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He's So Tall and Handsome as Hell
There she went. He didn't even have time to thank Alba before she was gone from the table. Blink and you'll miss it. On the plus side, he was now alone at the table with Brendan, a guy who he was both familiar with and found to be quite pleasant. The other boy's "friend date" was a nice enough person, sure, but the prospect of having to initiate a conversation with someone he knew next to nothing about didn't seem all too endearing to him. Maybe Alba would come up with a topic herself once she returned, that would be preferable.

Maxim shifted his focus back to his friend, who appeared to be distressed in some way. Was it because he had interrupted his sort-of-maybe date with that girl? No, that was unlikely, Brendan himself had waved him over to their table. Something else had to be the cause.

The other boy picked up his cup. Was he imagining things or was Bren's hand slightly shaking? No, he was quite certain now. His pal was nervous, anxious, tensed, whatever one might call it. Now if he only he knew the reason for it. Sure, Maxim wasn't the most confident person himself and even that was an understatement. But Brendan, he had always been something else. Maybe delicate was the right word for it, he wasn't quite sure.

The other boy opened his mouth to talk. Huh, now with the stuttering as well. Maybe he himself was the reason for it? Was he making his friend feel uncomfortable in some way? Maxim almost raised one arm to get a whiff of his own armpit, in the event of him having a bad case of sweating and not realizing it. But no, the idea was ridiculous, he had applied plenty of deodorant before leaving the house. Hell, he had no idea what was bothering his friend, then.

Poor guy. He was starting to feel bad for him, more so with every second that passed without either one of them saying a word. Seemed like he had to take the helm and release Brendan from his plight.

"So, you and Alba, yes? You make quite the lovely couple, no doubt about it. How'd the two of you meet up?" Yes, that ought to work. Maybe his friend would grow more confident over the course of an actual conversation.

Land of Milk and Honey, Don't Fail Me Now
((Maxim Kehlenbrink continued from Where The White Boys Dance ))

There he was again. Unkempt, shirt stuffed into his jeans and sporting his eternal frown. Only unlike usual, he was actually part of the crowd this time. Even though he didn't feel like it, not one bit. He was more of a foreign body in a pool of mirth, as far as he was concerned.

Admittedly, the organizers of the bake sale had picked an excellent day for the event, sun shining, baby blue sky, no clouds to be seen. Sounded like a perfect deal. Well, not for Maxim. It wouldn't have made a difference for him if it had been clouded, foggy, raining, snowing - maybe even all at the same time. The fact stood that there were simply too many people there for his taste, too many strangers, too many faces. A shame, really, but what had he expected? Of course it was going to be like this.

It was him first attempt at taking part in a bigger social event again ever since...Well, ever since the day he had sworn to become the high school equivalent of a hermit crab and embrace his loneliness as the status quo. Had worked out for him for about four months. His father had been way too wrapped up in his work to notice and his aunt - well, Maxim wasn't really sure how much of her surroundings she was aware of at all.

Long story short: He had told himself to overcome his own demons and visit the sale. At least try to get in touch with people. The sweets were only a bonus, though he had yet to buy a single one of them. Twenty minutes in and he could already draw a sobering conclusion: He was not feeling comfortable. That being said, he was by no means content with that realization, to the contrary, he felt highly disappointed.

He had had high hopes prior to the event, expecting to somehow be able to get into it. Sadly, he was simply not feeling it. And that left him with very limited options, one of them being total retreat back home. Not what he had in mind. Strangely enough, he didn't feel like he wanted to leave the premise entirely. Maybe just go offside a little, find some sort of hiding spot. A shadowy one preferably, since his body was starting to overheat, or so he felt. Too much sun for his taste.

As he started to wander off, away from the cake ogling masses, something came to his mind. What had that one guy from gym class always been talking about? Something, something, "ninja table." Bingo. Maxim remembered the story behind that rather silly sounding name: There was a single picnic table somewhere around the corner of the building, forlorn, obscured by Cochise's shadow. Reminded him of himself, somehow.

In any case, it sounded like the place he was looking for. Somewhere to rest for a bit, maybe even read a little - right, he had forgotten to bring a book with him. Didn't matter, he had made his decision.

It didn't take Maxim too long to find the place. Just had to walk a straight line and around one single corner. There it was, the fabled ninja table of dubious fame. However, to Maxim's chagrin, it seemed like another adventurer had ventured off to seek it out. The quest had apparently drained his energy, since whoever the other boy was, he was sort of hunched over the table, eyes closed.

Maxim wasn't sure he recognized him. He had probably seen him walking around the school before, but that was it. Normally not reason enough for him to approach a complete stranger. This time around, however, he felt oddly compelled to stick around. Maybe his sense of curiosity was the cause, maybe the fact that he didn't want to resign and abandon this opportunity to find respite; he didn't know nor did he care to think about it.

Slowly, he inched closer, until he stood directly in front of the table. He could still walk away, not too late for that yet. Only he didn't feel like he wanted to and thus, he carefully took a seat on the opposite end of where the other boy was dozing.

Where The White Boys Dance
Jesus, it was frickin' cold outisde. Normally, a bit of fresh air would have been nice, especially under these circumstances, but now, the first icy breeze felt more like a punch to the face.
Creaking sounds, probably the door closing behind him. He was all by himself now.

Cold shivers ran down his spine, not only caused by the iciness all around him. For a second, he felt almost relieved, but then the images filled his mind anew, Alex spewing insults at him, the disgusted look on his face, the hate in his eyes.

Hate. He hates me. He fucking hates me now.

Again, the urge to simply let himself loose, to just cry overcame him. He could have said no to Alex' proposal, could have stayed at home, read one of his goddamned meaningless fucking books! He could have, he could have and he didn't, because he wanted to prove something to himself. Prove he wasn't just some basement dweller, some weak-kneed pushover. And now, where was he? He still was all that. Even worse, in their eyes, he was now a depraved sicko without self control.

But even so, he was still okay with that. He would have been okay with that. If only Alex had still been his friend. Regarded him as more than just a 'fag.' Of course, he just had to hate gays, he of all people! And of course he just had to find out this way, in front of fucking society!

Was he supposed to be angry at himself now? Or just plain sad, filled with anguished shame, riddled by guilt, pained by fear of loss? What did it matter. He was alone now, standing out there in the open in the middle of the night and nobody beside him would care about how he felt. Then again, maybe not even he did.

Damn it all to hell. He had been standing there in front of Ben's house for what, a minute now? Accomplishing nothing, just more useless pondering. Why was he even trying to understand his own feelings? Ben had said it himself. Party was over for him. Plain and simple. All that was left for him was to go home and sleep. And not wake up, for all he cared.

