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You're not Her

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Click, said the camera, followed shortly by a flash.

Jefferson, with a wicked grin and manic eyes and a needle on his arms, loomed over her. He looked at her as though she was a prized possession, a piece of art to be glued to the walls of a museum.  

His muse was what he’d called her.

A muse. An object. A thing to play around with.

And for one sick, sick moment, she felt like one, too.

“Innocence,” he rasped. She could still see his face in every little detail, even when darkness covered him. She’d come to recognize it as much as she recognized her own face. “You. Innocence. Bloom.”

Max sobbed, not only in fear, but in exhaustion. She wanted this to be over. But this hell had no end, and he made sure of that, with his perfect teeth and perfect hair and perfect eyes. 

He radiated a dark perfection while she, filled with an unpleasant, nauseated feeling, as though she’d been bound, chained down to the earth, at the darkest pits underground, unable to get up, or scream for help, drowned in muteness.

“When will this end?” she wished to say. Yet her mouth wouldn’t move. Her body wouldn’t move. She was paralyzed. Frozen. Stuck. Under his gaze. Under his drugs. Under him.

Click, the camera spoke again, its flash stronger, harsher, and more menacing.

Her wrists and ankles, tugged down by duct tapes, ached. Her frail, lithe, weak body, merging with the metal chair, was limp.

“Corrupting the innocence. Innocence. No longer.”

Click, click, click.

A pair of hands, rough and calloused, hovering near her face, staying there as his unblinking, twitching eyes stared down at her, making her feel exposed. 

It was as though he had drained her from everything she held dear, every bit of life she had. It - he - made her feel dirty and naked. 

“Maxine. Never Max.”

And the darkness was no more, as the storm made its appearance; the swirling vortex, the black hole, the consequences of her actions, of her playing with power, with time, with reality.

It crashed, never without a chaotic kind of grace.

Jefferson stood in front of her, and kept looking at her, even as the destruction made its way towards him, towards them both. 

He chained her down with his stare.

“Maxine Caulfield. Arcadia Bay. Death. Destroyed. Destruction. Innocence, no more.”

His words shouldn’t make sense, but they did.

Click, the camera spoke, one last time.

There was a blindingly white light that engulfed her vision.

And it wasn’t just Jefferson who towered over her, she realized as she opened her eyes again, despite the hot tears and the pain. It was everyone. Everyone in Arcadia Bay. Everyone she knew. Everyone she sacrificed. Everyone she murdered.

“Why would you kill us, Max?” whimpered Warren.

“I thought we were friends,” mulled Kate.

“I know we had our differences, but…” Victoria.

“Why would you make this kind of a decision?” Juliet.

“You know I didn’t mean to, Max.” Nathan.

“Please, dear.” Joyce.

“I had a whole future ahead of me.” Evan.

“You took my life from me, my future.” Daniel.

“I don’t want to die.” Someone.

“What did I ever do to you, Max?” Another someone.

“Max.”

“Max.”

“Max.”

She couldn’t- she couldn’t tell -

“Max.” 

Who was this someone?

“Max.”

She didn’t care. She just wanted out of this nightmare she called her life.

“Max.”

She wished to fight no more. She wanted out.


 

“Max.”

Max, in Chloe’s arms, finally jolted awake, tears in her eyes, sweat covering every inch of skin, her hair damp, and her mind clearly elsewhere.

It would take a lot to calm her down.

Chloe was prepared for this, though.

After all, this wasn’t the first time this sort of thing happened.

Chloe cupped Max’s cheek and steadied her by holding her hand, careful not to touch the wrist. Never the wrist. Never where he duct taped her into a chair, never to see the light of day. “Hey, hey. Max. It’s only a dream. Only a dream.”

Chloe balanced the dazed Max on the bed, in the dark, in the loneliness of the night, with only the small night lamp and the moon’s light, filtered by the window curtain, being their dim lightsource.

“Hey, hey, go back to sleep, ‘kay. I’m here. I’m here with you, Max.” Chloe balanced her thoughts. Chloe grounded her, pulled her back into reality. Chloe let Max curl into her, and hid her face in Chloe’s chest as her forehead rested on Chloe’s collarbone. Max wept. Chloe didn’t. 

A sniffle and a choked, “I thought you were gone.”

“I’m not, Max. I’m here.”

“I killed them. I killed everyone.” 

Chloe wanted to say that it was she who killed them by being alive, by surviving and living and being with the girl she’d always loved while the rest of them were rotten corpses on the ground, soon to be soil. 

“You didn’t, Max,” Chloe said, instead. 

Max calmed down, after a long while. Chloe was patient, though. She didn’t use to, but after everything that happened, she needed to learn the art of patience, more for Max’s sake than her own. 

She waited until Max was, once again, limp, and no longer fully awake, no longer filled with panic.

They lay, side by side. Max still hid in Chloe,  too scared to ever face the world.

“I thought I was better,” mumbled the delirious Max.

“You are.” 

It was a lie, and Max knew so too. She chuckled and nuzzled deeper into Chloe and wanted escapism from the world. “It’s been a year, and I still can’t function without you.”

The day was the 6th of October, 2014. Or night, she supposed.

364 days since it all began.

Not that she was counting, or anything.

“You’re getting better.”

A bitter chuckle. “Sure I am.”

Soon, Max was deep asleep, and Chloe was left to stare at the clock on her phone who taunted her with the time - 23:57. 

It reminded her that it had been almost a year, exactly a year, and here they were, in Seattle, in Max’s parents’ house, and Max wasn’t in school, she couldn’t, because schools reminded her of Blackwell, and she couldn’t hold a camera, much less take a picture with it. 

At least Ryan and Vanessa were gone on a business trip, meaning they wouldn’t have to worry about why the fuck their daughter kept getting nightmares.

It was only the two of them. It had been the two of them for a long, long time.

Because Max would feel like Jefferson was behind her, and she couldn’t be away from Chloe too much, for too long of a time. Because then she’d think that something had happened to her, and Chloe died again, and she had to save her again, but she couldn’t, couldn’t use her powers because of chaos theory, the butterfly theory, whateverthefuck theory-

11:53, the clock reminded her with disinterest.

Chloe eased herself from Max, stood up, and looked down at her. She bit her lip and, with no hesitance, plucked away the blanket from under Max to tuck her in. 

She looked at Max. Sweet, little Max. The innocent girl. Only, she wasn’t so innocent, anymore. No. Wait, no. Max was innocent still. She was just broken. Broken by the weight of the world on her shoulders. Broken by the overwhelming power she had. Broken by the ghosts of Arcadia Bay, by Jefferson, by Rachel, by everyone.

Chloe leaned down and pressed a kiss on her temple. Her fingers brushed a brown strand away from Max’s face.

“I wish you knew it was never your fault.”

Because why should it be? There was no real evidence that the storm that totalled that shitty town was the direct result of Max screwing around with her time powers. Even if it was Max’s fault, it just wasn’t. Max hadn’t known what screwing around with time would cause. It was never her fault. 

The deaths, the destruction. Chloe had a hard time believing any of it was Max’s fault.

Max kept thinking of it as sacrificing Arcadia Bay from Chloe, but Chloe knew better. Max hadn’t make a choice. She’d been frozen, unable to make a choice. And this was the result. 

Because Chloe had been a fool for believing Max was able to make the choice, for insisting that Max had been the only one who could.

And as Chloe went outside to smoke and get some alone time, away from Max, to grief and to smoke and drink, she saw a deer.


Max spoke of a deer, many times. Too many times for it to be a normal deer, for her to be normal, for it all to be normal. (Hmm… Normal. Now, since when had that word and their lives ever met?) 

A deer that only she could see. A deer she believed to be a spirit animal, who’d guided her away from danger many times. 

Max believed it to be her saviour, her guardian angel. 

Perhaps the deer might’ve had something to do with Max’s powers. 

Sometimes Max spoke of it as though it were Rachel herself.

Chloe was no Max, and Chloe knew better.

It didn’t matter what or who the deer was. What mattered was that it ruined both of their lives.

The deer must had been the one to give Max these powers, these curses, and the burdening, suffocating responsibilities that came along with it.

The deer was no angel, and looking at it brought anger.

“Why the fuck are you here?”

The deer gave no answer, because it was a fucking deer. It didn’t twitch. It didn’t blink. It was as still as a statue.

Yeah, what a magical deer, this piece of shit was.

Chloe scowled and stomped on the grass, barefoot. It was the middle of the night - or minutes away from it - and she was on the Caulfield’s backyard and she was pissed. She did not want to deal with this right now.

“Scram.” She stomped again, and gritted her teeth when it garnered no reaction from the shitty herbivore. “Leave us the fuck alone!”

Because Max had started to talk about the deer again, and not just the deer, but her seeing visions of it, recently. Max had started to see many visions again. 

And Chloe had ignored her, because she needed to. They had been striving for something normal for a year, and they had been trying to forget. 

Neither of them needed anymore supernatural bullshit, least of all Max.

“Are you happy now?! For Max to be sick! To have a goddamn PSTD or whatever the fuck it’s called! For her to be-" Chloe stopped herself at that. She didn't want to say it. Didn't want it to be true. Her sobs made her choke. "She’s never gonna pick up a camera again because of you! Even looking at one makes her want to throw up!”

And Chloe struggled not to cry, because photography has always been a large part of Max, what made her so amazing, so special, what made her Max, and now Max was no longer Max, and Chloe was no longer herself, because neither of them could stand to be apart from each other, and neither of them could sleep well, and neither of them were fine.

“Is this what you want?!”

The deer moved. It gave a simple twitch of the ear. Chloe gasped and stumbled back, clutching at her chest, realizing that the world was too still, too quiet, and no leaves swayed and there was no wind and no one had come to check on what the ruckus was about and the deer was looking right. At. Chloe.

Time stood still.

Chloe, powerless, helpless, and so, so tired of having to take care of Max, having to see the girl she loved reduced into such a mess, gave in, dropping to her knees, looking down at the grass with blurry eyes.

“She was just a kid… A fucking kid.” 

Chloe ran her fingers through her strands of hair, now grown and touching her shoulders down to her arms, only the lower part of it having any semblance of blue. And even then, it was a faded, worn blue, old and no longer bright.

Chloe hadn’t dyed it yet, even when she had the time. She never really gave her hair much thought, or anything, really. She had a hard time mustering the energy to give a shit. Why should she care? Nothing really mattered.

Nothing, except Max, and how broken she was, and Chloe, unable to help her.

Chloe looked up.

“What do you have to gain from tearing her apart?”

The deer ducked its head, as though it was solemn, saddened by the outcome as well.

Chloe was inches away from hysteria. Here she was, talking to a motherfucking deer.

“It shouldn’t have been her.”

At that, the deer’s head jolted up, its doe eyes looking straight at Chloe, waiting, encouraging her to continue. Or maybe Chloe was projecting.

“You… Max has a life ahead of her. A good life. And this-” Chloe gestured to the deer, to the world around her that had stopped, to everything “-this… ruined her. And Arcadia Bay is gone because you fucking let her handle it when she couldn’t even handle handing in a fucking photograph for a fucking contest. She can’t handle shit! She’s too good !”

Chloe, dazed and not in her right mind, stared at the deer in disgust. Or was she staring at the reflection on its eyes, the blackened, mirrored image of herself? Hard to tell.

“It shouldn’t have been her. She’s… good. She’s too good.” 

And that was a problem. Because good people cared about every single life on that shitty town, even the lives of drug dealing pedhophiles like Frank Bowers and creepos like Nathan Prescott and even burn out nobodies like Chloe fucking Price. 

Because Max was too pure of heart to not feel guilty of every single life and to not hold herself accountable for what happened.

And that was the problem.

That had always been the problem from the start.

The deer walked to her until they were face-to-face, its elongated nose hovering over Chloe’s forehead. Chloe stared at it, too much of an emotional wreck to wonder what it was doing, wishing for some way to help Max, any way.

And the deer nuzzled its nose onto Chloe’s forehead, and Chloe found herself inside her truck, in broad daylight, in Arcadia’s Bay parking lot, and on the handicapped area, no less.

It was 00:00, the start of 7th October, 2014.

And it was noon, 7th October, 2013.

The start of that fateful week.

Chapter Text

Blue feathers. Hazel eyes. A red, faded flannel. A smile with a dimple on one cheek- always one, never two. Bones. Broken, withering bones. Hollowed out eyes. No smile. No smile at all.

It didn’t register to Chloe right away, what was happening.

She had a lot of questions on her mind, but everything was answered the moment she checked her phone to find a message from Nathan, telling her he was at the women’s bathroom.

Chloe blinked, and blinked again, and wondered what kind of joint she’d been smoking to make her head this fuzzy and spaced out. 

Right. The Prescott and the bathroom. And… blackmailing for money. Things, escalating. A butterfly. A fucking blue butterfly hovering innocently. And… a gun, pressed onto her stomach, right at her lower rib-

Wait, what?

Chloe’s mind provided no answer. Only weird images. Something about someone being… something or other. 

She didn’t immediately get out of her rusty truck. There was something missing. Something important. No. Wait. It wasn’t just some thing , it was some things . A whole bunch of things. Important, creepy-ass things.

But what?

Chloe’s phone buzzed again, impatient, and Chloe shook her head, slapped her cheeks with both hands to wake herself up, telling herself to pull her shit together, and got out of the truck. She was a girl on a mission, after all.

Everything about Blackwell Academy unnerved her, as Chloe strode into the place, careful not to be spotted by any security, especially not Stepdouche.

A part of her berated her for calling him ‘Stepdouche’ after all that he had done, and the other, more rational part challenged her to list off what the fuck Stepdouche had done to earn him a nickname better than Stepdouche.

Chloe jolted, hearing Trevor’s voice, somewhere in the hallway. There was something wrong about hearing his voice. There was something wrong about him. About him. There was something wrong.

She’d always hated the place, but now it strangely unnerved her, as though it was a haunted house. Like, the building shouldn’t look like this. It shouldn’t be this… fresh, and well-maintained, and… unwrecked. There was the logical part of her that kept asking, “If the building doesn’t look like this, then how should it look like, idiot?” but she just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was really, really wrong.

The women’s bathroom door had never looked scarier, ever. It was as though there was a black smoke, protruding out of it. An evil aura, promising her nothing but death and pain and fear. 

Chloe should feel silly for describing a fucking grungy-ass public bathroom like that. But she didn’t. And that scared her more.

She hesitated as she stood there, frozen, as the idiots of Blackwell from behind her walked around, going about their business.

What is WITH you? she asked herself. The feeling of stepping foot into the bathroom equalled death. And she couldn’t understand why.

Her phone, in her back pocket, buzzed. It made her gasp and jump. A few students looked at her, raising an eyebrow at her, maybe in concern, or maybe in amusement. She didn’t care, though. She picked it up, frowning at her shaking hands, only to find that it was Prescott, telling her he was getting impatient and she needed to be here now or else.

