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“Oh hell no.” Kyle swears fervently, uncrossing his arms and stepping away from the lab table he’s been leaning against. “That is my sister right there. I am as sex-positive as the next guy, possibly even more so, but there is no way in hell that my grown-ass friends are going to roll my still nineteen-year-old sister with alien sex magic or sex pollen, or like.. Pon Farr or something.”

Alex stares at him, incredulous.

“How is that literally the only thing you have retained about any franchise with the word “Star” or “Space” in them?”

“We were teenagers and you told me about a kinky sex thing in a TV show that was about being uncontrollably horny. It kind of fucked with my fantasy life. Like I even needed an excuse to jerk off at that point.” Kyle looks at him like he’s the obtuse one here.

Rosa laughs, a full-bodied, head-tilted-back laugh.

“Okay, this is too funny. My brother— who is incidentally the guy who took my sister’s virginity— is trying to keep me from getting sex-rolled into a fuck-or-die scenario by the girl I flirted with in high school, who is incidentally the alien who sort-of murdered me. I love how we at least never having boring problems.”

“Alex,” Kyle growls, “get her out of here.”

“Okay. Going.” Alex turns Rosa slowly toward the exit of the bunker. “If Isobel is going to be able to let us leave.”

Isobel’s eyes flash. Her arms are clenched tightly across her chest, ponytail swinging as she stalks back and forth.

“Why on Earth wouldn’t I let you leave?” she snaps.

“Because even though we haven’t figure out why yet, you’re in a little bit of an altered state, you’ve been hit with the same thing that Max and Liz are dealing with, and maybe most importantly, you’ve moved between us and the door,” Alex points out very reasonably. Isobel looks over, surprised.

“Shit.” She blinks, whirls around. “I am so sorry. I didn’t realize I was… My god, Rosa, I’m so sorry.”

“Maybe…don’t reach out to touch her as part of that apology.” Alex suggests gently. “We don’t know if that might…trigger anything.”

Isobel stares down at her outstretched hand in horror.

“What am I doing?” she says, almost like she’s forgotten they’re all in the room. “I would never.. I don’t want to…to touch this…without their consent. Why am I…”

Kyle edges in front of her, pulls her attention.

“Hey. Hey…look at me,” he says gently, holding eye contact. “You’re having a biological reaction triggered by something outside of your control that’s hitting some pretty intense evolutionary imperative buttons, but you’re fighting it, and you’re not violating anyone’s consent so far. That’s good news. But you probably can’t fight it forever, so you need to figure out how to channel it where you and everyone else is going to be okay.”

“How?” She snaps. “Max had Liz already here. The great love of my life turned out to be a phenomenally abusive asshole who liked to go on murder sprees using my body, and my instincts are drawing me toward the girl who used to be the hot older girl from school, but is also now my husband’s teenage murder victim, which is a little bit more than can reasonably be unpacked at this moment.”

“So use me,” Kyle offers, spreading his arms out to the side. “I like sex, and it doesn’t seem like whatever this is starts out by hooking its teeth into non-aliens, so…consider this consent freely given, and the ball squarely in your court.

Best part, you and I have by far the least amount of baggage of anyone in this room to unpack if we’re going to sleep together in circumstances like this, and you’ve definitely wanted me to take off my shirt in the past, so… if that seems like a reasonable option, and you want to give it a go, just… maybe touch my arm or something, see if that helps at all, see if it makes it easier to let Alex and Rosa leave.”

“Yes. Okay. Yes.” Isobel decides and with one more apologetic glance in their direction, Isobel reaches out and sets her hand on Kyle’s forearm. They all watch with bated breath as her fingers settle on his skin. He raises his eyebrows.

“Okay, yeah,” he breathes, eyes going wide, swaying toward her a bit, hands flexing. “There’s the impact. That’s actually a little bit of a sucker punch right there. Damn.” And then he’s surging forward, hauling her into a kiss that’s infinitely filthier and more intense than anything Alex had previously imagined these two particular people might get up to together. Good for them, but Alex has to move Rosa out of here. He ushers her toward the exit. And if he casts one glance back over his shoulder to see Kyle Valenti half out of his shirt already, no one needs to be any the wiser. Kyle is objectively attractive, and one of the perks of being friends again is that he gets to indulge in aesthetic appreciation from time to time.


“I’m just checking,” Rosa says as they spill out into the sunlight together, “Are you sure you’re 100% gay, and not even a little bit bi? Because I’m just saying that if you’re a little bit on edge from the freaky sex pheromones thing going on back there, I am more than willing to take one for the team and fall on my sword to help you out. Or your sword as the case may be.” She pauses and reconsiders. “Or if we can find a very particular box that I’m really hoping my family didn’t examine too closely before putting it into storage, we can be back to the ‘my sword’ analogy again.”

Alex laughs despite himself as he pulls open the door of the SUV.

“I love you, and despite the fact that you’re literally still a teenager, I can definitively tell you two things.” He slides into the driver’s seat, pulls the door closed behind him, waits for hers to shut as well, grins over at her. “First, I am very, very gay. And second, if this were, like, 150 years ago, we could have had a truly great marriage of convenience.”

“Love you too, asshole,” Rosa says fondly. “Seriously though, you guys can lay off the “only nineteen” crap though. It’s not like I’m really nineteen. And it’s not like I’m really pushing into my third decade either. I get that. But I used to be older than all of you, and I am well above the age of consent no matter what timeline we use, so you’ve got to relax a little bit and let me be a big girl. If you think it feels weird to hear me talk about sex or whatever else, it’s nothing compared to how it feels to be told that my dating pool should now be limited to people who were barely old enough to wipe applesauce off their own chins when I babysat for them. Like seriously. Cooper MacKinnon is 20 now. I had to teach that kid how to blow his nose. That feels way skeevier than the idea of dating someone I went to high school with. I mean, who wants to date a person who has only ever considered Third Eye Blind to be classic rock?” She shudders dramatically.

“So can we at least just… talk about real shit like whatever’s going down in there, without you all freaking out around me and trying to protect me from things like sex? Because not that it’s a competition or whatever, but it’s very possible that I had more sexual partners before I died than half of you have even had to date.” She shrugs. “No shame either way, but…let’s not be hypocrites either, okay? It’s not like I forgot everything I experienced and was brought back to life all pure and virginal. Virginity’s a bullshit construct, and I’m legally an adult.” She fixes him with a hard stare. “You signed your life away to the Air Force when you were eighteen, so no matter how weird this is, nobody gets to treat me like a kid.”

“I…yeah, okay.” Alex nods. He doesn’t have a good argument against the points she makes, so he rolls with it and gives her his brightest, most over-the-top smile. “To answer your earlier question, I’m good,” he says. “No real change. How are you doing?”

Rosa settles back into the passenger’s seat, appeased.

“I just watched both of my siblings get steamrolled by…something… that makes people want to fuck like bunnies, and then proceed to start that very process with two aliens that I have somewhat complicated feelings about— one being the girl who I thought liked me in high school, but who ended up being possessed by an evil alien and killing me, and the other being the very boring boy my sister liked in high school who I am having some slight hero-worship feelings about, ever since he did that thing where he resurrected me from the dead and basically sacrificed his own life to save me.
But those are also paired with the additional layer of hating him for having covered up my murder in the first place and turning this entire town against my family for a decade, so the last fifteen minutes have been a very disturbing mix of turn-on and trainwreck.” She laughs tiredly. “It’s fine, it’s cool. Just another Tuesday in this fucked-up little town.”

“Okay, I’m making a call here.” Alex turns the key in the ignition. “I want to come back here pretty soon to make sure they’re okay, but… until we figure out what’s going on, we should probably clear out of the area. And since literally every scientist, medical professional, and investigator we know is currently sexing it out in the bunker, I say we need a drive.”

If he’s being honest, he wants to get Rosa away from whatever potentially dangerous shit is going on, and check on Maria too, find out if she or Michael is having any of the same…symptoms? Make sure it’s isolated to the bunker, so they can track down what caused this. And seeing if Maria is at the bar is the least upsetting way he can think of to figure that out.

His phone rings five minutes into the trip, Liz’s number. He answers immediately.

“Hi! How are you? How’s Max?” He’s worried, and doesn’t even try to keep it out of his voice.

“Surprisingly good, considering?” Liz’s voice echoes out of the car speaker. “It um…seems to stop ramping up as fast once you give into it? So a lot of what I was worried about, with the strain to vital systems and everything, that seems to be mitigated once you, um…indulge.” There’s a pause. “Although it might be possible that it takes a few rounds to fully clear it from your system. At least if what we’re experiencing, and what it sounds like Isobel and Kyle seem to be experiencing is anything to go by.”

They hear Max groan in the background.

“That’s my sister we’re talking about, here.” His voice comes through slightly muffled.

“Same to you, Buddy!” Rosa shoots back cheerfully over the speakerphone. “And also, because it never ceases to delight me to highlight how incredibly weird all of this is for everyone…My brother is also the one in there with your sister.”

Max groans again.

“Rosa, do you have to?” Liz asks, exasperated by what is clearly becoming well-trod ground.

Alex grins. It doesn’t matter if it’s something immense like this, or an argument over who gets the last french fry… it’s so, so good to hear Liz and Rosa like this— bickering good-naturedly as sisters. It’s so good to have Rosa back-because they’d all missed her of course, all mourned her. But also because… the dynamic between her and Liz reminds him of what family is supposed to be- messy and complicated, sure- but grounded in love.

He’d grown up with three brothers, but he’s never felt that. He hadn’t been lying, all those months ago at Caulfield when he told Michael that he was Alex’s family. But he’s remembering that his family is much bigger and more impossible than he had let himself acknowledge for a long time. He’d been raised on the belief that “blood is thicker than water.” It wasn’t until he was almost thirty that Kyle, of all people, had looked at him and said, “Dude, you know that doesn’t mean what you think it means, right? It means, like… totally the opposite actually.”

Since they’d been debating the advisability of outright killing Alex’s father at the time, he’d had to look it up later for fact-checking purposes, and Kyle was right. The actual quote was, “The Blood of the Covenant is thicker than the Water of the Womb.” Family of choice.

They really have formed a covenant, he’d realized. The connections they shared, the secrets they knew, the challenges they faced… it had brought them all together.

Liz and Rosa loved each other, loved their father whether his DNA ran through both of their genetic codes or not. Kyle and Rosa were brother and sister not just because of biology, but because Kyle stepped up to be there, and Rosa let him in. Max, Michael, and Isobel were siblings no matter who their alien or human parents were, and the whole group of them were family that mattered to him more than his blood relations.

That was clear to him the moment that he’d realized that he’d let his father die without hesitation to keep his real family safe…and then again in the next moment, when he’d had to confront the fact that he’d do it by his own hand, if it ever came down to it.

He blinks, keeping his focus on the road, and on the conversation. Rosa is laughing at their reactions.

“Yes, chica, I do. Because somebody’s got to keep your heads cool enough to make it to the end of this conversation.”

“Right.” Liz focuses again. “There’s actually another reason I’m calling. Iz and Kyle never hooked up before, right? Like…back in high school or in college breaks or anything?”

“Not to my knowledge,” Alex says. “But I wasn’t really…here for most of that time.”

“I definitely wasn’t here,” Rosa puts in, “But I don’t think they ever hooked up in high school. Why?

“I’m just…trying to figure out how this all works. I had a theory, because of how I got rolled into it, but it kind of went out the window when Isobel focused her attention on Kyle.”

“Kyle…may not have been her first choice, actually.” Alex says carefully, flicking on his turn signal at a crossroads even though there are no other cars in sight.

“Was it Rosa?” Liz asks sharply.

“Um…yeah, kind of,” Rosa answers.

“When did you start feeling something? Around the same time I did?”

“Then, or maybe even a little bit before?” Rosa frowns. “I might have even started feeling a little weird before Max started acting strange? It wasn’t intense like it was for either of you two, though.”

“Okay. Was Kyle feeling it too?”

