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Funny How Things Never Change

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There had been a great fight at Alex’s house earlier in the night. Alex’s father had yelled at his mother, at his brothers, and at Alex. He’d thrown dishes, broken an old vase. Alex’s mom had left the house crying and Alex felt pain, pain, pain.

And then, Michael had shown up; coming to Alex’s rescue in the dead of night like he always did. But tonight was different from the other nights. Michael’s mere presence and encouraging words were not enough to calm Alex down. Tonight, after the fight, Alex’s mom had left. She just took one bag, filled it up with clothes and left. Michael seemed to have understood that something monumental had happened from the look on Alex’s face. Normally Alex would be crying, or he’d talk about what had happened. Tonight he’d been quiet, eerily quiet and Michael had seemed to just know. Instead of taking Alex out to backyard and talking to him until he calmed down--there was no need for that since Alex was deathly calm--Michael suggested that they hitchhike out to the desert.

“My foster mom told me there’s a cool glass sculpture out there, earth art or something. Some dude made in the seventies and just left it there,” Michael had said as he led Alex towards the main highway. “She says it glows at night, but I don’t believe her.”

“I don’t think going into the desert in the middle of the night is the best idea,” Alex said. He wasn’t feeling good and although he generally followed along with Michael's plans, he was also scared.

“It’ll be fine,” Michael said, grabbing Alex’s wrist to make sure he followed. “Do you trust me?”

Alex did, despite his misgivings. He nodded and felt warmth wash over him as Michael gave him a smile.

From that point, time moves quickly. One moment Alex is sitting next to Michael on the back of Mr. Foster’s pick up, and the next he and Michael are alone in the desert in the middle of a lightning storm.

It hadn’t even been cloudy when they’d left Roswell.

But the desert is unpredictable like that.

A moment later, and Alex is running and running, away from Michael and toward the glass sculpture glowing in the desert like a beacon. He hears Michael laughing behind him, asking him to slow down.

“Alex, stop, I’ve got something to ask you.”

But Alex doesn’t stop. He turns his head briefly to check Michael’s distance and says. “I told you going to the desert in the middle of the night wasn’t the best idea.” But he hadn’t thought that it was a stupid idea, not when Michael had suggested it. At the time he’d thought that it was a great idea, even though he’d been nervous, because he hadn’t wanted to be stuck at home with his father. Even now, running around in the middle of a lightning storm, Alex doesn’t think that it was a stupid idea to come out here. Running in the desert alongside Michael is the most free he has ever felt in his life.

Alex can sense the moment Michael catches up to him. He can feel Michael’s fingers before they touch his skin, the warmth of them as those fingers wrap around his arm, and then, when Michael has let go, the remnants of his touch, like an echo.

“You’re wrong. It was the best idea. Come on!”

Michael, now in front, leads Alex towards the sculpture. Alex isn’t sure how Michael even knew where the sculpture was. He thinks that maybe Michael has been here before, but didn’t tell Alex. Alex isn’t sure why Michael would pretend like this is his first time here. Maybe he wanted Alex to think they were seeing this cool thing for the first time together. Maybe that was his way of doing something nice for Alex.

As they approach the glass, the sky flashes and an arm of lightning falls down, right next to the sculpture.

Alex stops as thunder shakes the sky, seconds after the flash. His heart is beating in his throat. “If we survive this thunderstorm,” he says, breathing heavily, and his words cause Michael to stop as well. “I’m not going to follow you anywhere again!”

Michael turns around then and grabs Alex by the shoulders. “I told you, I had something to ask you,” he says. He’s looking directly at Alex with so much intensity, it makes Alex want to squirm. “Alex...If we survive this,” he says, taking a deep breath. “Remind me to ask you to marry me.”

Surprise forces Alex’s jaw to open. “Michael Guerin,” he says. “Where did you get an idea like that? I’m ten years old! You’re ten years old! Besides, you’re a boy.”

Michael shrugs, letting go of Alex’s shoulders. “So?”

Before Alex can answer, there’s another flash, followed quickly by thunder.

Michael grabs his arm again. “Come on, let’s go there,” he says pointing to the spot next to the statue. In the next breath, he’s leading Alex there. “Lightning never strikes the same place twice.”

“My mom said that’s a myth!” Alex follows him anyway.

They stand there for several minutes, watching lightning dance across the sky. Alex begins to feel cold now, since they’re no longer running. He shivers, wishing he’d brought a jacket with him. For a moment, Michael doesn’t notice him, too busy looking up at the sky and then the glass statue. Alex shivers again and in that moment, Michael notices that Alex is cold, because his arms come up and wrap around Alex.

It’s so comforting and so familiar, that Alex closes his eyes, leaning into the embrace. He pulls away only to ask. “Why would you want to marry me anyway?”

Michael shrugs.

“Come on, Michael…”

Shifting so that his hands are resting on Alex’s shoulders and he’s looking Alex directly in the eyes, Michael says, “So I can kiss you anytime I want.”

For the second time that night, Alex is too surprised to respond. His gaze doesn’t leave Michael’s but he feels Michael’s hands move up from his shoulder to cup his cheeks. Alex closes his eyes when Michael leans in, and the kiss is a soft press of lips. It’s Alex’s first kiss, he’s never even thought about kissing someone before.

He likes it.

There’s a flash of lightning. It’s coming straight at them, but Alex can’t stop kissing Michael, can’t even think about moving away from him. He doesn’t want to, he’s unable to. All he can do is open his eyes and watch as the lightning falls, striking both he and Michael and…

--

Alex wakes up suddenly.

Someone is shaking his shoulders.

“Hey, boss.” The person shaking his shoulders is Francis, his assistant. “You were mumbling in your sleep.”

Alex sits up, stretching. He’d fallen asleep while working on the last details of his show. “I think I was having a stress dream,” he tells Francis.

“Well, go home. Get some real rest,” Francis answers. “You can have true stress dreams after Vogue critiques your line.”

Alex leaves his studio after that. Alone in the subway, his mind begins to wander.

The dream, the sound of the lightning, the smell of the desert. Michael. But it hadn’t been just a dream. It had been a memory, one that Alex had been suppressing for ten years. But of fucking course his stress addled brain dug that particular memory up.

Walking up the steps to his apartment and unlocking the door, Alex attempts to suppress the memory again. He’s been away from Roswell for ten years. He hasn’t seen Michael in ten years. He can’t be spending time thinking about Michael when…

Alex’s apartment is covered in flowers.

Alex is struck dumb as he opens his apartment door and looks inside. There are a variety of a roses, there are huge yellow sunflowers, there are lilies and poppies. Alex walks in, swinging the door shut behind him and stares. Surprise gives way to understanding in a few minutes, and Alex grabs his phone. He means to call the man responsible, but he sees that he already has a missed call and voicemail from said man.

“I love you,” Andrew’s voice declares from Alex’s phone. “These flowers are for every time I thought about you while you’ve been working on this show. You’re gonna do great tonight! See you then.”

The message ends and Alex holds the phone in his hand for several minutes, smiling. As he gets ready for the night, Alex allows the flowers and Andrew’s message to wash the dream away from his mind.

He focuses on the fashion show instead.

The venue is packed when Alex arrives. Backstage, his assistants and models are finding problem after problem that only Alex can solve. Alex deals with each issue calmly, reminding himself over and over again of the flowers waiting for him back home. He only begins to relax when Federica shows up, showering him with affection and complimenting him on his line.

“I knew when I hired your scrawny ass ten years ago that you had something great inside you.”

Federica’s hug calms Alex down. She believes in him and his designs, she has always believed in him. When he was only nineteen, fresh faced and broke, having run away from New Mexico with little money, she had been the first person who’d given Alex a job. Alex had wanted to make music then, but working as Federica’s assistant had introduced Alex to the fashion world. He’d started off strictly as a coffee-getting, phone call answering assistant. But Federica had seen his growing interest in fashion, and encouraged him to apply and then attend FIT, had given him his first job as a fashion designer.

She’d been so crucial to Alex’s success, had helped him grow.

Her presence here now means everything.

“Careful,” Alex says, smiling as he pulls away. “I’m competition now.”

Federica laughs. “My protege? Competition? Never!” She hugs Alex again. “Your very own show.” She sounds nostalgic. “It’s going to be great.” And then she too has gone, the models are ready and dressed, and Alex has nothing left to do but watch and hope for the best.

Andrew finds him after the show, while Alex is taking pictures with some of the models. He hugs Alex tightly and apologizes for not coming to him sooner. “There were some reporters out there that wanted to talk to me.” Because Andrew’s mother is the mayor, Andrew is on a path towards politics, and everyone cares about his opinions.

“Don’t worry about it,” Alex says, smiling. There are people around them now as well. “Thank you for the flowers.”

“I wanted today to be perfect.”Andrew kisses Alex’s cheek. “Listen,” he says. “I have a meeting in the Bronx, but I’ll see you tonight for my mom’s thing?”

“Your mom’s thing?”

“The fundraiser,” Andrew says.

Alex had completely forgotten about the fundraiser. All his energy and effort for the past--how long has he been preparing for this show? Alex doesn’t even remember--had been directed towards this show. “Oh,” is all he manages to say.

“You’ll be there?”

“Of course.”

There’s another kiss to Alex’s cheek. “I’ll have a car pick you up,” Andrew says and is gone.

After he’s left, Alex turns to find Thomas, one of the models, looking at him, a small smile on his lips. “Is he always like that? So direct and brief?”

Alex shakes his head. He begins walking with Thomas towards the latter’s dressing room. “He asked me to go to Ireland with him in the summer.”

Thomas’s eyebrows raise in surprise. “You know he’s gonna ask you to marry him right? He’ll probably do it then.”

Alex stops in his tracks, an ice cold shiver running through him. “What?” he asks.

“Makes sense,” Thomas continues, oblivious to the turmoil growing inside Alex. “You’ve been dating for eight months, he comes from a political family and he will go into politics. It’ll look good for him to be married, and…” Thomas stops, turning around to look at Alex. “He loves you.”

Alex nods. Of course it all makes sense. Of course Andrew loves him. Of course Alex loves…

“We’ll see,” he says and changes the subject.

--

The car that’s supposed to drive Alex to the fundraiser stops outside a building nowhere near the Lincoln Center. The driver apologetically explains to Alex that Andrew’s meeting is running late. He leads Alex inside a building, and before Alex can ask anymore questions, Andrew has appeared wearing a tux.

Alex freezes, heart beating loudly, his mind screaming at him that this is the preamble to a proposal. He ignores this idea because of how much he dislikes it. His mind begins supplying reasons for why this can’t be a proposal. They’re in some dark building, for example, or Andrew  is planning to propose in Ireland as Thomas said. Alex repeats these words to himself, trying to calm down his nerves. This is not a proposal. It’s not.

Andrew leads him toward a dark lit room, asking very casually. “Have you made a decision about Ireland?”

“No,” Alex says. “That’s months away from now.”

“I was thinking maybe we can invite three hundred people?” Andrew asks, opening the door.

“To our vacation?”

“No,” Andrew says and the lights go on.

