardcore tranquilizers. Frankly, it was a miracle he had held on to sanity that long.
At any rate, he wasn't going to shoot Michael just to escape the inevitably awkward conversation he could see looming in the near future. He really wasn't. But why, oh why, hadn't he run to Sara's room instead of coming here, scared and vulnerable and a living reminder of what Alex couldn't have?
Feeling a headache coming on, he pinched the bridge of his nose and took a deep breath. He tucked his gun in the back of his sweatpants, checking the safety without conscious thought.
"You need to calm down."
"I'm dying," Michael blurted out in a rush. "My head hurts, and I can't breathe." He gasped. "I can't breathe, Alex."
"You're not dying," Alex said. He felt remarkably calm, all things considered. Though he wouldn't have minded a pill or three at that second.
Recovering drug addict, my ass.
"My mom," Michael babbled on, oblivious, clearly running on pure fear, "She had an aneurysm, right when she was my age, and..."
"For god's sake, Michael!" Alex snapped, more harshly than he had intended.
Michael flinched back as if struck. So much for serenity, Alex thought as he closed his eyes for a second, counted to ten backwards in Arabic and took another deep, steadying breath.
He wanted to hate Michael for somehow making this his responsibility, when reason dictated he should have run to Sara. For reminding Alex how much he cared, and more importantly, how much he shouldn't. But it had always been surprisingly hard to stay angry at Michael -- what was it about the man, anyway? -- so he added, more gently, "You're having a panic attack."
Michael stared at him, his eyes wide and uncomprehending.
"It's just anxiety," Alex explained, patiently. "You may feel like you're dying, but you're not. Mostly that's the adrenaline wreaking havoc through your system." He reached for Michael's arm and tugged him inside the room, closing the door behind them. Then he added, wryly, "Welcome to my world. I'd offer you a pill but..." He shrugged. That drew a shaky smile out of Michael.
"I'm not going to die?" the younger man repeated cautiously, his usually quicksilver mind obviously stuck in first gear for the moment.
“No,” Alex replied, then thought about Wyatt's cruel smile and amended, "Not anymore than usual, anyway.”
"Right," Michael said, in a smaller voice than Alex would have liked. "Sorry. It's just..." He cut himself short as a violent shiver coursed through his body.
"Here," Alex said, removing the soft gray hoodie he had been wearing over his t-shirt and handing it to him. Michael's hand were shaking too hard to be of any help, so Alex took a step closer and draped it over Michael's shoulders.
"Come on, take a seat."
He caught Michael's elbow and guided him to the bed, where the young man sat down heavily and buried his face in his hands. Alex hesitated for a second -- how close was too close, and when had he started worrying about such inane things anyway? -- then gave a mental shrug and simply settled next to Michael.
"Mind telling exactly why I'm awake at o'dark hundred on a school night?"
Michael's head snapped up, his eyes narrowing at Alex's slightly dismissive tone.
"A momentary lapse of judgment, clearly," he ground out, jaw clenched, every muscle tensed in anger. He would have looked quite formidable if not for the incessant trembling of his hands. He sprang to his feet, swayed dangerously and nearly fell down on top of Alex.
"Oh for the love of... Sit down, Michael." He rubbed a hand across his eyes. "Look -- I'm sorry. It's been a long day." Then he added, ruefully, "I get cranky."
"You're telling me," Michael murmured, darkly.
Well, well. Wasn't he just the little ray of sunshine tonight?
"Bad dream?" Alex guessed, leaning back against the wall in a casual way of putting some distance between them. He knew from firsthand experience that Michael probably wouldn't want anybody crowding him now.
"Understatement of the century," Michael replied, lightly, not meeting Alex's gaze.
"Want to tell me what it was about?"
There was a silence. Then Michael turned to him and said, simply,
Somehow Alex hadn't expected that.
"I left you there," Michael said in a rush, looking straight into Alex's eyes. "At the courthouse. I left you there and he found you."
Michael nodded tightly, staring down at his lap.
Alex caught his restless hands and held them down, covering Michael's trembling fingers with his own.
"No, he didn't," he reminded him. "You broke me out, remember?"
Michael looked up then, his face frightfully pale.
"You died, Alex," Michael rasped, his voice made rough with the effort of holding back tears. "I left you there, and you died." He stared at Alex, as though willing him to understand. "You died," he said again, softly, intently, as though this, Alex being hurt and dying, was the crux of the crisis, the whole point of this absolutely surreal conversation.
And it was, Alex realized with a jolt. Michael was falling to pieces before his eyes, more upset than Alex had ever seen him, all because of a dream.
Because Alex had died.
"Alex," Michael repeated, in a strangled whisper. And before Alex could start agonizing over boundaries and potential embarrassment, Michael reached out and slid his arms around Alex's back.
He smelled like fear and sweat and something uniquely Michael, a strangely heady combination that had Alex's head spinning even before Michael had finished settling against him. For the first time in years, Alex allowed himself an instant of pure, unadulterated self-indulgence. He drew Michael hard against his chest, felt the other's arms tighten around him in response, and held on.