“I don’t think so,” Alex says, shaking his head as he replays the events. “When he offered himself up, he seemed pretty clear-headed. Into the idea of sleeping with someone he likes well enough and finds attractive, but rationally so.” He keeps his eyes sharply fixed on the road ahead even as he delves back into his recall.

“He was problem-solving, offering to help Isobel get through whatever this is so that I could get Rosa out of there. It wasn’t until she touched him that he seemed to get yanked into the whole haze of lust thing.”

“Hmm.” Liz’s voice is distracted over the speaker. “I have a theory, but we probably need more data. I think maybe whatever this is, it affects anyone with alien DNA…and then anyone they’re closely linked to, like… with hand prints, or psychic connections, or even that they have a level of intimacy with. That explains why I felt it spilling over from Max, why Rosa felt some of it when Isobel and and Max started having symptoms, and why Kyle only got brought into it once Isobel touched him. The thing I don’t know is what the trigger is— if it was an environmental trigger, or a broader one like… solar flares or something causing it.” She pulls in a breath. “Max says he can’t tell if Michael is affected, and Isobel is…a little busy to ask.”

Alex thinks she turned the phone then, because he can hear the muffled sounds of enthusiastic sex. Rosa rolls her eyes.

“So I need to ask you, because I know you and Michael have…had a thing in the past. Did you notice anything in your own reactions as all this started?”

“Not really,” he tells her. “But it’s not like I’ve been with him in a long time.”

“But Maria has,” Liz says quietly. “And even if he’s never left a handprint on anyone, Maria’s got some psychic abilities. Alex, you have to go check on her, because things are…kind of ramping up again here. This phenomenon…it gets bad for the aliens, especially if they aren’t able to do anything to abate it. But human systems can’t handle that overload as well as alien physiology can. If we’re affected through handprints or psychic links, and not because of exposure to a toxin or something, it could get dangerous real fast. I don’t even have an idea of how bad.”

“We were already on the way to the Pony,” he tells her. Now he’s just going to try to get there a little bit faster.


Maria is, in fact, there when they walk into the bar. It’s dead quiet, sun spilling in through open windows, and it feels very different than the Pony usually does, even on a slower weeknight. Brighter, peaceful and at ease— not words he thinks of once the neon lights are on.

She’s slicing lime wedges, prepping them into buckets for the happy hour margarita special in a couple of hours, but she stops cutting as they walk up, wipes her hands on the towel slung over her shoulder.

“Hi.” She says, somewhat surprised. It’s a reasonable response. Alex hasn’t come into the Pony much on his own since sometime last year. He’s barely even come in with Liz and the others. Never if Michael is going to be there— it’s too painful to see him and Maria together. There’s a difference between finding peace with the fact of them being with each other, even wishing them happiness together, and being there to see that happiness up close. He’s been good enough with them in groups, or each on their own…but the Pony feels different, feels like he’s intruding.

He’s missed it though— the feeling of being able to drop in and see Maria any time. The feeling comes back to him now, fitting as comfortably as an old jacket he hasn’t worn in awhile, the comfort of it only disconcerting because having it back reminds him of its absence at all.

“Hey yourself.”

He walks up to the bar, slides onto a stool with Rosa in tow.

“Got any coffee?” he asks. She usually keeps a pot brewed behind the bar so she can serve spiked coffee drinks, but he’s not sure if she’ll have any brewed this early. She nods though, and grabs a couple of mugs.

“Okay, both of you look like you wish I was putting whiskey or tequila in these mugs instead, and it’s not even 1:30 in the afternoon. What’s going on?” She narrows her eyes at them.

“Weird-ass alien shit.” Rosa says dramatically.

“Weird-ass alien shit,” Alex confirms.

“You remember that Stargate Atlantis fanfic I made you read back in high school, where a bunch of the characters got blasted with some kind of alien sex pollen and everyone paired up and had to have sex with each other?” Rosa asks abruptly.

Maria blinks.

“…Yes? Why are we talking about that now?”

“It’s a lot weirder when it’s each of your siblings sleeping with the aliens.”

Alex has to give her this, she’s conveyed the idea a lot more efficiently than he had been trying to lay out a way to explain. His way would probably still be stumbling around the topic awkwardly ten more minutes from now, so he’s forced to appreciate the shorthand.

“Wait, seriously?” Maria blinks. “Max and Liz, sure but… Valenti and…Isobel? I’m not saying it’s impossible to imagine- might even be pretty hot to watch, honestly. But…I did not have that one on my bingo card.”

“Yeah.” Alex sips his coffee. “Kyle wasn’t rolled by it at first, but he volunteered to help Isobel out, and once she touched him, it seemed like he was just as gone as Liz and Max were. For Liz, it was more immediate— probably because she and Max are already together, or have had a handprint connection.” He takes another sip. “We don’t know enough about it, though. We have no idea what caused it. Max and Isobel seemed like they were impacted first, so it seems like whatever it is targets alien physiology. But the how… we have no idea, and the lab is a little bit… occupied…at the moment.”

“Can’t you just…move them?” Maria asks. Alex shrugs.

“Maybe in a little while, if and when it calms down,” he agrees. “I talked to Liz on the way here, and- I cannot believe I’m saying this- her hope is that a few orgasms will help work whatever this is out of their systems. I figured I’d go back in an hour or so and check on them. But we wanted to get Rosa out of there before she got dragged into that, if there was any chance of that happening. And we wanted to check on you.”

“Me?” Maria looks surprised.

“Yeah.” He tilts his glass back and forth carefully. “If it’s some sort of environmental toxin or contaminant-”

“Like pollen,” Rosa interjects.

“Like pollen,” he allows, and is rewarded with her toasting her mug in his direction, “Then it’s probably isolated to the bunker, and we can figure out how to address it and control for it. But if it’s something in the larger environment, or something about alien physiology that’s been triggered somehow, then we shouldn’t waste time with an inaccurate hypothesis. Max said he couldn’t feel Michael, and Isobel could only feel that he was alive, not if he was getting slammed with the same thing they were. And because Liz is worried that the impacts are worse for humans who are affected, it made sense to check on you.”

“Well, I appreciate it, hon, but…” Maria takes a sip from her glass of water, “I’m fine. I mean, I don’t know how long a connection like that might last, but I think that either Michael is fine, or we can rule out any connection longer than a four month window.”

Alex stares at her, unable to make sense of what she’s talking about.

“Four months?”

She raises her eyebrows at him.

“Yeah. I mean, I’m not exactly sure when we technically ‘broke up’, because it was more of a gradual fading out and then an eventual acknowledgment that it didn’t feel right to keep trying, but… Michael and I haven’t slept together in at least four months.”

He’s reeling, dumbfounded.

“You broke up?”

Her expression goes startled before it fades into chagrin.

“You didn’t know that?”

“I definitely didn’t.” Alex is distantly aware that Rosa is glancing between them, utterly fascinated by this exchange. “Why didn’t you mention it?”

“I did!” Maria exclaims. “Like, the first time I saw you the week after Michael and I ended things. We were here, in the Pony- and you only came that night because I told you Micahel wasn’t going to be around-don’t think I don’t know- and you and Liz were were having one of those craft beers I started stocking for you when you came back from Iraq. We were commiserating about heartbreak, and then I had to go kick Wyatt Long’s old posse out of the bar because they were heading for a dust-up with Tony.”

The thing is, he does recall that night, dimly remember what they were talking about. He has no idea in the world that they were both talking about Michael Guerin, or that he and Maria weren’t together anymore.

“Umm… in hindsight, that may be a little clearer,” he says gently, “but at the time, you were not specific enough to have actually conveyed any information to the effect that you weren’t dating the first love of my life anymore. For a psychic, you maybe need to beef up your communication skills.”

She narrow her eyes at him for a second, then tosses her hair with an easy shake of her head.

“Okay. I can’t exactly argue that if you didn’t realize that the thing between Guerin and I was over,” she concedes, “But I swear, I told you. Maybe not in so many words, but…”

Alex laughs darkly, but he isn’t aiming to be mean.

“Maybe next time, try the so many words.”

“I really thought you knew.” Maria bites her lip, looking remorseful. “The way you were talking… it seemed like you already knew. That Michael had told you, maybe. And then Max was back, and everything was all…topsey-turvey again, and…I should have been more clear.”

“Definitely.” He kills his drink. “But it takes two to have a misunderstanding on this level, and if I hadn’t been actively trying to avoid any mention of you and Guerin being together in the first place as a highly inadequate coping mechanism for my own issues, I probably would have listened to what you were saying and had a better idea. We both fucked this one up, but it’s not worth getting mad about it this far after the fact.”

“How do you do that?” she marvels, shaking her head. “Be so well-adjusted over things like this.”

“Years of therapy,” he says dryly. “Which helps me realize that what I’m feeling is uncomfortable surprise, not anger…and which also gives me the skills to know when I’m compartmentalizing and triaging what things to freak out about in face of the million crises that seem to make up our lives these days. Which, since we’re in the middle of another of those right now, I should try to get back and deal with.”

He stands, bracing against the bar for a second to make sure he fully has his footing. “Can Rosa stay here with you for awhile?” He squeezes his hand on Rosa’s leather-jacketed shoulder. “It’s probably smart if someone can monitor Rosa for at least a little while, make sure there’s no lingering effects from whatever was going on down in that bunker.”

“Sure, of course,” Maria agrees. “Try the junkyard first. He was going to stop in before the evening rush and take a look at why the fridge in the back is running hot. I wasn’t expecting him for a few hours yet, but he was going to come over right after he finished at the junkyard for the day.” She takes in Alex’s raised eyebrows. “What? We stopped sleeping together, we didn’t stop caring about each other. We’re still friends.”

He sees the steely backbone in her words, the fierce and uncompromising affection she’s always extended to the people she cares about. “Like you and I are still friends, right?” She looks nervous, a little vulnerable as she asks the last bit, and a fierce rush of affection surges in his chest.

He smiles, leans in again to grab Maria’s hand where it rests on her bar.

“We’re always going to be friends,” he says gently. “And you were right. Guerin could have told me too. It wasn’t all on you to do that. And in the future, we’ll do better about telling each other things. Be better at hearing them, too.” He returns the hug she hauls him in for then, some of the tension he’s always holding bleeding out of him at the familiar scent of sandalwood and desert rose from her perfume.

It’s a strange moment to be at peace, but for a few grounding, blissful moments, that’s what he feels.


He gets in the car, calls Liz as he starts driving. She answers with a clatter of the phone dropping to some nearby surface and a breathless hello, he quickly sketches out the scenario and his plan to go check in on Michael. She seems like she’s on board, but he’s not sure when she stops agreeing with him, and the constant iterations of the word “yes” become directed exclusively at Max. He hangs up once he’s pretty sure he no longer has her attention. On the plus side, very few things are likely to feel comparatively awkward between anyone in their little family group ever again.

Maria’s right that the most likely place for Guerin to be is at the junkyard, so that’s where Alex goes.

He catches sight of Michael’s truck first, which is a pretty good indication that he’s there. He spots Michael himself a moment later, under the shop overhang. He’s got some sort of machine running, using that and a tire iron to pry tires off of rims. There’s a massive stack of dusty intact wheels off to his right, and judging from the state of his clothes, he’s probably spent the entire morning hauling them over here for this purpose.

From this distance, the machine makes a gentle humming sound, but he guesses that up close, it’s loud enough that Michael can’t hear him. He hasn’t turned around yet, at least. It gives Alex a chance to look him over. He looks fine. Damn fine, a voice in the back of his head supplies helpfully, and he heaves an irritated sigh on his own behalf. He can see the flex and strain of muscles, even under the t-shirt, can appreciate the long, lithe lines of Michael’s body, the curve of his ass. He’s lean and strong, the last fact made apparent from the ease with which he flicks the switch on the machine, pulls the rubber the rest of the way off the rim, and carries each to its own separate stack with ease.

