Learn To Live
"All I need is the assignment agreement from the author and the signed contracts you both had gotten some weeks ago to make it work," Leo got through the list he'd been making in the morning to check whether he'd forgotten anything or not. All this paperwork was kind of annoying, but someone had to do it and somehow this job had passed over to Leo completely, so he was always very set on these things to be done immediately.
"Leo...Will you just forget about this stuff for a moment?" Carmen tried his very best to get his chance to speak, but apparently Leo just kept talking business. If he didn't know better, he'd think his young friend wanted to start a hare.
"Actually, I need this done until tonight. I won't bother you again after that," the producer smiled.
Carmen shook his head. "Will you please stop it?"
He looked over to Roger, who sat silently and seemed rather amused to observe his partner's hopeless attempt to get a straight answer out of Leo.
"I'm afraid I have to insist," Leo continued, acting clueless. "We will never move on until these papers are done and..."
"For God's sake! LEO!" Carmen slowly lost his temper. "This really is the last thing we wanna hear about right now!"
Leo stopped and for once looked up from his papers. Seeing Carmen and Roger staring at him like that made him feel a little uneasy. He knew what they wanted to hear. He knew from the moment he'd been stepping over their threshold. Yet, he had been determined not to let them force him into explaining anything. Why should he anyway? He'd been making it quite clear...At least so he thought.
"I know," he sighed. "But actually, I have nothing to tell you, really."
"What?" Carmen rushed up to him. "How can you say that? Leo, don't you realize, this..."
But he wasn't able to finish his sentence, since Roger interrupted him quickly by getting up, putting his hand on his partner's shoulder and shaking his head while looking into his eyes.
"Leo," he began, turning his head to the former accountant. "Are you sure this is what you want?"
Leo nodded without hesitation. "Yes," he answered. "Yes, I am. It's exactly how it should be. And if I hadn't been too blind to notice sooner, it would have happened a lot earlier, I think. And you knew it."
Roger smiled. "So, he remembered?" he asked, but didn't expect Leo to shake his head.
"No... no," he answered calmly. "But I think it's something subconscious... He's always very close to remember, but somehow… it never happens."
Roger and Carmen cast a look of mere confusion at each other.
"Well...," Roger began, but seemed to be stuck somewhere in between his own thoughts. This was so funny. He'd always known there had been this "thing" between the two of them; a bond or even some kind of attraction. Everyone around them could see and feel it. It had been only a matter of time until either one of them admitted it, but actually Roger always expected them to keep it a secret. This was different. Max was different. And if he really didn't remember any of the things before, it was even more astounding this bond was back just like that. He'd noticed the way Max had been acting towards Leo the first days. Careful and almost mistrusting...
On the other hand, he also noticed big changes in Leo as well. He had gone through a lot and had grown with it. He had been there; had stayed even though Roger and Carmen knew perfectly well, how much the young man had tried to run from the whole situation. He deserved this... He just deserved to be happy.
Leo looked from Carmen to Roger expecting some kind of reaction, until Carmen finally dared to move again. He stepped a little closer to Leo and gave him a short hug, just to look straight into his eyes shortly after he let go again.
"I always knew..," he spoke very softly and smiled. It was the first time since Leo knew him that he didn't use his high-pitched screaming queen voice, but a warm tenor. "I just never imagined you really would find a way to live with it... I am really happy for you."
Carmen and Leo whirled around. Roger seemed to have his doubts about it.
"What if he remembers?" Roger asked, looking sincere.
Leo broke into a smile again. "Then...nothing changes...," he answered truthfully. "He means it... And there's absolutely no chance he will forget this here..."
Roger cast him a concerned look. "And what about you?" he asked.
"What do you mean?"
"Can you deal with him being someone else again?" he asked, but to his surprise Leo continued shaking his head and didn't look doubting at all.
"He can't change," he said. "For he never really has... If you knew him the way I do, you'd see it too. It's him. It's Max all the way. Just like he always used to be. Only without the mask he used to wear. He just forgot the way he acted in front of the world. But nothing changed, really. I...I wasn't able to see it at first, but it's the truth."