Chloe entered the bathroom, and everything came back to her.

Max. The storm. Rachel’s body. Time powers. Jefferson. Pictures of unconscious girls. Rachel’s pictures. Everything. Everything.

And Chloe, unarmed and pale and sweating and weak on the legs and unable to breathe, found herself in the bathroom with an armed unhinged psychopath seconds away from shooting her.


 

“Finally, bitch. Took you long enough.”

This was Nathan. Nathan was in front of her. Nathan, who was dead and buried and had a whole-ass grand golden funeral dedicated to him and some kind of charity shit.

“Oi. Quit wasting my time.”

Behind him, resting on a sink, was a blue butterfly. It looked so out of place, being all majestic and grand in this shitty bathroom. Max had taken a picture of it, hadn’t she? Didn’t it hold some kind of meaning, according to her?

… Max. 

She had been in this bathroom. With them. Hiding. She’d been here. She’d saved Chloe’s life. She’d been here. She was now here. Oh, shit. Max was here.

“You high or something, punk?”

Nathan’s face was close to her. Really fucking close. Like, ‘she could smell his breath’ close. He was looking at her with unfiltered irritation. And Chloe jumped back with a yelp, her back hitting the wooden door roughly, and it finally hit her, what was going on.

Chloe was dreaming.

Chloe was dreaming of Nathan. Of Max. Of 7th October 2013.

Because what else could be happening?

Chloe breathed in, and Chloe breathed out.

Nathan was saying something. His irritation increased, but so did his concern. Chloe stared ahead, to the small figure, hidden in the shadows, hiding in the stall. A figure holding a polaroid camera that didn’t sit well with her - a polaroid camera that wasn’t William’s. 

Max.

Chloe remembered Max. She was sad. She was always sad. And tired. And sometimes angry without meaning to. 

And it was his fault, wasn’t it?

It was Nathan’s fault.

Nathan, who was standing right in front of her, within her reach. He was within her reach. She could feel him. He was right here. She could do whatever she wanted to him. At long last, she could get her revenge.

With that, a kind of madness and twitchiness enveloped Chloe. Her lips were pulled into a cruel, wicked smile, and her face must’ve shown an inch of her adrenaline because this time, it was Nathan who stumbled back in shock, looking at her with his mouth opened, muttering, “the fuck?” 

Chloe pushed him. Hard. So hard that he fell down. Down on the slippery ground. And he gasped and spluttered.

“That’s for Rachel.”

Nathan twitched, unable to speak for a moment, looking at her with wide, red eyes, veins decorating the sides of his forehead, down near his ears.

Usually, in her dreams, this would be the perfect time for Frank or Jefferson or- hell, even David sometimes to appear out of thin air with an unconscious Max in their arms. Or maybe the storm would appear. Or Rachel. Or Pompidou, or something. Something that didn’t make sense.

But nothing at all like that happened. For once.

“Do you have any idea what the fuck you’ve done?!” he asked.

“Oh, yeah. I know.” Chloe stomped on his stomach with her heavy boots, drawing a gasp from him, his body bending backwards. Chloe leaned in so she could see him, leer around him, sneer at him, as he struggled.

His hands went up to his jacket. She kicked him in the same spot before he could so much as touch the gun.

“H-help!” he wailed, like the pussy that he was. “S-somebody-”

Another kick. “Do you have any idea how much I’ve wanted to do this?!” And another. “What you did to Rachel. To Max. To everyone! All of those girls!” Chloe dropped to one knee just so she could pull him up with one hand by the collar and sock him in the face. “You fucking killed Rachel after you raped her!”

“I- I didn’t-”

“Yes, you fucking did!” Chloe growled, feeling more like a wolf than a human, giving him a well-deserved punch. Nathan was bloodied, and bruised, and beaten. And he was crying. And it made her want to kill him even more. “Stop fucking crying! You’re not the victim here! You did this! To Rachel! To Max! To that damn Kate girl! To everyone !”

And Chloe began choking on Nathan. Nathan, who was too weak to do anything about it, yet still fumbled for his gun, his only protection, as if anything could protect him from her, from her wrath, from her pent up anger, from one whole year of anger and grief and a desire to shoot him in the face for at least sixty times.

Nathan was crying. Whimpering like a lost puppy. And a part of Chloe reminded herself of Max’s words, of her in another timeline, of his last voicemail to her, that he was being used, that he never wanted to hurt anyone.

His voice, tired and lonely and scared, seconds away from death.

Nathan, who was as scared as everybody else.

… But Max had always seen the good of people. Too optimistic for her own good. Too naive. Too good. And she paid the price for it.

So Chloe squeezed harder, deeper, digging her nails into the soft, pale skin into the hardened, lumpier insides of it. 

Chloe grinned.

Chloe stopped grinning when she saw Max, in front of her, holding out a hammer towards her, shaking but unrelenting, looking at her with suspicion, as though Chloe was a stranger, a threat, a danger to her.

“Leave. Him. Alone.”


 

They say betrayal stung.

They were wrong.

Betrayal didn’t sting. Betrayal crushed. Crushed every bone in her body, crumpled her, crumbled her, twisted her organs upside down and right side up, as though playing with it like how you’d play a Rubik's cube, until Chloe wasn’t sure if she was hot or cold or trembling or frozen or breathing or not.

“I will use this if you don’t step away from him.”

What’s worse was how Max genuinely meant it. How she was using the same tone she’d used on David, back when he’d tried to deny of the surveillance cameras all around the house.

Chloe couldn’t speak, not at first.

Max’s scowl deepened and she spoke again, her voice trying desperately to sound cold and fearless and menacing, but was anything but. “I’m serious!” 

Chloe could tell, though. She’d known Max for all of her life. She knew Max. And she knew Max was terrified out of her wits.

“Max…” she could only say, because she had no idea what else to say, not when Max was looking at her as though she was a monster, as though she was someone like Jefferson. “Max, what are you…” 

Clarity tinged in Max’s eyes. Max gasped and lowered the hammer, yet still aimed it towards Chloe with the same vice-like grip.

“Chloe...?”

It tore Chloe, the way Max had uttered her name, as though she couldn’t believe this was Chloe in front of her, as though she couldn’t comprehend that the girl in front of her was Chloe at all.

It hadn’t been like this. Not before. Before, Max hadn’t been confused, or scared. She hadn’t hesitated. She’d looked right into Chloe’s eyes, and gave a nod to herself, and jumped into Chloe’s truck with no question or fear or doubt. She’d believed it was Chloe, right from the beginning. She’d accepted Chloe, with a blink of an eye, just like that.

Not like this Max.

“D-don’t be an idiot, Caulfield,” Nathan said with a rasped, coughing out blood. “Fuckin’... go. Get the hell out of here.”

On instinct, Chloe yelled, “shut up!” and pulled her hand back, ready to give him what he deserved-

“No!”

A hit to the head, causing gravity to pull Chloe down on the floor, not taking its time to be gentle. Chloe’s cheek met the white-tiled floor, and her head blurred out, as though she was high, only, she didn’t remember there being large pain on her head when getting high.

“C’mon, get up, Nathan.”

“Bitch, you fuckin-” A gasp of pain.

“Crap! Sorry!”

“Idiot…”

It angered Chloe, the prospect of Nathan getting away, of him being close to Max. 

Chloe pushed, despite the pain and the sense that she was about to black out if she pushed any further. She rammed herself to the direction which she heard his voice, and felt him hitting something with an “oomph!” as Max gasped from behind. 

“I ain’t gonna let you go that easy, Prescott.”

Chloe heard the shuffling sound she’d come to recognize as his hand, wandering around his jacket, searching for his gun.

Only this time, she was prepared.

Only this time, his efforts were in vain.

“Looking for this?” asked Chloe, holding up the gun for him and Max and the world to see, grinning in triumph.

Oh, how the tables have turned.

“Chloe! Put that thing down!”

Chloe ignored her. She was too busy looking at Nathan, enjoying his torment, his realization that he couldn’t defend himself - he, a motherfucking Prescott - that he was about to get shot at and die in a small, cramped, ugly-ass Blackwell bathroom - and the women’s room, no less!

The fear dawning on his features as he was about to die.

“Please… no.”

Chloe cocked the gun on his head, right above his ear, because she’d wanted this for so long, and nothing and no one could ever deny her of this pleasure anymore, and because this wasn’t real, this couldn’t be real, and nobody but her knew, so what was the point of holding back?

Chloe’s finger squeezed on the trigger. Two hands wrapped around her forearm - the arm holding the gun - tugging her back.

Chloe stumbled. Chloe lost balance. Chloe, thinking whoever had pulled her back was a threat, shot at the direction of that threat. 

Max fell down. And Max closed her eyes. And Max leaked out blood, tainting the white of her shirt and the white of the floor red. Red, too bright. Red, everywhere. Red, like her knuckles, her vision, and like Rachel’s flannel, like Rachel, somehow, because Rachel was everything and everywhere and Rachel was right there and Chloe never stopped forgetting.

Chloe stumbled down, and Chloe couldn’t feel anything.

“No…”

The butterfly was there, flying until it was on top of Max, resting on her little nose, its wings brushing her face. 

Death had touched her.

“No…”

Why wasn’t she waking up? This was a dream, right? This had to be. Max couldn’t be dead. And Chloe couldn’t be here, at Blackwell, at Arcadia Bay. They were in Seattle. In Max’s house. In their bedroom. And this wasn’t real. Because of the storm. Because of the time powers.

Chloe looked down at the palms of her hands. They were shaking.

She turned them around. Red caked her knuckles. Nathan’s blood mixed in with her own blood. She felt pain. It was distanced, and it didn’t bother her, but there was pain and she could feel it. 

“Please, no…”

Maybe Chloe was being taken away, right at this moment. Maybe students had gathered around her, around the bleeding body that belonged to Max. Maybe David was subduing her.

Chloe couldn’t tell. She couldn’t see anything except for Max and the deer standing behind her. 

“Max…”

And the world shifted.


It took Chloe a long while to realize where she was; in her truck, in broad daylight, with no Nathan, no Max, and no blood.

Chloe gasped, left the truck, and heaved. Nothing came out of her mouth, yet she still hunched herself down and pressed her trembling hands on her stomach, shivering and sweating and not really sure if she was well.

Max. Chloe had shot her. And Nathan. And the blood. And Max. And Rachel. Max. Max.

Chloe’s phone buzzed. She didn’t check on it. She kept heaving air until she stumbled and couldn’t stand any longer. 

She stumbled and fell and fell again before she sat on her truck. She didn’t sit. She lied down, taking most of the car’s space, her legs awkwardly dangling to the window.

She whimpered.

What the fuck was that nightmare?

And she realized that she was at Blackwell.

“No,” she sobbed, curling in on herself, wishing Max were here. “Max…” Where was Max? Chloe needed her. She needed Max. Where was she?! Where was Max?! Why couldn’t she find Max!? 

Chloe tried to get up, but even lolling her head to the side took a herculean effort. 

Max always, always stood by Chloe’s side after a nightmare. That was their deal. Their thing. It didn’t matter if they had had a fight the day before, they were always, always there for each other.

So where was Max? Why wasn’t she here? 

Flashes of Nathan being so close to her, of Max, looking at her with fear entered Chloe’s mind. Chloe wanted to throw up all over again.

Seriously, what the fuck was that?

Chloe had her fair share of hallucinations and nightmares, but it was never like that. That was different. That felt real. Chloe could control her body. And everything was so detailed. And everything worked the way it was supposed to work.

And Chloe envisioned the deer, and the night before that had occurred minutes ago on Seattle, and she started to piece things together with her crazed mind, that maybe, just maybe…

Click, the nonexisting camera said, helping Chloe make sense of things.

Chloe laughed. Even as she cried, she laughed.

Because of course this kind of bullshit happened. No way would the universe and whatever Gods gave Max her time powers just leave them alone. No. No, they wanted to mess up her and Max’s lives. They seemed to love breaking Max, why not break the already broken Chloe too?! Might as well go all the way! Go big or go home!

Chloe laughed, even when it hurt, even when she ran out of air.

People must be looking at her. A punk with drool and traces of vomit in her mouth and tears in her eyes. Must be a real pretty sight to see. Chloe heard voices. She heard whispers. She didn’t care. She didn’t pay attention. Nothing mattered. Blackwell was here, and standing. And the whole Arcadia Bay was here too. Fuck everything.

Chloe laughed, and laughed, and laughed, and got out of the truck, shaking and twitching and jumping at every little movement, and soon, she was standing at the women’s bathroom door.

With a sigh and a prayer, Chloe pushed the door open.

Chapter Text

Click, said the camera as it shuttered, startling the blue butterfly as it flew away from the metallic bucket.

Max smiled as her faithful old trusted camera released the polaroid, waving it in the air and blowing on it for it to process the image faster, even though she knew it wouldn’t work, trying not to think about her horrible dream of the storm heading towards Arcadia Bay with a vengeance.

And she heard footsteps, and she hid in the furthest stall, in the corner, surrounded by darkness, away from the world, as Nathan barged in, muttering to himself.

“It’s cool, Nathan. Don’t stress. You’re okay, bro.”

Max shuffled in place and tried not to breathe too hard in fear that he might hear her and- she didn’t know, perhaps yell at her and report her to the principal and get her expelled. Nathan owned the school, after all. It wouldn’t be that much of a stretch…

The door opened again, slower and with less energy to it.

Max peeked and saw a tuft of blue hair, a beanie, and a leather jacket. She was grungy, and she was rough, and something about her drew Max’s attention.

“Nathan,” said the cold, rough voice of a young woman. It had a rasp to it - the kind you get when you smoke too much.

Nathan flinched and stared at her, his hands gripping the sink. “You want the money, right? Well, I don’t have it.” 

The girl kept staring, and even from afar Max could see just how tense she was. What was going on? Who was this girl? Max had never seen her before, not in Blackwell. Surely, if she went here, Max wouldn’t have missed her. She did have a rather… distinguishable fashion sense.

“Didn’t you hear me, bitch?” growled Nathan as he pushed himself off of the sink, his hands opened, hovering at his sides. “I said I don’t have it, you whore!”

The girl gulped, her muscles unmoving. “Yeah, I know. That’s… cool.”

Nathan’s shoulders slumped, and not in relaxation. It was more of in shock. “What?”

“I said that’s cool. Completely A-fuckin’-okay.”

Max saw his hand twitching, hovering near his jacket. The more she squinted, the more she could see that there was something in his jacket, something he was hiding.

“The fuck? Are you really gonna let this go, just like that?! You may be a dropout loser, but even you’re not that dumb. No.” He slammed his hand on the counter of the sinks, staring down at her as though she was shorter and weaker than him. “I’m not stupid, bitch. You gotta want something.”

For her part, the girl remained calm. Disinterested, even. Bored. Like this was just your average Monday for her. Like she’d been in this situation dozens of times before.

