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    Mercury Eff
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A Night with no Stars - 12. Sucker for Pain

Maks made the first call around two pm, maybe an hour after Wiki left. All he got was voicemail. He tossed the phone on the table and went back to staring into space. He felt sick of sitting around and moping.

He made the second call after four with a similar result. It was even kind of funny, because meanwhile Ewelina tried to call him four times, so Aleks was avoiding his calls and he was avoiding her calls. He would have turned his phone off, but what if Aleks called back? What a vicious circle.

And the fact that Aleks wasn't answering was almost causing him physical pain. Maks knew he was upset, or maybe livid was a more fitting term. He probably had reason to be. Maks wasn't sure anymore who was right and who fucked up more. Probably him.

But was there any other way? What was he supposed to tell him? Yes, let's waltz off together into the sunset? It wasn't something you could figure out right away. It took time. He was taking his time to work it out and he was starting to think that it wasn't totally beyond his control. He knew in theory that it wasn't a choice, but it was still his choice to give in or not. He'd survived twenty four years without engaging with men whatsoever and he could obviously keep on doing it. Sure, Aleks was special to him, but Ewelina used to be pretty special too. There were probably hundreds of people in the world that could be special to him. People, meaning women. It wasn't a coward's way out. There was nothing cowardly in not making your life harder when you didn't have to. Besides, he had exactly zero faith in his own resolve, and he didn't want to end up being a dick who promises something and then backs out when shit gets serious. That would be an awful thing to do to Aleks.

Then why had he spent the last three hours staring anxiously at the phone, waiting for this little shit to acknowledge him? Why had he been holding his breath every time he'd heard vibration? He didn't even know what he was going to say to him, for Christ's sake.

The answer for all these whys was pretty simple. It was because some part of his brain, an irrational part that was completely separated from the rest and unable to see reason, was ready to beg Aleks on his knees to come back to his apartment and stay. There wasn't even anything sexual about it, he just wanted Aleks to snuggle up with him and kiss his collarbone from time to time like back then , before everything went to hell. At least Maks would know that Aleks still wanted to kiss him, even though he knew that wanting Aleks to want to kiss him while he didn't know what he wanted himself was fucked up.

He just hoped that when Aleks picked up, if he ever did, this traitorous part of his brain wouldn't take control, because he still considered repeating what had happened a disastrous idea.

But Wiki said... yeah, but it was Wiki, a rebellious teenager, she liked to just do things out of spite. Maks wasn't like that, he hadn't even been like that when he was her age. He'd always been untarnished, proper and had known his place. He hadn't gotten new bright ideas that everyone considered crazy. Aleks was the kind of wild idea that Maks had never had before. Damn Ewelina for planting the seed of doubt in his mind and damn Aleks for being so... so addictive. Once you've got deep enough, you could never get back out.

The climax was reached around six pm, after eight unanswered calls from Ewelina and four unanswered calls to Aleks. Maks felt himself losing the battle a little more with every passing second. Back in the morning he had still been determined to keep a clear head, but now he just wanted Aleks to be here. He wanted his help in sorting this out, even though it would be pointless, because he already knew Aleks's stance on it. Maybe deep down he was just tempted to agree to it. He felt as if there were two hostile forces battling inside him, one was a stupid longing, and the other one an even more stupid fear. That's what it all came down to, he wanted Aleks, but he was scared of everything that could possibly come with him. He wouldn't know how to cope if anything came of it. He wasn't sure what he was even trying to picture it for. He already knew that he would never have the balls to go for it.

So if he knew that he wouldn't have the balls to go for it, why was he messing with Aleks's head and wasting his time? Aleks was a funny, confident, smart, good looking eighteen-year-old, with an impish smirk, lovely eyes and hips to die for, musically gifted, poetry writing and fixated on cars. It would take him no more than five minutes to find someone else and to be honest Maks was surprised that he hadn't so far. Unless lately he was waiting for him . If that was true, then Maks shouldn't let him think that there was anything worth waiting for. It wasn't fair. Maks tried to convince himself that he wouldn't mind, but then he imagined Aleks informing him – if they even stayed friends after all of this and still kept in touch – that he had someone and introducing him to that person. That man . First he would probably vomit at the thought of the two of them together in bed and then the thought that it would be someone Aleks would trust more than him. He would tell him things he didn't tell Maks. That was absolutely unacceptable.

