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I am Your Future, I am Your Past

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Prologue

Back in the days of ritual sacrifice, there were two families. The Guerin family served the Manes. The two children grew up together, playing, studying, learning to fight. As they got older, their parents began forcing them apart, for the Manes Princess could never be seen with a Guerin slave.

The two children snuck out at night, talking about how it would be different someday. Someday they could be friends openly. As they moved into their teenage years, things changed again. Nights were spent in each other’s arms. Soft sighs as they memorized the feeling of their bodies. It was bliss.

They were discovered by the princess’ father one night. He beat the slave boy, breaking his hand for daring to touch his daughter. They were forbidden to see each other. The slave boy was held back and hidden from view when the Head family was around. The princess cried for her friend and lover.

The yearly sacrifice to the gods was upon them. And a white flag sat in the front courtyard of the Manes estate signaling it was to be their daughter presented. The lord stole his daughter away, forcing her into a small shed in the dark corner of the grounds. He had no intention of getting in the way of the sacrifice for she had disgraced him. But he knew the slave boy would try to stop it.

The slave boy knew the grounds like the back of his hand. He had to memorize the best routes to take when the two of them had been sneaking out. He located the small shed with ease and tried to encourage the princess to run away with him. She cried for him, wishing she could. But this was her duty. She didn’t want to anger the gods, or worse, her father.

The slave boy went to her every day and every day tried to talk her out of being the sacrifice. Her resolve weakened as she listened to the promises her made her. He would protect her. They would run as far as they needed, until they could be together. The night before the sacrifice was to take place, they ran.

The family chased them, the slave boy protecting the princess with everything he had. But it wasn’t enough. They had almost made it out of town before they were caught. Lord Manes had come prepared to perform the sacrifice himself.

She made no sound as the arrow pierced her back and heart. She stumbled and fell to the ground. The slave boy cradled her body in his arms. He was going to be next. But the lord didn’t kill him. He wanted the boy to suffer without her. They were left among the trees.

The boy pleaded to the gods to save her. Let her live. Let him take the pain instead. They heard his plea and granted his wish. With conditions. The future generations would be forced to feel this same pain. They would be drawn together as the lovers were, facing trials to prove they were truly meant to be.

The boy took on the princess’ wounds, dying in her place. She wept but continued living for his sake. She would always love him and every one of her reincarnations would too…

The story of the original lovers was passed through generations. Every few generations would go through trials. The pair rarely survived to complete them. Men and women died senselessly. Always drawn together by the curse for the sick enjoyment of the gods.

-

Chapter 1

Michael POV

Michael Guerin always scoffed at the old books and stories. Or at least he did. Then the marks appeared on his chest. A geometric looking flower with five diamond shaped petals. He fought the urge to go looking. No way was he going to start taking on the pain of someone else. Besides, Alex Manes was in the past.

He didn’t even know the history. And why would he? He had three brothers who probably all knew it, and nothing ever happened. All the reincarnations had been a man and a woman. So, unless Alex had a cousin, some mistake had clearly been made.

Michael’s phone buzzed in his pocket while he was elbow deep in a junk car. He tried to convince the customer that it was a lost cause, but the guy wouldn’t hear it. Michael could fix almost anything, even this old ford. But he knew when it would just be a waste of time.

He wiped his hands on his jeans before pulling out the phone, trying to avoid getting too much grease on it. His girlfriend’s name lit up the screen and he smiled. They had gotten off to a rocky start, but things were easier now.

“Am I running late for something again?” He grinned even though she couldn’t see it.

“No, but would it kill you to be on time for once,” she said sarcastically.

“Look DeLuca, I gotta make an entrance. So, what did you need from me today?” He wished he could see her roll her eyes.

“I just wanted to remind you that we’re having a welcome home party for Alex. You remember him, right?” How could he forget? Michael clenched his fist, flinching at the pain from the areas that were broken.

“Yea. You want me to come along or something? I will for you, but I don’t want it to be weird. We weren’t really friends.”

“Ok but Liz is bringing Max so that doesn’t really matter. You’ll know someone.” Michael sighed. Him and Max haven’t exactly been on talking terms. He and Isobel had been able to escape the thumb of the family. They knew the story of course but no mark had ever appeared on them. In fact, it was a miracle one had appeared on him at all. It usually made itself known in the high school years. At least, that was the pattern.

“Alright. Are you hosting at the Wild Pony?”

“Yea. Open bar and everything,” she said knowingly. Michael laughed.

“You know me so well, Maria.”

“But of course. So I’ll see you later. Love you!” The line clicked off. The sun passed behind the lone cloud in the sky, providing the briefest of relief from the desert sun.

Ten years ago, Alex left. He didn’t even say goodbye. They weren’t good for each other and they both knew it. Michael slammed the hood of the car a bit harder than he meant to.

“Hey! Don’t need you breakin’ customers cars,” his boss, Sanders called to him. The old man was half blind and pushed a lot of work onto Michael but he also let him live on the lot. He couldn’t complain.

“Sorry. Hey, I’m heading out for the day. I’ll come in early to finish this up. Or maybe you could just call him back and convince him that this is a lost cause.” Sanders shook his head.

“If I do that, then he won’t pay.” He stepped back inside the small trailer he used for paperwork. Michael headed over to his own trailer. The least he could do was change clothes. He considered hooking up the hose to his trailer to shower too but then Sanders would be all over him about operating costs. He tossed his dirty shirt on the pile that needed to go to the laundromat.

“Ah, fuck it,” he mumbled to himself. He didn’t want to embarrass Maria by smelling like sweat and old car. He laughed at himself. Alex has always liked-

No! He wasn’t going to let himself finish the thought. It doesn’t matter anymore. They weren’t friends. They were hardly acquaintances anymore. Alex Manes was just a guy who happened to share the same name as the stupid prophecy.

-

Alex POV

Alex sat outside the Wild Pony in his car. He hadn’t been here in ten years. Was he ready to get back to life as normal? He wasn’t the same kid that left to escape home all that time ago. He was broken. More than he was then. Missing a leg. Nightmares that haunted him.

He shook his head and stepped out of the car. He knew he was early, but he couldn’t help it. It eased the anxiety. This wasn’t war. It was ok if his brain wasn’t running a million miles a second.

The dust covered his shoes as soon as he set foot back in Roswell. Something that didn’t change when he went to Iraq. It felt new and familiar. He raised a hand to his chest where his friends had slapped a tattoo on him but refused to admit it. It wasn’t bad, just strange. A geometric flower with diamonds for petals.

The pull of Roswell was never something he understood. He just knew he had to be here. Leaving was hard but it was for the best. The first thing that had happened when he got back was his father lecturing him. No familial connection at all.

Alex clenched his fists and moved toward the doors. This was no time to be thinking of the past. The door stuck in that familiar way. His crutch stuck to the ground but not enough for it to hinder his movements.

A smile settled on his face as he took in the surroundings. Nothing had changed except for the neon sign that had all the letters lit up. Maria must have had someone fix it. No one sat around the pool table though it was set up. A group laughed and he turned toward the bar. He watched as Max Evans and Maria DeLuca attempted to hang a sign. It was clearly much bigger than they had planned. Liz and Rosa Ortecho held a glass of something and laughed as Max wobbled on the step latter.

“You guys know this wasn’t necessary right?” The four of them turned to look at him. The three girls jumped up and rushed over to him. Maria dropped the sign, leaving Max to stop it from knocking bottles over.

Liz and Rosa wrapped him in a tight squeeze and he laughed at their excitement. He had missed this. Hugs were rarely exchanged in the air force. It usually requires an almost death. Maria joined the group hug, but the extra weight was pushing him off balance.

“As much as I love all of you, I think this would be easier if it was one at a time.” They all laughed, letting him go slowly.

“I told you not to be here until six! Why don’t you listen to me,” Maria whined? She wrapped her arms around his neck, pressing a kiss to his cheek.

“Because when have I ever listened to you,” he joked back.

“Ok so you’re still that little boy who is a good kid but trying to be bad? Got it.” Rosa grinned as she pulled him in. “I’ve missed you, Manes.” Alex rolled his eyes at her.

“Rosa, come on. No need to pull out the friendly insults as soon as he walks in. You could always insult her back you know.” Alex laughed as she hugged him.

“Nah, I think I’ll spare her for now.” The group laughed again as Max came up beside Liz. They had never been close but they got along. And Alex knew Liz loved him. He reached out a hand, smiling kindly at him.

“Welcome back, Alex. Oh, and thank you for your service,” Max said. He reached out and shook his hand.

“You know I just did this for attention right?” Liz’s mouth dropped open in mock surprise as they all started laughing. Alex followed the group to the bar. Max and Maria resumed their task of trying to hang the banner. Alex offered to help but they refused, stating he shouldn’t set up for his own party.

Other people showed up as the evening went, some helping add decorations that he truly believed were unnecessary. Old friends from high school stopped to catch up and thank him, though he wasn’t quite sure how to respond. His time in the service wasn’t always for causes he believed in. He lost count of the number of times where he realized what they were doing could be considered wrong.

Maria checked her phone for the twentieth time, mumbling about how “he was late.” She mentioned in a letter she had fallen for a guy that ended up being surprising. Apparently, he used to be some regular at the bar. She didn’t think good of him, but something changed.

“So, do I get to meet that guy you were raving about in your last letter?” Alex took a sip of his drink, raising an eyebrow at Maria.

“I mean, that was the plan but apparently he’s ditching. Or he just wants to be fashionably late,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Of course, I guess you might know him. He did go to school with us.” Alex racked his brain, but no one stood out. Maria sighed and shrugged.

Alex felt a tugging in his mind. In his heart. It happened occasionally overseas when he was homesick. Must be the nostalgia of the Wild Pony. He jumped as Maria moved suddenly.

“There you are! Took ya long enough.” she bounced out from behind the counter. Alex chuckled as he turned in his seat to meet the mystery man. He took a sip of his drink as he did and nearly choked.

A cowboy hat sat on his head but the curls refused to be tamed. Alex watched as Maria wrapped her arms around his waist and he kissed her head. Then he turned his eyes on him.

Every memory he had successfully suppressed while he was away came flooding back. Alex glanced down at his hand. It was still messed up from when his father had- He looked away quickly. Michael Guerin… he never thought he’d see him again. Pain tugged at his heart but also something so incredibly right that that world could end and he wouldn’t care.

“Alex. Welcome home,” he said. He wanted to cry. There was a warmth in his voice that was so familiar. Memories of nights in Michaels truck or in that shed overwhelmed him. He was a still just a boy when it came to Michael.

“Uh yea, thanks. Nice to be surrounded by sand again,” he said, trying to sound confident. A small grin made its way onto Michaels face. Alex returned the smile, hoping it wasn’t as nervous as he felt.

“Alright, DeLuca. You got me here on the promise of free booze. Why not pour shots for the three of us?” Michael took a seat next to Alex, arm brushing against his briefly. Alex ignored it in favor of the tequila Maria was placing in front of them.

-

Michael POV

Michael didn’t know how to react. He hadn’t expected to simply look at Alex and have every old feeling resurface. His heart tugged at his chest, telling him to just reach out and touch him. To hold him close. To protect him with every fiber of his being.

“Ok but just because I could now kick Kyle Valenti’s ass doesn’t mean I want to. I’m trying to avoid violence.” Alex took another sip of his drink, his cheeks beginning to look flushed. Michael tried to hide his grin. He had never heard Alex so confident and comfortable. Maybe it was just the alcohol talking but it was a side of him he’d never seen.

“Maybe a bad idea to kick his ass these days. Guy’s a doctor,” Michael pointed out, taking a sip of beer. Alex raised an eyebrow and looked to Maria for confirmation.

“He’s not kidding. But hey, maybe he’s changed. Not like you’re the same kid from high school,” she said, raising her glass in a half toast.

“You can say that again. I might have wanted a tattoo then but when my buddies slapped one on me, damn I wanted to kill them. Course they deny everything. Assholes,” Alex said, laughing. Maria’s mouth dropped open, but a smile soon replaced it.

“Oh my god, where?” She could hardly contain her excitement. Michael had to admit he was curious. Alex shook his head and began to unbutton his shirt and he had to stop himself from choking on his drink. Was he really going to strip here? “Woah, maybe I should have cut you off earlier,” Maria joked. Alex rolled his eyes and grabbed the shirt to move it to the side.

“No. I’m not that far gone.” The flower on his chest reflected some of the lights, making the diamond petals look iridescent. Michael's eyes widened at the familiar pattern. There was no way this was happening now. Not after all this time.

“It’s not horrible considering,” Michael said, trying to act natural. Maria agreed with him as she reached out to touch him. Not that it would feel different than the other skin. As Alex readjusted his shirt, Michael felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned to find Max, a serious look telling him to come right now.

He told the two he’d be back and followed Max outside. He must have overheard the conversation. Maybe even saw the tattoo. Michael knew what lecture was coming. The look of pity and misplaced apologies.

“Michael. You have to talk to him. He doesn’t know anything about that mark.” Michael sighed.

“Yes Max. I get it. You forget I’m part of the main branch. Just because my parents are dead doesn’t change that.”

“And yet you’ve avoided learning anything about the past incarnations.”

“What’s there to know? Things are going to happen that will likely kill us both and we have to get through ten of them or the curse will just continue to a later generation. Actually. Better idea. Why not just not have kids? Then the curse can’t continue, problem solved.” Max scoffed at Michael's plan.

“You idiot. That’s why there’s side branches. We took you in when your parents died and you’ve done nothing to try to survive,” he scolded.

“I didn’t ask you to do that! Why not just let me figure it out myself?”

“We are family, Michael. Isabel and I refuse to let you do this alone.” It was Michael’s turn to scoff. His humorless laugh must have made something in Max snap.

Max grabbed his shoulders. Shaking him and eventually shoving him back. Michael lunged at him. He hadn’t been in a fight in a while and he needed it. Michael swung his fist at Max’s face, only hitting his arm. He thought tackling would have been a better strategy but he tripped. Max grabbed him again, wrapping him in a chokehold.

“You care about Alex, don’t you? Of course you do. You can’t fight it Michael! If you do it for anyone, do it for him.” He clenched his jaw and tapped Max’s arm.

“He’s better off without this. What he doesn’t know can’t hurt him.” Max shot an accusatory glare at him.

“You know that’s not how this works.” Michael shrugged and started back inside.

“We don’t know that,” he called back.

Michael looked around for Maria and Alex but they weren’t where he left them at the bar. He wished his heart didn’t immediately kick in to panic mode when he didn’t see him… them. He didn’t have to look hard. They had taken up residence with Liz and Rosa at one of the pool tables.

He watched from the door as Liz tried to convince Alex to play. He insisted he wasn’t good at pool and refused to play. Michael smiled, watching Alex run a hand through his hair. So what if he cared about him? Anything they had was over now. And he loved Maria.

Until Alex looked at him. Caught him staring. But he couldn’t look away. The tugging at his heart refused to let him. His fingers twitched in his pocket, aching to touch him.

Alex broke eye contact first. Though not by choice. Alex stumbled when some guy rammed a shoulder into him. Michael shook his head, brought back to reality.

“Watch where you’re going faggot,” the guy snickered. Michael thought he recognized him. The wrinkles on his face suggested he was older but he seemed to know Alex. Alex’s eye twitched slightly but he didn’t respond. Michael came up to the table just as Liz stepped into the assholes personal space.

“First of all, get the fuck out. You have no right to talk to a hero like that. You did nothing with your life after high school. You never stopped being a bully Chris and I’m glad it made you look like a fucking prune. Of course, the cigarettes also caught up to you. You are a worthless piece of shit and weren’t invited anyway.” Michael smirked. He saw why Max liked her.

He vaguely remembered the guy but he needed to reach way back. He thought this guy was an old friend of Kyle though he wasn’t sure about it anymore.

“Shut up you stupid alien. Don’t they teach you about respect where you’re from?” She looked surprised. But Michael wasn’t. This had gone far enough.

“Alright you fuck, time to go,” he said, grabbing his collar. Chris struggled in his grip but couldn’t pull free. Michael was pissed and anyone who was a regular here knew they couldn’t beat him when he was pissed.

Michael almost didn’t see the hand flying at his head. He released Chris and he stumbled, obviously drunk. But this asshole wasn’t giving up without a fight. His lunges were sloppy and slow, easy for Michael to avoid. He caught a glimpse of Max, watching from a table not far away.

“A little help deputy,” he asked, annoyed. Max sighed and grabbed Chris’ arm before he could throw another lame punch. Michael took the other and they hauled him out, throwing him to the gravel.

“Do everyone a favor and don’t come back you piece of trash,” Michael spit at him. Chris scowled before reaching behind him and pulling a fancy revolver from his waistband. Max and him shared a look before raising their hands slowly. He wasn’t sure if Max had a gun on him but because he was off duty, Michael wasn’t counting on it.

“Guerin!” Michael's eyes widened. He jerked his head to look behind him, at Alex. Michael heard the gunshot. He knows he did. He felt no pain, at least not right away.

Alex crumbled, clutching his arm though he hardly made a sound. Chris was stumbling away but Michael could hardly focus on that right now.

“Go after him, I’ve got this,” he said to Max. He nodded and ran after him. Michael rushed over to Alex trying to hold him up. His face was scrunched in pain, blood seeping into his flannel. “Damnit, Alex, why’d you follow us out here.”

“Cause I was worried,” he mumbled out. Michael sighed.

“You’re going to be fine. And don’t worry about me.” Alex raised an eyebrow at him.

“I was just shot. I would actually appreciate it if you called—” Alex blinked. Michael's arm started to ache, growing quickly to an agonizing throb. He ground his teeth together and stood, stumbling away from Alex. He could feel the blood start to flow down his arm. Alex was right. He would need a hospital.

“Wait, Guerin. What’s going on? What happened?” He grabbed at his arm where the wound used to be. Michael cursed. Of fucking course this happened. Now he had to explain it to Alex. He tried to make it to his car. Alex stood to follow him, though he was slow with the crutch.

“Damnit,” Michael muttered to himself. He jerked on the handle of his old truck. His arm was going cold. Losing too much blood.

“Michael.” He looked over his shoulder at Alex. There really was no use running.

“Look, Alex. I will explain. But right now, you need to drive me to the hospital.” Confusion danced on every one of his features, but his face set with determination quickly. He tried to help Michael as best he could to the other side of the car, but neither of them was steady with the extra weight.

“Here. Let me wrap it temporarily.” Michael’s eyebrows drew together but widened as Alex pulled his shirt off, tying it above the wound in his arm. “That should slow the blood flow. Hold your arm up as much as you can, ok?” Michael nodded, trying not to stare at him. He had a white tank top on, but he knew Alex was not the boy he used to be.

Alex sped to the hospital, probably breaking more than a few driving laws. It was a miracle he wasn’t pulled over. He screeched up to the front doors, nearly breaking the key as he tried to pull it out. He hurried as much as he could to help Michael keep his balance. They stumbled through the front doors.

“Hey, he’s losing blood fast! He might need stitches!” The edges of Michael’s vision started to go black and fuzzy. He felt the distant touch of hands. None he recognized.

-

Alex POV

Alex paced as much as he could outside the waiting area. What had happened. He knows he was shot. He grabbed at his arm again, but there wasn’t even an ache. It’s like the wound had transferred to Michael.

“Damnit,” he scolded himself. This was somehow his fault. He could feel it. He reached a hand over his heart, almost subconsciously. He frowned. Something did feel different.

He made his way to the bathroom and locked the door. Standing in front of the mirror, he watched in amazement as the tattoo glowed and dimmed a few times before one of the petals disappeared.

“What the hell…” He shook his head in disbelief. This wasn’t the tattoo he had thought his friends put on him. Maybe he should have listened when they said it wasn’t them. He made his way back to the waiting area as calmly as possible. He was greeted by Max and Isabel.

“How is he,” Isabel rushed out. Max rested a hand on her shoulder, nodding to Alex, like it was supposed to mean something. They shared a look.

“Michael’s getting stitched up. Should be done soon. But what’s with the pity looks and silent communication?” Isabel opened her mouth but shut it again with a look from Max. Alex gave a humorless laugh.

“It’s just better if Michael explains it to you. I’m sorry you’ve been kept in the dark so long,” Max said. He looked between the siblings. Before he could say anything else, the doors behind them slammed open, Maria rushing in with Liz in tow.

“Where is he? What happened? And I can’t believe you fucking drove! Are you stupid?” Maria pulled him into a hug. She was probably right. He felt sober as soon as he saw Michael hurt but that didn’t mean he was.

“You’re right, I’m sorry. And he should be fine,” he said, not sounding as confident as he hoped.

“Max what happened,” Liz asked gently, grabbing his hand.

“The asshole had a gun. He shot Michael while he was distracted.” Alex flinched at the words. It was his fault Michael was in pain. It was always his fault. Just like back then.

A throat cleared behind Alex. The group turned to the doctor. Kyle Valenti stood there, looking almost no different except for the beard.

“We stitched up the wound but couldn’t locate the bullet. It must have passed through his arm. So that’s lucky. He’s being moved to a room right now so you’ll be able to visit him,” he said, every bit the professional.

“Thanks Kyle. What room,” Liz asked?

“Follow me,” he said, turning. Maria held Alex’s hand the whole way there. She was scared. But Michael Guerin was not going to be stopped by something like that. Alex could feel him. Like his heart also beat within him.

The walk was short but tense. No one said anything. As if saying something would change Michael’s condition before they were able to see him. Kyle stopped in front of a door, knocking before pushing it open. Alex heard him before he saw him.

“You again?” Alex fought the smile back. Michael lounged with an arm behind his head, the other arm wrapped in gauze and in a sling.

“Hey, I brought people you like with this time. No need to glare at me.” Michael rolled his eyes before they settled on Alex. Though they only lingered a moment. Maria rushed to his side, grabbing him and kissing his head.

Alex hung back slightly, letting the others worry about him first. They would get their chance to talk. This was too important for Michael to not talk to him about.

“Let me make something very clear Michael Guerin. You are not allowed to get hurt like this again.” He chuckled as he sat up, hugging Maria.

“I’m fine. This won’t keep me down.”

“Maybe not but that doesn’t mean you can be careless,” Isabel noted. Alex thought she looked at him too but couldn’t be sure.

They didn’t get to stick around long. Visiting hours had technically ended before Alex had brought Michael in. Maria needed to be pulled away by Liz, promising her they would come back first thing tomorrow. Alex sat in the chair as he watched them leave. He just needed a couple things answered right now. It couldn’t wait.

“I’ll be back tomorrow to bring you home alright? Don’t give the nice doctors too much trouble,” Isabel said. Michael gave her a sarcastic salute as she was walking out. Alex stood from the chair slowly, moving next to his bed.

“Visiting hours are over, private.” Alex rolled his eyes.

“You know I haven’t been a ‘private’ in a long time, right?” Michael shrugged. He was avoiding the elephant in the room. “I’m not here for the banter, Guerin.” He let his head rest against the pillows, looking at Alex with that melting stare.

“I know,” he said. Alex waited for more but Michael just looked away from him. Was he shy?

“Any information at all would really be appreciated.” Michael half laughed and reached up to move the hospital gown to the side. The same mark that was on Alex’s chest was on his. His eyes widened, instinctively reaching to touch it.

Alex traced his fingers over the mark, petals reflecting the lights of the room. Michael's skin was hot, just like he remembered. He glanced up to meet his eyes. Michael slipped his hand over his, holding it in place over his heart. Alex felt his heartbeat speed up

Beeping from the heart monitor pulled them both back to reality. Alex jerked his hand away. He was just thankful the heart monitor couldn’t display his racing pulse. Michael cleared his throat and looked away.

“That mark is a connection. Looks like this counted as the first trial.” Alex’s eyebrows drew together. “Long story short. Our families have been cursed to be drawn together for generations to endure these trials. We have to get through all ten.”

“And if we don’t,” he asked?

“Then we’re dead.”

Chapter Text

Michael POV

Michael fidgeted in the hospital bed. He was sick of just sitting there. Maria had come back first thing in the morning and he appreciated it but there was only so much sitting still he could do. Maria was snuggled up with him on the bed as they watched some bad daytime television. Nurses came in and out periodically to make sure his vitals hadn’t changed.

“I swear if Isabel doesn’t show up soon, I’m gunna leave by myself,” he complained after another vitals check.

“They just want to make sure you’re ok. So please just listen to them Michael? For me,” Maria said, giving him a sweet smile. He chuckled and shook his head.

“Only for you. Thanks for staying though. You really don’t have to.” She raised an eyebrow at him, looking offended by the thought.

“I’ve told you before that I’m not leaving you. Not when you need me.” She pressed her forehead against his. He used his free hand to pull her close, kissing her gently. He loved her so much. She might have been perfect.

A small knock at the door forced them apart. Isabel stood there, an eyebrow raised.

“Really? In a hospital? This isn’t ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ or something.” Michael sighed and rolled his eyes. Maria got off the bed, crossing her arms. They had gotten along the night before, but the thinly veiled dislike seemed to have returned.

“Not that it’s any of your business,” she pointed out. Isabel scoffed, shaking her head. She tossed new clothes at Michael.

“Let’s go. There are things that need to get done. Sanders mentioned that you were supposed to finish fixing a car this morning.” Michael let his head fall back against the pillow.

“Shit. He’s gunna kill me,” he mumbled.

“Don’t worry. He said being in the hospital is a good enough excuse. This time,” Isabel said, grinning. “I’ll send a doctor in to get all those tubes out of your arms.” She left the room, leaving Michael to wonder if his truck was still outside.

“Hey Maria, mind telling me where my car is? And where the keys are?”

“Oh, I think Alex drove it home yesterday. I’ll take you over there to get it if you want. I just need to be back at the Wild Pony for opening this evening.” Michael nodded as the doctor walked back into the room. He hadn’t seen Kyle since the previous night. He figured he should thank him for taking care of him.

Alex was going to be a problem. The doctors made him leave before he got to ask too many questions. That was probably why he drove the truck home. Forcing a conversation. Michael had no idea how to answer the questions without freaking him out. Hell, Alex might never want to see him again.

The doctor gave him the all clear to move around and he was up. He couldn’t sit in that bed anymore. Maria laughed at his impatience as he changed.

“Shut up. You weren’t forced to stay in the same position for fifteen hours.”

“Maybe not but you didn’t used to have a problem sleeping on my bar,” she grinned and crossed her arms. Michael laughed. She did have a point.

“Man. Picking on a guy’s low points? Not cool.” Michael pulled a white t-shirt over his head, trying not to flinch at the pain in his arm.

“Hey, wait,” Maria said, eyebrows drawing together. She stepped up to him, moving the t-shirt away from his chest. Oh shit. The mark. “Isn’t this… the same tattoo Alex had…?” She trailed off when she looked up at him.

“Uh yea. Guess you caught us. We um, knew each other back in high school. Used to be friends. Did some stupid stuff,” he said, thinking on his feet. The word ‘friends’ stuck in his throat, but Maria didn’t notice.

“No… You didn’t have this a month ago,” she said skeptically. Michael cursed how observant she was. “What’s going on Michael?”

“Ok, it’s a long story—” Isabel coughed behind them from the door. She was a life saver. He had never told Maria about the curse because it didn’t matter. He thought it wouldn’t matter. But now he has two explanations to give.

“Michael. We gotta go.” He took Maria’s hand and kissed her forehead.

“Give me some time and I’ll be able to explain. But I’ve gotta go.” She opened her mouth to say something but he was already out the door. Him and Isabel pretty much ran out of the hospital, hoping she didn’t chase after them.

“No outsider has ever known about the curse. You can’t just bring her into it,” Isabel lectured quietly. Not that anyone would even be listening.

“We’re dating. I can’t just hide it from her.”

“Of course you can. People do it all the time!” Michael shook his head as they rushed through the parking lot.

“That’s not a good practice to have. Especially for relationships.” He pulled the door to her car open, climbing in, trying to be careful of his arm. He relaxed into the leather, staring out the window. Isabel pulled the sun visor off the front window and started the car.

“Look. It’s dangerous for her to be involved. If she tries to protect you or Alex, she could die. You know the trials only get worse.” Michael could hear the worry in her voice. She was right. But keeping this from her would just lead to making assumptions.

Michael didn’t respond as she pulled out of the lot. He had been stupid to let her see the mark. Of course, she would have seen it eventually but now the conversation had to happen sooner than he wanted. He shook his head. He had to focus on Alex first. It affected him a bit more directly.

“Hey, you know where Alex lives?” Isabel glanced at him and nodded. Of course she does. She probably started looking into it as soon as she found out about Michaels mark.

“Have I mentioned how creepy it is that you can get information about almost anyone?” A smile settled on her face.

“It pays to be the town socialite.”

-

Alex POV

Dead

The word had been ringing in Alex’s ears since the previous night. He survived ten years of war and he might die because of some supernatural curse put on him and Michael’s family? It was surreal. And why his father wouldn’t tell him about it was just as much of a mystery. But his father refused to include him in most things so maybe he shouldn’t be surprised.

He had driven Michael’s truck home last night in the hopes it would force him to talk. But if Michael really wanted to avoid him, he could just hotwire the car. Alex had watched him do it a couple times.

Back in high school, Alex found his willingness to break the rules attractive and fun. Then he started getting into fights. He wished he could have stuck through it. Maybe they would still be together…

Alex shook his head, not wanting to think about the past. Things happened the way they did for a reason. He wasn’t sure whether he believed in a God or not. The church was never exactly very welcoming to him. Even if they didn’t know. If a God that loved all his children existed, there would be no exceptions. Not for things that he couldn’t control. He just wasn’t sure. He hadn’t been to church in years, though he doubted things had changed.

A knock at the door shook him from his thoughts. He stood slowly, not bothering to put his prosthetic on this morning, though he kept it close. Leaning on the crutch, he hopped to the door. He hoped it would be Michael but something wasn’t sitting right in his head.

He opened the door to a green uniform that matched his own. He’d learned from his time in the army to trust his gut. Alex sighed and fought against rolling his eyes at his father. What he was doing here was any one’s guess.

“What do you want?” The spite refused to be contained.

“I was informed that someone saw you get shot,” he said, no emotion.

“Oh, spare me the fatherly concern,” Alex snapped back.

“I am a commanding officer in much higher standing than you. Show some respect.”

“Once I see something to respect I will.” Alex watched his father’s nose twitch. He should have slammed the door in his face right then. But of course he ignored his instincts.

Jesse grabbed the front of his shirt, putting him off balance. He stumbled forward trying to catch himself, only forcing him to rely on his father to hold him up. He was a teenager again. Helpless at the hands of a man who hated him…

Alex stumbled into the living room, his brothers nowhere to be found. His father grabbed his arm, twisting it behind his back.

“Dad stop… please…” Alex cried.

“Not until you learn how to be a proper Manes man. You are a disgrace to this family.” He shoved Alex to the floor. Alex scrambled to stand up, knowing the ground was the worst place to be.

“You want to fuck around like you don’t come from a long line of respected soldiers then you’re going to learn the hard way. You’re lucky I let you live here.” All he had done was go out with some friends. His father had assumed it was Michael and that they were sleeping together.

His father grabbed him again, punching him in the gut and sending him back to the ground. Alex coughed but didn’t try to get back up again.

“I’m sorry… I’m sorry…” he mumbled, praying to whatever god existed that this would stop.

“Alex! Get away from him!”

Pulled back to reality by a voice dripping with fury, Alex stumbled backwards and fell as someone tackled Jesse from behind. Alex pushed himself away from the bodies on his porch so he could see what was going on.

Michael had a knee on Jesse’s back and was trying to get hold of an arm. Alex watched, wide eyed. He had never seen Michael look like this before. His face was twisted into a snarl. And for just a moment, Alex was worried Michael would kill him. He had pinned his arm with his other foot, holding his face to the ground with the hand not in a sling.

“Let me be very clear. You ever come near him again and I will end you.”

Jesse didn’t have time to respond before Michael was standing and walking into Alex’s house, slamming the door behind him. Alex could only stare at the closed door. He jumped slightly as Michael crouched next to him, resting a hand on his shoulder.

“Hey, you ok?” Michaels voice had done a one-eighty. Gone was the rage only to be replaced with a gentle comfort.

“Uh… yea. Think so.” Alex tried to stand on his own but a missing leg and shaking arms made it difficult.

“Come on. Lean on me,” Michael said softly. Alex met his eyes and nodded slowly. Michael lifted his arm over his shoulder, standing slowly, letting Alex find his footing. He still had the crutch in his hand, but he hardly used it as Michael did most of the work.

Alex directed him to the couch where his prosthetic sat. He didn’t want to need Michael.

As soon as Michael set him down, he reached for the leg. He couldn’t meet his eyes, afraid he would see pity. Alex didn’t know if he could handle it right now.

“You don’t need to put it on if it’s uncomfortable. I’m here to help if you need it.” Alex paused in his movements. “Besides. I think you might want to stay sitting for this conversation.” He looked up at Michael. There was no pity. Not even the slightest indication that he thought any less of him. In fact, he seemed nervous.

Alex sat up, watching Michael as he paced around the room. He looked at photos of his friends. Liz, Rosa, Maria and others. He paused at the one on the end table. Alex wasn’t sure what emotions passed over his face.

“You kept this,” Michael asked, showing him a picture of the two of them, each holding guitars. Alex shrugged.

“It’s a good memory.”

They looked at each other for a moment before Michael cleared his throat and turned away. He set the picture back in its spot. He moved to sit next to Alex, though not close enough to touch him. He considered reaching out but it would be too obvious.

“I don’t really know where to start to be honest. Do you know anything? Did any of your family talk about it?” Alex tried to think about early conversations with his mother and brother’s but nothing came to mind. He shook his head.

“Nothing about curses. And definitely nothing about you.” Michael ran a hand over his face.

“Damn.” Alex opened his mouth to apologize but Michael spoke again. “Don’t say ‘sorry.’ It’s not your fault. It’s just kind of complicated. Now I probably won’t tell the history completely correctly, but I’ll give it my best shot.” Alex nodded, waiting patiently for him to continue.

“Well it starts kind of like a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ situation. A princess and a servant fell in love after being friends their whole lives. One night, the father caught them together and tried to force them apart. This is also the time where sacrifices were normal and the princess was set to be the next sacrifice. The servant boy broke her out and they ran away. Her father chased after them. Once he caught up, he shot his daughter in the back. He left the servant boy to suffer without her. He pleaded to the gods to take his life over hers. They did.” Alex’s eyebrows drew together.

“Ok. This is a good history lesson and all but what does that have to do with us?”

“The name of the head family was Manes. The servants were Guerin.” Alex stared at Michael. There was no way that was possible. Most last names don’t last that long unless the family was having no children other than boys. That was also assuming they all had children.

“And there were consequences for the two lovers. The condition for bringing her back to life would be a curse on the families. Every few generations, a Manes and Guerin would be drawn together and forced to complete trials. These trials get more deadly as they go on. No pair has ever survived them.” Michael moved his shirt to the side, showing the flower.

“A petal will disappear from one of us each time a trial is completed. This is like a connection between us. I can feel you and you can feel me.”

“Ok, that all makes sense… Sort of. But why did you take on my wound when I got shot?” Michael chuckled and ran a hand through his hair.

“Just another condition of the original curse. I will take on any injury you receive while we’re connected. That’s what the slave boy did when he first saved the princess.” Alex looked down at Michaels arm that was wrapped in a sling.

“I… I didn’t know… I’m—”

“Stop. No apologizing. You have nothing to apologize for. It is not your fault. Do you hear me, Manes?”

“But—”

Alex froze when Michael grabbed his face, callused hands holding him firmly in place. He had pulled his arm out of the sling. He wanted to look at the bandages wrapped around his bicep but Michael forced him to keep his eyes on him.

“I will protect you. With my whole life, I will protect you.” Alex didn’t know what to say. What could he say? All he knew was how badly he wanted to pull Michael closer. Alex reached up, laying his hands over Michaels cautiously, not knowing how he’d react. He looked over his face and glanced down at his mouth. He wondered if it still tasted the same.

When Alex met his eyes again, they had darkened. Maybe… just maybe… Michael was feeling the same thing he was right now. He pressed his forehead against his. Alex sucked in a breath and everything that was Michael overloaded his senses. The smell of rain and maybe still bourbon from the previous night. He was acutely aware of the way his hands moved. He had moved one to rest over his heart. Michael would know just how fast his heart was racing. Their noses brushed against each other.

“Michael.” Alex let his name slip out under his breath.

Suddenly he was gone. Alex almost fell forward from the lack of contact. He had stood up, refusing to look at him. He wanted to reach out for him but would that make him pathetic? He was clearly just rejected. He’d be a fool to chase after more.

“Sorry, the connection can uh… make you feel things. Like things you don’t really feel,” Michael said, voice shaking. Alex flinched at his words. He may as well have smacked him across the face.

“Anything else?” He tried to hide the hurt but couldn’t be sure if he succeeded.

“I only know the main story. If you want information about past reincarnations you’d have to come to the Evans’ house. They have all the history books and diaries.” Alex nodded, although Michael couldn’t see him. “Just let me know when and we can go over there.”

“Ok.” The awkward silence stretched longer than Alex would have liked. But there was nothing he could say. If he tried it would just come out as cursing Michael.

“I uh… have to go. I have to explain some of this to Maria so…” He trailed off, looking back at Alex with an expression he couldn’t quite identify. Maria. Of course. Michael was dating one of his best friends. He wasn’t allowed to care about Michael anymore. Their time had passed.

“Your keys are in the kitchen. Sitting on the counter next to the pile of mail. Sorry for taking your car but I figured you didn’t want to pay to park it at the hospital overnight.” Michael chuckled but it seemed forced. Alex ran a hand through his hair as he walked away.

Maybe Michael was right and the connection did make him feel things that weren’t really there. But it felt real to him. He placed a hand over his heart, feeling it beat, strong and steady.

Michael returned, keys jingling in his hand. He noticed Alex and a look of pain crossed his face. Alex could feel the shift in his mood. Maybe he needed comfort. That wouldn’t make sense, given he had just torn away from him like he was some kind of poison.

“Here’s my number. Changed while you were gone. If you need anything, just call.” He set a piece of paper down on the end table next to the picture of them. Alex held his gaze for a moment before nodding and looking away. “Right... So, I’ll see you later?”

“Yea. See you soon.” With that, Michael let himself out. Alex heard the truck start but then it just sat there. What is he waiting for?

He was about to look out the window to see what the problem was but then the sound faded as he drove away.

-

Michael POV

He was a liar. He lied. Right to his face. Even if the connection did make them feel things they wouldn’t normally, that didn’t make them less real. And even if the connection effected it, there was no mistaking the emotions he was feeling from Alex.

He wanted nothing more than to forget everything and just be with him in that moment. Hearing his name in that pleading whisper could have broken any man. He cursed whoever got to hear it next.

But he was with Maria. And he was happy. Happier than he’d ever been. And she deserved an explanation. He wouldn’t tell her the whole truth. It would be too dangerous for her. But he didn’t know how to make her not dig deeper. Or try to protect them. She was one of the most caring people he knew and if she thought either him or Alex were in danger, she’d fight God to make sure they weren’t hurt.

Michael’s arm started to ache. He had forgotten about it. Driving with one hand was no problem but trying to maneuver his arm back in the sling while also paying attention to the road was proving difficult. He didn’t want to rip the stitches. He didn’t exactly have the money to get them replaced before they needed to be.

Pulling into the Evan’s driveway, he pulled the seatbelt off to get his arm back in the sling. Damn prick. Why’d he even have a gun? New Mexico was an open carry state, even had one of his own, but he rarely brought it places.

Michael needed information. He needed to know what the other people did to get through the trials. Would it be best stick around Alex? Leave him in protective custody? Michael shook his head. Alex would refuse that one.

He stepped out of the car, slamming the door harder than he intended. Michael searched through his keyring for the spare to the front door. He didn’t see any of the cars but that didn’t mean anything. Max and Isabel’s parents were always all over him about learning the history. The last thing he needed was to have them breathing down his neck.

Once he located the key, he pushed it into the lock, though he found no resistance. Unlocked?

He pushed the door open slowly, cursing the door as it squeaked. Nothing looked out of place in the front room, but it was quiet. Michael doubted they forgot to lock the door before they left. He shut the door as quietly as he could behind him. Looking around for items that he could improvise a weapon from, he clenched his fists ready for a fight.

Michael stepped into the kitchen, scanning over everything. Again, nothing was out of place. He let his shoulders relax as he made his way through the rest of the downstairs. Nothing looked bothered but something was not right.

He made his way upstairs to where he knew their collection of history books was. The last door on the right was usually left closed to keep guests from wandering in. Michael stopped when he saw it propped open, like someone didn’t fully close the door as they were leaving in a hurry.

