How Soon Is Now?

by Viy Sitante
illustrated by melanofly

An old black and white show plays out on the laptop. The man on screen is dressed in a black suit, gesturing wildly as he appears to regale his audience with his tale. The laptop screen shows all but says nothing, however, because its audio output port is connected to a very, very long cable. The end of this cable, that goes across the room and leads into another, is connected to Max’s earbuds. He’s moving around in his bedroom as he prepares gifts, trying to decide who gets what, what gets what look, what look needs to be given how, and how to give it to who.

For someone like Max, it’s not the first tranquil Christmas he’s had as an adult, and certainly not the first Christmas where he’s been part of a group environment as an adult. While last year his friend Astemar invited him to her family outing, in reality that outing turned out to be a huge party filled with her friends and family members of said friends in the mix. A little too loud and big for Max but not wholly awful. He was made welcome, at least. The alcohol wasn’t that bad either. (Sure wished he’d woken up not on the floor the next day, though.)

This year, Astemar suggested an actual small family outing instead. Direct family, so nothing big. Just a small get-together and watch-party dinner. Max being invited to something for family is odd to him, but something in him still feels—happy about it? He’s not sure why, but he’s not running away from it. Being invited to something familial is still not as weird as actually celebrating Christmas on Christmas Day, as Astemar intends to do. 

“A doll for Kumiko,” Max mutters under his breath. He’s moving a box next to the other doll that would have gone to her twin sister, Ruriko—Astemar’s daughters, both of them—but after a one-on-one chat with Ruriko, he’s realized that either he gives both dolls to her sister or risks getting stared into guilty submission by a ten-year-old. As funny as Max knows one annoying person would find that, he’d rather see if Ruriko would like the experiment set instead. Girls still like geode-making sets, right…?

A gift for Astemar’s son, Sixto, is easier to figure out: a boy who likes playing with another brand of dolls? The latest transforming robot figure would do him well, considering all the other toys Max has seen in that kid’s backpack. And for Astemar…It’s hard to shop for her, he thinks. She never seems to want anything. He can understand that, in a way; he usually doesn’t want anything either. For most of past Max’s life, everything had a price. Kindness was never a given—only a fool’s belief. It was better to not want anything. Be content with what you had.

Present Max has grown away from that environment, and has grown to want to give, if possible. This is the first time in a very long time where he’s had to do a group gifting and the first time ever where he feels like that sort of activity might go over well. Astemar’s hint, that gifts from the dollar store are fine, also helps a lot.

Then Max remembers the other only adult in this bunch. And that man is as hard to shop for as for Astemar, except he’s worse because he’s rich which means he can buy anything and he doesn’t even to need to buy anything but he has to fuck the rest of us peasants over and why the ever-loving fuck was Max getting a gift for him again?

Of course, Max snorts at this mental question as he holds up the tie in its box. Only thing that occurred to him and it’s the most cliché of gifts for men. Then again, it’s what someone like Mag—

Ding dong.

Max takes off his earbuds for a second and waits. That was his doorbell, right? Sometimes zoning out means after an hour or two, you’re no longer sure if the noises around you are from the media playing or—

Ding dong.

Oh-kay. Definitely his doorbell, after all. He’s not sure who’d come here at this hour—dinner time for everyone else, isn’t it? Not like Max keeps normal hours. He’s already eaten dinner and he had planned on sleeping late to the dulcet tones of old shows. Either it’s the landlord coming to warn him yet again about a noise violation from Mrs. Kaminsky, despite the whole earbuds issue, or it’s a Jehovah’s Witness pulling double duty.

The doorbell rings twice in a row, so Max speeds up walking through the mess of cables and boxes, tiptoeing over the small tree and the related box on the floor. He stumbles over the last one, managing to hop to the wall and lean on it to steady himself. “Jesus fuck, hold on a second…”

After he fixes himself, he makes his way to the door. He holds onto the knob and looks through the peephole to steel himself against his visitor and—oh no. No. No. No.

“Arizmendi,” one Magnus Power whispers, holding a note on the last letter. He appears terribly impatient. He whispers again: “I know you’re in there. Let me in before I start announcing myself to everyone else.”

Speak of the devil and he shall appear.

Facepalming, Max groans. Unfortunately that threat is good. Begrudgingly, he opens the door and he already feels exhausted. Dressed in a maroon suit jacket with an orange polo and beige pants, Magnus leans on the door frame, shining his best smile.

“Good evening, darling.”

Max’s eyes narrow. “Say it louder, get me outed, why don’t you?”

Magnus blinks. “Outed? Since when did you go back into the closet?”

Max sighs. “I meant that I don’t want to be outed as having been around you.”

Magnus snickers, his smile now sly as he leans forward. “You certainly have been around me. Nice and tight—”

Whap-a-la-ding-dong! That’s the onomatopoeia we imagine from a wacky 1950’s slapstick comedy when someone slams their foot into another’s gonads. Frankly, Magnus knew it was coming, given Max’s predilection for violence when Magnus is, well, Magnus. Alas, he will never change. Thus does he wince, groan and wobble, trying to keep his grip on both the door frame and Max.

“Get inside,” Max snarl-whispers. “You’re making a fucking scene.”

I’m—?!” Magnus gurgles before groaning again. Max pulls him inside, then drops him with a thud. A mournful moan from below follows while Max looks both ways out the door, and looks at the front, before closing and locking the door. It’s late anyway, and knowing Magnus, better safe than sorry.

A grown man in the fetal position, holding his tender family jewels. Pathetic. Sure, Max caused such a sight but, well, the guy deserves it. Max squats near Magnus’ legs, looking him over before kneeling to take off his shoes. He leans back to place them in the corner of the door. Then he takes a pair of flip-flops and proceeds to put them on Magnus’ freakishly long feet before he’s interrupted by movement.

“Slippers.” Magnus winces again before he releases labored breathing. “Please.

“Hmph. Why should I? It’s my apartment.”

“It’s my feet,” Magnus counters. “They deserve better than chaussures laides worn by people who waste oxygen.”

Max rolls his eyes so hard, he might start speaking random French too. But he grants the other’s wish, leaning back again and getting the only pair of slippers instead. “God, you’re so stupid. How about you get up and do this yourself?”

“Because I like being pampered, darling,” Magnus says. He puts weight on his hands and arms to lift himself up, twisting his body to look at Max. “And you enjoy this, don’t you?”

“Fuck you,” Max answers. He gets up quickly, dusting off his own pants.

Magnus wiggles his feet before sitting upright with a groan. He looks at Max and he furrows his brow immediately: “…Max.”

“What?”

Magnus points: “What the ever-loving hell are you wearing?

Max blinks. He looks down at himself, tugging at his sweater: very seasonal, wholly red with green and white accents of ornamental decorations. In the middle is a knit patch of a cute little penguin, wobbling with candy canes in tow.

“What? This matches with my jeans.”

Magnus snorts. “That’s your excuse?”

Max gestures with his arms to the side. “Excuse me if I like this sweater, mister bootleg Magnum P.I.”

“Oh, please,” Magnus scoffs. “Tom Selleck wishes he were me.”

“Said no one ever.”

Magnus then pouts. “Astemar thinks I’m cuter than him.”

“That’s because she hates guys with beards!” Max snaps back with a laugh. He walks over to the laptop and pauses the current episode. “That’s like saying she likes, I don’t know, frogs better because she prefers pets with no hair.”

Magnus says nothing, though he pouts even more like a child and crosses his arms. “Well, she says I’m cuter, so there.”

“Grow a beard and we’ll see then.” Chuckling, Max drags a couple of cables out of the way. Battery’s full, so he disconnects the charger from the laptop. He remembers that the earbuds were left in the bedroom, so he goes there to pick them up. Would be good to wear one at least so he can tune out whatever Magnus is intent on doing tonight. He also remembers the gifts left out, so in a frenzy, he starts hiding them—wait, where, where would—oh yeah, closet, that’ll do.

As Max starts running back and forth like a madman, Magnus walks up to the laptop and connects the charger back into the port. He then walks along the charger cable and disconnects it from the outlet.

“You’re supposed to take it out from the power source, you know,” Magnus says, raising his voice a tad so that the other man could hear him. “One of these days, both you and Astemar are gonna have a bad time. You both do this, it’s so annoying.”

“Yeah well, too much work,” Max huffs, as he’s pushing in the last of the gifts while attempting to cover them from Magnus’ prying eyes.

“You’re a computer guy! You’re supposed to be more responsible!”

Max huffs again, wiping his brow. His chest and his back are damp from sweat but he’s wearing nothing underneath his sweater. Suffering it is, then.

“Magnus, have you ever met a ‘responsible computer guy’?”

“Sure—”

Max raises a finger pointedly: “One that hasn’t slept with you.”

Magnus puts his hands on his hips. One leg stretches out, his foot tapping incredulously. “You say that like it’s impossible.”

“Magnus,” Max starts, walking into the living room again, “the most ‘responsible computer guy’ I know, real privacy nut—this man would go off the grid if it weren’t for gacha games. He spends all his money every month on those things. All of it. You know how much those stupid things ask for?!”

Magnus furrows his brow in confusion. “…Gotcha?”

“No, it’s gah-cha, it’s glorified gambling—wait, why am I explaining this to you? You don’t even play games. Don’t —” Max quickly adds with a raise of his forefinger, silencing a Magnus ready to blurt out another Magnism.

“Funny man,” Magnus derides meanwhile. He takes another look at the laptop, tilting his head. “So, what were you up to?”

“Getting ready for Christmas later this month. What the fuck are you up to?”

“Please,” Magnus feigns, hand up, “no need for crassness.”

“It’s my apartment.”

“It’s my ears!”

Max waves the complaint away. “Whatever, just answer my question. You want something, by the way?”

“A martini would be nice,” Magnus answers. Max shakes his head. 

“Whiskey?” Max shakes his head again. 

“…Gin and tonic?” 

Again the same response, and this time, Magnus’ eyes widen in displeasure as he gestures with his hands. “Not even a goddamned gin and tonic?!”

Beer,” Max says flatly. “I have Medalla for you from last time.”

“Then why didn’t you say that earlier?!” Magnus spits out, sounding both content and annoyed at the same time. His nostrils flare while his eyes follow Max to the fridge. Has this man still not yet expanded his flavor range? Since the last time Magnus visited? Insulting! Magnus holds his hand up to his mouth, yelling: “Next time we’re going shopping at Pueblo Plaza!”

“What the fuck is that?” Max says loudly.

“It’s where all the people with no hope of a retirement plan go to shop, isn’t it?”

Max rolls his eyes.

Magnus glances over to the laptop again. What’s on screen is attracting his attention more than it should, and once he figures out it’s a video, he presses play. The sound comes out through one of Max’s earbuds, taking Max by surprise. As he comes back with two golden-hued bottles in his hands, he notices the other man’s tapping at his chin in thought. He’s raptured by the current segment on screen: a lovely woman talking with a sheep puppet, who’s distressed over the possibility of someone called Danny Kaye not liking her. Magnus seems really into it, considering Max is left hanging with bottle in hand. “Hey, do you—”

“That’s Lamb Chop.”

“Huh?”

“Lamb Chop!” Magnus repeats, almost at too high an octave. He points to the screen for emphasis. “You know, beloved children’s character!”

Max simply stares, confused. “…Is this some old people shit or something?”

“Max, you are saying that while watching this video that looks as old as my grandfather.”

“Exactly, granpa.”

Both Magnus and Max enter a stare-off. The corner of Max’s mouth almost twitches into a smile, if only because he enjoys poking at Magnus’ ego. The mad, hurt look from Magnus does make Max so happy, after all.

“Max, how old are you?”

“Thirty-three.”

Magnus places his hand on his chest. “And how old am I?”

“Fifty-eight.”

“Oh, shut up,” scoffs Magnus. “We only have five years of difference between us, how the hell did you miss out on knowing who Lamb Chop is? Astemar knows—her brats know it!”

There’s a very good answer for that, Max answers mentally. A television set was a luxury in childhood, where only people named Father and Mother were allowed to watch it. If the rest of the foster kids, including him, ever watched anything on the big box, they had to do it by night—which meant a lot of fucked-up shit no kid should have been watching (and that was just the gore in underground movies, for the starters). That they were deemed worthy to have exactly one computer for all of them was a miracle.

Yet by sheer dint of a kindly neighbor, Max would absorb all things considered “Old Hollywood” in the neighbor’s apartment. Of course, old is relative only to age. For the neighbor, it had been a lifetime of being present for when old was new; for Max, barely a quarter of experiencing the old as if it were new.

It’s why nobody remembers who the comedian Danny Kaye is, unless you’re over the age of sixty—and barely, at this rate—or if you’re like Max, who only knows due to a curious media diet. The old neighbor showed Max another world, and that world was much older than whichever one Magnus seems keen on remembering better. Max won’t give him the right answer, though, lest Magnus use it for blackmail—

“Easy,” says Max after sighing deeply. “Watching stuff like Cannibal Holocaust.”

Given Magnus’ grimace, he appears to recognize the reference. Max chuckles while he turns to the laptop. Come to think of it, this particular episode is one he hasn’t rewatched often. Barely, maybe. It wasn’t the puppeteer’s fault. Just the episode itself felt blah the first time he watched it. But tonight was a long night, so the playlist with every episode was the way to go.

“Hey, wait a second,” Magnus interrupts from behind, leaning closer. “Who’s that guy?”

He’s pointing to the man who’s now appeared out of the blue to the right of the sheep puppet. Now the puppet is shy and struggling to not be insane about him immediately. 

“Him? That’s Danny Kaye.” He lets his guard down for a second, like a child who got asked about his favorite hero. “If you’ve seen White Christmas, he’s in it, but he was a great comedian and his singing was fucking—”

Just as suddenly, Max’s shoulders hold an extra weight on them—Magnus’ hands are grabbing him, as he leans in even closer. His eyes squint at the screen but Max continues: “Anyway, he can do it all. He’s a little goofy guy but that’s nothing because even Gene Kelly danced with him and meanwhile Fred fuckin’ Astaire—”

“Danny Kaye…,” Magnus repeats again. He looks to Max, then to the screen, then back to Max. “I knew it! You look like this guy!”

Stunned in his tracks, Max now finds himself internally panicking. “…No, I don’t.”

Magnus points between Max and the laptop, with a mix of confusion and relief. “Well sure, look, obviously he’s white. But also, yes, you do, right down to—are you blushing?”

Max stammers loudly as he turns away and rubs his forehead. “Fuck off!”

Sacré dieu, you are—awww,” Magnus coos, patting Max’s head, “does little Arizmendi have a crush on him?”

Max pushes Magnus’ hand away, before appearing confused. “Did you just sacre bleu me?”

An index finger is raised in correction. “Dieu, not bleu—and don’t change the subject! You like some old fart who’s—who’s doing a…what is he doing with Lamb Chop?”

Now the sheep puppet was flirting with Kaye, who kept up with her antics. She was coy, wriggling around and asking him to stop because— “She’s ticklish. They’re just goofing around.”

Magnus doesn’t look impressed. “Uh-huh. Tickling, huh? More like someone trying to get something past the censors—”

“Oh, shut the fuck up already!” Max yells, having had enough of this. “Can’t even accept something as innocent—” He keeps muttering under his breath while he slams the monitor down hard. He shoves the Medalla into Magnus’ chest and skulks to the small couch near the window. Max pops open his own bottle harshly and swings it back, chugging it down. The liquid sounds out when he stops and groans, exasperated. He stretches his legs out as he droops down on the couch.

