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you left a trace

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It’s midday. Brisk and sunny. Michael puts the hat back on his head, not quite ready to be rid of all his armor yet, and watches a dark figure walk down the length of the bus aisle, disappearing behind the driver. Slowly, the air brakes release, the wheels turn, and the bus pulls away from the stop, leaving one man behind.

Alex.

Michael’s heart flutters, his stomach twists into knots. He checks traffic before darting across the street, hoping Rosa or Arturo hadn’t watched him make of fool of himself through the diner window. Or, maybe he doesn’t care actually. Maybe he’s ready for this entire one-horse town to watch him make a fool of himself daily in front of Alex Manes.

Maybe Alex is ready too.

The statue of Jesse Manes rises over both of them, casting a deep, slicing shadow through the square. Michael curses himself for not remembering to mention it to Alex but thinks that Greg had likely beat him to it anyway.

“Heard that monstrosity ends up face down at least a couple nights a week. Bunch of fucking hooligans if you ask me. It’s a real damn shame.” He’s close enough to catch the scent of Alex’s drugstore shampoo on the breeze, coconut and vanilla. Clean and simple. The same shampoo he’s been using since high school.

At first, Alex doesn’t respond and that makes Michael nervous. But slowly, his shoulders relax, his head tilts to the side, and he drops both his bags to the ground. “Is that a crack right between his eyes?”

Michael hears the smile in his voice. It makes him smile too. His heartbeat speeds up, his nerves shifting from fear to excitement. He bounces anxiously on his heels but stops abruptly when Alex begins to spin around. Hooking his thumbs through his belt loops, he cocks a hip, feigning a nonchalance he hasn’t felt since they’d started their near-nightly phone calls several weeks ago. “Just give me the word and I’ll fling that motherfucker into the sun.”

“They’ll just make another.” The first glimpse of Alex’s face after nearly a year takes his breath away. He hopes Alex doesn’t notice the sudden hitch in the rise and fall of his chest. It’s not just that he looks good, because holy fuck does he look good, but it’s the way Alex is looking back at him that steals the soul from his body. Soft eyes and easy joy. Contentment. The face of a man releasing himself from a war he’s been waging his whole life. The face of a man coming home.

And that look isn’t for Greg. Or Forrest Long. Or anyone else in Roswell, New Mexico.

That look is for Michael Guerin. For only Michael Guerin.

He’s been waiting for that look since he was seventeen. And his knees get so woozy, so weak he thinks about giving in and dropping to the sidewalk right here, right now. Thinks about taking Alex into his mouth for the whole of Roswell to watch. He has to swallow, to ball his fingers into fists, to bite his tongue to keep from falling to his knees.

“You look really damn good,” Alex says, grinning wickedly at him like he can hear all of Michael’s worst, most unholy thoughts, before launching himself at Michael, knocking his hat God knows where. And Michael could not care less what happens to his beloved Stetson because Alex fucking Manes is wrapped in his arms in the middle of the town square after thirteen long years of hoping and wishing and waiting.

If anything could tip the Earth’s axis and alter gravity, it would be this moment.

Alex’s nose presses against Michael’s neck, and Michael clutches desperately at Alex’s waist. The moment Isobel and Max register Michael’s happiness, he feels them both push against their bond, like a long-distance hug. And for once in his entire goddamn life, Michael Guerin wouldn’t wish to be anywhere else in this universe or the next.

“I’m glad you’re back.” He forces himself to step back, bends over, and collects Alex’s bags. He’s relieved when Alex doesn’t argue or try to take them back. The bus ride from Albuquerque can’t have been comfortable. “Thought you could use a ride home.”

Alex swipes Michael’s hat from the grass behind him, placing it back on his wind-swept curls. His hands linger, fingers tracing the lines of Michael’s jaw, thumb grazing over his bottom lip, sending shivers down his spine and straight to his toes. “I’d planned on taking an Uber, but this is better.”

“Definitely cheaper.” Michael winks at him. They fall into step, side-by-side. Easy as breathing, harder than hell. Nothing and everything all at once.

Neither of them notices Forrest Long watching from across the street. Neither of them notices the sour expression on his face or the heavy sigh he makes as he turns on his heels a walks away for the very last time.