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Night Shift

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In retrospect – that is, if he had still been awake enough to even consider doing the rather complicated mind acrobatics necessary for retrospection – Kyle would have been unable to say how he had managed the long drive out to Alex’ cabin in his condition without any accidents along the way. His treacherous subconscious whispered something about muscle memory and, even more quietly, the term ‘way home’. He would have snorted at that bitterly, had he been listening in the first place, but he stubbornly refused.

Using the key he still hadn’t given back, let alone taken off his keyring, Kyle opened the front door and disabled the alarm on auto pilot, already feeling mostly asleep, now, that he was finally at what still felt more like home than his own apartment. In the centre of Roswell. Way closer to the hospital. Where he had finally finished what had felt like the endless shift from hell.

He toed his shoes off, placed them next to Alex’ at the door, and stumbled towards the bedroom, tearing his scrub top off as he went.

A hand snuck around his bicep in an iron grip. Kyle stopped dead.

“Kyle.” Alex said, almost too quietly. “What are you doing here?” He turned Kyle around slowly, so that they were facing each other, and Kyle went along with it, blearily staring at Alex, who’s hand dropped off Kyle’s arm as soon as he saw his face in what little light there was.

“What the..? Kyle! You look like hell warmed over!” He shook his head infinitesimally, a concerned look replacing the death glare from mere moments ago. “You drove all the way here?”

Kyle looked down, too drained to even try to answer. He suddenly felt like crying from sheer exhaustion. His shoulders slumped, and he almost stumbled.

“Woah,” Alex’ arms shot out to hold Kyle up. “But Kyle, you…”

“Look.” Kyle, beyond tired, was suddenly done. “I get it. I had no right to come here, but I didn’t do it on purpose, and – you know what, Alex?” He made to turn around. “I’ll just take the couch. I promise to be out of the house before you get up tomorrow.”

Alex, holding on to Kyle’s shoulders, chuckled. “Yeah, you and I both know that’s not gonna happen.” He smiled at Kyle, but since the other man was not looking his way, his attempt at lightening the mood  fell short. Alex sighed. “You can stay, of course. If you don’t want to share, take the couch. I would offer to sleep there, but…”

Kyle nodded. “I wouldn’t want you to, Alex. You need a proper bed.” He turned around, a mumbled “good night” left hanging between them; a whisper of a failed attempt at civilised conversation.

Alex watched him shuffle back into the living room, shaking his head. He made up his mind, went into the bedroom and got a pillow and another blanket for Kyle.

He found Kyle lying haphazardly on the sofa, one arm over his eyes, his shoulders shaking slightly.

“Kyle, what..?” Alex started, but Kyle shook his head vehemently. “No, Alex. I don’t wanna talk about it, and you don’t need to feel responsible for me anymore. We broke up, remember?” He sounded both angry and resigned, but Alex felt like he detected hurt underneath all those emotions.

Drawing a deep breath, he tried again. “I do remember. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t talk to me, especially when something is eating you up like that. What happened at work?”

Kyle pulled a pillow over his head and groaned. He turned onto his side, facing away from Alex. “I just got off the shift from hell, and I need sleep.” He sighed. “Please let me?” Kyle sounded hesitant, and Alex shook his head to himself. Stepping forward, he spread the blanket over Kyle and put the pillow next to his head.

“Sleep for as long as you need, ok? Good night.”

Kyle didn’t say anything, and Alex went back into his bedroom.

When he checked on Kyle again much later, he found him sound asleep, snoring lightly. Alex smiled and decided to allow himself to stay just a minute longer. When their relationship ended, he had sworn not to let Kyle know how much he missed him, but with him turning up at the cabin in the middle of the night, Alex felt like everything came back crushing down.

Their breakup had been a gradual thing; they both felt like they were keeping the other one from things they assumedly wanted in life. Alex had begun to seriously consider moving away from Roswell for good, while Kyle wasn’t sure if he could leave what was left of his family behind.