He still knew the places where the hallway creaked under pressure. He avoided them easily and he nudged the door open with his foot, grabbing the small statue on the coffee table against the wall.

His jaw clenched at the sight of the room. Books scattered the floor, some pages ripped. Bookshelves had been toppled. Drawers had been ripped out of their spot in the desk. Whoever was here was looking for something. Who knows if they found it.

“Damnit,” he whispered to himself. It would take hours to reorganize whatever was left. He carefully stepped over books and papers. There were scrolls that supposedly held all the original information. Those were locked in a safe behind another bookshelf. This one didn’t seem to be knocked over like the rest of them. Michael held his breath that they were still there.

He had never read the originals. Most people in the family hadn’t. Rumor was they stole them from the Manes family a long time ago. Why was never explained. At least not to him.

Michael did the best he could to move the bookshelf himself but without the use of his other arm, it was useless.

“What the fuck happened?” He jumped at the voice from behind him. Max stood there, taking in the disaster. Michael stood slowly.

“That’s what I’d like to know. I came to read up on some stuff and I just found it like this. Where are your parents?”

“They’re out of town,” he said slowly. He walked over to Michael. “What are you looking for?”

“The original scrolls. They’re in a safe behind this thing, right?” Max nodded and traded places with him. He shifted the shelf to expose the safe. It appeared untouched but that obviously didn’t mean anything.

Max spun the dial and pulled the door open. A second door inside made Michael raise an eyebrow. This one had a keyhole. Max stood and reached to the top of the bookshelf, pealing something off the top.

“You gotta come up with a better hiding spot.” Max rolled his eyes as he pulled the tape off the key.

“It’s still there isn’t it?” Michael shook his head. That didn’t mean anything. Max opened the second door, grabbing the plastic bags with the scrolls in them.

“How would you even know they’re all there? No one ever looks through them from what I remember.” Max sighed.

“Someone counts them on a regular basis. There’s six of them in total.”

“Ok… so are they all there or what,” Michael asked, impatient. Max shoved the papers back into the safe, slamming both doors shut.

“No. One’s missing.”

-

Jesse POV

The fire burned as Jesse Manes moved the wood around. He would show that damn boy that threatening him will be worst mistake of his life. He wanted answers to the curse? He would never get them.

If their lines ceased to exist, then this would be over. No one was ever strong enough to prevent the original sin from happening again. He would end all of them. They were the doppelgangers of the original. It was sick. Wrong.

Sacrifices needed to be made. He opened the scroll to the drawing of the two original lovers. A prince and a slave. Jesse’s nose scrunched as he looked at someone the spitting image of his disgraced son.

Then he tossed it into the fire.

Chapter Text

Alex POV

Alex typed at his computer, frustrated at the numbers that weren’t adding up. He was a hacker but for some reason, they had him in data entry. He hated being treated like he could no longer do the things he was supposed to. He cursed his missing leg. Though he supposed he should be happy to be alive…

-

“Manes, you almost done, we gotta go now!” A few more seconds and he would have all the information on the enemy’s battle plans.

“Manes!” The computer beeped and Alex jumped up, snapping the computer closed.

“Get moving now,” he called to the group of soldiers standing guard.

They sprinted out of the bunker, jumping into armored jeeps. Alex kept his head down, gripping the laptop against his chest. The car jerked forward for a few seconds, moving away from the rapid-fire.

“Somethings wrong!” Alex felt the car roll to a stop.

“Abort! Get out!” The extra weight of the bulletproof vest and computer slowed him down.

“Leave it, Manes!” Alex’s eyes shot to the second in command. But he listened. He tossed the computer to the seat. And jumped.

The explosion flung him into a rock, metal shredding his leg. His leg? Where was it?

He felt no pain. Just stared at the exposed bone and flesh. Another flash went off in the distance. He thought about moving. But he couldn’t.

“Alex! Don’t you dare pass out on me! We need a medic now, he’s still conscious!” The second in command grabbed him, pulling him out of the range of fire. Things were blurry.

“Come on. You promised we’d go out for drinks when this was all over. You said you’d tell me about the love of your life. Alex, stay with me!”

“Michael…”

“It’s me! It’s Tessa. As second in command I do not allow you to die like this. Do you hear me, Alex?”

-

He shook his head. She had saved his life. At least that’s what people told him when he woke up in the hospital. He hadn’t seen her since. No one would tell him where she was. He tried to look her up, but it was like she was completely scrubbed from the system.

Alex ran a hand through his hair. He should be grateful that he only lost a leg. He only wished he could thank her.

A knock at his door made him jump. He glanced at the clock. It was late for anyone to be stopping by. Alex picked up his crutch and moved toward the door. He opened it slowly, surprised to find Maria on the other side.

“Hey, Maria. Not that I’m not happy to see you, but what are you doing here?” He pulled the door open completely, stepping to the side to welcome her in.

“I just… I need to talk to you. About Michael.”

He had successfully pushed the events from yesterday out of his mind. But now they were back full force. He tried to keep a straight face and raised an eyebrow at her.

“Did he do something? I don’t know him that well so—”

“Stop Alex. I know there’s something going on. You have the same tattoo,” she said, voice cautious. He blinked, not sure how to respond. Maria had seen his mark. Alex opened his mouth to speak but closed it again.

“What’s going on, Alex?”

He turned away from her, heading for the couch. If Michael hasn’t said anything to her yet, is it really his place to talk about it. She deserved to know something of course, but what was the line?

“Maria, look. There’s some stuff I think you should know.” She sat down with him on the couch, pulling her legs up to her chest.

“Let me start by saying this is all in the past,” he said slowly. She nodded.

“Michael and I… We were close. Back in high school, I mean. Friends and then... Remember that guy I said kissed me while I was at work?” Her eyebrows drew together and she nodded again. “That was Michael.” Her mouth hung open slightly.

“But Alex, you always told me you loved that guy. That he might have been the best thing that ever happened to you.” He smiled at the memories.

“And I meant it.”

“Alex, I—”

“Remember, this is all in the past. We aren’t like that anymore.” He cut her off. He didn’t need her jumping to conclusions. “Michael is a really great guy. Trust him,” he said, smiling. His fingers were crossed that this would distract her from what she originally asked.

“I’m sorry. I love him,” she said, tears pricking her eyes. Alex smiled and pulled her into a hug.

“I know. It’s scary how easy it is.” Alex felt his heart pang. He and Michael were over. Old feelings would be easy to rekindle. But he refused to let it. Michael and Maria were happy together.

“Are you going to tell me about that tattoo you both have?” Shit. He should have known better. Nothing was getting between Maria and the answers she wanted. Alex sighed, running a hand through his hair.

“I think it would be better if Michael explained it,” he said, not looking her in the eye. There was no way she would take what he said to heart if he started talking about cursed lovers over the generations.

Hell, it sounded like one of those stupid soulmate romances.

“So, it’s not ‘nothing’ then?” Alex moved his shirt away from the mark on his chest.

“We share this mark because of a curse Maria. That’s really all I can say because that’s all I know about it. It’s as new to me as it is to you.” She reached out and touched the area with the missing petal.

“This wasn’t like this a couple days ago.” Alex shrugged. Keeping things from her hurt but he was sure Michael would come up with something to keep her as out of it as possible. Her face suddenly lit up.

“I can do research on it if you want! My mom has all these old books on curses and stuff. I never really looked at them because I’m psychic, not a witch.” He shook his head.

“Uh, no, you don’t need to do that…” But she was already up and halfway to the door.

“Rely on me, Manes. I’m sure I’ll have something in a few days.” Then she was gone. He groaned and flopped back on the couch. He should warn Michael.

Alex pulled his phone out of his sweatpants pocket. He found Michael’s contact and his thumb hovered over the call button. Maybe this was better to just text to him? There wasn’t much to say except, ‘hey I told Maria we share a curse, sorry.’

Alex jumped as the phone started buzzing in his hand. Michael’s name popping up on the caller ID made the decision for him. He pressed the green button, lifting the phone to his ear.

“Hello?”

“Alex, there’s a problem.” This made him sit up from his lounging position.

“What problem?”

“Remember how I said the Evans’ had a bunch of old history stuff about this curse thing? Well someone broke into the house and trashed the room they were kept in. Max showed up right after I did.”

“Are there any cameras in the house? Did you call the police?”

“Max is the police,” he said, half joking.

“Right, sorry.” Michael talked to someone on the other side. It sounded female, maybe Isabel.

“Michael. Maria came to see me.” Whatever Michael was saying was promptly cut off.

“What did you tell her?”

“As little as possible. I talked about our time in high school. But she wouldn’t be distracted. I told her the mark was a curse but that was it. I told her to talk to you.” He heard Michael sigh. He could almost envision him running a hand through his curls.

“Do you need my help with anything,” Alex asked, not liking the silence.

“Yea, actually. Can you come by the Airstream tomorrow? It’s parked in Sander’s junkyard. The same place I worked some summers in high school.” Alex remembered. They made out hidden behind junk cars enough times that he couldn’t really forget it.

“Got it. I’ll be by around noon unless you need me earlier.”

“That works.” There were a few moments of awkward silence. Should he say ‘goodnight?’ ‘See you tomorrow?’ Or just hang up?

“See you then, Manes,” Michael said gently. The line clicked off before Alex could reply. He released a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. His heart fluttered at the idea of seeing Michael. He knew there was something seriously wrong going on but he couldn’t help it.

“Snap out of it, Manes,” he scolded himself.

He moved back to his computer. The data wasn’t going to enter itself. But he couldn’t look at the spreadsheets anymore. Too much had happened in the past thirty minutes for him to focus. It was late anyway. Nearly eleven.

Alex picked up his prosthetic from where it was leaning next to the table. He moved to his room slowly, shoulders getting heavier as the promise of a bed and sleep got closer. He flipped on the light switch. The light was warm and helped him relax.

The guitar in the corner hadn’t been touched in years. He always considered picking it up, but would he still remember how to play? The queen bed shoved into the corner called to him. He would pick up that train of thought another day.

Alex let himself fall face first into the mattress. Why he was suddenly so exhausted was a mystery. He would worry about that tomorrow.

Michael.

He didn’t have the strength to fight the thoughts back. They were wrong and he knew it. But was it really a sin to let himself feel happy? Even if they were just dreams. He flipped over, resting a hand over his heart. He imagined Michaels hand. Imagined his heartbeat. Imagined the smell of rain covering him…

-

Alex stood in the middle of the desert. He turned and he was in front of the Airstream. He must have been early. Michael usually meets him out here. He stepped up to the door, knocking.

“Michael. You wanted to talk right?” Alex called but there was no answer. He walked around, looking at the various cars that were being worked on. A loud crash came from behind a shed. He rushed over to find Michael holding some ice to his hand. The one his father had crushed.

“Michael, what’s wrong?” He looked up and smiled.

“Nothing. just banged up my hand. Not serious.” Alex moved over to him, grabbing the injured hand. He lifted it to his lips, kissing it gently.

“As much as I appreciate the sentiment, it doesn’t really work,” Michael joked. Alex looked up at him, rolling his eyes. He kissed his knuckles again, moving over his hand, turning it over to kiss his palm. Michael sucked in a breath as Alex trailed kisses down over his wrist.

Alex found himself pressed against the wall of the shed, Michaels hands cradling his face, eyes dark. Their lips came together, openmouthed and hot. Alex grabbed at Michaels waist, pulling him as close as possible.

Little gasps escaped his lips as their hips rubbed against each other, searching for more friction than they were getting. Alex shoved his hands under Michaels shirt, needing to feel more of him. They separated only for a moment as he lifted his shirt off. Michael reattached himself to Alex. Kissing his lips and then down his chin and over his neck.

“Michael,” Alex sighed, biting his lip. Michael kissed and sucked at a spot on his neck, driving him crazy. His hands slipped under Alex’s shirt, pushing it up and eventually off. They kissed each other like neither of them needed anything else. Air be damned.

God, they were going to do this. Right here. And Alex didn’t care. He didn’t care if someone saw. He just needed Michael. With him was exactly where he belonged.

Alex ran his hands down, over his chest and abs, settling at his belt. Alex tugged it out of its position, undoing it quickly before fiddling with the button on his jeans. Michael chuckled, low and breathy.

“Don’t laugh at me,” Alex halfheartedly scolded.

“Wouldn’t dream of it.” His fingers finally opened the button. He reached into his jeans, wrapping a hand around his hard dick. Michael moaned into his mouth as he rubbed him slowly. His own hard-on was becoming uncomfortable.

“Touch me, Michael.” He didn’t need to be told twice. Michael opened his pants easily, grabbing him while his own hips pumped into Alex’s hand. He pressed his lips against his neck, lower than where he had been kissing earlier. They pressed closer. Cocks rubbing against each other.

“Alex. I know I never said it before. But I—”

-

??? POV

Both boys shot up from where they were sleeping. Drenched in sweat. Michael looked around his airstream and Alex around his room. Michael cursed as he flopped back down, frustrated. Alex stood, bracing himself on the wall to turn off the light that was still on.

Shared dreams would only be the beginning. When the universe wants two people together, it throws everything at them. Nothing held back. It plays off their own emotions. There was no moving on for them. They needed each other in every way.

-

Michael POV

Sunlight peaked through the window of the airstream. Michael had hardly slept. He groaned as the alarm he set on his phone went off. Alex would be here in an hour and he still had no idea how he would face him.

He hadn’t had a dream that vivid in years. He could still taste the salt from the sweat on Alex’s skin. He cursed his body. He needed to get off. He couldn’t hide something like this from Alex if he were driven mad from being horny.

It was no secret that he was attracted to Alex. He’d call someone crazy if they weren’t. He hauled himself up from the bed, shedding clothes. He stepped into the shower, not even jumping as the cold water ran over him.

He grabbed himself, rubbing slowly, the way he liked. He thought of Maria at first, but his thoughts drifted to Alex shortly after. He pressed his head against the cool wall. He stroked himself faster. He thought of the way Alex said his name in the dream. He was so desperate. There was so much love. His mouth fell open as the thought of Alex’s hand on him as opposed to his own. He didn’t last long after that.

“I can’t fucking shake him,” me mumbled.

He shook his head, grabbing shampoo and soap, washing himself off quickly. The water dripped from his hair, but he didn’t bother toweling it off. It would probably dry as soon as he stepped outside. He moved his arm carefully as he pulled on a white shirt and old jeans that had grease stains on it.

He looked into the small mirror Maria had talked him into getting. He ran a hand through his hair and his eyes drifted down to the mark that was just visible. He shook his head and stepped outside.

Someone had broken into the Evans’ house and stole documents that were more important than anything else. Whoever stole them knew about the curse. And the only other family that knew would be the Manes. It had to have been Jesse. Michael vowed to make him pay. What game was he playing? Why did he hide it from Alex? It couldn’t just be because he was a homophobic sack of shit.

Michael walked around, picking up beer bottles he had left the previous night while Isabel was there. She had lectured him on what he should and shouldn’t tell Maria. But of course, she had gone to Alex first. He couldn’t blame him for talking. Maria was nothing if not persistent.

He checked his phone for the time, wondering when Alex would show up. He laughed at himself. He sounded like a teenager again. Of course, it was early. Still ten minutes before he said he would be here.

He dropped a handful of empty bottles into the recycling bin when he heard a car rolling through the dirt. He turned and watched Alex’s car slowly come to a stop. He had intended to help him but he jumped out of the car, walking toward him, no crutch in sight.

“No crutch today,” he stated as he got closer.

“I have it. But it just slows me down to walk with it.” Michael nodded. They stood in silence for a few seconds.

“I had a dream about you,” Alex rushed out, pink dusting his cheeks. Michael raised an eyebrow.

“What about?” Clearly something was bothering him. Dreams had their way of getting to people. If it was something bad, he didn’t blame Alex for being worried.

“Uh, well. We… got intimate…” Michael tried not to let the shock show on his face. Was Alex Manes confessing he had a sex dream about them? “But something felt different. When I woke up. I could still… feel you. Like something with the mark.” His face only got redder as he explained. He lifted a hand over his chest. Michael hoped he wasn’t blushing himself.

“What time was this,” he asked hesitantly?

“I don’t know, I think I woke up around two or something?” Michael swallowed.

“Don’t freak out. I think we had the same dream.” Alex turned his head away, refusing to look at him. Michael didn’t know if he wanted a play by play. Though he should ask just to make sure he wasn’t completely crazy. He didn’t remember anything about the curse having them share dreams, but it wasn’t out of the question.

“Just… tell me how to make it stop.” He couldn’t say why that hurt to hear. The connection was making both of their lives harder. Metaphorically and physically. It was only reasonable to want to end it as soon as possible.

“I wish I could. But that brings me to the actual reason I needed your help.” Michael turned and moved a couple chairs into the shade of the Airstream. He signaled for Alex to sit. He still wouldn’t meet his eyes.

“Someone stole one of the original scrolls. It had part of the story on it, though I’m not sure which part considering no one has actually read them in years. There was a camera at the front door but whoever broke out had the video wiped.”

“My hacking ability doesn’t work unless I know what I’m hacking into. If the video was wiped then I guarantee they know how to cover their tracks.” Alex finally looked at him. He could talk about work. It was a safe subject.

“I know. That’s why I want you to hack into your father’s things. The Manes family is the only other group that knows those scrolls exist.,” he said. Alex blinked. Once. Twice.

“That’s a dangerous game. He’s military. If he doesn’t have alerts about stuff like that then I would say he’s lost touch with reality.” Michael sat back, running a hand through his hair. Alex was right. But what other choice did they have.

“If it was him who stole it, then he must have made copies and saved them on a computer somewhere. You’re the only one who can do this Alex.” He sighed. Leaning forward to rest his elbows on his legs. He thought for a while, wringing his hands, eyebrows drawn together.

“I can try. But I’ll need a secure place to set up. Can’t be my house and it obviously can’t be any of the Evans’.” Michael smiled. He knew just the place.

“Follow me,” he said, standing. He walked to the front of the Airstream, uncovering a lever. He tossed the rags and tarps to the side before pulling it. A small engine roared to life, gears and chains spinning the trailer to reveal a manhole cover with a handle.

Alex just looked at him, mouth slightly ajar. The distrust made Michael chuckle. He crouched down and pulled the handle, unlocking the cover. It was harder to lift with one hand, but he still managed.

“This is the part where you kill me,” Alex deadpanned. That caused Michael to fully laugh for the first time in a while.

“Manes, if I ever try to kill you, assume I’ve been put under some mind control and kill me first.” He signaled for Alex to take the lead. Alex sat down, legs dangling into the hole. He moved slowly, sometimes uncertain on his prosthetic.

Michael followed, lanterns lighting the small area. Alex walked around his work area. Several beakers and burners were set up. The untrained eye might assume drugs. But Michael was looking for a way to help plants grow in harsh conditions. Little light and water. He hadn’t been successful yet but maybe someday.

“This is…” Alex trailed off as he looked at the planters. “This is amazing, Michael.”

“Not exactly legal though, so let’s keep it between us,” he said, smiling. Alex shook his head.

“You know I cold get you real funding, right? Hell, you could probably ask Liz and she’d be all over it. Just so you don’t have to work in a fallout shelter.” Michael just shrugged.

“Will this work for a secure base?” Alex looked around, something passing over his face. Michael tilted his head before stepping up to him. “What is it, Alex?” He blinked a few times before shaking his head.

“Just… reminds me of…a place in Iraq.” He took a deep breath and then forced a smile. “It should work just fine. Though I might make you clean it up a bit.” Michael never broke eye contact. He could see his shoulders shaking. Michael stepped into his personal space. His heart ached. Alex was scared.

“Talk to me. We can leave if you want,” he said softly. Alex shook his head.

“No. My therapist says exposure therapy works for some people. I’ll be fine.” Michael shook his head. He was not fine.

“I think that’s supposed to be in a controlled environment,” he continued gently. Michael hesitantly wrapped an arm around his shoulders, pulling him close. Almost instantly, Alex wrapped his arms around him.

They stood there for who knows how long. Eventually Alex stopped shaking, though his face was still buried in his shoulder. He heard him start to mumble something.

“When I lost my leg… I was coming from a bunker like this. The second in command said we needed to leave. But I can’t make downloads go any faster. We tried to escape. But there was a bomb attached to the car.” Michael didn’t dare speak. He didn’t want him to shut him out.

“I was so focused on the data I tried to save it. She yelled at me to leave it. I did but I wasn’t fast enough. The bomb went off when I jumped. Had she not been there… I’d be dead. I was told she pulled me to safety. She was my best friend.” His shoulders started to shake again. Alex cried, hands twisting into his shirt.

He had been through so much. Michael held him firmly, his heart screaming for him to do something. Anything. But he had no idea what he could do. He would never understand the things Alex went through on the other side of the world.

“I don’t even know where she is. There’s no record of her anywhere. I’m scared she’s dead and I have no idea.” He lifted his arm from the sling again, wrapping it around him. One hand pet his hair. They continued to stand there until the tears stopped flowing. Alex stepped away from him, wiping at his eyes.

“Sorry. I’m alright now. Though I kind of want to get out of here,” he said, half chuckling. Michael nodded.

“Feel free to lean on me. I’m here whenever you need it.” He looked over his shoulder briefly but turned back to the latter to climb without saying anything else. He followed him up, the sun shinning bright in his eyes.

Michael pulled the cover back over the bunker and pulled the lever to move the trailer back to its normal spot. He turned to ask Alex how he was feeling but he was already headed back towards his car. He jogged after him.

“Leaving already? You ok?” He didn’t turn away from his car door.

“Yea, I’m fine. Just have a lot of work to get done. So, if that was all you wanted to talk about, I’m headed out.”

“I mean I could tell you about the stuff I learned about the curse but if you’re busy…” He spun back toward him.

“Spit it out, Guerin. What did you find?” He raised a hand, signaling him to wait. He jogged back to his trailer, pulling scraps of paper that he took notes on and a book. He looked through them as he made his way back.

“Ok well. Fun facts first, I guess. The most trials any of the past reincarnations has ever completed was seven. The trials get worse as they go on. We knew that. It said I should have some sort of enhanced healing but its just slightly above normal. It uh, also says all of the reincarnations had been a guy and a girl, so I guess we’re a bit strange in that department.”

Alex listened intently. He shuffled through his notes, looking for the more significant things.

“I also found that all of the trials happen within six months. Or at least that’s what they can guess. You know since no one has gotten through all of them.” He snapped his mouth shut. Sometimes he hated how comfortable he was with him. He just talked and didn’t know when to shut up.

“Find out anything about the mark or how this connection works,” Alex asked?

“Not really. It says the connections and the effects were often kept private between the two people. Understandable since we kind of know how personal it can get…” he glanced up at him, holding his gaze for a few seconds before refocusing on his notes. “It’s mostly stuff we already know. We can feel each other. Emotions and the like. Lying is impossible. There’s a constant pull to be together. Embarrassing stuff,” Michael said, laughing. Alex shook his head.

“I noticed.” He was worried that Alex would remember a couple days ago. Had he picked up on his lie? That everything they had felt was very real? If he did, he didn’t let on.

He flipped through the book to the page he had bookmarked. A drawing that claimed to be of one of the Gods devoted to helping them break the curse. She was mentioned in most of the stories. Only showing up once. Shortly after, the couple would usually fall to the next trial. He turned the book toward Alex.

“I’ll see if I can find a photo of her or something, but if you see this girl. I would recommend staying far—” Alex ripped the book from his hands, surprising him.

“Who is this,” he said, voice trembling.

“Well based on the stories, she seems like an angel of death. Claims to want to help then seriously fucking over the couple facing the trials.” Alex spun and yanked his car door open, fishing around in his glove box. Michael tried to see what he was doing. He eventually pulled out a piece of paper, unfolding it.

“This girl…” He held the piece of paper next to the drawing. He turned the picture and book toward Michael. He swore the breath left his lungs. A girl with black hair standing next to Alex, was the spitting image of the drawing.

“This is Tessa. She was the second in command in my platoon.”

“Alex this is not the time to be fucking with me,” he warned.

“I’m not. This girl became my best friend overseas and then she saved my life. She is definitely not an ‘angel of death.’” Michael ran a hand over his face. He didn’t know what to say. This girl was obviously dangerous but why would she save him only to kill them both later?

“I mean. It would explain why she dropped off the face of the earth.” Alex just stared at the picture of the girl. He was sure it was jarring to learn the girl who saved your life might not actually be on your side.

Michael thought to his confession about his time overseas. What else had happened over there? What demons did Alex have that he wasn’t talking about? He wasn’t his therapist, but he wanted to know. It would be the only way he could help him.

The crunching of gravel made them turn. Michael recognized Maria’s truck. This conversation was happening now. He had been half avoiding it, almost hoping she would break up with him so he didn’t have to worry about her trying save them.

She jumped out of the car and walked over to them. Her tank top with the Wild Pony logo on the front meant she probably didn’t have much time. She stopped and looked between them before glancing at the book and photo Alex was holding.

“You ready to give me a real explanation, Guerin?” He and Alex shared a look.

“I’ll go. Let me know if you find anything else,” he rushed out. He climbed into his car after handing the book back to him. He hardly spared a look as he backed away. His heart ached when the car was no longer in view.

“Alex already spilled about the curse or whatever. No point in lying,” Maria said, hands on her hips.

“I would never lie to you,” he said, taking her hand. “Let’s go sit down. It’s kind of complicated.” She followed, sitting down in a lawn chair across from him. He had to pick his words carefully.

“Alex told you we have this mark because of a curse, right?” She nodded in response. “Ok, well it started a long time ago. Generations. It’s passed through the family. We are… how should I say this…” He thought for a moment, trying to come up with a watered-down version of the story.

Maria waited patiently, though her finger occasionally tapped on her knee. He hated lying to her. But it was the only way to keep her safe. He continued slowly.

“We’re expected to complete a series of tasks. We don’t know what they are, just that they’re gunna be hard.”

“Well, why was the curse put on you in the first place?” Her eyebrows drew together, trying to think through the logic of what he was saying. Too bad there wasn’t any.

“The story says it was punishment for trying to escape a ritual sacrifice.”

“Huh… Do you have access to the story? I’m trying to find some way to break the curse and maybe knowing everything will help.” Of course her first thought was to break it. She would never find the answer. It was ‘make it through the trials or death.’

“We don’t have access to the story at the moment. Things have gotten lost or destroyed over the years,” he said, trying to sound as disappointed as possible. She hummed in response.

“What’s all the stuff you were showing to Alex?”

“Mostly recounts of past trials. Hoped it would tell us what we were up against. No such luck.” She nodded but didn’t press about it further. They sat silently as he waited for more questions.

“So… you and Alex…?” He blinked in surprise. Thought Alex had said that he told Maria about their history. He ran a hand through his hair and sighed.

“Look. It was a long time ago. At this point, we’re just acquaintances who happen to be stuck by some shitty curse.” His heart panged but ignoring it had become second nature. As long as he wasn’t there, he could pretend it didn’t exist.

Maria chuckled at his explanation, before leaning over and placing a gentle kiss on his lips. He smiled into it, encouraging her giggles.

“I love you, Maria.”

“I never doubted that, Guerin.”

Chapter Text

Alex POV

Alex stared at the ceiling, racking his brain for some sort of logical explanation. Tessa was not some god or angel. She cared deeply for people and was by no means perfect. If he remembered correctly, perfection was a requirement of celestial bodies.

He groaned, pulling himself up from the couch. He needed to go somewhere. Anywhere that wouldn’t let him be alone with his thoughts. He would go see Liz. That always helped. He didn’t know if he could face Maria right now. Whatever Michael was telling her was a lie. He could feel it.

He tried listening to the radio on the way to the Crashdown but nothing ever stuck. Every song that played just annoyed him and every podcast on the local stations was about Aliens. He had grown tired of rumors.

Even the worst traffic was manageable in a small town like Roswell. The streets looked crowded but rarely was there any delay. But today was different. Cops directed the traffic away from where he needed to go. He turned off to a side street, still remembering all the ways to avoid being seen.

He pulled up to the Crashdown only to find police cars with their lights on. He parked his car in the back next to the dumpster before walking around front. He looked around and saw Max first.

“Hey! What’s going on?” He ducked under the police tape and one of the other officers stopped him.

“Sir, this is a crime scene—”

“Easy, Osorio. He’s a friend of the family,” Max said, walking up to them. The cop tipped his hat and headed over to the larger group.

“Max, where’s Liz? And Rosa?” Alex had seen his fair share of hate crimes directed at their family. It doesn’t usually require this much police involvement.

“You shouldn’t be here, Manes.” He laughed humorlessly. Was Max really trying to make him leave his friends?

“The hell are you talking about? What’s going on?” He straightened his shoulders, shifting his feet slightly. He was a commanding officer of the air force; he wasn’t going anywhere until he knew what was going on. Max grabbed his arm, pulling him to the side. His whispers were angry.

“Alex, it is not safe for you here.” His eyes widened as he glanced over Max’s shoulder. This was something targeted? At him? He yanked his arm away from Max.

“I’m going inside.” He walked as quickly as he could. Max would have to handcuff him if he wanted him to comply.

He pushed the doors open, taking in the broken glass and tables. Liz and Arturo stood toward the back of the restaurant. Neither of them seemed hurt so he allowed himself to release a breath.

“Liz,” he called. She looked up at him, her face tear-stained. He rushed over to hug her. “Where’s Rosa?”

“She wasn’t here when it happened, thank god.” She paused for a moment, seeming to realize who he was. “Shit Alex, you need to get out of here.” He shook his head.

“Why does everyone keep saying that? What the hell is going on,” he demanded. He looked around and then he saw the graffiti. Sprayed across the wall were giant red letters.

Bring Alex Manes or everyone will die.
The old cattle ranch.

He could hardly comprehend what he was reading. Why wouldn’t they just come after him directly? Why go through all this trouble just to get his attention?

“How did this even happen while you were open?”

“Flashbang. Multiple actually.” Alex turned to the new voice. A boy with green hair and rubber gloves held three flashbangs. They didn’t appear homemade. They could have easily been official US Army gear.

“And who are you,” he asked cautiously.

“Forrest Long. Weapons consultant for the Roswell police department. By the look on your face… I’m guessing you’re Alex?” Forrest offered a sympathetic smile.

“Those look like something professionally made,” he said without answering the question. He hummed in agreement, looking impressed.

“Definitely. US army quality, actually. Did you serve?” Alex was almost put off by how friendly he was being. Shouldn’t he be questioning him about the graffiti, not his background?

“Uh, yea. Though I’m on leave now.” Forrest smiled at him.

“I thought so. You give off that vibe,” he said casually. Another officer called to him. He looked over his shoulder and gave a polite nod. “Sorry, duty calls. Hope to see you around Alex. And don’t worry about that. I’m sure we’ll catch them.” Alex smiled, thankful for the reassurance. Max took his place as he left.

“Alex. The sheriff thinks it would be best if you went into protective custody. Or at least stay home until we find this person.” He raised his eyebrows in shock.

“You can’t be serious? Did you forget I served in the Air force? It’s literally my job to protect people and you’re not even gunna let me do that,” he asked, enraged. Max opened his mouth to retort, but he cut him off. “Everyone that was here was threatened! I’m not going to sit back and wait while you guys do a half-assed job at finding this guy!” Liz rested her hand on his arm.

“Alex—”

“No, Liz. I’ll figure this out myself. I will not let other people get hurt because of me.” He stormed out the front door, fully intending to drive over to that ranch right then.

Whatever this creep wanted, Alex was going to find out. He just had to stop at home and pack extra weapons. He would put on a bulletproof vest. Go in at 1900 hours. Use the shadows as cover. He almost made it to his car before Max stopped him again, shaking him from his daydream.

“Hey. You do not get to rush in there without thinking,” Max scolded.

“I’d rather die than let anyone else get hurt because I was too scared to show my face,” he yelled back. He’d made the mistake before…

“Think about Michael!” He froze. Michael’s name woke him up. His rage vanished. “If you get hurt…” Max didn’t need to finish the sentence. He clenched his fist, slamming it against the side of his car.

“Damnit!” He looked back at Max. He watched him sympathetically.

“Look, I know it sucks. But I swear to you, we will figure this out. Do not go to that cattle ranch,” he promised. Alex ran a hand through his hair. There was nothing he could do. He was useless. “Call Michael and tell him what’s going on. This could be a trial.” He nodded, opening his car door.

Alex watched Max walk back to the front of the building. He covered the mark with his hand. He wouldn’t be able to live with himself if Michael got hurt again. The way he was talking earlier made it sound like he didn’t have a choice. He would be hurt again and there was nothing Alex could do about it.

He pulled onto the road, pressing Michael’s contact. The Bluetooth in his car was finally working. Would he be annoyed? Maybe he should just go back over there. Then again, if Maria was still there…

He shook his head. He was happy for them. They were good together and seemed healthy. Something he and Michael never were. They didn’t have time to figure it out.

“Alex, what’s up? Weren’t you just here a few hours ago?” Michael’s joking tone helped relieve some anxiety.

“We have a problem, Guerin. Someone all but destroyed the Crashdown.” He sighed.

“Probably Wyatt Long and his friends. Bunch of racist pigs. I’ve kicked their asses enough times they don’t go to the Wild Pony anymore though.” Alex wanted to laugh at his cockiness. Too bad that wasn’t the case.

“It wasn’t them. It was a targeted attack… At me.” Michael went silent on the other end. He was worried the phone disconnected until he spoke.

“Are you ok?” Alex could hear the shaking in his voice. He rested a hand on his chest, feeling that something was wrong.

“Yes, I’m fine. The attacker left a note. They disoriented everyone before writing a message on the wall. ‘Bring Alex Manes or everyone dies.’ I can’t just leave this alone.”

“Did they give a time or location?” Alex turned onto his street, hardly noticing he was in his neighborhood.

“No time but they said they wanted to go to the old cattle ranch. I’m guessing they’re talking about the one just outside of town.” He and Michael had spent nights out there stargazing when he needed to get away from his father.

“Well then they’re not professional. What kind of criminal doesn’t set a time limit for a bounty?” Alex pulled into his driveway.

“They’re some kind of professional. They used Army level flashbangs.” Alex heard shuffling on the other end of the line, followed by loud clangs of what he guessed was metal.

“Ok. I’ll go with Max to check it out. You stay home where it’s safe.” Alex couldn’t stop the sarcastic laugh that followed.

“Fuck, now you sound just like him. Did you miss the part where I said I can’t leave this alone? I’m not just going to hide.”

“Please, Alex…” He sucked in a breath. Was Michael Guerin begging? As much as he wanted to give in, he stood his ground, though he softened his voice.

“If this is some sort of trial… I need to be with you. We’re better off together,” Alex reasoned. He didn’t have time to consider how it may have sounded. He heard him sigh again.

“Fine. I’ll be by tomorrow with Max to figure something out.”

“Fine.”

“Why do you have to be so bullheaded,” Michael teased. His tone lightened considerably, but he could still feel that something was wrong.

“And why are you pretending to be calm about the issue?” He sighed heavily into the phone.

“Because.” Alex shook his head and scoffed. “What do you want me to say Alex? That the idea of anyone hurting you makes me want to hurt them ten times worse? Somehow I think you’d frown on that.” He had no idea how to respond. The idea was barbaric, but that certainly didn’t stop the flutter in his heart. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” The line clicked off.

He sat there, considering his words. The mixed signals were dizzying. Sometimes he’s talking about Maria and pushing him away. Other times he holds him close or says things like that. Alex needed off whatever ride they were on.

-

Michael POV

Michael cursed Max sometimes. He understood they needed backup but who was this guy? Some ex-military weapons specialist? Sure, he seemed nice enough but should they really be getting outsiders involved in this curse business?

“He’s one of the best we got. Jenna couldn’t come because she’s stuck questioning witnesses. This isn’t exactly official business. Actually, the sheriff specifically told me not to go to this place.” He was grateful for him bending the rules. He knew Max could get fired for this. He looked over at the guy with green hair talking on his phone.

“What was his name? Forrest?”

“You’re not always the smartest person in the room, Michael” He rolled his eyes

“Yea yea.” Forrest hung up and made his way over to them.

“Sorry about that. Family crap. What’s the plan?” He stood with his back straight and feet planted. He showed complete respect for Max even though he was probably higher ranked from a military standpoint.

“This is my cousin Michael. He’s helping us out with this. He’s a friend of Alex’s,” Max said. He reached out his hand. Forrest took it with a smile.

Were he and Alex friends? He wasn’t sure. They talked about things, but it wasn’t the normal stuff. Did he still like music? Does he still have a bag of cheap makeup? What was his favorite color? It was always about curses and the past.

“I look forward to working with you. If Max trusts you, then so do I.” Michael gave a stiff smile and nodded.

Shortly after, he was climbing into the passenger seat of Max’s undercover car. Forrest followed behind them in a van that had a handful of tech and tools. He watched the desert zip by, not usually having the chance to take in the scenery.

A small town like Roswell didn’t have the funds to have tree’s imported so there was mostly just cactus and some bushes. They needed rain otherwise there was going to be issues for the farms on the outskirts of town.

The cattle ranch where they were headed seemed too specific. He and Alex had spent a lot of time there. Michael had often thought about it while he was gone. They were some of the good memories they had before he started pushing him away…

-

Alex shivered next to him, curling up against his side and burying his face in his shoulder. Michael smiled, wrapping his arm tighter around his waist.

“You sure you don’t want to go back? It’s a bit colder than normal.” Alex shook his head.

“Not tonight. With Greg dropping the news that he was leaving for the reservation, my dad’s in an extra bad mood.” He pressed a kiss to his head. He wanted nothing more than to get a small trailer where they could live together. Then maybe Alex would have a chance at the life he wanted.

And maybe they could go through it together.

The curse hadn’t manifested. Maybe they wouldn’t have to go through more pain and suffering at the hands of the gods or whatever. He watched as clouds started to cover the stars.

“Hey, I understand about not going home but we should find some shelter.” He felt him shift to look up at the sky.

“Let it come,” he said, sounding almost depressed. Michael chuckled.

“You say that now but what happens when we’re both soaked and looking for someplace warm?” Alex shook his head, laughing along with him.

“I mean, you’re pretty hot so…” Michael was glad it was dark so Alex couldn’t see the blush. He was always surprised by how bold he could be. And he loved that about him.

He pressed another kiss to his forehead, then to his cheek and finally his lips. Alex laughed into the kiss but responded eagerly. He ran his hands up his chest to rest on his jaw, deepening the kiss. He ignored the pain in his hand to hold him tighter.

Lightning cracked and the sky opened up, dumping water onto both of them. They both burst out laughing, scrambling to collect the blankets and make it back into the truck. Jumping out of the back of the truck, Michael yanked the door open, shoving blankets inside. Alex handed him the last of them. Michael took in the image of the soaked boy.

“What—”

Michael pulled him in, kissing him again. The rain soaked him clean through but he didn’t care and Alex didn’t seem to either. They held each other, letting the rain fall around them. Alex’s hands were tangled in his hair. They separated, just breathing each other in.

“Hey, I’m not going anywhere,” he promised.

Michael wanted to be foolish enough to believe him…

-

A particularly rough bump shook him from his daze. Rain, the cattle ranch, and promises that were broken too soon. He looked around the now residential streets.

“Welcome back to the land of the living. You know I said your name like ten times?” Max glanced over at him, an eyebrow raised.

“Sorry. Just old memories.” Max rolled to a stop on the curb in front of Alex’s house. He turned off the engine but grabbed his arm before he could get out.

“I still think it’s a bad idea to bring him with us,” he said. Michael was in full agreement, but it didn’t seem like there was much they could do.

“I’m aware it’s a bad idea but if you can talk Alex out of it, please do.” They got out of the car, walking over to Forrest next to the van.

“We picking someone up,” he asked, seeming slightly confused? Max nodded and started up to the front door. They didn’t even have to knock before Alex had opened up welcoming them all in. He did a double take when he saw Forrest.

“Not to be rude or anything but what are you doing here?”

“Max asked for my help, though I should be the one asking the same question. We don’t usually bring the target of the bad guys on missions,” he said, though not accusing. Did they know each other?

The three of them stepped inside. The inside of his house was almost claustrophobic with all of them. Michael couldn’t stop looking between Alex and Forrest. Alex was smiling, being more open. Alex lead them all to the kitchen, offering water.

“What’s the plan? I can go in as bait, I have vests and the like.” He wanted to shoot down the idea immediately. Thankfully, Max was way ahead of him.

“No way. The idea is to keep you safe Manes.”

“You don’t just throw a hunk of meat into a wolves den and expect it not to attack,” he added. Alex sighed, looking between the two of them.

“I mean. It’s not the worst operation plan. We used to do stuff like that all the time in the Army,” Forrest said. Michael wanted to punch him in the face. This is why they shouldn’t have brought in outsiders. Alex was looking at Forrest appreciatively.

