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The Truth is Right Here

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“She’s not here,” Kyle said, answering the door in an open robe and a pair of boxers. He looked rough, tired. Unshaven. He scrubbed a hand through his messy hair. “She’s at the lab.” 

“At the lab?” Maria asked, confused, glancing at Michael, who -- to his credit -- was looking up at the porch light and not down at Kyle’s bunny slippers, which had been a gag gift from two Christmases ago. Not even one joke cracked. “Working on…?” 

“The damned mushrooms,” Kyle said, with a groan. “She’s obsessed .”  

“What?” Michael demanded, perplexed. “Not the ones from Slaughter Canyon?” 

“The very ones.” Kyle shook his head, exasperated. 

“But they’re--” he broke off quickly, and shot Maria a look that oozed guilt. And in return, she narrowed her eyes at him a little, just enough for him to realize she was absolutely going to rake him over the coals for what he did. She owed him an interrogation. She just needed ten quiet fucking minutes.

Michael just looked guiltier, shifting his weight a little from foot to foot. She shook her head and turned back to Kyle. “Anyway. The mushrooms?” 

Kyle looked between them, bewildered. “Yeah I mean, most of them were dead but there was a sliver left. And she got caught up. Started ranting about weather patterns and hyphae and spores. She even drove all the way back there to get more.” Michael inhaled at that, startled. “And... I mean I get it. I’m fascinated too. But humans need sleep, though she doesn’t seem to agree. I haven’t been able to unglue her from the damn microscope.” 

He looked a little pleadingly at Maria. “You mind knocking her out and dragging her back here? I’d do it myself but…”

Maria half-laughed. “ I’d kick your ass if you tried,” she filled in. Taking a moment. “Actually, you should come with us.” Liz was going to need him, to help her process the news. 

Maria hadn’t even figured out how to tell Liz that not only had they found a lead on the sister she’d spent years unsuccessfully trying to find, but that the lead involved fucking aliens. This was not going to be an easy conversation at all and Maria was kind of annoyed at Alex for having a perfectly reasonable excuse for bowing out. Someone needed to pursue the meager leads they had, before anything could manage to get itself scrubbed off the internet or company databases. 

“She’s not listening to me,” Kyle said, understandably frustrated. 

“Look, Dr. Abs, MD,” Michael said, waving a hand at him. Maria’s eyes finally slid down to the naked chiseled torso she’d been politely ignoring. “Get rid of the bunny slippers and robe and throw on a track suit or whatever. We’ve got shit to talk about. With both of you.”  

Kyle frowned at him, taken aback by his attitude. Michael sounded more irritated than the situation warranted from Kyle’s point of view. After all, he had no idea how vehemently opposed Michael was to telling Liz about Rosa, even now. He had wanted to just find Rosa without them. Isobel had been the one who had finally convinced him, tiredly taking his hand before saying “she deserves to know.”  

Michael hadn’t been able to muster an argument. So here they were.

“Please, Kyle,” Maria said, nudging Michael gently. “It’s kind of important.” 

Kyle’s nostrils flared, annoyed but he relented, disappearing into the house to get dressed. 

“You need to relax, Guerin,” Maria said, not unkindly. “I know this is hard--”

“DeLuca,” Michael began, angrily, then paused, swallowing visibly. Sighing he paced down the walkway some, pulling off his hat and running a hand through his hair. She waited, sensing a torrent of emotions from him--anxiety, fear, discomfort. Finally he turned to look at her. “Top three on my list of people in occupations I never wanted to know about my secret. The military.” He ticks them off with his fingers. “The FBI. And fucking medical professionals.” 

It was a lot for him. She knew. These last few days had been a lot for everyone, with no time to process.

Maria sighed. “I trust them. I know it doesn’t really help , but I trust them with my life. With Alex’s life.” 

“And I trust you,” he replied, still looking tense. He leaned up against a beam, hands in his pockets. “Doesn’t make this any easier.”

She closed the distance between them, standing close and running her hand up and down his arm. His eyes were molten gold in the sunlight, framed by long dark lashes, downcast, soft and a little vulnerable. Maria understood what it was like to not feel safe, so it was naïve to think she could just put his mind at ease with promises they both knew she may not be able to keep. No matter her intention. But intentions still meant a damn lot. 

“I know,” she said, unable to resist reaching to cup the back of his head, letting her fingers slide into those soft curls. Michael responded to touch. It grounded him. And maybe it grounded her too.

“I just…” He started, his hand settling on her hip, tugging her in gently, and Maria swayed in, wanting to kiss away the tension, till his pretty mouth was slack and soft and...

“You want to tell me what all this is about?” Kyle stepped out, locking the door instead of looking at them. Maria cleared her throat a bit, her cheeks hot. 

It was one thing to kiss Michael Guerin. It was another thing entirely to do so in front of Kyle . Especially considering the conversation they were about to have.

“We’ll explain when we’re with Liz,” she said quickly. Michael pulled away, putting hat back on, heading for the car. The air around her felt cooler in his absence.

“Ok.” Kyle came up to her, curious, concerned and... did she detect just a hint of judgment?

No, that was definitely judgment. And hell, she couldn’t blame him. He’d been there for the disastrous fallout when Alex had crossed that line, and here she was, pirouetting on it.

Sourly, she wished she had leaned in for that kiss, since the damage was apparently done. 

“Off to the lab.” 

Thankfully the drive to the FBI Field Office was a quiet one. Michael drove, for want of something to do, and Kyle settled in the back seat, eyes closed. The frown on his face told Maria that he was blocking them out more than sleeping. 

