"understand" for the Fanfiction Work-In-Progress Guessing Game
from “if I woke up next to you” the LYW sequel:
“We were just kids,” Alex finally replied after it was clear Greg was finished. “The only person who had any responsibility in keeping us safe was Dad, and he’s the one who failed, not you. I would be the biggest hypocrite alive to begrudge you in what you did to protect yourself, okay? I forgive you, if that is what you need to hear.”
“Does that mean you forgive Mom too?”
Fuck. Even though Greg’s voice was kind, the words still raked across old wounds. He made a note to call his therapist later as he swallowed down that knot of pain in his throat.
“Yeah, she had to keep herself safe, too. Survival is a strong instinct, and I can understand it.” Understand it, forgive it, but he would probably never forget the sight of his mother, stone-faced with red eyes, pressing a kiss on his forehead before picking up her suitcase, leaving him in that house at age eight. Alex kept his gaze on Michael, who was now flopped on the grass wrestling with Beckett for the tennis ball. They had a dog together, and already Alex couldn’t imagine leaving Beckett behind in an unsafe house, let alone a child. “At the funeral, I invited her to the wedding.”
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If I woke up next to you & new face of failure
both of these are LYW stories, “If I woke up next to you” is the sequel that deals with some elements of season 2 along with a challenge to their relationship...
Alex awoke later, feeling the disorientation of sleeping too long and the grumble of his stomach letting him know that he skipped past the threshold of a pre-dinner nap and into the welcoming embrace of full night. He blinked in the darkness, the bedside alarm clock bright enough to shine the time up on the ceiling. Close to ten o’clock. Rolling backward, he felt the alien-hot presence of Michael, asleep inches away from him.
The brief touch of skin stirred Michael’s resting weight next to him, prompting his arm to snake forward and wrap firmly around Alex’s waist to tug him closer, with a reflexive sleepy kiss on his ear while he continued to snore lightly.
Gently, Alex drew his fingertips down Michael’s arm, until he found the strong bones of his hands, possessively resting on his chest. There was a brief flash of earlier, that damn picture, as he rubbed his thumb over the fine bones of Michael’s wrist. Should he be ashamed that he wanted to wrap his hands over Michael’s pulse-points, holding them firmly in his palm, branding Michael with his grasp, as if he could overwrite the memory?
In his sleep, Michael made a soft questing noise in his throat at the touch before sighing in boneless surrender as Alex gave in and gripped his wrist more firmly. Still mostly asleep, Michael shifted again under the sheets, making it clear as he closed each gap between them, that he was bare. Between that hotter body temperature and the frequent tossing and turning in bed, it made sleepwear short-lived for both of them even for a brief nap.
Alex pressed backwards again, more deliberately, feeling Michael’s slowly waking erection firm between his cheeks. Fever hot skin against skin with just the slide of damp sweat easing the way. The scent of rain wafted off of Michael, filling his lungs, covering the back of Alex’s tongue and more, filling his senses with its familiar weight of home. He half-wished to coax Michael into full consciousness for the food that his stomach growled for lightly, and half-wished for satiating an altogether different hunger.
He felt adrift now, the spectre of the past taking up space between them in a way that hadn’t happened in such a long time. He felt that old hunger of emptiness inside him, and with it came that need to feel Michael fill those scratched open ravines in his heart, where those years of feeling unloved at home as a child and later a young man, had worn into him deeply like the snow melt did against a mountainside.
The handprint was out of the question, but there were other options.
**** new face of failure -- this is Michael’s POV of chapter 12- the Caulfield reveal ---CW: for Caulfield, torture, Michael getting ill
Blackness edged in, embroidering around his vision in a narrowing frame as he watched helplessly, before the nausea of what they were doing to her hit him, so suddenly he barely made it to the wastepaper basket under the desk. He retched, his whole body rejecting everything in the moment. Harsh gasps for air ripped from his throat, as he was sick over and over again in the small waste paper trash can until there was nothing left in him.
Nothing. They treated his mother like she was nothing, but a thing for amusement. For seventy years. As soon as that thought hit, Michael’s lungs locked in place. He was being dragged downward with a sinking swiftness, buried in the mire like an anchor to the shoreline. With a shaking hand, he groped for the mouse to pause the video, before he placed his head down between his knees. In and out, he counted his breaths as he worked through the panic attack that he belatedly recognized.
In and hold for four counts.
Living with Alex at least gave him these tools to know what to do now.
Out and hold, count to four.
Not long after he had moved in, Alex had had a flashback to something while Michael was driving, triggered likely by some blowing trash on the side of the road. He had nearly wrecked the truck trying to figure out what to do and had sat helpless next to Alex, watching as he fought to breathe and counted almost soundlessly under his breath before finally muttering a “I’m fine, you can keep driving,” with his voice thready and ashamed about the incident. Not right then, but hours later they had a fight when Alex had started to downplay what had happened under Michael’s insistence on teaching him what to do next time.
He remembered wanting to shake Alex, the panic at being caught so flat-footed rushing in his veins, lending his voice an edge that he didn’t mean, “Tell me what I can do to help you — other than not touch you when it happens and keeping the floor clear of tripping hazards, cause that’s the bare fucking minimum that anyone can do. So, there’s got to be something more I can do-”
“Guerin, it’s fine, I can handle it. Besides, there’s nothing you can do to stop it from happening-”
“I know that. And I know you don’t like relying on anyone but yourself, but-” It took a moment before the right leverage came to Michael. “What kind of fake boyfriend would I be if I sat around with my thumb up my ass while you were hurting? I’m sure Agent Rollins would find that interesting.” Then he went in for the kill, “Tell me how to support you if- when- you have an episode because it’s something I should know if I’m going to play this role in your life.”
Out maneuvered, Alex had agreed and had reluctantly in a soft voice explained to Michael the ins and outs of panic attacks, and overcoming the psychological messaging with controlled breathing, the check-ins about sight, smell, taste, feel, and sound to help ground him. Michael had never thought he would be using that information for himself, but then he never imagined Alex had documentation of his mother’s torture.
Sight, he could hear Alex’s voice instruct from memory. Michael reluctantly opened his eyes and then had to flinch away from the monitor to focus on something different. There was a stack of hard drives on the desk. Innocuous and something Michael had dismissed as ‘Alex’s work’ but clearly it wasn’t.
Smell. He could smell his sick, still in the trash can at his feet. Numbly, Michael got up and carried the mess back up the stairs, using the ‘feel’ of the plastic bin to ground himself in the cabin. The stairs creaked under his weight. Sound. Then vaguely he heard a chime, then a louder alarm start to bleat in the quiet house as he returned the bin to the bunker. He didn’t remember washing it out at all, but it was clean now. Finally, taste registered as he took his seat back in front of the paused monitor.
Bitterness flooded his mouth, and not just from the rise of bile. There was no way around the knowledge that Alex had actively hidden this from him.
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