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butterflies in my brain

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1995 

Daddy ain't got a mouth. It’s cool and sticky inside the cave. The walls are a lovely blue, glowing pink at the center. How did he get here and could he get out? He could scream for Mama, but would she hear? He hears Miss. Mimi calling for him from the outside. She sounds so far away and Daddy ain't got a mouth. 

“Alex, Alex. You don’t belong in there, sweetie. Alex, Alex. Make your way out of the dark.”

The wind whips at the cave’s door and travels all the way into where Alex is hidden. Goosebumps rise on his flesh and he shivers down to his toes.  Daddy was throwing little pebbles at him from the dark and beckoning him to follow. He casts another one, tells Alex to catch it. He hits his neck. The rocks prick and cut his skin. 

Dad's shown him how to spit directly into a grate. He feeds his boys fresh meat from the forest. He has been teaching them how to endure, so Alex does. With no way out and Mimi's voice growing more and more distant, he braces himself against the cave's jelly wall. It pulses along his back, warming him from behind as the pebbles hit his face like a whip. 

It hurts. 

It is scary. 

He didn’t know if it would ever end. 


He rouses slowly. His tongue feels tacky and sour. He looks across the room to find Flint still sound asleep. He cuddles his stuffed owl, Barnie, while his chest thumps and his head feels spinny.  

He thinks he's dreamed, but he cannot quite remember about what. 

 

1997

Alex is playing marbles with Kyle and Maria outside a cabin in the middle of a dune when a light flashes from the sky. Something big thumps down on the Earth, causing their marbles to scatter under the house like frightened rabbits. 

Kyle huffs and blames Alex. Maria promptly folds her body into a diamond and rolls below the house to collect them. Kyle follows soon after. 

Alex calls after them for a time, the space under Mr. Jim’s cabin is dark and wet. 

Kyle tells him to buzz off. 

“Come back!” Alex demands. “Just come back, they aren’t important!” 

Frustrated by Kyle’s bossiness and how Maria never listens, Alex stands and walks to the edge of the dune. Seeking out the bright light that caused all this in the first place. He doesn’t find a light, but a boy with springy ringlets in his hair and a gap between his front teeth staring at him. He carries a black cowboy hat and is wearing a raincoat, but no shoes. 

He holds up three fingers. Then two. Then one. 

From across the expanse of the cold desert night, Alex calls out to him, “You wanna come play with me?” 

The boy walks towards him. He is smiling, but it is strained. It is a scared smile. Alex knows scared smiles. Alex knows all sorts of smiles and all sorts of frowns. 

“I ain’t mean, promise!” Alex hollers. 

Sand then circles in the air at the boy’s feet as he walks faster and faster towards Alex. 

Alex takes off to meet him, gathering his strength until he is in a full run. Willing to careen into this stranger though Grandad always told him to steer clear of strange folk, especially at night.

Those lessons he learned at his knee are for naught.

He sprints into the boy’s arms and they explode together, a big bang of color. Like a firework, iridescent prisms of light, Alex cannot tell where he ends and the boy begins. And he— 

 

2001

Here, alone in an abandoned park, Flint makes him feel like he has pure gasoline pumping through his veins. Like he could lift a school bus with ease and sling it all the way to the moon. 

The first time Alex got on a board when he was eight, he slipped. He slipped and bruised both knees. Clay and Greg laughed, but Flint was no nonsense. A ten-year-old with the strength of a grown man, Flint picked Alex up, dusted him off, and lifted him back onto the board. Told him everyone falls down, that Clay and Gregory fell, too. 

They are alone now, in a park Alex doesn’t recognize. There is a storm brewing in the westmost part of the sky. Hammers made of pebbled bronze litter the ground around them. 

“Kick, push. Kick and push,” Flint instructs. 

Alex glides along the gravel, pushing and kicking out. Trying to move as smoothly as he can. 

Flint was always Mama’s favorite. Always. No question. Alex was not free of sin, of the crime of curious interest, so he asks what he has always wanted. 

“Are you gonna go live with Mama, Flint?” 

“Why are you askin’ stupid questions, little bitch. Reset, go faster. You’ll never be able to get air if you don’t have the speed.”

