His commanding officer offers Alex a month's bereavement leave after his father's service, and Alex doesn't know how to explain why it isn't necessary, so he takes it. He signs the required paperwork electronically, sets up an away message for his work email, and that’s it. He’s very suddenly totally unencumbered; no work, very little family business after the old house is cleared, not even any extra-curricular, extraterrestrial law breaking to attend to. All is quiet, settled; it’s unnerving.
Forrest thinks the time off is a great idea, praising Alex’s progressive CO well into the evening. He talks Alex’s ear off about yoga classes for vets and spontaneous road trips and journaling, and Alex doesn’t have the heart to tell him he will not be doing any of that. Instead, he attempts to change the subject, sidling closer to Forrest on the couch and sneaking his hand under the blanket on Forrest’s lap, squeezing his knee.
"I’m just looking forward to more time with you," he murmurs, sliding his hand farther up Forrest's leg, nuzzling his nose behind Forrest's ear, and pressing his open mouth against Forrest's neck. Alex hears Forrest's breath catch and feels him shift restlessly, eagerly; he grins and scraps his teeth across Forrest's fluttering pulse, his hand slipping even higher to cup Forrest's inner thigh. Strong fingers wrap around Alex's wrist, but instead of guiding Alex's hand between his legs or tangling his fingers with Alex's, Forrest's grip tightens and he gently tugs Alex's hand away, setting it deliberately into Alex's lap.
"You aren't in a place for this tonight, babe," he says softly, pressing a dry kiss to Alex's temple. "Let's just sit here for a while and enjoy the fire, hmm?"
He turns and picks up two steaming mugs of tea from the end table beside him, passing one to Alex and settling deeper into Alex's side, a comforting arm around his shoulders. Alex blinks, gripping his mug too tight and staring into the flames. Of course Forrest has every right to turn down sex. Of course he does. But there's something about the way he had patted Alex's hand, eyes gleaming with soft sympathy. Alex has no use for pity; it never saved him from his father's fists or his high school bully's slurs, and it certainly didn't make his leg grow back. Now, to feel it thick in the air of his own home, radiating off his boyfriend as he condescends to tell Alex that he doesn't want what he thinks he wants; it's maddening, but the last thing Alex needs tonight is a long-winded conversation, so he sets his mug down on the low coffee table in front of them and says, “Actually, I think I’ll turn in.”
Forrest smiles serenely and accepts Alex's soft kiss goodnight. Alex feels Forrest's steady gaze on him the entire length of the hall, and the unwelcome feeling of being observed raises the hairs on his arms and the back of his neck.
He sleeps restlessly and wakes the next morning to the smell of coffee and consolation heavy in the air. Forrest drinks mostly herbal tea and green juice in the mornings, teasing Alex about his caffeine dependence one time too many to truly be in jest. And yet when Alex makes his way into the kitchen, his Chemex is half full of his favorite dark roast and Forrest is sliding two plates of avocado toast with black beans and salsa onto the table.
“Come eat,” he says brightly in lieu of a greeting, pulling Alex’s chair out and pecking him on the cheek as he sits. “Sleep well?”
“Not really,” Alex answers, and he catches the briefest twitch of Forrest’s mouth, eyes cloudy for a split second, before his smile returns.
“Sorry to hear that,” he murmurs, dropping into the seat across from Alex and pouring him a healthy cup of steaming coffee. “Looks like I made the right call on the brew, huh?”
Alex smiles thinly and takes a sip from his mug, humming in pleasure and watching Forrest’s face glow with satisfaction. It’s a sweet gesture, to make an elaborate breakfast for your partner when they’ve experienced a personal loss—Alex hardly considers his father’s death a great tragedy, but he found it nearly impossible to explain his family history to Forrest without compromising himself, or Michael, or all that he considers sacred between them, and in the end he’d simply settled on “We weren’t close, and I won’t miss him.” Still, Alex tells himself he’s lucky as he cuts and chews and watches Forrest watch him from beneath heavy lashes.
“This is really nice, “ he says, takes care to steady his voice, to not betray the unease he can’t quite shake. “Thank you.”
