Over the course of the next couple of weeks, Michael and Alex slowly move into another property the Antaran royal family owns. Somewhere far smaller. More private. Michael has had it outfitted with human, more specifically, American, furniture and appliances, as well as the usual Antaran things for himself, taking special care to add measures to make things easier and more accessible for Alex.
Alex fights back tears when he sees it, completely unused to anyone thinking this much about his needs and his comfort, much less someone who has only known him for about a month.
Michael gets back to his usual work and Alex, well, he’ll be the first to admit he’s getting restless. He’s trying to figure out where, exactly, he fits in with Antaran society. He’s committed to spending the rest of his life here, so he’s hoping to find something that he feels comfortable doing, at the very least.
At first, he spends his days with Isobel, if only because he’s comfortable around her and her cutting sense of humor. But planning events isn’t exactly his forte. So, when Rath invites Alex to join a training session with his soldiers, to give them some tips on fighting without their abilities, he jumps at the chance.
Alex is surprised to see that Rath’s army is majority women, some of the women in it far smaller than most of those he’s met in his time in the Air Force. He supposes he shouldn’t be surprised. Size doesn’t reflect their powers or abilities, after all. So he decides to start with some basic self defense, as well as things he knows from being the smallest and youngest of four boys.
When he asks for a volunteer to demonstrate with, he’s surprised by the number of soldiers who offer. He selects the smallest of them, a woman who introduces herself as Jess. He quickly explains to her what he’s going to do, asks if she’s comfortable with it, and, when she says yes, he explains to her, and the group, what she’s going to do in response.
Then he grabs her, careful not to hold on too tight, making it look like he’s attacking her from behind, arms around her arms, pressed against her back.
She surprises him with her strength, freeing herself from him quickly. And then she takes him by surprise when she knocks him to the ground and moves to straddle his hips, looking very proud of herself. And she should be. She clearly has good instincts, even in physical battle.
Soon, all the Antarans are practicing what he taught with each other.
Most of them seem excited to be learning new things, talking about how the yellow powder the humans used had caused their powers to stop working, about how this might help them in future fights.
But he can hear a few people grumbling in the background about humans staying in their place and in their own world. He hears one use what he assumes, based on a tone he’s far too familiar with, is a slur.
He’s used to it, used to ignoring it and pushing it down, forcing himself to let it go, no matter how hurtful it is. He’s a biracial, disabled, gay man. He’s heard slurs all his life. So he’s surprised when Rath instantly heads over there and starts to speak to them, arguing with one of the soldiers.
And that’s also a surprise. That the Antaran soldiers fight so freely with their leader, that they tell him exactly what they think.
After it’s over, the soldier storms out and Rath moves to Alex’s side. “I’m sorry you had to overhear that, Captain. Kivar has been told that he can either treat you with the respect that we owe you as a courageous and honorable warrior, or he can leave. Unfortunately, he has chosen the latter. But, I promise, most of our soldiers will treat you with respect.”
“You really didn’t have to-” Alex starts.
“You are both a soldier and a member of the royal family. I know Kivar and some others will respect you even less for that. Not all of them approve of Antaran and human marriage or the peace we’ve found between our worlds. Some still harbor anger over lives lost. But I know you’ve seen many lost as well. And know the cost of continued war.”
“You are a part of my family, Alex. And, even if you weren’t, you have been good for and to my son. I haven’t seen him this content in years. My soldiers will treat you with the respect owed to a fellow warrior and a member of the royal family.”
Alex doesn’t know how to accept the kindness from Rath, so he simply gets back to work.
Michael is glad that Alex has something to do, having seen how much he was struggling without a purpose, even if it’s just continuing to work with Rath and his soldiers, teaching them how to fight without their abilities.
It doesn’t seem to really be fulfilling for Alex, but it’s something and Michael won’t complain about the things he’s seen when he’s popped in to see Alex during the day. He’s sure he’ll never forget the image of one of the soldiers swinging at Alex and Alex using his force against him, swinging him around and knocking him on the ground. Watching Alex above the other man, holding him in place easily with just his hands and his thighs, leaves Michael hard and aching.
He tells Alex as much when he gets home that night and it’s not long before Alex has him in bed, hands above his head, pinned by just one of Alex’s own hands. He slowly sinks down onto Michael’s length until he’s taken Michael all the way in. And then he starts to move slowly, torturously, holding Michael still the whole time.
He slowly picks up the pace, moving harder and faster, riding Michael toward his own release and Michael is entranced. He’s never seen anything as beautiful in his entire life as Alex on top of him, flushed, eyes dark, mouth slack. He’s letting out these desperate moans as he moves harder and faster and Michael is certain he’s letting out similar sounds, but all he can see, all that matters, is Alex.
And then Alex is coming and Michael is following close behind, pushing up against Alex’s hand, desperate to hold onto Alex while he comes. But Alex is still stronger than him and he doesn’t let go until he’s collapsed on Michael’s chest, catching his breath.