“He goes in, wearing a bullet proof vest, hell we could probably throw him in full combat gear if we want to be extra cautious. This person obviously wants him for something so we really have no reason to think he’d get hurt anyway. I have thermal imaging in the back of the truck. We can use that to pick out the assailant. We’ll all have weapons and we open fire when they show themselves. If you want to get greedy, we can have Alex question them beforehand but I recommend making sure they’re immobile first.”

The way he talked made it hard to argue. Some details were missing though. Before Michael had time to say anything about the obvious plot holes, Forrest continued.

“I can walk with Alex, make it seem more like we’re giving him up so no one else gets hurt. They’ll probably ask me to surrender my weapons, which I will do. We’re going to need the cover of the night for this. Not that I don’t trust you two and your stealth but just to be safe. Alex, I’m sure you can handle yourself but I’m going to need confirmation you’ll run if things go south.” His face fell slightly. He wasn’t sure if he had ever seen Alex run. Walk quickly yes, but never run. Did his leg allow for it?

He reached down, lifting his pant leg. Forrest followed everyone’s gaze to the metal and plastic prosthetic.

“I would say yes but I haven’t quite gotten to the running part of physical therapy.” Forrest blinked a couple times before smiling at Alex.

“Then you can just count on me to have your back,” he said, raising a hand to salute him. His little smile returned. Michael clenched his fists, wondering when the last time that smile was directed at him. He turned toward Max. “What do you think? You’re the boss.”

He and Michael looked at each other. The plan itself was simple but with the little information they had, it was pretty solid. As much as he hated the idea of Alex’s safety being anyone’s hands but his, a former soldier was probably the best bet.

“I can’t disagree with anything you said so I’d say we’re good then. We’ll ship out at 8. We’re going on the assumption the person who wants him will be there. Considering they didn’t give a time. We have to also consider the person who wants him might not be there at all. We need to take whoever shows up alive.” Forrest and Alex nodded.

“We’ll talk about positions as we drive later, see what kind of cover we have,” Michael added. Everyone nodded. “If you’re waiting for a ‘hands in’ thing it’s not happening,” he joked after a few seconds of silence. Forrest grinned and Alex chuckled. Max just shook his head.

“Let’s go get food, Michael. We’ll all need it,” he said, heading for the front door. The tugging at his heart tried to keep him from leaving but he couldn’t think of a good reason not to leave him with Forrest. He glanced over his shoulder at Alex, who just watched him. Then he turned and followed Max. He was almost out the front door when he heard Forrest say something to Alex.

“We should go get something too. Wanna come with?” His blood boiled but he forced himself to keep walking, digging his nails into his palms.

“Sure.” And he had to pretend his heart wasn’t ripped out of his chest.

-

Alex POV

Alex sat in the van with Forrest. Whatever he had felt earlier had him worried. He had physically grabbed at his mark, then had to try and play it off as stress tension in his shoulders. The drive thru was running slow but Forrest had insisted the place was worth it.

“All I’m saying is good Mexican food or even tex-mex doesn’t have a drive-up option,” He said, laughing. He shook his head.

“You only say that because you’ve never had this.” The window finally opened and the worker handed the bag of food over. He thanked her and pulled into a parking spot to adjust how things were being held.

He handed the bag of food to Alex and he had to admit that it smelled delicious. He slipped his wallet into his back pocket before pulling out of the spot slowly. Someone in another car honked and the van jerked as he hit the brakes. He laughed as Forrest shook his head.

“Am I going to die due to your inability to drive a car without a rear window?” He watched the SUV drive past. He raised his finger, telling him to wait.

“In my defense, the person obviously ignored that I had the right of way,” he said, smiling.

“Suuure,” he drawled. Watching this guy be so comfortable with himself made Alex hopeful. He wasn’t bad looking either. Did he like him? Maybe a bit. But with his luck, he’d be straight. He could rarely judge correctly.

“You into music,” he asked?

“Yea. Used to play guitar in my angsty teen days.” He laughed and turned on the radio. He tuned until he found an alternative station. There wasn’t much other than country and top 40. The signal wasn’t great, but it was enough.

“Well this station plays a lot of stuff from the two thousands so as long as you’re still ok with listening to angsty pop-punk.” He smiled, watching him tap along to an old Fall Out Boy song.

Ok. He really liked him.

Alex half sang along, still embarrassed about singing in front of people. It was easy talking to him. They shared interests. He understood some of the things he went through while at war. They pulled into his driveway; Max’s car wasn’t back yet.

“This was fun. Maybe once all this is over, we can go out again?” He blinked in surprise. Wait… He’s serious.

“Uh…”

“You don’t have to answer right now. Best not to make promises on adrenaline.” He took the bag from his lap and hopped out of the car. Alex shook himself from shock and followed him. He half jogged to catch up, still unsure of what his leg could take.

He pulled the keys from his pocket, unlocking the door. How could he tell? Was it obvious? Was that even a bad thing? Was he seriously interested?

They moved through the house and back to the kitchen. Forrest pulled the food out of the bag, setting it down in front of two seats at the table, respectively. He watched him.

“How did you…” The green haired boy glanced up at him then smiled sympathetically.

“I didn’t. But I figured I’d give it a shot. Not exactly a fan of the closet after spending so much time in it.” Alex was jealous. He was out but only to his close friends. He’d tell someone who asked but he wasn’t comfortable displaying it openly.

“Look. I’m comfortable with myself. But if you’re not, then I won’t force you to do anything you’re not ready for. If you ever feel like giving it a try, just give me a call.” Alex smiled at him. Maybe it was time he learned to be ok. His father didn’t control him anymore. There was no reason for him to be scared.

“If your offer still stands… I’d like to hang out when this is all over.” Forrest grinned at him, nodding appreciatively.

The two of them sat at the table, chatting casually. Alex refused to admit the food was good, even though he ate everything. Then again, he had always been a nervous eater. Whatever happened tonight, he had to make sure it ended. He needed to protect his friends.

The front door swung open, Alex hearing Michael and Max talk quietly. He looked over at the clock, realizing it was almost time to leave. Time had never gotten away from him like it did while he was talking to Forrest. He needed to mentally prepare. Alex cursed his lack of awareness. It was one of the first things they taught in basic. Always be aware.

“Hey, don’t panic. I’ve got your back,” Forrest said, resting a hand on his arm.

As much as Alex wanted to relax, the only way this mission was going to go smoothly was if he was in fight mode. Shut down all emotions. No thinking. Stick to the plan.

A quick stab of pain in his chest made him turn. He locked eyes with Michael. How long did they just stare at each other? It felt like years, but it must have only been a moment. His eyes had glanced down at Forrest’s hand on his arm. He saw the way his jaw clenched. The muscles in his neck. The way he scrunched his nose when he sniffled.

They looked away from each other, Alex casually pulling his arm away from Forrest, concentrating to make sure it didn’t seem like he was embarrassed to have it there. Although that might have been the case. He liked Forrest. There was just something off about Michael seeing it.

“You guys ready for this? Alex,” Max asked. He nodded, letting his mind shift into battle mode.

“I’ll grab some extra supplies. Be right back.” He stood, his arm brushing against Michael’s as he passed.

“Do you need help with anything,” Michael asked before he got too far. He paused. He didn’t really, but something felt off.

“Sure.” He followed him in silence. He stood at the door, just watching Alex move about his room. He pulled open the closet, moving clothing to the side to access the safe where he kept guns and ammo.

“Do you like him?” The question caused him to miss a number for the combination. He shook his head and restarted, laughing at his suggestion. He just needed to play it cool.

“Max? I mean he’s alright,” he joked, trying to deflect.

“You know what I mean, Manes.” The flutter in his heart returned. He pulled the safe open, looking for as much time to come up with an answer as possible.

“What if I do? Careful Guerin, you almost sound jealous.” He tried to keep the bite out of his voice. What right did he have to be jealous? He was the one always pushing him away. He stood from the safe, slowly turning back towards him. Michael's fists were clenched.

“I just mean that you should be careful. Relationships complicate things. Remember Maria. I have to keep her in the dark so she doesn’t get hurt. I’d just hate for you to have to go through that,” he said, not meeting his eyes. Even without the mark, Alex knew his tells at this point.

“And you still try to lie to me. You’ve never been good at that,” he said, focused on loading his gun. He snapped the mag into place, double checking the safety was on before setting it down.

He felt Michael’s presence beside him. He had moved silently. Alex looked up, almost bumping his nose against his. He didn’t move away. A soldier never backed down. No matter how hard and fast his heart was beating. Michael glanced down, then proceeded to lay a hand over his heart.

“Remember that works both ways,” he said softly.

He backed away, picking up the boxes of ammo he had laid on the bed. He left the room without another word. Alex took a deep breath, calming himself. He would worry about that later. He had to focus on the mission.

He walked back to the closet, pushing things around, looking for the bulletproof vest. Once he finally located the damned thing, trying to pull it out was more effort than planned. Stuck on the closet door. Alex cursed, trying to find where the strap had snagged on. He groaned in frustration. There was a chuckle from behind him. Looking over his shoulder, Forrest stood there with a grin.

“Need some help with that?” He ran a hand through his hair and sighed.

“Yea, I guess so.” Forrest came and reached over him, close enough to smell whatever cologne he was wearing. So different from Michael. More of a spice. He unhooked the vest from a metal part of the door and pulled it out.

Alex smiled and stood with him. He looked back at the closet, thinking if there was anything else he needed. Then he shut the doors.

“Thanks. Probably just stress. I’ll be fine once we get going.” Forrest rested a hand on his shoulder.

“I have no doubt. You are a hero after all.” Alex raised an eyebrow. “I do my research purple heart guy.” Alex couldn’t stop the grin. He was flattered. He had gone through the effort of learning about him.

“Well I’m glad I’ll have you there as my backup,” he said, picking up the gun from earlier. He reached for the bulletproof vest too, but Forrest shook his head.

“I’ve got this. Let’s go.” He followed him back to the other two. Once they reached the kitchen, they all fell silent. The pressure to make sure nothing went wrong weighed on all of them. Alex straightened his shoulders and lifted his head.

“Let’s do this.”

Chapter Text

Michael POV

Michael tapped his fingers on the car door, nerves getting worse with every mile marker they passed. Alex was in the van with Forrest, following behind them. Max sighed.

“Look, if you’re just going to overthink it, why didn’t you just ride with Forrest as opposed to Alex?”

“Why would I care?”

“Then would you stop with that fidgeting?” He stopped the tapping and clenched his fists, nails biting into his palms. That wasn’t what he was nervous about. “Remember Alex feels the echo of your emotions.” Max was right. He needed to try and calm down.

The night sky became clearer as they got farther from the town. Max turned onto a dirt road. This was it. He scrolled through his contacts, calling Alex. It rang a few times before he picked up. He was usually faster at answering than that.

“You’re on speaker, what’s the plan?” Michael grinned at the professionalism.

“Well, unless they’ve been cut down, there’s a group of trees on the edge of the property. We’re going to stop there then walk the rest of the way. Forrest, we’re going to need that thermal imaging you were talking about. Alex, make sure you have the vest on. Don’t need anyone in the hospital tonight.”

“Shouldn’t you or Max follow behind in the car in case we need a quick getaway,” Forrest asked? He looked over at Max. He hadn’t thought of that.

“I’ll follow behind,” Max said.

“Right so, Forrest, you said you’d offer up Alex. I’ll sneak off to the side of the barn and try to get the jump on them from behind,” he continued.

“And what if this person has back-up or military training like we think,” Alex asked?

“We all have weapons. Someone will have a clear shot. And I’m not exactly easy to take down like you imply, private.” Silence followed. He cursed in his head. The nickname might have been too much.

“Fine. Everyone stay safe. Like you said earlier, don’t need anyone going to the hospital.” He didn’t hang up, in case something changed in the next two minutes of driving.

He could see the lights on top of the barn. Pointing off to the side, the group of trees still stood tall. He wondered if Alex remembered all the time they spent under those trees when it got too hot to do anything else.

But he couldn’t think of that right now. He had to focus on keeping him safe, and by extension, himself. Even if he took on the injuries, that didn’t mean he didn’t feel the temporary pain. Michael’s stomach turned at the though of anything hurting him that way.

Max parked the car as the van pulled up next to them. He hopped out, moving to the back to help with anything that needed setup. Forrest unlocked the doors before joining him. Michael stood for a moment in awe of the amount of technology and firepower that was packed into the van.

“Grab that pistol for me,” he said, pointing to a case with a few different handheld guns. Unclipping the gun, he grabbed it by the barrel before handing it over.

“Mind if I borrow that,” Michael asked, nodding to a revolver. Forrest grinned and waved his head, signaling he could take whatever. Alex came around back pulling his button-down off. Michael averted his eyes. He wasn’t sure if he wouldn’t stare. Better to not let himself look at all.

But Alex reached past him, brushing against his arm and shoulder to grab the bulletproof vest. He managed to control his breathing. Was he doing this on purpose?

Back at his house, Alex had called him out. But he wasn’t lying. Everything he said was true. Relationships were complicated now. Whatever Alex felt, it wasn’t him lying. He racked his brain, trying to think of what it could possibly mean. He had told him that it works both ways, but Alex had been nothing but honest since he’d gotten back.

“Hey Manes, need help?” Forrest moved over to where Alex was. Michael forced himself not to look over.

Michael slipped extra ammo into his pocket, on the off chance he missed his shots and needed it. He needed this to be over fast. Because if this really was another trial, he wasn’t sure he could afford another hospital visit. His arm was already complaining about the extra work. But he needed everyone to believe he was fine. It was the only way he could protect Alex.

Forrest returned, grabbing something that looked like a tablet, though it was much bulkier and some wires poked out in places. He flipped a switch and the thing beeped to life. He tapped a few buttons and the screen turned blue. Turning toward him, he moved the tablet up and down, like he was scanning him.

“Alright, the thermal camera is ready to go.” He walked over to where Max stood by his car, readying his own weapons. Michael shut the doors of the van, glancing at Alex who leaned against the tree, watching him. He moved over to stand in front of him, just out of arms reach.

“You be careful. Understand?” Michael chuckled and shook his head.

“I think I’m supposed to be saying that to you,” he retorted.

“I know your arm isn’t healed. But you’re refusing to give it time,” he scolded.

“Unfortunately, time isn’t a luxury we have right now. You wanted to go in as bait. We need the element of surprise which we don’t know if we have or not. Best to get this done and hope we take the asshole alive for questioning.”

Alex looked away toward the illuminated barn. He ran a hand through his hair, not having a comeback. Michael looked at the ground, moving a rock with his foot.

“Guess this isn’t the place it used to be,” Alex said softly. He almost didn’t hear it. He let himself grin, but only for a second.

“Hey, the memories are still good.” Alex smiled, glancing at him.

“Hey, we’re going to move in. Let’s go!” Max called over to them. Alex pushed himself off the tree, his shirt stretched across the vest.

Michael grabbed his arm as he brushed past, forcing him to stop. The feel of his skin under his fingers sent electricity through him.

“I will protect you. I’d sooner die than let anything happen to you.” Alex didn’t say anything in return. He let his hand fall, running down his arm and pausing at his palm. He wanted to take his hand, but it wasn’t his to take anymore.

He felt Alex’s fingers wrap loosely around his momentarily. Then he was gone.

-

Alex POV

Alex walked beside Forrest, Michael slightly behind and quickly veering off to the right. Max was following behind in the car thought he couldn’t get close without being spotted by the floodlights surrounding the entrance of the barn.

He looked around, not seeing any people. There was an old tractor parked off to the side but otherwise, there were no cars either. Unless they were parked somewhere out of sight.

“What are you thinking, Manes,” Forrest asked quietly.

“Something feels off,” he said hesitantly. He let a hand rest on the gun at his hip.

“Do you want to pull back?” Alex shook his head.

“It’s not ‘off’ in that sense. Just that I feel like no matter how prepared we are, we will never expect what’s coming out of that barn.”

They continued up to the front area. Max had stopped a while back. Alex glanced behind him and could just barely see the outline of the black vehicle. They slowed their pace as the details of the barn came into focus. He had lost sight of Michael, though he guessed he was moving behind the tractor.

“You ready,” he asked, holding out handcuffs? He nodded placing his hands behind him. He left them loose enough that he could escape if the need arose. Alex’s nerves still kicked into high gear at the idea of being restrained. They walked further, into the full view of the lights.

“Hey! Whoever’s here, we have him! Now come out and we can make a deal!” Forrest held him firmly, but it was more like he was providing stability than handing him off to some sick terrorist.

They walked toward the large doors, noticing they were cracked open. No one had shot at them yet. Alex looked around but saw nothing. It was almost silent except for the hum of the lights and crickets. His shoulders relaxed as Forrest released him. He waved his hand and Michael stepped out of the shadow of the barn.

“You know of any other cattle ranch on the edge of town,” Forrest asked him? He shook his head.

“The rest are still in use. This hasn’t been active in years,” Michael said, worried. “I’ll check out inside.” Before Alex had time to turn down the idea, he was looking through cracks in the door, pulling it open as quietly as he could.

He slipped in the doors as Forrest released him from the handcuffs. The two of them shared a look.

Then the shooting started.

Alex didn’t hesitate when he stormed through the doors. Even Forrest yelling for him to stop didn’t process. Michael was in danger. He needed to save him.

He scanned for cover, jumping behind a rusted horse trailer. He looked through the slots. He needed to see Michael. Needed to know he was ok.

Bullets ricochet off the trailer, forcing Alex to duck for cover. He yanked his gun out of its holster, taking aim at the figures in the rafters.

Wood exploded behind him. He would not back down. He would not let them hurt Michael.

He fired off three shots. All he could see was the figure he was aiming at. Who they were didn’t matter. They attacked first.

One fell from where they had been crouched. Bullet hitting them in the leg.

Another had a barrel pointed at his head. He fired first.

And the last one wasn’t focused on him. He followed their line of sight. Michael was unconscious on the ground. Bleeding from the injury he had received from him a few days ago. Alex fired. No one was going to hurt him.

“Manes!” Forrest called as he stormed through the door, Max right behind him. More gunfire rattled the old barn. He army crawled toward Michael. He had to move him. Get him out of the range of fire.

He looked around, determining none of the other shooters were focused on him. He jumped out from cover, stumbling and falling onto Michael's chest. He groaned and coughed from his weight.

“Guerin come on. Wake up!” he maneuvered around to grab under his arms, pulling him behind a pillar. Wood exploded again and he cursed. They had noticed him. His arm wasn’t bleeding heavily but it was enough to be concerning.

“Damnit.” Alex nearly dropped him when he heard his voice. He pushed himself to keep moving until they were behind the trailer again. “Well my arm hurts like a bitch. And just about every other part of me,” he said trying to sit up from where Alex had laid him.

“Please just shut up and don’t move,” he begged. He rested a hand against Michael’s face, brushing a loose curl out of the way. “I’ll be back.”

He stood as fast as he could, rushing to join Forrest and Max. Whatever plan they had was thrown out the window. Now there was only damage control.

Max and Forrest stood back to back, working their way through the shooters. No one jumped out as a leader but that didn’t mean they weren’t around.

Suddenly, all the firing stopped. Alex couldn’t move. He tried to turn his head, but it was as if the whole space had been filled with jell-o. Things moved at a fraction of the speed they should have. No one seemed to notice but him.

A black figure threw Forrest and Max to the ground, removing the weapons from their hands. Then all the shooters were gathered in a pile, tied and unconscious. Alex could hardly register what was happening. Nothing moved like it was supposed to.

Suddenly he stared at the ceiling, black creeped in around the corners of his vision. He didn’t feel his weapon. He couldn’t feel anything. He felt weightless.

“Alex. I’m sorry.”

Then nothing.

-

Everything was white. Sometimes a shadow passed over him, but he was never quick enough to see what it was. Alex lifted a hand to his chest, surprised to find he didn’t have a shirt on. He looked down, praying this wasn’t a “wake up in school naked” dream.

He wore pants but something was different. He could feel his leg. He crouched down, finding it fulling intact.

“Alex!” A voice in the distance. He jerked his head up, searching for the source. He needed to find them.

“Where are you,” he called back?

He ran in the direction of the echoes. His thighs burned as he pushed himself harder than he had in months. He didn’t even know what he was running toward. Just that his heart and every other part of his body told him he needed whoever the owner of that voice was.

-

Michael POV

Michael called again and again. Nothing but white extended for miles. Maybe forever. He walked in a random direction. He needed to find Alex. He was in danger. He wanted to turn around. His heart told him to turn around. But if he turned around, he would never find him.

He had to keep moving. Sitting and waiting did nothing.

“Alex!” He raised a hand over his heart where the mark was. Why couldn’t he feel him?

“Stop running!” Michael stumbled at the voice. That had to be Alex. From behind him?

He turned around slowly. A figure in the distance sprinted toward him. He stepped backwards. What if it wasn’t him? What if this person hurt him? What if he left again?

Michael planted his feet. He wouldn’t know unless he waited to find out. He wanted to run. But he didn’t know which direction called to him more. Towards the voice? Or away from it? The figure slowly got bigger.

Michael took a step forward.

Suddenly Alex was right in front of him, crashing into his arms. He grabbed at him, pulling him close and burying his face in his neck.

“Alex,” he whispered. It was the only word he could manage.

“I’m here. I’m here,” he whispered back, holding on just as tight.

When he finally got the courage to pull away, he stared at Alex. He was younger. Smudged eyeliner circled his eyes. He moved his hands to rest on his cheeks. His hand wasn’t smashed like it should be.

“It’s you. It’s always been you.”

-

??? POV

She watched them both from a distance. Maybe she wouldn’t have to do more pushing after all. She was tired of these games. The others would punish her for meddling, but she needed to redeem herself. All those tragedies she caused. Her involvement in the prolonging of this curse was over.

The doppelgangers were always meant to be the end of it. But the gods refused to let go of their entertainment.

Those two had taken control of the dream she planted. They would find their way back to each other. They’ve known they belonged together since they first met. They can fight it all they want.

There was no fighting the cosmos.

-

Michael POV

Michael gasped awake, head spinning as he tried to look around the pale white and blue room. The stiffness in his body told him exactly where he was before his eyes had time to adjust completely. The itchy hospital gown hadn’t gotten any better than it was three days ago.

The sudden panting from the bed next to him made him jump. Alex sat up, hand over his chest, eyes wide. Michael would bet anything they just had the same dream. He could feel Alex’s heartbeat. He wondered if it was just a side effect from the dream that made it race.

He looked around slowly. Then his eyes met his.

He didn’t know what to say. Whatever happened in the dream was just that. A dream. The problem was that he felt like he was in full control.

“Did you… have that dream too,” Alex questioned. His voice shook, adrenaline still running high. Michael nodded. He went to sit up himself, but pain shot up his arm. His arm had been re-stitched and placed in another sling.

After Alex pulled him to safety, the rest of the night was a blur. He thought he was conscious but all he could remember were random colors and shapes. He moved again, slower as to not jerk his arm around.

“Do you remember what happened?” Alex ran a hand through his hair, eyebrows drawn together.

“Not really. Just that it was like everyone stopped moving, then I was in that dream. And now I’m here.” He looked around, then grabbed at his leg, feeling for his prosthetic.

“It felt real, didn’t it?” Alex looked back at him, not being able to hold his gaze for more than a few seconds. There was something about these dreams. Why were they so vivid? Though he understood why the former couples didn’t talk about their shared experiences, it made things harder to figure out.

“You kept running away,” he mumbled. “You called to me, then ran away. Why?”

“I don’t know. I thought I was looking for you.”

“You could feel me, Guerin. You didn’t have to look.” Michael looked away from him, resting his head on the pillow. He didn’t have an answer.

His eyes widened for a second, remembering the mark on his chest. He looked down, moving the hospital gown to the side. An empty spot where a petal used to be. But something wasn’t right. This wasn’t worse than being shot. Something happened.

“That was a trial,” Alex asked?

“I guess so. Didn’t feel like it.”

A quiet knock at the door made them both turn. It pushed open and Max poked his head in, seeming to check if they were awake. Seeing they were, he opened the door wide and Isabel followed behind him.

“Welcome back to the land of the living you two,” she said. Michael raised an eyebrow at her. “Oh, you both have been out for a couple days.” The way she said it sounded like she was telling them she had gone to the grocery store.

“A couple days,” Alex exclaimed?

“You kept calling for each other so we figured it’d be best to keep you away from others. Hence you’re in a room together.” Michael looked over at Alex to find him staring back. It lingered until a blush rose on Alex’s face.

“So why weren’t you knocked out like we were,” he asked? Max shrugged.

“It’s not clear. Forrest and I woke up to all the shooters tied up and you two pretty much writhing on the ground and calling for each other. Not often but it was startling, that’s for sure. I assume it has something to do with the curse. And what ever knocked you guys out had to do with it too. I noticed part of the mark faded.”

“What did you tell Forrest,” Alex asked?

“Just that you two were close. I couldn’t say much given my suspicions.” Michael wasn’t sure if the ache in his chest was him or Alex.

“Maria has been around. Cursing you out. Not that I blame her. You did run headfirst into danger without telling her,” Isabel said, crossing her arms. Michael sighed. He had tried to call her, but she must have been busy with either the Wild Pony or her mother. After they left, he had shut his phone off so it wouldn’t accidentally give him away. Not that it had mattered.

“So what happened with the shooters then? Was the person who wanted me with them?” Alex looked between the two of them. Max shook his head.

“No. But they were all from various divisions of the Military. Mostly Marines. They won’t talk and were all ‘following orders.’ They believed you were somehow a danger to the security of the country,” he said. Alex clenched his fists. His nose twitched, one of the few mannerisms he picked up from his father.

Michael watched as he processed the information. He was a good soldier. But if he was being accused of being a terrorist, he would be dishonorably discharged. Then the loss of his leg would have really been for nothing.

“So now that we’re up, can we just go? Or do they need to check vitals or something?” Michael wanted to figure out what was going on. He needed to question the soldiers himself.

“Oh no you don’t. You already tore your stitches once. You do not need to be getting into fights with highly trained marines,” Isabel scolded. He half laughed and shook his head.

“You know I’m amazed you and Maria don’t get along better. You sound just like her sometimes,” he teased. She rolled her eyes, a look of disgust passing over her features.

“She’s just too much. Look I get your whole thing about liking a strong woman but geez.”

“She is my best friend, can you two not talk about this here,” Alex said, face scrunched like he just ate something sour.

Isabel shrugged and left to get whatever doctor had been taking care of them. Max moved to the closet across from Alex’s bed. Opening the doors, he pulled out his prosthetic, placing it on the ground next to his bed.

“You should be fine to leave once the doctor gets back. It’s been cleaned. Dirt and blood had gotten on it.” Alex nodded.

“Thanks. Though I’m not super comfortable with people I don’t know touching it.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. Forrest offered and I figured it would be ok. Won’t happen again.” He watched Alex’s face. A small smile snuck out but was gone as quickly as it appeared.

“Don’t worry about it. I trust him.” Michael had to look away. He trusted him? After knowing him for a day? He had to take a few deep breaths to not call out what a stupid decision that was.

A few short taps on the door called their attention. Kyle stood there, looking almost annoyed. Does this guy ever take a break? Michael wondered.

“We’ve got to stop meeting like this. The more you rip those stitches, the more we have to see of each other.” He walked past Michael to stand next to Alex.

“I’m just going to double check some stuff then I’ll let you go. Arm.” Kyle rolled up the sleeve of the hospital gown, wrapping his arm to measure what he assumed was his blood pressure.

Max came to stand by Michael, looking over his shoulder at the other two. Then he leaned in close, whispering.

“Forrest is asking questions. He only follows my orders so much. If he starts digging, who knows what he’ll find. Unlike Maria, he has resources.”

“Don’t tell me you think we should let him in on it,” Michael asked.

“It’s damage control at this point Michael. Either you or Alex needs to give him some version of the truth so he backs off.” Michael glanced over at Alex. He watched as he took deep breaths with Kyle listening through his stethoscope.

Max shot him a look and moved back towards the door. This was exactly what he didn’t want to happen. It was Max’s idea in the first place! And now he had to deal with the mess. Alex caught him staring. He looked away quickly, knowing full well that made it more obvious.

“Alright. Everything looks good. I don’t know what caused you to sleep for two days but you seem fine now. You should either go to your general practitioner to get some medication or if something feels wrong in the next week, just come back here and we’ll look into it.” Alex nodded.

“Thanks,” he said. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched Kyle smile at him. He disconnected the tubes from his arms before turning toward him. He slowly removed the sling from his arm, checking how the stitches were healing.

“Don’t strain it so much this time. Just let it heal. Read a book or something.” He moved to the other side of the bed. “Arm.” Michael offered up his left arm as Kyle went through the same steps as he did for Alex.

He looked over at him again. He sat on the side of the bed, leaning over to put his prosthetic on. Bits of skin peaked out from the hospital gown and he had to fight to not follow the path down. Not that he had time as Alex stood and moved to the closet to collect his clothes.

Michael hadn’t seen the full prosthetic yet. He considered that it was probably rude to stare but watching the way the muscles flexed just above where it attached made him sad. He wished he could have saved him, even though that was never possible.

Alex never complained about it. He was still strong and refused to just sit on the sidelines. He admired that, even if it made things more difficult than they needed to be sometimes.

Michael sat up, letting Kyle listen to his breathing as he moved past him to the bathroom to change. The door clicked shut almost quietly. He removed the stethoscope and began removing the tubes from his arms.

“Same story with you. If something feels—”

“Michael Guerin! You have some serious explaining to do,” Maria demanded, storming into the room. A frantic nurse and annoyed Isabel followed in behind. Kyle jumped at the interruption but he maintained a steady pace as he pulled out the needles.

“Deluca, I told you it’s not a good time. No one needs your overreaction right now,” Isabel said, trying to step between her and Michael

“Did I ask you, miss I’m-so-perfect? Butt out.” She pushed past her; Isabel’s mouth hung open in surprise.

“I’m sorry Dr. Valenti, she refused to wait,” the young nurse rushed out. Must have been new.

“Don’t worry about it. Let’s just give them their privacy.” He guided the nurse out of the room, shooting a worried glance back over his shoulder. Michael swung his legs over the side of the bed, stretching as much as he could with an arm in a sling.

“Look, Maria I will explain but can we not do this here. Please?”

“Why would you think it’s a good idea to do some solo mission that’s going to get both you and Alex killed? Please, explain the logic to me,” she scolded.

“I mean technically I would be the only one that would die,” he mumbled. Her eyebrows drew together.

“What are you talking about?”

“The curse. If Alex is hurt, I take on his injuries.” Michael was too tired to come up with any more explanations. Maria was silent. Isabel threw her hands up in exasperation and walked out of the room.

The door to the bathroom opened and Alex looked between the two of them, though he didn’t say anything. He tossed the gown on the bed he was using before standing next to Michael.

“And you two are just… ok with this,” she asked softly?

“I mean. That’s why it’s a curse. Neither of us are ‘ok’ with it,” Alex pointed out, glancing down at him.

Maybe he held his gaze for too long. Maybe it was the way his fingers ached to hold his hand. Maybe it was because he was ok with it, as long as Alex was safe. Maybe it was the way Maria had to clear her throat to get his attention.

“The thing is, you don’t have to worry about Alex. Because my first instinct will always be to protect him. At this point, my entire life is about him.”

He didn’t know why the words come out of his mouth, though not one of them was a lie. He couldn’t pick out the emotions that passed over her face when he said it. There was an echo of emotions coming from the boy next to him. He forced himself to keep his eyes on Maria.

Then she smiled.

“Well I’ll still help you find a way to break this stupid thing. Get dressed and let’s go!” She spun and walked out the door, leaving him and Alex in silence.

“Why’d you say that,” he asked quietly?

Michael didn’t have an answer for him. His heart fluttered and he lifted his hand up over the mark. These emotions were all him. All real. He couldn’t focus on anything but Alex. Forgetting him was never an option. His entire body wanted him. He knew the symptoms of withdrawal and addiction. And Alex was one hell of a drug.

“You’re the one habit… I just can’t seem to kick.”

Chapter Text

Alex POV

Alex didn’t know what reaction to give but walking out without saying anything probably wasn’t it.

That dream had him all sorts of messed up. Back to stupid teenagers who hardly talked but somehow knew everything about each other. ‘Always been you?’ What kind of stupid line was that? It wasn’t even true. Not anymore.

How did he end up back on this ride every time? Heart fluttering, stomach twisting, fingers aching to touch him. He shouldn’t be swayed by pretty words. His actions spoke enough. He didn’t want him anymore.

Alex thought about what Forrest must think. Did this curse ruin his chances with the only person he’d been interested in in years? What would he say? Should he tell him about the curse? Would Forrest even believe him?

Alex stepped out of the hospital, hardly registering the heat on his face. The sun blinded him; he raised his hand to shade his eyes. A form came into view, leaning against a van. He blinked a couple times before the green hair registered.

Forrest looked at his phone, sunglasses catching the light, reflecting a rainbow onto the ground. Alex moved toward him. He looked up and smiled, and he couldn’t help but smile back.

“Hey, how are you feeling? I was worried,” he said, completely focusing on him. Alex just shrugged.

“I’m fine. A bump on my head but nothing serious.”

“What about Guerin? You two were calling for each other. Max said you two were old friends, but I can pick out a lie when I hear it.” Alex sighed, choosing his words carefully.

“I mean. That wasn’t a lie. We were… friends back in high school.” He raised an eyebrow at the hesitation Alex had fought against and failed. “We dated for a while. We were there for each other during the hard times. But we drifted. My dad made sure of it.” He flinched at the memory.

Forrest considered his words. There was the briefest look of sympathy as he removed his sunglasses. He rested a hand on his shoulder. The touch was nice. Comforting and steady.

“I’m sorry. I know that kind of situation can mess you up. But if you still cling to each other for comfort like it seems, maybe a friendship with him is still good for you. You’ll learn to stand on your own eventually but if you’re still suffering from shared trauma, hold onto the comfort. Everyone heals differently. Besides, Michael seems like a good guy and he cares about you.”

What could he say to that? He opted for nothing and just nodded. The silence stretched as he fought the urge to run back to Michael. The mark made it hard to ignore and the memories of the dream weren’t helping. He shook his head.

“So, thanks for helping clean my prosthetic,” he said, trying to lighten the mood. Forrest smiled.

“No problem. I wasn’t sure if it was out of line, but I wanted to help. I have some other friends with prosthetics so I know how much of a pain it can be.”

“Literally and figuratively,” he joked. Forrest chuckled then jerked his thumb behind him.

“Want a ride home?” Alex nodded, moving to the passenger side of the van. He climbed in, recognizing the air freshener from a few days ago. It smelled like apples and cinnamon. He would have preferred the smell of rain or dew; but this was comforting. Sweet and simple.

As he relaxed into the seat, he looked back at the doors of the hospital. Michael stood there, watching him. He was hugging Maria but the dull ache in his chest told him something else. Forrest pulled away and he waved to the two of them. He felt… something more than a dull ache. Though he couldn’t quite identify it.

He and Forrest chatted casually about the past couple days. He said that Max was probably going to get in big trouble for the stunt. According to the sheriff, he had put another officer and two civilians in danger.

“Well what about you,” Alex asked, worried he had put his job on the line for someone like him.

“Max took the fall for all of it. I mean. Some of the blame was shifted to Michael but the sheriff doesn’t have control over him. I hope the guy only gets desk duty. I think we did the right thing.”

He watched Forrest out of the corner of his eye. His fingers tapped on the steering wheel along to whatever happened to be on the radio. He wanted to ask more questions but now didn’t seem like a good time. He wanted this thing with Forrest to be real. No business or curses. Just normal.

“Hey, do you want to grab something to eat,” he asked? Forrest glanced over at him and smiled.

“Under normal circumstances I would say yes. Sadly, I have to go back to the sheriff to do some work for her. And I know you just slept for like, two days but maybe some real rest would be good for you. You seem tired.” His body did feel heavy but would he really be able to relax?

“Yea, I guess. Another time then,” he asked, still hopeful.

“What about Saturday? We can do a proper date.” Alex couldn’t stop the smile that covered his face. His shoulders fell with the next breath. He hadn’t realized how tense he had been.

“Sounds great. I pick the food this time,” he said, laughing.

A song he recognized from his high school years came on the radio. Without asking, he reached for the dial to turn the volume up. Forrest laughed but sang along with him anyway. The desert zipped past, the cactus no more than green and brown blurs.

Alex wished he could stay in the car just a bit longer. Forrest helped him relax, or at least provided a distraction from the shitshow that was slowly becoming his life. The storefronts turned into homes and soon enough Forrest was pulling into his driveway.

He was a bit startled when he shut the van off and got out with him. Didn’t he need to meet with the sheriff? He raised an eyebrow.

“What kind of friend would I be if I didn’t make sure you got into your house before I left,” he said. He slipped his hands into his pockets as they walked.

“I appreciate it but if I truly have trouble getting in, I could just pick the lock,” Alex joked back, pulling the keys from his pocket.

“I should know better than to think you’ll just let me be chivalrous,” he laughed. He could feel the blush on his cheeks and turned toward the door to hide it. He pushed the key into the lock, jiggling the handle slightly so the door would open. Whoever had installed it did something wrong. He hadn’t had the chance to fix it.

“Well, thanks for the prosthetic and driving me home and… well, a lot of stuff I guess.” Alex said, smiling. Forrest inched closer to him, resting a hand on his shoulder.

“Don’t worry about it.” Alex glanced down at his mouth. It would probably be too soon to try it. He should at least wait for the first date. But he couldn’t help it. Forrest was attractive and he wanted to be closer to him.

Forrest moved first. Stepping up to him, highlighting their difference in height; he was just a bit shorter. Alex sucked in a breath as his lips just barely touched his own. He pulled back out of reflex. Forrest stopped immediately.

“Sorry I uh…” Alex couldn’t form a real explanation.

“I guess I misread the moment. No need for you to apologize.” Forrest smiled at him, then turned to leave.

“You didn’t! Misread I mean. It was just—”

“You don’t owe me an explanation. Enthusiastic consent is a big part of my belief system.” Alex felt his shoulders relax. “I’ll see you Saturday, Alex.” He nodded, smiling at him as he turned away.

Alex watched him leave, waving as he drove off. Forrest was great. He wished he had met him in high school. Maybe things would have turned out differently. He reached up to touch the mark on his chest.

Then again, maybe not.

It’s not that he wished he had never met Michael. He just thought that maybe if they hadn’t been involved before all this crap started it would be going smoother. Michael wouldn’t have to worry about how things look to Maria and he wouldn’t constantly have to experience the confusing emotions he felt for Michael.

He tossed his keys on the end table. Now that he was home and not running on adrenaline, he felt the weight of his body. Forrest was right. He was exhausted. He moved to the kitchen slowly, knowing he should eat something before just passing out again.

Had he gone to the store recently? Was there even anything to eat? He pulled the fridge open. There were leftovers from the last time he cooked but it was so long ago at this point he probably shouldn’t eat them.

He opted for the last cup of yogurt. With all the crazy stuff that had been happening, he couldn’t really blame himself for not having food. He pulled a spoon from the drawer.

Before he could sit down, a notepad on the table caught his attention. He usually leaves all his papers and mail in a pile on the counter until he could read them. He rarely left anything sitting out. A pen sat next to it.

He picked up the pad of paper slowly, looking around the room. Did one of the others write something before they left? No. He knows they didn’t. The handwriting wasn’t any he recognized. It was almost too perfect, like it had been typed out.

Alex, I’m sorry things had to happen this way. I want to help you.
You’ll see me soon. Until then, be wary of the military.
They’re taking orders from your father and he wants to destroy both you and Michael.

He turned the next few pages, looking for something else. There was no name. He sighed in frustration. He knew he should tell Michael but the idea of talking to him was just too much right now. He stared at the note for a while longer.

“Wait. I have cameras!” He jumped up, scolding himself for forgetting. He had a couple cameras set up throughout the house in case he needed to leave for an extended period.

He rushed to his laptop, still sitting in the front room on his coffee table. The damned thing wouldn’t turn on fast enough, even though it probably only took a few seconds.

He pulled up the software for the cameras. He would have to pull up the feed for the last two days. He tapped on the date and watched. He had several but he payed attention to the one set above his patio door, giving him a full view of the kitchen.

Starting when he first saw the four of them leave for the mission, he sped up the video so it wouldn’t take forever. He didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. Shadows from the outside seemed normal. He watched the spot on the table where the pad of paper had appeared.

The video stopped at midnight. Clicking on the next day, he bit at his nails, a habit he hadn’t had an issue with for years. Again, shadows passed but nothing looked weird.

He clicked the next day. Nothing.

He was on to today’s feed. Had someone really been in the house and not left a single trace of themselves? It was almost impossible. He knew stealth specialists who could go unnoticed by everyday people. But not someone trained like he was.

