so I know we all love max being repressed baby gay and daniel being the flamingo bisexual icon I know he is
BUT Max also values honesty and Daniel is a noted people pleaser, which makes me think about a determinedly-out Max falling for a closeted Daniel...
Let's consider at 24yo grad student Max who has done 'the work', he's therapised, he's cut his Dad out of his life, he can say the words 'I'm gay' out loud (even if it still looks like he's ready to start a fight with the world every time he does). And like everything Max does, he does this with determination and focus - he runs the campus pride group with Lando, he tolerates no bullshit, he pushes the gay agenda (again, he seems to be constantly trying to start fights with the world, but at least it's for the right reasons now).
He's proud of himself, because it was shit fight for him to get here. He got kicked out of home, he almost self-destructed, he was really lucky a few times not to end up in the hospital or worse. He slept with awful men and he did crappy things, and that's partly why he's so vocal now, because he knows how bad it can get when you passively hate yourself every second of the day. He still doesn't go home for Christmas.
So Max is okay, he's still a bit angry and a bit lost sometimes, but he's heading in the right direction.
He's going to be a vet. Animals don't lie to you.
And he works as a waiter sometimes to make cash, he and Lando and Charles all do, they rock up and wear black tie and hold trays at private parties. It's an easy gig and they're flexible about exams and school. Max looks at these rich people and thinks they're flashy and indulgent and fat, usually he's mentally barely present while he's working, but then he's at some party on a big house in the fancy part of town...
He hears this laugh. And it's loud (way too loud for this kind of party) and he looks over, and he just can't look away after that. Because Daniel is blinding - he's in a nice suit and he's working the crowd like magic, shaking hands and telling jokes, and he keeps laughing too loud and he's a quite drunk, but Max can't stop himself snorting slightly when Daniel tells some legitimately not-funny joke, and-
Daniel looks at him. Max is used to being invisible at these parties, nobody looks at the help, but Daniel's sparkling eyes snap to him and Max flushes, because Daniel is so hot and funny, and then Daniel just comes and eats every single thing on Max's tray like a literally insane person. Crab puff after crab puff. Max can barely meet Daniel's eyes, but he's smiling and enchanted, and then Daniel tilts his head and asks if he needs help getting more.
They end up in the wine cellar near the kitchen making out and Daniel has his hands down Max's pants, and it's so hot and Max honestly doesn't care if he gets fired, he needs this guy to fuck him-
Charles bursts through the door, swears, looks awkward, and then tells Daniel very quickly, "Marie said Jack is looking for you".
Max instantly thinks Jack is Daniel's boyfriend or something, and he can't get his hands off him fast enough (although he's still sad to pull away, he'd been so very desperate to touch more of Daniel).
They pull their clothes straight and not a second too soon, because a little kid runs through the door and says, "Daddy, you said you'd read me a story", with the absolute oblivious certainty of a child who doesn't realise their parents exist in the world without them.
Max watches Daniel hoist the kid up on his hip and then he's out the door, and Charles and Max just stare at each other. Max finds out pretty quick after that - it's Daniel's party, he's married to a successful lawyer who is about to run for office and they have a kid. Jack.
They're a perfect well-to-do family and Max had been five seconds away from blowing that kid's dad in the wine cellar.
It should end there, it should just end right there. But it doesn't, because Max and Daniel can't stay away from each other.
Daniel messages him the next day to say sorry, and the sorry turns into flirting, which turns into Daniel coming to the house Max shares with Lando and Charles to hook up. He keeps coming over and Max keeps letting him, because Daniel is the most amazing guy he's ever met.
He's funny and warm and confident and the sex is amazing... and then Daniel goes home. To his wife and his son and his swimming pool.
Max thought he was done with feeling shame. He had thought he'd said goodbye to it crawling under his skin, but it's back now. He is a gay man who has been trying so hard to make the world a better place for people like him, but here he is fucking around with a married older man and being his dirty little secret.
Lando thinks it's fucked. Charles thinks it's fucked. It has all the stupid embarrassing hallmarks of an affair - Max can't leave marks, Daniel has a tan on his ring finger, they're always rushing, Daniel smells like perfume sometimes, Max is left feeling dirty and disgusting the second Daniel leaves.
And there's so many stupid moments and dramas, like Daniel taking Max out to fancy places he could never afford, but somehow it makes Max feel cheaper than ever. And then Daniel comes along to his shitty, messy birthday house party and everyone adores him and Max is just standing there, holding a beer and watching Daniel tell stories to the whole room, thinking - I love you I love you I love you I love you - but he can't go up and kiss Daniel at his own fucking birthday party.
He's never going to leave his wife, Lando tells him, like Max doesn't know that.
It's breaking Max down, feeling this way. He can't be ashamed again. He already fought this war and he can't do it again.
Max puts it off, he's going to end it, he puts it off but he really is going to end it-
Then Daniel comes round one morning between two meetings and he's stressed, and he tells Max about how Jack is sick and he's worried he shouldn't have sent him to daycare, and Max is just about to pull him in and kiss him to try and make him feel better, when he realises.
That he's giving up everything he likes about himself to have Daniel.
And... it's not worth it. He loves Daniel, but it's not worth it.
So he breaks up with him and honestly, Daniel doesn't even look surprised. He looks like he's been waiting for it, and Max realises they've both been putting this off. Daniel has been getting more and more stressed, dark circles under his eyes, and Max had never realised that it was because of him.
"You never asked me to leave her," Daniel says before he goes.
"You wouldn't have," Max replies.
God, Max hates it. He hates life without Daniel, even the crumbs he'd had. He goes out and gets drunk and gets fucked, and he wishes he was angry, but he's just miserable. He just misses Daniel shoving burgers into his mouth in Max's bed and singing in his shower.
And it's... months. Long months. And Max has decided to focus on school, focus on getting an internship and the pride club, focus on the things he likes about himself. Because all too often he feels like Daniel stole all those warm, happy feelings when he went away.
He puts on a Halloween party and it's actually kinda fun, Charles is a vampire and Lando is soccer mom, Max when looks around the room he sees Daniel there. Still in his suit from work.
"What's that costume meant to be?" he asks, because what else is there to say. He hates that seeing Daniel is the best moment of his week even though it physically hurts to notice that he hasn't shaved and his tie is crooked.
"I'm calling it 'gay recently-separated single Dad who is trying to get his shit together'," replies Daniel slowly. Apologetic and hopeful and so fucking cute. He looks scared of what Max is going to say.
Max thinks about resisting for about seven seconds before he kisses him.