The first step forward he took was insecure, his legs felt like pudding. Shivers didn't make it easier, nor did the fact that he barely had a clue of which direction to go. Way too dark, only a few lampposts here and there. Or was that the moon? No way, it was hanging far too low. Lampposts, nothing but good old lampposts. They would help him navigate. Surely they would.

Going forward again. Felt like he was walking in slow-motion, the light just didn't seem to get closer, no matter how many steps he took. Maybe it really was the moon after all?
Maxim raised his head and looked towards the pitch black sky. No. Still no moon. Not even any stars.

I am reaching but I fall.

And the stars are black and cold.

The lyric just came to his mind. No idea where it was from. Probably one of those stupid musicals he liked so goddamn much. He didn't want to like anything at the moment.

As I stare into the void

of a world that cannot hold.

Huh. Kinda appropriate. How'd it continue again? Fuck, he couldn't remember, something about escaping or some shit like that.

Of a world that cannot hold...cannot hold...I'll escape now from....

There it was. Mid-thought, mid-step, he had to just give up the fight against the nausea. He fell to his knees, clutching his chest as if something was trying to burst out of it.

Oh Scheiße, fucking Jesus, please don't -

Maxim's body jerked and convulsed and then the bile came up as he hunched over. God, it was the worst fucking feeling in the world. And it just wouldn't stop. Please, someone just had to help him. Kill him for all he cared. As long as it would finally be over.

He hurled for another good minute before his stomach finally took pity on him, leaving him a quivering and groaning mess. So this was it. This was what he got for trying to socialize. Never again.

Never fucking again.

((Maxim Kehlenbrink continued in Land of Milk and Honey, Don't Fail Me Now))

Where The White Boys Dance
Jesus, why did the room have to spin like that? Made walking so much harder, made it feel like he wasn't even making progress. Only the thought of escape urged him to go forward. Escape the house, those people, his own obnoxious stupidity. For a second, the image of a rat in a cage was projected before his eyes. Appropriate. He would have chuckled if not for the fact that he felt like bawling his eyes out. That and him desperately trying to fight back the rising feeling of nausea.

He wasn't going the right way, was he? Was he? Hell, at this point, he wouldn't have objected to being thrown out of the house via trapdoor. Or straight down the trash chute. Problem solved.

Someone was saying something again. Alex? No, Ben again. Something that sounded like 'backyard.' What was that supposed to mean? Did he want to pick a fight with him back there? No, didn't seem like it. He was walking away from Maxim now. Kinda looked like he wanted him to follow him.

Oh. Of course. That was the right way. The way out, door to the outside. What was it called again? Shit, had he really managed to forget something as trivial as that? And why the fuck was he even thinking about it in the first place?
Maxim palmed his forehead and let out a pained sigh. Damnit, bad idea. Only made him feel like vomiting again. Carefully, almost as if he was scared he was going to slip and fall - which he was - he turned himself around, in the direction Ben was indicating. There was another door, other side of the room. Yeah, that was it, the - the -

Exit. That's the word.

First accomplishment of the evening. Fantastic.

Maxim started walking again, staggering and reeling around. Couldn't walk straight, couldn't think straight. Nothing straight about him in that moment. Nothing made sense. Not even himself, his own goddamn presence. Fish out of water. Something that should never happen. That was exactly how he felt.

He reached the door. Finally. Another glance towards Ben. Still blurry, still looking all disgusted. If he was like this, he didn't even want to try to imagine how Alex felt. Fucking Alex. Was it really Maxim's fault that he was that handsome? That fucking irresistible?

Hör auf. Stop it, stop it, stop it. Just get out.

Maxim's fingers gingerly touched the door. He didn't do anything for a brief moment, just leaned on it. Feeling so incredibly tired. Then he saw his host's eyes again and with a panicked shove, pushed the door open. Freedom. Didn't take him another second to ponder about anything irrelevant - he practically hopped out of his cage, into the welcoming darkness of the night.

Greetings, good Slam.

As far as I can see, Sandy and Maxim would probably go along rather well, as you might know since you critiqued him. Both are rather introverted, but try to socialize with people, at least occasionally. They also seem to have quite similiar childhoods, at least in some regards, as well as a shared fondness for fiction/reading. I could see them sort of connecting over their reclusive natures, as well as Maxim being drawn to people who are somewhat similiar to himself.

He would also have an understanding for Sandy's occasional "low moods", as you put it, since he tends to be in similiar moods himself.

Lastly, even though Maxim hasn't outed himself as gay yet and probably has no knowledge of Sandy being homosexual either, I could see this shared aspect of their characters leading to an interesting dynamic.

Where The White Boys Dance
Voices. God, why did there have to be so many? Voices, voices everywhere, senseless talking, snickering, hushed whispers, people laughing at him, talking about him - someone had to make it stop!

Maxim was still lying face down on the floor, hiding his face in shame and fear. More talking, louder now. Sounded like Ben and...Alex. The guy that had been his supposed best friend only minutes ago. And what was Maxim to him now? Trash, sick, worthless scum. And he deserved it. Every bit of it. It was all his fault. He had fucked it all up.

"I'm sorry, man. I'm fucking sorry..." The German was muttering to himself, his words of course muffled by the ground and the giant lump growing in his throat. "I'm so sorry, so sorry, so, so, so gottverdammtnochmal sorry..." He had stopped even thinking about what he was saying, he was just babbling to himself now, his mind hazed and crushed by guilt and loss and fear.

Steps. Someone was approaching him. Maybe they would give him his due punishment now? Maxim was hoping they would. He had been stupid, beyond stupid, acted like a selfish prick. He had to be chastised, beaten, taught his lesson. Only just.
But again, his hopes were crushed and all he heard was the cold, almost disgusted sounding voice of his host. Up. Party's over. That was all. No more insults, no condemning, not even a prompt for him to apologize. Like he wasn't even worth wasting the attention on.
The German didn't even try to protest. Nothing he could say, nothing he could do to make things right. Only do as he was told and try not to further anger his host. Not screw things up for once.

Slowly, he tried to lift himself off the ground with both his hands and only managed to do so after several clumsy attempts. Everything was still blurry. He couldn't even see Ben's face, but then again, he didn't even want to, really. Alex was nowhere to be seen either. Probably went off to someplace where he could forget about Maxim. Couldn't blame him.

Get up on one knee. Shift the balance, grab the edge of the table. Rest for a second. Now try to get standing. Don't slip. Don't look at anybody.

