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New Beginnings, Chapter 8

Reply to Alex Parrish

Posted to the RoswellSlash mailing list October 6, 2003

Part:1/19 "New Beginnings"
Author: Alex Parrish
E-mail: alexparrish@wi.rr.com
Disclaimer: Characters belong to Katims, Metz and the WB. No infringement is intended. I own nothing, Trust me. Suing is futile!
Paring: M/K
Feedback: Please
Distribution: Roswell Slash Archive/Others Ask
Rating: X? Explicit sex and language
Spoilers: Nothing in particular and seasons 1,2,3 in general
Thanks: To aunty_mib, Beta extraodinaire, eh!
Summary/General: The lives of the 7 primary characters for 9 months after they leave season 3.
Summary/Chapter: Max and Kyle visit Club Babylon with surprising results.



Dance Down Babylon

      I'm not sure where I heard about it; maybe it was when I was at football camp a couple years ago in Amarillo where I snuck out to that gay bar -- I can't remember -- but I guess just about anybody even marginally gay knows about Club Babylon, so when our route took us near Pittsburgh, I casually mentioned that I'd kind-of like to see what it was like.

      I had been to a few gay bars in Texas and New Mexico, when I could get out of town with a good excuse. I usually managed to find a concert or a sporting event I could sneak away to, and then look for the gay bars once I got there. It wasn't that hard to get away alone because Dad was always 'on call.'

      Lubbock, and El Paso, Texas, and Santa Fe, NM are about equal distances from Roswell; Lubbock the closest at 175 miles and El Paso the farthest at just over 200 miles; in different directions, of course. I had been to 'Briar Patch' and 'Chiquita's' in El Paso. There are a couple places in Santa Fe,(the 'Paramount/BarB' and 'Swig') but Lubbock is a total wasteland. If your willing to drive another 122 miles from Lubbock to Amarillo, there's the '212 Club' and 'T Time.' All in all, it's kind-of useless to drive all that way just to meet a few guys, and turn around again and drive home, and I couldn't really find excuses to stay overnight. Besides that, I was so head-over- heels in love with Max Evans, that every other guy seemed unappealing. Oh, I was horny all right, but I had a much better chance of scheduling a secret rendezvous with Max than finding anyone interesting at a bar, so I just didn't go very often.

      Max had still never been to a gay bar. We were supposed to go to one in San Francisco, but Max chickened out -- he said he had some bad sushi, but I knew he just wasn't ready to handle it yet.

      So, you can see why I wasn't surprised that Max hadn't heard of it and kind-of surprised that Jesse had. Jesse said that he hadn't been there, but he knew some gay guys at Harvard who drove all the way from Cambridge to Pittsburgh to go to one of the special weekends there. They said the place gave a whole new meaning to the word 'out.'

      That was all that Max needed to hear. When Max decides he's ready for something, he doesn't mess around, whether it's proposing to his boyfriend, running away from home, or trying to find a spaceship the government is hiding. When Jesse told us about his friends going to Babylon, Max was hot-to-trot.

      We were staying at a motel in a small town right outside Pittsburgh, called Schenley Park. I told Max that Club Babylon probably didn't start jumping until after ten at the earliest. Max was ready to go right after dinner. Jesse had to help me convince Max that we should wait until later to go. When the time finally came, I decided I'd better drive because Max was too anxious.

      Max had gone back to our motel room to change clothes for the third time. When he reappeared I was awestruck by how gorgeous he looked; Black jeans that looked like they were sprayed-on, and a white sleeveless tee (with just a little bit of sparkle) that clung to his chest and showed every ripple. I wonder if someone told him how white stands out in a dark bar, or if he just naturally knew how to stand out. Of course, Max stands out everyplace, no matter what he's wearing.

      I was in my favorite blue western-cut jeans, with the silver-dollar buckle which I always wore; it had belonged to my grandfather, and, of course my boots. I chose a western-cut blue shirt that almost matches my eyes, with mother-of-pearl snaps and white piping. The western cut emphasized the v-shape of my torso -- when you're on the shorter side, like I am, you need to emphasize your assets. I changed my mind about the bolo a couple of times, but decided the outfit looked best with my Turquoise and silver bolo with white lanyards and silver tips; I had picked it up when we were passing through Oklahoma - I had none of this stuff when we left home. I had also picked up a really classy hat with silver trim in South Dakota during our ramblings this summer, but I decided against wearing it, having once lost a favorite hat in a dance bar in El Paso when it got passed around while I was dancing, and I think some fairy cowboy took a shine to it (or to me) and took off with it. (I was pissed!) I don't mean to sound like I think I'm 'all that' or anything but, to tell the truth, I thought I looked pretty hot, and I figured this outfit was likely to stand out in Pittsburgh. Standing there, beside Max, I suddenly felt underdressed. No, that's not true. I felt under-attractive.

