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X Marks The Heart

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Running against the wind, Chloe Elizabeth Price had to hold onto her pirate hat to keep it from blowing away into the ocean.

It was only four days since her eleventh birthday and with the events of that day behind her, Chloe could finally focus on what was really important: piracy with her first mate along the shores of Arcadia Bay. Right now Mom and Dad were what felt like a mile away in her mind. They were off setting up the picnic which the two girls (mostly Chloe) had managed to guilt them into organizing for the afternoon.

Last summer while Max was off at her grandma's, Chloe had gotten a chance to come out here with Dad by herself. She brought a bunch of jewels and gems and stuff she got from the dollar store and buried it just in the trees on the far side of the beach. She made a map, and had meant to take Max here, but school and other adventures totally got in the way. These things happened all the time for them. They just had too many plans and not enough time.

At this rate they would have to be adults to finish the things they wanted to do.

Chloe sighed at the thought and ignored the small warm feeling bubbling in the pit of her stomach at the thought of her and Max… together as adults.

It was last week as Max and Chloe were cleaning out her room (Max loved to snoop, so cleaning out Chloe's room was naturally a good idea to get in on) that the two of them had rediscovered the map. She went nuts, and even Max seemed to be excited, so with that, Captain Chloe and First Mate Max were back on the hunt!

Wellll… eventually… As soon as Mom and Dad agreed to take them, they were on the hunt!

"Captain Chloeee! Wait up for meee!"

Captain Chloe paused and noticed poor First Mate Max was covered in sand and mud. It seemed as though she had taken a tumble in her attempt to keep up with the much longer strides of her Captain. Chloe grinned widely and ran back over to her best friend and best first mate.

"Hurry up, First Mate!" she cried as she reached out and took Max's hand. "There are filthy merchants trying to hide thar treasures and we must take them for ourselves!"

Behind her, Chloe felt a tug on her hand. She turned back and found Max looking up at her, her expression was clearly troubled by what she had announced.

"Chloe, why are we stealing though?!" she asked the taller strawberry blonde with her tone raised in curiosity.

Chloe did not know just what to say. All she could do at first was blink as she found herself wondering if Max even understood how pirates worked? Did she really have to break out Pirates of the Caribbean or The Goonies for the fiftieth time in a row?

Actually… yes, yes she did. They were always fun to watch, and she always liked it when Max had to hide next to her I their blanket during the scary parts.

"Because that's what Pirates do!" Chloe finally found the words to speak, her voice a little offended. "We plunder the treasures from the weak and keep it for ourselves!"

As Chloe laughed like a madwoman, Max just sort of tilted her head, her eyes wide and curious as though she just needed to question it.

"Okay…" she said rather uncertainly. "…and then what?"

Chloe's laugh died as Max's simple question caught her off guard. She… hadn't really gotten that far into the game just yet. Yet Max stood there, silently waiting for an answer that Chloe didn't have. So Chloe did what she was best at. She decided to improvise.

"We… ahhhhhh… well…we obviously bury it for safe keeping so it doesn't get stolen from us!" Chloe announced, laughing heartily at the imaginary fools who would dare to try and steal from them.

"I guess..." Max returned, her tone no more pleased by the explanation she had been given. "But… stealing isn't good, Captain. Why can't we just be… like… nice pirates? Sail the ocean and bay and help people?"

Chloe rolled her eyes ad reluctantly let go of Max's hands. She placed them on her hips to make herself look bigger than she was.

"Because we're the meanest, saltiest sea dogs of the seven seas; being nice isn't gonna cut it," she informed Max as though it was obvious. "Now come on… it's this way!"

Flashing a wide toothy grin at her best friend, Chloe hollered out a wild war cry and charged off into the trees along the edge of the beach. She only looked behind her once to see Maxxie was running after her. She made it a ways into the tree line before she paused by a fallen tree which she had marked down on her map.

Her face went blank as she scanned the paper map. While it had made sense to her at the time, it certainly did not now. Not with her standing at the only obvious marking on the map, the fallen tree. Squinting at the map, she emitted an audible 'ugh'. She really needed to work on her bearings. Perhaps Max and she could join girl scouts or something cool. It would probably help with her map making skills.

As she fumbled with the map, Chloe heard a shriek which sent a shiver straight down her spine.

"CAPTAIN CHLOEE! HELP, I'M DYING!" she heard Max cry out from far off.