Kyle, on the other hand, had assumed that Alex needed some time after he and Michael had finally decided to give up on being in a relationship with each other, while Alex had felt like he was ready to try with Kyle.

But things had come to a head when Kyle had found the paperwork on Alex’ desk at the cabin. He had rushed into the kitchen, where Alex was in the process of making coffee, papers in his hand, shaking with anger. “You are re-enlisting?” He almost shouted. “Where you even planning on talking to me about that? Or did you think you could just, I dunno, present me with fait accompli?!”

Alex, feeling cornered, fired back. “I was thinking about it, alright? No harm in that! Or do I have to run everything by you first now?”

Kyle turned pale. After a minute, Alex tried to apologise, but Kyle cut him off. “So that is how this goes, yeah? Tell me, Alex. In what kind of relationship does something big like this” he shook the papers in Alex’ face “go undebated?” He closed his eyes briefly, then he put the papers onto the countertop. When he turned around to walk out, Alex panicked.

“Kyle, wait!” When his boyfriend stopped, he continued. “How am I supposed to know how a relationship works? It’s not like I have the best track record with them, and, if I remember correctly, neither do you.”

Kyle scoffed, and Alex added “Alright, that was uncalled for, but you gotta admit, we are both pretty new to this whole thing.”

Unfortunately, in that moment, Kyle was too angry and therefore stubborn to admit Alex was right, which was the moment where things turned from bad to worse.

One thing came to another, and they had a shouting match that only ended when Kyle got a call from the hospital. When he came back the next day, he took advantage of the fact that Alex had gone to run some errands, packed up what he needed and headed back to his apartment in Roswell, thankful that he had still kept it.

Looking at Kyle’s sleeping form now, Alex sighed deeply, a longing filling his chest. He bent down to tuck the blanket around Kyle, when Kyle’s handsome features scrunched up. He began to make little noises of distress, moving around in his sleep, and Alex assumed he was having a nightmare.

“Kyle,” he whispered, “it’s ok, you are safe.” Cautiously, Alex touched Kyle’s shoulder to reassure him.

Kyle’s arm shot out to hold on to Alex’ hand. Next thing Alex knew, Kyle sat bolt upright, his eyes panicked, while, at the same time, he looked even more groggy than before he had laid himself down to sleep.

“Alex?” He whispered, sounding so unsure that it tore at Alex’ heartstrings, “Why am I – where..?”

“You drove all the way out here after work, and you crashed on the couch, Kyle.” Alex told him in a low voice.

“I did?” Kyle still sounded confused, and they both stared at each other for a long moment, until Kyle sagged, closing his eyes, rubbing at them with his hands. “Jesus, that shift was a total nightmare.” He mumbled, and Alex made a non-committal sound.

“Yeah, you did.” Alex looked thoughtful. “May I suggest something?” When Kyle looked at him, nodding, Alex sat down in the armchair. “How about we try to lay our argument aside for what’s left of the night, and you come to bed with me?”

Kyle made a scandalized face, and Alex laughed. “Dude! I meant to sleep, that’s all. Besides,” he added, reaching over to squeeze Kyle’s hand briefly, “you just had a nightmare. Maybe sleeping next to someone will help?”

Kyle was seconds away from arguing, when he remembered how it had been way easier for Alex to keep his nightmares at bay when they went to bed together during their relationship. “Okay,” he gave in, sounding resigned more than anything, and Alex tried very hard not to take offense.

“Come on, let’s grab your stuff here and get you into a real bed, alright?” Alex got up, and Kyle nodded, following Alex to the bedroom. He stopped in the door.

“Alex?” He asked, incredulous. “What the hell?” He shook his head. “Please tell me you haven’t been working on Project Shepard files again? Don’t you need sleep, too?”

Avoiding his eyes, Alex answered. “I had a hard time sleeping, since…” He left the sentence hanging between them, as they both knew what had kept him awake. “Besides,” he continued after a moment, “there is a reason why I considered to re-enlist in the first place.”

