One Thing I Know
Leo closed the office door behind them, but remained leaned against it for a moment. They didn't talk on the way back to the office. Not that any of them knew what to say anyway. But what both of them knew perfectly well was, this changed a lot...
"Has this been real?"
The question kept sneaking into Leo's head from the moment they left Central Park. He knew it had happened. He could still feel it. The warmth inside of his body followed by a feeling of losing his foothold... Yet, the huge mess in his head stayed to only grow from second to second.
He looked at Max, who only kept staring back at him.
Leo closed his eyes for a moment, then suddenly stormed into his own room. Max only followed him with his eyes, but didn't move. As soon as Leo vanished inside, he bowed his head. He'd expected that. Leo never laid off that tension...it was swinging inside his whole being even if he acted relaxed and was accustomed to the things around him. That's what Max noticed the first day ...in that cab on the way home. And this situation... well, it was something to freak out about. A stupid mistake. A single little moment of not paying attention and letting some currently budding sparks of affection take over. He should go after him and apologize...or at least he should have said something back in that park, after they did let go of each other. But what the hell should he have said? This was nothing he could explain easily. And apologize? Well, maybe it would calm down the younger man a little, but the strange thing was: There was nothing to feel sorry about and yet Max regretted to might have destroyed whatever there was, or even had developed between them in the past weeks.
He sighed and sat down on the leather couch, supporting his head with his arm and closing his eyes.
If only he knew what has gotten into him. If only he could remember more... Maybe he'd be able to find any clue of why he felt so much connected to that man. But was it really just that 'black hole' in his memories that seemed to hold some answers? He mistrusted Leo the first time he met him... He seemed so crazy.
"But it wasn't the first time," he thought. "I've spent a lot of time with him before. Obviously we went through a lot..."
And after getting to know him better in only a few weeks, he was revising this thought again. It must be true then. Why else should he have asked a person like an accountant to be his partner?
Because of the money he wanted? It obviously went wrong... So, why did he stick to him then? Why did he let him live here? Why wasn't this all about just getting some information out of him anymore? It was so confusing...
He noticed cautious footsteps on the wooden floor and lifted his head again. Leo stood there in front of him with his big hazel eyes looking as though they could see right through him. He was holding a pile of frames in his hands. Without a word he sat down next to Max, handing them over carefully. Max was flabbergasted at first, but gently took them out of Leo's hands. At first, he wanted to ask, but instead he just took a closer look at whatever Leo was handling with kid gloves.
It was quite surprising to realize what he was holding there. Pictures... Mostly Photographs mixed with some clippings. All of them showed both of them.
There was one of Max and Leo simply smiling into the camera; one of them bowing in front of what seemed a bunch of fans; one of them just sitting backstage, talking it seemed and many more.
Max looked at them carefully, until he reached a larger frame holding a photograph of Him and Leo just hugging while smiling at each other.
"It's all us," Max said slowly. He couldn't believe it. This was like the proof he'd been asking for in his head. The one evidence for everything Leo had been telling him to be true.
Max couldn't take his eyes off the last picture. They seemed so close on this one.
"Carmen took this one during the rehearsals of 'Maim'," Leo said. "We didn't notice..."
Max didn't understand.
"Why are you showing them to me now?" he asked without looking up.
"They're yours," he heard Leo answer.
Max looked up to Leo surprised. The younger man however simply stared straight ahead. No further explanations...
Max nodded. He closed his eyes and had to laugh. This was so obvious now. Why didn't he think of that before?
"These are the missing pictures from my walls, right?" he asked, even though he knew the answer.
He knew Leo nodded too.
"I...I took them off...," he heard him say. "...The day it happened... I...I couldn't stand them... It reminded me too much..."
Max looked up again. "Of what?... ," he swallowed hard before starting anew. "Of me? Of the fact we obviously got along just fine?" He spoke very quietly and hesitated. Was he afraid of the answer? Going into himself he must admit he was.
"No," Leo answered softly. Max turned his head again. He didn't know what to expect. Leo looked straight into his eyes with an overwhelming determination. He almost looked like someone else; if only for one breath of a second.
"Look,... I am scared of everything," he started. "I'm scared of people. I'm scared of situations. My life scares me a lot, really and most of all I am scared of myself..."
