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oh, i know that love is all about the wind, how it can hold me up and kill me in the end (still i loved it)

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“Are you okay?” Kyle asks, breaking the comfortable silence that had fallen between them while Alex went through the decoded files and Kyle went through the video footage that they’d gotten from Caulfield.

Alex looks at him, raising an eyebrow. “I’m fine?” He says, asking more than stating, and clears his throat a little.

“That’s what I mean,” Kyle says like Alex did a magic trick or something. “You keep clearing your throat. Are you feeling okay? Because we can’t really afford for you to get sick right now.”

Alex rolls his eyes a little, and clears his throat, again, and says, “I’m fine, Kyle. Probably just the air in here or something.”

Kyle doesn’t look like he believes him, but it’s not like Alex is hiding some secret illness from him.

His throat has been bothering him more often than usual over the past couple of days, but Alex thinks it’s the fact that the air is getting colder, or he might be getting sick, but the flu isn’t anything to really worry about.

Kyle gets called into work and Alex loses track of the passage of time.

He only stops working because his alarm starts beeping that it’s time to wake up.

He looks blankly at his phone and then reaches out and stops the alarm.

Alex watches the lockscreen of his phone telling him that it’s five thirty in the morning until the screen goes dark.

His phone buzzes at the same time with a message from Kyle, Go the fuck back to sleep.

He’s about to reply that he’s feeling very well rested, fuck you very much, when he feels the need to clear his throat, and instead coughs.

He clears his throat again, and shakes his head, swallowing convulsively. It feels like there is something stuck in the back of his throat.

He clears his throat again, and then starts to cough, harder and harder, until he’s covering his mouth with his hand, and leaning over the side of the chair, feeling like he’s going to hack up his lungs.

He coughs hard enough that it feels like something rips in his throat and then he feels something wet and more solid that saliva hit his hand.

He looks down at his hand, curiously, and feels confusion, but also a terrifyingly cold fear sink through him.

There are three petals in his hands that look like they belong to a carnation, white, stained pink with blood and a thin oval shaped, no more than an inch long and a quarter inch wide.

He looks at them for a long moment trying to come up with a rational explanation, but he draws a blank.

Maybe he’s been down here to long and his mind is playing tricks on him.

He goes to the bathroom and washes his hands, looking into his reflection in the cheap bathroom mirror.

There are bags beneath his eyes and he looks really tired, and when Alex tries to remember when was the last time that he actually slept, he draws a blank.

Maybe he is getting sick from overworking himself. But something inside of him just wants to finish with this whole Caulfield mess as soon as possible. 

He pointedly keeps his thoughts away from the why, and clears his throat again before rinsing his mouth with some water from the faucet and then scrubbing his face to wake himself up a little bit more, scrubbing his wet hands through his hair.

He inhales deeply, and frowns when it catches in his throat and he has to clear his throat again.

He decides to stop at the pharmacy on his way back home and leaves the bathroom, turning the lights off behind himself. The flower petals caught in the drain, glow strangely in the dark light, but he doesn’t notice it.

* * *

Kyle isn’t exactly sure what happened, one second they were sharing a beer and Kyle was telling him one of his more raunchy medical school stories and Alex was laughing and then Alex started coughing, harder and harder and harder, until he’s leaning over in his chair, sounding like he’s gagging.

Kyle is thankful for the fact that they were at the cabin hanging out, because Alex starts to hack up mouthfuls of petals that spray out of his mouth and paint the deck in front of him in gruesome red and white.

Kyle watches him helplessly frozen for a second because in all of the things that he’s seen over the last couple of months, and even while he was in Med School, this is by far the strangest. But then his instincts kick in as Alex starts gasping like he’s not getting enough air, and he’s dropping to his knees beside Alex’s chair.

He puts his hands on Alex’s chest and pushes him back, trying to get a good look at his face.

Alex lets him and he wheezes weakly as he tries to catch his breath again. 

He’s clearing his throat, like there is something still caught there, and there are four petals stuck to chin, one brushing his bottom lip, red staining the corners of his mouth.

He swallows convulsively, and blinks his eyes several times, and when he spots Kyle leaning over him, he grimaces.

Kyle frowns at him, but since he’s not actively dying in front of him, he moves back and sits on the edge of his seat, waiting until Alex catches his breath again.

Alex leans back down to grab his beer which he had set down on the floor, and Kyle watches him with eagle eyes as he winces as he swallows.

“It’s just a cold, Kyle,” Kyle starts, mocking Alex’s intonation as Alex lowers the bottle from his mouth and sighs, long and tired. “Nothing life threatening about the common cold, Kyle. I’m sure it will pass in a few more days, Kyle. There’s nothing to worry about, Kyle. I’m fine, Kyle.”

Alex just rolls his eyes up to the ceiling and looks back at Kyle with an amused, but sheepish expression on his face.

“So I may have understated the gravity of the situation,” Alex starts.

Kyle scoffs cutting him off. “You’re coughing up flower petals, Alex. That’s not only understating, it’s also highly unusual and unheard of. Possibly alien.”

Alex coughs, covering his mouth and a flurry of petals fall out from the sides, these are less bloody than the ones already spread across the deck.

Kyle looks at him pointedly and Alex just drops his hand, shaking it to get rid of a few stubborn petals.

“I’m f-” he starts and Kyle glares at him.

“I’m handling it, okay?” Alex says instead, looking at Kyle seriously. “I promise that if it gets to be too much for me, I’ll let you run all the tests you want.”

Kyle makes a face. “How about you let me run some tests, and let me monitor your vitals for one night and my peace of mind?”

Alex rolls his eyes again. “It’s just flower petals. They’re annoying, but I’ll survive.”

Kyle gives him a look, “You do realize that that’s not normal, right?”

Alex gives him a look back, “What exactly about our lives is normal anymore?”

Kyle has to concede the point, so he takes a sip of his own beer and keeps telling the story, deciding to trust Alex for now.

But if this got any worse, Kyle was going to bring in the big guns.

* * *

Michael and Maria are in the middle of a faux argument, which Liz is pretty sure counts as foreplay, when she gets into the bar searching for one of them in particular.

She stops right next to Michael, pushing him slightly, so that it knocks him off balance and he has to sit back down on the stool instead of leaning across the bar showing everyone a perfect view of his ass.

He turns to her, a pissed off expression on his face, that turns into a mock glare when he sees that it’s her.

He opens his mouth to speak, but she holds her hand up in front of his face to stop him.

“I need your help,” she says, in her most serious no nonsense voice.

Michael looks at her in confusion, which Maria shares, and Liz doesn’t blame them, really.

She also hadn’t really noticed that anything was wrong until Kyle had forcibly opened her eyes by hiding her inside the exam room while he checked Alex over.

Liz stuffs her hand into the pocket of her jacket and grabs a handful of the bloody petals that had littered the examination table when Kyle had walked Alex out of the room, probably to do more tests, and throws them down on top of the bar.

Maria makes a noise like Liz kicked a puppy in front of her, and goes to get the disinfectant spray and a rag to clean up.

Michael on the other hand makes a curious noise, since she peaked his scientific curiosity, and pokes the petals.

“You found flowers that bleed?” He turns to her raising an eyebrow to ask what this has to do with him.

She shakes her head, and tries to get her thoughts together in the right order so that she can explain without sounding like she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, but that’s the problem.

She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

All she knows is that it’s happening to Alex, and Alex is sure that there is only one way to stop it, and he’s also equally sure that it’s too late.

