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Where The White Boys Dance; 'From the whiskey to the keys...' - Fields Home, January 27th of Freshman Year
Topic Started: Mar 13 2016, 09:54 AM (940 Views)
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((Ben Fields continued from Enterlude. Kinda, maybe, not really.))
[TW: Homophobic Language]

"Music sucks."

"There is no music."

"That's why it sucks." Lana's tween years had so far not been the best in terms of her once gentle demeanor. She was grumpily half laid out over the kitchen counter, propped up less by skinny arms and more by sheer attitude. Ben adopted a more proper posture besides her, his already battle worn Freshman hands deftly clinking bottles together. No kiddie soda in these babies. Suffice it to say that being friendly with the local college kids who hung out at baseball practice had certain logistical benefits. Helluva way to celebrate his fifteenth. Not like he'd really wanted it, what kind of fucking tool was he if he just mindlessly condoned underage drinking? But the pressure had been two fronted. His peers, and the feisty little specimen staring him down as he rolled out the red cups.

"Well you and I both know the dudes'll want lame ass pop radio shit to mack on their girls with. Trust me, it's better this way."

"Fair. Any Freshmen boys I should be keeping my eyes peeled for?" Ben shot her a look, which she parried with equal parts relish and tongue.

"You're barely in middle school. You know what? Alright. Here's the deal. I see you getting too familiar with a boy or anywhere near a cup and you'll be eating the business end of a phone call to mom." Ben's ultimatum was curt, efficient, and not at all satisfying. He wanted her in her room or out of the house entirely, but he was learning fast that Lana was the furthest state possible from 'controllable'. Lana had one finger on speed dial like he did; if either of them tattled the party out they could kiss both their social lives goodbye for the remainder of their secondary school educations. Mutually assured destruction. John Dulles eat your fucking heart out.

"Okay..." Lana murmured, teased a finger the way of the cheap whiskey. She was met with a slap on the wrist, and retreated with a yelp.

"Don't push me, Lana." When had he stopped calling her 'sis'? "I mean it." She whispered something far too loud and far too vulgar under her breath and sulked away to be dumbly precocious somewhere else. Family, right? "I've got eyes in this crowd, Lana! Don't think you can pull a fast one on me!" She was just a dumb kid, too curious and all that. As long as Ben kept his eyes peeled there was nothing that could go amiss. Well, there was plenty that could, but it was all part of the package at this point. Keep shit running, even if it was by the skin of his teeth. Like here and now, he had a job to do.

Ben crisply got the drinks into their cups, started putting the 'solos' (that's what he had heard the big kids call 'em, at any rate) out on the kitchen table in twos. Vultures descended, grabbed drinks faster than he could dish them out. Working at his own birthday party. Well, things definitely ran a little different in the Fields home. Greetings, congratulations, platitudes all got tossed around. Dudes from the baseball team, dudes and chicks from drama club, dudes and chicks who knew those dudes and chicks, even the occasional shy face who probably didn't belong but was welded to Ben at the hip due to his outspokenness on their behalf. Not a crazy big crew, there were maybe twenty-odd kids milling about the rooms. Just enough for Ben to feel comfortable with.

It hadn't been that long ago, really. Recovery was still an ongoing process. Some days it decided to come back. Sometimes if it was quiet enough he allowed himself to remember...

Not here. Fuck, he should have put on some shit-ass party music after all. Ben grit his teeth and continued to pour and serve. Did he want to be alone in a crowd or did he want someone to talk with? Usually it was solitude, but he'd been doing that old play from the play book for five plus years now. Maybe if someone would actually really talk to him, the god damn birthday boy. He needed a distraction. Next kid who seemed willing to do more than mutter a few words and then saunter off to the orgy they'd probably turned his bedroom into...
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"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."

Prick.

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?"


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Ben wistfully fiddled with the cap of the bottle his party guests had half emptied in a minute. One way, then the other. Smell of whiskey and delta still fresh in the air. Lame thoughts, but Ben briefly had to wonder what it would have been like if he'd lived this long. Raising a cup with his father- with a wink and a smile and a 'don't tell your mother'- instead of in the middle of a crowd of familiar strangers. It was his damn birthday. Of all the times. Ben firmly sealed the bottle with a bit more tension in his wrist than he'd intended. Sighed when he realized he was still supposed to be pouring the thing out.

