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It’s after midnight when they crawl back into the cab of Michael’s truck. They’d endured nearly half an hour of good-natured ribbing from their friends about making out on the Pony’s patio in subzero temperatures. Neither of them had minded much, only too happy to be able to sit and laugh and celebrate with the people they loved most. But then Greg had shown up to ruin their fun and take Maria home, sending everyone else their separate ways.

Alex winces as he reaches to shut the door, rubbing at his leg.

“Does it always hurt at the end of the day?” Michael asks, turning over the engine and staring across the bench seat, patiently waiting, hoping for a real answer.

“Not like this. It’s been a long day. Hell, it’s been a long week, and I haven’t exactly been taking care of myself.” He offers Michael a sincere smile. Every bite of pain more than worth it as long as Michael’s safe and sound here next to him.

Michael frowns. “I’m going to need you to do a better job of that. Or at least let me help.”

Alex nods, and, honestly, it surprises him how easily he capitulates. But things have shifted now, and he’s tired of always fighting against the things he needs and wants most from life. So he’d made a simple decision when Michael had called him a liar earlier that morning -- no more running, no more hiding, no more lying to the people he loves most. “I promise to try.”

“Good. I’ll take you home.” They put the Pony in the rearview mirror and head east. The radio plays so quietly Alex can’t even make out the song, but the near silence is comforting and companionable. Scooting close enough to rest his hand on Michael’s thigh, he closes his eyes and lets sleep tug him further into this unexpected happy oblivion he’s found himself in tonight. The last thing he remembers is the heat of Michael’s hand squeezing his own.

He sleeps dreamlessly as the road lights pass overhead before Michael wakes him, shaking his shoulder gently. “You’re home.”

While Alex yawns awake, Michael slips out of the truck and walks across to open the passenger side door. He reaches for Alex’s hand, and Alex doesn’t protest, his leg already so stiff after the fifteen-minute drive that he’s gone straight past wincing and firmly into groaning territory. “Thanks.”

“No problem.” Michael helps him to his front door, and the security lights blink on, blinding them both. They squint and laugh and Alex fishes for his keys in his pocket, but Michael unlocks the door with his TK instead.

“That’s handy.” He knows he’s supposed to go inside now, but he doesn’t want to go anywhere without Michael at the moment. Or ever again really. They’ve waited so long for this that he’s worried if Michael drives away it will all turn into some twisted dream or some carefully curated mindscape game. “Want to spend the night?”

“Yes,” he says immediately, so sure. As sure as he’d been when he’d taken his hat off and kissed Alex for the first time in such a long time. “But I’m not sure it’s the best idea.”

Alex smiles, sleepy and just as sure. “It’s the best idea as long as watching me pop a pain pill and drool all over my pillow is your idea of a good time. I’m not up for much else.”

Michael removes his hat and holds out his arm, motioning Alex inside. “Sounds like everything I’ve ever wanted.”

And it’s weird, listening to him say that and believing he means every single word. It’s strange that anyone could mean that about him, so broken and beaten and bruised. But he does believe Michael, believes him so completely he almost says half a million things that it would be way too soon to say. So instead he leans in for another kiss and just says, “Me too.”