He repeated those instructions in his head, over and over, even long after he had managed to get into a standing position and was now facing his host. He felt the need to say something, anything. It wouldn't do him any good. Or anyone else. But he just had to say something. "I...god, just...fuck, man, please..." Pathetic. No other way to say it.

Maxim felt his face growing hotter, starting to itch. His eyes were hurting, god, he wasn't about to cry, was he? He had to leave, right now. Get away from all of them, from Ben. From Alex.

Bitte, Gott...Give him back to me.

He turned around, now blankly staring at nothing. Was that a door back at the wall? Yes, a door. But was it even the exit, or just some other generic, useless door? Fuck, like it even mattered. He would find out sooner or later. He started staggering forward, towards his supposed way out of the nightmare.

The Dynamo of Volition
“Fine, whatever. Knock yourself out.”

Not the kind of polite answer Maxim had hoped for, but well, it was an answer at least. An affirmative one as well. And after all, he didn't need to try and further socialize with the girl, right? No need to approach the unapproachable. He just needed to sit down, keep his mouth shut and let the writing and wit of his favorite author do the rest for him. In theory, at least.

Just when Maxim had opened his mouth to give thanks - in an overly flowery manner of speech, no doubt - his plans were spontaneously shattered and then ground into fine dust. He barely had time to even turn his head before the object of his desire was swiftly taken by another person, out of nowhere, like a breeze.

"Hey, wha-" He didn't even manage to finish a single line of expressing his surprise, instead, he just stood there, dumbfounded and looking a proper Charlie. So much for things going his way for once. His streak of terrible luck just didn't know when to end.

Just another day in paradise...

Only now did he take his time to properly examine the intruder, who was sitting with her back turned to him at the moment. Something familiar about that curly, brown hair. Something, something, history class...

The girl turned her head and at last, the penny dropped. Melanie, yes, that was her name. Pleasant creature, as far as he could remember. He had only fleetingly interacted with her in the past, but she had managed to leave some sort of impression on him nonetheless. Probably because she had been one of the few of his classmates he didn't instantly feel nervous around. Something about her aura, maybe.

She had addressed him just now, asked him something, but he had once again been too busy with his own thoughts to catch the full sentence. Maxim felt guilty for a second, but then noticed her expression, which, to him, indicated that she was not expecting him to answer. Kind of a gamble to assume that, but it was better to roll with it than to ask her to repeat her sentence.

That aside, he had a more dire problem at the moment. It only took him another swift glance around himself to see that all the other chairs were still taken. Yippie. That obviously meant he had to take on the challenge of somehow managing to reclaim his rightful throne, he had to actually win through this time. In other words, he could abandon all hope.

"Hey, uh...Melanie? That is what you are called, correct?"

Drop the stiff language. Get a little determination in there.

He cleared his throat, then took a small step forward, just about enough to not invade any kind of comfort zone, or so he thought, at least. "I don't mean to - well, to burst your bubble, I guess you could say, but I think I was the first one to ask for permission to sit there. And technically, you didn't ask at all, so..." He coughed into his paw once more, an awkward attempt to cover his anxiety. "But...in any case, good to see you, I guess..."

Where The White Boys Dance
There was a void in Maxim's mind. Just one big, empty space. He couldn't see, didn't bother listening to the meaningless echoes around him. All he wanted to do was feel, savor every second of those sentiments that made his blood rush and his head spin, all with his eyes closed. There was warmth, intense heat on his face and lips and even within him. He couldn't have described it again had he ever wanted to. Hot breath and a curious taste lingering, somehow sweet and bitter and salty at the same time. Or maybe his brain was just too dumbfounded to recognize it. It didn't matter, really. All Maxim knew was that it was there and he didn't want it to go away. Wanted to cling to every single sensation.

The first kiss was something special, he knew that. That's what people had always told him. But in no way had it prepared him for this. This was just overwhelming, a mix of rush and rapture and inebriation. Pure fucking ecstasy.

He did regret not knowing what Alex was feeling in that second. He was focusing too much on himself to be able to read that. There was a struggle, yes. Some squirming. Could mean anything, really. None of Maxim's concern. Just let the moment last. Forever, if possible.

And then suddenly, another sensation. A hand on his shoulder, a yank. Out of the goddamn blue. It surprised him, not only that, but it destroyed his perfect world of sensation, just pierced through it and brought him back to reality. And thus, all that bliss evaporated and was replaced by blind rage. His one hand let go of Alex' shoulder and lashed out, blindly aiming for anything or anyone behind him, whatever was trying to stop what he was doing.

Hit. He felt a sting, pain in his fist. It had collided with something, someone. He had hit someone. Hurt someone. The thought seeped through, broke into his fogged mind and it was enough to instantly wipe out any selfish desire or fury within in.

Nein. Nein, nein, Scheiße, fucking god, please no!

It was the last thing that he had wanted, to inflict harm on someone else. Even with all of the alcohol in his blood and brain, that fact didn't change. It was something he could not bear, just couldn't handle.

Maxim let go of the other boy, clumsily pushed himself off him and tried to turn around, see the harm he had caused. He almost slipped and fell, but managed to get into a staggering stance, somehow. There he was.
His vision was blurred, but he could still make out the shape of some person on the ground. Wait, not just some person. Something familiar about him, something about his clothes, his hair...


It couldn't have been Ben, could it? Maxim couldn't have just knocked his own host over, defied any sense of decency, like some sort of rabid savage. He was in shock. Didn't dare to move, couldn't budge an inch. He didn't know what to do. Help him up, say he was sorry? What good was it, now that the damage was already done?

Maxim didn't get another second to think it over, as he was suddenly and rudely pushed from behind, a kick to his back followed and he was sent tumbling to the floor. He had no time to react or catch his fall, the front of his body made hard contact with the ground.

"You little fucking shitdick!" Alex. It was his voice, definitely. The German didn't look at him, but even so, he was able to imagine the expression of pure hatred on his friend's face, which his words conveyed. "All this fucking time, you sick fuck! All this time I've been hanging with a motherfucking faggot? You fucking fraud, you fake-ass piece of shit! I should beat your sorry ass into the ground!"

Maxim did nothing. He didn't even bother lifting himself off the floor. He felt empty again, but different this time. Like he didn't even want to live anymore, he would have preferred to just vanish into thin air and be immediately forgotten. Better than to have to live and endure his existence collapsing into nothing but a worthless mess.

"Dear god", he muttered, "just kill me."