He slowed down the feed slightly to make sure he didn’t miss anything. Nothing but normal shadows. He was approaching the time when he walked in the door. Were they still here? He tried to listen, but the house was silent around him.

He was about ready to give up when there was a sudden flash on the camera. He checked the time. He would have just been outside with Forrest when this happened. Alex leaned in close to the monitor, hoping to see their face or any identifying marks.

But the flash vanished like it was just a glare on the lens. And the pad of paper sat in the spot he found it. He watched himself walk through his own house, not even noticing the pad of paper.

“Fuck!” He snapped his laptop closed, forgetting to be careful with it. What was he supposed to do about this? He ran a hand through his hair.

No indication of how they got in. No trace of anything except the pad of paper with a message. A message he probably could have guessed himself.

He placed his computer back on the coffee table before pushing himself up from the couch. He needed to relax. He would tell Michael, eventually. Not until he was able to talk to the soldiers who attacked them.

Weirdly, he didn’t want to eat anymore. He put the yogurt and spoon away before going straight for the bathroom. A shower would help him.

Walking in, he grabbed the folding seat from behind the door. Setting it up used to take him forever, but now it was like second nature. He supposed he could just leave it there, but he had this fear that people would judge him. Not being able to stand on your own wasn’t something to brag about.

He pulled his shirt over his head, tossing it to the floor. Staring at himself in the mirror, he could see the dark circles. Whatever state he had been in, it sure wasn’t restful. He looked down at the mark on his chest.

Visions came flooding back to him. Michael pressed against him. Burying his face in his chest. His voice felt like it was going hoarse from the amount of yelling he did in that dream. But whenever he made a sound it was normal. It all felt so real. And he was warm and steady and still smelled like rain.

Alex shook his head, turning away from his reflection. He sat himself on the toilet seat to remove his prosthetic. It was always a relief to take it off. The pressure wasn’t painful but removing it was noticeable. Sometimes he looked down at the missing leg. He swore he could still flex the muscles in his calves or foot that were no longer there.

He pulled his jeans off and stood slowly, using the bars he had installed. He moved around the corner of the glass. He had the bathroom converted to something completely flat so he wouldn’t have to jump over anything.

Alex turned the knob of the shower, keeping it cool due to the hundred-degree weather outside. He loved hot showers but now was not the time. At least not right away. He maneuvered himself to his chair, letting the water wash over him.

His hair stuck to his face, but he didn’t bother to move it. He tried to rub the stress out of his shoulders. Giving yourself a massage wasn’t always effective, but it was all he had. He grabbed the soap, rubbing it over his skin, noticing the dirt running off him. He blinked the water out of his eyes…

-

Alex opened them again only to find a group of people milling about him. He jumped up. Or at least he wanted to. His body didn’t listen to him. He looked around but no one looked him in the eye.

The women surrounded him. One dipped a piece of cloth into water and began washing him. He wanted to yank himself away from her but he remained still. Long hair fell into his face, almost down to his waist.

“Your father will be upset with you, young master. You always get so dirty when you run around with that boy.”

“He’s my only friend. I refuse to listen to my father.” The words came out of his mouth. And it sounded like him. Maybe a bit younger? And why did these women refer to him as a master?

He sat as calmly as possible as they scrubbed him down. The worry about this person’s father infiltrated his thoughts too. He knew the lord of this place was ruthless. You don’t disobey unless you want to face serious consequences. Not unlike his own father.

This friend is more important.

He was given a pair of lose fitting pants and shirt that opened down his chest. He wouldn’t be leaving the grounds again today. He paced about the small room he had been sentenced to. There was nothing left to do but wait for his father’s punishment.

He moved over to the window. There was a forest surrounding the property. If he ran… maybe he could get out.

“Ahem,” someone cleared their throat below him. He looked down only to be met with a head of curls coming toward him. He backed away to let the boy… man… through.

Michael stared back at him, a mischievous smile on his face. He tried to call his name. To ask him what this was. But a different name left his mouth.

“Samuel! What are you doing here? Haven’t you gotten us in enough trouble today,” his voice said, though there was no anger behind it. His eyes trailed over the dirt on his tanned skin. Followed it down until it dipped below the opening in his shirt.

Alex felt his mouth go dry. A familiar need settling in his stomach. Why should he deny himself this man? What was so wrong?

“Careful there Thomas. I might think you like me if you keep looking at me like that,” he teased. A blush rose to his face. He can’t believe he had so openly stared at him. Michael -- ‘Samuel’ – licked his lips and ran his gaze over his body in return. “Let’s get out of here.”

All Thomas could do was nod in return. He followed the boy out the window and they ran towards the forest.

-

Alex gasped as the daydream ended. He grabbed at his chest, heart pounding. He had no idea how long he’d been zoned out for. The water was still warm so it couldn’t have been long. The boy had looked exactly like Michael, maybe his hair was a bit longer but that didn’t matter.

It felt familiar, like he had seen it before. Lived it even.

He didn’t know what the vision was. He could ask Michael, but he doubted he had answers either. He could only assume that Michael was stuck in the other body, watching what played out.

He took a few deep breaths, trying to shake the images out of his head. The heat that had begun to pool in the vision, ended up transferring to him. He cursed himself. It was just because he hadn’t had sex in months. That was what he told himself.

-

Michael POV

It had been four days since Alex had walked out on him. No words. Then just got into the car with Forrest like it was nothing. Michael stared at the words but didn’t understand any of them. He was too busy worrying about all those things Alex was feeling while he was with Forrest.

He jumped at a loud thud from the other room. Maria had been hanging around, reading all the information Isabel would give her access to. The Evans’ house may as well have been a war zone.

“I told you DeLuca, some things you just shouldn’t know!” Michael sighed at the bickering. He thought it had been getting better but that theory was disproved with every passing second.

“How the hell am I supposed to help if I can’t know everything,” she yelled back.

“Because there’s a good reason we don’t let outsiders in!” Michael stood to break them up. He moved to the door, watching as Isabel held the book out of reach of Maria, who wasn’t as tall as her.

“Seriously Iz. How childish are you? Give me the book.” He reached his hand out and Isabel huffed, making a show of handing it to him. He looked over the title. It was some of the recounts of previous incarnations.

Specifically, the only one that held any information about the relationships between the couples. Not that there was much here, but Maria had been very interested in his relationships recently. Especially his past with Alex.

Once Isabel left the room, Maria turned toward him, arms crossed.

“Give it over, Michael.” He sighed.

“Look Maria, knowing too much puts you in danger. I can’t do that to you,” he said. She said she was looking for spells or something to try and break the curse. But it was put on them by the Gods. They were pretty good about keeping loopholes closed.

“That really isn’t your decision to make. We’re talking about the two people I love the most in the world. You and Alex. I have to protect you,” she said, planting her feet.

It was the same argument they had everyday since he spilled the secret. She refused to listen to him. He was tired. Didn’t know what to say anymore.

“You can’t protect us. If it’s organized by the Gods then we can’t stop it. They’ll just consider you collateral damage if you get in the way. Then they’ll throw something else at us,” he tried to reason. Again.

“I’d let to see them try to get through me.” If it was a joke, he might have laughed. But she was dead serious.

“Maria…” he warned.

“No. You are not going to tell me I have to sit on the sidelines and watch you get hurt.” He felt the anger building. He needed to make her understand.

“If you got hurt…” he started calmly, but it was as far as he got.

“Then so be it! If you’re going to protect Alex then I’m going to protect you!” Michael snapped.

“Listen to me, damnit! You can’t do anything! Nothing! Alex and I are stuck with this until we can overcome it. You will die Maria. You can’t stop it.” Her eyes narrowed.

“Why you and Alex,” she demanded?

“Because that’s what fate decided!” he gave an over-exaggerated shrug.

“Fate? Oh, come on Michael, you never believed in that stuff,” she said, half laughing.

“Well for him I do,” he snapped at her.

The silence was awkward in a way it hadn’t been in a long time. She looked away from his face, to the book in his hand. Michael’s knuckles were white from gripping it so hard.

“Everything I’ve read… seems to indicate the couples were involved with each other,” she said softly. “Literally drawn together by forces outside of their control. Because they belong together.” He watched a tear slip down her face. He took a step toward her, but she just took one back.

His heart broke as he watched her. He knew what she was thinking but he didn’t have any way to dispute her. That had been the trend for hundreds of years. But he loved Maria. Seeing her hurt made him want to cry with her.

“Maria. This in no way lessens my love for you,” he said, meaning every word. She looked up at him again.

“Don’t lie to me, Guerin. Everything changed as soon as Alex came back, didn’t it?” He opened his mouth to disagree. Nothing came out so he shut it again. Maria nodded in confirmation, wiping a tear from her cheek. “Even if your feelings for me haven’t lessened… they’re completely overshadowed by Alex, right?”

“I’m so sorry, Maria. You deserve so much but I just can’t give it to you,” he said, voice cracking. She closed her eyes and took a breath.

“I need some time. But I will be back. I will not let you two do this alone.” With that she spun and hurried out of the room. Michael wanted to run after her, but he knew this was for the best. It would be stupid of him to think she would give up on looking for a way to break the curse. But at least everything was out in the open.

Isabel walked back in and shook her head at him. He turned away from her to clean up all the books they had pulled out.

“I may not like her, but you could have been a bit nicer about it.” He shot a glare at her.

“It just came out. I didn’t mean to hurt her,” he said defensively.

Isabel sighed and began to pick up various books and papers that were scattered around. They worked in silence, though he knew she was just thinking of a way to lecture him about something.

He wanted to call Alex. They still needed to find out who stole the original scrolls. With everything else that happened, the idea got pushed to a back burner. He hadn’t talked to him since he walked out.

“You need to talk to Alex. We need his help locating those scrolls. Mom and Dad are going to come back and we’re going to have to tell them someone broke into the house.” Michael raised an eyebrow at her.

“What, no ‘I told you so’ lecture?”

“Oh, see I figured that was implied. But if you really want it…” she said sarcastically.

Michael shook his head and turned away from her. Whatever his life has become, it was not what he was expecting. He never thought he’d see Alex again. He never thought the mark would show up.

He picked up a leather wrapped journal and thumbed through it. It was supposed to be from one of the first incarnations after the original tragedy. It didn’t hold anything significant. It was more like a love letter to their partner. He rolled his neck, letting it crack in an effort to relax…

-

He suddenly stared at wooden ceilings. Moonlight colored the room in blues except for a small area in the corner. It held a candle and a girl sat at a desk. He tried to ask who she was but no words came out. But then she turned.

“What have I told you about reading my things?” He was in awe. Alex stood in front of him, but he was different. Long hair was tied back and he looked much slimmer. He felt himself grin.

“What’s in here that you don’t want me to see? Thought we were best friends.” He shook the journal he was holding, teasing him. The other boy jumped for it, pressing his hand against his chest. His heart rate sped up as Alex grabbed the journal from him. He shook his head before turning away.

Michael felt like a passenger just watching the scene play out. But he felt everything. There was confusion and fear. Confusion about his feelings for the man in front of him. Fear about getting caught together. He grabbed Alex’s arm, pulling him back.

“Thomas. Why do you still fight this?” The man blushed and looked away. He raised a hand to rest on his cheek, forcing him to hold eye contact.

“We can’t. My father already hates that we spend so much time together. I can handle the beatings. I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“If this is wrong, why is your heart racing?” Thomas’ eyes glanced down. He leaned in slowly, still giving him the chance to back away, though he somehow knew he wouldn’t.

Their lips met gently, both hesitant. It was the first time he had ever felt like this. So consumed by another person. He held onto his face with both hands, kissing him again. The Alex look-a-like threaded his fingers into his hair, pulling him closer.

Sighs escaped both of their lips. He pressed against him with his whole body, forcing Alex backwards until he was against the wall. Alex moved his hands over his shoulders and chest, fingers splayed out to feel as much of him as possible.

Kissing him came as naturally as breathing. Lips slipping over each other, looking for any way to get closer. He rolled his hips, earning a moan from Thomas.

“Samuel,” the name got lost as he kissed him again.

Samuel and Thomas? Who were these people? Michael wanted to look away, but he was part of it. This was so intimate he wanted to blush himself. He probably was.

The two boys jumped apart as they heard boots on the wood outside the small room. A panicked look crossed Thomas’ face. Samuel grabbed him one last time, crushing a kiss to his lips. Then he rushed to the window, jumping out before anyone knew he was there.

-

“Michael!” He jerked out of whatever trance he had been in, dropping the book he was holding. Isabel looked at him as though he had grown a second head.

“What happened,” he asked?

“I was hoping you could tell me that. You’ve just been standing there for a solid minute. I called your name about a hundred times.” He looked around. There was no room with a candle and a desk. It was modern couches and bookcases. The ugly lamps were still sitting on the end tables.

He grabbed the book from where it dropped, opening it to a random page. He read a few lines, nearly dropping the book again.

We’ve crossed the line, Samuel and I. We’ve fallen in love.
If we get caught, I don’t know what will happen.
But I, Thomas Manes, WILL protect him.

He looked up at Isabel. She raised her eyebrows, opening her arms, waiting for the information.

“Spit it out Michael! What the hell just happened?”

“I think I just had a vision. I think I saw the couple in this journal. But it doesn’t make sense,” he said flipping through the pages, skimming for anything related to the curse. “There’s nothing in here about the curse. There were no marks on either person’s chest. And they were both guys. Every reincarnation has been a guy girl pair, right? Alex and I are the odd ones out.”

He reached into his pocket, if he had a vision, then Alex must have had it too. He pulled out his phone, scrolling through his contacts until he found Alex’s name. He pressed the call button. It rang a few times but then went to voicemail. He cursed and hung up, then called again. Voicemail.

“Where the hell is he,” he wondered aloud. It went to voicemail third time. He was ready to speed over to his house when he finally picked up.

“Jesus Christ Michael, what do you need?” He was annoyed but he didn’t care. This was important.

“Where are you? This is important,” he said.

“I’m out. What is it?” The annoyed voice went away but he was obviously not in the mood for small talk. He opened his mouth to speak but he heard another voice.

“Hey Alex, you ready to go? We’re up.” He recognized the voice. It couldn’t be…

“Yea, Forrest. I’ll be right there. So, what did you want to tell me,” he asked? Michael froze, not knowing what to say anymore.

“Ya know... Never mind. Just call me when you’re free.” He hung up before Alex could respond. Isabel shook her head and left the room. Who was she to judge? Alex could hang out with whoever he wanted to, but that didn’t mean he had to like it.

This also meant he probably didn’t experience the same vision he did. Better not to overwhelm him while he was on a date. Michael clenched his fists.

Were they even on a date? That was the only explanation his brain was allowing, and it hurt. His chest ached. He wanted to talk about the journal and the vision. But Alex didn’t want to spend time with him anymore. Otherwise he would have stayed to hear him out when they were at the hospital.

He hurt the two people he loved the most in the world and now he was alone.

-

Jesse POV

Jesse Manes questioned each of the soldiers, and they all said the same thing. One moment they were firing on the traitor and the next they were tied up in a group. He slammed his fist against the wooden wall, hearing it crack.

“Master Sargent. Are you alright?” A woman named Jenna stuck her head in the room. A former soldier. He hadn’t decided how she was going to help him yet, but better to have her trust early.

“Yes. Thank you, deputy Cameron. There are just some frustrations. They went after my son after all,” he said, wanting to gag at the thought of that disgrace. She nodded sympathetically.

“We’re doing everything in our power to get answers.” He nodded as she left the room. Something kept getting in his way. First, he couldn’t find all the documents in the house, and now his assassination attempt had been interrupted.

Whatever or whoever what getting in his way, they would come to regret it. The curse was ending the way it should have a long time ago.

Chapter Text

Alex POV

Alex stared at the phone after the line went dead. He felt the sudden stab of pain in his chest. Something was clearly wrong, but he couldn’t just ditch out on Forrest. If there was something life threatening Michael would have said so.

“Everything alright,” Forrest asked? Alex looked at the black screen for another moment.

“Yea. Nothing I can’t figure out later.” He smiled. Forrest hesitated but then grabbed his hand, pulling him toward the doors of the building.

Alex had pointed out that with their combined knowledge from being in the military, an escape room might not be as hard as intended. Forrest insisted that was why they were going at it alone and not with another group. He had rolled his eyes and agreed. Never having done something like this before, he guessed it would be fun just by Forrest’s excitement alone.

“Alright. The rules are simple. You have one hour to make it out of the room. There is no reason to break anything as everything is accessible through clues. Make sure to check everything closely. Feel free to pick up props and move them around. Things such as wiring are marked off with tape, please don’t tamper with it. You will be entering the Area 51 bunker. You wake up after being knocked out in a cell with no windows. Good luck!” The guide led them down the hall and opened a door. She smiled as they stepped inside. She handed a walkie-talkie to Alex. “If you’re really stuck you can ask for a hint. But only three times.”

They stepped into the room, looking around at the walls that had been covered by what looked like the inside of a freight car. Various slogans were spray painted in big red and green letters. ‘We’re not alone!’ ‘They lied!’

Alex laughed at all of it. A mannequin dressed in a marine’s uniform stood motionless in the corner, wrists and legs bound to the wall by chains. He shuddered. If only they knew how real that situation could be. The door clicked shut behind them and the lock thunked closed ominously.

“I never quite understood why these things are horror themed,” Forrest said, looking around.

“Well, why else would someone be locked in a room?” He nodded in agreement.

“I suppose you’re right. Ok. I’ll check the bed, you look though that guys pockets,” Forrest instructed. He didn’t know what he was supposed to be looking for, but he listened anyway.

Walking up to the marine, he noticed it was way bigger than he thought. Alex wasn’t even short but this thing towered over him. He looked around on the outside first, feeling for dog tags or pins. Not that there would be any. His first instinct would always be to identify a body in uniform.

“I found a magnet hidden in the pillowcase. What’d you get?” Forrest stepped up next to him as he located the chain for the tags. Alex pulled them out only instead of the tags, it was a key. The chain had been modified with a clasp to make getting it off easier.

“Any idea where this goes to,” he asked, looking at Forrest.

“You know, for an air force captain you really aren’t observant, are you?” Forrest laughed. There was no malice in his words. “There’s a locked box right here,” he said, grabbing Alex’s hand gently.

He felt stupid. Even if Forrest was just poking fun at him, he should have taken in his surroundings better. Just like he should have at his house. Just like he should have at the barn a week ago. He jumped when Forrest shook him.

“Alex? Are you ok? I said your name a couple times.” He looked anywhere but at Forrest.

“Sorry. Just spaced. Where’s the box?” He pushed past him and crouched down. The lock seemed old, but it could have just been decorated like that. None of this was real.

“Is this triggering something? You can talk to me about the PTSD you know.” He felt a gentle hand on his shoulder. He sighed.

“It’s not PTSD. My triggers are a bit more specific.” He looked over his shoulder and up at him. He gave a small smile. He should be trying to enjoy himself. “Thank you though. Now let’s figure this thing out.”

Alex popped the lock open, pulling out an old satellite phone and folded piece of paper. The phone had no batteries in it. Alex turned it over a couple times to look for writing but there was none. He handed it to Forrest before unfolding the piece of paper.

“555 444 4 44 8 7777 666 88 8,” he read out loud. It was so simple yet he couldn’t place what it was referencing. Maybe he was just overthinking it. He could break into heavily secured data bases in minutes but something designed for the general public was tripping him up? He stood to show the note to Forrest. He hardly glanced at it before realization spread over his face.

“You know, you get a little line in between your eyebrows when you’re thinking too hard,” he teased. He reached up, rubbing his thumb over the area on his forehead, forcing Alex to relax. “Think like a normal person instead of an elite hacker,” he suggested, handing the piece of paper back to him.

Alex took a breath and looked again. The sequence of numbers was familiar but not like it was recent. Like it was accessing years old knowledge he had tucked away, not knowing if it would ever be useful again.

“Here. Look,” Forrest said, handing him the phone again.

The numbers had corresponding letters. Years old memories of his first cell phone came rushing back. Hitting numbers one too many times and needing to go through the whole cycle again to get the letter you wanted. And yet everyone still managed to type out whole paragraphs in under a minute.

“I can’t believe I forgot that,” he said, starting to laugh. Taking a closer look, he corresponded the numbers to their proper letter. “L-I-G-H-T-S-O-U-T. Hit the switch.” Forrest smiled and nodded, stepping toward the door.

The room was dark for a moment, but then lines and lettering started to glow. A few UV lights lit the room. Handprints led the way to a spot in the corner behind the bed. They abruptly disappeared three feet from the other wall, hinting at a door. The two of them headed over and felt around for a latch or grip to open it. Nothing.

“Hey, look.” Forrest was pointing at a grouping of paint made to look like someone focused more attention on that spot. He held the magnet up and moved it around that spot. A latch clicked and the door popped open enough for them to grab the edge. Alex rolled his eyes at the trick, but he had to admit, he was having a good time. They stepped into the next room. It looked like a repurposed dentist office.

There was a large box off to the side and a chair with surgical supplies in the middle. There was also a pile of folders and files. The two of them shared a look and grinned.

“Alright. Seems easy enough,” Alex said, feeling more confident and comfortable than he had in a long time.

-

“Ok well we both checked that file cabinet and there was no key in there. I’m telling you, it’s rigged.” Alex laughed at Forrest’s frustration. They had gotten stuck in what they think was the last room.

“I told you to make sure you pulled the drawers all the way out,” he said, smiling.

Forrest shook his head and pulled his keys out of his pocket. Alex had teased him earlier when he showed up at his house in a normal SUV. The van was for ‘special operations.’

“Well, regardless of the outcome, I think we made a pretty good team.” Alex felt the heat rise to his face at no fault of the sun. He nodded in agreement and stepped up to the passenger side door.

“As an apology for being bossy once I figured out what was going on, I’ll buy you a drink,” Alex said, pulling the door open. Forrest grinned.

“Looking to spend more time with me? I’ll take that as a good sign. Planet 7?” Alex tried not to stumble over himself at the mention of the local gay bar. It wasn’t official but it was known to attract those from the community.

“Actually, I was thinking The Wild Pony if that’s ok with you?” Forrest shrugged. Didn’t matter to him.

“You’re buying so I can’t complain.” Alex rolled his eyes and hopped in the car.

It’s not that he was opposed to Planet 7, he just wasn’t sure if he could properly hide from people if he knew them. The Wild Pony was a local’s bar. He knew the crowd and could avoid conversations if he needed to.

And maybe Michael will be there to see you with Forrest…

He shook the thought out of his head. Whatever Michael had wanted to say to him earlier, it had nothing to do with Forrest. That little pang of something earlier was just him feeling guilty about shrugging him off. But he had nothing to feel guilty about. He was free to spend his time with whoever he wanted.

The ride was mostly silence. Just enjoying each other’s company was enough. The radio played softly, occasionally fading out and back in. Alex glanced down at Forrest’s free hand on the arm rest between them. No one could see them in here. It would be ok to hold his hand.

He reached across slowly, first resting his hand next to his. They had only held hands briefly in the escape room. They were soft and steady. Gentle even.

He reached his pinky out, brushing against the side of Forrest’s hand. He saw his head turn slightly but he never looked away from the road completely. Alex moved his hand closer. Then he pulled away. But before he could worry that he had done something wrong, he was placing his hand back down, palm up. Encouraging Alex to take it, a gentle smile settled on his face. Alex couldn’t help but smile too as he wove their fingers together.

He ran his thumb over the back of his hand. The smooth skin was nice, but something felt like it was missing. He found himself wishing there were calluses. That his hand was a bit warmer.

Alex hardly noticed when they pulled into The Wild Pony parking lot. He jumped back into reality when Forrest released his hand to get out of the car. He cleared his throat and climbed out himself. He shoved his hands in his pockets as they walked. A brief moment of confusion crossed Forrest’s face but it was replaced with a smile.

They pushed through the doors and Alex immediately looked for Maria. He watched her as she took inventory of the bar before the Saturday night rush. The bar was still mostly empty.

“Go grab a booth, I’m just going to say hi to my friend,” he said. He nodded and headed in the opposite direction. Alex made his way through the tables to the bar. He knocked a couple times to grab her attention. She turned with a fake smile on her face, ready for whatever customer was going to be there. Once she recognized it was him, it changed into something softer. But something still seemed off.

“Well look who it is. The one who doesn’t return my calls when I think I have a lead,” she joked. Alex smiled at her.

“I’m sorry. It’s been a crazy few days.” She nodded understandingly. To be honest, he just didn’t know what to say to her after Michael’s confession in the hospital. “Can you get me two of whatever the special on tap is?” She raised an eyebrow.

“Two?” Alex looked over his shoulder to find Forrest. He watched him, a sweet smile on his face. Didn’t even turn away when he was caught, making Alex blush. “He’s cute. Just don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” she joked, winking. He rolled his eyes and she pulled out two glasses filling them expertly.

“Did you and Michael find anything? He called me earlier today, but I was busy.” Her smile fell, looking more sad. His eyebrows drew together. What had they found that warranted a look like that?

“Well… we didn’t find anything. I left earlier than planned.” Alex reached for her hands as she wrung them together. What was she nervous for?

“What happened, Maria?” She took a breath and tried to paste on a happier face., like whatever she was about to say didn’t bother her.

“Michael and I… We won’t be working together for a bit.” Alex still didn’t understand. Did they have some sort of argument? Michael would probably come apologize to her before the day was out. She must have seen the confusion on her face. “Alex… we broke up.”

Anything he was going to say left his thoughts in a second. What could have possibly happened that would push them to that? They seemed so happy together. And Maria wasn’t one to give up something she loved so easily.

“What happened,” he finally asked? She shook her head and smiled.

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll tell you when you’re not in the middle of a date. Now go have fun.” She didn’t give him time to respond before moving to the other end of the bar to ask a day drinker if he wanted another round.

He grabbed the two drinks and headed back to where Forrest was sitting. He set the beer in front of him.

“Sorry about that.” He looked up from his phone, moving the glass closer to him.

“Don’t worry about it. Things looked pretty intense. Everything alright?” Alex wanted to tell him. But he also didn’t want him to get a bad impression of Michael when he didn’t have the full story.

“She and her boyfriend broke up. She wouldn’t really give me details but I’m sure she’ll tell me soon.” Forrest looked over to the bar. He frowned as he watched her.

“Wasn’t she dating Michael? Ran into her a couple times at the hospital.” Damnit. He remembered.

“Yea. But she made it sound like it was a mutual thing. I don’t think they’re on bad terms. I just wish I knew what happened,” he said, taking a sip from the glass.

“Well I’m sure she’ll tell you eventually.” He reached over to rest a hand on his arm comfortingly. He knew he shouldn’t speculate about what happened between them. But something in his chest told him it might have to do with the curse. And by extension, have to do with him.

-

Michael POV

Michael had paced most of the day since hanging up on Alex. He tried calling Maria, but she never picked up. He needed to do something. Waiting just wasn’t cutting it. He tried triggering more visions by reading that journal front to back.

He didn’t know who those two were. They started as friends and it grew to more. Thomas was forced to present himself as his sister and twin who was often ill. Samuel was a child of the servants. Thomas’ father was a grade-a bastard who needed to control everything. He threatened Samuel’s life more than once. Then it was the Manes family who was supposed to provide the sacrifice for the year. So, the two of them ran away.

“Sounds a lot like the original story,” is what Isabel had said. He was tempted to agree but the original was a princess and a slave. And even if there was the possibility of that being true, he wouldn’t be able to find out. The last entry was the night they ran.

He needed to figure out what Jesse Manes did with those original scrolls. Max refused to let him anywhere near the soldiers that had ambushed them. He said they hadn’t said a word about who they were working for. Michael knew in his gut it was that asshole.

A knock on the wall pulled him from his thoughts. Isabel looked at him sympathetically.

“You’re going to run a hole through the floor if you keep pacing. Instead of overthinking why not do something productive? Give Sanders some extra help at the junkyard. It’ll keep your mind busy.” She stepped toward him to rest a hand on his arm.

“I have to figure this out, Iz. This vision wasn’t like the shared dreams. It felt like a message. This could be what we need to break the curse. I don’t know how yet, but it’s got to be a clue.” He pulled away from her, picking up the journal again, thumbing through it mindlessly. She sighed and took the book from his hands gently.

“Look, I get it. Breaking this curse is the most important thing but you can’t do that if you burn yourself out. Let’s go.” She grabbed him, pulling him out of the study. He knew she was probably right, so he let her pull him along. “We’re going to go get a drink and then you’re going to clean up that bunker for whatever it was you were planning to do down there.”

Michael raised an eyebrow at her. He never told her his and Alex’s plan. Max must have spilled. Damn him. The less people knew what was going on the easier it would be.

“Fine. But let’s avoid The Wild Pony if you don’t mind.” Isabel snorted.

“Please. Even I’m not that cruel.”

-

He didn’t pay attention to the name of the bar they walked into. It was smaller than the Wild Pony, but Isabel had said it was still considered a local’s bar. At least there wouldn’t be any sort of alien hunting enthusiasts.

The colors all over the place made him feel out of place in this cowboy hat and stained jeans. Where in the world has Isabel dragged him? She sat them down in a booth then waved to the bartender and batted her eyelashes. Michael looked between the two of them.

“You know her,” he asked, surprised?

“We hooked up a few times. Let’s just say she was my, awakening?” Michael nodded in understanding. “She’s really cool and nice but it’s not serious.” Alex was his ‘awakening.’ But he seemed to be a lot harder to shake. There was never any ‘just hooking up’ with him.

The waitress came over holding two colorful drinks. Michael rolled his eyes but he could enjoy something like this. The blue and purple faded into each other. He shot Isabel a look.

“Where exactly are we?”

“You weren’t paying attention? Planet 7. The local LGBT bar.” He hummed in realization. That explained all the colors. He didn’t even want to know what the drink he held in his hand was called. Probably some pun on ‘bisexual.’

“Not that I don’t appreciate the change in scenery, but why here?” A mischievous grin settled on her face. “If you say it’s cause you wanna get laid, I’ll just leave now,” he joked. She rolled her eyes at him.

“While that might be nice, no. It’s not why we’re here.” He took a sip of his drink. Rum. It wasn’t his favorite type of liquor but the drink wasn’t half bad. It was certainly fruity.

“You just gunna sit there and watch me chug this or are you gunna tell me why?” She looked around before leaning close.

“Forrest is a regular here. I figured it you wanted more information on the guy…” Michael groaned. He loved his cousin really, but sometimes she was not the brightest. People don’t normally go around talking about other people to strangers.

“Look Iz, I’d rather not think about him at all.”

“I know Max told you to consider bringing him in on the curse secret. Or at least part of it. You should know who the guy is.” He ran a hand though his hair. She was right, but what could he get from these people that he couldn’t get from a quick google search or from Max?

“I can see you doubting my methods but trust me, you can get interesting stuff from the people in town.” He sighed. Might as well let her do her thing. She was the socialite of the family. He waved his hand, signaling to the rest of the bar.

“Well then where do you suggest we start?” An evil grin settled on her face. What was she--?

“Hey Blair, I have a question!” The bartender from earlier returned to the table. Isabel rested her chin on one hand and played with the straw in her glass with the other. “Have you seen Forrest around recently? My cousin here is kinda into him,” she said sweetly. Michael just about choked on his own drink.

“Iz—”

“He was last here a few days ago. Seemed a bit distracted. At least your cousin has good taste. Even though I don’t like guys, he’s always nice to look at. Really sweet too.” She looked over her shoulder at a group and continued, “James might be able to give you more info. They dated for a while, but it didn’t work out. They’re still friends from what I can tell.”

Michael glared at Isabel. She thanked Blair before casually taking a sip from her drink. So what if Forrest was good looking? Even by lesbian standards. Sure Michael wasn’t blind. Maybe he was always focused on Alex that he never thought about it before.

“People here love romance. Everyone’s always trying to set people up. Just for the drama of it all,” she said, laughing at the look on his face.

“So, why’d you throw me under the bus? Why not just make up a person?” He shook his head at her giddy expression.

“Because then it looks like we’re fishing for information.”

“Ok, but we are,” he pointed out.

“But they don’t have to know that. Let’s go.” She suddenly stood, grabbing his arm again. There really was no stopping her if she was determined. “James!” Isabel called as they walked up to the table. The guy that turned was on the muscular side, probably played some kind of sport.

“What can I do for you,” he asked, smiling?

“Blair said you used to date Forrest Long?” Everything about this screamed ‘bad idea’ to Michael. They shouldn’t be prying into his life like this.

“Yes, but why?” He raised an eyebrow, looking between the two of them. Isabel looped her arm through his, pulling him forward.

“My cousin here has a bit of a crush. He’s kinda shy and every time I try to encourage him, he just gets nervous,” she said, stealing his hat that he was trying to hide behind. The blush on his face was definitely noticeable. He hoped this wasn’t what she did to people who had real crushes.

James chuckled and shook his head before taking a sip of his drink. He turned towards them fully for the first time, a knowing grin on his face.

“That guy has always been popular. He’s really great. Thoughtful, caring, always tips more than twenty percent. He’s supportive and crazy smart. He can take a dumb idea and turn it into the best. Probably one of the best relationships I ever had.” He seemed to be smiling at the memories. Michael shoved his hands in his pockets, pretending to be nervous.

“If it was so great, why’d you break up? If you don’t mind me asking…” James shrugged and shook his head.

“There were too many secrets. The nature of his job just made it hard for him to tell me anything. It just ended up getting in the way of our trust in each other. We’re still friends and I wish him the best.”

“But doesn’t he work for the police? In a place like Roswell how many secrets could there be,” he asked? He laughed a bit.

“The police stuff he does wasn’t the problem. It was the other stuff for the military. But let me make something clear. If you’re really into him, go for it. He’s a great guy. And maybe things have changed. Now I can’t tell you everything about him. That takes the fun out if it.” Isabel let out a small giggle and thanked him. Then she was pulling Michael away and back to their little booth.

She plopped the hat back on his head then crossed her arms, just smirking at him. He would admit that knowing he still did work for the military was helpful. But what exactly was his title? He was a weapons specialist for the police but what else?

“Fine. I’ll admit that some of it was useful. But we still need a google search and whatever information Max can get,” he pointed out, fixing his hat.

“Fine, just dismiss my perfectly executed plan,” she huffed. Michael laughed and rolled his eyes.

“Yea about that… Never do it again,” he said. The grin returned quickly.

“No promises,” she said, winking.

-

Alex POV

Alex lost track of time again. He and Forrest had sat and talked through the dinner rush, the weekend drinkers and the bar had started to wind down. Everything was just so easy.

“You did what? How did you get away with that? My second in command would have had my ass for sneaking out,” Forrest exclaimed.

“I told you. I became best friends with my second in command. She covered for me a lot when I wanted to meet up with a guy. Now it was only when we had time off, but she was pretty awesome.” Forrest laughed and shook his head.

“Wish I could meet her. She still in the service?” The smile fell from Alex’s face. He didn’t even know if she was still on this planet.

Staring into the amber of his beer, his thoughts drifted. He doubts she died. An angel can’t just die, right? Forrest noticed his shift in mood. He reached across the table to take his hand, rubbing his thumb over it comfortingly.

“She’s uh… missing,” he said quietly.

“I’m sorry. That can be worse than just being gone.” Alex nodded slowly. He squeezed his hand. “Hope makes everything harder. But we need it just to survive.” A tear slipped down Alex’s cheek. He wiped it away quickly.

Forrest gave him a gentle smile and stood, still holding his hand. He moved to stand in front of him. The raised table and seats made them about the same height this way. He looked around the bar then stepped closer.

Forrest pressed a quick gentle kiss to his cheek. His eyes flicked around the bar, panic settling in this gut. No one seemed to be watching but he couldn’t shake the feeling there was.

Alex wanted to kiss him. To accept the comfort he was offering. But every part of his body screamed to run. To not associate with him until it was safe. He didn’t want him to get hurt. What if his father found out? What if…

“Hey. It’s ok,” he said gently. His smile was sad but understanding. “I’ll drive you home.” Alex nodded and pulled out his wallet, tossing a few twenties down. It was probably too much but he didn’t think about it.

He followed Forrest without a word. Even the car ride was mostly silent. What was he supposed to say now? Maybe he should apologize for the way he reacted? Thank him for the thought anyway?

They pulled into his driveway and he shut the car off. They sat there for a moment. Alex picked at his nails. He took a deep breath.

“Forrest, I—"

“You don’t owe me an explanation. I get it. But if you ever want to get out of that closet, you let me know. I’ll walk you to the door.” He smiled and hoped out of the car. Alex knew he shouldn’t let his father or other past experiences get in the way of this.

What happened with Michael was different. He still felt awful about it, but he couldn’t let that hold him back forever. Thinking of Michael made his chest ache. He knew he needed to find him. The dream had told him so. But was he ready to be found?

He shook his head and jumped out of the car. Hurrying to catch up to Forrest. The motion sensor lights clicked on.

“I had a really nice time today,” he said, pulling a key out of his pocket.

“Likewise. I hope we get the chance to do it again.” Forrest smiled and leaned against a pillar. Alex smiled back, pushing the door open. “I’ll see you around, Alex.” He turned and started back to his car.

“Forrest, wait!” He stopped and turned. An eyebrow raised.

Before he could second guess himself, Alex took his face in his hands and pressed his mouth to his. Forrest ran his hands over his arms, pulling him closer. It felt good, like he didn’t have to worry about anything. But a little voice in the back of his head kept him from lingering too long.

He pulled away slowly, breathing heavy. A small smile sat on Forrest’s face, as though he expected nothing less from him.

“I like you. Just give me a little time,” Alex murmured.

“I’ve got nothing but time. I just hope it doesn’t take too long.” Alex chuckled and released him. He watched as he pulled away, flashing his brights in a final goodbye.

The dull ache settled in his chest. He ignored it only until he made it to his bedroom. It slowly become impossible to ignore. Something wasn’t right. Michael was calling for him.

Chapter Text

Michael POV

Michael sat with Isabel at a red light. The information they got was useful but still only surface level. What was that work he was still doing for the military? Something about it felt wrong and he wasn’t sure he wanted to learn the answer. For Alex’s sake.

“Hey cowboy, back to earth.” He jumped when Isabel poked him. Zoning out had become a regular part of his day.

“Sorry,” he mumbled. She shook her head.

“I swear you’re like a lovestruck teenager. I was just saying that we should go pick up your truck and clear out that bunker.” He shot a glare at her that she didn’t see. She tapped her fingers along to whatever was on the radio and he turned back to look out the window.

Everyone they talked to seemed to have nothing but good things to say about Forrest. How could Michael even begin to measure up? He used to be known as the town drunk. He sold old parts from the auto shop for extra money. Not to mention literally pushing Alex away on the first day he told him about the curse.

He glanced down at his scarred and busted hand. All that history and it was almost nothing but pain. And even now that’s all their relationship was about. Pain. He wished it could be different. He wanted to touch him gently. Say everything was going to be fine and mean it.

Images of the two lovers from the journal flashed through his mind. The two of them running. Holding each other. Touching…

Michael shook his head. He couldn’t get lost in that world. There were too many other things he needed to take care of.

Isabel pulled into the Evans’ drive. He hopped out before waiting for her to stop completely triggering a worried yelp that made him grin. He’d been doing that ever since she started driving. Waiting just long enough so he wouldn’t get hurt but still enough to startle her.

“One day you’re going to misjudge and I’m going to run you over,” she scolded. Michael laughed as he shut her door.

Hopping into his own truck he pulled out and followed Isabel back to Sanders Auto. His radio refused to play anything clearly. Certain sounds came through but nothing for very long. He tried changing the station but it was all the same.

Coming… this time… need help… the last… chance…

He shook his head and settled for just turning it off. He’d have to take a look at it later. The sun beat down on the steering wheel, making it difficult to hold. It seemed brighter than usual. Michael picked up his sunglasses that he almost never wore. Could this day get any weirder?

The houses spread out until they were nonexistent at the edge of town. Tumbleweeds blew about the cactus, dust kicking up behind cars. They turned off the main road onto the dirt and gravel path up to the junkyard.

Michael could see Sanders sitting in a lawn chair, watching over the place. Or maybe watching him pull in. He hadn’t exactly been the best worker the last week. He couldn’t even explain why. There were other mechanics he could call but part of his deal was that he could park there as long as he worked regularly. He pulled up next to his Airstream. Sanders stood from the chair slowly.

“Been missin’ ya boy. You wanna hang around, you gotta fix some’a these guys for me,” He said. Michael had heard the threats before but Sanders rarely followed through. Didn’t mean he wanted to test how far he could push him.

“I’ll get on it as soon as I finish cleaning some stuff up in the bunker, promise.” He narrowed his one eyebrow that was visible. He scratched his nose then turned to go inside his office trailer.

