Alex wants to tell Michael that he’s his family, that Alex is as willing to die for him as Michael is for the woman trapped behind the glass.
But Alex knows that he won’t believe him, that he won’t listen. He never seems to hear the things that Alex is trying to say and they don’t have time for that now. The alarm is deafening, a terrible countdown until this building collapses around them and kills anyone still inside.
Michael can’t be one of those people. Alex won’t survive it.
“I’ll free them,” he says, grabbing onto Michael’s shoulder and wrenching him away from his mother. “I’ll work on hacking the security to release them and then I’ll lead them outside. I will save your family. But I need you to save mine.”
In different circumstances, Michael might be able to tell he’s full of shit, but everything’s gone to hell and the sudden hope in his eyes is enough to kill him right there. “Really?”
“Kyle and Flint are upstairs,” he says, pulling up the schematics of the cells on his tablet even though he knows it’s no use. At least this way he won’t have to look Michael in the eye while he lies to him. “Make sure they get out. I’ll evacuate everyone and meet you outside. The closest exit from here is the back of the building.”
Maybe something is giving him away, because Michael seems uncertain. “Alex-”
“Get out of here, Guerin,” he says, scanning the schematics just in case there actually is something he can use in there. “One of us needs to stay and the other needs to make sure my brother and Kyle make it out. Flint probably knows what this alarm means, but Kyle doesn’t, and I’m not explaining to the sheriff that I killed her son. Unless you have some coding and hacking skills you’ve never felt the need to share with me before, this has to be me. Go.”
There’s a terrifying moment where he thinks Michael is going to refuse and they’re going to die in here together, but then he just reaches out to grip Alex’s shoulder, gives his mother one more glance, and then he’s running.
Once the door swings shut, he takes a breath, his shoulders untensing.
He looks up and Michael’s mother is staring at him, old and frail and with Michael’s eyes.
Thank you, she mouths and before he can feel too terrible, she jerks her head towards the door. Go.
She knows. She knows that he was lying, that he was just trying to get her son out of here and she’s thanking him for it. She’s giving him permission to leave her behind, to leave all the other aliens behind.
He’d done the same thing once, bleeding out and delirious with pain. He’d told his men to leave him behind then too.
He ducks his head, ignoring her to focus on the tablet. He can hear her pounding on the glass, but he refuses to look up. He has a couple more minutes before he needs to run. The least he can do is try.
Except nothing in the code is anything he can tamper with, not with countdown sequence already initiated. The doors won’t open. There’s nothing he can do to get them open and he can’t stop the explosion –
He can’t stop the explosion.
But he might be able to redirect it a little.
They’d clearly been worried about one area becoming more compromised than the others and there are protocols in here for if only a small area needed to be destroyed. The cells had been the obvious choice, and considering they’re the foundation of this place, once they go, they’re taking everything with it.
But if he can set it for the top of the building instead, all the bits that are above ground – well, it’s not a good plan by any stretch, and the building will still probably collapse on them and kill them all anyway. But it’s a chance. It’s a little bit less than hopeless.
His fingers fly across the screen, hoping he can do this before time runs out. He could run right now and try to finish the work from outside, where at least he would be safe. But the long minutes it would take him to run to safety with his leg are minutes that he wouldn’t be working on this, which makes it that much less likely that he’ll succeed
He told Michael that he’d save his family, and there’s a chance that he can, so he has to try.
There’s a particularly loud thump that and he looks up to see that Michel’s mother has bloody hands and more cracks in her cell. It looks like she’s screaming at him, but he can’t here her.
He doesn’t need to hear her to know what she’s saying. She’s yelling at him to run.
“I made your son a promise,” he says, not sure if she can hear him, if the glass works that way, but he doesn’t have the time to worry about it. He focuses back on the codes and permissions and barely finishes inputting the correct sequence when the sound of an explosion has him flashing back to losing his leg then something hits him on the back of the head.
He tries to tells Michael’s mother that he’s sorry, that he tried, but darkness comes for him before he can even try to look at her.
Guerin had said that Alex was going to meet them outside, but they’re back behind the bus and Alex isn’t here. Kyle’s still trying to catch his breathe but he gestures around them, trying to ask where he is, but Guerin doesn’t seem to even notice.
Surprisingly, it’s Flint that grabs Guerin and demands, “Where’s my brother?”
“He said he was going to go out the back entrance,” he answers, shoving Flint off of him even as he doesn’t take his eyes of the building.
Flint stares and Kyle feels the bottom of his stomach drop out, like he’s looking at the chart with his father’s diagnosis all over again. “There is no back entrance.”
Guerin snaps his head around so quickly that if he weren’t an alien, Kyle would be worried he’d just broken something. “What are you talking about? Alex said–”
The explosion knocks them all over. Flint goes down so hard that he thinks it might have knocked him out. Kyle can feel it reverberate through his bones and his ears are ringing. Somehow Guerin is still on his feet, but all the color has drained from his face. He takes a stumbling step forward and Kyle reaches out, grabbing onto his ankle with all the strength he has left.
He can tell that Guerin is yelling at him, but it sounds like everything is under water. “He’s dead,” he says, hoping he’s saying it loudly enough for Guerin to hear him. “Anyone that was still in there is dead.”
Guerin is shaking his head, trying to push his hands off of him, but Kyle refuses to let go. He braces himself against Guerin’s leg and claws himself upright so he can cling to his waist like a child. Guerin pushes at his shoulders and Kyle is just grateful that he’s too freaked out right now to remember he’s literally telekinetic. The ringing is finally fading and some of Guerin’s words make it through to him. “-get him out of there-”
“You’re not risking your life when there’s probably not even a body to retrieve,” he says, and he can hear himself speak now. “An explosion that big and he isn’t likely to be anything more than,” he breaks off, shaking his head, because he can’t say it.