Fuck, maybe it would be better if they just cut all ties, before he turned into a total creep. It wouldn't do either of them any good.

He sighed, got up from the table reluctantly and slowly went to the bathroom. He didn't even beat himself up over it, because Aleks had gotten one thing right, defying your own body was pointless. He leaned against the shower wall on his forearm, somehow feeling safer in this small, closed cubicle and drowned out by the water spray. There was no one else his mind was willing to accept as a wanking material, but Maks was expecting it, so he focused fully on him, replaying last night frame-by-frame. He was trying to remember every touch, every whispered word and every sound Aleks made and etch it all in his brain. He could visualize with perfect accuracy how he looked writhing on his lap with his hands on his chest. He was so pliant and willowy, with this feverish gaze that was meant just for him, all of it melted together made it the most beautiful picture Maks had ever seen. That was the picture he longed for, so he clutched it in his mind and started touching himself slowly. He remembered all of it, sultry air around them, Aleks's ribs, because he was so thin that from that angle Maks could distinguish each of them, his sloppy kisses, when he was really focused on something else, but just didn't want to separate their lips. That made Maks think that there weren't many things as hot as stupid kissing with Aleks. No sex he'd ever had measured up.

He went beyond the already known scenarios and started to create new ones. His movements got more erratic when Aleks's hand became his mouth, he saw his head going down and then back up. He felt an overwhelming need to grab something as he would his hair if he was here, but he wasn't, so he dug his fingernails into his hand. He started to fuck his own fist, this time letting his imagination run wild and burying himself inside him. He would be pressing him against the tiles, stroking his hips reverently and brushing his shoulders and neck with his lips over and over, and Aleks would love it, he would be writhing under him and moaning and...

It didn't take long, which wasn't surprising considering the amount of images that attacked him as soon as he closed his eyes. He just panted for a moment, dripping with water and trying to store all of these memories somewhere safe. Because even if it never happened again, he didn't want to leave it behind. He wanted to remember. Maybe one day, when he was fifty and stuck in a boring, worn out, overwhelming marriage, he would remind himself of Aleks and the thought of being with him would make him happy, even if only for a moment. It wasn't the most optimistic scenario, but it was the only one he'd got.

He left the shower, dried himself and went back to the living room with his hair still wet. He checked the calls, no one seemed to have any interest in contacting him, so he dialed again. He didn't expect to hear Aleks's voice, so much that he almost dropped his phone.

"Maks, I'm not sure if you understand the general idea that when someone's not picking up, they're probably busy and will call you back at the earliest convenience," he drawled out without any greeting.

Maks pressed his lips. "Or they're pissed and don't want to talk to me," he said calmly, keeping his cool. "Or they've got murdered and their body's got ditched somewhere in the gutter. Or..."

"Yeah, ok," Aleks capitulated. There was a trace of amusement in his voice. "I'm alive and not that pissed, I just couldn't talk," he informed him haughtily. "Was there anything else?"

Maks bit his lip. Was there? "Listen, I didn't want to..." he started hesitantly.

Aleks immediately cut him off. "Could we please not talk about it ever again?" he asked with a forced chuckle.

Maks blinked. "Ok, if... if that's what you want," he stammered, feeling something inside him protesting violently. They couldn't just sweep it under the rug! Could they?

"That's what I want," Aleks confirmed firmly. "My ego is in just as bad shape as my face right now. There is a limit of blows one guy is able to bear at once and I've crossed it this morning, so spare me," he said casually, clearly trying to turn it all into a joke. Maks didn't believe him for a second. "Listen, I still can't really talk..."

"Ok, are we going to... see each other or something?" Maks asked tentatively, not knowing how to handle Aleks when he was so... aloof. It might not be his best idea, but he had to see him.

Aleks was silent for a while. "Yeah, ok," he finally sighed reluctantly. "I'm just on my way to... take care of something, I've got this little job and..."