Before long they were entering the labs. Liz was sitting at a workstation, back to them, hair up in a very messy bun, and in just a tank top and jeans. There was a strange array of test tubes and jars with chemicals, Chinese take-out containers, and a tray of mushrooms, some cut and some intact. They pulsed with that same soft purple light Maria remembered from the caves. 

It was that sudden intensity of the pulsing that caught Liz’s attention, not the door opening and closing behind her. But she knew, immediately, that someone was there.. Frowning and pulling out her earbuds, she turned swiftly to look at them. Her wide eyes fell on Michael as she slid off her stool and to her feet. .

“Shit!” Michael only narrowly dodged one of those beakers full of chemicals hurtling straight at him. Liz had been aiming for his head.

“Liz, what the hell!” Maria demanded, getting in between her and Michael, catching her before she could try and brain him with a microscope or something. 

“He’s an alien!” Liz protested, trying to dodge around her.

Michael let out an exasperated sigh. “Fuck’s sake, Ortecho.” 

“Ok, look, Liz, you’re tired,” Kyle began, reaching out for her.

“Oh don’t give me that patronizing Doctor McSexy voice,” Liz huffed and Kyle frowned at her, frustrated and not a little concerned.

“Maybe take a beat, Kyle,” Maria said. If she was unsure how to proceed before, she was even more lost now.

Michael was stepping around them. “You keep the wine down here, yeah?” He asked, rummaging in a drawer, despite Liz’s protests. 

“You’re going to need an open…” Kyle trailed off, eyes going wide as the cork popped itself right out of the bottle, and a clean beaker floated itself into Michael’s hand.  

Maria bit her lip on a groan but if the desired effect was to freeze Liz and Kyle in bug eyed, slack jawed shock, he succeeded. 

“So. Yeah. Alien,” he said, pouring a healthy amount into the beaker and handing it over to Liz. “Part of what we needed to talk to you about.” He paused, looked at the mushrooms, at the broken beaker, and grimaced. “How’d you figure it out?” He pulled up a stool, taking a pull straight from the wine bottle.

“The cooler.” Liz was frowning, shrugging Kyle’s hand off of her. “The lightning fractals. Electricity… electrical phenomenon that only started when Max showed up, the fact that those mushrooms only ever got so bright when you or Max were close by. The fact that Max was the only one near that cooler besides me. But what cinched it? Their cellular structures. Those aren’t just regular bioluminescent mushrooms, those are some kind of bio-machine.”

Michael just stared at her, impressed. “That is some really good tired logic. So you leapt to aliens ?” 

“You don’t really fit the profile for el chupacabra.” Liz half-laughed, and finally took a cautious, nerve-soothing sip of her wine. “I mean, I thought I was going crazy. So I decided to comb your office for your DNA. Just to, you know, set my mind at ease?”  

“Comb through our office?” Maria demanded.

Liz shrugged, entirely unrepentant. “I don’t know, I thought that I might get some hair? Fingerprints? Scrape some cells off your keyboard? Then I hit paydirt! Found an old bandana in your drawer with dried blood…  Look, it was hour twenty, I wasn’t exactly thinking completely straight… But I was right . Not human.”

Kyle actually groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose. Maria couldn’t tell if he was mad about the DNA theft and violation of scientific ethics or disturbed by the alien bullshit.

Michael nodded, slowly, and took another drink of the wine. “Okay.” 

“Ok but why throw a beaker at him?” Maria asked, still pretty pissed about that. The worst thing Michael ever did to her was disagree with her, for fuck’s sake.

Liz laughed, looking a shade guilty. “To be fair, again, I haven’t slept much. But I don’t know, maybe there was a plot to infiltrate the FBI or something? I mean weird shit has been happening...”

“And you think the cover least likely to rouse suspicion is as a fucking con?” Michael rolled his eyes. 

“This cannot be happening,” Kyle said, under his breath. He pulled up a stool and sat down heavily on it. “Guerin’s an alien.”

“In the flesh,” Michael said, dryly. 

“And Max and Isobel too, I assume?” Liz added.

“Yeah,” Michael said, looking significantly less happy confirming that fact

“Greetings from the Gringo Homeworld,” Kyle groaned, shaking his head. Liz snorted, leaning over to rub his shoulder. 

“You’ve met three whole aliens, and you assume they all look like us?” Michael asked dryly. 

“Can we focus?” Maria cut in, going to take the bottle from Guerin, and taking a deep drink of it, herself. “We’ve got a lot to talk about. And weirdly enough, the alien bit is not even close to the strangest part of it.”

Maria decided to start from the top. 

 


 

Liz was right and it energized her. Solving a puzzle always did. Aliens. Actual aliens. God, she had so many questions. But Maria’s expression was so serious it quieted her, and worried her too. 

The story was crazy. Max clones and evil psychotic aliens, one of which was in a stasis pod shaped like a glowing egg. It was unbelievable. Like something from one of the murals that graced the walls of the Crashdown. Liz could not wait to see it. But soon enough all of Liz’s excited curiosity immediately crumbled, giving way to horror. 

What ?” She asked. Hardly able to believe what she was hearing.

“We think this… evil Max clone, whoever he is, has Rosa,” Maria repeated. And Liz could tell she was trying to be gentle, but there was no way to gently deliver this kind of news. 