For his part, Magnus stays quiet. He’s been staring at Max, appearing smaller from an angle. His eyes fall on his own bottle, as he opens it up more carefully than Max did. But the carbonation spills from the top, due to Max’s angry shove. Magnus does a good effort at containing it but a lot of it meets the floor. “Hell and damnation…” he grumbles, patting his jacket for a handkerchief.

“Leave it, I’ll clean it later.”

Magnus glances at a now resigned looking Max. “Later will make the rug smell. I can clean it up, it’s fine—”

“Seriously, Magnus, please. Leave it.”

Magnus stops, holding up his hand in defense. He shakes his hands to get rid of remnant drops and takes a quick swig of Medalla. He coughs a little afterwards. He takes a look around the living room: messy (not surprising) but more than usual, with more of a Christmas theme to this. The small tree’s presence shines by its pathetic looking state. Lots of gift paper around…Looks like a tornado came through the kitchen. Magnus heaves a sigh while he walks over to the couch and sits to the right of the other man. He groans on impact, as if he’d been walking all day and night. 

He inhales another deep breath, which comes out guttural. “I wish you’d understand when I’m not in the mood for sex, Magnus.”

Magnus looks confused. Max gestures: “Well, why else would you be here late at night? Checkers?”

“You never know! Maybe!” Magnus sips at his bottle. “I’m a little hurt over your insinuation. At least your crush has a basis—”

Max slams the arm of the couch. “Shut up about my crush already!”

“Whatever,” Magnus says, placing the bottle on the side table. “Anyway, I did come here for a reason. Something very important. To do with you, of course.”

Max leans his head back. His eyes are closed, as his stress levels still vibrate in his heart and head. “I’ll call Aste before you even fucking touch me.”

Magnus chides, impatient: “It’s nothing to do with sex, you pest! Unless you want to give more ammo to those people who think all men like you just want to suck themselves off…”

A pause.

Still with his head leaning back, a confused Max slowly turns like the creature feature from the dead. “The…fuck?”

Magnus ruffles around in his suit jacket before taking out an envelope. Confidently, he holds it out for Max to take. “I do believe there’s something you’ve been wanting for a long time. So I decided to get it for you.” As Max takes the envelope and looks it over, he continues: “I was going to leave it for your birthday, until I realized that this particular gift would be best given sooner rather than later.”

Sooner rather than later? Max stares at Magnus with a questioning face, while Magnus waits eagerly. Max goes back to opening the envelope with caution. The front’s pretty sparse, just his name written in Magnus’ specific cursive style. (Only a doctor would love it.) There’s…two letters inside? No, just a note and a letter. He’s noticed the note is written by Magnus, so he discards it to the side—“Hey!”—because clearly, it’ll be a stupid note.

The letter is weird. There’s an additional note stapled to it. Max skims and gets the impression that there’s money involved?

“Magnus,” Max speaks up at last, “if you’re paying off my loans—”

“Oh, this is better!” chirps Magnus, sliding to the side to almost lay on Max. This reaction worries Max, but he continues. The letterhead comes from some hospital and the…appointment…for…

…No.

No.

No.

“Well?” Magnus pipes up, having rested his elbow on the space behind Max’s head on the couch. He’s leaning on his fingers, awaiting anything from Max, who’s been silent for a long while. 

“Darling?”

The paper in Max’s hands crumples immediately, pushed at Magnus so swiftly and rudely, Magnus falls back on the couch. “Max?” Magnus says after Max gets up, takes another swig of his bottle and points to the door. He looks pissed.

“Get the fuck of my apartment.”

Magnus bobs his head in confusion. “No thank yous, then?”

“Thank you?!” Max cries out, now pointing again at the door more emphatically. “For what? Humiliating me?! No, fuck you, get out—!”

Magnus now looks utterly lost. “Humiliat—Max, you must have grown a weaker tolerance to beer, of all things,” Magnus stands up, following Max’s cue. “If you read such a nice little offer as humiliation—”

I know you, you idiot,” Max strains through gritted teeth. He dispenses with niceties and hits Magnus’ chest with the butt of the beer bottle, each beat an emphasis. “You really expect me to think you did this out of the kindness of your heart? Fuck you! You want—I bet you want me to fucking be your sex slave, or you want—you want to ask for a specific dick or something, don’t you?!”

“First off, ow,” Magnus answers, lips pressed. He looks like a disappointed old man from some camp movie who’s had to listen to some young hipster whine about corporations. “Second, wow, your mind is incredible. I actually didn’t think of having you service me for the rest of your life. What a wonderful idea,” he lilts, giving a very thoughtful and pleased look to the now visibly raging Max. Despite the beehive ready to sting back, Magnus keeps poking at it—in literal form, poking at Max’s shoulders in mock imitation. “Third, you’re the one who wants the operation and you’re the one who’s poor. All I did was accelerate the process. Give you a nice boost before you waste your entire life just trying to get a foot in. By this time next year, you’ll have the body you always wanted!”

When Magnus winks at him, Max’s nostrils flare. “Happy birthday to me. Now fuck off, you’re wasting your time. And your money. Find someone else to pay off.”

For the third time, the very tired host of the evening points to the door. And for the third time, the guest of the evening refuses. Magnus crosses his arms and cocks his head. “Is there something I’m missing, or…?”

“Magnus,” Max sighs, rubbing his forehead. “Once more, with feeling—you, giving money away? Giving money away for an operation that’ll take a year or two at best? If I’m lucky? For my transition? Motherfucker, you are not that nice, or did you forget what the hell happened last week?”

“That was an accident,” Magnus corrects immediately with an all-knowing and gentle tone. “How was I supposed to know that the construction work on that new wing was shoddy? I paid good money to make sure the Francisco Cugat Center for the Arts had a proper new addition—”

“You hate Cugat, you hate his center, you hate his wife,” Max lists off on his fingers, “and you purposefully hired people off the internet whose credentials expired thirty years ago. I guess you made sure that the wing didn’t hurt anyone, when it crumbled right at the moment the opening ribbon got cut—by fucking asking for it to be built so it fell on his fucking restaurant instead.

“Empty restaurant,” Magnus says. “Nobody got hurt.”

Max semi-pinches his hands and waves at the other man in frustration. “Because you let a bunch of rats loose!”

“That actually wasn’t me! I would have used cockroaches.

Max slaps his palm on his face. Drags it down while groaning. He raises his hands to go and choke him by the neck, until he shakes his hands out of frustration and holds them up in defeat.

“Hey, I’m not the only one who hates Cugat’s guts,” Magnus huffs, grabbing the bottle from the side table and taking a good swig from it. He sounds out a breath after not pausing from drinking. “And I’m not the only one who wants you happy. I’m paying for anything related to your two surgeries because you’ll be happy. And you know, we’re friends, aren’t we? It’s nice to help your friends…”

The death glare hasn’t gone away, and neither has the sudden exhaustion from the past few minutes. “You’ll never accept no, won’t you? Get it through your thick head: I’d rather—I’d rather detransition than take money from you.”

Not taking his eyes off Max, Magnus sips again and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. Max is a little unnerved now, given Magnus’ intense staring. Did he really hurt his ego that much? But Magnus places the bottle back on the side table and digs in his jacket pocket for…another envelope?

“If you won’t accept that gift, then have this.”

Max’s eyes switch between Magnus and the envelope. He can see his own name again written on the front. But based on the expression on Magnus’ face—Max takes the envelope cautiously. He sees Magnus take out his cigarette case before he goes back to the envelope to open it and focus on the contents inside. No note, and yet another letter. Great. Maybe this one is for the psych…ward…

Suddenly cigarette smoke fills the room, the pungent smell contributing to the tension between the two of them. The smell invades Max’s nostrils, hair, his clothes. Max finishes the letter and goes to read the other letter. It’s not really a letter so much as a printed out version of a birth certificate, filled out like a draft. The paper scrunches in his hands, under his fingers. He takes a deep breath that comes out so shaky, it’s as if he’d lose his balance. He brings the paper to his face, closing his eyes because all of this is so ridiculous and insulting. Genuinely insulting, and…and…

“Don’t want that either? Then can I have it back, so I can pass it off to my secretary? He’s more desperate than you, needs it for his sister.”

Max steps away abruptly. He hasn’t lowered the paper, using the sheet as protection. Another deep breath that holds back an emotion he refuses to allow out in the wild—especially in front of this bastard.

“H—” Max croaks, clearing his throat harshly. “How the fuck did you…”

The smoke reaches him again. More than once, so Magnus must be having fun. “I wish I could take credit but—wasn’t me. Astemar noticed.” Magnus, as if he knows the next question, walks quickly to Max and wraps his arm around the other’s shoulders. “It’s not what you think. She doesn’t think you need a baby because. You know,” he says, gesturing with his hand down and up Max’s body. “She thought I knew about it already and asked me. She saw pamphlets about pregnancy, uh, somewhere. A folder at your shop, who the hell remembers. I had no idea what she was talking about, but I pretended to know, of course.”

Max still sounds hoarse, guarded: “…Why did she think it was for me?”

“Hell if I know,” Magnus answers as he takes another puff from his cigar. Smoke trails out his nose. “I told her to ask you, but no,” he drawls, “she said I was the better choice to go and ask you more about it. Naturally—I didn’t bother.”

Max scowls upon seeing Magnus’ wide smile. Magnus continues: “She really was a little worried. Must be that mother’s instinct. That doctor’s the best of the best, by the way,” he points out, tapping the letter. “She’s like you too.”

Max is quiet but decipherable. “…Trans?”

“No, an apache helicopter,” Magnus chuckles snidely, though Max’s groan gladdens him. (On account of the stupid phrase and the asshole’s misremembering it, to boot.) “Yes, you silly boy.”

Max stays silent. He steps to the side, walks away from Magnus until he reaches the door to his bedroom. He rubs his forehead until it starts to sting. The paper remains in his hands, as he doesn’t loosen his iron grip on it.

Magnus being Magnus, he follows behind. The floor creaks, signaling each of his steps. Max doesn’t turn to look at him, simply stays standing in front of his door. He expected everything, anything, even a gift that would have ended up as a sex tape, from Magnus. Instead he got offered a free lifeline and a fucking goddamn free pregnancy care ride on the same night. Who the hell does that?

“I’m a man, Magnus. I can’t have children.”

Magnus quirks a brow: “You know, that’s very odd to hear from someone like you—”

“Motherfucker, really?!” screams Max on a sharp turn toward Magnus.

“C’mon, there’s been men like you who’ve had kids.” A beat, scratching his chin. “I think. And plenty of normal—”

“—Normal?!—”

“—people don’t want kids either. Hell, I don’t want any! You know that!”

Max stutters. Magnus is giving him incredible amounts of brain damage. If this were a proper slapstick comedy, little sparks would come out of Max’s ears and eyes. “Why the fuck are you offering yourself then?! Unless there’s some other Magnus fucking Power—” 

He shoves the form in Magnus’ face, who steps back so as to not get hit by accident. Magnus doesn’t need to see it, since he already knows what it says. He filled it out, after all. “Well, better the devil you know, n’est-ce pas?”

“The devil’s not what I’d call you. Not in a million years.”

“Then what am I?”

“An asshole, granpa.”

Magnus sneers, his mouth curling into a similar state. “That joke died on impact, you know.”

Max’s mouth curls into a mocking grin: “Here’s a better joke: what the fuck does Astemar think?”

Nothing. No cute backtalk, no improvised seduction. Magnus doesn’t really answer visually either, his face expressionless. A stoic man out of the blue, as he places his hands in his pockets. Just stares and stares at Max, who knows what this sudden quiet scene means.

“Yeah. Exactly.” Max rubs at his forehead, hands shaking from anxiety. “I fucking knew it. I’m not going to hurt Astemar. You think she’s just gonna accept me carrying your baby? After everything she’s been through?”

No answer, yet.

“Well?!”

Magnus looks up, as if he were to roll his eyes. He purses his lips, then takes a drag and puffs out circles, slow and steady. “She will. She loves me, after all. More than she loves you, naturally, but she does.”

Magnus,” Max exasperates, “this isn’t an open relationship—”

Steadily, without stuttering or stammering, Magnus smiles. “It is when you’re around.”

Max stares at Magnus incredulously. Always something to throw back at any point, at any statement! He throws his head into his hands out of frustration. The stubborn bastard wasn’t either really…wrong…about the precarious nature of this situation between all three. But it’s only really Magnus who keeps trying to keep it together, for reasons that Astemar or Max himself can only begin to guess about—especially because both parties clearly would rather this be monogamous for one of them in the romantic department, less so in the sexual department.

Besides that sensitive thread of their lives, Max remembers the elephant in the room. He lifts his head out of his hands. His eyes, he only hopes Magnus sees in them the reality of the situation. Magnus can’t have forgotten. He can’t have, can he? He has to remember. He has to. 

Max steps closer, hands waving close to Magnus’ shoulders. Both men haven’t broken their sights from each other. “I can’t—Magnus, what about Morgan?”

Magnus bites ever so slightly down on his cigarette. “Morgan?…”

“What will happen to her? I don’t…I don’t want…”

“Now why are we worrying about the dead, Arizmendi?”

Magnus takes his cigarette and blows smoke out the side of his mouth. Max swallows hard. Magnus is callous, sure, and he’s looking more bored by the second. But for everything related to Morgan, he—Magnus had—

“Magnus. She’s—”

“—Just a dead fetus—”

She’s your daughter, you fucking piece of shit!

The walls vibrate from the tension in Max’s shout. Even Magnus himself is taken aback, actually taking a step back.

Max balls his hands into fists, attempts to hold back any more rage. He furrows his brows, voice shaky and uncertain. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

Magnus holds his tongue and brings his cigar to his lips. His eyes look up to the ceiling and Max swears, he swears, that Magnus is actually…not ashamed. He’s not even feigning looking guilty.

Magnus sighs out the smoke. “Or so you and Astemar think. I’ll remind you, it didn’t even get to be properly human.” Magnus gestures by waving his fingers around. “Didn’t even have itty bitty legs and hands yet. It was barely a fetus when Astemar—whoof!”

A fist to his face and a leg to his stomach—Magnus truly didn’t expect tonight to be such a violent night. He’s trying to balance himself and get a picture of his surroundings as he falls to the floor with wheezing, deep coughs.

Meanwhile Max is breathing shallowly, wanting to keep whaling on the pathetic-looking man below him. He decides instead to push Magnus against the wall with his foot, which prompts Magnus to cough harshly. He even waves a hand in surrender. Max would have none of that, but fine. He won’t be violent anymore. The rage building in him comes from a philosophical disagreement, one born of a mutual inability to open oneself to another’s view.

He darts out of the room, but then finds his leg stopped in place. When he turns, Magnus is holding him back.

“Let go, Power.”

Detached, angry, bitter, even if temporarily. The sight of Magnus wheezing doesn’t evoke empathy either.

Magnus coughs, his own voice weak but clear. “Don’t you… don’t you call her…”

Bending halfway down, Max says flatly: “Let me go or I’ll hit you again. Make sure your balls get so fucked, you’ll have to apply for the tranny wagon like the rest of us.”

Magnus grips Max’s leg tighter, coughing. He’s pulling, almost using Max’s leg as support to try to get up. “Why are you…” he strains before clearing his throat. “Why are you so vulgar?”

“Oh I’m sorry,” Max mocks, “did your poor fag-lite ears needed a warning?”