Alex takes a second to collect himself while Michael’s back is still turned. He slides out of the driver’s seat, sheds his jacket and tosses it back in the car, not needing it in the heat of the day. It’s actually probably smart to ditch it anyway— if this phenomenon is being caused by any kind of localized pathogen or particle, it makes sense to leave behind anything that could have carried it out of the lab. Nothing much he can do about the rest of him, but losing the jacket isn’t a bad idea.

He lets the car door close with a slam, sees Michael’s head shoot up. Alex raises his hand in greeting, starts making his way toward the roofed-in part of the shop.

“Sanders isn’t here,” Michael calls, sarcasm heavy in his voice. “So if you want someone to take a look at your ve-hi-chle there, afraid you’re stuck with me.”

“I was actually looking for you,” Alex tells him. Michael’s eyebrows go up, but he doesn’t say anything.

It’s plenty warm in the shade still, and this much closer, Alex can see the light sheen of sweat on Michael’s brow, the smear of dirt across his cheek. He can smell him too, if the wind comes through right— sweat and axle grease and a rainstorm about to break. Alex has spent the last ten years wondering if he really likes rain as much as he thinks he does, as much as the guys he’s served with think he does, or if he’s just conditioned to it because it reminds him of Michael.


He can still remember Parker and Hampton giving him shit for not minding being caught in a thunderstorm at Langley. They’d been through a tour together already, knew they were probably heading out on their second, and had taken advantage of the rare opportunity to take a little R&R at the bowling alley on base- eat some shit pizza and fries, support Kramer, who had been talked into signing his cousin’s school group tour into the base for a few hours for bowling and the same shitty pizza that even a room full of sixteen year olds didn’t want seconds of. They’d piled into a table in the corner, drying off with napkins, observing that shitshow and teasing Alex for not minding getting caught in the deluge.

“Must like rain a whole heck of a lot, Manes,” Parker had said, shaking his head.

“I do! I like the way it smells!” he’d defended himself, knowing even as he said it that that wasn’t going to make the ribbing stop, only increase it.

“Oh, Nature Boy over here!” Hampton had laughed, wrestling a wad of napkins out of the dispenser on the table.

“Reminds me of my ex,” he’d offered up- because these were his brothers, and even though DADT was still the rule, it felt safe enough as long as he played the pronoun game. “Smelled like the air before a rainstorm. Every time we were together…it was just… the scent of rain on skin. And every time a rain storm is about to hit… it takes me right back there.”

“Damn, Manes. Must be a hell of a girl.” Parker had said quietly. “Never known you to get all moony-eyed over a lady before.”

“Like no girl your sorry asses are ever gonna get to know,” he’d agreed with a grin.

Because it’s true, in the strictest sense. There are no girls like Michael Guerin. Alex has had to accept that he finds him pretty singular among guys as well. And aliens. Max is attractive enough, even has a bit of a pluvial element to his scent. But he’s not Guerin. He doesn’t have the same gravitational pull for Alex that Michael does. Michael is special.


Alex blinks, bringing himself back to the here and now— the junkyard— tools and tires and the problem at hand. He realizes Michael has asked him something. Something about why he’s here,.

“Sorry, yeah. I actually came to check in on you. Something was going on at the bunker, and everyone wanted to check in with you.”

“And let me guess. Everyone else was suddenly magically busy, and you were the only one who could do the checking in.” He rolls his eyes, turns to the workbench, shaking his head. “You want some water?”

There’s one of those green glass pitchers there, sweating with condensation, and he’s feeling more than a little parched. Possibly a mid-day coffee at the Pony was not the greatest hydration idea.

“Sure,” He agrees, watches as Michael fills each glass, hands one over and takes the other for himself. He can’t help but watch Michael’s throat work as he drinks it down as well, reaches for the pitcher to pour again. “And actually yeah, that’s pretty accurate.”

“Okay, so what’s the deal?”

Alex fidgets, running his fingers through the condensation on the glass, the cool droplets soothing against his fingertips.

“Well, um… how do you feel?”

Michael looks at him with wary incredulity.

“I feel fine Alex, thanks for asking. You maybe want to get to the point any time this century?”

“Yeah. I just mean… Have you felt weird at all today? Like…Overheated? Dizzy? Anything…unusual?”

Michael looks deeply unimpressed.

“No, nothing unusual. I’ve been hauling tires in the hot sun all day, but we live in the desert, and it is my job, so nothing unusual. But why the hell are you asking?”

Alex tries to choose his words carefully. “Something happened while we were at the lab. Something kind of…unusual.”

“Okay, I am really not liking that word right now,” Michael’s expression is both unimpressed and uncompromising, with just a hint of unease creeping in.” Unusual how? Is everyone okay? Who was at the lab? What happened? Why are you the only person who could come to me right now? What. The. Hell. Is going on, Alex?”

“Everyone is fine.” Alex holds up his hands placatingly, sees Michael visibly unwind some of the tension that had started to build. “It’s just…Max started acting strangely while we were combing through some of the data from the drives. Like…squirrelly, fidgeting, that sort of thing. Couldn’t sit still. Eventually after like half an hour, Liz got him to admit that he was feeling weird, had an elevated heart rate, trouble focusing, some strange bodily sensations. She got him to agree that they needed to run some tests, had Kyle help get things set up. She was definitely worried about some of the results, was getting kind of antsy and impatient too, so she traded places with Kyle to listen to his heart or lungs or whatever, and as soon as she touched him, both of them just… acted like they’d been shocked or something. And then, in a very not Max Evans typical way, he just…hauled her in and started kissing her right there in the middle of everybody. She was pretty gone on him too. He just kind of…picked her up, ripped the electrodes off himself, carried her into the other room and kicked the door shut.”

Michael frowns, the furrow already apparent in his brow getting deeper.

“That’s weird. Max is a ‘wear his heart on his sleeve’ kind of guy, but he doesn’t usually go for PDAs. I’m typically the one that Isobel makes faces at for that.”

“Yeah, so that’s the other thing. Isobel.” Alex scratches the back of his neck. “She um… She’d been pacing a lot. Getting really antsy, you know? And we just thought it was because she was worried about Max, but then right after it became very clear that Max and Liz were on the other side of the door having very enthusiastic sex… she started to get drawn toward Rosa, and we realized that the same thing was probably happening to Isobel. Kyle was not on board with Rosa potentially being rolled under into the same weird sex thing that Liz and Max clearly were, so he wanted me to get Rosa out of there. But…Isobel wouldn’t let us leave.”

“Wouldn’t let you?” There’s a careful tension in his words- one that’s echoed in the way he’s holding his shoulders now, taut like a bowstring.

“Yeah.” Alex nods, tries to project calm and openness, to very much not add to the tension. “She kept stalking in front of the door, and since she has some of the same telekinetic powers you have now, pissing her off seemed like a bad idea. She was still lucid though, so Kyle and I talked her down. And Kyle figured that if she was whammied by the same thing that hit Max out of the blue, then maybe that just…needed an outlet. So he volunteered.”

“Valenti volunteered. To sleep with my sister,” Michael says flatly. “What a prince.”

Alex shrugs with forced casualness.

“It seemed like a better solution than you sister touching Rosa and pulling her under, given the level of credulity-straining, therapy-necessitating issues it might cause to have the person whose body was used to murder a girl turn around and end up sleeping with her in a situation where consent couldn’t be freely given.”

He runs a hand through his hair, giving voice to the things he’s been careful not to say earlier, around the others.

“I don’t know how Rosa would have reacted if that had happened, but I know that your sister wasn’t remotely okay with the idea. So… yeah. Valenti volunteered, and that let me get Rosa out of there. I brought her to the Pony. Good thing too, because as soon as Isobel touched Kyle, he was roped right in. He hadn’t been feeling anything odd before that, but I think Liz had. She was theorizing that maybe prior connections made the spillover stronger, or made humans feel effects?”

“So…they’re back to normal now? And Liz is trying to figure out what happened?”

“Not exactly? She called me while I was in the car. She also theorized that giving in to the imperative makes the reaction stop ramping up, which is good because it can be a strain on alien physiology…and even harder on human bodies if they get affected and don’t have a way to stop the reaction. She was pretty afraid it could be deadly if it goes unchecked. That’s why someone needed to check on you, and on Maria. I mean, we all kind of thought you two were still… doing a thing.”

Michael shrugs, nods noncommittally while looking off in the distance.

“Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Maria’s fine, and so far everyone else is doing okay. Liz just thinks it’s going to take a few more…iterations before whatever it is clears their systems. And we don’t know what caused this yet- a contagion, an unusual allergic reaction, some kind of attack, something about alien physiology or biochemistry, an environmental factor…we don’t know.”

“Okay. So you’re telling me that my siblings are currently locked in a bunker with our friends, having a sex marathon for an as-yet-unknown reason, and you’re the person who was elected to come and make sure I’m not also infected or whatever?”

“Um….yeah. That about sums it up.”

Michael laughs bitterly.

“Cool. Great. Well, joke’s on you. If you wanted to know if I’m suffering from dangerous levels of tortured lust, you should have sent Rosa, or literally anyone other than you. Because if you need to prove that I’m not one favorable look away from jumping someone’s bones…you’d probably need to test the theory on someone I’m not already at that point with on a near-daily basis.”

Alex gapes at him. Michael steps even closer into Alex’s space.

“You want to know if I’m affected by this?” he shrugs bitterly, hands thrown out at his sides. “How would I even be able to tell the difference?”

And oh, it’s like the floor has dropped out from under Alex’s feet. He’s lived through the ground exploding out from underneath him, paid a price for that survival. In the initial second or two, this doesn’t feel all that different. It’s disorienting, confusing, he’s left reeling. He loses all sense of his body. He staggers, catches himself with his hip against the workbench.

“What?” It’s all he can say, all his brain can keep pace with. The world is tilting back to rights, but for all that he can usually process at lightning speed, this is eluding him. Or maybe it’s just that he needs more information, more data.

“I want you,” Michael says succinctly. “All the time. I’ve never stopped wanting you. It’s not just that I never look away. It’s that I never want to.”

“But you…you chose Maria.” Alex says blankly.

Michael rolls his eyes.

“Because I like her, Alex. But also because this shit between us was hurting so damn much. Every time I looked at you, it hurt. Every time you stepped away, it killed me. And you’d step in, and I’d be living high again, and then you were back out so reliably you could damn near set a watch to it, like it was the freaking hokey-pokey or some stupid square dance in a goddamn barn. I couldn’t live like that. I couldn’t live with how I feel, how much I want you, see the pain that’s built up over all these years. I couldn’t think about all the bad shit we’ve seen together and watch you walk away from me one more time. With everything else I was going through when I said that? It would have broken me for good.”

He heaves a sigh, eyes wide. “Joke’s really on me though. Because trying to pretend I know how to look away, watching you look at other people the whole time? It’s breaking me anyway. I want you every fucking day, and it’s killing me.” His voice hitches.

“Guerin…” Alex can feel tears burning in his eyes. Michael meets his gaze with trepidation. Alex doesn’t know what else to say, except: “Me too.”

The breath that Michael releases is so huge that it’s like watching a puppet’s strings being cut. He sags with relief, catches himself with a hand on the workbench, starts to reach for Alex a second later.

“Don’t touch me.” Alex blurts out. Michael recoils instantly, but the stricken expression on his face…Alex wishes he had found other words faster. “Not like that!” he rushes to explain. “I didn’t mean it like that. I meant…we shouldn’t touch each other yet. Because we don’t know for sure if either of us is affected by this thing, and in case we are, and touching each other makes us lose our capacity for rational thought, I want us to be on the same page. If we’re going to stop hurting each other, we’re going to have to start talking to each other at some point.”

“Okay.” Michael swallows with trepidation, forcing his hands to his sides. “Say what you need to say.”