He’s resigned himself to dying, and Liz refuses to accept that.

“Alex is dying,” she says, when she looks at Michael to see that she’s losing his attention.

Michael goes preternaturally still beside her, and Maria seems to lose all the color in her cheeks as she comes to a stop right in front of them, a dishrag in one hand and the disinfectant spray in the other, eyes wide, lips slightly parted as she stares at Liz 

“And he’s refusing to actually do something about the problem-” she starts satisfied that she has his full attention, but then he moves, startling her and Maria, who jolts like she’d been shocked.

He sweeps the petals on the bar into his cupped hand, leaving behind the smear of blood and a few stragglers, and then he’s stuffing his fist into his pocket and walking out of the bar without another word.

Liz watches him go, mouth hanging open, making disbelieving noises as she turns to Maria, who is looking at the space that Michael vacated with a frown.

She looks up at Liz after a long moment and tilts her head, looking at her intently before she sets the bottle and rag down on the bar and turns towards where she keeps the bottles of tequila.

Liz takes a seat on the stool she’s leaning on and picks up the spray and the rag, cleaning up the bar of all traces of blood and petals.

Maria smiles in thanks and sets the bottle down and two glasses in between them before pouring the drinks and downing hers quickly.

Liz grabs her shot and follows suit, gasping wetly at the sting of the alcohol, and then she turns to Maria, who is looking at the door with an almost wistful expression before she turns to Liz and looks at her as seriously as she can manage.

“What’s wrong with Alex?”

Liz licks her lips, and leans her elbows on  the table. “I’m not sure.”

Maria gives her a look like she can’t believe that Liz is keeping secrets from her again, but Liz shakes her head rapidly, reaching out for Maria’s hands.

“I’m really not sure,” she repeats, looking at Maria, seriously. Maria just nods her head and squeezes Liz’s hands once. 

“All I know is what I overheard Alex telling Kyle. That there is nothing he can do, even if they had caught it earlier, and the only viable option is not an actual option. He didn’t explain much more than that, so either Kyle knows what he’s talking about, or Alex is deliberately keeping him in the dark.”

Maria purses her mouth, and looks at Liz, expression complicated, a mixture of fear and guilt with just a hint of defiance.

“I saw Alex a few days ago, and he seemed fine,” Maria says slowly.

Liz gives her a sad smile, “It looks like we’re both being crappy friends now. I got so caught up in trying to get Max back and dealing with Rosa and work that I haven’t talked to him in weeks, let alone seen him. And you-”

She cuts herself off grimacing, and Maria squeezes her hands again before she lets go.

“And I was too busy ignoring all of the signs that he wasn’t doing well because I didn’t want it to be true, because if Alex wasn’t fine then that meant that I made a huge mistake.”

Liz sighs and gives Maria a look, “Falling in love isn’t a mistake.”

Maria bites down on her lip.

“The mistake comes from letting it get in the way of your friendship.”

Maria sighs, “I didn’t mean to, but being around Alex made me feel guilty about being happy about being with Michael, and feeling guilty made me feel pissed off because none of this would’ve happened if he had just talked to me, but feeling pissed off made me feel guilty all over again, because it’s not Alex’s fault that he was in love with Michael any more than it’s mine for falling for him without knowing about their past, and feeling guilty made me even more pissed off,  because it made me doubt that being with Michael was even a good idea, and the cycle just repeats itself, and it started to taint my feelings about being with Michael, so I just started to avoid Alex.”

She blinks her eyes, and Liz can see that she’s trying not to cry. 

“And I only did that because I thought all we both needed was time to get used to the new normal, but we’re running out of time, aren’t we?”

Liz shakes her head immediately.

“No,” she says, with as much conviction as she can infuse into the word. “We’re going to figure this out, together. Even if Alex is too stubborn for his own good, and doesn’t cooperate. I’m not losing anyone else. And you aren’t either okay? We’ll fix this, and then we’ll fix things between the three of us. We’ve been friends forever, a guy and a life threatening disease is not going to get in the way of that.”

Maria is nodding her head at her, feeling Liz’s confidence, and she opens her mouth to say something when Liz phone rings in her pocket.

She gives Maria an apologetic look and takes the phone out of her pocket.

She sees Kyle’s name on the display, and her heart jumps into her throat.

What if it had gotten worse? What if it was already too late and Alex was-?

Before she can psych herself out too much, she answers the phone.

“What-?” She starts to say, but an explosion of noise makes her pull the phone away from her ear.

“You told Guerin?” She can just make out Kyle hissing into the phone, over what sounds like Alex and Michael arguing.

Liz looks to Maria and wonders if that’s just how Michael shows his affection, by arguing with the people he cares about.

She puts the phone back to her ear, “We need all the help we can get.”

Kyle exhales roughly, and Liz can just imagine him, dragging a hand across the top of his head.

“You should’ve told me before you did that. The last person that Alex wants involved in this is Guerin.”

Liz makes a face and she doesn’t look at Maria as she speaks.

“You do realize that in Alex speak, that means that Michael is most likely the one who can figure out what he’s trying to hide.”

Liz can just imagine the look on his face as he thinks that over.

“Once again, it was none of your business, Guerin!” She hears Alex snapping in the background.

“You’re dying,” Michael says, like that’s all the reason he needs to get himself involved.

“We’re all going to die sometime!” Alex answers back.

Michael makes an enraged noise back at him.

“Not from something that can be treated,” Kyle interjects, voice sounding as pissed as Michael seems to be.

There is a perfect drop of silence over the phone, so absolute that Liz thinks that the call must’ve dropped, and then Michael speaks, and she can hear the glassware in the lab shaking with the effort he’s exerting to keep himself under control.

“What is he talking about?” He asks.

Kyle makes a noise that tells Liz that Alex is probably glaring at him.

“Nothing that concerns you,” Alex responds, sounding cool as ice, while Michael sounds like a volcano about to erupt.

“Alex, if you know how to fix this-” Michael starts.

“There is no fixing anything,” Alex says, cutting Michael off. “You can’t pick up the pieces and try to duct tape me back together, Guerin. It’s far too late for that.”

“Alex,” Kyle says in a soft voice. “We’re just trying to help. We care about you-”

Alex laughs a little derisively and Liz frowns at the phone, looking at Maria who is watching the phone with a furrowed brow, leaning over the bar so she can hear the conversation.

“You have a really funny way of showing it,” he snaps. “I’m leaving now.”

“No,” Kyle starts and stops.

“You’re not going anywhere until we figure out what’s wrong with you and how to fix it,” Michael says voice deadly serious.

“And how exactly are you planning on keeping me here?” Alex asks, like he’s honestly curious how Michael would accomplish that.

“Don’t think I’ll have a problem with that at all,” Michael drawls, voice coming out a weird mix between flirty and pleading.

“Without using your abilities?” Alex asks, and before anyone else can say anything, Liz hears the sound of glass breaking and a whoosh, and then coughing which doesn’t sound like the hacking cough Alex had hacked up earlier, and someone saying Alex’s name and then the call drops.

Liz looks up at Maria who is looking at the phone with a thoughtful expression on her face.

“I have to go,” Liz says putting her phone back in her pocket and looking at Maria who gives her a strained smile. “I will call you as soon as we know anything.”

Maria just nods her head, “I know.”

Liz gives her a brief smile and leaves the bar.

* * *

Michael stares at the x-rays with a furrowed brow, darting his eyes up at Kyle, who is looking at him seriously.