Liz’ head felt tight and she couldn’t think over the overwhelming sense of anger and shock. Liz felt like crying, like breaking something, like curling up in a ball and wishing that none of this were true. Instead, she forced herself to look between Maria, Michael, and Kyle. Forced herself to pay attention to their faces and demeanors, something to focus on that wasn’t her feelings. Maria’s eyes full of gentle worry. Michael studying the floor a little too hard.  Kyle, reflecting her own horror, reached out for her, concerned.

She caught his hand in her own, squeezing hard. “Why?” She asked, bluntly. 

“We don’t--” Maria began, but Liz cut her off.  

“Michael. Why?”  

He looked up. Eyes a little wide, a little scared. As non-threatening as an alien could be in the situation, though she wasn’t quite ready to believe the ‘we come in peace’ schtick. Even if a week ago she would have said Michael was a cool guy. After all, weren’t there at least two blatantly evil aliens running around undetected until recently? Who knew how many more of them were out there. And if maybe she had misread Michael and his siblings. 

“Dunno,” Michael said, frowning at her. A surly defensiveness to him. “Best I can tell, from what Isobel told me? I think he was using her as leverage. Against Noah.”

“How is my sister alien leverage?” Liz asked, frustrated, trying to make the puzzle pieces fit. Their lack of answers was infuriating. “You didn’t ask him?” 

“Liz--”

“You didn’t think to interrogate him, Special Agent !” Liz stood up now, furious, rounding on Maria. All this time she and Alex had wasted, investigating fucking Bigfoot or Mothman, but now they stop doing their damn jobs?

“Alex is chasing leads right now,” Maria said, tightly. She kept her tone even, calm, but she was still glaring at Liz. Her arms crossed over her chest. 

“For the last ten years Rosa has been going through God knows what--” Don’t think about it, Liz told herself. Do not let yourself think about what Rosa could have experienced, scared and alone. Do not think about how she might feel abandoned by her family, by Liz. “Meanwhile you have all the answers sitting in some cave in Roswell!” 

“We didn’t know how long we could hold him,” Maria answered, voice rising to match Liz’s.  

“Don’t give me that!” Liz squeezed her hands tightly by her side to keep them from shaking.

“Liz!” Maria slammed her hand on the countertop. “We barely were able to neutralize him. Getting killed would not have helped Rosa!” 

“Liz,” Kyle called softly. He got up and put his arm around her. But she couldn’t quite let herself relax into him.

“Look,” Maria continued, having collected herself. “We have Noah’s cell and a burnt-out alien warehouse. Alex is working the case. He’s good at his job, Liz. We both are. You know that.” 

She did.

But knowing that and trusting it were two different things entirely. She couldn’t right now. Not when it was Rosa . “And if that leads to nothing?” Liz demanded. “We take him out. We wring out whatever information we can out of him.” Maria started to argue but Liz didn’t let her. “It can be done. Those flowers! I can make a serum. Dampen his powers.”

Yeah she could do this. She pulled away from Kyle, giving his arm a squeeze, and starting to pace thoughtfully. Her mind already formulating ways to synthesize a serum from pollen, mentally pulling up previous articles she’d read about similar endeavors with earth plants. The science gave her a sense of control, one that she badly needed at the moment. 

Michael, however, sucked in a breath the moment she said that, upset. Liz did not care.

“I know you still have some pollen left,” she said, meeting his eyes. “Or am I going to have to take a trip to some warehouse in Santa Fe?” 

Michael glared at her, furious. “Sorry if I’m not really okay with helping you develop a chemical weapon you can use against us.”

Hey ,” she said, firmly. “This isn’t about you. It’s about my sister.”

“And about my family too,” he shot back.

“If you calmed down for a minute you’d realize that we both could benefit from a way to neutralize evil aliens.”

“Oh, I’m the one who needs to calm down?” He said, under his breath. Not quietly enough. 

“Did you forget the creep wearing your brother’s face? What happens when he comes looking for Max?”

Michael let out a breath, hard. Angry. But Liz knew the hit landed. “...Just as long as you don’t forget who your enemy actually is, Ortecho,” Michael said through grit teeth, nodding his head towards the broken glass. 

Maria reached out to him, concerned, but he didn’t let her take his hand, instead started towards the door. 

“Michael!” Maria called.

“I just need some air!” He said before slamming the door shut behind him. 

“I should…” Maria started. And then sighed. “I’m pretty sure he’s about to go steal my car.” She shook her head, turning away from the door.  “Are you--” she hesitated, looking at Liz.

Liz didn’t want the pity. “Go. I’m going to get started,” she said, turning her back on Maria.

Still, she lingered for a moment. Liz could hear her, awkwardly shifting her weight, before she retreated, the sound of her footsteps echoing down the hallway.

Before she got far, Liz heard the sound of someone calling her name, the murmur of voices. It didn’t sound like it was going to be a short conversation, and Liz smirked to herself. Guerin was definitely stealing her car. 

Good. Maria could walk home for all Liz cared right now.

Kyle took a breath, looking at her with concern and disapproval. But thankfully he didn’t start in on her yet, instead pulled on a pair of latex gloves. “Okay. Where do we start?” 

 


 

Michael had decided to go home, the minute he left that nightmare of a lab. Back to the airstream and his firepit and his beer. He’d drink until he forgot about how Maria was likely giving Liz the key to his destruction. But Michael ended up sitting in Maria’s car for several minutes, frozen, gripping the steering wheel, and desperately not wanting to be alone.

Fuck, he wished Max and Isobel had come back up to Albuquerque with him.  

Finally, angrily, he turned the key. The SUV was stupid fancy, the kind of car he always hated getting stuck fixing at the junkyard, more computers than mechanics. 