This time Roger had to smile. Shy little Leo. It was almost like watching a child grow. All of a sudden he seemed to appear in a new light. He had never heard him speak so passionate about anything; never seen him with such an inner strength. If this was true, Max managed to bring out the very best in him, even though he didn't have the slightest clue about it.
"I know this is hard to understand," Leo continued, having watched Roger for a while. "But I can't and I don't want to change it... I love him. There, I said it. I love him and it's just the way it's supposed to be."
Roger nodded approvingly and extended his hand towards the young man.
"In that case...Here's to you and Max," he said, shaking Leo's hand, who smiled at him gratefully.
"So?" Max still mulled over the huge amount of backer's lists Leo had left for him.
"How did it go?"
Leo entered the office and joined him, just rolling his eyes.
"Screaming queens?" Max asked with an extremely amused expression.
"Not at all, but as expected they just wouldn't stop bombarding me with questions," Leo sighed and plumped down on a chair in front of the dark brown desk. He sneaked a peek of some notes Max seemed to have scribbled next to the hundreds of names written down the white sheets, but he covered them quickly.
"What about you? Did you get along?" Leo asked and raised his eyebrows.
"A little...," Max answered. "I've managed to memorize quite a few names, but..."
"But what?" Leo smiled.
"But calling them seems more...disturbing than anything else," Max grinned at Leo too. "I'm pretty sure you let me do that on purpose, you tease."
Leo burst out laughing. "Disturbing?... What happened?"
"Well, some of those ladies...uhm... I don't really think I wanna know that part of my past," Max answered and Leo swore he saw a slight blush on his face, if only for a second.
"Well, you always did it, so it's time you re-connect to your duties again," Leo laughed. He just managed to duck away from a sharp pen flying in his direction. "Ha ha, you just can't stand the truth."
"Better watch your mouth, Bloom," Max called after Leo as he left into his room. "Or next time I'll pretend you're one o' them backers." He couldn't hide an amused amazement in his voice towards Leo for being so cocky all of a sudden. And he could still hear him laughing. Max smiled. The nerve of that boy...
But then again, this was exactly what made him so special.
Looking down at the lists lying in front of him, he could hear Leo's footsteps approaching him again. Not looking up he felt Leo's weight upon his shoulders seconds later as he hugged him from behind, looking at the papers on the desk as well.
"What is it you're writing down there," he studied the little notes. This time Max didn't bother to hide them.
"Just some mnemonics to help me," he snickered.
Leo looked surprised studying them. He didn't really react for a couple of seconds, but then his face turned into a smile and leaned his head on Max's.
"I'm sure you'll get along," he responded.
"You are?" Max enjoyed having Leo so close, it didn't really matter why he thought so. Leo just nodded and pointed at the notes on the paper.
"Call it subconscious or whatever... but this is definitely a 'step backwards', which is good in our case," Leo answered.
Max stared down at them as well. All he did was writing down short catchwords or nicknames that somehow helped him to recall whom he had been talking with. It said 'sounded very old', 'definitely on some kind of medication!?', 'Hold-me Touch-me' and so on.
"I don't understand," Max said, looking at Leo a little confused.
Leo grinned and shook his head, snuggling closer to Max again.
"Doesn't matter," he said. "It's great you've done it."
Still wondering about it Max decided not to ask anymore. Leo must have his reason for not explaining it any further. Maybe he should stop weighing every word the younger man said and carry on. Maybe it just wasn't that important. And maybe he really didn't need to know a lot more than the things he already knew. He'd come this far after an accident that could've destroyed a lot more. So, there was no point in worrying so much, was there? No, definitely not. Just having Leo next to him was close enough to perfect...
"Why don't you let it be for today?" Leo asked without taking his head up.
"And leave it undone forever...?" Max asked, still smiling. But before he could return to work, Leo took the papers in front of him and threw them off the desk. Max simply followed them with his eyes; then turned his head to look at the younger man questioning.