Forrest takes his hand and squeezes gently, his smile reading satisfied and proud and, inexplicably, smug. He’s grinning like he somehow won, and he’s looking at Alex, but, for the first time in their short relationship, Alex doesn't feel like a prize; he feels like a program decrypted. And then he realizes: He's being managed. Vets in his old weekly therapy group would talk about it. Well-meaning partners and family who treated them like intricate codes, like delicate objects. They described soft, gentle tones of voice, hesitant offerings, and words of affirmation all cloaking a hopeful optimism that this would be the winning combination, the one that finally flips the switch and banishes the demons. Alex had listened and empathized, but he's never experienced it for himself until this moment. He's never had a real relationship before. Maria is his family and whether it's her gift or simply the strength of the bond between them, she's always been there with him, in silence and solidarity. And Michael. For better or worse, Michael never asks questions. He takes Alex exactly as he is and only ever hopes for more, never for different, never for less.
“What is it?” Forrest asks, dark brows drawn together, and Alex realizes he’s been staring blankly at their joined hands for too long to play it off.
"Just. Thinking," Alex mutters, and Forrest squeezes his hand, leans forward across the table.
"Is something wrong?" he asks, all eager anticipation, and Alex believes he could ask for nearly anything in this moment; Forrest would bring it to him with bells on. And he hates it. He very suddenly resents the food in his stomach, the coffee on the table, even Forrest's gentle hand weaving his fingers with Alex's own. Alex wants what he's earned, what is freely given, not anything dropped into his lap to placate him, like a shiny toy to a petulant child.
"My car," Alex says, pulling his hand from Forrest's grip, "needs a tune up. I should take it over before Sanders' gets too backed up."
Alex is pulling up the dusty drive of Sanders Auto within an hour. He could pretend he drove here subconsciously, but he didn't; could claim he isn't sure why he's here, what he wants, but he is. Of course he is.
Michael is leaning against the front bumper of an SUV when Alex rolls to a stop in the middle of the yard. He's clearly taking a short break, pulling greedily from a half-empty water bottle, the hood of the car still propped open behind him. He watches Alex ease out of his own vehicle with mild interest, eyes darting toward the passenger side door and back again, a small smile tugging at his lips when he realizes Alex is alone.
"What can I do you for?" Michael drawls as Alex approaches, and Alex bites his lip to tamper down a grin; Michael is in high spirits, relaxed and teasing. Willing .
"Noticed my tires are a little low," Alex says, and inwardly he cringes at the innuendo, a secret signal developed when they were painfully young and brought out now because Alex doesn't want any misunderstanding. "Thought you could check it out."
Michael raises a brow, a blank, incredulous look passing over his face before it morphs into something casual, but predatory.
"Forrest can't do the job right?" he asks lightly, tonguing his bottom lip. Alex stares openly, feels Michael preening from across the dusty lot.
"I think this is a job for a professional," he replies. Michael huffs a laugh and bites his lip, tilting his head in the direction of the Airstream.
"Better step into my office, then," he says, scanning Alex slowly, from the tips of his sneakers to the messy, grown out hair that brushes across his forehead and tucks behind his ears. Michael pauses when he reaches Alex's eyes, gaze going soft and inquisitive. He looks on the brink of opening his mouth, of asking Alex if he's okay.
If he asks, Alex will leave. He'll take it as the sign he shouldn't need that showing up at your ex-something's place of work and asking him in code to help you cheat on your sweet, uncomplicated boyfriend is a mistake. He'll go to the gym, or find Rosa, even hitch up at The Wild Pony for a bender. Anything to slow the blood coursing through his veins on overdrive, to expend the shadowed, restless energy he feels practically radiating out of his fingertips, like Max’s electric powers.
Michael doesn't ask.