Just who was this girl? And how was she able to stay so calm? Man, if Max were her, she’d be having an anxiety attack, right now. Heck, Max was sure she was close to having one right now! And she was just a bystander!

“Actually, yeah, I do.” The girl sniffled and leaned against one of the stalls, in-between the doors, crossing her arms. “Heard from these Blackhell scrubs that you’ve been pumping those sweet painkillers and-” a shrug “-I want it.”

Drugs. They were talking about drugs. Max was no idiot. Of course she knew there were drugs here. All she needed was to take one look at guys like Justin and Trevor and that was all the evidence she needed. This was a high school, after all. But… but to witness it, to hear it, to hear that someone she knew had been selling drugs… 

Wowzer. Max should not have come here, meltdowns be darned.

“What?” Nathan sounded like the girl was accusing him of a treacherous crime, all growly and sneering and threatening and making Max want to hide in the corner and curl up until she didn’t exist anymore. “Fucking- is that it?!” A forced bark of surprised laugh. “Oh, yeah, that’s right. You’re a fucking junkie. Of course you’d want to get high. Nothing better for you to do, anyway.”

The girl stood her ground, pushing herself off of the stalls with her foot, pocketing her arms on the leather jacket, her shoulders hunching.

Nathan’s arm twitched again as the girl took a step forward. That was Nathan. Always twitching. Always moving, never stopping. The girl noticed his twitching and took half a step back. 

Max squinted, trying to decipher what he had under his jacket.

And Max deciphered it.

It was a gun.

Nathan Prescott had a gun. And this was a tense situation. And Max was here. And oh my Dog Nathan had a gun. A real gun - at least, she thought it was a real gun, considering that he distributed drugs and it would make sense more rather than a fake gun.

That badass-looking girl. Did she know Nathan had a gun too? Was that why she took in his every insult with a tiny grain of salt, as though she was ignoring it completely, even when Max could tell she wanted nothing more than to kick his butt?

Max couldn’t see any more of this, so she didn’t, and glued her back to the stall, looking up into the ceiling, clutching her camera as though her life depended on it.

“I want the shit you’re selling. And not just some fucking joint, I want the real deal. The best of the best. Stuff only you can give.” There was shuffling. And Max heard the girl cough. “If you give me that, I’ll tell no one about our, erm, meeting…”

A pause. “Fine. But I’m warning you, bitch. Tell anyone, anyone at all, and-”

“And people will find my body in a ditch somewhere. I know, Prescott. You own everything, here. Even a punk ass nobody like me.”

A longer pause. “Bitch.” And footsteps of one person, angry leaving the bathroom.

“... You can come out now, Maxipad.”

Max kept herself from beckoning forward. That voice- when she'd said her name- why did it sound familiar?

"Maxie..." There was a hint of playfulness to it. That scared her more.

"Max 'Never Maxine' Caulfield."

How-? How did she know?

Max stayed where she was until that voice, no longer rough and dangerous, and actually sounded soothing and familiar in a weird way, said, “Seriously, Maxie. You know it’s only me, right?”

That last part sounded too desperate for Max’s liking, but Max, with no other choice, revealed herself, hoping that this girl didn’t secretly have a gun tucked away in her jacket and was ready to shoot Max if she, say, blinked in the wrong way.

Max gauged the girl in front of her. She was tall. Like, above average height. Around 6’0, maybe? She was kind of lanky, too. Her white top was wrinkled, and it, alongside her jeans, had rips on them. She was a punk. That, Max could tell. Max wondered if the girl skated. She certainly seemed like she was good at it, alongside many things. Wait, this was 2013. Were punks allowed to exist in this modern era? She thought they’d gone extinct at, like, the 80s.

Max’s thoughts froze when she looked, really looked at the girl. Her blue eyes. Her crooked grin. Her hunched posture. Her voice.

“Chloe?”

Chloe, who she’d abandoned for five years. Chloe, her bestest, closest friend who she may or may not had had a crush on as a preteen and still kind of maybe had a crush on now. Chloe, who she’d left behind. Ghosted, on the day of William’s funeral.

Chloe, who was different in a way Max wasn’t expecting.

“So that was shitty, huh?”

Click, Max’s mind said, reminding her that hey, something was a little off about Chloe, and not just because of all that punkness and scariness and stuff.

Chloe, who was now grinning at her with that crooked grin of hers, her eyes squinting, the youthful Chloe Max had known five years ago mixing in with the newer, rougher, older version of hers.

Max didn’t know what to say. 

Luckily, Chloe didn’t seem keen on listening, and was more indulgent in talking. Max noticed her swaying as she breathed out a harsh, “Finally. Took me, like, nine or ten times to get that right, and that was when I entered the bathroom.” She pulled out her rugged beanie, shaking her head to herself, chuckling. Max couldn’t keep her eyes away from the way her blue hair swayed. Wow. She looks good. “Man. Tried every single thing, ya know. You never told me rewinding hurts like shit.”

For the second time today, Max was having a mental breakdown.

Something was wrong.

Max didn’t know what, but something was very clearly wrong with Chloe.

“Chloe, are you-” she choked on her own words, mostly because she knew it was a stupid question “-are you okay?”

Chloe tilted her head to the side, her nose scrunching up. Her eyes were half-lidded. She looked like she hadn’t been sleeping and had overworked herself. “Huh? Oh, yeah. Just the killer headache. ‘Sides, I should be asking you that.”

“M-me?” Max squeaked out, and blushed, because dog, she sounded like such a kid, no different from when she was twelve, and here was Chloe, looking like a real, actual adult. And a cool one at that.

“Yeah, ya know, with Nathan and his gun.”

“Wait, so Nathan does have a gun!?” 

Aaaand her mental breakdown was now a full-on panic attack. Great. Terrific.

“Well, thought you knew.” Chloe raised an eyebrow, concern marking her features. “This whole time, I’d assumed that that was why you hid…” An amused chuckle. “At least you’re not defending Prescott this time. Wouldn’t be able to handle that shitshow again…” 

She shifted, one foot to the other. 

Something inside of Chloe’s jacket glistened against the fluorescent bathroom light. 

Something metallic. 

Max didn’t have time to think about it, however, because soon, Chloe was in front of her, kneeling down so they were face-to-face, holding her shoulders, and wowzer, Chloe looked really cool, and she smelled like smoke ashes and marijuana, which was weird, but she was so close and-

“C’mon, Max, breathe.”

Oh, yeah. Crush on your childhood best friend later. Stop suffocating now.

Chloe grounded her, pulling her down to the ground on her knees, and let her rest her chin on Chloe’s shoulder. 

“Tell me where you are, Max. C’mon. Just talk to me. Tell me anything.”

So Max did, because she trusted Chloe, despite the five year gap, and Chloe would never hurt her, even if she looked kind of scary with the leather jacket and the harsh attitude and all of that cussing.

And it was weird. The way Chloe just knew what to do on a whim, like that. Like she’d done this a thousand times. Max remembered how they’d been when they were kids. Whenever Little Max had had little panic attacks, Little Chloe - that wasn’t really that little compared to other kids her age - would always panic as well. And it was totally understandable, too. Panic attacks were horrifying. Hard to control. And there was no way to just make it go away. You had to wait it out. Everyone seemed to forget that, sometimes.

But not Chloe. No. Chloe waited it out. Chloe was patient in a way Max hadn’t expected. It was weird. In a nice way. 

Minutes later, she was okay. Well, as okay as she could be.

Max didn’t want to pull away from Chloe, but she had to so she could say, “I’m so, so sorry, Chloe.”

Chloe blinked, her arms hovering on Max’s sides, as though she was prepared to catch Max in case Max were to suddenly drop dead or something. It was kind of sweet, but also unnecessary. 

“Huh?”

It was Max’s turn to blink. “You know. For, um, not replying to your messages and stuff…”

Chloe gulped, and stared for one, two, five seconds, and there was this depth in her eyes that Max had never seen before, and it made Chloe feel more like a stranger than her best friend. She chuckled and grinned and waved, all at once. “Ah, that. Yeah, no worries, dude. The past is in the past.”

“... W-what?”

Chloe rambled on, shutting her eyes. “Yeah, I’m over that. It’s just- it doesn’t really matter all that much anymore, right now.”

Max didn’t know why, but that hurt a lot more than she expected.

“B-but Chloe, I- I abandoned you right after your dad died!”

Chloe flinched and hissed, turning her head so she wasn’t facing Max anymore, and Max could feel her shuddering. “Y-yeah, but, you know, with all that’s happened-”

And Max saw that metallic object Chloe had been hiding under her jacket, and gasped, covering her mouth with one hand, scooting away. 

“Is that a knife?!”

Chloe frowned, as though it was a weird question. “Well, yeah, I can’t handle guns after, well, everything, so I have to bring this in case-”

“In case what?!” Max threw her hands out. This wasn’t what she imagined. She imagined Chloe screaming, cursing at her, maybe giving her a well-deserved slap in the face. She imagined emotional confrontations, she imagined heartfelt reunions. 

But this…

Max preferred getting yelled at and dealing with a pissed off Chloe than… this.

Normally, Max was quiet. Max was known for her quietness. You could say she was the very definition of quiet.

And seeing Chloe wouldn’t have changed that. Not by a long-shot. Not if Chloe had acted like Chloe. 

But Chloe wasn’t acting like Chloe. And that was a problem. A huge one.

“Chloe, please tell me! I know I haven’t seen you in ages but- but I know you. You’re my best friend! You’ve got to tell me what’s wrong so I can help you.”

Something red dripped down to Max’s trousers.

Max gasped.

“Chloe! Your nose is bleeding!”

And when Chloe looked at her again, Max’s eyes watered at how utterly exhausted Chloe looked, even with a smile on her face. A sad, broken smile.

Chloe, swaying and her eyes drooping, muttered, “So maybe I rewound more than just once or…” unable to finish her sentence, teetering back, out like a light already.

Luckily, Max was there to catch her, even if she had no idea what to do next.

Chapter Text

“Chloe,” Max said, her throat dry, her voice cracked due to the fit of screaming she’d done moments ago. Chloe held her. She held Max in her arms and let her bury her face in Chloe’s chest. And Chloe steadied her. And Chloe cried and couldn’t reply, not verbally. “Chloe, is it weird that I’m not all that mad at Nathan?”

It was.

And it pissed her off.

“I mean, I know what he did, and I know he might even enjoy doing what he’d done, but…” Max sobbed. Her entire body trembled. Chloe let out a muted whimper and held her tighter. She didn’t want Max to exhaust herself again. She’d done that enough. Chloe feared Max would hurt herself permanently if she kept this up. If she didn’t try to control her shaking better. “He was sick. And no one tried to help him. They all… They all just gave him drugs and booze and- and made it seem like those are his only cure.”

“Just go back to sleep, yeah?” Chloe shushed Max and rocked her back and forth. 

“I think I forgave him, Chlo,” whispered Max into her chest with a voice that rumbled, vibrated. “Him and Jefferson… Not completely, but…”

Max spoke no more, for she’d been captured by the claws of slumber.

Chloe looked down at her. At Max. Her Max. The only person she needed in this world. The only person who needed her.

Chloe looked outside, at the window, closed and blocked by a curtain, and thought of what was outside. The world. The world that kept on moving, kept on moving forward, and how she and Max chose not to move alongside it.

They didn’t want to.

And even if they did, Chloe doubted they could.

“You don’t want to,” a voice that didn’t belong to Max said.

And Chloe was on the bathroom again. And she was aiming the gun at Max. Nathan stood behind her. So did Jefferson.

“Chloe, drop the gun.”

“What the hell are you doing?!” she asked, shaking and crying because why was Max doing this? They were monsters. They were all monsters. Monsters deserved to die. “Max, get away from them.”

Max’s face was blank, and it unnerved her more than the grins Nathan and Jefferson were wearing, and the way they touched her gently, as though they treasured her. “They deserve a second chance. Everyone does.”

So Chloe rewound, because Max deserved a second chance too.

And now Max was the one pointing the gun at her, with Nathan taking pictures of them both.

“Max, shoot him. Shoot him, please.”

Max didn’t shoot him. Max shot her. Many times. Too many times.

Chloe had gotten used to how it felt to have a bullet clashing with her body.

Bullets didn’t sting. Bullets burned. 

Chloe rewound, and Chloe rewound. 

She cried. And Max was still looking at her like she was some kind of monster. And maybe she was right. Chloe was a monster. She killed an entire town. She was worse off than Jefferson and Nathan and- fuck, even Frank. She was worse than everyone.

So Chloe put the gun on her own head.

Max looked at her like she was a monster. Max looked at her like she knew exactly who Chloe was.

Chloe shuddered. The barrel was cold and rough and metallic against her scalp. She was tired. She was so, so tired. She just wanted it all to end.

She pulled the trigger.

“I think I forgave him, Chlo.” It was an echo. An airy echo. And she was back home, back with Max. Max, who was in her arms. Max, who was crying. Max, who never, ever betrayed Chloe. Not like that stranger in the bathroom. 

“I know, Max,” she said, rocking her back and forth. “You told me.”

“Him and Jefferson…” Max went on, as if she didn’t hear Chloe. “Not completely, but…” 

“She’ll never recover,” another voice said. A voice that reminded Chloe of fire and forest and laughter. “Neither of you will. It’s why her parents left.” Chloe looked around, desperate to catch those hazel eyes again, to let that smile comfort her. There was no one. Only she and a still and pale Max. “You think you’ll forgive them. You told her you forgave them already.”

And the girl in her arms was no longer Max Caulfield.

Rachel smiled sweetly and dopily and brushed a faded blue strand of hair away from Chloe’s eye.

“But you’ll never, ever forgive them, not even if she asked.”

Chloe didn’t hear her words. It registered in her ears, but it wasn’t comprehended by her brain.

Chloe grinned her cocky grin and blew a kiss at Rachel’s forehead and earned a giggle. As if she was still a 16 years old whose biggest problems were wondering how to sneak into the dorms without her stepfather noticing. As if she was no monster, only a kid.

“Dork,” said Chloe.

They lay there, in Chloe’s pigsty of a room, with not an ounce of article clothing sticking to them. Not that either minded.

This. This was perfect.

This was what they called the perfect moment.

And how perfect the moment was reminded Chloe that this wasn’t real.

And Rachel was no longer the carefree, fun girl that radiated light to those around her and herself.

She was a corpse. A corpse who stared up at Chloe. The same corpse Chloe had dug up in the junkyard.

“You have to let me go, Chloe.”

But Chloe didn’t want to hear that, so she pretended she hadn’t and tucked a golden strand into an ear safely and smiled. “You looked as perfect as always, Rach.”

And Rachel sobbed, torn and forlorn. “Chloe.”

A sobbing, withering corpse in the arms of a corpse who’d killed thousands in one night.

They were perfect. Meant to be. Star-crossed.

“I never stopped missing you, you know.”

“I know.” Another sob. A sniff. And a forced smile that made Chloe feel so, so small. “I know, Chloe. But you have to wake up now, yeah? Please wake up.”