“It’s wonderful to see you Mr. Sanders,” Isabel called after him in her sweetest voice. He waved as he tried to hide the small smile that always snuck out when she was around. Michael didn’t understand why she made a better impression than he did but at least the old guy might be in a good mood.

Isabel followed him over to the lever on the back of his trailer. It groaned as it moved to uncover the top of the bunker. He pulled the lid open.

“Watch your step. Probably should have told you to wear more sensible shoes,” he said, gesturing to her boots with the four-inch heel. He moved down the ladder first. Figuring he’d be more help if she slipped. She just rolled her eyes at him.

“I think you forget who you’re talking to, Michael. I could probably kick your ass in shoes higher than this,” she taunted. Isabel followed him quickly. He sighed heavily, not knowing how to respond.

He left her to handle the rest of it by herself. He felt around for the light. He hadn’t spent much time here since he had shown it to Alex. Sure, he came to water the plants but the experiment seemed to have failed.

Michael found the switch that was farther in than it probably should have been and he flipped it on. The lights flickered a few times before dimly lighting the space. He walked over to his planters, examining the wilted leaves. He cursed under his breath. He would need to experiment with the dirt and fertilizer again.

“What are you even doing in here,” Isabel asked skeptically.

“Trying to make plants grow in harsh conditions. Make it easier to grow crops.” Isabel exhaled softly as she stared in awe.

Michael picked up the dying plants on one of the far tables, moving the planters to a different table on the other side of the bunker. He didn’t have anywhere to keep this stuff for now. Maybe he’d ask Liz if there was any extra lab space she knew about. The best he could do was move his experiments to one side of the room.

“Didn’t your mother used to work with this kind of stuff?” He paused in his movements. He hadn’t thought about her in a while.

“Yea. Found some of her old notes. That’s what I’m working off of,” he said, pretending like it didn’t hurt to think about. He couldn’t remember her in detail anymore. He had a picture of his parents but their voices were lost to time. Neither of them had been the recording type so there weren’t any videos.

“I’m sorry, Michael,” she said gently. Her hand rested on his shoulder.

“It was a long time ago now.” He shook her hand off and continued moving the planters around. She didn’t push the topic further.

The silence stretched as one side of the bunker began to look like... well... a bunker again. The light coming through the hole where the door was dimmed, sun setting. The summer was at its end and there wasn’t nearly enough light in the day anymore. He glanced at his phone. Not even seven thirty.

“Hey Iz, wanna pick up some food?” He looked over at her and watched as she made a face at some bug that she stomped on with her heel. Michael tried not to laugh as she did it again.

“Don’t laugh! Why don’t these things fucking die?” Michael raised an eyebrow and walked over to where she was standing. A scorpion ran around the leg of the table, surviving another assault from Isabel’s shoe.

Michael shook his head and grabbed her arm gently, pulling her away. These things would only die if you burned them. Or at least crushed them with a steel weight. Maria was never a fan of how many of them popped up around here either.

He grabbed an empty planter cup and set it in front of the bug. He waited patiently for it to crawl in before trapping it with a second one. It would be pissed when he let it go but he should be able to toss it somewhere it wouldn’t come back for revenge.

“Grab that tape, would you? Keep it sealed until I get outside.” Isabel hurried over to the table where they had moved a handful of things and pulled a long piece of tape from the dispenser.

“I will never understand why you always saved these things. There’s more than enough in the world,” she said, wrapping her arms around herself after handing him the tape.

He never really understood it either. And it wasn’t consistent. He’d kill certain spiders but save scorpions. Save snakes but kill mice. Maybe he should start just saving them all? As a child he always thought that maybe they were just misunderstood.

Michael wrapped the tape around the seam of the two cups. He could feel the thing moving around, probably looking for a way out.

“Alright, alright, just chill,” he mumbled to the scorpion. Weirdly enough, it stopped moving. “I’ll be right back,” he said to Isabel.

Climbing up the ladder was harder with only one hand. The extra strain on his arm made him flinch. The bullet wound had actually closed much faster than normal, though it still hurt.

Michael pulled himself out of the hole and stood slowly, wiping the dirt from his hands on his pants. He walked to a space behind the trailer, looking out at the expanse of desert. He just needed a rock or something this thing could dig under.

“You know. I’d really like to climb under a rock sometimes, too. Maybe we aren’t so different,” he said to the bug that had begun to crawl again.

He laughed at himself and walked out to a cactus about fifty feet away from the trailer. He pulled the tape off and opened the two cups slowly, trying to figure out which one it was in. He crouched down and dumped it as close to the plant as possible without poking himself.

The black scorpion hit the ground and curled into a ball. Once it was sure nothing was going to touch it, it opened up and buried its way under the edge of the plant. He stood and wandered back to the trailer.

He was about to start the climb back down when a strong wind whipped through the yard. He stumbled back and grabbed his hat, holding it in place. They hadn’t called for dust storms. So what was going on?

Michael looked around. The dust continued to spin and cover everything. He struggled just to stay standing. He needed to get back inside.

He crouched down but the wind picked up more, knocking him to the ground. He stayed curled up, waiting for the gusts to pass. He thought he heard Isabel call for him but he couldn’t open his mouth to speak.

Unsecured chairs blew across the yard like tumbleweeds. Papers were ripped off the bulletin boards. Michael squeezed his eyes shut. Dust storms were common. But there’s usually some kind of warning.

He nearly jumped out of his skin as lightning cracked. It could have been right next to him. Had there even been clouds? His ears rang.

If this was the apocalypse then he had a few choice words for whoever he met when he died. Most of them probably about how they screwed him out of the best thing he couldn’t have.

Then it stopped.

Dust fell back to the ground.

Wind slowing to a gentle breeze.

“Michael!” Isabel called to him from the bunker. He could hear her scrambling up the ladder.

Cracking his eyes open, a blurry figure stood in front of him. He coughed and brushed dirt and dust from his face. A pair of hands landed on his shoulder.

“Oh my god, are you ok? I heard the wind and the lightning and—” Whatever she was saying cut off. Michael pulled himself up, shaking his head to get some of the dust out of it. He looked up at her but she just looked over him. He turned slowly, heart racing.

A girl stood there. A plain t-shirt and black jeans. Black hair not as long as the picture he had seen. She just stood there and watched the two of them. That bad omen. The angel of death.

It was Tessa.

His heart pounded as she turned toward the sun. It was slowly dipping closer to the horizon. A smile found its way onto her face as she closed her eyes.

“The thing I always miss the most is the warmth of the sun. My celestial body doesn’t let me feel much of anything.”

This couldn’t be her. Everything in his body screamed to deny it. She wasn’t real. That was his first thought.

His second was Alex. She had saved him once, but he figured that wouldn’t happen again. Should he even tell him she appeared? He needed to keep her away from him but he also deserved to know that she was alive.

“Michael… she’s…” Isabel couldn’t finish her thought. He had shown the picture to both her and Max, making them promise to warn him if she ever showed up.

Tessa turned back toward them taking lazy steps closer until she stood an arm’s length away. She offered her hand to him. He flinched at the sudden movement.

“Sorry, was the wind and lightning too much? I’d always wanted to make a dramatic entrance like that but the others always said ‘no.’ But fuck ‘em right?” Was she really trying to pretend that this was somehow a regular occurrence? Her hand was still extended.

Michael shook his head and jumped up, recovering from the shock of her being in front of him. Isabel held onto his arm, fingers digging into the muscle.

“What are you doing here,” he demanded. She tilted her head and frowned.

“Really? No ‘who are you’ first?” She shrugged and scratched her head. When Michael didn’t say anything more, she sighed. “Fine. Guess I have to do everything myself. I’m Tessa, short for Theresa. I was there when the original curse was cast.”

Michael balled his hands into fists. What was the point of her telling them this? He knew she brought death with her so why would she bother trying to be friends?

“You’re an angel of death. Excuse me for being a bit hostile,” he snapped. Her nose scrunched and she crossed her arms, pouting.

“Why is it always ‘angel of death’ and not ‘well-meaning Nephilim who gets screwed over by her parent’s whims?’ I know how it looks but seriously, I’m here to help.” She looked around the yard, confusion settling on her face. “Where’s Alex? I missed him.”

“So it’s true. That was you in his platoon.” She smiled fondly and nodded.

“Told me all about this guy he could come home to,” she said, looking him up and down. “I only want him to be happy. Both of you actually.” Her face turned serious as she looked back at the setting sun. “This has gone on long enough.”

Alex talked about him? Why? He had pushed him away so much Alex didn’t even say goodbye. He supposed he didn’t exactly go find him either. They had seen each other a couple times after he left. But Michael had figured that second time would have been the last.

-

Banging on the door of his airstream forced Michael awake. He groaned and pulled himself up just enough to check his phone for the time. Almost noon. It was probably Sanders ready to scold him about how he needed to pull his weight.

His head pounded and he willed the banging on the door to stop. It did for a second but then it started back up again. Whoever it was, was going to get an earful. He pulled on a wrinkled white shirt he had on yesterday and stumbled over to the door.

He pulled it open, squinting at the sun that poured in through the opening. He blinked a few times and ran a hand over his face. He took in the green and tan camo uniform and followed it up to the face with the brown eyes he hadn’t seen in over a year.

“Alex.” He held himself back from pulling him close, not sure if that was what he wanted.

“Hey, Michael.” His heart flipped in his chest. Looking around, he didn’t see anyone else but this hardly seemed like a casual visit.

“When’d you get back?” Michael stepped out of the trailer, forcing Alex to take a few steps backward to maintain a professional distance.

“A few hours ago.” An awkward silence stretched between them. Michael sighed and opened the trailer door again. He signaled with his hand, inviting him inside.

“It’s too hot to just be standing out here,” Michael said. “If you need to talk to me, we can do it inside.” Alex finally met his gaze and nodded following him through the door. Michael leaned against the counter and watch as Alex looked around, fiddling with his hands.

“I um… just wanted to make sure you were doing ok,” Alex mumbled. He tried not to laugh but a small chuckle escaped him. This boy was going to be the death of him.

“Manes, when have I ever not been ok?” His eyes flickered down to his hand. It had been nearly three years and he still blamed himself. Michael shook his head and stepped up to him. “If you don’t want to go home, you can stay here,” he said quietly.

Alex sucked in a breath. Michael leaned forward slowly. He wanted it to be Alex who kissed him. Give him some confirmation that he still wanted this.

“Stay,” he whispered, pressing his forehead against his. Alex’s hands came to rest on his face. They stood like that, breathing in time with each other, for who knows how long.

Then Alex was kissing him. Or maybe he was kissing Alex. He couldn’t be sure. Michael grabbed at his waist, pulling him closer. Alex pushed him back against the counter, trapping him there.

Michael nipped at him, pulling a soft moan from his lips. He threaded his fingers in his curls, tugging gently. Michael ran his hands all over him, wishing he could just toss his uniform to the floor and have him all to himself.

Alex pulled away sooner than he wanted. Both of them trying to catch their breath but still brushing lips against each other.

“Michael… I… I want to stay. But I can’t. I’m leaving and… I don’t think I’m coming back.” He froze, the weight of the words setting in. It was as though a ball of lead had been dropped in his gut.

He lifted his hands to his chest, pushing Alex back gently. Why would he even bother coming? Giving him this hope that maybe they wouldn’t have to say goodbye anymore, then just ripping it away.

“Michael—”

“Just stop Alex. If you’re going to leave, then leave.” He turned away from him, hiding the tears that had built in his eyes.

“Please listen to me,” Alex pleaded, voice cracking.

“No. I’m not going to listen to you say goodbye anymore. Don’t bother coming to see me if you just want to be cruel.” Michael dug his nails into his palms, stopping himself from grabbing Alex and holding onto him so he couldn’t go anywhere ever again. “Just go!” He knew Alex would jump from the yelling.

Michael’s throat burned. He didn’t deserve that. Playing on his trauma.

Before he could apologize, the door to the airstream opened and slammed shut. And he never saw him again.

-

“So how exactly do you plan to be of any help,” Isabel asked? Michael blinked out of the memory, surprised to hear Isabel’s voice. Tessa straitened her shoulders and smiled.

“You must be from a side branch. Well, I can’t get in the way of the trials but I can give you a heads up. Tip one: they usually happen in pairs. One happens and within a week the second will happen.” Michael and Isabel shared a skeptical look.

Neither of them had time to respond as a car skidded to a stop next to his. Alex jumped out of the car, fear covering his face.

“Michael,” he called to him, voice breaking. His heart skipped a beat at his name. He shook himself free of Isabel and ran over to him. Alex pulled him into a tight hug. He stumbled forward a bit in surprise. They hadn’t hugged since that last time seven years ago.

“Hey, what’s wrong? Are you ok,” he asked gently? What was scary enough to send Alex running into his arms like this?

Me? It was you, damnit. I could feel everything. The fear and then the pain… Fuck, I thought you were dying!” Alex pushed him back and looked over him, running his fingers gently over the injury on his arm.

“Not quite,” he said. Having Alex’s full attention made his heart race. He knew he would feel it too but he didn’t care. The concern on his face ignited the spark of hope that Michael had shoved away for the last seven years.

Alex sighed and ran a hand through his hair. He looked at Michael and raised his eyebrows.

“So what happened to basically give me a heart attack,” he asked.

“Alex? That you?” Every emotion drained from his face as his eyes shifted over Michael’s shoulder. He kept his eyes trained on his face, making sure he was ok.

“Tessa?”

-

Alex POV

It was as though his brain couldn’t pick an emotion. Should he be happy? She was his best friend. Should he be relived? At least she wasn’t dead. Should he be scared? Because she may very well be an angel of death sent to destroy him and Michael.

“I’m sorry about the vague note. I was being watched.” Alex opened his mouth to say something but no words came out. He glanced over at Michael, watching his eyebrows draw together.

“What note? You didn’t tell me about anything like that.” Alex shook his head.

“I didn’t think it was important.” Michael snorted.

“There you go lying to me. Jesus Manes, you have to come to me with shit like that,” he scolded.

“This is not the time, Guerin,” he snapped back, refocusing on Tessa. She just watched them with amusement. She shook her head, chuckling.

“Just like them…” she muttered to herself. Isabel appeared next to Michael, grabbing his arm gently. She leaned in to whisper something he couldn’t hear. He thought she glanced over at him but with the sky getting darker, it was hard to tell.

Alex took a cautious step towards Tessa. Was this really the person he had come to know in Iraq? She seemed so different now. Physically she seemed taller? And there was this glow. Maybe it was because she wasn’t covered in dirt and blood anymore. But it felt like it was more than that.

He had known she had heterochromia, but it was so much more obvious now. One eye a deep brown while the other a pale blue. She smiled sweetly at him. He wanted nothing more than to hug her. Fall into her arms and thank her for what she’s done for him.

He wanted to trust her.

“So if it’s really you, why’d you disappear? I thought you had died.” His voice shook, unsure if it was from fear or anger. She sighed.

“I’m sorry. When that bomb went off, I needed to save the others too. I couldn’t do that with you there because you would have been able to see it. And after that, I visited you while you were asleep. Acted as your guardian angel. Until that mark showed up.” He touched the spot over his heart, feeling an echo of Michael’s heartbeat.

“See what? How did you save the rest of the platoon,” he asked?

“Remember the barn?” Alex’s eyes shot over to Michael’s. Of course he did.

“So you’re saying that weird slowing of time was you?” Michael sounded almost amazed. Alex’s mouth hung open slightly. She had that much power?

“Why can Michael and I see it?” She raised an eyebrow, looking between the three of them. Was the answer supposed to be obvious?

“You seriously don’t know,” she asked incredulously? Alex shook his head slowly and glanced over at Michael again. Had he left something out of their little history lessons? But he and Isabel seemed to be just as lost as he was. She sighed and ran a hand through her hair. “Well this is going to be annoying. I don’t have the energy to reteach your history right now. Let’s pick this up tomorrow yea?”

None of them had time to argue. A gust of wind and quick flash of light disoriented them and she was gone. As though she had never been there. The three of them stood in silence for a moment, staring at the place she had been standing.

“So tell me you guys saw that, too,” Isabel said. Alex and Michael both nodded. What did she mean ‘reteach history?’

The last of the orange faded from the sky. Stars suddenly appearing as the dark blue slowly took over. Alex stared at the sky, looking for some cosmic sign to tell him what to do.

He searched the starts for Pisces, just like Rosa used to make him do when he, Liz, Maria, and her all hung out. ‘It looks like an arrow’ is what she always said. Maybe one day it’d point him in the direction of the rest of his life.

He followed the path down, mostly out of curiosity. He never really took that astrology stuff seriously. He jumped when he looked down and found Michael standing in front of him, arms crossed. Guess the stars had a weird sense of humor.

“Whatcha looking for, captain?” He shook his head, letting out a soft chuckle.

“Waiting for the stars to tell me what to do,” he half joked. A small grin snuck onto Michael’s face.

“They seem to enjoy shoving us together from what I can tell. We’re cosmic, Manes,” he said, laughing. His heart skipped a beat and his stomach flipped. Damn him for saying stuff like that. Alex couldn’t deny it though. Isabel materialized next to them.

“Well I’m going to head out. I’ll update Max on the situation.” Michael nodded and saluted her. She looked over at Alex and smiled, resting a hand on his arm as she walked past.

They watched as she climbed into her car after complaining about how she had just gotten it washed. He chuckled at her annoyance. Keeping cars clean in the middle of a desert was an impossible task. She pulled away, a cloud of dust following her.

“Help me make a fire before it gets too dark,” Michael said. He turned to follow him but didn’t realized he hadn’t moved yet. Alex ran into him, hands shooting out to grab his arms for support. Michael’s arms wrapped around his waist, steadying him.

Alex felt the heat rush to his face. He was thankful the sun had set, hiding his embarrassment. He was close enough to watch a lazy smile settle on Michael’s face. The smell of rain was assaulting his senses. And his hands on his waist was not helping.

“At least buy me a drink first,” he teased. Alex looked away, stepping out of his arms. The warmth of him vanished. He felt cold even though it was probably still ninety degrees.

“Sorry. You said something about a fire,” he asked? Michael nodded, turning away from him.

“Yea. Otherwise we won’t be able to see.” He followed him to the pile of wood on the rack near his trailer. They carried a few pieces to get started. Michael offered him the one chair that had gotten caught on the fire pit. He jogged away to grab one of the others. Alex sat, watching the small twigs at the bottom catch fire.

He watched it slowly lick up the sides of the logs, growing brighter with every inch. Shadows played on the side of the trailer and walls of the workshop. When was the last time he was here at night?

Michael returned with a plastic folding chair and set it down, just out of arms reach from where Alex was sitting.

“How was your date,” he asked quietly? He hardly registered the question. He hadn’t even thought about Forrest since he came rushing over here. Where Michael was involved, it was the only thing he could think about.

“Fine,” he said, not really wanting to go into detail. He didn’t ask more about it.

“Listen Manes, we need to talk about some things.” Alex looked over at him. He expected him to be watching the fire but no, his eyes looked right at him. They didn’t even waver. Heat that wasn’t from the fire burned on his cheeks again.

“I’m sorry I didn’t say anything about the note. It was a weird day and I was exhausted and I didn’t think you wanted to see me after I walked out.” Michael stayed silent. The things that had been said that day stuck with him. The dream they shared refused to leave him alone.

“So I found a journal,” he began. Completely ignoring what happened at the hospital. “I think it’s from one of the early incarnations of the curse.” Alex’s eyebrows drew together.

“Didn’t you say there were a handful of them?”

“Yea but this one’s different. The couple is a pair named Samuel and Thomas.” The two names made him sit up, resting his arms on his legs. The same names from the vision he had. “The journal belonged to Thomas. And I don’t know how but—”

“Wait,” Alex cut him off. “I thought all the incarnations had been guy/girl pairings? That we were the weird ones in all this?” Michael shrugged.

“I don’t know. But that was the only explanation I could come up with.” Michael ran a hand through his hair. “Also, I think the journal triggered a vision.” So he had one too.

“Let me guess. Really old timey. Candles? Log cabin like? Forest surrounding the grounds?” It was his turn to look confused.

“Exactly… but how did you know that?” He took a deep breath. He wasn’t sure why he was so nervous about telling him these things. Probably because of the nature of the feelings he felt while in the vision.

“I had a vision, too. The day I got the note. Came out of nowhere really. And Samuel looked just like you,” he said. Michael looked away from him, running a hand over his jaw.

“We gotta tell each other everything, Alex. That’s the only way we’re going to figure this out. It’s the only way I can protect you.” His heart fluttered again. It was tugging him toward Michael.

He was the one that needed to protect him. He wasn’t the one who was going to be hurt if he got into a car accident or kidnapped and tortured. He clenched his fists and stood from his chair, ignoring the complaint from his leg with the prosthetic.

“You keep saying that. But maybe it’s supposed to be the other way around.” He stood slowly, watching him with curiosity. Alex stepped forward and lifted a hand to rest on his chest gently. “I know you feel me, Guerin. You know that if anything were to happen to you because of me, I would be destroyed.” Michael lifted his hand to cover his, holding it against his chest.

They stood there. Alex stared at their entwined fingers over Michael’s t-shirt. As much as he hated to admit it, Michael had become his whole life too.

He cursed himself. He shouldn’t be here anymore. It was too much. Everything he was feeling was getting mixed up with Michael. His head was so full of him that even as he tried to think of Forrest, he just didn’t care.

He mumbled that he should leave but couldn’t bring himself to pull away. In fact he only found himself closer. Breathing the same air. His eyes traced his face, hesitating on his mouth.

No!

He scolded himself. He couldn’t do that to Maria. He couldn’t do that to Forrest. Everything about them was wrong but so was everything else. The world only made sense when they were together.

He pulled his hand away from Michael, turning to leave. He didn’t get very far. Michael grabbed him, pulling him against him. His hands found their place on Alex’s face, forcing him to look in his eyes.

“Stay.”

Chapter Text

Michael POV

What exactly was he doing? Michael had no idea. But Alex was there. He had come to him. He came to him when he thought he was in danger. He was worried. Everything in his body screamed to close the distance between them. Pull him into the trailer and never let him leave again.

Take all their broken pieces and put them back together as one.

The fire flickered in the reflection in his eyes. They darted back and forth over his face, occasionally lingering. Michael pressed his forehead against his, waiting for rejection. Or acceptance.

Alex’s breathing was erratic, like he didn’t know what was coming next. Michael felt him move, his hands holding onto his arms. He felt himself smile, inching closer to him.

“I kissed Forrest,” he rushed out.

Michael froze. The fire snapped. Or maybe that was his heart. He had pushed him too far, and now he was with someone else. There was no one else to blame but himself.

He pulled himself away from him slowly, letting his hands fall to his sides. He watched Alex, wide eyed and lost. His mouth opened but nothing came out. Michael turned away from him. The longer he watched him, the closer he felt to crying.

“I just… You pushed me away,” he said quietly.

He may as well have dug a knife into his chest. Reminder after reminder that anything Alex had done to move on from him was his fault. He had fought so hard to push him away. Now he has to fight twice as hard to get him back.

“You’re right. It’s not my place to expect anything from you,” he said stiffly, clenching his fists. He felt Alex’s fingers wrap around his arm.

“You just broke up with Maria. She didn’t tell me what happened. And I have a good thing going with Forrest. We’re not right, Guerin.” Michael laughed humorlessly and turned his head back toward him.

“We’re right. Just not right now.” He tugged his arm free from Alex’s hold gently. He took a few steps toward his trailer before stopping. “Alex?” he paused, “Call me Michael. I’m done with the walls.” He headed towards the trailer without another word.

He made it to the door, pulling it open slightly before it was slammed in his face. He spun to face Alex, who was glaring at him, though not convincingly. Michael searched his face for other emotions but he only looked conflicted.

“We aren’t good for each other… Michael.”

Alex grabbed his face, crushing his mouth to his. Michael stumbled back against the side of the trailer; the metal was still warm from the day in the sun. He grabbed at his waist, trying to pull him closer. Alex slipped one of his legs between Michael’s. He groaned and shoved his hands under the t-shirt.

Alex let his hands wander, tangling in his hair. Michael ran the tip of his tongue over his lip, wanting to taste him. Needing to taste him.

Their tongues met for the shortest moment and they both sighed in response. Alex was just as sweet as he used to be. A hint of alcohol tried and failed to cover the taste of him. Michael could never place it. But it was his favorite taste.

Michael squeezed his waist, making him roll his hips, forcing him completely back against the trailer. He moaned softly, giving Alex an opening he took full advantage off. He swept his tongue over his, teasing.

He pulled back slightly, breathing hard. He chased, pressing a few pecks to his lips. He returned each one with a chase of his own.

“You still smell like rain,” he mumbled against his lips. Michael chuckled and kissed him again. He pushed back against him and flipped them so Alex was the one against the trailer. He pressed his forehead against his, then glanced at the door.

I would be so easy to pull him inside. Trap him in this slice of happiness. Putting off the heartbreak until tomorrow morning.

“Michael,” he pleaded. Their hips pressed together and he could feel the growing need in his jeans. His own probably wasn’t much better.

The last time he heard that voice from Alex, he had run away. Shut him down. He didn’t want to do it again. But…

“Alex… I can’t do it like this,” he said, voice low with need. He pulled away, watching his eyebrows draw together in confusion. “Don’t get me wrong, I want you. I want you so much it’s killing me.” Alex looked away.

“Then why are you stopping,” he asked quietly? He thought for a moment.

When this ended, Alex was going to leave. He was going to try to move on with someone else. Michael had done this move what felt like a thousand times. It’s his ‘one last time.’ He was giving himself one last time to get him out of his system.

“Because I want all of you. I will not give you the satisfaction of walking away. I want you to come back to me. Because when you do, it’ll finally be right.”

Alex’s eyes snapped toward him but they didn’t linger for very long. He could feel his confusion. His desire. But also fear. He was still turned away from him, eyes focusing on something intently. He knew that face. He was trying not to cry.

Michael leaned forward, pressing a soft kiss to the spot just below his ear. Alex sucked in a breath. He lingered for a moment but then released him completely.

Walking away from him- again- felt like he was ripping his heart out. Alex would feel that. But as the door closed between them, he couldn’t help but pray he didn’t just make a huge mistake.

-

Michael didn’t sleep. At least not well. Alex had left shortly after he went inside. He texted him, asking if he made it home. He got a clipped, ‘yes’ in response. He tried to ignore all the emotions that were circling in his head, unable pick out which ones belonged to Alex.

He stared at the ceiling of his trailer, noticing the sun starting to peak through the blinds. Tessa had been in awe of the sun yesterday. He didn’t really know what to make of her. She acted younger than them at times but if what she said was true, she’s thousands of years old.

He grabbed his phone off the counter to check the time. Groaning at the numbers he saw. A little past six. What time was she planning to show up again? Did she even say? Were he and Alex just supposed to hang out until she decided to make herself known?

Michael let his eyes drift closed, hoping for some kind of rest.

Banging on his door yanked him from a dream he was quickly forgetting. It felt like he had blinked. Like he hadn’t slept at all. He stumbled out of bed, not bothering with a shirt and unlocked the door.

“The attackers are getting out on bail,” was the first thing out of Max’s mouth when the door swung open. Michael blinked, blinded by the bright desert sand.

“What time is it,” he grumbled?

“Almost noon.”

“Right. Got any good news for me this early in the day?”

He pushed past Max, running a hand over his face. What was he supposed to do? It’s not like he could just kidnap Alex to make sure he stays safe. Even if that was exactly what he wanted to do. Max shook his head.

“Isabel told me what happened yesterday. Told me that some girl showed up offering all the answers to our problems.”

“The key word there is ‘offering.’ I don’t know if we can trust her. She’s an angel of death.” She used the word Nephilim but what’s the difference?

“And what does Alex think?” Michael dug his nails into his palms. He hadn’t exactly asked. Other conversations had happened first. Max let out a small laugh, taking his silence as an answer. “Communication is key, Michael.”

“Oh please, like you and Liz talk about everything all the time.” He ignored the jab and continued lecturing. Michael turned away to move the chairs from last night.

“The point is you can’t just cut him out of decisions. He knows her, right? I guarantee he wants to trust her. What about Forrest? He’s been asking questions.” Michael’s eye twitched at the name. Alex wasn’t going to talk about Forrest with him. Not at any length.

“Then tell him to mind his own. Alex and I don’t talk about him,” he said, trying to keep the bite out of his voice. He heard Max scoff.

“Don’t let your jealousy get in the way of making rational decisions.” He barked out a laugh. This was rich coming from him.

“How long did you pine after Liz when she was with Valenti? I seem to recall more than one fist fight. And you’re lecturing me about being rational?” He turned back toward him; a disbelieving smile worked its way onto his face. Max pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Damnit I’m trying to help you, Michael! I’m just saying to watch your back and Alex’s. Don’t go running off to do something stupid,” Max huffed and stormed back to his car. Michael watched as he left.

He ran a hand over his face. It was way too early for him to be considering going to the bar but here he was.

It wasn’t an option. He would bet any amount of money that it was Jesse Manes that bailed them out. He had half a mind to just go over there and kill him right now. But that was a right reserved for Alex. He had decided that a long time ago.

Michael grumbled to himself. Maybe he was jealous. But what did it matter? Forrest and Alex just met and he was already prying into his life? Everyone at the bar said he was a good guy but he kept secrets. Not that Michael didn’t but it was just too convenient.

He moved back to the trailer, resting the chairs he was holding against the metal. He heard his phone buzz on the counter as he stepped back inside. Three missed calls from Alex. No voicemails.

He went to call him back but the phone started buzzing again, Alex’s name filling the screen. He couldn’t stop the grin that settled on his face.

“I would have called back if you gave me a chance,” he said as he answered.

“Cut the crap. Where’s Alex?” Michael didn’t register the question at first. Was that Forrest? Why did he have Alex’s phone?

“What are you talking about?”

“Alex. Where. Is. He?” Michael couldn’t respond. Alex had texted him last night. Right? He lifted a hand to his chest. He hadn’t felt anything that would say he’s in danger.

“Why would I know that?” His voice was calm but his mind was racing. He grabbed a shirt and jeans from the floor that might have been clean.

“There’s blood and you’re the last person he messaged.” His eyebrows drew together. If Alex were hurt, he’d know it. Either someone else was hurt or this was a setup for someone who didn’t know about the curse.

“Look. I’ll find him,” he said, pulling the shirt over his head. “Stay at his house in case he comes back.”

“No way. I’m getting the military involved. They have to find one of their own and probably have a better chance than you do.” Michael had to stop himself from laughing.

“You don’t know anything about it. If you call the military, we’ll never see him again.” His father was certainly looking for him. If they hadn’t already gotten to him.

Forrest laughed on the other end of the phone. He could hear papers rustling, as though he was looking for something. Michael grabbed his keys and rushed out of the trailer toward his truck.

“Look. I care about him. If you don’t let me go with you when you look then I will get the military involved.” He jerked the door open, gipping his phone. What choice did he have? He had his suspicions but nothing could be proved.

“Fine. I’ll meet you there.”

-

Alex POV

Alex groaned. He couldn’t remember what happened after he had responded to Michael. He had thought about calling Forrest but decided against it in favor of being alone with his thoughts about the cowboy. Besides, he was never really one to make a booty call.

He pried his eyes open. He wasn’t uncomfortable, just the opposite. There was no pressure on his leg. Someone had gone through the effort of removing his prosthetic and placing him in bed. But where was this?

He shot up from the mattress and regretted it instantly. The room spun.

“What the hell,” he muttered as he grabbed his head. He felt for bumps on his head and looked over his body. Then he realized it would be pointless. Any injury would have transferred to Michael.

The room slowly stopped making him nauseous. There were no windows. Just a bed that was far too nice for someone who was kidnapped. Was that even what this was. Not even the military treated hostages this well.

He swung his leg over the side of the bed and pushed himself up slowly. His balance was alright but he’d be lying if he said it wasn’t a pain in the ass to hop around on one leg. He didn’t expect the door would be open. But he tried anyway.

He jiggled the handle and of course it didn’t budge. If he had his crutch, he might be able to force it open but whoever brought him here was smart. He moved his ear against the door. He thought he heard talking but it was quiet. And no one he recognized.

A loud beep startled him, pulling his attention to the ceiling. What he thought was a vent was a speaker. He glared at it as though whoever was on the other side could see him.

“I’m sorry for the sudden relocation. But I couldn’t have you getting hurt and tipping off Michael.” A chill ran down his spine. Was that… Flint? “I have my orders. But you’re still my brother. I won’t let him get to you.”

“Flint! Who are you talking about?” No response. He cursed and grabbed for the door again. Why was his brother apart of this?

If he could just get enough momentum, he could break the door. Though only having one leg made that hard. He heard the lock on the door click open. His eyes widened as he tried to stumble back though only succeeded in falling down. He hated this.

“We have direct orders not to hurt you, but if you keep trying to get out, we will sedate you,” an armed guard said as he pushed the door open. Alex didn’t recognize him.

“You can’t seriously think this is the right way to treat a Captain,” he scolded. Trying to appeal to a sense of authority was a long shot. They were probably getting orders from someone much higher than him.

“I’m sorry sir, but it’s for your protection.” Bullshit.

“Who’s giving the orders? Flint?” He tried to push himself off the ground.

“It’s classified sir… Do you need help?” He hated the question. But he knew an opportunity when he saw one. He planted his one foot and reached out a hand.

“If you don’t mind,” he said, hoping he’d take the bait. The soldier reached down to grab his hand, pulling him up. Once Alex had his footing, he twisted the soldier’s arm, forcing him to spin.

He wrapped his other arm around his neck. The soldier grunted and pushed backwards. Alex stumbled but held on. If he went down, this guy was going with him. The soldier tried slamming him back against the wall. He flinched.

I’m sorry Michael.

He needed to get out of here. But this soldier would hurt him if he tried. Alex felt himself flipping over. His back slammed to the ground, knocking the wind out of him.

The soldier called for backup but Alex recovered quickly. He spun on the floor and kicked at the soldiers’ knee. He went down and Alex tried to ignore the snap he thought he heard. He scrambled to climb over him and out the door.

He made it out the door but the guy grabbed his leg. Alex jerked his leg from his hold, crawling toward the stairs. He wasn’t staying here any longer. This was obviously a residential house. Was too nice to be a military facility.

The door at the top of the stairs was pulled open. The pounding of boots thundered down the stairs. The other soldiers grabbed him immediately. He flailed as much as he could but punching bullet proof armor hurt.

“We’re not going to hurt you, please stop struggling!” Alex managed to pull one of his arms free but it was immediately grabbed and pinned behind his back.

“Bullshit! You’re stupid if you think no one will notice I’m gone.”

“We’ve thought of that. There’s an adequate distraction that should keep anyone away until we can move you to a different location.”

He pulled a syringe out of a pocket. Alex struggled until everything went black.

-

Michael POV

Michael hated this. Hate wasn’t even a strong enough word. Forrest had all but accused him of being the one who took Alex and hid him away. Whatever his problem was, Michael was struggling to hold himself back from punching him.

“I asked you where we’re going? Why is that such a hard question to answer?” Forrest sat in the seat next to him.

“And I told you that if you wanted to help, you’d have to trust me,” he snapped back.

When he had shown up at Alex’s house, Forrest had pulled a gun on him. He claimed it was because he thought someone was coming back to clear up evidence. He had looked around for the blood he claimed he found.

There was a splatter near the door. He had checked to make sure it wasn’t paint. It was blood but not Alex’s.

He pulled off the road toward the barn where the first operation had taken place. He gripped the steering wheel as Forrest tapped his fingers on the door.

“Would you knock it off? You act like I’m taking you somewhere to kill you,” he joked dryly. Forrest shot a glare at him but stopped the tapping.

“For all I know you are.” Michael’s grip on the steering wheel tightened. There it was again. What had happened since the last time they had seen each other? At least then he was pleasant to be around. Even if he was too touchy with Alex.

Not that Alex seems to mind.

He cursed his own thoughts. He couldn’t be getting jealous now.

“If there’s something you wanna accuse me of, just say it,” he snapped. Forrest didn’t take the bait. They rolled up to the abandoned barn. Michael was out of the car first, jogging toward the doors.

Before he had the chance to push them open, he was jerked back by Forrest. He shook his head, starting to laugh before turning towards him fully. So they were really going to do this right now?

“You can’t just go storming in there! They could kill him!” Forrest glared at him.

“He won’t get hurt. Not while I’m around,” he said, turning back toward the doors.

“What you think you’re some destined protector? How full of yourself can you be,” he snapped? Oh, if only he knew… if only he…

“Actually yea. That’s exactly what I am,” he snapped back, spinning to face him. He wasn’t thinking about the words coming out of his mouth. He just needed him to understand what Alex meant to him. How he wouldn’t let anything hurt him.

“Not that you would know anything about it but, Alex and I have history. Literally. Thousands of years of it! But maybe you would know. What exactly did you learn from all your snooping to make you so suspicious of me?” Michael stepped into his personal space. This guy was holding something against him and he needed to know what.

Forrest shoved him back. He didn’t stumble but he made note that it wouldn’t be a great idea to try and fight him hand to hand.

“I know you’ve got a bad habit of getting drunk and starting bar fights. I know you can’t hold a steady job. I know you start relationships then cheat. Alex deserves better than that. He deserves better than mixed signals and old flames that couldn’t fight for him.”

Michael clenched his fists. Technically he never dated between Alex and Maria. The people who said otherwise just assumed. And where was he getting the information anyway? It was off.

“First of all. I haven’t started a drunk bar fight in at least a year. Second,” he took a step toward him again. “I’ve been working at Sanders Auto for years. And third… If you want to lump me in with the stereotype that bisexual people are more likely to cheat? That’s your fucked-up opinion.”

Forrest seemed to recoil. He blinked a few times thinking through whatever information he had.

“I will agree with you that Alex deserves better than me. But by this conversation, he also deserves better than you.” He turned away and shoved the barn doors open.

Alex wasn’t here. He knew it before even getting out of the car. The mark pulled him in a direction. He needed to stop here first. Get this discussion out of the way. He knew it was coming when Forrest had pulled a gun on him.

They looked around in silence. Scuffs and stains from a week ago were still here. Bullet holes littered the walls. Michael lifted a hand to the mark. Something wasn’t…

Pain shot down his spine and spread to his whole back. He collapsed, grunting. He grinded his teeth together. It felt like someone had body slammed him. Forrest rushed up to him.

“Michael! What’s going on?” The concern was genuine. At least there was that.

He cursed under his breath. It was Alex. It had to be. A new pain spread on his right hand, though not as intense. He could feel the bruise forming on his back. Wherever he was, he was fighting. He couldn’t stop the small grin.

“This is hardly the time to be laughing. What happened?” He had almost forgotten Forrest was there. He sighed and stood slowly.

“Nothing. I’m fine,” he said. It hurt but he could ignore it.

“The last time I checked, people don’t just collapse for no reason.”

“Alex is fighting. So we don’t have time to be talking about me,” he said, moving back towards the doors. The ache was persistent but he could ignore it. The only thing that mattered was finding Alex.

He could hear Forrest jogging after him. The mark on his chest pulled him in a direction. All he had to do was follow it. They jumped into his truck. The radio hadn’t been on before but now it made all sorts of static sounds, flipping between channels. Michael groaned. Was it finally time to rip the thing out?

Drive… faster…

“What’s wrong with your radio,” Forrest asked as they pulled back onto the road?

“Don’t know. Just turn it down and ignore it.” Ignore it he said. And yet it made sense. He wanted to push this old thing as far as he could. It had happened the previous day too.

He pressed the gas, forcing the car well above the speed limit. He hopped he could use Forrest to get out of any tickets if he got pulled over. Forrest asked where they were going.

“Just got a feeling,” he mumbled out, not thinking.

“You’re looking for Alex based on a feeling?” He laughed in disbelief, shaking his head. “You’re crazy.”

“And yet you’re here. Can’t be that crazy,” he pointed out. Forrest didn’t say much else.

The road of course didn’t lead straight to Alex. They turned around multiple times. Turning onto roads Michael had never been on. If the car broke down here, they’d be screwed. Forrest had pointed out that they lost cell service a while ago.

He was close. But Michael couldn’t see anything. It’s like they were driving in circles. Actually that’s exactly what they were doing. Michael turned right on every road they came to. There was nothing but cactus and rocks.

“Hey. Why don’t we stop and walk?”

“Now who sounds crazy? It’s the middle of the afternoon in the dessert. We will literally die.”

“You asked me to trust you. How about you trust me?” He gripped the steering wheel. Michael couldn’t exactly argue. The bruise on his hand and back weren’t hurting any less.