“I love you.” Alex just lays it out there, because he needs Michael to know that. “I love you, and I want you, and that’s true for me. Every. Damn. Day. None of that has ever changed. But since we don’t know if this weird sex phenomenon might hit us, roll us like I’ve seen it do to the others when they touch, I need you to know how I feel before we even think about testing it to be sure you’re safe. Because if us touching even a tiny bit could amp everything up to eleven, I need to have told you the truth before there’s any room for doubt, for thinking I’m just saying it because of the circumstance. And I also need to know if you want this. Not just crave it, but actually want to test it. And test it with me.”

“Yes.” Michael meets his gaze squarely, jaw set, tone emphatic. “Yes, touch me, Alex.”

Alex hesitates again

“And to be clear, if we touch, and we are affected, you know that’s going to make us want to be together, physically. You’re okay with that?”

Michael rolls his eyes.

“Yes, Alex. I do know how lust works.”

“And if we can’t stop?”

Michael shrugs. “It is what it is.”

“That doesn’t exactly sound like enthusiastic consent,” Alex points out, not moving.

“If I got any more enthusiastic about wanting to be with you, Alex, I’d die of a broken heart.” Michael rolls his eyes.

“Guerin, you’re the one who told me you didn’t want to be with me. And I have followed your lead, even when it made me utterly fucking miserable. So I think we have different ideas about what enthusiastic looks like.”

“I told you, I didn’t stop wanting to be with you, Alex. I just wanted it to stop hurting.”

“You didn’t accomplish that.” Alex can’t bring himself to soften the blow of those words, and he sees Michael sag a bit.

“I get that.” He looks away, brings his eyes back to meet Alex’s. “I also know that for a whole host of health and safety related reasons that Liz has probably already enumerated for you, we need to know if the weird shit is affecting us too, or at least be able to rule it out. I don’t think it is, but if I’m wrong, and touching triggers something…I’d be okay with that. I’d want to follow through on it. Even if it doesn’t change anything. But part of me hopes it does. That’s the page I’m on.”

“For once we’re on the same one.” Alex says. Somehow it comes out sounding like an endearment instead of a criticism.

Michael’s eyes widen slightly, his lips part. Even trying not to let on how he feels, the hope in his expression is palpable, and it tears at Alex’s heart.

“Okay, then.” Alex lets out a breath, sets his water glass down out of the way. “I guess we’re doing this.” He licks his lips. “For Kyle and Isobel, it was just a little touch, on his arm and you could tell…it was like the spike in interest skyrocketed the second they made contact. So…” he reaches his hand out, shaking a little as Michael does the same, and lets their fingertips slot together. They both inhale as their skin brushes, let their fingers sink into the interlocking embrace. Michael’s curl strong into the back of his hand as their palms come to rest together.

“Do you feel anything?” Michael asks.

“I… it feels good.”

“Yeah, it does. Feels really good.”

“With the others though, it kind of…overwhelmed them? Really quickly. So probably we’re not under the same influence, whatever it is, because we seem like we’re both still in control.” Alex doesn’t unlace his fingers from Michael’s though. He still craves the contact, and honestly, it settles something inside him to be touching Guerin.

Michael is tilting his head consideringly. Alex can practically see the gears turning there.

“How much self control would you say you exert to not kiss me or touch me, be cool around me ever since I told you that my answer on us being together was no?” He asks, drawing his hand away slowly.

“I mean…” Alex licks his lips. “I’m not going to say that it’s been easy, but…a normal amount?”

“Right. Same here. Except…a normal amount for between the two of us, or normal amount it takes with other people?”

“I guess…for us?” Ales shakes his head. “Guerin, why-”

“Because I’ve got to tell you, I’ve kissed a lot of people. Hooked up with plenty of people, even thought I might be close to love a time or two. But I don’t have to remind myself not to kiss any of those people every day. Definitely not more than a year after we broke up. Hell, sometimes I forget I don’t have the right to kiss DeLuca any more…but that’s muscle memory and changes in the paradigm, and the urge goes away again as soon as I remember we ended that part of things. It was comfortable, a decision made, not this…drive” He licks his lips. Alex is transfixed by the motion.

“You, I have to actively tell myself not to kiss you, not to think about kissing you, not to remember the taste of your skin, the heat of your body against me. I have to remember that every single time I see you, the entire time we’re in a room together. I have to tell myself to stop thinking about you- in bed, on the floor, against any surface sturdy enough that we could fuck each other on…and that’s on top of forcing myself not to remember every other detail that breaks my fucking heart or makes me feel like I’m drowning in the pool of heartbreak and lust. I have so damn much control, and it’s all directed at how I feel about you. Constantly.”

“Same,” Alex nearly whispers. The precision and focus that he’s been trained to have on the battlefield, the control and command that he holds himself to as a man, as a person, as an officer, every shred of that goes in to respecting the boundaries Michael had set. He’s been successful, even good at it. But… “What are you saying, Guerin?”

“I’m saying that yeah, I’ve been a little antsy today. I’ve been working out here in the sun, so of course I feel a little warmer than usual, been working up a sweat.”

He has, and Alex has definitely noticed, in a distinctly want to lick it off him sort of way. Honestly, one of the things that’s always been a huge turn-on for him is the fact that Michael is a guy who uses his muscles and his body in his day-to-day, and not only doesn’t mind if Alex appreciates that…up until the last year, he’s actively encouraged it. Even this past year…Michael has to have noticed him noticing still. Alex has gotten deeply accustomed to the unique torture it is to watch Guerin work and not let on how much he notices, but it still slips through. He’s not capable of sainthood.

“But,” Michael is saying, “I’ve been wrestling with the tires because I needed somewhere to channel the restlessness I’ve been feeling. I don’t feel all that extra horny, I don’t feel much different than normal. But what if… What if that’s because our normal is already running at nearly the full bandwidth. Your heart is pounding. I can hear it from here. What if touching isn’t sparking something as notable as it did for the others because the fire’s been burnin’ all along? Like we just don’t have that much farther our jars can fill?”

Alex frowns. “Kyle and Isobel, sure, the surge might make sense then. But Max and Liz…they’ve always had a ton of chemistry.”

“Yeah, and they get to release that tension several times a week.” Michael snorts. “Several times a day, even. Iz and I brought them donuts for breakfast last Sunday. They were still in bed when we got there, and when we left, we weren’t even back on the road again before he had her pressed up against one of the poles on his patio.” He steps forward, puts his hand tentatively on Alex’s chest, brushing his shirt. Not pushing him away, not pulling him close, just... touching him. “The two of us? Not so much.”

“Guerin…” It’s reflex to wrap his hand around Michael’s, keep him close. This time when he does, there’s an extra surge of rightness to it. But feelings can be fleeting. Subjective. “You said you didn’t think we were good for each other. Unless that’s changed, we shouldn’t push this more.” He can’t look away from Guerin’s mouth, the lushness of his lips, pink-red like the coral gilia that Alex’s mom used to point out when she took him out walking on the trails.

“What if the person I wanted to be good for was you?”

“Is it?”

“All along.”

God, he wants him. Wants to strip him naked and have him right here, in broad daylight, in the middle of the shop, where anyone can just…drive up and see them. That last bit— the fantasy that’s only ever been an indistinct implausible reverie, but is feeling very much like a viable possibility right now- is what finally clues him in that they are, indeed, in uncharted waters.

“Michael…I think…we might be affected after all,” he says carefully.

“I think you’re right.” Michael’s eyes search him as he speaks “There’s this extra…edge behind everything, isn’t there?”

“Yeah.” Alex swallows. “But it’s kind of… distant. Like if there’s a light on low in another room.”

“Exactly. Doesn’t change anything I said,” Michael tells him steadily. “About wanting you, wishing we were together, wanting you and wanting it not to hurt, any of it. I felt that way yesterday, felt that way last week, felt that way a month ago and even further back. It’s not like this is new.”

“Is that enough?” That seems like an important question, even if Alex still can’t reliably answer it for himself.

“God I hope so,” Michael says fervently, and Alex can’t wait anymore. He surges forward, kissing Michael. For a second, it’s an electric, frenetic peace, like the pause between the flash of lightning and the rumble of thunder, the calm in the eye of a hurricane. And then the thunder catches up with him.

He’s kissed Michael desperately before, but that’s nothing- nothing- compared to what this is now. The thing is, he can feel the edge of the burning, desperate need as it slams through them both. He feels it stagger him, hears Michael’s whimper as he hauls Alex closer, tries to devour him, practically climb inside his skin. It’s like a wave of water churning from a broken dam, roaring over them. But there’s also a strange echoing quality to it too, like the wave is pushing something in advance of it as well…and that vanguard is what he always feels when he’s around Michael. The wave is inexorable— there’s no backing away from it. But Michael’s right- it’s beneath the surface of everything else he’s felt.

It’s like being on a carnival ride you’ve been on before, knowing this time you can’t stop riding until it decides to let you off, but for all of that, the ride isn’t actually spinning any faster than it normally does.

The desperation he feels now…maybe it’s a result of whatever is impacting the aliens, but that doesn’t seem entirely right— it mostly feels like the tide of desire he’s always holding back where Michael is concerned.

All he knows for sure is that for the first time in more than a year, he’s touching Michael, kissing him, and neither one of them is pulling back to walk away. Michael’s arms are locked around him, touching him wherever he can reach, hands running everywhere, igniting trails of fire that sear through Alex’s senses- crackling, electric sensation that make him feel like he’s burning up from the inside out. Fire should cauterize, but the fire that’s Michael’s touch…it does the opposite. It makes him come alive, every nerve ending in his body singing, wanting to be touched, wanting to feel.

He wants to do the touching too, needs to know the solid heat of Michael under his hands- the curves and contours of him, the hard planes of him against Alex’s body. He wants to climb him and fuck him and have Michael inside him all at once. He just….needs.

Their kisses are brutal, like they’re trying to climb inside each other’s mouths, claim each other with lips and tongues and teeth.

They grind against each other in desperation; he bites Michael’s lip and tugs it, letting it slide free of his teeth before he soothes the sting as Michael moans enthusiastically, tries to press impossibly closer. Does it again because he knows it will get the same reaction. They lick into each other’s mouths, filthy, frantic, not caring what sounds they’re making.

He has to get his hands on Michal, needs to feel him. He yanks at Michael’s t-shirt, rucks it up until he can get his hands on bare skin, feel heat and flesh and chest hair, until he can feel Michael. It settles some of the clamoring need inside him just the tiniest bit. Michael arches into the touch, rocks his hips so that he’s riding Alex’s thigh. There’s no mistaking how turned on he is, how turned on they both are, no pretending that they aren’t both hard and wanting.

“Fuck…” Alex moans, most of the word swallowed by Michael’s lips.

“Yes. Yes…please…” Michael begs into the kiss, and oh, that is definitely the way things are going now.

Alex drops a hand to Michael’s ass, presses him tight against his own hard-on, rolls their bodies together before turning them both and walking Michael back the step and a half it takes to reach the workbench, slamming him up against it with his hips, drinking down his shuddering gasp, savoring the way that Michael bucks up against him and pulls back so that Alex can do it again, pin him in place.

“I have a condom in my wallet.” He says, the words muffled against the hinge of Michael’s jaw. “Do you have something we can use for lube?”

He hears a drawer open behind him, and a few seconds later, a bottle of aloe like you’d use on sunburn is being floated over and pressed into Alex’s hand.

“This should work,” Michael smirks. And it should— it’s got all the right marketing disclaimers about being 100% aloe, all organic.

Alex’s response is to flip Michael around, bend him over the workbench- one hand in the center of his back, urging him down, the other thumbing open the button on his jeans by touch alone. The sound that Michael makes in response…if Alex weren’t already so hard he aches, he would be now, from that reaction.

“Fuck yes, Alex,” Michael pants out, the words curling through Alex’s body, urging him higher, winding him up tighter.

Alex yanks Michael’s jeans down, underwear too, and is rewarded with the impossibly gorgeous sight of Michael Guerin’s bare ass, tight and taught, with cheeks that fit perfectly in his hands. There’s a fine layer of peach fuzz, just the perfect amount, and the cleft between his cheeks is dark and inviting. Alex squeezes each firm handful of flesh, grinds his still-denim-clad erection against Michael’s bare skin, pulling another moan from the other man.