He does as he is told. Just before he takes off, he squeezes Flint’s hand with his own. He finds his brother’s fingers are covered with congealed, nearly black blood. 

“Mama would let you. You just have to ask," he whispers and takes off.

Enraged, Flint chases after him, screaming and thunder-faced. 

“Kick and push, you pussy puke,” he snarls. 

Alex has never skated so fast in his life. 

Flint sprints after him, the lot goes on and on for miles. Alex is moving so fast on the board, he can hear the wind whistling in his ears and the hammers clanking on the ground. He places one foot in the center and the other at the end. 

“Kick, push. Get air with your front foot first!”

With Flint running him down, laughing now, Alex does it. He is jumping, both knees up to his chin, his board under both feet. He is midair for minutes. Flint is still on the ground, his fist in the air, jumping and whooping. 

Floating there, Alex feels as though has ascended to the sublime as if he had stopped the tick of time.

 

2006

Dad was hunting him like a dog. He did this from time to time. 

Alex makes for it. He slips on rock, the moist moss sticking onto the bottom of his shoe. He tries to find something to hide behind, but everything is out in the open and in plain sight. The leaves are beginning to rapidly blister in the heat the sun. They crunch and squeak under Dad’s incoming gait as if crying out to warn him. 

It’s no matter. Dad finds him, all the same. 

“I’ve learned my lesson, Dad.” 

Smiling, unconvinced, his father steps forward. 

He learned long ago to shove his misery into the dark corners. Push them until they compact themselves into the shadows. But the sun is sweltering now, beating down on his back, burning his scalp as monarch butterflies land in his hair..

He blisters now, too, like the leaves. Alex cowers, stumbling into the massive oak. He huddles against the trunk, its bark leaves a soothing sap upon his blossoming wounds. It smells like freshly mowed grass after a thunderstorm. It smells like rain.

 

2010

His brothers are pelting him with snowballs in their childhood backyard. Hitting the sodden earth, they sound like bombs. His fingers and toes are beginning to go numb. His wool beanie covers his ears and his brothers' knees are going blue, matching their board shorts and coats. All three rear back and launch again, hitting his face leaving Alex feeling nothing but a stinging cold. He wipes it off with his small, chubby fingers and tries not to cry. 

After what feels like hours, a seventeen year old Michael pulls up in his truck and runs to help him. Red-nosed and as warm as a sandy beach, he pecks Alex on the cheek in greeting. “Nothing’s gonna hurt you, baby.”  

His hand is still in a splint, blood drips steadily onto the snow. Reminding Alex of cherry slushies from the gas station sloshing in a paper cup. Of preschool paintings and spitting out a cracked tooth.  

Ice and snow spray across Michael’s shoulder as the snowball Clay walloped at the back of his head makes contact. Michael hisses and touches the base of his skull.

“No! You can’t hurt him, you can’t!” he shouts, standing in front of Michael. 

Some of the NCOs from his base are there now, too. Cornering them and giggling. They point at their joined hands and Michael’s injured one. 

The sand on their boots mixes with the blood and is stamped into the ground. 

“It wasn’t his fault, it was mine. It wasn’t his fault, don’t laugh at him. Don't be mean!”

Michael turns to him, confused. He has the face of a grown-up now and towers over Alex. He twines their fingers back together, and moving them both towards the shed.

Alex fights to free himself and lightly pushes Michael towards his truck. “Thank you for distracting them,” he says. “But, please, leave and don’t let them see you when you do.”

"You ashamed of bein' seen with me?" 

“No! You shouldn't be out here. You don’t like the cold. Why? You don’t like the cold.”

“You don’t like the cold, either.”

“No one does.”

“So why are we talkin’ about it then? Damn. You’re being a child.”

“I am a child!”

“Not anymore.”

Michael is right. When he looks down at his feet and sees he has sprung nearly a foot and is in full tactical gear. He stands eye-to-eye with Michael now. 

"Go, Manes," Michael taunts, flicking the control cap off of Alex's head and pulling at his straps. "Go team up with them. I know you want to." 