Pieces. He’s in pieces now, if they’re lucky.
Alex probably isn’t even identifiable.
Guerin slowly sinks to the ground. Kyle grabs his arm, just in case he gets any bright ideas like to trying to run into an exploded building that’s little more than rubble and likely to collapse on them the second they try to make a path inside.
He turns to face him and says tonelessly, “You’re crying.”
Kyle risks taking one hand off Guerin to lift it to his face. He’d thought that was blood on his cheeks, but he’s right, it’s tears. When the shock wears off, tears are going to be the least of his problems. “You’re not.”
“It’s my fault,” he says, still in that same terrifying, emotionless voice.
Of course it is, Kyle thinks, suddenly and viciously, but he tamps it down just as quickly. Isobel might be the mind reader, but it won’t help anyone if Guerin picks those thoughts up from him right now. Maybe Alex wouldn’t have been this invested in their fathers’ sins against aliens if he hadn’t been in love with one, but the people responsible for Caufield are Jesse Manes and his own father. “Don’t think like that-”
“I didn’t want to leave them, so Alex said he’d take care of it. He said he’d help them and then they were going out the back entrance,” he says, cutting him off. “There is no back entrance. Alex knew that. He did it on purpose.”
“No,” Kyle says without thinking, even though it’s pointless to deny it, when it’s obviously true. Alex had access to the blueprints. He would have known better, he did know better, and he stayed behind anyway.
He lied and stayed behind to die with the aliens so Michael Guerin would live.
Kyle doesn’t even remember moving, except he blinks and then he’s standing up with a clenched fist and Guerin’s on the ground with a bloody nose. He’s trying to clear his head enough to apologize, but then Guerin starts laughing, a terrible sound that makes Kyle feel sorry for him even though he thinks he hates him now.
Flint groans and pushes himself upright, his eyes glassy. He must have hit his head, and as a doctor, Kyle should care about that, but he’s struggling to feel anything right now.
“Where’s Alex?” Flint demands, his voice coming out slurred. He probably has a concussion.
Guerin just laugh louder while Flint blearily looks around, in search of a brother that he’ll never see again, and Kyle hopes that this is hell.
Isobel is kind of in the middle of a crisis right now, with her murderous evil alien husband and all, so she’s not exactly checking her phone frequently, especially when the text is from Kyle Valenti.
Except she sees Michael’s name flash across the screen even though he hates Kyle, and that’s probably at least worth thirty seconds of her time.
You should go see Guerin.
Next time she sees Kyle, she’s going to punch him. What the hell kind of message is that? She’s halfway through typing a rant about how important effective communication is when another text comes through.
Alex is dead.
She stares at the text for a long time.
Michael took the blame for killing three girls for ten years so she wouldn’t have to and now his – whatever Alex was, he’s gone.
She marches back into Max’s house and ignores her husband to snap, “Put him in the pod. We’ll deal with him later.”
“Iz,” Max starts, an argument already half formed.
She holds out her phone to him. She can feel Noah’s eyes on them, but she refuses to acknowledge it. He’s not who’s important now.
Max takes in a sharp breath and Isobel knows that he’s thinking of when Liz was bleeding out underneath his hands, what he’d do and how he’d feel if she had died. He looks back up at her with an intense, solemn gaze and says, “Okay.”
Maria hears the front door open and she calls out, “Come back later,” without looking up from counting inventory. After a moment without the sounds of someone walking right back out, she lifts her head, annoyed, “I said come back later!”
Liz is standing there, eyes wide and red and a look on her face that she hasn’t seen since Rosa’s body had been found burned and broken in the front seat of that car.
“Who died?” she asks, and she means for it to come out as a joke, except she’s completely serious.
Liz shakes her head, running her hands through her hair and then down her thighs, like she’s trying to remind herself that she’s still in her own body.
Maria wants to step out from behind the bar and comfort her, wants to be the steady, supportive person that Liz can rely on. But terror freezes her in place. The last time Liz looked at her like that, Maria lost her best friend. “Liz. Tell me.”
“There was an accident,” she says, voice tight. “Kyle just called me.”
It’s not Kyle then. “Is Max okay?” she tries, and she’ll feel terrible if it’s Max, but Maria thinks that it would be survivable, at least for her if not Liz, which is a terrible thought for her to have so she does her best to push it aside.
“There was a security malfunction at a military building,” she says. Maria can see her mouth still moving, but the rest of the words are rushing past her ears, and she’s gripping the bar to keep herself upright. Liz hasn’t said his name yet, but Maria knows.
It’s happening again.
She’s lost her best friend again.
“He was supposed to be safe,” she says. “He’s home, he’s not over there fighting, he’s here. Here was supposed to be safe.”
Safer than war, at least, even if Roswell had never really been safe for him.
Liz closes the distance between them and when she hugs her, Maria grips her back too tightly, crushing Liz against her like she can hold her there forever, like she can hold the people she loves against her so tightly that they’ll lose the ability to leave her.
Her shoulders are shaking as she does her best to hug Maria back just as hard and that pulls her out of herself, a little. They lost Rosa and now they’ve lost Alex and it’s just them, now, and this isn’t just happening to Maria, but Liz too.
“It’s okay,” she says, lying because she has to, because the truth hurts too much. “We’re going to be okay.”
Kyle doesn’t want to do this. He doesn’t want to care. He doesn’t care, actually.
Except he does.
“Why are you defending him?” Flint shouts. “He killed Alex!”
“Alex died to save him. It’s not the same thing,” he says, which is pretty rich of him, considering his hand still hurts from punching Guerin in the face. “If you kill him, then your brother died for nothing. Is that what you want?”
