Jude loved capturing those fleeting moments of real, when his fingers could snag into the memory of something long enough to remember what it had looked like before it moved. He had pages and pages of real across his walls. Prudence stealing a flower from Sadie's window box when she was sure no one was looking. A girl dancing throughout the park, suspended in the one moment where she'd swung around the statue. A little girl feeding pigeons. A small boy wailing because his balloon had flown away. A World War II vet slumped by the side of the road, ratty clothes and begging for some change.
Drawing Lucy before everything had been Jude's favorite. She just had these little moments, tiny quirks that made Jude fall more in love with her every day. The way her nose crinkled when she laughed, the way she always kept her hair down and long and softer than air. Little moments he'd catch her in, when she'd draw her slung over the back of a chair, humming some song or another and tapping her foot to some invisible beat. When she'd sit for hours on end, just petting Rocky, a soft appeasement twinging up her mouth. Little moments and Jude captured them all, posted them on his walls and admired with a smile.
It wasn't until after he was gone that Jude had come to his conclusion about Max.
Lucy had found her revolution, and she didn't stay still so much anymore, not at home, at least. Prudence had joined the circus and Sadie had taken off for her solo career and scrambling to cover all these new holes in the rent fee, Desmond and Jo-Jo barely had a second to spare to stand still enough for Jude to sketch. Without a muse, even the apples started to move around enough that you can't seem to draw them properly, and it was only in that moment of panic, failed still life scattered all over the floor, voices pouring into the room about Vietnam casualties and how easily could any of them have been Max? that Jude finally stepped back and realized he'd never gotten to draw the bugger.
He didn't want to picture Max over there. Didn't want to picture infinite jungle, swamp reeds rustling just enough to give away positions. He didn't want to picture fields of red, streaked crimson up lifeless faces and heart-shaped bombs pelting more and more every day, on the people, the soldiers, Max. He didn't want to picture any of it, but when he'd tried to remember the way Max's eyes danced when he smiled, all he could see were strawberry-flavored fields of lost lives, row by row and column by column of endless, endless graves.
But that had been then, and this was now, when a lot of all Max does is stare anymore, especially when he thinks nobody was paying attention. Cigarette drooping from slack lips and eyes fixating on a whole lot of nothing out the windows, Jude watches him from the couch, pencil in hand, head tilted in concentration. Max didn't do a whole lot of remembering where he was anymore; it wasn't as bad as the night terrors, but damn, that blank look in his eyes tugged at Jude worse than ever.
Jude barely sketches out the bridge of his nose before Max is standing, fag between his fingers, cautious look to his face. "What are you doing?"
Caught red-handed. "Just... trying to draw."
Jude doesn't even get to question why before Max is slamming the door to the next room.
The second time Jude tries to capture it, Max is tearing up the page before Jude can finish two line-strokes, and Jude flinches when the shouted warning comes out like a slap. He doesn't have the nads to tell him that, Jesus, he just wants to remember what he looks like before the ghost really starts to evanesce.
It's only when Jude tries a new plan of attack, on his third attempt, does he actually manage to succeed. His mum had always warned him that bad things come in threes, but all Jude can think about is how peaceful the guy looks for once, all drooped over and lazy with the afghan off the back of the couch draped across his shoulders. He's not upset, not angry, not hallucinating and made of all things fucking terrified. It's not Max, but it's sure as hell the closest thing Jude's found to him in a while.
Fingers stained with charcoal and flying fast as he can manage without fucking up, he's in his own little world when Max begins to stir. When Max begins to realize. Venom in his eyes, he's up in seconds. Jude thinks it's lucky they're alone, he's anticipating a shouting match and Max certainly brings the loud. "Stubborner than a fuckin' mule, that a Liverpool thing?" he seethes, but Jude's too quick for him when he snatches for the drawing. "Jesus Christ, Jude, I told you."
"I don't understand," Jude questions bluntly. He's not going to be able to hold the thing out of Max's reach for long. "It's just one fucking drawing, why is it so important to you?"
"If it's just one fucking drawing, why is it so important to you?" Max counters, and instead of going for the sketchpad he's suddenly at Jude, hands grabbing feverishly at the Limey's hoodie. "I'm beggin' you, man, you gotta stop this."
"Shite, Max, if I'd've known you--"
"You'd've stopped? Yeah, that's the first thing I want to enforce. Conditional catharsis. Just don't draw me, not--"
"If I could just--"
"--can't fucking let this go, can you, you little--"
"--want to know why--"
"It's not me, Jude!"
Jude's hands are splayed across Max's cheeks then, everyone holding tight and nobody seeming to care about the charcoal smudges Jude's fingers are leaving all up Max's cheekbones, ashy warpaint slicked all over like a brand. Max's nails snag into the front of Jude's shirt, all pleading and desperate as his free hand still grabs at the guy's shoulder like it's the only thing keeping him grounded in the world. "Shit, been practically a fuckin' shell since I got back, don't say any different, I'll punch your damn nose in." Max ducks his head against Jude's then, anti-hero bristling up his spine. "Just... you gotta give me a while, man."
And then there's that still. That once in a blue moon moment of quiet that Jude gropes for like oil-slicked hands grabbing onto the edge of a cliff. There's calm, and that eye of the storm sort of way Max stares Jude down, like he's back in battle and just trying to keep his shit together while those damn strawberry fields keep on filling, never stopping. There's that rift of space between them, ten acres of war that have had them in different planes for months and months and they've been refusing to acknowledge it. That rift of space, growing with every word they don't tell each other.
And then they're not.
It's that shot heard round the world that nobody's sure just which side fired it first, but even with that fast clash of bodies and lips and teeth, harsh as ever, Max doesn't feel like war anymore. It's Jude grabbing at Max's hair with the kind of urgency he thought you only saw in black and white movies. It's Max shoving Jude back onto the couch, cracked lips and charcoal sticks as he jerks open Jude's trousers. Jude's hips buck and Max's match flush, and when they collapse against each other, it's being fucked out without even taking somebody's pants off.
And then it's just that still again. That still in which there's the Max and Jude and Jude and Max dynamic, Max all tucked away into the curve of Jude's arm and lazy smoke wafting through his lips as he passes the cigarette to Jude. That still where Jude would definitely be taking advantage of this scene, any other opportunity, hands a blur trying to get it all out on paper and charcoal. But it's also that still where Jude just gets it, he's always just gotten it, and he's perfectly fine with the eidetic reliabilities for the time being, if it helps Max get that little bit of human back, maybe fill out the shell with a little less space and a little more light.
Heart-shaped bombs are at a still, and when strawberry fields are a way, way away, still doesn't look so bad on Max anymore.