Michael can tell Alex is nervous next to him. It’s their first public date - aside from the disastrous one at the drive-in - and they’re just going out for coffee at Bean Me Up. It’s casual, they’re not holding hands, but they are standing closer than strictly friends would in line to place their coffee order. Michael doesn’t want Alex to be nervous so he takes his hand into his own and gives it a squeeze.
Alex slants a look at him and when they make eye contact, Michael smiles encouragingly at him. Alex visibly relaxes and squeezes back. When they get up to the till, the cashier stares openly at them. Michael feels angrily protective so he steps in between the offending register and Alex, staring her down. She shrinks under his gaze and meekly asks what they would like to order.
After placing the order, they make their way to a back corner that’s in front of a large window, giving them an excellent view of the street. When their names are called, Michael hops up to grab their coffees and bring them back around. As he approaches, he observes Alex fidgeting with the hem of his shirt, staring out the window, and bouncing his leg up and down.
Michael places Alex’s cup in front of him and cautiously sits on the couch next to Alex. “Everything okay?” he asks and Alex’s attention snaps back at him.
He smiles but it looks a little strained, “What do you think of this shirt?”
Michael obligingly looks at the shirt; it’s a deep burgundy cable knit sweater, the sleeves are long and nearly cover up his hands. “I like it,” he answers honestly.
Alex seems to relax and smiles. “I just wasn’t sure if it really worked with these pants,” he admits and stretches out his legs under the table in front of them. He’s wearing black silky pants with thick white stripes going down the length of his legs.
Micheal honestly doesn’t know much about fashion and he thinks Alex always looks good so he simply shrugs. “You look great, don’t worry,” he assures.
Alex smiles broadly at the remark and cuddles up closer to Michael. Neither one of them noticing the strange glances or double takes passersby give Alex.
Alex and Michael are already in the bunker when Liz arrives. They’re laughing as Alex types something on the computer and Michael leans over him. She goes through her routine of putting her things down before making her way over to them. She gives Michael a side hug before looking down at Alex. He’s wearing baggy black and red flannel pants with a tight leather crop top that makes her burst out laughing, “Alex are you trying to reclaim your emo look from high school?”
Alex stiffens and Michael shoots her a nasty look. “No,” Alex admits and self-consciously touches the shirt and then his pants. “I was just trying something new. I take it you don’t like it?”
Under Michael’s glower, Liz backtracks, “No, it’s nice! Very you. It just reminded me of some of the stuff you used to wear in high school.”
He smiles, but she can tell he doesn’t really mean it and she feels bad for ruining the mood. “I think it’s great that you’re experimenting with clothes again,” she says, trying to lighten the mood again, “I can’t wait to see your other outfits.”
Alex nods and ducks his head, returning his attention to the computer. Liz realizes she’s been dismissed so she takes her spot at the work station across from him. As she begins to boot up the other computer, Michael loudly says, “I think you look great.”
When she looks up, Michael is still glaring at her, but Alex’s smile has softened. It warms her heart to see the exchange.
In late fall, Kyle starts hiking every weekend because the mornings are perfect for it. Towards the end of October, he invites Alex and Michael to join him. Well, he had extended the invitation to Alex only but Michael invited himself to join as well because ever since they got back together the two could barely be separated from each other. Kyle had rolled his eyes about it, but he’s secretly happy for Alex. He deserves to be the center of Michael’s attention.
They agree to meet up at Skidmarks Trail and then hike up it together. Kyle is just doing his stretches when Michael drives up in his beat-up truck with Alex in the passenger seat.
“Hey Valenti,” Michael greets as he gets out of the car but Kyle merely waves at him. His attention is on Alex and his...choice of clothes for the hike. He’s wearing a white long sleeve shirt with a bright orange puffy vest over it and cargo shorts. The ensemble is topped off with a beige bucket hat. The hike is a relatively easy one so he has his regular prosthetic on but heavy-duty hiking boots on both feet with bright white tube socks peeking past the top of his left hiking boot.
“What are you wearing ?” he asks in disbelief, taking in all the contrasting pieces of the outfit.
“Excuse me, Valenti,” Michael snipes, “Not all of us are made of money and can afford different workout clothes for every type of exercise.”
