“You sure you’re not jamming these on purpose, DeLuca?"
Maria sighs. “Can you fix them or not, Guerin?”
Michael winks at her. “You know I can.”
“Oh, I know,” Maria says, a half-smile on her face. “What I don’t know is how much it’ll cost me.”
Michael stares at her thoughtfully. “Clear tab would be a good start.”
Maria arches an eyebrow. “Would it? I was thinking more along the lines of... Oh my god.”
Michael looks up, concerned. “DeLuca?”
Louder, now. “Maria?”
Maria looks down at him, clearly distracted. “Yeah, I’ll clear your tab,” she says. She moves quickly away from Michael to the other side of the bar. Curious, Michael pokes his head up over the bar, sees Maria embracing someone.
He narrows his eyes. Looks like a guy. It’s a long hug, a real one. Does DeLuca have a boyfriend? The embrace ends, Maria pulls back, and -
Michael immediately ducks back down, low beneath the bar.
He takes a breath, then another. Begins to slowly crawl toward the other side of the bar.
This is pathetic, he thinks, feeling the sticky, beer splattered floor beneath him. Pathetic and sad and ridiculous, but still he inches closer to Maria.
“ - so happy for you two!”
Michael freezes. You two?
“Thanks,” he hears Alex say. Alex, god. Alex is here, in this bar with him, breathing the same goddamn air.
“It’s still pretty new,” he hears another man say. “I’m just glad he said yes!”
Maria laughs. “Well I’d say this calls for the good stuff!” she says merrily as she turns toward the glasses... and promptly trips right over Michael.
“Fuck!” she cries as she goes down, and Michael releases a quick burst of power to ease her fall, reaches out to catch her.
“You okay?” he asks quickly, looking her over.
“Yeah,” Maria says, “yeah, I’m fine, but... what are you doing over here? It’s the Sam Adams that’s broken, down at the other end.”
“I... I was just...”
Michael closes his eyes briefly. Takes a breath. Looks up.
He’s quiet for a long moment, long enough for Maria to get to her feet. “Michael,” she says, gentler than usual. “Do you remember Alex? Alex Manes? He went to school with us.”
The guy Michael doesn’t recognize, the guy that’s really fucking attractive, the guy that, that’s with Alex chuckles. “Wow, babe, did you go to school with everyone in this bar?”
Michael bites his lip, looks at Maria. “I remember Alex,” he says quietly. Before anything else can be said, he points behind him. “I’ll be right back.”
Maria nods and Michael hurries off, straight to the bathroom. He shuts the door behind him, contemplates locking it with his powers but decides against it when he sees one of the stalls is occupied. He’s otherwise alone, and he’s grateful for it.
Alex. Alex, here in Roswell, unannounced. With a guy. A guy who, if context clues are to be believed, is Alex’s fiancé.
Michael feels depleted. Drained. And it’s not like he’s never thought of this. Not like, in his more generous moments, he hasn’t hoped for this. For Alex. That he could find some peace, some happiness. Even if it wasn’t with Michael.
But it’s a whole other thing to see this “happiness” in the flesh - all six, muscular feet of it. Fucking dammit.
Things must have moved fast. It’s been two years since Alex was last in town. Since they were last together. There’d been no promises - there never were. Alex was set to deploy to Baghdad and, like always, Michael had hoped it would be the time things would be different. It wasn’t… unless you counted the new fiancé. That was pretty fucking different.
He hears the door to the bathroom swing open. Hears the familiar voice.
He takes a deep breath, gathers himself. “Alex,” he says, matter-of-fact. He can’t look at him, not yet. “I guess congratulations are in order?”
“I’m sorry you found out like this.”
Michael lets out a bitter little laugh. “And how exactly were you hoping I’d find out?” Alex doesn’t answer, and Michael shakes his head, grips the sink. “So,” he says, fake-casual, “how’d you two lovebirds meet?”
There’s a pause, a long one. “Hospital.”
Michael freezes. Turns, slowly, to face Alex. Sees the cane and the way Alex is leaning on it for support. “What happened?” he asks, dreading the answer.
