Alex stared at them. Four anxious and apologetic faces stared back alongside one heartbroken one.
“What do you mean we broke up?” Michael asked again. No one had answered him the first time he asked and he was getting visibly more upset by the continued silence but Alex had no words for him. They’d broken up a month ago, a combination of growing distance, simultaneous bad weeks, too much alcohol, and a loud fight with things shouted that couldn’t be taken back.
And Michael apparently remembered none of it. He couldn’t remember anything of the last two months.
Alex looked away from his teary eyes that tore at Alex’s heart and stared at the crowd behind him. “What happened?”
“Alex-” Michael started but stopped when Alex held up a hand without even looking at him.
“Kyle?” Alex pressed.
Kyle shifted on his feet. “Honestly, I’m not sure. He hit his head but it wasn’t enough to cause this. Plus Max healed him, so…”
Alex pinched the bridge of his nose and exhaled softly. He hadn’t known what to expect when he’d gotten the SOS text from Isobel but it certainly wasn’t to find his ex-boyfriend with short term amnesia that was just long enough to make him forget that they were very definitively exes now. Michael had greeted him with a bright smile and a kiss that Alex was too stunned to resist and it had gone steadily downhill from there.
“Alex?” Michael asked again. “What happened? The last thing I remember we were great and now you’re saying we broke up a month ago? What-”
“No,” Alex shook his head. “I’m sorry you’re going through this but I’m not going to rehash everything for you. We broke up. That’s it. That’s all that matters.” His eyes flickered from Michael to Isobel and Max’s worried faces to Kyle’s look of utter perplexity to Liz’s sympathetic grimace.
“That’s not all that matters!” Michael yelled back. “Tell me how we went from happy to this,” he waved a hand at Alex, “in less than a month.”
“Michael.” Isobel put a hand on his shoulder. “Maybe not right now? You two can talk it out later.” Alex opened his mouth to object but closed it immediately when Isobel shot him a glare.
“Yeah,” he agreed instead. “Later.” He cleared his throat. “If there’s nothing else…”
Liz took kindness on him and shook her head. “I’ll walk you out.” She stood up and they both ignored everyone else as they walked out to his car. “Are you okay?” Alex hadn’t told her, or anyone, the details of the breakup but they all knew it had been bad; he and Michael could barely be in the same room as each other these days.
“I’m fine,” Alex replied.
Liz snorted softly. “Yeah, okay. Well if you decide you want a friend while you’re dealing with all that fineness, you know where I am.” Alex gave her a quick hug and a small smile and got into his car.
Just before he pulled away, he rolled down the window and called out, “Liz?” She stopped in the open doorway to the house and turned around. “You’ll keep an eye on him?”
“We will,” she promised. Alex nodded at her in thanks before pulling away.
As much as Alex would like to have put Michael and his amnesia out of his mind, he couldn’t. The rest of the day, and most of the night as he tossed and turned, he played the situation over in his head. At first it had hurt to see Michael so happy to see him, to kiss him, to see his heartbreak over their breakup; it hurt to be alone in his misery and grief over their failure to make it last. But as he thought about it, the idea of a second chance crept up on him. A chance to wipe the slate clean, to move past that last fight. It wasn’t right, Alex knew that, to take advantage of Michael’s memory problems, and Alex would certainly never do it, but the thought was there. And it was persistent.
When his alarm went off in the morning, Alex squeezed his eyes shut for a moment in protest before getting up with a groan. Today would be hell, but the sooner he got through it, the sooner he could go back to bed. That thought powered him through a shower and his morning routine all the way up until he went to make coffee and heard the truck pull up in his driveway.
Alex froze, one hand on the cabinet door, the other holding a mug aloft, as he heard first the slam of Michael’s truck door and then the familiar turn of the lock on his front door before it swung open with a bang. “Shit,” he heard Michael curse softly amid the rustle of paper bags. A moment later the door slammed shut and Alex slowly lowered his mug to the countertop as Michael rounded the corner into view.
His smile lit up his face and Alex’s heart ached. “Good morning,” Michael greeted softly. He rounded the counter and dropped the bags of food from the Crashdown on top of it on his way to kiss Alex hello. Once again, Alex was too surprised to stop him or to stop himself from kissing back out of habit.
“I don’t know what I did last night,” Michael laughed softly when he pulled back, “but I woke up in Max’s spare room. Figured since I was out already I could bring back some breakfast.”
