Max & Elena
Max would never stop rubbing into people's faces that he lived a happy life. A dipshit free one, in which the only dipshit was himself.
"Shut the fuck up, Max." Gabriel lobbed a football at his head, and Max caught it midair without moving his eyes from the TV screen, which was currently broadcasting ESPN, loud and proud.
"You know better than that, Gabriel," Will admonished. "Your spaghetti arms are no match."
"Thank you for that," Gabriel retorted. "You should ask Jules about how much she loves my body."
"I don't need to ask. I hear."
Gabriel snorted. "We don't even live in the same place anymore!"
"Yet I still hear."
Max ignored the routine, good-natured jabbing that his closest brothers liked to engage in. After all, the game on TV was more important. "I swear to God," he said to himself, like he always did when he watched and played football games. It kept him somewhat mellow, even if people thought he was weird for it. "If he fucks this up—"
"Fuck!" he yelled as Tony Romo fumbled the snap. "Fuck it all to hell!"
Correction: Max lived a happy life until the Dallas Cowboys lost at playoffs. He shut the TV off before he could see the depressing, slow-mo replays of that embarrassing move. Then he turned it on again because even though he knew what was coming, his loyalty to his team ensured that he would see this loss through to the end.
"Fuck," he whispered to himself, clutching his head between his hands.
Will and Gabriel had stopped arguing and were now looking at him with identical expressions of concern. They knew how he was about his sports, although that wasn't the same thing as understanding.
"Are you alright?" Will finally asked.
"Whatever you do," Max warned Gabriel as he straightened. "Do not let Jules anywhere near me. Or else your girlfriend's bragging skull will be pieces in my hands."
Gabriel's face went pale as his eyes darted to Max's huge hands and his bulky frame. "Duly noted."
"Fuck," Max muttered again, moving towards the fridge automatically for some beer. "I can't fucking believe this shit. Fuck the Seahawks, man. Fuck them."
"The Seahawks suck," Will said agreeably, even though he could care less about football. He just knew it would fire Gabriel up, and Jules too, if she was in the vicinity. Will loved wreaking havoc.
Gabriel glared at the two of them before stomping out of the room, presumably to call his girlfriend and complain. What a sissy.
Will grabbed the remote. "Thanks for coming over and being such a good sport." The fact that Max had made a beeline for the TV the moment Gabriel opened the door had apparently not been lost on them.
"What are you even doing here?" Max finally asked. They were in Gabriel and Jules's apartment, which was still the largest residence that any of them owned, since it had once housed Max, Gabriel, Will, and whichever girls they chose to bring home for the night. Max had put up a fight with Gabriel over the television when he moved out, until Gabriel had promised that he could come over to watch TV whenever he wanted. After Max had barged in once when Gabriel was in the shower, once when Jules was walking around naked, and once when the two of them were in the throes of pleasure, Gabriel clearly regretted the decision. Also, Jules had gotten accustomed to wearing robes the moment she left the shower.
Will generally didn't come over anymore, since he was so busy at the lab and with his girlfriend. So his presence was a surprise.
"I saw news about Romo on Yahoo. I thought you might need the support."
"You just wanted to see my reaction," Max said bitterly.
Will shrugged. "I wonder if Bill Nye is on."
Max felt like he was going to cry. Seeing the ball just slip out of hands that could have so easily grabbed on and not let go was just too painful for him to relive.
"You might as well do something with your restless energy," Will pointed out helpfully.
Max glared at him. "What?"
Will raised an eyebrow, reclining against the couch. "Just because we have girlfriends, Max, doesn't mean you do. And with no girlfriend, comes no responsibility."
"I don't think your girlfriend would be very happy about what you're saying right now."
"She knows the score."
"Please don't talk to me about scores." Max raised his head and looked at Will. "So how'd it end?"
"How'd what end?" Will said obliviously.
"Don't play stupid with me. What was the final score?"
Will channel surfed for a while, until Max thought his head would explode. "What was the damn score?"