As Alex’s eyes adjust to the light, he realizes that they’re in a jewelry store. He looks around, catching the eyes of the sales reps, and has to admit to himself finally that this is, in fact, the preamble to a proposal.

“Oh my god,” he breathes.

Next to him, Andrew chuckles.

“Oh my god,” Alex says again.

There are vitrines filled with rings and when Alex glances to the side, Andrew is on his knees.

“Alex Manes,” he says. “Will you marry me?”

Alex’s mind is screaming, chaotic, unintelligible. He understands that he has to answer and the only correct answer is a yes. But his mouth has been glued shut, his tongue feels heavy as lead.

Say yes! He tells himself, but his mouth won’t obey.

Andrew fidgets on his knees, starting to look slightly uncomfortable. Alex looks from him to the attendants in the store, all watching him, waiting for his answer just like Andrew.

The urgency, the need to say something, anything is pressing upon Alex, but his traitorous mouth won’t listen to his brain.

Finally, finally, after several uncomfortable moments, Alex pries his mouth open. But the words that come out of his mouth are not the yes he had been trying to force out. “Are you sure?”

Andrew stands up.

“I mean, really, are you sure?” Alex asks again. “It’s only been eight months…”

“Alex,” Andrew says, grabbing Alex’s elbows. “Alex, listen to me. Of course I’m sure. You know I wouldn’t do something if I wasn’t sure of myself.”

Alex nods.

“So, I’m going to ask this again and hopefully this time you won’t answer with a question.” He kneels again. “Will you marry me?”

Still unable to force the yes out of his mouth, Alex nods. Andrew smiles and gestures to the store. “Pick a ring.”

The gesture is sweet, even thoughtful, but as Alex walks around the store, trying ring after ring, he feels a hollowness inside. It’s nice that he has a boyfriend--fiance, his mind corrects--who can afford such luxuries. It’s nice that Andrew can give him literally whatever ring he wants. But despite being a fashion designer, Alex doesn’t care what his engagement ring looks like. What matters to him is that the person he loves cares enough not only to propose, but to spend time thinking about what Alex likes, what he would like to see on his finger. It’s never been the ring that matters but the thought process behind it.

There’s a nagging feeling in the back of Alex’s mind, an echo of before, when he didn’t have to pick his own ring, but Alex shuts it down quickly.

In the end, he can’t settle on a ring, and asks a saleswoman to pick one for him.

Alex tells Andrew he loves the ring and him, and believes it as they take the car to the Lincoln center. His mood improves as the reality of the situation hits him, he’s engaged to be married to someone accomplished and kind, someone who loves him.

Then Andrew says, “I can’t wait to see the look on my mother’s face,” and Alex’s heart skips a beat. He’s so occupied with trying to come up with a way not to tell the mayor that he almost misses what Andrew says next.

“Let’s call your parents and tell them!”

The “No!” that escapes Alex’s mouth is so loud it startles Andrew. Alex takes a deep breath in, trying to calm himself. “I mean, not parents. We won’t be telling my father anything. And my mom and godfather… well,” Alex pauses. He’s not sure how to make what he is about to say sound acceptable. “Can we actually keep this quiet for a few days? I haven’t seen my mom and Jim for ten years and this is really important news. I think I should tell them in person.”

Andrew nods. “Ok, sure.”

Alex steels himself for what he is about to say next. “And I think I should tell them alone.”

“But,” Andrew begins. “Shouldn’t I meet your family?”

“Yeah,” Alex responds, gently squeezing Andrew’s hand. “You will. But let me do this first.”

Andrew nods. Convinced. The rest of the car ride is spent in silence.

In hindsight though, they should have had the thought that if Andrew’s mother saw the ring on Alex’s finger, she would put two and two together. Alex should have taken the damn thing off. But he didn’t, and the mayor saw the ring at the worst possible time (while the press was still around), and asked the question of whether her son was engaged so loudly that Alex is surprised people in Harlem didn’t hear it.

After that unfortunately public reveal, there is no way to keep the engagement quiet.

--

Alex flies to New Mexico on that same night, without telling anyone.

He sleeps fitfully on the plane, almost misses his connecting flight, and sends Andrew a text telling him where he is only when he has landed in Roswell. Then he spends entirely too much time trying to find a rental car.

Still, Alex understands that his trouble with the rental is definitely the easiest part of his day. The rest of the day will be much more stressful.

Alex tries to come up with what he’s going to say to Michael as he drives from the airport to the junkyard. For some time, he entertains the idea of being cold and mean, reasoning that it would be the fastest way to show Michael that he’s moved on. Being cruel would prove to Michael that it’s time to stop his tantrums and sign the papers. But Alex knows Michael, knows how stubborn the bastard can be when he sets his mind to something, knows that getting him to sign divorce papers will be anything but easy.

Alex’s mind has tried repeatedly to supply him with solutions and failed when he pulls up to the junkyard. He spots Michael’s airstream first, then his truck, heart clenching at the familiar sights. He kills the engine of the rental, squeezing his eyes shut and willing the sentimentality to go away.

Alex takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. His hands clench and unclench on the steering wheel.

He left all of this ten years ago. He put it behind him. Nothing and no one here--in this state, town, junkyard--can or will touch him.

Alex sits in the car, gripping the steering wheel and repeats that phrase to himself until he believes it. He leaves the car only after he has willed his breathing back into control and quenched any lingering feeling of nostalgia. The late morning sun is beating heavily on his head as he makes his way toward the airstream. As he looks around, Alex’s eyes catch on a moving truck. He considers it curiously before continuing on his path. He’s at the door of the airstream, ready to knock when he hears loud barking from one of the garages to his left.

Alex turns and there’s Pluto, Michael’s old bloodhound, his leash tied to a pole. The feelings he had locked away moments ago rush back at the sight of Pluto and Alex resists the urge to go up to him, pet him, hug him. He’s known Pluto since the dog had been a puppy, had gone with Michael to the shelter to adopt him. Pluto hadn’t been just Michael’s dog. At some point he had become Michael and Alex’s dog. Alex knows that dogs remember people, even years after the person has left, but as Pluto barks at him, not in an excited way, Alex’s heart sinks. He fears that Pluto may have forgotten him.

Which is really stupid because Alex is the one who left.

The sound of something heavy dropping draws Alex out of his thoughts. He hears a curse, more clattering noises, and a moment later, Michael emerges from behind a car. Alex recognizes him instantly, even though it’s been ten years. He’s changed, in the way that age changes everyone, his cheekbones are more pronounced and there’s stubble on his face. But Alex is struck more by the things about him that time has not touched. His hair is the same unruly curls that Alex once loved. The way he walks, taking each step purposefully, is reminiscent of his high school self; an abused child putting on a brave face. And the look in his eyes, fierce and defiant, seem to grab Alex’s heart, squeezing it until his breath comes in short.

Alex drops his gaze, letting it travel down Michael’s body. He’s drenched in sweat and covered in grease. Michael drops the wrench he’s holding to the ground as he bends down to pick up his stupid cowboy hat.

Alex wants to run away right now. Coming here had been a terrible idea. The worst idea Alex had ever had. He should have stayed in New York, sent Michael bribe money. That way, he’d never have to look at Michael again. He’d never have to see his stupid hair or his stupid smile as he bends down to pet Pluto, or the way his smile doesn’t quite reach his eyes as he taps his dog on the head gently.

Alex is disturbed to find out that even after ten years, after his voluntary exile, and after Andrew, the fact that Michael’s smile doesn’t reach his eyes bothers him.

Michael holds out his hand in front of Pluto after he’s done patting the dog on the head. Pluto licks Michael’s hand, wags his tail and relaxes. Only after the dog has settled does Michael start speaking, and when he does speak, he’s not looking at Alex.

“Don’t mind him. He’s loud but he doesn’t bite,” Michael says standing. “What can I do for you?” He turns then, to face Alex, and Alex can tell the moment that Michael’s mind registers who he’s addressing, because the polite smile drops from his face and the hat falls from his hand. He stands there, eyes wide and unbelieving, looking at Alex.

Alex takes a deep breath, willing his racing heart to settle. “Well,” he begins and is his voice shaking? “For starters you can get your stubborn ass over here and give me a divorce.”

Alex stands there, heart beating loudly in silence for what seems like forever. When moments pass and Michael does not respond, Alex sighs. “Come on, Guerin. I mean it. This bullshit has gone on long enough. I have the divorce papers in the car. Just sign them so I can catch the next flight out of here.”

Michael scoffs, kicking the ground softly with his boot and scratching his head.

Alex closes his eyes, sighing in frustration, attempting to keep his anger at being ignored in check. He remembers suddenly and with clarity why he left, and finally, finally, he buries the nostalgia that’s been dogging him since he got back to Roswell. 

“What?” Alex demands from a silent Michael. “Speak!”

As if on cue, Pluto begins barking.

The barking sets Michael in motion as well. He takes several steps towards Alex his expression changing as he comes closer. He’s no longer dumbfounded. The way his eyebrows knit together, the tension in his shoulder and the sardonic smile on his lips suggest anger.  “You show up here,” He starts. “After ten years, without so much as a ‘how is the weather in New Mexico, Michael?’ or ‘hi, remember me, your husband, Michael?’ or even, ‘hey, still alive, Michael?”

Pluto is still barking.

Alex rolls his eyes. “If you’d died someone would have contacted me.”

Michael nods, his face impassive. “Your friends in whatever place it is you’ve been laugh at things like that?” He asks, bending down to pick the wrench.

Alex resists the urge to roll his eyes again. “You know exactly where I’ve been,” he says. “And it wasn’t meant to be a joke.

Infuriatingly Pluto is still barking. Alex tries to drown him out before giving up and kicking the ground in frustration. “What, did you spend the last ten years missing me?”

“Miss you?” Michael says, but his voice ironic, the smile on his face has shifted from mocking to cruel. He’s throwing the wrench up and down, looking at Alex in a way Alex has never seen before. As he gets closer, Alex has the sinking feeling that he doesn’t know Michael anymore.

And that shouldn’t hurt as much as it does.

“Nah,” Michael continues. He glances at the wrench. “Now you’re here though, I have to reconsider my feelings.”

“That’s literal gibberish, Guerin. Are you messing with me right now?” Alex asks. He takes a step closer. “After all these years of refusing to sign the divorce papers and now you’re what? Being as vague as you possible can be? You know my lawyer billed me every time you sent those papers back.”

“Yeah?” Michael asks. “I was pretty clear about my thoughts on the issue.”

Pluto is still barking and it’s driving Alex crazy. He turns from Michael, to yell at the dog. “Shut up, Pluto!”

At the same time, Michael turns to the dog as well, shouting. “Shut up, Dipper!”

Alex freezes, surprised. “What happened to Pluto?” He asks, turning to Michael.

Michael looks down at the ground nodding to himself, before looking back at Alex. There’s pain in his eyes, grief that hurts Alex more than Alex likes to admit.

“He died,” Michael says. “You weren’t here.”

Then he turns around and walks away.

Still shaken Alex asks. “What are you doing?”