Alex stared at him, uncomprehendingly. “Michael,” he finally said. He wasn’t sure what he sounded like but it apparently wasn’t good since Michael stopped what he was doing with the food and turned to face him.
“Alex?” He reached for him but Alex leaned out of his touch.
“What’s the last thing you remember?”
Michael furrowed his brow. “Uh,” he looked down at the food, “going to the Crashdown for breakfast?”
Alex closed his eyes briefly. “Yesterday. What’s the last thing you remember from yesterday,” he clarified.
“I don’t know,” Michael shrugged. “I worked late and we had dinner at the Crashdown and then you had something to do with Greg so I went home and watched a movie. Why? Did I forget something?”
Alex stared at him. That had been two months ago. That was the last memory Michael had mentioned having yesterday. “You don’t remember anything after that?”
“No, should I? You’re starting to scare me a little. What happened? What did I forget?”
Alex pulled out his phone and pulled up the calendar and showed it to him. Michael stared down at it before shaking his head. “No, it’s April.”
“It’s June,” Alex confirmed.
“No, it’s not,” Michael insisted.
Alex sighed and called Isobel. She answered after one ring. “Can’t talk right n-”
“He’s here,” Alex cut her off.
Isobel cursed. “Sorry. He was gone before-”
“He thinks it’s April,” he cut her off again.
This time Isobel was silent. Then, “what?”
“Just…come over.” Alex hung up without waiting for her reply.
“Alex?” Michael asked, somewhat timidly. Alex took the cup of coffee meant for him and skirted around Michael to get out of the kitchen. Michael followed. “Alex?” He asked again.
“You hit your head yesterday,” Alex told him. “And now you seem to have amnesia.” Michael scoffed. “Yesterday the last thing you could remember was us going to the Crashdown for dinner and then going home and watching a movie while I went out with Greg. That night was two months ago.” Alex paused briefly before forcing out the rest. “We broke up a month ago. You moved out and you’ve been bouncing between Isobel and Max’s guest rooms since then.”
Michael stared at him. “That’s not funny.”
“I’m not laughing.”
“I’m dead serious Guerin.” Michael flinched as if Alex had struck him.
“Since when do you call me Guerin anymore?”
“Since we broke up.”
Michael shook his head. “Alex, stop-”
The front door burst open and multiple people stampeded down the hallway, Isobel in the lead. She let out a breath when she saw Michael before swatting him on the arm. “Don’t do that! We were worried.”
Michael stared at her. “Don’t do what? Go home?”
Isobel and Max stared at him then at Alex. Liz bypassed them and came straight to Alex’s side.
“Michael,” Max said gruffly but not unkindly, “this isn’t your home anymore.”
Michael shook his head. “I don’t know what possessed you and Alex to go along with this together but it’s really not funny.”
Liz put her hand on Alex’s arm and squeezed gently. “Michael,” Isobel tried, “you hit your head, it’s causing memory problems, you don’t remember-”
“Alex and I wouldn’t break up! And if we did, it wouldn’t happen that fast!” Michael was almost shouting now.
Alex couldn’t look at him. Two months ago he would have had Michael’s conviction too but it had all unraveled almost before he even noticed. One day they were fine, struggling a little bit but overall fine, and the next day they were done.
“Michael,” Isobel grabbed his arm. “We can talk about this at Max’s but I’m sure Alex wants his house back so we should go.”
“I have to get to work,” Alex admitted. He glanced at the clock on his phone. “I’m going to be late.”
“Great, then we really should go,” Isobel insisted. She tugged gently then firmly at Michael’s arm when he didn’t budge.
“Alex…” Michael looked to him.
“Go Michael,” Alex ordered quietly. And Michael went. Isobel flashed him a grim look over her shoulder as she led him out and Max barely glanced at him as he followed. Liz hesitated, her hand still on his arm. “Liz, I really do need to get to work.”
She smiled wryly. “Not going to tell me you’re fine?”
Alex shook his head. “No. Because I’m really not. But I do have to work so…”
“Okay. Call me when you get off and I’ll come over.”
Alex agreed and then she left too. He needed to be out the door five minutes ago but Alex took a moment to breath deeply and try to process just what the hell had happened here this morning. He’d spent hours thinking, albeit halfheartedly, that he and Michael might get a second chance, and now that was gone. At the very least, he had expected the hard part to be over with.
The unexpected reality of having to tell Michael they were over again was a slap in the face that he really hadn’t needed.
The next three days, Alex got a text from either Liz or Isobel telling him that Michael’s memory hadn’t changed. He woke up every morning thinking the previous night was that night two months ago and every morning they had to update him on what he’d missed.