“I don’t want that. I just don't want to watch again. I don't want to see it happen.”

“Then don’t,” Michael says softly and uses his unbandaged hand to close Alex’s eyes. 

Their moment of reprieve is over quickly, as he hears the hoard turn the corner. He lurches forward, pressing a hard kiss to Michael's lips. 

The group pays no mind to their passion and begins pelting them in double time until they are both buried. The snow quickly turning sand, choking and binding them to the spot.

 

2017

He smells bleach. Bleach, infection, and vanilla Ensure. An aroma that will haunt him for a long while. Years from now, he will gag upon entering a carnival bathroom. It’s an American hospital, which Alex didn’t expect. How and when did he get here and why didn’t they take him to Germany? Why couldn’t he remember? The ceiling is wrong. 

“Alex. Hey, Alex. Buddy, wake up.” 

“I’m awake.” Greg looks exhausted, bags the color of sick sit just under his eyes and he sways in his chair. His hair is buzzed short, nearly to the scalp. He looks young in his sweatpants and tank top. Tired, but young. “When did I get stateside?” 

“Yesterday morning. They got you stable, did the amputation. Dad got clearance for you. That hospital isn’t built for a long-term stay, anyway.”

“Neither I am.”

Greg sighs, scrubbing at his eyes. “Don’t say shit like that.”

“It’s just a joke.”

“I am sick of your jokes.”

The hospital has all the marks of a standard one. The beeping heart monitor, the IV drip, the sore ass on scratchy sheets, the remote digging into his hip. A stack of pamphlets and forms sit on the bedside tray. And yet, Alex still feels somewhere far from here. For the first time, in a long time, he’d like to just go back to sleep. 

His foot still feels like it is there. He wonders if and when that sensation will fade will time. He asks Greg when he got in, he tells him a day ago. And when Alex presses as to his state of mind, Greg frowns. 

“Just worried about you. Exhausted by dad. Nothing to sweat, honest. Listen, you still got my name on your deposit box?”

In that moment, reality crystallizes back into Alex’s consciousness. He has photos of Michael in a file in that deposit box. From when they were both eighteen, nineteen, and twenty. In some of those photos, Michael is clearly naked. Lying in bed, cooking breakfast, fresh from the shower. Nothing compromising or sexual. Nothing that could be cause for embarrassment can even be seen. Alex made sure of that. But, in the end, would the intent behind the photographs matter to his brothers? Certainly not to his father. All his family would see is intimacy and that Alex has kept them. Kept them in pristine condition. 

He has a lock of Michael’s hair, too. 

He feels a surge of shame when he remembers that Michael has similar ones of him. Though, Alex was in much much more compromising positions in some of those photos. 

“No, you're not. None of you are.” Alex replies. 

Greg rolls his eyes and huffs. He clears his throat and leans closer to the bed, "You were saying his name again. Must’ve been one hell of a dream.”

Alex breaks eye contact first, blinking back tears of embarrassment and frustration. He had dreamed that he and Michael were at the movies. A Batman marathon. Every single one ever made. It was just them in the theatre, no one else. No sign of any other person. Michael, in between them making out, was playing with his hair. They watched the movie and talked about their plans. About Michael’s work. Alex had never been in the military there. He didn’t think, at least. They were older than they are now. Alex felt special and alive. Michael was so warm and happy, wrapped in a blanket, his fingers slick with butter and salt. Michael was smiling all the time. Michael should smile all the time because nothing bad should ever happen to Michael then or now or ever. 

“It was a nice dream,” he admits.

“Yeah, it sounded like it.”

Alex flushes and tries not to squirm under Greg’s gaze, tries not to show that he feels the cut of his older bother's signature soft, knowing smirk. “Not like that, it wasn’t like that—I wasn’t—”

“No, no, no. Sorry, I mean, uh, you sounded happy.” He swallows and his lips morph into a small grin. “You sounded... really happy. ‘Michael, Michael,’ you were saying.” 

Fuck, was Dad around?”

Greg waves a hand as if he was batting away Alex’s concern permeating the air. “Naw, he’s in and out, making himself seem important when he ain’t.” He fiddles with the wires cascading off of Alex’s hospital bed, concentrating on untangling them. “Can I call him for you?”