Will looked up calmly. "20-21."
Max's knees wobbled, and he clutched the couch for support. He knew he was giving Will exactly the sort of show that he'd come here for, but he couldn't seem to care. "Fuck." The pain and embarrassment he felt on behalf of the Cowboys was crippling, and at least stupid Will was right about one thing: he could do something with his restless energy.
"When am I going to see you again?" Lilly crooned, running a finger down Max's naked chest. She dragged her lips down his neck, but he couldn't find it in him to be excited. Every time he thought about the loss he'd witnessed, his legs couldn't find the strength to stand, much less his dick. He knew Lilly had noticed, but she was either too afraid of making him angry or didn't want to ruin her chances.
"Soon," Max hedged. "See you." Unlike his brothers, he didn't like to cycle through a ton of women; when he found one he liked, he stayed with her awhile. Gabriel and Will had thought it was gloriously naïve of him, but they were the ones weighed down by girlfriends while Max was still free of the shackles.
After he pulled his clothes on, he snuck out of the house. If one of the old harpies found that he'd been corrupting one of her "sweet girls," Max would lose more than just his dignity. And as much as this loss was affecting his libido, it would come back soon enough.
It'd been five in the afternoon when the fateful fumble had happened, and now it was almost eight. The moon was shimmery, but not bright enough that he'd be seen making the walk back to the Pi Kappa Alpha house, where he'd moved after Gabriel kicked him and Will out. He stepped on the stairs carefully, looking down at them to make sure he didn't bump into any creaky spots. Which was why he missed the shadow that darted around the edge of the house until it collided with him.
"Shit!" he hissed, grabbing the squirming thing in his arms. "Shut up," he said, glancing at the closed door behind him with trepidation.
"Don't tell me what to do!" A wayward hand came and smacked him in the bicep. Though he barely noticed the contact, he did realize that the hand had silvery nail polish that glinted under the scarce light. Either he was manhandling a girl, or he'd unknowingly grabbed a drag queen. He pushed the person out in the light so he could make sure.
It was a girl, and her giant eyes were filled with anger.
"Don't rape me!" she cried, holding her arms out in an X that would have been hilarious had Max not still been worried about the sorority mothers and devastated from defeat.
The light didn't flatter her curve-less figure, and Max rolled his eyes.
"Please," he said. "Like I would rape you."
She snarled and dropped her arms. "Another frat boy philanderer. Charming."
Max didn't know what philanderer meant, but he didn't really care. All he wanted to do was go home and feel sorry for himself. "Whatever. Get out of my way."
"You're a real jerk, you know?"
"Yeah. What are you going to do about it?"
"So what's the inside look like, anyway?"
Max turned around. "What?"
"You heard me." The girl straightened, and then Max began to realize that he'd never seen her before. There wasn't even the faint glimmer of recognition. She certainly wouldn't be welcome at a highly discerning house like Kappa Sigma Sigma. Although, if any of the sororities had any subpar girls, he'd never really taken it upon himself to notice. "What's it look like?"
"What are you doing here?" Max asked suspiciously. "Who are you?"
The girl cast him a cheeky smile, her blond ponytail swishing as she cocked her head to the side. "No person of interest."
"That's for sure," Max muttered, and her smile turned into a scowl.
"You crashed into me. At least satisfy my curiosity."
Max couldn't believe his bad luck. Unattractive and talkative. "If you were supposed to be here in the first place, things might have been different."
She smirked. "Everything happens for a reason. Come on, philanderer. Tell me."
"Like the breeding place of gold diggers and trophy wives," Max snapped. "Now leave me alone." He elbowed her aside and continued his way down the steps before she could stop him with more stupid questions that would grind upon his nerves.
The girl didn't follow, and Max was relieved.
"Max," Gordon said, coming into the house as Max was just settling down with a bowl of chips and a six-pack. "Did you read the paper?"