He flinches. “Alex stays dead whether that freak lives or dies. One less abomination on this planet can only be a good thing.”
“He loved him,” Kyle says and tries not to break down for the third time since they left Caufield. “You never did anything for him when he was alive. The least you can do for him now that he’s dead is to honor his last wish – that Michael Guerin lives.”
Flint curses him out for the next fifteen minutes, but in the end he grudgingly promises to do what he can to protect Guerin.
He should go back to his own apartment, should shower and change and get some sleep. Even though it’s only been dark for a couple hours, he’s exhausted.
Instead, he uses his spare key to let himself into his mother’s home, to the house he grew up in and he grew up with Alex in before he turned into a giant dick.
He falls asleep on the couch and wakes up when it’s still dark to his mother pressing her hand to his forehead. She’s still in uniform, which means she must have just gotten home. “What’s going on, baby? Are you sick?”
Kyle shakes his head then leans into his mother’s hand. She sighs but sits down on the ground next to him so she can lean against him, her arm over his stomach until he manages to fall back asleep.
He’ll tell her in the morning.
He’ll deal with Alex being dead in the morning.
Michael isn’t in his trailer, but Max only has to share a single look with Isobel before they’re crouching down and prying open the cover to the bunker.
He was kind of expecting Michael to be a drunken mess, to see stuff smashed and papers scattered, possibly even on fire. Instead he’s bent over his desk, writing with a level of single minded focus that Max doesn’t remember seeing from him since he was filling out scholarship applications senior year.
“Michael,” Isobel shouts, but he doesn’t react. Max goes down first, helping Isobel with the steps because she’d worn heels, having grabbed the first pair of shoes by the door without looking at them.
Max touches Michael’s shoulder and isn’t even surprised when he’s immediately shoved against the wall by Michael’s powers, although it’s barely hard enough to hurt so he can’t exactly complain. “Ow,” he says anyway, because a token protest is all he’s really able to muster for the situation.
“Max?” Michael frowns, finally looking at him. There’s what looks like the beginnings of a bruise around his jaw, but he assumes now’s not the time to ask about that. “When did you get here?”
“Just now,” Isobel answers.
Michael startles, turning to face her. “Oh.” He swallows then hunches back over his desk. “Leave. I’m busy.”
“Busy,” Isobel says archly. Max has seen that look on his sister’s face before, and if Michael was looking at them he would have seen it coming when she reaches out and snatches the papers on top of his desk.
“Isobel,” he says, and Max is starting to get creeped out. Michael isn’t yelling. He sounds angry, but his face is still blank. He thinks he would have preferred it if something was on fire. “Give it back.”
She ignores him, her eyes darting across the paper. When she looks up, she’s angry. “What the hell is this, Michael?”
“You can read, can’t you?” he asks, ripping the paper out of her hands with a jerk of his head.
Max edges close enough so he can look over Michael’s shoulder. “Is that a ship?”
Michael twitches, like he’d forgotten that Max was there.
“What, you’re just going to leave?” Isobel demands. “Everything’s going to hell and what? You’re just going to tap out? Get in a spaceship and fly away from it all?”
“So what if I am?” he snaps. At least there’s almost an expression on his face now. “What the hell else am I supposed to do? I can’t die, that’d be a huge fucking spit in the face of what he did, so what else am I supposed to do? If Alex isn’t on this planet anymore, then I don’t want to be either!”
Max knows that feeling, he remembers his horror as Liz laid there with a bullet in her chest, and even the thought of it is excruciating. Michal is living his worst nightmare.
Isobel is just staring at him, pulled between her anger at the blueprints and her fear at what he’d just said.
He and Michael don’t talk anymore. He has a lot of words inside of him, but none for this, none for his brother during the past ten years when everything felt too heavy between them.
Talking is hard, but it’s easy to pull Michael to him, to wrap him in his arms like they’re scared kids again. Michael struggles, but doesn’t telekinetically shove him away, so he just holds on tighter. Isobel tugs on his arm and he lets go just enough to let her in, until Michael is pinned between them, breathing too fast and erratic but not pushing them away.
“I’m sorry he’s gone,” she says, pressing her head against Michael’s chest like she’s checking that his heart is still beating.
He stills, then trembles, and the first harsh, hiccupping sob is a relief.
They end up on the floor as Michael’s legs give out, as everything in the bunker swirls around them and shatters and picks itself up to do it all over again. It’s just the three of them in the eye of the storm as Michael falls apart and he and Isobel try to keep him together.
When Alex woke up after losing his leg, the first thing he noticed was the pain.
This time when he wakes up, there’s no pain at all.
He blinks, looking at the concrete ceiling, wiggling his fingers and his toes and checking that all of his remaining limbs are still intact. He’s lying on a cot, which mean someone moved him.
Alex turns his head and sees a woman who can’t be that much older than him sitting beside him. She has blonde hair, bandages on her hands, and Michael’s eyes. Except that’s impossible. Michael’s mother was an old woman.
He pushes himself upright and there’s a strange pressure at the back of his head and along his side.
“Easy,” she scolds, leaning forward to grip his shoulder. “We can dull the pain, but not heal the damage. Don’t move recklessly.”
Tentatively, he reaches on his head to where the strange pressure is and he feels a lump that should absolutely be giving him an insane headache right now. He pulls his shirt up and black and blue bruises cover half of his torso. “Who are you?”
She raises an eyebrow, giving him a look that he’s seen on Michael’s face a thousand times. “My name is Nora.”
“Nora,” he says, tentatively moving to place his one foot on the ground. He only has a moment to panic before she’s handing him his prosthetic and he tries not to feel awkward as he reattaches it. He really wants a clean liner, but that’s going to have to wait. “We’re alive.”
“We are,” she says warmly. “Thanks to you.”