      "Hey lover, are we going out to dance and meet a few folks, or are you planning on seducing every gay male between 18-30 in Pittsburgh?"

      Max shot me a devilish grin. "I dunno -- let's see what develops!"

      "I think I just changed my mind about going! LIZ! Come here, I need you to help me restrain your husband! He's about to break Pittsburgh's heart."

      He laughed and blew me a kiss. "Don't worry Buddha-boy, I guarantee Club Babylon has nothing that I don't already have here -- and I like what I've got." He threw me the keys to the van.

      Not exactly my idea of a sexy cruiser, but it was all we had. I figured I'd park a couple blocks away and nobody'd see us in this loser- mobile.

      We had a map, and Pittsburgh is not all that difficult to navigate, at least the downtown, so we were there in half an hour. I HAD to park 3 blocks away; it was a Saturday night and we could hear the music from where we parked. The closer we walked, the more butterflies I got. As I said, I had been to dance clubs before -- gay and straight ones -- but I'm just a cowboy from the boondocks. Let's face it, El Paso ain't exactly Pittsburgh. I hoped I'd know how to act, and that I wouldn't somehow make a damn fool of myself. I needn't have worried, the place turned out to be so wild, no one would have noticed if I had been naked, on a horse, and on fire.

      The first thing I noticed is that the place is huge. I had seen huge bars in Texas, but I had never imagined a queer-bar could be this huge. Second, the air was a thick blue. My nose told me it was smoke, and not all of it from over-the-counter products. Third, the place was packed -- no wonder the go-go boys were in elevated cages, there was no room for them on the floor. The entire room was lit with spots and strobes, and mirrored balls, and neon and blacklight, and the whole effect was like suddenly stepping inside an intense video-game. I was dizzy, but I don't know if it was from the lights, or the smoke, or the loudness of the music. I wasn't too dizzy to notice that the place was chock-full of hot guys. I also noticed that, when Max walked in, heads turned, and eyes followed him wherever he went. Now I REALLY felt under-attractive.

      We worked our way toward the center of the place where it seemed hundreds of hot male bodies were writhing in time with the rhythm in an erotic cross between a dance and an orgy.

      Max turned around to me and yelled in my ear. "Let's dance."

      I nodded -- I knew talking was futile. We squeezed ourselves into the pulsating mob and took up the rhythm. It struck me that I had never danced with Max. I had seen him dance; at Isabel's wedding, and her birthday party. I remember I was dying to dance with him at the prom -- that would have gone over well in Roswell! Now, here we were sharing our first dance with what seemed like half of Pittsburgh. The music was non-stop and the DJ was on a roll. We danced for a good three-quarters-of-an-hour before he finally threw in a slow dance number.

      Max and I looked awkwardly at each other, trying to figure out how to get started; whose hand went where, and who leads. We finally just approached each other in a loose hug, and there wasn't much room to move so leading and following became moot point. Somehow then, we were magically alone, touching and subtly moving to the music cheek-to-cheek; it could have been the prom, or somebody's birthday party, or on the banks of the Colorado. I didn't notice and I didn't care. I did notice that Max seemed more relaxed than I've ever seen him and that surprised me a little; I thought he would be more uptight about dancing with me at a gay club. This was bliss. Then it was over.

      The music started pounding out a beat that demanded frenzied movement.

      I screamed in Max's ear, "Let's get something to drink." He nodded. We wormed our way over to the bar, and I ordered two Cokes -- I did have enough big-city savvy not to bother asking for Cherry-Coke -- this was, after all a bar. I knew that Max didn't want alcohol, and even if I had, I was designated driver, so Cokes were the rule. I paid for the Cokes, enough for a twelve-pack of beer back home. Max never really stopped dancing, moving his head and body in rhythm even as we stood at the 2.5 inches of bar I managed to free- up. I didn't know he liked to dance so much. We stood, looking around for a while, and then, a guy who looked like he belonged on the cover of a magazine walked right up to Max and whispered in his ear and grabbed his hand. I felt less attractive by the second.

      Max turned to me and asked, "OK if I dance with him?"

      I think I paused a moment and then said "OK" just as Max began to say something about 'he didn't have to,' or 'he'd rather dance with me,' or something of the sort, but then I just felt obliged to insist he dance with the cover model and I took Max's Coke and said "Go, dance! -- I'll be OK right here."

