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Dancing on the Ceiling

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For the life of her she can’t understand why she keeps allowing herself to be dragged to these stupid house parties. The music’s always too loud, the beer is always shitty, and you’re lucky if you make it out the door without someone spilling said shitty beer all over you. And though she doesn’t like going to them, she kind of gets why everyone else does.

For the seniors it’s either a last hurrah or celebration depending on if they’re going to college or have to get a job, and for the younger kids it serves as an easy way to see and be seen to further cement their place in the Citadel High School hierarchy. She wonders how many people are like her; dragged there almost against her will by her friends and wishing they were absolutely anywhere else. The same asshole friends who’d split up and abandoned her within five minutes of arriving.

As she leans boredly against the wall and sips at her absolutely disgusting beer—she’d kill herself if she ever learned to enjoy the taste of Natty Ice—a few familiar faces stick out to her in the crowd. There’s Rictus Erectus, a huge but stupid as fuck junior who plays for the Citadel Warlords football team as a linebacker. He’s currently in the process of slamming back a beer with a guy that she only knows as the People Eater, a football player so large that he looks like he actually does eat people.

She turns away when Rictus begins to retch and spots a guy that everyone calls the Doof. He’s in a few of her classes, and despite being pretty much blind, he’s amazing at the guitar. He always seems to have a horde of adoring fans following him around—which unfortunately also inflates his ego to the point where he’s insufferable most of the time.

The only person she sees and actually likes is Ace, a senior like her. He’s standing in the kitchen talking to someone just outside of her line of sight, and for a reason she can’t understand given the already dim lighting in the house, he’s wearing a pair of dark sunglasses.

She’s just about to walk over to see if he’s as bored as she is when he steps further into the room and reveals who he’s talking to; ‘the Immortan’ Joe, or Crazy Joe to the people who know of his reputation. He’d graduated almost a full three years ago, but his reputation as a serial sexual abuser and all around asshole still echoes in the halls of Citadel High, easily overshadowing his accomplishments as a championship winning quarterback.

He still thinks himself the king of Citadel high even though he’s already twenty one and a college dropout, a fact that’d be amusing if he wasn’t also the leader of a gang of skinheads who call themselves the Warboys. she wonders if that’s why he’s talking to Ace—because he needs some new blood.

She’s frozen in her spot until Joe’s eyes meets hers, and then she’s abruptly turning to leave the house, a shiver going up her spine at the twisted smile he gives her. She’d had an altercation with him back when he was a senior and she was a freshman, back when she’d had hair down to her middle back rather than the buzzcut she currently sports, and the last thing she wants to do is relive any of what had happened. She refuses to let him get to her again.

She finds the back door of the McMansion and throws it open, taking a deep breath of the cool, fresh air. She hadn’t realized how hot and stuffy the house had been, and now that she’s outside, the thought of going back in there where he is sounds like a completely unappealing option. She looks behind her at all the chaos inside and the decision makes itself. There’s no way she’s dealing with all of that when she could be home and safe in her bed by midnight.

She quickly turns to leave, deciding to walk home rather than endure another minute of painfully loud EDM, only to run full force into a warm, solid mass that she somehow hadn’t noticed before. The person spills what feels like an entire can of cold beer all over the front of her jacket and jeans, and then she feels herself explode.

“Watch it!” she shouts, wiping at her leather jacket with her fingers. Even though it’s just beer and most of it is already rolling off of her, she’s fuming. “It never fucking fails, every goddamn time—”

“M’sorry, sorry,” the boy slurs, clumsily trying to help wipe away some of the beer with the hem of his white t-shirt but only managing to spill what’s left of his beer on his own old leather jacket and grey jeans.

She’s about to shout at him again, about to rip into him for not being able to hold his alcohol and for getting in her way, but then she notices a wetness in eyes and on his cheeks. He’d been crying, and her yelling only seemed to be making it worse.

She swallows her anger and sighs, rubbing at her forehead with her hand. It was an accident, and he did look pretty sorry. Screaming at him wouldn’t make her any less wet, so instead she forces herself to calm down. “Hey, you alright? You want me to help you find your friends?”