He then closed his eyes again, expecting another kick or anything of the sort to follow. But nothing happened. There was only absolute silence. The worst thing that Maxim could have hoped for, as he was left with nothing but his own, suffocating thoughts for that moment.

Where The White Boys Dance
Maxim was leaning on an nearby table with one hand, trying to make it look like he was doing a casual pose, but in reality, he was merely trying to hold his balance. Why did the room have to shake and spin like that? That didn't help at all.

Way too many voices at once. Why couldn't they just all shut their mouths, stop torturing him? They were doing it on purpose, of course, babbling and babbling until he lost his nerve. Bunch of pricks, all of them.

"Maxim! Makin' your old man proud tonight! First comes the bottle, then comes the women-..." Alex. What the fuck did he know about anything? Maxim wasn't here to make anyone proud, wasn't here to get with a girl - hell, he wasn't even sure why he was there at all. Didn't matter anymore, he was here now and had to live with it.

He turned around to face his friend again, clumsily so, almost slipping and twisting his leg in the process.

Junge, don't fuck this up now. Just take the bottle, slow and easy. No need to fucking panic now.

He watched the other boy take a swig, then tenderly extended his hand to accept the bottle from him. Once again, his eyes betrayed his own will and slowly wandered towards the lower part of Alex' face, hovering over his lips, which were still glistening wet. Geez, why'd the guy have to be so goddamn hot?

Need to stop staring, before he notices. Eyes off the lips, verdammt nochmal! But...really I wonder...

How do they taste like?

Did he want to find out? Yes, definitely. Why not just admit it to himself? He wanted to make out with his best friend. And it made sense, really, it all made sense, now that he thought about it. He had always wondered why he liked the fucking guy so much, why he followed him everywhere like an oversized lapdog despite his tendencies to be obnoxious, despite the fact that he didn't find his jokes funny at all, despite all the times he had wished to have never met him. Alex was simply attractive to him. And he, Maxim, he was nothing but a shallow fucking hypocrite.

This epiphany was too much for the already bemused boy to bear and he decided to deal with it in the only manner he currently saw fit - by taking the bottle and downing its entire content in one go. All of his sense for decency had been befuddled, along with his judgment. Maxim was far past giving a damn about it at this point. A few chugs, some driblets wetting his clothes, heat rising in his stomach and throat, done. He didn't even bother wiping his mouth, he just put empty bottle down on the table next to him - though putting it down was quite the understatement.

To hell with it, he felt fantastic now, fucking ecstatic even. So what if he was staggering around like some poor devil during the sinking of the Titanic? What did he care how he looked like, he didn't give a damn about any of those other people anyway! They could judge all they wanted, he didn't care. Only one guy he cared about in that entire goddamn room. And he was standing right in front of him.

"Whoa there, big guy! Where'd all that eagerness come from? Didn't think some cheap ass booze like that one would get you all on fire like that!" His grin widened and he crossed his arms. Still looking fucking perfect. "Or maybe you've been a damn juicehead all these years and never told your old pal Alex, hm? Showing us all the real Maxim tonight, are ya?" The German only flashed a grin in response.

You bet I am, hotshot.

He took a shaky step towards his target, keeping eye contact, devouring those beautiful deep blue eyes with his own. The other boy's smile faded slightly, he raised an eyebrow in mild confusion. "Watch where you're going, you walking pile of meat. You wanna knock me over or something?"

Oh Gott, that hunky voice...

He walked forwards again, getting even closer to Alex this time. He looked so fine up close like this. So goddamn handsome. Too late to walk away now, no getting out of that stunt. Might as well go all the way through with it.
Alex tried to back up, but it only took him two steps for his back to meet the wall behind him. The cornered boy's expression changed. Anger was written all over it now.

"Seriously man, you're way past critical on the creepy scale here! This ain't funny, kay? Back off, dude." What was he so upset about? He wasn't going to hurt him, not even harm him in any way. Maybe Alex would even like it. Yes, he would, he had to. Nothing wrong in what Maxim was going to do. He was just doing both of them a favor, really.

The German approached his friend until he was close enough to smell the other boy's breath. Flavor was even sweeter than usual, now that it was pregnant with the odor of whiskey. Fuck, he couldn't bear it anymore. Every inch of him felt tingly. His veins were on fire. He had to do it.

"Final fucking warning, man! You come any closer, I'll knock you flat on your ass, you hear me?"

No, you won't.

For one moment, Maxim was simply standing there, blinking, breathing heavily, mouth slightly agape. He could feel his heartbeat pounding heavily in his chest. It felt like it was going to burst any moment. Hurt so fucking much. He had to make it stop.

In one quick movement, he caught the other boy in a fierce embrace and closed his eyes as he forcefully brought his lips down on his.

He's So Tall and Handsome as Hell
"Thanks." Nothing else he needed to say, really. Carefully, Maxim shifted the chair around, so he could take a seat. Only now did he notice how tired out his legs felt, unsurprising, considering that he had been standing around on the same spot since the beginning of the festivity. He probably wouldn't leave his chair too soon.

He cast a side glance towards the dancing floor and immediately felt uncomfortable at the mere idea of mingling with the crowd there. Far too hectic for his taste. He really was glad to have found one of his friends, who knew how to maintain a low profile, take it easy. Maybe the evening was going to turn out worthwhile after all. Best to start it off by finding something suitable to talk about in the presence of Brendan's "friend date."

One possibility was for him to ask how the two of them had met. Yes, that didn't seem to shabby and it would also divert the attention from himself, at least for a bit. Just then, he overheard his friend asking him if he wanted some punch. Though he was initially tempted to decline, he figured it wouldn't do wonders for Brendan's confidence if he did so, maybe even make him think he had done something wrong and that was something he really wished to avoid at all costs.

So he simply smiled in response and gave a brief nod. "Oh, that'd be lovely - really nice of you. I am really thirsty, in fact. Wouldn't even have noticed it if you hadn't made the offer. Thank you, Bren." Maxim was content with the way he had phrased it, surely it would reassure his friend a good deal. He knew that Brendan tended to be a nervous fella, even more so than himself. Probably why he liked him so much.

"You don't have to get me the punch yourself, though. I can do that myself, no problem." Though having said that, Maxim was still expecting Brendan to insist that he would get it for him. Well, not only expecting, he was hoping it, really. He had just gotten comfortable in his chair and getting up again was on the very bottom on the list of things he would have liked to do next.

Where The White Boys Dance
Maxim's heart skipped a beat when his friend decided to push past Ben and position himself right between their host and the German. So close, too close for his taste, at least usually. But not now, not this time around. He could swear that he could feel the breath of his friend on his face, heavy with the odor of cheap booze - either that or it was just wishful thinking on his part.