"I think it can wait til tomorrow," Leo grinned. "Just let me have you for myself only for a few hours..."
Max didn't know what to say, yet as he wanted to answer Leo put his finger onto his lips to shut him up.
"How about taking the evening off? Just for a little quiet time," he smiled. "I just get the feeling I have to share you way too often in the last few days and it's gonna be more when you start working again. And I really enjoyed the time with you alone..."
Max gave a short laugh. "You're sounding like it's over..."
Leo let go of him, stepping away a few inches. "It could be... Maybe it'll turn out to be like it always had been..."
Max looked at Leo a little shocked.
"Are you afraid of that?"
Leo didn't answer. He turned and moved over to the couch, flopping onto it. Staring another direction he slowly began to shake his head.
"I don't know," he began. "I... I just thought...well... maybe daily routine will keep us busy... And maybe ..."
"Hey..," Max got up and moved over to Leo. He sat down next to him, but Leo didn't really turn.
"I don't know what makes you think anything's gonna change and I only assume it's got something to do with the way I behaved before... but let me assure you... It's not gonna happen!"
Leo leaned back, sighing deeply. "I'm sorry," he said after a moment. "I don't know where that came from... it's just..."
"I know," Max replied calmly. "No need to explain. I guess fears like that are normal..."
"You don't seem to have them."
Max could feel Leo's eyes on him now. He shrugged.
"I just don't think anything could be different," he replied. "Actually, I'm better off... I have only a brief idea of that idiot I obviously had been... So, even if anything comes back to me... It won't possibly change the way I see you..."
Leo smiled and moved closer to him, putting his head onto his chest.
"That's exactly what I've been telling Roger and Carmen," he whispered and closed his eyes as Max softly stroked through his hair.
"He did?" Max thought, but didn't dare to ask it aloud. Obviously he must know him better than Max did himself. Which, of course, wasn't that hard at the moment. But why was Leo so afraid of him changing? How much different could he possibly have been?
"What have I done to you?" Max thought while looking at Leo. He couldn't get past the feeling something terrible must have happened before. Or was this only a feeling? Something he interpreted into a meaningless statement again?
"You know, you're thinking a lot more now," he heard Leo's voice.
He nodded. "Usually you would speak about everything that crosses your mind, but you're much quieter now..."
"What makes you think I was thinking?" Max asked softly and smiled.
Leo lifted his head to look into his partner's eyes again. "You've never taken a term like 'quiet time' so literally before... and I can see it... It's there in your eyes."
The smile in Max's face didn't vanish, but he looked away from that loving pair of eyes staring right through him. "There's a lot to think about actually... It's like talking about someone who died a long time ago. It's somewhat familiar, yet it could be anybody..."
"Does it matter that much?"
Max shook his head. "Not in the slightest... It just crosses my mind a lot lately..."
He looked down at Leo again, who followed his every movement.
"But I want you to know, this will never change..."
He moved closer as well until their heads touched. "I love you... Please, don't give up on me that easily..."
"This is a disaster. What are we supposed to do?"
Carmen was running up and down the aisles in the theater. Usually they wouldn't be there that late, but this was an emergency and they had to react as quick as possible.
Roger was looking through all the set-cards he could find in a rush.
"Would you stay calm? We'll figure this out," he told Carmen for the millionth time now, turning yet another page.
"How could I possibly? We're in production...It's only a few weeks until Opening Night. Who could've guessed she would fall? You could definitely expect the lead to be a bit more careful during this time...," his voice grew louder. "I've always told you not to work without an understudy..."
"What's the big deal?" Roger asked. "All we have to do is find someone to replace her with... We've worked without understudies before... and it always worked out."
Carmen guffawed the moment he heard that. "Yeah, but usually you would jump in... There is no way you could do it this time... And it has been particularly hard to cast her, so how do we find another one just now?"
He stopped and turned to Roger. "I mean... who would do it on such a short notice?"
Roger looked up at him. "Someone who's willing to do anything to be in the spotlight..."