Michael hasn’t said anything since Alex darted out of the door. It had taken him ten seconds to realize that the vial of yellow powder that Alex had thrown on the ground, was just that, yellow powder, but by then Alex was already gone.

“This is impossible,” Michael says, because someone needs to point that out, first.

Kyle blinks at him twice and then sighs. “Okay, look. I’m going to need you to process this a lot faster. It’s happening. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve been monitoring his vitals since November-”

Michael’s head snaps up at that, and he looks at Kyle who stops speaking when he gets a good look at Michael’s face.

“This has been going on for months,” Michael says incredulous and disbelieving.

At that moment Liz walks in through the door, tying her hair up into a ponytail as she turns to Kyle and Michael, “So what’s the plan?”

Kyle gives her a look, “I’ve been trying to catch Guerin up to speed, but the alien is saying that it’s impossible.”

Michael makes a face at Kyle, making mocking noises and looking back down to the x-rays.

As impossible as it seems, there are flowers growing inside of Alex’s lungs.

Michael can see the tiny spikes of roots growing into the soft tissue inside of his lungs, growing into tangled vines that were blooming with flowers made up of millions of petals that fell away everytime they were slightly disturbed.

“Show me everything,” Michael says, turning to Kyle and Liz who both turn to him at the same time.

Kyle just nods his head and walks out of the lab, while Liz takes her jacket off and slides on her lab coat.

“This has been going on for months,” he blurts out, and Liz freezes momentarily, before turning slowly to face him. “How did I miss it?”

“Alex didn’t want anyone to know,” is what she responds with. “We all missed it. It wasn’t just you.”

Michael wants to protest that he isn’t just anyone, but he bites down on his tongue, because that’s not exactly true anymore.

“Kyle knew,” Michael says, sounding sullen, and Liz just rolls her eyes at him and walks over to the desk, where the x-rays were lying on.

She makes a face as she picks one up.

“Kyle says he found out by accident,” Liz says, as she looks at the x-ray with a thoughtful expression.

“Well then why didn’t he tell anyone?” Michael says turning towards Liz.

“Because Alex asked me not to,” Kyle says as he walks back into the room with a filing box. “And even though I didn’t agree with it, he really did have a handle on the situation. But it’s gotten progressively worse over the last two weeks.”

Michael feels his heart skip a beat in his chest, but he shakes his head and forces his thoughts to concentrate on the present.

Kyle sets the box on top of the table, and Liz and Michael immediately move to open it, pulling files out.

“Give me the x-rays,” he says, “You’re the only person who can read Kyle’s atrocious handwriting.”

Liz nods and they divide the files between them, while Kyle turns on his laptop.

Michael looks at the first couple of x-rays and he sees exactly what Kyle means immediately.

Each x-ray is dated every two weeks, and the ones from the first couple of months show small flowers, nestled at the bottom, no vines in sight, but they suddenly appear in the x-rays dated two weeks ago and Michael doesn’t have to look at the exact date to know that the time matches up perfectly.

“I looked up some similar sounding stories, but the only ones I found involved people accidentally inhaling seeds, but nothing as extensive as this.”

“Do you know what kind of flower it is?” Liz asks, as she pulls out a plastic bag full of petals.

“I tried,” Kyle said, “but I keep drawing a blank, the shape of the petals is strange to any of the flowers I found that sort of matched, and they kind of glow in the dark.”

Both Liz and Michael look at Kyle, blinking in unison before they turn to each other.

“Definitely an alien thing,” Liz says as Michael nods along.

“And if Alex knows how to fix the problem,” he bites out.

“Then that means that the information must be in the Caulfield files,” Kyle finishes his train of thought.

Michael makes a face at that and Liz smiles triumphantly.

“You two stay here and try to find a non alien solution to the problem, I’ll go check the files,” Michael says and moves before either of them can protest.

He gets into his truck and just drives. 

Michael’s phone starts to ring in the pocket of his jacket but he ignores it already knowing it’s nor either Isobel or Alex.

His fingers tighten around the steering wheel and as much as he wants to force himself to stay in the present, he can’t help but think about exactly what happened two weeks ago.

Arguments with Alex weren’t a new thing. They had been getting better at actually communicating without turning it into an argument, but even sort of becoming friends hadn’t stopped that particular habit from taking over.

Another habit that seemed difficult to break was the fact that when either of them got backed into a corner they lashed out with the most hurtful thing.

Michael hadn’t meant to say it, but he’d spent the morning arguing with Isobel and the afternoon arguing with Maria, that when Alex appeared, Michael lashed out immediately instead of listening to what he was trying to say.

“Can we talk?” Alex had asked, voice hoarse and sounding just a little bit desperate. 

Michael had leaned back in his seat, dragging his eyes up from Alex’s feet to his face in a slow deliberate crawl.

He had noted that Alex looked tired and a little worn around the edges, but there was a look in his eyes that had Michael’s guard up immediately.

“We really don’t have anything to talk about,” Michael had drawled looking away.

Alex had cleared his throat and had sat down beside Michael, making Michael’s gaze go to him involuntarily.

“We have tons to talk about, but there’s just something I need to know, and then we don’t have to talk about anything else.”

He had cleared his throat again, and Michael remembers thinking that he had sounded like he was getting sick.

He had stayed quiet for a long moment, just staring out at the road at the odd cars that crossed the street every now and then at this hour of the night. Michael remembers thinking that it had seemed like he was savoring the moment for some reason.

“Are you happy?” he asked, turning to look at Michael, and Michael had felt the question like a punch in the stomach.

Isobel had told him that morning that while he may be content pretending to be happy, she wasn’t going to spend the next ten years living in another comfortable lie like him and Maria had accused him of just going through the motions with her, after Michael had asked if they were still going to go to the Drive In that Saturday.

Michael hadn’t known what to say in both instances without putting his foot in his mouth, so he’d stayed quiet, but he always knew what to say to Alex, whether it be good or bad.

“Why?” he asked Alex, the tone of his voice, caustic and mocking. “Hoping that I’m miserable so that you can come to my rescue, and fuck me up some more?”

Alex’s brow had furrowed, and had shaken his head, and he had leaned forward in his chair. “What? No, I-”

“Sorry to disappoint you,” Michael had kept going, talking over Alex. “But I’ve never been happier, and I’ve never felt more loved. I’m not pretending to be happy or going through the motions, so you don’t have to worry about me.”

Alex had just nodded his head and left soon after that, clearing his throat way too many times, and Michael had felt a pang in his chest at the look on his face.

Thinking about it now, Michael could see how someone who didn’t know what his day had been like, could take those words that he had said to mean something else. 

He could see how Alex could’ve taken the words to mean that that’s what he’d been doing with him, pretending and going through the motions, but it was too late to take it back now.

And thinking about it now also helps him see that that was Alex telling him goodbye.

His fingers clench around the steering wheel, and the engine protests loudly as Michael pushes the truck harder without pressing down on the gas.

Michael tries not to think about the fact that Alex knew that he was dying back then, and hadn’t even tried to push Michael into having an actual conversation, had just accepted that Michael was happier without him and would be okay if he died.

And that’s what’s bothering him the most about this whole thing. That Alex actually thought Michael would be okay if he died.

His phone rings again, jolting him out of his thoughts and he just sighs and pulls his phone out of his pocket. 

Maria’s name flashes across the screen, and he furrows his brow, wondering why she would call, when she barely even ever calls him.

He answers the phone.

“Finally,” she says. “Jesus, Guerin. I called Kyle and Liz. Get to the cabin. Alex is getting worse.”