“Who? Dad?”

Alex, of course, knows who he means. Greg has already asked seven times. 

He wants Michael to remember him how he was, not how he is. Alex wasn’t perfect then, but he wants Michael to remember him young and guileless, all the same.

“I’ve never heard you sound so happy. You sounded like you were on Cloud 9.” Greg repeats, “I want you to let me call him for you, please,”

He’s high on morphine and his head feels fuzzy. The words tumble out before he can stop them: “I don’t want to know if he doesn’t want to come. If you ask him to come to be with me and he says ‘no,’ I just—I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t.  

“Alex, if I called him and told him what happened, he wouldn’t stop until he got here. I know it.”

“That scares me, too.” 

“Well, get over that. You’re the bravest of us, after all.”

Alex adjusts himself into a seated position and immediately feels the odd sense of imbalance. He tries to reach out with toes that are not there to brace himself on the mattress and pull himself up the rest of the way. Greg stands to assist, so Alex gives up and lays back down. 

He breathes heavy for a few minutes, shocked and dismayed by how physically taxing just sitting up is. Once his breath evens out, he reaches over to pat Greg's knee. “You’re just saying that because my leg got lopped off and I'm the baby. I appreciate the sentiment, though.”

“Fine. If you can’t take me saying you’re brave, then fine. How about the biggest pain in the ass?”

Alex's lips quirk as he closes his eyes. “I’ll take that one.”

“Nothing punker than having Guerin run his raggedy-ass in here, tearing up the place like the damn hurricane in a body he is.” 

“Guerin’s safety isn’t a game.”

“I know. I know it’s not. You were calling out for him in your sleep." Greg coughs to cover up the emotion building in his voice.

He imagines what it would be like. To listen to Greg call Michael and hear his concerned voice filter through the phone. To tell his Dad to finally fuck off and have him removed from his case. To wait in anticipation for Michael to arrive. To sigh and lean back on his pillow as the door opens and his man enters and looks at him as he always has. Michael would look at him like nothing has changed. He would kiss Michael’s fingers and let him have his pudding cup. Michael would likely be stern, but respectful to a nurse. He could cry in front of Michael and he wouldn’t flinch. 

It would have been nice. 

He hopes that tonight he dreams of his lover's skin; scarred, pocked in places, pale and milky in others, contracting and holding a beloved form, perfect. 

“Doesn’t matter anyway. Dad’s here. We can’t.”

 

2019

He is trapped in a cell with a hawk. It’s pecking at the floor and squawking. Hawks can, Alex remembers from his readings as a child, perceive not only the visible range of color but also ultraviolet light. They can detect magnetic fields. The creatures can fly in a sea of ultraviolet light. Powerful, respectable creatures. 

Alex wants to fucking fry this one alive. 

It’s loud and annoying and Alex just wants to form a plan to get out, but this damn bird keeps distracting him. Its red tail shimmers, so long and thick that it brushes the floor even when the bird is hovering in the air. The animal rears back like a horse and spreads its wings. It takes up half of the cell. 

He looks back to assess the bird, to see if he could just grab the hawk and place her through the bars. Let her fly, free and far from pecking at Alex’s neck while he was trying to think. 

But, the bird is too big and the bars are too tight together. 

Across the hall is a woman, alone, in her cell. Sitting on the cold concrete, Alex can see that she is middle-aged, beautiful, and blonde. Her large front teeth crown over her bottom lip when she smiles in a charming and disarming fashion. 

“Do you need help?” he yells, ducking the bird’s flapping wings and quick bite.

He shucks his jacket off in frustration and tries to shoo the bird away with it. He slumps down onto the floor, mirroring her pose. 

“Are you hurt?” he asks this time. 

He watches as she tilts her head and her mouth twists into a grimace. She gestures around her and lets out a laugh. 

Taking in their surroundings, he sighs. “Fair enough. How come you have glass, but I have bars?” 

Shrugging, she taps her temple and makes a motion for him to do the same. 