How long they remained that way, Alex honestly couldn't tell. Far too long, and not even close to being enough, but it'd have to do. Michael wasn't his; this moment between them was an accident, a misstep in a otherwise perfectly defined mathematical relation: Michael and Sara, and himself on the outside.
Back then when he had been chasing Scofield, running after the fractured remnants of his own life, the Company breathing down his neck, he had thought the universe had been out to get him. He understood now that it had only been getting started.
This -- Michael trembling in his arms, face buried in the crook of his neck -- was hell. Alex had no claim on Michael, no right to wrap his arms around him to keep him there... nothing to hold on to after he\ went back to Sara.
And why wouldn't he? The math was easy enough. What man in his right mind would pick a bad-tempered, slightly unstable ex-drug addict over a beautiful smart doctor of the female persuasion? Alex certainly wouldn't, but then again he wasn't exactly the poster boy for sanity and informed choice, as evidenced by his rather ill-advised attraction for socially-stunted creative geniuses from Illinois with alarming tendencies for self-sacrifice.
With every day that passed, it seemed he had to learn to let go of something else, another dream, another hope; and he had, burning bridges behind him as he went, letting himself become a tool in the Company's hand, paring down his expectations of life to the barest, lowest form of survival.
But that hadn't been enough, and now everything that mattered, from his job to to his soul to his son -- don't think about Cameron, don't, don't -- had been wrenched from him. Only Michael remained, only Michael still meant something beyond vengeance, and now Alex wasn't certain he could bear to see him walk away.
This had to stop, right there, right now -- before Alex lost what little was left of his sanity.
"Okay, that's enough."
He felt Michael stiffen in his arms, heard the sudden catch in his breathing, forced himself not to care.
"Time's up. We're even. Now get out."
Alex lips twisted in a sneer as he shoved Michael away from him without gentleness.
"I said -- get the hell out."
Michael frowned, clearly considering Alex's threat. He crossed his arms over his chest in typical Scofield defiance.
"No," he replied at last, infuriatingly calm. "No, I don't think I will."
Alex's eyes narrowed dangerously.
"I'm not Roland. I'm not Pam. You can't browbeat me into submission, or scare me away."
Oh, for -- now he chose to be perceptive?
"Are you done?" Alex repeated, his tone impatient and annoyed.
"I know why you're doing this, Alex," Michael said, shaking his head. "It's not going to work."
"Of course you know," Alex said, annoyed. "You wouldn't have come here otherwise."
"You still haven't answered my question," Michael pointed out, matter-of-fact. "What are you so afraid of?"
It was the proverbial straw.
"Don't play with me, Michael!" he snarled, striding forward in clear menace. Michael stepped back hastily, stopping only when his back hit the wall, green eyes wide and startled. Alex leaned in, effectively trapping the other man between his arms. "Just -- don't."
"Ah," Michael murmured, face set in a thoughtful frown. "So it's not just when you're stoned."
Alex shoved himself away from the wall, away from Michael. Shame rose like bile in his throat but he pushed it back savagely, refusing to feel humiliated.
"I think I liked you better when you were non-verbal," he said, tiredly, wondering when and how he had lost control of the conversation.
There was a pause.
"I think you like me just fine, Alex, " Michael replied, cocking his head to the side, a small, quiet dancing on his lips.
Ah, Alex thought, dizziness washing over him. He took a few staggering steps back, towards the relative safety of his bed and sat down heavily, feeling exposed and disarmed in a way he hadn't allowed himself to be since -- ever.
Alex remained silent. There wasn't much he could answer to that, after all, not without stretching plausible deniability way past its already strained limits.
How the mighty have fallen.
"What is this, Michael?" he asked, aware he was evading the question, too weary to care. "Retribution?"
The outraged surprise on Michael's face would have been very gratifying if Alex hadn't already felt like shooting him. Or himself.
"What? No!" the other man exclaimed, clearly taken aback. "Why would I -- why would you think that?"
"Don't," Alex said, through gritted teeth. "Don't taunt me with what I can't have."
Michael went pale.
"But you can," he said after a long moment, so low Alex almost didn't hear it.
"I can what?" Alex snapped, long past the end of his rope.
"Have it. Me," Michael said, his voice brittle with trepidation. "You can have me."
He couldn't possibly be saying what Alex thought he was saying.
"Don't play with me, Michael!" he snarled, repeating himself and frankly past caring.
"I'm not," the younger man interrupted. He looked on the verge of another panic attack. "I'm not."
Holy -- he was serious.
"What about..." Alex asked with a vague gesture, trying to pull himself together and failing miserably. "What about Sara?"
"Sara?" Michael echoed, quizzically. "What's Sara got to do with anything?"
Surely nobody could be this exasperating on purpose, Alex thought as he sprang up from the bed and stalked to Michael, stopping only inches from the other man's face.
"I don't share, Michael," Alex growled, low in his throat.