Michael doesn’t answer as he drops the phone and pulls an illegal u-turn and pushes down on the gas, pushing the truck even harder.

* * *

Maria barely waits before Liz is out the door before she’s calling Juniper over and leaving her in charge. She tells her that she has a family emergency and that she’ll be back in time to close down the bar before she grabs her keys and heads out of the door.

She gets into her truck and pulls out of the parking lot taking the road that will lead her out of Roswell. 

She’s not entirely sure why, but she has a gut feeling that that is where Alex is going to end up, at his cabin.

She makes it there before him, and he stops walking the second he sees her.

She stands up from where she’d been sitting at the top of the stairs and Alex opens his mouth to speak, but before he can say anything, he coughs.

His eyes go a little wide, and he turns away from her. All she can see is his back shaking as he coughs, hacking painful sounding coughs that make him bend over with the strength of it. He’s inhaling wheezily, like there is something stuck in his airways.

She takes one step over to him and then he coughs hard and out fly dozens of white petals, streaming out from his mouth.

Maria freezes unable to actually believe it, and only moves when Alex drops to his knees as he starts to gag.

Maria drops to her knees beside him, and rubs her hand up and down his back, trying to figure out what she could do.

Alex coughs, hard enough that it sounds painful, and out of his mouth falls a fully formed flower, just the bud, made up of hundreds of white petals.

Alex stops choking, and starts breathing easier, still a little bit wheezy, and he leans forward, pressing his forehead to the ground as he catches his breath.

Maria stares at the flower as the petals rustle in the light April wind, and she thinks about something her mom told her the last time that she visited her, the same day that she had seen Alex last week, love grows roots, and if we’re not careful they could end up suffocating us.

Maria had assumed that she was being metaphorical, but Alex had apparently taken it to the literal extreme.

The thought that it being Alex’s feelings for Michael that had him like that, left Maria feeling a little bit like she was the one coughing up flowers.

But no, there had to be a non Michael related explanation to this, even if it’s an alien one. Whatever was going on with Alex could not be about Michael, because Maria doesn’t really know what she’ll end up doing if Alex isn’t coping as well as he projects to be.

Alex leans back up, and seems to steel himself, inhaling deeply, and it’s almost like Maria can feel a wall coming up between them.

He turns to her, and Maria can see it in his face that he’s going to do his best to lessen the blow of whatever it is that is happening to him, but Maria has never been someone that needs to be protected, especially not from her own feelings.

“No,” she says before he even starts speaking, and he just looks at her with a furrowed brow.

“We’re going inside and you’re drinking an entire bottle of water, and then you’re going to tell me the truth, deal?”

Alex just stares at her for a long moment before inhaling carefully, and nodding his head once.

He doesn’t protest as she helps him to his feet, and doesn’t say anything as she pushes him back to sit on the couch and then gets him a bottle of water from the fridge.

She hands it over and sits down on the edge of the coffee table, staring as he swallows the water, wincing like his throat is tender.

He drinks about half of the bottle before he caps it again, and sets it aside looking at Maria.

Maria stares at him and really looks. He’s pale, but more on the clammy I’m really sick side, than the I haven’t seen the sun in months one. The bags beneath his eyes should have their own PO Box address, and there seems to be something permanent about the way his mouth is tilted downwards, like he’s been frowning a lot.

She finds the corners of her mouth dipping even more as she studies his face, and she can feel the guilt settling uneasily in the pit of her stomach.

“I don’t know what you want me to say,” he says after a few minutes of staring in silence.

Maria purses her mouth and looks at him seriously. “The truth.”

Alex winces and clears his throat, grabbing the bottle of water and drinking some more.

He gives her a half smile that immediately falls off his face, “The truth about what?”

Maria tries not to grit her teeth too hard as she realizes that there must be a lot of things that Alex is keeping a secret.

She had thought that after the mess that came out of him keeping Michael a secret for ten years, he would’ve known better.

But clearly, he doesn’t.

“Are you dying?” She asks, and Alex just closes his eyes, inhaling deeply like he really doesn’t want to deal with this, like he actually thought that he could quietly fade away into the night and no one would care.

He opens his eyes again, and Maria tries not to let it show how pissed she actually is right now, but she can tell that Alex can tell.

“Yes,” he says, simply, like he can’t be bothered with a longer answer.

Maria expels a harsh breath and resists the urge to reach out and shake him.

“Okay,” she says. “I’m going to need you to stop pretending like this is normal and okay and like no one will care if you die, and tell me what the hell is going on.”

“I’m not pretending anything,” Alex responds leaning back in his seat. “I’ve stopped pretending. I’m too tired to keep going through the motions, and frankly, I’m dying so I don’t need to pretend anything.”

Maria furrows her brow, feeling like the words he’s using are familiar but not really remembering where she’s heard them before.

She understands what he’s trying to say, however, which makes her pissed off, feeding into the guilt she can feel making knots in her stomach.

She just shakes her head at him, not really wanting an argument, but feeling like the only way to get through to him would be to fight, which tells her a lot more about his relationship with Michael than he ever has.

“Alex,” she says, and he just blinks at her, like he’s already heard all of her arguments and already has an answer for anything that she’s about to say.

Which pisses her off.

“Is this about Michael?” She asks, throwing the question in his face, and watching the way it affects him before he shuts it down.

She can tell that it is, but he just lies to her face, clearing his throat slightly. 

“No.”

“You’re lying,” she tells him through gritted teeth.

He just exhales roughly and lifts his hands to his face scrubbing his fingers across his face and into his hair before he nods his head once, like he came to a decision.

“Someone should know the truth,” he tells her, leaning back in his seat and just looking so tired that she really just wants to bundle him up and put him to bed. “It might as well be you.”

“Were you hoping it to be Michael?” She asks, and he just exhales roughly and gives her a look, and she just raises her hands in defense and sits up, letting her hands fall to tangle her fingers together on top of her lap.

“No,” he says, answering her question, which surprises her slightly. “I don’t want Michael to know about anything that I’m about to tell you.”

Maria licks her lips and nods her head once, raising an eyebrow to give him the all clear to speak.

He clears his throat, and has to turn his face away from her, and he covers his mouth with his hands as he coughs, but the flurry of petals explode from beneath his hand, sending the petals everywhere, some even landing on Maria.

Maria brushes the petals away from her hair, and they feel soft and fragile, but she hisses when she feels the edges of the ones that aren’t wet with saliva, giving her tiny papercuts across her fingers and palms.

She looks at the tiny cuts and then looks at Alex, who is shaking the petals away from his hands.

She opens her mouth to speak, but Alex clears his throat and starts talking.

“It started a couple of days after Max died,” he starts, and Maria gets a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach, vile and spiky, making the guilt feel even worse.

“I thought I was just spending too much time in bunkers, that the humid air probably messing with my allergies, so I just ignored it. Even after the first time I coughed and found flower petals on my hand, I thought that I was probably tired, and seeing things, so I ignored it.”

He inhales carefully, and in the quiet stillness of the cabin, Maria can just make a sound like wind rustling through leaves.

“It got pretty hard to be in denial,” he says, giving her a half smile. “But I had a handle on it. I knew it wasn’t normal, and could probably be alien related, and after agreeing to let Kyle run a few tests to determine that it wasn’t life threatening, I decided that it wasn’t a priority.”

Maria bites her tongue down on the question of what could possibly be more important than his health, but she had a feeling that she already knows the answer.