“I’m sorry, I just—ah, fuck,” he seethes, grasping at his skull and bending towards the ground so harshly that he nearly smacks his forehead. The hawk circles and gives an errant peck to his left shoulder. When he gets his bearings, the woman is looking at him apologetically, taps her temple again. 

Then she glides right in. 

I know you ,’ her voice, raspy but strong rings in his mind. 

He shakes his head. “No, you’re mistaken.”

You’re a Manes.’

“Unfortunately.” He stands slowly, gripping the base of his thigh to steady himself. He begins taking stock of what he has in his reach. A pot, a spoon, a record player with no needle, and an old tambourine. He shrugs and jams the spoon into the cement, which gives way like fresh soil. Pleased, he continues to dig in the hopes of shimmying out, digging a hole across the hall, taking the woman over his shoulder, and making for the horizon.  

Not all Manes are bad. A name is just a name, after all. I knew a good one. I knew the best one. You have his soul, I think. Humans have souls, we have paths. Paths and souls converge and intertwine every once and awhile.

Alex huffs and swats at the offending bird that swoops into his line of vision. 

He’s all over you,’ she declares with a overjoyed, relieved expression.

“Yeah, I like animals, but this bird is a fucking menace.” 

‘No, not the bird. Him.’

“Him? And who’s that? One of the animorphs?” 

His fellow prisoner scrunches her forehead up and squints. 

“Sorry, maybe after your time. How old are you?”

‘Old .'

Alex decides against snarking to her about her incessant ambiguity isn’t all that helpful of a response. He keeps digging. The hawk begins to help for a spell, picking at the stone with its beak and moving little rocks, placing them in a neat pile. Growing quickly bored, the bird goes back to banging its head against the grate. 

He’s all over you .’

“Yes, you’ve said.” He wipes the sweat from his brow and ponders how he hasn’t made any progress. 

Rath. He’s all over and in you and it sings ,’ her voice dances over each syllable. ‘ Tell him when you wake up that I read him all the fables from this planet. I did, this one and the others. Tell him about the bird. He’ll laugh .’

Tired and not knowing what to say, Alex is honest. “I think you are kookier than this bird.”

Bird of prey.

‘Yes, bird of prey. Accipitridae.’

You are not a bird of prey, though you were trained to be one. You’re too soft.

‘Gee, thanks.’ 

It’s a compliment, Testudinidae.

He scoffs and goes back to digging his hole. He makes her promises of a miraculous escape and eating peach pie in celebration as she hums a disjointed melody. 


Alex wakes with a start, like usual, and flips open the file that Michael left behind. Her face is the first one he sees.

“That doesn't mean anything. That didn’t mean anything,” he repeats and repeats, but never manages makes himself believe it.

 

2019

Strapped to a bed, Alex strains to reach his armor and crown piled in the corner. He doesn’t have much use for the crown beyond striking the jewels from it to sell and melting the rest down for its silver. The armor, he will need. 

The sun periodically hides beyond the clouds this time of year, but without warning, the light that was once reflecting off of the crown’s base is gone completely. 

When Alex looks to see what the weather is bringing to this kidnapping party, he finds only a purple eye surrounded by golden scales, taking up the whole of the window. 

A dragon he knows all too well lingers.

“No,” Alex moans out. “Oh, no, no, no.” 

“I come bearing lovers,” the beast slurs, his lisp more pronounced than ever. Every exhale from his massive snout makes the room grow more humid. 

“No, Rakhsh, take him far from here. Don’t let him in, just fly. Take flight, save your fool.”

Lord Rakhsh the Bold was an ancient dragon of many talents, with a rhino’s horn and tiger’s tail. He hears the beating of his massive, translucent wings, feels the tremors in the stone of the wall. 

“A silly boy,” he reasons, sounding out of breath and resigned. “Cannot be so easily kept from his silly boy.”

“Lord Rakhsh, please.”

His eye blinks twice, before slitting and settling on Alex’s face. 

Alex tries with all his might to get himself into a praying position, but the restraints make it nearly impossible. 

“Please, fly him back home,” he whispers. 

Rakhsh has done many things, many good and many very bad. He is a creature of honor, of practicality, of perseverance. And most ardently, of love. There is no living being in this world or the next that Rakhsh loves more than his rider. 