“Leaving.” Michael turns to look at Alex at the steps of his airstream. “You did it,” he says. “It should look familiar to you.” And then he’s inside the airstream, slamming the door.

Alex stands under the hot desert sun for several moments, unsure of what to do. Rage and frustration boil inside him, making him want to scream and shout, to break something. In the end, he walks up to the airstream and tries the door. It’s locked, but Alex knows where Michael keeps the spare key. Or… he knew where Michael kept the spare key; under the stairs, taped to the bottom of a big rock. Alex bends down, finds the rock and, sure enough, the key is still there. Like Michael has not felt the need to come up with a new hiding place after all this time.

Like nothing has changed in the past ten years.

“Guerin,” he says, as he opens the door. Michael is sitting on a chair in the airstream, a beer in his hand, glaring at Alex. Alex adopts his most patronizing tone. “The next time you try to lock someone out, make sure they don’t know where the spare is.”

Michael puts the beer down, standing. “Why won’t you just leave?”

Alex closes his eyes, running a hand through his hair. “I’ll leave if you sign the divorce papers.”

Michael scoffs and picks up his beer again.

Alex feels like screaming for the second time in less than five minutes. He wants to grab Michael by his stupid shoulders and shake him. “Why won’t you just do it?” He asks. “Because I want you to?”

Michael takes a step towards him. “Nah,” he says, taking a swig out of the bottle. “I won’t sign them because you’ve turned into some haughty asshole, and I like watching you sweat.”

“Fine,” Alex says, he sits down firmly on the bed. “I’m not leaving until you do.”

“Fine,” Michael says and stomps into the bathroom, banging its door shut. Alex watches after him, curious and confused. He can hear Michael’s muffled voice, but not what is being said, and he’s too proud to move closer for the purpose of eavesdropping, so he remains on the bed, looking around.

The interior of the airstream has changed a bit since Alex left. It’s less cluttered, things are more organized, a trait which is odd for Michael. Alex takes it all in, trying and failing to reject the strong sense of home that the airstream gives him.

He doesn’t want the airstream to feel like home anymore because it’s not. New York is home. His apartment on the Upper West side is home. Andrew is home.

Michael and his shabby airstream are remnants of the past.

Alex repeats that to himself, believing it less and less with each repeat, until Michael re-emerges from the bathroom.

“Still here I see,” he says, barely glancing at Alex. “Not for long.” He opens the door to the airstream and goes out. Alex follows him.

There’s nothing to do while you’re playing chicken with your estranged husband, so Alex sits by Dipper and looks around while Michael returns to the car he was fixing.

“Why do you have a moving truck?” Alex says as his eyes catch on the truck again.

“None of your business,” Michael’s voice comes from where he’s bent over the hood of a car.

Alex opens his mouth to say something rude, but closes it immediately when he hears the sound of a car driving on the gravel. He stands, walking toward his own car to get a better view.

“You called the sheriff?” He asks Michael, who’s come to stand by him.

“Sure did,” Michael says, the smile on his face predatory.

Alex shuts his eyes tightly. “Guerin, he’s going to be so angry at me…”

“Yep,” Michael responds. “That’s what happens when you don’t drop in to say hi to your godfather for ten years.”

Alex takes a deep breath, trying to brace himself for the onslaught that will greet him. But the person who steps out of the truck isn’t Sheriff Valenti, it’s Max Evans.

The look on Max’s face is serious and business like until he catches sight of Alex. When he registers the person he’s looking at is Alex, a small smile forms on his face.

“Alex Manes?” He asks, shaking his head. He takes a few steps forward, smile growing on his face as he does so. “It’s been so long.”

Alex smiles back, relief flooding through him as he realizes that he does not in fact have to deal with Jim Valenti. He takes a few steps forward and shakes Max’s offered hand. “You’re the sheriff now?”

“Yep, the Valentis retired,” Max says. “How have you been?”

Alex is about to respond when he hears Michael sigh loudly. “Max,” Michael says. “For fuck’s sake, you’re not here to chitchat.”

In a moment Max’s face changes from friendly to serious. “Alex,” he says. “You can’t go around breaking into people’s homes.” He gestures toward the airstream. “There are laws against breaking and entering.”

Alex resists the urge to roll his eyes. He and Max Evans used to be friendly ten years ago, because Max and Michael were close, but it’s been so long, and it’s not like Max was his friend. Alex needs to be careful. “But I didn’t break in,” he says holding up the spare key. “I used the spare key.”

Michael begins to protest at this, but Max holds up a hand. “Still not your house though,” Max says with a warning look at Michael. “I’ll have to escort you off the property.”

“Cuff him,” Michael says, and when Alex turns to glare at him, Michael shows him a toothy smile.

“Look,” Alex says, turning his gaze from Michael back to Max. “I will leave willingly and immediately if you can just get Guerin to sign the divorce papers.”

“Wait,” Max says. “Wait you’re not divorced?” He turns to Michael. “Didn’t you tell me you’d taken care of this whole thing?”

Michael shrugs at him. “I said what I said.”

Shaking his head, Max shrugs as well. “Look man, if you two are still married then this is his house too,” he says. “I can’t force him out no more than I can force you out,” he finishes, pointing at Michael. Then he stops, thinking, and addresses Alex. “You have any complaints about him?”

Alex sighs, looking down at his feet. It’s tempting to play the victim, even easy, just to watch Max take Michael in. Max would believe it too, since he’s aware of how physically abusive Alex’s father was. And after everything Michael has put him through, just in the past hour, Alex really wants to. But when he looks back up and catches Michael’s eyes, for the first time he doesn’t see anger or surprise in Michael’s gaze. Right now, Michael is looking at Alex with something akin to betrayal.

And that shouldn’t hurt Alex the way that it does, not after Michael called the fucking sheriff on him.

Still, Alex can’t lie, so he just shakes his head. “Not since I’ve been back in town.”

Max nods. “Sorry,” he says, looking at Michael. “The law’s the law and he’s done nothing wrong.”

Michael speaks up as Max turns to leave. “He’s done nothing wrong? He’s done plenty wrong. Remember that time someone stole five black nail polishes from the Albertsons?” He says loudly. “It was Alex.”

Alex turns to look at him, jaw dropping. “I returned those and you know it!”

Max shakes his head and continues walking towards his car.

Michael follows him, voice getting louder and faster. “Remember that incident at the UFO Museum? That was Alex too.”

“Like I could drag a giant green alien statue through the whole museum and outside, by myself,” Alex responds, glaring at Michael.

Michael smiles wickedly at him, but continues following Max.

“Hey,” he says, grabbing Max’s arm and forcing him to turn around. “Isn’t there an outstanding warrant for whoever spray painted Panic at the Disco lyrics on the Sheriff’s cruiser?”

Max pauses.

Alex sighs, closing his eyes.

As he sits in the back of the cruiser and watches the junkyard disappear, Alex reflects on the fact that out of all the outcomes he had predicted for today, getting arrested for vandalism was not one of them.

He’s going to have to call Jim Valenti.

--

“You want me to give a ride to your mom’s or do you want to come home with me?” Are the first words Jim says to Alex when Alex gets out of the jail.

“Whatever’s fine with you,” Alex says, avoiding Jim’s eyes. There’s a sense of shame, that he had to drag his godfather out of bed to come and get him, that this is the first time they’ve seen each other in ten years.

“Hell of a call to get in the middle of the night,” Jim Valenti says as he’s driving. “Alex returned after ten years without warning, and he’s in jail? Hell, I barely believed it. But here you are…” He trails off, turning to look at Alex. “What, they don’t have phones in New York?”

Alex shakes his head.  He knows that Jim Valenti is chastising him, and he feels chastised, but he can’t bring himself to apologize.

“Ok, won’t talk about that,” Jim says. “What got you into jail then?”

This Alex can talk about. “Michael Guerin and his big fat mouth.” Alex pauses. “It was a misunderstanding Jim, don’t worry about it.”

“Yeah?” Jim responds. “Like that wedding you were so keen on having?”

“Jim…” Alex begins.

“No,” Jim interrupts. “You got me out of my house at this god forsaken hour and I just want to have my piece. Alex, you insisted for months and months that you had to have this wedding and then… what happened?”

Alex sighs. He doesn’t want to do this right now. He didn’t to come back to Roswell and argue with the man who is essentially his father figure. This is why he visited Michael first, why he had planned only on visiting Michael. But Jim is bringing this up now and Alex is so tired.

“Well for starters,” Alex says. “Michael showed up to the court drunk.”

Jim sighs. “The boy was nervous, do you blame him? Getting married at that age and your father being… well… you know?”

Alex resents the fact that Jim is bringing up Jesse Manes now, hates that Jim is trying to excuse Michael’s actions when Alex had been in the same situation. “Yeah, I can,” he says finally, through clenched teeth. “Because I was the same age, going through the same thing! In fact, I needed that wedding to escape my father’s abuse and the army. Michael claimed he was in love with me, he didn’t have to give up anything.

“Now you’re being unfair,” Jim says. “That boy gave up his left hand for you.”

His words hit Alex with the force of a blow. “Yeah well,” Alex said. “I didn’t exactly ask him to do that did I?” And he knows, he knows, how cruel a thing that is to say, but he can’t help it. He doesn’t like sitting here and listening to Jim attacking him. “Why are you siding with him now, it’s been ten years.”

“I’m not siding with anyone, son,” Jim says. “I’m just saying… Look, Michael’s changed ok? He’s doing things with his life now.”

Alex wants to scream bullshit. He’s seen Michael, seen his airstream. Nothing has changed. “Can we not talk about Michael?” He asks. “We haven’t seen each other in years, let’s catch up.”

Jim just shakes his head. “Ok,” he says. “Shoot.”

“Well I…” Alex begins, trying to decide what to tell Jim first. “I’m designing clothes now. I had my first show last night, I think it went really well. And…” Alex pauses, worried. “I met someone.”

Jim throws a sidelong glance at him. “Oh?”

“Yeah,” Alex says, wringing his hands. “He’s really great and he loves me.”

Jim is nodding slowly. “That’s great son.” Jim says it in such a way that communicates to Alex that the conversation is over. Alex sighs, trying and failing to forget the disastrous events of the day, Michael’s refusal to sign the papers, the hurt look on his face when he thought Alex might turn him in. Michael.

They reach Jim’s house after what feels like hours. As he’s leaving the car, Jim asks Alex. “You planning on visiting your mother while you’re here?”

Alex hadn’t been planning on it, but then again, he hadn’t been planning on staying any longer than 2 hours in the city of Roswell.

“You should,” Jim says. “You know she loves you.”

Alex sighs. “Yeah, I know. Your wife sleeping inside?”

Jim shakes his head. “Gone to visit Kyle in medical school,” Jim says. “Just me and you in this house for now.”

Alex nods. That’s good with him. The less he has to interact with people while here, the better.

They enter the house silently, but Jim stops Alex as Alex heads toward the guest room.

“Alex, you know I love you like my own son,” he begins. “And you know I’m happy to see you. But… why are you here? Why now? Ten years of radio silence and you just appear out of the blue one day?”

