Not many people caught Alex’s interest.
He wasn’t deliberately rude to people that didn’t, but he typically didn’t give them the time of day. He’d rather sit in his own head, rather just be with his friends and wait it out until high school ended and he got the freedom to get away from people that were close-minded and drove him insane.
He’d heard that there are places where Antarians aren’t othered. It gave him some hope that maybe there would be a place for him that would make him feel less othered too.
That being said, when he first got a glimpse of Michael Guerin, he caught his interest. He didn’t see him often, but it was enough. The guy was gorgeous and apparently ridiculously talented, according to his eavesdropping. He had a lot of control for an Antarian this young. It was almost scary, one of their teachers who “specialized” in teaching non-violence to Antarians had said, because someone with that much control must be a ticking time bomb. Alex was even more intrigued.
That was hardly a secret, not that there was anyone around to notice. He loved Liz and Maria, but he was convinced he could wear the same shirt for a month straight and they wouldn’t notice. By the time he got to have Michael, got to kiss and touch him and know him, it was easy to keep it to themselves until they were ready. Even when Alex told them, it was easy to keep it from everyone else because no one really cared all that much.
That is, until it became impossible to really hide that something happened.
“Call or text me if you need something,” Alex told Michael as they sat in his truck. First day back to school after the incident and Alex was on edge, but he was trying hard not to be. He needed to act like normal.
“Okay,” Michael agreed, “Same for you.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“I know you will,” Michael said, giving a sweet little smile, “Now, give me kisses.”
Michael pursed his lips out dramatically and Alex momentarily wondered if the pain medication was still making him a little over the top. However, it really just might be Michael trying to distract him from his own head. Either way, Alex leaned forward and gave him a soft kiss.
“Okay, let’s go.”
They went their separate ways for the beginning of the day. There were a few times they could feasibly cross paths outside of music class, but usually they had to plan that shit to an annoying precision. For both of their sake, it was safer to keep their distance. People were going to ask about Michael’s hand. More than that, people were going to assume.
Alex’s job here was to act like he wasn’t involved.
“Alex,” Liz’s voice said as soon as he stepped into the hallway. She was at his side, staring at him with concern. So much for acting like he wasn’t involved. “Where have you been? You’ve been absent for days and you haven’t been answering our calls or texts. What happened? Are you alright? We thought about going to your house to see if‒”
“But you didn’t, right?” Alex said quickly, his heart involuntarily picking up speed, “You didn’t go to my dad’s house, right?”
“No,” Liz said, though that only seemed to raise her worry, “We figured you’d talk to use when you wanted to. Alex, what happened?”
“I’ll tell you later,” Alex said, “When there’s not so many people.” And when he had time to trust himself to tell a good lie.
“Well, at least tell me you’re okay.”
“I’m okay,” Alex said. It sounded hollow and he knew it, but Liz nodded her head and accepted it because she was a good friend like that.
Alex didn’t have it in him to deal with anyone today. He let the hallways part in his wake, but he didn’t bother acting cocky about it. He was feared. He got that. But now he wasn’t too sure what that got him. Fear was pointless. The only solace he had was that most of the people making way for him, he’d never even acknowledged. And he only hurt people who hurt others’ first. They should really only fear him if they were guilty.
Which. Maybe they were.
The idea alone was exhausting and, as he reached his locker, he began counting down the hours until he could get back into Michael’s bed where everything smelled good and it was warm.
“Alex,” Maria said as he sat down in their pre-calc class. She leaned close, that familiar concerned look on her face. “Where have you been?”
“Stuff came up, I’ll tell you and Liz later.”
“Would that stuff have anything to do with Michael Guerin’s hand?” Maria asked, voice an almost inaudible whisper, but Alex heard her clearly. His entire body tensed up and he held his breath. He didn’t trust himself to breathe without giving everything away. “Everyone was staring at him and everyone knows you both have been gone. Alex, there’s gonna be rumors that you did it.”
“I didn’t ‒” Alex started, but he stopped himself. He took a slow deep breath and let his mind remember Ezra’s words, a never ending ‘this isn’t your fault, you did nothing wrong’ . “I didn’t do it.”
“ I know you didn’t. Obviously. I meant, like, people who don’t know you,” Maria said, looking around and lowering her voice, “Because your reputation.”
Alex squeezed his fists tighter, his heart thudding in his chest and his throat and his ears and everything. He shouldn’t have gotten out of bed. Well, he should’ve gotten out of bed and still hooked up with Michael in the shower, but he shouldn’t have left the house. He should’ve stayed and doted on Michael all day.
People were going to think he did it.
“Maybe they won’t,” Maria jumped in, trying to make him feel better, probably but not doing too great of a job due to his mind already running with the idea, “I mean, you’ve never beat up an Antarian before. In fact, you’ve gone out of their way to be nice to them! Maybe they’ll think you protected him.”