 Chloe woke up to a ceiling that didn’t belong to their room on Seattle. She patted the empty, cold space beside her and grumbled when she hit the wall instead. 

There were tears in her eyes. She should know why. She didn’t.

“Mmm… Max? Where’d you go?”

It was unusual for Max to wake up before her. Despite Chloe being the lazier one between them, Max had never been much of a morning person. She liked to sleep and cuddle with Chloe and do nothing when she woke up. It took a lot of convincing to get the little freckle to get out of bed - and by convincing, she meant bribery in the form of pancakes - and double the convincing to get her to take a shower or at least brush her teeth.

“Max…? You peeing or something?”

There was no answer. And that freaked the hell out of Chloe. Because what if Max was in danger? What if Max wasn’t here with her because she was gone? Did something happen? Did she have another nightmare? If so, then why didn’t she wake Chloe up?

Chloe jolted into a sitting position and looked around. 

This… wasn’t their room.

“M-Max?”

Chloe didn’t know where the hell she was, or where the hell Max was, and she was freaking out. She was in a dorm room. In Blackwell. But that couldn’t be right. Blackwell was gone. Arcadia Bay was gone.

Must be a dream.

No. She'd never gotten a normal dream, not once, not about Arcadia Bay.

A nightmare. That was what this must be.

She stumbled out of the bed, noting that she was wearing her old leather jacket and beanie and t-shirt which definitely had not survived the storm, and, on the attempt of getting out of here, knocked over a guitar.

“Shit!”

Chloe reached out, and the world pulled back. 

The guitar, which had been falling down, suddenly swivered up, as though she’d hit the reverse button.

It was added with a killer headache that made Chloe let go of the sensation, clutching at her head, wincing as the world returned to normal, and the guitar fell down, producing a sound that made everyone within a ten mile radius cringe.

Chloe looked down on the guitar. And her hand, the one that had reached out.

What. The. Hell.

And it all came back to her. The night before. The deer. Going back into Blackwell. Nathan and the bathroom and Max hiding. Her, rewinding. 

Holy shit.

Holy shit, I fucking rewound!

Chloe looked back and forth between her hand and the probably broken guitar. Her throat let out an undignified squealing sound, not unlike the sound of a dying street rat. 

I just did it right now, too! 

Chloe gulped, and was suddenly filled with nausea, as the details of what had happened assaulted her like gunshots or firecrackers. Chloe’s ass fell down to the bed.

Beating Nathan to a pulp, and being happy about it. Max, looking at her, terrified. Max, defending Nathan from her, instead of the other way around. Max, hurting her instead of saving her. 

Chloe wanted to scream in frustration. It was betrayal, unlike any other.

Max was supposed to have her back. Why did she defend the asshole that killed Rachel? Why was she acting so strange?!

How could you? We were supposed to be partners in crime and time. You’re not really Max.

Rewinding, again and again. Because Chloe had been too quiet. Later, too aggressive. Later, she’d come too late. Later, she’d come too early. Because she’d said the wrong words. Because she’d revealed Max’s position in front of Nathan.

Because Chloe had to come to the bathroom. Because waiting it out on the truck resulted in a startled and suspicious Nathan shooting Max. Because dragging David into this whole Max resulted in a fucking gun fight that ended with David and Nathan and Chloe bleeding, and Max having a hole in her eyes.

Chloe shuddered and shut her mouth with her hands. She couldn’t throw up. She just- couldn’t. She was shaking and terrified and couldn’t tell reality from dreams apart and the deer was there, looking at her, and so was the butterfly, and the raven, and Arcadia Bay was gone because of her and she was to blame for everything and-

“Chloe! Oh my Dog, you’re okay!” Max tackled Chloe back to the bed, and Chloe held her waist with her two hands as Max buried her face into Chloe’s chest, already rambling like a motor engine. 

“I didn’t know what to do so I called Warren and he wanted to take you to the infirmary but I didn’t wanna get you in trouble since you dropped out of Blackwell - sorry if that offends you - and we kind of don’t let non-students into Blackwell so we both kind of dragged you into my room and it was really scary we had to avoid Mr. Madsen-”

“M-max.” Chloe’s voice was strained. “You’re, uh, kinda crushing me, here.”

Max squeaked and jumped off of Chloe, resting on her knees, trapping Chloe as she looked down at Chloe.

“O-oh my gosh, am I hurting you?! Gosh, I must be hurting you! Are you okay?! Do we need to go to the hospital?! I tried calling Joyce but I think she changed her number and I don’t know if she still worked at The Two Whales but me and Warren planned to take you there-”

Chloe’s laugh cut Max off. Wow. Wow, Max was so, so different from the last time Chloe saw her. There were no bags under her eyes. She didn’t look gaunt or bony and so thin that Chloe worried touching her too hard would break her. Her hair was still short. And her voice, they still had life in it. She still had life in it. And… Chloe was glad. Because she never wanted Max to be broken. She wanted Max to be well and healthy and normal. 

And this was as close as she could get.

This was how it was supposed to be. Always had been. (Then why did it feel so wrong? Why did she feel so wrong?)

“Um, yeah, so, Chloe, you’re kind of freaking me out right now.”

“S-sorry, Max, it’s just-” Chloe swallowed and shrugged, which was kind of awkward to do considering she was lying on her back on a bed. At Max’s concerned glance, Chloe pulled out a charming grin. “I- I’m okay, Max. I’m cereal. Swear to Dog.” 

Max blinked, and her mouth opened in shock. 

“Did you just… say…” 

Her lips wavered, as though she wanted to question something, but Max quickly bit the lower lip and shimmied down from Chloe, standing up only to sit down beside her.

Oookay. That was weird.

Chloe pushed herself off with her elbow, leaning up. “Umm, so… where are we…?”

“My room. At, uh, Blackwell.”

Chloe blinked and looked around, paying more attention to every little detail. “So this is your room.” Full of polaroids. Those little lamps they usually put on for Christmas. Posters of some geeky shows. Chloe chuckled. Figures. “Yup. This is your room, alright.”

Chloe ran her hand through her hair, surprised at how short it was. Oh, yeah. She wasn’t in her present body - or future body, she supposed. The year was 2013, not 2014. Fuck. One year. One fucking year.

Chloe flexed out her arms experimentally, surprised at how much energy she had. After the shitstorm, both of them had a rough time putting food in their stomach and making it stay there. Chloe had never really felt the difference, until now. She felt great. Energized. Like she could run a dozen marathons.

Chloe looked at Max, who sat in her study desk, fiddling with her camera. Chloe frowned, realizing the camera she was holding wasn’t her dad’s old camera. It was wrong, seeing Max fiddling with this strange, unknown camera. Max should be holding Dad’s camera. She fit with it.

But then again, there was never any confrontation between Max and Warren and Nathan in the parking lot that resulted in two foreheads slamming and Chloe hitting the gas pedal with all of her might.

There was no need for Max to take William’s old camera. Max probably didn’t know Chloe still had William’s old camera. She’d never even visited Chloe’s house.

Chloe sighed, dropping back down on Max’s tiny bed. 

This is going to take some getting used to…

Chloe pushed down the suffocating feeling of being in Blackwell, being in Arcadia Bay, of everyone being alive, and focused on something important, some hazy idea she’d come up with during her rewinds.

“Max, I need to borrow your laptop.”

Max twisted around in her seat so she was facing Chloe, camera in hand. “What?”

Chloe was stern. “I need to figure out how to stop it.”

Max’s nose scrunched up. She looked worried. “Stop what?”

“The storm. Duh.”

And Max, her face pale as a ghost, dropped her camera.


 

Max looked at Chloe, ignoring the crashing sound signifying the death of her camera. She couldn’t move her trembling hands. They hovered in the air, as though the camera was still in her reach.

Chloe looked puzzled. Not terrified, just puzzled, as though Max was telling Chloe she wanted to become a model or that she had a boyfriend.

“T-the storm?”

How? How could she have known? It couldn’t be possible. It was just a nightmare.

Right?

Chloe sat up in her bed. Max noticed how awkward she looked with her movements. As though she wasn’t supposed to be here. As though she was out of place. “Yeah. The storm.” And she blinked, and clarity filled her eyes. “Oh, wait, shit. I forgot-”

“Forgot what?”

Chloe stared intently at Max, and there was that depth again, returning in full force. Chloe kind of looked like Mr. Madsen this way, with this depth, as though she’d walked through the pits of hell barefoot and barely clawed her way out of it, blood and gore and all.

It unnerved Max, more than her weird storm dream, more than Nathan with his gun and his drugs, more than anything.

Chloe hesitated. “Max, I… I don’t think you want to know about this.”

But Chloe wasn’t a complete stranger. There were hints of her, the old her. And they would come out in the smallest of ways. And they came out now, in the form of Chloe biting her lip and forcing a sulk and looking anywhere but Max. It was something Max recognized, far too intimately. It was Chloe’s way of protecting her. Her way of holding back.

But Chloe had never been able to hold back. Not to Max. Never to Max.

“Tell me.”

And Chloe’s teary eyes found hers, and Max mustered a smile she hoped looked comforting, and it seemed to be comforting, because Chloe’s lips tugged up and she seemed to be breathing easier.

And it lasted for a moment.

And a moment later, Chloe’s face was blank and cold and dead, and she said, “In five days, there will be a storm totalling Arcadia Bay, killing everyone.” Chloe’s eyes bore into Max’s soul. “And I mean everyone .”

Max had never, ever in the thirteen years that she’d known Chloe, seen her like this. This emptiness. These black holes in her eyes. This… This endless sadness.

This was Chloe, it was true, but at the same time this wasn’t. Something was different about her. Max didn’t recognize her. And it was all her fault. Her fault for abandoning Chloe for five years. All her fault.

“What happened to you, Chloe?” Max said, her lips wavering and her throat heavy and her eyes blurry; the telltale signs of tears.

Chloe didn’t acknowledge her words. She shook her head, as though Max’s worries were of no importance.

“The storm won’t just come out of nowhere. There’ll be signs, first. Signs we dickheads choose to ignore. It’ll snow on the first day, which is today. An eclipse, on Tuesday. Dead whales washed up on the beach, on Wednesday. Thursday, two moons. And Friday…” 

There was a long, gruesome pause.

“Friday… is when the storm will hit.” 

Chloe’s words, the rawness of it, and the pain behind it, sent shivers down Max’s spine. 

So much so that Max entertained the thought of believing her. Just for one brief moment.

She’d never experienced anything like this. What is this? Some kind of joke? But no. It wasn’t. Chloe wasn’t joking, she could tell. What is this? What’s happening?

“I know you don’t believe me, Max."

Max started, and realized she’d been staring and not saying anything for a while, zoning out. She flushed and looked away, mortified, but at Chloe’s chuckle, looked back.

Chloe didn’t look offended, or hurt. She looked resigned, and calm, as though she’d been expecting this reaction from her. 

“It’s okay, really. No one will believe me. Not now, anyway. Which is why I need your laptop.”

“W-why?”

Chloe winced, scratching her chin. She stood up, and wavered on her feet, and Max went up to her. “Sorry, I guess I must still feel a little lightheaded…” 

“Just sit back down,” urged Max, pushing Chloe by the shoulders until she was safely leaning against the wall on the bed. “Do you need water or something? Coca Cola, maybe? I can get some on the vending machine. It won’t be that long.”

Chloe blinked, and muttered, “That would be nice.”

It unnerved Max, the lack of personality in her answer, the lack of Chloe .

Max didn’t recognize her. This wasn’t really Chloe, was it?

Max nodded. “Okay, umm, if you need anything, just… text me.” Max winced at the phrasing of her words. Text me? Like I’m going to answer her when I’ve ignored her text for five whole years? What an idiot!

But Chloe barely reacted to her words. She just sat there, spacing out, away from the world. Max didn’t think it was a good idea to leave her like that, but Chloe needed something in her system after bleeding from her nose and passing out. 

Max may not be an expert, but even she knew Chloe needed help.

She was no idiot. She'd seen the signs. That forced smile. Those non-sensible words. Everything.

And maybe the reason Max knew was because Kate wasn't the only one struggling with thoughts of ending it all.

But what about the storm?

How can she know?

Max doubted they somehow share the same hallucination. 

But she didn't want to believe the storm was real too.

A storm that big… 

As Max made her way to the vending machine, she checked her phone, reading the message from Warren, asking her about how the ‘punk scary lady’ was doing.

Max responded by asking him what she should do to Chloe and what was wrong with her.

Warren was quick to  reply, telling her that nothing seemed to be wrong with Chloe and it was probably just a bad case of too much dope.

If what Chloe was saying was true… if the storm really would come, then they needed to do something about it.

Both she and Chloe.

Max’s fingers hovered over the keyboard of her phone. Warren’s face, dorky and nerdy as always, flashed on the screen, as if inviting her to ask what she needed to ask, to talk about what needed to be talked about.

Chloe’s knife, flashing in the bright, stale lighting of the bathroom entered Max’s mind. Chloe’s eyes, and her words, and hunched posture. Chloe, like a zombie and a war veteran all at once. Chloe, with no barks nor bites. Chloe, not acting at all like Chloe.

Max cereally doubted it was just a case of marijuana overuse. 

She purchased two cokes and chips, and tried not to think too much over the storm and Chloe being weird. Let’s cheer her up! Chloe deserved to smile. Max hoped these food would do it.

On the way back to her room, she saw an agitated-looking Victoria, hid - because who would want to deal with a normal Victoria? Much less an agitated one - and, moments before she grabbed the door handle, heard Kate’s sweet voice saying, “Max, hi.”

Turns out, Dana had given Max’s USB to Kate since Kate had wanted to meet up with Max, check up on her.

“It’s just- you looked kind of frazzled when leaving the class. I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”

That brought a smile - a real smile - on Max’s face for the first time today. She thanked Kate for being a good friend and a good person and for bringing her USB, promised to have another tea party soon this week, cooed about Alice, remembered how sad Kate looked at the classroom and told her, “You can always talk to me about anything. You know that, right?”

And Kate had smiled and gave Max a quick hug.

And Max couldn’t stop smiling.

Max stopped smiling when she entered the door to find Chloe holding a tissue on her nose - a tissue which, Max noted, was red, on Max’s desk, screwing around with her laptop.

Chapter Text

Out of all the late-night sleepless rants Max had spoken aloud, a few stuck out to Chloe.

Max had once said about her first vision. The one she had had on on Jefferson’s class. She’d said about it being the reason why she had gone out of class, and why she’d needed to recharge in the bathroom.

That vision had been the reason why Max had hid in the stall.

“In a way,” Max had laughed, her eyes bleary and red, “The storm saved your life.”

The storm had saved her life.

It had also ruined it.

The storm was many things.

Rachel’s revenge. Her revenge. The consequences of Max’s actions.

The storm was everything.

The storm is.