He shakes his head, because all of this was because of his family to begin with, but then there’s a deep groaning sound, then the sound of something collapsing. Alex’s heart beats too fast and he wonders if he spoke too soon, but Nora rolls her eyes and someone calls out, “That was on purpose!”
Alex pulls his phone from his pocket. He has forty percent left, but no service. He supposes it would be too easy if he could just call for someone to come rescue them, and of course nothing in his life can be easy.
Nora laughs and offers him a hand to help pull him upright. She guides him out of what he thinks was her cell and then he freezes.
The basement has mostly survived the detonation, although it’s collapsed inward in several places. Several dozen people who look to be around Nora’s age are standing around, moving the rubble both physically and telepathically. It’s slow going, even as Alex watches several of them have to take breaks, but there’s determination and even some laughter amongst them.
“Nate managed to restore our youth, but our weakness and injuries are outside of his skillset,” she says, gesturing to a dark haired man sleeping on a slab of concrete. None of the aliens are in the cells. “He’s more tired than any of us, I think. He was so determined to make sure they never figured out what he could with his powers that he did terrible things with them instead. These decades have been hard on him.”
Alex isn’t Michael or Liz, but he’s still a genius. “Cell manipulation,” he says, easily understanding why he wouldn’t want anyone to know what he could do and how he could shift that power into something that created cancer instead of youth.
“Something like that,” she says, throwing him an impressed glance.
“But he doesn’t heal?” he asks, looking down at her hands. She got hurt trying to get to him.
Nora shakes her head, her expression turning wistful. “He’s the watcher. The boy was the savior. The watcher keeps us young and the savior keeps us healthy.”
Oh, this is going to give Max such a complex. He’s glad that’s going to be Liz’s problem rather than his.
Nora sighs, like she knows what he’s thinking, which, actually, she just might. He tries to stop thinking thoughts that she’ll judge him for. “Do we have any food? Water?”
“The showers are still running,” she answers. Maybe he will be able to get a clean liner, and some clean clothes, as long as he’s willing to hang out around a bunch of strangers naked, including Michael’s mother. He’s done worse for less. “We have some food, depending on how loose your definition is.”
“I’m in the military,” he says, smiling to cover up how worried her answer makes him. “I have a very loose definition.”
She sees right through him, gripping his arm and giving it a comforting squeeze. “We’re slow, but steady. We’ll get out of here. Don’t worry, Alex. You saved us and now we’re going to save you.”
Three days after the events of Caufield, there’s a funeral for Alex.
Michael had nightmares of going to Alex’s funeral after he enlisted. Reality is so much worse. At least in his nightmares, Alex wasn’t dead because of him.
This whole thing a joke. They don’t even have a body. The destroyed Caufield facility is too unstable to go into. They’re not even going to attempt to retrieve anyone who’d died in the rubble.
Jesse Manes just wants the memory of his dead, gay, disobedient son swept under the rug as quickly as possible.
All three of them have been staying at Max’s house, neither of them willing to leave him the fuck alone, and Isobel uninterested in staying in the house she’d lived in with her murderous, manipulative husband who’s currently cooling off in a pod. They’re going to have to figure out something to explain his absence long term, whether they leave him in there or kill him, but for now a sudden family emergency works for both his firm and anyone else who asks.
The service isn’t until noon, and Michael’s hunched over breakfast trying to breathe thought the ache in his body. At this point he can’t tell if it’s mental or physical, he just knows that it hurts. Isobel is out getting him something to wear, because if has to pick out clothes to wear to Alex’s funeral he’ll fall apart in the middle of the department store.
Michael had tried to tell Isobel to just give him something of Noah’s. He’s going to burn whatever he wears to this thing anyway so it’s pointless to waste money on it, but she’d ignored him.
Max is giving him big concerned eyes over his coffee, but he’s been staying here and not being too unbearable and giving him a lot silent hugs instead of spending time with his girlfriend, so Michael can’t even get too mad at him for it. Liz had only come over once to hug them all and cry and hear what happened. Max had brought her outside to tell her everything and Michael had stared at his hands waiting for her to yell at him, but she’d just rubbed his back and called him Mikey before kissing Max one more time, longer and lingering and like they might never kiss again.
Michael had always kissed Alex like it was the last time, but he’d never really thought that it would be.
A knock at the door startles both of them and they look over to see Gregory Manes standing outside.
Max shoots him an uncertain glance, but Michael just shrugs, ignoring the pit of fear at the bottom of his stomach. Max has glass fucking walls, Greg can literally see them, what are they supposed to do? Hide?
He drains the last of his coffee as Max lets him inside, awkwardly hovering and looking between them.
“Sorry to just drop in,” Greg says, twitching his lips into something approaching a smile. He’s only two years older than them, but there’s something about the bags under his eyes and the slope of his shoulders that makes him look much older than that. “Maria said that Michael was here.”
He hasn’t seen Maria since Alex died. Her fury at him when she found out that he’d slept with her when he used to be with Alex is going to be nothing compared to when she finds out that Alex is dead because of him. She must have heard that he was staying here from Liz.
“Present,” he drawls, sliding off the stool to walk over to them. Max gives him a rictus smile before retreating down the hallway into his study. It’s close enough that he’ll be able to hear everything and intervene if has to, which is why Max is going there instead of his room, but honestly he’d rather Max leaves him to whatever punishment Greg wants to dish out.
Greg looks him over and Michael is ready for him to start shouting, for him to pull out a gun, or just throw a punch like Valenti had done.
He’s not prepared for him to rub the back of his neck and look awkwardly away before dragging his eyes back over to him. “There’s no easy way to say this,” he starts, trying for another smile and giving up halfway through. “Alex told me about you.”