      Actually, the almost solid-hour of dancing we had just finished was nearing my limit anyway -- at least unless I had a decent break, so I figured I'd rest up and then go find my man again. No sweat, I told myself, I'm not the jealous type. Even if the guy who dragged off my man was gorgeous. Even if he looked tall, and sophisticated and worldly, and just about everything I'm not. Weird isn't it? I don't feel inferior to other people most of the time, but somehow in this place I felt insecure. I drained my glass and Max's glass and ordered another, just to have something to do with my hands while I stood there. I must have been standing there for five or ten minutes when an otherwise good-looking guy with blue hair touched my shoulder and I thought he was going to ask me if I wanted to dance. I was going to say 'yes' -- his hair matched my shirt.

      Instead he said, "My name's Lucien. That's so you know what to scream. I've got a condom with your name on it."

      "Uh...No...Thanks, I'm with someone."

      "Huh. Too bad. Your loss." Lucien spun and was gone.

      I actually hadn't noticed a really cute blonde guy, about my height standing right behind me -- he looked about sixteen, but they carded us at the door (Alien magic to the rescue) so I was pretty sure he was 21, or at least had an ID that said he was. He touched my elbow and said, "Don't mind Lucien. He doesn't take rejection easily. Often..., but not easily." Then he flashed a huge smile that could have been on a toothpaste ad. "Which tired line did he throw you? Wait, let me guess." He managed to make air-quotes with only one free hand, and put a bit of nasal in his voice to sound a bit like Lucien,"'Are you gay? Wow, me too, let's have sex.'"

      I smiled back. "Actually, no. It was 'I've got a ...'"

      He finished the sentence in unison with me "'...condom with your name on it.' That's one of his favorites. That one and 'I think I could fall madly in bed with you.'"

      "Gee," I responded, "he should try 'If I told you that you had a great body, would you hold it against me? '"

      "Or, 'I'm easy, but it looks like you are hard.'" He smiled bigger - I wasn't quite sure, was he hitting on me or just making bar conversation?

      "Or," I countered, "Nice clothes, but they'd look better on my bedroom floor."

      "Or, 'Hi, my name is Lucien and I don't have a gag reflex.'" (This kid was sharp -- I liked him)

      I laughed. "Good one! Or, how about, 'So, are you going to give me your phone number, or am I going to have to stalk you?'"

      He laughed too. "Or how about, 'If this bar is a meat market, you must be the prime rib.'"

      "Let's see; (I was almost out of pick-up lines) How about, 'Is it hot in here or is it just you?'"

      "That works." He put a finger to his cheek as though he were thinking. "How about, 'If I knew how hot you were I would have grabbed your ass instead of bumping into you.'"

      I gave a belly-laugh for that one.

      He looked serious for a moment. "No, really, If I knew how hot you were I would have grabbed your ass instead of bumping into you.'" He paused a beat, looking for my reaction, then held out a hand. "Justin."

      I reciprocated, "Kyle" (Oops, I suddenly wondered if I was supposed to use my alias, Jamie Lawler. Too late now.)

      "Welcome to Babylon, Kyle. Where you from?"

      "It shows that much, huh?"

      "Not at all; just your entire outfit, your looks, and your accent, I hardly noticed!" We both laughed. "Don't sweat it, everybody has a first time."

      Then he repeated, "Where you from?"

      "I'm kind-of...between locations right now, but I was born in New Mexico." (I hoped I hadn't given too much.)

      "Cool" was all he said. After a moment he continued, "That your boyfriend -- the tall dark and handsome one in the white tee?"

      "Yup."

      "He's to die for."

      "Yup."

      "You don't mind him dancing with other guys?"

      "This is the first time it's come up. I'm not sure yet how I feel about it."

      He suddenly had a more serious tone -- still the smile, just a bit more serious. "Are you guys up for... adventures?"

      I thought I knew exactly what he meant, but needed the time to come up with a clever answer which wasn't too off-putting - as I said, I DID like the guy.

      "Adventures?" I asked.

      "Yeah, like, sex with other couples?"

      "Whoa, buckaroo! You Eastern guys ride right in with both guns a-blazing, don't'cha?"

      "Saves time"

      "I'll bet it does. Thanks for asking; I'm flattered, but...No. Max and I are... exclusive. (I knew that was a lie -- at least as it applied to Max and Liz, but I sure wasn't about to get into that with this kid.)

      "Well, are you certain your man is giving out the same answer, because he sure seems to be having a good time."

      I stood on tiptoes to see Max in the crowd. He was dancing wildly with 'cover-boy' and they had both taken off their shirts. Sweat was glistening on Max's sculpted body and he was dancing like his life depended on it. 'Cover-boy' had a shit-eating grin on his face and one hand grasping the front waistband of Max's jeans. I suddenly knew exactly how I felt about it; I didn't like it one bit.

      "If I were you, I'd keep an eye on that boyfriend." Justin offered. "The guy he's dancing with usually gets what he wants, and it looks to me like your boyfriend is his 'boy-du-jour.'"