Even if they hadn’t texted him, Alex would have known anyway from the sheer number of texts and calls he got from the other man. He was very close to blocking his number even though he didn’t want to do that, though honestly, with their group of friends, everyone needed to be able to get in touch with each other at a moment’s notice so blocking wasn’t really an option. And yet.
The fourth day was Saturday and Alex’s day to sleep in. Early enough that the sun was barely coming through the window, Alex woke up to a warm body slipping into bed next to him. He was still half asleep and his body still so used to sleeping next to Michael that he merely rolled over and tucked himself in next to him and went back to sleep.
He woke up again hours later to a firm jostling of his shoulder. Alex cracked an eye open to see Liz staring at him from next to the bed. Her eyes flickered between his face and the space behind his shoulder and Alex only had a moment to wonder what she was doing in his bedroom when he registered the furnace behind him and realized what had happened. “He slipped out early,” she whispered apologetically.
Alex squeezed his eyes shut, enjoyed the heat of Michael’s body for a brief moment more, then turned over and shoved Michael out of the bed. He hit the floor with a loud yelp before shooting to his feet. Liz blushed and turned her back at the sight of Michael’s naked body. Alex just closed his eyes again.
“Alex, what the-”
“Put your clothes back on and go with Liz,” he ordered without opening his eyes. There was a moment where nobody moved and he knew Michael was going to argue. “Now,” he added, his tone brooking no argument. Liz stayed where she was as Michael moved around the room and picked up his clothes. When he was dressed, Liz shooed him out of the room ahead of her.
“Alex, I am so sorry. We didn’t think he’d be up that early on a Saturday.”
Alex shoveed the palms of his hands into his eyes. “He used to pick up the opening shift at Sanders’,” he told her. “He’s used to getting up at dawn on Saturdays.”
“Can you just get him out of here?”
Liz nodded and left without another word. Her voice carried down the hall from where she was talking to Michael but Alex couldn’t make out any of the words and a moment later he heard the front door close. Only then did he let the tears fall.
Week two of Michael’s recurrent amnesia was no better than the first. The others did a good job of keeping him occupied and away from Alex but Alex still couldn’t bring himself to block Michael’s number and still had to deal with the constant interruptions. But not even their combined efforts could keep Michael away forever and on the third day of the second week, Alex came home from work to Michael sitting in his living room.
“Get out,” Alex greeted tiredly.
Michael’s face, hopeful just a moment ago, fell. “I don’t understand.”
“I know,” Alex replied honestly. Because he did, he understood that one day was not enough to understand everything that had changed for Michael. But he also understood that he couldn’t do this with him. “But I’m not doing this. I’m not explaining it and I’m not talking about it and I want you to go.”
“Why won’t you tell me? The others can’t tell me anything because they don’t know either.”
Alex sighed heavily. “What would be the point? You’re just going to forget again.”
Michael’s jaw clenched and he nodded jerkily. “Fine. You’re right. Why bother explaining anything to the guy with amnesia.” With that, he got to his feet and pushed past Alex on his way to the door. Part of Alex wanted to stop him, wanted to apologize, but he didn’t. It was harsh, but it was true. There was no point having it out with Michael only for him to forget it all over again. The only thing it would accomplish was hurting them both but only Alex would have to live with it.
On the second Saturday of Michael’s amnesia, Alex had dropped into bed so late Friday that he was fairly certain not even the shock of his dead father appearing before him could get him out of bed. And in his exhaustion, he forgot what had happened the previous week. This time he didn’t so much as stir when Michael slipped into bed beside him and pulled him into his arms. He only woke when he heard Max’s loud whispering from the doorway.
“Michael,” Max hissed. Michael groaned in greeting. “Come here.”
“Go away, Max,” Michael mumbled. “It’s Saturday.” He burrowed closer to Alex and wrapped his arm around Alex’s waist, his hand dipping low and that’s when Alex finally woke up. He grabbed Michael’s wrist and pulled it away from him before it got too close to certain parts of his anatomy. Michael whined and nuzzled into his hair. “Alex.”
Alex pushed his hand back over to his side of the bed and leaned over to grab Michael’s phone. Unlocking it, the password forever unchanged, he set a daily reminder for first thing in the morning telling Michael what had happened and that he and Alex had broken up and to stay away. That done, he dropped the phone on Michael’s chest and escaped to the bathroom before Michael could drag him back. He hid there for a few minutes before there was a knock on the door. “We’re heading out,” Max told him.