“Take him away from here, now.” 

The dragon closes his eyes and dips below the window pane, just out of sight. 

Michael’s head pops into view just before he lunges into the room from Rakhsh's back. Dressed in bronze chainmail, his hair windswept, Michael makes for the leather straps that bind Alex to the bed. His mauve canvas bag of potions and rope is filthy, packed so full that its seams strain with every jostle. 

“Sir Guerin! My father is just down the hall.”

“I’ve told you, your majesty,” Michael smirks as the straps snap open. He reaches into his sack and reveals a supple lotus that he binds to Alex's wrist with a silver bind and flourish. “I am no sir.”

“And I am no royal.”

“Then our presence here matters not, aye? Go on, then. Fetch your leathers and bow, we must away.”

Alex sighs, “When my father finds out he will kill you and make me watch.”

Michael then gives Alex a kiss that feels more palatial than the castle he is currently being kept in. He takes a moment to revel in the grace of Michael’s touch before making a move to rise. 

He stands and makes it but a few steps before stumbling back to his hay mattress. Distressed and tired, he tries rising again to only fall back down. Michael approaches him like he would a frightened hare. Alex rolls up his right pant leg and reveals the purpling wounds and blood decorating his leg from ankle to knee. Jesse had taken a switch to him the night prior while Alex was still strapped down. 

“A coward, a lily-livered bastard.” Michael caresses his blemished skin and mewling in empathy. “Does it hurt terribly?”

“It is not pleasant,” Alex answers honestly.

Michael hums, his expression remains gentle and caring, but his eyes have gone cold. “Your father’s death will be equally unpleasant.”

“Michael, we—”

“Not now,” he assures him. “When the time comes.” 

He tosses Alex his leathers to put on. As he dresses himself, Michael waves a hand over his bag and Alex watches in awe as it deflates enough to take on the few extra items Alex owns. 

Michael winks and motions for Alex to turn around so he can assist Alex with affixing his longbow to his back. “Maria and Isobel have been teaching me some new tricks.”

Alex presses his newly adorned wrist to his nose. The lotus smells so heady and so sweet. It reminds him of the time many years ago when he and Michael made love in Nora's lush garden. Michael's lustful look tells him his knight knew the flower would evoke such memories. 

"He will chase us."

"And we will take him on quite the hellish adventure. I always knew we were destined to be legends.” Michael lifts Alex up and calls for the dragon to return for their escape. “All across the land, they’ll whisper of our love and build statues of us. Statues of pure gold.” 

Michael holds a hand out to him and Alex takes it. 

“Pure gold like your heart,” Alex says.

He allows himself to fly away from the tower and prophecies that once bound him there. He lets himself be flown into the sun’s light. 


He wakes on the mattress with his leg still shackled to the beam. The plate Helena brought him lays half-eaten on the floor. Flint is picking at his nails on a chair in the corner. Alex knows Michael cannot and will not come for him.  

 

2020

He knows this fortepiano well. He can play it as if it were an extension of himself. Standing off the ground on three legs, only four feet wide and seven feet long. As light as a marshmallow, Alex can lift it with his pinkie and carry it from post to post. He teaches the children to play all over the Fertile Crescent. 

In an abandoned factory with stained glass windows, he finishes playing Ne Me Quitte Pas Moves before moving into a tune of non-being. A familiar dulcet tone. 

A pleasant breeze hits the nape of his neck, before he hears a door clicking closed. Fingers still pressing the keys, he turns to greet his visitor. He finds Michael Guerin stalking towards him dressed head-to-toe in denim, hair and eyes wild, a sledgehammer in his grip. He makes right for the piano. He takes out the back leg first. Alex launches back, off of the bench and landing on the hard cement blow. He crawls backwards away from the flying pieces of metal. Splinters of wood from the lid rain down and fall into his hair. Michael just doesn’t stop. Pins decorate the floor, the action frame cracked into three pieces, keys hanging like busted out teeth. 

