“Go ahead. Tell me.”
Michael looks up from his hands to look at Alex, pale and tired in his hospital bed. His eyes are red with unshed tears and there’s an angry purple bruise on his forehead that makes Michael want to scream.
“Tell you what?” Michael asks carefully. He’s been seconds away from blurting out three little worlds neither of them are prepared for since they rescued him from that warehouse, but they can’t be what Alex means right now. Can they?
Alex exhales through his mouth in that way he does when he’s upset and trying to keep himself calm. It makes Michael’s fingers itch to hold his hand.
“Could start with the classic ‘I told you so,’ I guess,” he sniffs, staring up at the white ceiling.
“What?” Michael asks, not following.
“You tell me people are terrible and don’t change and then I go and let myself get abducted because I was too blind or too stupid to see it coming,” he says, voice going for something like unaffected irony, but Michael can see the pain and self-loathing on his face. “Poetic justice, right?”
When Michael doesn’t answer right away, Alex continues, “Come on, I know you’re thinking it.”
Michael’s heart feels like it’s tearing itself to pieces as he gets up from his chair and sits on the edge of Alex’s bed. He hates seeing Alex hurting like this and he hates himself even more for putting those thoughts in his head.
“Alex,” he says, his voice thick with emotion. Alex reluctantly looks at him, a tear slipping down his cheek when he blinks. “Please, don’t hurt yourself with the stupid shit I said to you that night, okay? I take it back.”
“You were right though.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Michael argues, shaking his head.
Alex’s laugh is sharp and bitter. “Why not?”
“Because I want you to have a reason to stay,” Michael argues, desperately. “Don’t let me being a reactionary asshole ever take that from you.”
Something dark and wounded passes through Alex’s expression, but it’s gone in a moment. Michael still feels the sting of it, though, recognizes Alex’s tacit acknowledgement that maybe he did have a reason to stay once, but Michael had gone and fucked it up, just like he does everything else.
“A reactionary asshole, huh?”
Michael shrugs. “Is may have had some choice words for me after I nearly ran someone off the road when we were trying to find you.”
“I mean, she’s not wrong,” Alex says, something like a smile flickering on Alex’s face.
“Yeah, well, you were in trouble,” Michael says, suddenly very interested in the frayed bits of denim at the hole in his jeans. “I wasn’t exactly thinking straight.”
“Thought your genius increases when you’re pissed off,” Alex says, recalling that night he made an alien pacemaker for Max at the eleventh hour.
“Not when it’s you,” Michael says, and his vision starts to blur with tears as he admits, “I felt like I couldn’t breathe, like—” Like someone had placed a fucking Mac truck on his chest. Like he was drowning. Like his world was ending.
Michael feels Alex’s palm cover his own where it rests on his thigh. He looks back up to see Alex staring at him, a look of tortured understanding on his face.
“I’m right here,” Alex says, squeezing Michael’s hand.
Michael swallows the emotion clawing at his throat as he takes Alex’s hand in both of his.
“So am I,” he says, looking Alex in the eye and willing him to believe it. When the corner of his mouth twitches upward, Michael thinks that maybe, just maybe, he does.