“Jesus,” Guerin said, his mouth full of kielbasa, “it must be great to be straight.”
Kyle, sitting beside him on the tailgate, almost dropped his beer.
“I mean seriously, what is this, date night?” Guerin gestured expressively with his beer, sending a wave of foam in Kyle’s direction.
Kyle wiped the foam off his face. There were plenty of families and screaming kids, but Guerin had a point: the Fourth Annual Night at the Drive-In boasted a predominance of couples. A short distance away, Liz and a freshly-resurrected Max were making out against Max’s squad car. Kyle watched them a moment too long, then tore his eyes away. He didn’t want to be here. He’d been on the trauma ward since 8 a.m.; all he wanted to do was go home and face-plant on the couch. But Isobel would rip him a new one if he did that, so here he was, keeping to the sidelines and having a beer with a guy who could barely tolerate his presence.
“This isn’t a date for you and Alex, then?”
“Huh?” Guerin tore into his sausage roll again. Kyle watched with mild revulsion, reminded of a jackal he’d glimpsed on the Discovery Channel. Guerin did have very sharp teeth; he’d noticed that before. “I’m just here to fix the projector, man.”
“I thought I saw Alex over by the bounce castle with some Air Force types.”
“Yeah, he’s around here somewhere,” Guerin said thickly.
Kyle grimaced at the sight of more half-masticated food. “Do you always talk with your mouth full? Were you raised by wolves or something?”
“Worse,” Guerin said. “Humans.”
Shaking his head, Kyle returned to the original subject. “So you’re both here, you and Alex, but it’s not a date?” he clarified.
“Do you go on dates at all? Ever?” he asked.
Kyle raised his eyebrows. “Uh… two people who are into each other, like, getting to know each other better in a more formal or public setting?”
Guerin looked mildly scandalized. “What would we do that for?”
“Because it’s nice? Romantic?”
“Nope.” Guerin popped the p. “Dates just limit your options.”
“Less touching, for one thing. Dates are straight. Gotta be on good behavior.” Guerin shoved the rest of his kielbasa into his mouth. “No fun if you can’t touch.”
“I don’t see what’s stopping you. You’re among friends here, you don’t have to be… straight,” Kyle said, a little awkwardly.
Guerin scowled, but he was less intimidating than usual with his cheeks bulging. He chewed impatiently for a while, then swallowed massively. “I don’t mean just straight-straight,” he said when he could speak again. “It’s more than that. I’m a bisexual alien, bro. There’s nobody else like me on the planet. Being a space oddity gets fuckin’ old, sometimes.”
Kyle regarded him curiously. This was the longest conversation he’d had with Guerin, possibly ever, and by far the most amicable. His campaign to Win Over Guerin had been a rout; the dude stonewalled him at every turn. And Kyle had nothing to bargain in exchange for civility because Guerin had everyone he needed. Isobel to scheme with. Maria and Rosa to spar with. Liz to work with. Max to argue with. Alex to… everything with. He’d made it abundantly clear: his dance card was full.
“And I’m actually, like, incredibly private when it comes to my personal life, if you can believe it,” Guerin added.
This was surprisingly true. Everything Kyle knew about MichaelandAlex—their names slurring into a single entity—came from Liz or Alex himself. Guerin, of all people, did not kiss and tell.
“Well, if you care about appearances, Guerin, I spent most of our lives believing you were an obnoxiously straight human,” Kyle said.
“Appearances can be deceiving.” Guerin winked.
“I mean, I certainly fell for it. I thought Alex’s thing for you was one-sided until…” until that day your mom and all your relatives died and there wasn’t a damn thing we could do to save them. I thought you were straight until I saw you and Alex clutching at each other in the backseat as we drove away from that fucking abattoir, and you had your face pressed right up against his and even though you weren’t kissing, I knew, I knew then what he was to you.
“Until I knew,” he said lamely.
“We’re not friends,” Kyle said.
“We’re not,” Guerin agreed.
“When the need arises, yeah.”