Max was starting to get really tired of the new initiates who always looked at him with starstruck eyes. Although he was on the football team with a scholarship, he saw no reason for this to prevent him from having a nice afternoon without little boys sticking their nose in his business in a desperate attempt to become the epitome of a Pike. It reminded him why he'd moved out in the first place.
"Gordon," he said apathetically, "Does it look like I read the paper?"
Gordon took in Max's legs, which were sprawled over the entire couch, his bulky shoulders, and his large hands, which were currently in the process of feeding a well-deserved barbecued chip into his mouth.
"No," he blubbered.
"There you go," Max said. "Now leave me alone."
"But—you were in it. You might want to take a look."
"Gordon, does it look like I give a fuck?"
"Well, no, but—"
"I don't give a fuck!" Max exploded. "Now get the fuck out of here before I dump this bowl of chips over your head, then get angry because I wasted a bowl of chips on a shithead like you!"
Gordon mumbled an apology and scuttled away, and Max settled back into the couch again, tossing back his head and throwing up a chip for his mouth to catch. It fell onto the ground and he looked at it dispassionately before eating another chip from his bowl.
His phone rang, and he groaned. It rang again.
"What?" he snapped.
"Maxwell, read the paper," Will's calm voice came through. "And you might want to stay low for the next couple weeks until this blows over."
"Why the fuck is everyone telling me to read this paper? I don't even know what paper you're talking about!"
"The school paper," Will said patiently. Will was the only one who seemed to put up with Max's shit, probably because he lived vicariously through Max's moods since he was so unable to feel emotion.
"Where do I get this paper?"
"Look in the trashcans," Will said before hanging up. Max didn't know whether or not to take him seriously. Reluctantly, he put his bowl of chips on the coffee table covered with the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition and Playboy. At least the house was well-stocked in case they ever ran out of real women.
"Gordon," Max said, and the kid scrambled up, and for a moment, Max thought he was going to salute him.
"Yes, sir," Max corrected, just for the laughs. "What's the paper that all you shitheads are talking about?"
"The Daily Spartan, sir," Gordon said, and Max looked at him blankly. "It's absolute shit," Gordon added. "Sir. Nobody usually reads it, but—"
"Well, let's see it."
Gordon put a wrinkled mess of black and white into Max's hand, and Max opened it.
"You're holding it upside-down," Gordon pointed out helpfully.
"It won't be the only thing held upside-down if you don't scram," Max growled. Gordon obeyed.
Max only needed to see the headline: The Seedy Side of Greek Life, followed by the quote, "a breeding ground for gold diggers and trophy wives," before he crumpled up the paper.
It wasn't hard to find Elena Henderson, even if her name was nowhere on the article. All Max had to do was make good on some threats and favors in the journalism department to know that Elena was a junior, majoring in English, and living in one of the dorms.
Max stormed into the building and rapped on her door. He hadn't been in the dorms since he was a freshman, but he was about to commit a murder and had no time to pay attention to his surroundings.
He rapped on room 21A and bellowed, "Get the fuck out here, you bitch!" Other doors along the hallway were beginning to open, and people were peering at him, but he didn't care. All he wanted was blood.
The door opened, but instead of the girl from the night before, a short guy looked up at him with fire in his eyes. "Don't talk to my girlfriend like that, fucker."
"Oh, come on," Max snapped. "Some kind of girlfriend, if you don't even know how much of a bitch she is. Where is she?"
"Let him in," a voice called.
The guy looked like he was going to shut the door, but Max only said, "You heard her," and elbowed him out of the way.
Elena was sitting on the lower bunk, looking small. And not necessarily just because her eyes were rimmed in red. For the first time since his impassioned rampage, Max felt like he'd interrupted something. But he wasn't about to stop now.
"What the fuck?" he began his impromptu speech. "Don't they have that whole off the record shit for journalism or whatever? You can't fucking quote me!"
"Last time I checked," Elena said, getting up from the bed. "This was a free country."
"I can sue you for this shit," Max snarled. "I never said you could use me in your stupid article."
She crossed her arms, looking impertinent. Max wanted to strangle her. "Try it. Then I can write about that too."
