Only A Memory Away

Remember Me This Way

He wasn't sure what to say. He simply stood there, next to Max and watching him. The older man seemed to be thinking, but it was impossible for Leo to tell what exactly he was thinking of. Facing that place, a thousand pictures flashed before his eyes and he treasured them as if his life depended on it and he wondered whether he should mention it to Max or not. Max didn't move. What an odd situation. It meant so much to Leo. Everything he was and everything he left behind started here. As hard as he tried, he couldn't comprehend that he wasn't sharing this with anyone anymore. He felt bad, all of a sudden. How was he supposed to express how important it was. Important to the both of them. But somehow it remained his own... One of the few important things two people should have in their past.

"I have been here with you before..." he heard Max saying and turned his head in surprise.

"I'm pretty sure of that..."

The weeks passed quickly. It became more and more normal to both of them just spending their days together. Leo took his time with Max and tried to act careful. Sometimes Max would ask something again and he took the time to explain everything to him as good as possible.

Max, on the other hand, seemed to warm up with this forced partnership and everyday he was acting more casual when Leo was around. And although Leo felt like it was only yesterday, when Max shared his thoughts about his past self with him on the balcony; he never mentioned it again. Max did neither. Leo sometimes wondered whether he really meant it or not. Max was different now. But he only guessed it had to do with so much more than just the decision to be someone else and Leo never knew if he was intentionally trying to be like that. He simply decided to keep his cards close to his chest.

"It's so funny how things have changed," Max often thought. "A few weeks ago I'd have done anything to avoid being with him, but now... I kind of enjoy having him around."

He started to notice these thoughts quite a while ago and wondered if it used to be like that before. Maybe it had been. At least, it would explain why he let Leo live here; a fact which made it easier to believe in Leo's story as well. But somehow, he grew to like these weird little habits of that boy a little more every day. Sometimes he would only sit quietly somewhere in the office, observing the younger man from the corner of his eyes. He enjoyed it, especially while Leo was working.

Leo had been trying to explain to him what exactly he did and what had to be done by the two of them, being the producers of a Broadway-Show, but it wasn't at all as easy for Max to catch up as it was for Leo to simply do it. He had his problems imagining how he managed to do all of this paperwork before. And Leo was especially good with numbers, figures and calculations; so there was no need for Max to hurry to get an overview on all of that.

Maybe it was the accountant in him that kept Leo doing this stuff with a mad passion Max had hardly seen on him in any other situation in the last few weeks. He could sit over these books for hours, mumbling calculations and creating waterfalls of numerical values inside them. From time to time he would stop, gnawing his pencil while simply eying his own writings. It was then Max knew he was lost somehow; searching for miscalculations and rubbing his own forehead. Max always suppressed a laugh whenever he saw it. He looked so desperate then, almost like a child. But Leo never gave up until he solved the problem; only to stroke through his hazel hair, forcing it to fall in thin strands softly over his face again whenever he would finally figure out the mistake hidden within his work.

There were numerous little gestures like that Max noticed now in surprise and he secretly developed a lot of pleasure in memorizing them; only to interpret them later.

He tried hard not to let it show, but Leo was winning his affection more and more. He couldn't explain it. Maybe there existed a deeper bond somewhere in their being together. Max often thought about that as well. They lived together, worked together and, even though he never mentioned it again, he was absolutely sure it had been Leo in that hospital, sitting on his bed; crying. No one cried just like that over a business-partner. Something about the things Leo had been telling him just didn't make sense. And after he got to know a little of the person he had been, he was convinced he couldn't have told him everything. Who would ever stay with such a person and still say there were other sides as well? Things only he seemed to know about, but he just wouldn't tell.

"How about visiting rehearsals today?" Leo said one morning.

"Is that part of the job as well?" Max asked in return. "I always thought it's the directors who manage those."

Leo nodded with a smile on his face. "Yes, but you have a voice in that as well. And I thought it'd be a nice change from just continuing that daily routine we're both enjoying for weeks now. You know... Just to get in touch with people again."