Michael ceases his destruction only for a moment. He points at Alex with the handle, tears falling from his eyes as he commands, “Stay down. Pretty notes don’t protect you anymore. No one wants to hear it, you understand me? You disgust me. You finally get it now?” he asks, punctuating himself by ripping out the bass strings and then crushing the soundboard to bits. 

Alex's chest rises and falls with every heave of the post maul over Michael’s head. He watches and does not flinch as Michael smashes what remains of the instrument to pieces. 

He is the penitent.

 

2020

Liz thanks him. 

Michael is being held down onto a slab by various restraints. Vials and vials and vials of blood are being taken from his thighs and forearms. 

"Thank you for bringing him," she repeats, jamming a needle into his neck. 

Michael seizes and spit drips from the gag in his mouth. He tries to get over to the table to release him, but he discovers his boots are sown into the lab's linoleum floor. Michael sobs, reaching for him as best he can. He tries in vain to reach back and grab Michael's flailing hand. For a second, their fingertips just barely touch. 

"Liz, I didn't... I didn't bring him to you."

She laughs, pulling a dirty, obscenely large scalpel from her side table. Her smile is wide, stretching so far the corners nearly touch her earlobes. Teeth, pearly white and each one the size of a nickel. "Of course, you did." 

 

2020

Dad has him fixed to a point with his gaze. Dead people aren’t supposed to have their eyes open. Some people die with their eyes open, Alex has seen it happen nine times. But, the funeral directors or morticians or whatever they are called are supposed to close them because your dead dad staring at you is disconcerting at best and irreparably traumatizing at worst. But, hey, when it rains, it pours. 

Then he winks. 

“You look just like me in those blues.” 

“You’re dead. Gregory killed you.”

“Am I? Did you track the body the whole time? Could just be wishful thinkin’. Doesn’t matter, because I live in you forever, boy. Made my mark, no matter what your little Romeo boy toy tells you or what lies your brothers feed you. Venom lives in the blood forever. You let me poison you. Part of you liked it.” 

Alex is doing his best to not shake. But, slow like honey, there are strong arms around his waist and a chin digging preciously into his shoulder. He leans back into the firm body behind him, immediately, and with an exalted sigh. 

“I’m ready,” Michael whispers into his ear. Alex presses into the stubble deliciously scraping along his neck. “I’m ready to be ready for you, yeah? Are you still mine?” 

A pronged tongue rolls out of his father’s mouth and he begins to wriggle. Michael gasps, so Alex wraps Michael's arms tighter around him and begins stepping backwards towards the exit in a slow, calculated manner. He looks at the hinges of the coffin and nowhere else. He tells his father that he cannot hurt Michael. That he will never hurt Michael or Greg or anyone ever again. 

Voice loud and carrying enough for Jesse to hear, Michael speaks: "We're gonna get married and we are gonna bond in the way my people do." He laughs, a touch maniacally. "And you're fucking dead. You're dead." 

Emboldened, as always, by Michael's strength and beauty, he takes one last look at his father as he crawls from the coffin.

As he drags Michael away, he hears this parting hiss: “Sola dosis facit venenum. Don’t call it a nuthouse.”

 

Present Day

Alex was raised to be a cog in a machine. Not a facet of joy or pleasure. And yet, Alex’s back is arching with just that. Drenched in sweat, he writhes on the bed. Michael’s hands at his hips, slipping and gripping. Michael thrusts into him slowly as Alex bucks back in a stuttered, frantic rhythm. Michael’s grip tightens and he pushes Alex’s back down until he is lying flat on the bed. His arms fly back onto the bed calmly, but forcefully. Michael holds him down everywhere with his body and his mind. He feels Michael’s touch everywhere and— 


Alex opens his eyes as Michael snuffles into the hollow of Alex's neck, a bit of drool pooling onto the pillow. 

He ruts at Alex’s hip until he brushes Alex’s leg too roughly. Alex winces and Michael kisses his shoulder in apology. He says, a half-asleep groan: “You were makin’ all kinds of happy noises.” 

Alex takes a moment to lift up his leg and stretch it out. He lets out a content little moan and shimmies back against Michael’s firm body. “I bet I was.”