He breathed in and out, before realizing her so-called boyfriend was still standing there. "What are you still doing here?" he tossed at him. "Get out."
Her boyfriend looked like an offended woman. "She's my—"
"If you're going to start calling it like she's your dog, maybe you should have done a better job leashing her. Now get the fuck out."
After the door slammed behind him, Max dumped the newspaper in the trashcan. His anger was fading, and maybe it would have been completely gone if he wasn't still smarting from Romo's screw-up and Gordon's interruption of his mid-afternoon snack. He had no doubts that one of his no-good brothers was having fun with his six-pack right now.
"Sorry," Elena said insincerely. "About the article. But it had to be done, for the good of journalism."
"I'm going to be exiled from Sorority Row for the rest of my term," Max said.
"Your life is so tragic." She sniffed, and wiped an arm across her eyes.
"Are you crying?" Max said incredulously. "After you just ruined my reputation?"
"Oh, I'm not crying because of that!" she cried. "That was the best choice I made. Nobody reads the paper even though there is plenty of good stuff in it, and I knew we had to get attention somehow. So why not an exposé on one of the most notorious associations around?"
"You still had no right to quote me," Max said.
"The way off-the-record works," Elena said, with a little smirk on her lips, "is that you have to say, 'this is off the record.'"
"Do you think you're better than me," Max intoned quietly, "because you read and know how to write and study, and that you didn't get in here off of some football scholarship?"
"Now, did I ever say that?" Elena asked, her pale eyes widening. She sure had a lot of sass, for someone who'd just been crying.
"Whatever," Max said. He was tired of this shit, and all he wanted was some peace, quiet, and to watch the Cowboys' 1995 Superbowl victory again. "Just don't do it again."
It'd been a relatively quiet couple days. Max had stayed away from Greek Row because he had a feeling he wouldn't be very warmly received. For the time being, he was staying with Gabriel and Jules, which meant that everyone was pissed off most of the time. Jules and Gabriel were pissed because they couldn't have sex in the kitchen, and Max was pissed because that didn't seem to stop them anyway.
Normally, he escaped to the field with some friends to toss a football around or to run. There were only a couple days before pre-season training started, and it was time to get serious. Today, though, it was raining and Jules and Gabriel were both moody, so Max decided to venture where he rarely did: the library. Many people had the same idea, since the place was packed.
He was going to settle down with a picture book when he saw a familiar face. Quietly, he snuck around until he could lean over her shoulder. She was working on a Word document of some sort and typing rapidly. At any rate, she was so into it that she didn't notice Max until he started reading out the lines she was typing.
"'She scrambled back on the couch, frightened by his approach. He was a broad man, and—"
"Lower your voice!" Elena hissed, jumping almost a foot. "Where did you even come from?" She slammed her laptop shut. "I wasn't aware people like you went to the library."
"Me neither." Max looked at the scrawny kid seated next to her. "Hey, kid. Beat it."
"That wasn't nice," Elena said as Max made himself comfortable.
"Did you think I was? That's cute."
She glared at him and opened her laptop cautiously. He nodded at it. "So what are you doing?"
"Why do you need to know?"
"No need to be defensive. I'm just curious. You were pretty absorbed."
She sneered. "Observant for a jock."
"I thought we left the petty stereotypes back in high school," Max said, smiling good-naturedly. "Let me see what you're writing."
She scooted over. "No."
"Aw, come on. You at least owe me that after slandering me."
"It's printed, so it's libel. Not slander. Also, you did actually say those words. I wasn't making anything up."
"You're very smart and I defer to you," Max said charmingly. "Now can I see?"
"Are you sure you know how to read?" Elena rapped back.
"So sassy. Pity that one's been used before."
"What'll it hurt you? Are you afraid?"
"As if you'd ever give any constructive criticism." But she warily opened the laptop and slid it towards him. "I'm going to get a book," she said, and then fled.
