The plan was the same. Be there for Michael, build a solid foundation so they might eventually be together again. Truly become friends, even if Alex hadn’t intended that statement to be taken quite so literally when he first blurted it out.
And the plan was fine. When he and Michael were alone in the bunker or in the car on the way to a new Project Shepherd location, they were almost friendly. They learned small details about one another they’d never taken the time to learn before. There were little moments when hands brushed against one another or they locked eyes for too long, and in those seconds, Alex was convinced he and Michael would be okay. They would recover from all the turmoil and the pain and the brief heart-breaking flirtation with his best friend, and it would be them, together, until the end.
And then he met Forest.
He was former Army, but he had dealings with Jesse Manes in the past and always had a hunch there was something off about him. That’s what he told Alex the day they met. Despite having been diagnosed with brain damage from the complications of his “accidental” barbiturates overdose, Jesse Manes slipped out of the hospital without being seen two days before and Alex was on a rampage. Maria and Kyle rushed in after him as he came charging into the office of the man’s private investigation agency, newly opened just down the street from the Crashdown. Like a missile with a set target, he went straight to the olive-skinned man from the photos and shoved him up against a wall with a steely threat in case he refused to talk. Alex caught a glimpse of something heated in the other man’s eyes, but he didn’t bother taking a moment to consider the implications. He was angry, and in the absence of his father, someone needed to feel the consequences of that anger. Might as well be the guy whose name appears on multiple encrypted files referencing a secure facility by the name of Whitehaven.
It turns out Jesse tried unsuccessfully to recruit Forest a few years back for said new facility and, even while only providing vague information, he had unknowingly tipped Forest off to the existence of aliens. He’d been doing his own private research ever since to ascertain who was most needed protecting, the humans or the aliens.
After sharing everything he knew, he was quickly welcomed into the circle of trust and became affectionately known as New Guy.
Well, affection might be an exaggeration when it comes to Michael. Forest’s mere presence seemed to grate on his every last nerve - the man’s deep gravelly voice, his smooth confidence, his earnest conviction that protecting aliens like him was the right, moral thing to do. His easy laugh when Michael would angrily use his powers to move his drinks and pens when he wasn’t looking. Michael made no effort to mask his disgust with the way Forest always touched Alex’s arm when they hovered over laptops together. How Forest started putting flavours in Alex’s coffee and Alex actually liked it, despite being adamantly against it when Michael made the suggestion.
It took time for Alex to notice how calming his presence was. How quickly he found himself comfortable in his presence, joking with him in the same ways he would joke with Kyle or Liz. How Forest could make him laugh even on the heels of getting shot at by a load of soldiers on his father’s command.
But even when he did notice, other things took precedence. There were lives to save. A secret alien hunting organization to disband.
And Michael. Still. There was still Michael.
Yet that sting he used to get when he noticed Michael and Maria exchanging loaded looks is gone now. When he shows up to their Scooby Gang meetings and they’re already huddled together, all he feels is a dull ache.
When Forest shows up at his door the day after he barely survives a close call with Kyle, Alex isn’t surprised. He’s even expecting it.
What he’s not expecting is his own response.
Alex answers the door with his crutch, something Forest has rarely seen during the few months they’ve known one another. He has a few cuts on his face and down his left arm.
Alex says nothing when he opens the door, just looks at him with a raised eyebrow. Forest stays where he is, letting his gaze intently study every injury visible on Alex’s body.
Alex sighs and breaks the silence. “I’ve experienced worse.” He half-shrugs as he says it.
“So have I; it still matters. Will you let me take care of you?”
“I don’t need-”
Forest doesn’t let him finish that thought. “I know you don’t need anyone to take care of you, Alex. That’s not what I asked. I asked if you would let me.”
Alex is caught off guard by that declaration. He thought he’d prepared himself to reject whatever Forest would offer. Sure, Alex thinks about him everyday. Most nights, too. He knows they could be something. He keeps hearing Kyle’s voice in his head, pushing him to accept what he wants instead of falling back on his classic martyr routine.
When Kyle was packing up his medical kit last night, he launched into his usual inquiries about when Alex was gonna fuck New Guy.
“You know he’s gonna come running over with those bedroom eyes of his when he hears you got injured.” Kyle quirks his eyebrows at his friend who had only just begrudgingly let himself be tucked him into bed, while simultaneously threatening to do unforgivable things to him if the doctor ever told anyone about it.
Alex rolls his eyes at Kyle. "And I’ll say no. I don’t have time for a personal life. We’ve got too much to handle right now.“
"You’re alive, Manes. That means you’ve got all the time you’ll ever have. Besides, he’s hot and smart and obviously gone on you. Bonus? He knows your entire family history already, so no awkward conversations about genocide necessary.”
His friend levels him with an unimpressed and potentially lethal expression, and Kyle chuckles loudly and throws a casual, “Think about it!” over his shoulder before letting himself out of the cabin.
He snaps out of his reverie at the cautious tone of the man’s voice. Ducking his gaze, Alex slowly shuffles aside to allow him inside. He can’t stop himself from wincing when he puts too much pressure on his prosthetic.
He expects Forest to steer them towards the couch. Instead, he smoothly corners Alex against the living room wall, one gentle hand guiding Alex’s right hip and the other pressing up to a spot beside his left ear. Alex doesn’t speak; he just pushes the back of his head against the wall and watches the other man’s face as he gazes down at the small bruises and cuts dotting his arm. One hand lowers to gently stroke down his arm, and Alex’s breath hitches, ringing through the heavy silence looming over the cabin. Forest doesn’t look up, he just allows his fingertips to travel further, tracing a map along the scratches and scars, fresh and old, peppered along Alex’s arm.
Alex is no longer capable of coherent thought when the man lowers his head to place a kiss on a small cut inside the crook of his elbow.
When Forest looks up with a steady gaze, Alex is already teary-eyed. The other man’s dark brown eyes crinkle as he offers a reassuring smile and inclines his head to move closer. Alex can’t tear his eyes away from the man’s lips. But he can’t. He just can’t.
“I’m not ready.” He says it in a hurry, breathless, anxiety creasing his forehead.
Forest pauses, takes a deep breath and takes a few steps backwards, letting his arms fall by his sides. Tilting his head, he says, “I know.”
“Will you wait for me?” Alex almost flinches when he hears the desperation in his own voice, but instead he holds steady, faking the confidence he lacks. Forest’s gaze flicks from his eyes to his mouth to his forehead scar. A slow smile spreads across his face.
“If it means I get all of you instead of just the part that’s not waiting around for your angry cowboy, then yes. I will absolutely wait for you, Alex Manes.”
Alex isn’t particularly sentimental - not these days anyway - but he could swear his heart skipped an entire beat hearing those words.
Forest reached up and smoothed a lock of Alex’s hair away from his forehead as he stood stock-still, holding his breath. “I’ve got all the ingredients for chicken soup in my car. Go lay down - you’re clearly in pain, don’t deny it - and I’ll start making it.” After only a split-second of hesitation, he placed a soft kiss to his cheek.
Alex watches him turn around and saunter out the door to his car, whistling on the way. God, he’s not even annoyed by this disgustingly attractive man whistling.
It might be time for a new plan.