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Michael is in the bathroom when he gets a sharp jab in his skull.

It’s like someone is poking at him and he recoils from the sink, almost crashing into some other guy. He mumbles an apology when it happens again. It forces him to listen or to feel, he’s pretty sure this isn’t auditory. Discomfort hits him, followed by disgust and it shapes itself into an thought it takes him a moment to fully comprehend.

Get out here.

Michael gets out. Maria is the focal point of several guys who are well into that nasty drunk phase. One of them has her hand on his, it looks seductive but Michael knows she’s got it there for a reason. Maria’s a great fucking actress, nothing about her screams help. The most he gets is surprise that she quickly turns to a grin that’s completely apologetic.

“Sorry guys,” she says, “honey what are you doing here? I’m working?”

“Trying to decide which of these guys sucks more ass at pool,” he says, “I think it’s a three way tie.”

They rush him at the same time.

After Maria puts ice to the right side of his face as he wishes that Max was there. She is quiet and he wonders if he fucked up. But she lowers the ice and takes his hands in both of hers.

“You’ve never come that fast before,” she says, “did you hear me?”

Michael’s mouth is dry. Immediately his mind flashes from the bathroom to the prison. The pain to the overwhelming love he felt. It was easier to understand, like his mother knew how to work the connection. How to control everything. He remembers the gentleness of her voice rather than the way Maria felt like she was desperately trying to get his attention. Like she didn’t think he could hear.

“How many times did you call?” He asks.

“Twice.”

He feels lightheaded. It must show on his face because something painfully hopeful shows on Maria’s. He can hear her. He can hear her and she isn’t alone until she has kids. Oh thank you, thankyoutthankyou—Michael shoves himself back and Maria let’s go of his hands instantly. Her sunshine warm fog becomes ephemeral and dissipates, leaving him alone. He almost snatches it back but he can’t move until it’s gone. And then everything is just cold and jumbled.

“I don’t—“ he shakes his head, “I don’t understand.”

“You’re an empath,” She says, “we may have been along the same wavelength so you didn’t realize,” he looks at her blankly, “my mom used to do that to me until I got strong enough.”

“I’m not an empath, I’m telekinetic,” he protests, “how can I just develop—“ he stops, his stomach dropping, “I gotta go.”

Maria lets him, nothing but sympathy on her face. He stops at the door and turns around.

“I’ll help. When you’re ready,” she says, “you shouldn’t go through this alone.”

“Thank you.”

He doesn’t call Alex on his way over. 1 am is late but Alex is a night owl. He’s definitely awake. Michael thinks back to Max after he killed Noah. He’d been almost in a mania but Michael hadn’t thought much of it. And then he had been dead, which took precedence. Absorbing other people’s powers, that wasn’t something they had thought about. But why would it be? Until very recently they hadn’t known there were other people’s powers to absorb. He tugs his curls and fights the uncomfortable feeling of someone else’s powers in him. He knows all the cheesy shit about parents passing things on and he knows the genetic part of it. But this is like a tangible part of his mother is rooted him and he can’t wrap his head around it. Before he goes crazy, he has to be sure. And there’s only one place he knows to get answers from.

The lights are on in Alex’s cabin and Michael barely stops the car before he walks to the door. He knocks hard. He can only hope that Alex will let him in, that he’ll get it. This is bigger than their romantic stuff, right? The door opens and he has to rethink that. Alex is standing there in a pair of grey pj bottoms and a white t-shirt, a pair of glasses on his nose. His hair is sticking out in all directions. A wave of longing crashes over Michael. He looks good and something is wrong. Alex silently takes a deep breath and calm settles over him, though historically Alex taking a deep breath happens before shit hits the fan. It’s never calming to be on the other end. Which can only mean—

“Oh fuck,” Michael realizes. Maria was right. She was cancelling him out, “shit.”

A wave of affection and hurt crashes over him but he smiles around the ache.

“Hi to you too,” Alex says, “you want to come in?”

“No!” The word is loud and emphatic. Concern joins the other emotions, “can you not—“ he wishes Alex moved towards him so he could have some excuse. But Alex knows him too well, “I need the stuff you have on my mom,” he says. Guilt crescendos. God, Alex, no. “I can wait here.”

“Come inside,” Alex says.

Michael gingerly steps in, trying to pull his emotions back from Alex’s. It feels invasive, like he’s spying on something he has no right to see. Which is exactly what he’s doing, even accidentally. It’s difficult to find the mental wall he uses on his siblings. They are respectful and he doesn’t have to try terribly hard. Alex’s emotions are more like waves that lap at him. He has to adjust with so many factors. Alex opens a locked box inside a locked cabinet and more guilt slips knife sharp along his defenses.

“I’ve been trying—“

“It’s okay,” he says, fighting the way he crashes back into that aching pit, “Alex it’s fine,” he reiterates, ignoring the confusion that rolls in.  Alex boots up the drive and steps back. There is a prickle of trepidation at the ladder, “you don’t have to go,” he says, not taking his eyes from the screen. He gets to it finally and looks at the mugshot. He cannot go to pieces. He looks first for the powers. They are charted with terrible precision, “shit.”

“What?” Alex asked and the guilt hits him.

“My mom passed her power onto me,” he says, looking away from more information than he can digest, “she’s in me,” he stresses. Alex is unsure and guilty, “i’m like Maria on steroids,” he says. Before he can untangle Alex he continued, “you shouldn’t feel guilty about Caulfield. I don’t blame you for that,” and just to be sure, “your ass looks great in those pants.”