“A couple of weeks ago,” he continues carefully. “I was looking through some files because Liz asked me to search for something to do with the vegetation that had been recovered from the ship when I found the picture of the flower. Confirming that at least the flower was alien in origin.”

He clenches his jaw and gets that look in his eyes like he’s about to tell her something that she’s not going to like.

“Finding out the name of the flower, peaked my curiosity so I went looking through all the files we’ve managed to retrieve from Project Shepherd, and found out exactly what was happening to me.”

Maria licks her lips. “That was really vague.”

Alex sighs. “I know.”

He inhales carefully again, clearing his throat a little, and then swallowing hard.

“The Antarians called it, veolut en carre which as far as I was able to translate, roughly means, the vines of the heart. It’s the flower that is traditionally given to the one left behind. Usually used in funerals and given to widows.”

Maria swallows heavily, trying really hard not to jump to conclusions, but it’s incredibly difficult not to.

“In the files I found out that the scientists in Caulfield call it, the disease of the brokenhearted,” he says and Maria’s eyes fall shut, tight.

“And it’s the only proof they have that aliens landed here before the crash of 1954, since there have been reports, that Project Shepherd made sure to have the only copies of, of people dying by suffocation, surrounded by flowers, and autopsy findings that state that the patient’s lungs were entirely overtaken by a floral bush.”

Maria inhales deeply and opens her eyes, to see Alex looking at her with a furrowed brow, like he’s worried how this is going to affect her, instead of worrying about himself.

She feels a pang in her chest and she wonders if he would’ve just taken it and beared it if Maria wasn’t a part of the equation.

“None of that explains much of anything,” Maria tells him, and he just sighs.

“It doesn’t explain why you’re suddenly dying, after months of it not being life threatening.”

Alex clenches his jaw again, “There are two ways to get rid of the problem. The first one isn’t even an option I would consider, but the second one was doable, in a sense.”

He inhales deeply, and there is something that looks a lot like guilt swirling in his eyes.

“I went to Michael,” he admits. “To ask him if he was happy, because I refuse to do or say anything that will jeopardize that, and if I told him the truth, it would cause nothing but issues. So I asked and he told me that he has never been happier, and I let it go.”

Maria wants to tell him that he’s being vague again, but she doesn’t.

“What is causing these flowers to grow inside of your lungs?” Maria asks, since it looks like she’ll need to ask pointed questions for Alex to give her the answers that she wants, and she can’t actually believe that that is a sentence that came out of her mouth.

“It doesn’t happen to everyone who’s had contact with an alien,” he says quickly, trying to reassure her. “There are other things that I don’t really want to get into right now, but it’s caused by unrequited love.”

He stops speaking, and Maria is thankful for that. She needs a few seconds to store that information for later, but at the moment there are more important things that she needs to know.

“Okay, so what’s the option you wouldn’t even consider?” She asks, and a small part of her hopes that it’s something to do with asking Michael if he still loves him, because she would hope that Alex would at least let her know if he was going to go ask her boyfriend what he feels for him, but a much larger part of her knows that that’s not it.

“An operation,” he says, and Maria feels a small spike of hope, before she remembers that he has already said it wasn’t an option. “You remove the flowers by the roots and that solves the problem.”

“But?” She asks when he doesn’t elaborate.

“But,” he says, giving her a wry smile, before it falls off his face and he gives her a serious look. “If you take the flowers out at the root, it also takes with it the feelings that caused it in the first place.”

Maria blinks a few times, trying to parse out how this would be a bad thing, and then the whole thing hits her like a bag of bricks in the pit of her stomach, and for a second she feels like she can’t breathe.

“You’re still in love with Michael,” she says in a breathless voice.

Alex gives out a disbelieving laugh, like he can’t believe that she actually thinks that he got over Michael.

Maria glares at him, because she wouldn’t have been thinking that if he would just talk to her about the important stuff every once in a while, but she’s starting to realize that Alex thinks that all of his relationships are a one way street.

She opens her mouth to speak, but the words catch in her throat, when the irritating huffs of laughter turn into a cough, and then he’s gagging, leaning forward suddenly enough that it makes Maria scramble backwards, her boots dragging along the edge of Alex’s wooden coffee table as she climbs fully on top.

Alex just coughs and coughs and it sounds horrible, like a sound from a nightmare, and it gets even worse when he spats out another bulb full of petals, bloody petals, and then reaches up with his hands to continue to pull the rest of the flower out of his mouth, stem and leaves and thorns and all.

Maria feels like she might be sick, but she inhales deeply, several times, while Alex pulls the rest of the flower out of his mouth and lets it drop to the ground in front of him.

It falls with a sickening thud and Alex spits out a mouthful of blood.

She stares at him for a long moment while he gets his air back.

“That looks like it hurt,” she says, to break the silence.

Alex makes a noise that could be a laugh.

“I’ve been through worse,” he responds with a groan as he leans back in his seat.

He looks a little dazed and his mouth is stained red at the corners, and he’s dying, and Maria doesn’t understand.

She feels helpless, and it’s not like she can force Michael to tell Alex that he loves him, and it’s not like she would know if he did or not.

Michael had told her once that Alex was an off limit topic between them. He said that it was in the past and he was looking forward to the future, and Maria had accepted it.

She had actually believed that they had a chance to actually be something great, something more.

But somewhere between finding out about Alex and finding out that he was an alien, something had fizzled, and no matter how hard she tried, she just couldn’t get that spark back.

There were sometimes when it felt like she might, but most of the time, it just felt like Michael was following steps he found in a book on how to have a perfect relationship, going through the motions-

She stops the thought short and looks at Alex, who seems to be doing deep breathing exercises, but she can practically feel how hard he’s trying not to cough.

“Is it worth it?” She asks, and his eyes snap open and he looks at her like he’d forgotten that she was there. “All that pain you’re going through. Is it worth it? Wouldn’t it be better to just get rid of it all once and for all?”

Alex just looks at her like he doesn’t understand. “Of course it’s worth it.”

Maria nods her head once, and stands up, “Well, I don’t accept that. I don’t accept that you’re just going to let yourself die like this in this horrible, painful way. It’s terrible, and nothing is worth your life, Alex. You can fall in love with anyone. It’s not a once in a lifetime thing.”

Alex shakes his head at her, getting to his feet, and there is some color in his cheeks, and Maria swallows hard, but she doesn’t back down.

“I can’t,” he says, voice trembling a little. “You don’t think I’ve tried. I’ve tried everything. It’s been over ten years, and I just can’t seem to ever make it work with anyone else, not that I can manage to make it work with Michael either, but with everyone else, there’s just this feeling of like, static, like they’re on a different frequency-”

“Like you can’t connect,” she says, and he nods his head at her.

“With Michael,” he says and swallows hard, wincing a little. “When it’s just the two of us, and I forget that the world outside exists, everything is so clear.”

He stares at her with wide eyes, and then blinks rapidly, looking away, looking to the side and shaking his head.

“But it’s not like it matters-” he starts and then he chokes, and Maria reaches out to grab him before he collapses on the floor.

“You’re getting worse,” she said,  pulling her phone out of her pocket. “I’m calling, Guerin.”

“No,” he manages to get out, garbled, through a mouthful of flowers. “Kyle ”

Maria is already calling Michael, but she’ll try Kyle next.

Alex drops to the floor, on his hands and knees and Maria closes her eyes and looks up to the ceiling as the phone rings in her ear.

She hopes and prays that Alex will be okay.

She hopes that it’s not in vain.