Crowd was almost clear. Until the time came for round two- heaven help him- he'd probably have time to somehow handle himself. Two light haired boys were still on an approach vector. Alex, one of the chiller dudes on the team. Someone else Ben wasn't surprised to not recognize. Poor kid was presently Alex's bitch, practically burning skid marks into the kitchen tile. Thankfully that was just a metaphor, not another thing to be cleaned when all this was over and done with.

Maybe these guys would be captivating convo. Or at least decent distraction.

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

"Lamenting another year wasted, I suppose. Here's to hoping the cops don't come knocking." Ben sounded a bit humorless, his tone wasn't the warmest ever uttered. Most of the cheer of his statement came in the form of booze-brimming cups thrust Alex and Maxim's way.

"Aw yeah, here we go! Hey." Alex used his grip on Maxim's shoulder to try and gently shove him into the spotlight. Into the firing line. "Introduce yourself, why don't ya? Don't be a stranger at a dude's party!"
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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...

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Tall dude. Bit of an accent. Seemed to be nervous, his hand didn't seem capable of deciding where it needed to be. Did he want a handshake? Another drink, maybe?

All in all one of the more socially competent folk Ben had met in Cochise.

"Think Alex's mentioned you before." Something about board games and 'hates losing'. Ben had been paying about as much attention as was polite. So given the age and gender of both parties at the time, not a fucking lot of attention. Sorry Alex. You're pretty low on the priority totem pole, what with the housework and the easily influenced younger sister and all.

Alex, on his end of things, seemed casually proud that his social legacy had such widespread impact. He chuckled and murmured something about 'leaving the two lovebirds be'. Not cool dude, not cool. Abandoning your men in the trench? Insinuating Ben was gay? Two strikes. Hope you drown in your cup.

So it was just the two of them now. Ben set the near empty whiskey bottle back on the counter, having already poured everyone except himself a cupful. His kinda tiny but still beefy hands were notably devoid of red and white print plastic. Just not the time or place for making a token attempt at social alcoholism.

"I guess it's an alright party." Ben tried to put more effort into sounding at least relaxed, if he couldn't manage cheerful. Nope, still sounded like he was half ready to give up and go to bed. "Dunno if anything's happening besides chatting, drinking, and hopefully not driving. Hey, if you and Alex brought any games now would be the time to whip 'em out." Lame joke, not even worth an attempt at a smile. "This one's my fifteenth. Fifteen years on this earth, ain't that something. Already halfway to my first midlife crisis." Man, the German flavor to Maxim's speech was becoming more and more heavy by the second. Ben couldn't even guess what all that was about.

"This might not be the right thing to ask, but you're somewhere from the Deutschland, if I'm hearing right?" Ben actually got the pronunciation right too. Read enough European History and some pronunciation just came natural. Except French, because fuck that flowery bullshit and fuck Mr Jones for making language credits hell on Earth.
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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.

Edited by Rorick Skyve, Mar 15 2016, 05:59 PM.
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Maxim, status as 'not as bad as a lot of the dumbasses in Cochise' aside, was still fairly stiff. Seemed to take concentrated effort to un-weld his jaw. But a person was a person, and there was maybe some opportunity here if Ben could just get over himself like a real man. Ben forced himself to be almost curious, looked over Maxim as Maxim in turn appraised him. Kinda scruffy looking, between the longish hair and the patches of stubble. Fit the stereotype of 'board games' to a tee.

"Haven't heard of it, no." Name dropping only meant something to Ben if it had some sort of grander historical significance. Like, he knew his Wittenberg, his Dresden, his Leipzig. And the native pronunciations thereof. No Oldenburg. And now Maxim was sounding bitter about the whole accent bit. Ben sympathized, a thick accent was the sort of thing that was bait for the jerks and scum of the high school system. Ben was judging the dude and he wasn't even malicious, just thinking of what an actually aggressive person might have said or done... Alright. What was with the look? He'd looked at the cup. Permission to drink? Like Ben even needed to grant it. He hadn't exactly given his blessings to any of the other idiots running roughshod through his home.

"Go ahead man. I'd raise a toast but I don't think I'm going to drink today. Someone's got to stay sober enough to clean my house before my Mom gets back." Since when had it been 'his house'? "So what state is Oldenburg in, exactly? Is it one of those smaller ones out in the countryside? I've seen the pictures of the places like that, must have been quite a shock to move out to the dried scab of America."
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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.