"But that day... To find out what happened...and to find you... not recognizing me... It was as though you died that very moment," Leo stopped at that part as if his own word made him shake. "I thought I'd lost you. I just couldn't comprehend it. I still can't up to a certain amount... And then I came here that evening...alone... and saw them... and I never felt more scared in my whole life. Scared of having lost the person that means more to me than anything else. It hurt. And even though I am quite used to that angst inside of me...it was way stronger than ever before and more than I could bear. So, I took them off and hid them... You were gone, so they had to go too..."
Max sat there only listening to him. He didn't say anything, nor did he really move.
Leo kept staring at him. This sure was hard. He never dreamed of sharing his thoughts about that day with Max like this. These thoughts... He kept them a secret for a long time and never wanted to admit them to himself, yet he felt it was time to let go.
"Why now," Max managed to ask. "Why not some weeks ago or even at that first day?"
"Because, I needed to be sure it's still you..."
Max slowly began to shake his head. "I'm not the person you knew. I don't even know if I ever really was..."
He got up and started to move through the office. This was idiotic. He didn't remember anything of the things Leo told him. And just because one little scene from his past had managed to find its way back to him again, didn't mean he was back.
"Don't you see? There's that big nothing...the things I certainly must know to understand myself properly, but they ain't there. My life contains a few weeks. I can't take all this... I can't understand... How can you say I am still me, when there's absolutely no memory of you left in me... I mean, obviously we must have known each other for a long time. And more certainly, we have been very close, but to what extent? You could tell me a million things I said to you in the past; point out a million situations; even show me a million pictures like those..," he pointed at the frames, now carelessly lying on the floor. "..I still wouldn't recognize any of them..."
"You did remember some things..," Leo started shyly.
"So, that's one in a million... What does it matter?" Max sounded rather desperate and his voice grew louder. Leo followed him with his eyes, but didn't dare to interrupt him.
Max sat down again, putting his face into his hands. He sighed.
"This is so confusing...," he said, now much quieter than before. "I mean... I have the feeling something connects me to you... Something other than just being your business-partner... But I can't get that straight, as hard as I try..."
This was insane. He couldn't force anything to come back to him. At least not by crying out loud all his frustration and doubts about it. And he surely should not blame Leo. He had nothing to do with it. It wasn't his fault, he couldn't recall anything from his past...
"We were close," he heard Leo's voice and looked up again. "Very close, really..."
"How close?" Max didn't believe he just asked that.
Leo didn't reply. He just turned his gaze away again. It seemed he didn't really know an answer as well. Max was certain, if there still was anything he didn't tell him from their past, he surely would have done it now.
"Why...?" Max started, but his voice broke as he thought about it.
There they were again. Those big eyes staring at him again, waiting for an answer, a reaction or even any kind of movement. Max felt his insides flip again and almost felt like starting to cry, observing this. Why the hell did Leo have such an impact on him when it wasn't there before?
"Why do I feel the urge to kiss you every time I see you all of a sudden?" Max whispered in despair. He didn't intend for Leo to hear it, but he was being so close...There was no chance whatsoever he could have missed that question.
Leo still didn't respond. So, this was it... It all came down to one point.
"Have we been in love with each other?"
Leo felt his heart sink. That one moment when all sounds around him seemed to fall silent...It was there. What should he say? What was he supposed to say? He looked into that face... Those desperate eyes. Max longed for an answer. He had been so determined to find out about his past, but this was about finding out who he was. Leo could read it in his look, his voice and even his way to sit there completely motionless, just waiting.
"I... I don't know," he responded hesitantly. "We..we actually never spoke about it...about...it might even be possible..."
Max closed his eyes. "Is it...?"
He needed to know. He needed to hear if this really was all just in his head; needed to know if he was crazy; needed to know if he was only imagining to feel attached to a man...
He didn't look up. How could he face the answer he feared would be coming up next?
"Is it possible we were?" he held his breath, waiting for an answer. He only needed to say it and Max could finally be sure about how insane this all was.
"... I think... I am," he heard Leo's voice saying, but he couldn't comprehend the words at first. He felt his heart starting to pound and it seemed the echo of Leo's voice resounded from everywhere around him. He looked at him again and, much to his surprise, Leo didn't seem to be scared of that at all. If, at all, he looked sadder than ever before.
Max took a deep breath and wanted to reply, but absolutely nothing came out of his mouth.
"I am asking this now, because you would never have answered it truthfully before this all happened," Leo started, but paused after finishing that one sentence. He was thinking about how to put it. But then, he decided it wasn't necessary to choose his words so carefully, considering how far they had come.