“Dammit, Arizmendi! What’s–what’s wrong with you? You’re acting like I killed your entire fam–” Magnus coughs out violently. His grip isn’t strong enough anymore, as he keeps wheezing out coughs. He gives up the metaphorical ghost, releasing Max, who shoves his leg out of the way. Magnus moans on impact as he tries to rest on his arms.

Max walks over to the phone on the kitchen counter with a fury in his step. He knows this is a sensitive topic for Astemar, so he won’t use his cellphone. Assuage her paranoia beforehand of lines recorded, of a possible leak, of hidden spyware. He still has a landline, to most people’s surprise, and it’s for occasions like this he’s thankful he’s never listened to other people when it comes to updating for update’s sake. The phone’s a rotary dial too, too retro for retro lovers. He calls her number, rotating the dial for each number. The ringing is loud, enough to help him ignore the pathetic noises behind him: presumably Magnus attempting and failing to get back. Maybe he’ll vomit. Ugh.

The other side gives a click.

“Astemar? Oh, Gundyr,” Max says, shifting his tone subtly. “Yeah, it’s Max, hello. Ye—yes, I’m fine, thank you and you? Oh, you were playing cards? That’s nice.”

The pleasantries are nice but Max really wants to get on with this, so he asks the voice on the other line about Astemar’s whereabouts. Luckily it’s just a case of Astemar having been so concentrated on her next move, she’d blocked the noise out. Gundyr tells Max to wait and a few seconds pass before another voice is on the phone.

“Astemar? Yeah, hi, sorry for interrupting—” He changes his tone again, this time to a more innocent one, albeit tinged with a sort of annoyance that could bubble into hate. He takes his time in asking the question—plays it off as: “—a really weird dream, it’s why I had to call you, sorry.” He chuckles. “Yeah, right? You take a nap and take a wrong turn at Albuquerque. Anyway, it’s a dream where…we were all together. I think we were angels. We’re all dressed pretty fancy, though you were kinda militaristic. Weird, honestly—”

He sets up the fake plot, and he can tell she’s attentive. He has to be careful, easing her into it. “—And there was something that Magnus said and did that…scared me. Man, woke me up.—Right? Whatever could have dream Magnus have done?” He lets out a weak laugh. “Well…Aste…The baby. Your baby. He had her in his arms. She looked like…something—and he called her—”

Max pauses after he “snitches.” He hitches his breath, pulls at his hair. Slumps ever so slightly before acting as if nothing has fazed him, nodding and humming in agreement.

“Yeah…guess I was psychic, huh?”

He rubs his forehead. “What? No, no, I’m okay. Like I said, it was a dream. At least all that’s bad about Magnus is his stupidity, right? Yeah. Hmm-mm. Look, I’m sorry if—I’ll make it up to you—no, Astemar, I—look, are you sure you’re okay? Uh-huh. No lying?”

A few more seconds pass before he lamely laughs. He nods in agreement over something. “Alright then. I’ll see you later, Aste. I love you.”

That slips out his lips before he realizes he’s said it. But he doesn’t bother to retract or feel shame. Not over something that was genuine anyway. But it was something that shouldn’t have been said in the presence of others. They wouldn’t understand why they loved each other differently. 

As he puts the phone back onto its hook, he knows he’s given ammo to the one person who can’t have it. As he looks back behind him, Magnus Power is clutching his sides, resting against the door frame.

“…I warned you,” Magnus says weakly, an equally weak and small smile adorned on his face. A bruise has formed between his cheek and eyes. “She already knew, darling.”

Max just stares and stares, shell-shocked.

“You’re both the same,” Magnus continues. He groans, clutching his sides a little tighter. He closes his eyes and winces when he starts to walk wobbly, and opens his eyes to meet Max’s darkened eyes. “You both have a ridiculous notion that the child is alive the second it’s conceived…and then heartbeats at three months.” He snorts. “Give me a break. It’s the brain that’s proof of life. Before that, it’s just a miserable fetus. Can’t deserve to be called a son or daughter…or whatever term people use to avoid those two.”

Max remains silent. He goes and rubs his forehead, almost hard enough that he scratches skin. His free hand shakes. His eyes cast down, and he doesn’t move, not even when Magnus is standing close to him.

“Max.”

Now both Max’s hands are shaking.

“Max, it’s fine.”

“Why does she love you?” a quivering Max finally spits out. “Always you’re so shitty, and always she just—she just—-” He bites his lips because he sounds so weak and light, like crying softly. “How can she…how can she be okay with you like that? She’s not—she’s not you.”

Magnus chuckles weakly. He winces from the action, hurts a bit. As he touches the bruise on his face, he says: “Because love is blind? Believe me, I know how that goes. Beautiful and pure, isn’t it?” His voice grows weaker as if he said it to soften his own ego. “And I…I mean…”

Max shakes his head in disbelief. He was there at the child’s “birth” after all, as Astemar’s “date” at some high society event. Astemar wouldn’t have gone but she was invited, and she had already said yes months before in a different mood. Some of her friends were there, too. Made for an interesting sight of proper fancy losers and colorful outsiders. 

Magnus was there too, coming out of nowhere when Max and Astemar were in their own little world. Magnus talked the talk and walked the walk, and also looked drunk as shit or stoned as shit. (Little did Max know both were the case, somewhat.) It was the first time Max met Magnus, by complete coincidence at that. But Astemar acted chilly towards Magnus, an odd stance. She was always welcoming to anyone, even strangers, and yet here she was, practically dousing Magnus with bile. And Magnus even liked it? Honestly, that scene should have been a clue in hindsight of how absurd they are. Point was, they weren’t together at the time, and Astemar had never mentioned him before. Something had happened between them, that much Max sussed out.

Eventually Astemar excused herself to go to the bathroom. In the meantime, Magnus kept talking to Max: very professional, very business, very rich dumbfuck. Pointed questions too, for sure, especially about what Max was to Astemar and what Astemar was to Max. Max didn’t bother hiding his emotions and Magnus seemed to welcome them. After all, the accusation was crystal clear, and Max knew there was nothing there. He also wished he could get blackout drunk just to get away from this conversation.

Then—a deathly scream sounded out from the direction of the bathroom. He’d never heard a wail of such an octavel before, not even in the most horror of horror movies. Astemar’s friends reached the bathroom before he did, but he managed to get inside the bathroom first. He received judging stares from her friends, who only stayed out because Astemar told them so. Max didn’t hear if the same applied to him, but he wanted to check on her. His first glance was Astemar hanging onto the stall door, wobbly and babbling. Then the second glance: a little thing, all bloody and floating in the toilet. Only barely saved because Max was knocked out of his trance quick enough to pay attention to Astemar’s babbling.

Whenever he reflects back on this moment, he wonders whether it was adrenaline, his personality or survival of his childhood that allowed him to not puke, to not balk or even panic further at the whole thing. To look at the little creature and follow orders, tuck it—her, him—inside his suit jacket, hide the bundle inside the tank cover—he could come back for it later once everything was said and done. Her friends didn’t look for it, nor did they seem to know what transpired. At least, Max couldn’t tell.

The rest of the night is a blur whenever he dives into those memories. He considers it somewhat bittersweetly useful to still be able to remember the beginning. If there’s something that Max still also remembers among the chaos, it’s how demure Magnus became. Astemar’s friends didn’t shoo him away, letting him stay by her side. He was the one who called the ambulance too, and waited until Astemar came out strapped on the stretcher for the hospital. He tried to stay by her side while she drifted in and out of consciousness, until held back from following her into the ambulance. He wasn’t family, after all. He kept his sight rock steady on the vehicle until it turned the corner.

Max remembered about costs and commented about it, further being surprised along with Astemar’s friends when Magnus said he covered it all. Not like Astemar couldn’t afford it either, but Max had reached the limit of that day’s interactions with either one of them. He didn’t know as much as he did now, including the real nature of those two idiots.

If a silver lining could be found, it was that there wasn’t enough blood spilled to make people ask questions.

Magnus coughs harshly, groaning in pain. He leans against the kitchen counter, leaning forward to rest on his arm. He inhales deeply, a small whimper released before he clears his throat. Then a hand comes over his back, leads down to his arm. Magnus slowly turns when he’s tugged for attention.

“Max?”

The whimpering, pathetic voice doesn’t do much to Max.  He’s still angry at Magnus, immensely. But the sight of a limping man like Magnus certainly does make him extremely happy, so there’s that. He shouldn’t feel happier still when Magnus grabs him for support, like an old man terribly dependent on a caretaker who needs to leave. But he does, and he holds on equally tight as he leads the both of them to the couch.

“Stay here,” Max commands once the other man is settled in. Looking for the first aid kit isn’t hard, he keeps it in the cabinet under the kitchen counter. By the time he comes back, Magnus has already unbuttoned his shirt with vain purpose.

“Be gentle, darling.”

Max doesn’t respond to that. He chooses to concentrate on sitting down, riffling through the kit to see what helps in lessening the pain of two bruises. He goes to check around the center left of Magnus’ stomach, opening the shirt more. It doesn’t look too terrible on the outside, just a small reddish-purple bruise.

“Just so you know,” Magnus says, hoarse whispers more than steady speech, “I am still able to get you pregnant tonight.”

Max’s eyes go up, stern and hardened. “So you didn’t come over for checkers, like I said.”

Magnus laughs, though he stops and whines, holding at his stomach. “Honestly, I thought you’d be happier about the surgeries. I had the preggo thing as a backup.”

“You gave me two ‘gifts’, Magnus.” Max’s eyes turn away, quoting with his fingers. “Did you want me to grovel at your feet?”

“Oh, that would have been lovely,” Magnus titters. “I should have worn boots. Joking aside, I meant them. I meant every word, every offer. You can even choose both, I have the money.”

Max snorts. “So in the end you still lied about why you came here tonight.”

“Come now, only if you squint.”

A beat.

“Well. The part about not coming here for sex was a lie. How else do you make babies…?”

Max scoffs with a laugh, ruffling at his hair before brushing it back in place. He takes out a cotton ball and wets it with alcohol. He has to clean the areas, make sure no skin oil or sweat interferes. He gently pokes at the left side of Magnus’ face, who winces. “You’re such a sex addict. And a goddamn old man. Who the fuck says nowadays sex is the only way you can have babies?”

“But it’s the fun way!” Magnus chirps, wincing again from the effort. “Who wouldn’t want to do it that way? You mean to tell me that you never gave a thought to that?”

Max cleans up the facial bruise some more. He puts the cotton ball down, puts a finger on Magnus’ cheek to better determine what to do next.

“How do you say moron in Spanish again?”

“Morón,” Magnus answers accented, monotonously.

“Hmm, nah. Astemar says it better. Pretend I said it like she does.”

“Hardee-har-har,” Magnus mockingly says, frowning. “Who’s the real moron? Me or the guy who wants a kid but hasn’t realized the important bit about that?”

Max cocks his head, stares directly. “Asking a random sperm donor and injecting the embryo in me? With no sex involved? Yeah, that’s the best part.” He smirks once Magnus sends him daggers through his eyes. “Besides, I thought of adoption first.”

“Pretty sure you’d get one in twenty years then. A lot of factors against you.”

“I don’t know,” Max says, tapping at the other man’s cheek bone. For a second, he brushes away the random hair strands tenderly. Pulling the hand away to riffle through the kit as another distraction, he sighs. “I’d have to travel a lot, but there are places that let someone like me adopt. Wouldn’t get a baby, maybe, but at least I’d be lucky to have a choice.”

Magnus shuffles in his position, frowning. “Seems useless to not have been there since the beginning. Better to get a baby.”

“Hmm.” That’s the only thing Max says. Really, it’s a pause only to think of the actual argument that destroys that sentiment while he brings out more cotton balls for Magnus’ stomach this time. Once texture meets skin and there’s another small whine, Max brings up the elephant in the room: “Why are you with Astemar then? You don’t want kids. Why shack up with a mother and her three kids?”

Magnus’ brows twitch. “Love is blind.”

Max rolls his eyes. “Incredible, stunning.”

Magnus closes his eyes when he flinches. Max is pressing against a particular part of the bruise, where blood’s clotted enough to be darker than the rest of the area.

“I said be gentle,” Magnus scolds.

“Or what?”

“Or I fuck you silly against the wall right now,” Magnus hisses, right at a particular hard press against the bruise. The cotton ball leaves his skin, and he takes a deep breath in and out.

“Think you’ll get fucked over first before that,” Max chortles darkly. He spreads some aloe vera gel on a piece of gauze, folds it in two so the gel’s better placed on both sides, and then places it on Magnus’ stomach. Max asks him to hold it for a second, before getting the medical tape and taping the gauze onto the stomach.

“And my face?” Magnus softly asks.

“In a second,” Max responds. That part only gets a small band-aid, still with a little bit of gel as well. He’s softer with this, his finger spreading the band-aid from one end to the other and tapping the area again. He stays staring at it and gets distracted when the other man grabs him tenderly by the wrist.

“And my lips?” Magnus asks with a degree of sincerity, despite his customary sly smirk. 

And for a small window of time, Max allows him into his head. He allows him into his space—he’s much too tired to fight again, and he’s much too resigned to question anymore.

“Fuck it, why not,” he mutters. 

Before he even closes the first aid kit, he’s pulled forward. Magnus’ hand trails up to Max’s nape, with the other one around his waist. He gropes at Max with all the joy in the world. He cups Max’s cheeks, before he tugs at his sweater and lifts it up to peek at his stomach. The body heat is welcome to Magnus’ hands. Max’s heart beats so fast, too fast, at this touch and he has to clear his throat when Magnus’s knee then teases at his crotch. Max doesn’t hold back, for he twists his hips and moans lightly. He curses internally when Magnus’ hands leave his stomach, but delights in the continual rubbing down below.

“Give me your lips, handsome boy,” Magnus orders with a low, dark tone. His lips nip at Max’s but Max breaks away and he hides in Magnus’ neck. He kisses Magnus’ cheek a few times, holding him by his jaw. He wraps his arms around him and simply rides Magnus’ hand for a while. He feels the cool air meet his back when Magnus lifts his sweater up again, shivering when Magnus teases his bare skin.

“Don’t,” Max moans, begging, “don’t stop. You—you can—”

Max forcefully grabs Magnus’ hands and slaps them against Max’s own hips. He hints to Magnus about the next course of action, to which Magnus hums in agreement. Magnus circles the hips, kneading Max’s thighs. “I still want your lips,” he whispers. When he moves ever so slightly to accommodate Max, Magnus winces and curses under his breath. Damn injury.

He’s distracted from the pain by Max, who’s tugging at his suit jacket. After Max takes it off, he gets up and kneels between Magnus’ legs. His own hands trail down Magnus’ bare skin, shoving a part of his shirt away. Max doesn’t give Magnus time to react, as he quickly licks at the non-bruised parts of Magnus’ stomach. He then pulls away and unzips Magnus’ pants. Max’s hands are shaking so nervously, he accidentally grazes a finger on the teeth. He sucks at it but then Magnus pulls it away forcefully and starts to suck on it. Magnus licks at it the way he would a cock, and starts to even suck on two fingers. 

Max’s own breath hitches at this sight. He pulls his fingers away, and Magnus grunts, not very happily. Max is always so impatient whenever they get together like this, as if the world would end tomorrow. Magnus doesn’t mind it, but he so wishes Max would relax. There’s no need to be so rigid, the way Max is now as he keeps unzipping Magnus’ pants, giving no care to the quality of the pants when taking out his dick. Max stares directly at it, shallow breathing in anticipation before he strokes the shaft enthusiastically.