Instead, he turns his back wordlessly and ambles toward the trailer. Alex follows quickly, crowding Michael up against the tall cabinets of his kitchenette the moment the flimsy door shuts behind them. He presses his nose to Michael's curls and breathes him in, sweat and motor oil and the thick, ever-present musk of wet earth. Alex's arms snake around Michael's hips, fingers already working open the button and zipper of his jeans. Michael's breath catches as Alex slides a hand into his briefs, fingers brushing the head of his cock teasingly; his dick is only just starting to show interest, and Alex plays with the foreskin, lazily rolling it up over the head and down again, coaxing him hard. His own cock has been stiff since the drive over, probably glaringly obvious in the grey joggers he's still wearing from his morning with Forrest, and he moans softly as he rubs himself against Michael's ass through the thin fabric.
"Alex, wait," Michael says, breathless, and Alex pulls his hand away, puts an inch of space between their bodies. Michael tilts his head to look at him over his shoulder. "'m filthy right now, been working all morning."
He glances down Alex's body and Alex follows his gaze. Next to his very prominent erection there's a smudge of grease already on his hip. Michael swallows thickly and meets Alex's gaze, apology and desire warring in his honey eyes.
"I've got other clothes," Alex says with a shrug, running his left hand up Michael's body to cup his neck, tilting his jaw to bring Michael's mouth closer to his own. "If you don't care, I don’t care."
Michael's eyes lock on Alex's mouth and his breathing picks up, ragged and quick. He leans farther into Alex's arms, and Alex's hand slips higher up his throat, palm covering his Adam's apple and fingers at the hinge of his jaw.
"Just don't put my fingers in your mouth," Michael whispers, and Alex laughs, licking slowly across Michael's bottom lip and drinking in the resulting whine.
"I'll try my best," he replies, voice low and deep and trembling with need, and he finally seals his lips over Michael's, takes Michael's tongue into his mouth. Michael grips the wrist of the hand Alex still has on his hip and guides it back down to his fully hard cock, and when they reluctantly pull apart to take a panting breath, he murmurs against Alex’s lips, “Do your worst.”
So they have fun. They have the kind of fun that Alex's father stole from them ten years ago, when they were seventeen and stupid and should have had nothing more serious on their minds than getting off and being together. But they have the kind of sex they never would have been having at seventeen, because they're nearly thirty and they were never stupid, and they both know they're on borrowed time. Michael eats Alex out in his trailer, bending him over the messy table and spreading Alex's cheeks, pressing his tongue flat against Alex's hole and laving at him until he's dripping with saliva and Alex is a writhing, moaning mess, gripping the edges of the flimsy tabletop with white knuckles. Alex fucks Michael hard and dirty in his own bed, Michael's legs thrown over his shoulders, the sheets still soiled from the night before with Forrest, who had fucked Alex slow and deep, had asked Alex to look into his eyes as he came; Alex had nearly had to fake it.
Alex's mornings and afternoons become all about hand jobs behind some rusty behemoth in the junkyard, road head on the way to lunch, and so much sex he begins to keep multiple bottles of lube in his glove compartment. Meanwhile, his nights are quiet dates at local restaurants, cozy evenings on the couch, the occasional late night at Planet 7, where Kyle is always just the right side of overserved and ends up face down on Alex's couch, snoring. Forrest never fails to leave him a bottle of pain relievers and a glass of water, but the pinch of his brow and the pull of his lips into a tight, thin line betray his judgement.
Alex is at the library one such morning to meet Forrest, but he heads straight for Michael's favorite study carrel instead. There’s a whole room full of them, eight ancient, cramped desks surrounded by a trifold of short walls for some semblance of privacy, all in two back-to-back rows of four in the center of an old conference room with a wall of windows and a sliding door. Michael prefers the carrels facing the door, particularly the one with a little spaceship carved into the soft wood and the words “escape route” written in Sharpie underneath. Alex finds him leaning back in his seat with a book in his lap, the spine propped up against the edge of the desk, and a pen sticking out of the corner of his mouth. Michael looks up at the sound of the door sliding open and grins wide around the pen.
“A year ago this would’ve been the last place I’d expect to find you,” Alex says as he pulls the door shut behind him. “Now it’s the first place I look.”
Michael’s smile shifts into something smaller, intimate and warm.
“Guess you got me all figured out,” he replies, watching as Alex circles the column of carrels slowly. He stops inches from Michael’s spread knees, the book abandoned on the desktop the moment Alex made his presence known.