Max chuckled. Whatever Elena had been writing, it'd been personal. He rubbed his hands together and started skimming the document. He'd thought it was some essay on sex or something, but it turned out to be a story of some sort. When Elena came back, he was as absorbed in reading it as she had been in writing it.
"Done yet?" she said acerbically.
"Where's the next chapter?" Max asked, futilely scrolling.
"I'm not done with it yet."
Max stared at her. "Then write it."
"That's what I was doing until you interrupted me," she pointed out.
He flung the laptop at her. "Hurry up," he said.
Bemused, she sat down, her fingers hovering over the keyboard before she glared at Max. "I can't write anything with you here!"
Max groaned. "Fine, I'll go do homework or something stupid." He went off to search for a textbook. When he came back, Elena wasn't typing.
"Why aren't you writing anything?"
"What are you, a drill sergeant? I'm trying to think." She turned on him. "What'd you think about the story anyway?" She sounded suspicious, like she couldn't possibly believe that Max understood English when it wasn't spoken.
"The guy is a ninny," Max said, instead of taking offense. "He doesn't know how to do anything. All he does is cry. Are you sure you should've made him a dude?" His stomach growled. "Dammit. Do you have food?"
"You're not supposed to eat here," Elena said, even as she reached in her backpack and passed him a sandwich like she was passing him drugs. "Don't get caught."
"Rule breaker." He grinned, but she still looked dazed.
"I can't believe you actually read it," she finally said.
Max shrugged. "Why not? It was cool."
"Every time I sent my writing to Trevor, he never read it. Just said it was nice."
"Whoever Trevor is, he's a dumbass."
"Trevor's my boyfriend. Well, ex now." The corners of her lips turned down.
"Okay. Your ex-boyfriend's a dumbass." Max bit into the sandwich, not caring that the wrapper was crinkling and disrupting everyone around them. "What are you sad for? If he didn't appreciate your shit, why should you give a fuck?"
"Can you be a bit quieter?" Elena hissed.
His only response was to chew the sandwich and widen his eyes at her.
"You're such an idiot," she finally said. "I can't call you a dick because all the things you do aren't malicious. They're just dumb."
"So flattered right now," Max said, with his mouth full of food.
"I think I just threw up a bit in my mouth."
He jabbed a thumb towards her laptop screen. "You write, I'll work. And by work, I mean eat." Swallowing the rest of the sandwich, he asked, "Do you have anything else?"
Elena gestured towards her backpack.
"Sweet," Max said approvingly as he dug out a box of Oreos and a bag of chips. "All you need now is to carry some beers around in this thing."
The look Elena gave him was ice cold but also strangely provocative. Max shrugged. "Fine. I'll supply the beer."
"Max, where the fuck have you been?"
"Yeah," Jules chimed in. "We haven't seen your ugly mug around in weeks."
"Football," Max said lazily, stretching out his stiff joints. His back was still sore from practice yesterday, but he hadn't had much time to dwell on it. He was going to crash a journalism meeting in ten minutes.
"That's such a lie," Will supplied. "You've been hanging around with that girl."
Jules perked up. "What girl?"
Max gaped at Will. "How did you find out?"
"I know these things," Will said, smirking.
"Liar," Will's girlfriend, Nadia, chided. "You saw him coming out of the library with her."
"Max with a girlfriend?" Gabriel said dumbly.
"Max coming out of the library?" Jules tacked on dazedly.
"She's cool," Max said, not understanding why everyone was so amazed. He didn't see any reason not to hang out with Elena, with the exception of her ordinary looks. "Do you want to see what she looks like? We're friends on Facebook."
"Why her?" Will asked even as Nadia grabbed his laptop and started scrolling through Max's friends.
Max wanted to say it was because she wrote things that were even more fascinating than the stuff she said, but he thought it was a pretty pussy thing to say. Also, he wanted to keep her writing a secret for now. "I told you," he said. "She's cool."
"Max, that's not enough of a reason for liking somebody."
Max had had enough of the circular questions, so he just left his own question dangling when he left. "Why not?"