      "You know him?"

      "His name is Brian Kinney. He's sort-of a legend around here."

      "So you do know him?"

      "I guess you could say that. I live with him."

      "He's your boyfriend?"

      "Not exactly. Brian doesn't DO boyfriends, but we are in a relationship -- it's... hard to describe."

      "So..., the two of you planned to hit on me AND my boyfriend?"

      Justin just gave a big grin and sucked on his drink.

      Dumbfounded, the only thing I could do was scratch my head and say, "To each his own." Once the double meaning of that hit me I added, "And I'd better go stake a claim to what's mine. Thanks for the 'heads-up', Justin. Nice meeting you."

      "Likewise"

      I began to work my way over to where Max and Kinney were dancing -- not an easy task in this frenzied mob, but with a little determination and a good deal of pushing (and quite a bit of being groped) I managed to edge my way to them.

      I reached over and grabbed the front of Max's belt opposite from where Kinney was clutching and gave him a little turn in my direction. He grinned and reached over to Kinney and nudged him so that we formed a dancing threesome, which caused 'Mr. cover- model' to let go of Max's pants. Max looked at Kinney and pointed towards me and then grabbed and shook his shirt, which was tucked into his pants, hanging at his side. Kinney grinned and moved away, and I thought at first he was leaving. Instead, he just moved behind me and placed both his hands on my shoulders, still dancing and moving his hips against my butt suggestively. I wasn't too fond of that. Max was now facing me directly and it was only when he reached out for me that I figured out what was going on. Max began struggling, (while still dancing) trying to unbutton my shirt, apparently not realizing that it didn't have buttons; it had snaps. He wasn't getting anywhere, which was just fine with me. I'm not ashamed of my body in the least, but I'm not inclined to parade around undressed in public, and even less inclined to be undressed by someone else -- even Max -- right on the dance floor. Kinney slipped a hand over my shoulder and slid it down to the first snap and gave it a yank to show Max how it worked. Max reached to un-snap my shirt again, and I blocked his hands, but Kinney gently, but firmly pinned my arms behind me, allowing Max to reach over and open the shirt, top to bottom with one robust tug. I realized that I had no choice in this, they were taking my shirt off me, but they seem to have missed the fact that I was wearing a bolo, which was now strangling me. Max was oblivious, but Kinney realized something was wrong -- no doubt from experience, having taken the clothes off hundreds or maybe even thousands of boys (I imagined. After all he did have a reputation!) He reached around to my throat and felt the clasp, then worked the laniard out of my shirt collar, preventing my death and finishing the disrobing. He handed me my shirt which I reluctantly tucked into my pants. As I did this, Kinney danced around to my front where he deftly adjusted my bolo and flashed his best come-hither expression. I smiled politely then fixed my gaze on my man. To my disappointment we were dancing as a threesome again.

      After a few minutes, Justin appeared from the midst of the mob and, in a single motion, stripped off his tee and twirled it over his head, then whipped it around me, grabbing the other end, effectively lassoing me, and breaking our threesome into two twosomes. I began to suspect that perhaps 'No' has a different meaning in Pittsburgh, or at least at Babylon. Not wishing to be rude, I danced for a while with Justin; he really is cute, but I was too worried to enjoy it; too worried about what Max was doing with Kinney, or, more to the point, what Kinney was doing with Max. Casually I looked over to Max again -- or, to where he had been; he and Kinney were nowhere to be seen. I panicked. I stopped dancing and screamed in Justin's ear. "Where'd they go?"

      Justin kept dancing and pointed over his shoulder, but I had no idea where he was pointing. All I could see was bodies and more bodies. I repeated the question.

      This time Justin motioned me to follow and screamed back, "We'll go that-a-way, cowboy -- I think we can head 'em off at the pass."

      Justin was leading me towards the back of the bar. The only thought that came into my mind was 'back room.' I've never been to a 'back room' in a gay bar, but I know what goes on there -- or at least I think I do. I was panicked. Finally we reached Kinney and Max, just at the entrance to what was surely the 'back room.'

      "Maxwell (I NEVER call him that -- I hope he understood my tone) where do you think you're going?"

      Max turned to me and flashed a silly smile. "Kyle, Kyle..."

      (He seemed to be weaving a little -- (had he drunk something?) -- or maybe he was just swaying to the beat)

      "Kylie-boy, this is my friend Brian. He's gonna show me sumpthin' in the back room..." It was, perhaps, one decibel quieter here, so loud conversation was almost possible.

      I grabbed Max by the elbow; first to stop his walking away, but also to support his weaving. "I don't think that's such a good idea. Have you been drinking?" (No, he was definitely weaving and his speech was ever-so-slightly slurred.)