Alex didn’t bother replying.
The reminder worked for zero (0) days.
First thing Sunday morning, Michael came barreling into his room holding his phone in the air. “What the hell is this?” Liz came in hot on his heels.
“Michael!” She whisper-yelled. “What part of leave Alex alone told you to come running over here first thing in the morning?!” Alex groaned and put a pillow over his head, hoping to block out the two intruders.
“This is crap!” Michael shouted back. “It’s some sick joke.”
“Mikey,” Liz cajoled. “I will explain everything just please come with me. Let Alex sleep.”
“But-” Michael started to protest. Alex took the pillow off his head long enough to say, “go with Liz,” before immediately replacing it.
“Mikey,” Liz said again, softer this time. “Come on.”
They didn’t close the door behind them but Alex breathed a sigh of relief when the front door shut a few minutes later.
“I come in peace,” Michael greeted quietly when Alex opened the door a full week later. Alex dropped his head to the door frame and groaned but didn’t say anything. Michael watched him with a soft look for a long moment before continuing. “I have amnesia. I don’t remember the last three months. Every day I wake up and forget the previous day. You and I broke up two months ago. No one knows why.”
Alex arched an eyebrow in question when he stopped.
“I want to know why.” Alex didn’t have time to say anything before Michael held up a hand and continued. “I have a journal. It looks like I started keeping track of the days after the first week or so. I wrote down that I started it after I tried to talk to you about this before and you said it was pointless because I wouldn’t remember anyway.”
Alex straightened and looked at him in surprise. “No one’s mentioned a journal.”
Michael shrugged. “I don’t know if they know about it. No one’s mentioned it to me or suggested I write something down so they probably don’t know. But I know. I don’t find it every day but I find it most days and when I do I write down what happened. So can we talk? I promise I’ll try to remember.”
Alex thought it over and then opened the door wider. He turned and walked into the living room, trusting Michael to follow him.
“So,” Michael started when they were settled on the couch. Alex had stopped to get a cup of tea even though he didn’t drink it just to have something to do with his hands. “What happened?”
Alex didn’t look at him, his attention fixed on the mug in his hands, his fingers toying with the string of the tea bag. “We grew distant.”
“In a month?” Michael interrupted. Alex glared at him and he held his hands up in apology. “Sorry. Continue.”
“We just kept getting busy with other things and didn’t see each other much and then we both had things come up with work and Maria and I fought and you and Max were going at it about something, I don’t even know what because you wouldn’t talk to me about it, and it all just boiled up. I was angry about work and Maria and you were pissed about something and you refused to talk to me about it. That lasted about a week. I’m not sure we really spoke that week. We definitely didn’t see each other other than a few minutes in the mornings. And then we made plans to go to the Pony and you wouldn’t stop drinking so I kept drinking because I wanted to stop being mad at you and then when we somehow got back here we just-” Alex stopped. “We fought.” He sighed heavily. “Things were said that can’t be unsaid and we broke up.”
The silence lingered between them for a long moment until Alex finally looked over at Michael. Michael was staring at the floor, his face twisted in concentration.
Michael looked up at him and blinked a couple of times. “I don’t think you’ve ever said so much without actually saying anything before.”
Alex blinked. “What?”
“We got busy? We fought? So what? We do that all the time. It’s called life, remember?” Alex did remember. A few months into their relationship they had been drifting apart a little bit, both of them caught up in other things for a while and didn’t have time for each other, and it had scared them into going to couple’s therapy. They only went for a few sessions but the one thing that stuck with them was that they didn’t need to be together all the time. It was okay to have other interests and priorities so long as they kept making an effort to make time for each other. People got busy, the therapist had said, couple fought. It was normal. The couples that stayed together were the ones that made an effort to stay together. It was advice that had gotten them through a few rough patches over the year and a half they were together, but- “this was different,” Alex insisted.
“I call bullshit,” Michael protested. “One big fight and we just gave up? That’s crap. That’s not us.”
Alex looked at him steadily. “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever thought of me?”
“What?” Michael shook his head slightly. “Where is that coming fro-?”
“Sometimes I really am my father’s son,” Alex cut him off and Michael’s mouth snapped shut.
It was quiet a moment before Michael spoke. “And what did you say?” He didn’t try to deny that he’d said it.
Alex looked away. “If I was my father’s son, you would have been in Caulfield with your mother.”
Michael sat there a moment before getting up without a word. The front door closed softly in his wake.
Three days later he was back.