Michael suddenly wishes he was still sitting. How could he – it’s not just him at risk, but Max and Isobel too –
“Not a lot, and not often,” he continues. “The first time he called me thinking I was you and he’d said too much before he realized what had happened. Guerin is next to Greg, I guess. But once I knew, he’d uh, call me sometimes on purpose. Usually after you’d pissed him off, although he’d never tell me what it was you did. Sometimes I think that he didn’t even know. Whatever fight you guys had – I don’t know, three years ago, maybe? He called and yelled about you for nearly forty minutes and I didn’t understand a word of it.”
Alex didn’t tell Greg about him being an alien.
He told his brother about them.
“I just wanted to say, that if you, um, if you ever need anything? Really anything, to talk or some cash or a place to say, just let me know. It’s the least I can do,” Greg says.
Michael stares. “I don’t understand. Didn’t Flint tell you what happened?”
“That wasn’t your fault,” Greg says confidently and Michael wants to punch him. “I wasn’t the brother I should have been. And now Alex is,” his voice cracks and he has to swallow before he can continue, “now he’s gone, and I’ll never get that chance. But I know how he felt about you. So if there’s anything you need that I can help you with, just let me know. No questions asked.”
“Don’t ask, don’t tell?” he says, the joke falling out his mouth automatically.
Greg comes the closest he has to smiling. “Yeah, exactly.” He reaches out, almost like he’s going to pat his shoulder or something worse, but then he just stuffs his hands into his jacket pockets. “Anyway. That’s all I came to say. I’ll see you in a couple hours, Michael.”
Greg, thankfully, doesn’t wait for any sort of reply before leaving. Michael is still standing there when Max slowly exits his office with a look on his face that he kind of wants to punch off. Except then Max’s arms come around him, and Michael is going to kick his ass as soon as he’s able to hold himself upright.
Alex worries about climbing out of the rickety and almost completely vertical pathway they’ve made to the surface on his leg. Theo stares at him like he’s slow and then pointedly levitates him several feet in the air while Nora laughs at him.
They might not to be strong enough to lift him straight out, especially after a few days of living off of rationed protein bars, but if he slips then he has two dozen telepaths waiting to catch his fall.
They don’t seem as – they’re all different, from what they were like in their cages before. Nora tells him that they can retreat into their minds to protect themselves, that most have them haven’t been all the way there for decades. But now they are.
The horror of their time at Caufield will catch up to them. But for right now they’re free and young and they have hope again.
Climbing out is slow and painful and he ends up nearly falling to his death four times, saved only by an invisible presence gently lifting him back in place. His clothes had been as clean as the showers could get them before, but now his clothes are covered in dust and clinging to him with sweat, so it nearly feels like a wasted effort.
It takes another two hours for everyone else to slowly crawl out and they have to all walk outside of the perimeter of Caufield for Alex to get a signal. Max may be the only who can heal, but he’s not the only one who can charge a cell phone.
There are several people he wants to call, but there’s once call in particular that he needs to make first.
“Hello, sir,” he says to his CO after having dialed a number he’s not even technically supposed to know. The general seems shocked to hear from him, which Alex finds strange but he doesn’t linger on it. He’s been MIA for a lot longer before and he didn’t even miss any check ins, so he’s almost surprised that the general noticed he was missing at all. He quickly gives an edited version of the events of Caufield to the general, who goes very quiet and then speaks in a quick, clipped tone of voice that tells Alex he’s genuinely furious.
Alex gives him the codes to remote into the Project Shepard files to corroborate his claims, grateful he already deleted any mention of his friends, and the general tells him that he’s sending a couple locally stationed men to take Jesse Manes into custody.
It’s not until he hangs up that he realizes that everyone is staring at him and probably has been for the past hour that he’s been on the phone. Nate shakes his head. “You’ve spent the past three days thinking of exactly how you were going to do that, haven’t you?”
“Well, it’s not like I was much help with getting us out of there,” he says.
“You gave us the blueprints!” Nora shouts, except her voice is muffled. “That was helpful!”
Alex turns to see her waist deep in the engine of the old bus. “Nora, that thing has been sitting there for like thirty years. It’s not going to run.”
She ignores him to shout, “Now, May!”
He doesn’t see May, but a second later the bus rumbles to life.
“Does it even have gas?” he demands.
Nora blinks at him. “Why would it need gas? I converted it to electric.”
“I’m driving!” May shouts, popping up from where she’d been busy hotwiring the car to settle into the driver’s seat.
Dan presses his lips together. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
May scoffs. “I flew our spaceship, I can handle a bus.”
Alex has a thought hat he doesn’t want to voice, but luckily Theo does it for him. “You crashed our spaceship.”
“Extenuating circumstances,” May says firmly. “Get in.”
He glances at Nora, but she’s already climbing into the bus, so he follows her in, standing next to her because even with his leg it seems better than sitting. The seats are split and spilling filling all over the aisle, but the bus pulls smoothly onto the road. Most of the windows are destroyed and people have to brush the glass aside. Alex really hopes they don’t get pulled over.
He types his address into the tablet then props it up on the dashboard for May and she winks at him before pulling the bus back onto the road. His cabin is in no way big enough for this many people, but he’s not really sure where else to take them. They’ll figure out what to do for everyone once his father is safely in military custody of a general who really doesn’t like him.
Everyone spends a while cleaning off the seats, which Alex wants to say is pointless, but he dutifully helps make them sort of usable and eases himself down next to Nora, pulling out his phone as the bus hurtles down the road. Alex thinks about telling May about speed limits, but something tells him that she wouldn’t listen to him.
He goes through his contact list, staring with Michael and going from there. By the time he gets to Liz and is sent to voicemail for the third time, he’s starting to get annoyed. What could be so important that none of them are checking their phones?