“Come on Alex, please,” he damn near begs, needy and exquisite.

“Please what?” Alex asks with false innocence spreading his ass cheeks apart and brushing his thumb teasingly across his hole. He isn’t trying to breach his entrance yet, hasn’t even opened the aloe. He’s just teasing over that furled opening, making Michael practically vibrate under his touch, his way eased by the sweat that’s collected there, trickled down his back. There’s a musk to him, a heady scent that makes Alex just want to keep breathing him in. It’s a mix of sweat, his natural essence, and that scent of rain that Michael always has about him. The blend of dry dirt and grease and the impression of rain makes him smell like an approaching thunderstorm, like petrichor and desert dust.

Alex can’t help himself. He needs to be closer, needs the scent of him in his nostrils, needs to taste the salt of his skin, needs to mark him. He squeezes Michael’s ass cheek again, bends over him until he can drop a kiss to his lower back where his spine curves, trail his lips lower until he can set his teeth right at the tender spot where Michael’s lower back meets the meat of his ass and bite- lick and soothe and set his teeth again, suck a mark into his skin while Michael writhes, hands clenching and grabbing for anything to hold on to. The moan he lets out is almost pained, but before Alex can back off, he hears Michael begging him not to stop.

He’s drunk on the power of this, the possession of it. It’s not usually something he allows or even likes for himself…the feeling of wanting to mark someone as a sign of possession, of claiming a partner. But in this moment, he wants to leave a mark that will make Michael remember, something that will twinge every time he moves or sits, that will remind him of how hot this moment is, the pleasure it’s bringing them. He knows Michael has endured so many different marks before, remembers how, for all of that, he would always encourage Alex to mark him, bare his throat to him so that he could suck a bruise into his skin while they made out in the back of his truck.

He remembers the first time he ever gave Michael a blow job, how Michael had almost come while Alex was sucking faint red marks onto his inner thighs, before his cock had ever made it past Alex’s lips. So Alex embraces this, kneading Michael’s ass cheek with his teeth, biting and then licking away the ache. Sometimes when they couldn’t be together for a few days, Michael would tell him he’d press on the marks, get turned on remembering how Alex had created them. That he liked the marks if he asked for them, if they came from pleasure. With this one, he wants Michael to have that reaction every time he sits down for at least the next week.

His eager writhing threatens to move him too far for Alex to complete this task to his satisfaction, and the lust-clouded part of his brain that’s so deeply, deeply satisfied with biting down and feeling the supple give of flesh isn’t fond of that idea. It makes him want to bite down harder, but the rational part of him that still has some amount of the driver’s seat doesn’t want to break Michael’s skin, so he brings his hands to Michael’s hips, holds him in place with a grip so strong his fingers might leave bruises where he’s clutching him. Michael keens in appreciation.

“Need you.” Michael chokes out, practically vibrating with that need. “Want you inside of me. Cock, fingers, anything. Come on Alex- fuck me.”

“Yeah,” He agrees breathlessly, releasing his grip so he can stand, grab the aloe gel, and squeeze some into his hand. He uses it to slide one slick finger into Michael’s hole, working it in until his finger is engulfed in clinging heat. Michael moans in satisfaction, begs for more. Alex gives him another finger, more slickness, twists his fingers until he finds Michael’s prostate, deliberately gliding over it every few strokes as he stretches Michael open. Somewhere in the pleasured gasps and moan he’s muffling against his own forearm, Michael finds his words.

“Please Alex, just give me more. Fuck me. I can take it.”

“Not yet,” Alex tells him with casual certainty. “You’re going to be nice and open for me, take me right in. So you don’t get me until you’ve taken three fingers.

“Fine,” Michael bites out, and then his hand is there too, reaching back and sliding his own finger in alongside Alex’s, hole clenching at the too-fast intrusion. He’s clearly into the line of balance between pleasure and pain right now, and Alex barely has any presence of mind left- his entire focus is on Michael, his ass, and his own cock, the sensation of Michael’s hand there alongside his, the way that Michael looks debauched already, pants around his thighs, fucking himself on the combined girth of their fingers, looking back over his own shoulder.

“Oh fuck,” Alex declares. He pulls his wallet out, fumbles for the condom he keeps there. Rolling it on, slicking himself up further are the only impediments to being inside Michael, and he resents every second of it as much as he savors the anticipation. He needs both hands for this, but the trade-off of having to pull his fingers out of Michael is that he gets the visual of Michael fucking himself on his own impatient hand.

And then he’s pressing into Michael, sinking into the tight heat of him, reveling in the sounds they’re each making. He thrusts a few times, but even though it’s so good, so intense, it’s not everything he needs yet. He needs more contact, craves it. He has to feel Michael’s skin on his. He yanks impatiently at his own shirt, fingers sticky with aloe, snaps at least one button off in his haste and genuinely doesn’t care as long as he can toss the offending garment aside and haul Michael back against him, sweat slicking Michael’s back as Alex tightens his grip. Michael’s hand clutches his forearm, his moans are only intensifying, and this is almost everything Alex needed. It’s when he gets his hand in Michael’s hair, feels him melt into that touch, uses his grip to tilt Michael’s head to the side and gets his mouth on Michael’s skin that everything finally feels right.

He can still feel the minor irritations and discomforts- his prosthesis is reminding him that this is not their usual movement pattern, it’s hard to keep a steady grip on Michael’s sweat-slicked body, their pants are down around their thighs like some type of porno shoot, but he can feel Michael’s pulse under his tongue, taste salt and rain and mineral water on his skin, feel Michael hot and tight and slicked around him, feel every moan and gasp that Michael makes resonating through him.

It’s a delicious feedback loop- Michael moaning, the affirmations that spill from his lips, the way he encourages and begs Alex to keep fucking him in the same breath all fuel Alex’s arousal, make him fuck with steady precision, suck harder at the pulse point of Michael’s throat; all of which makes Michael moan even more obscenely, take him even more beautifully. And he is beautiful. Pale golden skin and tousled curls, curves and planes of muscle shifting under Alex’s hands, the desperate, debauched arch of his neck, and his flush, erect cock jutting proudly out from its nest of darker curls. He gets a visceral thrill from knowing that this is Michael responding to him, that this is what he, his body, his touch does to the other man. That satisfaction only grows when he wraps his hand around Michael’s cock and Michael keens in pleasure, turns his head desperately, searching for a kiss, like he needs Alex’s lips on his more than he needs oxygen.

The kiss is filthy, desperate, so eager that Alex knows he could make Michael come like this. But Michael is begging him for “please, more, harder…fuck me harder, Alex,” pouring the demands into his mouth between frantic kisses, and Alex wants him to have everything he desires, so he pushes Michael back down against the workbench, holding him there with a palm between his shoulder blades, and fucks him as hard and deep as he can. The pace leaves him breathless, has Michael practically shouting, but he maintains fierce control, making sure he’s nailing Michael’s prostate with every possible stroke. The edge of the workbench is digging into Michael’s hipbones, and Alex is pretty sure he’ll have bruises there too, but Michael doesn’t seem to care, maybe even relishes it. He certainly doesn’t ask for Alex to stop, or slow the pace, not even when he drops his hand below the table to grab himself; a few strokes in time with Alex’s thrusts all he needs before he’s spilling on the dusty ground. Alex launches off that same precipice a few seconds later, stilling inside of the other man as he comes.

For all of that, it’s the way that Michael twists back to kiss him as he’s bent over, half-collapsed along Michael’s back and they’re both trying to still their ragged breathing, that he loves most. The best sex he’s ever had has always been with Michael Guerin. What makes his heart soar is that the tenderest kisses have been too, and this ranks among them. He pours himself into the kiss, lets it settle him, be the most important thing in the world for just a few moments— the connection with Michael, the things they communicate to each other. It’s burned them in the past, but there are still things it’s easier to say without words.

He eases out of Michael, despite his noises of protest, and by the time he’s dealt with the condom, Michael has turned around again, drawing him back in for another kiss. He goes without hesitation, not wanting any of this to be over. Michael’s lips linger on his, his hand cups the back of Alex’s neck, tender promises of things to come. Desire pulses through him again, his refractory period shorter than it’s been since he was a teenager.

“Stay.” Michael begs him.

Alex nods. He has no intention of going anywhere. Even without the push of physical arousal encroaching again, he wants this, wants to be here with Michael, wants his kisses and tender touches, even wants the unpleasant scrape of an open zipper against oversensitve flesh, because it means he’s pushed up against Michael, that they’re in each other’s arms.

“Fuck,” Michael breathes, pressing their foreheads together. “We’re definitely affected by this, aren’t we? I mean…you just fucked my brains out, and I already want you inside me again.”

It sends a thrill through Alex to hear it affirmed, taps into some sort of deep, primal satisfaction that comes from satisfying a lover.

“Yeah, I think we are.” Alex can’t stop touching Michael, wants to feel him under his hands. “There’s an edge of it that’s…whatever this phenomenon is. But the rest… It’s not just that. At least, I don’t think…”

“No. It’s not,” Michael shakes his head. “I can feel it still, feel it building. But it’s in the distance yet, like it backed off once we were together, gave me a little space to think. It’s like…what’s clouding my head now is all us.” He slides his hand up Alex’s shoulder, touch solid and assured. “I want you again, soon, preferably where there’s a bed so we can take our time. But wanting to kiss you, wanting to touch you like this…that feels like it’s all me. Kind of like… what I’d always want, if I weren’t too worked up to admit it?”

“I…yeah,” Alex agrees. “This feels like…the way I want you, when I’m not all tied up in my own head.”

“The way it should have been.” Michael says, bittersweet.

“Maybe the way it could still be,” Alex says. He wants to sound hopeful, but Michel’s hands tighten around his biceps.

“Don’t say something you don’t mean,” he cautions. For a second, his eyes seems almost haunted before he shakes it off, features smoothing once again. “And with whatever’s going on right now, you can’t even know if you mean it.”

Alex traces his hand down Michael’s jaw, savors the feeling of stubble under his fingertips.

“Maybe. But I mean it now. And I think I’m going to mean it tomorrow, or whenever this thing is out of our systems.” He bites his lip, forges ahead. “I can’t promise, but…I want to see how it feels once this is over. And until then, I want to live in the truth of it. Because it is true. I want you, and I love you, and I hate every minute that we’re trying to keep to our own separate corners. I want something different for us. Something better than wary waiting. Especially if we’re both willing to try.” His heart pounds with the anxiety of saying something so honest, not knowing how Michael will react.

“Take me to bed, Alex,” Michael says. “I want you. We’ll figure out the future when it gets here.”


Inside the airstream, the air is hot and close, but neither of them care. They can go slower now, the need humming under their skin instead of overwhelming all of their senses. It gives them time to undress each other, map each other’s bodies again after the year apart. Every touch is like a shivering shower of sparks, every kiss a benediction. They strip each other, meet each other’s eyes with every caress, press lips to skin and taste each other’s bodies, savor the taste of building arousal.

They’re mostly naked by the time Alex takes his leg off while Michael kneels behind him, trailing fingertips down Alex’s spine and following them with his tongue. Alex leans back in Michael’s arms, letting Michael nibble at his neck and run teasing fingers between his thighs, cupping him, stroking him, wrapping a steady hand around his cock, pumping him in time to the press of his lips. There are moments when he’s above Michael, moments when Michael is under him. There’s an excellent moment when Michael gathers him into his lap, making Alex kneel above him so that he’s taller than Michael and can wrap his arms around his shoulders to lean down to kiss him, Michael’s chin tilted up to meet his, his hand flexing on Alex’s ass. They’re both smiling into the kiss.

Michael has more condoms in here, and actual lube, so Alex takes a long time opening him up again, even though he doesn’t strictly need it. It’s an opportunity to tease and savor his reactions, two and then three fingers inside Michael, gliding over his prostate.

