Note: This story is pretty much what it says on the tin.

Love and Cereal

Max spends his Saturday nights passed out in bars around the city, and his Sundays are lonely and about as pleasant as a gun to the head. He enjoys them with dogged masochism, mostly because the rest of the week is worse.

He stumbles through another Monday, sleepwalks through Tuesday and somehow manages not to commit mass homicide on Wednesday.

On Thursday, he meets the love of his life, which is unexpected, if nothing else.

*

It happens on the bus.

Max is exhausted and about to fall asleep on his feet when someone surreptitiously slides a hand into his trouser pocket, and so he does what any man with drastically lowered inhibitions would do; he turns around and punches the perpetrator in the face.

What follows is the awkward cacti-silence of twenty people staring in semi-horrified fascination. Max closes his eyes tightly and feels like groaning. Instead, he clamps down on the would-be-pickpocket's arm, and drags him with him the next time the bus stops.

It's only when the bus is out of sight that he realizes how far from his actual stop they are, and he grits his teeth, growling. The perpetrator tries to twist away from his grip, so Max turns to glare daggers of fiery pain at him.

"Pain," he promises, too tired and pissed off and tired and angry to elaborate.

"L - look," says the perpetrator, shaking in his ratty green sneakers, "'m really sorry - really - but, err, I seriously think there's been an accident-"

"There's going to be an accident."

"I didn't mean to -"

Max glares just a little bit harder, and the pickpocket winces.

"I didn't mean to," he says in a small voice. Max bristles.

"Yes," he says, dryly, "I'm sure your hand got down my trousers completely by accident."

The other guy splutters. He looks young, and Max wonders if he's still in school.

"It wasn't-"

"Look," Max says, "the more you deny it, the more I want to beat you up, so please shut up."

The kid swallows, and Max has seen golfballs smaller than his eyes.

"Is there-" His voice cracks, and he has to start over again. "Is there anything I could do to make you not beat the crap out of me?"

Max considers this.

"Call me a cab," he says, and the pickpocket deflates visibly.

"All right." And he's almost grinning as he fishes out an ancient cellphone from the folds of his jacket.

Max feels light-headed, and blames it on sleep-deprivation.

*

He names him the Perp in his head, and spends the weekend obsessing about him.

And the next week.

And the one after.

*

On the first Thursday of September, Max finds the Perp in a bleeding heap outside his apartment building.

"What," he says, and feels that this covers it rather well. The Perp blinks at him, and somehow manages to slump even more.

He casually spits out a mouthful of blood, and says, "this is Hell, isn't it."

*

Max takes him in and patches him up, because it's the right thing to do.

The Perp gets blood all over Max's couch and slobbers on the pillows when he sleeps and will not shut the fuck up in the moments when he's awake. Max thinks it's the shock at first - "they beat me up because I'm queer," Perp says, and Max tells him, no, it's because you're fucking annoying and you rob people on buses, to which the Perp gets sulky and claims that it's not robbery, it's pickpocketing, which is bullshit - but there's a limit to how long a person can be in shock, and the Perp is like the rabbit in the Duracell commercials; he doesn't know how to quit.

It's endearing, in an infuriating sort of way.

*

Max feeds him and lets him sleep on the couch - until he gets better - and whenever he gets home from work, they have ridiculous discussions about Spiderman and cereal and the awesomeness of Jackie O. The people at work ask him if he's seeing someone. Twice.

He smiles blithely and tells them no, adding fuck you! in his head, and wishes that he was somewhere else, discussing Lucky Charms.

*

It takes a few months before he realises that the Perp has moved in with him. They're doing the laundry - the Perp is sitting on top of the washing machine and telling crude jokes about nuns, and who the fuck tells crude jokes about nuns, anyway? - and the realisation hits him like a brick in the face.

"Fuck," he says, softly. The Perp blinks at him.

"Oh c'mon, it isn't that shocking," he scoffs. Max snorts, because at this point, nothing the Perp says can shock him.

"You moved in with me, you rat bastard," he says, and he isn't sure if he's going for accusing, but if he is, he just missed it by a few miles. The Perp smiles, brighter than the sun.

"You noticed!"

And it's bizarre, but the smile is fucking infectious, so Max rolls his eyes so hard he thinks he might get a whiplash, and then he goes with it.

He isn't sure what it is that he's feeling. He's not sure if he wants to find out, either, because every time he looks at the Perp, something coils contentedly in his stomach, and he thinks that maybe, if he had to put a word to it, that word might be happiness.

*

Max is at work when he really catches on. They're having one of their asinine coworker trust sessions, and for some idiotic reason, Marlene from Accounting wants to know what his favourite colour is.

"Green," he says, without really thinking about it.

And then he thinks about ratty sneakers.

And then he thinks about golfball-sized eyes eyeing the last bowl of Cheerios.

And then he thinks that remembering someone's eye colour is fucking wrong on some deeply fundamental level, unless they're purple or yellow or polka-dotted, and the Perp's eyes are none of these things.

And then he thinks, oh. Oh.

He says, "excuse me," and then he leaves the room.

*

He calls his home phone. The Perp picks up on the third ring, and pretends to be a phone sex hotline. It's pretty fucking fitting.

"You bastard," Max says, cutting him off mid-description of the amazing D-cups he doesn't have.

"Oh, c'mon," the Perp whines, "a little artistic license never hurt anyone."

Max rolls his eyes. "Your tits are fine, Perp."

"My tits are fucking excellent," the Perp says, and launches into a full-blown triade about respect and the lack thereof. Max grins hard enough for people to start smiling back at him as he walks past them on the street, which is just wrong on so many levels.

"I love you," he says. It feels weird in his mouth.

It feels right in his mouth, which is even weirder.

"You know," the Perp says, and Max can hear the beam in his voice, "you're kind of socially retarded."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. If you hadn't been so fucking slow, we could both have been getting laid regularly for ages already."

Max snorts. "Romantic."

"Yeah, well, we're not. But I found this fantastic photo of Jackie O on Google, we can talk about that first if it makes you feel like I'm treating you right."

"It's a date," Max says, and he smiles and smiles and smiles.

*

It's not perfect; the Perp cannot shut up and things mysteriously go missing whenever he's left alone in a room for too long, and Max doesn't exactly stop drinking.

It's not perfect, but Max wakes up to the Perp slobbering on his shoulder and thinks, it's close enough.