Kyle sits between his mother and Liz who’s sitting next to Maria. Guerin is sitting between his siblings with that same blank look he had right after the explosion. Kyle knows that he owes him an apology, probably, but there hasn’t been any time these past couple days. Convincing Flint to keep secrets from his father and then having Greg look at him like he’s Alex’s friend and not like the asshole he was in high school sends him into a minor emotional crisis, so he hasn’t really had the time to apologize to Guerin for punching him in the face.
Jesse and his sons are standing at the front of the room. Kyle sees them all stiffen at the same time and he’s not the only one. Several people turn to see what they’re looking at and Kyle feels all the blood drain from his face. He doesn’t know if he wants to laugh or curse.
Mindy Manes stands there. She looks older than she had in his memories, but his memories are nearly twenty years old so that’s only to be expected. There’s a man at her shoulder that Kyle thinks has to be Clay, just because he looks so similar to the other Manes boys, but he barely remembers Alex’s oldest brother. Clay was the reason that Jesse and Mindy got married in the first place, according to his mom.
Mindy is in full military dress, her hat tucked under her arm and the silver oak leaf on her chest.
“Boys,” she says.
Because the Manes family is deeply fucked up from the bottom up, Flint salutes and says, “Lieutenant Colonel!”
Greg is at least a little bit less dysfunctional, because he swallows and says, “Mom. You’re here.”
She nods, but doesn’t look at them. Instead, her attention is entirely focused on Jesse, who appears as out of sorts as Kyle can ever remember him being. “Mindy.”
“Jesse,” she returns, her voice cold enough to drop the temperature of the room several degrees. “Last week, Alex called me asking for some of our old passwords.” Flint and Greg share a surprised glance, which, if Kyle continues to operate on the assumption that the Manes are fucked up, means that they probably didn’t know that Alex had contact information for their mother. “Now he’s dead.”
Everyone is uncomfortable, shifting in their seats, but none of them are willing to interrupt the family drama unfolding in front of them.
Mindy leans forward, as if speaking to him in confidence even though she doesn’t lower her voice at all. “I know you had something to do with it, and when I figure out what, I’m going to bury you with it.”
“Mindy, I would never hurt our son,” Jesse tries. Someone laughs and Kyle knows before he looks that it’s Guerin.
Isobel looks ready to kill him and Max is sinking in his seat as if that will get all the eyes off of them. Guerin just tilts his chin up, a clear challenge. Which is already a dumb enough decision with Jesse, but Mindy Manes is not Jesse. No matter what happened between closed doors that eventually drove Mindy to leave, she had been the strict parent when they were kids.
“Is that the boy?” she asks.
She’s looking at Guerin, but it’s Clay who says, “Yes, ma’am.”
Mindy walks over to him, ignoring his siblings on either side of him. Guerin swallows but doesn’t back down. She sighs, for a single moment looking like a grieving mother and not the pissed off Lieutenant Colonel. “I have never loved anyone enough to die for them. Not even my children. I make a better soldier than I do a mother.”
Kyle is trying to figure out how the hell she found out what happened. Flint obviously hasn’t been talking to her, and he doesn’t know who else it could have been. This town is full of gossips and he’s dreading all the questions Guerin is going to get about this.
She leans down and over Isobel to grip Michael’s shoulder. “I’m glad my son found someone who he loved enough to die for. Thank you.”
He’s pretty sure that if she’d just shot Guerin it would have hurt him less. His eyes go wide and bright and Max reaches over to grip his leg.
His phone vibrates in his pocket and Kyle stifles a groan. Everyone who would be calling him is here. He’s technically on call if there’s an emergency, which is the only reason he has it on at all, and someone better be literally dying. His mother gives him a concerned look as he stands, but luckily everyone is so focused on Mindy and Clay making their grand exit that they don’t notice him slipping out the back.
Kyle answers it without looking. “Someone better be dying.”
“I hope not.”
He braces himself against the wall, suddenly unsteady. “This isn’t fucking funny. Who are you?”
“It’s a little funny,” Alex’s voice says in his ear. “Hey do you think you could uh, borrow an ambulance and take it to the cabin? There are some people here who could use your help.” There’s talking from other people in the background, and he says, clearly not to him, “Max can’t heal all of you, I’m pretty sure he’ll pass out or something. We’re going to try to some good old fashioned earth medicine first.”
“Who are you?” he repeats, but now he’s afraid on top of angry. If these people know that Max can heal –
There a soft, familiar huff of air that’s almost a laugh. It sounds so much like Alex. “Are you going to make say it? Magoo. Mr. Magoo. Mr. Magoo, the varsity quarterback. God, I really regret not knowing this about you in high school.”
“You’re alive,” he says, and then covers his mouth with his hand so Alex can’t hear how close he is to crying.
“It’s only been three days,” he answers. “I don’t know if you can even file a missing persons report in that time. Did you all really give up on me that quickly?”
“I’m at your fucking funeral, Alex!” he shouts. “You didn’t go missing, a building exploded with you inside of it! How are you alive?”
There’s silence and Kyle is afraid he’s lost him again when Alex says, “Huh. I, uh, didn’t take that into consideration, actually. Things were a little crazy for a while. Only the top of the building exploded, so we were all trapped in the sublevel. In my defense, it’s been a really stressful couple of days and I called everyone as soon as I got out. They’re not answering – which, I see now, is because they’re at my funeral.”
“I have to tell everyone,” he says. He really does owe Guerin an apology now.
“Is my dad there?” Alex asks.
Fucked up from the top down, Kyle reminds himself. “Yes.”
“Then don’t. He’s got a surprise coming and if he knows I’m alive, he might manage to wiggle out of it. Was that a yes or a no on the whole ambulance thing?”