Alex, involuntarily and yet still stupidly, flinched.
He didn’t protect him.
He didn’t do shit.
“I’m sorry for bringing it up,” Maria said. Alex shook his head, trying to tell her it wasn’t her fault but not being able to find the words. She didn’t do anything other than observe.
Alex thought about getting up and leaving, but school had just begun and he wouldn’t have a very valid excuse. He could possibly fake being sick, though that would only do so much and he knew Michael would have a much harder time getting out of class. They wouldn’t be able to meet up just yet.
So Alex stewed in his own head, trying to keep distracted and only being minutely successful in that endeavor. He just had to hold out until lunch. That’s it. It’d be fine.
Still, his classes dragged. They seemed to all be speaking in slow motion and he still didn’t get any notes. He didn’t hear a thing through pre-calc and when he got to biology, it sounded like gibberish. The only solace he had was that he would have to ask Michael for help going over it. He would lean real close as he went over the information and stare at his lips and wait, wait, wait, until he could lean over and kiss him. He was still allowed to do that. He was allowed to kiss him senseless. That was good. He could manage with that.
Maybe they would get lucky and Michael’s parents would be kept late at work and Alex would get the warm opportunity to get his mouth on other parts of him. He wanted to just kiss him all over, touch him where he was able to, let his mind empty itself out with the taste of him. That’s what he needed.
By the time lunch came around and he got to see Michael again, he was itching for him. They met at their usual place behind the school and Alex barely got to take in his pretty, welcoming smile before he was kissing him and slowly backing him into the wall.
He held his cheek with one hand and had his other on the back of his head so it wouldn’t hit the bricks, kissing him like he had nothing left to do in life. And maybe he didn’t. Maybe this was what he was meant to do: kiss Michael until he was numb to everything else.
“Whoa,” Michael breathed after he pulled away. He couldn’t kiss him for too long, he knew, because he wouldn’t want to stop and they were still at school. Sadly. “Hi.”
“Hi,” Alex murmured, nudging his nose against Michael’s warm cheek and then nuzzling his face into the crook of his neck. He let his hands fall to wrap around his waist and Michael’s arms moved to hug his shoulders.
“You okay?” Michael asked, pressing a kiss to Alex’s ear. He closed his eyes and breathed him in and tried to imagine being tucked in his bed. Alas, there was too much rough clothing for that to be accurate. Michael slept in soft clothes. And, since Alex didn’t have anything of his own, he also slept in Michael’s soft clothes.
“I just need you.”
Michael let out a breath and relaxed a bit, the first time that Alex even noticed he was tense. God, he needed to get better at noticing that. Michael was just so good at pretending he was totally fine.
“Same,” he agreed, hugging him tighter, as much as he could without messing up his hand more.
They stayed there for probably too long, just holding onto each other. Surprisingly, no one came to bother him. Alex half expected both Maria and Liz to come and ask too many questions that Alex wasn’t prepared to provide the answers to.
“Has anyone asked?” Alex whispered against his skin.
Michael was quiet for a second too long.
“Mrs. Wilks saw me in the hall,” he said, “I thought she was going to cry over it for a second. Kept asking what my doctor said about the piano, if I’d be able to play again.”
Alex swallowed harshly and lifted his head. The idea Michael wouldn’t play an instrument again hurt. He was so smart and strong and powerful, but he was a gifted musician. More than that, he loved it. Alex had only really gotten to see him play in his comfort zone once or twice, but it was so clear that it brought him peace.
“You haven’t even asked the Evans’ about it, have you?” Alex said. Michael avoided direct eye contact.
“No,” he said softly. All Alex heard was that he was terrified for the answer.
“Hey, we’ll figure it out. I mean, we got you to a doctor. They worked on you. If-if you can’t play like you used to, I know you’ll figure it out. Or I’ll just play the other hand for you forever and we’ll be a duo,” Alex insisted, “Left hand is easy without the right, usually, anyway, I can handle it.”
Michael smiled at him, a little nervous and a little fond. Alex would enjoy drowning in that smile.
“I’ll do whatever I can for you, okay?”
“And I’ll do the same,” Michael responded earnestly. Alex wanted to tell him no, but he knew that would lead to an argument and he didn’t want that.
He just wanted him.
“Think they’ll miss us if we skip the rest of the day?” Michael asked, trying to lighten the mood. Alex grinned and leaned close again, nudging his nose against his cheek.
“Tempting, but I want your parents to still like me.”
Michael scrunched his nose up in defiance which just made everything a little easier. They could still be normal after this.
Whatever normal meant when it was the two of them. Alex was ready to be reminded.