Max was sure he was trying to integrate him again. And he knew it meant meeting Roger and Carmen again. He'd been avoiding it since their little visit that first evening. He knew Leo met with them from time to time, as well as he noticed them calling almost every day. Luckily, Leo never insisted on seeing them again together. He kept his thoughts about it to himself, but Max could tell he didn't want to force him.

Only once Max had been thinking about telling him why he was avoiding them. They seemed to be nice after all. But ever since Roger kept telling him about the person he used to be, Max felt scared to confront him again. He felt ashamed. And he feared they might point out more of these things. But what if facing your demons was the only choice he had, if he really wanted to remember again?

So, he agreed. "Maybe, it won't be that bad," he thought.

Leo seemed chuffed about it. He grinned delightedly. Max smirked. Maybe it was the right thing to do. If Leo was happy about it, it couldn't be all bad. He watched him turning to his writings again, still smiling and somehow that smile seemed to illuminate the whole office a little more. Could be he was imagining it, but seeing it made him forget the feeling of alienation that stuck on him now.

He turned his head again to continue arranging the huge amount of plays in front of him.

"There you go again," Max thought. "Watching that boy and paying attention to the smallest movements which may reveal his current state of mind... How crazy is this?"

It made him feel weird. Why did he see these things now? What exactly made him so fascinating all at once? He couldn't get it. But he knew, he enjoyed it enormously to see him smile.

As he continued to rifle through the piles in front of him again, he suddenly stopped, pulling out a softcover play in bright red. Those plays arrived there in every color one could imagine, but somehow this one attract his attention. He stared at it for a moment. It seemed familiar somehow. Max stroke over the cover with one hand and suddenly was under the impression of knowing exactly what was written in it.

He opened it.

"Springtime for Hitler..."

"That's the play he told me about," he thought, staring at the front page. The feeling was gone. Of course he knew what it was about. Leo told him. His hands sank slowly. How disappointing. Just a moment ago, he believed he was close to remembering something, but now it was almost like someone had barricaded that door. But he had the strange feeling of having held this play in his hands before.

"Of course, you have, idiot," a voice in his head said. "If this is the flop you've been setting your hopes on, you simply must have!"

"I haven't seen that one in years."

Max whirled around to find Leo looking over his shoulders. Damn. He could be quiet as a cat, if he liked. Max took a deep breath to calm down again.

"Gee, you nearly gave me a heart-attack," he said half amused.

"Didn't mean to," Leo chuckled and sat down next to Max. "That's .."

"...The play we used to put on a flop, I know," Max interrupted him. Judging the bewildered look on Leo's face, he added: "You told me..."

Leo nodded without saying a word. Then he took the script from Max and opened it. He turned some pages and read a few lines now and then.

"See that?," he pointed at some red writings written sloppily between the lines.

"It's Roger...He always writes his own little notes inside the scripts. Unfortunately he thinks it's of 'paramount importance' to have his thoughts in the Producer's copy as well... so the whole thing looks like that."

Max had to laugh hearing Leo imitate Roger's voice as he cited him.

"And were they helpful?" he asked, even though he could imagine the answer from the start.

"Not for once. But it's fun to read them. We used to spend hours making fun of them once we were alone," Leo grinned. "Just look at this: "Glittering Swastika's that rotate with the music on stage"... How awful can something get, really?"

"Sounds horrible."

"Yeah, but it was supposed to stink, don't forget," Leo winked at him. "Actually, you kept motivating him to assert himself."

"I did?"

"Yes. You were quite obsessed with it becoming more and more despicable. So, you let him do whatever was possible," Leo smiled.

Max couldn't imagine. Why on earth would someone support a stupid idea like that. He moved a little closer to look at the pages as well. Roger's handwriting was literally everywhere. And his ideas kept getting more bizarre.

'Dancers in tank-costumes..', '...tap-dancing Nazis...', '...Ulla wearing a German-Eagle costume...'