Kyle rolls his eyes and belatedly realizes that Michael had thought he was asking him the question and not Alex. And Alex must have thought the same because he nods along with Michael and places a placating hand on his lower back.
Michael’s outfit is fine: he’s wearing silky basketball shorts, a stained white T-shirt, and a baseball cap. Kyle is suddenly struck with the realization that they both thought he was making fun of Michael’s outfit and that Alex is the reasonable one wearing clothes that are perfect for the hike.
Alex is frowning at Kyle like he can’t believe he would make fun of Michael for being poor. Michael’s jaw is set and he’s staring off just beyond Kyle. “No, you’re totally fine!” Kyle exclaims, perhaps a little too loud, a little too quick. “I was talking about Alex’s outfit.”
Which is precisely the very wrong thing to say. Alex’s face morphs from disappointment to complete shock. Michael shoots Kyle a poisonous look, definitely taking more offense at Kyle’s remark to Alex than the one he thought had been addressed to him. “What’s wrong with it?” Alex asks, sounding genuinely confused. They’ve traded each other’s positions: Michael now has a soothing on Alex’s back and is glaring Kyle down.
“Nothing!” Kyle is quick to assure, “I was just surprised. You look ready.” He smiles trying to dispel the tension.
Alex returns the smile but Michael still watches him through narrowed eyes. Kyle makes sure to stay behind the two of them on the trail because he’s not entirely sure Michael isn’t going to push him off the mountain for accidentally offending Alex.
Although Alex has been experimenting with his fashion lately and enjoying putting outfits together, he’s happiest on a lazy Saturday like today. He woke up in Michael’s arms and it’s been a relaxing day since.
Today, he’s wearing an old, somewhat ratty Air Force shirt. He thinks he got it after he finished basic and it definitely looks its age - it’s threadbare at the sleeves and the hem has scattered little holes. He has on a pair of black, baggy sweatpants - he’s definitely worn these sweatpants when he’s cleaned around the house because it has bright pink bleach stains smattering the length of the pants.
He’s lounging on the couch when Michael comes in from the kitchen with two steaming mugs of coffee. He stops short, with a little smile on his face. “What?” Alex asks.
Michael shakes his head before continuing over to set the mugs down and sit on the end of the couch. “You look so beautiful,” he admits with an air of disbelief.
Alex’s heart flutters and he feels his cheeks heating up. “I’m wearing clothes that should probably all be in the trash,” he tries to laugh off.
“You look amazing in everything.” Michael merely shrugs.
He laughs heartily at that, “You’re the only one who seems to think so.”
Michael frowns then, “They’re all crazy. They don’t know anything.”
“And you do, Mr. Fashion Expert?” Alex teases.
“Nah,” Michael readily agrees, “Just an Alex Manes expert.”
Alex melts at that. There’s a hole in Alex’s sock and his big toe is sticking out but he still presses it to Michael’s arm who yelps out. “Your toe is freezing!” he exclaims, pulling his arm away.
Alex laughs and apologetically says, “Sorry!”
“Okay, one fashion complaint,” Michael replies seriously. “You need new socks. They’re supposed to keep your feet warm and these are clearly not doing the job.”
“I like the print though,” he protests lightly, a smile still on his face. The socks are outer space themed and have a cheesy cartoon UFO and alien on them. Alex has always liked them but he especially has a soft spot for them because of Michael.
Michael merely rolls his eyes before getting off the couch and padding away. Alex sits up and scoots over to wait for Michael to return. When he does, he has his hands behind his back. He sits next to Alex and slowly, dramatically brings the item from around his back to reveal a brand new sock of the exact same pattern as the one he’s wearing.
Alex laughs in disbelief, “Where did you find this?”
“I saw a pack of them at Target the other day and got them for you. I know how much you love them.” Michael is smiling and Alex can’t help but throw his arms around him in an embrace.
“I love you,” he says against Michael’s ear. It’s not just because of the socks, but everything. He hopes Michael knows.
Michael squeezes back and kisses Alex’s temple. “I can’t wait for everyone to see these,” he replies softly and Alex laughs because Michael of course gets it.