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he doesn't want to

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He supposes he does find it a little bit strange, how easily Alex communicated with him, saying what he said and telling him the story of how he lost his leg. Getting truths out of Alex has always been difficult with how much he’s had to be on guard over the years, and Michael has always understood. But this day has been like a breath of fresh air, Alex saying things he’s always wanted to hear.

It is a bit strange. But it feels good at the same time. It feels right, wonderful. Euphoric in a way. Kissing Alex again certainly is. It’s always been good. They’ve never failed at that. And yeah maybe it’s a bit quick. But they’ve been circling one another for years, even when they’ve tried not to. And after a day of all the words he wants to hear and the longing looks, it feels okay too. Like it’s the way it should be. Like Alex belongs back in his arms.

He tries not to overthink it, tries not to worry. It’s just something that the two of them have worked towards. It’s fruition if a moment long in the making. That’s all there is. They’re supposed to get their happy ending, it’s the time for it. It’s the time for them.

But as happy as he is there’s something lurking in the back of his head, an itch he cannot scratch. As if something is trying to get his attention but he has no idea what. And honestly he doesn’t want to know, not with Alex’s scent in his nose, the soft strands of hair on his nape under his fingers. He just wants to feel good with the love of his life in his arms. It’s the only thing he’s ever wanted. And he’s tried, he’s tried so hard not to but it always comes back to this. To Alex Manes, and to a love for the ages. He doesn’t want to go back now that he’s here, he doesn’t want to.

“Michael!”

He closes his eyes, runs his fingers through Alex’s hair one more time, two times, three. And then he moves back, looking into the loving and smiling eyes of Alex Manes.

“Michael! It’s-”

“It’s not real, I know.”

He turns away from Alex, meets the sad yet alert eyes of Isobel. There’s a strength to her he rarely sees unless they’re in the place where she controls the most. Unless they’re in the mindscape.

“How long?”

“He got you when you were looking for Kyle,” Isobel says as she walks closer. “I’ve been trying to get to you for three days.”

“I wish you didn’t,” he whispers to himself. He doesn’t mean it, but he also means it more than anything.

“Guerin.”

His eyes find Alex’s. They’re still bright, still beautiful and loving. But more hidden, shadowed as well. They remind him more of the eyes he usually sees.

“I’ll find you on the outside. I swear, I’ll find you.”

He kisses him one more time, just because he can, tenderly and exactly how he wants to. It feels just as good as always, just as real. And for a moment he contemplates staying, because here he has Alex. Outside he doesn’t.

He doesn’t get to decide. He opens his eyes and he’s in a barn, lying on a cot with Rosa, Maria and Liz standing over him, their eyes worried and their shoulders tense. He feels their sigh of relief in his bones. He looks around, sees Isobel sitting up on the cot she’s lying on, sees Kyle on one a bit further away, still sleeping. He sees Alex sitting up on a cot right next to Isobel.

“How are you feeling?” Liz asks as she checks his temperature, stroking his check as she does. He shrugs, not really up for talking. Liz understands the way she always does, and ushers Rosa and Maria away, back towards Kyle. Isobel joins them, after coming over to squeeze his hand and giving him an encouraging look. Then there’s only Alex, watching him from where he’s sitting at the edge of the cot. Eyes guarded, but still beautiful. Still loving.

“You joined Deep Sky.”

Alex looks startled, but nods hesitantly. “I wanted to protect you. It seemed easiest to do it from the inside.”

He closes his eyes. He’s tired, doesn’t want to have this conversation right now.

“You kissed me, you know. That last kiss, it was me. Isobel brought me in with her.”

He opens his eyes again, quickly looking over at Alex, who’s looking right back. “I’m so-”

“No,” Alex interrupts. “Don’t ever apologize for kissing me.”

“Should I apologize for wanting to do it again?” he asks. He has to ask.

Alex smiles. “Only if you’d rather do it in the Mindscape than in the real world.”

He huffs a laugh, coughing as he does. “I’d kiss you wherever you let me, Alex. I’m not going to be picky.”

He hears the beginning of Alex's laugh, but falls asleep before he can hear more of it.

He doesn’t hear the commotion as he does, doesn’t see Isobel turn towards him with a yelled out no, doesn’t see Liz’s eyes go wide as the machine he’s hooked up to beeps wildly. Doesn’t see the love turn to fear in Alex’s eyes.

He only knows that he wakes up to being back at the Pony with Alex in his arms, running his fingers through his nape as the niggling feeling at the back of his brain returns. He doesn’t want to go back now that he’s here, he doesn’t want to.