At least Alex seemed to have calmed down already. Ben sure knew how to defuse an awkward situation, he had to give it to him. Level-headed and socially competent, down to earth as well. Almost a shame that Maxim was paying so little attention to him at the moment, but Alex's presence was simply too much to ignore.

God, comparing himself to Hugh Hefner? And that smug grin as well. Maxim knew Alex was a huge show-off, had tendencies to act like a prick at times, all of which usually bothered him quite a lot and he would not recoil from pointing out to his friend. But it didn't bother him this time. Oddly enough, he thought it was kind of...charming?

Verdammt, Mann. That smile, that fucking smile, why can't he stop smiling like that? I just want to...Scheiße, nein, fuck! I need to stop thinking about it...Need to say something...just anything...

"Really, Al? That one-liner just now, I have to say: That was weak, Kumpel. Sounded like you borrowed it from 'Flirting 101', or something." Maxim had just quipped the first thing that had come to his mind. It certainly wasn't something he'd usually say, not his type of humor at all. In fact, he himself didn't like his own jest one bit. Alex on the other hand, he seemed to take pleasure in his statement.

"Maxim, my man! Starting to get on my level now, are you, amigo? Knew a little hooch was just what your German ass needed." His grin had only gotten wider. Great, just great. Now he couldn't get his eyes off his friend's lips again. There were those thoughts again...

Maxim's head was starting to hurt, the chatter around him only seemed to increase in volume with each passing second, penetrating and shrill. He didn't even notice that he had just taken another sip, the rim of his cup was wandering to his mouth almost on its own by now. Ben. Ben was saying something. Maxim grimaced slightly, trying to push aside the growing throb within his head and concentrate on what his host had to say. He owed him that much.

Something about how he was able to put up with Alex. Then something about his cup. Goddamn music, he could barely understand a word anymore! Or was there even any music? Maybe he was just starting to hear things... Cup, he was fairly certain Ben had mentioned a cup. Instinctively, he looked down at his own, only to find it was now empty. Was Ben offering him another drink? He should probably decline, too much of it in his system already.

Need to stop, before it gets worse...But fucking...I'm still so thirsty.

Maxim looked back at Alex' face, that well toned, well shaped, handsome visage of his. Fuck.

He couldn't take it, couldn't bear staring at his companion's face for another second. Panicking, his eyes darted around the room and his fingers visibly tensed up. His gaze finally found the bottle of whiskey, the same Ben had poured him a drink from earlier, now standing on a table not too far away from him. Still filled to one third.

Scheiß drauf, I need it.

Maxim rubbed his eyes, then gently pushed Alex out of his way. "Scuse me for a sec." He had touched him. Only his arm, but still, he had touched him. Why'd his skin have to be so goddamn soft and warm? No matter. He had to get himself another drink. Try not to think about Alex. Try not to think about him. About his face. His gorgeous lips. About how he wanted to kiss them so badly...

His jowls quivering with excitement, he took hold of the bottle in front of him. Wait. He couldn't just take it, not just like that. Though clouded, his mind still reminded him that he was a guest and as such, he had to try and behave accordingly. He turned his head back and looked at his host with glazed eyes. "Mind if...if I take some?"

He's So Tall and Handsome as Hell
Maxim came to a halt two steps away from the other two's table, trying his best to keep the perpetual frown off his face. Brendan was looking quite appealing in his white dress, but then again, he did look good in almost everything he wore, Maxim himself thought so, at least. He did like him quite a lot. The guy was no braggart, good at heart, a very down to earth and genuinely caring kind of person. Yes, the German was glad to have crossed paths with him.

He looked over at the girl, who did not seem familiar at all to him. Could be that she had passed him in the hallways of Cochise a few times, he couldn't quite remember. Probably of Hispanic descent, given her appearance. Looked like a nice person at first glance, but who was Maxim to say that? After all, he didn't really have all that much experience with people. She, too, was pretty to watch, he had to admit, the burgundy dress did fit her well, especially since she was partnered with the white-clad Brendan.

Now, let's see if those two harmonize as well as the colors of their clothes.

He patiently waited for Brendan to finish his greeting words, brushing away a strand of his hair gone rogue. Friend date, huh? Funny term, he hadn't heard that one before. Maybe it was yet another thing teenagers used to say that he wasn't aware of, had been the case more than enough times in the past. Maxim decided to simply smile and nod at his friend. "I see. Have to return the compliment, Bren, you are sporting quite a sprite outfit yourself."

That had gone well. Strange, but it seemed to him that he was less nervous talking to people when Brendan was around. He figured it was because the other boy was rather shy himself, therefore giving a boost to Maxim's own confidence. Another reason to like him. Having paid his friend his due respect, as he liked to put it, he now reached out a hand to the girl who had just been introduced to him as Alba.

"Pleasure to meet you, Alba. Name's Maxim. I am glad to see the two of you are having a pleasant time this evening." He held his hand outstretched for another brief moment or so, then pulled it back again.

Handshakes are far too old-fashioned, that's how you'd great a business partner, not a schoolmate! Gott, only five seconds in and I'm already embarrassing myself in front of them.

Slightly abashed, Maxim casually caressed the back of his head with one hand, then put his other one on the backrest of the chair in front of him. "May I sit?", he asked, still looking at Alba.

Where The White Boys Dance
Maxim couldn't help but grin like an idiot once he saw the other boy taking action. He'd have happily yanked Alex away from that skank that Ben called his sister himself, though he was quite sure that he wouldn't have had the guts to go through with it. But it was fine now, his friend had been successfully robbed of a girl to toy around with. Served him right.

The German casually took another sip, not even grimacing anymore, he had already gotten used to the powerful flavor. Probably not a good sign, but it was too late to really do anything about it. Maxim patiently waited for his host to return, all while keeping a rather gleeful look on his face.

He could understand Ben's reaction. Maxim was an only child, but he was not thick enough to think that one could simply ignore someone flirting with their own sister. Unpleasant and awkward to reprimand them in front of everyone, but necessary nonetheless. And also completely in Maxim's own favor, so he had no reason to complain.

"Alex is something else, isn't he?" Again, he couldn't suppress a smile when he heard his host say that. "He sure is", he muttered in response, barely above a whisper. He allowed himself to another casual glance at his friend, who was now standing around all by himself, making a face like a deer caught in the headlights. He almost felt bad for him.