“Not friends, no.”
“Because of the way I was in high school,” Kyle confirmed. “How I treated you.”
“Valenti,” Guerin said wearily, “we could’ve thrown down every other day in high school, and I wouldn’t give a shit. We could be, like, total besties today.” He shook his head, curls bouncing. “It’s only ever been about Alex, you know that.”
“Is it really, though?” Kyle countered, before he could think better of it. “Only about Alex?”
“Like that’s not enough?” Guerin’s eyes narrowed.
“Alex already decided to be the bigger man. He gave me another chance to be his friend. So—”
“So maybe I’m just stuck on you, Valenti, what can I say?” Guerin smiled coyly. Then he rolled his shoulders, cracked his neck, and dropped the act. “I’m not the kind of guy who forgives and forgets,” he said. “I hold grudges worse than Alex, and he’s a stubborn sonofabitch. So if you think love has mellowed me out, you’re making a mistake. ’Cause I’m more dangerous than ever.”
His words sent a shiver down Kyle’s spine. Sometimes he found it hard to reconcile that Guerin was the only Roswell alien who hadn’t used his powers to kill, because he had the whole judge-jury-executioner thing down pat. But then he remembered the expression on Guerin’s face when they found the alien holding area in the prison, and how the disbelief there had mirrored his own. Alex didn’t have any trouble believing; it had just been him and Guerin, wide-eyed and bleating at the magnitude of human cruelty.
Alex had confided to him and Liz that Guerin still had nightmares. Well, so did Kyle. Sometimes he was the one shoved into the cell with Subject N-38; other times, he and Alex patrolled the corridors as their fathers, and when they rounded the corner it was Guerin behind the glass. He wondered how many lives he would have to save in surgery before he had paid his father’s debt in full.
Guerin interrupted his thoughts. “Just spit it out, Valenti,” he said irritably.
“What?” Kyle folded his arms.
“Or I could reach into your mind,” Guerin said. “I’ve learnt how to do that. If I wanted, I could jump right in there and find out for myself why you’ve got your pants in a twist.”
“I said I could. Still getting the hang of it though, I don’t have Isobel’s light touch. There’s a chance I might scramble things around, put your memories back in the wrong places.”
Kyle didn’t like the sound of that. He didn’t like the smug little twist to Guerin’s lips, either.
“You hate me for Alex in high school. Do you hate me on account of my father, too? Project Shepherd, and everything he did with Jesse?” His voice wavered, and he wondered, for a few agonizing seconds, if he was about to cry in front of Guerin. Wouldn’t that be unexpected. It didn’t help that Guerin’s razor-sharp eyes were trained on him like lasers, not missing a thing. Those eyes burned. Feral. Pitiless. Kyle blinked. No. Was he really so much his father’s son that he could stare into someone’s eyes and see cruelty and malice where there was only… compassion? He blinked again. Michael Guerin was looking at him with compassion, and wasn’t that just the damndest thing.
“Valenti,” Guerin said, and he sighed heavily. “I can’t…”
“Forget it,” Kyle croaked, closing his eyes.
“I mean, I can’t talk about Caulfield with you,” Guerin explained. His voice splintered when he said the name of the prison. “My m—… It’s too… I can only—with Alex. And then only sometimes. When we have to.”
Kyle nodded, his eyes still closed. Then he felt fingers, rough and unsentimental, prodding at his arm.
“Hey. Look at me,” Guerin commanded. And Kyle did as he was told, though he kept his eyes screwed up a little in case there was anything waiting to fall out of them. “I don’t. Blame you. For him. His part in that… fucking horrorshow. Okay?”
“You… don’t,” Kyle confirmed, dubious.
“Nah.” Guerin smiled bitterly. “Death is a great equalizer.”
“How do you mean?”
“Same fucking monster killed our parents, didn’t he?”
“… he did, yeah.”
“I’m—” Guerin’s throat worked, and he looked at Kyle with over-bright eyes. “I’m sorry. For your loss.”