He threw one of the actor's files over to his assistant without saying a word. Catching it, Carmen still looked at him confused. Slowly he opened the file and read through the papers, just to lift his head seconds later again, looking utterly bewildered. He shook his head.
"No," he said. "We couldn't possibly... There's no way... I mean..."
"Well, we would have to ask them," Roger replied. "But she'd be fitting to say the least."
"But...," Carmen still shook his head frantically and moved his head from the papers to Roger and back again. "Now? … Do you really think we should do something like that now?... He will never..."
"I know that," Roger interrupted him. "But it's not up to only us to decide...That's business... We just can't take personal problems into consideration."
Carmen wasn't convinced at all. They stared at each other for a while.
"How are we supposed to ask ...that?"
"I don't know yet...," Roger replied.
The morning sun painted the city orange, yet the deep canyon-like streets still lay in shadows. It took some time for the light to touch the ground, especially during this time of the year. But the soft light let the snowy rooftops seem to glitter and gave a magical glow to Manhattan.
Max lay awake, watching it through the window. Usually, he wouldn't be up that early but he just couldn't sleep anymore. The night sure had been too short, however he didn't feel drowsy at all. And now, with this perfect sunrise he couldn't possibly turn his eyes away from that city... A city that appeared gray and unkind the first day he remembered it, but changed into something incredibly wonderful.
He turned his head to look at Leo who, while still fast asleep, lay snuggled up to him. His hair fell tangled on the pillow and for the first time ever he seemed to be absolutely carefree. He held on to Max's hand and took long deep breathes. Max couldn't help but smile.
Who needed that sunrise? As much grace and beauty as it might brought to that huge city... It still remained anonymous, nameless... unapproachable.
This here was real.
Max closed his eyes for a moment, just listening to the sounds around him. The noise from outside that seemed so very far away, the breathing of Leo as well as his own, some footsteps coming from an apartment above...
He'd been feeling restless and tired for weeks now; too much worrying about what his life used to contain, who he might have been and what had happened before... But now...
He was completely calm. A state he never thought he'd missed that much, if at all he could miss something.
"Are you thinking again?"
Max opened his eyes again. Leo hadn't moved a bit but smiled at him with sleepy eyes.
"No," Max replied. "I was enjoying this here."
Leo moved closer, rested his head on his partner's chest and put his arms around him. Max leaned his head on Leo's and didn't dare to move a bit, for it might destroyed the moment.
"Leo?" he asked after what seemed like hours.
He hesitated. Even Leo seemed to notice it, for he turned to look at him; expecting him to finish whatever he wanted to say.
"I'm sorry," Max said, trying not to look at him.
Leo lifted himself up. He wanted to ask, but somehow just kept looking puzzled.
"... I think … I've hurt you somehow," Max continued. Why was this so hard?
"No, I mean... before... in the past... whatever caused all this... I can't shake the feeling I've done something to you... and whatever it was... I am sorry..."
Leo was stunned. He surely didn't expect that. Max had never been the kind of person to let emotions lead him. And there was no way he could know... He didn't know what to respond or if he should respond at all. So, he leaned forward, kissing him softly.
"I think there's blame to share...," he said. "You ..."
But he couldn't finish. A loud ring grabbed their attention. They looked at each other in surprise, when Leo jumped up and disappeared in the hallway, heading for the phone. Max could hear him talking to someone, but couldn't make out what it was about.
Just seconds later Leo appeared in the door frame again.
"We've gotta go.."
Roger just watched them. No reaction at all. He'd expected Leo to refuse it immediately, but he just stood there without looking up from the file in his hands. Carmen sat a little behind Roger and gazed at Leo as well, whereas Max stood next to him, his arms crossed and his eyes closed.
"Listen, we know this is a bit awkward, but this replacement could literally save us," Roger explained calmly. "And it'd only be for a few weeks until our lead has recovered again."
"We've really been thinking about it and it's the only quick solution we could find," Carmen jumped in.
Leo still didn't react. He just kept staring at the picture in front of him. Ulla...
He took a deep breath and began to shake his head slowly.
"No!" he said scarcely audible.