Magnus gasps lightly and rubs Max’s hair. “Ah, well,” Magnus whispers, grunting when Max starts to lick, lick and lick. “Not exactly the kiss I wanted, but—ah—I’ll take it.”

Magnus leans back and closes his eyes. His hand is still on Max’s head, which he leads somewhat. He orders, or rather allows, Max to be a little more aggressive, even suggesting— ”Ah, shit, Max,” he lilts, once Max acts ahead of the suggestion and bites down on the underside of the shaft. Max sucks at the now stinging mark and mimes biting down. He squeezes the cockhead with his fingers, tugging at the foreskin with his teeth.

“T—take that as your payback, darling, ‘nkay?” Magnus says. He has to breathe in and out after Max strokes him hard and fast. Max nips at the visible base of his cock, and then welcomes him into his mouth wholly and fully. Max always tries to test his gag reflex, and this time, he lasts a few more seconds. There’s an extra rush of joy when Magnus throbs inside him, and Max has to sloppily pull away. Max goes in again, moving up and down for some minutes. He holds at the head, humming in happiness around it when Magnus grabs him by his hair tightly.

“You—” Magnus breathes out shakily, “you’re so needy, aren’t you?”

Max makes a loud pop when he stops and pulls away. He’s panting, wanting more oxygen. He leans on Magnus’ thighs for support when he stands up. Magnus flutters his eyes open in a haze. He’s not sure what’s happening now, but he’ll follow Max’s lead; he clearly has an idea of tonight’s session, given the frenzied way he’s unzipping his own pants. Max turns around, reaches out for Magnus from behind, and sits down on the man’s lap with his help.

Magnus’ hands fly all over Max’s body—and Max moans longingly, his head jerking back. He lets go of his inhibitions when his cock is teased and squeezed. But when those same hands trail up his ribs and up to his chest, he pleads, and he grabs Magnus’ hands and places them right back down on his cock. 

Max hears a snicker from behind him, and his body heats up even more when his legs are spread open. He attempts to nuzzle against Magnus’ head when Magnus strokes his cock, slow and purposeful. “Ma—Magnus.” He closes his eyes tightly and his heart beats louder and harder to the point where he knows anyone within five miles can hear it. He hates it, he hates his reactions, the kind that spill out from his mouth. But he wants more of Magnus, so much more than their bodies could give to each other.

“Oh fuck,” he whines, when Magnus starts to finger him. Magnus holds him by his ribs when he moves from the pleasure. “Oh fuck, faster, faster!” he whines even louder, and Magnus follows his command. Max’s juices spill without shame and he squirms when Magnus adds another finger. His tongue is out, gasping for more air. He begs for more of Magnus’ touch, begging for his cock, though he whimpers when Magnus stops instead.

“My good little boy,” Magnus says at a normal volume directly into Max’s ears. He massages Max’s thighs, the panting body on top of him not serving as a distraction but as an aphrodisiac. He kisses Max’s neck, kisses him on his shoulders and his temples. He brushes away Max’s bangs, now that his hair’s disheveled. “You’re so relaxed tonight,” he says, kissing Max’s cheek. “I suppose you made your decision then, hmm?”

Max whimpers as an answer again. He lets go of Magnus, places his hands on Magnus’ knees and grinds against his cock. Magnus’ light gasp serves Max just fine, when Max’s pussy slicks his cock right up. Magnus places his hand on Max’s waist, squeezing gently.

“Take off your sweater for me.”

Immediately, Max follows his command. Magnus touches him then, not waiting for Max to lean back as Magnus kisses his back. He still holds onto Max’s waist when Max shudders, when Max looks for Magnus, his hands wandering all over. Max arches his back when Magnus touches him again, the warmth intoxicating him. Max, almost violently, looks now for Magnus’ lips and they meet each other, loud sloppy noises exchanged. Magnus bites down on Max’s lower lip, fleeting pain overwhelmed by lust.

Max supports himself with his hands by his sides and tries to grind against Magnus again. “Slow, darling, slow. This is our first time going at it like this,” Magnus says, lingering on the last word while his palm strokes Max’s entrance. “Without a condom, that is.”

Something in Max wants to get mad at Magnus over that, especially when he knows the motherfucker’s wearing an absolute smirk too. Maybe he will later, after he’s filled up nice and good, when his pussy’s twitching from the amount of load Magnus will shoot into him. That’s all he’s thinking about now, even if regret will set in later. Even if—if this baby shit doesn’t work out.

He moans lightly again when hands fondle his breasts. He’s been dying to be touched like this. It’s not fair that it’s only been Magnus who touches him the way he wants, who touches him like a fragile yet beautiful object. He wants more and more, resting his cheek against Magnus’ head.

Magnus muffles against Max: “Yrm gwem byger.

“Hurry,” Max moans again, softly this time. The hands around his breasts are squeezing harder, which only causes him to squirm. “Hurry up and fuck me, Magnus.”

Magnus now is clearer: “Okay, okay but like, why are you bigger?”

“Wh-what?” Max opens his eyes in a flash, twists his body to look at Magnus who’s blinking his eyes and furrowing his brow. Max squeaks and blinks when his breast is squeezed again.

“I mean, you were always…squishy,” —squishy?!— “but you weren’t in the big honkers aisle.”

…What a terrible state to be in: so close to the heavy fucking stage, practically naked, and to now be so close to the heavy fucking murderer stage, because life would certainly be easier without someone like Magnus.

“Then again, you were always bigger than Astemar, and it has been a while since we—”

Go fuck yourself!” cries out Max, voice cracking. He pushes Magnus away. He’s forgotten his pants were around his ankles, so he stumbles over himself when he stands up. He falls close to the couch however, managing to balance himself to stand up properly, lift his pants up. He probably should have gone to the bathroom first, but he’s too pissed off to take any extra time for clean-up.

Meanwhile, Magnus hisses from the sudden shock of abrupt movement, clutching his stomach again. “Goddamn—” groans Magnus, sweating and glaring at a now-standing Max. “If you’re pissed over silly compliments on your chest, I got some bad news about you when you’re pregnant.”

He’s holding it back, he really tries—but Max can’t stop sounding like he’s about to break down. “Compliment?! Nobody gave a shit about it! And—and, god,” he yells out, brushing his hair back, hands shaking, “there’s a huge difference between being prepared to look at myself in the mirror and get depressed for nine months, and having to withstand the dumbest comments ever uttered by someone like you.”

Max rubs his eyes, sniffling. He inhales deeply and holds it in for a few seconds. Then he exhales through his mouth, as if he were whistling.

“Max,” says Magnus after some awkward silence. “Look, we’ll just switch to the condoms, alright?”

The awkwardness grows, especially when Max turns to Magnus, gobsmacked. He laughs briefly after a few seconds, crossing his arms and covering his face. 

“Well, look it was either that or I say sorry for the comments,” Magnus says, holding his hand out to emphasize the point. “And I am absolutely not apologizing for saying what I said. You have memorable tits—”

Magnus spooks from Max’s loud and boisterous laughter, more so when Max gets into his face for the theatricality of it. There’s a rhythm to the laughter, which slowly dissipates. Max walks from one side to the other in front of the couch. He hasn’t relaxed his arms either, huddling into himself before his head jerks sideways to stare at the other man. He takes a breath, huffy and shaky. Max looks elsewhere, anywhere. 

After a thought, he comes back to Magnus: “Do you really want me to have the operation? Both top and bottom?”

Magnus fixes his shirt. He looks down at his poor blue-balled cock, half mast. Unfortunately it’ll have to be dealt with later, as he tucks it back in and zips up his pants. Still, he poses like a king. “What a silly question. It’s your body. Whatever makes you happy.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“Yes, it is, and it’s the only one you’re getting,” Magnus says matter-of-factly. “Because, see, were it up to me, I’d just feed you steroids. I like it when mes amours are big and tough enough to kill me.”

Max remains staring, before he chuckles and shakes his head. “Your ahmer is gonna kill you, that’s for sure.”

Amour,” Magnus corrects. “It’s not that hard. I also said—”

“Whatever,” Max says. Turning away to start cleaning up, Max thinks about the morning after. With the beer bottles in his arm, he thinks about having to account for two morning coffees and having to clean the mugs. With Magnus’ suit jacket in his other hand, which he drops on the seat, he thinks about having to do laundry. Bare minimum, he’ll have to use some Febreze on Magnus’ clothes so they don’t fucking stink to high heaven. With his own sweater in hand, he thinks about…

“Magnus, were you planning on staying here?”

His eyes steady themselves on Magnus, who’s now looking like a kid caught stealing his parents’ credit card. He looks for something in the air and in the apartment and in Max himself. 

“Does she know?”

Magnus doesn’t answer. But he purses his lips, his eyes darting around.

“Then fucking text her or something,” Max says, flicking at Magnus’ forehead. “Please. For once, just don’t assume her feelings.”

Max goes to the kitchen, walks over to the sink and empties the remnants. He thinks about the amount of food available in the fridge and cabinets. He doesn’t have extra food for guests, so what gets to be rationed? Guess he could always heat up some eggs, make that sweet potato mash he’s been wanting to make. That’d speed up the damned two weeks left of that, but maybe he can cajole Magnus into guilt shopping and spend a year’s worth of money from Magnus’ vast pockets.

Max snorts to himself. Sure. Just do that.

Meanwhile Magnus stays seated. He rubs his bruise lightly, clasps his hands between his legs. He looks over to Max’s location and thinks a lot. This should have been an easy situation. Go forth and modify, or go forth and multiply. Hmph. He’s losing his grip, he tells himself, if he’s thinking about bible verses now.

Magnus waits a while before getting up slowly. It’s not that he actually planned to stay here—but if he and Max slept together, it would have been obvious, wouldn’t it? And it’s not like Astemar doesn’t know he’s here. She told him to ask him questions about the whole pregnancy situation. That makes it a given. She’s smart, she will have figured out why he had to do it at this hour. She can connect the dots and understand him. 

Magnus keeps telling himself that as he grows a little nervous, taking out his phone from his suit pocket. He hasn’t noticed he’s stopped breathing for a bit as he looks for their personal chat. The last message was only two hours ago, unread until now. It was a reminder to not anger Max and get injured as a result. She would not be exercising pity on Magnus, were that to happen, punctuated by a smiley face and two hands in a praying pose.

How the hell does she do that?

From the kitchen, Max hears the taps of the keyboard and looks up. Magnus looks like he’s trying to tell his mother he got an F on a report card and is preparing to die in the aftermath. Wonderful, thinks Max. Maybe Astemar will come by and pick him up like a little grounded kid. 

Max sets out the plate on the counter. He then sets out the mugs and the few ingredients he’ll need for breakfast that won’t get ruined overnight. He wonders about Astemar’s reaction. He knows Magnus will lie, because he always lies. So what will she do when he realizes his true intentions? What will she do to Max? He doesn’t assume he’ll be safe. Not when…

Max never said anything about the baby after the night of her “birth.” He retrieved the bundle and later visited Astemar at the hospital. After he gave it to her, she clutched onto it like a child whose last toy remained in her hands, held it close like a mother whose first child laid in her hands. Max had never seen her like that before. Then nothing else spoken between them for the rest of the day, the month—the rest of their lives, it seemed like, given Astemar’s insistence on never talking about it again as well as her insistence on never mentioning a word about it to Magnus.

Then out of the blue, Magnus invited him to go up the mountain. Mountain hiking wasn’t an activity Max associated with someone like Magnus, unless it was to impress someone enough to sleep with him. But no, no hiking. Instead, they both walked up along a path that ended at an old tree. At the end of its trunk was a small grave. Max tried to feign ignorance for the sake of his friend. But as it turns out, Astemar told Magnus everything. 

Someday Max will ask why. At least it was her decision, not his mistake. The visit to the grave happened to be the only time, as far as Max knew, that Magnus seemed happy to talk about Morgan, a name chosen by Astemar without consultation. Also happened to be the last time he talked about her…until tonight, Max supposes. 

Annnnd sent,” Magnus says aloud, knocking Max out of his deep thoughts. 

Max turns, a washcloth in his hands. “Is it actually sent or loading?”

Magnus narrows his eyes, displeased. “Funny man. It’s sent. Your internet isn’t that crappy.”

“Well, I’m glad something’s to your taste,” Max snaps back, turning back to do one more clean sweep of the counter before placing the washcloth back onto a makeshift rack. He takes another cloth to wipe his naked chest off in case something got on him. “I’ll get you something for the couch, hold on.”

“Couch?” Magnus steps carefully, leaving his suit jacket back on the seat. “But you have a nice bed!”

Without missing a beat as he searches in the hamper near the bathroom: “Yup, and you’re not sleeping on it.”

“Why?!”

Damn, he didn’t count on Magnus sounding that shrill. Max is too tired to argue anymore. “I don’t know, man,” he whines, slapping his hands against the side of his legs. “Because you’re an asshole?”

Magnus sneers. “Going to have to do better than that.”

“Look, you killed the mood tonight, so you—” and here Max shoves some blankets in Magnus’ hands and points to the couch “—get to sleep here on the shitty couch now. I get to sleep in comfortland. My apartment, my rules. Now fuckin’ good night.”

Max runs his fingers through his hair as he makes his way to his bedroom. He turns off all the switches on the way, except the living room. He doesn’t look back, not until he reaches the door and Magnus calls for his attention.

Max turns back with a very tired expression, a dash of lack of patience for good due. “What?”

“You never answered my question.” Magnus unfolds one of the blankets, now appearing to be as tired as Max. “Unless you’re fucking with me—last I checked, your chest isn’t supposed to grow on testosterone.”

Yet again, without missing a beat as his hand starts to turn the knob: “Who said I was still on that?”

Magnus’s eyes widen.

“Good night, Magnus. See you in the morning.”

=+=

One moment, black. The next, brightness. The colors in the room shift between low and high saturation the more Max opens his eyes. He’s not a heavy sleeper, so he wakes up quickly. He’s almost allergic to sleep; the kind of person who only goes to bed once he’s completely exhausted. The heavy mass close to him is what pauses Max’s usual routine. The panic disappears once he remembers last night. 

Then he groans and turns his head to the other side. He doesn’t know when the fuck Magnus came into his room. Max has to have been especially tired to not have even noticed the fucking bed creaking. But there he is: sleeping on his back while Max sleeps on his stomach. He’s nestled in really nicely with the blankets on top, the dumbass.

Cars and buses honking outside, loud people yelling over each other or at each other through the windows—and that’s before the kids powerful enough to giggle super loud join the cacophony, with the chirping birds who are still capable of flying normally in a world like this. Both he and Magnus are alive, so Astemar definitely didn’t mind this sleepover—assuming Magnus told the truth, that is.

Max’s eyes look all over before he looks over to Magnus. He stares, and he stares, and he stares. Magnus snores and snorts once in a while, mostly snoring. Max almost wants to laugh because goddamn, Magnus and Astemar really are the same. The first time all three of them did the…thing…together…Max was the first time to wake up. Little did he know he’d have a snoring duet going on both sides of him.

Magnus stirs in his sleep. Nobody will ever know how Max truly feels about Astemar’s lucky life, about how he curses her because she gets to wake up to this. Max wants that. Max wants the comfort of this hearth over and over. Max wants to wake up and feel like punching this very silly man before waking him up for the day. Go into the bathroom together to shave. Argue about the poor people’s version of whatever dumbfuck useless shaving cream and aftershave Magnus uses. Probably slap something. Probably have to fight over eating breakfast that’s been planned out versus a useless five star breakfast at some hotel or restaurant. Then Max will make sure to order a day’s worth just so he can ration the leftovers. Then Magnus will do something stupid like pay off the bills for the rest of the week. Be nice when it no longer matters.