"Who's Ulla?" Max asked, looking at Leo, but immediately wished he had not asked. Leo's face turned white and looked rather shocked. Max pointed at the notes of Roger without taking his eyes off of his partner. That name obviously aroused something inside of him.

Leo stared at the name. Damn it. He didn't even remember Roger writing something about her in that script. And he never dreamed of Max asking him about her...of all the things he could have asked.

"She's...," he began, but stopped. How was he supposed to explain that? He sighed.

"You don't have to speak about her, if you don't want to," Max answered. Leo turned to look at him.

"I figure it is kind of hard for you somehow," Max continued without taking his eyes off him. "She's the one you've been living with, right?"

Leo stood up and turned away. He couldn't do it. And there it was again. Max reading his mind. He had always been able to do this somehow.

Leo took a deep breath, instinctively pulling his blue blanket out of his pocket.

"She left me." he said quietly with his back turned on Max. "I guess it was my fault though. She couldn't forgive me... I've done something bad to her..."

"I see," Max answered. It must be hard for Leo to talk about it. Max observed him pulling out that blanket every time he felt uncomfortable about something. "Well, as I said, you don't have to talk about her. After all, you've skipped her until now."

Leo turned wide-eyed. He noticed?

Max shrugged. "I am guessing, since I can't recall you ever mentioned her in that 'Springtime'-story." He gave it his best try to smile casually, but somehow it made him gloomy to say that.

"I am sorry," Leo answered.

Max shook his head. "No need to feel sorry. It's okay. She must have hurt you a lot. And I am sure, you've had your reasons to act like that... I won't judge."

Leo didn't believe it. That was so far from the Max he knew than he could imagine.

"One question though...," Max started once more. "This girl...was she a blonde?"

Leo nodded. "...and Swedish..."

So, that's why he somehow connected Leo with a blonde girl. And why Leo's look had been that appalling when he mentioned her weeks ago. Max nodded and by the looks of Leo, he knew the younger man thought the same.

"Did I get along with her?"

Leo shook his head. "You loathed her...Well, not at first. But... You weren't exactly best friends, if you can call it that..."

Just what he had expected. Being completely honest to himself, he despised her now, too. Even without really knowing her. But why? She surely didn't do anything to him.

"I'm really sorry, Max."

He turned his head again. "What for?"

"I should have told you about her in the first place... But,..."

"Hey...stop that," Max said and got up, moving towards the younger man. Leo looked surprised, but didn't back away.

"I don't know what you did to her or whatever she did to you, nor do I care. She's being an idiot having left you," he said and stroke through Leo's brown strands, which fell into his face. Leo looked at him with his puppy eyes as if trying to get what he just said. God, those eyes. Max felt the urge to kick that girl, just so he must never see those eyes looking so desperate back at him again. But he remained where he was; hoping he wouldn't give away his own thoughts.

"You don't deserve being treated like that," Max continued. "If she can't see the person you are...I mean behind these scared habits of yours and that blanket... she just wasn't right for you." Geez, why did he say that? Because his affection led him to this? No...because it was true. Leo was so much more than a nerdy shy guy. He had managed to prove it during the last weeks. And he definitely did prove Max wrong. There was absolutely no way, someone else didn't notice that as well.

Leo's eyes began to fill with tears. Max noticed in surprise. It gave him goosebumps.

"Oh no, Leo. I am sorry... I didn't mean to make you cry," Max said quickly.

But Leo only shook his head and smiled. "It's just... Damn, I'm sorry..."

He tried to wipe away the tears with his hands. Why did he have to be so weak all the time? But hearing Max's words somehow left him thunderstruck. He never expected to hear anything like hat from Max. Why did he have to be such a coward all the time. He should tell him. Tell him exactly what had happened between him and Ulla, so he would understand. But he couldn't. And then, there was this man... Being completely on his side and believing him, even though he had good reasons not to. It was insane.