* * *

Michael bursts into the cabin, slamming the door open before he clears the balcony.

He stutters to a stop when he sees the macabre aftermath on the living room floor, a flower, stem and all, in a pile right by the coffee table, and even more of them leading to Alex’s bedroom, surrounded by thousands upon thousands of metals.

He’s not prepared for the worst and is really hoping for the best when he pushes Alex’s bedroom door open, and he very nearly collapses in relief when he finds Liz and Kyle hovering over Alex, who is breathing shallowly, but still breathing.

He holds on to the doorjamb and it creaks in protest.

Maria appears suddenly in front of him, blocking his view of the bed, and his gaze focuses on her, and she looks pissed off and scared and there are flower petals caught in her curls.

“Fix this,” she tells him in a no nonsense voice, and Michael really doesn’t know how she expects him to do that. “You have to tell him to get the operation.”

Michael looks at her blankly for a second, and he opens his mouth to speak, when he hears Alex speak.

“No,” he’s saying, and his voice sounds raw and wet.

Michael looks away from Maria, and finds Alex immediately, eyes closed as he lies back, brow furrowed like he’s in pain.

“There are no other options,” Kyle is saying. “You’re at the end of it. You told me that we could talk about it now.”

“No,” Alex says again, more firm but just as painful sounding.

“This operation is the only thing that can save your life,” Liz tries next.

“What operation?” Michael blurts out, finally finding his voice.

Alex’s eyes snap open, and they find him immediately, and he exhales, and a flurry of petals fall out of his mouth.

Before anyone can say anything, or Michael can repeat his question, Alex coughs, and makes a low strangled noise and then leans over the bed and coughs and gags and chokes and Michael stares in macabre fascination as Alex pulls the flower out of his mouth. He makes another low strangled pained sound and as the rest of the stem comes out of his mouth, with it comes enough blood to tell Michael that Alex most definitely needs to stop being a stubborn idiot and listen to the doctor.

Alex coughs and spits and more petals fly out of his mouth.

No,” he says on a heaving gasping breath before he’s choking and dragging another flower out of his mouth.

“Are you just going to stand there and watch him die or are you going to do something about it?” Maria says, pushing him backwards and making him snap out of it.

Michael looks at her, and she looks terrified.

Michael just nods his head once and walks over to the bed, pushing Kyle aside, who protests immediately and dropping to his knees right next to Alex, barely avoiding the pile of flowers and blood.

“Alex,” he says, and Alex groans and presses his face to the side of the bed.

He’s leaning awkwardly, and looks like he just might fall down to the floor, but Michael plants one hand right by his waist, and says his name again.

Alex inhales deeply, seemingly holding his breath, before he opens his eyes and turns to Michael.

Michael lifts his hand towards him, and Alex stares at him for a long second like he’s trying to make sure that Michael is actually offering what he thinks he’s offering, and Michael just stares back at him, trying to project as much openness as he can instead of the debilitating fear that keeps paralyzing him and making him want to flee in equal measures.

They need to have a conversation, and they need to have it while Alex isn’t actively dying, and they need privacy and Michael knows only one thing that can offer both.

Alex swallows hard again and he lies back on the bed, his breaths coming in fast and short, blood dripping from his nose, and Michael knows that they’re running out of time.

Michael kneels up and takes Alex’s hand between both of his, and he exhales carefully and closes his eyes, concentrating.

With Alex it’s always so easy to connect, even easier than it is with Isobel or Max. 

Michael refuses to think about the why, and pulls Alex into his head.

It always takes him a second to get used to being in the mindscape, a second where he has to get used to the strange sensation of floating but also being trapped by gravity.

He hears Alex take in a breath, and then he gasps, a little like he’s in shock, and pulls away from Michael.

Michael opens his eyes then brow furrowing in confusion and then his mouth drops open a little in shock.

Alex is covered in vines, except for his face, pressed close to his skin, like they’re embedded, the leaves rustle as he moves around trying to see how far it goes, and the flower petals fall, making it look like a tiny flurry of snow.

He turns to look at Michael who doesn’t know what the hell is going on, but they don’t have time to figure that out.

“Why won’t you let Kyle do the operation?” He asks as soon as Alex turns to him.

Alex shakes his head, and Michael steps forward, frowning when Alex takes a matching step back.

“Alex,” he says. “Either give me a good enough reason not to or I will knock you out and carry you to the hospital myself.”

Alex makes a low frustrated sound and takes several steps backwards and then paces in place for a few seconds where Michael can literally feel every second pass, like a loud drum banging in his ear.

Alex breathes in deeply, and then turns to Michael, locking their eyes together, making it impossible for Michael to look away even if he wanted to.

“The operation would work, taking the flowers out by the root, would fix the problem, but-” he stops and looks away from Michael momentarily, before looking back at him, expression more determined than before.

“But,” he says again, and he’s holding himself so still that he’s actually shaking with the strain, and petals are falling to the floor, but Michael still can’t look away from his face. “It would take with it the feelings that caused it in the first place.”

Michael stares at Alex, and tries to figure out why that would be a bad thing.

Alex sighs and moves his hands to his face, only to freeze as he catches sight of the vines curling around his fingers.

“Alex,” Michael says, and he doesn’t think he’s ever said Alex’s name as much as he has in the last hour. “Just spit it out.”

Alex laughs, a huff of laughter that makes Michael frown immediately.

“I don’t think you actually want to know, Guerin,” he says, letting his hands drop to his sides.

Michael tries not to get defensive immediately.

“Of course I want to know,” Michael says. “I wouldn’t have asked you otherwise.”

Alex shakes his head. “You told me that you’re happy and that you’re loved, so it doesn’t matter the why or the how.”

Michael takes a step towards him, “I knew that that day had something to do with this. You got worse after you came to see me, didn’t you?”

Alex doesn’t reply, only swallows hard, looking away, but to Michael that is answer enough.

Michael tries not to tear his hair out. “I don’t understand. What do I-?”

Michael stops speaking as Alex looks back at him, eyes wide and shining bright, and he feels the air catching painfully at the back of his throat, and his fingers itch with the desire to reach for him and pull him in close.

“What do you have to do with this?” Alex finishes for him, and there is something in the tone of his voice that tells Michael that he’s done beating around the bush.

“Nothing,” he breathes out. “And everything.”

Michael swallows hard and just looks at him, impatience making him a little jittery because they are running out of time, but he waits Alex out.

“Because you’re an alien,” he says, and Michael tries not to flinch away from the accusation. “Because you weren’t careful enough the three times you dragged me into your head. Because psychically you don’t let anyone go. Because we formed a bond that you rejected. Because I had hope for months, that maybe things between us would get better, would get to a place where we could eventually try again, but you took that away from me too.”

Michael shuts his eyes, feeling every single word like a punch in the chest. He aches with it, and he wonders if this is how Alex felt when Michael had accused him of being the worst thing that had ever happened to him.

Michael feels hands on his shoulders, and opens his eyes to see Alex standing right in front of him.

“But it’s not your fault,” he says looking at Michael seriously, and stressing every word. “You didn’t ask to be an alien, and you didn’t know what would happen, and it’s not your fault that you don’t love me anymore.”

Alex shudders, eyes falling shut, and Michael can hear the rustling as the vines move and the petals fell to the floor, and Alex gasps quietly, and Michael’s eyes drop to his throat where he sees the vines crawling higher, a flower blooming right by his ear.

“That’s what this is about?” Michael asks, and Alex’s eyes open.

“These things are killing you because I don’t love you?”