“Michael,” Alex greeted warily.
“Alex,” Michael greeted. His voice wasn’t cold but it wasn’t as warm as it used to be. It was enough to tell Alex that Michael had written down their conversation and had read it today. “Can we talk?”
“Why?” Alex exhaled. “What’s the point?”
“The point is I love you and you love me and I don’t care what we fought about, it won’t be the end of us. I won’t let it be.” He took a step closer. If Alex tried to close the door now it would bounce off of Michael’s shoes. “Alex,” he added quietly. “If you really think one fight is the end of us, say so now. I’ll write it in my journal and I won’t come back.”
Alex looked at him, really looked for the first time in weeks. Michael let him, saying nothing and gazing back with honest sincerity in his eyes.
Alex opened the door further. “Come on in.”
The next time Alex saw Michael, Michael hadn’t read his journal yet. It was only two days after their last conversation and Alex wasn’t prepared for it.
“Alex!” Michael’s voice rang clear across the busy street. The honest joy in it stopped Alex in his tracks and let Michael catch up. “Hey, stranger,” he greeted when he slipped an arm around Alex’s waist. Alex remembered himself in time to dodge Michael’s kiss.
“Hey,” Alex returned, stepping neatly out of his grasp. He glanced around for Michael’s current babysitter, the others still not letting him go anywhere alone just in case something exactly like this happened.
“What’s wrong?” Michael asked, reaching for him again. Again, Alex stepped away. A few stores down, Isobel appeared out of a shop, her head down as she double checked something in her bag.
“Isobel!” Alex called.
Isobel’s head snapped up and she looked at him with wide eyes. She was a little too far away for Alex to hear but her lips clearly formed the word shit. “Michael,” she called as she hurried over to them. “I thought you were waiting for me outside.”
“I am outside,” Michael replied, glancing between her and Alex. “What’s going on?”
Alex looked to Isobel. She gave him a halfhearted apologetic shrug. “He’s always mopey after we tell him, I just wanted a few hours before that today. I didn’t think it would be a problem.” She didn’t think they’d run into Alex, she didn’t say.
Alex rolled his eyes. “I trust you all know how to handle it by now,” he told her. “So I will let you handle it.” He cut a glance at Michael before turning away.
“Alex?” Michael called after him. Alex ignored him.
Hours later, as Alex was getting ready for bed, his front door burst open. Alex groaned in frustration but continued brushing his teeth as Michael called his name.
“I talked to Max,” Michael’s voice came from the doorway. Alex rinsed and spit and didn’t reply. “I know what we fought about. Before.”
Alex looked at him through the mirror. “Max doesn’t know what we fought about.”
“Not you and me,” Michael clarified. “Me and Max.”
Alex dried his hands and picked up his crutches. “Oh?” Michael moved out of the doorway when Alex approached and led him back into the living room. Alex cast a forlorn look at his bedroom and followed.
“After I saw you in town earlier and Isobel filled me in, I went looking for a record or something. I knew there was no way I would just let myself never remember.”
“So you found your journal.”
“Yeah. You said that one of the reasons I was angry before our fight was because of issues with Max that I wouldn’t tell you about.” Alex nodded. “So I talked to Max.”
“How’d that go?”
Michael shrugged. “He wanted to know if I remembered anything but other than that it didn’t seem to be a big deal.”
“So what was the fight about?”
Michael twisted to the side and retrieved a stack of folders Alex had somehow missed sitting on the coffee table. He dropped them in front of Alex. “Max went digging through your military record. He said he knew we were serious but he didn’t want to take the chance of me getting hurt again so he wanted to make sure I knew what I was getting into.”
Alex stared at the files. “He shouldn’t have those. It’s illegal to have those.”
Michael shrugged. “My guess is Jenna or Charlie helped him out.”
“Did you read them?”
Michael shook his head. “No. At least, not today. I don’t know if I read them before.”
“If this was what the fight about, if I was what the fight was about,” Alex said slowly, “why wouldn’t you tell me that?”
“I don’t know,” Michael shrugged. “But I can guess. And I’d say that I probably was pissed at Max for butting into my relationship and for violating your privacy like that and I probably didn’t say anything because I didn’t want you to know my brother had done that.”
Alex stared at him. “You were angry at him for violating my privacy but didn’t feel the need to tell me that he’d done it?”
Michael rubbed the back of his neck. “I don’t know. I’m guessing here. But it was the first thing that came to mind when he showed them to me tonight so I can only guess it’s what I thought last time.”