“You’re not funny,” Alex tells him, “you can feel everything?”

“I’m hysterical and i don’t know,” he glances at the screen.

“May I?” Alex asks.

Michael nods gratefully as Alex peers at the screen, digesting the information. He looks at Michael and then back at the screen.

“Empathic abilities, memory probing, mind sharing—“

“Max does that when he heals someone. Leaves a glowing handprint.”

“This doesn’t say anything about a handprint,” he says.

“What about the connection lasting?” Michael asks, “or if she could control it?” He turns.

“Don’t!” Alex blocks the chair with his hand. But Michael turns anyway, catching a glimpse of wires and wires and a shaved head— “look at me,” Alex orders, “focus on me.”

He latches onto Alex’s calmness and sureness. Everything is going to be okay. Michael is going to be okay. He is going to be fine and all he has to do is look into Alex’s pretty eyes and old man glasses. A surprises bark of laughter rips from. Old man glasses, he hears emphatically. Affection mirrors his own somewhere deep under everything else. For the first time in his life, Michael sees the red glow start between his fingers. All the emotion retreats like a curtain pulling back. It’s the overture to something bigger. Alex looks at his hand as well.

“What’s it going to do?” Alex asks.

“My hand you mean?” Michael asks. Alex looks but his emotions are a mystery, “I don’t know.”

“I guess we should find out.”

Michael wants to shake his head but it’s Alex. Alex may not know him better than a handful of people but they have a connection. Something even he can’t deny. He misses out on all the ET jokes he could make as he lifts his hand up. Alex does his deep breath thing, which Michael knows is the start of something big as he lifts his hand up and then determination crosses his features and he presses his hand to Michael’s. A zap seems to go all the way up Michael’s arm and then back towards his hand.

Then the explosion happens.

It’s not literal though, God, it might as well be. Everything levels in a single moment like trees being cleared and in the clearing, chaos erupts. It’s a tangle of two lives. Of dark secrets and bright bursts of hope. His leg gets blown off and Alex’s hand gets shattered in the same instant. He grows up terrified and Alex grows up alone. Then they switch back. Over and over again, all in a single instant. It’s molten and It’s going to destroy them both. Though Alex will always fight to the bitter end and matches the maelstrom. Suddenly they’re eleven and seven and sixteen. Michael grabs the seventeen year old memory but he’s to the left instantly. Later that night with Alex collapsed on his bed weeping himself into sickness and exhaustion. Alex is with him in the car, collapsed over the steering wheel with acetone on his lips. Michael tears himself back into the present. Alex is on his knees, fingers slotted through Michael’s and the other hand gripping his forearm. His mouth is in his elbow to muffle the sound but Michael can see he’s screaming.

“Alex, Alex!” He tries to get his attention, “Come on Alex, Alex stay with me!” Michael focuses on the connection, back to the bedroom and seventeen. He shoves Alex through. Through the desert, through the medvac to the blue mats in the VA facility that become his most ardent lovers, “come on Alex!” He grabs him through his doctor, hauling him to his feet, “Alex stay with me!” He forces his their hands together in this world and pulls along the connection, “stay with me!”

They rip back to the bunker violently and Michael’s power sends him backwards as Alex collapses into himself against the floor. Michael scrambles off the chair and crawls to him. Alex is curled around himself and trembling violently. Michael wraps his arms around him and pulls him back against his chest, so Alex’s back is against his front. Alex is barely breathing except for shallow pants of air and his eyes are wild. Worst of all, Michael can feel nothing except static. Like Alex isn’t

“Breathe,” he says, pressing his hand to Alex’s sternum, “come on Alex. Stay with me, breathe!”

Michael forces himself to stay calm but when he feels Alex’s emotions finally hum back, he lets himself sag against him in pure relief.  Alex exhales and sucks in a lungful of air. Michael presses his forehead to his shoulder, remembering why he always fought so hard to never use his power around Alex. He forces his breathing to be steady and exaggerated so Alex will copy him and he does. Propped up on Michael’s chest, he breathes with him.  Michael doesn’t know how long they stay that way, breathing but the hum eventually starts to become other emotions. Michael is better able to push them aside this time and just focus on the tangible person in his arms. Alex shifts eventually so they’re facing each other. Careful not to touch him, Michael reaches out and straightens Alex’s glasses.

“I’m so sorry,” he says.

“It’s okay,” Alex gets out, his voice hoarse, “I’m okay. We’re okay.”

“What about the bunker?” Michael says, “is the bunker okay?”

Alex’s wave of ‘I am so done with you’ and ‘please keep doing that forever’ breaks over him and Michael leans into it, pressing his forehead to Alex’s.

“Max got Noah’s powers because he killed him,” Michael says.

“Your mother wanted you to have them,” Alex says. Despite what’s just happened, he reaches out and cups both of Michael’s cheeks, his thumbs skimming along his cheekbones, “they were a gift, Michael.”

“How can you say that after what just happened?” He asks.

Alex chuckles, the sound soft and sweet and comforting. And Michael realizes Alex doesn’t think what’s just happened is a bad thing. Scary, to be sure. But he only scares Alex in how he makes him feel. Not in what he is or what he can do. Michael ducks his head and presses his lips to Alex’s as Alex’s fingers slide back to his curls. The kiss is dry and chaste and warm until Alex licks the seam of his mouth and he parts for him. It’s safe here. 

Alex loves him and Michael doesn’t need his powers to know that.

He never has.