That was all it took for Chloe to abandon the search for the booty. She dropped the map and bolted through the trees, ignoring the small branched slapping her in the face and body. She reached the edge of the tree line and ran out to the sprawled out Max who was currently laying there on the rocks which separated the tree line and the sand.

She fell to Max's side and found her best friend had her eyes closed and her tongue half hanging out of her mouth. Chloe looked away and noticed that there was a group of cuts on her bare leg. Sort of like she rubbed it along barnacles as she fell. Just baby scratches, and yet there she was, lying on the rocks like she had been mortally wounded.

Max's hand reached up and grabbed Chloe by the scruff of the shirt, startling Chloe as she brought her older friend's head down until they were touching nose to nose. Fighting the blush growing on her face, Chloe focused on the girl who looked as though she was on death's door.

Well, it was less death's door and more like breaking into a fit of laughter…

"P-please…I don't have long… Captain…" she rattled out melodramatically. "Everything is getting dark and cold… could this be the end of First Mate Max?"

A small grin crossed onto Chloe's face. Two could play this new game.

Without warning, Chloe scooped Max up into her arms and with a grunt from her and a protesting yelp from Max, Chloe hefted her First Mate up into her arms. A little light headed from the added weight and Max unconsciously wrapping her arms around her neck.

"Hold on, first mate, I'll get you to the ship's surgeon!" she stated as she walked as fast as she could.

Max didn't protest for very long. She knew better than to fight Chloe when she was determined to get something done. It took longer than it would have with Max walking and it took multiple pauses, but Chloe made it across the beach and all the wayup the gentle sloping hill overlooking the beach and found Mom and Dad in deep conversation with each other, both of them sitting there on picnic blanket right next to each other.

"Dad, Mom?!" Chloe called out to them.

Mom and Dad looked up. Naturally it was Mom who launched herself to her feet first as she took in the sight of Max being carried like a sack of potatoes in Chloe's arms. Dad got up as well, but it was at a much more casual pace. The smile on his face told her he found it amusing.

Chloe smiled cheekily back. As long her Daddy thought it was funny, then she knew in heart that she musta done something right.

"Chloe Elizabeth Price, what are you up to!" Mom called out, her hand on her hip Chloe approached the pair of them.

"Help!" she cried, remaining in full character. "First Mate Max is losing a lot of blood. You have to do something!"

Dad and Mom shared a look before they turned back to face their daughter and the obviously not dying girl in her arms. Max looked just as strangely confused as they did.

"Did you seriously carry Max the whole way?" Dad asked her, unable to hide the note of admiration in his voice.

As Mom smacked his arm for encouraging it, Chloe nodded proudly as her feat was acknowledged.

"I didn't have a choice!" Chloe informed the two of them wildly.

"No… I didn't have a choice!" Max complained out loud, her statement making Dad grin properly.

Smiling at her serious looking Mom for a moment, Dad cleared his throat and stepped forward, brushing by Mom, his hand briefly touching her side. He approached them until he was hovering over the two pirates. Dad reached out and placed his hand on her shoulder.

"Avast Captain Chloe!" he announced in a low growly voice as he led the Captain towards the picnic blanket. "Set down Max. I shall inspect ye first mate. Perhaps I might save her life!"

Chloe nodded gravely and lowered herself down on her knees so that she could gently place Max on the blanket. Dad bent down beside her as well, his head tilting to one side as he scanned the limb. Occasionally he would 'hmmm' and 'ahhhhhh' as he inspected the scrapes.

He looked up from Max's cuts and directed his serious attention to Chloe for a moment before looking back down into the wide eyes Max had.

"Hmmm, I'm 'fraid yer leg will hafta be amputated," Dad informed Max without as much as a pause. He looked to Chloe again and added. "Hold her still, I will find my tools… I think I have a hacksaw in ye 'ol car. Little rusty, though…"

As soon as Max gasped, Chloe felt an unnatural swell of ager and annoyance at her Dad for taking the game a little too far for her First Mate's comfort. This wasn't new. She got this feeling often, but usually at school… when someone was teasing Max… or trying to butter up to her… or generally being nice…

"Dad!" she exclaimed, catching his attention immediately. There was a flash of a grin before he turned it into a scolding frown.

"That's Ship Surgeon Dad to you, Captain!" Dad boomed at her with clear authority over the Captain.

Mom sat down next to Dad, in her hand was a small bottle of antiseptic, cotton and a package of bandages. She shot Dad a strained looking expression. It was obvious she was trying not to laugh or smile at his statement. Someone had to be the responsible one, and it was clear that the role had fallen to her.