 Chloe had little to no time. Luckily, time was her bitch.

As soon as Max left the room, Chloe jogged to Max’s desk and onto her laptop. 

It was hard, at first, to be apart from Max, to not be able to see her. It was almost disorienting, even. She and Max were always, always together after the storm. So much so that Max would have a panic attack if Chloe was gone for too long.

So, to see Max just casually walking away from Chloe, as though nothing would happen, as though they’d not walked through a storm together…

It was hard.

But Chloe shook it off, just like she shook off the fact that she was here, in Arcadia Bay, in the past, and everyone was alive, and Mom- her mom was alive-

Info. Chloe needed info. So she googled, and she researched until she found anything there was to found about time-travel. Yeah, sure, she’d done that thousands of times before. She was fucking fluent at it. But now, things were different. She could actually approve and disapprove of her theories.

She had little to no time, so she had no time to spare. Max always came barging in right at the last second.

Chloe tried to take a picture of the cool articles, but each time she rewound, the picture ended up not existing, and Chloe noted to herself that she really should try to figure out how this time rewinding stuff worked. She knew how it worked in the essentials, of course, but she needed to know how each and every aspect worked. If she remembered correctly, Max’s powers didn’t just include rewinding. It somehow included teleportation. Max didn’t just control time, but space as well.

Chloe had always known how powerful Max really were. The powers of deities and gods and goddesses alike, right at her very fingertips. If Chloe were being honest, it had scared her so much, at first, to know that Max was practically a fucking- what she could control, her powers. It was limitless.

And now Chloe had these powers.

Chloe ended up writing down the best and most accurate articles about time-travel on her wrist with her marker - which reminded her of the good ol’ days - and, in doing so, realised that the knife which she’d stolen from Frank’s RV at the parking lot was missing.

Chloe didn’t have time to worry, because Max, for, like, the fifteenth time, barged into the room with a goofy smile and handful of snacks and drinks she cradled on her arm, her goofy smile disappearing in a flash as she looked at Chloe.

“Chloe!”

Luckily, Chloe had already gotten everything she needed, and had closed off the tabs and opened up Max’s tumblr, armed with the line of, “Wow, Max, didn’t know you were this much of a hipster!”

But Max didn’t acknowledge her witty words. She dropped the drinks on her desk, stood on her tippy toes and held Chloe’s wrist, the one holding the tissue in place. “Chloe! What-? Why are you bleeding?!”

For that, Chloe was prepared, as well. “Chronic bleeding. It happens, sometimes, when the air is too cold, or something.” She shrugged and said, “You can google it if you want.” Because that was exactly what she had done.

Max looked at her, stern, and Chloe gulped. “In all of the years I’ve known you, Chloe Price, you’ve never, ever had a bleeding nose.”

And Chloe took a step back, and blinked, and blinked again because her eyes were getting itchy, and sniffled because the air really was cold, like, the snowing kind of cold. 

And, wow. Max. Max really did know her, huh? It reminded her of the other Max, the one back in Seattle. And Chloe couldn’t help but worry. And she was scared. And sad. And she was back at Blackwell and in Arcadia Bay and she hadn’t seen her mom yet and she so, so missed Mom.

And Max was hugging her. And she was crying. And she was on the bed, with Max straddling her like a fucking baby.

It reminded Chloe of their life, before this. The life she’d been living for the past year, and how Max would never, ever remember it. 

Max didn’t remember the bad things, but she didn’t remember the good things, too. She couldn’t possibly remember staying up late at night at a shitty motel, confessing their deepest, darkest thoughts, or comforting each other, or being there for each other.

She wouldn’t remember this magical week. Of them being in a junkyard, and walking on the train tracks. Of them breaking into Blackwell late at night to fucking swim, of all things, after tearing the principle’s office apart.

“Max…” 

Max wouldn’t remember them kissing, being in a relationship. She wouldn’t remember. All she’d ever thought of Chloe was as her childhood best friend, and nothing more.

“I miss you, Max. I really, really miss you…”

Because it had been Max that kept Chloe from drowning the past year - the year that now didn’t exist. Max, the only person who shared her pain. Max, the only person she could talk to. Max, the only person who truly understood her.

And now Max was gone.

“I want you back, Max. I want us back.”

And this stranger with Max’s voice and face, without her pain or depth or wisdom, too alive and carefree and oblivious to be the real Max, kept on holding her, kept on rocking her, never to let go. “I’m here, Chloe, I’m here.”

But you’re not.


 Chloe semi-passed out after her mental breakdown, and she woke up to Max straddling her as she awkwardly hunched down in a sitting position, her face on Max’s chest.

It reminded Chloe too much of Max. Her Max. The Max she’d known for the past year. 

It reminded Chloe of another girl too. A girl that she'd seen in shadows and silhouettes and people's laughs and in the setting sun.

There was a fleeting moment where that girl stood and loomed over her, over them, a frown on her blurred, hazy, unfocused face.

A beautiful girl.

A girl treated unfairly.

A girl she'd been seeing more and more lately.

“Sorry about that,” Chloe mumbled, wiping her tears away, hoping she didn’t get snot all over Max’s shirt.

“Don’t be.” 

Max ran a hand through Chloe’s cheek, down to her chin, wiping away Chloe’s tears, her touch ghostly. Chloe shuddered either way, and she envisioned her real Max, looking at Chloe with a different kind of look, a lustful kind of look, doing this exact same thing before they waste the night away loving each other.

This Max was different. She looked at Chloe with purity, with gentleness, because this Max didn’t know loss or despair and her biggest worries were handing over the photo assignment to Jefferson-

Jefferson-

Fucking Jefferson - How could she’d forgotten?!

“Max, you need to stay away from Jefferson.”

Max’s eyes widened, and she looked at Chloe with worry and a hint of fear, as though Jefferson was nothing more than a teacher at Blackwell, as though Jefferson hadn’t done anything wrong, as though he wasn’t such a sick fuck. “How did you know I have Jefferson’s class?”

And it snapped Chloe.

“Dammit, Max! That’s not important!” 

And Max cowered, looking down, and it reminded Chloe of the bathroom, of one of her failed attempts to save Max and herself, in which she’d snapped at Max, told her not to be an idiot and to drop the hammer down because it wasn’t Chloe who was dangerous, never Chloe, it had always been Nathan, and why couldn’t Max see that? Why didn’t she remember everything they’d been through?! How dare she forgot, just like that!

And suddenly Max teetered to  the side, her glassy eyes drooping, her mouth opening, and Chloe had to rewind in order to catch her.

“Max? Hey, Max! Wake up!”

This was familiar. Max, pulling a curtain over the world. And Chloe, confused and left in the dark. It was all so, so familiar. Why couldn’t Chloe remember?

Max woke up with her head on Chloe’s lap, yelling, “The storm! It’s coming! Chloe, it’s coming!”

“Whoa, whoa, calm down, Max.”

And it was coming back to Chloe, why this was all so familiar. 

“Chloe- how did you- how did you know ? What’s going on, Chloe?”

“Max, look.”

“What?”

Chloe gestured to Max’s window. “Look.”

And Max looked as snow fell down, sprinkling Arcadia Bay with its tiny snowflakes.

She could hear her own voice, in what felt like a lifetime ago, trying to be lighthearted to mask down the worry. 

“You need to get high. It’s been a hella insane fucking day.” And a gasp of wonder, of fear, of perplexion. “What the hell is this?”

“Snowflakes?” Max’s voice echoed, just as the real Max said, “Is that- Chloe, it’s snowing!”

“It’s like eighty degrees. How-?”

“Climate change.” And Chloe echoed those exact words, only with exhaustion and dread, rather than wonder. “Or a storm is coming.”

At that, Max finally tore her gaze away from the window. 

“Max… Start from the beginning.” 

“Chloe…?”

A pause, a half-assed smirk, and a shrug. “Told you so.”

Chapter Text

Chloe didn’t explain anything, and made a move to leave, despite Max’s protests.

“I’m sorry, Max. I just- I don’t know how to tell you this. Just- not now, okay?” And Max flinched at that, because of the whole five years thing, but Chloe, upon seeing Max, switched attitudes and comforted her with a side hug. “Hey, look, I’ll tell you everything. I promise, ‘kay? You’re my first mate, after all.”

Max had never felt like such a child, before, especially with Chloe around. Chloe had never belittle Max despite the one year difference - which was a huge deal for kids - but now… now it was like Chloe had grown an extra five years while Max was away. It was strange, different. But it was still Chloe, and Max ought to accept it. “Okay.”

Chloe started to leave after taking all of Max’s drinks and chips, claiming she would need it for the all-nighter she was about to pull for a mission, which, okay- first of all; why would Chloe need to pull an all-nighter? Second of all; what kind of mission was she talking about? And lastly; hey, those chips were meant for sharing!

“Will you be alright?” Chloe asked, her hand glued to the door handle.

Max blinked and tilted her head. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“It’s just…” Chloe squinted, as if she was trying to see something, something in Max. She paused, blinked for too many times, and looked away, as though she was betrayed. “Never mind.”

Max bit her lip and gulped. Chloe looked worse for wear. And it was all her fault. Max didn’t feel all that comfortable knowing that she’d be driving alone and at night. 

An idea struck her. One that was childish and might get her in  trouble. One that Chloe would definitely love for those very reasons and her pendant to mischief.

“Oh! I know! Why don’t you sleep here, in my dorm? It could be like having a sleepover.” Max paused and mulled it over. “Or I can sleep at your place. I’ve missed Joyce.”

“I miss her too.” The words, spoken in a whisper too soft, seemed to not register to Chloe, but it did to Max. And it made her frown. Did something happen to Joyce? “I’d love to, Max, it’s just…”

“It’s just what?”

Chloe looked at her, and it broke Max’s heart because Chloe wasn’t looking at Max. She was looking at a stranger.

“I really don’t have the time.” So Chloe made a move to leave, at long last. However, she didn’t walk out of Max’s room and into the dark of the dormitories at night before looking at Max and saying, “Love you, Maxaroni.”

Max lay in bed all night, wondering if today was real.


It wouldn’t be truthful to say Max slept. She lied, with her eyes closed and her breathing slow and measured. But she didn’t sleep. She couldn’t. 

And it was all because of Chloe.

Something was obviously wrong with her. And it wasn’t just because of her new punk style - Max actually kind of liked it, she looked uber cool in leather. It was her moodiness. Her twitchiness. The way she’d blank out and looked like she was in another place. 

It was there, clear as day. Chloe wasn’t okay. And Max needed to do something about it. 

Max was scared for her. Then again, Max had always been scared for her. But this was a different kind of fear. 

As a kid, Max had been scared of bullies who’d picked on her hurting Chloe because Chloe had come to her rescue. 

Now, Max was scared of Chloe hurting herself.

Max didn’t open her eyes. Not until she concluded that she wouldn’t get any sleep.

She checked her phone for the time. Huh. It was 11:34. Oddly enough, she thought it was around 2 or 3 in the morning. Well, it’s not like I have trouble sleeping. Max had no idea how all of those other highschool students did it, but she really couldn’t function without her rest. That, and morning tea.

Thinking about tea made Max think about Kate.

Oh, crap! Poor Kate. Max had meant to check up on her today, but Chloe had happened, and Kate’s problems had drowned out into the background. I’m such a horrible friend. But that was never really a surprise, was it? Considering how Chloe was doing.

Max hesitated, holding her phone up. The message screen was on. She typed in her message, deleted it, and retyped it again. She didn’t want to seem overly-concerned, but she didn’t want to sound careless either. She didn’t want the message to be too long, nor too short.

She sighed. Freaking anxiety…

In the end, she opted to be honest. Sure, the message was long, but hey! Kate texted back in a couple of minutes, and they chatted for about half an hour, talking about whatever.

She discovered that Alice had gained one and a half pound since the last time she’d seen her, and she cooed at the mental image of a chubby Alice. Her bible club was also going well. 

Max tried to prod it out of her - why Kate had seemed so out of it today. Kate dodged the subject. And Max, not wanting to push, let it go.

At one point, Max hesitated. She so badly wanted to tell Kate about Chloe, about what had gone down in the bathroom, and afterwards, but she couldn’t. 

Instead, she typed in, “How do you know if you’re into someone?” without really thinking much of it. 

She thought of Chloe, and how badly she’d used to crush on her as a kid. 

Not much had changed.

In fact, with a newfound maturity, and a sense of freshness that wasn’t there before, Max’s crush had grown significantly.

Kate replied with a “Do you have something to tell me?” and Max could practically see her teasing face and hear her impish tone.

Max thought about the leather, and the beanie, and the blue dye. She thought about that familiar face, now with no baby fat or childlike quality in them. Chloe was all sharp edges, and no play. 

I know I shouldn’t, considering… well, everything, but… 

Max had read about it, once, in a magazine article, about how easy it was to develop a crush on someone you’d known for ages. It made sense, really, that she would feel this extreme about Chloe in less than a day, when she’d not feel anything of the sort with literally anybody else, not even Warren or Kristen and Fernando, who she’d been friends with for years!

Chloe was different, though.

Max doubted they were ever really friends to begin with. To say they had a sisterly relationship would be wrong to say, as well. Even as kids they’d hug each other a lot and hold hands and sometimes even kiss each other on the cheek or forehead! They were practically soulmates.

Max chewed her tongue. 

“I think I’m falling in love, Kate,” she typed, and quickly deleted it. “I think I’ve been in love with her, but I only now just realize it.” 

She deleted that too.

In the end, she didn’t send anything, because she fell asleep before she could.


 

Chloe’s phone, which had been buzzing and buzzing all night long, finally stopped as she picked it up. 

“Price! Price, why the hell didn’t you pick up?”

Chloe considered just turning it off. 

So she did.

Only for Frank to start calling her again, not even a second later.

“You better stop messing with me now, punk,” he growled like the uncivilised rotting piece of shitdick that he was. “You fuckin’ owe me. Big time.”

If she remembered correctly, she’d put him off in the original timeline too. She’d even danced around him, toying with him, like the clueless idiot that she was.

“Frank? Heh. He’s harmless,” the echo of her old self’s voice rang out, still a little shrill and a little carefree and without any real worries.

Oh, how she wished that were the truth.

“Oi. Price. You listenin’?” 

Chloe wet her lips. It would be easy to just shout at him, tear him to shreds, rip him apart for what he’d done. 

Too easy.

She didn’t want things to be easy.

She wanted him to pay.

“Hey, Frank,” she said, coughing when she realized her voice was too rough and angry. “Where have you been parking your junky RV, lately?”

She should know it. The real Chloe would. But she wasn’t Chloe. Not the real Chloe. That Chloe was gone, and someone- no, something else took her place.

“Is this some kind of joke?” he asked. “You know very well it’s parked at the beach. Near your mom’s shitty diner.”

Chloe’s entire body panged with a lightning kind of hurt at the mention of her mom. Her mom, who she hadn’t seen. Her mom, who she wasn’t sure she’d see again.