Everyone in journalism reacted when Max came in, mostly with bug-eyes of horror and fear. Maybe it was because Max was larger than everyone else in the room, or he looked like someone who couldn't hold a pencil without crushing it.
"You," he said, singling Elena out immediately. She was the only one who looked like she wanted to burn him alive then dispose of his ashes in the nearest trashcan. "Let's talk."
"I'm in a meeting," she said, her voice even. "You're disrupting it."
"This can't wait."
She seemed to be considering snapping back, but the presence of so many people observing their exchange made her stand up and approach him. The moment they were out of the view of the classroom, she grabbed his ear and yanked him toward her. Hard.
"You'd better have a good reason for this," she hissed. "Ten seconds."
"There's someone willing to publish your book," Max blurted, rubbing at his stinging ear.
She went still. "What?"
"My mom is an editor for Random House, and she's interested." His mother had good reason to be, considering Max never talked about reading unless it was about how much it sucked. "I thought you'd appreciate it."
Max rolled his eyes. "When someone offers you a fucking pie, you don't ask why. You eat it."
"Dreams aren't edible," Elena said with bewilderment.
"Mine are, almost." Max sighed. "A bottle of beer and Romo not fucking up. Impossible."
"No," Elena said, shaking her head. "I can't take it. I won't take charity."
"What?" Max asked, snapping out of his daydream that had brought him back to '95 replays.
"I want to get a publishing contract through my own power. I want to go through the process myself. I'm not even done writing the novel, much less going through editing and finding an agent."
"That's why I'm here," Max said slowly. "To help you bypass all that dumb shit."
"It's not dumb shit," Elena replied equally slowly. "It's part of the process."
"What process? The process of getting old as fuck and dying before your shit hits the bookstore?"
Elena stared at him. "You're very blunt. Not poetic at all."
"I just don't fucking understand. I just offered you a shortcut, and you're not taking it."
"Is that what your life is about, Max? Shortcuts?"
Max's arms dropped from where he'd been waving them confusedly. "What does that mean?"
"Let me spell it out for you. Your sports scholarship. Getting into a frat based off of good looks and money. Friends willing to take shit for you, girls throwing themselves at you. You've got it good, Max. Your only problem is choosing the wrong team to bet on in football."
"That's a pretty big problem," Max interrupted. Then everything else registered. "And my life is not fucking easy. I can only keep my sports scholarship if I don't get injured and stay on top of my game. I'll lose everything if I have one tiny mishap. I had to go through loads of shit during pledging. I deserve what I have now. And if I'm not mistaken, you've probably permanently banned me from ever getting any, ever again."
"The lady doth protest too much," Elena said. "Look, I'm not trying to level blame at you. I'm just trying to explain myself and why I'd like to do things my way. You're not respecting that. Even barging into that meeting shows how inconsiderate you are."
Max was speechless. When he gave Elena the news, he'd expected her to be wild with joy. And maybe, just maybe, he had expected some sexual reciprocation. Possibly. Even though it was from Elena. Yes, he had fallen far from what he was used to. And no, he hadn't really minded. Until now.
"You don't understand," Elena said.
"Then help me understand."
"Just go, Max," Elena said, shaking her head. "I'm sure this isn't what you were expecting when you gave me the news, but it's what you're getting." For some obscene reason, her voice shook. She didn't get to be fucking sad! Max was the one who felt like all the eggs he'd put in the basket had just shattered at once.
He reacted the exact same way he had when the Cowboys lost. He walked away so he could bitch about it to his friends.
"So… you like this girl," Jules said. "Does she like you?"
Max had really sunk low. He was actually consulting a girl about another girl. He was ashamed. But somehow he couldn't stop.
"That girl again?" Nadia popped up, leaning towards him on the counter. "Does she like you? I mean, you're pretty dumb, Max, but you're pretty good looking too. It balances out."
"None of that," Will said, appearing out of nowhere and tugging Nadia back. "No complimenting other males, even if they really need it. Seriously, though, Max. What are you going to do? Not about to retreat with your tail between your legs, are you?"