He pulled to the dirt on the side of the road and looked around. There was still nothing except some boulders they had passed twice now. Being able to see the waves of heat over the sand didn’t inspire confidence.

If he was sweating, it evaporated before he felt it. He walked next to Forrest who seemed to know exactly where he was going. Something felt off. He was too confident.

“What exactly is your plan here,” he questioned, mouth already dry.

“If I’m not mistaken, there’s old mines under this valley. There has to be a way down.”

“And if you are mistaken?”

“Did you want to keep driving in circles until the truck ran out of gas?” Michael shot a glare in his direction. He didn’t answer the question.

The boulder he had seen got closer and Michael realized it was bigger than he originally thought. The old turquoise mines were closer to Roswell and in the opposite direction. Caves had been carved into the boulders for an entrance. What was Forrest talking about?

They stepped around the boulder and sure enough there was a hole carved into the rock and a staircase down. The feeling in Michael’s chest pulled him forward. He tried to let Forrest lead the way but all he wanted was to sprint ahead.

Suddenly the ground shook, forcing them to blindly grab for the wall. An earthquake? No, this was familiar to Michael. He pulled himself up and sprinted as much as he could, leaving Forrest behind as he called after him.

-

Alex POV

The yelling was distant. If the bed hadn’t been shaking so much Alex might have slept through it. Although his arm wasn’t in the most comfortable position. He tried to move it down to his side like he usually slept but the cold metal against his wrist stopped him.

He pried his eyes open to look up at the handcuffs that held him to the bed. He tugged half-heartedly, knowing he couldn’t fight too hard without hurting Michael. He cursed the curse. Everything was about Michael. All he could do was wait for openings that may or may not come.

The shouting got louder and the room still shook. Guns were being fired. He stood slowly, not that he could go anywhere. He could feel the pull in his chest. Michael was close.

Another crack jolted the room. For a moment he was back overseas, holding onto an injured soldier. Taking cover from the ambush. He shook his head.

“Manes!” The door was flung open, door frame splintering from the force. The yelling escalated; shots could be heard but nothing seemed to hit her.

“Tessa!” She shook her head and gave a small smile.

“Getting real tired of saving your ass. Michael’s on his way, so let’s go.” His heart flipped. She moved toward him and broke the cuffs.

“Stop! I will shoot if you don’t get away from him!” Alex watched as Tessa huffed and rolled her eyes.

“Stay behind me,” she mumbled to him before turning around. He looked past her to the soldier that had probably just signed his death sentence. But if she was still the person he knew overseas, she was merciful. Come to think of it, she probably knew exactly who was dangerous and who wasn’t.

“Look, I know you’re just doing your job and everything so let me tell you that I’m just doing mine. I don’t want to hurt you, but I’m walking out of here with him regardless.” She sounded almost bored. He didn’t flinch.

“One more chance to step away from him,” the soldier threatened. Tessa just shook her head.

Alex heard the gun fire but there was no explosion of material. No rush of warmth from a bullet hole. No screaming. Everything slowed. Feeling like he was floating in Jell-o, he looked around. Tessa moved toward the soldier, grabbing the bullet out of the air. She quickly took his gun and emptied the bullets onto the floor.

Full speed, the soldier stumbled, confusion covered his face. His gun on the ground, empty. No evidence of having shat it at all. Then he noticed Tessa. She shoved him back with superhuman strength. He collapsed unconscious against the opposite wall.

She turned to face him and grinned sheepishly. Alex could help but chuckle. She did warn him. Tessa reached a hand toward him. He took it and she pulled him off the bed, offering him as much support as she could while walking.

They hobbled out of the room together and toward the stairs. The tug in Alex’s chest was getting stronger. Michael was here. He had come for him.

“Alex!” Forrest? What the hell was he doing here? He jumped down the last couple stairs but froze when he saw Tessa. He drew his gun immediately. Alex looked around briefly for Michael. He was here… wasn’t he?

“Hold on! She’s a friend!” He held his hand up to stop Forrest from shooting. His eyes flicked between the two of them before he lowered his gun slowly, though not entirely relaxed. Alex’s shoulders sagged in relief but he could tell Tessa was still tense. He glanced over at her. Her eyebrows were drawn together, her grip on his wrist tightening.

“I came looking for you as soon as I showed up at your place and you weren’t there.”

“Just you,” she questioned?

“Who else would be with me?” No. Alex could feel him. Michael was here.

Shouting came from behind Forrest. He glanced behind him before reaching for Alex’s free hand. “We need to go.” Tessa pulled Alex back slightly.

“How’d you find this place? It’s in the middle of nowhere and the entrance is hidden.”

“I’m part of the Marines. I know where hostages are kept.”

“Except this facility isn’t for hostages. It’s a classified mission base,” she said accusingly. Forrest blinked and looked over his shoulder again. Alex felt his heart breaking as he started connecting the dots himself.

“Where’s Michael,” he asked, low and threatening. Forrest looked back at him, an apology already written on his face. He didn’t get to say anything. A hand grabbed his shoulder, moving him to the side. Flint stood there looking tired and worried.

“Michael is in the process of being moved to a new location. Somewhere he can’t hurt you. I know our father did some awful things to you when we were younger but he’s trying to protect you now.”

Alex’s mouth dropped open. He couldn’t be serious. His father was using Flint? Tessa laughed beside him.

“Look. I don’t know what daddy told you, but it was a lie. These two are far better off together than apart.” He finally seemed to acknowledge her. Did he know what she was? If he did, there’s no way he would be so calm about this.

“Who are you? Some friend of Michael’s?” She grinned.

“Something like that. More an old friend of Alex’s.” Flint shrugged and the radio on his shoulder beeped.

Sir, the terrorist is sedated and we’re moving him to the car.

Panic set into Alex’s stomach. They were going to torture him. And if they deemed that he had no use… they…

His leg gave out from under him, forcing all of his weight onto Tessa. She held him steady. Anger spread through his body. If he just had his other leg…

His shoulders shook. Rage blinded him. He glared at Flint and Forrest, who had sunk behind his brother. How dare they play with him like this! He dug his nails into his palm

“You’re delusional if you think our father had any good intentions,” he snapped. “You can never separate Michael and I. We will always find each other. And you,” He met Forrest’s eyes, “You are dead to me.” He flinched as though he had actually cared.

Alex looked away from them in disgust. Maybe if he had been able to go to college instead of war, he would have studied psychology while working on his music. Maybe he could have some idea of why they did this to him.

A glint of metal caught his eye. His prosthetic sat in the corner against the wall. Tessa followed his line of sight. He wouldn’t have time to put it on but he needed to have it. Those things weren’t cheap.

Alex lifted a hand to his chest. The pull of the mark was moving away. They needed to go. They didn’t seem interested in hurting them anymore so Alex hopped in the direction of the prosthetic, Tessa moving him faster than he would go alone.

Even if his brother didn’t want to hurt them, he doubted he would just let them walk out of here. He leaned down to grab the prosthetic, tucking it under his arm.

“Got a plan to get us out of here,” he murmured?

“Something spectacular or quick,” she asked, a grin settling on her face.

“We have to get to Michael.” She nodded and turned them around.

“Just hold on tight.” She wrapped an arm around him tighter. “Sorry to cut this short but we’re out of here.” Alex will never forget the look on their faces. He saw them for less than a second but the astonished mouth hanging open as they practically phased through them and up the stairs threatened to make him laugh way more than any of this should.

They jolted to a stop when they hit the desert heat. He looked around as much as he could, eyes adjusting to the sudden bright light of the area. The tracks of the truck hadn’t blown away. He followed them out and he could just barely see it in the distance.

The adrenaline raced through his veins; he wanted more than anything to start sprinting after it. He looked over at Tessa.

“Let’s go get that idiot. We have real things to talk about.”

Chapter Text

Alex POV

“As much as I wish I could just manifest a bike out of thin air, I do have my limits,” Tessa said as she held Alex steady. And as much as he wished, he could only put on his prosthetic so fast. Putting it on wrong would hurt the rest of his leg but what choice did he have? There was no time to waste with technicalities.

“Why do you need a bike when you can basically fly?” She shrugged as he slowly put weight back on his leg.

“Style, I guess. You good?” Alex nodded, and he was weightless once more. The desert was nothing more than a tan blur. He didn’t used to get motion-sick but nausea was creeping up fast. He tried closing his eyes.

“Get ready to tuck and roll,” she called over the wind. How the hell was he supposed to prepare when he could hardly feel his body? They began to slow down, and he hoped this would make the stop less jarring.

He opened his eyes just enough to see how far the truck was. The black box rushed toward them at an alarming rate. Keeping his panic in check wasn’t easy. How the hell was he supposed to react to the possibly of a supernatural car wreck?

He tried to call to Tessa but his words were swallowed by the wind. Feeling was returning to his body. Her grip on his torso was loosening. Five seconds and they’d crash.

Four. He reached out his hand.

Three. He was falling.

Two. The doors burst open.

One…

He grabbed the handle of the door, the momentum yanking his arm up. Alex hissed. Tessa grabbed the other handle and his free arm. She hauled him up to get his footing. The car lurched forward. He could hear curses coming from the front.

Dust kicked up into his face. He stumbled forward, tripping over a body. Tessa kept him from falling face first but his leg gave out beneath him, landing him on top of a motionless Michael. The brakes of the car complained loudly at the sudden stopping.

Alex pushed himself up as fast as he could checking Michael for any serious injuries. Tessa threw the armed guard out the back door, sending him at least ten feet. The driver reached for the gun at his hip as he spun toward the back. Alex gripped on to Michael and Tessa grabbed the guard, yanking him out the back, wresting the gun away from him.

Pushing himself up again, he ran his hands over Michael’s face gently. He trailed his fingers down his neck, checking his pulse. It was still there but faint. Whatever they had given him to knock him out was intended to last.

A dried trickle of blood from his nose caught his attention. Rage bubbled again and tears threatened to fall. Alex shook his head and pressed his forehead to Michael’s. Yelling from the door pulled his attention back to Tessa.

“Alex, they called back-up! We gotta go! Drive!” He didn’t want to leave Michael’s side but he had to trust that she’d keep both of them safe. He pushed himself up with no small amount of pain. The prosthetic was not on right.

He watched her shove back another guard, before scrambling to the front seat. Not bothering with the seatbelt, he cranked the key hard enough he thought it would break. The car roared back to life as he shifted gears and slammed on the gas. The wheels spun for a second before it jerked forward. His leg screamed but he just gripped the steering wheel and focused on the desert in front of him.

“I recommend finding a road,” Tessa called as she slammed the door shut. He glanced in the side mirror. A small black dot was gaining on them.

“No, what I fucking need is some cover. That’s a bit hard to come by if you hadn’t noticed.” He thought he heard her snicker. “Please, just watch Michael. Try to wake him up,” he pleaded.

The gas was pressed as far as it could go. The gas was full but if he happened to be going the wrong direction that wouldn’t help them. He could drive for miles and there would be no civilization. And without water, he and Michael were done for.

“Turn to the left slightly,” Tessa said, poking her head into the front seats. He turned slowly as to not flip the car. The black dot in the distance was slightly bigger but wasn’t gaining ground fast enough. They could make it to Roswell before they caught up.

“Can’t you just fly him back to Roswell?” His voice cracked with worry.

“I could but if you get caught again what would be the point? He’ll just come after you without resting. I’m no doctor but I think they broke his leg. Even with the accelerated healing, it still needs to be set.” He would kill his father. He set this up and now Michael had to suffer. A hand rested on his shoulder. “Don’t get too in your head Manes. Distractions lead to casualties.”

He nodded and focused on the vast space in front of him. The heat of the sun burned his hands on the wheel. Just off to the left he could make out the shining of a green sign. Which meant a road. The radio in the car crackled to life, making Alex jump.

Alex, please stop. The car has a tracker. We’ll find you wherever you go.” Forrest’s gentle voice floated through the speakers. He wanted to scream. Maybe punch him. What had he done to deserve being used like that? Alex grabbed the radio.

“Go to hell,” he growled back. Slamming the receiver down and looking for some kind of off switch proved difficult while doing eighty on dirt. Tessa rested a hand over his.

“Hey. I got it. Just drive.” He glanced at her but returned his one hand to the wheel, heading straight for the green sign. The radio never cracked again.

They hit a particularly rough bump, making the equipment in the back shake and crash in their places. Alex heard a soft groan. His head jerked, needing to see if Michael was ok.

“Michael,” he called back cautiously.

“He didn’t wake up. The bump probably just moved something too much,” Tessa said back.

The road rushed toward them, black stretching along the horizon. He prayed the change from dirt to asphalt didn’t flip the car. The black dot in the rearview mirror kept pace with them. If he knew where the tracker was kept, he could disable it. Although with his luck recently, it would be on the outside of the car somewhere.

Alex cursed under his breath. When they got to Roswell, they would have to ditch the car and walk. Or was it fly? He didn’t know the limits of her powers. He shook his head and willed the car to go faster. He just needed to break the line of sight long enough for them to bolt and catch an uber or something.

He laughed to himself. An Uber? They were in a life or death situation and they needed to rely on an Uber. No one could have predicted this twenty years ago. Hell even ten years.

“Brace!” He yelled to the back as the road stretched before him. He jerked the steering wheel and felt the car tip slightly. His heart pounded and his stomach dropped like he was in free fall. It tipped back and more equipment in the back crashed.

The metal of the car groaned at the stress but then it was speeding up again. He breathed a sigh of relief as it pushed past eighty. He glanced in the rearview mirror. He didn’t immediately see the other car but that didn’t mean it wasn’t there. As long as there was a tracker, they wouldn’t get away.

He glanced at the radio again. Wait…

“Tessa! Unhook this radio and throw it out the window,” he ordered. He swerved around a minivan, ignoring the agree honking from behind.

“I would love to but I’m kind of busy making sure all this equipment doesn’t crush your boyfriend.” His heart skipped and he wanted to correct her. But did he really? They weren’t dating. Alex had made that very clear. But hearing it phrased like that… his heart could have exploded.

“Ok well just move him up to the front seat. But we have no chance if we don’t get rid of the tracker.” He heard shuffling from behind him as he swerved around another car.

“Damnit Manes, learn to drive or you’re going to kill us all,” she scolded as she – as gently as possible – heaved Michael into the front seat. Tessa yanked the seatbelt across him and he groaned as they hit a particularly nasty bump.

She grabbed the seat, bracing herself as she knelt in front of the radio receiver. She started yanking wires and jamming her fingers into the spaces, trying to pull it out.

“What makes you so certain this is where it is anyway?” The car jerked and she stumbled into his seat, elbow hitting his leg. He flinched but made no other sound of distress.

“Just a feeling. And even if it’s not there, at least we don’t have to hear their stupid voices,” he spat out. Specifically Forrest.

He could feel her eyes on him but she didn’t say anything more. She had always trusted him. Of course, maybe she knew the outcome.

“Hey, can’t you tell me if we’ll get out of this or not?” She laughed as she yanked more wires.

“Doesn’t work like that. Even if I could, telling you would change the outcome. Haven’t you seen any time travel movies?” He shook his head. Was now really the time for joking? He felt himself grin anyway.

Tessa gave one final tug at the radio and it popped out of the dash. She pulled out the remaining wires and leaned over Michael to roll down the window. She tossed it and Alex watched it break further in the side mirror.

There was no guarantee that it worked so he couldn’t slow down. Another sign zipped past, and he swore it said Roswell. Almost home. He was gaining on a car in front of him. He prepared to shoot ahead of them but he saw the lights sitting on top of the car. There’s no way they wouldn’t pull him over.

“Shit. I can’t get out of a speeding ticket at these speeds. And not with Michael looking like that.” He looked back at Tessa as he let his foot off the gas. She glanced between him and the cop.

“Actually. Michael is exactly what we need to get out of this. Pull up behind the car and honk.” He glanced out the window to the mirror. He still couldn’t see a car. He hit the breaks as soft as he could, pulling up and tapping the horn a couple times.

The driver flipped their lights on and pulled to the side. Alex followed, turning on his hazard lights. He glanced at Tessa as he rolled down the window. She gave him a reassuring smile. Alex trusted her with his life before. He could trust her with Michael’s too.

Alex watched the cop’s door open. A familiar blonde stepped out of the car. Without a doubt in his mind, he knew it was Jenna, Max’s partner. He let out a sigh of relief.

She blinked at him through the open window. Or maybe it was the sun?

“Alex Manes? What are you doing all the way out here?” Tessa poked her head out from behind Alex.

“Ma’am we need help. He’s hurt and needs a hospital,” she rushed out in her best scared voice.

Jenna looked to Michael in the passenger seat. Dried blood still trickled from his nose and a bruise was forming on his cheek. Alex didn’t want to think about the bruises that had transferred on his back.

“What the hell happened,” she exclaimed. Alex gripped the steering wheel.

“Please Jenna. We just need an escort back to town. Preferably quickly,” Alex begged. He chanced a look in the mirror again and sure enough, a car in the distance gaining on them. It could have been a car they originally passed but somehow, he doubted it. She nodded in understanding.

“Stick close to me.” She jogged back to her car. The sirens rang out and off she went, Alex following close behind her.

Soon enough, they were back up to their original speed. The town rose from the horizon and Alex allowed himself to relax just a bit. He looked over at Michael in the seat. He looked like he was sleeping. But it wasn’t natural. The hard lines of his face remained, as if he wasn’t resting at all.

Alex could only hope he wasn’t in pain.

They had to slow down as they approached the town. Didn’t need anyone else getting hurt because of this mess. The hospital was conveniently in the middle of town with the most traffic. Alex cursed under his breath. People in other cars did the best they could to move but the roads weren’t exactly made for high speed traffic.

They made it to the parking lot and Alex screeched up to the front doors, a sense of déjà vu coming over him. He went to unbuckle Michael but Tessa was way ahead of him.

Alex jumped out of the car, hobbling on his leg. He yanked the passenger door open, supporting Michael as best he could while Tessa climbed out after him. She took on most of his weight but never told Alex to let go.

He looked for Kyle as soon as they were in the front room. He was talking with the receptionist about something but jumped when Alex called his name. He took in the situation for a moment but never asked questions.

He rushed up to them, taking Michael and pulling him toward a gurney that was being rolled out. He checked for responsiveness from Michael then turned to Alex.

“What happened,” he asked?

“He was given some sort of sedative. I don’t know how much.” His voice cracked. For a second, He thought he saw pity in Kyle’s eyes but it was gone just as quick. He turned back to Michael and they rolled him away for tests.

Alex dug his nails into his palms, fighting the pain in his leg. A hand landed on his shoulder. Tessa tugged him toward the chairs. He let her pull him but kept his eyes on the door Michael had disappeared through.

“Alex come on. Let me fix your prosthetic. I know you’re in pain,” she said softly.

He finally met her eyes, nodding slowly as he sat down. He rolled up his pant leg and leaned back into the chair. Her fingers were careful and precise. The pressure released and after a brief stab of pain, it faded completely. She set it to the side. He opened his mouth to object but she cut him off.

“Trust me Alex. You’ll feel better if you leave it off for a while.” The panic of not being able to move on his own set in. What if he needed to fight someone off? A smile settled on Tessa’s face. “I know what you’re thinking and I can take care of it. If I need it, you’re more than capable of kicking ass with or without a leg.”

He did his best to squash any anxiety that came with being mostly immobile. He tapped his fingers against the arm of the chair, only looking away from the swinging doors when someone said his name.

“Can we talk,” Jenna asked?

“Yea,” he answered cautiously. She sat on the wooden table, being careful not to bump his leg. His eyebrows drew together.

“Care to tell me what’s going on?” He looked around to make sure no one was nearby.

“Someone abducted me and then hurt Michael.” He hoped it would be enough to stop the questions but nothing was ever that easy. She sighed and spoke quietly.

“Manes. That car was reported stolen by a branch of military that deals with terrorists. Technically I shouldn’t even be asking questions.” He cursed. Of course they reported the car stolen. Had it been anyone other than Jenna in the car, they would have been arrested.

“I know how it looks but please, just believe me. Someone is using their power in the Military to torture Michael and I,” he pleaded.

“Can you give me a name?” Before he could speak, Tessa did.

“Jesse Manes.” Alex’s head snapped toward her. She knew what an accusation like that could do. She needed proof and they didn’t have it. He was going to give Forrest’s name but would that have been any better?

“That’s quite an accusation from someone I’ve never seen before. Who are you?”

“Commander Theresa Morris. Air Force.” She pulled a small clip out of her pocket, taking an ID and showing it to Jenna. She blinked and looked back at Alex. Where had Tessa come up with an ID when she’s been missing for a couple years?

“We’ll look into it,” she said shortly. She proceeded to salute and walk back out the front door. He looked over at Tessa, a million questions on his tongue.

“Kept it from my time serving. And I know I wiped myself from the system but I can put it back if she decides to look into me. Which she probably will.” Alex let out a short laugh of disbelief. He never really knew her.

“Alex.” He turned toward Kyle’s voice. He moved to push himself to stand but Kyle shook his head. “Just stay sitting. Whatever’s working its way through Michael’s system, it’s strong. He’ll be out for a day at least. More likely a few days. His nose is broken but nothing serious. He also has extensive bruising over his back, shoulders, and face but no internal bleeding.”

Alex flinched at the memories of being slammed against the wall. He shouldn’t have fought it. Michael was suffering for his choices and he hated it.

“Where is he?” He reached for his prosthetic.

“You should go home. He won’t be up for a while and you look like you could use some good rest yourself.”

“I’m fine. I just need to see him,” he insisted, pressing his leg into the metal.

“Alex…”

Once it was snuggly on - correctly this time - he stood to face Kyle. He looked worried. What did he care anyway? Not like they were ever friends.

“Just take me to him.” Tessa grabbed his hand and Kyle sighed, signaling for them to follow.

“You really should listen to the doctor, Manes,” she mumbled as they walked. He couldn’t focus on himself right now. If they wanted him to leave they would have to drag him out.

Kyle pushed open a door, allowing them both to step inside. Michael laid there, hooked up to a saline drip, a thin bandage over his nose. Alex pulled away from Tessa, grabbing a chair and setting it right next to his bed. He sat. And he would be right there when Michael woke up.

He heard Tessa and Kyle talking but didn’t try to pick out what they were saying. He looked over his body. The rise and fall of his chest was slow and steady. The tattoo peaked out from under the hospital gown.

He pulled the collar of his own shirt down. Still four petals. This seemed ‘trial’ worthy to him but maybe the damn gods had other ideas.

“If it was a trial. I ruined it.” She spoke quietly, pulling up another chair. Alex’s eyebrows drew together.

“I’m not supposed to interfere. Get you out of things, protect you. But this has to end with you two. The curse is supposed to end when the original lovers find their way back to each other. And they have. But if you don’t make it through the trials then it’ll keep going and who knows when it’ll happen again.”

“What do you mean original lovers? The slave boy dies saving the princess and I assume she dies of old age. Not to mention it was a couple thousand years ago.” She laughed and took Alex’s hand.

“Alex. You’ve got the story all wrong. The original lovers… are Thomas and Samuel. This princess you speak of, is a prince. And my god, you and Michael, look exactly like them.”

Alex was trying to wrap his head around it. She wouldn’t have any reason to lie, right? Those visions he and Michael had. That journal…

“So… you’re saying we’re, what? Reincarnations?” Tessa thought.

“You could call it that. Doppelgangers, reincarnation, future self. All a similar idea. But yes. You two are identical to the originals and the curse is supposed to end with you. You two share the souls of Thomas and Samuel, like past incarnations, but it runs deeper than that. Hence your resemblance.”

Alex ran a hand through his hair. Just how warped are the stories? And why were they changed? Dumb question. He thought to himself. Homophobia wasn’t a new concept.

“Your father… I don’t think he knows this… Is also a reincarnation. The biggest obstacle in keeping the lovers apart was always the prince’s father. Just as it is now.” Alex dug his nails into his palms.

“You know I’m trying to get away from him,” he said quietly. Tessa took his hands in hers.

“I know. But you’ll have to face him head on sooner or later.”

-

Michael POV

Black was the only thing he could see. He tried to dream. He tried to wake himself up. His body simply refused. Michael could feel the tugging in his chest.

He felt nothing. Heard nothing but his own breathing. And his only instinct was to follow his heart wherever it took him. Probably to Alex. As so many other things in his life did. Always toward Alex.

-

The overly clean smell assaulted Michael’s nose first. Then it was the scratchy clothing. Fuck. Not again. This place was becoming for familiar to him than his own trailer. How long was he out? How much money did he owe this damn place now? Not to mention he hadn’t been working. Too preoccupied with other things. His back ached and a dull throb came from his nose.

He pried his eyes open, flinching at the bright light shining through the window. His head was foggy but the memories slowly came back.

Forrest stabbed him in the back. Literally. A complete 180. He had stopped for a second, thinking he had fallen behind. Then a pinch right at the top of his spine. An arm around his neck. Then black. And now here.

He knew there was something off about the whole situation but he ignored it anyway, thinking that maybe he really cared about Alex. He would never make that mistake again. He was the only one who would protect him.

“Michael,” a female voice said. He lifted his head, looking around the room. His eyes fell on a body curled up in a chair, brown hair messy, prosthetic sitting nearby. Alex? He looked to where he heard the voice. Tessa sat on his bed.

“How…”

“I interfered.” Michael’s shoulders sagged. She had saved Alex. But she also might have made a bigger problem by doing so.

“Why?”

“Because they were going to kill you. Then Alex presumably.” He did his best to push himself into a sitting position. He couldn’t be mad at her for interfering. He would have done the same thing.

“So what happens now? The next trial pushes us both to our limits? Lightning comes down to strike us dead,” he asked sarcastically. Tessa shook her head.

“I don’t know. But it would probably be best for you and Alex to stay close from now on.” Michael looked up at the ceiling. Alex would hate that. And the last thing he wanted him to think was that Michael was a babysitter. “The trials are going to come whether you want them to or not. I just figure it would be easier to overcome if you two are together.”

“What about Forrest,” he asked?

“I wish I knew. He seems different. I don’t think he knows the full extent of what’s going on.” He cursed under his breath. That means he’ll still be around. Did he help save Alex?

Rustling clothes pulled his attention back to where Alex was sleeping. His eyes cracked open and stretched out his legs. Running a hand through his hair, he seemed disoriented. He looked around before his eyes met Michael’s. Michael smiled at him.

“Hey there, Captain.” Suddenly he was fully awake. He pushed himself up from the chair. Tessa was by his side in less than a second, making sure he didn’t fall over.

She helped Alex to his bed, though it was clear he wanted to move faster than she was allowing. Michael’s heart raced. How long was he out for Alex to be this worried? He stumbled slightly, bracing himself on the edge of the bed before practically launching himself at Michael.

Michael didn’t even bother to fight the urge to return the hug. They wrapped their arms around each other. Alex buried his face in his neck and he could feel his breath on his skin.

“I’ll give you two a moment,” Tessa said quietly before walking out of the room.

They sat there for a moment, just holding each other. Michael ran his hands through Alex’s hair, noting the tangles. His heart jumped into his throat when Alex’s lips brushed over his neck as he spoke.

“I’m so sorry,” he mumbled. He squeezed him gently.

“What have I told you? You’ve done nothing that you need to apologize for,” he said.

“You keep ending up here. That’s reason enough.” Michael pushed him back gently, forcing Alex to look at him. He took one of his hands and placed it over his heart where the mark would be.

“As long as you stay safe, I wouldn’t do anything differently.”

Alex blushed and looked away. He could feel both of their hearts racing. Alex had told him that they were no good together. And while it hadn’t been a lie, he knew it wasn’t the complete truth. Had his beliefs changed?

Michael didn’t press the matter. Instead he asked Alex what happened. He explained that he had been knocked out and taken to the bunker. He talked about fighting to get away on his own, which is why there was now a bruise coving his back.

He explained that Forrest had turned on them. That Tessa saved him. And that they basically stole a car from the military and then proceeded to rip out the radio with him in the back. Michael couldn’t help but chuckle. But he also wanted to scold him for being so reckless.

“Just how long have you been in that chair,” he asked once he was caught up?

“Since you were brought in a couple days ago. Tessa refused to bring you back here without me because she was worried you would do something stupid.” Michael tilted his head. Not a lie but…

“Why though?” Alex wrung his hands together, bouncing his leg, chewing on his lip. “Alex.”

“I was worried. I thought you wouldn’t wake up.”

Michael took his hands again, rubbing his thumb over his knuckles comfortingly. Alex was too good for him. Someone who has been through as much as he has shouldn’t care so deeply. But he does and hell would freeze over before Michael let anyone take that away from him.

A few quick knocks at the door made them both turn. Alex went to pull his hands away but Michael refused to let go. A quick glance back at him and then his shoulders relaxed again. And Michael was on could nine. Just from the man in front of him allowing him to hold his hand.

“Tessa let me know you were awake. I just want to check your injuries then I’ll be out of here,” Kyle said, stepping into the room. Michael just nodded. He walked to the other side of the bed, not giving a second glace to their entwined fingers or bothering to ask Alex to move.

“Sit up for me,” he said. Michael listened without complaint. Was this really the guy that tormented Alex all those years ago? Kyle pushed the scratchy gown off his shoulders and partway down his arms. He pressed lightly on the parts of his he assumed were bruised.

Michael hissed in a breath. What was this supposed to accomplish? Other than putting him through pain.

“It’s healing slowly. You don’t have any broken ribs but the bruising is deep. It’s going to hurt for a while. There’s also not much we can do for your nose. Try not to run face first into anything for a while,” he said lightly. Michael actually let himself chuckle.

“Whatever you say, Doc.”

“Oh just listen to the guy,” Tessa said, leaning against the doorway. “I handled the paperwork. Is he free to go?” Kyle shrugged.

“Well considering there’s not much we can do for him, yes. I prescribed those painkillers if you need them but make sure to take them with food and no more than twice a day.” He moved to leave.

-

There wasn’t much talking until they made it outside. The sun beat down, though the wind kept the temperature bearable. Tessa twirled some keys around her fingers. Speaking of…

“So I know this might be a stupid idea, but I’d really like to get my truck back from the middle of nowhere.”

“Already done. Left it at Alex’s house,” Tessa said without turning to face him. Why had she left it there?

“Why my house,” Alex asked?

“I told you both that you needed to stay close. Why not just move in together for now?” Michael’s heart flipped, or was it Alex’s? He glanced at the airman. “You guys have had roommates before. This isn’t any different.”

Michael had wanted to move away with Alex when they were younger but now it was different. He still wanted to move in together, he just wished it was under different circumstances. He thought that maybe there was something good going between him and Alex. He worried this would ruin it.

They stopped at a larger SUV with tinted windows. Tessa unlocked the door and stepped into the driver’s seat. Michael chanced a glance at Alex, who looked away as soon as their eyes met. They walked to the other side and Alex took the passenger side. Pulling out of the parking lot, Tessa spoke again.

“After I drop you two off, I’m leaving.”

“What, why,” Alex asked?

“I’ll be punished for interfering in your trials. And I don’t know what will happen next so I want to see what the other gods are saying.”

“But what about all the stuff you told me,” he pleaded?

“You’ll have to explain it to Michael. But the longer I put off my punishment then the worse it’ll be.”

“Wait, tell me what?” Tessa gripped the steering wheel.

“Short version? The stories you’ve been told are all wrong. You never did read the original scrolls did you? That’s why you wanted Alex to hack into his dad’s things? Because you think he stole them?” Michael leaned forward, bracing himself on the seat in front of him.

“You’re probably right. But Jesse Manes wouldn’t make copies of those things. He wants to destroy any evidence of the curse. Of the lovers. That’s always been his role. If he took the scrolls, then they were destroyed.”

He leaned back and cursed under his breath. Jesse Manes continued to be the definition of evil even into his adult life. He should have killed him when he had the chance.

The rest of the short ride was silent. And sure enough, his truck sat to one side of Alex’s driveway. Michael hopped out of the car, followed by Alex. Tessa opened her door and stepped out but didn’t follow them up. Alex jogged back to her.

“Don’t you dare disappear on me again,” he heard Alex tell her. A smirk settled on her face.

“I hadn’t planned on it. I’ll be back soon with more information. Until then, please stay safe. Both of you,” she said, looking over Alex’s shoulder at Michael.

Then he pulled her into a hug. She seemed surprised at first but quickly reciprocated. Michael felt himself smile. Alex trusted her and she had saved his life more than once. That was good enough for him.

She pulled out of the driveway and disappeared down the street. Alex walked back to Michael, glancing at him and then heading for the front door.

It occurred to him that this might not be the safest place to be. They caught him here once and there was no reason to think that they wouldn’t try again. He reached forward, grabbing Alex’s arm. He pretended to not notice the way his pulse spiked.

“Hold on. What if they’re in there. Let me go first,” he warned. Alex glanced between him and the door.

“If they’re in there then I will personally kick all of their asses for hurting you,” he said before turning back to the door. He pulled the keys out of his pocket, jiggling the doorknob before the door swung open.

They moved slowly, listening for any hint that someone was in the house. It was silent. Both of their shoulders relaxed as they moved to the living room. Michael kicked his shoes off as Alex grabbed his crutch. He sat on the chair and removed the prosthetic, rubbing the tension out of his knee.

“You alright,” he asked?

“Yea. Just been wearing it for a while.”

He sat on the couch across from him, remembering the last time they were in this space together. Everything was new. It still was, now that he thought about it, but it’s like they had been doing this their whole lives. Maybe in a way, they had. Once his leg was off, he leaned back and ran a hand through his hair.

“I wish she hadn’t left this to me, but I’ll do my best.” Michael nodded slowly.

Alex launched into the story about how the original scrolls would have told the same story Michael had told him. Only with a prince instead of a princess. The rest was generally the same but that means the lovers were disgraced for reasons other than what he had been told. Samuel and Thomas were indeed the original two and the two of them were reincarnations.

“So your father is cosmically required to make our life a living hell? I shoulda known,” he tried to joke at the end. Alex shook his head, running his hand though his hair again.

“We need to get out of here,” he said suddenly. Michael just blinked. Had he heard him right? “You were right earlier. They know where we live and if we stay here then we’ll just be easy targets.” Hard to argue with that logic. “Tessa’s right, too. We’re better off together,” he mumbled at the end.

He wanted to joke to try and lighten the mood but figured it wouldn’t be the best time. Maybe when they were out of this shitty situation. But Alex Manes was asking if he would run away with him. And god it was all he ever wanted.

“Any places in mind,” he asked instead?

“There’s an old cabin about a half hour from here. Middle of nowhere. We can tell your family and stuff but otherwise, no one knows about it.” He nodded slowly.

“Ok.”

“Ok?”

“Of course. It’ll be safer and that’s all I care about.” Another blush creeped onto Alex’s cheeks and he looked away, making Michael grin. Alex pushed himself up, leaning on his crutch.

“I’m going to go shower. I feel disgusting,” he said nervously. Michael leaned back on the couch and smirked at him.

“Need any help?” Alex’s gaze shot toward him before looking away almost immediately. He opened his mouth to say he was kidding but the feeling in his chest stopped him.

Consideration. Want. Denial.

“Very funny. You’re welcome to eat if you can find anything. I don’t remember the last time I went shopping. I’ll be done quickly.”

Michael watched him disappear down the hallway, weighing in his head if it would be a good idea to follow him or not. This wasn’t the time.

He only stood when he heard the water turn on. He needed to distract himself from the knowledge that Alex was close yet so far. He wandered to the fridge and laughed at how accurate Alex’s offer was. There really wasn’t much in there.

A knock at the door made him frown. He was going to ignore it but whoever was on the other side persisted. He looked around the kitchen for a weapon and settled for a steak knife he found in a drawer.

He could deal with this before Alex got out of the shower. No need to worry him.

Michael moved toward the front door quickly but silently. He cursed doors that didn’t have peepholes for this reason. He grabbed the knob as whoever it was knocked again.

He yanked the door open, knife poised and ready.

Chapter Text

Michael POV

Yelling halted his movements.

“Jesus Christ Michael! Are you trying to give us a heart attack?”

“Are you crazy? Why would you answer the door like that. You’re going to hurt someone.”

Liz and Isobel stood there, hands over their chests in a comically similar fashion. The tension left Michael’s shoulders, though he still glanced around the two women to make sure no one else was there.

“Sorry. Had a bit of a string of bad luck recently,” he said dryly. He stepped to the side to let them in. “What are you guys doing here anyway?”

“Alex called to tell me you were in the hospital. I told Max and by extension Liz but when we went to visit you had already left. We just took a guess at which house it would be,” Isobel explained. Michael shook his head.

“Right. Well as you can see, I’m fine. Nothing serious.” He gestured to his bruised body. Not that they could see it except for his face. “Did you at least bring food? Alex has none,” he said to Liz.

“What am I, Door Dash?” Michael chuckled at her annoyance though she didn’t appear truly upset.

The three of them sat themselves around the coffee table on the couches and chair. Isobel watched him with a raised eyebrow, as though she was expecting him to talk about what really happened. He glanced over at Liz. Isobel sighed.

“She knows. Max told her.” Liz smiled at him somewhat sadly. He hated that. That look of pity.

“So much for keeping the circle small,” he said. Isobel just shrugged. It’s not like he was mad. He figured she would be brought in eventually. But that just puts another person Alex cared about in danger.

“Look I know you don’t know me that well but I had to know what was going on. A threat on Alex was spray painted on the walls of my family diner. Naturally, I had some questions. I all but tackled Max to tell me.” He nodded understandingly. Max was a bit of a pushover when it came to her.

“Right. Short version? Alex was kidnapped. I went after him.”

“Kidnapped? By the people who spray painted the diner,” Liz asked, a mild panic in her voice. Michael just nodded. Liz wrapped her arms around herself, suppressing a shiver.

“So, who’s behind all this,” Isobel pushed.

“The military. Specifically, Alex’s father. I don’t know exactly what he’s told these men but they’re under the impression that he and I are somehow dangerous.” The three of them sat in silence. Anger bubbled up inside Michael just mentioning that wretched man. He looked down at the scars and broken bones in his hand.

He heard Alex moving back toward the front room. He turned to face him and almost choked. Alex was shirtless. Clothing he probably intended to put on was tossed over his shoulder. His grey sweatpants hung low on his hips. They were tied up just below his knee for his missing leg. His hair was damp and tousled, like he had just run his fingers through it

“Liz? Isobel? When did you guys get here?” He hardly spared a glance at Michael. His abs tensed as he moved around to sit in the last available seat across from Michael. He pulled the shirt over his head but he couldn’t unsee what was underneath.

“We were worried about you two. Michael said you were kidnapped?” Liz took his hand in hers, squeezing gently.

“Yea…” he trailed off. The hurt in his voice was obvious, not to mention the sudden aching in his chest. Michael figured he was thinking about Forrest.

“Wait. So what the hell are we doing here? They know where you both live I’m sure,” Isobel exclaimed, shooting up from her spot on the couch.

“We’ve got a plan, Iz,” Michael reassured.

“Well please. Enlighten us,” she said, placing her hands on her hips. Liz looked between Michael and Alex.

“We’re moving in together. Following Tessa’s advice before she left,” Alex jumped in. Isobel blinked and her mouth dropped open slightly.

“Wait. That girl that literally appeared with a strike of lightning? Have you gone crazy,” she questioned, voice raising. Michael understood where she was coming from but whether she liked it or not, Alex trusted her. Therefore so did Michael.

“I know her. There’s nothing to worry about.” Isobel just shook her head.

“It’s not the worst idea. From what I’ve been told it seems like that would be the safest option. Besides, the three of us have been looking for a way to break the curse. When we left her at your house she was looking at some artifacts,” Liz jumped in.

“Have you found anything,” Alex asked, leaning forward. His muscles stretched the arms of his T-shirt and Michael had to force himself to look away.

I shouldn’t be this fucking distracted by him.

“When we left, Maria said she was onto something but if she found anything significant I’m sure she’d call.”

“Or just show up,” Isobel said lightly. Michael raised an eyebrow. There wasn’t nearly enough bite in her voice for her to be talking about Maria.

“She is psychic,” Liz joked. Isobel just shrugged. Michael looked over at Alex who had a small grin on his face.

They continued talking about whatever research the girls had been doing. They couldn’t connect anything that they didn’t already know. Michael and Alex caught them up on the information Tessa had given them. Though they both left out the part where the Trials were going to be significantly harder to survive. Isobel would figure it out eventually but why worry them now?

“Ok, Mikey I understand you’ve been in a coma for a couple days but like, please shower. I can smell you from here,” Liz eventually said to him. Isobel snorted. He just rolled his eyes and stood. He had planned to shower. Other conversations had gotten in the way of that.

“Whatever,” he said. He left the front room, pulling his shirt off as he walked down the hall. He felt his heart flutter, or more accurately, Alex’s. He tried to not let himself get too excited.