Sometimes, old wounds should just remain untouched.

She’d spent one fuckin’ year - not one whole year. 364 days. 364 days and 23 hours - trying to work out the fact that oh, wowzer, now my mom AND dad are dead , and yippe, I’m a fucking orphan!

And Frank was still talking. About her debt. About what he’d do to her if she didn’t give him his money.

And he talked about something else. Something that made her want to laugh.

“-and be careful, alright? There’s this thief that stole my fucking knife. No signs of breaking and entering. This guy’s good. That knife’s worth a lot. More than your entire life, I’d bet.”

What a fucking liar.

That knife didn’t worth a lot. Not the knife itself. It was a shit knife. He knew it. He didn’t think she knew it. He thought she was too oblivious, too trusting. 

He was wrong. Dead wrong.

And that wasn’t even the real reason why he was upset.

The blue bracelet was warm against her fingers. It was old, it was tathered, and it held too many memories.

It was why Frank was truly upset.

“Jeez, man, that sounds terrible. And not even one sign? Like, what? Does the thief have time-travel powers or something?”

“Don’t fuck with me, Price.”

And Chloe looked away. Into the night. Into the stars. Into Arcadia Bay. 

She breathed in the scent of her hometown.

It was as though the past year didn’t happen. The past year didn’t happen. 2014 hadn’t happened. Hell, 8th October hadn’t happened. Yet.

She thought of Max. And her reaction to the storm. And her blacking out.

Maybe she still has her visions, despite me stealing her rewind powers. 

If that were true, then what about her other powers? The one that allowed her to fucking pause time? 

Would Max still gain her rewind powers, if something were to happen?

… No.

No fucking way.

Max didn’t deserve to go through that pain. And Chloe certainly didn’t want to see her go through it again. All that trauma. Pain. Burden. All resting comfortably in her miniscule, bony shoulders.

I’m gonna make sure you won’t ever have to deal with any of that shit.

Because Max didn’t deserve it. Max shouldn’t have to be the one to witness people dying, over and over and over again, and again, and again.

Max was good. Too good.

She, on the other hand, was not.

And if she were to die, fixing everything, then…

That’s okay. I’ve always been destined to die, anyway.

She’d cheated death all too many times. She deserved death. And a torturous one, at that.

But all  of that could wait. She was thinking ahead of herself here.

For now, all she needed to do was, well, everything there was to be done.

Might as well start now. With a certain rape-loving drug-dealing piece of pedo-shit.

“You’re going to pay, Frank,” she said, and was almost scared of how furious her voice sounded in her own ear. Almost.

“What?”

“I’m going to make sure you pay for what you did to her. To both of them.”

She ended the call, and looked down on her right hand. She rubbed at it, securely. 

It was going to be a long night, for sure.

Well, Chloe thought as she looked at the quietness of Arcadia Bay, knowing full-well it would be destroyed into oblivion in four days, almost everything.

Chapter Text

“When you rewind so much, you wonder what the definition of perfect even is.” She giggled, and tried to muffle her giggle. “There is no perfect world. We might think a certain world might be perfect, but the people from that world would beg to differ.”

Chloe tried to pry away the wine bottle from her hand. But Max was twitchy, and Chloe was tired, so after one sloppy attempt, she sighed. Why should she bother? “But there has to be a perfect world somewhere, right?”

She looked at Chloe with a dazed look in her eyes, as though Chloe was everything that ever mattered. It should make her feel good; to be wanted, to be needed, to be loved this much. 

“No world is perfect. Nothing is perfect. I know we certainly aren’t.”

“I don’t think it’s about searching for a perfect world,” Chloe muttered, trying to create a coherent thought with her buzzing, alcohol-induced mind. “It’s about an unbroken world. A world where, yeah, not everything’s fine, but at least… at least some things are.”

Chloe looked at her, searching, needing, wanting confirmation. 

Instead, all she got was a cold look.


She opened her eyes to greet the 8th of October, 2013. 

Max woke up to the pink hue of her room. She looked up at the ceiling, recounting the earlier day. 

The only thing that kept hovering within her train of thoughts were Chloe. Chloe, and the fact that she was here, actually here, after five whole years. Chloe, and her having a dirty business with Nathan Prescott, of all things. Chloe, having a knife which Max had taken and stored in her drawer. Chloe, breaking down in front of Max, saying nonsensical words like rewounding, and words that were less nonsensical than they seem, like storms and snows in October.

Thinking about Chloe dizzied Max, so she tried not to.

She grabbed her phone and texted Chloe, asking her where she was. She scrolled up, reading her texts from last night, asking Chloe if she was safe and where she was going and what she was doing - like a mother hen - receiving no answers.

Now it’s her turn to ghost you, the mocking, mean part of her teased, which, unsurprisingly, sounded like Victoria.

She watered Lisa. Drink up. It’s got electrolytes. 

She grabbed clothes from her wardrobe. Good morning clothes. I hope you slept well. 

And she briefly grabbed the note Dana had left her, the one about the USB, and put it back down, not really keen on throwing it in the trash can. She briefly glanced at her drawer, knowing what was inside, and shivered. No. No, no, no. She absolutely did not want to think about what was in it, and if she were being honest, she should really do something about it. She should ask someone for help? Mr. Jefferson, perhaps?

Max gulped. Chloe’s words, like the thunder of a storm, rang in her ears, screaming and begging in a way she’d never done before, telling Max she shouldn’t ever come near him. From the way she’d spoken about him, she’d made it as though he was some kind of a monster.

Max frowned. Mr. Jefferson was really nice. Why would Chloe think otherwise?

But Chloe was… Chloe. Her first and best friend (sorry Kate), first mate, Captain, and everything. Plus, sometimes Mr. Jefferson’s photographs did creep her out, especially the ones where it was all black and white and the women he photographed were bound in some way, looking almost helpless, almost in-need of rescuing.

But, well. Those were just photographs. Nothing to worry about.

Well, that wasn’t exactly true. There was still that vision of the storm she had. Was there really going to be a giant tornado heading towards Arcadia Bay? And if so, then how were they going to save everyone?

She walked outside with her clothes, only to stop when the door in front of her - Victoria’s room - was opened, revealing Victoria and her posse, all whispering hushes, looking overly concerned. Even Victoria looked less bitchy and more… scared?

Max was just going to ignore whatever it was she’d seen - it wasn’t her business, after all - but Victoria spotted her, and a part of Max that sounded suspiciously like Chloe thought; shit.

“Caulfield.” 

Victoria beckoned her with her fingers, looking like a real Queen.

What else shall a humble peasant do such as thy but to obey thee, most royal?

Victoria, for once, wasn’t being a complete Victoria, resembling a somewhat gracious host, telling Max to “sit the fuck down, Caulfield, I’m not gonna bite” and “don’t touch anything, everything here is more expensive than your life” and for Taylor to “get her some fucking coffee, or something, God, she looks more like a zombie than usual.”

“Umm… What is it, Victoria?”

Victoria narrowed her eyes, and Max began to notice how red they were. “What do you think?”

Max shuffled in her seat, and shrugged, providing no real answer.

Victoria looked flabbergasted. “Do you seriously not know?”

There was no hint of malice in her tone. And that scared Max more. Because this - whatever this was - must be serious. Serious enough for even Victoria to drop her act.

“What’s wrong?”

Victoria fished for her phone, opened an app, and held it out to Max. “Read.” 

And Max did read it. It was a news article, for Arcadia Bay. There was a picture of Jefferson and Nathan. And the headline was about a secret bunker on a farm house.

“What?”

“Jefferson and Nathan are in custody.” Max looked up. It hit her, why Victoria’s eyes were red and puffy. “They- they’re the ones to blame about the missing girls. About Rachel. And Kate. And everyone.”

And all Max could think of was Chloe, and her meeting with Nathan, and her urging Max, begging her to stay away from Jefferson.

“Chloe…”

“Who?” But Max was already standing up, giving Victoria’s phone back, fishing for her own phone, telling Chloe to please answer and tell Max where she was. 

No answer.

It worried Max, so much.

Max showered and went down only to find police tapes, and police officers, and David Madsen, looking more animated than she’d seen before, and she found out that her teacher had been kidnapping girls and taking them into bunkers, and Nathan was his accomplice, and Rachel Amber was one of those girls, and so was Kate.

“It was an anonymous tip,” they said to one another, thinking she wasn’t there, wasn’t listening. Perks of being an invisible girl. Of being a nobody. “We don’t know how this person knows, but we’re just… we’re just grateful.”

Her teacher. The reason why she came here in the first place. Mark Jefferson. The person she looked up to, the most. He did- he did horrible things. He was bad.

Victoria was also suspected to be one of their targets. Victoria. Who’d been crying, and still found some concern for her peers, for Max, of all people.

Everything was spiralling. Her whole world had been shattered. A storm was coming. She didn’t want to be here anymore.

Max received a text from Chloe, telling her she was at the junkyard.


 

Chloe didn’t know what to do, so she drank, and drank, and drank. And when she couldn’t drink anymore, she kept on drinking. 

If Max were here - her Max, not the stranger that remembered nothing of their plight and misery - she’d probably tell Chloe to stop, to pull herself together, and sympathize that yes, it was scary, it was painful, but she wouldn’t be able to live if something were to happen to Chloe.

Chloe would say the same thing if Max were in the same state. Only, Max wouldn’t be drinking, or getting high. She’d shut down, full stop. She wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t shower, wouldn’t speak. She wouldn’t even blink. 

But that Max was gone.

Chloe had lost her.

Stop thinking like that. She’s here. She’s always here.

Yeah. Right. Sure she was. Everything was fine. Arcadia Bay was okay. Everyone was fine. Her mom had been blowing up her phone with messages. Not that Chloe bothered to check what the messages were about. 

She couldn’t even bring herself to do that.

Mom was alive. Fuck, Mom was alive .

But she’d die. So would David. And Justin and Trevor and the rest of the skater dudes. And everyone. Everyone in Arcadia Bay. They’d all die. 

Chloe couldn’t do anything about it. 

Or maybe she could. And she should. But she didn’t.

She was going to watch that damn tornado wipe out Arcadia Bay again. All of that destruction, and death, and the smell of blood and seawater merging into one clusterfuck of a scent. 

Maybe she could do something about it. She should. She really should.

But she didn’t.

Because this, all of this, no matter how badly she wanted it to be real, wasn’t. It was all fake. And it was all meant to be destroyed.

An echo of the past smiled, whispering about escaping this shithole and into some place big, some place that mattered, some place where their lives could actually mean something, as its earring dangled, looking less like a feather and more like a flame.

Chloe didn’t know what to do, so she drank.

Chapter Text

Sometimes Chloe wondered who Rachel Amber was.

Was she the perfect student? The secret delinquent? The girlfriend? The unfaithful liar? 

Sometimes Chloe wondered who Max Caulfield was.

Was she the photography student? The best friend? The betraying indifferent girl? The time traveler?

Sometimes Chloe wondered.

And it wasn’t just sometimes.

It was a lot of times.

She wondered how Rachel Amber would’ve been like if her bio-mom hadn’t left her as a child. If she’d stayed at Long Beach. If she hadn’t attended that Firewalk concert. If she’d never heard of Arcadia Bay before.

She wondered how Max Caulfield would’ve been like if her parents had never moved away. If she’d never taken an interest in photography. 

What made them Rachel Amber and Max Caulfield?

Chloe wondered.

And Chloe wished she’d never wondered.

Because it wasn’t their personality or their interests or their lives or their experiences in their lives that made them who they were.

Chloe stopped wondering, and Chloe started crying.

It was the storm.

The storm was what made them who they were.

They were the storm.

She was the storm.


Max found Chloe sitting on the dirt, in broad daylight, looking down at something, near the washing machine and a bunch of signs, surrounded by broken things. 

Her face was bloodied. Trailing from her nose, down to her mouth and chin, even tainting her white top pink. It was a gruesome sight. Max didn't even know anyone could spur out that much blood and be perfectly okay. 

But Chloe was never really okay, was she?

She didn't even notice the blood all over herself, much less how sick and pale she looked.

Max tried not to cry. It would be too embarrassing, too out of place. She could cry later, when she was huddled in the room and in the dark with no one watching her.

The junkyard suited Chloe too well.

A broken, abandoned person, surrounded by broken, abandoned things.

The more she closed in on Chloe, the more Max realized Chloe wasn’t herself. 

There were empty beer cans surrounding her. Too much empty beer cans.

“Hey, Maximus.”

“C-chloe…”

Chloe turned to look at Max and frowned, her eyes glassy, her upper body swaying. She patted the space beside her before turning so her back faced Max again, looking down on the dirty soil caking the ground as though it held some kind of mystery to it.

Max sat, her legs crossed, careful not to knock out any of the beer cans.

“We were here before, you know.”

Max looked at Chloe, who refused to look at Max and looked like she wasn’t ready to acknowledge Max’s presence. She held her right wrist with her left hand, clawing into it as though it held a kind of importance. She’d been doing that since Max had seen her again. Just another thing Max hadn’t thought to question.

Max chuckled, trying to lighten the mood. “I… don’t think our parents would let us go to a place like this when we were little.”

A pause, filled by a small breeze of the wind. “Yesterday.”

“What?”

“We came here yesterday.” A longer pause, and Chloe spoke again, her words a whisper. “And a year ago.”

An uncomfortable feeling rose up in Max’s chest. “Chloe, please. Stop that.” She wasn’t ready to deal with this, with Chloe being like this, especially after today, and yesterday, and everything that happened in-between. 

Chloe looked down at nothing as though there was more to this ground than nothingness.

“I texted Joyce. She said you didn’t come home last night. She was really worried.”

Finally, Chloe reacted in something other than indifference, than apathy. She swallowed, and tears filled her eyes, and Chloe wiped at them, again and again, yet they still trailed down anyway, and it was beginning to dawn on Max, that William’s death didn’t just affect the mother and daughter individually, but it affected the relationship between that very same mother and daughter.

“Yeah… Mom… She’s okay, isn’t she?” Chloe’s voice cracked, and she sounded like her younger self. It brought a sense of relief to Max, a grim kind of relief, considering how shattered Chloe was. There was still a piece of Chloe, somewhere in there, buried, that Max recognized. “She, and David, and… everyone. Everyone’s alive. Everyone except…”

Chloe shuddered, wiped the tears away, and, with a deep breath, stopped shaking. She looked as though she hadn’t been crying in the first place.

Max wondered how many times Chloe had broken down like this for her to know how to cover up her tears this well.

“Chloe… can you please tell me what’s wrong?”

Chloe smiled sadly, refusing to look at Max. “I don’t think I can, Max.”

Max grabbed her by the shoulders, trailing up to her chin, forcing Chloe to look at her so she could stare her down and ask, “Why not?”

“It would break me, all over again. And I’m tired of that.” 

And that was all the answer Chloe was willing to give.

