Max was sitting cross-legged on the carpet, hunched far enough over the laptop that his hair occasionally brushed over the grubby, broken keyboard. Somewhere along the line, the E key had become faulty and -undoubtedly- been ripped off by Max and was no doubt lost in the mess of what he called a collection room. He wasn’t breathing so rapidly now; the panic had faded into a silent rage that fuelled the to-and-fro rocking as he held his finger steadily on the power button. Ian sat in the space between the door frame. He had watched the scene unfold without comment.
“No no no no no fuck no you have got to be kidding me! Fuck!” Max slammed his fist on the carpet. He was probably avoiding doing the same to the laptop. “Fuck fuck fuck no this cannot be happening.” Max turned his attention to Ian for the first time since the crisis began. His eyes were tired, glassy with tears of frustration. He held his hands up in defeat, letting them slap to his sides. “It’s fucked, dude.”
“You’ve just seen me try fucking everything for the last two hours. You think it’s fucked, Ian?!” Max snapped, groaning into his hands. Ian was still holding a faded towel in preparation for a shower he’d never had. For two hours he’d been hovering somewhat purposelessly in the doorway, unable to offer technical advice that Max didn’t already know. Max returned to pulling at his hair, first away from his face and then in all directions. “Fuck, dude, there’s so much footage for the Pokémon channel and just so much other work that’s gone down the fucking toilet. I mean there’s stuff backed up, but it’s not enough. It’s not everything from the last few days. Why didn’t I back shit up hourly? Fuck!”
“Nobody backs shit up hourly”
“You do, you cunt.” That was right, Ian did. He, unlike Max, wasn’t a dumb shit. Though cockiness was hard to maintain when Max was scrubbing fiercely at his eyes. The laptop has simply died. It wasn’t really Max’s fault.
“Maybe we can swap over the battery again. We could incorporate my laptop somehow” Ian offered.
“Nah, just leave this piece of shit.” Max kicked the flimsy plastic body with his foot, unable to keep the agitation contained. “Just… I want to do some shots. Like, I need to fuckin’ forget about this or I might punch a window out.”
“You’ll probably punch out a window if you do drink.”
“Or I can kill myself if I stay sober. I just need to not be in this situation right now. I mean, you don’t have to drink, but I’d like it if you did.” Max had fallen backwards into the towers of Pokémon cards and plastic sleeves, now a puddle of unsorted, indistinguishable paraphernalia. Ian was well aware of the several misfortunes that had recently come Max’s way. This was no doubt a shining turd atop a pile of shit.
“Yeah, that sounds reasonable. I’ll join you” Ian retorted. He started to rise from his place, feeling the pins and needles in his right thigh. “Do you wanna drink anything in particular, or should I just bring floor cleaner and methadone?”
“Anything from the alcohol cupboard that’s more than half full” Max called weakly from the floor. “Don’t even bother about shot glasses, Ian. It’ll be just more shit to clean”
The alcohol cupboard was distinguishable from the broken hinges that made the door sag and the undeniable smell of something chemical. It was a mismatched congregation of Mount Gay gin and half-finished Bowler’s Run. After so many years Ian had become well acquainted with the cupboard, reaching without hesitation beyond the first layer of bottles and to the back of the cupboard. He was 80% certain Chad had left behind his unopened Tennessee Fire at the last piss-up. If he had, he’d have hidden it at the back, predicting Max to get distracted at the first few bottles and never looking further. Sure enough, Ian’s hand made contact with a thick glass neck. He pulled. At the sight of a red label with gold lettering, Ian pulled harder, knocking another bottle onto the floor that begun to spill freely. He threw a soiled tea towel on the puddle and left it be. There would always be tomorrow to clean. It had always felt like time spent alone in Max’s house was time wasted. Ian returned to the office to find Max flicking an assortment of energy cards across the room.
“Smashing some energy cards there?”
“Yeah, they’ll live. Or won’t. What did you get?”