"You keep teasing poor Max and that thing you think you're going to get tonight ain't going to happen…" she warned him as she looked away, now unable to contain a smile forming on her face.

As Chloe wasn't entirely certain what Mom was going on about, Dad seemed to know and furrowed his eyebrows.

"What's that you say Orderly Mom? No sodomy tonight?" he shot back at Mom before turning to Max and adding. "Hmmm… maybe I can save yer limb after all!"

As Dad gently dabbed the antiseptic coats cotton swab over Max's cuts, Mom pressed her hand into her face.

"Oh sweet Jesus you did not just say that…" she groaned out like Dad had said something awful or mean or something.

Chloe frowned and shared a look with her equally as confused First Mate. Dad did not say a swear word or anything. She wasn't exactly sure what 'sodomy' meant but she was fairly sure it wasn't a swear or anything like that.

Parents, as Max and Chloe knew too well, were just weird.

Dad smiled, as though he was satisfied to have gotten that sort of response out of Mom. As he pressed the bandages on Max's leg. The pressure made poor Max yelp. Her hand instinctively reached out to take Chloe's, startling the older girl, but only for a moment. Chloe squeezed back, which seemed to ease some of the discomfort Maxi was in.

"There ye go… Looks like you might have twisted your ankle a little, First Mate Max," Dad said as he inspected his work with a small satisfied nod. "If you get hit by a cannonball, you can call on me again. For now, we'll eat and Max can rest the ankle for a while… okay Chloe?"

Accepting her Dad's word as law, Chloe solemnly nodded and then threw her arms around her First Mate who was currently trying to sit back up on her bottom. Max-annosaurus Rex emitted a small little 'oomph' and collapsed back onto the blanket under the weight of her Captain.

As Chloe heard Max emit a small strangling noise Chloe pulled back, but only slightly. It was enough to let Max breathe, but not enough to escape the clutched of the dread Pirate Captain Price. She examined Max and frowned as she noticed her best friend looking kinda sad, kinda like she had done something wrong or something.

"Sorry for ruining it Chloe," Max murmured weakly. "I didn't mean to hurt myself…"

This was typical Maxpool. She was taking the blame for something when it was clearly Chloe's fault. She was being too fast and too wild for their own good and Max got hurt because of it. Chloe sighed and shook her head. Max wasn't getting the credit for this accident today. This was her fault.

"No, you didn't ruin anything," Chloe reassured her best friend. "Next time we'll be nice pirates, 'kay? Anything you want, and you have to stick to me closer. I don't want you to get hurt ever again…"

Slowly the smile returned to Max's face. Slowly she nodded.

"Okay Chloe, but do I still get to be your first mate?" Max asked her.

Unable to believe the question even had to be asked, Chloe gave Max a playful shrug.

"You're such a dork!" Chloe laughed at her best friend. "You'll never not be my first mate!"

It was so strange how fast time flew.

Fifteen years had flashed before their eyes and here they stood together on the same rocky beach they ran over as kids, both of them gazing out into the Pacific. One of them wore a small nostalgic smile on her lips, the other, simple contentment.

These were had been strange years. They were full of loss, isolation and so much pain, and yet somehow through the unrelenting psychodrama, a spark was ignited as two old friends, separated for years were brought back together to face down a great seemingly impossible threat. Again it brought more pain for them, unimaginable misery at times; but this time it was different.

This time they were not facing it alone, this time they faced it together and survived. In spite of the impossible odds they survived together.

But the time apart had irreparably altered the relationship between the two friends. It had given them a chance to see what life was like apart, and almost the moment they were reunited, Max Caulfield and Chloe Price knew they could never again allow such a thing to happen again; and they couldn't just be each other's friends… not as the bond flared to life more powerful and passionate then anything they had once had as little pirates roaming Arcadia Bay in search for booty to plunder.

And so the wondrous romance they shared together blossomed… well, Max supposed that was just inevitable.

Now here they were, five years into their relationship, as strong now as it was in the beginning. Every little thing a touch of a hand, a kiss… it was still as passionate as their first. It was a love Max never thought she would find herself having. It was a rarity to find a genuine soul mate. It was even rarer to have known her even in their childhood.

Max felt a hand reach out and tug against hers. She looked and found Chloe had redirected her smile to her. Perhaps a little more mischievous than the shorter woman preferred, given they both had a quarter of a bottle of wine in them and Chloe was dressed to the nines in pirate garb.

Yeah... Okay, so when Chloe drank she always seemed to find a way to make it hella more interesting.