The flaxen--haired boy failed to catch the last bit of what Ben had just told him, so he merely nodded in response, trying to cover it up.

Gotta change the subject, before he notices.

Another careful sip, another wipe of his mouth. His cup was getting emptier by the minute. "Anyway, was wondering: I think I remember Alex telling me that you and him are playing baseball together, or some stuff like that. That true?"

His choice of words was getting less refined, more sloppy, as was his effort of him trying to hide his accent. His brain had a progressively harder time focusing on everything at once. All he could think about at the moment was how to get Alex to come over again. Ben was a nice guy, sure, pleasant to talk to. But Alex, he just was something else, as his host had put it. Something so appealing about that way he was smiling, although that smile had been entirely wiped off his face ever since Ben's intervention. Maxim felt the desire to change that, make him feel good again. And as it seemed, an opportunity would soon present itself.

He saw his friend beginning to walk in their direction, still looking rather disgruntled. Damn it. He sure hoped Alex didn't hold him partially responsible as well. He would deny having even noticed him and Ben's sister flirting, if he had to. Couldn't have Alex getting mad at him. Although he did look somewhat cute, now that his face was distorted by mild anger.

The other boy reached the two, giving Ben a pat on the back to get his attention, in case he hadn't noticed him already. "Well, good to see you two broncos getting along, at least." Alex didn't even bother making his remark sound less snide.

Scheiße. Hope he doesn't do anything stupid now.

He's So Tall and Handsome as Hell
Why had he even bothered coming here? It was all exactly as he had expected, nothing but lovesick couples prancing around the hall like they had no other worries in the world, music echoing that he was less than fond of and to top it all off, all the tables had been taken already. Sure, it would have been less than polite of him to take up an entire table only for himself, but he still preferred that to standing around all dressed up and with nowhere to go.

He sighed and buried his face in his hands for a moment. He should have ignored his godmother Joan's advice, should have ignored her urging him to take up this rare opportunity to go out and mingle with his schoolmates.

'You're still young, Maxim, too young to be sitting around at home each day. Believe me, you'll regret letting this chance pass.' What did she know? For all he could say, he regretted being at the damned dance more than anything else at this point. He had spotted only a handful of familiar faces, all busy with some other person they had brought along. Nothing to do for him. Not that the minded being alone, but he did mind being alone at a place he absolutely did not want to be at.

That stupid conscience of mine...All because I wanted to do Joan a favor, make her feel proud. I sure hope she's enjoying herself at home, at least.

He looked around himself again, saw another pair passing him and screwed up his nose when he perceived the overly excessive amount of perfume the girl wore. Who was she trying to impress with that? Certainly not the guy she was with, he either had no sense of smell or he really wanted to get on her good side, no matter the hardship.

Maxim turned away and tried to think of something less negative, something that didn't encourage his grouchiness even further. There had to be something he could do with his time, something productive even. Reading was out of the question, he had no book with him and even if he had brought one, he couldn't have gotten through one single page, thanks to the blaring sounds of music and chatter.

As his eyes wandered around the room, scanning each and every nook and cranny for something worthwhile, he spotted another familiar face at one of the tables. Tall, short black hair, slightly bent nose. Yup - that was Brendan, no doubt. Nice enough guy, enjoyed reading almost as much as Maxim did. Certainly one of the people he'd be content to spend his time with, although it seemed that he, too, was already accompanied by a girl of his choosing. Bummer.

Maxim had already given up on finding someone to converse with, when he saw Brendan waving at him. So he had noticed him after all and even wanted him to come over, judging from his expression. The German was surprised that Brendan willingly let another boy join him while he was already in the company of what seemed to be his date for the dance. Then again, Maxim wasn't really all too familiar with social matters and was all too happy to be disabused from his misconception. Smiling weakly, he waved back and trudged towards the other two.

Where The White Boys Dance
The second sip induced about the same reaction from Maxim as the first one had. A shudder creeping through his body, a slight grimace on his features and then he felt this most curious sensation again. No, the sip was not just like the first one, it tasted decisively more pleasant. So strange and yet so inexplicably familiar. He almost wanted to laugh at himself for being mortally afraid of it just mere minutes ago.

He had only paid half attention to Ben talking about his relationship with Alex. Something about keeping his ass under control, granted he hadn't misheard that part. He let the thought of it linger in his mind for a brief moment and involuntarily smiled at the image. Yes, he would have loved to be able to exercise control over his friend and the mere thought of it send another shiver down his spine.
Enough of that. Maxim was tired of having to remind himself that he was still talking to his host, but at the same time, glancing over to his fair-haired friend was all too tempting. An idea came to his mind, just as he was about to answer Ben's latest question.

"Oldenburg, oh boy. I don't have too many memories of that place, if I'm honest. Never went outside too much, hence I didn't see much of the city itself. I guess that makes it not too memorable of a town." As he finished his sentence, he casually moseyed over to the wall closest to him and Ben, taking two, three small steps, his posture still all relaxed. That oughta work.

"If you don't mind, I'd prefer to stand over here, alright? I'd rather have some sort of rear cover, if that is the term. Feels a little strange standing with my back to the crowd." This was partly true actually. So not even that big of a lie. Still, his real motivation for changing his position had been another one, namely the fact that he now had a clear field of view on Alex and no longer needed to turn his head to spy him. Not the most elegant of moves, but hell, as long as it was to his benefit, he didn't mind acting a little weird.

"Anyway, I prefer not to talk about my time in Germany all that much, if you pardon me. Truth be told, there's not much to be said anyway. How about you? How long do you live in Kingman already?" Maxim felt bad for resorting to something as low as distracting his own host just to be able to focus his attention back on his friend Alex, but he couldn't help it. Without even thinking, he took another sip as he carefully observed the other boy's every movement.

Zum Teufel, why do I obsess over him all of a sudden? He's just on his own for a couple of minutes, no big deal. Maybe it's the alcohol...

Maybe. Maybe not. What was for sure, however, was that Alex had quite the charming smile, as Maxim noted. How had he not noticed this before? But more importantly, what was going on with Ben's sister? The German couldn't believe his eyes when he saw her wriggling her arm around that of this friend, with a suggestive grin on her lips at that.

So eine Nutte. No shame at all.

Maxim's mind began imagining the most terrible of scenarios, Alex and that girl disappearing from the room, scurrying towards a more private place...He couldn't bear the thought and in his anger, began furiously chewing his lip. What he needed was more of that damned whiskey, it made him feel so blissfully numb. Maybe it would numb the pain as well. He raised his glass again and took another sip, no, not a sip this time, a proper gulp of the red liquid.