"You've got what?" Maks interrupted him sharply. "Aleks, I don't know if you're trying to set me off on purpose and how are you even able to say the word 'job' in a way that makes it sound both illegal and dangerous?"

"Cause it is," Aleks muttered under his breath, then added louder. "Listen, I don't know how long it's gonna take, but if you're up to a midnight stroll, I should be free around eleven..."

"No, don't you dare..." Maks warned him, not even listening anymore.

"We could celebrate that I'm still alive or something," Aleks finished casually.

"Fuck, Aleks, don't say things like that and wherever you're going, turn back right now, you can't... Aleks?" he called desperately, but it was all in vain. He was already gone. "Aleks?" he whispered pointlessly to himself, then let his hand with the phone fall limply on the table top.

That fucking liar. Maks didn't even know why he was surprised, Aleks was always lying after all. He assured him that he wasn't dabbling in it, that it was only his brother. He'd looked straight in his eyes and promised that he wasn't involved in anything dangerous. And he was expecting God knows what, while he was deceiving him all the time himself? Maks wanted to be furious, but all the potential rage was dimmed by grim scenarios. He was cursing the fact that he had to have such a vivid imagination, because he was at once tormented by the picture of Aleks trying to convince everyone around him that he was a shark, while in reality he was just a vulnerable little boy with a good heart and secretly sweet personality. He could easily imagine his boy ending up on he wrong end of a gun or pissing someone you shouldn't piss, because he had such a big mouth, or just finding himself in the wrong place in the wrong time surrounded by cruel people, because he was such a trouble magnet, and Maks was sitting here like an idiot doing nothing.

He couldn't remember when was the last time he felt so useless he wanted to cry.

He still had a few hours until eleven, he might as well get some air and clear his head. And figure out what this kid was trying to prove. And to whom.

 

***

 

It was close to ten thirty and Aleks was sitting on the wall in front of the old cinema, smoking a cigarette and and staring into space. He was trying not to think about Maks, because in theory he knew he had bigger problems to deal with right now. Maks might be a problem for his heart, but it wasn't like he was going to die because Maks didn't like him back. He managed to keep him out of his thoughts before, telling himself that he needed to focus and stay on top of his game, but now that it was all over Maks started to haunt his thoughts again. Maks and what he'd got himself into.

It wasn't so bad, to be honest. The whole operation took no more than twenty minutes. He walked in, said what he had to say and walked out, feeling his shirt sticking to his back and his own blood pounding in his ears. He really hoped the guy couldn't tell, but his reactions didn't indicate it. He was scared, that much was obvious, he didn't want anything to do with them, but it was too late for that. Aleks wasn't sure whether he found his fear more thrilling or overwhelming. It was kind of a smart move to have him do it. Older guys didn't like youngsters, cause youngsters had no restraint and usually feared nothing. Some didn't let anyone walk all over them, but this guy definitely wasn't one of them. Aleks almost felt bad for him. Almost, because at the same time it was wild that it all happened in a public place, as if they were chatting over coffee. Aleks was trying to be as curt and succinct as possible, but he was also painfully aware that he'd barely reached the age of majority and he was no longer a law-abiding citizen. Extortion, one to ten years. Criminal threats, up to two years. Blackmail, up to three years. Aleks wasn't even sure how he knew these things. Probably from Kostek.

He exhaled the smoke slowly. He'd survived one battle, now it was time for another one. It was such shit luck that everything had to happen simultaneously. It would be much easier if Maks had waited one more day before he told him he didn't want him, then Aleks could have gone into action on the wings of love, convinced that he was invincible. But Maks didn't wait and Aleks had to sit in front of this poor, petrified grandpa, playing tough guy in his elegant coat and sunglasses, unshaven so he looked older than he actually was, even though deep inside he felt like a crying pussy with a broken heart. Like he was wearing some stupid mask and now he thought it was a miracle that he managed to keep it cool.