Max wasn't exactly sure how in the hell she scrounged up a sailor rags and her old hat when they were miles away from the Price-Madsen home, but she somehow did, which told her that this was pre-planned. Max on the other hand got to wear a bright pink t-shirt with a custom logo design Chloe had tailored for her. On it was '1st Mate' embroidered in rhinestones and glitter…

Honestly, Max couldn't felt any gayer if she tried… and holy shit did Chloe ever try…

The only reason she kept it on was for Chloe's sake, and the fact that if she did take it off, Chloe would take it as a sign and take her right then and there on the beach. It was not that she minded it, but it was just a matter of decency… and not wanting to get pebbles and sand in places that didn't need to have pebbles and sand in them.

"Chlo… don't you think the pirate get up is a bit much?" Max asked slyly as she allowed herself to be led by her led by her Captain, which was pretty typical she supposed.

Her question earned her a small hip check, making Max stumble to one side.

"No… and why aren't you wearing your eye patch!" Chloe chastised her as she continued to lead Max. "Fuck, Maximus… did you forget how immersion works? Or is that just too unpretentious for a hipster girl?"

Max quirked her lips together as her eyes rolled.

"Left it in the truck..." she informed her Captain. "…and don't pretend like I don't know why you made me wear that eye patch in the first place. Lack of depth perception meant more tumbles… and more excuses for touching little old me, I suppose? The deviousness of Chloe Price knows no boundaries…."

Smirking slightly, Chloe did not answer her on point observation. She instead reached into the beaten up duffle bag she had brought along and pulled a rolled up piece of parchment. It was not paper, but actual fucking parchment.

With Max officially confused, she accepted the map and gingerly unrolled it to find a beautifully inked map. This was Chloe's handiwork.

"Ma-X marks the spot… and here… cheat sheet," she said, digging out her phone and tapping on the screen briefly before handing it over. Chloe took it and found herself looking at a GPS map plotted out in advance.

"David showed me how to use a GPS tracker…" Chloe shrugged off as Max looked up to her. "I'm not entirely sure if I'm happy about that."

Max could not help but grin as she followed behind Chloe, who was digging out an old spade from her even older duffle bag. The women walked together hand in hand as they stepped and leaped over the rocks and driftwood as though they were children again. Like little pirates trapped in adult bodies.

They paused only for a moment to indulge Max's desire not to slip and fall on wet algae coated rocks and pressed forward towards the tree line, the GPS app on Chloe's phone beeping more and more frequently. A strange sensation washed over her, which she couldn't quite place. Something was different about this.

"There... wait, did you actually bury treasure?" Max asked as she leaped over the dirt embankment after Chloe. "I just thought this was an excuse to get out away from drink that forty of rum you've been hiding…"

Rolling her eyes, Chloe reached into her bag and indeed pull the bottle out of the bag, jingling it briefly before cracking the seal.

"That too," she said as she pulled the bottle from her lips. "But yeah, if we're treasure hunting we're doing it right… oh… you're up, First Mate!"

Chloe pressed the shovel into Max's hands and stepped back, waving her off to take over the search the treasure Chloe had apparently planted. Allowing Chloe a small amused smile, Max stepped forward and took over for Chloe, who swallowed another mouthful of rum and followed several paces behind her best friend and girlfriend.

As the women moved in deeper into the woods, Max occasionally glanced back behind her to steal glances at Chloe; she seemed distracted. Distracted and very conflicted. Max didn't know what to make of it, but she would have to factor in the fact she had a drink or two in her. But then that only raised more questions. Chloe only drank when she had serious things on her mind…

The GPS app stopped beeping and the tone was a flat unbroken drone. It appeared they were there at the destination. Max scanned the earth and almost immediately took notice to some of the soil had been disturbed recently, as though it had been dug up only a little earlier.

Max looked back to Chloe, who shrugged.

"Okay... so maybe I buried it about two hours before I took you out here…" she confessed to Max slyly.

Max had to admit it. She was really kinda impressed by this.

Pushing her head back, Max pressed her lips against Chloe's only briefly, and not by choice. She didn't get beyond first base because in a display of uncharacteristic restraint, Chloe was the one to first break the kiss. With a smile she led Max back to the disturbed soil. Taking the hint that forest sex wasn't in the cards, at least for now, Max playfully grumbled and pushed Chloe back and with one solid heave, she thrust the shovel blade into the soil.