“You read it,” Alex declared.
“I told you I didn’t.”
Alex shook his head. “Not tonight. Before. During our fight you said something that didn’t make sense at the time because there was no way you could have known about it but if you had my file…”
“Don’t,” Alex shot back. “Don’t apologize for something you don’t remember doing. It doesn’t mean anything.”
“Fine,” Michael huffed. Neither said anything for a while. “What did you and Maria fight about?” Michael finally asked.
Alex looked up at him. “What?”
“You said we were both pissed off. Me because I fought with Max,” he gestured at the file, “and you because you’d fought with Maria. Now we both know why I was pissed, what about you?”
Alex sat back against the couch with a grunt. “She said some things I didn’t like.” Michael waited for him to continue but Alex didn’t add anything. He rolled his eyes and motioned for Alex to carry on. Still, Alex hesitated. “She- she wanted to give me advice. About you.”
Michael blinked. “Why would Maria give you advice about me?”
“Because she’s the only other person you’ve ever dated?”
“So? Our relationships are totally different.”
Alex raised an eyebrow. “Oh? How so?”
“Do you really need me to spell it out for you?” Michael sounded incredulous.
“Maria and I were good together but we weren’t going anywhere. It wasn’t going to be a forever thing and we both knew if even if we didn’t admit it. You and me, we are the forever thing. This isn’t a fling, or a fun way to spend a few months together. This is it. We are it. Maria wouldn’t know the first thing about me in a relationship with you because the two don’t compare. She and I had our thing and it was good and fun and it ended when it needed to. You and I have our thing and it’s amazing and it’s not ending because it doesn’t need to. Not now, not ever.”
“Michael,” Alex exhaled. “It’s not that simple.”
“Yes it is,” Michael shot back immediately. “You said it yourself, this is it. No more fucking around, no more going back and forth. We are in it together and that’s how it’s going to stay. Whatever happens, we work through it. So let’s work through it.”
“You don’t remember,” Alex reminded him. “We said awful things to each other.”
“I don’t care,” Michael shrugged. “I don’t, Alex. I really don’t. So what if we did? So what if we meant them, even just a little bit of us? We’ve always been good at knowing where to hurt each other, that hasn’t changed, but that doesn’t mean we give up. Because no matter how many awful things we say, they’re just words.”
“Words matter.” It was a lesson they’d learned the hard way after too many years of too few conversations.
“They do,” Michael agreed. “But so do actions. And we have built a life together and it is good and I don’t want to give it up.”
“You did. You do.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“You don’t fucking remember!” Alex shouted.
“I remember enough!” Michael shouted back. “Over a month and I never set foot in the Airstream. I bounced between Isobel and Max’s places and I lived out of a duffel bag and I never once attempted to move back into the Airstream. If I had given up, I wouldn’t have kept my shit in boxes in Izzy’s spare room. I don’t know why I agreed to move out but I know I didn’t think it was permanent. I know I kept everything boxed up and ready to move back in. A month, Alex. I lived out of a duffel bag for a month.” He shook his head. “I wasn’t done with this, with you, with us. I wasn’t and I’m not.”
Alex just stared at him, unable to come up with a reply. Michael stared back, his breath a little uneven. When Alex didn’t say anything, he stood up and moved closer until he was right in front of him. Alex had to crane his neck back to look him in the eyes but it was worth it. Michael hadn’t looked at him like that in months, not even on those days when he didn’t remember or know yet. “Michael…”
Michael slowly reached down and cupped Alex’s face. “I love you, Alex. And you love me. And it’s enough. Everything else is just…” he shook his head. “It’s not easy and it’s not perfect but it’s us. And that’s all I care about.”
“Fuck,” Alex cursed lowly. “I do. I do love you.”
Michael smiled. “I know.”
“I don’t know how to fix this though,” Alex continued. He pulled Michael down until he was sitting on the coffee table in front of Alex. “I remember the fight that broke us and as much as we talk about it and you write it in your journal, I don’t know how to move past it when you don’t remember it. I don’t-”
“We’ll figure it out. Kyle and Liz are doing their research thing to figure out what fried my brain. They’ll come up with an answer and we’ll go from there.”
Alex closed his eyes. “And if they don’t? If this is permanent?”
Michael was quiet for a moment. “Is that a deal breaker? Do I have to have my memory for us to be together?”
“Normally I would say no. We can always make new memories together but this wasn’t a small thing, Michael. I don’t know if I can be the only one in this who remembers it.”