Max shuffles closer, adjusting the blankets around them. Magnus stirs to the point where he lifts his arm and places it above his head. He moans, yawns shortly after. He lowers his arm again and turns his head in Max’s direction. Vibrations against wood sound out and Max gets distracted enough to check the source. Without moving much from his own comfy position, he takes the phone and checks the notifications. Lord knows why a specific message pinged now when apparently it was sent two hours ago—but he once again assumes his internet is that bad. That, or Astemar’s friends have back-dated messages again through their own special technology setup because the messages are all from Astemar and they’re all really weird?

Hello, Max (^ω^) In case you forgot, Magnus is not a morning person, so please get up from the bed really fast when you wake up |・ω・`) I will punish him if it’s too late by the time you read this (ง •̀_•́)ง  Please let me know, thank you.

The fuck does she mean? The fuck does any of this mean? What’s this fucking unicode gibberish? Morning person, yeah, okay, Max’s cogs are wheeling and turning, and—

“Bunrn dernn, mahrhmor.”

Max jumps, phone almost out of his hand. Magnus has just laid on him like a sloth from behind. He yawns again, mumbling. Magnus’ eyes lid heavily and they land on a spooked Max. 

“Uh. Yeah, hi?” Max says, waving nervously. Magnus wobbles and blinks. Then he cuddles up to Max.

“You, uh, you okay there, buddy?” Max side-eyes the phone in his hand. He’s still trying to decipher the rest of Astemar’s message, because yes, yes, he’s forgotten, Magnus is not keen on waking up for the next thousand hours. He always mumbles when you try to wake him up and the only person who can translate isn’t even here!

Magnus nods lazily. His eyes flutter with no chance of success, so he moves Max’s position with a degree of kindness—nuzzles Max’s chest. Max allows this, alert though he is. Magnus nestles in nice and warm under the sheets. “Dyamurh ayudrr parm byeberhm.”

“Oh c’mon,” Max groan-whispers under his breath. Why did Magnus have to be a mumbler? It’s not like he even mumbles in En—oh. Right. He doesn’t mumble in English. Great. Max begs his brain to keep waking up because he really, really needs to know what was the bad part here and god, they really haven’t slept together in a hot minute if Max has already forgotten how the hell all this morning shit works.

As if he read Max’s mind, Magnus grunts in attempts to stay awake: “Tyem curdado.” Curds? Custard? Holy fuck, god, are you just hungry?! Max thinks, while his legs are spread apart suddenly by one of Magnus’ own. 

Magnus’ hands are gentle, tender in the way they touch parts of Max’s body, careful in the way they ready him for careful caresses. He hides in Max’s neck, muttering something unheard against skin. His hands find Max’s chest again when they duck under the tank top. Soft massages followed by soft gasps, tender kneads followed by equally tender tugs at Magnus’ shirt; Max bites his lower lip and doesn’t stop him. He’s finally remembered the ‘bad’ part: fucking piss-for-brains Magnus is sleep-fucking in the morning.

Max doesn’t want this to be loud. He doesn’t want this to look any other way than wanting. He wonders if Magnus would stop if asked, but then he remembers yet again an important detail. He acknowledges that which he’d rather ignore: Astemar never minds it. 

Astemar never minds something like this. Astemar sounded like she enjoyed it on the night of their first threesome. Astemar blushed afterwards from the spectacle rather than the act, because she never minded this. And Max’s trust in Astemar runs deep, and his longing for Magnus runs deeper and when Magnus’ hands leave his chest to slide under his pajama pants, Max’s fears and desires run at a breakneck pace.

“Mag—nus—fuck,” whispers Max once the other man’s fingers are coated already in Max’s juices. Last night’s event is still present in his underwear, his pussy quicker to arouse after a few hours of rest. “Fa-faster, faster—hnn, god, yeah,” he moans long and needy, right when Magnus touches his cock, and yelps in surprised delight, right when Magnus lightly pinches it before stroking it again.

Nobody outside knows what’s happening in this dingy little apartment. The walls may know if Max were any louder, but he’s not, despite his pleas and whispers filling this small space. Magnus’ grunts aren’t any louder either, but they’re buzzing a line into Max’s brain the more they continue. Max’s insides have already been fingered enough that Magnus stops and shoves off Max’s pants aggressively. He stops hiding in Max’s neck to properly settle himself between Max’s legs and unzip his own pants. 

Max already feels like he’s in a drunken haze, but with no drink in him, and with enough sound of mind to look down. He says something that he can’t understand but his brain shifts gears as it did last night: the voice in the back of his head begging to become a filthy cum dumpster for all of Magnus’ needs. Max himself can’t take his eyes off Magnus’ fully stiff cock, panting nervously the more and more it inches closer to his pussy—begging to be sucked by Max (or so Max thinks).

“Magnus—MagnusMagnusMagnus—”

Max’s anxious pleas turn into aroused ones, with his grip on Magnus’ sleeves now iron. Magnus rubs his cock, then just the head, against Max’s entrance and Max hisses. He can’t, he can’t see this, so he closes his eyes tightly—but not before he releases a lustful cry and throws his head back when Magnus enters him with all the care in the world.

“Fuck! Oh fuck fuck fu—uck,” Max screams, biting his lips down to be quieter. He groans shakingly when Magnus drags down Max’s lower half, causing Magnus’ cock to be deeper inside. Feet to the sky now, Max groans even louder, when Magnus starts to thrust. Max embraces the heat, with Magnus’ cock only heightening his desire to be utterly—to be utterly taken? Max won’t dare to think the obvious, that natural need right now. It’ll ruin everything. Shit, he’s never done it raw, even. He’s never had Magnus like this, in a state of unnatural being where Magnus isn’t–can’t–hasn’t, hasn’t asked him to do this.

The pair’s movements cause the headboard to crash against the wall multiple times. The sweat building up between their connected bodies mixes effortlessly. Magnus is in so deep, Max thinks he’ll break if Magnus moves even an inch more. Indeed, he whimpers from pained pleasure when Magnus pumps him a few more times. He pulls his cock out a little so he can lay Max on his side. He then holds Max’s legs down and bends forward, his breath tickling Max’s arms. Magnus fixes his cock back into its temporary wet home and Max can only react ever so loudly, mumbling happy nothings.

Once Magnus starts to move again, he hides in Max’s neck again. “Shove it in—faster, god, please, go faster!” Max begs and begs, feeling his pussy stretched to its limit. Only when a spurt of hot liquid releases within his tunnel do Max’s eyes flash open. He brings his legs close to his chest as he closes his eyes and mewls into Magnus’ embrace. His pussy’s receiving its due before he’s even finished, and yet even the warmth of Magnus’ cum can’t be denied. Max doesn’t want to deny how good it feels, how good it feels for both their merged fluids to drip out of him after Magnus pulls out.

The disappointment follows, naturally. A tad strange given Magnus’ great track record (and Max will be arsed to ever admit that out loud), but all that changes quickly when Magnus’ hand darts to Max’s cock and strokes it as fast as Max wanted it earlier. Max writhes, scratching at skin to get a pulse. His cock’s being played with in all sorts of ways and Max whines again when Magnus stops—and coos absentmindedly when Magnus slips his cock between Max’s legs. Despite being flaccid, Magnus uses his own cock as a toy somewhat, rubbing against Max’s own. 

“Oh—yes—” Max groans. He doesn’t last more than a few minutes before his waves crash against the edge of lust, yelling out broken-up utterances. The vision of white is more than enough, the quaking electricity throughout his body is more than enough, the release of everything is more than enough. So is the lump of mass that faints on him enough too, his warmth enveloping Max like a blanket.

=+=

“Well, that was romantic.”

The shower spritzes out rushing water, before a control of the knob returns it to a more calming waterfall. Max stands alone, half-naked and damp with sweat. He’s already cleaned off the come between his legs after he peed, and anything else that stuck to the bedsheets or his pants, well, that will be dealt with later. Once the fucker known as Magnus Power wakes up, that is. He’s already replied to Astemar’s message, coyly indicating that Magnus is sleeping dead to the world and nothing has happened yet.

In other words, he lied. Very bad move, but that’s for future Max to deal with. 

Can’t be as worse than what may or may not happen in a few months. Not that one fucking session is enough, but accidents have happened after only one time. Certainly the earlier one was, given that Max had…other ideas on how to make a baby, if Magnus really wanted to do it that way.

Oh, that’s all that Max needed: taking last night’s joke of a discussion seriously.

He takes off his tank-top and stretches out his back. Reminded about his current body again, he thinks about what was said last night, about the changes. He didn’t lie: he really has been off his hormones for a while now. Either Astemar and Magnus both think he’s become stupid or they think he’s been too busy to deal with the situation properly. But he’d already given it enough thought to consider undergoing the most drastic change his body will go through. He didn’t lie about the adoption either, or about undergoing the donor insemination process. It just wasn’t Magnus who he had in mind.

The water’s nice and cold when he pulls back the clear shower cover and steps into the shower. He brushes his hair back, wanting the water to hit his skin first. Wash away everything that’s happened. Max spreads his legs out, splashing water at his genital area. He places himself under the shower directly so he can better clean himself. His cock still stings a bit when he touches it and he curses at himself that it’s still so sensitive, he suddenly finds himself with a need to masturbate. Because that’s all he also needed now, to get horny again.

Ding-dong.

“…Are you fuckin’ kidding me?”

He grumbles and gets out of the shower carefully, even after the second and third immediate doorbell ring. Only other person who’s as impatient as Magnus is Mrs. Kaminsky and boy, can Max imagine why she’d get mad. But Max is also pretty pissed off, so guess what’s going to happen?

He’s dried himself enough to not drip on the floor, and covers his lower half with a towel before covering the rest of his body with a bathrobe. Unfortunately by the time he opens the bathroom door—

“Oh, hello there. You must be Mademoiselle Kaminsky, n’est-ce pas?

No. He’s awake?! No no no no, you fool! Max bristles and cautiously inches forward, until he can hide behind the wall. Slower still, he positions his head so he can peek in and out while witnessing this meeting of two stupid minds. Oh joy, he’s also having to witness the sight that is Magnus wearing the only fancy bathrobe Max has—fucker better not have stained it with his shit—while smoking—never mind, that stench isn’t coming out for a long time—flirting—wait, flirting?! Max isn’t interpreting this scene wrong, right? That has to be it. Why else would Mrs. Kaminsky suddenly act like a middle school girl?!

Non, non, you flatter me. My looks pale in comparison to yours, Mademoiselle,” Max hears Magnus say, seeing him hold Mrs. Kaminsky’s chin. “Especially when the light hits you just right.” There’s more girlish giggling, more sudden forgiveness from the old woman. She mentions having to come over due to salacious sounds, and to remind Max of the noise regulations in the apartment complex. 

“Ah, yes,” Magnus concurs, taking a drag of his cigarette. He blows the smoke out the side. “Monsieur Arizmendi had some issues with the wood quality of his bed, so we took some time from our breakfast to fix it. The—colorful language was merely due to stress and the occasional bump to his leg. He’s a work colleague after all, and friends should help friends, shouldn’t they?”

Max’s jaw is on the floor at this rate. Motherfucker, Max hasn’t forgotten what he himself said in bed, to the point of his ears and cheeks burning. How the hell do you convince a persnickety, annoying—wait, she’s believing it?! Gobsmacked, he continues listening to the pair gab and giggle. The more Magnus lays on the honey, the more Max worries he’ll take the old bat inside and fuck her silly! Max might even triple consider calling the cops if that happens! No, wait, better—Astemar!

Oui, oui, je comprends,” Magnus says as a last sentiment, since it seems this comedy show has come to an end. That suits Max just fine, considering the shower’s been running and Mrs. Kaminsky hasn’t asked about the fucking waste of water. Magnus takes the old woman’s hand and gives it the royal kiss. Then she’s off, off on her merry way with a friendly wave! The second Magnus closes the door, he coughs and clears his throat. Max walks up to him, Magnus turning around.

“Why! It’s a poor little wet kitty,” Magnus chirps, taking another drag. He pats Max’s head, easily done due to their height difference. “Good morning, darling.”

Max notices the bruise on Magnus’ cheek is lighter than last night. He’s taken off the band-aid by now too. Guess Mrs. Kaminsky finally went blind—or was blinded—if she didn’t notice that. “Magnus.”

“Yes?” drawls Magnus.

“Have you ever fucked an old lady and if not, could you try to not do it with my neighbor in the future?”

Though they both stare at each other, Max flinches when Magnus barks out a laugh. “If I ever sleep with an older woman, she has to be ten years older than moi, maximum. I don’t like sleeping with grandmothers. But hey, nice lady, that Mrs. Kaminsky.” Magnus walks over to the trash bin, puffing a few more times before he dumps the cigarette. He adjusts his bathrobe, and untangles the knot whilst on his way to the bathroom. “You know she’s been here since the Queen Mother of England’s husband died?”

Duh. She was here when I moved in,” Max says, as he follows Magnus into the bathroom with a perplexed look. “And she also happens to be the number one most-hated person in the whole building. Magnus, you have been the only person to make her smile like that.”

“Don’t sound so agitated, that just means she has good taste,” Magnus teases, changing the shower knob so the water’s more temperate. “Even got you out of a very sticky situation.”

Max starts taking off his own bathrobe. Fine, whatever, it’s obvious what Magnus wants. He’ll concede. But he still raises a brow at Magnus’ comment. “…Magnus,” Max nervously says. “D-do you…do you…”

Max enters the shower and stays waiting for an answer while Magnus hums. He’s looking inside the shelf, acting like he’s buying stuff at a store. With bottles and products in his arms, he drags a small stool to the corner of the shower, and places them carefully. When he finally meets Max face to face, he stretches a little, takes off his bathrobe and carefully folds it to place it inside the rack. The bruise near his stomach has also considerably lightened, with Magnus no longer appearing to wince from the pain.

“C’mon,” Magnus says tenderly. He beckons Max closer to him once he enters. He shouts sharply when the water suddenly changes temperature on him, though. 

“Hey!” he yells, rubbing his arms to warm himself.

Max scoffs. “You bitch, you remember.”

“Of course I do!” Magnus yells again, darting for the shower knob and changing the temperature back. He brushes his hair back and spits out water. “And for the record,” he says, lowering his voice and glinting at Max, “you can just say no, next time. Astemar never does because she loves it.”

The chuckle’s enough to prompt Max to pick up a bottle and wave it with intent to hit Magnus on the head. But Magnus stops him in time: “Oh, so this one? Okay then, turn around.”

Max hisses through gritted teeth: “Astemar—”

“—And I—agreed beforehand,” Magnus finishes, while he struggles with Max’s hold on the shampoo bottle. Grunting, he continues: “I didn’t—talk about it with you because—well, I didn’t expect—”

Magnus wins when he pushes Max away and grabs the bottle. “I didn’t expect you to still be in bed.” He reaches out for Max, barely reaching his chin before Max dodges it and pushes his hand away.

“You shouldn’t be so angry, Max. You could have stopped it, like you stopped me last night.”

Max brushes his hair back. Dammit, he’s been called out. He did want it but it was still the principle of the thing!

Magnus looks over the bottle and his expression turns sour. “And it’s not like you didn’t understand me.”

Max rubs his shoulders. “That’d require me to know another fucking language.”

Magnus raises his head with a lost look. “Huh? What are you talking about? I talked to you in English.”