He watches the other man’s reactions, first from where he’s crouched between Michael’s thighs, and then from a lower vantage point, looking up Michael’s body as he seals his mouth over the head of Michael’s cock, lapping up the beads of precum that have formed there in response to his teasing strokes. Michael strains to hold his head up, meets Alex’s gaze until he flops back to the pillow, overwhelmed, hands tugging at his own hair as he rolls his hips, unable to lie still.

When Alex enters him again, he goes slow, pinning Michael’s arms above his head, locking eyes with him until he’s fully seated inside him. They bare their souls to each other, open and vulnerable, but safe in the cocoon of desert air, the airstream, and Michael’s body. They kiss and Michael moans, tells him how much it turns him on to taste himself on Alex’s tongue- the proof of which Alex can feel. He holds nothing back, puts it all on the line, tells Michael with everything his has- lips and tongue and teeth, the power of his thighs, the angle of his hips, each lingering touch- how he feels, what he wants, how much he wants it.

It’s like a constant refrain of this, this, this. He wants this- not just moments like this either, though he’s practically high on it right now-the scent of sex and Michael Guerin in his nostrils, the taste of him on his tongue, sweat and passion and emotion spilling across their skin, the pure blissful feeling of being inside Michael. He wants the way he feels now to go on- the connection, the trust…the love he’s never found anything else like, no matter where he’s chased it. Eventually, the words are pulled out of him too- I want you and I love you, and want you like this, for real Guerin. Michael answers him with variations of yes and always and want that too.

They lay spent and curled together afterwards, still touching, sweat cooling in the hot, dry breeze that filters in through the window. Michael eventually summons a water bottle, cold from the fridge to split with him; the drops of condensation drip shockingly cold on Alex’s chest, sending goosebumps across his skin despite the heat. Michael laughs and laps the water from his skin. Whatever this is isn’t done with them, yet, because it flares up then, lets them know that it will demand more of them in the near future. For a few minutes though, it’s distant, and their caresses bring comfort and contentment instead of mounting desperation.

Alex has the presence of mind to call Liz then, responding to the half-dozen or so texts he’s missed from her before a phone call becomes even less appealing. As it is, he makes the call lying beside Michael, their fingers twined together, his free hand holding the phone while Michael’s cards idly through his hair. Not touching seems deeply undesirable, and the more they touch, the clearer-headed and more grounded he feels. Liz picks up on the third ring.

“Alex?” she sounds relieved when she picks up. “Thank God, I was starting to get really worried, especially when Maria said you’d gone over to Michael’s a few hours ago, and you weren’t answering my texts…”

“Yeah. I was…a little distracted.” Michael’s smirk is lazy and deeply satisfied, his cock jumping a little at the recollection of exactly how they had been distracted. Alex feels the stir in his own body as well. He really hasn’t had a refractory period like this since he was a teenager. “It, uh…turns out that Michael was also affected by the same thing that the rest of you were. Or maybe I transported something from the lab? But he thinks he sensed something was a little different even before I got here. And um…we kind of confirmed it.”

“Oh. Oh. So you two…oh wow. Alex…” She trails off, sympathy thick in her voice.

“Yeah.” He nods, meets Michael’s gaze. He’s nervous about what he’ll find there, but it’s only tenderness. Michael’s never been the one to be shy about telling anyone about them. That’s always been him. And now, even though he’s telling Liz because he has to, because it’s relevant to figuring out what’s going on with all of them, something loosens in his chest. “Yeah. We both felt it. Are feeling it.” He presses his lips to Michael’s knuckles, wanting the reassurance the gesture brings.

“Wait, he thinks he felt it before? But he wasn’t totally sure? That means it took longer for him to notice, so his reaction wasn’t as strong as here in the lab?” Liz is off, talking a mile a minute in his ear. “That might mean that we’re closer to the origin point, or got a stronger dose of whatever it is, if the effect gets weaker with distance from the lab…”

“I’m not sure that-” Alex counters, and realizes he doesn’t know how to continue without sharing more than Michael might want. He grimaces, and Michael shakes his head indulgently.

“Speakerphone,” he mouths, and Alex switches the phone over.

“Hang on a second. You’ve got Michael here too.”

“Hey, Ortecho,” Michael volunteers. “You, uh…might want to revise the theory there. From what Alex described, it sounds like we were dealing with this at about the same intensity you all were. Just didn’t notice it at first.”

“Alex said he wasn’t experiencing any of the symptoms when we were here in the lab, though. And it sounds like you didn’t either.”

“Nothing much out of the ordinary, no,” he agrees.

“So was it activated by proximity then? Because that points toward a contaminant or a contagion of some sort…”

“Sort of?” Alex ventures. “It spiked pretty strongly once we touched, a lot like it did for you and Max. Kyle and Isobel, too. But that’s only part of it.”

“Think of it this way, Ortecho. If you’ve got a bunch of test solutions heating to various temperatures, and something starts cranking up the heat on them, you’d notice the new heat source because of the rising temperature readings. And when whatever that heat source was was catalyzed the reaction and made them flash boil, you’d definitely notice and connect the dots. But if you had a solution that was constantly being heated to ninety-nine degrees Centigrade, you wouldn’t get any alerts about the new heat source until it flash boils. The new heat source would be there, but it wouldn’t really register.”

“I guess that makes sense, but how does that… oh. Oh. Oh damn. You’re saying you were that solution. That you didn’t notice what was going on at first. That’s… fuck. Wow. I kind of don’t even know how to process that. Are…you guys okay?”

“Yeah, we’re good. You’re going to want to run tests and figure all of this out though, aren’t you?”

“Guilty,” Liz admits. “The reaction seems to have pretty much run its course here. How about for you?”

“Signs point to no,” Alex tells her, noting the reaction he’s having to the way Michael is tracing featherlight patterns along his hip with his free hand.

“We’ll get over to the lab when we can, let you give us a once-over,” Michael offers. “Not for awhile yet though. Bye now.” He kisses Alex then, and despite his best efforts, Alex is pretty sure it’s Liz who manages to hang up the call.

Michael’s hands are everywhere then, thorough and sure, kisses deep and languid.

“Want you,” he murmurs, his hand on Alex’s ass, and Alex breathes,

“Take me.”

Michael hisses out a yes, pulls Alex’s leg over his hip, rolls onto his back and coaxes Alex to straddle him.

“Want to watch you, see your expressions,” he explains. “Want to see every expression you make as I open you up, want to watch you ride me.”

Alex’s eyes are dark, blown wide with lust, but he frowns slightly, shifts his glance toward the right before he drags his eyes back to meet Michael’s.

“My balance isn’t always…” he trails off, and Michael’s hand skims up his thigh, settles on his hip.

“It’s all good,” Michael tells him seriously. “We can change things up. But if you want it, I’ve got you.”

“I want it,” Alex vows. The thrill that courses through him as he leans down to kiss Michael is grounded in fierce joy. He wants this. He can have it. And he’s done flinching away from it.

Michael kisses him back, touches him, gets both hands on Alex’s ass to spread him, teases eager fingertips along his cleft. Alex moans into his mouth. There’s the slickness of lube, the press of Michael’s finger inside of him, and that’s glorious. It’s been awhile since he’s even used a toy or anything on himself, so it’s intense too, but in the best way- Michael opening him up, getting him ready for more. He loses track of time, his focus narrowed to the heat of Michael beneath him, around him, inside him. He bites his lip, closes his eyes, lets sensation wash over him. When he looks down again, Michael is the one who looks so fucked out that Alex has to bend down and capture his lips.

“Beautiful,” Michael murmurs into the kiss, even as he slowly adds a second finger. Alex gasps, forehead resting against Michael’s, sharing the same breath. He makes Alex work for it, barely grazing his prostate unless Alex arches into it, rides his fingers, forgets to be self-conscious about how he looks or how he sounds, isn’t thinking about the words or phrases that fall from his lips.

And then, when Michael eases his fingers out some impossible amount of time later to replace them with the head of his cock, Alex sinks down on him, gasping until he bottoms out. Michael holds him steady then, lubed fingers sticky on Alex’s hip so Michael can drive up into him, fuck him senseless, hips rolling and sweat slicking their skin once more.

It’s only when he notices that Michael’s hand has moved from his hip to wrap around his cock, intent on bringing him off that way, that he realizes his balance hasn’t shifted precariously the whole time. In a flash of understanding, he realizes that it’s because Michael is still holding him steady, but now he’s using his telekinetic powers as that extra hint of support. It’s that moment of realization, and the thrill of how much he likes it, the understanding that for the first time, Michael is showing Alex his full self, testing his abilities in bed with no more secrets between them, trusting him that makes him come, shooting across Michael’s belly and part of his chest, which is admittedly impressive for his third orgasm in just a couple of hours.

Michael holds him in place with his hands and his mind as his own release pulses inside Alex, his head thrown back against the rumpled pillow, focus on Alex never wavering, even as he trembles.

Not for the first time today, Alex wishes their relationship was in a place where condoms were an option, rather than a necessity- he wants to feel Michael’s release dripping out of him, wants Michael to slick his fingers with it and push it back into him, wants to do the same to Michael. Since that’s a thought he’s had more times today than ever before, he’s pretty sure it’s partly a symptom of whatever weird sex haze they’re in, part of the same visceral desire to mark and join. But he also isn’t hating how liberating it feels to admit to himself that he wants the mess and debauchery of it.

He’s spent so much time running and holding back, trying to be respectable in the eyes of people who will never truly respect him, and he’s been tired of that for a long time. He told Michael a while ago that he didn’t want to stand in Michael’s way. But he doesn’t want to stand in his own way anymore, either.

He reaches down, drags his fingers through the mess he’s left on Michael’s torso, smearing it, rubbing it into his skin.

“Alex,” Michael says, voice pleased and strangled and barely above a whisper. His hand comes up, but instead of stopping him or pushing him away, Michael helps, massaging Alex’s spend into his own skin. “I like this,” he says, sounding dazed and half-drunk. “Like being with you, having you mark me, feeling like I belong with you.” He props himself up on his elbows, gets Alex to lean in and kiss him with just the look in his eyes and an inviting nod of his head. “Like tasting you…” he whispers a centimeter away from Alex’s lips, his voice deep with just a hint of gravel in it. “Like when the scent of you is all over me.”

“I like it too,” Alex murmurs, running his hand up Michael’s arm, savoring the subtle changes in Michael’s breathing that show how much he likes the sensation. “Like touching you,” he declares. He nips gently at Michael’s throat, stubble scratching his lip, salt on his tongue. “Like tasting you.”

His fingers skate over Michael’s torso, playing over each individual rib, the swells of muscle, the nipples pebbled in response to all of the sensation. They shift until they’re both laying on the thin mattress, limbs twined together. He brings one hand up to run through the chest hair Michael likes showing off so much (the sight of which always secretly makes Alex’s mouth water), traces and re-traces the sharp angles of Michael’s collar bones.

Michael’s breath hitches audibly with each new touch. It’s something he loves about being with Michael- how responsive he is, how unabashedly upfront he is in his reactions.

“No point in hiding when something is good,” Michael says smugly, and Alex realizes he must have actually said that aloud. He blushes, then firmly sets the embarrassment aside. Michael’s right. There’s no sense in hiding what he likes, what matters to him.

“Is this good, then?” he asks instead.

“If you have to ask that, I must be doing something wrong,” Michael smirks, glancing meaningfully between their bodies, where they’re already half hard again. Alex’s lips twist into smile even though he tries to be serious.

“I don’t mean the sex,” he laughs. “The sex is great. Always has been. I mean…” he trails off, unsure of how to phrase this.

“The intimacy?” Michael supplies. Alex nods.

“You know that first night, in the toolshed?” Michael asks suddenly. “The night when you brought me the guitar?”

Alex nods, his brow furrowing. Michael smiles though.