Alex sighs. He did tell his fiance that he’d be telling Jim and his mother about their engagement in person, now is as good a time as any.

“My boyfriend back at New York,” he starts. “The one I told you about?”

Jim nods.

“He asked me to marry him and I said yes.”

“Oh,” Jim begins. “But, you’re still married, son,” he continues patiently.

“Yeah, I know. But I won’t be for long.” Alex turns and walks toward the guest room. “Goodnight Jim.”

--

Alex wakes up slowly the next day. For a moment, as he opens his eyes, he’s unsure where he is. Then the familiar photographs on the wall remind him that he spent last night in Jim Valenti’s guest room.

Alex closes his eyes. Emotions battle inside of him. On the one hand, the comfort that comes from being in the Valenti house. Memories of nights where Alex’s father had been too angry, too violent, and Alex hadn’t been able to reach Michael, and instead had ran to the Valenti’s, over-take him. He feels the relief that came over him every time Jim allowed him to come over. He remembers how often the Valentis even allowed Michael to come and stay over. This place had been more home for Alex in his teen years than his father’s house. Even after his mother had returned and made an effort to get to know him. Alex’s father had forbidden interactions with his mom, but Jim Valenti and Jesse Manes had been friends, and Alex was allowed at the Valentis no matter what.

This place… it was Alex’s first safe place. Second really… after Michael…

Alex groans, opening his eyes again. There had been a reason for his avoiding this goddamn town. He knew that once he returned, memories would plague him.

But he’s here for a divorce, and he needs to get on that.

He’s not sure how to get Michael to sign the divorce papers. He had thought that if he asked Michael for a divorce, after ten years of silence, that Michael would say yes. He had thought that the reason Michael had not signed the papers was to piss him off, but also, he’d thought that his presence would convince Michael of how serious he was about said divorce.

Stupidly, a small portion of his being which Alex refuses to acknowledge, had thought that if he just asked Michael, Michael would give him the divorce, just like he’d given Alex everything in his power when they were kids.

But Michael is no longer the sweet kid that Alex fell in love with at ten. He’s the asshole Alex left at nineteen.

And Alex needs an angle.

He spends the whole drive back to the junkyard trying and failing to come up with one. He could just stubbornly sit in the airstream until Michael signs the papers, but that hadn’t worked out very well yesterday and Alex is not sure if Michael will call the sheriff again with another bogus felony charge. He can try to appeal to Michael’s human side, though really, does he have that anymore?

He can’t tell Michael about Andrew.

He absolutely cannot do that.

Alex doesn’t come up with any way to try to get Michael to sign the divorce papers by the time he reaches the junkyard. But fortunately, Michael is not there today. As Alex parks and makes his way toward the airstream, greeting Dipper and letting him off his leash, he notices that the moving truck is missing as well. Alex uses the spare key to let himself and Dipper into the airstream. He can wait for Michael to do whatever it is he has to do.

Then they can try to talk… again.

Sitting alone in the airstream brings back memories of those last few months of high school, after Michael had turned eighteen and had bought this thing with his savings. Alex had spent so many nights here--lying to his father, saying he was at Jim’s--feeling comfortable and happy. He remembers falling asleep in Michael’s arms and waking up in Michael’s arms and being so hopeful about the future. But then, after they got married, or maybe even before, right before they got married something in Michael had shifted. He’d become different, less hopeful, less happy, more prone to snapping and being distant.

Alex looks around at the boxes, at the careful way Michael has begun packing up his life. If Michael hadn’t changed, Alex would probably still be living here. But Michael had turned into a stranger in front of Alex’s eyes, and Alex had left for a reason. He’s annoyed that he has to keep reminding himself of that. But if Michael is packing up, maybe Alex can make that easier for him.

Alex is about to get up and start throwing shit away when he hears the sound of an engine and the unmistakable crunch of gravel under wheels. A moment later, there’s a knock on the door.

“Guerin, you in there?”

Alex opens the door immediately with a hesitant smile on his face.

“Well,” Liz Ortecho says, looking not all surprised. “You’re not Michael.”

“Nope.”

“Any idea where he’s gone?”

Alex shakes his head. He steps outside and closes the door behind him. As soon as he’s climbed down the steps, Liz gives him a hug. “Max told me you were back in town, though I didn’t expect you to be here after what happened yesterday.”

“Max told you about my arrest?”

Liz shrugs. “You gotta talk about something during dinner…”

“What?”

“Max and I are married,” Liz says, like she’s explaining something to a child. “A few years ago, while you were gone.”

Shame burns inside Alex. Liz has never been one to mince words, but at least she’s not blaming him for being absent. He wants to tell her that she should have called him, texted him, sent him an invite. But Alex is not a liar, and he knows that she knows the truth; he wouldn’t have come. Instead of apologizing or even addressing what she said, he asks. “So… your car need a tune up?”

“Nah, just looking for Michael,” Liz says distractedly. She’s taken out her phone and is texting someone on it. “Look, I have this form for him. It’s from the credit union in Albuquerque, but since you know he doesn’t know how long he’s gonna stay at this address, it came to ours.”

“What do you mean he doesn’t know how long he’s staying here?” Alex asks, confused.

“Michael quit working here a couple of weeks ago,” Liz says casually. “He’s just hanging out ‘til he sells that.” She points at the airstream.

Well, that’s… new.

“Oh.”

“You didn’t know?” Liz asks, then shakes her head. “That was a stupid question, of course you don’t. You really don’t know where he’s gone?”

Alex shakes his head.

“Maybe Max will know…” Liz says, distracted again. “Here, can I leave this with you? I have to get back to the lab.”

Alex nods and takes the folder she is holding out to him silently.

“It was good to see you Alex,” Liz says, already turning back to her car. “Don’t leave without saying goodbye again.”

And with that horrible reminder of how Alex had abandoned all his friends, she’s gone.

Alex shakes the feeling of guilt and turns back to the airstream, folder in hand. Now he knows the reason for the tidiness of the airstream and all the boxes. Finally, he has an idea on how to get Michael to sign the forms.

--

Whatever Michael had been doing, apparently it took him all day. When he does return to the airstream, driving the moving truck, the sun is setting and Alex has liberated the airstream of all of its contents.

He’s also hidden the bank forms Liz had brought.

Michael manages to look composed when he enters the airstream. He glances around quickly, and then looks directly at Alex.

“You know larceny is a crime.”

Alex smiles slowly at him. “Welcome back, how was your day?”

Sighing loudly, Michael responds. “Where’s my stuff Alex.”

“I threw it out.”

Michael closes his eyes, looking like he’s about to scream. But he doesn’t. Instead, he runs a finger through his hair and opens his eyes again. “Great, makes it easier for me to move out anyway.”

Alex feels as if he’s been punched in the gut. He was expecting Michael to yell, scream, be angry. This stream of rationality puts a wrench in his plans.

He decides to take another route. “Liz Ortecho came over today,” he says as Michael turns around. “Had a lovely chat with her, she said you quit working at the junkyard. She gave me this packet for you, from a credit union. I opened it.”

This time when Michael turns around, he looks very angry. “Alex…”

“It was a payment notice for a loan, but… I didn’t think it was very important so I shredded it.”

“You what?”

Alex smiles cloyingly at Michael. “I destroyed it.”

“Jesus Christ!”

Alex allows Michael to freak out for about one minute before he says anything.

“Or… maybe I thought about destroying it.”

Michael freezes. “You bastard,” he says slowly. Alex can see the anger rolling off of him.

“Sign the divorce papers and I’ll give them back to you.”

“Fine!” Michael says.

“Great.” Alex had brought in the divorce papers with him the last trip he had taken out of the airstream with Michael’s stuff. He picks them up from the table and hands them to Michael.

“You have a pen?” Michael asks.

Alex picks up a pen from the table as well. But before he can give it to Michael, the questions he’s been harboring all day spill out. “Why do you need all that money?”

Michael rolls his eyes, undeterred. “Give me the pen.”

Alex ignores him. “And why did you quit the junkyard? Are you doing something illegal?”

“Maybe I am, maybe I’m not.” Michael exhales through his nose. “Why are you asking anyways? It’s not like I once asked about your fiance.

Alex feels those words like a blow to his face. He recoils, taking a step back. His heart feels as if someone has wrapped their fingers around it and is squeezing.

He has to open and close his mouth a few times before he’s able to ask, “Who told you?”

Michael scoffs, “You think I’m stupid?” He grabs the pen out of Alex’s hand and sits down by the table to sign it.

Alex watches him, his heart beating loudly. “Michael…” He says.

At the sound of his name, Michael looks up. The look in his eyes is unreadable, and when Alex doesn’t say anything else, he shakes his head and looks down at the divorce papers. “No one finds their soulmate when they’re ten years old.”

Alex bites his lip until it starts hurting. “Yeah, I guess,” he says quietly.

Michael doesn’t look up. “I mean,” he says, gaze on his hands. “More people would be doing it if it were that easy, right?” He looks up at Alex again, through his eyelashes, smiling sheepishly, and Alex… Alex had forgotten… had refused to remember how handsome he is, how captivating his eyes are.

Alex is frozen by the look on Michael’s face, feels lost, hopeful. Alarmingly, he feels exactly like he did when he was a teenager and stupidly in love with Michael Guerin.

He smiles. He doesn’t know what else to do.

Michael’s smile shifts from sheepish to genuine. For a moment, it’s as if the past ten years have been just a weird dream, as if Alex never left, as if he and Michael are still in love.

But then the moment passes, Michael looks down at the divorce paper, and his smile morphs into a sardonic one.

“You know what?” he says, standing up. “I just remembered, I have a date tonight.” He puts the divorce papers down and takes off his shirt. “Did you throw away all my clothes while you were cleaning?”

Purposefully not looking at Michael, Alex points toward the box at the foot of the bed.

“Great,” Michael says. “Anyways, you don’t mind if I have Noah take a look at these do you? You know I’m not very educated. There’s words in there I don’t even understand.”

“Bullshit,” Alex says under his breath.

“What?” Michael asks. “Didn’t hear you right there.”

Alex looks up at him. “I said bullshit. Michael, stop acting like an ass and just sign the damn papers!”

Michael furrows his brows. “Nah,” he says, picking up the divorce papers and making his way towards the airstream’s door. “See you around, Alex.”

Then he’s gone.

Alex does not scream in frustration.

He doesn’t.

What he does do, instead of driving his rental car into Michael’s goddamn airstream like he wants, is to suck it up and drive to the Wild Pony.

If Michael wants to be an ass, Alex thinks, trying his best not to drive over the speed limit in his anger, Alex can reciprocate.

--

There’s loud music coming out of the Wild Pony, but that and the relative busy state of the bar is no deterrent for Maria DeLuca, who screams when she sees Alex and runs to give him a hug.

“Alex,” she says, holding him tightly and repeating his name with joy.

Alex hugs her back just as tightly, relieved that she at least, has said nothing about the way he abandoned her.