Michael swallowed thickly and nodded. “Okay. Well. Let’s cross that bridge if we come to it.”
Alex wanted to protest. He knew it wasn’t that easy, but he also knew he was done fighting about it tonight. “I’ve missed you,” he admitted quietly.
“I’ve missed you too.” Michael moved from the coffee table to the couch next to Alex.
Alex rolled his eyes. “As far as you’re concerned we were together yesterday. Hell we were still together this morning.”
“I know. It’s weird. I still missed you though.” Alex closed his eyes and leaned against Michael’s shoulder and soaked in his warmth for a bit.
“You should go,” he finally said when his eyes were getting droopy. “You should go to Max or Isobel’s.”
Michael sighed but got up without complaint. “I’ll see you soon.”
Alex’s lips twisted in a wry grin. “If you say so.” Michael smiled back at him and kissed him softly on the forehead before leaving.
Every day for the next couple of weeks, Michael stopped by after dinner. Alex wasn’t sure where he was keeping his journal these days but he was pretty diligent about keeping it up to date and reading it. If Alex hadn’t known that he was still having the same memory issues he would have thought he was starting to form new memories.
It was still odd for Alex, to have conversations about Michael with Michael only without Michael knowing the context. He’d tried to explain the fight more fully but he would never be able to tell Michael what he’d been thinking or feeling during it or why he’d stormed out that night or why he hadn’t put up a fight when Alex suggested he move out. But still there were talking and it was more than they’d had in a while.
Maria’s words still echoed in his ears sometimes and his file sat on his desk like a beacon of Max’s interference but they were starting to deal with it. Michael still slept at Max or Isobel’s because Alex couldn’t stand to have that first conversation with him in the morning; the one time Michael had tried sleeping in the guest room, the morning after had been painful. It was one thing to see Michael after he’d read his journal and come to grips with everything, it was another thing entirely to see Michael as he was months ago. Before.
One night, Michael came over early enough for them to eat dinner and dragged Alex out to the Crashdown. They hadn’t been out together in months by that point and they garnered a few looks from people who had noticed their breakup but no one said anything to them, not even Liz or Rosa. Alex had forgotten how nice it was to just be out with Michael and he lost track of what was going on around them while they ate.
Maybe that was why he didn’t notice.
Maybe that was why it wasn’t until there was a gun pointed at Rosa’s head for him to realize there was a problem.
It was Liz’s voice, sharp and pained and anxious, that got Alex’s attention. He tore his gaze from Michael, a smile still on his lips, and turned to see his friends. A hush fell over the diner as others noticed the gun. Alex saw hands going for cell phones everywhere, a low whisper starting up as customers called 911, but Alex only had eyes on the gunman.
He was saying something to Rosa. Alex didn’t know what, his Spanish had always been awful, but he didn’t care. What he cared about was that the man’s finger was on the trigger and he looked prepared to shoot. Alex slowly rose from his seat. Michael grabbed his wrist and tried to pull him back down, his own hand reaching out to move the gun but Alex stilled him and shook him off. There was no way Michael could reveal his powers in front of everyone and there was no way Alex was sitting on his ass while someone threatened his friends.
Alex was thankful he’d brought his crutch with him today; the device fooled people into thinking he wasn’t a threat. Leaning heavily on it, he made his way to Rosa’s side.
“Fuck off,” the man said to him. His gun didn’t waver from Rosa’s head, though, and Alex ignored him.
“Rosa, you okay?” Alex asked quietly. Rosa shot him an incredulous look but didn’t say anything, her eyes flicking back to the gun quickly.
Behind the gunman, customers were starting to duck out the door. The man didn’t pay them any attention so more hurried out. They stayed quiet though so Alex ignored them. “I’m not sure what’s going on here,” Alex said, “but it doesn’t need to end badly. Just put the gun down and walk away.”
The man sneered at him. “Just walk away? That’s not how this works.” His attention was on Alex now and his aim wavered. On Rosa’s other side, Liz started to pull her away from the man. She made it two steps before his attention snapped back to her, the gun moving back to her face. While it was in motion, Alex moved. He hit the man with the full force of his body and drove them both to the floor.
The gun went off.
Alex punched the man across the face with his crutch and watched his body go limp.
“Alex!” Michael yelled.
That was when Alex noticed the pain. It bloomed from a spot in the left side of his chest. He had barely felt it when hands gripped him tight and rolled him onto his back. “Shit,” Liz cursed. She pressed both hands on Alex’s chest and pushed until Alex cried out. “Rosa, get me something to stop the bleeding.”