As the car rumbled to life, the GPS lit up, with an icon conveniently marked ‘home’. Before he could really think through the decision, he pressed the button and pulled out of the parking lot.

The DeLuca-Manes house was imposing from the street, but once he got through the automatic gate, it was nice. Smooth stucco walls in a warm terracotta. Gravel and drought-tolerant xeriscaping. A modest backyard. He could see why Maria missed having a garden. The whole thing was nothing fancy. But still the kind of place Michael never bothered to dream of owning. He parked the SUV in the driveway, next to Alex’s fucking SUV ( fucking Feds , he thought fondly), and headed up the short path to the doorway. Taking a breath and ringing the doorbell. 

And waited. He ignored the camera fixed on him. There were a lot of those, actually. 

A couple beats passed and no one came to the door. Michael frowned, reaching for the doorbell again, ringing it longer this time. And then knocking, loudly, because what if it was broken? 

He was considering just unlocking the door with his TK when the door finally opened. Alex, in jeans and using a crutch, frowned at him in confusion from the doorway. “Guerin?” 

Michael felt instantly awkward. He hadn’t really thought of a good reason for coming over. Had just gone there on instinct… on need, if he were being completely honest with himself. “I, uh, came to see how the hunt was going…” 

Alex studied him for a second, and Michael felt strangely naked under his gaze. He felt instantly stupid for coming over. He should have known better... For a wild moment, he expected Alex to shut the door in his face, and Michael wouldn’t blame him if he did. But Alex just shifted aside instead, making room for him to pass. “Come in.” 

Michael tried not to breathe out too heavy a sigh of relief, stepping in. “Nice place.”

It was homey. Michael walked deeper into the house, clean, modern, with plenty of plants and crystals tucked everywhere. He could clearly see both of their influences, and it made him smile a bit, and wonder about the parts that he couldn’t place on Alex or Maria. Like the row of thrillers on the bookshelves, or the guitar in the corner. Or the keyboard. 

“Yeah. Not to sound like an ass, but how the fuck did you find it?” Alex asked as he shut and locked the door behind them. Locked door behind a locked gate? Alex was obviously the paranoid sort. And that tracked with the three security cameras and two motion detectors Michael had already clocked.

“Lifted your wallet,” Michael said nonchalantly. Just to piss him off.

Alex frowned at him. “Guerin--”

Joking , geez Manes.” Michael grinned at him, and tossed Maria’s car keys to him, lightly. “Stole Maria’s car.”

Guerin ,” Alex groaned. “Seriously?” 

“To be fair, Dr. Frankenstein was getting a little too close to alien experimentation for my taste. I don’t think Maria’ll be super mad that I had to get out of there.” 

Alex softened, moving closer. The gentle thump of his crutch the only sound between them for a moment. There was something deeply personal about seeing Alex in his home, on his crutch. Maybe because Michael knew how private Alex was, how hard he kept up a certain appearance of himself. It was something he could very easily understand. And maybe that’s why he felt weird about intruding like this.  

“So Liz didn’t take it well?” Alex guessed, eyes all over Michael’s face. Gauging his feelings, his reaction. 

“Well she threw a beaker at me.” Michael tried for blasé but Alex frowned, looking pissed on his behalf and... that was really nice. Michael smiled, squeezed Alex’s shoulder. “I’m fine. She couldn't hit me if she tried.” He shrugged and the reminder seemed to relax Alex. He moved to the plush, brick-red couch, covered in colorful throws that screamed Maria, and sat down.

“C’mon sit.”  

Michael didn’t need to be told twice, going to drop down into it next to him. Alex’s laptop was sitting open on the coffee table in front of him. Screensaver up--an x-wing speeding through inky black and star speckled space.  

“You get anything?” He asked, looking back at Alex. 

“Mn. Warehouse was rented out by a J. Jones.”

That’s not an alias,” Michael said, dryly. 

Alex chuckled. Deep, and warm. Michael wanted to curl into it. “Well, fortunately for us he didn’t rent in cash.” 

“Really? Thank fuck.” Michael exhaled. “Paper trail means we can find him.” 

“Well, we can find the half-dozen different storage units he’s rented out on that card, anyway,” Alex confirmed. Nudging him gently.  

“Rosa Ortecho isn’t going to be in a storage until,” Michael sighed, frustrated. And he forced himself not to think about how she could be. What a nightmare. A decade long nightmare. Poor Rosa… poor Liz.

He was still angry with Liz but he got it. He’d do anything to keep Isobel and Max safe. And maybe that was partly why Liz didn’t feel safe, because he knew how far she might go, for her sister. Just as far he would go for his own.

“Probably not,” Alex said, pulling Michael out of his thoughts. “But this Jones person had to have rented the storage units for a reason. So we work the case. See what he’s up to. Something’s gonna give us the next step.”

Michael let out a frustrated breath. 

“Hey.” Alex’s hand was covering his own. Cool and strong. “I know you haven’t been on many long-haul cases with us. And I know they suck, especially when the stakes are so high. But Maria and I have, and we’re good at our jobs.”

Michael snorted. “ How long have you been looking for proof of aliens again?”

Alex smiled… and lifted his other hand to gently poke Michael right between the eyes. “Found one eventually, didn’t I?”

Michael blinked at him, trying not to flush. Inhaling roughly he glanced away from Alex’s warm brown eyes, looking down at their joined hands. 

Alex. Maria. Whether or not they should , they both made him feel so good. Whole in a way that he didn’t even realize he’d been longing for.

Alex looked at him steadily for several breaths. And fuck, Michael just wanted to shift in, rest his head on Alex’s chest and listen to his heartbeat, until his own slowed down and matched his, let him calm him down.