Where The White Boys Dance
It took a moment for the sip to take its effect. For a brief second, Maxim only focused on swallowing the liquid, not wanting to hold it inside his mouth for too long. Then the taste hit him. He was certainly used to powerful flavors, loved to savor a good aroma as long as he could, sure. But alcohol, that was uncharted territory to him and he reacted accordingly.

Maxim grimaced and his entire body tensed up, the bitterness felt like it was washing all over his entire being. And then, as quickly as it had come, the moment was over. The taste was still there, he could feel it lingering on his tongue, but it was not that...unpleasant anymore. No, it had just been the initial shock, the sudden introduction to an unknown sensation, kind of like the times when he would just jump into the cold water of a swimming pool straight away. Strong, overwhelming, sure. But Maxim couldn't help but feel compelled, somehow.

He looked back at the spot where he had last seen Alex. He was still there, chatting up some girl Maxim had never seen before. Good for him. Though Maxim still wondered if his friend had watched him taking the sip. Maybe he had, maybe that was the reason why he was grinning like an idiot. Or maybe not, maybe he had missed the moment. But he had to at least have looked over to him at some point, seen him holding the cup in his hands. He had to, he absolutely had to, right?
The German shook his head lightly, trying to expel the thought from his mind. What was he doing, he was still in a conversation, he couldn't just let himself get distracted like that.

The one time I meet a nice enough guy and I immediately ignore him over some stupid feeling of jealousy. Aren't I the sociable one?

Guilt crept in his mind yet again and he tried to shift his focus, listen to what his host had to say. Great, now he had started talking about Alex as well. How convenient.

Maxim cleared his throat, still tasting the indescribably intriguing flavor of whiskey. "We both joined Cochise at the same time, me and Alex. I think I first met him in my first history class of my freshman year. Yeah, I'm pretty sure it was history class." He wiped his mouth, his eyes almost wandered off to look for his friend again. "Anyway, we both sat next to each other. Didn't talk at first, not one word. But our teacher told us to introduce us to our seatmate, so we did that. Talked about our choice of classes and as it turned out, we had pretty much chosen the same subjects. Well, there were some small differences, but that's beside the point. Since we were going to spent most of our classes together, we figured we might as well continue sitting next to each other."

Maxim's lips had formed a smile while he talked, something he only noticed when looked down and spotted his own reflection in his glass. Talking about his best friend had that certain effect on him, he figured. Made him feel at ease.
He couldn't help himself he had to look back to where Alex was standing. Still talking to that girl. Who was she anyway, had Alex already known her prior to the party? And why did it even bother him all that much?

Guess I'm just being jealous. Still though, why? All is fine as long as he's enjoying himself, right? He's my buddy after all.

Yup, just his buddy Alex. His oldest pal, his best friend. Who was paying no attention to him, none at all. To hell with him, then. Maxim felt the urge to just flush his frustration away. He looked down at the glass in his hand. That would do. "By the way, good..uh...stuff you have here. Tastes quite fine." He raised his cup again. "Here's to you." The rim wandered to his lips once more.

Where The White Boys Dance
Maxim couldn't help but smile a little. He was starting to become somewhat fond of the other boy. Most people his age only wanted to talk about superficial and petty matters, pop stars, reality shows and looks. Not this one. The flaxen-haired boy was fairly certain to recognize honest curiosity in the expression of his host, which he was all too happy to satisfy.

"Good guess, but not quite. Oldenburg's located in Lower Saxony, you might have heard of that one before. All the way up in the north, second largest state of Germany, area wise. If you want to go rural, you're better off visiting the south. Either that or the Northeast." He slowly raised his cup, now holding it in front of his chest. Should he really?

His eyes darted around nervously for a second. Maybe he should just keep the conversation going first. Enough time to worry about alcohol later. "Anyways, Kingman is a dwarf of a city compared to Oldenburg, that's true. The latter has, like, five times as much inhabitants? Not sure, geography isn't exactly my strong suit." He looked back at the whiskey in his hand.

Am I seriously afraid of that? It's just a little alcohol, what is it gonna do? Make me drop dead?

His reluctance began to slowly melt. Maybe just talk a little more first, just a little distraction from the shiny red liquid. "I don't really miss the city life, though. Never been the type for that anyway, I prefer tranquil places like this one, you see. Not as terribly crowded."

He turned slightly away from his host, faking a cough. He just wanted to be able see Alex somewhere. His sight always calmed him, it reminded him that he was not alone. Scanning the attendees, he finally spotted his friend, who was already busy mingling with the crowd. What would he have advised him to do? Probably something along the lines of 'You only live once, you crusty Kraut! Go ahead and guzzle that shit!'

Yeah, that sounded like something Alex would say. In other words, he would approve of Maxim bringing himself to do it. And that settled it.

He turned back to face Ben. The German could see why Alex liked the guy, he seemed pleasant enough. Patient too. Maybe himself and him would grow closer as well, one could never know . That was something Maxim could drink to. He raised his cup towards Ben, then let off a brief chuckle of anticipation. "Prost!" And with that, he brought the rim to his lips and took a careful sip.

Where The White Boys Dance
The frown, Maxim reminded himself. He was probably still frowning, he always was. Not exactly the best way to act natural around others. With some effort, he managed to make his facial muscles relax somewhat and his expression morphed into one that was decisively less awkward. So far, so good.

He noticed Alex slowly backing away from him and Ben. "I'll leave you two lovebirds be then, yeah? Catch you guys later. Probably..." With a chuckle and a playful salute, Alex turned away from the two. Just before leaving, he turned his head towards Maxim to whisper something into his ear. "Try not to embarrass me, m'kay? Just kidding. You got this, amigo. Make your pal Alex proud." And with that, he walked away, glass in hand.

Fantastic. Thanks for leaving me hung out to dry here, Kumpel. Remind me to never accompany you to anything again, ever.

Maxim redirected his attention back towards his host, who had already started answering his question. He barely paid attention to what Ben was saying, instead taking his time to carefully survey the boy from head to toe. Pretty short in size, dark and spiky hair. Hunched over slightly, maybe to lessen the distance between the two? Dressed casually, nothing worthy of noting. Good. Maxim couldn't stand the flamboyant types. Looking around himself, he could spot at least half a dozen individuals that appalled him in almost every imaginable sense. His host certainly was not one of them. Maybe there would be some merit to their conversation after all.

"...you're somewhere from the Deutschland..." Maxim had finished his thoughts just in time to catch that snippet of Ben's speech.

