It had become clockwork for Alex.
Lying back in bed, fiddling with his sheets or his hair - it was an odd habit he found himself doing recently that kept him grounded in reality - carrying on a tired conversation with Donovan, who’d either reply with debate or a grunt.
And then the lights would shut off. Alex would always jolt at the sensation- momentarily unnerved by the sudden plunge- before grounding himself once more with his earlier ministrations, rolling onto his side. It was okay. While no one could predict the impending blood watch and who or what came back, the two boys on the sixth floor had found something familiar for themselves.
The songs of furnace would play its desperate cries and groans, strikingly harsh jeers and taunts in response. Alex had tried to block out the noise, but nothing could stop the dull throb in his chest, and on the really bad days he found himself submerged in the symphony adding his own vocals to the pathetic cause.
But not tonight, though his shoulders stiff and fingers gripped in his blanket with fierce intensity, he was silently eager for what was to come.
Silence began to subdue the prison, inmates eventually succumbing to their own imaginations in sleep. In the still night Alex could hear the boy on the top bunk pull back his sheets, hands patting to find the edge of the bed before reaching down. Alex felt a soft hand gently pat his shoulder, Donovan’s voice barely above a whisper.
“Hey. You gon’ get up?”
Alex wasn’t sure how many times Donovan had asked that, but he was glad they started with it. Alex nodded dumbly in the dark, reaching out to grasp the hand on his shoulder before sitting up and whispering, “You gonna sit down, mate? I’m not into that Spiderman kissing crap.”
“Harsh. Here I was trying to wake your cranky ass up, and that’s my thanks,” Donovan chuckled, withdrawing momentarily to jump down from his bunk as smoothly as he always did before settling down beside Alex.
It always started off slow, getting a feel of one another. Literally. Donovan squinted in the darkness to find the vague shapes of Alex’s face. Alex tried grasping for Donovan’s cheek and caught his fingers in D’s coarse hair. This resulted in displeased grunts from Donovan and a muttered apology from Alex who untangled himself away.
Alex felt a pair of lips press gently against his forehead. He was almost taken away by the romantic gesture if he hadn’t heard the frustrated sigh and felt insistent kisses on his eyebrows and bridge of his nose.
“Watch it, you’ll be sticking your tongue in my eye next.”
“Shut up. Not my fault you’re like five feet tall.”
It wasn’t worth retorting that Alex was only a few inches shorter than Donovan, as Donovan corrected his mistakes with a proper kiss. Alex relaxed against him, hands resting on Donovan’s shoulders.
The nights were often spent this chaste. As much as Alex looked up to Donovan - and as many girls the older boy claimed to have been with - they were at most inexperienced and awkward.
More so, they were nervous. Alex remembered his first day, how Donovan went off about not getting close to anyone in Furnace. Friendship was scarce, and to love another inmate was unspeakable. Then there was the obvious threat of the blood watch to tear them apart.
(Alex will never admit the nightmare in which Donovan’s the monster that does Alex in, like Monty did to Kevin.)
Then there was the stigma about loving each other. The jeers and harassment the two would have to struggle with. It was why their moments together were spent in darkness, their voices quiet in the looming silence. These thoughts were fresh on Alex’s mind, and he broke away from the kiss to rest his head in the crook of Donovan’s neck, clinging desperately. As if knowing what Alex was thinking, Donovan began to rub slow circles on Alex’s back.
“We’re going to bust out of here. You and me,” Donovan reassured. “I mean, the other guys too, but,” his tone softened. “Think about what else we can do together.”
At the responding flustered silence, Donovan kissed his teeth and gently clipped the back of Alex’s head, “Not just that, you dope. We can actually do all this proper and not having to worry about what the rest of this lot thinks. You follow?”
Alex remained silent still, but grinned, lifting his head back up. He patted his hands around blindly until he held Donovan’s head in both palms. “Yeah, I follow you.” Alex pressed a tender kiss to Donovan’s lips, before retracting and hesitantly spoke up. “You know, before we go I just gotta tell you I think I lo-”
Donovan cut him off.
“Don’t say it.”
Frowning, Alex pursed his lips before trying to continue but fell short when Donovan pushed his fingers against Alex’s mouth.
“Please don’t say it. Not now.” There was an underlying plea in his tone, and Alex could not find it in himself to argue. For he knew about Donovan’s reluctance to even admit his reciprocating feelings, and seemed to have the same thoughts Alex was pondering over moments ago.
With a new understanding, Alex nodded slowly. Donovan removed his fingers and for a moment, neither one spoke. They could hear the uncoordinated pace of their breathing, the slight rustle of the mattress beneath them. In cells below and above, Alex could just make out the sobbed moans of nightmare stricken inmates. How many nights have they done this? How many more nights like this did they have left?
Alex spoke up, “Afterwards. When we’re good and gone.”
The quiet hum and firm embrace in reply was all Alex needed. At some point, they would need to break apart, return to their individual bunks and put on a show for the next day like the night never happened. But with his head rested back on Donovan’s shoulder, the warmth between the two comforting and hopeful, Alex could indulge himself.
He couldn’t wait to get out of this miserable prison.