“Missed you,” She says into his shoulder before letting him go, grabbing his hands and looking him up and down. Her eyes catch on the engagement ring Alex had put on his hand after Michael had abandoned him in the airstream. “What is that?”

Alex smiles at her, proud that someone in this town cares enough to ask about his ring. “An engagement ring.”

“Finally got that divorce from Guerin?” She asks, a twinkle in her eye.

“Working on it.”

Maria laughs. “Who’s the lucky guy?”

“His name is Andrew,” Alex answers. “He’s in politics.”

Maria laughs. “I’ll keep a lookout for him in the news. Hey,” she says, sounding reluctant. “I have to go and tend the bar but, drinks are on the house tonight, ok?”

“Ok,” Alex nods. He follows her back to the bar, orders a drink, and sets his eyes loose on the bar patrons.

Michael and his date are easy to spot. They’re playing pool in the middle of the bar surrounded by several of Alex and Michael’s high school friends. Alex makes his way over to them.

“Mind if I join?” He asks Michael’s back.

Michael turns around slowly. “Yes,” he says, gaze unwavering. “Absolutely we do.”

Alex ignores him, turning toward the woman that seems to be Michael’s date. She’s… Alex stops himself before he can think anything mean about her. “Hi,” he says, extending his hand toward her. “Did you know that Michael’s favorite thing to do as a child was going out in the middle of the desert during thunderstorms?”

“No,” the date says slowly, looking confused. Alex hates her voice.

“Doesn’t seem like the date is going very well if you guys don’t know each other that well then,” Alex continues. “I would just leave and call it quits at this point.”

The woman looks between him and Michael, speechless. Michael sighs and puts a hand on her shoulder. “Hey Caitlyn,” he says to his date. “Can you go get us more drinks?”

The woman walks away without another word and Michael turns back to the pool table.

Sighing, Alex places his drink on top of the table. “Why do you force me to be a dick to you?” he asks when Michael looks up expectantly at him. Alex gestures toward Max and Liz, standing with Isobel and Noah on the other side of the pool table. “Do you like being insulted in front of your friends?”

Liz cocks an eyebrow at that. “His friends?” she asks, sounding offended. “Cause we weren’t your friends once upon a time?”

Alex turns to her, surprised. She smiles at him but there’s no sweetness in it and says, “I thought they said absence makes the heart grow fonder, but they were wrong in your case.”

It’s Alex who breaks eye contact first. When he looks back at Liz, she’s exchanging a triumphant smile with Max.

“Now then,” she says, coming to stand besides Alex. “Want to watch me school Michael in pool?”

Alex sees the olive branch for what it is and decides to take it. “See the thing is,” he says, grabbing the cue stick out of Michael’s hand. “I’m not really a stand and watch type of guy.”

Some time later, Alex is not sure how many drinks he’s had, or how much time really has passed, most of the patrons have gone, and the only people left have gathered around the pool table, watching Michael, Alex and Liz duel. Even Maria has stepped out from behind the bar and is standing next to Isobel, watching.

“Michael,” Isboel, who had joined the game midway through and then lost pretty spectacularly asks. “Will you sign those divorce papers Alex keeps talking about?”

“Well,” Michael says, pretending at thoughtful. It’s his turn on the table, but instead of taking a shot, he takes several steps toward Alex. “He’s waited ten years. He can handle a couple of days. And if they kill him… well I don’t have to sign those papers then.”

Alex shrugs letting the insult roll over him. He’s so drunk at this point that the act almost makes him lose his balance. “A couple of days won’t make a difference.” He looks Michael directly in the eye as he says this.

“You never know,” Noah pops in. He’s been mostly silent tonight, and the shock of hearing his voice so loudly makes Alex turn toward him. “You might be interested in knowing Michael here--”

Michael cuts him off, with a hand. “Leave him alone,” he says, gaze glued on Alex. “He made up his mind about me a long time ago.”

“Some things never change,” Alex says, balancing himself on the table. Michael takes his turn, misses the ball, and vacates his spot for Liz.

Max steps forward. “Alright Liz, it’s you versus Alex, and you gotta come out on top. Just like that night in junior year, when you and Michael took the Matchwits team to state.”

Goddamn nerds, Alex thinks meanly.

Max turns his gaze towards Alex. “Do you remember that night?”

Alex does. Clearly. He nods.

“That was the night Michael showed me the back of his truck for the first time.” The bar goes quiet. Alex smiles triumphantly at the stunned patrons before his gaze lands on Michael.

Michael looks pissed again.

“Why don’t you go public with that shit?” Michael asks, tense.

“Come on, Guerin,” Alex says. “It’s not like anyone can keep a secret in this town.” Alex stops then, his eyes landing on Maria. She’s looking at him nervously. “Except for Maria.”

“Alex,” Maria says, barely above a whisper. “Come on, what did I ever do to you?”

“Nothing,” Alex says, his voice so sweet it became bitter. “You never did anything to me, Maria. Or my husband, but you sure wanted to.”

Liz, who is standing next to him, grabs Alex’s arm. “What is wrong with you?” She hisses.

Alex opens his mouth to answer but Maria is faster. “It’s ok, he’s just bitter,” she says. “I would be too if most major fashion magazines called me mediocre.”

“At least I don’t serve alcohol to a bunch of losers in Roswell for a living.” Alex retorts.

Maria recoils, as if struck. The bar goes quiet and in that moment, Alex realizes how drunk he has gotten. “I mean, you all are here right? You all live here. You choose to live here. How do you even stand it? I mean it’s just so mundane--”

Before Alex can finish his sentence and inflict even more damage, Michael is grabbing his arm and hauling him out of the Wild Pony.

Alex struggles, hating to be manhandled. Michael releases his arm when they’re outside, and Alex loses his balance for a moment, until he grabs on of the handrails by the stairs.

Michael is pacing in front of him. “Why are you treating your friends like they don’t matter?”

Alex stands as straight as he can. “You asked for it!”

“I asked for it?” Michael’s voice is getting louder. “You show up here, you steal my loan forms, you throw away my stuff, and then you insult my friends--your own friends--acting like you’re better than them!”

“I am better than them,” Alex shouts. He’s so angry with Michael and he’s not sure exactly why. “And you are too. But you decided to waste your potential at a junkyard. If only you had fucking gone to school.

“I couldn’t, could I?” Michael almost screams the words out. “You have no idea how terrified I was for you. I was so afraid Alex, that if I took my eyes off of you, something would happen. Your dad would appear out of nowhere and take you away, legality be damned. I was afraid he’d show up and do to you what he did to me.” Michael holds up his left, mangled hand. Alex winces as Michael goes on. “How could I just leave you like that?”

Alex is stunned into silence.

Michael scoffs. “But I shouldn’t have worried. You were just fine taking care of yourself.”

“Is that… is that why you didn’t go to UNM?” Alex asks quietly.  His stomach feels queasy, but he’s not sure if it’s tonight’s revelation or the alcohol in his system. “Is that why you refused to go despite the scholarship?”

“I was so scared,” Michael says, shaking his head. “It was eating away at me, day and night.”

“Michael…” Alex begins. The fact that he’s drunk is really hindering Alex right now. There’s something here, two dots trying to connect, but Alex is unable to connect them.

“Guess I pushed you away, ha?” Michael asks, looking back up at Alex, his hazel eyes shining with unshed tears. “I let my fear turn me into an ass.”

Alex blinks, confused.

“It’s a good thing you’re drunk, Alex,” Michael says, walking towards him. “Let’s get you home.”

As if on cue, Alex is hit by a wave of nausea and a moment later, he’s bent over the side of the railing, puking his guts out.

Alex feels Michael’s fingers on his scalp, pulling his hair out of his face and rubbing his back. He allows Michael to hold him up as he pukes, and doesn’t remember how he gets home.

--

Alex wakes up with a hangover the next morning.

The first thing he notices is the divorce papers sitting by his head.

They’re signed.

Alex holds the papers up to his face. After years and years of trying to get Michael to sign them and failing, it feels surreal that they’re finally signed.

It also feels final, like an iron curtain has fallen between him and his past, between him and Michael.

It leaves an uneasy feeling in the pit of Alex’s stomach, though that might also be the hangover.

Putting the papers down, Alex looks around the room. It’s only then that he realizes Michael didn’t take him to Jim Valenti’s home, he took Alex to Alex’s mom’s home.

Shit.

Alex steps out of the bedroom slowly, dreading the conversation he’s about to have with his mom, cursing every step that gets him closer to her.

She knows he’s reached the kitchen the minute he steps into it. She doesn’t even turn around.

“Oh look, it’s my son,” She says, her voice laced with sarcasm. “My fancy, fashion designer son, who lives in New York and has forgotten that I exist.’

“Mom,” Alex begins, but isn’t sure what else to say.

“My very accomplished son,” she continues, finally turning around. “Who was carried home passed out drunk, by his estranged husband last night.”

“Mom…” Alex tries again, but she stops him with a raised hand.

“I haven’t seen you in ten years,” she says. “I don’t want to hear any excuses out of you.”

So Alex doesn’t give her excuses. Instead he walks up to her and gives her a hug.

They spend all morning talking, catching up, then talking about the time he’s spent in Roswell. Talking to his mom has never been easy for Alex. Ever since she left his father when Alex was ten, he’s been very guarded around her. But today, she seems ready and willing to dissect the past and her role in it.

“I never stopped blaming myself for what he did to you,” Alex’s mom says. “All those years of abuse and I wasn’t there to stop it. But at least you had Michael to help you get through it. ”

Alex nods dumbly, unsure what to say. What he should say is that he’s not sure he could have survived those years without Michael, without his support and love and complete devotion, but the words get stuck in his throat and he says nothing.

“I’m sorry, son,” she says, sighing. Then, she stands, as if she’s made a decision. “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to help you when you needed it, but that doesn’t mean you can be mean to your old friends.”

Ah, so Michael told her about Alex’s drunken adventures last night.

“Those people were there for you when you were young,” Alex’s mom continues. “You owe them an apology.”

She’s right. Alex has a lot of apologizing to do, starting with Michael.

--

Alex drives out to the junkyard after mailing the divorce papers back to his lawyer.

Michael is standing behind the moving truck, fiddling with something in its trunk.

“Thought you’d be on your way back to New York by now,” he says when he notices Alex approaching him.

“I wanted to tell you I left your loan papers under the bed,” Alex says hesitantly.

“Thanks,” Michael says, turning around to look at Alex. “It would be really shitty if they tried to repossess my things.”

They stand there for a moment, staring at each other. Then, Michael says, “It’s good that you cleaned the airstream. I was serious about the cleanliness helping me sell the damn thing faster.”

Alex nods, “You’re really moving then?”

Michael nods. “I’ve been spending a lot of time a bit west of here.”

Quiet again, broken once again by Michael. “Look, Alex,” he says. “I signed your papers.” And that’s a dismissal, or a plea for Alex to leave.

“Michael…” Alex begins. “I never meant to hurt you, or anyone else. I just…”

“Couldn’t waste your life here in this airstream with me,” Michael cuts in, voice raw.