Max didn’t want to release her, to let her go, but Chloe was begging her to, with her eyes, with her stare, with her clenched jaws and her pursed lips and flat brows, so she let her go.

Only, Chloe didn’t look away just yet.

“I don’t belong here, Max.”

“Chloe, don’t say that, what are you-”

“This place. This town.” Chloe looked up at the sky, down on the trees and on the faraway buildings of Arcadia, filled with the muted noise of the people. “It’s so… alive. So real. No one here knows, but me… Everyone’s… Everything’s just…” 

Chloe jolted, as though waking up from a trance, and she grabbed at her opened can of beer, chugging it into her mouth, cursing when no liquid would dribble down her throat. She stood up, wobbling, and went to the washing machine, and Max found out where Chloe had been storing all of those beers in, opened a new can, and drink, and drink, and drink.

“Chloe, maybe you should stop.”

“I’m twenty, now, Max,” said Chloe, offhandedly and with the roll of the eyes, as though this conversation had happened before, as though her words were the truth. “I’m basically an adult already, would you quit nagging about it? I have it under control.”

There were too many things wrong with that.

“... Nineteen.”

Chloe looked at her, genuinely confused. She lowered the hand holding the alcohol, wiping at her chin. It only made things worse, worsening the blow in Max’s chest. “Huh?”

“You’re nineteen,” Max said with urgency. Chloe’s eyes widened, and narrowed, and she sighed, her body slumping, breathing heavily as she threw away the empty can of beer. 

The junkyard shouldn’t suit her this well.

Max tried not to let it scare her. She tried to offer help. This was Chloe. Chloe, who could be trusted not to hurt her, never to hurt her. Chloe, who may be unhinged and need help but refused that help. Chloe, who still looked at Max as though she was something nice, something to be treasured, and could take Max’s breath away with her smile and her sunny eyes.

Only, Max had never seen her smile. A smirk, yes. A chuckle, many times. But never a real smile. And her sunny eyes were nowhere to be seen. Instead, they were replaced by something jaded, dark, torn, broken, shattered.

But they were still Chloe’s eyes.

The girl standing in front of Max was still Chloe, even when she wasn’t.

“Do you… Jefferson…” Max couldn’t bring herself to utter those words, those words that confirmed reality. She wasn’t ready to accept it. Even now, she barely acknowledged it. “Was it you?”

Chloe shrugged and said, “Yeah,” as though finding out about a professional photographer working at a prestigious school’s crimes involving an underground hidden bunker belonging to the Prescotts in the middle of nowhere was a walk in the park.

“Chloe, how the fuck did you know?”

Chloe looked down at Max with knowing eyes. “The same way you have your storm vision dreams.”

Max reeled back. She would’ve fallen down on the ground if not for the palms of her hands propping her up. “I- it’s not-”

“Don’t bullshit me, Max,” scoffed Chloe. “You came into the bathroom because of it. Because you knew it wasn’t a dream and you needed to cool off.”

Chloe sat back down and continued in her ‘looking at the ground’ thing again.

That was when Max finally noticed it. The blue, tattered bracelet on Chloe’s wrist, poking out of her sleeve.

Max paid it no mind, but made a mental note to ask about it, one day. It looked important.

“... Do you think… Rachel Amber, the missing girl with posters all around school, do you think-”

“She’s here, Max.”

“What?”

“She’s right here. We found her, Max. We found her a year ago.” A pause. “We found her. And she’s here.”

If Max were in a better state of mind, she would’ve paid closer attention to Chloe’s words, and realized what Chloe truly meant.

If she were more observant, she would've wondered why Chloe was looking at the ground beneath them as though there was something sinister hidden underneath it.

“You know her?”

Chloe laughed, and laughed, even as tears spilled down her face.

Chapter Text

Max arrived at school to find Kate. As soon as Kate found her, she broke into a sprint and hugged her, and they wept together in the staircase until Kate suggested they go to her room and Max, with a despondent laugh, agreed.

They sat in Kate’s bed, huddled side-by-side, leaning against each other, a blanket thrown across their legs, Alice sitting on top of Kate’s legs and a tissue box sitting on top of Max’s legs.

“I just… I trusted him, Max. I did trust him. I thought of him as a friend.”

Max didn’t know whether Kate was talking about Max or Jefferson, but she nodded all the same. “He was the reason I came here.”

Even though it was a lie.

Even though Chloe was, and always had been, the reason why she was here.

And Kate ranted about her desire to end her own life because of what they did to her, what she’d thought was nothing more than her own wrongdoings, a sin for her to bear, the devil coming out of her, and Max sobbed harder, and told Kate to never, ever think of something like that ever again, and Kate eased her by saying it was a mistake, and she knew better now than to have such little respect and love for herself.

And they grieved together, and Max thought that this was how friendships were supposed to go. They should grieve together, listen to each other’s sad words. Neither one of them should hold back or keep secrets or make the other feel so lost and confused and small.

But even that wouldn’t be unfair, not to Chloe.

Max sobbed again, thinking about her. And Kate slung an arm across her back, pulling her close. “It’s… Everything will be okay, Max.”

And Max doubted that.

“Kate… can I tell you something…? Something kind of important, and- and something you shouldn’t tell anyone?”

Max looked up to find Kate frowning, almost in offense. “Of course, Max. You can tell me anything.”

So Max went back to hiding in Kate, just as she hid in Chloe. Only, Kate was far different from Chloe. Whereas Kate was gentle and nice, Chloe was… gentler, and nicer, and she was strong, and didn’t waver, and there was that smell to her, a smell so familiar, even after so many years, a smell Max could detect under all of that smoke and weed and beer, and it was something Kate could never, ever emulate.

Chloe wasn’t better than Kate.

Still, Max couldn’t help but wish the girl above her was someone other than Kate.

“I… I have this friend that I haven’t seen in years, and… and she’s just so sad, Kate. So broken. And I don’t know what to do. Sometimes it feels like she’s not even my friend, like I don’t know her, but other times… other times I do know her, because she’s my closest friend…”

There was silence, in which Max used to contemplate the river pooling out of her mouth, seemingly never-ending.

Kate hummed and asked in a tone too innocent and playful to be genuine, “I thought I was your closest friend?”

Max snorted. She leaned away from Kate to boop her in the nose, grinning. “You’re my nicest friend. There’s a difference.”

“And Warren?”

Max made a face. “He’s… a friend?”

Kate slapped her lightly on the forearm as Max giggled. “Oh, hush. Don’t be mean.”

Silence enveloped them, and the light atmosphere dimmed down, as though it had any chance of staying for any longer.

Max envisioned Chloe’s face and she leaned back, her head hitting the wall as she looked up, her body sagging down like a sack of flour dropped down. 

“It’s like… it’s like she doesn’t know me, much less trust me. And it hurts, ya know, ‘cuz even after all this time I’ve- I’ve been horrible to her-”

“You’re not horrible, Max.”

Oh, Kate. You don’t know how wrong you are. Max shook her head and continued. “I still expected her to at least consider me a friend.”

“Does she?”

Max mulled it over. “Well, yeah, but…”

“But…?”

Max sat straight and looked at Kate in thinly veiled distress. “Whenever she looks at me, Kate, it’s like she expects me to just disappear. Like I’m not really here. And the way she looks at things… like, like she’s not really here.”

Kate swallowed, regarding her seriously. “That… does sound serious.”

And Max hadn’t even told her about the fainting and the bloody nose and her crazy words that may or may not be a prediction of the future in which Arcadia Bay would get wiped out by a huge storm.

Max sighed, withering like a dying rose. “I just don’t know how to show her that I’m here for her, like how you’re here for me.”

That brought a small smile onto Kate’s face, and Max felt a warm sensation as Kate booped Max in the nose. “Isn’t it simple, Max?”

Max blinked up like a lost child.

And Kate stared down like an old wizard about to grant her something magical.

“The only way to show her that you’re there for her is to be there for her.”


Max sat, huddled, alone in the darkness of her room, trying to escape the world. 

Her phone buzzed. She ignored it. It buzzed again. She kept ignoring it. But it kept buzzing and buzzing and buzzing until she was unable to ignore it.

It was a message from Warren, telling her to look outside.

Max’s breath hitched, remembering Chloe and her words, and told him she didn’t want to.

She remembered Chloe, and how wrong she was, and how wrong everything was. She never wanted this to happen. Why was this happening to her? Why was Chloe this broken? She knew it was her fault, but- why? It didn’t make sense.

Warren pulled her thoughts away by stating that she had to, and really, who was Max to argue? There was a part of her that wanted to know. There always had been. That little rascal. She was nothing, if not nosy.

Max pulled the curtains away, only for an unscheduled eclipse to greet her.

And Warren was calling her, telling her, “Max, something is seriously wrong.”

And she let him ramble and vent and let out his own tears because she wasn’t the only one scared. 

Once he was done, Max said with a shaky, uncertain voice, “I know. And I need to talk to you about it. But I need you to promise me you have to trust me, okay?”

“... Always.”

And just as she finished speaking with him, pain assaulted her forehead. She found herself standing before the great storm and woke up in fear, wishing Chloe was here.

Chloe, the real Chloe, and not the hollow, broken shell of a girl wearing her face that pretended to be her.

Chapter Text

It was October 9th, Wednesday. Classes were cancelled, and it was about time Max met the woman who had become as much as a motherly figure as her own mother.

Max stepped inside the Two Whales infamous restaurant, with the jingle of the bells above her announcing her presence.

Max spotted Joyce pouring black coffee to a truck driver sitting in a booth. And Joyce only realized Max’s presence when Max stepped closer to her direction, and recognized who Max was once Max waved a hand with a timid smile and an equally timid, “Hi, Joyce.”

It resulted in a very cuddly, affectionate, familiar bear hug.

Max was attacked with a barraged onslaught of “oh my, look at you” and “you’re so big now” and “how I’ve missed you” and soon, Max found herself sitting on the furthest booth.

Apparently, Joyce had a new husband! And from the sounds of it, he must be the loveliest man. Max couldn’t wait to meet him.

After momentarily panicking whether she’d order waffles or pancakes, Joyce left with the news that the food would be on the house.

And Max was left wondering why on earth she’d ever want to avoid coming here. Two Whales was familiar. Like her third or fourth home, right after Chloe’s home, and her own old home here, beating her home at Seattle by a mile.

Joyce came back with a motherly smile and a delicious-smelling pancakes. “Here you go, darling,” she said, putting it to the table. Max had to contain herself not to devour this and ignore everything else in the world. She had manners, unlike Chloe.

Max stopped at the thought of Chloe.

Aaaand now she was no longer in a good mood.

And Joyce, obviously, caught that something was wrong. She tried for a cocky smile. “Am I to assume my daughter will announce her presence here today?”

Max could picture it; Chloe waltzing in the restaurant like she owned it, giving Joyce a hard time, a hug, and a peck on the cheek while she complained about not getting free food.

But Max didn’t know where Chloe was. Not after the junkyard. She didn’t even know where Chloe had stayed for the night. 

Quit worrying, Max. Chloe’s an adult, now. She’s probably sleeping in one of her friends’ houses.

Max’s face fell. “No. I… It’s just me today.”

Max’s heart broke, seeing how hurt Joyce looked.

“I just don’t understand her, Max,” she said, sitting down on the booth, facing Max as she clasped her hands. “I thought we were getting better. She’d always cause trouble, but she never… she never ignores my text messages like this, not for this long.”

At that, Max frowned and leaned forward, on alert. Something about her words caused an unsettling pit to form in Max’s stomach. “Wait, Chloe’s never done this before?”

Joyce shrugged, looking at the window in contemplation, the perfect image of a worried mother. “Sure, she smokes and drinks every once in a while, sometimes, and disregards the traffic laws, but…” Joyce sighed, tucking a loose strand above her ear. “I worry that I’ve done something to upset her.”

“You sure that’s all that she does?” And not breaking down and sulking all the time and looking like the world’s out to get here? 

Max left that last part out. For obvious reasons.

A concerned Joyce was bad enough. A panicked Joyce would be the death of her and every patron at the diner.

Joyce looked up at her. “Of course that’s all. Why? Did she say anything?”

And Max, unable to tell Joyce what was wrong with Chloe, steered the conversation away, and ended up learning more about Rachel, and how close she and Chloe were.

“It’s sad, what happened to her.” Joyce had enough decency to let out a tear, even in a public place, in front of everyone. “Chloe had always believed that she was out in Vegas, striving to become a model or an actress…”

But… she didn’t…

“You know, Chloe was angry at Rachel for leaving, like how she was angry at you for leaving.” Joyce held up a hand. “Not that I blamed you, or anything.”

“But, Joyce… Chloe’s not… I don’t think Chloe’s mad at me.”

Joyce blinked, and laughed. “Now, now, Max. You know how hot headed she can get. Remember fourth grade? She blew up on poor old William because she had to wait another week for another episode of her silly old cartoon.”

It had been Dragon Ball Z and it was not silly nor a cartoon.

Still, Max shook her head. She couldn’t get off topic. “No, Joyce, you don’t understand. Chloe didn’t- not once did she, like, get mad at me for leaving. It’s not that I want her to be mad at me, it’s just that…”

Max waved her arms around, not knowing how to say it. She was an introvert, after all. And introverts weren’t known for being able to properly express themselves.

Joyce, however, did nothing more than tilt her head to the side and offer an unhelpful, “Huh, looks like my baby girl is growing up,” before she got called in for another refill.

And Max was left to contemplate how different Joyce’s view of Chloe was and how different Chloe actually was.

Joyce, of all people, should know how Chloe was like. She was her mother, for dog’s sake! 

But no.

Joyce was oblivious to Chloe’s declining state. And she must’ve seen her, three or four days last. It wasn’t as though Chloe would ever eat at anywhere except Two Whales. If this was Max’s third home, then this was Chloe’s first home.

Max’s phone buzzed. It must be Warren. Max tore her thoughts away from Chloe, despite how important she was. There was work to be done.


Chloe, for the first time in forever, tried to make herself look decent, as she rang the doorbell.

To an outsider, the scene would’ve looked like a nervous preteen, waiting outside of his date’s house as she got ready for prom night.

The door opened.

“Chloe?”

“Hey, Rose.”

Only, this wasn’t her date’s house, because her date had been dead for more than a year- no, wait, six months, or was it nine? And there was no prom night, no nervousness, only the grim reality and strength she had to muster for what she was about to do.

“I need to tell you something.” Chloe swallowed the bile forming on her stomach. “Can I come in?”

A girl with yellow mane and blue-feathered earring - only one, never two, because she loved being asymmetrical - and a sad, sad look in her eyes flickered in and out before fading out of reality.

Chapter Text

Rose wept and James tried not to, for his wife’s sake.

And Chloe sat at the living room, shoulders down, hands linked together as she bowed down, fighting off her own tears. It was almost successful. 

And Chloe could almost see her. The only one absent from this house. Sitting on the chair. Sofa. Table. Counter. Almost there. Almost real. Always out of reach.