It was probably for the best that Alex was pulling his hand free and standing up. “You want a beer?” He asked, moving towards the kitchen. 

“Absolutely.” Michael got up, following him, trying to ignore the pounding of his own heart.

“I could bring it out,” Alex said, dryly. “I might be disabled, but I’m not incapable.”

Michael let out a half laugh. “I just want to see your kitchen. You can learn a lot about people from their kitchens.”

“You’re going to learn that we like takeout and we have a maid who deep cleans once a week.” 

“Oh my god.” Michael groaned. “Seriously? Of course you guys have a maid.”

“Solved sixteen different arguments the day we hired her.” Alex shrugs. “Sometimes keeping the peace is more important than money.”

Michael snorted. He wasn’t so sure about that. 

“So you said Liz was playing Dr. Frankenstein?” He asked, as he opened the fridge, looking over the contents. Michael took the opportunity to spy too -- it was, as advertised, mostly full of takeout containers. Thai, Chinese, Italian. A couple leftovers that looked home cooked (so maybe cooking was a weekend thing for them). A frankly ridiculous collection of gourmet cheeses. A couple of beer bottles on the door, some hipster brand Michael usually wouldn’t be caught dead drinking, and a collection of hot sauces, many of which looked down right nuclear. 

 He took a breath, pulling himself back into the here and now. “Liz wants to use the flowers to make a serum that blunts our powers.”

Alex sucked in a breath, straightening, two beer bottles caught in his hand. “Oh,” he said, looking at him. “That’s what’s got you worked up.” 

Michael bristled. “You say that as if it’s not perfectly reasonable--”

Alex frowned. “Michael, this isn’t new. I mean we threw that idea around before we caught Noah.”

“Yeah before .” Michael protested.

Alex looked down at the beer in his hand, set the bottles down on the counter. “Tequila. Up there.” He gestured to a cabinet to Michael’s left. “Mind getting it down?”

Yeah, fair. Michael could use something harder. He grabbed a bottle, not paying attention to the label. “Alex, Noah’s caught. She doesn’t need that kind of power.” Michael poured himself a shot into the glass Alex gave him and took it, relishing the comforting burn. “And don’t you tell me I can trust her.”

“I wasn’t. She threw scientific equipment at you,” Alex pointed out, sensibly. “Would be kind of dumb.” He started to rummage in one of the drawers, pulling out a bottle opener for his beer. “And I’m not going to tell you there’s no reason to be worried. You’d be risking a lot. But we have the chance to get a tactical advantage here. Something we might need with this Jones guy.” 

“Yeah, that’s what the government always says when Superman catches them with a cache of kryptonite weapons,” Michael pointed out, dryly.

“Too. Many. Movies,” Alex said, but he was shaking his head, a fond smile on his lips. “I’m not the government, Guerin.”

Michael snorted. “You’re literally a G-man.” 

Alex laughed. “Yeah, maybe from eight to five on weekdays and the occasional weekend or late night because cryptids apparently don’t sleep,” he admitted. Pausing for a long moment, before he used the opener, cracking open his own beer. “Look. I think Liz isn’t wrong. But… if this is too much for you, I get it. I’ll back you up.” 

“Really?” Michael asked, unable to keep from voicing his surprise. He frowned at Alex, feeling like he should take him at face value but… it was hard. He’d been burned so many times in his life. It was hard to move past that frame of mind.

“Yeah really.” Alex took a pull from his beer, probably using it as an opportunity to formulate a response. Sighing, he moved closer to Michael, who was leaning back against the counter. Alex settled next to him, leaning against the counter and his shoulder, Michael weighing whether he should put his arm around him or not. 

Alex took another pull from his beer. He didn’t look at Michael when he spoke again, but at the plants, in their kitchy mismatched pots, lining the windowsill over the sink. “I called it a case early. But it’s not really. Not for you. For you it’s your life. Your family’s lives. And I know I can be really... single minded, to put it mildly.” He paused, smiling a little, humorlessly. “But I do get that. Maria does too. You should have a say… more than a say, Michael.” 

Michael took a deep breath, and grabbed one of the beers, popping the cap off with his TK and catching it in his hand, squeezing it, letting the bite of the metal settle him. Contemplating that. 

“Look,” Alex said after a minute. “You don’t have to make any decisions yet. I’ll talk to Liz. Right now, we need to figure out how to search these storage units without alerting the military.”

Michael inhaled slowly, and took a drink of the beer. “I’m assuming Flint has a habit of showing up?’

“Both my father and brother have a habit of popping up when they’re least wanted,” Alex reminded him, running a hand through his hair, leaving it endearingly mussed and sticking up in places. “In my more paranoid moments I think they have a tracker on me.”

“There are more cameras outside your house than at the field office,” Michael began sarcastically. “You think you can get more paranoid?” A pause. “I suppose yeah since I don’t see any cameras in here.”

“Only because Maria would divorce me in an instant,” Alex grinned, wryly, taking another pull from his beer. 

“Marriage is all about concessions I hear,” Michael joked.

“In any good partnership.” Alex looked up at Michael, nudged him a little with his shoulder. 

Michael put his arm around Alex’s shoulders, tucking him in close. When Alex did nothing more than relax into him, Michael turned his head, pressing his nose into Alex’s dark silky hair.

“Thanks…” he said after a moment. “I… I’m not…”

“You’re fine, Guerin,” Alex replied, resting his hand over Michael’s, the one resting on his shoulder. “I’m not good at it either. Trusting. Opening up.”