And Alex… he wants to say something to defend himself, to say no, that’s not true. But Michael has already signed the divorce papers, they’re on their way to be finalized, and it doesn’t help anyone for Alex to be digging up old feelings.

“I came here to say thank you,” Alex says. He pauses, kicking his feet. Dipper has resurfaced from somewhere and is eyeing Alex suspiciously. Alex dips down to pet him, wasting some time and avoiding Michael’s eyes before he continues. “So thanks,” he says finally. “For signing the divorce papers. For being there for me when I needed you, for sacrificing so much to keep me safe and out of the army.”

Michael shakes his head. “I did what anyone who was in love with you would have done.”

It doesn’t escape Alex’s notice that he used the past tense.

“Alright well,” Michael says, a small smile gracing his lips. He’s finished fiddling with whatever it was in the back of the moving truck and closes its trunk. “You might want to get out of the way.”

“What,” Alex says confused. “You can’t just leave.”

“Sure I can,” Michael answers, then. “You wanna go for a ride?” He indicates the front of the truck with his head.

Alex badly wants to say yes. “Where are you going?”

“I want to show you something,” Michael responds.

Alex almost does say sure, he even takes step forward. He would like nothing more than to get in a truck with Michael Guerin and drive to wherever it is Michael wants to go. Just like they used to do when they were teens. Just like they did the first time Michael kissed him.

But… Alex can’t. He hasn’t been that boy for ten long years. He’s different now, has a different life, has… Andrew.

“I can’t,” Alex says finally.

“Can’t or won’t?”

Alex thinks about that for a moment. “Both.”

Michael watches Alex thoughtfully for a moment. “You have changed,” he says finally. He whistles and Dipper follows him into the truck.

“Bye, Alex,” he says and slams the door shut.

Alex watches him drive away, pretending that Michael’s words didn’t leave a bruise in his heart.

--

Alex goes in search of Maria next, but the man tending the bar at the Wild Pony tells him Maria has gone to town for the street fair that’s going on that night.

Reluctantly, Alex makes his way toward the street fair.

Finding Maria is not hard. She’s sitting on a table, near a bunch of young children. Alex wonders if she’s been relegated to baby-sitting duty as he makes his way towards her.

She won’t look him in the eye when he sits down by her. Doesn’t answer to his hello.

It’s ok, he deserves that.

Which is exactly what he says to her after he says that he’s sorry.

She glances at him then.

“I was way out of line,” he says to her. “I was drunk and I was just so angry at Michael and at myself for letting him get to me. I should never have involved you.”

“Yeah, you shouldn’t have. It was really shitty of you, Alex. But… you’re also right,” Maria says. “I was into him before, when we were in high school. Back then, he was sweet and smart, who wasn’t into him? But he had only eyes for you.”

“I’m sorry,” Alex says again, looking down at his feet. “I was a complete ass, it was inexcusable. Anyways, whatever Michael felt for me, it wasn’t enough in the end. When I left, he didn’t even come after me.” Alex is not sure why he says those words. He certainly hadn’t intended to say them, but they had come out either way. It’s as if Maria’s assertion that Michael had loved him in high school had poked at an old wound Alex had been trying to ignore for a decade.

“He did though,” Maria says and Alex’s heart stops.

“What? Michael? When?”

“About a year after you left,” Maria says. “Michael doesn’t know that I know, but he told Max and Max told Liz and well…” Maria shrugs.

“Michael came to New York?” Alex asks, scarcely believing the words.

Maria nods. “He told Max that he realized if you were happy there, he needed a lot more than an apology to get you back. He needed to do something with himself first. He’s been trying ever since.”

Ignoring his racing heart, Alex asks, “Is that why he kept sending the papers back?”

Maria nods. “It’s funny how things don’t work out.”

Alex closes his eyes, feelings tears behind his eyelids. He doesn’t say anything back.

--

Michael returns from wherever he’s been as the sun is setting. Alex is there for his return because he had found his high school friends alongside Maria, and managed to say enough of an apology to merit spending time with them. He’s sitting by the makeshift bar, drinking whiskey, from the prettiest glass cup he’s ever seen when Michael walks up, hat in hand.

He hugs Maria first, asking her if she’s ok. She laughs at his show of caring, but nods and pats him on the shoulder before setting herself down next to Liz.

Alex watches Michael interacting with Maria and then Max and Isobel. He watches the way Michael’s shoulders relax as the latter grills him, the way his face lights up as he laughs, the crinkle by the side of his eyes that show real joy. Alex’s skin is buzzing, heating up, and he can’t keep looking at Michael like this; he thinks he’s bursting.

Alex looks down at his glass instead, then underneath the glass, curious as to who makes it. It reminds him, oddly, of the sculpture he and Michael had seen in the middle of the desert the night his mom left. It has the same grooves and dips, and catches the light in different spots.

“Uh…” Max says slowly. “You drink that from the top.”

Alex laughs. “Yeah I’m just trying to figure out who makes this Desert Glass,” he responds. “Can you get it in New York? It’s beautiful.”

“Hey Michael,” Isobel says. “Alex would like to know where he can get that fancy glass.”

Michael cocks his eyebrows at her. “Why are you asking me?”

“I don’t know,” Max pipes in. “Maybe because you’re--”

He stops when he notices the look Michael is giving him. Very noticeably, Max closes his mouth.

“You’re knowledgeable about these kinds of things,” Liz finishes for him.

Michael smiles and shrugs. “Nah.”

No one is looking at Alex, which is a dead giveaway that they’re hiding something. He opens his mouth to ask, but Maria grabs his hand. “Let’s dance,” she says, motioning toward the makeshift dance floor with her head. Alex wants to decline and press the glass issue, but everyone is looking at him now, and last night he had been a real dick to Maria.

He consents.

From the dance floor he sees Liz grab Michael’s hand and drag him to the dance floor. He tries not to watch Liz and Michael dancing, focuses instead on the way Maria is clearly leading him on the dance floor. It’s fun. Out of all the friends that he left behind in Roswell, Maria is the one he missed the most, so Alex allows himself to let loose and dance with her.

Then the song changes to Counting Crows and both Maria and Liz--whose ridiculous dancing with Michael, Alex is definitely not watching-- both stop at the same time.

“Sorry Alex.” Maria is already letting go of his hand and walking toward Liz, who’s coming to them, dragging Michael along. “This is a Liz Ortecho song.”

When she’s grabbed Liz’s hand and taken off, Alex stands abandoned in the middle of the dance floor, looking everywhere but at Michael.

When he does, Michael has extended a hand towards him.

Alex looks at it like he’s a drowning man and it’s a life jacket. He wants to take it, wants to grab Michael’s hand, hold him close and never let go.

He doesn’t understand how this happened, but it scares him.

“Maybe we can talk?”

The smile Michael gives him breaks his heart.

There is a reason why Alex doesn’t want to dance with Michael, it’s just very hard to think of what it is when Michael is getting farther and farther away from him. Alex watches Michael walk away and tries to ignore the fact that, for the second time that day, he wants to cry.

He returns to his seat and his glass but the night has been ruined for him. He makes an excuse to Isobel and Noah, the only people still sitting by the bar and starts walking away from the fair.

The rest of the town is quiet, everyone is either at home tonight or at the street fair. Alex walks alongside the streets, feeling a light wind against his shoulder. There’s a buzz in his pocket, a text from Andrew. Alex glances at it, doesn’t read it, and puts his phone away.

His feet have taken him to the pet cemetery, just to the side of the alien museum. Alex walks in hesitantly, unsure whether Michael even buried Pluto here.

But he shouldn’t have worried, he finds Pluto’s plaque pretty easily. Alex has felt so much in the past two days, he’s had to deal with so many remnants of his past, that the sight of Pluto’s little plaque brings tears to his eyes.

He kneels down by it. “Hey.” Alex lets his fingers trace Pluto’s name on the stone. “Sorry it took me so long to get here. I would’ve come back if I’d known you weren’t feeling good,” Alex stops. He’s not going to lie to the tombstone of his and Michael’s dead dog. “That’s not true. I probably wouldn’t have come. I’ve been pretty selfish for the past ten years.”

Alex closes his eyes. He can hear the faint sound of the fair in the distance, the wind blowing on the street outside. When he opens his eyes again, he has to blink away the tears.

“But you,” he says to the plaque. “You were there for me, every time I had hide from my dad. Every time Michael and I fought. You were there, offering support, and then I just left you.” The tears are falling freely from Alex’s eyes now. He wipes them away with the palm of his hand. “I wonder if you sat there and thought what you had done wrong.”

“I told him it was my fault.”

Surprised, Alex turns to find Michael standing by the gate of the cemetery. Alex closes his eyes as he stands, wiping away the leftover tears on his face with his fingers.

“Stop being nice to me, Guerin.”

Michael shrugs, stepping inside. “It’s the truth.”

Alex walks towards him. “Isn’t it more complicated than that?”

“What?”

“The truth. Life.” Alex gestures between the two of them. “This.” There’s a bench by the wall of the cemetery. Alex sits on it and waits for Michael to join him.

“You were having fun in the fair tonight,” he says as he sits down.

Alex shakes his head. “I’m happy in New York.”

“Yeah, I know.” Michael knocks his shoulder with Alex’s and when Alex looks over, Michael is smiling. “I’m proud of you. You really did something with your life.” He stops as if debating whether he should say what he is about to say. “But your dad is gone now. You can come here and be happy too.”

He’s right, of course he is, and Alex has nothing to say in response to that.

They sit there in silence until Michael knocks his shoulder against Alex’s and points. “Look.”

Roswell is situated on flat land and has no skyline. It makes it very easy for residents to see miles and miles from one spot.

“Can you see it?” Michael asks.

A lightning storm, all the way out on the desert. Alex nods, with a smile. “You and desert lightning storms.”

Michael smiles. “I go out there still, when a storm is happening. It makes me feel alive to be out there, in the middle of all the danger.”

Alex shakes his head fondly at him. After their first kiss, Michael had taken Alex out to the desert often, specially after he’d gotten his license and the truck. They’d spent so many nights out there, holding each other, pretending like Alex’s father didn’t exist, didn’t threaten Alex regularly, wasn’t planning on sending Alex to the army as soon as Alex was old enough to enlist.

They’d planned their wedding out there, a few days after Alex’s dad had found them kissing in the shed and broken Michael’s left hand.

“Why did you marry me?” Alex asks. “You didn’t have to, it would have been better for you not to. But you did it. Why?”

Michael tilts his head sideway. “You know why I married you.”

Alex does. He knew since he was ten years old. He knew before he really knew what love was.

“When my dad caught us that day before graduation,” Alex says after a pause. He feels bold enough to grab Michael’s left hand then, to stroke the marred flesh with his own fingers. “What he did to your hand… I thought you would hate me afterwards but you didn’t.”

Michael is watching their entwined hands as he shakes his head, blinking as if the idea hadn’t even occurred to him. He rests his good hand on top of the two, fingernails scratching Alex lightly. “I was so afraid that he’d do it to you,” Michael says. “I bought the engagement ring the next day.”

“Michael…” Alex begins but he’s not sure where to take it. His heart is so full of emotion, his mind can’t come up with anything else.