Alex purses his lips. “IED.”
Alex stares at him. “Bad,” he says, reaching down and knocking on his right leg. The sound that results, dull and metallic, makes Michael’s stomach turn.
“I didn’t know,” he says.
“I know,” Alex says quietly.
If Michael didn’t know Alex had a fiancé waiting for him on the other side of the door, he’d go to him. Take him in his arms, assure himself that he’s here, really here. Breathe in the scent of him, show him how much he’s missed him, how much he still cares. How much his heart aches for him, for the recent injury and recovery that he hadn’t even known about before tonight.
But he doesn’t do any of that. Can’t. Alex is engaged.
“I didn’t think you’d still be here,” Alex finally says.
They’d fought about that, last time Alex was in town. They both knew how to hurt each other, after all these years, all these goodbyes. Michael shrugs, changes the subject. “What are you and your fiancé doing here?” He draws out the word fiancé, and is a little pleased to see Alex flinch at the sound of it.
“Thomas thought it was important to see where I’m from. Meet...” He pauses, swallows. “Meet my family.”
Michael sucks in a breath. “Then Thomas must not know you very well.” He sees the flash of anger on Alex’s face, keeps barreling forward. “Cause, cause if he did, Alex... Shit, this would be the last place he’d want you to be.” He looks down at his dirt-stained boots. “It’s the last place I want you to be. Anywhere near your asshole dad.”
He hears Alex’s breathing. It’s slowing down and he’s not saying anything. Michael glances up briefly, sees Alex staring at his hand. He jams it in his pocket.
Alex shakes his head a little. “I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing, okay?” he says, and he sounds so... weary. “It’s not, not like I’ve dated...”
Michael scoffs, feels his own anger rising.
“I’m just trying not to fuck this up - “
“Fuck it up how? By being honest? By telling your fiancé that your dad is a homophobic shithead?” Michael narrows his eyes. “I would think if you really cared about this guy - “
“That’s enough,” Alex grits out. He turns, then pauses like he might say something else. Doesn’t. Stalks out of the bathroom.
And Michael just watches him go. Closes his eyes, bites his lip, and wishes he’d gone anywhere but the Pony tonight.
It’ll all be over soon, he tells himself. Alex and his fiancé will leave town, and the pain will recede to a dull ache, like it always does. Maybe... maybe this time there will actually be some finality to it, some closure, knowing that Alex has someone else to -
Michael whirls around to see the door to the bathroom stall finally open.
“Shit,” Kyle Valenti says, a sheepish expression on his face. “I thought maybe you’d left already.”
Of all the fucking people to hear his drama with Alex... “Nope,” Michael says, scowling.
Kyle gives him a little nod and goes to the sink. Washes his hands quickly.
Michael quirks an eyebrow at him. “Really? That’s it?” He laughs a little, almost daring Valenti to come at him. “Your bigoted ass doesn’t have a single thing to say about all this?”
Kyle closes his eyes briefly. “I’m sorry,” he says, and it sounds... sincere. “I’m sorry for how I acted in high school. I know how wrong it was.” He looks at Michael pointedly. “I know it hurt a lot of people. Especially Alex, but not just him.”
Michael can do nothing but blink.
“See you around, Guerin,” Kyle says, sounding almost regretful. He leaves the bathroom, and not five seconds later, Hank and Wyatt stumble in.
“This isn’t Planet Fucking Seven, you know?” Wyatt grumbles loudly.
And Michael knows he can’t listen to this shit without blowing up. Not tonight. He pushes past the men, exits the bathroom, and heads straight for the main doors of the Pony. He feels a twinge of guilt over sticking Maria with the faulty Sam Adams tap, but figures she’d rather be dealing with that than a bar brawl.
He’s not drunk. In fact, he feels a little too sober. Guiding his truck out of the Pony, he reaches for the bottle of acetone he has shoved in the glove compartment. Takes a long swig. Knows he’ll have more once he gets to the Airstream.
Knows that the hope he’s been clinging to for the past nine years is now officially gone.