And it was all because of Maks. Ever since he'd left his apartment he'd felt... hollow. He'd spent the whole ride to Praga staring out the window, weirdly shaken, though he could only blame himself. He was the one that stupidly proclaimed Maks to be that one true love he was waiting for his entire short life. But it all turned out to be some fantasy conjured by his brain. And let's be serious, Maks was a guy who already had everything figured out – or at least he thought he had – so it was no wonder that he had no desire to give it all up for Aleks. He just... he really thought it was something special, something that didn't happen everyday. They had this spark between them, but life wasn't a harlequin and in the real world sparks rarely mattered. It wasn't the first time that reality stomped on his rose-tinted glasses and if he was hurting, it was self-inflicted. Damn him for being such a silly romantic.

Later it got a little better. He went home and stayed there for the first time in ages. He checked on his mom. She was laying on the sofa bed for a change, staring absently into space. He felt a surge of nostalgia at the sight. It was the same sofa bed he'd been hiding behind whenever his father had gone psycho and thrown things at his mom and Kostek, back before he disappeared from their lives for good. It was almost eight years ago and since then his mom had come out of depression more or less once a year. All of a sudden she'd get vibrant and energetic, and starting over, only usually it didn't last more than a few weeks before she submerged back into darkness and ultimately this long-awaited new beginning never came. It was also the same sofa bed where Aleks had lost his virginity almost three years ago, with a guy named Norbert. The last time Norbert had given him the time of day had been in the moment when he pulled out, except that one time when he had threatened to kill him if he ever told anyone in the changing rooms after PE. Aleks had nodded dutifully, because back then he'd been much smaller than he was right now, and let him walk away without a word. It'd been his first serious crush. The sex had been quite traumatizing and it had taken more than a year for Aleks to give it another shot.

Now when he thought about it, most of his memories were similarly horrific. It would look brilliant in his biography when he became famous. Tragedy sold well.

He went to the room he shared with Kostek, fell into bed and fixed his gaze on the little crack on the ceiling, cursing himself for spending time as productively as his mother. He hoped that his family home would help, because every time he entered here he was reminded that whatever was happening, it could be worse . And it had helped at first, but only for a minute, because maybe all this motivational bullshit would work if this was about any other guy. But this was about Maks and there wasn't a fiber in his body that was ready to give up on Maks. Not now, when he's already tasted it, saw with his own eyes and felt it on his own skin that this thing between them existed and they both knew it. It had been fucking perfect and then Maks had to open his big mouth. It would have been better if they hadn't spoken at all, if they'd just stayed there as close to each other as was physically possible. It was as if Maks's hands were fixing everything in him, every little insecurity, every wound and every doubt. How could Maks not want it?

He was even more miserable when he rolled out of bed a few hours later. The only thing he could think of was that he wanted him back. If he was going to burst into tears, as he suspected he could any minute now, he wanted to do it on his shoulder. Some small, completely undignified part of him wanted to beg him to give them a chance. That was why he hadn't been taking his calls, he was afraid that if Maks suddenly changed his mind, he would run back to him without a second thought, and he wasn't going to let anyone take him for granted, not even Maks. He'd finally answered, because he didn't want to seem resentful and he felt he'd succeeded. For a moment he'd been triumphant and thrilled with his own self-control, before he realized that he might have handled the situation like a big boy instead of a little girl for a change, but the guy he was into still didn't want him, so ultimately he'd won shit. He deflated, but managed to convince himself that at least he'd kept his pride and he couldn't keep thinking about Maks anyway, because he had a job to do that required all his attention.

He snapped out of his thoughts, checked his phone and cursed, because where did he get the idea that he would be ready to see him so soon after this lovely morning 'fuck off'? His mental state was so low that he didn't even know what to expect from himself. It mostly depended on Maks, because if he kept on with all these 'I don't knows' and 'I don't understands' then Aleks might punch him, but if he was all adamant and attentive like he'd been last night, he might confess his love. He hidden his face in his hands. Get a fucking grip.

When he'd got to Plan B, Maks was already waiting. He jumped out of his seat when he saw Aleks stopping hesitantly in the doorway and quickly made his way towards him.

"Hi," Aleks mumbled tentatively, because Maks's brows were knitted and his eyes held a trace of something... wild.

"What the fuck was that supposed to mean?" he growled, grabbing his arm harshly.