“I’m sorry for yours.” The words came easily, and he meant them. “I’m sorry, Guerin. God, I am so, so sorry.”
The silence that fell between them wasn’t quite comfortable. But it wasn’t hostile, either.
Then Guerin heaved another almighty sigh. “Sometimes I wonder… we’d probably have done the same to you, if you’d landed on our planet. I mean, right? Maybe that’s just nature…” His gaze was bleak, distant. Then he shook off his doldrums. “I won’t tell Alex that you cried.”
Kyle nodded, swallowed, nodded again. He was trying to think of a smooth way to extricate himself from Guerin’s company so he could go home and cry for real, when suddenly Guerin let out a whoop.
“Hey!” he hollered, flagging down Rosa as she passed by.
Rosa, who was clutching a giant cloud of cotton candy on a stick, wandered over, and Kyle had never been more pleased to see his half-sister, or more grateful for her timing. Guerin draped an arm around her shoulders, all loose familiarity as he tore off a piece of cotton candy with his teeth. “Valenti and I were just discussing how much straight people suck,” he said with his mouth full.
Rosa held the cotton candy out of his reach. “But Kyle’s straight.”
“Exactly, we were agreeing how much he sucks,” Guerin said.
Rosa cackled, which Kyle found disloyal, frankly, and had every intention of telling her so. Especially when she stuffed her candy floss back in Guerin’s face, like she was rewarding him for being an asshole. He didn’t quite understand the casual intimacy Guerin seemed to enjoy with his prickly half-sister, who, granted a second life, showed even less interest in congeniality than she had in her first. Obviously there was a history to them, too, and it never ceased to amaze him, how myopic he’d been to assume he knew everything about the people he’d gone to high school with.
“Alex was looking for you,” Rosa informed Guerin.
“He knows where to find me,” Guerin said carelessly. His face was a sugar-spun mess, sticky pink floss smeared across his cheeks and chin.
“Chico asqueroso,” Rosa said, producing a napkin and wiping his face.
“Completamente asqueroso,” Kyle agreed. “Bueno que él y Alex no están en una cita esta noche.”
“No?” Rosa raised her eyebrows. “Por qué no?”
“Tendrías que preguntarle a Guerin.”
“Preguntarme what?” Guerin said, glancing up from his phone. He put it back in his pocket. “Ask me what?”
“Why you’re not on a date with Alex,” Rosa said.
“Who says we’re not on a date?” Guerin said.
“Well that was an awfully heteronormative assumption for him to make,” Guerin drawled.
Guerin ducked his head to whisper something in Rosa’s ear. She howled with laughter. Which, again. Not cool of la hermanita, Kyle thought. He cast about for ammunition. Guerin hadn’t done a very good job of buttoning his shirt; the first one he’d bothered to fasten was somewhere in the vicinity of his solar plexus. It was pretty gratuitous exposure, the chest and the chest hair and, Jesus Christ, were those bite marks over his collarbone?
“The Night at the Drive-In is a family event,” Kyle reminded him sourly. “And that’s an awful lot of skin you’re flashing.”
Guerin glanced down, smirked. “I’m here to free the nipple, Dr. Valenti.”
“I really wish you wouldn’t, Guerin.”
Rosa studied him critically. Kyle thought she took an inordinately long time to make up her mind, with Guerin preening under the scrutiny. “It’s a good look on him,” Rosa decided at last. “Totally hot. And relajate, Kyle. He’s got his tetas out for Alex, not for you.”
Kyle threw up his hands and sulked a little. When Alex joined them a few minutes later, the petty side of him—which reared its adolescent head almost exclusively around Guerin—hoped Alex might be displeased at the sight of Nipple-Freeing Bisexual Alien Michael Guerin cozily eating cotton candy with Rosa Ortecho. But Alex just plopped his ass down on Guerin’s other side, and Guerin placed his hand on Alex’s thigh. Laidback, nonchalant, and possessive.
Alex touched his fingers to Guerin’s chin. “Messy,” he commented, and licked his fingers clean.