"I really think—" Gabriel had shown up too and decided to offer his very unwelcome two cents.
"I don't know!" Max yelled, bewildered. "She quoted to me some shit about how 'methinks' and 'the lady' and 'doth protesting.'" He paused to stare at his audience before erupting again. "Who the hell uses methinks anymore?!"
There was a brief, solemn silence before Will cut in. "I think the real question here is: to be a man, or not to be?"
Elena was in the library again. How predictable. But instead of typing furiously at her laptop like usual, she was staring at the screen. Max noted that her eyes looked red. This was good. Normally he stayed far away from distraught females, but this time it could work in his favor.
The chair next to her was empty, save for her backpack. He shoved it to the ground and sat down, tenting his fingers and looking at her.
She refused to look at him.
"Elena," he said.
The girl next to Elena gave him a glare.
"Elena," he whispered.
She didn't turn to look at him. "What are you doing here, Max? I thought I made it clear—"
"This isn't about that. Let's go talk."
"No, you're not. Come on." He grasped her lightly by the elbow and leaned in to whisper in her ear, "before that chick sitting next to you guts me with her stare."
"Oh, yes, I forgot. This is my friend Melanie," Elena introduced in a hushed voice. The mean girl looked at Max knowingly.
Max gulped and managed a small wave.
Melanie raised an eyebrow and said to Elena, "I thought you liked guys who were smarter than you."
"I don't—" Elena sputtered before she stood up, shoving everything into her bag. "Never mind. Let's go, Max."
When they were safely outside the library, Elena blurted, "I'm not going to apologize for what I said. I meant every word. But I will concede that I might have misjudged you in some aspects. I thought a lot about what you said."
"Oh." Max blinked. Then Will's words rung in his head and he straightened. "Right, well, you're forgiven."
"But I didn't even apologize—"
He dismissed her feeble protest. If he was being completely honest, nerves were already beginning to take over his brain and he just wanted to get this over with. "Whatever. Just listen to what I've got to say. I wanted to help you out, and I guess that if I was offered a shortcut, I'd take it any day. And I guess that's what makes you a better person than me. It was the first time that I could offer anything to anyone, and I grabbed onto that before thinking about how you'd view the situation. So, yeah. You don't need to apologize. But I do."
Elena smiled. Then she said, "Were."
Max gaped. "What?"
"If I were offered a shortcut. And I'm sorry, too. There, I apologized." She smiled at him, but there was something in her eyes… Max wasn't much of a mind-reader, but she hadn't left yet. If there was ever an opening for what he wanted to say, this was it.
"I like you," he blurted. Subtle as ever, Max. Congratulations.
Elena exhaled, then crossed her arms. "Seriously? That's the best you can do?" But she was grinning, and Max could feel a similar buoyancy beginning to take over his chest.
"You're annoying and whiney, and it pains me how average your looks are."
Elena looked ready to murder him. "But," he said, waggling a finger in front of her face, "You're focused and determined, and your writing hasn't ever been difficult to read. Even if I'm basically illiterate."
"You basically said that I have no beauty, only brains."
"But I value brains infinitely over beauty. They remind me of what I lack. Besides, I didn't say you were ugly. Just average."
"You really know how to flatter a girl. Then again, you exceed in the looks department and are quite deficient mentally. I guess we could coexist."
Max smiled at her charmingly. "Will you make me a character in one of your stories now?"
"Is he hot?"
"No. He's a Yeti."
"And for the record, the Cowboys suck. It's all about the Patriots."
"You did not just—" Max closed his eyes and inhaled through his nose. "I'm seriously considering taking back my confession. You're not fit to be in my presence."
Elena grabbed his hand and kissed him on the cheek. "You'll get over it, big boy."
Maybe he'd forgive her. Just this time.
A/N: And that concludes Boys! I hope everyone enjoyed learning about frat life, college, and all the funny, sexy things that come with. Oh, and Happy New Year!