Aleks had to admit that he at least tried to keep his voice down. He blinked cluelessly.

"We could celebrate that you're still alive?" he quoted furiously. "Are you fucking serious?"

Aleks's eyes widened. "Jesus, not here," he hissed, gripping his wrist and dragging him outside.

Maks yanked away, but followed him to the nearest empty gate.

"What's your problem?" he asked in annoyance after making sure they were out of earshot.

"What's my problem?" Maks echoed incredulously. "Are you really that dense? I've told you that I'm worried about you, you little shit, and you throw something like this in my face? What was that supposed to be, a punishment?"

Aleks didn't know how to react to his outburst, because it was kind of true that he'd done it on purpose. He knew he shouldn't tell Maks anything about what he was doing and that it was both selfish and stupid, but he couldn't help himself, because deep inside he wanted Maks to be worried. That was an ultimate proof that he at least gave a shit.

"Promise me," Maks asked with emphasis, tightening his fists on Aleks's jacket. "Promise me that you will stop. Whatever you're doing and for whomever, just go to them and tell them you've changed your mind. That you don't want to..."

A short, bitter laugh escaped Aleks's throat. "It might be a little late for that," he said, regaining his confidence. He looked Maks defiantly in the eyes and added out of spite. "And since you've made it clear that you have no declarations for me, I don't understand why you expect me to..."

"So what, it's some kind of sick blackmail?" Maks asked testily. "You won't stop until I..."

"What the fuck are you even talking about, Maks?" Aleks cut him off calmly. "What I'm saying is that it's got nothing to do with you. It's none of your business what I do with my life. If you ever had a chance to have a say in it, you blew it."

Maks looked like all his strength suddenly disappeared, leaving him lifeless. "Fuck, Aleks," he whispered, not looking like he was going to be able to come to terms with it. He raised his hand tentatively to cup his still swollen cheek. He caressed it with his thumb gently and then let his head fall on his shoulder. It was such an endearing, defeated gesture, Aleks felt all of his anger instantly disappearing. Maks took a deep breath and decided to elaborate. "Fuck, Aleks, you can't... if something happens to you I... I don't know what I..." he uttered into his neck, not really knowing what he was saying.

"Hey, shh," Aleks muttered before enfolding him in his arms. He nuzzled the side of his face when Maks snuggled closer to him without second thought. "I'm going to be fine," he whispered reassuringly, slowly stroking his hair. Maks mumbled something unintelligibly. They spent a long moment just like that, holding each other without words.

"I thought you had no promises," Maks broke the silence after calming down a little.

Aleks forced a smile. "I can promise you that much," he said, even if he knew it was just empty words.

Maks pulled away, not letting him go. His gaze wandered to his face, he looked the same as Maks felt, weary and drained. It would be so easy to kiss him now. It would be so easy to put him into a cab, take him home and make sure that at least today he stayed in one piece. But this was now, and tomorrow he would wake up in a turmoil again, with his head full of guilt, panic and anxiety, and Aleks would end up hurt again. They couldn't keep going around in circles and getting back to square one every time. Maks had to learn from previous mistakes to at least not hurt this remarkable boy in his arms more than he already had, even if that was all he could do for him.

"I'm sorry that I can't promise you anything," he whispered remorsefully. Aleks jerked his head with a lump in his throat. "I can't... be with you the way you want to. I'm... I'm a mess," he confessed frankly. "I don't think I've ever been such a mess. And I'm trying to figure it all out, but what... what happened between us, it's not me and I'm not ready for everything that comes with it..." he broke off, lost for words.

Aleks leaned in. "Maks, nothing comes with it," he whispered desperately. "There's you and there's me, that's all. We wouldn't have to..."

"But we would," Maks objected. "We would and that's why, because it just doesn't make sense, when I think of myself I don't..."

"Just admit it," Aleks cut him off defiantly. "Admit that if you have any say in this, you don't want to be a faggot."

Maks opened his mouth to answer, but then closed it, staring at him a little stunned. "No," he admitted, because he owed him at least that. "No, I don't."

"Because you think being a faggot is derogatory," Aleks added firmly.