“For who?” he asks and then the conversation piece he heard before clicks into place and she says, “Some of the aliens made it out?”
“They all did,” Alex says and Kyle is not going to start crying, even though the parking lot of a funeral home is a pretty decent place to do it, as far as these things go. “They’re mostly okay. Nothing life threatening, I don’t think. But you should take a look.”
“What about you?” he asks.
“I’m fucking starving,” he answers, sounding more annoyed about it than anything else. “Protein bars are shit and there weren’t nearly enough of them. Bruised to hell too, but I’m fine. I’ve mostly been off the leg.”
Kyle doesn’t trust any of that, but hopefully he’ll be able to see for himself soon. “I’m not stealing an ambulance, but I’ll meet you at your cabin.”
There’s a moment of muffled talking and then Alex says, “We might cross each other, but yes, go to the cabin.”
He’s about to ask what the hell that’s supposed to mean when Alex hangs up on him. He stares at his phone in disbelief before turning back to the funeral home. It seems wrong to let the rest of them believe that Alex is dead for a moment longer, but he can’t tell any of them without alerting Jesse Manes that something is happening.
He heads to his car and comforts himself with the knowledge that as soon as they’re able to check their phones, they’ll at least see the missed calls.
Alex had been so preoccupied with staying alive that he hadn’t really thought about the fact that his friends would think that he was dead. He’d understood that it was the most logical conclusion, that it was why the aliens had needed to dig them out of the rubble, but he’d been too distracted by everything to think about what that would really mean. He’s going to be groveling to several people probably forever.
He texts the general’s admin his father’s location and gets an affirmative response in return. They’re probably already on their way.
Alex should probably be the bigger person, or something, but he really wants to see his father’s face when he realizes everything that he’s built is crumbling around him.
May pulls up in front of his cabin. Everyone files out of the bus and he tosses his keys to Jan as he heads for his own car. “I’ve got some stuff to take care of. My friend should be here soon.”
Part of him really wants to go in and take a shower and get something to eat, but he knows he’s not going to really be able to relax until all of this is over.
Nora moves in front of him, eyebrow raised. “You’re not going alone.”
“It’s not safe for you,” he argues. “He knows who you are. You’re still wearing the same clothes. You’re going to raise a lot of questions.”
“You’re not going alone,” she repeats then holds out her hand. “Keys. I’m driving.”
He gives in because it’s faster, because there are two dozen aliens who will literally hold him in place if she tells them to. “At least go the speed limit.”
“No,” she says, opening the door and sliding into the driver’s seat.
There’s only one real road that leads to the cabin, so they do pass Kyle. Nora slows down enough that Kyle has time to flip them off and Alex laughs before she’s pressing on the gas again.
When they get to the funeral home, there’s already two unmarked cars in the lot. “What do we do now?” Nora asks as they get out.
Alex leans against his car, his eyes on the doors to the funeral home. “Wait.”
Michael can’t believe he’s watching Jesse Manes being dragged away by several airman and he can’t even enjoy it, because what fucking good does that do Alex now? None. He doesn’t think this even has anything to do with Alex’s mother, because he doesn’t know a lot about her, but she’s army, not air force. Then again, at her rank, he’s not sure how much it really matters.
“Does no one care that this is a funeral?” Isobel mutters angrily.
Flint is trying to argue with them while Greg has just stepped aside, looking even more exhausted by all of this. Michelle is trying to act the part of the sheriff, asking for clarification, but she’s not standing in the way either. Behind all of this, there’s Alex’s picture, clean cut and in uniform, and no one’s even paying attention to that, everyone focused on Jesse Manes and his drama.
If Michael has to stay here for another second, he’s going to bring this whole place to the ground.
He stands and nudges Isobel’s shoulder. Her face melts into sympathy and thankfully she doesn’t try to stop him, just turns herself sideways so he can step past her. Liz reaches out to him, half standing, but he shakes his head and she slowly sits back down.
Getting out into the hallway isn’t enough, he can still hear the shouting, so he keeps walking, stepping outside and wondering if it’s even worth sticking around at this point, if he should just go to the junkyard and let out some of the hopeless rage shifting underneath his skin.
He looks up and his mouth goes dry. He thinks he might be going crazy, that all of this is finally what’s pushed him over the edge.
Alex is standing in front of his car, smiling and talking to some woman. He’s wearing the same clothes he died in. Michael rubs at his eyes, but Alex is still there. Aliens are real, so maybe ghosts are too.
He doesn’t make a conscious decision to move, but his legs take him closer to Alex and he finally notices him, turning to face him and his eyes lighting up. “Guerin! Nice suit.”
This can’t be real, so he’s expecting his hands to pass right through him, but instead he meets solid flesh as he grabs Alex’s shoulders and presses him into the car. He feels warm and alive and real under his hands, but that’s impossible, because Michael knows he was in that building when it exploded, knows that he died because of him. “You’re dead.”
Alex’s face softens. He can’t move much with Michael pinning him in place, but he reaches up and grabs Michael’s arms, squeezing with enough strength that it almost feels real. “I’m not dead, Michael. I’m right here.”
He lets go of Alex’s shoulders to cup his face, pressing his fingers into his neck until he finds a steady pulse. Ghosts and hallucinations wouldn’t have a pulse, would they?
“Alex!” Jesse Manes shouts and they both flinch. Alex looks around him and Michael turns to see Jesse being escorted by the airman, now being restrained by them as he tries to get closer. “Get away from him! Don’t you dare – if you think that you’ll get away with this–”
Jesse can see Alex too.
Alex is alive.
There’s a moment where Michael can only stare, too many thoughts crowding his head all at once. Then he’s tugged forward, into Alex, and there’s a warm hand on his jaw, tipping his face down. Jesse is screaming at them but Alex shifts close enough to slot their mouths together.