"Do you love me?"
He could hear Max's breath becoming faster and by the looks of him, Leo dared to say he was panicking.
"I..I...well...How can you expect me to answer that?" Max asked in despair. "I cannot recall... All I can do is supposing... There's no other way I could explain to myself why you're still sticking with me..."
Leo shook his head and got up. He moved closer to Max, who backed away; but Leo followed him, taking his head into his hands and touching his forehead with his own. He was now able to look deeply into the older man's eyes. It was like looking right into his soul. There was confusion and despair, but Leo knew so well he had never let him take a look so deeply inside his self ever before.
"It doesn't matter," Leo said and was surprised how calm and secure his own voice sounded. "It doesn't matter at all who you were or what you thought...It's all about who you are now... What do you feel?"
Max didn't take his eyes off of him. Leo could tell he was searching for something. Something inside of him he might have found there before and what still slumbered somewhere within.
"Do you love me?"
Max closed his eyes. He couldn't endure that stare. It felt like something invaded him and made it impossible to find an answer in his disorientation.
"Yes," he whispered after a while, opening his eyes again. Tears were running down his cheeks and Leo was shocked. Not only, because of that confession, but because he had never ever experienced Max giving away his emotions so openly. Could this be? The man he had always been looking up to sat there, in front of him...crying.
It was that moment, which told Leo he was telling the truth. It might have been there before, but more importantly it was here now. He could read it in his eyes. Every single tear that fell was evidence enough. He, Leopold Bloom, was being loved by his partner. And he must admit to himself, he was in love with that man as well... for many years now.
He had to smile and felt his own eyes filling with tears as well. Not, because of sadness, but because of redemption.
So, he slowly bent over and closed his eyes, until he could feel Max's lips on his own. There they were, entwined into a kiss that released so much. Leo felt happy. He had never been sure what it felt like to find that 'once in a lifetime' thing that made everything worthwhile, but he knew for sure, if there really was something like that...This was it.
He pulled away after what seemed an eternity, looking at him through watery eyes.
"I love you," his voice could barely be heard. He needed to tell him.
"Oh my God, I love you...," Leo said again a little louder, kissing him once more. "I should have told you a thousand times before."
Of all the things he didn't tell Max in the first place, he regretted not having noticed this earlier.
Max, on the other hand, smiled and stroked the strands of his brown hair out of his face.
"And I love you," he said softly. "At least one thing I'm positive about..."
Leo neared once more, until their heads touched again.
"Then maybe, this is all you need to know," he whispered.
"They look different somehow," Carmen whispered to Roger, who was trying to bring some order into the arrangements on stage. He turned to look at his partner.
"They act quite normal to me," he answered.
"No, just look at them," Carmen insisted, turning Roger's head into the direction of Leo and Max. They sat in one corner a little apart from everybody else. Leo was stacking some papers on his knees talking to Max, who sat very close to him, smiling at him.
"He's explaining something I guess," Roger said.
"No no no...," Carmen just wouldn't let go so easily. "Just look at the way they look at each other..."
Roger looked a little closer. They were only talking, weren't they. Sitting next to each other, smiling from time to time. There was nothing wrong with that. Max had a lot to catch up with and Leo was helping him. And they all agreed Max differed a lot from who he was some months before. He wasn't as grumpy and moody as he used to, so all this laughing wasn't so unusual for that matter as well. He couldn't make out what they were talking about, but it seemed to lighten them up. So, he couldn't really see what Carmen meant. A little fun was always allowed in rehearsals. And they were just enjoying the time of work obviously. Leo turned his head again into Max's direction and held his hand while roaming through these contracts and papers and... Whoa, wait!
Roger's eyes grew wider. What was that about? He held his hand?! That was definitely new.
He could see Carmen's face spreading into a wide grin from the corner of his eyes.
"I knew it," he heard him say. "I just knew it!"
Carmen was about to walk over to them, when Roger held him back.
"Wait!" he said.
"Whaaaat?" Carmen seemed taken aback. "You did see this too, didn't you?"
"And now, you wanna get over there and do what?" Roger smiled at him. "Remember, Max only knows about the last few weeks... It might ruin a lot, if you rush over there, screaming all kinds of well-wishes at them... They need to come out by themselves..."
"But...," Carmen looked over to them again and then back to his partner. "Isn't this obvious enough?"
Roger smiled at him, lifted his head with one hand and said: "It's not so easy admitting something like that."