"Pardon?" Roger watched him closely.
"No... No! This...," Leo exhaled again. "This is not an option!"
He handed over the file to Max, who opened it as well.
Carmen and Roger looked at each other. Leo being so calm was scary somehow.
"Leo, are you sure?" Carmen asked carefully. "Do you understand what depends on it?"
"Of course, I am," Leo looked up again with a furious look in his eyes. "I am very well aware of what this could mean, but no!... We'll have to think of something else!"
"There is no one else," Roger started anew. "If you..."
"If what?" Leo's voice was much louder now. Carmen flinched in surprise hearing it. A sudden increase of volume was nothing he'd experienced from Leo in a long time. Basically, something like this hardly ever happened.
"If I decide to deny her, I'll ruin the show? Is that what you wanna tell me?" Leo stared back at him.
He felt his body starting to shake. How could they even think of anything like that? Having Ulla back in the show...back in his life... was nothing he could allow them to consider. He didn't want to see her again. He didn't want to read about her and most of all he didn't even want to think about her. Not for another second in his life.
"No," Roger answered harshly. God, that kid just didn't understand. "But you could ruin weeks of work for all of us and have us wasted a good deal of money just sitting this out."
"How can you say that?" Leo didn't believe what he was hearing. "How can you even consider that?You know what happened... And you knew perfectly well that there was not the slightest chance I agreed to that. How can you even think I was fine with it?"
"Well, it's the best we can do now," Roger replied. He tried his very best to stay calm. "Can't you just try to see this through the eyes of the producer you're supposed to be?"
"We've actually...," Carmen started.
"You what?" Leo ventured without another thought. What could it be now? It couldn't get worse now, could it? "You have... what?"
"We've... actually thought you would at least give her a chance and...well... invited her here," Carmen almost didn't dare to look at Leo directly, whereas Roger didn't turn his gaze away.
"No!" This couldn't be true.
"It's your god-damn job...It's what you're supposed to do," Roger answered.
Leo didn't dare to move. He looked at them with a lack of understanding he had never felt coming upon himself before. They knew...They simply must know. How could they do this to him? This just couldn't be true.
He heard a door behind them opening and felt his heart sink.
He would have recognized that woman among thousands. The way she almost danced through the aisles towards them, her blond wavy hair swinging with her steps and that sweet smile... How he hated it.
"Leo," she cooed, opening her arms widely. "Ulla happy to see you again."
She walked straight to him, hugging him. Leo felt his body stiffen the very moment she touched him. He wanted to scream. He couldn't breathe. He felt that old panic rising inside of him.
It took only a few second until he fought himself out of her deadly grip, stumbling a few steps backwards and looking at her wide-eyed.
"What are you doing to me?" he whispered in Roger's and Carmen's direction.
"And Maaaax," she turned to him the moment he recognized him. "Ulla didn't see you in a long time... How is Max?"
Leo turned as well, waiting for his reaction. At least it wasn't just him... Max simply must share his opinion.
She also hugged him shortly. Max didn't let any reaction of amazement show and dryly answered: "Can't complain, thank you."
"Well," Roger said. "Since she is here, don't you think you could bury your pride and give her a chance?"
"Ulla happy you thought of her," she smiled widely. "Ulla helping you with pleasure."
Leo was disgusted. He didn't dare to look at her, nor did he really want to see anybody else right now. He felt betrayed...
Roger watched him for a moment, looking seriously angry. Then he turned to address Max.
"Well, since you're a team...what do you think?"
"Oh no, leave him out of this," Leo interrupted. "It's highly unfair to expect him to..."
"I think you should give her a try," Max answered from behind.
Leo's eyes grew even wider in shock and his jaw dropped. Slowly he turned around. Not believing what he'd just heard, he felt himself breathing faster.
"What?" he whispered.
Max opened his eyes to look at the young man sincerely. He hesitated for a moment, then took one step ahead to face him.
"I think you should try it," he repeated. "You have nothing to lose, really."
This must be a bad dream.