Max scoffs with a giant shit-eating smirk. “That’s putting it politely. Couldn’t exactly call Astemar either.” He bends the first three fingers of his hand, and puts his thumb and pinky out in imitation of an old phone. He speaks in falsetto, accentuated by vocal fry: “Yes, hi, Aste, your husband’s balls-deep in me, you mind telling me what he’s mumbling about? Thanks!”

Magnus stops suddenly. He’s holding onto the bottle like a child now. He’s staring at Max like he got told his dog died or something. Max thinks it’s a little unnerving. 

Magnus scratches at the cap, as if looking for words. He mumbles something, to which Max thinks it’s funny, considering what started this current argument. But Max acquiesces and asks for Magnus to repeat it. After a few seconds, Magnus puts the bottle back on the stool and says: “Sorry.”

I’m sorry? Did—did he just apologize? What? So many things in this world to apologize for and a “lost in translation” situation got it? Max is stupefied. “What?”

“Yeah, um,” Magnus says, fingers through his hair. “I need a smoke, I’ll be right back.”

He shoves the shower cover out of the way, his demeanor downbeat. He almost slips, but manages to stop himself from falling. He grabs a towel in a hurry so he can dry himself somewhat. 

Max reaches out: “Magnus—Magnus, wait.”

“Yes, Daddy, I’ll smoke outside, don’t worry,” Magnus says, waving without even looking back. “I’m not going to hurt the—the proto fetus, I promise.”

“That’s not what I—”

When the door closes behind Magnus in a frenzy, and the shower runs at its normal speed, and the water hits Max, who’s standing in disbelief—suddenly everything feels as if the world has ended.

=+=

The laptop’s situated on a cooling stand. No headphones or earbuds this time. A livestream of some stock market channel plays at a low volume, where both can listen to it without bothering anyone else. They’re seated at the kitchen counter, facing each other. Magnus brings his fork to his mouth listlessly. He bites into his food in similar fashion: sweet potato mash with scrambled eggs and tuna, with one singular banana, and a glass of water.

For Max, just three lonely hard-boiled eggs and one banana, which he’s about to finish eating with one last gulp. Nothing to drink for now, but Magnus pushed his glass towards Max earlier, and hinted at sharing a drink.

Max hasn’t taken him up on that yet.

He doesn’t appear too tired. He’s dressed in a flannel shirt and slacks. His hair is still damp, while Magnus’ hair drips on the towel around his shoulders. Magnus is wearing the same silk bathrobe as earlier. He’s concentrated on the livestream, just as Max isn’t.

Magnus breaks the silence: “Why do you want a child?”

Aw, shit. Max stops playing with one of his eggs and rests his chin on his knuckles. He cocks his head halfway, looking at the livestream rather than at the man in front of him. “What do you mean?”

Magnus looks down to his plate, picks up a piece of tuna and the hardened yolk, and throws it in his mouth. Chews it fast so that seconds pass before he answers: “You hate sex—”

“—It’s not that—”

“—you aren’t very social—”

Max inhales deeply. This is getting tiring again. “—It’s more like—”

“—And,” Magnus says, just as he taps the counter pointedly, leaning back, still not meeting Max eye to eye, “you never had an interest in children before. Child-rearing, I should say.”

He—he’s not lying there, unfortunately. Max never did have an interest. He never felt the “call,” so to speak, to breed. Much less after having experienced the wonderful joys of parenting from the receiving side. Not even knowing a better (and accidental) parental figure offset that experience. He never felt like he was missing out on anything. He was content being an uncle figure, and never hated children either. 

And yet.

Max lets out a terse sigh. “You remember Dalton?”

Magnus snorts, clanks his fork against the plate. “Now why would I forget your boyfriend, Arizmendi?”

“…We broke up, like, five months ago.”

Magnus finally looks up, elated. “Oh?” A shift to somber: “I mean, oh. Too bad.”

Max scoffs. “Thanks for pretending. You think I forgot what happened seven months ago?”

Magnus shrugs indifferently.

“Anyway, I got to meet his parents,” Max says, now choosing to take one of the eggs and break off its skin. “They were nice, don’t get me wrong. I think they kinda had to be, considering Dalton and me were, you know.”

“Gay?”

“No, attack helicopters,” Max says sarcastically to Magnus’ dumbfounded self. (Attack helicopters?) “Did I ever tell you Dalton already had surgery?”

Magnus looks to the side in thought. “I. Don’t remember…”

“Well, he did. And that’s not a secret, so don’t be coy with it, alright? I was envious, but he believed that I could do it too, even if it would take me longer.” Max takes a piece of the egg into his mouth, eats it without attracting attention. “His parents live on farmland, which was nice. Got to see chickens and cows, and then uh, they showed me the other farmhouses around that have been abandoned by their neighbors ‘cause of how bad the government’s actually fucked them over—”

“Point of the story, Max.” Magnus shoves a dollop of mashed sweet potato into his mouth.

Max holds up a hand in patience. “Right, okay.” He takes a deep breath. “Eventually, dinner time comes along and I get to experience—a lot of pork. Like, a lot. There was this thing called Steak de Burgo though, really fantastic. Then the cider—”

Max.

“I’m getting to it! Okay, so.” He eats another piece of the egg, absentmindedly drinks from Magnus’ glass. “At one point…the parents start talking about grandchildren.”

Magnus plops a piece of his scrambled egg into his mouth. “Uh-oh.”

Yeah,” Max agrees. “I didn’t mind being asked about it, just awkward, right. Seems like they kinda didn’t mind never having ‘em, but I guess, I don’t know. One second I was preparing how the hell to explain my own thoughts, the next second, Dalton goes ‘oh yeah, we’re thinking of aiming for, like, five.’”

Magnus covers his mouth to stifle a giggle. He tries, he really does, and Max’s expression of both resignation and displeasure doesn’t stop the absolute laughing fit that bursts from Magnus. Magnus bends behind the counter to hide his reaction.

“Child-bearing hips. That’s what they all thought I had.”

Magnus laughs even louder.

Max closes his eyes, summoning the patience needed for all of this. He shoves the rest of the egg into his mouth, chewing it down with all the pissed-off energy regained in retelling this memory. He takes a peek at the livestream, releases the deepest sigh ever and looks back to Magnus, who’s still bent over laughing. 

Magnus inhales and holds it in, then exhales to calm himself down. He takes a look at the livestream and scrunches his nose. Then he lays his eyes on Max. “To be clear: did they know you were a transsexual?”

“Judas Priest, you’re so old,” Max sighs. “Wrong word but yes, they did. No crossed wires there.”

Magnus holds out a hand in question: “Then…I mean, look, your hips are not that big. Even other men have it bigger than you, including the, you know, biological ones or whatever. Forgive me, but I’m a little lost.”

“It’s not the hips that was the issue, dumbass,” Max scolds, taking yet another drink of Magnus’ glass. “It’s the fact that Dalton and I never spoke about the fucking thing, about—about having kids! And then he went off and not only convinced his parents we were going to have them, but that I was going to carry them! The fuck!”

He’s getting agitated, to which Magnus says: “Drink more water, darling, you’re getting angry again.”

Water goes everywhere when Max clanks the glass against the counter. “Wouldn’t you?!”

“I dunno,” Magnus answers with a shrug and a knowing look. He rests his jaw on his hand. “Half the time, everything bothers you. I love you for it, you’re cute to tease, but you are a very hard man to figure out.”

Deflated. Both because Magnus so freely said the three words as if they were nothing and because…It’s not like they’ve known each other all their lives, and Max could be private in ways that Magnus wasn’t but: “…No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are,” Magnus titters. “To be fair, so is Astemar.” He sighs, almost sardonically. “Why did I have to fall in love with two sexless people who care differently, here? When I think I’ve clocked one of you, the other one goes and surprises me. Astemar would rather have my child but she also doesn’t want to have any more of them and maybe,” he lingers on that word for reasons unknown to Max, “maybe something else, I don’t know.” 

Magnus crosses his legs, leaning back on the counter. “Then you, the one I thought would be easier because hey, we both hate children—”

Still deflated: “I don’t hate them, Magnus.”

“—Fine, whatever, but you don’t want them, neither do I. Now, I presume, for the past few months, you’ve, what, changed your mind? On a whim? On some asshole forcing you into it and now what, it’s a kink?”

Max balls one of his hands into a fist. It’s the best he can do under these circumstances. But he quickly busies his hands with another egg, picking and poking at it for pieces. He mutters something, practically unintelligible.

Magnus juts his head forward. “What was that?”

“I said, why are you even here then,” says Max louder this time, choosing to not hide his tense state. “You said you could give me a baby because it’s better if it’s someone I know, like you—but I knew Dalton too! I—” He looks down at his egg again, “I would have had his kid if he had told me about it before. That’s why I had those stupid pamphlets that Aste saw, it was for him! I even—fuck, I even stopped hormones for him.”

The egg spills away from his shaking hands, as Max opens up the valve that he’s maintained shut. “Nobody fucking asks me what I want!” He slams the counter with both hands, which spooks Magnus. “He thinks I wanted it, you think I wanted it! You know why I like Aste better than you? Because at least she fucking checks in on me! She told you to ask me, Magnus! And you didn’t! You just acted! Like you always do!” he yells, waving his arm dismissively. 

“I’m a man! Men don’t have children! Thirteen years trying to prove that and for fucking what! Why does nobody get it! Why does—why does—”

Max hides himself in his arms, crossing them on the counter. A few seconds in and Max muffles the waves of emotion that want to spill out. He still can’t avoid the sniffling and trembling that comes out, sadly. 

Magnus says nothing, just stays looking at him. He takes pieces of tuna into his mouth, mixing it with the sweet potato mash. After some more moments of silence, with only the livestream and Max’s shallow breathing as the current soundtrack, Magnus closes the laptop with his index finger. 

Magnus’ tone is stable, unwavering. But it is distinctively full of feeling. “Would you have gotten this angry if I only offered the surgeries?”

Max answers with an attempt at a shrug. 

“…And did you really love him that much, that you were willing to do this sort of thing for him?”

Max nods within his hiding place.

Magnus moves his finger in a circle, in thought. “And he didn’t love you that much?”

Max muffles out a I don’t know.

“Then why did you break up in the first place? You,” Magnus says, cocking his head with a glare directed at some invisible entity. He clears his throat, goes back to looking at Max. “You seemed happy.”

Max doesn’t answer immediately. Only sniffling and more shallow breathing, moving to adjust his arms. When he does answer, he sounds slightly muffled yet clear: “…Rain check?”

Magnus looks and looks upon the man. He nods. “Okay. Rain check.”

He then shoves more dollops of mashed sweet potato into his mouth, then one big part of the scrambled egg. Mouth full, he chews and chews while he cleans up their places and everything. When Magnus reaches the sink, he looks both ways, shrugs and places everything to be cleaned in the sink, and everything to be disposed of into the trash. There’s absolutely no care to determine what can really wait in the sink, but it’s not his apartment now, isn’t it? 

“This is why you should have my baby. Because I’ll never leave you—”

Max groans: “Oh, how I wish you would leave—”

Magnus slaps his hands on Max’s back. “—And I don’t have lofty expectations of family either. I’ll give you anything you need and you don’t need to do anything in return except be a good papa, hmm?”

Max still doesn’t break from his position, still hiding inside his arms: “And if I don’t want to have the kid?”

“Then uh, goddamn hope my little friends killed themselves before they completed their mission,” Magnus answers, massaging Max’s shoulders tightly. He lowers to whisper in Max’s ear: “Because I’m pretty sure you don’t believe in getting rid of that baby now, do you?”

Magnus rubs Max’s shoulders, kneads around his shoulder blades. His hands then leave Max’s body to go up to his head, caressing and stroking gently. He even hums a tune in that grave tone of his.

“Can I really have both?”

The question pauses Magnus. Stuns him almost. He stops tousling Max’s hair and his eyes dart all over in thought. Max meanwhile finally comes out of his hiding place and sniffles a bit. He wipes at his face and nose, and he turns in his seat to Magnus, wearing a guilty expression over lord knows what. “Fuck,” he says, wiping away at his eyes more and more. “Fucking wimp…”

“Hey now, I’d like to think I can lift you easily.”

Max shoots daggers at Magnus. Incredible. The idiot is grinning so proudly.

“Did you get it all out?” Magnus asks, cupping Max’s face in his hands. Max’s eyes are swollen, now that Magnus gets a good look at them. “Or should I schedule a day at one of those places where they let you destroy all the things?”

Magnus’ hands are warm. Max wonders. Max asks. “Would you still want me to have a baby if Aste could have it for you?”

These warm hands lift his chin. Magnus says: “The honest truth?”

Max nods.

“…Not really.” Magnus brushes Max’s cheek with his thumb. “I wouldn’t have had a child with her either, mind you. Like I said last night, I came here because we thought you wanted one. And I offered without Astemar knowing because I don’t want to make her sad. It’s not her fault.”

“But fuck me, right?”

Magnus leans in close. “Why yes, I would very much like to do that. Baby or no baby.”

Max closes his eyes and relaxes his head, lets these warm hands hold him. He rubs his thigh, face downcast. Then Max shouts when he’s sweeped up his feet and slammed onto the counter. His butt hurts from the sudden sting. He hasn’t processed what’s happened before Magnus’ lips smash against his own. Magnus pushes him against the counter and Max closes his eyes, not caring anymore. He kisses back hungrily when Magnus pulls back, puts his arms around him and holds him close to keep him there. Max feels hot already, and hotter still when Magnus trails down to his neck, nibbling and nibbling. Magnus nibbles at Max’s earlobe, with Max moaning lightly before Magnus rests against his temples.

“I want you to be happy,” Magnus whispers. He plays with Max’s hair at the nape of the neck. He nips at Max’s earlobe, at his jawline, at his collar bone. He only stops when Max asks him to stop. He holds him close now, holding him by his hips. His smell invades Max’s nose, Max’s thoughts. Magnus whispers again: “Tell me what you want and I’ll make you happy.” 

Max relaxes his entire body and gives himself to Magnus’ embrace. He refuses to hide how he feels, grasping at the bathrobe like a child does a toy. Both of them stay still, almost wobbling, maybe even dancing, side to side. 

“Magnus,” Max rasps. “Would you love me, no matter how I look?”

“Of course I would,” Magnus answers without stuttering. “I’ll miss your tits when they’re snipped, I’ll miss your cunt when it’s gone, and well, I guess your hips will stay the same.” He turns his head a little, his mouth against Max’s cheek. “But you’ll still have your nipples I hope, and you’ll have a bigger cock than before, so I can’t complain, can I? None of that matters if you don’t go through with it. Although that does mean I can still double team you and Astemar.”

Max chuckles in return. He clumsily steps down from the counter, holding onto Magnus for support. He looks down, and his hands lamely go to his pants. But he’s stopped by Magnus, who takes over and takes them off. Unlike Max last night, Magnus’ hands don’t shake, Magnus’ hands don’t waver. Less so when the underwear also comes off and he gazes upon one of the most beautiful wonders of the world—he would have kissed it, had not a hand on his forehead stopped him.

“Just one more thing,” Max says, having cleared his throat. 

Magnus is not happy about being temporarily cock-blocked. He gestures at Max to get on with it. And so, Max flatly says: “What would you have done if Morgan had lived?”