“No shit,” Michael said with a laugh. Shaking his head.  

“Oh fuck you,” Alex laughed, too. 

“Promise?” Michael couldn’t help but tease. Flushing as soon as the word was out of his mouth. Down boy , he reminded himself. You can’t -- and then he cut himself off, because what he had been starting to think was that he couldn't afford to get too close to Alex or Maria.

But why the fuck not? They’d been in possession of his secret for almost a week now, and he wasn’t black bagged yet. Michael would be fooling himself if didn’t admit that all he’d ever wanted was to be close to them. That his secret and the fear of that secret coming to light were the only reason he’d tried (and mostly failed, if he were being honest with himself, (if they were being honest with themselves given what happened with Maria barely a few hours earlier) to keep them at arm's length. But he didn’t have that excuse anymore, and frankly he was getting tired of telling himself no. 

Alex was looking at him in surprise, unsure of how to proceed. Likely sensing that Michael was more than just joking. But he didn’t move and his eyes were dark with a desire that mirrored his own, a hesitance he was familiar with as well. Alex’s tongue peaked out of his mouth to wet suddenly dry lips, and of course that was what shattered whatever was left of Michael’s self control. Moving his hand from Alex’s shoulder, he cupped the curve of his skull and pulled him into a kiss. 

And thank fuck, Alex was leaning right into it. Michael let out a soft breath against Alex’s mouth, relief and need all bundled together. Alex shifted so they were chest to chest, hand in his hair, deepening the kiss. Demanding, fuck yes, he remembered Alex was a demanding kisser. Taking what he wanted, pulling Michael where he needed. And god, he wanted that right now.

The kiss was just as electric as Michael remembered too. The slide of their lips, their tongues intoxicating. Michael moaned into it, wrapping both his arms around Alex’s waist and pulling him flush against him. There was the clattering sound of Alex’s crutch falling to the ground as Alex’s weight settled fully against him, pushing Michael right into the counter behind him. Alex’s now-free hand was sliding under Michael’s shirt, blunt nails digging into his back. 

Yes, yes this was what he needed, everything he’d been missing, the weight of him pressing against Michael, the spicy scent of his aftershave, the way Alex whispered his name in between stinging nips and the soothing kisses that followed . For the first time in days, Michael felt himself relax. Really give in. 

“You know it’s common courtesy to put a sock on the doorknob.”

Alex and Michael gasped, breaking the kiss, but still clinging to each other as they turned their heads to find Maria leaning against the doorframe with her arms crossed and an eyebrow arched. 

“No please, don’t stop on my account. I was enjoying the show,” Maria continued, a downright wicked gleam in her eye.

Alex groaned, obviously looking for his crutch. And as much as Michael didn’t want him to pull away, he didn't want him trapped either, so he used his TK to pick it up for him. Alex took it, gratefully, and took a step back, hand dragging slowly off Michael as he did so. 

Alex glanced at Michael, who prepared himself for guilt and regret on Alex’s face. But there was no regret on his face, just a soft smile and his fingertips lingering on his lips. Michael wanted to pull him back into his arms, Maria too. Michael looked at her. Unsure how to interpret her behavior. “Maria…”

“Shut up.” Maria pushed herself off the doorframe and, in seconds, she was crowding in his space, leaning up on her toes, hands on his chest for balance. Michael didn’t even think, just acted. Meeting her halfway into a kiss, groaning as their lips finally met. Her lips soft and fuck she smelled good, like milk and honey. He wrapped an arm around her, hauling her in between his legs. She deepened the kiss instantly, as if she needed to claim him too after Alex. Fuck that was hot. 

But he needed Alex too. His free hand reaching out for Alex who, yes thank fuck, he took it, and heeded Michael’s gentle urging to come close. They were both pressed up against him, the weight of their bodies trapping him up against the counter. It dug uncomfortably into the small of his back but Michael didn’t care. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered but the hot slide of Maria’s tongue against his, Alex pressing a soft kiss to his shoulder, his throat. 

 


 

Maria was the one who maneuvered them to the couch. It was good that she did, because Alex was too intoxicated by Michael’s kisses to really care about much of anything else. On the couch, they took turns kissing Michael breathless. Taking their time, kissing him slowly, lazily, getting acquainted. Reacquainted. He had forced himself to forget how Michael kissed him with everything he had. Forced himself to forget the way Michael touched him, pulled him in close and held him tight, like he might lose him.  

That grip never eased, even when Maria urged them to break apart with a gentle tug on Michael’s hair; her voice husky, and playful, as she admonished Alex. “Don’t be greedy.” 

Michael hummed deliciously against Alex’s lips before pulling away, not bothering to open his eyes as he kissed Maria, open mouthed and deep.

Maria’s eyes met Alex’s for a moment, before Michael did something that made her eyes darken, lashes fluttering closed with a soft moan. Alex watched them for a moment, watched them kiss. Watched Michael pull her legs into lap. His curls tangled in her slim, manicured fingers. It felt like the most natural thing in the world, to have him tucked between them, Alex kissing his neck and shoulder while Maria swallowed up his little moans of pleasure.

Closing his eyes, Alex pressed his nose behind Michael’s ear, nuzzling and kissing and inhaling deeply. 

Michael smelled so fucking good. Like bourbon and grease and rain.  

Rain . Alex remembered waking up with Michael, in his airstream, smelling it. And he remembered it in Oregon, too. And in the warehouse, come to think of it.