“Were you having a sex dream, for real?” Michael barks, fully awake now, but still with sleepy eyes. “Who was it? Tom Hardy, huh?” 

He wants to tease and draw it out. He wants to weave a quick story and tell Michael all about Bane-era Hardy just absolutely going to town on him in dreamland. But Alex can’t seem to stop himself from beaming, his cheeks straining from the sheer bigness of his grin.

“Me?” Michael teases, moving to straddle him. “It was me, wasn’t it? 

Looking at Michael’s gentle smile, feeling his broad chest pressed on top of his own, all air of teasing rushes out of him. “Of course, it’s always you. Always has been.”

Michael stops at that, cradling his face and giving Alex a plush kiss. He rolls off him and pulls Alex atop him, reversing their positions. “Felt good?”

“What do you think?” 

Michael takes Alex in his hand and laughs, “I think you’re hard. What was I doing to get cha’ so hard?” 

“You were in me, all around me. You were using your powers.”

Their bedside table’s drawer slams open on its own. A nearly empty bottle of lube and a condom float in front of Alex’s face before they land into Michael’s hands. As he gets them both ready, he presses kisses everywhere he could reach.

“You had me on my back," Alex confesses. Michael's chest, as always, is tempting. Alex gladly focuses his attention there, to Michael's nipples and sides. Pinching and massaging with just the right amount of pressure that makes Michael quake. He grinds in time with those skillful fingers and simpers. "You had me pressed down everywhere. You were driving me crazy. You were so—You were going so—”  

“Slow and deep?”

Alex lets out a contented breath.

“Uh huh, I know how you like it. I know just how to hit your spot.” 

"Yeah, you kinda ruined me for other people a long time ago." 

Michael's flexing forearm halts and Alex rolls his hips, languorous and shameless. Michael pants that it is the same for him, too. That he ain't ever been like this with anyone else and never would. Alex confesses that he thought he dreamed him up as a child. His own Imaginary Build-A-Bear Boyfriend. 

"Oh, yeah? Well, if yah did, thanks for the killer jawline."

Alex licks along it as a you're welcome. 

Later, satisfied that they were both ready, Michael settles Alex back down on the bed. Alex carefully wraps his legs around his waist. 

“Is this okay?” Michael asks, rubbing Alex’s knees. “I can grab a sleeve for yah before we get started?”

Alex swallows and drops his legs slowly, “That might be a good idea. Sorry, it's just—”

"No apologies." Michael presses his lips to the tip of Alex's nose. “Imm’a get it for real so I can calm down a little.” He shuffles off the bed, his hard cock tenting his basketball shorts. Alex licks his lips as he watches him strut over to the chest of drawers. Pulling his eyes away, Alex begins stretching, trying to work out the kinks before Michael returns. When he feels his muscles relax, he fills himself as a placeholder for Michael’s return. With both legs bent at the knee, three fingers inside himself, he was straining and beginning to sweat. 

When Alex finally looks over at him, Michael is gawking. “What?” 

“I thought this task would help me calm down a little, but fuck, baby."

He is making a show of himself. Sauntering over with his shorts loose and swung low on his hips. He is palming his thick cock, biting at his lips, and pushing the hair back from his eyes. 

"Will you just get over here and give me that dick like a good boy, already?" 

Michael stops short. His hips move in two involuntary small, almost imperceptible, thrusts. He let's out a long, low whine, tosses the compression sock to Alex, and scurries back to the bed. His pants around his ankles as he trips over himself. He moans as he climbs back between Alex’s legs. He rips open the condom with his teeth. He is breathing heavily as he puts it on his dick and watches as Alex adjusts the sock to his liking. Finished and ready, Alex pulls Michael forward with his good leg and Michael enters him leisurely. Alex's eyelashes flutter, he feels Michael pulse within him. Michael sings his praises into Alex's neck. 

"How are you so perfect?" Alex moans out, responding in kind. "So, so good." 

“Who do you prefer?” Michael wonders, playing at teasing. “Real me or dream me?”

“Well, at one point you had a dragon.”

“Huh?”

He groans as Michael shifts his position, sinking deeper and letting out a pleased little sigh. 

“Oh, you. Real you.”