"Leo, stay calm." This was about to become a freakout. He could see it. "All I'm saying...," He looked at the papers in his hands."...is she could indeed save this here." He was pointing around.
"You're... ," Leo swallowed hard. "You're stabbing me in the back?"
"I'm only suggesting to try and see the professional aspect of it," Max tried his very best to calm his partner down. "She could indeed save a lot. Just think of all the things you and all of them worked for. It shouldn't be in vain."
Leo shook his head. Slowly he stumbled backwards, not turning his eyes away from Max. He was doing it ...again... He was using that one weakness against him... Even though he should know better.
"I hate you...," he whispered.
"I HATE YOU!"
Then he turned and rushed out of the theater as fast as he could. Max looked up at Roger and Carmen, who stood silently and appalled in the middle of the theater and didn't dare to say something anymore. Even Ulla, who was acting carefree and happy just minutes ago looked a little scared. Max cast them an apologizing look, then nodded shortly.
"Do it," he said.
Then he turned as well and ran after Leo.
"This cannot be," Leo thought, pushing his head to the french window in the office. He must be dreaming. They couldn't possibly put this on him. They've known him for years. They knew what had happened. And Max... He hardly dared to think about what he'd been saying.
The door behind him opened and closed again and he heard footsteps.
"Leo, would you please relax?" Max tried his very best to keep his voice calm, for he knew upsetting Leo would only make the whole situation even worse.
Leo, on the other hand whirled around. "How could you do that?"
Gosh, he seemed so desperate and that incredulous look on his face was hardly bearable.
"I am just trying to think of what's best for the show. It's nothing that special, if you really think about it... Actor's get cast and replaced... It's really nothing personal," he tried to convince him to see it logically.
But Leo wasn't really listening. "I can't believe you're doing this. This is crazy. Please, don't. Don't let me go through this." But looking at Max he knew he wasn't gonna change his point of view just to please a personal query.
"Forget it," Leo started to walk up and down the office and was getting more and more hectic. "I know you better... You're not going to move away from that...," he gave a short snort. "This never changed..."
"Leo, please...," Max was kind of lost. "What is this about? You said you've left her behind you. You said you decided to leave her. She simply can't affect you that deeply anymore..."
"I needed your encouragement this time," he answered.
"What? What the hell are you talking about?" Max raised his voice now too. "I always stood behind you. Don't you tell me I didn't. And you know pretty well it's not fair to say otherwise."
"Oh, here we go. Yes, you've been the compassionate part...as always," he was waving his hands about. "Next thing you're gonna tell me is you did this for me... a true act of love...great deal."
"I am only telling you to stop behaving like a jerk," Max didn't intend to say that, but he wasn't prepared to be attacked like that.
"It's the truth... Well, spare me!"
"Will you stop it, for God's sake? Don't you dare questioning my motivations. I tried to explain it to you," Max lost his temper as well. "It's a god-damn job! Your job! It's got nothing to do with your relationship breaking apart a long time ago..."
Leo looked away. How could he be that stubborn?
Max started anew: "Alright... You know what? If this is so important...If she still affects you that much, then keep running away. I really thought you were over that..:"
"You don't know what I am feeling..."
"NO YOU'RE RIGHT! I obviously don't. I thought I did, but hey... Maybe you should go and cry over her and keep on wishing she'll return to you. That's what you want anyway, isn't it?"
Leo turned at him shocked. "...You're breaking up with me?"
"No Leo...," Max shook his head. "You should make up your mind... What is it that you want?"
Leo hit the desk in front of him with both his fists all of a sudden. This was too much...
"I WANT YOU TO BE ON MY SIDE...AT LEAST FOR ONCE IN YOUR LIFE," he screamed.
"I AM... And I fucking can't recall it had ever been differently," Max shouted back.
"Oh yeah? How long is 'ever' then? Two months? You don't know what had been before that... You have no idea of that selfish inaccessible asshole I had to deal with for years... And I really believed you were different now...What a mistake! It's always about you! You're the good one! You're the professional! YOU'RE THE ONLY ONE WHO KNOWS ME..."