The boy shakes his head vehemently, making himself dizzy in the process. “Jus’ need to sit down.” He tries to ease himself down but practically falls onto his butt, back leaning against the wall of the house, and his head drops between his legs in an attempt to keep everything from spinning.

She nearly groans as she watches him struggle to stay upright. Even if he’s a complete stranger she knows what it’s like to be completely alone when you need help. No one was there for her, but she could be here for him. Her eyes fall to his watch and she bites back another sigh. So much for going home before midnight.

Rather than try to force him to stand she sits down, scooching back until she’s directly next to him. They sit in silence for a few minutes until her impatience gets the better of her. If he won’t start, she will.

“So...do you want to talk about it?”

“No.” He doesn’t raise his head at all, keep it tucked between his knees.

She shrugs and leans her head back against the wall. “Well, I guess we’ll just sit here then. Quietly.”

This time he does look up at her, his eyes crossing briefly as he tries to focus on her face. “Y’don’t hafta stay.  M’fine.”

“I know.”

His lips quirk upward in a smile, and he shakes his head ruefully. After another couple of seconds, he extends his hand towards her. “I’m Max.”

She clasps it in a firm grip, ignoring the tingling that starts in her hand and goes up her arm as she does so. “Furiosa.”

He squints at her through already narrowed eyes, not bothering to hide his skepticism. “That your real name?”

“Believe it or not, yeah.” She might have been insulted if she wasn’t so used to it, but instead it just makes her smile. “You go to Citadel?”

Max shakes his head again. “Sun City. Senior?”

Furiosa raises an eyebrow at that, curious as to what a Sun City High kid was doing all the way  out on the preppy side of town. While Citadel was a successful, fully-funded public school, Sun City was considered the rougher, poorer, ‘other side of the tracks’ school and it wasn’t all that often that they interacted with each other outside of sports games. “Yeah. You?”

“Junior.” He then takes a long swig of what’s left of his beer and holds it out to her.

Furiosa grabs the can and sets it down on her other side, well out of his reach. “No thanks, and I think you’ve had enough too. Any particular reason you’re trying to obliterate your liver?”

He looks at her, betrayed, and frowns. “Don’t wanna think.”

She doesn’t get a chance to ask anything else as a strange whistling in the distance catches her attention. It takes her a few seconds to recognize it as the sound of police sirens approaching, and then she’s instantly on her feet. She’s just about to hoof it—she can't get arrested again or her aunts will kill her—but then she stops and realizes with annoyance that she can't just leave him here. Underage drinking is strictly enforced in their annoyingly conservative town, and in his current state there's a one hundred percent chance he’ll be sleeping off his inebriation in a jail cell. “Max. We have to go.”

“Wha? Why?”

“Cops. Come on .”

She pulls him up to his feet and throws his arm over her shoulders to steady him. Because he’s a lot heavier than he looks, they make it out of the back gate and to the sidewalk behind the house at a less than rapid pace. Just in time, too, as judging by the screams erupting behind them, everyone else has just noticed that the night is over. “I’m not gonna risk trying to find my ride in all that chaos. Don’t suppose you drove here?”

He looks around for a second and then points at a car behind her. “Falcon,” he mumbles lowly.

She follows his finger and nearly sighs with relief when she spots his car. It’s parked on the other side of the road and not even a block away. “Nice car. Hope you weren’t planning on driving home tonight.”

He gives her a look so full of anger that she’s taken aback. It quickly fades to sadness a second later, and then he’s holding out his keys. She wants to ask what the hell his problem is, but another scream from the house sends her rushing across the street with him in tow.

He doesn’t complain when she shoves him none too gently into the passenger seat, though he does make a noise of protest when she starts up the car and peels away from the curb a little too quickly. She’d only had half a can of pisswater so she’s basically stone cold sober, but he wouldn’t know that.

She has to drive a full three blocks away before she feels safe enough to relax, the tension in her shoulders lessening with each anxious breath.

“Where do you live? I can drop you off and Uber home.” When he doesn’t answer for a few silent seconds she glances over only to find him fast asleep. That motherfucker .