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"Saxony would be a familiar name but I haven't heard of the specifics." It was actually kind of working. Honest without being painfully so, this kid was at least decently manageable so far. Certain sort of feel about him. What was the right way to describe it? Homebrew or 'all Americana' were out for obvious reasons of semantics. Down to earth, that was it. Ben idly watched the cup as it slowly and painstakingly drew closer to first sip. Maybe sometime within the next century. Ben nodded as Maxim laid down some of the specifics. 'Demographics' was probably the better word for 'geography', but Ben wasn't a fucking egghead or whatever. Conversational correction was for people who needed to look nervously over their shoulders for a rude word and a bully hand.

"Dunno if I'd call Kingman tranquil, but I think I see what you mean. A city that much bigger than this must have been loud. Just ain't for some people and all." Ben didn't skew either way with his preferences. Sometimes he needed the alone time, sometimes he plaintively allowed himself to look forward to the idea of a cheering and bustling crowd when he made a a big play on the baseball diamond. "I guess my take on it as someone who's lived here a long time is that it's under-crowded. Not enough people to make it feel like it's alive, you know? Might depend on the person though. I figure you grew up in a quiet place like this. Hopefully with less tumbleweed."

That had totally been a fake cough. Just a bit out of place, emphasis too distinct. Ben heard way too many of them in theater class to not be able to pick one out of a lineup. Ben casually followed Maxim's gaze. Dude was just looking for his friend, looked like. Alex was talking to... Lana. Ben made no attempt to cover the sudden throat clear, or the sudden coming to life of his expression. Alert, active, picking out threats from the environment. Said threats being hands going where they didn't belong. No, they were just casually gesturing. Lana's hands were nowhere near the cup in Alex's hand. Being responsible for once, thanks for the good timing dude.

"Heh. Cheers." Ben's attention turned back to Maxim in time to nod, gesture as if he had a cup of his own to down. "How is it? Before you ask for vintage numbers or whatever I'm pretty sure it was mass produced in a factory in Phoenix." Limited resources and all. Ben gave the man a moment to deal with whatever the taste offered. Run off to the bathroom and upchuck if need be.

"So how do you know Alex?"
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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.


Edited by Rorick Skyve, Mar 17 2016, 03:32 PM.
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Looked rough. As much as Ben was ever going to let himself pay attention to a dude's lips, he saw them set into a terse grimace. Batten down the hatches, and all. Ben wouldn't be touching the stuff, it was decided at this point. It had already been decided anyways.

"I think we all got into Cochise at the same time, unless you're somehow older than you look. Uh, sorry if you actually are. No offense meant." Maxim had a fierce wandering eye. That always wandered to the same place. Some kinda boner for optical stalking of Alex, looked like. Ben figured it was best to give the dude the benefit of a doubt. Just nerves in a stranger's home, keeping eyes peeled for his sole lifeline. Ben couldn't say he'd have acted the same, but he was just above and beyond things like social anxiety by necessity. "But it sounds like you two hit it off well. Good on Alex. I think you'd be the sort who can keep his ass under control for a change." Ben exaggerated a serious look, a playacted stern edge to his gaze. "I'm trusting you with this one, man. If you can handle it, it's a tough job."

More aside glances. Maybe Maxim had already started undertaking the long and arduous trials of reining in the reigning party king of Cochise's Freshman year. Maybe that's why he was here now. To spare the women of this party the problem of a young boy turned playboy, at least in his own imagination. A true hero.

Maxim... something something. Close enough. Some heroes of antiquity only went by their casual names.

"You seriously like it, huh? Maybe our suppliers actually didn't shortchange us." Maxim was toasting Ben, Ben would have been toasting the Mojave Community College stoners for stepping up for once in their lives. But no cup. "To me, I guess." Ben needed to actually be drinking something if they'd be toasting like this. A hand clawed at the mess of party stuff on the counter until he found a soda, cracked it open and guzzled half of it in one go. Not quite the flavor of the party, but a drink was a drink.

"Name's Ben Fields, by the way. Girl your friend is talking to is my little sister. Who just started middle school. So by all means, pull him away at your leisure." That was only half a joke. "So you haven't been here long, I'm guessing. What was growing up in Oldenburg like?"
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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.


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Ben didn't think much of Maxim drawing closer. Just a man looking for wall support, personal space un-violated, all good.

"I'd rather have some sort of rear cover, if that is the term." Awkward line, but it was just lame enough to pass as action dialogue from a Band of Brothers rip.