"Yeah, maybe because you've always been that cowardly wimp and would never have done anything on your own, if it hadn't been for me then..."
"I don't fucking care what you think. I can go on by myself. I've done it before and can do it again! I don't need guidance from you!" Leo was beside himself with rage."It doesn't matter anyway... You're going to leave me...You said it yourself just minutes ago... Well, go on then... Leave! I don't give a damn!"
"Fine! If that's what you want, at least you've made up your mind for once," Max shouted back and turned around to leave.
It was just then, Leo seemed to notice what he just said. His expression changed from angry to desperate as he jumped after him. "No," he begged. "Please don't... "
Max turned. Leo just stared at him in pure desperation.
"Don't leave me!...Please," he whispered now as tears started to run down his cheeks. "I need you... I love you... I...Please, stay. "
Max sighed and stopped, turning to Leo again. He couldn't bear seeing him like this. He didn't want to see him cry. He didn't mean to cause him any harm, even if he possibly did in the past.
"Please, I...," Leo sobbed. "I'm sorry... Let's talk about this calmly...You...It's just... You've really hurt me..."
"I didn't," Max answered softly. "I did nothing to attack you personally. I haven't hurt you, Leo...I never would..."
"No, right! You didn't," Leo answered quickly. "But you were about to... You cannot leave... I beg you... Don't do that to me...," his voice somersaulted and he spoke faster and faster again. "I cannot deal with that, okay? I cannot...DON'T TOUCH ME... I DON'T NEED THAT... I cannot stand seeing her,do you understand? I can't be near her!..."
"Remind me again why you left her? What was it you told me?" Max asked again.
"You can't expect me to go over this, as much as I want to," he said. "You want me to leave...Fine...But then you're begging me to stay, yet telling me you still don't get over your personal problems concerning that woman... So, what is it? It's that business, Leo"
"It's always about business, isn't it?" Leo cried. "It's not about me... It's about business..."
"God damn it, it's all about YOU," Max felt the anger from minutes ago rising inside of him again. "It's not me who is the selfish one here... It's about you and you alone!"
"I TOLD YOU I WAS SORRY ABOUT WHAT I SAID," Leo shouted back.
"And what?," Max just couldn't get it. "To watch you start anew just the very next moment? You hate me, you love me...I got that... I am the asshole, fine... But what exactly do you expect of me? You're freaking the fuck out about something I obviously cannot understand... And I am supposed to stay calm, agree and never mention it again?"
"Yes, my bad," he got angry again as well, yet those tears just wouldn't stop coming. "I'm overreacting...I know... I said I'm sorry...Why do you have to start this over?"
"Is this here...," Max pointed at the two of them. "...really such a bad decision? Do you really want to throw it away, because of some slut you abandoned?"
"No...I told you... I..."
"Don't say it!" Max looked at him angrily. "Don't say you love me... It means nothing! Apparently not anymore... if ever!"
Leo shook his head, still crying frantically. He reached out and hugged Max as tight as he could.
"I am really sorry...," he cried. "Don't...don't take me seriously, please... I don't...I never wanted you to leave... or hurt you... I need you! I thought I didn't, but that's just not true...!"
Max didn't reply at first. He stood there; his thoughts were fighting his emotions. But hearing the heart-melting sobs of that man wasn't something he could ignore. He felt his anger ebb away and softened every second. Finally, he put his arms around Leo as well, stroking slowly over his back.
"Hey... Calm down," he said caring. "This will pass as well. It's nothing we can't figure out...Just... Oh Leo, please stop crying. I didn't mean it..."
Leo had his head clinging on his shoulder, with his eyes closed. He was still sobbing.
"I know," he answered, but his voice sounded muffled. Max held him even closer to himself.
"Let's...let's just forget about that," he continued. "This was bullshit and shouldn't have happened...And about that girl..."
"I'm sure you will get over that. You're able to work very professionally... I've seen it a lot of times in the past few weeks... You'll be able to work with her on a vocational level, blocking this shit out..."
Leo let go of Max, looking up. "What?"