“In hindsight,” Michael continues. “Maybe us getting married wasn’t the best idea. Made you realize how much better you were than me.”

Alex shakes his head at the mere thought. “What?”

“I had no prospects--”

“But you did!” Alex cuts in, standing. Michael stands with him. “You had a full ride scholarship… Michael you’re a goddamn genius.”

Michael doesn’t say anything, and when he does speak his words are measured. “Do you remember the conversation we had last night?”

“Not particularly…” He’d been very drunk and he remembers being angry and saying horrible things. The things he’d said to Maria he remembers with clarity. His conversation with Michael in the parking lot is a blur.

“I couldn’t leave you here unprotected, not when the protection was the whole reason you married me,” Michael says it all so quickly, in one breath, and it takes Alex’s brain a moment to catch up with what Michael is saying. “What if I had left you alone to go to Albuquerque and your dad had forced you into the army, marriage or no marriage. What if he used his influence to annul the marriage? What if he hurt you while I was away? Alex I couldn’t go! Not while he was still here.” 

“You stupid boy,” Alex says. “I didn’t marry you for convenience. I married you because I loved you.”

Michael looks at him sharply.

“I loved you. I loved you so much and I was so happy to be with you and I was looking forward to you going to school and making something of yourself. And I was looking forward to figuring out what I was gonna do with myself. But you didn’t go,” Alex stops, taking a step closer toward Michael. “You didn’t go and you refused to accept your scholarship, and every day it was like you were closing up and the boy I loved was farther and farther away and Michael,” Alex has to stop again, he has to stop because there are tears in his eyes and they’re slowly spilling out. Alex closes his eyes, takes a deep breath and opens them. He’s walked close enough to Michael that they’re standing chest to chest. “Michael I couldn’t stay here and watch you waste away your life. I couldn’t waste mine with you.”

Michael says nothing.

“It was killing me,” Alex breathes out. “All we did was fight.”

Michael is no longer looking at Alex. “I’m sorry.”

“You didn’t come after me.”

“I’m sorry.”

He says it so quietly that Alex has to lean in, to watch his lips form the words, and Alex is watching Michael speak one moment and the next he has leaned in to kiss Michael.

Michael doesn’t respond immediately, and it gives Alex time to panic, to question his own action. But the next moment Michael is kissing him back and Alex’s mind goes blank.

Alex had repressed how much he loved this. Kissing Michael, running his hand through Michael’s curls, feeling Michael grab at him while they kissed, Michael’s hand on his face, cupping it. Alex loves it, he loves all of it, he loves Michael.

For the first time in ten years, Alex feels like he can breathe.

He needs to break the kiss. This is wrong, it’s cheating it’s unfaithful to… someone.

Alex should break the kiss but he doesn't want to, he can’t. He presses closer instead, opens his mouth.

He doesn’t notice that Michael’s hands have left his face until he feels them gripping his shoulders and pushing him away.

“Go home Alex.” Michael is stepping backward. Alex takes a step towards him. He doesn’t want to go home, he doesn't want to do anything but kiss Michael.

Michael raises his hand to stop Alex’s advance. “Go home while I have some self restraint left.” And his words are firm but his eyes are pleading and before Alex can say anything else, he’s turned around and walked away.

Alex stands there, shaking, upset, unsure, for what feels like hours.

He watches the lightning storm and tries not to think about the kiss.

--

Alex has packed up his things, has said goodbye to Jim, is in the process of saying goodbye to his mother when he receives a call from Andrew.

He doesn’t want to take it, but he feels unbelievably guilty about what happened last night, so he does, hesitantly.

“Alex?” Andrew says as a way of greeting, “What street did you say your mom lived on?”

And that’s all the warning Alex gets before Andrew has shown up at his doorstep and is introducing himself to Alex’s mom.

“Well what’s happened is,” Andrew says, once they’ve all settled down. “My mother has lost it. She is very angry that I didn’t tell her before I proposed to you and now she wants all the say in how the wedding will go.”

Alex nods along, he’s trying to force himself to listen, but it’s hard to when what Andrew is talking about sounds so trivial.

“Your leaving out of nowhere didn’t really help the case,” Andrew adds. “And then your radio silence.” He’s shaking his head. “But I figured you’d have had enough time by now to tell your family about me?”

Alex nods.

“And once we get back home, we can plan the wedding.”

After the few days he’s had here and the talk he had with with Michael last night about happiness in Roswell, the idea of a wedding in New York is suddenly repulsive to Alex. He doesn’t want it. “Hey, Andrew,” he says after his mother has left them alone. “Your mom can do whatever she wants, but can we have the wedding here, in Roswell?”

Andrew nods after a few thoughtful moments. “Of course. If that’s your one request, I’m sure my mother won’t mind.”

Alex feels a wave of relief wash over him. He’s about to say something else when there’s a knock on the door.

Both he and Andrew go to open it.

“You left your goddamn pen in my car,” Michael says as way of greeting and then stops when he sees Andrew. “Hi,” he says after a moment, shaking Andrew’s hand. “You must be Andrew.”

Andrew nods, all friendliness and charms. “And you are?”

“This is Michael,” Alex cuts in. “My um…”

“Cousin,” Michael says because he’s a bastard.

“Cousin,” Alex repeats and the word sounds very wrong in his mouth.

“Well cousin,” Andrew says, still charming. “Alex and I were about to go out to lunch if you want to join us.”

Michael watches Alex as he shakes his head no. “It was nice to meet you though,” he says to Andrew as he is leaving. “Good to know what kind of person Alex left us for.”

There’s an uncomfortable silence after Michael has left.

“Do all your cousins look at you like that?”

Alex rolls his eyes and walks inside the house. “He’s not my cousin. He just said that because he’s a bastard.”

“Ok?” Andrew carefully leads Alex back to the living room. “So who is he?” he asks, sitting down.

“My husband.”

“What?”

Alex shakes his head. “My ex-husband.”

“You’re married?”

“Not anymore,” Alex sighs, and if there’s some residue regret in there, he hopes Andrew doesn’t hear it.

“You were married?” Andrew’s voice is rising, hysterical. In hindsight, Alex should have probably broken that piece of information to him with more delicacy. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because I was getting a divorce, I always planned on getting a divorce. There was no need to tell you about something that didn’t matter.”

Andrew’s eyes dart to the door and back toward Alex. “You’re not married anymore?”

“No, Andrew,” Alex tries to get his voice to sound reassuring. “I came here to finalize the divorce.”

“Oh.” Is all Andrew says. “And you’re sure that you want to marry me?”

He says it so genuinely that Alex pauses, feeling guilty. The truth is that he’s not sure whether he wants to marry Andrew. He’s never been sure about it. He knows that Andrew is a good person, that he loves Alex, that marrying him is the right thing to do. Andrew is the product of a life Alex has built for himself, and even if his feelings for Andrew don’t run as deep as they once did for Michael, he thinks they can be happy together.

He thinks they can have a really nice life together. So maybe the yes that he gives Andrew is a partial lie. He isn’t sure whether his heart wants to marry Andrew, but his brain, which has been in charge for a long time, is sure.

--

Andrew’s mom takes over the wedding preparations immediately. She concedes that the wedding can be in Roswell and then proceeds to send half of her staff alongside several wedding planners down to get started on the wedding. Alex is relieved that he doesn’t have to do anything, it gives him time to get himself emotionally ready.

A month before the wedding, Alex gets a call from his lawyer, but he’s too busy making sure his mom and the wedding planners don’t fight that he ignores the call.

Three weeks before the wedding, Federica and Thomas, Alex’s closest friends from New York, show up to help.

They fly into Albuquerque instead of Roswell and Alex volunteers to pick them up. He’s waiting for the two of them to pick up their bags when he spots an advertisement for the “Desert Glass” he’d seen on the night of the fair.

He pulls Thomas and Federica aside to show it to them. “This place, I’ve been looking for it. They make the prettiest glass I’ve ever seen and when I asked around about it, everyone was acting shady. Let’s go and see what they didn’t want to tell me.”

There’s a date set for the store’s grand opening, and Alex jots it down. Five days later, he, Federica and Thomas drive west in search of the glass.

The store is a big, ranch themed place, with tables set outside on a deck, a restaurant, and lots and lots of customers. Alex leaves his car eagerly, only to be stopped in his tracks by the sight of the moving truck Michael had been renting, parked on the side of the store.

It can’t be.

“Do you have particular emotions towards that truck?” Federica asks, coming to stand besides him.

Alex shakes his head. There is absolutely no way that this store, this creation, the glass he’d seen back in the fair, belongs to Michael.

But as Alex steps closer toward the ranch, he becomes more and more certain. Michael had a loan payment about which he’d refused to give Alex information. When Alex had asked about the glass at the fair, Isobel and Max had addressed Michael. And then everyone had shut up with one sharp look from Michael. Michael had been using that same truck for god knows how long.

He’d been planning to move. He’d said he’d been spending his time out west.

Federica and Thomas are immediately occupied by the beautiful glass when the three of them enter the store, but Alex’s eyes land on Dipper, sitting by the stairs, looking incredibly lazy.

He gets up when he sees Alex, wagging his tail and walking towards him. Alex crouches down to pet him.

“Do we know this dog?” Thomas asks.

Alex nods, looking around, searching for Michael, wondering where he is.

It’s not too long before he does spot Michael, walking down the stairs, gaze fixed on Alex.

Alex stops petting Dipper and stands, taking a hesitant step towards Michael. “Hi.”

“Hey.”

Michael comes to a stop directly in front of Alex. Faintly, Alex can hear Federica and Thomas bickering behind him.

“I saw him first,” Federica.

“I think he’s already taken,” Thomas.

And well that’s… not right. Michael is not taken, Michael is freshly divorced, Michael is free to be with whomever he wishes.

Michael is free to move on.

“You could have told me,” Alex says, breathless.

Michael shrugs. “Listen,” he says after a long silence, his eyes never leaving Alex. “Since you guys are here, you should get some food and sit on the deck. It’s nice.”

He motions as if to leave and Alex doesn’t want that. “Michael,” he says.

But Michael is not looking at him. He’s looking down at Dipper. “Come on, dog,” he says, tapping Dipper affectionately on the head. “Let’s leave Alex and his friends alone.”

And then he’s leaving, walking away like he did the night at the cemetery, and Alex has to physically force himself not to follow. His heart feels like it’s breaking, as he stands there and watching Michael walk away.

He turns back toward his friends, shaken.

They, for their part, don’t ask any questions. Federica, continues browsing and Thomas walks up to Alex, asking, “So are you planning on buying something?”

Shaking his head, Alex leads the two of them toward the exit. He’s not sure what he expected to find here, at this store, but Michael wasn’t really it. Knowing that Michael has been doing something with his life for a while now, that Jim had been right, that if Alex had not been blinded by his own selfishness, he’d have seen it, hurts unbelievably.

--

Alex wakes up nervous on his wedding day.

He’d tried to call Michael a few times after the Desert Glass store incident but to no avail. Michael, for all intents and purposes, has cut off communication with Alex.

