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“Alex, have you heard from Michael?”

Alex raised an eyebrow at Liz’s question. He actually hadn’t, but they usually didn’t talk about Michael. He looked over at his phone just to double-check that Michael had indeed not responded to any of his messages. While it was sort of uncharacteristic, Alex had assumed he had gotten sucked into studying for the physics test he had on Monday.

“No, why?” he said.

“He called into work today,” Liz said, “He never calls into work.” 

“What the fuck do you want me to do? I’m not his keeper,” Alex scoffed, but he very much wanted to find out what was going on. She was right, Michael was pretty on top of everything. He always found time for things, including Alex. Him going MIA didn’t really make sense.

“I don’t know, he came here when you were upset, I assumed you would go to him when he was upset,” Liz explained. Alex stared at her for a moment. Part of him wanted to deny her statement and bitch at her for it. After Michael had come that night, Maria and Liz had just collectively decided they were dating and they wouldn’t back off. Alex was brewing some type of way to fix it and make it stop because it was annoying. The whole point of not having a boyfriend was so he wouldn’t have to deal with them constantly talking about it.

That backfired.

However, she did have a point. He and Michael were best friends, Michael deserved Alex at least looking in to see if he was alright. But he didn’t need Liz or Maria to know that. So, he rolled his eyes.

Besides, Michael seemed to sense this conversation and shoot him a text.

Michael: come over

“What don’t you get about us not dating? He’s not my property, not my responsibility,” Alex scoffed, grabbing his keys off the counter, “Gonna go practice.”

“Alex, I didn’t mean to‒”

“It’s fine,” he said. He needed to fix whatever they thought.

But, first, he needed to go see Michael.

Alex: be right there

-

“This is a bad time.”

Alex cocked his head to the side at Isobel’s statement. It was never a bad time to go see Michael Guerin. That was sort of the point of having a friend with benefits. All times were good times, even if it was just for the friend part. And Michael had texted him so it absolutely wasn’t a bad time.

“Why?” Alex prodded. Isobel didn’t move out of the way. 

“Because it’s a bad time.”

Alex stared at her for a moment and decided that something was actually wrong. Michael had gone to him when something was wrong even when no one asked. 

“Hey, Michael!” Alex called loudly. Isobel stared at him like he’d lost it and tried to push on his chest, but wasn’t really successful since Michael came out of his room. The real twist was that he looked perfectly fine.

“Alex, hey,” he said with that same boyish smile on his face, trotting towards the door, “Izzy, let him in.”

Reluctantly, Isobel let him in and Michael basically dragged Alex to his room. He looked find. He sounded fine. His room looked fine.

“Are you good?” Alex asked for good measure once they were alone. Michael smiled and kissed him, not really giving much room to actually answer. Alex kissed him back, but still tried to look around the room.

Michael moved fast, kissing down his neck and pawing at his clothes. Alex let him and tried to find what was wrong. Because something was wrong. 

“Liz said you called into work,” Alex mention, his hand softly cradling the back of Michael’s head. He didn’t respond, pushing them onto the bed. Michael’s kisses stayed fast and sloppy‒actually all of his movements were fast and sloppy. It felt like a massive red flag.

Alex tried to set a different pace, but Michael wasn’t really abiding by it. He was trying to strip himself and Alex and still kiss and touch all at once. It was a mess that did nothing but get Michael's shirt around his neck and one arm and Alex's jeans unzipped but not unbuttoned. Alex grabbed his face, making him stop. That’s when he saw the slightly manic look in his eyes.

“What?” Michael asked or, really, snapped. Alex furrowed his eyebrows. “Why are you stopping me? I need this. I texted you. I need this.”

Alex scoffed and shook his head. “What is wrong with you? What happened?”

“Nothing, okay? Will you just let me‒”

“No,” Alex stopped him, sitting up and forcing Michael to get off. He looked more than a little wounded but covered it up with a glare. “What is wrong with you?”

“Nothing, for fuck’s sake, you're not my dad,” Michael spat. Some deep, angry part of Alex considered saying 'yeah, you don’t have one’, but immediately felt guilty about it. He stared at Michael.

“You’re acting weird. You literally never act like that,” Alex pointed out. Michael rolled his eyes and groaned.

“Like what? Like I want to have sex with you? Literally, that’s why I texted you. You’re a booty call, Alex, that’s what this was supposed to be. Why’d you even come if you’re just gonna psychoanalyze me instead of just giving me what I want?” Michael snapped which told Alex without a doubt that something was very, very wrong. That wasn’t Michael.