Kyle swallowed visibly, and when he went to get into bed, he was muttering, more to himself than Alex. “We really fucked it up, didn’t we?”

Alex nodded, but once again, Kyle missed it.

“I’ll be in the bathroom,” Alex said, turning around, but he was stopped by Kyle’s voice. “Don’t you wanna get the prosthesis off first?” He sounded confused, and Alex smiled, remembering how used Kyle was to all of his habits – just as he was to Kyle’s. Finally, he laughed out loud, since Kyle had unconsciously begun to punch his pillow into shape, like he had done every single night they had spent together.

Alex sat down, made short process of getting everything off and grabbed his crutches to make his way to the bathroom. He went through his nightly routine on autopilot, his mind occupied with more important things.

Only after he had changed into a pair of sweats and an old Air Force shirt did it occur to him that he was looking forward to going to bed for the first time since their breakup. Smiling at his reflection in the mirror, he allowed himself to be cautiously optimistic for their future, and went back to the bedroom.

The picture he saw himself confronted with made him pause in the doorway.

Kyle was sound asleep, burrowed deep under the covers in a foetal position, his arms holding on to – wait. Alex scrunched up his brow. But looking as hard as he might, the pillow Kyle held on to was still Alex’ own. Smiling, he shook his head, got into bed and tried to remove the pillow from Kyle’s grasp, but to no avail.

Reaching over, he grabbed the pillow Kyle had punched into shape earlier to use instead. Alex switched the light off and, lying on his back, he closed his eyes, ready to finally catch some sleep.

When Alex woke up, it was still dark outside, and he wondered briefly how long he had slept already – then he realized what had woken him in the first place, and he smiled involuntarily. Kyle had shifted in his sleep, and was currently lying with his head on Alex’ chest, one arm draped over his stomach, still snoring lightly, and Alex closed his eyes for a moment, too moved by the sight.

Of course that led to thinking about all the other times they had slept like that – or even the other way around, especially after Alex’ nightmares, or struggles with PTSD.

Without conscious thought he had begun to softly play with Kyle’s hair, and the snoring had stopped. Alex sighed deeply, then decided to try and get some more sleep. They would talk in the morning.

Kyle woke up to an empty bed around noon, feeling disoriented for a minute. When he realised that he was back in Alex’ bed at the cabin, he groaned and closed his eyes again briefly, the memories from the night before flooding his brain.

But he didn’t have much time to dwell on that, as the door opened slowly, revealing a dishevelled Alex, balancing a mug in his hand, the other on his crutch. Kyle felt warmth surge through his body at the sight, because he knew what it meant – Alex felt relaxed enough that he wasn’t using his prosthetic yet. Kyle sat up, leaning against the headboard.

“Morning sleepyhead,” Alex joked, handing the coffee over.

Thankful, Kyle took the mug and a first tentative sip. He sighed, closing his eyes briefly. “I needed that,” he said. “Thanks, Alex.”

Alex had sat down on the edge of the bed, smiling at Kyle. “You’re welcome.”

Kyle nodded. “I appreciate it.” He took another sip, lost in thought for a moment. “Not just the coffee, you know?”

Alex looked away, and Kyle felt his heart drop, but Alex began to talk then. “I’ve been awake for some time already, so I did some thinking.” He took a deep breath, turned his head back towards Kyle, and continued. “I want you to know that I missed you, and that I want to try again. With you. Here, or, if that’s what we decide, elsewhere.”

Kyle, slack jawed, could only stare.

Alex giggled. “Watch out with the coffee, Kyle.”

Startled, Kyle made sure he held the mug up, then looked back and blurted the first thing that came to his mind. “Who are you, and what did you do with Alex?”

Shaking his head, Alex mock-glared at him. “If it weren’t so important to me to make sure that we get over our breakup, I might have taken offense at that, you know.” He sighed. “But yeah, it’s not easy for me. Just, somebody gave me good advice when I was still struggling with Guerin. This time around though, I really hope to get to actually use it.”