Alex had also gotten several more missed calls from his lawyer, but he didn’t have the energy to deal with the man now.

He thinks he shouldn’t be so tired, he shouldn’t be so upset. He's getting married today.

Alex tries to remember the first time he got married as he gets ready for the ceremony. He’d felt nervous then too, but the nerves were different. He’d been worried about Michael’s safety, about whether his dad would come to try and stop the wedding. But he’d also been excited. So excited that he’d been feeling like he’d jump out of his skin.

The sense of dread he’s feeling now is familiar too, back when he was eighteen it had only set in when he’d realized that Michael had shown up to the court drunk.

There should be no sense of dread now. There should only be excitement.

There’s no real excitement though, as Alex arrives at the venue Andrew’s mom had rented. The guests are already sitting down when he enters the hall, his old friends and new ones. He waves to Maria, forcing out a smile. Tilts his head toward Max Evans and Liz.

Alex has no intention of walking down an aisle or watching Andrew do it. Instead, he takes his place by one side of the officiator, waiting for Andrew to show up.

Andrew, when he does show up, is accompanied by Alex’s lawyer.

“Mr. Buford?” Alex asks, confused. Something is definitely wrong if Alex’s lawyer is here. He wonders why Mr. Buford chose to show up at the ceremony and say whatever he needs to say to Alex in front of over a hundred people. The guests are here, watching, and will be able to hear whatever the lawyer says to Alex. Alex glances toward them and forces the sides of his mouth up into a smile. “What are you doing here.” This is addressed toward Mr. Buford, though Alex is still looking at their audience.

“Mr. Manes,” the man says, he’s holding a stack of paper in his hands and is looking thoroughly annoyed. “I’ve been trying to call you for months but you haven’t returned any of my messages. I was at a loss as to what to do. You’re a really hard man to get a hold of. I finally got your fiance’s phone number this morning from a very angry friend. I’m sorry we had to meet like this but if you had just answered my calls...”

“Yeah but why did we have to meet?” Alex asks. “Everything should have been processed at this point, as far as the divorce is concerned. Michael signed the papers and I sent them to you, isn’t that all you need?”

The lawyer glances hesitantly at Andrew, at the people gathered up to watch the wedding service, as if he’s noticed them for the first time. The guests have gone dead silent and Alex is not sure whether this is out of respect or excitement. 

“He did,” Mr. Buford finally says, coming closer to Alex, dropping his voice, though that won't do anything to help, “but you didn’t.”

Alex feels his gasp echoed by the guests. “You mean I’m still married?”

Mr. Buford nods. “I mean only if you want to be.” He holds out the papers in his hand toward Alex and points to the part that requires Alex’s signature.

Next to the lawyer, Andrew drags his hand across his face. “Jesus Christ, Alex,” he says, annoyance coloring his voice. “I thought you said you had taken care of this.”

Alex glances at him. He feels anger and joy battle in his heart. “It was an honest mistake.”

“Ok then, let’s fix it.”

Alex doesn’t have a pen. Andrew shrugs when he turns to him. Alex is at a loss at what to do, asking the guests and watching them look around confusedly. Then Jim Valenti walks up to him, pen in hand.

“Things happen for a reason, Alex,” he says before he gives Alex the pen.

Alex takes the paper, puts the pen to the line requiring his signature, but he hesitates.

He can’t sign it.

For ten years, Alex had tried to bury his past. He’d moved to New York, he’d found a career, he’d met a nice man. For ten years he’d pretended like his past didn’t matter, that the people he had left behind hadn’t been worth his time and effort. He’d pretended Michael didn’t exist, he’d pretended he’d never been in love with him.

He can’t sign these papers, because he’d been lying to himself.

It took spending less than a day with Michael to show him how thoroughly he’d been lying to himself. He’d walked away from the only man he’d ever loved, out of anger, out of despair, out of desperation. But walking away hadn’t made him stop loving Michael. It had made him feel like he was suffocating for ten years.

And yeah, maybe, just maybe, he can see himself having a good life with Andrew. But Alex needs to admit to himself the one thing he’s been ignoring for the past month.

He doesn’t want a good life, he wants Michael.

And anyways, Michael had ended up doing something with his own life. The issues Alex had had when he left didn’t matter anymore, because they didn’t exist anymore.

“Alex?”

Alex removes the pen from the paper and turns to the man he’d been pretending he could marry.

“Andrew.” He steels himself. “You don’t want to marry me.”

Andrew blinks at him. “I don’t?”

“No.” Alex is shaking his head. “No you don’t. Not really.”

Alex is distantly aware of the guests standing up to watch, of Mr. Buford the lawyer, stepping away, trying to inconspicuously leave the scene. But Alex doesn’t care about any of them. He needs to get this out, tell Andrew the truth, so that he can leave and find Michael.

“You see, the truth is,” Alex says, taking a step toward Andrew. “I gave my heart away a long time ago. My whole heart. And I never really got it back no matter how hard I tried. And you deserve more than what I can give you.” Andrew is looking at Alex, confused more than anything. “I don’t know what else to say, except I’m sorry but I don’t love you. I can’t marry you.”

Andrew takes a step back, thoughtful. When he finally speaks, he surprises Alex. “Ok.”

“Ok?”

Andrew smiles. “This is rejection. It feels horrible.” But his voice is wondering.

Alex smiles tearfully at him. “Thank you.” Alex means to hug him one last time, but before he has a chance, he’s being engulfed by a hug from someone, Alex allows himself be hugged, and only realizes it’s Maria when he pulls away.

He’s being pulled away by different people, his high school friends, wanting to hug him, to tell him they’re proud of him. Alex catches a glimpse of Andrew’s mother angrily yelling something, but she’s no longer his concern, and to be honest, she never was.

He’s being hugged tightly by his mother when he realizes he can’t stay at the venue anymore.

“I’ve gotta go,” he says to the people gathered around him. “I’ll meet you guys at the Wild Pony,” he adds distracted, already eyeing the exit. “Tell Thomas and Federica where to go.”

Alex leaves.

He knows with certainty where he can find Michael, but he’s not too keen on the time the drive out to the desert will take.

Still, it gives him time to come up with what he’s going to say to Michael.

As Alex drives further and further into the desert toward the glass sculpture, a storm forms above him. Flashes of lighting and the sound of thunder accompany Alex’s beating heart when he finally, finally spots Michael’s truck. Michael’s not in it, and as Alex begins making his way toward the sculpture, he feels rain hit his face and shoulder.

Alex runs, followed by lightning and thunder. He can see the sculpture in the distance, shining with the light of the thunderstorm. He knows Michael is there, can feel it in his bones, as clearly as he feels the raindrops hitting his face.

He slows down once he nears the sculpture, and there’s Michael, standing in the rain, eyes closed, a small smile on his face.

Alex approaches him, certain that his presence is not noticed.

“Hey cowboy.” Michael opens his eyes, startled. “Trying do die out here?”

“Where’s your husband?”

Alex smiles. “I’m looking at him,” he says loudly, so he can be heard over the pouring rain.

Michael looks down, kicking his feet on the muddy ground, not believing Alex.

“Apparently,” Alex continues, stepping closer to him. “You and I are still married.”

“Is that right?” he asks, raising his head.

“Yeah.”

They stand there, silently watching each other as the rain beats down on their shoulders. Alex’s clothes are soaked, but he doesn’t care. He feels happy. He feels free, just like he did when he was ten. “Why didn’t you tell me you came to New York?”

Michael gestures toward the sculpture with his head. “I had to make something of myself.”

“Are you done now?” Alex asks. He takes another step closer to Michael so that he’s within touching distance.

“What’s changed?” Michael says, suddenly turning away and looking at the glass art. “I’m an attractive option when I’m no longer an option?”

Alex walks around him, standing in front the sculpture and looking directly at Michael, forcing him to pay attention. “What changed is that I realized what I want.”

“And what is it that you want, Alex?” Michael takes a step forward, raises his hand and puts it on Alex’s lapel.

“You,” Alex says, grabbing the hand and cradling it against his chest. “You’re the only person I’ve ever loved, Michael. I figured it was time for me to own up to that.”

He says it quietly, looking at Michael’s chin instead of his eyes. The admission is hard, even if it’s the truth, even if Alex had been excited to say it before.

Apparently, it’s the right thing to say, because Michael’s eyes go soft and he smiles. “It’s been ten years, Alex. You don’t think I’ve moved on?”

Alex shakes his head silently. Not once since he has returned to Roswell has he entertained the idea that Michael has moved on.

“Presumptuous.”

Alex raises his eyebrows. “Maybe,” he smiles. “But I’m right.”

Michael doesn’t disagree. “Why would you want to be married to me, anyway?” That line, an exact echo of what Alex had said to him all those years ago. He’s given in, Alex knows it. He thinks he’s crying, his eyes feel hot, but the rain is washing it away.

Alex smiles. “So I can kiss you whenever I want.”

When they kiss this time, Alex feels like he’s finally home. He already knew that kissing Michael helped him breathe, but this, this feeling of comfort, Alex hasn’t felt for ten years. He opens his mouth, feels Michael smiling, and presses closer, wanting to feel Michael’s chest against his, to grab Michael’s hair and pull.

Michael’s hands grab at Alex’s waist, then his back. He’s kissing Alex back with so much pent up emotion, it’s making Alex’s knees weak. Despite that, Alex would gladly stay there all night, under the pounding rain, kissing Michael and letting Michael kiss him. He’d do it, and risk pneumonia.

There’s a flash of lightning way too close to them and Alex opens his eyes. He pulls away, but not too far, because Michael’s hands find his waist and keep him close.

“I always knew we would die out here.” Alex rests his forehead against Michael’s. His smile feels permanent now that he has Michael in his arms again. 

“I’d rather not, now that we’re married again.” Michael slides his hand up Alex’s back and buries his face in Alex’s neck.

“We were never divorced,” Alex sighs. “We can’t be married again if we never divorced.”

Michael pulls back and grins at him. “Whatever you say.” He says it so indulgently, so sweetly, that Alex rolls his eyes again, just for emphasis.

He wants to go back to kissing Michael, but Michael pulls away when Alex tries. “Ok, jokes aside, I really don’t want to die out here.”

Alex agrees, so they make their way back to the two cars, holding each others’ hands tightly. Now that Alex has finally found his way back to Michael, he doesn’t think he’ll ever want to let go.

When they reach the two vehicles though, Michael releases his hold on Alex’s hand, much to Alex’s disappointment.

He gestures toward Alex’s rental car. “Driving separately?” Michael asks, moving away from Alex towards the driver’s side of his own truck.

Alex shakes his head, following him to the Chevy. “I’m not leaving you.” The rental will be fine out here. Probably. If not… well it has insurance.

Michael doesn’t say anything, just gets in his truck and waits for Alex to get into the passenger seat.

“Where to?” Michael asks once they’re both settled. He turns on the engine and waits, watching Alex, waiting for his directions.

“I hear there’s a reception at the Wild Pony with our names on it.”

Michael laughs.

They drive.