      "Of courze not! You know I don' drink."

      Despite his protest to the contrary, he WAS weaving a little, and I know Max's speech pattern well enough to realize that it wasn't quite right. I hadn't seen him drink anything, but something wasn't right.

      Brian flashed his GQ smile, "Ah! The little cowboy. Are you going to join us?"

      "Nope." I said it with my sternest face.

      Kinney shrugged and turned again to the back room with Max in tow, but Max stumbled on the first step. That seemed to surprise Kinney, who paused and gave Max a once-over squinting his eyes as though he could see into Max's head. "You're drunker than I realized." He turned Max a little towards me and suggested (with a bit of a sarcastic edge) "Here, babe, why don't you dance with Roy Rogers. I don't do guys who are out-of-it. Booze, drugs, smoke, doesn't matter; not worth it. Sorry. Maybe some other time.

      I pounced on Kinney. "Did you give him alcohol or some drugs?"

      Kinney looked at me with disdain. "What... are you his keeper?"

      Justin draped himself onto Kinney and spoke into his ear -- I couldn't make out what he said.

      "O-o-o-oh!" Kinney grinned that shit-eating grin and made some 'air-quotes' around "The boyfriend."

      "Yeah, that's right. I'm the boyfriend and I want to know exactly what you gave him."

      He continued, "You're kind-of cute. I noticed you talking with Justin; Are you sure you don't want to join us? We could park your boyfriend to sleep-it-off and the three of us could entertain ourselves."

      "I don't think so," I said, "What did you give him?" This time I was firm -- polite, but insistent.

      "Too bad." He shrugged again and turned to leave.

      I may not have been the tallest guy on the basketball team back in Roswell, but I definitely knew how to guard a man, and how to block him. Before Kinney knew what happened, I was in front of him, blocking his way.

      "I asked you what you gave him," I repeated. Still polite, but, I hoped, just threatening enough to let him know I meant business.

      Kinney looked upward to the ceiling as if to plead, 'why me, God, why me?' and then, shook his head and turned to walk away. I grabbed his arm. He jerked his arm away and turned to face me. Pulling himself to his full height he stood in front of me defiantly.

      I looked him up and down measuring him with my eyes. He looked fit enough; he had at least 25 pounds on me and was a head taller. I decided that honesty was the best policy. "Listen, Brian Kinney, (I tried to make his name sound sarcastic) I may not be able to take you, but I'll make damn sure I spoil your evening if that's what you're asking for."

      Kinney stood motionless, squinting at me for 5...10...15 seconds, then his stance relaxed. "Look, he had ONE hit of poppers -- I think he had a little 'buzz' on already when I found him. That's all I saw. Now, beat it, will ya?"

      "Poppers? One hit? That's all?" Truthfully, I had no idea at that moment what 'poppers' were; it may as well have been heroine or strychnine as far as I knew. Whatever it was, Max's body was not handling it well. "Come on, Max, let's go home."

      Brian leaned over to Max and planted a kiss on his cheek. "Some other time, babe, some other time." Then Brian and Justin were gone.

      Max, now obviously weaving even more unsteadily, was trying to focus on me. "Wha'? All-red-dy? We jush got here. I wanna dance s'more" He was obviously drunk and getting more-so by the minute. I wondered how he could have drunk that much without me seeing it, and I just couldn't imagine him doing drugs, but something had him flying.

      I grabbed Max's arm and began steering him to the exit.

      "Hey, where we goin'? The black-roomz thu...thu...that-a-way." He tried to point over his shoulder and nearly fell over -- I caught him.

      "Wherez By-ron?"

      "He had to go, Max. It's past his bedtime." As we reached the door, I paused -- Lucien-with-the-blue-hair was standing right there. I spoke to him as though we were old friends, "Lucian, can you tell me, what are 'poppers?'"

      He looked at me startled -- so startled that he just answered me. "Amyl-Nitrate, or Butyl-Nitrate; depends where you get 'em. Commercial ones are Butyl-Nitrate -- you gotta know somebody who manufactures to get the real stuff."

      "Thanks. Y'all have a good night now!" I steered Max out the door and on to the sidewalk, helping him slip his tee back on and then dressing myself. He was happily going where I was steering him, but he did ask several times why we had to go -- he wanted to dance. I silently prayed that he couldn't remember how to use any alien powers. The last time he was drunk, he did, and I knew this time I couldn't stop him if he tried, and I was terrified that he might try. A block away from Babylon, he seemed to forget all about wanting to stay. He just wanted to talk...and talk...and sing. It was truly 'stream-of-conciousness' babble, or should I call it "babble- on," (and on, and on.)"