He stepped a few steps away, slowly starting to shake his head again...
"You... you agreed on her doing it?"
Max nodded, not knowing what was going on. "It was the only choice..."
Leo shook his head even harder now. Tears were still glittering in his eyes and his face got even paler, if that was even possible.
"Oh my God," he managed to say, turning quickly, putting his hands to his head and starting his mad walk up and down the office again. Max noticed immediately and tried to make him stand still.
"Please, relax," he said.
"You did it," Leo whispered, but his voice got louder again from second to second. He was breathing heavily. "You did it!...I KNEW YOU WOULD DO IT!... This can't be true! DAMN! I trusted you...I thought you would at least talk to me about that! But you had to go on decide it on your own...AGAIN!"
"IT'S THE SAME... ALWAYS! YOU'LL NEVER CHANGE!... DEEP DOWN YOU'RE STILL THAT...THAT...," he was searching for words to describe his rage.
"NO! I DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT! IT WASN'T UP TO YOU TO DECIDE! YOU DON'T EVEN REMEMBER A TINY BIT OF WHAT HAS TO BE DONE... YOU JUST HAD TO SHOW OFF, AS USUAL!"
"YES, I DID DECIDE IT," Max screamed. "AND YOU KNOW WHY? BECAUSE SOMEONE MUST HAVE THE GUTS TO DO IT! AND YOU'RE OBVISIOUSLY TOO COWARDLY AND TOO FUCKING SCARED OF EVERYTHING! YOU CAN'T EVEN GET YOUR OWN FUCKING LIFE STRAIGHT!"
Leo stood there, just staring at him with wide eyes. He couldn't believe it. How could he have been so wrong? He stepped backwards again, looking at him with pure disgust.
"Screw you!" he said. "I hate you... Go on with it, if you want... I'm done with you!"
"Leo...Wait! This is crazy... Don't do this rashly!"
But Leo just continued to shake his head. "Leave me be!...I don't wanna see you again..."
Thus he rushed towards the door, opening it. "I hate you!"
As the door fell close it took a moment for Max to get what just happened. He was stunned. Leo's left him...Just like that... Just moments ago... Leo was gone!
Max felt his breath becoming faster. He felt like losing his grip. A stabbing pain shot through his head and all of a sudden he felt dizzy. He wanted to go after Leo. No, he simply had to go after Leo. But that pain grew stronger. He began to walk towards the door, but could hardly reach it. When he managed to grab the doorknob it got so intense, he felt like breaking down. Sinking to his knees he barely recognized the hard ground. He closed his eyes to stop the room from spinning around him.
"Stop that," he thought. Where did this come from all of a sudden? It got worse... every second. Max didn't think he could endure this any longer...It was so excruciating...
"Please stop," he screamed, but opened his eyes wide in surprise only a moment later. What was that about? There were...pictures. Pictures flashing before his eyes. There was Leo...Always Leo... Max scared him... Leo pulling out his blue blanket, and screaming, while Max was splashing water in his face...Leo running away from him through the city... He looked so different from what he looked now...Leo holding two accounting books, telling him to leave and turn himself in... Leo appearing in what seemed to be a court-room, rushing by Max's side...Leo and himself in Jail, trying to convince those convicts to be part in what seemed to be a musical-idea...
Max lifted his head a bit and just stared wide-eyed... He felt his eyes getting watery... And there was more... It was Leo screaming at him... And Leo... slapping him in the face... There was he himself shouting at Leo to get out... And the gray dark streets of New York City at night... Snow started to fall... And... There was...A car...coming closer... He remembered the pain... and then it was gone... And waking up in that gray room... With Leo beside him...
Max writhed on the ground. He had his eyes closed and his head was touching the ground... There was only silence. The pain had stopped. The Room stood still again. His own heart-beat was thumping in his ears... He could hear the silent dripping of his own tears on the wooden floor and an intensifying sobbing somewhere... No, not somewhere... It was himself... Sobbing on the floor... Feeling more miserable than ever before and this time he knew exactly why...
~to be continued~