Michael looked slightly dazed at the display of possessiveness, but then his expression shifted, became earnest and intent. He grabbed Alex's shoulders and pushed him gently away.
"Sara is a friend. A good friend," he explained, his fingers smoothing out invisible creases on Alex's shirt. "You're -- you're different, Alex." He shook his head. "You and I could never be friends."
Alex flinched, shoulders stiffening instinctively and freeing himself from Michael's light grip.
"I see," he said stiffly.
"No, Alex," Michael added softly, shaking his head. "I don't think you do."
"Then you'd better explain it to me," the older man snapped, crossing his arms on his chest. Before I kick you out, went the unspoken message.
Silence fell as they stared at each other across the room.
"Your eyes, Alex," Michael said quietly. "I know their exact shade of blue." He stopped, looked away, then back at Alex. "I know the grain of your skin, the number of freckles across your nose when you stay out in the sun, the exact curve of your neck."
He took a step forward, closer to Alex, green eyes gleaming with single-minded determination. Slowly, he reached out and closed one hand around Alex's fine-boned wrist, dragging reverent fingers along long-healed wounds with the other.
"The scars on your arms, on your back," Michael murmured. "I could draw you from memory and not forget a single one of them."
Alex's breath caught, and held.
"You and I could never be just friends, Alex," Michael said mildly. Then he added, with a characteristic touch of self-derision, "At least -- not on my end."
He looked up then, his expression soft, his eyes brimming with fear and determination.
"Michael," Alex whispered, reaching out, the urge to touch more powerful and abiding than any instinct of self-preservation. Michael leaned into his hand, took another step, bringing them impossibly close, and kissed him -- chaste, and little more than a press of lips, but still enough to make Alex's knees go weak. He wrapped his arms around Michael, effectively covering up his momentary lapse.
Michael buried his face in Alex's shoulder, nuzzling the delicate skin of his neck and...
And breathing him in, Alex realized abruptly, a flash of arousal coursing through his body like a jolt of electricity.
"You haven't figured me out," Alex murmured, fingers curling possessively around Michael's neck. "Still missing a piece."
"And which one would that be, Alex?" Michael replied gamely, aiming for nonchalant and missing by a mile.
Alex cocked his head and mouthed into Michael's throat, his voice a low growl,
Michael's head snapped back. Pupils blown wide and dark, he stared at Alex's mouth with the concentration that he usually reserved for blueprints and escape plans.
Which was patently unfair -- if Michael kept looking at him like that, Alex's fragile hold on self-restraint would shatter to pieces and...
Fuck it, Alex thought. He's mine.
Framing Michael's face with hands that were no longer shaking, he crushed their lips together in an almost violent kiss, bruising and devouring and so fiercely them Alex had to squeeze his eyes shut against a wave of unexpected, dizzying happiness.
Michael stumbled, nearly collapsing against Alex's chest, and made a small, choked sound that had Alex groaning against his mouth and wrapping his arms tight and secure around his waist. Before long Michael was running his nails across Alex's back and kissing back with startling fervor.
"When?" Alex rasped out after they had broken apart, carding a purposeful hand through Michael's short-cropped hair. At last, he had the right to touch.
This time Michael didn't pretend to misunderstand.
"I don't know," he answered honestly. "Sona?"
"Sona? That was weeks ago! Do you have any idea --" Alex paused, took a deep breath, then resumed in a steadier voice, "Why didn't you say something?"
"I gave you a paper crane!" Michael interrupted, his tone defensive.
Alex's hand stilled, his train of thought effectively derailed.
"... Excuse me?"
Michael shot him a surly look and stepped back, arms crossed over his chest in a display of tangible frustration.
"I made you a paper crane," he repeated, sullenly. "What more do you want?"
For once in his life, Alex was rendered totally and utterly speechless. He stared at Michael in bafflement, mouth working soundlessly.
"The paper crane. Jesus," he muttered after a long minute. "Why not a mix tape, while you were at it?"
Michael's gaze turned shifty.
"I think I need to sit down," Alex said. He plopped down onto his bed and glanced up at Michael, frowning at the expression on the younger man's face. He looked ill with humiliation, which in turn made Alex wonder if that was what kicking a puppy felt like.
What did it say about him that being the cause of Michael's upset was enough to make him feel queasy, when he had no qualms about snapping a man's neck?
"No friendship bracelets?" he asked, lightly. "I'm hurt."
For some reason the question seemed to startle Michael out of his embarrassed squirming. His head snapped up, eyes wide, and he promptly burst out laughing -- real, belly-deep laughter than echoed sharp and clear through Alex's cramped gray room.
It was the first time he had ever heard Michael laugh.
Alex leaned back and let himself look -- at the slight dimples that showed at the corners of Michael's mouth, the way his face lit up with childlike mirth; and to his own surprise, didn't even try to smother the answering smile that tugged at his own lips.
This was a battle he didn't mind losing.
-- end --
I rest my case. *facepalms* Feedback welcome!