“I wanted to kiss you that night. I didn’t, because I was confused, inexperienced…scared of getting it wrong. But I wanted to. And that night, after you cut it as close to your curfew as you could to stay there with me along as possible? I lay there in my sleeping bag, thinking about kissing you. And yeah, also about blowjobs.” He grins suggestively, eyes dancing before he sobers again. "Definitely thought about blowjobs. But mostly, I thought of you falling asleep there beside me. I imagined us just…being together, fantasized about being comfortable enough with another person to have that kind of closeness. Having it with you. I imagined what it would be like to have your arm around me, holding me as I lay there. That’s the thought I fell asleep to. It wasn’t just kissing, or sex, or lust. I wanted…this- this intimacy.” Michael shakes his head ruefully. “Never stopped craving that. In general, I guess, but… with you in particular. And no matter how many times we fuck it up, I just…feel it with you, every time we start things up again.”

“I feel it too.” Alex licks his lips. “For a long time, it scared me. Less wanting it, and more…how much I wanted it.”

“For a long time?” Michael questions. The tips of his fingers are brushing Alex’s shoulder steadily. Alex shrugs, careful not to dislodge the touch.

“Now other things scare me more.”

“What sorts of things?” Michael asks that question just as carefully as he did the last one.

“Explosions.” Alex answers promptly, sees the flicker of recognition and regret for making him talk about it flash through Michael’s eyes. Not the pity he hates- Michael has never handed him pity- but something close enough to it that he pushes on before it can get too similar. “Losing the people I care about- not just from my life, but losing them altogether- them dying or being hurt, taken away. Not being happy. Making choices I can’t live with. Not knowing when to stand up and when to back down until it’s too late. Becoming my Father.”

“Alex, no.” Michael interrupts.”You could never be like him.”

“Because I make choices every day so that I’m not,” He explains vehemently, willing Michael to understand. “It doesn’t have to be real or probable to be something you fear. It just has to weigh on you, eat at you. And one of the things that eats at me, despite all the other things there are to worry about, is the fear that we’ve used up all our chances, built up too many hurts to ever get our shit together, build something that lasts. That we had our shot, and we lost it.”

“Does this feel like we’ve lost it?” Michael gestures between them, at the way they’re lying tangled together on the tiny bed in the golden light.

Alex has to smile.

“No. Definitely not. We’ve definitely still got the sex, for sure.”

“Not just the sex.” Michael shifts until he’s leaning over Alex, eyes searching. “I’ve been completely gone for you since we were seventeen. Even when I didn’t want to be. Even when being in love with someone I couldn’t be with hurt. Made it through all these years still carrying that torch, so I’m not giving up on us.”

Love. Hearing Michael say it is like brushing against an electric fence- it awakens every one of his senses, and still hurts like a solid punch. The lingering sensations and the realization that he’s alright despite the shock have similar parallels as well. If what they’ve been doing isn’t giving up, it isn’t exactly trying.

“We’re not exactly going all-in these days either,” Alex frowns. He expects to see Michael’s expression shutter, but instead Michael’s eyes dance delightedly, which makes Alex quickly reassess how he had phrased that. “I was not going for innuendo,” he moans, burying his face in Michael’s shoulder in exasperation that breaks apart the tension he had feared.

“Pretty sure we went all in today,” Michael observes delightedly, squeezing Alex’s ass cheek. Alex can hear the wicked grin in his voice. “Both of us. And it was verrrrry enjoyable.” He draws the word out until the innuendo is more than clear, massaging Alex ass where his hand had squeezed. His fingertips dip enough toward the cleft that they catch some lingering slickness from the lube, skims slickly along sensitive skin. Alex gasps, desire shooting through his body once more. He hears Michael’s warm chuckle that precedes a second, more deliberate pass. He groans, arching into the heat of Michael’s body. When he dares to un-bury his face, Michael is looking down at him, expression fond and a little hungry.

“I don’t know if this weird pollen crap or whatever is out of our systems yet, Alex. I don’t know when we’ll understand everything that’s going on today. But here’s what I do know. Whatever else I’ve felt for years and years? I never stopped wanting this.” He considers for a second. “Stopped having faith it could happen, maybe. Stopped hoping it could happen, or that it would. But I never stopped wishing for it. Half the shooting stars I’ve wished on in the past decade were about you.”

Alex starts to frown, tension wending its way through his arms, into his shoulders.

“Hey,” Michael says, dropping a soft sensual kiss on to his lips that makes the tension start to recede. “ ‘m not blaming you, okay? Me and my stubbornness have gotten in the way just as much as you and yours have. I might have to be completely fucked out to admit it instead of getting pissy about it, but I know it’s true. And that’s not even counting all the ways the shitty world we live in has thrown up roadblocks in our way, tried to fuck us over.”

He trails his hands up and down Alex’s body as he talks, stroking everywhere he can reach- from Alex’s thigh to his cheekbones, brushing his hair out of his eye with gentle fingers. It’s soothing, almost like a good cowboy talking down a nervous horse, and Alex has a pang of regret for never seeing Michael in his element as an honest-to-god cowboy. For giving him a hard time about it.

“You haven’t been alone in that,” he admits, feeling inspired to lay more on the line than he’s been willing to risk in awhile. He bites his lip, takes a sort of comfort from the awareness that Michael’s lips had just pressed against the same skin his own tongue presses against now. “I’ve spent so long being afraid of losing everything I’d built, losing respect, losing myself...and the more I had the lose, the more I was afraid to risk. And when I was in a place to risk it...” he trails off.

“I wasn’t,” Michael surmises.

Alex nods, tries to smile though he’s not sure it reaches his eyes.

“For a couple of musicians, we’ve got a pretty terrible sense of timing.”

He traces his fingers along the shell of Michael’s ear, watches Michael’s eyes drift closed in pleasure, even as he turns his head to press a kiss into Alex’s palm.

“Star-crossed lovers,” Michael observes a heartbeat later.

“I hope not,” Alex says fervently. Michael glances sharply at him, eyes flashing open, vulnerability etched in every line of his face, and Alex hastily clarifies. “I want a better ending.”

Michael’s expression softens, his eyes never leaving Alex’s. Alex is staggered by what he sees there. Relief and affection and so much more that he loses the sense of language for it, just feels it coursing through him too, rousing the emotions he keeps under such careful, practiced control.

He’s naked in this moment, exposed in a way that goes beyond existing without clothing, beyond physical bodies. This is being uncovered, in the bright blazing light, and welcoming it. He wants, so viscerally that he’s overwhelmed by it. And in this moment, things that have felt impossible before feel effortless, burned away by the intensity of what he’s feeling. His chest is expanding, he feels like he’s about to burst if he tries to contain it. So he stops trying to hold it back.

“I love you,” he says in a rush. And it’s true. It’s a fundamental truth of his being. He breathes air. Music soothes his soul. He’s learned to walk twice in his life. And he loves Michael Guerin.

Michael goes still beside him- so uncannily, preternaturally still that Alex realizes he’s stopped breathing. There’s a rush of panic, terror that he’s made a mistake. But before he can think of a way to walk it back, Michael sucks in a strangled breath that sounds halfway like a sob.

He presses his forehead to Alex’s, his curls forming a curtain between them and even the intruding sunlight.

“I’ve been in love with you since we were seventeen. I’ve spent half the years I can remember of my life hopelessly in love with you. So yes, Alex Manes. I love you too. Always have. Pretty sure I will until the day I die.”

He kisses him then, Alex arching into the kiss. He sinks his hand into the impossible softness of Michael’s curls, draws him back enough to whisper,

“Not hopeless.” They sink into another kiss, and when they come up for air, Michael’s hand is hot on his ribs, eyes burningly intense.

“Felt like it sometimes.”

Alex nods.

“I know. For me too. But I don’t want it to feel like that anymore.” He twines his fingers with Michael’s, brings them to his lips to tenderly kiss each of Michael’s knuckles.

“It doesn’t feel hopeless right now, does it?” It’s wonderment than he hears in Michael’s voice.

Alex shakes his head, lets himself sink into the kisses they exchange. He’s floating, flying, soaring without leaving the bed. He remembers a line from an Emily Dickinson poem he’d liked in high school— Hope is the thing with feathers…that sings the tune without the words.

There are plenty of times in his life when he’s understood those lines. But right now he feels them, a song without words thrumming through him with every kiss, every touch. Hope resonates within him- within them both- and makes them giddy. Their kisses get uncoordinated because they can’t stop smiling and then outright laughing at themselves. And then they settle again, sink into each other once more, and their kisses get sloppy, all-consuming, bleeding one into the other, lips tracing each other’s bodies and coming back to claim each other’s mouth again. Before long, Alex is hard, ready to go again, improbable though a fourth orgasm would normally be. So whatever sex magic is going on is clearly still effecting his body…but he’s as certain as he can be his mind remains clear. Michael seems to be right there with him, erection pressing insistently against his belly.

Finally, it’s too much, and Alex breaks away from the kiss with a gasp, pulling Michael down on top of him.

“Inside me. Now,” he practically begs.

“I’ve got you,” Michael promises, already reaching for the lube. “On one condition.”

Alex quirks his eyebrow.

“What’s that?”

Michael takes a break from lapping distractingly at Alex’s nipple to answer him., blushing a little.

“I want you to hold off coming while I’m inside you. Because once I finish, I want you to turn me right around and fuck me.”

Alex stares at him, surprised and aroused.

“You’re going to be so…”

“Sensitive? Overstimulated? Believe me, I know.” Michael smirks. “I want to feel every inch of you, feel everything. Want you to fuck me until I can’t breathe.” He leans forward, says a last word as a whisper in Alex’s ear that sends shivers sweeping across his body.


Alex swears, pulls Michael to him with his hands, his legs, kisses him fiercely. Despite his previous conviction that he couldn’t have another orgasm again so soon, he has to think of coding equations in order to keep from coming when Michael teases him open again, enters him once more and starts building the pleasure between them with shallow thrusts that get deeper but still so deliberate, pleasure lighting up his nerve endings until he swears he’s floating.

He manages what Michael asks of him- barely- and once Michael eases out of him, pulls the condom from his spent cock, makes a mess because he’s more focused on kissing Alex than properly removing the condom, Alex flips him over and pauses only for another condom and a bit more lube before entering him once more.

He goes slow so that it’s not too much, watches Michael’s thighs tremble, his neck arch. He moves, speeding his thrusts as words of near-incoherent encouragement spill from Michael’s mouth and his cock twitches, trying to rally again every time Alex hits his prostate. He takes his own cock in his hand, pumps himself in time with Alex’s thrusts, his other hand gripping the pillow above his head.

As Alex approaches the point of wringing one final orgasm out of his own exhausted body, Michael cries out, his cock twitching and releasing a few drops of fluid while he shudders, the sudden tightening sensation sending Alex over the edge as the entire airstream rattles around them, lifting and dropping again like they’ve just gone over a speedbump, even though it’s not hooked up to any vehicle.

The sound of their panting breath fills the airstream. Alex can feel his heartbeat thundering in his own ears. His hands glide over Michael’s sweat-slicked skin as he lowers himself to the mattress beside his lover. He presses an exhausted kiss to Michael’s shoulder, savors the sensation of smooth skin beneath his lips.

“Holy Shit,”Michael murmurs, and the awe in his voice makes Alex chuckle, his breath not fully returned. His eyes drift closed, a deep sense of contentment suffusing his body.

There’s no room for personal space on the narrow bed, and they don’t want it anyway- now that they’re able to touch each other again, neither of them seem to want to stop- no matter how much they’ve exhausted their bodies, they haven’t exhausted the hunger for touch. Michael shifts his arm so Alex can pillow his head on it, silence settling over them like a blanket, even as they keep touching each other, keep breathing in the scent of one another, and of so much sex.

Alex closes his eyes, appreciating the heat of Michael’s body sinking into his skin, despite how warm it already is inside the airstream.