“I don’t know about that,” Alex murmurs, reaching out to trace a random, spiraling pattern on Michael’s knee and up his thigh with the tips of his fingers. Michael’s only response is to shift subtly farther down into his chair, welcoming the contact.
“Sure, you do,” Michael teases. “Come on. What am I thinking right now?”
Alex stares at him, very suddenly irritated at Michael’s teasing, at its implications. He’s never known Michael’s mind, never understood the tangled web of fear, loyalty, and desire that seems to drive him; least of all now. It was vindication, in a way, to learn Michael was a different life form entirely, easy to convince himself they were victims of some cosmic, interspecies communication gap. That is, until Maria entered the equation and understood Michael’s motivations, soothed his insecurities, opened him up as easily as she read auras and palms.
“I’m not a mind-reader,” he says, and Michael holds his glare and nods easily.
“You’re right,” he replies. “But you know what I want, Alex.”
His voice drops low and inviting.
“You always give me what I want.”
Alex’s lips stretch into a knowing smile and he uses his hand on Michael’s thigh for support as he drops down to his knees between Michael’s legs, holding his heated gaze as he kneels. Michael knows better than to reach out for him yet, whether in assistance or desire; instead, he stares at Alex through thick lashes as he unfastens his belt, the heavy buckle hitting the floor where he drops it with an audible thump.
“See?” he teases quietly, running his hand through Alex’s hair as Alex works his jeans open and tugs them down his thighs. “Didn’t even have to say the words.”
“Kinda wish you’d stop using your words at this point,” Alex murmurs in return, pulling Michael’s half-hard dick out of his underwear and taking the head into his mouth, sucking lightly as Michael grows harder in his mouth.
“Keep doing that,” Michael gasps, gripping Alex’s hair with one hand and resting his head against the back of the chair, chin tilted down to enjoy the sight of Alex's pink lips around his cock. “I’ll shut up quick.”
Michael is a man of his word, uttering nothing more than a quiet moan as Alex sinks farther down onto his cock, wrapping his tongue around the base and pulling slowly off again, a string of saliva running from his bottom lip to the tip of Michael’s dick. Sucking Michael is muscle memory after so many years, as close to meditation as Alex will ever get; he’s comfortable and confident, sinking into the stretch of his jaw, the dull scratch of Michael’s nails against his scalp, and the low, sweet sounds of Michael coming apart above him. He takes all of Michael down his throat, lets him thrust gently into his mouth as Alex swallows and swallows and swallows around him. When he’s had enough, he pulls off, stroking Michael with a firm grip, faster and faster as his own spit mixes with the pre-cum weeping from Michael’s dick to smooth the glide.
“ Fuck ,” Michael breathes, “so fucking good, Alex.”
Alex curls his fingers around the base of Michael’s cock and takes it back into his mouth, lips brushing his own hand as he bobs his head, runs his tongue up the thick vein on Michael’s shaft, and sucks until his cheeks are hollow and Michael’s nails are digging pink, crescent moons into the back of his neck. And then Alex hears the soft whoosh of the door sliding open.
“Hey, alien guy,” he hears Forrest call out, “Alex come through here, by any chance?”
Given the layout of the room, Alex guesses the carrels are currently obstructing Forrest’s view of anything lower than Michael’s shoulders. But if he comes around the desks, if he so much as steps through the door frame, Forrest will see Alex frozen on his knees, head in Michael’s lap and Michael’s cock down his throat. Above him, Michael lets out an exaggerated hum.
“Ya know, I haven’t seen him,” he answers casually, though to Alex’s ear his voice is unnaturally high, an easy tell to anyone who knows him well. Forrest, thankfully, does not.
“Okay, well, if he stops by, will you let him know I’m in my usual spot?” he asks
“Will do,” Michael replies, and Alex hears the soft click of the door sliding shut again, followed by Michael swearing under his breath. The hand in Alex’s hair slides down to cup the back of his neck, and Michael says quietly, "Maybe we should—"
And Alex isn't ready. He isn't ready to address the fact that he's on his knees before noon for Michael Guerin in the public library. He isn't ready to talk about how his sweet, sensitive, plain-oatmeal-flavored boyfriend nearly busted them. He doesn't have the words for why the only emotion he feels in this situation is annoyance that he was interrupted, that Michael's cock in his mouth is just a little softer than it had been despite Alex's lips still wrapped around it. So Alex curls his tongue around Michael's shaft and sucks, pulling his hand away and sinking deeper down onto Michael until his nose is buried in Michael's groin and Michael's cock is edging once again into his throat.