“A bit of the ol’ Jack.” Ian revealed the bottle’s label from behind his arm. “Tennessee Fire Jack.” Max released a moan of appreciation, already reaching for the bottle. It was a noise that triggered a sense recognition in Ian. He’d heard a similar moan before, though obviously not the same. That had been almost a year ago now, though it felt like longer.
“Jesus, you’re a fucking saint. I thought Chad took this with him. Pass over the lifeblood.” Ian handed the bottle over and Max hastily made work of it, tearing away the seal with his teeth.
“Saint Edups, always bringing the goods” Ian muttered stupidly. This made Max snicker against the rim of the bottle and break into a grin, saying a quick ‘shut the fuck up’ through his giggling.
“You know, you can always use my laptop while I’m here. For Youtube and that trash. Just don’t download fucking lesbian skat porn and break mine too.”
“Fuck off, cunt. I didn’t even do anything. It somehow shat itself between this morning and two hours again. But I really don’t wanna talk about that right now. It’s in the past. I am done with it. Bottoms up, boys!” Only when Max had proceeded to take a sloppy shot did Ian think to wonder whether he should’ve scavenged around for some apple juice, or ginger ale, or any kind of mixer. It felt far too likely that things would get relatively hectic relatively soon, especially if Max was drinking and Ian continued to goad him. He was already onto his second shot.
“Here.” Max was offering him the bottle and Ian accepted without question. He liked to think of himself as someone who willingly made bad decisions every once in a while. It was like the slow ascent of a roller-coaster up the first drop, a drop that always felt like the steepest. Nerves were inevitable but stopping because of that was ridiculous. It was best to ride through the hesitation and hold on tightly, hoping no vomit was involved (though Max was drinking, so vomit was more than likely).
The cinnamon seared through Ian’s nose and made his eyes water, with the alcohol’s sharp sting leaving him gasping. Of course Max laughed at him. Ian laughed too.
“Strong shit” Ian said weakly.
“Or maybe you’re just a pussy” Max grinned, taking another shot simply to be cocky.
Ian watched his friend’s tongue run around the rim of the bottle, catching the loose drops as if they tasted anywhere near good. He’d fucked that tongue with his own, felt it run wild in his mouth as George sucked Max’s dick. That night hadn’t been on his mind for a while. The memory had been content to fall into mundanity. He’d simply categorised it as something that happened on the Australia trip: driving on the wrong side of the road, eating Tim Tams, filming the Mario video, watching Max being sucked off while being called a dirty girl. Though now, watching the same man who’d lost his masculinity in the folds of a dirty satin dress lick whisky from his fingers, Ian could admit he was certainly thinking about it.
“The fuck you lookin’ at?” A Pokémon card sailed past Ian’s head and was lost in the debris.
“Looking at you, retard. You can't even drink like a normal person. Now stop hogging the bottle”
Between passing the bottle back and forth, the conversation of meaningless insults eventually wandered to videos, as it always did. Ian spent a few futile moments looking for his phone in the clutter around him before giving up. He’d found himself at a point of drunk in which time became elastic, though Max tended to gobble away the sense of time with his nonsensical talk of upcoming projects. He’d taken to the strategy that whatever stuck to the metaphorical wall was worth filming.
“What about… what about we get George, and fucking put him in a dryer yeah?”
“People go to court for that kinda shit.” Despite his horrified tone, Ian’s laugh carried over in his words.
“Yeah, if you do it to kids. George can consent, sign a paper and everything. We could put him in like a… a, I dunno, a sleeping bag and then chuck him in the dryer.” Max waved the whisky bottle in his direction. Ian reached for it, gulped down a piteous dribble, and passed it back. “Holy shit, we’ve drank a fucking lot.” Max was shaking the considerably emptier bottle. “What’s it been. Like, an hour? Or two?” Ian had taken to watching Max gradually reclining in the mess. His hair has become close to a rat’s nest of brown curls, and he’d shed his shirt for one reason or another. With a bare chest, Ian could see a scar below his rib cage. Kids like Max had a lot of scars.
“You checkin’ me out?” Max seemed to try and point the bottle in Ian’s direction but in drunken sluggishness let the arm fall limp. “You’ve been looking at me all night. I’ve seen you, ya filthy pervert.”