He heard Max coming closer and before he could look at him once more, Leo found himself in his arms, entwined into a warm embrace. He didn't dare to move. He nearly didn't even dare to breath.

"Never mind!" he heard his voice. "We won't mention it again. But please, don't cry..."

Leo wasn't able to say anything. He just hung there in Max's arms, feeling like his soul was leaving his body. His heart started to pound fiercely. He closed his eyes and just listened to Max's breathing, feeling his hands on his back and smelling his scent. And for once, he wished that embrace would never stop.

"So, how are you doing? Both of you," Roger asked, looking from Leo to Max.

They stood outside the theater that late afternoon and the sun began to color the snowy streets in bright orange.

Leo was rubbing his neck. Sitting in there for some hours sure had been exhausting. He noticed how much he got used to not doing this in the last two months.

"Fine, I guess," he answered smiling.

"Just that? Fine?" Roger laughed. "You look much more comfortable with each other now."

"Well, you get used to everything," Max answered. "It was a good idea to come here, though."

Leo had to laugh. Max was doing good. He knew perfectly well he somehow wanted to avoid meeting Roger and Carmen again, but Max didn't let it show during the day. He talked a lot and listened to everything Roger had to say. Sitting in his corner, Leo observed them. It was so funny. Usually, Max and Roger would start to argue about tiny things, but this time time just went harmoniously. He saw Max smile every now and then or simply nod to Roger's stupid ideas. It was strange somehow, yet so familiar that Leo was more than glad he had brought him here.

He looked over to the both of them talking excitedly about the past days.

"It's as though he was never gone," Leo thought. Thus, he noticed, he was watching Max again. His progress in integrating himself was astounding. He acted as though he'd never done anything else, even though he could not give much advice as a producer. He was very kind to the crew and tried to be courteous to everyone. In a way he was much more gentle now than he used to be. Sometimes, Leo must admit, he was almost jealous of everyone who got in touch with him. Max used to show that side of himself before, but only to Leo.

The smile on his face fell. Why was he thinking about this so often lately? He hoped things would return to normal once Max started to remember again, but the more time they spent together the less Leo could ignore the affection towards his partner that grew stronger inside of him. He couldn't shake it.

"Is everything alright?"

Leo looked up to see Carmen standing in front of him.

"Everything's perfect," he answered. "Why do you ask?"

Carmen shrugged. "I thought I've seen a slight sadness in that charming face of yours." He smiled openly at Leo and he knew in an instance Carmen had noticed it.

The slender man flung down besides Leo and sighed.

"Listen, what is it you're worrying about?" he started. "Max is doing great. He's much more open now about friendly. I mean everyone loves him. It's so different from what he used to be. That moody, grumbling and sometimes very vain guy... He's really making progress. And then, there's you..."

He was pointing at Leo, who just kept staring at him.

"I mean, you of all people... You wanted him back. You wanted him to recover quickly and to sort of come back to life. But now... you seem to be the only one not happy about it. To be quite frank, Leo, I don't really get it."

Leo felt like Carmen's gaze was stabbing him.

"I am," he answered slowly. "I really am. More than happy."

"So, what's the problem then," Carmen asked. "You are much quieter lately. And you seem so withdrawn anytime you're among people. What is it, that keeps you puzzling about in your head?"

He still smiled. Leo looked down. He didn't really know what to answer. And Carmen still wouldn't look away. He could feel it.

"If I didn't know better...," he heard him saying. "I'd say you seem sad...almost desperate."

Leo looked at him again. Carmen always had a way with speaking out loud whatever he was thinking and Leo had secretly admired it all the time, but now it was like being an open book. Carmen on the other hand, patted him on the shoulder while still not losing his smile and simply said: "Cheer up, little buddy. There really is nothing to brood about..."

Then he stood up and started to move towards Roger again. Leo followed him with his eyes for a moment. He suddenly felt the urge to grin and lifted the corners of his mouth to a smile without really wanting it.