It didn't take long to find what was buried. Even with the hole pre-dug and the soil loosened, the roots and rocks were a bit of a challenge, so it was maybe foot and a bit deep. As she noticed a speck of grey, Max leaned in and pulled out a small faux silk sack. She looked back to Chloe, who stood there with her captain hat in her hand. She was silent and still. There was no smile or playfulness. She just looked… so unnaturally scared.

As silent as Chloe was, Max was as well as she unfastened the bag. She dug her hand I and retrieved a fist full of dollar store plastic gems.

"Wowsers, Chlo…" she said as she slowly siphoned the gems back into the bag through the spaces between her fingers. "We finally struck it rich…"

Max trailed off, her mouth hanging slightly open as the gems which fell back into the bag had left one irregularity resting in the palm of her hand: a simple gold band with a modest diamond fitted in the centre. It wasn't just any ring. It was Joyce's engagement ring. Max felt her brain fog over, it became difficult to voice anything complicated as she looked back up to Chloe.

"Chloe… sweetheart..." she breathed rather foolishly. "…what's going on?"

At long last, the tension seemed to break in Chloe. A smile crossed onto her mouth as she Max watched Chloe fall down onto one knee in front of her.

"Max, I-"

Max suddenly exploded into happy tears in spite of all her efforts not to do so; she just… couldn't help it. She thought she would have a better handle on herself, but here she was, clutching her mouth and sobbing like a total cliché, and she didn't care one bit… not one fucking bit.

Chloe shuffled on her knees closer to Max, her hand reaching up to pull Max's hand's off her face and into hers. Max allowed it; her body was barely able to function now thanks to the shaking that debilitated her. Max watched, barely in control of herself as the smile on Chloe's face grew a little more confident.

"Max, I have loved you for such a long time and I can't imagine a life that doesn't involve waking up every day with you beside me. Even thinking about the alternative… a life without my best friend as my wife… it just puts this… terrible ache inside me that doesn't go away until I see your face," She spoke up to her best friend, her words shaking almost as much as Max was.. "You deserve the best, Maxine Caulfield… and that's not me. I'm such a fuck up at times, and I'm loud and obnoxious… but I want to try and be the best for you, even if it takes the rest of our days…"

Chloe didn't get to finish her self-deprecation. Not as Max threw herself on top of Chloe, her arms wrapping tightly around her as she sobbed into Chloe's shoulder. As Chloe wrapped her own arms around Max, Max showered her girl with kisses up her neck.

"But I already have the best, Chloe…" Max sobbed out, furiously wiping her eyes as she pulled back to look into Chloe's face properly. She must have looked like a real mess to her, but none of that mattered. Not here and now.

Chloe looked close to having a total breakdown herself, she reached up, her own shaking hands gently wiping the tears off of Max's cheek. Tears were threatening to fall from her beautiful blue eyes.

"You'll… be my wife?" Chloe asked as though she needed a confirmation from Max.

Max nodded wildly, her hand wiping her eyes as well.

"Yes…" she managed to choke out. "God, Chloe… of course I'll be your wife…"

Chloe leaned in and kissed her. It was a wet mess of a kiss and it was perfect in every way. It was Chloe's turn to sob as she finally got the answer to a question she seemed to have spent a very long time agonizing over.

"Oh thank fuck…" Chloe spoke into her future wife's neck. "It be a real awkward conversation with your Dad if you said no after I asked his permission…"

Unable to even begin to imagine how the conversation between her Dad and Chloe must have played out, Max kissed her future wife again and handed the ring over to Chloe. Chloe gently lifted Max's left hand and gently slipped the ring onto her finger. Max examined it, it was a little big on her but she was a midget compared to Joyce… it would have to be refitted… but… wow…

"Chloe?" Max spoke up, still looking at the ring. "What if you couldn't find the ring? Like… what if the GPS marker was a dud… You're not exactly a master treasure hunter… this may be the first time we actually had a successful hunt…"

Chloe gave Max a playful shove, making the smaller woman shriek as she wrapped her arms back around Chloe's neck.

"Oh fuck off!" Chloe yelped as she stole another kiss. "Well… I guess you'd be shit outta luck, future Mrs. Price…"

Max Price… It had a ring which she liked…

As Max remained locked in silence and held in her fiancée's arms, breathing in the scent of her Captain, all she could do was wonder what the two little pirates of Arcadia Bay would think if they got to see how their future turned out. How best friends reunited and became so much more.

Knowing Captain Chloe and First Mate Max… they'd probably shrug; already knowing exactly how would turn out and continue their adventures... just as Chloe and she would continue to do together.