Max doesn’t care anymore, really, if an argument starts up again. He’ll just do a twofer again like last night. The bruise on Magnus’ face looks better than last night, so Max might just aim for the other cheek instead. Max is so, so very tired, but also so very desperate for someone to think about him. Think about him properly. That’s all he ever—

“Treat her the same way I’ll treat this baby if you want it,” answers Magnus with a poke at Max’s belly. “I’d given that brat anything he or she wanted.”

Max ponders on this for exactly one second. Then he smiles the way all disappointed people do. “Liar.”

Magnus frowns, nostrils flaring. “I never lie about Morgan.”

“You’re a liar. You’ve always been. All that talk about hating kids, and trying to pretend this is all for me. If you really hated kids, Magnus, why fix up her grave? Why would you even stay with Astemar for this long? I’ve seen you with Sixto. If you really hated kids, why would you treat him like you were his father? And why…” 

Max moves one of the chairs with his foot. He uses the footrest as a stepladder to sit up on the counter again. “And why are you offering yourself as a donor? Not many sperm donors care, you know. Hard-pressed to find one that does. That was the appeal: I didn’t have to care about them, they didn’t have to care about me.”

He sits down on the edge, still using the footrest on the chair as support. “And I know you’re a jealous man, Magnus. Seven months ago, that proved it. Control freak though,” Max says, bobbing his head and gazing upon a kneeling man who looks like he could break a lamp. “Maybe you always were. Maybe that’s why you enjoy it when she’s around. Because she’s a bigger control freak than you are. You always want her to be Mommy,” Max scoffs, his voice teetering on the edge of a breakdown. “And you enjoy hurting Mommy.”

Magnus glowers: “Is this a bad monologue or is this a fucking attempt at seducing me, Arizmendi? What the hell does it matter?”

There’s pure bile there—Max knows that Magnus detests being judged. But Max is tired. Max decides to be greedy. So, Max wipes his eyes again.

“It doesn’t. Just giving myself an excuse on why I would make the same mistake again.”

Maybe in another life, Max moved on from childhood experiences. Maybe he even concentrated solely on the positive ones. Maybe he was able to see the good in parenting, and became someone willing to want a child for good reasons. Maybe, in this other life, that world wasn’t a world like our Max’s, which usually didn’t consider him a proper, normal candidate for the role of parent—even though the world had long stopped being normal or proper.

Someone else must remember the neighbor who took Max inside, for snacks and relaxation, when Max was punished by his foster parents. Someone else must remember the neighbor’s likes and dislikes. Someone else must remember the memories spent in that neighbor’s apartment, where the world was a little brighter and a little older. Someone must save memories and options and stories and experiences. Someone must save that which has passed, and leave it for the future, lest it dies with no trace left behind.

Lofty though these sentiments may be, it will have to be for another Max in another dimension to experience everything differently. Our Max only knows for sure that the neighbor made him feel wanted. And he’s been looking for that ever since. Perhaps the other Max in the other dimension is lucky in that he’ll never have to ask who can give it to him. He’ll never have to ask if he’s found something better in two idiots.

Maybe just one idiot in particular.

Max holds onto the counter for dear life. He’s allowed himself to act a little looser than usual in his apartment, to enjoy every lick on his pussy. A kneeling Magnus takes breaks to soothe him and to ask Max to let him hear everything, and by god, does Max wish he could yell freely. But he doesn’t want to be interrupted, he doesn’t want knocks at the door again over noises that bother no one else. This is for him and him only.

“Oh fuck, wait,” Max says, panting as he grabs a clump of Magnus’ hair. When Magnus pulls back from licking his cock, Max leans back slowly until his back meets the cool surface. Until the top of his head bumps with the laptop and goddamit, he totally forgot about that! Except Magnus solves the issue by pulling Max to him—and placing his thighs on his shoulders. He returns to licking Max’s slit, dragging his tongue over it agonizingly slow. Max writhes, making sure he doesn’t fall over, his hands grasping at anything before fuck it, he pulls at his shirt.

“You’re so needy again, darling,” whispers Magnus darkly, pressing his lips against Max’s entrance. He plants light kisses all over, even kisses Max’s inner thighs. He presses his tongue against Max’s pussy, sliding up to Max’s cock. Max cries out softly, and cries out more when Magnus laps at his cock. Magnus sucks and sucks and sucks, before he breaks and wipes Max off his lips. 

“Don’t,” Max mewls, “don’t stop, please.” He hisses sharply, as his wish is granted when Magnus pushes in his middle finger. Magnus pushes until he reaches the limit, with Max’s juices bathing him immediately. Magnus moves his finger for fun and giggles, and Max chokes on air, gasping in staccato beats.

“Very good boy,” Magnus coos. His middle finger slips out, before sliding two fingers inside Max’s pretty little slicked up hole. He fingers him at an average speed, with Max slamming his hands on the counter when Magnus curls his finger and teases a small special spot. He pushes in deep and pulls out before Max’s thrashing gets any more appealing. He licks Max off his fingers, and then further cleans everything up from Max’s pussy.

Magnus stands up, groans and stretches his back. He’s careful about it for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with age, thank you very much. He stares at how Max lays in a state of ecstasy, shuddering and sweating. While he coincidentally bumps his own genital area against Max’s, he tugs at one open space on the shirt.

“Hmm, you know, it just occurred to me,” Magnus breathes out darkly. “I can just fuck your two cunts now, could I?” Unbuttoning Max’s shirt gives him two lovely masses that glisten in their beauty. He teases the nipples to Max’s whine. “Would you like that?”

Max arches his back and shakes his head. Magnus touches him the way he wants, and when Magnus gently squeezes his nipples, Max’s voice gives out. His throat’s starting to hurt. “Fuck me, just fuck me,” Max repeats over and over, latching onto Magnus’ arms and shoulders. He grabs Magnus’ cock, stroking hard and fast. He tries to wrap his legs around Magnus’ waist, and manages to push both their cocks together. Magnus gets the hint and grabs him by the hips. However, he lets go for a second or two so he can seat Max upright, so Magnus can support his body with his own.

Magnus grinds carefully, digging his fingers into Max’s hips. Max moans with a raspy tone, honeyed and loose, holding Magnus closer and closer with his legs. Magnus focuses on Max’s voice, on Max’s body. The more he grinds against him, the louder a hoarse Max urges him to go harder. And the greedier Max gets, pulling at Magnus’ sleeves so hard, the fabric could tear—the more the fog of passion increases, with Magnus’ erection growing harder and harder. Magnus scolds himself mentally for delaying the decision on whether to splatter Max’s chest or whether to start pumping into him at last.

As if he read Magnus’ mind, Max stops him abruptly. Max pecks Magnus’ lips, but Magnus instead brings him closer to swim in each other’s tongues. Max doesn’t want to stop but he wants Magnus, he wants Magnus everywhere, anywhere. He wants to lower himself to a pile of drooling flesh for his sake. 

Magnus’ own need grows more and more. He stops only because his cock needs a new warm and wonderful home. So even if Max’s complaints sound cute, Magnus turns him around and throws him against the counter. Max whines due to his bare chest stinging from the now even colder surface, but he still grips the edges of the counter for dear life. He knows what’s coming and he wants it yesterday!

Max shivers in happiness when Magnus opens Max’s legs. Magnus fingers him again for a few seconds, get him good and ready. Max writhes, tries to order Magnus to fill him up—but when his pussy spreads open to welcome a throbbing rod, he can only sputter out an ”oh god!” His entire body sparks up, his core burning on all cylinders with every thrust, every pound he receives. The thick meat in his pussy stretches him to his limits, and he comes close to breaking down but he begs for more and more of that amazing cock growing inside his walls. He wants to get fucked and fucked hard.

Magnus grits his teeth on one deep thrust, holding it for a few seconds. He laughs shakily: “Ah, my sweet, sweet Max. I might, hmm,” he grunts, stepping back a bit so Max’s delicious pussy can twitch around the proof of Magnus’ love. “I might drag you to the front door if Mrs. Kaminsky comes back.”

Max mutters, shaking his head. He’s already drooling, saliva puddled close to his mouth. He may have lost all sense of reason and logic, but he still wants Magnus to himself. No witnesses, no distractions. He moves against Magnus, begging to differ: “Keee—keep fuckin’ me h-he—

Magnus pounds into Max again to shut him up. “Bad boys should be, hmm, shit, should be witnessed,” Magnus breathes out as he drips with sweat. He’s losing control and the idea of not hurting Max too much is the one thing keeping him sane. He pounds again into Max’s cunt and Max moans lustily. The sloppy sounds from their wild passion continue to ring out, with Magnus gradually digging his fingers into Max’s hair.

“I bet she’s telling everyone—fuck,” Magnus groans when Max buckles backward. “Who the fuck told you to move, my darling?” he whispers while he leans forward and holds Max down forcefully by his hair. “Be nicer or I’ll spill it all over your floor instead.” 

Max wails in despair at the very thought of missing out. “—G’vit to me, ple—ple—” He buckles again, practically dancing, and Magnus has to release Max from his hold in order to enjoy this disobedience. Of course that only lasts for as long as Magnus wants, so he starts to thrust even harder into Max, his balls slapping against Max’s pussy even louder. 

Before long, Max reaches the unintelligible phase of language in this passion play. His insides have thoroughly drenched Magnus’ cock—and Magnus coughs out a gasp when Max’s walls tighten around him. He rests his head on Max’s back, fucking harder and deeper. His voice turns gravely dark: “Do you want it faster, Max?”

Max confirms with a roll of his hips. Magnus increases his speed, and holds Max’s shoulders for support. He performs the last act of this play, wherein Max cries out in the utmost pleasure, his mind far gone. Magnus closes his eyes, if only because he didn’t count with heaven within his grasp while his mind screams at him to avoid all the punishments of hell—

The thick milk hits Max’s walls with a fury, sending shockwaves throughout his entire body. Every single nerve is on fire, every single neuron is overloading, and every single thought merges into one. There’s Magnus, only Magnus, who’s inside him, who’s marking his territory. “Oghn…hugh…,” Max gasps, and keeps gasping the longer Magnus keeps cumming. He cries out at a high note when Magnus pumps him again, and then goes quiet when Magnus pumps him two more times. That wonderful cum’s swimming in him, Max milking that cock for all its worth.

Magnus breathes unevenly. He’s quaking with pleasure, Max’s own release showering him with additional love and affection. He rests on Max’s back, taking multiple breaths to calm himself. He’s afraid to pull out if only because he–he wants more.

Goddamit, he wants more.

The pair remain at the counter, with Magnus wrapped around Max now to soothe him. Max is twitching and shivering, so he’s not dead by fucking, at least. Magnus brushes the back of Max’s head. He kisses Max’s back, wanting to keep this connection going. He places his hand on Max’s back gingerly and he pulls out with gentle care. He stops only because his sweet lover groans in pain.

“Max?” He says his name so child-like, so innocent. Max still hasn’t come down from the high. Magnus snorts, plants a kiss on his back, a couple more on the side of his head. “I have to move out,” he alerts Max with a snicker, continuing to pull out despite all the whining. His cock is trembling, bobbing in a way where either Magnus is going to test his own endurance again or maybe Max’s cunt has broken something. Knowing how today’s gone so far, could be both!

Max’s thighs are drenched with juices and sweat. Magnus trails his hand down Max’s back and hovers his fingers close to Max’s pussy. He pulls at the labia just right, enough to have some more of his come drip out. This new memory burns itself right next to all the other lovely carnal ones. Heat builds up deep in Magnus’ belly again. He supposes that’s an answer to the endurance question.

Everything swims in Max’s head, everything blends in a bowl. He knows his own body is swimming in so many pools at once, ones dedicated to reason, knowledge, love and lust, and secrets—and oh, so many secrets he’s refused to admit to himself. Sex is not one of them. It’s a very reasonable position, to not seek it out or to grow desperate for it.

Yet, with Magnus…he still wants to keep swimming in the pool of love and theories and secrets. If he could only make others understand this exception, if he could only have made others understand his exceptions like Dalton…if Max only could.

Max’s body is moved, a little abrupt due to Magnus carrying him bridal style. Max whines both from the inevitability of Magnus’ come still dripping from him and from the weakness he’s demonstrating. Magnus must have understood his mumbling, since he indicated he’d already done the customary clean-up. Max’s cheeks color a little darker.

Max thinks about the two needs inside him: the one that wants him to be treated like this, something romantic, and the one that wants to be stronger than this, without succumbing to an unmanly position. He hates that he’s fickle like this. But Max still clings to Magnus tightly, eyes barely open. Magnus’ arms warm him, almost like a blanket. He feels protected.

They arrive at Max’s bed and Magnus lays Max down like a knight soothes his prince. And so the bed creaks so quietly, and the shirt goes off so softly, and the bathrobe is discarded without a second thought. Max gasps, inhales sharply when he’s returned to a state finished only minutes ago—starting with Magnus licking all the sweat on Max. Magnus kisses Max’s clavicle, kisses his neck strong enough to leave a hickey. Kisses him on his cheek, his forehead, his eyes. He drowns Max in kisses, trailing down to his breasts. Max coughs out gasps when Magnus nips at them. 

Max wants to say stop, because those were two obnoxious masses for most of his life. But he also knows that anytime Magnus plays with them, it’s the only time they’ve felt good, good to have. And it’s not as if Dalton ever faltered in making him feel good. By every metric, Dalton was wonderful. But nothing like Magnus. Nothing in the same way Magnus ever does anything.

So, Max grabs clumsily at Magnus’ head. Magnus peeks up for a second, then he closes his eyes and kisses everywhere. He drags his tongue over the tender flesh, over the hardened nipples. Max arches his back and Magnus takes that as a cue to tease and suck. He grazes his teeth over a spot, before lightly biting on it, just enough for Max to mewl. And before Magnus forgets, he drags his tongue over the small scar above the left breast and sucks at it.

“Magnus…Magnus…” Max calls out in a sweetly-tinged tone. 

“I’m here,” answers Magnus almost equally sweetly, kissing Max’s jaw before kissing his temples. He brushes stray hairs away from Max’s forehead, planting a kiss. Magnus still massages Max’s breasts carefully, stopping only when a hand comes over his own.

“O-one second…” Max says. He’s out of breath, tired from the sheer amount of energy expended earlier. He moves to his side before blowing a sigh out his mouth. Then he gives it another good old college try, turning his body around and supporting himself on his forearms. He reaches out for Magnus, who reaches out in return when Max plants himself on top of him.

“Oh ho,” Magnus chortles, sliding his hands up and down Max’s sides. “Gonna make Daddy happy?”

Max ignores that. His own tiredness is fighting to win and he needs to concentrate on the answer to one of Magnus’ earlier questions. He cups Magnus’ face in his hands, bending down to passionately kiss him. He lets out a sharp gasp the second Magnus pushes down on Max’s butt. Max rests his legs next to Magnus’ sides, while he and Magnus make out passionately. Magnus is so warm, so warm, so gentle, so much wanted by Max.

When they mutually break the kiss, Max steels himself for an answer: “You—you still want to fuck my two cunts?”

Magnus looks dazed but his grin says it all: “Aw, I was hoping for a replay.”

“You’re the idiot who asked for both,” Max breathes out, wiping his mouth and face in general from the sweat. He brushes his hair behind his ear. “I might as well take you up on your free offer.”

“Ah, is that what we’re calling it now,” Magnus says, placing his hands on Max’s hips. He shuffles in his position, his legs bending to support Max if needed. Max recognizes the move and fixes himself to sit on Magnus’ cock, frowning when he realizes the damn thing’s hard already. Still, he prepares himself, hands on Magnus’ chest. He gasps when his chest is fondled so nicely and so suddenly. 