He nailed the pronunciation. Not bad for an American. This guy certainly is nobody's fool.

"Deutschland, ja. I'm from that place, from Oldenburg, to be exact. I don't suppose you've heard from it." He scratched the back of his head, trying to think of something else to say. Calm, staying calm was the key. The other guy seemed nice enough, no need for him to panic. Not yet. "My accent gave me away, am I right? Never was able to get rid of that." His last remark had a slightly bitter tone and Maxim immediately cleared his throat to distract from it.

His eyes wandered down below to the cup of booze his host had squeezed into Maxim's meaty hand. He had to admit, the darkish red liquid had some sort of hypnotizing quality to it, despite the odor. Maybe, just maybe he was going to allow himself to just one harmless sip.

Bad idea. Drinking just to assimilate? No way I'll stoop so low as to do that.

Then again...

He looked back up at Ben and raised an eyebrow, giving him a somewhat inquisitive air. It was almost as if he was trying to ask permission to get a taste of the whiskey in his own hand.

Where The White Boys Dance
He was standing directly in front of the party's host, the person who most of the attention was focused on. Maxim smelled the fetor of alcohol impregnating the air, he felt a dozen pairs of eyes penetrating his back like tiny daggers, heard the never-ending chatter around him, people giggling and laughing. He knew they were laughing at him. They had to. He didn't belong there and they all knew it.

The mind of the flaxen-haired boy drew a blank and he wished he could have just dissolved into fine mist. But then another thought crossed his mind. He was not only embarrassing himself by acting like this, but by extension Alex as well. In front of everyone. And he could absolutely not live with doing that, no way he could.

Chewing at his bottom lip for another brief moment, Maxim finally managed to get a grip on himself and assumed control of his mind again. He channeled all the inner peace he could muster, then extended one hand towards Ben, without even shaking, much to his own surprise. "My name's Maxim, I'm an old friend of Alex here." He gave his ever grinning friend a gentle pat on the shoulder. "You are Ben, correct? Nice to make your acquai---I mean, nice to meet you." He cleared his throat, awkwardly staring at the floor for a second.

That could have gone worse, I suppose.

He looked back up, directly at his host's face. There was something else he needed to say, something related to the party itself. Right.

Almost forgot, it's his birthday.

He had quickly pulled back his hand after extending it and now stuck it out towards Ben once more. "Oh yes, congratulations, by the way. Nice, uh...nice bash you're having here. How old'd you get, may I ask?" He bit his lip again. His accent had notably thickened while speaking, more and more with every single word that came out of his mouth.

"May I ask?" Nobody says that, not around people like this! Konzentrier dich, du Trottel! Focus and breathe slowly. I'm fine...

Where The White Boys Dance
"Hey man, hurry your ass up! We're like, what, half an hour late already?"

Maxim only sighed in response. Sure, usually, he'd have been the first one to insist that the two of them had to arrive on time, be it to their classes or one of Alex' baseball games or whatever other occasion. This time around, however, it was him who was stalling them. "No need to hurry, Alex. The entire house will be practically overflowing with people, right? There's no way they'd notice two people missing, especially since one of us wasn't even invited there." The flaxen-haired boy tried his best at showing a relaxed and confident attitude, if only to hide the fact that his heart was pounding so hard in his chest that he feared it might burst any second.

Alex rolled his eyes in an overly dramatic manner. "You really have no goddamn clue about anything, do you?" Maxim flinched slightly when his friend elbowed him in the side with an amused chuckle. "I don't give two chocolate-flavored shits about people calling us out on arriving late, man. But the booze, Maxim, the fucking booze! We dilly-dally for another ten minutes or so and we're gonna end up dry like two carps in the middle of Sahara, you get that?"

Not that Maxim would have cared about that. He had only consumed alcohol on two occasions in his life thus far, one had been an accident and the other merely a harmless sip of champagne on New Year's Eve. As far as he was concerned, him staying completely sober was the ideal way for the party go. Still, he felt more than a little anxious, both because he was not too fond of crowded places and because said crowd was going to consist almost exclusively of people who Maxim had never met before. However, he was not one to purposely inconvenience a friend, especially not his best buddy Alex.

"Alright, alright, I understand. But look, no need for you to get all worked up anymore. That's Ben's place right there, isn't it?" Maxim pointed at the house that emerged around the corner and noticed his friend's features lightening up in that same moment.

"You're goddamn right, it is. Time to shine, buddy." Maxim winced once more as his pal gave him an encouraging pat on the back. He didn't like to be touched, even as a child he had shied away from his mother's hugs on occasion. But now was not the right time to be fussy, he knew that.

"After you, Alex. Let's...get to it." The other boy grinned impishly. "You'll have to do better than that to convince anyone that you're having a good time, dude. Lighten up, no one's gonna bite you in there! Unless you'll find some chick that's willing to..." Maxim held back a scoff as his friend winked at him. "Well...maybe. Let's just enter the place first, shall we?" Alex gave a stilted sigh in response. "Genius idea, party boy." His expression indicated he was going to follow up with another snark directed at Maxim, but he bit it back. "Whatever, let's go in guns blazin'!"

With that, the boy started strutting towards the entrance door and after a second of overcoming his reluctance, Maxim followed him. Even from outside, he could hear the cacophony of roughly two dozen kids chatting each other up. He heard no music, which relieved him a great deal. Modern music, all that electro, hip-hop, dubstep even, he despised it more than anything else.
A quick knock on the door and some kid opening it later, he and Alex stood inside the Fields' residence. "Will you look at this shit, Maxim! Told you it was a great fucking idea to come here, didn't I? We're gonna have fun tonight, amigo!"

Speak for yourself.

The flaxen-haired boy looked around and found little to his satisfaction. It was as he had expected it to be: Nothing but people he had never spoken to before nor really wished to, drinks being passed around, all the things that usually happened on parties. And Maxim had never been into parties.

"Hold up a goddamn second, you seein' that fellow over there, Maxim? If it isn't our supreme leader and host! Ben Fields as he lives and breathes, standing around all alone like his name was Maxim."


The flaxen-haired boy shot his friend a more than grim glance, which didn't seem to affect the other boy in the slightest. "Time to keep him some company, am I right?" Before Maxim could raise a protest, his friend had already grabbed him by the shoulder and dragged him halfway across the room.

Alex, you damn ape. I really hate your guts sometimes.

The two of them came to a halt almost directly in front of the party's host. Alex was grinning like a five year old, who had just been served his favorite meal. Maxim was not.

"Congratu-fuckin-lations, birthday boy! How's my man Ben doing?"