“Max? Hey!”

She reaches over to smack him in the face a couple of times but he doesn’t so much as stir, his mouth hanging wide open as though he doesn’t have a care in the world. Furiosa blows out a frustrated puff of air. Her aunts were right; no good deed goes unpunished whenever a man is involved.

Left without any better ideas she keeps driving until she's slowing to a stop around the back of her house. Parking it up front would undoubtedly get the attention of her aunts given how loud his car was, and even though she’s incredibly annoyed with him, she doesn’t want him to get a gut full of buckshot. They were probably asleep since they have to get up early to run the bakery, but they also seem to have the uncanny ability to know when she’s doing something wrong.

Hopping out of the car she walks around to throw open Max’s. He’s slumped far down in his seat, still completely knocked out, and Furiosa groans. She stays in pretty good shape, but she’d already learned that Max was a lot more solid than he looked, almost like he plays some sort of sport.

There’s no way she’ll be able to get him up the stairs without any help, so she smacks his cheek harder than she had before in order to wake him.

“What,” he grumbles, finally lucid enough to look up at her.

“I need you to walk. Can you do that?”

Max groans quietly but nods, and with her help he stumbles out of the car and into her waiting arms. Her nose wrinkles as the smell of stale beer assaults her senses and she has to hold her breath to avoid choking on it.

It’s hard work, but she somehow manages to get him across the backyard and to the backdoor of the two story house without causing too much noise. She slips her key into the lock and pushes open the door, wincing at the creaking of the old hinges. Luckily the stairs are close by so she doesn't have to walk too far in the dark.

“Okay, last stretch,” she whispers at the bottom of the staircase, sweat already beading on her brow. She’s panting now, the trip from his car to the house tiring her out more than she’d expected. They take it one shaky step at a time, the clunking of their boots on the wood sounding like thunder to her ears.

Just when she thinks she's going to make it all the way up without arousing any suspicion, she hears the sound of quiet footsteps coming from the kitchen.

“Furiosa? That you?” a voice calls from downstairs.

She strongly considers pretending that she hadn’t heard anything, but quickly realizes that staying quiet would seem much more suspicious. “Yeah, Maddi, it’s me. I’m just gonna go to my room and pass out.”

“Alright, have a good night.”

The sound of retreating footsteps are music to her ears. She releases the terrified breath that she didn’t realize she’d been holding and slowly continues up the last two steps. Her room is thankfully right at the top so she doesn't have much longer to go before she can rest.

Once they're both safely in her bedroom and the door is kicked shut she unceremoniously drops him back first onto her bed, stretching her arms to relieve the tightness that had developed from carrying his stocky body up an entire flight of stairs. She stands over him with her hand on her hip, unsure of what the hell she’s supposed to do with him next. He’s already passed out again and shows no signs of waking anytime soon, so all she can do is try to get some rest herself.

“I can already tell you’re going to be trouble,” Furiosa mumbles, removing her black leather jacket and boots. She glances back at him to make sure that he’s really asleep before she changes into a pair of sweatpants and a large t-shirt. She thinks about doing the same for him, but ultimately decides that having to sleep in his jacket and boots is going to be his punishment for making her drag him around all night. The last thing she removes is the prosthetic on her left arm, placing it gently on her bedside table.

She perches uneasily on the edge of her bed and stares down at him, watching his chest rise and fall as he sleeps off his inebriation. As reluctant as she is to admit it, he’s actually kind of handsome when he’s not drunk and stumbling all over himself. Even his messy hair and ridiculous cowlick are weirdly cute. “Move over,” she whispers, rolling him over until he’s only taking up half of her bed. She doesn’t really want to share her space with a drunk guy she’d met barely half an hour ago, but she also isn't willing to sleep on the cold, hardwood floor and she isn’t quite mean enough to make him do that either.

Sliding her legs into the bed she pulls her old quilt over the both of them, suddenly exhausted by the night’s adventure and carrying a two hundred pound boy around. She yawns and reaches over to shut off the bedside lamp, enveloping the room in darkness.