Do aliens just smell like that, he wondered, letting out a soft laugh, running his hand down Michael’s arm, watching the way Michael shifted to press more into Maria, press her into the couch. Alex traced the way his jeans hugged his ass, his legs. The bulk of the anklet.

Fuck. The anklet. Alex sucked in a breath, reality starting to crash in. What the hell were they doing? Alex pulled his hands off Michael.  

Michael made a soft noise in protest, turning to blindly seek out his mouth. Alex couldn’t quite commit to stopping. He didn’t fucking want to. Alex turned to look at Maria--Michael’s lips dragged across his cheek, to nip his ear. Maria was already looking at him, eyes dark, mouth kiss-bruised and worry just starting to creep over her features. Already picking up his change in mood. 

Alex let out a heavy breath. All he wanted was to pull Michael right into the kiss and forget about all their complications. But. 

“I think we should...”  He started, and trailed off because Michael’s hand was slipping under his shirt and his brain was shorting out just a little. 

Maria made a frustrated sound, glaring at him, and honestly he couldn’t blame her. He was also pissed at himself right now. 

“Head to bed?” Michael asked, low, lips grazing Alex’s throat, arm sliding around his waist and pulling him in and fuck Michael was strong and warm and...  

And he sternly reminded himself of what happened the last time he let himself get carried away with Michael.

“Nnh…” He cast a desperate look at Maria, her hands were under Michael’s shirt, rucking it up. Alex could see a strip of belly, flat and tantalizing dark with hair.  She was shaking her head at him. No, Alex, don’t. He could read the thought in her eyes.

Damnit. Back me up.

“To sleep ,” Alex got out, trying to focus past the way Michael’s fingers were gripping the waistband of his jeans, glaring at Maria. Who was looking back at him with so much exasperated annoyance. He glared at her harder. He could not be the only sensible one here, Maria. Not with the way Michael was clinging to him. He needed his damn wife to be as level-headed and self-sacrificing as he was being here, damnit . “It’s been a long day. A long few days.”

Michael hummed. “You know what really helps me sleep…” 

Fine . Maria mouthed, throwing her hands up, frustrated, angry. She took a breath, exhaling slowly before speaking. “... Alex is right, Michael. You can stay in Alex’s room. We’ll bunk together.”

Oh of course the minute she decided to be useful she threw him under the bus like that. As if the bed wouldn’t smell like him for days after, just to torture Alex.

Michael finally drew back from Alex, looking between the both of them. His brows drawn together, searching their faces as if to figure out the joke. “You’re serious right now?” he asked, finally. 

“Yeah,” Alex said, relieved when Maria nodded. “This week has been hell--”

“This has nothing to do with that!” Michael replied, frowning at them both. Annoyed, yes, but there was something desperate and worried in his tone that made Alex’s heart ache. Made him want to forget all his reservations and kiss away the frown from those plush lips.

“We know,” Maria said softly, taking his hand and squeezing it. “But we should still take a step back.” 

“Ok.” Flopping back against the couch, Michael let out a frustrated sigh. He pulled his hand free from Maria, and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Ok.” 

They showed Michael to Alex’s room. It was spacious, with a big comfortable bed. Michael looked at it like he was being put in the dog house. And in the time it took to sort him out with extra blankets and towels and pointing out the bathroom, Michael’s expression had fluctuated between frustrated, disbelieving, needy and desperate to finally land on resigned. 

Alex knew he was doing the right thing. But doing the right thing didn’t make him any less horny or frustrated. He went back to the kitchen, grabbed two glasses, pouring tequila into both before sitting down at the kitchen table to wait.

Less than ten minutes later, Maria was sitting across from him, sipping her own glass. He was glad she didn’t wait for him in her bedroom. That was too close to his room. Alex hoped alien hearing wasn’t so good that Michael could hear them all the way in the kitchen. 

“Here’s to being cockblocked by both Kyle Valenti and my husband today,” Maria said, raising the glass of tequila to him before drinking. 

Alex snorted. “No life changing dick remember.”

“I don’t know about you, but I was rather planning on changing his life,” she retorted tartly, taking another quick drink before getting up, to grab bread and some gourmet cheese out of the fridge. 

He laughed softly at that, not arguing. “Does that really go with tequila?” 

“I have had a long damn week. I deserve something decadent in my mouth.”

“Gross.” Alex laughed. 

She winked at him, settling back into her chair. “What stopped you?”  

“What didn’t is probably the better question,” he said dryly.  

She raised an eyebrow. “Something changed your mind, though. I felt it.”

Alex shook his head, reached out for some bread. “Anklet was the trigger. When I saw it, it just reminded me of--”

Maria rubbed her temple. “The power differential. Right. It doesn’t feel like there is one when we’re together. Cons and wardens stuff just fades away. It’s just us.” 

“I know.” Alex fiddled with his glass. “Same.” The world felt different when Michael was with them. But that was simply wrong. Michael was a con and they were his wardens. 

Still…the situation didn’t feel quite so simple. He didn’t fully understand how these new revelations changed their dynamic, but the scales felt out of balance. Alex took a swallow of tequila. “It’s all too complicated. With the three of us. I could, we… I don’t want to fuck it up. With him.” Alex slid a hand through his hair, frustrated with his own feelings.

The truth of the matter was that he was terrified of doing this wrong again. Of hurting Michael again , this time irreparably. 

Maria exhaled, loud and frustrated, folding her arms over the table and resting her head on top of them. “I know.”

And it wasn’t just his relationship with Michael that could be irreparably damaged. Losing Maria was his worst nightmare. He’d give up anything, if it meant his relationship with Maria was safe.