Alex is alive. Alex is kissing him in front of his father.
Michael surges forward, gripping Alex’s hips and kissing him with a desperate, frenzied intensity. Alex laughs into his mouth and reaches up to rub his thumbs against his cheeks. Michael is so focused on touching as much of Alex as possible that it takes him a long moment to understand why, to realize that he’s crying and Alex is wiping away his tears, which just makes him cry harder.
Michael abruptly finds himself on his ass, literally pushed aside. He blinks, dazed, and looks up to see Maria multitasking, hugging Alex with one arm and hitting him with the other while cursing him out. Alex only laughs, kissing the top of her head and then lifting his arm so Liz can barrel into his side. More people are spilling out of the funeral home, shouts of happiness and disbelief filling the air.
“Need a hand?”
He looks up to see the woman Alex had been talking to, a gentle smile on her face, and he knows, just like he had the last time he’d seen her, even if she looks different. “Mom?”
“Michael,” she says, reaching down to run her hand through his hair.
He grips her hand and she pulls him to his feet with surprising strength. “You – how–”
“Alex made you a promise and he kept it,” she says. He tries to think of something to say to that, but she doesn’t give him the chance, instead pulling him into her for a tight hug. “We were trapped, but alive. He saved us.”
He hugs her back, the warmth in his chest spreading out to fill the rest of his body. He looks over her shoulder as Liz and Maria reluctantly step back and Greg steps forward. He doesn’t say anything, just wraps Alex in his arms so tightly that it looks like it hurts, but Alex doesn’t complain, instead hugging him back just as tightly.
Flint steps forward and Michael tenses. Alex seems similarly wary, but Flint opens his mouth and immediately starts crying, grabbing onto Alex and sobbing into his shoulder. Alex seems bewildered, but rubs Flint’s back while raising an eyebrow at Greg.
“Someone you want to introduce us to?” Isobel asks, suddenly right next to them. Max is looming behind her, half his attention on Alex.
His mother lets go of him and turns to face Isobel. Before Michael can say anything, she reaches out to grip Isobel’s arm and says, “You look so much like your mother. She loved you so much.”
Isobel freezes and that gets the entirety of Max’s focus.
“Guys,” he says, “this is my mother. Mom, meet Max and Isobel.”
Maria is refusing to leave his side, which normally Alex wouldn’t have a problem with, but it makes dealing with the alien situation slightly difficult.
Until Nora shakes her hand, stills, and then says, “Oh, you’re one of Louise’s,” making the decision for all of them.
Only so many people can fit in his car, but Nora, Maria, and Liz cram into the back while Liz fills her in on the alien situation and Maria goes back and forth between being mad at them for keeping her out of the loop and comforting Liz and Nora about whatever they’re telling her about.
Michael jumps into the front seat without a word. Alex places his hand upright on the center console as he pulls onto the road, trying not to think too hard about it. Michael slides his hand into his, intertwining their fingers together, and Alex squeezes.
They’re moving everyone from his home to Isobel’s, since her house is actually big enough to fit that many people. By the time they pull into the driveway, the beat up bus is parked on the street and everyone is inside, except for Kyle who’s sitting on Isobel’s front steps.
Alex can’t remember the last time that Kyle hugged him, but now he holds on like he’s not planning to ever let go, although it’s tempered by the stream of complaints coming out of his mouth.
He ducks into Isobel’s bedroom at one point to call his mother. She doesn’t react beyond letting out a startled, sharp breath when he starts talking, but he wouldn’t expect anything less. He’s going to need some help getting everyone that had been trapped in Caufield settled, and he trusts his CO to take down a rogue master sergeant, but he’s not willing to trust the prisoners to anyone besides his mother, because unfortunately their existence was documented by Project Sheppard, so they’re going to have to trust their existence to somebody.
By the time he finishes up that call, there are tentative plans to help the aliens disappear into society and Isobel has bought out some poor store’s loungewear section so that everyone can at least change into new clothes, although most of them are patiently take turns to shower before putting on anything clean.
Which just reminds him of how disgusting he’s feeling.
“If I try to go home to shower and change, will you let me?” he asks the room at large.
Nora looks up from where she’s intently discussing the Noah situation with Theo. She turns to her son, who pushes himself to his feet, and Alex doesn’t roll his eyes only because he’s not going to complain about spending more time with Michael.
“If you’re not back within two hours, I’m beating down your door,” Maria threatens. Liz nods very seriously and earnestly with her big eyes, and even Max looks like he agrees with that idea.
“Alright, fair enough,” he says, leaning over let her kiss him on the cheek before he goes, Michael following behind him.
When they get into his car, it’s the first time they’ve been alone together since Caufield.
Michael takes his hand again, and maybe this is an easier conversation to have when he has to keep his eyes on the road. “Are we – can we,” Alex starts, then takes a deep breath, wondering why this is so hard, even after everything.
“Yes,” Michael says.
“I haven’t even asked yet,” he says, exasperated and warm.
“These have been the worst three days of my life, and I’ve had some pretty bad days,” he says and Alex squeezes his hand. “Whatever you want, the answer is yes.”
“I want you,” he says, feeling heat crawling up his neck. “I know I haven’t always – I haven’t been fair to you, before, because I was scared.” He swallows then admits, “Nothing scares me more than the thought of losing you.”
Michael lets out a soft huff of laughter. “Yeah, you made that pretty clear.” He lifts their joined hands up and kisses Alex’s wrist. “You have me. You’ve always had me. You just have to decide if you’re going to keep me.”
“I’ll keep you,” Alex promises.
Pulling over so Michael can climb into his lap and kiss him like they’re teenagers again definitely cuts into his two hour time limit, but it’s hardly worth complaining about.