-

Alex POV

Michael disappeared down the hall and into the bathroom, giving Alex a chance to breathe. Him pulling his shirt off made his mind wander to his offer from earlier. And he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t trying to taunt him when he had walked out without a shirt earlier. He was never one to play obvious like that but…

I’m substituting him instead of dealing with my feelings about Forrest.

Being aware of his issues was the worst part of this. He knew exactly what he was doing and he did it anyway. It wasn’t fair to Michael. At the same time, the things he felt for Michael were still living in the back of his mind.

“Alex,” Liz called, louder than normal.

“Sorry, what?”

“Where is this cabin you mentioned?” Oh. Whoops.

Alex pulled out his phone and typed in the address, showing them on the satellite map. It really was in the middle of nowhere but the last time he was there, he had made sure to hire someone to redo the landscaping. He hadn’t been back to see it yet.

“There should be a handful of bushes and Joshua trees on the property now. Not quite so barren.”

“Yea I’m getting serious “Courage the Cowardly Dog” vibes, Manes,” Isobel teased. The three of them laughed, tossing out jokes about the various traumatizing episodes that kids definitely shouldn’t have been watching.

They all jumped when the door just about slammed open. Alex’s shoulders tensed immediately and he was grabbing his crutch to use as a weapon.

“I found something!” Maria rushed though the door, slamming it behind her. Did no one lock that after they came in? The three of them sat there, stunned. Isobel had grabbed a random knife that had been on the coffee table. Where had that come from?

“I didn’t mean to bust in but look,” Maria rushed out. She rummaged through her back, pulling out a black stone with iridescent cracks running through it. Then she pulled out a book, thumbing through the pages. When she found the page, she plopped it down on the table in front of them.

“This opal. It’s been passed down through generations right? I think it’s what’s binding the curse. See this picture. The angel is holding that stone as she casts the curse. And here…” she flipped forward to another page she had bookmarked. “That same stone is pictured being held by two pairs of hands. And the caption. It’s supposed to connect the reincarnations to the original pair.”

“So what’s the theory,” Isobel asked?

“Maybe we can have Michael and Alex perform this ritual. Maybe it’ll give them some answers. Then maybe destroying it will break the curse. What if it’s a way to avoid more trials?” Alex looked at the stone she was holding. He had to admit there was something drawing him to it.

He reached out, gently lifting the opal from Maria’s hand. The three girls watched him intently but he was mesmerized by this stone. The cracks seemed to pulse with color. The stone had something to say, but he needed Michael here.

Alex shook his head. The stone was powerful. But something still didn’t sound right.

“If it really is the anchor for the curse, wouldn’t someone have tried destroying it already,” Liz asked?

“Who knows. Maybe not if they thought it held important information,” Isobel pondered aloud. Alex pulled the book toward him, reading exactly what this ritual required or was supposed to do.

“The cosmic opal will react when the reincarnations are close to each other. It will only react if they have consummated the bond they share. Should they attempt the ritual before the consummation then the opal will only show them the path to consummation and no further.

“The stone will naturally draw the pair to it whether they have consummated or not. The iridescent cracks of the opal will glow when the ritual can be performed. If the ritual is successfully completed, it is said that the stone will shatter and the curse will be broken. If the ritual fails the pair will die.”

Alex’s eyes wandered back to the stone in his hand. It was certainly calling to him. But what was this “consummation?” Was it the completion of the trials? He flipped to the previous page but saw nothing. He read the few pages following but nothing was there either.

“Maria, you did read this right,” he asked hesitantly, reading through the rest of the “directions.”

“Yea why?” He turned the book toward her, pointing to a warning at the very bottom of the page.

“Any attempt to destroy the stone will result in the death of whoever attempts it.”

The hope fell from her face. He placed a hand over hers. He loved her for trying. But there was no way out of this. He wished Tessa were here to explain just what this rock was. Hell maybe she could even explain this “consummation” thing.

“Whoa, why’s it so doom and gloom out here,” Michael walked back into the living room, pulling his shirt down over his abs. Alex watched as he took in the state of the room. His eyes finally landed on Maria.

“Maria. You’re here,” he said. Alex wanted to touch the mark as the remorse panged at his chest.

“Of course I am. I said I would help figure this out.”

“Yea. To an almost annoyingly persistent degree,” Isobel mumbled.

“Oh, it’s been a real peach working with you too,” she shot back. A smiled threatened to break through the insult.

“So I assume if you’re here, you found something,” Michael asked, sitting back on the couch across from Alex.

Maria explained her theory again and Alex showed him the book and instructions for the ritual. His eyebrows drew together as he read, seemingly just as confused as Alex was. He heard him mumble the word “consummation” under his breath. Michael’s eyes lifted to the stone in Alex’s hand. His fingers twitched as though he wanted to reach for it.

“I think we should try this,” Alex suddenly said. He had no idea where the words came from. He hadn’t even thought of them before they were coming out of his mouth.

Michael met his eyes, seeming to understand exactly why they needed this. If this was the only hint they got, why wouldn’t they take it?

“Wait, but what if you guys have ‘consummated’ or whatever and the ritual starts? What if you can’t stop it,” Liz said. The silent question hung in the air.

“The opal isn’t glowing,” Alex pointed out.

“Maybe but you have no idea what that thing is going to show you,” Isobel said, tapping her fingers on her knee.

“What if it’s helpful?” No one could really argue anymore. Even if they didn’t like the idea, they needed whatever information the stone would give them.

Alex sat on the very edge of the chair, holding out his hand with the stone toward Michael. He glanced at the picture again and moved to place his hand over Alex’s.

“Woah, hold on!” Alex and Michael jumped at Isobel’s outburst. “If you two are going to do some weird vision sharing, mind connection thing, maybe you should do it somewhere more private?”

Alex knew he was blushing, but maybe she was right. The nature of the dreams could sometimes be more than a bit personal. They also had the tendency to dig up old emotions that Alex was slowly starting to realize both he and Michael had tried to bury.

“Well. Where do you suggest,” Michael asked, almost sarcastically.

“My room.” There goes his mouth again. Talking before his brain has time to catch up. All four of them looked at him with wide eyes. “It’s technically the most private area in the house,” he said quietly. He didn’t know how to rationalize the idea.

“Alright. Let’s go.” Michael stood and no more questions were asked. He picked up the book while Alex grabbed his crutch. No one said anything as they made their way down the hall.

He couldn’t look at Maria. He still didn’t know the exact details of the break-up but he was more certain than ever that it was because of him. And now it looked like he was trying to move in on Michael right in front of her. What kind of crappy friend was he?

Michael stood to the side as he pushed the door open, waiting for him to enter first. The bed was still perfect from when he made it four days ago. He chuckled to himself.

“What is it,” Michael asked.

“I just feel like I haven’t been in this room for years.” He met his gaze and Michael just smiled.

Alex sat himself on the edge of the bed, setting his crutch to the side. He held up the opal again as Michael took his spot next to him. The both just looked at the stone, waiting for any indication that this might be a bad idea.

“We don’t have to do this you know,” Michael said gently. Always giving Alex a way out even when he fully believed that this stone could help them.

“No. I want to do this,” he assured him. He nodded, slowly reaching to place his hand over Alex’s again.

The stone felt warm in his palm and it was spreading slowly down his arm. Alex placed his hand on top of the one Michael had put down. He then lifted his broken hand, placing it under Alex’s that held the stone.

The warmth spread more quickly now. But that could just be Michael. It traveled up his arms and then beelined for the mark on his chest. He gasped at the sensation. Every nerve in his body became acutely aware of his surroundings. The way the air moved around him…

Them. The way air moved around them. It was like electricity was forming everywhere their hands touched. He heard Michael’s labored breathing. His heart pounded in his ears and his eyes fluttered closed.

He could feel Michael as easily as he felt his own body. Every breath and tense muscle. Every skip of the heart. The urge to pull him closer. His own need washed over him. The need to be closer.

Alex leaned forward, half opening his eyes to see how Michael was doing. He had also leaned in close. They breathed each other in as their foreheads touched. An energy flowed through him. Centuries old knowledge seemed to flood his mind though nothing made any sense. The mark on his chest told him that Michael was experiencing the exact same thing.

He wanted to call to him…

“Samuel,” he said.

“Thomas.”

-

The darkness of the night had been creeping in for weeks now. Every night it got darker earlier and earlier. The walls of the storage house felt far too close together and the ceiling too low. He had been allowed to keep his journal, though his father probably intended to burn it when he died. Food was dropped at his door once a day.

Thomas had refused to eat at first. Wishing for death to come before the day of the sacrifice if only so his father would be disgraced. But if he knew his father, he would offer up Thomas’ sister, no questions asked. But that wasn’t why he started eating again.

“Thomas, please don’t give up.” The defeated voice just on the other side of the window, pleading for him to eat. “You’ll need your strength if we are to run away.”

He said those same words for the first three nights. Thomas hadn’t replied but he sat out there the whole night. Samuel…

“Why don’t you go inside where it’s warm?” Thomas had just finished his bowl of beef and rice and he knew he was out there.

“Because anywhere that isn’t by your side is the only torture I have ever known.”

Thomas pressed his head against the wall just below the window. Tears slipped down his face. This man was the only constant he had ever had. Ever since they were young. He silently cursed fate that had them meeting this way. Perhaps in a different time, they could be together.

“I cannot leave with you, Samuel. Please understand, I’m doing it to protect you.”

Only silence followed. If they were to run away from all of this, they would be chased. They would kill Samuel and he shouldn’t have to die. Thomas would take that burden on himself.

He worried that Samuel had left, but a shuffling from outside the window told him otherwise. He stood to gaze upon him. The moon reflected off of his golden curls and his shirt lay open just enough to tease. His eyes never wavered as he backed up from the storage house several paces, and then sprinted full speed at the building.

Samuel leapt up and Thomas reached out for his hand, grabbing it. He used the momentum to scale the wall, grabbing onto the ledge of the window. Thomas pulled him in and they tumbled backward, Samuel landing on top of him.

“You must be mad! Are you trying to hurt yourself,” Thomas exclaimed. Samuel sat up slowly, placing his hands on either side of Thomas’ head.

“If I am mad, then it is only because I have fallen in love with you.”

Samuel leaned down to press his mouth to Thomas’. Their lips slid over each other, fitting together more perfectly than he could have ever hoped. They had shared kisses and a bed but there was something different. This was a promise.

Thomas stopped Samuel, pushing him back gently. He was careful not to push him too far, lest they are never able to close the distance again.

“If you were to die because of me…”

“Then I would have died without any regrets.” Thomas couldn’t stop the smile. Even though the thought made him want to sob. He shook his head.

“One day the stars will align in our favor, and I will have loved you all the while.”

They kissed again, and Thomas pushed Samuel’s mostly open shirt off his shoulders. He ran his hands over the strong muscles from the physical labor and moaned as he felt them flex under his touch.

They undressed each other with no real hurry, exploring their bodies as though it was all new again. Samuel ran his tongue over every part of Thomas he could reach, working his way down his body.

Samuel took him into his mouth, pulling a low groan from his throat. His fingers wandered over his thighs and legs as he sucked, eventually coming to his ass. Samuel released him and moved his focus to the hole. Thomas’s toes curled at the attention of his tongue and fingers.

Soon enough Samuel was above him again, pressing his hardness against his hole. Thomas pulled him close, pressing their lips together as he pushed into him. Their mouths fell open together as they usually did when they did this. They breathed each other in as Samuel started to move.

The pain was brief and followed by overwhelming pleasure. Their moans were the only thing Thomas could focus on with any degree of success. The sounds they made together. The sounds of love… made him feel like he was floating away.

The feel of Samuel inside him felt better than any time without. Full and complete. They were complete together. No one could ever take this away from them.

Thomas felt the familiar tightening. He did his best to meet Samuel’s thrusts but the were becoming too fast and erratic. Thomas tugged on his curls and begged him to finish him off. Samuel grabbed Thomas’s cock and stroked him at the same pace as his hips.

Like a coil had been let loose, Thomas shot white stripes over his torso, moaning his lover’s name. A few hard thrusts later and Samuel filled him up, his head falling to rest on his chest as he rode out the pleasure.

The remained connected as Thomas took Samuel’s head in his hands to look him in the eyes.

“There will never be another, my love.”

“My soul could never want anyone else.”

-

Alex and Michael gasped as they were trust back into their own bodies. The stone remained between their hands though each of them had pulled the other closer.

Alex’s heart pounded, matching the erratic pace he could feel from Michael. His one hand was tangled in Michael’s hair and Michael’s hand in his. Their noses brushed against each other. Only one of them had to move the slightest bit forward…

“Alex,” Michael mumbled out.

Alex jerked back, suddenly confronted with reality. The stone fell to the floor. He felt like he was in a daze and Michael didn’t look any better. The two of them breathed heavily as they watched each other, neither daring to speak.

Isobel, Liz, and Maria burst into the room. Alex only glanced at them before looking back at Michael. It was by far the most vivid vision they had ever shared. He shifted his focus to the stone laying on the floor.

“Did it just…” he trailed off, not understanding what had happened.

“I think, it brought forth the spirits of Samuel and Thomas,” Michael finished instead.

“What did it show you? How do you ‘consummate’ the bond or whatever,” Isobel asked.

A great question. One that neither of them wanted to answer. Alex chanced a look at Maria. She caught his eyes and her curious expression seemed to deflate. He couldn’t say it. And what if it wasn’t what they thought it was? Of course, he wasn’t sure how else he could interpret it.

“We don’t know,” Michael said, sounding defeated. His hand clenched a couple times and Alex could feel that he was lying. Maybe he saw the way Maria’s shoulders fell.

“We need to talk through it,” Alex continued, building on the lie.

“Ok, well what happened,” Liz asked, pushing for something more specific. Michael and Alex shared a look.

“Probably something personal. We’ll give you some time to figure it out.,” Isobel said with a sigh. “But when you do, you better share.” She turned to leave the room. Her arm brushed against Maria and Alex could have swore their fingers had started to wrap around each other. It was over before he had time to process. Liz followed them both out.

Alex picked up the stone from the floor. It still drew him in. Made him want to pull Michael against him. Fall down whatever rabbit hole of stories this thing held. He set it back down on the bed.

“We can talk about this another time. But I’m not going to hurt Maria.”

“She can probably guess with our refusal to answer,” Alex pointed out sadly.

“You’re probably right. That doesn’t mean I want to cause her any extra pain.”

Alex nodded and Michael stood, offering a hand of assistance. He picked up his crutch and grabbed his hand. The feeling of warmth rushed through him again but no vision overtook them. This was Michael, not Samuel. And he was Alex, not Thomas. Even if they shared part of a soul.

Alex stared at Michael in wonder. He knew this man better than anyone and vice versa. But if they were truly reincarnations then maybe the things they were feeling were pre-determined. Maybe they didn’t have any control. Could they really choose each other? Michael tilted his head.

“What is it?”

“These feelings… Are they ours? Or are they from the past?” Michael smiled sadly at him but stepped closer and pulled his hand against his chest.

“We are our own people Alex. The curse only demands that I protect you. Not that I fall in love with you.”

Tears welled in his eyes. Did Michael realize what he just said? He reached up, brushing a tear from his cheek, leaving his hand there to cradle his face gently. Alex glanced down at his mouth. The same feeling as before.

Alex closed the distance this time, pressing his lips to Michael’s softly, just barely touching. He wanted to give him a chance to back out.

He could feel the emotions running wild inside them both. Alex was scared. Michael stunned.

Michael kissed him back slowly, holding his face more firmly, fingers moving back to play with the short hair on his neck. The kiss remained slow and sweet as they both savored the feeling of finally being where they belonged.

-

Michael POV

A few days later, Michael was packing up the few articles of clothing and personal items from the airstream. He had told Sanders that urgent family stuff had come up and he’d be out of town for a while. The old man gave him a bit of a stink eye but otherwise shrugged, saying that Michael had better make it up to him.

Tessa hadn’t reappeared yet and neither him nor Alex knew when she would. How long does celestial punishment take anyway? Alex was supposed to be here to lead him to the cabin. His pulse raced just thinking about it.

They hadn’t talked about the kiss or the fact that they have to ‘consummate’ their bond. And they were about to live together for some undetermined amount of time. Michael shook his head. He had no idea if this was going to be awkward. He hadn’t lived with another person since he moved out of the Evans’ house. Sure Maria had spent several nights in a row with him before but this was different.

He heard a car pulling up the dirt road. Guessing it was Alex, he shoved the last of his stuff into a backpack without folding it. Not that he had been really folding it anyway. He grabbed his hat from the counter and looked around the empty trailer. Confident that he hadn’t forgotten anything, he kicked the door open as gently as possible. For only having one box and backpack, he thought he might have a spare hand.

The sun blinded him as he stepped out. He blinked a few times before realizing the car wasn’t Alex’s. He looked for the owner, thinking they needed something fixed and didn’t know where to leave it.

Then a figure with blue hair stepped out of the car and walked toward him. Forrest was hesitant with his steps. Michael looked around but didn’t see any other cars in the distance.

“What the hell do you want,” he spat out, setting his box and back down. He was ready this time and he could at least put up a fight.

“I know you don’t trust me but I promise I’m on your side.” Michael barked out a laugh. This dick couldn’t be serious.

“Ohh! Ok my bad, yea lets go grab a beer. Maybe you can literally stab me in the back again?”

“I didn’t know what they had planned. I didn’t realize what they told me wasn’t the whole story.”

“So what?”

“I care about Alex. More than I thought I would,” Forrest said. Jealousy sparked and he wished he had telekinesis so he could break a bone or two. “I know about the curse now. I know that you guys have some weird connection.” Michael glared at him.

“How could you know that?”

“I did my research. I heard Jenna looking into Jesse Manes and I took it upon myself to help with that investigation. If you hadn’t guessed, I’m not actually a weapons specialist though I know enough to help with police work. Intelligence is more my realm.”

“So you’re saying you want to help us now?” Forrest nodded slowly. Another car rolled up next to Forrest’s.

Alex jumped out, fury radiating off of him. Michael could feel the burning in his heart. Alex stormed up to Forrest, grabbing his shirt and shoving him.

“What fucking right do you have to be here,” he yelled. Forrest didn’t fight him off though he probably could. Michael let himself enjoy the sight for a second but knew there would be an issue if either of them started throwing punches.

“Alex,” he said firmly, resting his hand on his shoulder. “I understand but not here.” The only indication he gave that he heard him was the slight tick of his head toward him.

“I know you’re pissed and I’m so sorry. I know everything now, and I want to help,” he said, lifting his hands to a surrender position. The snarl returned to Alex’s face.

“You know nothing! You were going to get us killed!” Alex released his shirt and shoved him back. “And you had the fucking audacity to kiss me back like we were going to be anything! Like you weren’t planning to let them kill me the next day,” he snapped.

“I never lied about my feelings for you.” Michael’s own blood boiled again.

“You need to leave.” Alex’s voice had turned deadly calm. Forrest looked between the two of them before moving back to his car.

“If you need anything… Intel on your father or anything else, just ask,” he said. He stepped into his car and did a three point turn to get out of the junkyard. The two of them watched until the dust cloud his car created had settled again. Only then did the tension work itself out of Alex’s shoulders.

Michael rubbed Alex’s back slowly, not really knowing what else to do. It had been a long time since he had seen him that angry.

“He didn’t hurt you, right,” Alex mumbled out, not looking at him. Michael sighed and pulled him into his arms. While he didn’t return the hug, he could feel his body relax.

“No. I’m fine. Slightly scared of you though,” he joked. To his relief, Alex did chuckle at that.

“I’m sorry,” he said, arms finally wrapping around Michael’s waist.

“What have I told you? There’s no need to apologize.” They hugged for a few more seconds before releasing each other. Alex looked over his shoulder and around the junk yard.

“Guess we won’t see this place for a while.” Michael looked around with him.

“Yea well. It’ll be here when we get back,” he said. Michael felt Alex’s heart flutter in his own chest. He reached out, pressing a hand over the spot where the mark would be.

“Only eight more to go,” Alex said, covering Michael’s hand with his. He nodded and stepped into he personal space. He watched Alex’s eyes glance down and he grinned. He still wanted him. But this conversation should wait until they were a safe distance from Roswell.

Michael turned his hand over to grab Alex’s. He bought it to his lips and kissed his knuckles gently. He brought his hand back down to his side, but never dropping Alex’s.

“Lead the way, Captain.”

Chapter Text

Alex POV

Alex checked the rearview mirror to make sure Michael was still behind him. He grinned and shook his head at how close he was tailing. Alex wasn’t one for road rage but even he was tempted to hit the brakes, just to freak him out a little bit.

Alex looked down at the map spread on his passenger seat. The reception would be spotty until they got to the cabin and hooked up the Wi-Fi. They should be coming up on the “driveway” soon. It was a hunting cabin left to him by Jim Valenti that he would visit with Kyle when he was young. The trees and boulders scattered around provided more than enough cover to play hide and seek.

He finally saw the small worn sign signaling the beginning of private property. He signaled and slowed down, remembering the trench that was near impossible to see just off the road. His car would be ok but would Michael’s old truck?

They hadn’t passed another car in at least ten minutes. He released a breath of relief that Forrest – or anyone else – hadn’t followed them. Then again, his father never knew about the cabin. Jim always kept it a secret between them.

The dust kicked up and obscured Alex’s view of Michael but he could see the dust from his truck in the side mirror. Five minutes later, the cabin came into view and Alex noted the young chinaberry tree he had selected to get some shade on the property. The leaves still a beautiful green even as the season was coming to an end.

He slowed as he pulled up. Putting the car in park, he stared at the small house. The wood rack on the side of the cabin was filled with wood left over from the landscaping. His eyes ran over the solar panels on the roof and down to the porch. He stared at the front door. He would be living here for who knew how long. Alone. With Michael.

Michael’s truck rumbled up next to him, pulling him from his daydream. Alex folded the map and put it back in the glove box before stepping out of the car. He walked up the steps without looking at Michael, pushing the key in the lock and opening the door.

The place would need to be dusted but most of the furniture was covered with white cloth. He felt Michael’s body heat step up behind him. He still jumped when his fingers brushed his arm. Alex moved in further, trying to seem as natural as possible.

“Start pulling covers off of things and I’ll get the power going,” Alex said, heading to the back storage room. He didn’t hear a reply from Michael but he felt the confusion through the mark. But if Alex could feel the confusion, couldn’t Michael feel his nerves?

His reaction to Forrest this morning had been real. He was beyond pissed but the feelings had already taken root. He was searching for a reason to forgive him. But he had kissed Michael a few days ago and it wasn’t as though he regret it. It felt more right than anything else but he wasn’t entirely convinced that it wasn’t residual feelings from the vision they shared.

He pulled open the fuse box and started flipping switches. His eyes landed on the spot where Michael had kissed his hand. It felt like it was burned into his skin. He shook his head and continued messing with the fuses.

Alex flipped the last switch. Nothing happened for a moment. Suddenly sparks flew as the fuse short circuited. He jerked his hand away but the sparks burned his skin and he hissed in pain. He cursed under his breath as he held his hand to his chest. The pain faded quickly and he looked down, not a single burn was left.

He spun and rushed back to the main room where Michael would be. His eyes scanned the room and he saw Michael sitting on the couch, jaw clenched and gripping his hand, watching the burns appear.

“Michael! I’m so sorry. Come on, we need to run that under some water,” Alex rushed out, grabbing his arm. He followed without protest to the kitchen sink. Alex turned on the water and listened to the pipes groan before water spat out.

“I appreciate the sentiment, Alex, but it’s just a small burn. I’ve gotten worse working on cars,” Michael teased gently. Alex ignored him and grabbed his hand carefully, pulling it under the cold water.

They were both silent as the water ran. Alex’s heart raced at the warmth of Michael’s skin under his fingers. The heat rose to his cheeks as he pulled the cabinets open, looking for a towel. He pulled one out and shut the water off, handing it to Michael. He hurried to the lone bathroom in the bedroom where the first aid kit was.

Alex spun to go back to the kitchen and ran into a firm body. Michael’s hands held on to his waist, keeping him from stumbling back. Alex looked at his face for the first time since they arrived. Michael’s gaze burned as he glanced down. His heart pounded in his chest, just like Alex’s.

“Why are you avoiding me?” he asked.

“I’m not,” Alex insisted, though he could hear the lie in his own voice.

Michael didn’t say anything back. Just released him and walked out of the bathroom. Alex’s shoulders dropped with a sigh. Being around Michael was like all the air was ripped from his lungs. The only solution his brain could ever come up with was to step closer until they were breathing together.

Alex followed him out, glancing at the bed in the middle of the bedroom. He and Kyle had always slept on air mattresses in the living room. He hadn’t considered that he and Michael would have to share the bed. He shook his head. He would have to sleep on the couch.

“Michael, let me bandage your hand,” Alex said as he stepped back out the front door.

“It’s fine, Manes.” His last name was like a slap in the face. Wasn’t he the one who said he didn’t want to do that anymore? He yanked the passenger side door on his truck open, pulling out his bag and box of stuff. Alex stared at the truck as he kicked the door closed and walked past him.

He blinked a few times before turning and following him back inside. What had he done to piss him off? Alex didn’t want to think it was just because of the slight avoiding.

“Michael—”

“Is your car still unlocked? I’ll grab your things,” he said, cutting him off. Without waiting for an answer, he was walking back out the door.

Alex clenched his fists. Why wouldn’t Michael just talk to him? He heard the slamming of car doors and soon Michael was carrying in his bag and headed to the bedroom. Alex followed him again.

“Hey,” he tried again.

“I’ll stay on the couch. And I can run back to town for food.” Michael tried to push past him.

Alex’s nose twitched and he grabbed the door, slamming it shut before Michael could leave. He jumped and raised an eyebrow at him. Alex stared him down, refusing to be the one to look away first.

“What are you so mad about,” Alex demanded. Michael scoffed and shook his head.

“Seriously? I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone do such a complete one eighty on their feelings. One minute you’re furiously protective and the next you’re horrified at the idea of even being around me.”

“Where the hell did you get that idea?”

“You avoided me and then tried to lie about it. Message received loud and clear. I feel everything, Alex. I can make an educated guess about what you’re thinking.” Michael grabbed his hat off his head and ran a hand through his hair. “You regret yelling at Forrest. Because fuck you actually still have feelings for the guy. After everything he did. So just forget it.”

Alex was frozen. Only moving to allow Michael to leave the room. He didn’t understand how Michael could have such a clear picture of his emotions when Alex could barely pick up on his. He gripped his shirt over the mark and heard the truck start outside.

He closed his eyes and tried to focus. He tried to reach out mentally. To decipher which emotions were his and which were Michael’s. Everything was tangled together but it was like two different colors. Alex a vibrant blue and Michael a muted green.

He picked through the anger and confusion. Separating the betrayal and the annoyance, the desire and love. The love… swimming in the background of every emotion, refusing to be separated.

-

A week passed in discomfort. Alex and Michael talked but never about anything important. Michael slept on the couch and refused to let Alex take a turn, insisting that he’d be a terrible person to make the one missing a leg sleep on the ‘lumpy piece of crap.’

So Alex moved around the kitchen, emptying the case of eggs to make a couple omelets for them both. Michael groaned from the couch, blanket tossed lazily over the lower half of his body. Alex had gotten used to seeing him shirtless but he still couldn’t control his heart if he let himself stare too long.

“I told you that you could sleep in the bed,” Alex called to him as he sprinkled cheese onto the eggs.

“And I told you that I wasn’t going to let you sleep on the couch,” he responded with a grunt. His bare feet padded up behind Alex before shifting to walk to the fridge. Alex glanced at his back and let his eyes follow the muscles to where his pajama pants started. Then he refocused on the food in the pan.

“We could just share the bed you know. It’s not like it’s small.” The silence that followed the suggestion was almost enough to make him want to take it back. The food sizzled and Alex shifted it with the spatula.

“I figured you would rather not. You can hardly stand to be in the same space as me.”

Alex sighed. He was still convinced that he was avoiding him. And maybe he had been but it was over now. Alex couldn’t avoid him when they had to live together. The easiest way to get through this was if they were at least friendly. Friends could share beds. Girls do it all the time. At least, according to Liz, Rosa, and Maria.

“Michael. Believe it or not, I do enjoy your company,” Alex snapped. He hadn’t meant for it come out as harsh as it did but this argument had been going on since the first day. Even though they had hardly discussed it. Enough was enough.

“Oh yea, that’s convincing.”

“Well maybe if you stopped being a jackass for a second and listened to me. You can read my emotions Michael, not my thoughts. And I think you’ve severely misinterpreted them.” Alex shut off the stove and placed the eggs on a plate before turning toward Michael. HE stood with his arms crossed, a slight frown settled firmly onto his face.

“Well enlighten me. What have I misinterpreted?” he bit out sarcastically. Alex shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose. He sighed before he started speaking.

“I care about Forrest, yes.” Michael scoffed and began to turn away. Alex grabbed his arm. “We were friends Michael. Probably on our way to something more. What did you want me to do? Sit and wait patiently for you to decide I’m worth it? You rejected me. And I don’t blame you for that. We didn’t exactly leave things in a good place.”

“Friends?” Michael laughed. “You knew him for maybe a week.”

“From what I remember we only knew each other for about that long back in high school.” Michael’s eye twitched as he looked away from Alex. “Michael. I care about you. There is no doubt in my mind about that. But I can’t shake this feeling that maybe it’s just left over from the visions.”

Alex watched Michael’s eyes soften. He released his arm hesitantly, hoping that he wouldn’t bolt for the door. Michael ran a hand through his hair before leaning back against the counter.

“I’m not avoiding you. I just don’t know how I’m supposed to feel around you.” Michael’s gaze seemed to turn intense. Alex couldn’t help but blush.

“Why don’t you try explaining it,” Michael said.

Alex turned away from him, grabbing the food he had made and bringing it to the table. He set it down in front of their respective chairs before sitting down himself. Michael followed suit, sitting across from Alex. He pushed his food around with the fork, debating how to explain this. Couldn’t Michael just read him? Wasn’t that the point of the mark?

“I… I’m nervous. Being around you has always made me nervous. And it’s even worse now.” He started.

“Why?” Alex felt naked. It was a reasonable follow up question but he was terrified at the answer. He couldn’t even lie to make it less awkward.

“Because feeling you… your emotions. They’re so clear all the time and I… I hate knowing that mine are the exact same way for you.”

“So you search for any wall you can put between us. And right now that happens to be Forrest.” Alex looked up at him briefly before refocusing on the food.

“Yes,” he mumbled. “This curse pushes us together. And me wanting you this badly… it can’t be natural.”

It was silent for a while. Neither of them eating a single bite of food. Alex froze as Michael’s chair scraped across the floor. His bare feet padded along the wood until he stood next to him. Alex looked up at him, heart pounding. Michael brushed his fingers over the mark beneath Alex’s shirt. His breath caught in his throat.

“And yet you’re the one thing that does come naturally to me.”

Then Michael stepped away, taking the breath from Alex’s lungs with him. He left the food on his plate as he walked toward the master bedroom. After a few minutes, Alex could hear the water of the shower. He ran a hand through his hair, trying to calm his racing heart.

“Why do you have to say things like that?” he mumbled to himself.

He picked at his food for a few minutes, just listening to the water running in the background. Eventually he stood and put both plates in the fridge, figuring they would want to eat later. Had that conversation even solved anything? He still didn’t know how to talk to Michael and his own feelings didn’t magically make sense.

Alex walked to the front room and sat on the floor for his daily stretches. He grimaced but pushed himself down anyway, pulling his legs into a butterfly position. He took deep breaths as he counted to ten, only flinching once.

He was on his back, pulling his leg into his chest when the water stopped. The idea of stopping never crossing his mind. His eyes closed to concentrate on his breathing and pain management. Alex had shifted to his other leg when Michael wandered back into the front room. Alex felt his pulse jump.

Alex opened his eyes to look at him. His hungry eyes could have started a fire under his skin. His hands gripped the t-shirt he was holding. Alex cleared his throat and pushed himself into a sitting position. Water dripped from Michael’s curls onto his chest and Alex felt his mouth go dry.

“Don’t stop on my account,” Michael teased. Alex hoped the blush on his face wasn’t visible.

“I was done anyway.” Alex would have stood up by himself. He was more than capable. But Michael wordlessly offered his hand, black t-shirt tossed over his shoulder. He wanted to smile and say ‘no thanks, I can do it’ but he grabbed Michael’s hand instead.

Michael pulled him up faster than he was expecting, making him stumble forward. Michael’s free hand landed on his hip, keeping him steady. Alex couldn’t look away from his eyes. At least not until he found himself tracing the lines down to his mouth and the way they were just slightly parted.

Michael’s hand was warm and Alex guessed his lips were too. He wanted to close the distance but wasn’t sure if it would be welcome. He looked back up at Michael’s eyes, getting lost in the golden brown. Michael’s thumb slipped under the hem of his shirt, rubbing over his skin gently.

Michael was the first to pull away, clearing his throat as he did. He moved back toward the kitchen, pulling the shirt over his head. Alex just stared at the spot where he stood. He should have known better than to think their conversation would have fixed anything. Did Alex even want to kiss him again?

Yes. I want him.

He shook his head and walked into the bedroom for his own shower. He couldn’t trust his own desires. If it wasn’t real, then what? If they broke this curse and Michael felt nothing for him, could he really live with that? Or what if his own feelings vanished and he hurt Michael? He couldn’t handle that either.

It would be best for them to stay separate for now.

-

Michael POV

There was no way Alex didn’t know what he was doing. Michael tapped his fingers on the counter as the microwave spun. Alex talked about his stretches but always did them while Michael was out. Watching the way his muscles moved under his clothes was more than he could take. He almost turned right back around for another cold shower.

He hadn’t expected Alex to actually accept his help when he offered it. So he pulled harder than he meant to and there they were. Face to face and Michael wanted more than anything to close that distance. Alex had wanted it too. But based on the conversation they had, he couldn’t bring himself to do it.

The beeping of the microwave pulled him back from the daydream. He groaned and pulled the food out. He supposed he couldn’t blame Alex for thinking the way he did. It was even possible that he was right. No one knew how the curse worked.

He ate his food slowly, listening to the water running and opening himself to feel Alex’s heart. He glanced toward the cracked bedroom door, just visible from where he was sitting. His phone buzzed in his pocket with a text from Izzy.

How’s the honeymoon?

Michael’s heart skipped a beat. This wasn’t what this was. Sure Alex had agreed to it but he knew how he hated being trapped. Work could only occupy so much of his time and surfing the web was never really his thing.

It’s hiding Iz. Not exactly fun. He messaged back.

Have you guys at least figured out that whole consummation thing?

He stared at the message. It was obvious what they needed to do. But something like that…

Michael was comfortable with casual sex. Always had been. But with Alex it could never be just casual. He couldn’t ask Alex to do that just for the sake of maybe ending the curse without going through all the trials. Not to mention that Michael’s heart wouldn’t be able to handle having him once and then never again. He had denied himself for seven years. It was only easy now because he was used to it. But his control was withering every day.

No. He sent back.

If he told Isobel, he didn’t trust it wouldn’t get back to Maria. She was smart and had probably figured it out already but he didn’t want to hurt her by hearing it from a person she didn’t even like.

Look, do I need to send DeLuca over there to get your ass in gear? I swear she’s more invested in this than you are.

Michael pinched the bridge of his nose but couldn’t help but help smiling. She really was amazing. He only hoped that someone else would see it eventually. Someone just as strong to be her partner.

I’ll talk to Alex. He mentioned having some theories. No need to have her make a special trip.

His phone was silent after that. He wondered if Alex would be willing to look into the stone again. Maybe there was something they missed. Maybe it didn’t have to be sex. But calling forth the spirits of Samuel and Thomas was exactly what was making Alex hesitant. Going back in would only push them further apart.

The sound of water no longer came from the bedroom. Michael stood to clean his plate before Alex came back out. He hurried out the front door, needing to think about how he would talk to Alex about it. He laughed at himself as he stepped off the front porch. Of course it was sex. That was how these stories always went.

The sunlight made him squint as he moved to the side of the cabin where all the wood was stacked. An axe leaned against the wood next to the pile. Most of the logs probably didn’t need to be cut but he needed an excuse.

He moved to grab the axe just below the window. It was when he looked through the small crack in the chiffon drapes that he knew he was done for. Alex’s bare back moved fluidly. There was no doubt he had muscles but he was still soft. Michael wondered if he would still make the small whine he used to when he squeezed his hips.

Michael tore his eyes away before he got too lost in thought. His jeans were quickly becoming too tight. He cursed under his breath and grabbed the first piece of wood on top of the pile.

-

The next couple days came and went, and Michael still hadn’t brought up the idea of the consummation or what they should tell Isobel. He had caught Alex looking at him curiously a few times but he never said anything either. He was running out of time. Eventually Isobel would come storming through the door demanding to know the details of the vision.

Alex was frowning at his laptop when Michael pulled out the chair to sit across from him. He only glanced up a moment before refocusing on his work. Michael just sighed and pushed the lid of the laptop down slightly.

“We need to talk.” Michael watched as Alex’s shoulders stiffened. He closed the computer gently before leaning forward on his arms.

“About what?” Alex asked. Michael sighed and ran a hand through his hair.

“The vision, Alex. Isobel wants to know how to break this curse. What do you want to tell her?” Alex looked away from him, his heart rate jumping.

“Maybe it’s not what we think it is,” Alex offered unconvincingly. He picked at his nails and his nerves were overwhelming any other emotion Michael might be able to read.

“Did you want to go back into the vision?”

The blush on Alex’s face was cute. Michael would never get tired of seeing it. But this wasn’t the time to focus on it. Alex’s embarrassment told him all he needed to know. Going back into the vision wasn’t the answer.

“We have to come up with something, Alex. Isobel already threatened to send Maria to help us figure it out.” The guilt that swept over his face made Michael’s heart ache. Not that he didn’t feel guilty about it but he couldn’t ignore his feelings for Alex.

“Just tell her to keep it a secret,” he finally said. Michael watched the way his hand clenched and wanted nothing more than to be able to reach over and grab it.

“Isobel? Keeping a secret?” Michael tried, joking. The glare he received in response reminded him just how close Alex and Maria were. He let his tone turn serious again. “I can ask her to keep it but I can’t promise anything. I know you don’t want Maria to know because neither do I. But eventually we won’t have a choice.”

Alex stared at the table, the wrinkle between his eyebrows only getting deeper. Michael tuned in as much as he could to the emotions swirling between them. He only wished that the uncomfortable tension that permeated everything could be broken.

“Do you…” Alex started. His fingers began tapping on the table. The embarrassment was front and center again. “Do you want to… consummate?” His voice was barely above a whisper.

There it was. Out in the open. Michael wanted him but if it was under the guise of ‘consummation’…

“No.” Alex jumped at the suddenness of his voice and a quick flash of hurt swept through him. “If we’re going to sleep together, I want it to be real. Us. Not some means to an end.” Alex looked away from him, seeming to bite his tongue. “What are you thinking?” Alex was right when he called him out for making assumptions about Forrest. And maybe this communication thing worked better than guessing.

“Will it ever be ‘us’? Isn’t all of this a means to an end?” Michael’s heart panged with hurt. Hadn’t he made his feelings clear that night they saw the vision?

“We came here for protection, true. But even if it was safer to be apart, I don’t think I could stay away from you.” Alex shoved his seat back and jumped up, groaning as he ran his hands through his hair. He paced around the kitchen, sounding angry but Michael couldn’t miss the way his heart fluttered.

Stop. You can’t keep talking like that.” Alex yelled. Michael stood slowly and slipped his hands into his pockets as he stepped toward Alex.

“Like what?”

“Like you fucking care about me!” Alex spun to face him again, glaring. “You say these things that I don’t know what to do with! And your damn heart…”

“Why is it so hard to believe that I care? That I’ve cared for the last ten years?” Alex stepped back as Michael moved forward. Eventually Alex’s back hit the counter. His eyes jumped everywhere except to Michael’s face until he was standing right in front of him.

“Don’t…” he mumbled out halfheartedly.

“Only if you stop lying to yourself.”

Michael trapped him between his arms, his shallow breaths brushing over his lips. He kept leaning forward slowly. If Alex really wanted him to stop he would. But instead of pushing him away, Alex’s hands landed on his hips. His fingers trembled and Michael watched his eyelashes flutter closed. Their foreheads pressed together. Michael could feel both of their hearts racing as their lips brushed over each other.

A loud knocking on the front door made them jump apart. They both panted as they watched each other. Michael waited for the person to go away, his fingers twitching as the desire to touch Alex only grew. More knocking, then a voice.

“Alex! Michael! Open up,” Maria called. They were both frozen. Michael replayed the conversation they just had in his head. He couldn’t believe Isobel would actually send her.