" Shit , Alex, really?" Michael groans, the fingers tangled in Alex's hair tugging just the right amount of painfully as Alex begins to work him again.
Michael let's Alex suck him wet and sloppy a minute more before his hand slides to the back of Alex's neck again and squeezes twice, an old signal of theirs for pause. Alex pulls off his cock to look up at him, lashes wet and lips swollen. Michael's whiskey eyes stare down at him, tender, but unreadable, and with the pad of his thumb he traces Alex's bottom lip, touch nothing but a whisper until he presses the digit against the seam of Alex's mouth. Alex sucks it eagerly between his teeth, tongue flicking at the tip, and Michael's pupils are already blown, his eyes near black, but Alex could swear they pulse wider as Michael watches him.
"You're gonna kill me, you know that?" Michael breathes, and Alex shuts his eyes against the surety and the agony in his voice, against the way he knows Michael isn't just talking about an interrupted blow job in a public library. But before the shame and the guilt invading his mind can take root, before the urge to run, to protect them both from his own self-destruction pushes him to his feet and out the door, Michael's finger slides out of his mouth and his palm wraps around the back of Alex's neck, his other hand circling the base of his own swollen cock to offer it gently to Alex.
A request, an invitation, and a mercy.
"Keep going," Michael whispers.
"I'm not going to ask what you think you're doing," Maria says with mock sweetness, cornering Alex at the Pony on open mic night as he's coming out of the bathroom. Michael had finished sucking him off just minutes before, Alex pressed against the sink and gripping Michael's curls, fucking his mouth with tender abandon. "Although, for the record, everyone knows exactly what it is you're doing."
Alex's eyes flit to Forrest at the mic, and Maria's thin-lipped frown deepens.
"Almost everyone," she corrects herself and fixes him with a hard gaze. "I only want to know if you were doing it when me and Michael were together."
His eyes widen and he shakes his head, reading vulnerability in Maria's dark eyes in the flutter of her eyelashes.
" No ," he says softly. "No, I would never do that to you. Neither would he."
Maria nods, accepting, but her lips remain a tight, pinched line.
"Forrest doesn't deserve this any more than I would have, Alex," Maria says. "And Guerin—" She sighs, shakes her head. "Listen, I know you're dealing with a lot right now. I'm here, okay? I'm always here."
Alex nods, loves Maria for her affection and her bite, and loves her even harder for the tenderness she still holds in her heart for Michael. She pats his cheek and heads back to the bar, crowded in between sets as patrons and performers alike jostle for refills.
When the bathroom door swings open behind him and Michael steps out into the hall, Alex pushes him right back inside, bending Michael over the sink and chasing oblivion with his tongue in Michael's ass.
It's too bright in Alex's house. The sun is streaming through the windows, there are flowers from the farmer's market on the kitchen table, and Forrest is making a bright, green smoothie with chia seeds and chatting amiably about his plans to sneak away from the ranch in the afternoon and take Alex out to lunch. Alex's skin feels raw and his hand twitches.
"Sounds good," he says quickly. "Uh, I think I'm gonna go to the gym for an hour or so."
Forrest smiles, makes no mention of Alex's abrupt interruption.
"That's a great idea, babe," he says, and pulls a stainless steel bottle out of the cabinet. "Here." He pours half the smoothie in the bottle and screws on the cap, passing it to Alex. "Some fuel for your workout."
He kisses Alex's cheek and pours the rest of the drink into a glass, heading out to the porch with his notebook and phone.
"What's with the bag?" Michael asks, seemingly unbothered by Alex booty calling him at ten o’clock on a Sunday morning. His curls are dripping onto his naked chest and he wears only a pair of dove grey boxer briefs that might actually be Alex’s, clearly fresh from a shower.