Alex stood up and looked around the room, looking for anything that was out of place.

“What are you doing?” Michael demanded. Alex ignored him.

Alex opened the drawer of his nightstand and didn’t see anything weird, so he moved onto the dresser. Michael sat up attentively. He opened the top drawer and shuffled around, ignoring Michael telling him to stop. Beneath the sea of mix-matched socks, he found an opened envelope.

“Alex, fucking stop!” Michael said. He was beside him in seconds, trying to take the envelope. Alex pushed him off, but still fought over the envelope like children, like Alex had fought over toys with his brothers. 

Alex learned very early how to win.

“Alex, please,” Michael said desperately as Alex pinned him to the dresser with his hip and his arm around his neck in the world’s loosest headlock. 

The cover of the envelope read RETURN TO SENDER in big red letters over the handwritten name and address. Michael had sent a letter to some guy named Dr. Carl Kosh Sr. who lived in Odessa, Texas. Alex flipped open the flap that had been taped down and reopened, pulling out the letter from inside. It didn’t take him long to realize it was Michael sending a letter to the guy to say that he was his father. And that his father had simply added 'leave me alone' to the bottom of the letter and sent it back. 

By the time that Alex figured all that out, Michael was limp in his grasp and crying.

“Why didn’t you just tell me?” Alex asked, putting the letter on the desk and wrapping both his arms completely around him from behind. Michael was almost dead weight at that point. 

"I don't know," Michael whispered, voice cracking weakly. 

But Alex knew. He'd been on his ass about them just being fuck buddies recently, trying to go back to before the lines started blurring. As much as he was thankful for Michael taking care of him when he was sick and being there for him after his father, it was too much. They weren't boyfriends. He didn't want a boyfriend. He wanted someone who was just there when needed but wasn't overwhelming with relationship shit.

And apparently that told Michael that sex was the only comfort he was allowed. 

"I didn't know you found your dad," Alex whispered, slowly rubbing his chest, "I didn't know you were looking."

"I didn't tell anyone except Izzy," he admitted. Alex hugged him close and started to lead him to the bed. "I didn't want anyone to know until I knew if he wanted to meet me." 

"It's okay," Alex promised, tugging him into bed. Michael laid on his chest and Alex held him. He ignored the red flags in his mind. Those could be addressed tomorrow.

"I don't know why I looked for him," Michael cried, face hidden in Alex's shoulder, "Guess I thought that maybe he didn't know. I don't know why my parents gave me up, I just hoped maybe he would've wanted me if he knew. I did one of those stupid DNA test things and they brought me to his family tree and, and him. I just… I thought…" 

Alex shushed him as he started crying harder. He didn't know how to fix this. There wasn't any fixing this. He couldn't heal wounds that had been there since he was born. All he could do was be there.

"He has kids, Alex," he sobbed. Alex held him tighter. "Why doesn't he want me?" 

"Hey, hey, don't think like that," Alex whispered, bowed his face into Michael's hair. He did his best to curl around him, trying to give him as much comfort as possible. He pulled the blanket over them. "Fuck him. He's not worth it."

"He's my dad," Michael said.

"No, he's some guy who had sex with some girl who gave birth to you. They aren't your parents, they aren't your family. Isobel and Max are your family," Alex said, gently grabbing Michael's jaw so he'd look up at him, "I'm your family."

Michael stared at him with big, watery eyes. Alex's heart was beating to an off-kilter rhythm. He was fucked. So, so fucked.

"You mean it?" he asked gently, his fingertips sliding beneath Alex's shirt innocently. He just wanted skin on skin. 

"I mean it," Alex said sincerely, "Fuck him. It doesn't matter if he doesn't want you. We do, we all do. I know that might not help completely, but I hope you realize that you are so loved, Michael. So many people love you. That guy doesn't matter." 

"I love you," Michael said, not even once breaking eye contact. Alex gulped and took a deep breath. Fuck. This was so fucked. He was too deep. This was what they were not supposed to do. Hell, Michael was the one that made the rule of them not ever falling in love.

How the hell did he get out of this without creating a mess? 

"It's okay," Alex said instead, bringing his head into his chest. Michael clutched onto him, thankfully not seeming too hurt by Alex's dismissal.

This wasn't okay. He shouldn't have come. He needed to stop.

"I've got you," Alex whispered, running his hands through Michael's hair as he cradled him close.

This was a disaster. He was going to get hurt. They both were. There was no good way to end this. There was no good direction to follow. There was only down. 

Alex held him all night instead.