“Give me your lips, handsome boy,” Magnus whispers. His hands tease Max’s mouth open, and his cock throbs when Max sucks off his fingers, the sight heating up Magnus’ gut. Dutifully, Max licks them and sucks at them, his tongue playing with the shapes. He even bobs up and down on them until Magnus pulls out to Max’s dismay. 

Magnus puts his other hand on the back of Max’s head. Max follows his lead, laying on him, holding onto his shoulders. Max takes in his smell, takes such a deep inhale, his lungs hurt. He feels Magnus’ wet fingers teasing until he throws his lower half up into the air—”oh, fuck, oh, fff—” due to Magnus entering his ass. Magnus holds him by one thigh when Max rolls his hips, enjoying this sensation. 

“Hurry, hurry,” groans Max, growing more desperate. He stops breathing during the span of time that stiff rod enters him. He digs his fingers into Magnus’ shoulder and croaks out a whimper when Magnus dives in too deep. Max struggles for oxygen, voice wavering when Magnus adjusts his legs slowly.

“Feel good?” Magnus asks. Max nods quickly, panting and nuzzling. Magnus caresses Max’s arms before finding his hands. “Come on,” Magnus says, hands clasped together with Max’s, “I have you.”

Max gathers the strength to lift himself up with Magnus’ help. He releases a lustful cry when he settles properly around Magnus’ cock. Oh, how it pulsates and pulsates within his ass. He tightens his hands around Magnus’ own, and starts to ride this gorgeous cock, this wonderful throbbing cock full of that dreamy, milky liquid.

Magnus holds onto Max’s hands with all the care in this world. Once in a while he’ll bend one of his legs upwards to better tease Max inside that tight little space, but he mainly lets Max lead. When Max wobbles after some minutes, Magnus brings him closer to him, still holding onto his hands.

Max closes his eyes on one deep thrust, wriggling in place. He can’t, he can’t do this. He doesn’t have any more life in him and he hates that he’s this week, even though it’s not exactly his fault. He has to bend forward even further and has to let go of Magnus’ hands, so he can wrap his arms around him instead. Magnus knows what this means, and after a quick peck on Max’s lips, he holds him by his ass and thrusts upward. Max cries out lamely, keeping his ass up in the air so Magnus can have even more access to his hole. Time passes by, it passes by as they both enjoy each other. Then, Max can’t last anymore and begs Magnus to not dawdle. And the more Magnus holds back, the more his cock calls for salvation.

“Max—Max—I’m—”

Max moans in agreement and in an instant, Magnus breaks—both of them crying out in climax together. Max closes his eyes and smiles, mouth agape, as Magnus’ load fills him up. The unified heat of their bodies gives him a high he wants to feel all the time. It’s—it’s almost tender the way Magnus writhes under him, before he grunts aloud and relaxes his entire body from exhaustion. Max helps Magnus pull out from him, but even he too succumbs to exhaustion, making sure to curl around Magnus before a temporary farewell to the waking world…

=+=

Magnus, when are you coming home? I haven’t heard from you. I assume you’re still over at Max’s (thinking face) Please let me know about the baby thing. I’m worried.

If you don’t have anything to report, then come home. Or maybe don’t. (shrugging person) I’m not your mother.

He’s stolen Magnus’ phone in a temporary fit of anxiety. He’s hiding in the bathroom where he can finally do all the peeing and cleaning he’s supposed to have done ages ago. Rather, do it all again, but nobody ever said this was easy. He’s also wearing his shirt again, albeit loosened. He’s been rubbing his forehead again, reddened marks showing his nail scratches. 

Neither Magnus nor Max heard their phones ping. It’s been a couple of hours. He takes a look at his own phone where Astemar’s sent messages already too. They have a strange vibe to them. Not really cryptic—

Max, can you give me an update? You two haven’t sent me anything since the last time I messaged you. Are you actually having a baby?

I can’t read your minds. I could guess, but I won’t. If it’s over, then tell me. If it’s not, then tell me too. I’ve been waiting too long. 

How soon?

—But obviously not pleased. Max bites his nail, then the tip of his finger. He folds his hand and rubs it against his lips in thought. He can hear Magnus outside complaining and shit, but he can’t answer for Magnus. He hurries in replying to Astemar.

now is soon. sorry. we had a heated argument. nothing too bad, don’t worry. just magnus being magnus. he calmed down when I put on that econ show from those two papelongo bozos. (skull with a gun next to it)

uh, we slept together again— Delete.

Fuck. She’d believe it, it’s not the first time. But she’d know immediately why, right? Would she?

Max screams and jumps in fright when the bathroom door opens. His guest looks pissed, another cigarette dangling off his mouth. He’s also wearing the shirt from last night, unbuttoned, and his underwear. He reaches out: “Phone. Also, get off the toilet, you’ve been in here for ten minutes.”

“No, I haven’t,” Max mutters, though he frowns at the other man. He hands over the phone. “Please answer Aste. Please.”

“Scared of her, huh, Arizmendi,” Max says, scratching his head. He inhales the cigarette deeply and blows out smoke through his nose. He chuckles, presumably reading the last message. “Let’s see, I think I can start with Mommy…misses…Daddy…”

Max stares in disbelief. Sometimes he envies Magnus’ nonchalant way of life. 

…0.00001% of the time.

It’s not raining outside but the day’s gotten greyer since the bright skies of this morning. Max peers out the window once he’s out the bathroom, leaning against the frame. He peeks down below and doesn’t see a lot of traffic. He brushes his bangs back, ruffles them. He stares into the distance. He lets his mind wander. Empty it for only a few seconds before his personality reminds him that he’s not a calm person.

“And sent,” Magnus says, coming up from behind Max. He lays on him like a sloth, and the cigarette smoke invades Max’s nostrils again. “See what I sent her.” Magnus shows off his messages, with Max raising a brow at the whole behavior. 

Does Mommy miss Daddy? (eggplant) (lips) (lips) Don’t worry, Daddy will come home and make you a baby (kissy face)

Either Max has given up, he’s lost all feeling or there’s no more juice in him to be shocked anymore at Magnus’ text. Considering how the day’s been going, could be all three! Then he blinks. “Huh. I think that’s the fastest she’s replied.”

“Huh?” Magnus utters, blinking too. He leans in forward, causing Max to adjust his position on the window frame. 

(Picture sent from “wifey”: a photo of an angry chihuahua with an edited hand holding a gun to the viewer)

Max turns to Magnus: “…I think you made her mad.”

Magnus waves it off. “Eh, she loves me.” Though for a split second, Max swears Magnus actually looked a little hurt. What did he expect? Roses? “She always sends me those weird pictures whenever I tease her.”

“Sure,” Max says. He shifts to remain close to Magnus, but he takes out his phone to finish texting her. Be honest? That would be good, right? “How do I say we slept together this time?”

Max scrolls the chat down, then up. Astemar sends him funny pictures too. But the lack of response from Magnus is a little disquieting. When he looks up, Magnus is also checking something on his phone. He’s tired, Max notices, before a flash of sadness passes through Magnus’ face.  

“Problem is that she’ll assume…she’ll assume everything that we did. Correctly. Maybe if I tell her about the surgeries,” Max laughs bitterly, “maybe she’ll think you just wanted to fuck me to get a couple last shots in…”

He trails off when he realizes Magnus isn’t paying attention. Magnus taps his keyboard, to whom he’s writing unknown to Max.

“Maybe I’ll say we had a threesome with Mrs. Kaminsky this time!”

While the thought is vomit-inducing, it’s an attempt to attract Magnus’ attention. Didn’t work, which surprises Max. He steps away from the window frame and looks down at his own phone. What else to say to Astemar then? Be honest?

…How honest?

Magnus’ hands twitch, despite the cigarette in his hand. In actuality, he’d been writing to Astemar. He’s never going to say it to Max but he’d sent her an apology. The world may end tomorrow as a result, more so over the apology than anything else. But he can handle it. What’s important is Max right now, and Astemar would understand. And either way, he meant the apology she should be receiving any time soon. He really did.

“Last night,” he says. Max takes notice. Magnus continues: “I told her I was staying here.”

“Yeah,” Max drones. “That, that was the point.”

Magnus cocks his head. He doesn’t look at Max. “Yeah, well. Also told her—” Another expression flashes before Max’s eyes, and Magnus’s cigarette burns brightly on account of how much Magnus is taking in. Now that he thinks about it, aw fuck, Magnus is a smoker, this baby now has a fifty-fifty chance of having problems! Not only that, Max can get rid of his own fucking bongs but oh god, is Magnus going to survive nine months of no smoking around Max? Max spills out a nervous laugh, thinking about that impossibility.

“Uh, Magnus,” Max says before Magnus walks out of the bedroom. Max is a little stunned but he follows him out and sees Magnus putting on his pants and socks. Seems he’d prepared them, along with the shoes nearby. “Magnus.”

Magnus tucks his shirt inside and zips himself up. “Astemar’s gift, by the way.”

Max reacts, stepping back. He looks to the bedroom and thinks about the closet. That thing’s still closed, did—did Magnus spend most of last night digging through the apartment or something?!

Yes, I looked through your closet. Your gifts fell out when I bumped into the bedroom door. You have really flimsy wood quality here, just so you know,” Magnus turns with a sparkling smile on his face. It’s as if nothing happened, as if he hadn’t been accidentally letting down his guard. “But I noticed you had nothing for her and something for me, and that just won’t do!”

Max rests against the hallway wall, crossing his arms. He fixes his shirt, not wanting to show anything. “Magnus.” His eyes dress down the other man. “Are you going to tell me what happened with Astemar?”

Magnus stops for a second, his eyes in thought. He purses his lips before he looks at Max. He snaps his socks once they’re on. “I told her sorry for worrying her. I told her we spent time in bed together—all chastely, don’t worry–and I taught you some Spanish.” When Max snorts a giggle, Magnus smiles softly: “We can probably make that a reality on the way to Pueblo Plaza.”

Magnus Power always lies. Except when he doesn’t. Who can guess when that happens? Max thinks he got a good eye for those guesses. But there are times when his radar still fails him. Is this one such time? He can’t tell. But when the manchild walks up to him with his shoes in hand, and kisses him on the forehead…

“Hurry up and get dressed, darling. Pueblo closes in,” says Magnus, snapping his arm to check his watch, “oh damn, it’s two o’ clock already?!”

Without missing a beat, Max says: “Time flies when you’re having fun.”

Magnus shoots him a knowing look. “Funny man. Pueblo closes in three hours—”

“–Three hours?!–” 

“—because yadda yadda, workers’ right or something,” Magnus dismisses with a rolling tone, dropping the shoes when he realizes his suit jacket is on the seat. “So hurry up, that’s where we’re going to get a gift for wifey.”

Max says in a low tone: “From the store where people with no hope go to shop?”

Magnus nods fervently, putting on his suit jacket and fixing himself. Max gives up, really. “I’ll be a second then.” To be fair, he was having trouble with her gift. He had nothing. He might as well take the lifeline Magnus is giving him. Magnus isn’t also going to tell him whatever he really said to Astemar and in a few hours, maybe Max will call Astemar and hash it out—hash out based on the twofold lies both men have given her. He’s going to wait until she realizes Magnus is lying. It’s her story, not his mistake. But soon it really is going to be his mistake, not her fault. He almost wishes Magnus would be there to soften the blow/

Max gets out of the bedroom. He’s dressed in his usual turtleneck and baggy coat. He dashes quickly to the corner of the door, in a straight line towards his boots.

“No pomade?” 

Max shakes his head to brush his bangs out of the way. It’s not until he turns back to Magnus sitting against the seat, finishing his cigarette, that Max touches his hair and realizes he almost went out without his usual look. In a moment of weakness, Max looks down and scratches at his boot before walking to the door.

“James Cagney.”

Magnus raises a brow, takes the cigarette out his mouth.

“That’s, uh. That’s actually who my crush is. I really liked him as a kid. Um, not that I didn’t like Danny Kaye but it’s—” Max taps at his boot. “It’s different with him. And with Cagney.”

Magnus says nothing. He steps off the seat and walks over to the door. He takes his own shoes and dusts them off. He dumps the extremely small white stub remaining of his cigarette into the corner bin. Max stays looking at him, wondering. He’s ready for whatever stupid comment but he still wonders.

Magnus rests his hand against the door as he pulls up each shoe by their heel. “Damn, I forgot. I need to give up smoking around you, don’t I?”

Welp. Max didn’t expect that comment. He picks at the boots with both thumbs before he bends down and puts them on as well. When he bends back up, Magnus leans in and gives him a quick kiss.

“Did you really not understand what I said this morning?”

“No, you mourohn.”

Magnus snickers, covers his mouth. “Oh god, that’s too American for me. I think that offended even the Pope. You need help,” says Magnus, tapping Max’s chest flamboyantly. Max shoots him a scowl. Magnus continues: “But yes, hair, pomade. Are you going out like this then?”

Max wonders about this too. Ultimately, he’s too spent and not in the mood to give a shit, so he shrugs. He ruffles his bangs at least. Then Magnus holds him by his head abruptly. Max raises a brow while Magnus brushes Max’s hair into…something.

“There. Now you’re just like a bootleg version of Andrew Keegan.”

“…Who?” says Max with every sincere bone in his body. Magnus groans. He rolls his eyes, hangs his hands up in the air in defeat. He opens the door and stands by it like a showman, letting Max go out first. And Max does, grabbing his bag next to the box next to the shoes. Then he stops—on account of Magnus putting his arms around him before they both leave. 

“Before we go out, first lesson: mi amor means something lovely.”

Max points to Magnus with a perplexed look. “That.”

“That what?”

“That kinda sounds like something you said.”

Magnus lowers down to Max’s ears: “I told you, because it means something lovely. It’s—”

Max freezes in place. He grasps at his bag. He rubs at his forehead, patting at his cheek because he doesn’t want to look like he’s overheated. Useless with his dark skin, he knows, but anxiety’s hard to break. He also pokes Magnus with his elbow, and without intending to, pokes him close to last night’s bruise. Explains why Magnus winces and his hand tightens.

“Come on.” Max sighs, “Christmas is going to be here before we even reach downstairs.”

Max waits outside for Magnus to get over his temporary pain. While Magnus grumbles and complains yet again, Max closes the door. The day’s still grey, Max notices, when he glances over at the hallway window at the end. Fits, doesn’t it? Somber, unknowing. Is the baby shit going to work out? How’d he feel if it didn’t? All this for nothing and at the expense of their mutual companion. Yet, he knows he’s being very selfish right now, walking close to Magnus, close enough to hang a hand onto him in the secret corners before they go outside to the real world and he has to let go.

Max isn’t sure what’s going to happen in the next few hours or the next few weeks. Right now, he supposes, going Christmas shopping for a friend serves as a nice distraction.

If he doesn’t kill Magnus first.

Love2
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3 thoughts on “How Soon Is Now?

  1. It’s these two again! Interesting to see the ways their (and Astemar’s!) relationship has been evolving over time, and how Max still has a complicated reaction to any solution that feels too easy. Here’s hoping that however the baby thing goes, it’s the best decision for all of them, including any potential siblings!

  2. This was intense and messy and very human-feeling, with some lovely sweet moments as well. As a guy who really doesn’t want to become pregnant I both find it to be a challenging topic sometimes and also appreciate seeing it come up, if that makes sense. :)
    Gorgeous illustrations, also! I especially love the angle on that second one.

  3. It is all very complicated in their world and relationships, but they are all trying in their flawed ways. Good luck to them in making their way to happiness.

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