Michael’s hands were on his face and then Alex was staring up into his eyes. “That didn’t go as I intended.”
“I fucking hope not!” Liz lifted a hand to grab something from Rosa and Michael’s hand replaced it immediately.
“What happened!” Jenna called in from the doorway.
“Alex got shot,” Liz called back. “The guy’s out cold.”
“Alright hold on, I can send in EMS.”
“Wait!” Liz and Rosa yelled in unison. “Get them back!” Liz added. Alex wondered why until he saw the strange glow emanating from his chest, or more specifically, emanating from Michael’s hand on his chest.
“Jesus Christ Guerin it’s the middle of the day!” Jenna huffed before leaving to get any and all possibly witnesses as far away as she could.
“Come on, Alex,” Michael urged. The glow got brighter and Alex felt his pain go away.
When it was nearly gone, Alex pushed Michael’s hand off. “Stop. You can’t collapse just yet and there has to be something to explain the gunshot and all the blood.”
“You got shot,” Michael panted, already exhausted.
“I’m okay,” Alex promised.
There was a sound at the doorway. “We got incoming,” Rosa warned. A moment later EMS and police swarmed into the diner and pulled Michael away from him.
It was the next day before the doctors (Kyle) and police let him go. Michael was already at his house when he got home.
Alex was about to reassure him that he was fine before he realized that Michael wouldn’t remember. “Michael-”
“You were wearing a blue sweater,” Michael cut him off.
Alex blinked. “What?”
“The night we had that fight. You were wearing a blue sweater. It looked amazing on you.”
“Forrest bought it for you.” Michael pressed forward. He hadn’t gotten up from the couch, his body seemingly frozen in place. “That’s what set me off. I was pissed at Max and I felt guilty for not telling you why and it had been a shit week at work and I was drunk and you were wearing a sweater that Forrest gave you and it was the thing that tipped me over the edge.” He finally looked up at Alex. “I remember everything. And I’m sorry. I said a lot of things I shouldn’t have said and if I could take them back I would but I can’t so we’re going to move forward.”
“How?” Alex exhaled.
Michael nodded at him and pressed a hand over the left side of his chest, a mirror of where Alex’s wound had been. Alex didn’t need to tug his shirt out of the way to see the handprint there but he did it anyway. “Our minds are linked right now and it, I don’t know, jump started my memory or something. I don’t really care how, honestly, I just care that I remember.”
Alex walked over and eased into the chair opposite Michael. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I said things I shouldn’t have too and I wish I could take it back. Also I probably could have behaved better when you didn’t have your memory. I was a little-”
“Alex, no, I can’t imagine what it was like for you to have to deal with a me who didn’t remember and acted like nothing had happened. I don’t blame you for anything.”
“No,” Michael shook his head. “No more apologies. There’s only one thing I think we needed to apologize for and we’ve already done that. Now we can focus on moving forward.”
Alex looked at him carefully. “Why didn’t you go back to the Airstream?”
Michael let out a breath. “Because that would have been admitting it was over and I couldn’t do that. I was just…waiting I guess. Waiting for us both to cool down, to be able to talk about it. Admittedly, it was taking longer than I expected. The day of the accident I meant to go over to the Airstream to see if it was habitable but I didn’t quite make it there.”
“Probably for the best.”
Alex hummed. “Would’ve made packing it all up again a pain.”
Michael arched an eyebrow. “Just like that?”
Alex snorted. “No. But it’s not just like that, Michael, we’ve been talking for weeks. I’m not saying jump back in like nothing ever happened but I think we’re at the point where we can both acknowledge that we’re not done, we’re not over.”
“We’re never going to be done,” Michael agreed.
“Maybe you stay with Max or Isobel for a few more weeks,” Alex suggested. Michael didn’t look too pleased about that. “Or maybe you don’t.”
“And if I don’t?”
“I have a guest room,” Alex reminded him.
Michael turned to look over his shoulder at said guest room. “You do,” he agreed.
“I also have a really nice bed.”
Michael turned back to him, a smile stretching across his face. “You do.”
“And I really hate sleeping alone.”
Michael laughed softly. “You do.”
“We still have a lot to talk about and deal with,” Alex cautioned.
“We do,” Michael agreed. “But it’s been a very rough few months and you got shot and almost died in my arms yesterday so can we talk about it tomorrow?” He looked weary for a moment before he straightened his shoulders.
“Yeah,” Alex agreed. “Tomorrow sounds good.”