“I like him,” Alex said into the frustrated silence that followed. “A lot. And you do too.”

Maria raised her head to look at him, frowning. “Is this some kind of ‘we both want him so neither of us can have him’ bullshit?”

Alex shrugged. “I dunno, Maria. This is a really complicated situation and I guess I’m just pointing out all the gremlins on the wing of the plane.” 

Maria frowned. Holding out her hand for him. “Hey. You know I appreciate your tactical mind, right?” She waited till he caught her hand in his, nodding. “But remember, sometimes we need to listen to our hearts.”

Her frown deepened when Alex sucked his teeth. “Maria, this isn’t Disney. This is real life.” 

“Alex…”

“It’s too much of a risk. At least right now. While my dad is still out there, waiting for us to fuck up, while Guerin’s still serving his sentence... It leaves us all vulnerable, but him most of all.” 

“Fucking Guerin isn’t going to make him any more or less vulnerable,” Maria said, shaking her head. “This is about insecurity.” Alex frowned at her. “You said it yourself. You’re worried about screwing it up.” 

“You’re not?” he asked, taking another drink of the tequila.

Maria paused, then nodded. “Of course I am.”

“But it’s not enough to keep you from starting something with him?”

She shrugged. “I’m not letting Jesse Manes cockblock me too. And you shouldn’t either,” Maria added, looking at him concerned and annoyed. “You’ve let him do that for long enough.”

Maria wasn’t wrong but she wasn’t right either. Or at least she was being naive if she didn’t realize Jesse Manes had already ruined his life, hers too just by association. He didn’t mention any of that because she would deny it, get all self righteously pissed at him for owning that guilt. She would remind him that she had her own reasons for following him into the FBI. 

And he would be a self absorbed asshole if he didn’t acknowledge the truth of that too. 

“So why did you let me stop it?” Alex asked, with a raised eyebrow.

“Because you didn’t want to do it,” Maria said, shrugging, looking a little offended that he would ask. 

“It’s really that simple?” He asked, leaning back in his chair a little. “You’re just… ready to have a threesome with your platonic lifemate and CI?”

She laughed. “It’s not like you’re hard on the eyes, Alex.”

“Be serious.” Alex threw a piece of bread at her. She caught it, smeared some camembert on it and took a bite.

“Fine. You want serious? I do want him. Badly. I’ve tried to convince myself otherwise, and have failed spectacularly. I’ve decided to stop lying to myself. But I don’t want him at your expense.”

“So it is about me.”

“It’s about us,” Maria said firmly. “We haven’t talked it out. And as much as I’d like to go right back to stripping Guerin for parts, ruin your sheets--” she ducked as Alex tossed another piece of bread at her, laughing. “We probably need to talk about it first.” 

Alex paused, thoughtful. Fucking hell. Was he getting in the way of her happiness? “You can, if you want. Go strip him down. But you’re gonna owe me new sheets,” he joked, hoping it covered the way his chest twisted at the idea of it. Not of Michael and Maria being together, but stepping aside felt like giving up , on Michael, on happiness, on them. But it was also hard for him to imagine a world where he got any of that. His life as it was now, the relative peace with Maria, felt too good to be true sometimes.

Maria saw right through him, as usual. “None of this self sacrificing bullshit. Cut that shit out. Regardless of what you grew up thinking about yourself, you deserve to be happy. This could make you happy, and you’re not giving that up for me.” 

“What, so it’s together or not at all?” He asked, tilting his head. “That’s not exactly fair either.” 

“I think,” Maria began, and he could hear the caution in her voice, trying not to say the wrong thing. “That you’re really close to being in love with him.” She held up her hand, staving off the protest that she knew was coming. “And so am I. And if one of us got to pursue it and the other didn’t … that’s the thing that would start coming between us.” Maria met his eyes, expression serious and unwavering. “That I can’t have.” 

“Me neither,” Alex got out through a suddenly-tight throat. Fuck, he was so lucky to have her.

Silence fell for a couple minutes. Maria letting him deal with the emotions that threatened to overwhelm him. But eventually she nudged him a little. “You know it’s going to happen again though,and we may not be able to just stop at kissing. I know you need some time to work it through. But…”

Alex poured himself some more tequila, swallowing it in one go.

“You know tequila isn’t going to help you run away from your feelings. Just add worse feelings in the morning.”

“You’re my wife not my therapist,” Alex reminded her, grumpy. 

“Thank fuck for that,” Maria responded dryly, gesturing at him with a chunk of gouda. “I’d go crazy.”

“Kind of amazed you haven’t already,” he said, a little self-deprecatingly, but mostly honest. He’s needed her more than she’s ever needed him. 

“Mn. Too much work. Besides, they won’t let me take my crystals or plants with me to the nuthouse.”

Alex snorted and glanced down at his empty glass, running his thumb around the rim of it. He concentrated on that for a moment, the press of the glass into thumb, the coolness of it against his skin. Just concentrated on that until some of his anxieties ebbed a bit. Until he could figure out what he wanted to say.

“You’re right. It’s probably going to happen again,” Alex said. “I’m just worried that I’ll never be ready--”

He cut off as Maria scooted her chair around, to wrap her arms around him, tightly. “Stop. I know you’re afraid. It’s okay to be afraid. I am too. Let’s take some time, calm down a bit, and take stock. And Alex?”

Alex grunted a little, not really trusting himself to speak. 

“He feels the same way we do.”

Honestly Alex had no idea if that was better or worse. But it made him feel good. It made him feel like maybe he still had a chance, with Michael. A chance at being happy.