“I’m just thinking about the trip last year. Your torso just happens to be in the fucking way of my deliberation.”
“Yeah? What about the old trip?” Max asked, eyes downcast on the label of the bottle he’d begun to toy with, and Ian knew immediately that something had changed. His friend had ignored the insult but honed in on the fact, aiming for an air of disinterest. Ian took the bottle but made certain not to drink from it.
“Do you remember much of it? You were fucking wasted for a good majority.”
“Yeah. I drink but I’m not an absolute piss-head. I have the ability to remember my friend’s first trip to Australia. It was a really great time.”
“So, what do you remember then?”
"Lots of shit."
"Give me one example" So Max began to recount the time they broke into his primary school and (accidentally) broken a window along the way. Though Ian knew it all to be truth -after all he'd been there- he wanted to call bullshit. The exaggerated enthusiasm of his storytelling didn’t match the look in his eyes.
“And what about the nights?” Ian interrupted without consideration of Max's recollection. He took a shot for good measure, no longer feeling the powerful sting under his drunkenness.
“What about the nights? I was just telling you about a night.” The confidence didn't come through as strongly as Max surely wanted.
"What about the night?"
" What night? The night you started acting like a fuck stick? Because that's tonight." Max reached for the bottle but Ian pulled it out of his grasp, watching his amusement transcend into confusion.
“You really gonna bullshit me now? Come on, Max.” Max had no choice but to finally meet Ian’s gaze. Ian knew that Max knew: of course he hadn’t fucking forgotten. There was a flush growing around the apples of his cheeks and a vulnerability in his eyes that was rare and enthralling, though the glare he wore was ferocious. Ian felt like a miner whose pick had struck the oil. “You remember, right? The night?” At long last, Max responded.
“Yeah, I remember the night. Now pass me the fucking bottle you fucking cunt.” Max snarled, and Ian complied. His blush grew deeper and he took a shot that could only be called excessive, the half that missed his lips dribbling down his chest. The remaining whisky sloshed piteously at the bottom of the bottle.
“You embarrassed about it?” Ian asked.
“No…” Now Max sounded like a pouting child. He’d taken to pulling away the label of the bottle in messy, aggressive strips.
“Did it feel good?” Max stayed silent, so Ian waited. He only now noticed the gentle pattering on the window that was a light shower.
“I mean,” Max started, sounding hoarse, “yeah.” He ran a hand through his hair. The small fragments of paper still clinging to his fingers stuck there instead. “Yeah it did.”
"That's hot" said Ian, though that seemed to be an understatement to his hard cock. Max made a quiet 'Mm' in response.
“Bet you didn’t send that dress to charity after though, did you?” Ian felt unable to hold his tongue and unwilling to try. Nor did he wait for Max to try and respond. “Bet you kept it somewhere where you can look at it once in awhile and pull one off to it.” With a surely unintentional and startled noise, Max looked to him. His eyes had grown glassy and desperate. Maybe he wanted Ian to shut the fuck up, though his words felt unstoppable. “Probably smells like your cunt.”
It was filthy and vile and something that had Max clamping his teeth onto his lip and shutting his legs as if it were a physical blow. Any composure he'd been attempting to uphold fell away in large pieces.
“Ian” Max whined.
“Maxime…” The single word was akin to a chemical reaction of which its effects were immediate. Here was the Max he’d held in the dark a year past, so vulnerable in his pleasure that he trembled as if afraid. It filled Ian’s chest so full of god knows what that he felt he could cry. Ian crossed the small space between them and kicked the bottle aside, its purpose of fucking them up long since completed. His hands found Max’s wrists so naturally he’d have thought they’d never left. And like paper Max crumbled between them, falling back into the stacks of cards and pulling Ian with him. “You’ve been such a good girl. Bet nobody got to see you since me and George had our way with you” he whispered, the words tickling Max’s burning cheeks. Max nodded shamefully, eyes clamped shut. “Don’t worry, I’m here now.”