"He's right," he thought. "I don't really know how he's doing this every time, but still...he is right. There is nothing to worry about."

Leo got up and followed Carmen over to Roger and Max. He couldn't feel bad about it. It was just the way it was supposed to be. With Max standing here too; talking to the others, integrating himself in this job...A job he, after all, taught to Leo. It shouldn't be the other way around. And every little step forward should be something to be happy about. It still was Max. No matter, if he seemed different. And he didn't block himself about anything. On the contrary, it seemed as if Max wanted to learn. Maybe, he thought he could help his memory that way... Who knew?

"LEO? Are you even listening?"

He flinched for a second and turned his head to Roger, who looked at him uncomprehending. Darn! He did say something...Leo had been captured in his thoughts so much, he hadn't even noticed.

"I'm sorry...what?" he stammered.

Carmen started to giggle, while Roger looked a bit confused.

"I wanted to know if you and Max would like to join us tomorrow again? I think it'd be a nice way to get used to your job again," Roger repeated. "But looking at you, I bored you stiff..."

Leo shook his head defending. "No no no, you weren't. I was...I mean...I just..."

He felt Max's hands on his shoulders. He came rushing by his side, smiling happily at Roger.
"We're delighted. Just let us take this evening off, if you don't mind. It's a bit much for just one day and I guess Leo is a little tired, too."

"And here we go again," Leo thought. Max defending him in front of other was something that surprised him every time. He wasn't sure, if he ever was able to get used to it and he knew perfectly well, he couldn't really hide his amazement. So, he just nodded in agreement.

"I...I didn't sleep too well the last nights," he added. "I guess it really was a bit much...for both of us." He looked at Max and smiled.

"Very well, then," Roger said. "I guess it was good for a start. I'll be seeing you tomorrow then again?"

Leo and Max nodded simultaneously, whereas Carmen and Roger just cast knowing looks to each other.

"Okay, then tomorrow it is," Max answered happily and pushed Leo away from them.

As they vanished behind another building, Carmen turned to Roger.

"See what I mean?" he asked.

Roger nodded. "Yeah, it's quite obvious. Did he say anything to you?"

"No, he didn't really answer."

"Just what I expected," Roger grinned. He flung his arm around his partner and they moved inside again.

"Thank you," Leo said after a short while. "For rescuing me from them."

"Well, you should learn to listen to them, even if your thoughts fly," Max said, grinning at him.

Leo smirked. He sounded just like...well, Max.

"You've really been quiet that whole day though," Max continued. "I...I hope it wasn't because of what I said this morning. It wasn't my intention to upset you."

Leo shook his head. "You didn't, believe me. It's just... well,... there is quite a lot running through my head lately... A lot of things have changed somehow and I'm trying to cope with them..."

Max didn't answer. They walked along the city. Leo couldn't remember the last time they did that. Usually, both of them would take a cab to get to their destination. He sprawled out and took a deep breath of the icy winter air. It was fairly refreshing. He really enjoyed being outside and it felt like the first time in weeks, even though he had left the office almost daily for a few hours. But it was raising him up today.

He looked over to Max, who was walking silently beside him. Maybe, it was because he was there. It was somehow soothing to know he wasn't supposed to walk through the city alone. He still felt a little insecure every time he had to go alone somewhere.

They walked along the streets, past the busy people and the noisy traffic, and none of them even thought about the walk home could take quite a while. The passed more and more streets, just marching their way through the snow.

When they came at the edge of Central Park, Leo suddenly stopped.

"What is it?" Max asked, stopping too.

"I always thought about coming here again," Leo answered without looking at him.


"Yes... I used to come here very often, but... Well, I always got distracted, if you can call it that," he smiled again. "I liked it, you know. Being inside there always felt like entering another world."

"Well, in that case," Max grabbed his arm and pulled Leo with him. "We should go in."

"Going inside?" Leo thought for a moment. He wasn't so sure this was a good idea. Just a few more hours and it'd be dark. He used to hear a lot about not wanting to be in there after nightfall and hesitated.