The message that it would take both of them clear as day, Kyle nodded in understanding. “Got it.” He took another gulp of coffee, sighing. “Darn, that’s great coffee. I missed that, you know?”

Clutching his chest, Alex faked to be offended, and Kyle laughed.

“Of course that’s not the only thing I missed, don’t be an ass!” He shook his head, laughing, and Alex laughed with him. “But seriously, Alex, what did you mean when you said elsewhere? Wait.” He looked Alex over again. “Are you wearing my old sweats?”

Looking down at himself, Alex expression changed to sheepish, and he nodded. “You must have overlooked them when you packed your stuff.” Here, he gave Kyle a very pointed look, and he had the decency to blush. “I, um, might have taken to wear them during the nights.” Alex admitted, and Kyle smiled.

“You haven’t changed the alarm code, either,” Kyle said, and Alex looked scandalized.

“Are you implying that I haven’t washed these pants in the eighteen days you’ve been gone?” Alex stopped. “Hang on. I haven’t? Changed the code, I mean?”

When Kyle shook his head, Alex said “Well. At least my subconscious knows what I want, then. How helpful.”

“I see the sarcasm is still strong in this one,” Kyle quipped, and Alex laughed out loud.

“Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to show you the Star Wars movies after all.”

“You may be right, but that one is from a meme I saw on the internet.”

Alex chuckled, and they sat in silence for a moment.

Eventually, Alex asked Kyle about his shift at work, and the doctor reluctantly gave an account, at the end of which he looked exhausted all over again; which prompted Alex to take the empty cup from Kyle’s hands and place it on the bedside table. He got on the bed next to Kyle and wrapped him up in his arms, a kiss pressed to his temple.

“You think it was just that one shift, or are you generally unhappy with your work? I mean, what else could you do with your degree? You ever thought about that?”

Kyle wanted to deny everything, but he knew deep inside that Alex was right. He took a deep breath. “I promise you that I will think about it, ok? Just, for now – could you hold me a little longer? Please?” The last part was merely whispered, as if Kyle was afraid of being denied, and Alex hugged him even more tightly.

“Of course,” he whispered into Kyle’s hair. “We will figure it out. Together. Ok?”

Kyle nodded, taking a ragged breath, and Alex felt bad, but he still had one thing on his chest that couldn’t wait.

After all, Kyle wasn’t the only one with insecurities.

“Kyle?” When he nodded, Alex continued. “I need to ask you something.” He had to stop for a moment, breathing deeply, and Kyle knew that Alex was using his coping mechanisms to keep his panic down.

“Could you please never do that again, leave me like you did?”

Kyle sat up, leaning away from Alex to look at him. “You mean walking out in the middle of a fight? Cause, that wasn’t exactly my fault…”

Alex shook his head. “If the hospital hadn’t called, do you really honestly believe it would have ended differently?” They stared at each other, and Kyle’s expression spoke volumes. Alex nodded. “That’s what I thought. But if we want to try again, we can’t go on like that.” He took another deep breath.

“What I really meant though was, coming back when I’m not here, grabbing your stuff and leave. I got really scared when all your things were gone.”

Kyle tried hard to keep it in, but in the end, a sob wrestled its way up his throat, and he teared up. “I promise to work on that, ok? Just, I was so angry and hurt, and…”

“Kyle, please, stop!” Slightly panicked, Alex hugged him again, and for a long time, they sat just like that, leaning into each other, each man finding the reassurance he needed in the other one’s arms.

Eventually, Alex suggested breakfast, and after a visit to the bathroom, a freshly showered Kyle entered the kitchen.

Alex, leaning against the counter, stared openly. “I gotta admit,” he started, but Kyle walked right up to him, grabbed him by the hips and finished the sentence for him. “You missed this, too?”

Alex could only nod. Grinning, Kyle pulled him even closer, leaned in and kissed him for the first time in – what did Alex say? Eighteen days. And damned if it didn’t make him feel like he could pull anything off.