      "Hey Kylie-ba-buddha-boy, I had a good time, din't you? We danced an danced an then I dance with Byron, he's nice. He was gonna show me sumpin in the black-room, but he had to go to bed. I like him. I don' think Byron likes you ver-ry mush. He din't want me ta go with you, Kylie-bu-buddha-boy. Hey! Hey! You made Byron le' me go, din't you? He din't wan-na and you stood right up to Byron. He was scared of Kylie-bu-buddha-boy 'cause you're so...so...so...MACHO! Hey! Macho! Hey! Macho-man!

      At that point steering became difficult because he was intent on giving me a singing/dancing performance of "Ma-cho-ma-cho-man! I wan-na be your ma-cho man." Fortunately, those were all the words he could remember -- or maybe that was unfortunate, because he sang them over and over and over again until I 'danced' him to the loser-mobile and strapped him in.

      "Max, do you feel like you're gonna throw-up?"

      He raised the volume. "Ma-cho-ma-cho-man! I wan-na be your ma-cho man."

      "OK. I'll take that as a 'no.'" I wanted very much to believe it. "If you feel like you have to throw-up, just bang on the door with your hand -- like this."

      He aped my motion, and I wasn't sure at first whether he was confirming that he understood, or actually had to hurl at that moment. In a flash, however he resumed, "Ma-cho-ma-cho-man! I wan-na be your ma-cho man."

      The drive back to the motel was uneventful, if noisy. No throwing-up (thank you, Buddha.) By the time I drove into the parking lot and to the door of our room, Max had stopped singing and was actually quiet, although, he was still weaving a little, even with his seat belt on.

      "Stay" I ordered, but he showed no signs either of hearing me, or of moving, so I took a chance and left him while I quickly walked 4 doors down to Isabel and Jesse's room.

      To say that they were pissed at my waking them to help me with a totally whacked-out Max would be a glaring understatement. Naturally, Isabel held me entirely responsible.

      "Kyle, you imbecile! You know Max's body can't stand alcohol. How could you let this happen? Damn-it, you boys! I swear, sometimes I can't believe that you primates even have opposing thumbs!" And that's just the part of what Isabel said that I remember. I tried to shutout the rest.

      Jesse threw on his jeans and helped me get Max out of the van. Actually, it was just a matter of keeping him from falling-down; he was totally cooperative. We steered him to the bed and laid him down. That lasted 15 seconds, then he was sitting up on the side of the bed and fiddling with the clock-radio. "I wanna dance! Where's some music?"

      Jesse reached over and unplugged the clock-radio. "You can't dance here." He announced.

      "Why not? I wanna dance!"

      "Isabel was just coming in the door and she answered without a moment's thought,' "You can't dance here because the people around here are Amish and it would be insulting. You wouldn't want to insult the Amish people, now, would you?"

      "Smart ploy," I thought to myself, "Max would never do something that would tarnish his goody-goody image with people outside the Pod Squad."

      "Thasssss right. Hey! You saved me from ...from...dancing on the Armish. Thank you Isabel. You're the bess big sister. I loove you...I love you Isabel" He managed a beatific smile and then looked around the room, trying to focus on who else was there. "An you're Jezze, an I love you too, Jezze 'cause you my big brother'n...brother-'n...brother-somethin, and I love you too, man."

      Jesse couldn't hold back a chuckle as he answered, "And I love you too, Max."

      Isabel was not chuckling. "This is NOT funny (Jesse snapped-to)! Don't you realize how serious this is? Don't you know that Michael almost DIED from too much alcohol?"

      Max was oblivious to his sister's anger. "Funny? Funny? That one's funny." He pointed in my general direction, off by about 45 degrees. "An I love him too. Kylie-buddha-buddha-boy. Lezz dance!"

      "Forget dancing." Isabel began barking orders. "You! Valenti! Go wake up the others; we need them -- Liz and Maria took care of Michael when he was drunk. Michael might be able to help too." "You (she pointed at her cowering husband) go out and find some coffee in this Godforsaken dump.'

      She paused for about two seconds. "Well what are you standing there for? Move!"

      We complied.

      "It will be better if I phone them." I said. "That way I won't wake their neighbors."

      "Just DO IT"

      I picked up the phone and dialed Michael and Maria's room first. I really didn't want to have to deal with Liz. Unexpectedly, Michael answered. "Yo! Who is this?"

      "Michael, it's Kyle."

      "This had better be good, Valenti."

      "We need you to come over to our room right away. Max is shit-faced drunk."

      "Valenti, you fucking moron! Why the hell did you let him drink?"

      "I didn't. I...Oh Fuck! Forget about that right now and just get your ass over here, pronto." There was a click on the other end. (Damn!, I was gonna get Maria to call Liz. Now I've gotta do it.) I dialed. One ring. Two. She picked up on the third ring.

      "Hello?"