Alex shudders again, and Michael exhales roughly not really needing Alex to give him a concrete answer.

He pulls away from Alex and tries to think clearly, but he can’t, not when there is a ticking time bomb in his brain reminding him that they don’t have the time.

“This doesn’t make any sense,” he says, and Alex just blinks at him. “You’re dying, and the only way to fix the problem is for you to remove these things that are growing inside of your lungs, but you refuse to because it will take away how it feels to know that I don’t love you?”

Alex huffs out a breath, and he rolls his eyes a little, and Michael gets defensive immediately.

“For a genius, you can be such a dumbass,” he says, sounding fond for some reason, and confusing Michael enough that all he can do is stare.

“The scientists stationed at Caulfield called it, the disease of the brokenhearted,” he starts, and Michael freezes, feeling his heart stall in his chest. “It only occurs when the bond is unrequited.”

“Alex,” Michael says sounding a little breathless, and lot confused.

Alex swallows hard and looks at Michael, eyes honest, lashes wet. 

“I love you,” he says, and Michael gasps, feeling the words hit him right in the pit of his stomach. “I love you, and I would rather die than ever forget that.”

Michael blinks, feeling a little dazed, like Alex knocked him over the head with a brick.

His heart beats in his chest in time to the words echoing in his head, I love you, I love you, I love you.

Michael feels something brush against his consciousness, like someone is trying to call him back to his body, but there’s still one more thing that he needs to know.

“What was your first option?”

Alex lets out a breath and closes his eyes shaking his head, but Michael doesn’t really need an answer. He thinks that he already knows.

And it’s so crazy that Michael can’t help but huff out a laugh, smile widening when Alex’s eyes open again and he looks at Michael in confusion.

“For a genius,” Michael says a little mockingly. “You can be such a dumbass.”

Alex furrows his brow, not understanding at all, but Michael doesn’t feel like clearing anything up.

“I never look away,” he says instead, and Alex immediately takes a step back, shaking his head in denial. “I told you that.”

“No,” Alex says. “You told me that you didn’t love me.”

“I was lying,” Michael says. “And you knew that I was.”

Alex shakes his head again. “You said that I was the worst thing to ever happen to you.”

Michael nods his head. “And you’re also the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

“Stop,” Alex says looking at him a little desperately, but Michael doesn’t.

He steps close again, wrapping his fingers around Alex’s arms and tugging him in close.

“You’re happier without me,” Alex whispers. “You said that. That you were happier, and you never felt more loved, and I don’t want to mess that up for you.”

“The only way that you can mess anything up is by dying, Alex,” Michael says, tone insistent as he pulls Alex in a little closer.

“You can’t do this to Maria,” he says then, looking at Michael pleadingly. “She loves you, and you’re happy with her. You’ll forget all about me eventually-”

“No,” Michael says, cutting him off, and Alex shuts his eyes. “I won’t forget about you. I haven’t been able to. I have a good woman who loves me and who makes me happy and still you’re all I think about.”

Alex shakes his head again. “You can’t.”

“But I do,” Michael says, and he waits until Alex opens his eyes again, distraught, but Michael can see the cautious hope that he doesn’t want to give into in the way he pulls his bottom lip into his mouth, staring at Michael intently.

“I love you,” he says, and Alex’s mouth falls open slightly, eyes going a little wide.

“You-” Alex starts, shaking his head, but Michael pulls him in even closer, pressing a kiss right against the curve of his cheekbone, lips brushing against the skin softly, making Alex’s words die in his throat.

“I love you,” he breathes. “I never stopped. I never will. And I promise to spend the rest of my life reminding you, over and over.”

Alex whimpers low in his throat, and he reaches for Michael, hands tangling in the collar of his shirt.

“I love you,” he says again, and Alex drops his forehead to Michael’s exhaling roughly, and he’s so close that Michael feels it when the vines start to move, seeming to shrink and shrivel like they’re dying.

“I love you,” Michael says again, and Alex makes a relieved sound at the back of his throat, and Michael closes his eyes and drags them out of his head.

* * *

Alex gasps, air flooding his lungs so fast that he almost chokes on it, moving his head to the side and coughing weakly, feeling his throat ache, but not like something was stuck.

He’d gotten so used to fighting for every breath over the last couple of months that breathing easily sends a shock through his system.

He opens his eyes and sees Liz, looking at him in shock, with tears staining her cheeks.

He smiles weakly at her, and she smiles back like she can’t help herself.

Alex feels someone squeeze his fingers and he turns to find Michael staring at him expectantly.

Alex just breathes in deeply and finds himself smiling at Michael, who just huffs out in relief and then pushes into Alex’s space, to pull him into a hug, pulling Alex to sitting position, and burying his face in Alex’s stomach.

Alex automatically places his hands in Michael’s hair, trying to soothe him and jumps a little when he feels someone wrapping their arms around him from behind.

He smells Liz’s coconut shampoo as she presses their heads together arms wrapped around his shoulders, hands clasped right across his chest.

“What?” Kyle asks sounding confused.

Alex looks at him and he gives him a half smile, and Kyle exhales roughly.

“You take decades off my life and you don’t have the decency to at least let me try to save you?”

Alex would speak, but while he doesn’t feel like he’s fighting to breathe, his throat still feels rough.

He just stares at Kyle, who rolls his eyes before he drops on the bed and pulls both him and Liz into his arms.

It’s a little awkward but Alex doesn’t say anything as Kyle exhales in relief like Alex really did scare him.

There is one person missing, and when he looks for her, he finds her standing awkwardly by the door, staring at the way Michael is holding on to him like she’s finally figured something out.

He clears his throat, and everyone reacts.

Maria’s eyes snap up to him, and Michael’s hands dig into his back, and both Liz and Kyle basically stop breathing.

“Sorry,” he says, wincing a little, but doesn’t look away from Maria.

Maria stares at him for a moment longer, before the look on her face cracks, and her eyes fill with tears and then she’s also crawling on the bed and wrapping Alex up in his arms, from his other side.

Alex feels completely smothered, and a little uncomfortable, but he knows how close it got.

He can give them this for a few more seconds. He has a feeling that they all need it after the day that they’ve had.

After a few minutes, he starts to feel more than a little uncomfortable. 

Kyle and Maria notice immediately and let him go, sitting back on the bed, close enough that they’re still touching him in some way but not smothering. Liz tightens her hold on him marginally, pressing a kiss to his temple.

“Never do that to me again,” she whispers trying to sound stern, but the relief in her voice just makes her sound fond.

“I promise,” he tells her, reaching up with one hand to pat the back of her clasped hands.

She lets him go and leans next to Kyle, dropping her head on his shoulder, and closing her eyes. “I feel exhausted even though it’s like not even dark out yet.”

Michael doesn’t let go, and Alex doesn’t know if he actually wants Michael to let him go.

Maria clears her throat, and everyone’s eyes snap to her immediately, Michael included, even though he tightens his hold on Alex even more.

“I’m okay,” she tells them, but Alex can already feel Kyle clearing his schedule for tomorrow morning so he can check her out as well as make sure that Alex is actually in the clear.

“I’ll be the judge of that,” Kyle says, and Alex can feel him moving to get off the bed. “Tomorrow,” he says pointing at both Alex and Maria. “I want the both of you in my office, ten am sharp.”

Alex shares a look with Maria and they both turn to Kyle with one eyebrow raised.

“I had no idea you felt like that, Valenti,” Maria says, and Alex opens his mouth, and closes it when Kyle glares at them both.