"I said I was going to the gym," Alex says with a shrug, tossing the bag onto the booth built into the front of the trailer. He isn't sure why he didn't leave it in his car.
Michael grins, grabs a fistful of Alex's shirt and walks him towards the bed, pushing Alex firmly onto it and climbing on top of him on hands and knees.
"I'll make sure you break a sweat then," he purrs into Alex's ear, brushing his nose across Alex's cheekbone as Alex takes a heaving breath and gets both hands on Michael's ass, squeezing his cheeks and tracing his balls through the thin cotton of his underwear where they hang heavy between Michael's legs.
Michael groans and slides off his knees, pressing his hips down to rub his cock against Alex's thigh.
"Want you inside me," he breathes hot into Alex's ear, and Alex laughs, gripping Michael's hips and flipping him onto his back.
"That desperate already, huh?" he teases, pulling his shirt over his head when Michael pushes it up his chest, eager to get his hands on the warm skin underneath.
Michael lifts his head and kisses him, all tongue and teeth and pouted lips.
"Might have got a little worked up getting ready for you in the shower," he says when they pull apart, and he presses his mouth to the shell of Alex's ear to pant, "I'm all ready for my inspection, Captain ."
Alex had meant to draw this out; to take his time opening Michael up, let him come once on Alex’s fingers, and hopefully again with Alex’s cock buried deep inside him. Michael’s refresh rate is frankly inhuman. But when Alex’s hand slips down the back of Michael’s briefs and his index finger circles Michael’s hole, wet and open and so inviting, all of Alex’s admirable plans fly promptly out the window, and he’s kicking off his shorts and underwear that Michael pushed down his hips with insistent, clawing fingers, two digits slipping inside Michael as easily as through warm butter. Michael moans as Alex pumps his fingers shallowly, curling and pressing and spreading them wide to test the give of his rim.
“Alex,” Michael pants, “Alex, shit. ”
“Get naked,” Alex says, voice deep and commanding, the way he knows Michael loves, “ now. ”
Michael lifts his hips when Alex slides his fingers out gently, pulling the briefs off and tossing them blindly across the trailer. He reaches above his head and grabs a half-empty bottle of lube, setting it on his chest and staring up at Alex with wide, wet eyes, waiting. Alex rewards him with a bruising kiss, catching Michael’s bottom lip between his teeth and nibbling it pink and swollen.
“Get me wet and put me inside you,” he says slowly, running a hand through Michael’s damp curls and tugging until his head is tilted back and the long line of Michael’s throat is presented like a buffet for Alex to enjoy.
Michael’s hands tremble as he squirts lube from the bottle into his palm and reaches between them to coat Alex’s dick, low groans slipping past his lips as Alex scrapes his teeth over a collarbone, sucks his Adam’s apple, bites teasingly at his earlobe. When he feels Michael guiding him home, pressing the head of his cock against Michael’s hole, Alex pulls back and locks eyes with him, watching Michael whine and suck his bottom lip between his teeth, watching his brow knit in pleasure and his honey eyes flood with pupil as Alex pushes into him; Michael’s eyelashes flutter, but he holds Alex’s gaze because he knows it’s what Alex is asking of him.
“So perfect,” Alex breathes, and rolls his hips in a smooth circle, slipping deeper as Michael tilts his hips and brings his knees up to bracket Alex’s torso.
"Come on," Michael pleads, and Alex thrusts into him, groaning loud at the tight, clenching heat around his cock.
He holds Michael's curls firm in his fingers, hitches Michael's right leg over his shoulder, and fucks into him in a slow, steady rhythm that picks up as Michael's cries grow louder and Alex's own urgency builds. Because he knows Michael's body as intimately as his own, the slightest shift of his hips is all it takes to hit Michael's sweet spot, and when Michael sobs and his hand snakes down to squeeze his thick, red cock, Alex grips his thigh to hold him in place and grinds, working Michael's swollen prostate insistently. Alex is mid-growl, his impending release curling up his spine as Michael's hole clenches tighter and tighter around his sensitive cock, when his phone begins to buzz from the pocket of his discarded shorts.