Michael runs his hands over Alex’s back, mindlessly tracing his spine. He’s gotten used to the scars he feels there. He’s never asked what caused them and, really, if Alex doesn’t want to talk about it, he doesn’t need to know. He’s just glad that his husband is with him, here and now, safe from whatever has hurt him in the past.
Eventually, they’ll have to move, both to clean up and find something to eat, but, for now, he’s content to hold Alex, to feel his warm, strong body against his.
“If you weren’t a prince and you didn’t have all these obligations, what would you want to do?” Alex asks, voice sleepy.
This is a bit of a ritual for them. After, when they’re both sated and warm, when they’re not quite ready to rejoin the outside world, they’ll ask each other questions they both answer honestly. It’s helped them get to know each other better. It’s brought them closer. Sometimes it’s as simple as a favorite book or favorite type of dessert. Other times, it’s more serious, though both of them are careful when they ask those questions.
“I’m not sure,” Michael answers. Truth be told, he doesn’t particularly enjoy his job, especially now. Building weapons of war, causing destruction and death… It’s something he’s good at, but not something he wants to do. And lately he can’t help but wonder if it was one of his creations that injured Alex. That could have killed him. “I guess I’d like to build things that help people? I never really thought about it when I was young. My dad wanted me to be part of his army.” He notes the way Alex stiffens at that, but he continues. “I had more aptitude in other areas. I don’t know whether or not that’s a good thing.” He pauses, trying to focus on what Alex asked, “Yeah, I’d like to build things that help people. Prosthetics, for one,” he admits. He can practically feel Alex’s blush. He has been thinking about ways to improve Alex’s prosthetic leg for a while now. It’ll take some time to examine it, some research, and understanding of any differences he needs to be aware of between human and Antaran needs, but he hopes to figure something out. He doesn’t like seeing Alex in pain.
“What about you?” he finally asks. “What did you want to do before you became a soldier?”
“I wanted to make music,” Alex tells him softly. He listens closely as Alex tells him about playing the guitar and singing. And he starts to plan.
Alex leads Michael through the door carefully, glancing back to make sure his eyes are still covered, their usual protective detail trailing behind them. He hopes this will be a good surprise. He hopes he can provide Michael with some of that feeling he’s given him. That Alex is cared for. That he matters. That Alex has a home in a way he never has before. Alex just wants to be able to give a little bit of that feeling back to Michael.
“Okay,” he finally says. “You can look.”
His eyes are on Michael’s face as his eyes open and he looks around, taking in the room. He’s nervous, hopes Michael gets what it is, hopes it means something to him.
And he watches as realization sinks in, as Michael’s eyes light up and a smile spreads across his face. “How did you…?” he asks, looking around.
“Turns out soldiers have some connections,” Alex shrugs. He had spent the past week working on this, talking to people, persuading them. He hadn’t wanted to use his connections, hadn’t wanted to drop Michael’s name or promise anything connected to the Antaran royal family, even though, of course, everyone knew who he was.
“You got me a tour of the med tech facility?” Michael asks, hopefully.
“Nope,” Alex grins at him. “I got you full access to the med tech facility.” He had shown them some of Michael’s designs and explained that he wanted to help people, not continue what he’d been doing. “You can work here as much as you want, ask the scientists here whatever you want. I know you wanted to-”
He’s silenced by Michael pressing a kiss to his lips. It’s only when he pulls away that he sees the tears in Michael’s eyes. “How did I get so lucky?” he asks, thumb gently stroking Alex’s cheekbone.
Alex has so many things he wants to say. So many things he wants to tell Michael. But he’s not sure he’s ready yet for that. So he just shrugs and says, “I’m the one who got lucky.”
And Michael pulls him in close again and presses his lips to his and Alex feels like he’s finally where he belongs.
Alex is trying not to be hurt by Michael’s absence. Ever since Alex got him access to that lab, Michael had stayed out all evening, waiting to come home until Alex was in bed. Alex is trying to remind himself that it doesn’t matter. This is what he had expected out of a marriage to Isobel, so why should it hurt if he gets this from Michael?
He tells himself he doesn’t miss the way Michael hums off key when he’s working on something or the way he always leaves their kitchen a mess when he cooks. He doesn’t miss the way Michael always makes sure he has his medicine and a glass of water by the bedside table or the way that, when he woke up from nightmares or couldn’t sleep because of pain, Michael was right there. He’s never had that before. He shouldn’t be relying on it now.
Of course the med tech lab is more interesting than coming home and greeting Alex with a very thorough kiss before telling him all about his day. Alex hates himself a little for hoping that wouldn’t be the case.
No, what matters is that Michael is happy. He’s enjoying himself and his work. He deserves that. He does. He’s kind and gentle and he deserves something fulfilling. Alex knows Michael isn’t made for destruction and now he has something that counteracts that. And it makes him happy. Alex should be happy for him.
He’s just a bit lonely, that’s all.
So he spends more time helping to train soldiers and then going to the palace to visit Isobel and Mara.
He ignores Isobel’s sad glances at him and the guilt in Mara’s eyes. He doesn’t want their pity. He’s fine. He’s married an alien to help with the peace between their two worlds. It was never meant to be anything more than that.