He wakes up to his phone ringing, the sun lower in the sky, filtering through the newspapers on the window less intensely, creating an amber glow that suffuses the interior of the airstream.

He fumbles for the device to shut it up, notes that it’s Kyle’s contact on his screen before he answers.

“Finally,” Kyle says by way of greeting. “Liz has been texting you, and everyone’s been getting worried because they haven’t heard from either of you.”

“Sorry,” he says, voice thick with sleep. He thinks it’s only been half an hour or so that they’ve been out of it, but it’s hard to be precise.

“Dude. Were you asleep?” Kyle sounds incredulous.

“You try having four orgasms in a handful of hours because of some sort of alien sex pollen and tell me you’d be the Energizer Bunny,” he bites out before his brain is awake enough to better advise him, and regrets the words immediately.

“Fuck,” he says, after a second of silence. “Please tell me I’m not on speakerphone.”

Kyle laughs.

“You’re good.” And then, following on the heels of the reassurance comes the teasing. “Apparently, you’re very good.”

“Thanks,” Alex says dryly. But the thing is, he is good. Michael is stirring beside him, his hand sliding up Alex’s hip in reassurance that they’re both still here, and it feels right to wake up next to him. He waits for the familiar rush of fear about how they’ll be judged if people know what’s between them, the familiar sinking feeling that has always followed the realization that this moment can’t last.

But it doesn’t come.

Instead, his chest is filled with an expansive sensation, an overwhelming feeling of everything being...good. It’s contentment, he thinks. And maybe...something like the way love is supposed to feel, when it’s not hunted and running scared.

Maybe it even helps that it’s Kyle he’s on the phone with right now. The kid who gave him some of the most trouble for being gay in High School is now someone he actually trusts, and who’s giving him props for the orgasms he just achieved with another man.

What a difference a decade makes.

“Well, if this phenomenon is letting you sleep, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re not being affected anymore- at least, not to the point where you’re in any danger.” There’s a second’s pause. “Liz is giving me notes, mostly telling me things I already know” he calls pointedly for her benefit, and Alex has to smile.

“Seriously,” Kyle says, his mouth apparently near the phone once more, “She’s got a white board and everything. She wants you both to come in so she can run some tests. Which for what it’s worth, from both a scientific research perspective, and a medical perspective, I agree with her on.”

“Fine,” Michael says, not opening his eyes, and despite the fact that Alex doesn’t have the call on speaker, “but at some point, if you want me to keep taking my shirt off for you, Valenti, you’re going to have to pony up some tips.”

“Not until you get some actual dance moves, Guerin,” Kyle shoots back easily, and Alex once again has the feeling that there is no part of this phone call that his eighteen-year-old self would have believed.

“Promises, Promises,” Michael mutters, propping his head up with one hand, his other one coming to rest on Alex’s chest, thumb stroking along his ribs.

“Speaking of promises,” Alex says, “We’ll come by the lab soon, so Liz can run whatever tests she needs. Does everyone else seem…okay now?”

“Yeah. The four of us seem like we’re back to normal functioning. Now we’re focusing on trying to figure out what caused it, so we understand even just the basics of what’s going on, if it’s something that can happen again. Right now, we don’t even know if it was caused naturally, something in the environment, an attack of some kind… the list of what we don’t know if a lot longer than the list of what we do.”

“Noted,” Alex says. “We’ll be there as soon as we can.”

“Drive safe,” is all Kyle says. Alex ends the call, shifts so he’s facing Michael. He can’t resist reaching out to him, letting his hands slide over his thigh, the curve of his ass to rest at his hip.

“Mmmm,” Michael observes, the appreciative utterance sounding purely pornographic. “This is good. But if we keep doing this, we’re not going to make it to the lab anytime soon.” He trails his lips whisper-light along Alex’s throat, making him shiver. “Are we sure we have to go to the lab? Maybe we should just stay here awhile.” He’s joking, but the intensity of wanting to stay in bed together, cocooned from the world grows as they meet each other’s eyes.

“Tempting,” Alex murmurs, drawing Michael in for a kiss that they let themselves get lost in for several minutes. It’s slow, sensuous, and blisteringly hot, like the heat from banked coals.It takes him a long time to remember why he should interrupt it.

“You know, if we don’t get over there, they’re eventually going to send someone to check on us, right?”

“Right,” Michael says agreeably. “Getting up now, because I do not want to jeopardize this peace between us by having Isobel show up unexpectedly. I love her, but…”

“She has no concept of boundaries?” Alex smirks.

“None.” He pauses to consider. “Almost none. She’s been seeing a therapist, since a little while after Noah. I think it’s helping.”

“Good. Because if we’re going to spend as much time naked together as I’d like to, a little warning would be nice.”

“That’s one hell of an incentive,” Michael agrees, twining his fingers with Alex’s. “I like this, you know?” he says, too abruptly for Alex to follow. Alex quirks an eyebrow, and Michael obligingly explains.“This. Making plans.”

“I think “being naked” might be a little too abstract to count as “future plans,” Alex counters.

“Disagree,” Michael’s grin is smug. “You’re talking about getting naked. Together. Doing it more than once. That’s intentions. Plans. Plans like we haven’t made together in a long time.”

The thing is, Michael is right. Even being cautious about it, even without laying out concrete plans and details, without getting too far ahead of himself, he’s already trusting in more of a future between them than he’s let himself imagine for them in a long, long time.

The hopeful, overwhelming feeling blooms in his chest again, and he finds himself surging forward to kiss Michael, hands sinking into his hair.

“You’re right, “ he says. He puts everything he’s feeling, everything he’s realizing into the kiss- that it’s not just this moment and moments like it that he wants. It’s everything. He tries to say it without words. Michael answers him in the same language.

It’s several minutes more until Alex reluctantly pulls back and moves to sit up, remembering that there’s somewhere they’re supposed to be getting to. Michael sits up as well, so Alex steals another kiss, fully intending to work on putting his clothes on. The scent of sex and sweat on their skin gives him pause though.

“We’re going to need showers before we go anywhere,” he observes.

Michael ducks his head toward his armpit and wrinkles his nose.

“There’s a shower outside, on the back of the garage.” Alex’s confusion must show. “It’s partly a glorified spigot we use for hosing off parts, even whole cars sometimes, cleaning up after jobs. And Sanders lets me use it as my shower so I don’t have to keep refilling the tank on this thing.” He pats the countertop that serves as a headboard affectionately. He grins as his eyes shift back to Alex. “Wanna get risque with me? Or is that too Brokeback Bad Boy for the military?”

Alex shakes his head, chuckling.

“I don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to following proper military protocol these days. But in this case, it’s a literal problem.” He taps his residual, glances to where his leg sits near the foot of the bed. “That prosthetic isn’t very fond of water.

“You have your crutch in your car?”

“I do…” Alex says. “Kind of hard to shower leaning on a crutch though.”

“I think I can help with that.” Michael’s lips seek his, kissing him with reassurance bleeding toward lasciviousness. “Lather you up. Get you all wet. Maybe get a little dirty before we get clean…fulfill a few fantasies.”

“Oh yeah?” Alex quirks an eyebrow, torn between conviction that he cannot possibly get it up again this soon, and not-insubstantial curiosity at what Michael’s fantasies are.”Which fantasies?”

“Well, you being all wet and naked, as I previously mentioned. Also the whole “naked outside” thing, the knowledge that even though nobody’s coming by, and they wouldn’t see us from the road even if they did…we’d be naked together under the wide-open sky…takes me back to making out in the back of my truck, having you in my mouth under the stars…”

And okay, Alex still probably can’t get it up, but his cock is making a valiant effort.

“We do not have time for shower blowjobs,” Alex reminds him. Michael grins.

“Gotta leave some things on the list for the future.”

“Okay, but actual showers have to be on the list for right now,” he counters, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. Michael rolls his eyes, but does the same, bracing himself on Alex’s shoulder to stand, then offering his hand for Alex’s balance. There are more logistical challenges than he prefers, getting out to the shower, but once Michael brings him his crutch, crowds together with him under the shower head and turns the spigot, he decides the challenges were worth it for a shower.

Michael slows the water to a trickle to conserve it, lathers them both up, fingers working over slick skin, rubbing soap suds across exhausted muscles that are definitely going to feel the sex marathon tomorrow. When he goes to his knees to wash Alex’s legs, Alex has to bite his lip to keep his mind in line and not be trying to write checks it can’t cash. Michael’s smirk tells him he absolutely noticed though. He turns his head so his mouth is mere millimeters from Alex’s cock, presses a kiss to the inside of Alex’s thigh.

“List for the future,” he murmurs, and Alex feels elation rising within his chest, brighter and happier than if Michael actually had taken him in his mouth at that moment. Michael comes back to his feet, sidles along behind him, pulls Alex back against his chest. As the water sprays over them again, he feels Michael’s mouth on his shoulder, lapping up the drops of water, his arm around Alex’s hips holding them steady.

“Do you think we finally have a future?” Alex asks. He finally sees it— not the sharp images he’s pictured once, rigid ideas of who they were going to be one day. This feels fuzzy and indistinct, but…peaceful, possible in a way what’s between them never quite has before.

Michael’s chin settles on his shoulder, watching the mountain turning blue in the distance, the sky going orange and brilliant gold as the sunset begins to turn truly majestic.

“I think we always have,” Michael says quietly. “But this time…I think maybe this time we’re ready for it.”

And yeah, that sounds about right.



It could be awkward, heading back into what Michael unfortunately referred to as the “Secret Sex Bunker” just once in a bored drawl, and is a term which has now, even more unfortunately, become stuck in Alex’s head. He clings instead to the idea that everyone knowing what they’ve all been up to also means that they’re all pretty much in the same boat, and no one has a reason to feel sheepish.

Aside from cheerful greetings when they make their way down the ladder, no one really bats an eye. Kyle sets about taking their vitals, while Liz and Michael lead the group in a rapid-fire summary of theories. Solar flares keep emerging as a potential explanation, but the sticking point keeps coming back to finding reliable data to corroborate the theory. Government clearance and database access go a long way toward solving the problem, and twenty minutes after they arrive, Michael and Liz are crowded in front of a monitor, comparing measurements and timestamps of recent space weather recordings.

Max expresses incredulity at the term, but promptly relents when Michael frowns at him, saying “Yes, space weather prediction. The whole reason that manned missions tot he moon have been delayed by almost half a decade.” In a tone that suggests he assumes this is common knowledge.

It seems Michael and Liz are well on their way to solidifying their ideas of that happened— Solar flares at the right angle and intensity that they scramble the electrical fields the aliens powers influence, and cause both the aliens as well as those touched by alien powers to experience such an intense urge for sex. As they’re debating the evolutionary reason for such a response, and whether the phenomonon is likely to recur every eleven years of every hundred and fifty-three years, Kyle settles in beside Alex where he’s observing while leaning against a counter and hands him a bottle of Gatorade.

“Have to replace those electrolyes,” he advises. “Maybe take an anti-inflamatory too. Pretty sur everyone pulled muscles they didn’t know they had today.”

“Sure,” Alex agrees, twisting off the cap.

“So,” Kyle says. “Four orgasms. That, uh…combined, or just for you?”

Alex is thankful he hasn’t taken a sip of the drink yet.

“’Cause, uh…Pretty sure Isobel and I got up toward seven combined. Which I think is a new personal best for me. But I figure, what with women not having the same refractory time as guys and all…” He seems like he’s getting too invested in talking about it, so Alex cuts him off.

“Nine.” He takes a sip of the sports drink. Kyle’s jaw drops a little, but he recovers quickly and wordlessly holds a hand out for a fist bump, they way they used to do when they were twelve.

Alex shakes his head incredulously and returns it. Aliens, Solar flares, electromagnetic sex fields, none of it even phases him that much anymore. But the fact of having this conversation with Kyle Valenti, decent human being might be the part of all of this that’s hardest to wrap his brain around.

Then again, Kyle Valenti congratulating him on queer alien sex means that truly, anything is possible in this world.