"Leo," Max said gently. "It's not dark yet. And you've done so much for me lately...Let's do something you like for once. Don't be afraid. We've got plenty of time."

Leo thought about it for a moment. Then he started smile and nodded approvingly.

"Come on," Max started to walk and Leo simply followed him. He ran a few steps to catch up and soon they found themselves in a white park, which indeed seemed like another world. The thick layers of snow on the trees and at the sides of the walkways made it almost magical. Leo listened to the crunchy sound their footsteps made in the fresh powder snow. He hadn't been here for ages. He used to walk along the ways of Central Park a lot when he was still working as an accountant. Here he kept on dreaming about another life. It was his own little hideaway he didn't have to share with anyone else. When he got to know Max he was here with him once or twice and also connected only nice memories with it. There was nothing he could do about it. This place was his recreation from everything; his job, the people around him and most of all his own feelings of unhappiness about his life.

"You're enjoying this, aren't you," Max said next to him.

Leo turned his head and smiled.

"Yes, I really love being here."

"Then, it's a good place to be," Max answered.

"Yes," Leo looked around, passing more and more sideways and trails. "I came here when Ulla left me as well."

"You did?"

Leo nodded. "I felt like nothing of the bad feeling I felt would get me here. I know this sounds stupid. It's sort of a hideaway. I mean, like a little paradise in the middle of a noisy big city. It's almost like becoming invisible to the world. Not that people cared a lot about me, but I had the feeling no one was able to find me here... Does that make sense?"

He turned to find Max had stopped a few steps behind him. He looked confused. Leo turned and moved towards him again. Max didn't look at him, but kept staring into another direction.

"What is it?" Leo asked, following his gaze. Suddenly he felt his heart sink. They stood in front of the Bethesda-Fountain. It was covered in thick snow and looked frozen. Leo started to get a little closer to it, not turning his eyes away.

He'd almost forgotten about it. It was here he agreed to work with Max and the start of his new life, really. He almost felt sentimental thinking about it. All the memories this place held were coming back to him in an instance. How much Max had been begging him to stay and how cowardly he ran away, just to return hours later to find the older man still waiting there for him. It seemed like only yesterday to him.

"I've been here with you before...," he heard Max saying next to him. Leo turned in surprise. Max stood next to him, also looking up at the huge fountain.

"I'm pretty sure of that...," he continued.

"Yes, you have," Leo answered and knew without taking a look that Max was staring at him. He closed his eyes.

"It's kind of the place we met... I mean we met in your office before, but it was here you wanted me to become your partner and I agreed."

Max looked up again. The evening light twinkled in the snow-covered statue. He closed his eyes. That's why this place seemed so familiar to him. So, it was kind of a milestone in the relationship with Leo. It was here he agreed to, to be with him. How could he ever forget something as important as that? It meant a lot to Leo. He could tell by the way he was talking about it. A memory he never dreamed about forgetting.

He had to laugh. In a way, Leo was so much like this place...

"Like a fountain...waiting to explode...," Max mumbled and opened his eyes in shock. What was that? He looked at Leo, who stood there wide-eyed as well.

"... and shoot into the sky...," the younger man finished his sentence.

"Yes...," Max said slowly. Did he really just say that? " were running away... You were scared of that scheme and afraid of going to jail... You feared you didn't have the guts to put on something like that..."

Leo nodded unbelievingly.

"And me...I..I was staying here, praying to God above you'd come back... Until you showed up again," he continued.

"You stayed here the whole day... it was dark already when I came back," Leo replied, sounding as though he was close to tears again.

This time, Max nodded and looked into the eyes of his partner with a feeling of just melting away. He remembered... He couldn't get why, but the images of that day flashed before his eyes as if they never were gone. He knew how much he had tried to convince Leo to stay; to help him with that plan the accountant mentioned. And how silly that comparison with that fountain had been, but somehow it gave Leo the kick he needed. He remembered how grateful he had felt, when the boy had returned and how emotional Leo had gotten by telling him, he'd been changing his mind.