Michael feels the vibrations against the thin mattress and quirks an eyebrow.
"Ignore it," Alex pants, but Michael's hand on his hip holds him in place, and a moment later his phone is floating between them, "Forrest Long" flashing bright and bold across the screen.
"Answer it," Michael says, a playful smirk on his lips and a challenge in his eyes.
Alex plucks the phone slowly from mid-air, gaze never leaving Michael's as he hits the Receive Call icon.
"Whoa," Forrest says with an easy laugh. "Sounds like you're really pushing yourself today, huh?"
Michael reaches up and pinches Alex’s nipple between his fingers, tugging lightly, and Alex's breath hitches. He glares down at Michael, who shoots him a self-satisfied grin.
"What's up?" Alex asks, wincing at the rasp of his own voice.
"Would you mind picking up some oat milk on your way back?" Forrest asks. "I used the last of it this morning."
"Sure," Alex says, practically on top of Forrest's question. Michael is still working his nipple, rolling it between his fingers, and when he rises to his elbows to put his mouth on it, Alex's cock presses impossibly deeper inside of him, and they both bite back moans. Alex puts a firm hand on Michael's shoulder and presses him back down to the bed while in his ear Forrest chatters on.
"--think that's all we'll need for dinner," he says. "I should let you get back to your workout."
"Ok," Alex says quickly.
"Ok, thanks, babe!"
Alex ends the call and chucks his phone carelessly onto the bed.
"Cute," he says dryly, pressing Michael deeper into the mattress with both hands on his shoulders.
Michael chuckles deep and gravelly, rolling his hips to encourage Alex to move.
“Oat milk?” he says, and Alex huffs a laugh.
“He’s vegan,” he replies, thrusting lazily into Michael and watching him squirm beneath him. Alex is willing to delay his own pleasure, to draw out Michael's restless, desperate energy and deny him the satisfaction of an orgasm in punishment for the torturous three minutes he spent on that phone call.
“Should I tell him about the agricultural impact of dairy substitutes?” Michael murmurs, arching his back and clenching around Alex’s cock. Alex hisses, snapping his hips faster and harder on instinct, and the way Michael keens when Alex's cock brushes where he's most sensitive, borderline overworked, makes Alex doubt that even he could hold Michael back at this point. He gives in easily.
“Sure,” he pants into Michael’s neck, moaning when Michael wraps his legs around Alex’s waist, digging his heels into the flesh just above Alex’s ass to pull him in closer, deeper. “Right after— fuck, Michael . Right after I come in this sweet ass.”
Alex's plans are once again easily abandoned as he digs his knees into the soft mattress and pounds into Michael, chasing his own climax as heat pools in his groin and Michael falls apart beneath him, mouth open and half-lidded gaze locked on Alex.
"Do it," Michael whines, clutching Alex's biceps and digging blunt nails into his shoulders. "Come in me. Want it so bad."
Alex slides deep into him and grinds, coming with a stuttering moan and pumping his hips weakly as aftershocks rock through his body. Michael hums approvingly, takes himself in hand and strokes fast and rough, spilling over his own stomach less than a minute later with Alex just beginning to soften inside him. Alex still has a firm grip on his drying curls, Michael’s head tilted back and his chin jutting forward, long, pale neck exposed. Alex takes the opportunity to nip and suck at the available skin, already beginning to bruise from his earlier work; this time, he starts at Michael’s jaw and works his way down to the joint of his neck and shoulder. Michael whimpers, turns his head to make more space for Alex’s mouth, and he sighs when Alex slips out of him, pleasure-drunk and distracted.
“‘m not gonna tell him,” Michael breathes, mouth close to Alex’s ear, his breath hot against Alex’s sweat-slick skin. “I’d never do that to you.”
Alex presses a soft kiss to Michael’s chest, just over his heart; they both know he isn't talking about soy.
"I know," he says, running his hand gently through Michael's hair, massaging his scalp where Alex's grip on his curls had pulled it tight. "I know, sweetheart."
Alex only has a week left of his bereavement leave, and without a word they both know their time is nearly spent; they get reckless.
