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Salt In Our Wounds

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“He’ll be okay, Mikey.”

Liz’s words register in his ears, but looking down at Alex, battered and bruised, lying prone on a hospital bed surrounded by beeping equipment, Michael finds he can’t share her optimism.

“You don’t know that.” His voice is like broken glass, shot after screaming himself hoarse as they looked for Alex in the abandoned building his kidnappers were holding him in. He hasn’t left Alex’s side since they found him, his own cuts and bruises secondary to the growing chasm of pain swallowing him from the inside out the longer Alex stays unconscious.

Michael.” When she says his full name this time he looks at her and sees a fire burning in her eyes. “He’ll be okay. He has to be.”

It’s then that Michael understands her conviction. She doesn’t know, not really. But even the suggestion that Alex won’t make it, that he won’t wake up in the next five minutes, bitching about all the people fussing over him for no reason, it’s—it’s too much for her to contemplate. With Max no closer to being resurrected than he was five months ago, it’s just too fucking much.

They can agree on that much at least.

Michael’s eyes land back on Alex, at the hand he has cradled between his own like the precious thing it is.

“You should get some sleep,” he says, wishing he was alone with him.

“So should you.”

Michael shakes his head, the sudden, horrifying thought that Alex could slip away from him while he catches up on sleep coming unbidden to his mind. No, he’ll stand vigil for him until he wakes, as long as it takes. Visiting hours are technically over, but even if Kyle hadn’t managed to pull some strings with the nursing staff there would be no force on this earth that could pull Michael from Alex’s bedside.

“M’not leaving him.”

“I know,” she sighs. He feels a hand on his shoulder and he tears his eyes away from Alex to look up at Liz. “Take care of him, Mikey.”

“Always,” he croaks, and she leans down to kiss the top of his head before she leaves.

As soon as the door closes shut behind her, Michael moves from his seat to sit on the edge of Alex’s bed, careful not to disturb his IV line or jostle him too much. He braces his left arm on the other side of Alex’s hips so he can lean over him. 

Now that they’ve had some time to develop, Alex’s body is covered in bruises. On his face alone he’s got one eye swollen shut, an angry purple mark on one sharp cheekbone, and a split lip. Michael aches to touch him, to comfort him, but he’s afraid he’ll hurt him worse if he does.

In the end, he raises his left hand to Alex’s face, skipping over his bruises to  brush away the hair that’s fallen lank and damp against his brow. He leans up to press a kiss to the smooth, unharmed skin of his forehead.

Please.” Michael’s voice breaks on a whisper, lips still pressed against him.

Alex gives no reaction, still lost in sleep. Michael’s not even sure he can hear him, but he has to try.

Please, Alex,” Michael repeats, a little stronger this time as he continues to softly pet his hair. “I need you to wake up, baby. I can’t—I can’t do this without you,” he says, torn apart by the very idea of living without him.

Michael breaks in the face of Alex’s continued lack of response, a sob ripping its way through his throat as fresh tears spring to his eyes. His right hand stays buried in Alex’s hair as he drops his face to his left shoulder, one of the few parts of Alex’s body that wasn’t punched or kicked or broken. His tears soak into the fabric of Alex’s hospital gown as he cries, unable to stop himself.

“Please don’t leave me,” he begs desperately. “Please, Alex, please don’t leave me.”

He struggles to control his breathing, about a minute away from a full-blown panic attack when suddenly he hears his name, so quiet he thinks he’s imagining it.

“Michael,” the voice repeats and Michael pulls back to look at Alex’s face, hope bursting in his chest. The love of his life is looking at him with one eye open, a single tear leaking from it and dripping down to his ear.

Alex,” Michael sobs in relief. He shifts up on the bed abruptly without thinking, seeking to be closer so he can press their foreheads together, but freezes when he sees Alex wince at the sudden movement. “Shit, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, are you—are you okay? Do you need anything? Should I call Kyle?“ He knows he’s speaking a mile a minute, but he can’t stop, his body thrumming with anxious energy.

“Michael.” Alex interrupts his frantic questions by reaching for his thigh and squeezing as much as his tired muscles can manage. “Come here.”

Michael takes a deep breath and nods. He shifts down the bed to lie beside Alex and settles his head gently in the crook of his neck, careful not to rest anywhere that’s bruised. Michael closes his eyes, focusing on the steady rise and fall of Alex’s chest. Alex’s hand moves against his upper back, rubbing slow, tired circles that leech the anxiety from his bones.

“Thought I was gonna lose you,” he whimpers into the hollow of Alex’s throat, his voice trembling. Saying it out loud brings yet more tears and Michael sniffles as he brings his left hand up to bunch up the fabric of Alex’s hospital gown, afraid he’ll hurt him if he goes for skin.

“You didn’t,” Alex says softly. “You won’t.”

“I better fucking not, Alex,” he says, voice coming out too miserable for there to be any heat to his words. “I don’t—I can’t—“

“Shh, I’m here,” Alex soothes him. “I’m here, baby, it’s okay. I’m here.”

Later, Michael will feel guilty that Alex was the one who was kidnapped and tortured and yet here he is comforting Michael, but right now, in this moment, all Michael can think is that Alex is alive, he’s awake, and he’s—he’s gonna be okay.