Max looked at the fountain again.

"We did jump inside, right?" he asked, although he knew the answer.

Leo nodded... "Yes," he smiled with watery eyes. "Yes, we did."

"I remember," Max just whispered, but he could tell in an instance Leo understood perfectly.

Leo suddenly moved from the place he was standing and flung his arms around Max, who backed away by surprise for a split second. He relaxed in Leo's hug quickly though. He felt happy in a way he never knew before. Secretly, he had given up hope on anything might coming back to him. At least not within the next years. He had tried so hard to change the person everyone was telling him he used to be. After all, no one ever mentioned he couldn't be someone else, if he didn't know what they were talking about. But now... All of a sudden, it was back. That one memory... the most important for sure: The one about this boy agreeing to be with him. The start of their friendship.

"I..I was only thinking about my advantage back then," Max said and felt Leo loosen his grip. He was looking up at him with the biggest puppy eyes he could accomplish. Max stepped away a few inches.

"So, it's true then... Whatever you or Roger or Carmen were telling me, was true," he said, turning away. "I was despicable...and only thinking about me."

Leo didn't know what to say. He stood there silently for what seemed an eternity.

Max sighed. He had so much hoped for them being wrong. He hoped they had just misinterpreted his behavior... But now, he knew what he was thinking of the moment he met the person that probably meant more than anything else to him... Whoa wait, what? Did he really just think that?

"I left her for you..."

Max turned around in surprise.


Leo stood there, his head bowed and his eyes closed.

"I...I left Ulla...for you," he repeated.

Max didn't think he got that right.

Leo sighed.

"When... when the police noticed we've been cheating with those figures... and sold more than we were ever able to pay back on "Springtime", well... they arrested you. Not me... I ran away to Rio with Ulla."

Max's eyes grew wider. "You did what?"

Leo shook his head quickly. "It wasn't like I wanted to leave you... She convinced me."

"Didn't you say we were in jail together?"

"We were... I came back...for you," still Leo didn't dare to look at Max. "I felt so guilty there and couldn't think of anything else but being with you. I forced her to come back with me and I turned myself in... I couldn't stand the feeling of letting you down. You just didn't deserve it..."

"Why not?"

"... Because...," Leo stammered. "...Because you meant so much to me. You changed my life and changed me... You have always been very caring and supportive with me. You protected me in any way someone was able to protect another person. In jail as well as every time before and after that. When we got free again, you even tried to warn me about Ulla. She was cheating on me already back then and you knew it. I just never wanted to hear it. Not from you. But the truth is... I knew what you've been trying to tell me. And I talked to her shortly afterwards. She admitted everything. But she told me the very reason she was 'escaping' from me was, that she couldn't stand my attachment on you. It was then I noticed I only talked about you; I only thought about you..."

Max didn't say anything. He simply stood there, listening to Leo's confession, and tried to get the emotions rising inside of him straight.

"So, No!" Leo said. Max raised his head again. Leo was looking at him in a determined way he had never seen on him before. "You never once were a bad person. At least not while I was around. You were gentle, caring and almost loving... I can't tell you anything else, really..."

Leo came closer to Max again, until their faces almost touched.

"So, think again before judging yourself that easily," Leo said. "There's not a single time I can think of, you ever let me down. Not once."

Max felt his eyes filling with tears. He tried hard to force them back. This just couldn't be. Why would he be touched by anything as sentimental as that? How did this man manage it to turn him around just like that? Why was a story of mere betrayal the most beautiful thing he had ever heard? Or maybe...was it just Leo? He couldn't tell. All he knew was, he was gone. He could feel it.

Without thinking about it, he bend forward; taking Leo's face in his hands gently and pressing his lips onto Leo's. He only realized it moments later and expected Leo to pull back, but it didn't happen. Leo stood there and without hesitation replying to his kiss...

~To be continued~

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