Alex takes Michael back to his house. They're stumbling through the entryway, Michael's shirt already lost and his jeans on borrowed time, if the nimble desperation of Alex's fingers have anything to say about it.
"Gonna fuck me, cowboy?" he pants, pressing the heel of his hand against Michael's erection as he pulls the zipper on his fly down eagerly.
Michael groans, biting down on the meat of Alex's shoulder and pushing him back against the wall; a little too hard, it seems, as a picture hanging to their left falls to the floor, frame shattering with the delicate tinkle of broken glass.
"Shit," Michael whispers against Alex's neck. "I'm sorry.
Alex stares at the glass at their feet, at the black and white photograph of Foster Ranch that he picked up at a rummage sale askew in it's broken frame, and he only realizes he's crying when Michael brushes a fat tear off his cheek and a heaving sob wracks his whole body.
Michael doesn't speak, but he pulls Alex away from the wall and into his arms, cradling Alex's neck in his hand and rubbing soothing circles into his back as Alex's shoulders shake. Alex grips his arms, rests his forehead on Michael's bare chest, and lets his tears stream freely, concentrating instead on steadying his hitching breaths.
He's not crying over his father, fuck that guy. Except he sort of is. He cries because for most of his life his dad was the only real parent he had, and now Alex doesn't even have him. He cries because his father was this colossal presence that he'd built his life around, and Alex isn't sure who he's going to be without him. And he cries because his dad is finally, finally gone, and because that asshole ever existed in this world in the first place.
" Fuck ," he breathes out softly when he's finally able to control the speed of the air entering and exiting his lungs.
"Shhh, baby," Michael shushes him, squeezing his neck gently, twisting strands of Alex's hair between his fingers.
Alex is brushing his face clean with the back of his hand when the lock on the front door catches and it swings open, garish sunlight flooding the hall.
" Oh ," Forrest says, disturbingly nonchalant at the discovery of his boyfriend in the arms of his shirtless ex, face pressed to his chest and clinging to his shoulders. "Okay, then."
He shuts the door and steps towards them into the hallway, and Michael turns, carefully positioning Alex behind his own body and presenting Forrest with his bare chest, his broad shoulders pulled back. Forrest clicks his tongue.
"I'm not gonna hurt him," he says, offended, and continues past them down the hall, disappearing briefly into Alex's bedroom and then the living room. He returns with an overnight bag on his shoulder and a sweater draped over his forearm, barely sparing them a glance as he passes. At the front door, he pauses and turns, leveling Alex with an accusatory glare.
"If you didn't want to be with me,” he says, “you could have just said so." He heaves a deep, shaky sigh, and his eyes are shining and wet when they meet Alex's again.
"Jesus, Alex," he breathes, shaking his head, and without another word he's out the door, the sound of it clicking shut somehow louder in Alex's ears because it's so soft.
With Forrest on the other side of the door, Michael twists the lock with a flick of his head and turns toward Alex, holding him gently at arms length.
“You okay?” he asks.
Alex raises his eyes to Michael’s, warm honey under long, dark lashes, and it clicks. Why Forrest’s well-intentioned fawning made his skin crawl. Why instinct drove him straight to Michael, that first day and every other day after. Why he has a goddamn black and white photo of Foster Ranch in his house, Michael’s Airstream artfully distant in the right corner of the composition.
Michael said Alex gives him what he wants, and Alex knows that's true on some level, however complicated it's been in the past; but this whole month, he realizes, has been about Michael giving him what he needs : time, space, a safe outlet to bury all the shit he wasn't ready to deal with. And when it all caught up to him, Michael was here, too. Michael's always here. Alex is realizing that he always will be, as long as Alex wants him. And Alex has wanted him forever since he was seventeen years old.
Alex still isn't a mind-reader, but he knows what Michael wants, what he's always needed. Alex thinks he could give it to him now; nothing standing in his way except himself. He won't stand in his own way anymore; not when he's blocking the road to Michael's happiness.
"Alex?" Michael calls, and his voice brings Alex back to the present, to Michael's strong hands on his arms and his wide eyes searching Alex's face.
“I’m perfect,” Alex replies easily. “And I love you.”