"I getcha. On the crowd thing. Getting flanked could be lethal." It wasn't a totally unbelievable motive, really. Ben had seen weirder and worse and combinations thereof in his half year in Cochise. Was it the whole story? Probably not, Maxim was still throwing serious eye service Alexes' way. It was almost starting to weird Ben out, but there wasn't anything shown that was skeevy enough to just outright justify ending the conversation. "And yeah, if you don't wanna talk about it too much, that's cool." Oh man. Ball was in Ben's court now. Easy enough to choose to reminisce about the wrong things now. If he'd been by himself it would have been game over, likely. But Ben stuck to the basics. Just answer the damn question.

"All my life. Lame, I know. I figure if there's anything I need to get done with my life it's a few years away from Kingman. See more of the world and all... I can't go yet though. Busy home and all." He was weary to leave it on that note. Wrong question on Maxim's part and the conversation would likely be over like that. Through no fault of his. Just wasn't right, talking to a veritable stranger about... that sort of thing. Would Maxim ever get the sob story? Maybe eventually, he did seem decent enough to merit at least casual friendship...

Another sip. Huh. They seemed a bit frequent. Ben wasn't entirely sure if alcohol was supposed to go down that fast...

Forget that, though.

Ben strode over to the scene unfolding before them, inserted himself into the storyline without hesitation. The leads, Lana and Alex. Alex got a terse backhand to his thick ass skull, Ben's hand bouncing so it landed on Lana's shoulder. Nobody really had time to protest, it was barely a moment in time before Ben was wordlessly dragging Lana off, leaving a confused Alex rudely staring in their wake.

For her part she didn't seem especially willing to resist. She was snickering. Figured she was just messing with him. She playfully lolled with each slightly over-forceful yank Ben made, like a particularly cheeky ragdoll. There were words, tensing Ben's throat in anticipation of usage. But he let it go. She'd be getting an earful later, but for now she was just unceremoniously dumped into another part of the party across the room. More girls here than guys, though Ben totally had not planned that particular detail out.

"Glad to see you're having a good time too, bro!" Ben didn't even dignify that with a grunt. He looked around at all the party goers musing on their cups, smiling sympathetically at the irritated-looking birthday boy. Fucking dorks. He bet half of them would have just smiled their insipid smiles and sipped their insipid sips while their siblings got away with statutory...

Maxim. Fuck.

Ben was back as quick as he was gone. "Just had to make sure that stayed under control." Thanks for the help, by the way. Appreciated. "Alex is something else, isn't he? Guess you can't blame a guy for trying, but it's my sister, so I totally can blame him. Tell him he’d better be watching over his shoulder in the locker rooms the next few days, hey?" Ben snorted, suddenly bemused by it all.
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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.

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The accent seemed to be getting stronger by the second. The cup seemed to be getting lighter, or maybe Ben was just choosing to assume that.

"Yeah. Asshole slacker that he is Alex can at least work hard out on the field." The Coyotes had apparently been some vulgar form of animal droppings the past few years, but this year both Varsity and Jr. had been picked up by an old alumni who had coached on the college circuit or something. Fortunes were slowly beginning to reverse, wins were being toughed out. And Ben and Alex were a happy part of it.

Well, Alex wasn't happy now. But fuck him.

"Can it, Alex." Ben barely even bothered to look back. He would have entertained it if Alex wasn't trying his hardest to season every syllable with a metric ton of salt. "I don't even need to tell you that Lana is off limits." The shoulder on his back was gone, and instead Alex was now in his face. Cramming himself right between Ben and Maxim. Too much fucking sausage fest in one space. Too many meatheads. Ben took a step back, left Alex out to cool.

"She was just joshing, and you know it."

"Knowing you you'd go for it anyway."

"Yeah... Man, you're totally right, I can't lie!" Well that got a smile out of Alex. A few haughty chortles too many. Props on taking the obvious ego bait. Ben loudly rolled his eyes, contemplated the back of his skull for a second while Alex swaggered in place or whatever the hell it was he did when he was high off himself. "Ain't that right Maxim? Call me Hugh Hefner because I'm the god damn Playboy!" Ben's eyes had been about ready to rejoin the conversation, but they needed an extra second in dead space just for that comment. Ben couldn't even see Maxim anymore, there was a giant ass head in the way. Still, might as well try to talk around the walking bobble head.

"I reiterate. Alex is something else. How the hell do you put up with this on a daily basis, Maxim?" Once more, popular opinion swung the way of 'Maxim is a damn hero'. "Fucking nerves of steel, dude. I'd raise another toast but you're really going in on that cup. I should probably stop encouraging you."
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