Carmen stared into his eyes and started to smile: "Maybe, you're right. But weren't you the one suggesting it to Leo anyway?" he blinked at Roger, who blushed a little.
"I...er...," he started, searching for words. Carmen giggled and Roger felt caught somehow.
"Well, alright then," he finally agreed. "We'll ask him, if you stop mocking me then. But let's keep it quiet... Not the whole theater has to know."
Carmen seemed quite satisfied with this reaction and turned to call them over.
"Leo," he shouted and saw him lifting his head searching his eyes. He was still smiling.
"He looks so happy somehow...I never thought I'd see that on him again," Carmen thought and almost felt glad for him, even though he only suspected what was going on.
"Would you come over here for a minute?" he called. He saw Leo nodding, but immediately dropped his jaw, when he recognized what happened next. Leo stood up, ready to get over, but was still holding Max's hand, who immediately pulled him back. It came so sudden, that Leo almost fell over and he started to laugh again. He got up again very quickly, just bending forward and kissing Max before turning to move towards them.
Carmen stood there petrified. Only when he turned to search for Roger's eyes again, he noticed he reacted the same way, as well as most of the people in the theater. The big room turned so quiet one could hear a pin drop. It was just like one big inhalation of everyone at the exact same time.
Leo didn't seem to notice. He actually pulled Max up from his seat, forcing him to follow his way towards Roger and Carmen while still holding his hand.
When they arrived with them, Leo grinned at them, waiting for them to tell him whatever they wanted to say.
"What is it," he asked cheerfully smiling at them.
Neither Roger nor Carmen were able to say anything. They only kept staring at the both of them in disbelief.
"Well, then...," Leo continued his way past them. "If there's nothing in particular you wanted of me, you'll have to excuse us now."
He passed them and linked arms with Max, very well aware of their stares which followed the both of them.
"Jaws up, guys," he smiled on his way out, winking at them.
Only when the big theater door flung close, Carmen and Roger were able to look at each other again.
"Well,...er... That about sums it up then," Roger was rubbing his head.
"Are you crazy?" Carmen was looking at him incredulously. "That was like...absolutely unbelievable... Did they..?"
Roger nodded. "I think they finally came to their senses."
"They didn't believe," Leo laughed walking along the streets with Max close to him.
"Well, it might have been quite a shock to them," Max agreed and smiled too.
Leo shook his head. "No, believe me," he giggled. "They smell stuff like that. They knew before any of us even considered the possibility."
"Do you think it was wise then to tell them this way?"
Leo stopped and Max turned around as well. Did he really think that? There was nothing wrong about showing his own personal luck for once, or was there?
"I...I just don't wanna hide," Leo answered silently. "I've been running away all my life... And I don't want that anymore."
Max immediately walked over to him, taking him in his arms.
"Oh Gosh, I didn't mean...," Max started to apologize, but was interrupted by Leo rather quickly.
"I know...," he said, kissing him again. "But don't you see? If you can manage to change for the better...even if it wasn't intentional... I can do it, too. And I want them to know..."
Max lifted his mouth to a smile again. It was astounding how much that boy could surprise him every day anew. He was so much stronger than himself. In so many ways. He had to deal with so much, just judged by the things he had been telling him. And he just took things the way they were. He could have stopped living after what had happened. He could have hidden somewhere to be that colorless Nobody for the rest of his life, but he had chosen to fight for what was important to him. He had been determined not to give in. And now he was standing here, accepting a new really crass change in his life again and was willing to take it without hesitation.
In a way Leo was the most inspirational creature he had ever met. It was addictive somehow to just see the changes in him happen day after day.
Maybe that was the very reason he never could get rid of him after that scheme he'd been telling Max about flopped. And who knew? Maybe, someday he would be able to remember everything from their past again. Until then, he knew he only needed this ...well, he had to call it 'light' coming from his partner that kept him going.
"What is it," Leo was looking at him. He must have noticed Max was lost in his thoughts.
Max shook his head in amazement and smiled.
He flung his arms around Leo, pulling him closer again. Leo instantly embraced him once more. It just felt perfect. Maybe, this was just the way it should be. Maybe he was supposed to lose everything, just to gain something new. Yes, he was certain. If there was a plan in life, this was the way that had been planned for him...for the both of them.
"Then, let them know," Max whispered, clinging closer to Leo. "Let the whole world know... Memory or not... I promise I won't go away..."
~to be continued~