      I couldn't tell if she was actually awake or talking in her sleep.

      "Liz? It's Kyle. We need you to come to my room right away. It's Max...something's happened."

      She instantly sounded awake, and I could almost see her sit up in bed. "Max? What happened? Is he all right?"

      ""He's gonna be OK. Just come over here would you?"

      "I'll be right there."

      Good; I didn't have to deal with 'why did you let him...' over the phone.

      Isabel had seated herself on the edge of the bed beside Max and put her arm around him. "Max, tell me what you drank."

      "I lo-o-ove you sis."

      "I love you too. Now, Maxie...,"

      (I had NEVER heard anybody call him that. Wait 'til this is over, I can't wait to tease him.)

      "Tell sissy what you had to drink tonight, OK, Maxie?"

      "OK. I drank... I drank...Coka-Coka, I mean Cola-Cola, aw-w-w-w, you know what I mean. Thass all, right Kylie-buddha-buddha- boy?"

      I moved in front of them and knelt down. "Max, do you remember Brian?"

      "Byron...Byr...Burrr-ian. He's nice. An he's a good dancer too. He danced with me." He put his finger to his lips. "Sh-h-h-h-h-h! We can't danze now cause the Armish are coming!"

      "That's right, Max. Max. Max, listen to me." I reached up and put a hand on each cheek and turned his face towards me. "Focus, Max, focus. Did Brian give you anything to drink, anything at all?"

      Max reached up and put a hand over each of mine and moved his head back-and-forth with his hands in a comic parody of a 'NO.'

      "Are you sure, Max? Nothing at all?"

      "Nothin'. Was he spozed to? Why, that Cheepsssskate! He didn't give me nothin but his smelly bottle."

      Liz look lost.

      "Poppers." I said.

      "Poppers?"

      Just then Jesse returned with a tray of paper cups full of coffee.

      "Poppers." Jesse repeated. "Amyl-Nitrate or Butyl-Nitrate. It's inhaled -- gives you a buzz -- relaxes your blood-vessels. They use it in clubs and some people use it during sex. But it's effect only lasts a minute or so. That doesn't seem likely to cause this... ."

      "How do you know WHAT it could cause in him? He's not like you. And, how do you know so much about these drugs anyway." Isabel was angry.

      "I told you -- I had friends at Harvard who... Oh, never mind. Let's talk about that later."

      "You can bet we will."

      I decided to try another approach. "Max, did you sniff Brian's smelly bottle."

      "Nope."

      "You didn't sniff it -- just a little?"

      "Nope. Byron waz niffin' it an he wanted me to too. But I could smell it -- and I can't smell nuthin'. Hey Kylie-ie-ie-I-O did you know that I can't hardly smell nuthin'?"

      "So what happened when Brian gave it to you. Did you sniff it?"

      He shook his head wildly from side to side. "Nope. It was smelly. I din't wan' to. I jus pretend to...like I pretend that night when you didn' like me."

      "Max, Max focus." I turned his head back to me again. "Think real hard. Did you sniff Brian's smelly bottle for real, or did you just pretend you were sniffing it."

      "Thass right. I just pretend. I don' know why you din' like me that night. I liked you Kylie-buddha-buddha-boy. I like you for a long- long time."

      "Do you think we can believe that?" Isabel asked, ignoring Max's maudlin rambling.

      "I'm not sure. He's really out-of-it, but he seems to know what I'm asking about, and he hasn't lied to us tonight. I'm inclined to believe him."

      Just then, Liz, Michael and Maria walked in.

      "OK Valenti, we're here to mop-up your mess, and then I'm gonna slap the shit outta you for letting this happen." Michael sounded like he really meant it.

      "Not so fast", Jesse jumped in. "This may not be Kyle's fault, after all. Kyle says Max had nothing but Coka-Cola to drink, and Max is adamant about that too. There may be something else causing this."

      Michael paused for a moment, and looked disgusted, as though he had really looked forward to smacking me, then said, "Let's get some coffee in him. Maybe that'll help him focus."

      "NO!" Max shouted, and then gave an "oops" putting his finger to his mouth. "S-h-h-h! The Armish are coming -- the Armish are coming! One if by lan' an' two if by sea." Then he burst into giggles.

      "Here, Paul Revere, drink some of this." Michael raised a cup of coffee to his mouth, but Max pushed it away.

      "No! I don't wanna drink covve. I'm hungry. Lesss make some brownies. Sis, can we make brownies? I'm starving."

      Jesse lightly moved Michael out of the way and got right into Max's face. "I want to smell your breath."

      Max gave him a solid blast and Jesse pulled back, waving the air. "It ain't pretty, but I don't think he's been drinking at all, just like he said. I think he's high on pot. If it were alcohol, he'd have thrown up by now and probably be passed out. He surely wouldn't have the 'munchies.' My bet is on grass."