"No, I don't think that..." Maks protested instantly.

"So being a faggot is fine as long as you are not one." Aleks raised an eyebrow knowingly. Maks found himself at loss again. Damn him and his acumen. When Aleks didn't get any reaction for a few more moments, he dropped his eyes. "Just go, Maks," he asked quietly.

And this time Maks thought that he really should go. He opened his mouth, trying to think of something to say, but it felt as if everything was already said, so he just mumbled under his breath a stupid 'I'm sorry' that solved nothing, turned on his heel and walked away, leaving Aleks alone in the gate.

Maks didn't see him leaning against the cold wall and raising his hand to his mouth to stop a single, quiet sob. Aleks looked up, blinking furiously to get rid of the tears from the corners of his eyes, because he just told Maks to go and he listened, and it felt so fucking final . He took a cigarette out with a shaking hand and lit it up, trying to keep himself together. He wasn't crying because he was flat-out turned down by a guy who was supposed to be his soulmate, he wasn't a pussy to cry over something so petty. He was crying because it was a fucked up day and he felt completely burnt out and dead inside. He needed... fuck, he was only human and a kid on top of that, and right now he just needed some sense of stability so he didn't lose his mind.

He wasn't sure how long he spent in the subway, the whole ride seemed to pass in a flash. Before he noticed, he was already climbing up the stairs and knocking.

The door opened and Wincent blinked in surprise. "Hey," he smiled unconsciously. "So, how did it go? How was your big debut?" he asked curiously, opening the door wider. He froze when Aleks looked up.

"Good," he rasped tearfully, trying to pretend that everything was fine and failing miserably. "Is your sister here?"

"No," Wincent said mechanically. "What the fuck? You went to talk to that guy like that?" He pointed to his bruised face and came out to him. "Who did this?" he asked harshly. There was a trace of fury in his eyes and Aleks knew him well enough to know that he was close to losing it. "Aleks?" he added, grabbing his chin and forcing his head up. "Were you crying?" He frowned, clearly baffled, because that was definitely a first.

For a moment Aleks was mortified that he let him see him in such a state, but eventually thought that... Wincent was kind of his sanctuary. He was always there whenever Aleks needed him, and now he was looking at him with concern and holding his chin, even though anyone could walk in on them, and in return Aleks had been giving him scraps and keeping him at arm's distance for months. Maybe he deserved more, maybe it was about time to give something back. So what that he saw him crying? Everyone cried sometimes.

With that thought he took an abrupt step forward and rested his head on Wincent's chest. He felt his arms surrounding him and burrowed his face in the soft material of his hoodie. He felt so warm and secure when he was letting him hide in these hideous, stretched tattoos and Aleks found himself full of guilt, because all he could think about was that he wished Maks could be as warm and secure.

Big thanks to Mawrgrim for editing and to you all for reading and leaving feedback!

Copyright © 2021 Mercury Eff; All Rights Reserved.
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Poor Maks is so messed up. This is probably the saddest part of it.

Maybe one day, when he was fifty and stuck in a boring, worn out, overwhelming marriage, he would remind himself of Aleks and the thought of being with him would make him happy, even if only for a moment.

 

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This sums it up, one has to wonder if it is beyond repairable or worth salvaging...

Maks pulled away, not letting him go. His gaze wandered to his face, he looked the same as Maks felt, weary and drained. It would be so easy to kiss him now. It would be so easy to put him into a cab, take him home and make sure that at least today he stayed in one piece. But this was now, and tomorrow he would wake up in a turmoil again, with his head full of guilt, panic and anxiety, and Aleks would end up hurt again. They couldn't keep going around in circles and getting back to square one every time. Maks had to learn from previous mistakes to at least not hurt this remarkable boy in his arms more than he already had, even if that was all he could do for him.

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Yeah, I know it doesn't look very optimistic lately and it's gonna be sad for a little while longer... I think everything is repairable if everyone involved consider it worth repairing, people are just too stubborn too see it sometimes, so fingers crossed that they will get their acts together. Just hang on, things are going to lighten up a bit soon.

Thank you for comments!

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