“Don’t you two start.”

Maria just snorts and Alex bites down on a smile.

Liz pushes Kyle towards the door, “Come on, I’m sure Alex has a secret imported vodka stash somewhere that we can raid.”

Before Alex can protests, Maria is also scrambling off the bed and joining Liz and Kyle, wrapping her arm around Liz, and she doesn’t look back as they walk down the hall, but Alex can see how tense she is.

After a few seconds, where Alex hears the shouts of triumph as they find his secret imported vodka stash, Michael finally pulls away from him, leaning back on his heels and letting his hands fall to his lap.

Alex stares at him for a second, looking at the messy, frizzy curls on top of his head, and he can still hear Michael’s voice, strong and sure telling him that he loves him, and the certainty of his face and the honesty in his eyes is enough to give Alex that hope back.

But he can still see Maria’s face as she realized that her relationship with Michael had a part to play in what was happening to him.

Alex inhales carefully and reaches for Michael, fingers curling into his hair, and Michael lifts his face to look at Alex.

Alex stares at him and very gently slides his hands down to cup his face.

Michael closes his eyes leaning into the touch, lips parting slightly, and Alex has to bite down on his lip to remind himself that he can’t kiss Michael.

At least not right now.

“We have to-” 

“Talk,” he says, blinking his eyes open and looking at Alex with an expression so soft and full of wonder that Alex feels a little bit faint. “I know.”

He shakes his head a little. “Yes, but you have to talk to Maria first, and decide what it is that you actually want, and only after all of that can you make good on your promise.”

Michael stares at him for a long moment before he kneels up, and Alex’s breath catches in his throat, but Michael just presses a kiss to his cheek, so soft and sweet, but it leaves Alex aching for more.

“I love you,” he whispers, and Alex gasps, eyes falling shut. “I’ve already made my choice.”

Alex presses his cheek to Michael’s and closes his eyes tight, before he pulls back.

Michael moves at the same time that he does and they both stop short, noses barely touching.

Alex looks into Michael’s eyes, and Michael looks into Alex’s, and he feels overwhelmed by the amount of love he can see shining out of Michael’s eyes, but he loves the way it makes him feel warm inside.

Alex doesn’t know how long they stay there, just staring at each other while Alex basks in the warmth of knowing without a doubt how Michael feels about him, but someone clears their throat, and they both flinch, pulling away and looking over to the door.

Kyle grins a little sheepish, but there is something a little disapproving in his stare.

“We’re heading out to let you rest,” he eyes him intently as he speaks. “Drink plenty of fluids and I’ll be giving you something tomorrow to help you with your throat.”

Alex nods his head, and tries not to feel too disappointed when Michael lets him go and gets to his feet, groaning a little as he walks around from kneeling in place for a bit too long.

Kyle nods back at him and turns to go.

“Wait,” he says, and Kyle stops and turns back to him.

“Thank you,” he says.

Kyle just smiles back at him. “It’s my job to keep you healthy. You have to stop making it so difficult.”

Alex just rolls his eyes good naturedly, and watches as Kyle leaves.

Liz bounces into the room, holding a fifth of vodka beneath one arm. She presses a kiss to his forehead, “I will also see you in the morning, ten am sharp.”

He smiles at her, and she just waves as she turns and follows Kyle down the hall.

Maria walks into the room, and Michael excuses himself without a word as he walks pass her and down the hall.

Maria stares at him in silence for long enough, that Alex starts to fidget. He hears the sound of Kyle’s car turning on and pulling out of the driveway which propels him to speak.

“I’m sorry,” he says, and Maria furrows her brow. “It was never my intention to do anything that would come between you and Michael.”

Maria’s face clears and she shakes her head at him. “You didn’t. Things with Michael haven’t been working out the way that I had hoped they would. I thought that maybe what we needed was time, but I don’t think anymore that this is one of those things that will be fixed by time.”

She walks over to him slowly, and sits down beside him, wrapping her arm around his waist and tucking her head into his neck.

Alex wraps his arm around her shoulders and holds her tightly, feeling tears prick behind his eyelids.

“Be good to him,” she whispers, so low that he almost doesn’t hear her. “Or I’ll kick your ass.”

Alex just tightens his hold on her, and doesn’t say anything.

She presses a kiss to his shoulder and then lets him go, getting to her feet and sending him a smile. “See you in the morning.”

Alex smiles back at her. “I’ll bring some fresh blueberry scones.”

She makes a happy noise at the back of her throat and then turns and leaves.

Alex doesn’t wait for Michael to come back and tell him goodbye.

He gets to his feet, wincing a little as he bends to release the pressure of his prosthetic. He feels like he’s been wearing it too long, but first, he needs to at least take a shower, then he’ll worry about everything else.

He takes his time in the shower, and when he gets out, and wipes the steam away from the mirror, he stares at his reflection.

He does look tired and like he could use at least three weeks of sleep, but unlike the time when all of this was starting out, he doesn’t feel like he’s at the end of his rope.

He walks out of the bathroom, a towel wrapped around his waist, to get to the clothes in his dresser and when he darts his eyes out of the window, he freezes momentarily.

Maria and Michael are sitting on the tailgate of her truck, and he’s speaking, and Maria is listening to him with a serious expression.

Alex turns from the window and walks towards the dresser. 

He wasn’t really expecting Michael and Maria to have this conversation right now. He had figured that he would have to wait at least another week before Michael told him what his decision actually was, even after he said that he had already made his choice.

Alex gets dressed, and throws his towel over his shoulder, grabbing his crutch from where it had been leaning on the wall so that he can actually get to the kitchen without having to use the wall for balance.

His eyes dart back outside of the window, and this time they are standing, and Maria is placing something in Michael’s hands, before she leans up, and presses a kiss to his cheek.

Alex looks away and makes his way to the kitchen.

He jumps slightly when he hears Maria’s truck start up and leave, and goes and grabs a glass of water.

He downs the whole thing, and sets the cup down on the counter, waiting for the sound of Michael’s truck to start up, but it doesn’t.

But Michael also doesn’t appear at the doorway.

Alex worries his bottom lip and then exhales slowly.

He’ll give Michael all of the time that he needs.

Right now, Alex wants to clean up the mess on his floor and then take a nap, but not necessarily in that order.

He knows that if he leaves the mess that it will stink up the place later, but as soon as he thinks about sleeping, he starts to yawn.

He exhales and just walks towards his room.

He’ll lie down for a second and then clean up.

Alex swears that he’s only just closed his eyes, when he feels the bed dipping beside him.

He turns towards the movement, blinking his eyes open and is surprised by how dark it is.

He looks at Michael, who is settling himself beside Alex, and jolts a little when he sees that Alex’s eyes are open and on him.

Alex doesn’t say anything, and Michael just stares at him carefully, before he moves closer, sliding one arm beneath Alex’s head.

Alex turns to him, and wraps one arm around his waist, and Michael takes that as permission to wrap himself around Alex like an octopus.

Alex lets him before he tries to get comfortable and then he buries his face in Michael’s hair.

He smells faintly of sweat and slightly sweet like he uses Liz’s coconut shampoo, and also a little bit like bleach and lavender scented disinfectant.

Alex doesn’t really have to wonder why, he just wraps his arm tighter around him.

“We’ll talk in the morning,” Michael says in a low voice. “I promise. I just, need to hold you right now.”

Alex doesn’t say anything, he just inhales as deep as he can, filling his lungs with air, and he exhales closing his eyes and falls asleep.