      Max protested, "I don' wanna throw-up. Why doez ev-ery-bod-dy wanna throw-up?" He pointed in my general direction again. "Let HIM throw up! He does it all the time, let him do it, I don' wanna."

      That got a snicker from everyone, even me, with a snort from Maria as a bonus.

      "Oh, man! I remember I used to get half-high at school just walking into the restroom to take a piss." Michael offered. "There was always somebody smoking grass in there."

      Jesse turned back to Max. "Max, did you smoke some grass tonight? Some Marijuana?"

      Max shook his head 'no' again and said, "No, thank you. I don' smoke. I's baad for you."

      Just then a light-bulb flashed in my head. "Guerin, what did you just say -- say that again"

      "What? Somebody smoked grass at Roswell High? That can't be news to you Valenti, everybody knew about it, and I'm sure you DID have to piss once in a while, even if you did walk around like you were full of it most of the time" Michael grinned with pleasure at his own cleverness.

      "No! The part about you getting half-high just from breathing it. Did it actually affect you, or were you just bullshittin' us?"

      Guerin scrutinized me -- I could see the wheels turning in his brain -- then answered, "It really did effect me. Some days I could hardly stand to use the Men's Room. I'd get dizzy if I stayed too long."

      I moved into Max's line-of-sight. "Max, were you dizzy before we went to Babylon?"

      "Nope"

      "How about when we were dancing. Were you dizzy then?"

      "Nope, u-u-m-m-m-m maybe jus' a little. When we slo-danzed. I think YOU make me dizzy. We can't dance now, the Armish are coming" More giggling.

      "Max were you dizzy when Brian asked you to dance?"

      "Nope."

      "You weren't dizzy when Brian asked you to dance?"

      "Nope. I was jus' OK but the room was moving aroun'."

      I turned to the group. "Damn, I should have noticed. That Brian character told me that Max was already buzzed when he found him. Now it makes sense. He didn't drink OR smoke anything. That room was so full of pot smoke, the air was blue. I think he got super- high on second-hand smoke. There wasn't enough to affect me, or at least I don't think I was affected, but, he's so super-sensitive to chemicals in his body, I think the second-hand pot smoke did him in."

      "Oh, poor baby!" Liz, who had been still standing by the door, practically climbed over me and was now sitting on Max's other side, stroking his head. Isabel was in her original spot, also stroking and cooing. There was apparently a contest on to see who could baby Max the most, and he was lapping it up, flashing a beatific smile in first one direction at Isabel, and then the other at Liz. Now, I thought I might throw-up.

      "Well, when Michael got so sick from alcohol, he was violently ill, and burning up, then in pain and then unconscious. Finally he started growing these web-like things all over." Maria gave a shiver as she spoke of it. "Max is doing none of that stuff, and, in fact, he seems perfectly happy, just super-high. I say we just baby-sit him until he comes down or wears out and goes to sleep."

      "Yes, I think you're right" Isabel chimed in, then returned to her sickening petting of her brother, "Poor Maxie!"

      "I'll be here" I observed, "I can baby-sit him."

      "Me too" Liz added before she resumed her contest with Isabel.

      "Yeah, I think that's the best thing we can do. C'mon Maria, I was just getting to sleep." Michael shot daggers at me with his eyes -- he had been denied the chance to slap me around and he resented it, not to mention my waking him up. They left.

      Isabel finally rose. (Was that an admission of defeat, or was she just calling a time-out?) "OK, we'll leave him with you two." She turned to Jesse. "Come on, dear. We have some things to talk about."

      "What things?" Poor Jesse looked like he really didn't know.

      "What things? DRUGS -- that's what things, now come on." Isabel turned and headed for the door.

      "Drugs? What do you mean? There's nothing to talk about."

      "It sure doesn't sound that way to me, You sound like a walking encyclopedia of illicit substances. Let's go," She added, almost sarcastically, "Dear."

      I could hear poor Jesse protesting all the way back to his room.

      Liz handed me a cup of coffee and said, "drink up, it looks like it's going to be a long night."

      Max responded, "Yeah. A long night. Let's dance!"

      Liz put her fingers to her lips and said, "S-h-h-h-h-h! The Amish are coming, the Amish are coming."

      For good measure I added, "One if by land, and two if by sea."

      Max finally came back to earth, around 8 AM. Liz went back to her room, and Max and I got some sleep. Once he was sober again, he went over the evening with me and we decided that it was, indeed, the second-hand pot smoke which had affected him. He was somewhat astonished and embarrassed when I described his behavior. By that point I was able to see it as amusing. We didn't go to any more dance clubs.

Continue to Chapter 9

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