Alex moved first. Composing his face and hurrying to open the door. Michael stared at the space on the counter. The squeak of the door opening made him turn around. He could only hope his face wasn’t covered in guilt.

Maria pulled Alex into a hug. He held her tightly for a moment, a gentle smile settling on his face.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to see you. But why are you here?” Alex asked.

“Isobel said you two were dawdling on figuring out your visions so I’m here to help. I am a psychic after all,” she said, winking. She looked toward Michael and he could almost watch her thought process play out on her face. How she was supposed to react to seeing him. But eventually she just grinned and moved further into the cabin, looking around.

“This place is much nicer than I was led to believe. How long have you kept this a secret, Manes? Why didn’t we use this to get drunk and smoke in high school?” Alex just laughed and shook his head.

“Uh, probably because in high school, Jim Valenti still used it regularly and he was the sheriff.”

“Got a point there.” Maria shoved the blankets and pillow to one side of the couch before plopping down. “Michael I sincerely hope you aren’t making Alex sleep out here on the couch.” Michael just rolled his eyes and chuckled.

“Actually Alex sleeps on the floor. No bed in this place.” Her look of disapproval just made him smile more. “Come on DeLuca, who do you take me for?” She just shrugged and crossed her legs.

“Apart from the sleeping arrangements, did you bring a book or something to help us decipher the visions?” Michael watched as Alex tried to hide the fidgeting of his hands. His own heart rate speeding up to match.

“I did bring books but I just figured you could tell me what the visions were and I could point out common metaphors and connections. It would make things go a lot faster then all of us sitting here in silence reading.”

Alex glanced at Michael. They had agreed to tell Isobel. Did they really want to make this leap? He thought on his feet. He wanted Alex to make the decision about when to tell her. They were best friends after all.

“When did you get so close to my cousin anyway? You two always hated each other.” Now, he could have been wrong but he swore he saw her blush. She shrugged it off quickly.

“Hate is a strong word, Guerin. And since all this curse stuff, she’s been weirdly helpful and almost nice.” Alex sat down next to her on the couch while Michael plopped down in the rocking chair across from them.

The silence seemed to stretch on forever. Michael was trying to control how often he looked at Alex, only noticing it because Maria was there. She glanced between the two of them and sighed before pulling a book from the bag she had brought with her.

“We can sit here all day. But I’m not leaving until we figure this out.” Alex scratched his head before taking a breath and speaking.

“It’s just… the visions are… Personal. You shouldn’t be subject to that,” he said, trying to dissuade her.

“Look. I know you two better than anyone. Nothing you tell me could possibly be that bad.”

“It’s not bad, per say…” Alex trailed off.

“The visions aren’t us. They’re the original pair of Samuel and Thomas. And their feelings for each other… they’re intense,” Michael continued for him. Maria raised an eyebrow and leaned forward.

“What’s your point?”

“It’s often a lot of stuff that wouldn’t be talked about…” Alex tried again.

“Oh for fucks sake,” she exclaimed. Both Michael and Alex jumped at the outburst. They shared a surprised look. “Sop walking on eggshells around me. I love you both. Truly. But watching you try to spare my feelings by hiding your own just makes it that much more obvious.”

Alex wrung his hands together, refusing to meat Michael’s eyes. He could only sigh and face Maria again, who just looked annoyed.

“I’m sorry. I should know better than to hide things from you.” She just grinned and leaned back, crossing her arms.

“You already know what it is don’t you? This consummation?” Michael just nodded. Maria sighed and pushed herself up from the couch. “Well then get your ass on the phone with Isobel because quite frankly, I’m done dealing with her pacing and ranting about what a terrible team player you are.” The floorboards squeaked under her boots as she moved toward the kitchen.

Michael looked back over to Alex. His eyes were focused on something a million miles away. His emotions swirled around him, as though he were trying to keep them to himself. Everything was out in the open. They had been called out by the one person they were both lying to.

“You guys keep any food or do I have to make it?” Maria asked as she opened the fridge. Michael stood and moved to the cabinets, shuffling through them. He finally found the one with the snack food and stepped to the side.

“There’s some protein bars and cookies in here but otherwise you have to make the food.”

-

Alex POV

Maria hung around for the day. She didn’t press for more information about the consummation but the looks she was shooting at both of them made Alex’s nerves spike every time. She knew. There was no way that she didn’t.

She didn’t seem mad. Quite the opposite actually. She seemed lighter and more free than he had seen her in a while. The stress of trying to figure out this cure was taking toll on all of them and her most of all. Alex knew that Maria loved both of them. He was sure having the two people she’s closest to in constant danger of dying wasn’t an easy thing to deal with.

Michael had gone grocery shopping. Alex offered to come with and every time Michael said no and left without waiting for him to respond. It was annoying but he was sure the reason would be something about his protection.

Instead he and Maria played cards. She had always been weirdly good at poker.

“There’s no way you aren’t cheating,” Alex joked, tossing his cards to the table.

“Sorry babe. This is all natural talent.” He rolled his eyes at her and pushed the small pile of quarters toward her.

“I guess I should just be happy you didn’t want to play strip poker.” She fluttered her eyelashes to an exaggerated degree.

“As beautiful as you are Alex, you’re not really my type anymore.” Alex just snorted and started shuffling the deck again.

Another few games brought just as much success as the others. That is to say, ‘none.’ Maria let herself do a small happy dance that Alex noticed resembled Liz. They had been hanging out a lot more and he felt terrible for how little he saw them.

“Hey…” Alex started hesitantly. Maria’s expression turned serious almost instantly. She placed the cards to side and leaned forward.

“It’s ok you know.” Alex met her gaze. She just smiled before continuing, “It’s ok that you like him. I probably knew somewhere deep down that we weren’t meant to last. He was always just out of reach. Holding something back.” He rushed to shake his head and he grabbed her hand.

“No. Michael loves you. And he will always love with everything he has.” Her sad smile broke his heart. The guilt ate at his gut. He couldn’t do this to her. He and Michael couldn’t do this to her.

“As true as that may be, it’s hard to give everything when you’ve already given it to someone else.”

“Maria…”

“And that’s ok, ya know? I want him to be happy. And I want you to be happy. And if you are happy together then who am I to tell you ‘no?’”

Alex stood and moved to stand next to her. He grabbed her hand and pulled her from her chair and into a hug. Her arms wrapped around his waist firmly. He smiled against her hair, wondering how he got so lucky to have her as a best friend. She pressed a sweet kiss to his cheek and wiped a stray tear from her eye.

“Someone is going to come along and give you the world.” She chuckled and straightened her back.

“Oh please. No one needs to give it to me when I can just get it myself.” Alex laughed and hugged her again.

The sun dipped below the horizon, splashing vibrant purples and pinks across the sky, eventually fading to blue-black. Alex pulled Maria outside to the fire pit in the back of the house. He was building a log cabin out of logs when he heard the rumble of Michael’s truck. Maria offered to go help him with the groceries and left Alex to light the fire.

A gentle breeze blew across the desert, tangling his hair. He would need to cut it soon. He wasn’t technically out of the service and that demanded he keep it a certain length, even if he liked it a bit longer.

He picked up a fire starter and laughed at himself. If he really wanted to, he could do without it. But he did like the convenience of not needing to survive. He crouched down and picked up the lighter after placing some small kindling in with the starter. It burned fast and jumped to the nearby logs. Alex just watched as the flames licked up the sides of the mini cabin he had built.

Dizziness swept over him, making him fall backwards into the dirt. The fire seemed to burn brighter as the black started to creep in at the edges of his vision…

-

Thomas stared into the fire, the warmth permeating into his bones. His father was going to be angry but he didn’t really care. Since that night Samuel had first kissed him, it was all he could think about. Samuel hadn’t made another attempt either. They spent as much time as they could together but that was it.

Samuel had convinced him to sneak out and there he was. But nothing had happened. The fire snapped and Thomas glanced up to the other man. He worked on skinning a rabbit he had caught for dinner.

“I’m sorry you have to eat peasant food when you’re with me,” Samuel said, making a cut to remove the insides.

“It’s alright. I’m sorry I never think to bring you a real dinner.”

The silence stretched a bit longer. Eventually, Samuel was tying the rabbit to a stick and placing it over the fire. He picked up a scrap of fabric, wiping the blood from his hands. He came to sit next to Thomas, watching the flames dance.

“Samuel… Why are we here?” He asked hesitantly. Samuel shifted next to him, leaning against his shoulder.

“I just wanted to be with you in a place where we don’t have to hide.” Thomas wrapped his arms around his knees, resting his chin on them. He fought against the grin that threatened to overtake his face.

“And yet it feels like we are hiding,” he said, only half joking. A beat passed before Samuel reached around him to pull him close. His lips pressed to his hair gently. Thomas sucked in a breath, the heat on his cheeks no longer from the fire.

“Then don’t hide. Tell me what you want.” Thomas looked up at his best friend. He was in love with this man.

“Kiss me,” he whispered.

Samuel moved slowly. Trailing his hands over his arms and up his neck to rest on his face, cupping his jaw. Samuel leaned forward, just barely brushing his lips against Thomas’. They both sighed at that first touch. With Samuel’s breath tickling his face, Thomas leaned forward.

His heart threatened to beat out of his chest the longer they stayed pressed together. Eventually Samuel pulled back and Thomas let out a small whine. It wasn’t enough.

“Again.”

He felt the smile on Samuel’s lips when they pressed against his again. It was firmer this time as Thomas wrapped his arms around Samuel’s waist. They pulled at each other. Bodies searching for any way to get closer.

Thomas ended up on his back, the beautiful man hovering over him. Samuel made sure to press the whole length of his body against his. He kissed him again, rocking his hips slowly.

They were so lost in each other, Thomas hadn’t realized just how close to the fire they were. He grabbed at what he thought would be dirt and grass but a red hot burn made him yelp and shove Samuel away from him.

He gasped and gripped his hand to his chest, tears threatening to fall. He cursed under his breath as his hand throbbed in pain.

“Follow me. Now.” Samuel demanded, grabbing his arm.

He pulled him along for a couple minutes before the sound of running water could be heard. A small creek glittered in the moonlight. Samuel yanked him to the ground again, shoving his burned hand into the cold water. Thomas hissed but the cool water began to ease the burning of his hand.

“I’m so sorry. I wasn’t paying attention,” Samuel said quietly. Thomas just shook his head.

“It’s not your fault. I wasn’t paying attention either.” Thomas reached up with his free hand to brush some curls out of his face. “You are the only thing I can ever focus on.” He turned his head into his palm, kissing it.

“I would take this injury for you if I could.”

-

Alex yelped and scrambled away from the fire. He blinked rapidly as the past fell away and was replaced with the desert of New Mexico. His left hand burned. The same one as Thomas. The one that his father crushed on Michael.

He looked down at his palm. It wasn’t bad but it would be difficult to use. Before his eyes, the red started to vanish until it was like it had never been there. Alex ground his teeth together and pushed himself up, running inside the cabin.

Maria was watching Michael in both amazement and horror. Michael’s grimace as he watched the burn appear pissed Alex off more than anything. The problem was that he had no one to be mad at. The Gods? Tessa? Himself?

Alex clenched his fists and hurried wordlessly over to Michael, grabbing his arm and pulling him toward the sink, just like he did on the first day. He turned on the cold water, forcing his hand under the stream.

“Did you see the vision?” Alex asked quietly.

“Yea,” was his only response.

“You two just… shared a vision?” Maria stammered out. Alex looked back at her but she was focused on Michael’s burnt palm. Were the visions going to become a regular thing? Now that they were more connected to their past lives, would the spirits become restless as they demanded to see their proclaimed soulmate?

“How long was I zoned out?” Michael asked her. She shook her head and squared her shoulders.

“A couple minutes maybe? What was the vision?” She tried to hide they way her voice wanted to shake. Alex smiled at her and shook his head.

“We’ll tell you another time. I think you might need time to process what you just saw.”

“No! I’m here to help you with this exactly so…” she trailed off as her eyes fell to Michael’s hand again. Michael shut the water off and wrapped his hand in a towel as Alex pulled Maria toward the living room.

“Maria, listen to me. This is a lot. Knowing it happens is one thing. Watching it happen is another.” She nodded slowly. “You’re welcome to stay the night…”

“No. I should go home… I… I need to talk to Isobel about this.” Alex wanted to question but he figured now wasn’t the best time. She pulled her shoes on in silence, only looking back when Michael came to stand next to Alex. His hand was wrapped in bandages, covering old and new wounds alike.

“You don’t have to go,” Michael tried one last time. She just shook her head and smiled sadly at them.

“I do. I’ll be back soon.” Then she vanished.

They listened to her truck kick up dirt as she pulled away. Alex jumped when Michael’s hand touched his arm gently but he didn’t pull away. Everything that had happened just before Maria showed up still stuck in his mind.

He had wanted Michael so bad that he forgot that it might not be real.

“Will these visions show up more now?” he asked softly. Michael sighed.

“I don’t know.” Alex turned to face him, trailing his gaze down his body to his bandaged hand.

He took it gently, turning it so his palm was up. He ran his fingers over it gently, careful not to push too hard. Before he knew what he was doing, Alex lifted his hand to his lips, kissing his palm.

Chapter Text

Michael POV

The air felt heavy around them. Michael didn’t dare to even breathe as he watched Alex. The pressure was gentle and he only wished the bandage wasn’t there so he could feel how soft Alex’s mouth was on his skin. His heart pounded with Alex’s. He wanted to step closer. Shift his hand just slightly to hold his face.

Alex’s eyes fluttered open at he glanced up through his eyelashes. There might as well have been a fire ignited under his skin. The light outside vanished and the lamp that splashed a warm yellow over everything reflected in Alex’s eyes, making the brown look almost golden.

“Alex…” Michael breathed out.

He pulled his lips away from his hand. Instead holding it to his chest, never breaking eye contact with Michael.

“I’m sorry,” he said firmly.

“For what?”

“For the burn. For every injury you’ll have to suffer through.” Michael opened his mouth to stop him. Hadn’t he told him enough times that it wasn’t his fault? “I’m sorry for not being able to protect you from my father all those years ago.”

Michael looked down at the bones that hadn’t mended correctly. A sharp pain shot through his hand as he remembered the incident. Alex gripped his hand tighter, making Michael meet his eyes again.

Pain slowly took over his features, and then a firm defiance as he stepped closer to Michael. Close enough that he could feel his breath on his face.

“It will never happen again. I swear.”

He could hear the double meaning in his voice. He wasn’t just talking about the incident in the shed back in high school. He knew the story of Samuel and Thomas just like he did. And if his father was the reincarnation…

Michael’s fingers twisted into Alex’s shirt and the pain from the burn was hardly noticeable. He pushed him until his back was against the door, resting their foreheads together. Alex’s breath danced over his lips. His heart beat in time with his own.

Michael slipped his leg between Alex’s. Alex ran his hands up his arms to cup his neck. His fingers played with the short curls at the back. Desire swirled around them as Alex’s eyes fluttered shut. Their lips only brushed together when images flashed through Michael’s mind.

Thomas replaced Alex in front of him in quick flashes. Lights seemed to flicker as he shifted between the vision and reality. Except in reality, he didn’t kiss Alex. Samuel leaned forward and kissed Thomas but Michael stayed planted to his spot.

Alex sucked in a breath and Michael immediately stepped away from him. He wiped the heal of his hand over his eye, convinced that maybe he was the only one seeing things. But no. Alex’s eyes were wide as his one hand still hovered in the air, reaching for Michael.

“I guess that’s a yes on whether we’ll have more visions.” Alex’s hand fell back to his side and he looked away from Michael.

“I’m… I think I’m gunna go to bed,” he mumbled out. He moved past Michael, not even letting his hand brush against his. Michael glanced at the clock even though he didn’t need the confirmation that Alex was lying.

“So early?” he asked, not turning to face him.

“What do you want from me?”

Everything. I want all of you.

But of course he couldn’t say that. He let his emotions run wild instead of talking. His desire and loneliness leaking into the air. He only hoped Alex was willing to reach back. Alex was the only person he had that understood what he was going through. If he refused to get close with him… they might as well just give up now.

“Come to bed with me.” Michael spun toward him, eyes wide. Alex stood, half facing him, hand gripping his shirt over the mark. “You don’t need to sleep on the couch. Besides, maybe the next vision we share can be in the form of a dream and not something that injures you.”

He wanted to laugh. He thought about insisting that the couch was fine but instead his feet followed Alex into the master bedroom. He looked around at the neatly made bed. It looked big enough for both of them to lay in, but that was assuming neither of them moved.

And that Michael would be able to control himself.

“I’m going to shower first,” Alex said quietly. He moved to the bathroom and pulled the sliding door closed.

Michael sat on the bed and inhaled. The smell of Alex had settled into this room and it was wrapping around him like the most comforting blanket. He let himself fall back onto the bed. His eyes were quickly becoming heavy and the sound of the shower running was a welcome distraction.

Or at least it was until memories of Alex creeped into his head. His hair wet and dripping. Water tracing the soft lines of his muscles as it ran down his body. Michael groaned and shot up from the bed. He would go crazy if he stayed here with Alex.

He made for the bedroom door to take his place on the couch but a loud thud coming from the bathroom stopped him in his tracks. Every thought left his head as he leapt for the handle and yanked the door open. Steam hit him first, making sweat bead on the back of his neck.

He scanned the small space and found Alex on the floor of the shower, holding a hand to his head. His face was more annoyed than in pain but then again, the pain was blooming on the back of Michael’s head instead.

“Are you alright?” he rushed out, yanking the glass door open and kneeling next to him. Alex looked to the side and Michael followed his eyes. The chair he used seemed to have folded in on itself.

“Yea. My fault, I didn’t lock the legs in place.” They were both quiet for a moment before Alex curled into himself. “Um… Michael? Do you mind… helping me out?” He could see the blush forming on his face even though he refused to look him in the eye.

“Of course. Do you want to get off the floor first or set up your chair?” He watched as Alex’s fingers gripped his arms.

“Chair first. Can’t exactly get up until I have somewhere to sit.” Michael searched his emotions. His words were clipped and he just pulled his knees tighter against his chest.

He was embarrassed. But Michael didn’t need the bond to tell him that. He might have been angry but it didn’t feel like it was directed at him.

Michael stood and turned the water off, even though he was already thoroughly soaked. He reached over Alex, picking up the black plastic and metal folding seat. He checked the leg of the seat and pushed it open. He jiggled it to make sure it was secure and it almost immediately collapsed again.

“I think it might be broken. I can take a look at it tomorrow, see if there’s anything I can do,” Michael said, setting it against the wall. Alex sighed heavily. Michael crouched down again.

“How’s your head?” he asked. Michael blinked and then snickered. Alex shot a glare at him.

“I’m fine Captain. It wasn’t anything serious.” Alex watched him for a moment before averting his eyes again. Michael looked over him and it finally clicked in his mind that Alex was naked. He cleared his throat and felt the heat on his own face. “Do you want help finishing or…?”

He didn’t realize how it sounded until the words had left his mouth. He silently cursed himself but tried to not acknowledge it. If Alex noticed he didn’t say anything either. But his emotions shifted from embarrassment to something darker.

“No. I uh… I can get up on my own.” Michael hesitated. He understood why Alex might want to do things on his own, especially this. But he didn’t need him falling again. “Seriously Michael. I’m fine.”

“I’ll install some handles in here. But for today, please let me at least help you stand.” Michael’s heart raced. Alex’s heart raced.

“Fine.” Michael nodded and took a breath. He rested his hands on Alex’s arms, ignoring how soft his skin was or how firm the muscles actually were. He helped Alex adjust so he was facing the door then offered his hand.

Alex took it and held on like his life depended on it. Michael slipped his arm under Alex’s shoulder and wrapped around his back. He felt his hand grab at his soaked t-shirt and dig into his skin. Michael lifted him slowly until he was balancing on his one leg.

He pulled Alex over the small step, ignoring the way he leaned against him with the full length of his body. Michael tried to let Alex guide as much as possible but it was difficult when he was practically carrying all his weight.

“Just let me brace against the counter. Then I’ll be fine.” Michael nodded and helped him. Alex grabbed the towel that was sitting there and as soon as Michael released him, he was wrapping it around his waist.

“Come on Alex… It’s nothing I haven’t seen before,” he tried teasing. It became obvious pretty quickly that this wasn’t the right approach.

“That’s not the point,” Alex snapped. Michael looked away and nodded. He shouldn’t crowd him.

“Sorry. I’ll get out of your way. Let me know if you need anything.” Michael said as he turned to leave. He only made it halfway to the bedroom door before he heard Alex sigh.

“Wait,” he called, sounding defeated. Michael turned back around and leaned against the door frame of the still steaming bathroom. He watched Alex’s emotions play out on his face as he felt them in his own heart.

Embarrassment, mostly. But gratitude, hopefulness, and desire twisted between them too. Alex nibbled on his lip, resting his hip against the counter as one of his hands gripped the towel around his waist.

“I just… hate being needy. I don’t want to make things difficult for you.” Michael wanted to reach out and touch him. Pull him into a hug if nothing else.

“You don’t make things difficult for me. I’ll happily help you whenever you need it.”

“I know you say that but—” Michael closed the distance between them, taking Alex’s face in his hands, forcing him to meet his eyes.

“And I mean it. You are not a burden. You are my whole life, Alex.”

Alex seemed frozen in front of him. The only thing that moved was his eyes as they scanned his face. Michael ran his thumbs over his cheekbones gently. Echoes of the past danced in the back of his mind.

Alex looked younger. His eyes wide and uncertain, just like when he almost kissed him in the shed. The feeling of knowing there’s something there yet being too nervous to act on it. The only way they could know for sure is if they took a leap of faith that the other person was feeling it too.

So Michael leaned in again brushing his lips over Alex’s gently in a quiet request for permission. His breath tickled his face as he searched his eyes for anything he might not have been saying. Desire built in the few centimeters between their lips. Electricity seemed to dance under his fingertips. Their noses bumped together as the steam from the shower made their skin sticky.

Michael moved his hand to the back of Alex’s head, grabbing a handful of his damp hair. Their lips brushed together again and Alex’s eyes fluttered shut. He swayed froward against Michael, pressing their chests together for a moment.

“Alex…” he breathed over his mouth.

A thud fell at his feet and the hand that was no longer holding the towel was resting on the waistband of his jeans and fiddled with the button. Michael let out a small whimper. It was too much. He didn’t trust himself to not go all the way with Alex. The man in front of him brushed their lips together again as the hand on his jeans shifted to touch him through the fabric. Michael’s mouth fell open in a silent moan.

“Kiss me, Michael,” Alex whispered.

He wanted to. He was a mess of want and need, need, need. But those few centimeters between them still felt like miles. Alex still had doubts. Michael could feel them between the layers of want.

“I want to. I want you so bad I think I might fall to my knees and beg.” Alex sucked in a breath as his hand finally popped the button and pulled the zipper down. Michael’s hips betrayed him by rocking forward into his touch. “But you’re still uncertain. And I want you to be all in, like I am.” Alex pulled away slightly and shifted, tugging Michael along by the hem of his underwear.

Alex was leaning backwards against the counter now. His eyes never left Michael’s as he hopped up to sit on the marble, legs spread wide. Michael did his best to not look down but he wanted to see all of him. All of what Alex was offering.

He was hard and a bead of precum sat at the tip. Michael couldn’t help the way he licked his lips as his eyes devoured every inch of him. Alex’s hand tugged him closer and slipped into the fabric of his underwear. His hot skin brushing over his own erection had his eyes practically rolling back in his head.

“Fine. Don’t kiss me. But I’ll be damned if I don’t get us both off,” Alex panted. So he pulled Michael as close as possible, spreading his legs wide. He grabbed the hem of Michael’s wet shirt and pushed it up. Almost instinctively, Michael finished removing it and tossed it to the floor. Alex wrapped a hand around his own cock along with Michael’s and he stroked them both at the same pace.

Michael wasn’t about to let him do all the work on his own. He wrapped an arm around his waist and pulled him to the edge of the counter. He grabbed Alex’s wrist and stopped his movement, pushing his hand away and replacing it with his own. Alex gasped and his hips jerked up.

Michael grinned at him as he tried to suppress his own moans. With his free hand he pushed his jeans and underwear down so Alex would have easier access. Then Alex was grabbing a fistful of his hair and pulling their foreheads together. They panted the same air, lips touching every so often.

Michael cursed when he heard Alex whimper and moan. His own hips thrusted into Alex’s hand. His mouth watered and he wanted more than anything to run his tongue down Alex’s neck just to feel the vibrations from his moans.

He felt the way Alex gripped him, trying to keep his strokes steady. Michael grinned and released him, much to Alex’s annoyance.

“Michael please, don’t stop,” he begged. He brushed their lips together again before bringing two fingers to his mouth, sucking them and letting his spit collect. Alex panted, hips jerking up into nothing. Michael released his fingers with a wet sound before running the tips over Alex’s shaft. He groaned and tried to kiss Michael again. He pulled away just enough to keep the distance.

Michael traced the line down to his ass, letting his wet fingers leave a trail. He teased the rim of his hole and Alex shuddered, thrusting his hips forward. Alex’s pace faltered on his cock, too distracted by Michael’s teasing. So Michael moved his hips on his own.

He wanted to be inside him. Feel him shudder and clench around him. Begging for Michael to cum too.

But instead he pushed his fingers into his ass. A drawn out moan fell from Alex’s lips as his hips rolled to take them deeper. His fingers tightened in his hair. Michael could feel the way he was shaking and knew how close he must be. The thought of making Alex cum again… his own hips jerked into Alex’s fist faster.

He worked him fast, twisting and spreading his fingers. He pressed against his walls except for the one place he knew he needed it. They pant in synch with each other, Michael’s legs already starting to feel wobbly.

“Fuck, I’m so close,” Michael mumbled out, curving his fingers again.

“Me too. Please don’t stop,” he panted back. Michael bit his lip to quiet his groans. He shifted the angle of his fingers, curving them up to massage Alex’s prostate. Alex’s head fell backwards, forcing him to release Michael’s hair and brace himself on the counter.

Michael watched him with half lidded eyes. Tracing down the sharp angles of his jaw, to the way his neck moved when he swallowed, and down his chest to the muscles underneath, stopping on the glowing mark over his heart. The light radiated outward, making Alex’s skin glow from more than just sweat. Alex was stunning. Always had been. Power and softness all wrapped up in one package. And he let Michael touch him like this. To see him vulnerable and begging.

Alex wanted so much more than Michael was giving him. He could feel it in the echo’s from the mark.

“Gunna… cum…” Alex gasped out.

Michael moved his hips faster to match pace with his fingers, his own orgasm threatening to overtake him. Alex’s gasps and moans just got louder as he pressed against his sweet spot repeatedly.

“Go on… I’ll be right behind you,” Michael encouraged hotly as he leaned forward, breathing heavily over Alex’s skin and pressing his mouth to his mark.

As though he was waiting for permission, Alex spasmed and moaned out Michael’s name. His cock jerked as cum spilled onto his stomach. His emotions ran wild as they seemed to hit Michael square in the chest. Michael’s own orgasm washed over him, sending him into a fit of gasps and moans to match Alex’s. He spilled over Alex’s skin, white running down between his thighs and over his ass.

The mark on Alex’s chest glowed and pulsed seemingly in time with every new wave of his orgasm. Michael felt the way his heart pounded. So filled with joy and contentment. It could have beat right out of his chest.

Alex released him slowly, Michael sat up to watch his face. His cheeks were red and the rise and fall of his chest was evening out. Alex traced his hand over Michael’s hip and abs, until he reached the mark on his chest. He pressed his hand over it gently as his fingers still trembled.

Michael pulled his fingers out slowly, wanting to grin at the small whimper Alex made from the movement. Neither of them said anything for a while, just watched each other, trying to pick through all the feelings that swirled between them.

Michael still wanted to kiss him. More than anything. But they needed to talk first because he wasn’t sure he could go back to pretending to not be affected by his presence after this. He reached up to cover Alex’s hand with his own, holding it gently.

“I didn’t exactly plan on taking a second shower this evening,” Alex joked.

And Michael couldn’t help himself. He snorted out a laugh and stepped back from him, hoping his face didn’t show how badly he wanted Alex’s hand back on his skin. He reached down and pulled his underwear and jeans back up, though he didn’t bother closing the button.

“I recommend taking a bath instead. At least until I can fix your seat for you.” Alex chuckled in return. Before Michael made it too far, Alex grabbed his wrist. He looked back at him and raised an eyebrow.

“Can you… help me?”

Michael’s eyes ran over him. The blush on his face had returned. He nodded slowly and took Alex’s hand. He wrapped an arm around his shoulders and helped him slide off the counter, trying to ignore the mess they had made.

He moved him to the jacuzzi tub that was easily big enough for two people. He set Alex down on the edge, assuming that he just needed help moving. But when he tried to leave again, a sharp disappointment settled in his chest.

“You can stay and.. wash up too…” Alex mumbled almost incoherently. Michael tried to temper the way his heart soared at the suggestion. He figured he was unsuccessful from the small gasp Alex let out.

“I think that’s a bad idea,” he said without turning around.

“Why?”

“Because we don’t know what this is Alex. And as bad as I want you, we need to talk this out.” Alex didn’t respond after that. The squeak of the faucet spitting out water was Michael’s cue to leave. “Call me if you need help,” he said.

He stepped out of the bathroom and closed the door but left a small crack in case Alex called for him. He looked down at himself then ran a hand through his hair. He had a moment of weakness. Alex needed to come to him first.

-

Alex POV

Alex sat almost completely submerged in the water. The jets massaged his leg and he adjusted so one was aimed at his upper back. A moment of weakness is what it was. He knew that he was being influenced by the spirit of Thomas but he rolled with it anyway.

Michael had looked right at him and basically confessed. Again. He kept saying things as though this was the only option.

He sunk deeper into the water, blowing bubbles out of his nose.

When Michael pressed a kiss to his mark, it felt like the beginning. Of what he wasn’t sure. But now his body demanded it happen again.

Hey Thomas, mind stopping with your quest to reunite with your lover? He thought at himself, chuckling.

“Our souls are made to be together.”

Alex sucked in a breath and shot upright. He coughed as water ran up his nose. His head spun as he looked around the bathroom for the voice that sounded eerily close to his. Thomas?

Yea, maybe. But what if Michael and I aren’t? He felt stupid. This voice in his head could have been his own. His brain attempting to rationalize everything he had experienced in the last month. But the voice was different. Softer.

“History is destined to repeat itself.”

How are you talking to me?

“I am a part of you now. Just like Samuel is a part of Michael. We have had to live through every reincarnation and now we are closer than ever.”

So it is your feelings influencing me?

“You fell for Michael long before I was here.” He gripped the side of the tub

Why do you keep giving us visions then, if not to push us together?

Silence returned to his mind. At least, there was no more voice. Had he hallucinated the whole thing? Convinced himself that he was talking to Thomas rather than himself? Maybe he was just giving himself the answers he wanted to hear.

He groaned and leaned back against the tub again. He traced the lines of the wood ceiling with his eyes and followed over to where the shower sat. He flushed at the thought of Michael’s arm wrapping around him to help him stand. He shook his head and glanced to the door.

The small crack that Michael had left showed part of the bed. Michael sat on it, arms on his legs, staring at a spot on the floor with a frown on his face. He was still shirtless and his jeans still unbuttoned. The light caught a part of the mark on his chest and it glowed.

The beating of his own heart seemed to stutter to match Michael’s. He reached up and touched the mark on his chest. Alex had loved him a long time ago when they were teenagers. Young and stupid. But he would be lying if he said it wasn’t the happiest he had ever been.

He hadn’t known about the curse then. Michael was just a guy angry at the world that took his parents from him and made him grow up too fast. A guy who only showed his soft side to Alex. And he was the kid who had his guitar stolen by the guarded genius. Gave him a place to stay if he needed to get away from it all.

Then Alex had leaned in to kiss him.

He wondered now if the pull he felt back then was the curse. Michael always told him that there was a lot of family history that he couldn’t get away from. But that he felt like he could when he was with Alex. He had known about the curse back then but had gotten close to him anyway. Maybe he just couldn’t help himself.

Alex refocused on what was in front of him and he was met with a heated stare from Michael. Alex blinked and blushed, turning away almost immediately. He felt his gaze burning holes in the back of his head. How long had he just been staring at him, lost in thought?

He pushed himself up slowly to sit on the edge of the tub. He swung his legs to the other side, water pooling on the floor. His mind was racing. Maybe they should be trying to trigger visions. The visions were inconvenient but maybe they held the answers they were looking for.

The opal sat on top of the dresser in the bedroom, taunting him with ideas of consummation and feeling Michael against him again.

“Need anything?” Alex turned toward the door. Michael was leaning against the opposite side, making sure to keep his gaze focused on the wall.

“Can you just grab me a new towel and my crutch.” Michael vanished for a moment but soon he was walking back into the bathroom, every inch of his skin seeming to glow. He handed the towel to Alex, never breaking eye contact as he gave him a small smile. Alex looked away first and wrapped the towel around his waist before taking the crutch. He stood slowly, mindful of the water on the floor. He moved to where his sweats were folded on the counter. He glanced back at Michael who still watched him. “You going to watch me get dressed?”

Michael immediately cleared his throat and looked away, red dusting his face. He mumbled out an apology before exiting the bathroom and sliding the door closed again. Completely this time.

Alex looked at himself in the mirror, eyes landing on the glowing mark. Michael was right. They needed to talk this through.

He sat on the toilet to pull his sweats on, tying a knot just below where his leg ended to keep the extra fabric out of the way. He towel dried his hair before putting on his shirt but some drops still ran down his back.

When he walked into the bedroom, Michael was holding the opal. He turned it over in his hands, eyebrows furrowed like something was just out of his reach but he didn’t know what. He hardly looked up at Alex until he sat down next to him.

“Do you want to try again?” Alex asked. He watched Michael’s fingers tighten around the stone.

“It won’t show us anything new.” That was true. The directions in the book specifically said the ‘path to consummation and nothing more.’ At best they would be thrown into a different sex memory. But Alex wasn’t sure if he could take that.

“Michael…” he started. He fiddled with his hands, twisting his fingers together. “When we were younger… did you know about the curse?” He needed to hear it from his mouth.

“I found out about the curse when you did Alex. When the mark appeared on my chest.”

“That’s not what I mean. You’ve known about the possibility of the curse your whole life. Did you know it would be me when you started talking to me.” Michael was quiet, turning the stone over in his hand a few times.

“I assumed we were safe. The curse usually manifests in the high school years and we were about to graduate. I stole your guitar that day because I wanted to get your attention. You didn’t seem drawn to me and I wondered if that was because you didn’t know about the history. I guess I just wanted to know what it was like to not have to worry about it. But then the strangest thing happened.” He let out a small chuckle before turning to face Alex. “I fell in love with you. I thought we wouldn’t have to worry about anything. I could save you in a normal way. Take you away from your shitty home and never look back.”

So he hadn’t known about the curse. He interacted with him because he wanted to. Wanted to get to know him better.

“You’ve got a detail wrong.” Alex said after a long stretch of silence.

“What do you mean?”

“I was drawn to you. I had been curious about you ever since we were kids. This beautiful boy that always tagged along with Max when he came to see Liz. That was when we were ten. At thirteen I was realizing I was gay and I was horrified that you would never be interested. At fifteen you were already developing a reputation of picking up any girl you want but you never ostracized me. And at seventeen you stole my guitar and didn’t run away when I didn’t correct you about me being gay. And when I tried to kiss you, you backed away and my heart shattered. Then the next day you kissed me. And even through my deployment. You let me come back. Every time. Until that last day when we fought… But I finally realized that none of what I was feeling for you was going to go away. I loved you Michael.”

“Loved?”

Alex took a shaky breath and straightened his back. He turned toward Michael, meeting his burning eyes as their hearts beat in time. Hope was rushing to the surface. Michael inched forward, eyes glancing down. Alex rested his hand over Michael’s, threading their fingers together on the bed.

“I lo—”

An explosion rocked the cabin. Alex yanked Michael to the floor on reflex, pushing his head down and wrapping his arms around him to hold him to his chest. The cabin was shaking, metal clanking and falling. Debris smacking into the exterior walls.

Images flashed through his head. He tried to chase away the thoughts that they were the bodies of his friends. Their bunker getting stormed in the middle of the night. He was waiting for the inevitable ceiling collapse that was going to kill both of them. Or worse, leave Alex alive and alone. Again.

He squeezed Michael tighter as he felt the tears running down his face. He hardly registered Michael wrapping his arms around his waist, holding him just as tightly. Face buried in his neck, fingers digging into the muscles in his back.

It couldn’t have been more than a couple minutes they were sitting there. Michael was wrapped in his arms and legs, Alex’s fingers gripping the skin of his arms. It took a moment for him to register that Michael was speaking to him in a hushed voice, tracing patterns over his back.

“Shh. It’s ok. You’re ok. No one is going to hurt us. You’re here with me. I’m here… I’m here…”

Alex slowly loosened his grip. As soon as he could move, Michael was pushing himself to his knees. He took Alex’s face in his hands, wiping away the tears. He pulled their faces together, pressing his forehead to Alex.

Alex blinked and tried to breathe normally but every exhale brought another sob. Fire danced behind his eyelids whenever he closed them. He squeezed his eyes shut, willing the visions to go away. Instead he focused on the steady movement of Michael’s thumb over his cheeks. Every few seconds Michael would whisper “I’m here” again.

His body slowly stopped shaking and the tears began to dry. He didn’t know how hard he had been gripping Michael but from the way the joints in his fingers had stiffened, he could guess.

“I have to go check what happened,” Michael said softly. He didn’t want Michael to go. He wanted him to stay and hold him, just for a bit longer. “I’ll be right back, ok?” Alex couldn’t force himself to release him. His fingers shook and seemingly without his consent, tried to pull Michael in again.

“Please,” he begged, not quite sure what he was trying to ask for.

“Oh baby, where are you right now?” Michael mumbled, clearly not intended for him to hear. He moved a hand from his face, gently taking his wrist and pulling his fingers from their death grip on his waist. He brought his hand up to his chest, placing it over the mark where his heartbeat was. “Just breathe ok? Listen to my heart. Feel it under your hand. You’re safe.”

Alex took another shaky breath. He closed his eyes again and the flames returned. He focused on the thumping under his fingers instead. Steady and strong. He matched his own breathing to the rise and fall of Michael’s chest. He felt his calm through the mark, letting it wash over him as well. He could almost hear his heartbeat, just like Michael had instructed him to do. It was like the mark was synching their bodies. His own heart slowed to match and his fingers on Michael’s waist loosened and dropped to his side. The smell of rain took hold in his mind, dampening and extinguishing the raging flames.

“Michael,” he gasped out. He breathed a sigh of relief and pulled him into a one armed hug, still gripping his hand tightly against his chest. “I’m…”

“Shh. I’ve got you.” Alex nodded against him, his shoulders sagging. When Michael pulled away again Alex was able to let him go. Though he still didn’t want to. “I’m going to see what the explosion was. I will be right back. Promise.”

“Take me with you,” Alex insisted, voice cracking. Michael seemed to hesitate but eventually nodded and pulled Alex up, holding him steady while he grabbed his crutch.

They walked slowly to the front door, bright orange illuminated the front room from the windows. Alex insisted he could walk on his own but Michael held his hand the whole way, never moving too fast. Michael pulled the door open, and the heat from the fire was like walking into a wall.

Flames consumed Alex’s car. Or what was left of it at least. Various scraps of metal were strewn about and some smoldering pieces were too close to the wood of the cabin for comfort. Alex looked at Michael and his face was scrunched into a scowl.

“We can’t do anything except wait for it to go out,” he said stiffly. Alex squeezed his hand in response.

“Do you think it was targeted?”

“It’d be a hell of a coincidence if it wasn’t. But that would also mean we’re not safe here.” Alex shuddered and looked back at his burning car.

“Are you saying we have to run again?” Michael turned to face him, the light reflecting in his eyes.

“The curse will follow wherever we go. But I will take you as far away as you want if it’ll make you feel safe.” Alex swallowed and shook his head. He knew they couldn’t run.

“You make me feel safe.”

A small smile made it’s way onto Michael’s face and the heat of the fire was nothing compared to the growing smolder in his gaze.

But in reality, the fire actually was growing smaller. The heat diminished and the flames stopped spitting sparks. Alex turned toward the burnt husk of the car. He watched the last of the flames die and a silhouette emerging from behind. Michael instantly stepped in front of him, fists clenched and ready for a fight.

“Calm down cowboy. Seriously, I was only gone for a few hundred years and I come back to this disaster?”

She stepped into the light, ripped jeans and crop tank looking perfect as she shifted her cowboy hat further back on her head, dark hair in a messy side braid. Tessa was back.