“Impossible,” growled James. “How dare you make such false accusations!”

“James, please. The girl’s only-”

“I don’t care. My daughter can’t be dead! She’s- she just-” James shook her head. “She can’t be!”

“Jamie…”

“Look,” Chloe said, her voice hoarse from all the screaming, her body limp and aching from all the smashing; all done in the junkyard, of course. “Nathan or Jefferson’s going to confess, sooner or later. And they’ll find her body. I just-” Chloe swallowed and looked away. “I just thought you’d rather hear it from me than from a bunch of asshole cops…”

James shuddered, and Rose, still in tears, smiled for Chloe’s sake, and stood up as well. James did not. He sat on his chair, head hung low, looking defeated. He reminded her too much of herself. 

Rose held out a hand. “Thank you,” she said through trembling, smiling lips and watery eyes.

Chloe took that hand and pulled the woman into a hug, because Rose caring about her daughter reminded Chloe of her own mother, and how much Chloe missed her, and how much she’d taken her for granted. 

Chloe gathered strength from the embrace just as much as Rose did.

And Chloe could, should see her mother. It'd been too long. But she wasn't ready. She didn't know if she could ever be ready.

There was a difference between seeing a person broken be unbroken and seeing a corpse live and laugh and breathe.

They pulled away, staring at each other. Chloe couldn’t help but empathize with Rose. It almost scared her, the fact that she was the one comforting others instead of the other way around. The fact that she could comfort people at all.

“I have something. Something that belonged to her.”

 Chloe held out her wrist, revealing the old blue bracelet that had survived the harsh world for many years.

Rose gasped and reached out, stopping herself shy away from  touching it, as though it was sacred. She looked up at Chloe. “May I?” And Chloe nodded, letting Rose untie it from her wrist as James looked up with bagged eyes and lines wrinkling his face. The DA had never looked less intimidating.

“It’s for you,” Chloe said, as Rose cradled the bracelet on her chest.

Rose, ever the kind woman, even in grieving, thought of others before herself. “Are you sure, dear?”

Chloe smiled. “You should have it.” And not a pedophile unhinged drug dealer who was involved in her death. “I… I don’t need it anymore. I’ve… I’ve made peace with it- with Rachel.”

Rose hugged her again, and Chloe was reminded of Joyce again, and how well she could see through her lies.

“Thank you, Chloe…” A sob. “Thank you.”


Chloe ignored the trembling in her hand and lightheadedness, and hoped she managed to clean off every ounce of blood that had dripped down from her nose.

She’d pushed herself. Far more than Max had ever done so. But she had to. It was necessary. 

Chloe watched from afar as David busted Frank and his drug dealing shenanigans, unsure if he caught the man due to the anonymous tips she sent or Nathan’s confessions.

Did it even matter, at this point?

Nathan and Jefferson were caught. Frank was caught. Last she heard, they’d already been searching for Rachel’s body. 

Chloe, shrouded in the darkness, looked up at the shores, where two dead whales lay, unmoving, surrounded by smaller creatures.

All that was left was the storm, and how to get everyone out of Arcadia Bay from it when the time came.

“As if you ever cared for this town,” a voice said with a laugh and the sound of featherly earrings jingling. And it was gone to the wind, along with the blonde hair and those oh-so inciting hazel eyes.

She only had two days left.

There was not enough time.

But Chloe would make the most of it, anyway.

She couldn’t stand living in a world where girls had to sacrifice a life for a life. Not anymore.

Chapter Text

Chloe couldn’t help but stare at their picture and how perfect they looked. 

And she sat on the old, worn couch, content to stay in their junkyard hideout for forever.

“You know, he never got rid of it.”

“Huh?”

“The knife.”

“What knife?”

“The one he used to kill Damon.”

Chloe blinked, and the perfect moment weathered down, like a candle slowly melting away and out of existence. “What brought this on?”

And Rachel shrugged that shrugged that told Chloe she could answer with a real answer, but wouldn’t for one reason or another. “Just… giving out useful facts, is all.”

“Huh. You’re right. I guess telling me Frank never got rid of a murder weapon he used to kill the man who kidnapped and drugged your mom and attempted to murder both of us is useful.” Chloe grinned, because she could never be genuine and say things truthfully. Saying what she felt was not in her forte. Sarcasm was an old friend of hers. It was also her greatest enemy. “Thanks for the info, Rach!”

“We can use it,” she whispered, and something heavy in Chloe’s stomach dropped further into an endless pit. Rachel wasn’t supposed to whisper. She was supposed to either scoff at Chloe’s joke or add more to it. Instead, she whispered a cold whisper that told Chloe this was more serious than she thought. “The blood’s still there. Faded, but still there.” She made a sound of disgust. “He puts it like some kind of trophy.”

And Chloe sort of hated her for ruining the moment like this but couldn’t really voice it. She didn’t want this moment to end. Everything was too perfect.

“Sick.” Chloe chuckled. It was rad of Frank to save their asses like that. Frank might act all tough shit, but he’d never hurt them. He was a friend. He could be trusted. 

Rachel seemed to think otherwise. “Like, they can analyse the blood and link it to Damon. It’s sort of like fingerprints, but only…” She made a vague hand-gesture into the air. “Blood prints, I guess. Dad told me about it, once.”

“Rach?”

“And even if it wasn’t there, turning him in would still be easy.” She ranted on, oblivious to Chloe’s paling features. “He has a journal in his van. I’ve seen it. He writes everything in it, like a teenage hipster girl or some shit. All we need to do is break in, steal the journal, and give it to the police. And boom!” She threw her arms out, as though she was celebrating when there was absolutely nothing to celebrate if that event were to happen. “He’ll be gone.”

Chloe wanted to say that if that were to happen, then they’d be thrown in jail for breaking and entering. She wanted to shake Rachel, ask her what the fuck was up. Instead, all she said was a simple, “Rachel.”

“Y’know… In case he tries… something...”

And Chloe stared levelly at her, crouching down on her knees to do so, and she was thinking about things she really shouldn’t think about. “Rach, did he do something?”

And Rachel laughed it off, and it was the kind of laugh that made Chloe feel embarassed because here she was, being a good girlfriend and talking and worrying, and Rachel was brushing it all up like some kind of sick joke, and it ended with her sulking and Rachel having to fuck her to make her feel better.

Only, it didn’t.

Not this time.

Because Chloe blinked, and everything was still except for her and Rachel, and Rachel chuckled a grim chuckle Chloe had never heard come out of her, not in reality.

“Oh, Chloe… You wonderful idiot…”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

Rachel laughed the kind of laugh Chloe had never heard her let out. “As if you’d be okay with someone fucking me, even when I didn’t enjoy it.”

“Rach…”

“Just forget it, Chlo,” she spat, as though the words were bile of acid in her mouth. “Just forget me.”


 

Chloe woke up to knocking. She yawned and stretched only for her limbs to hit the edges of a rusty metal. 

That was when Chloe remembered she was not in the room back in Seattle, or even her old room back at Arcadia Bay.

She was, in fact, lying down on her truck, as she did the night before, and the night before that, all because she could not handle looking at her mother who had been dead for one whole year.

There was more knocking.

“I’m up, I’m up.”

“Have you been sleeping in here?!” Max’s startled voice rang, filtered through the dusty, smeared glass. Chloe looked up, squinting. It was still dark. 

Chloe opened the door, let Max in, and snuggled back into a sleeping position.

“Answer the question, Chloe.”

Chloe opened one eye, looked up to Max, who had taken hostage on both of Chloe’s barefoot legs, resting them on her thighs. She looked stern and awkward, all at once, as though she didn’t know how to be stern.

Chloe scoffed. Her Max knew how to be stern. Her Max was downright murderous, at times. 

This Max was…

This Max was safe, and happy, and Chloe should be thankful. 

So Chloe answered, with a sigh, that, “No, Max, I totally didn’t sleep here. I bought a five-star hotel with free oreos and naked ladies.”

It was quiet, for a moment, until Max broke that stillness with a laugh. Chloe peered at her. “What’s so funny?”

“The fact that you put oreos before naked ladies.”

“Well, I mean, yeah. Gotta have priorities, man.” It was quiet again. The comfortable kind of quiet. It was the same kind of quiet Chloe and her Max used to share, only, there was less death and guilt hanging in the air. It was a nice, and Chloe stared at Max and asked, “Hey, how’d you get here?”

Max blushed and mumbled something.

“Maaax,” Chloe said in a warning tone, reminding her of Joyce, and not in a way that made her want to cry, for once. If only she was standing, maybe she could put her hands on her hips to complete the look.

“I said I walked.”

Chloe did a double-take. “I’m sorry, you walked?!”

“Well-” Max stared back “-you slept in a truck!”

“... Touche, Maximilian.”

Max’s hands drifted up and down, slowly at first, until it became a pattern. And Chloe began to remember a darker time, somewhere between the destruction of a city and settling down on a house, never to see the light of day again. A darker time where fucking was a need, a must, and something she didn’t know how to stop doing. 

A time where she took a girl’s virginity away.

A girl named Max “Never Maxine” Caulfield.

“Are you giving me a massage, dude?”

A hum was her only answer. It wasn’t really an answer.

“Don’t stop,” Chloe sighed, draping an arm across her face, trying to imagine herself in her world, the real world, in 2014, in Seattle.

It brought comfort and discomfort, all at once. 

It never really clicked, never really registered until now, how broken her Max was, and how there was never any chance of getting her back, despite how many times Chloe reached out for her.

“Chloe?”

“Yeah?”

A small, timid pause, followed by a smaller, more timid, “You never planned on getting everyone out in time, do you?”

And Chloe had to suppress her laugh because seriously, it took Max this long to figure out. “Oh, no. Not really.” Chloe shrugged. “But I do plan on hauling my mom off of her ass and getting her out. Her, you, Sergeant Dickwad.”

And maybe this Max wasn’t all that different from Chloe’s Max, the one from the non-existing future.

Max would always continue to believe that each and every lives lost was hers to blame. Because Max was too good, and that was the problem.

It was better this way, for Chloe to bear the burden, and for Max to never know anything about what had happened and what had never happened. Not about the rewind. Not about the deaths. Not about them being an item. 

After all, Max was good, and Chloe… wasn’t.

Max’s silence was telling. Chloe knew it must be dawning on her, right at this instant, just how screwed up Chloe was. 

It was almost wrong, to have this Max who was not Max be this close to her. 

If Max - the real one - were here, what would she think?

“Why are you sleeping in a truck?”

“I’m…” Chloe swallowed, composing herself. She glanced at Max, briefly, to gauge on the sudden change of subject. And a rather abrupt one, at that. But that one glance was enough. Chloe understood. Max didn’t want to think about the storm anymore. And that was okay. “Things between me and Mom are kind of rough right now-”

“Except they’re not, though.”

It took Chloe three seconds to put the pieces together. “You talked with Mom this morning.”

It brought a weird sense of anger and an even weirder sense of jealousy. Here Chloe was, grieving for the mother that had never died, unable to comprehend that she was now alive. Truly, truly alive. And there Max was, coming to visit her and talking to her as she pleased, as though nothing had happened.

“How… How is she?” Chloe asked, wanting to berate herself for sounding so small and weak.

Max squeezed her knee. “She’s fine, Chloe. And super worried. She’s been calling and texting non stop. Why are you avoiding her?”

A feral grin broke out of Chloe’s mouth alongside the low rumble of her chuckle. “I don’t think you wanna know, Max.”

And Max pushed her legs off of her, letting them fall down to the surface of the truck. And Chloe tore her arm away, opening her eyes as she sat up straight, a dozen curses and questions armed and ready, only for her words to slip off of her tongue, to be forgotten and wasted, and her mind to blank, and her entire body to freeze.

Max was crying. And it was the frustrated kind of crying. The kind where you just want everything to be okay, just for one moment. The kind where you wished the world wasn’t so shitty.

Deep inside, when Chloe looked hard enough, she could see a sliver of the old Max, the familiar Max, the only person as broken as she herself was.

“You don’t know that,” Max seethed, her words burning. “And yes, I do want to know. Because you’re my best friend and I care about you, I really do, more than anyone, and I don’t know why you’re sad but you are and you know about the storm and you’re not doing anything about it and it’s going to come and I’m so, so scared-”

But Max couldn’t finish her sentence. Because Chloe forced her lips onto Max’s own, pulling her into a rough kiss, and Chloe let herself drift and dream and forget, at long last.

Chapter Text

Chloe was no longer in Arcadia Bay, and the year was no longer 2013.

The air was hot. And Chloe pinned Max down like a hungry wolf whose meal had been wrongfully denied for days.

Chloe’s arms were hungry to touch Max, to touch every bit of Max. They shifted and moved, memorizing each curve. Chloe didn’t give Max the time to breathe, to think. As soon as Chloe’s lips separated from Max, they, too, travelled down her neck, onto Max’s collarbone, biting at that sensitive spot of hers that had always made Max gasp in delight.

“Chloe-”

Hearing her name only made Chloe more relentless. Max should know this. They’d been together for nine months. Chloe even had their one year anniversary planned, even this soon. 

“C-chlo-” Max’s voice trailed into a moan as Chloe marked her in the neck. Chloe licked her lips for one moment, admiring her handiwork before ravishing Max once again.

Her hands seized their quest to explore Max to instead try to lift her shirt up, and Chloe frowned for a moment, wondering why Max was wearing this old shirt. Hadn’t she gotten rid of it a few days after they arrived in Seattle? Whatever, it didn’t matter.

“Chloe!” The voice sounded more distressed and less aroused. Welp. Chloe would have to try harder to please her girl, then. Wait- since when was Max’s hair this short? And where was that pink dye at the tip of her hair Chloe had always loved? What-? What was going on? Why was-

And Chloe was pushed away by a gasping, trembling, red, dishevelled Max, who looked as though Chloe had stabbed her in the back, trying to cover what was left of her decency with her arms.

And it all came back to her, like a bucket full of ice water draining down her head, pouring down and distinguishing any heat left. 

Chloe was no longer dreaming. She was wide awake, and fully aware of what she’d done.

“No, no, no, no…”

Because this wasn’t a double dare, followed by a clumsy meeting between two unexpected lips, ending in giggles and teases and shy glances.

This wasn’t even a farewell kiss, long and full of love, surrounded by rain and an angry shore, down below, at the edge of the cliff, where both gave and both took, sadness and happiness merging all at once, a farewell to the reality they knew, and a greeting to something new, something wonderful, amidst all the calamity.

This was something different. Something far, far worse.

Max had not expected Chloe to kiss her.

Max had not wanted Chloe to kiss her.

“Chloe…”

So with one last “I’m sorry”, Chloe ran away from the truck and the person inside, ignoring Max’s shouts of “Chloe, wait!”

She kept running, barefoot, in tears, until she was back at the town, where everyone was in a rush, and posters were everywhere, posters of a coming storm, a warning, and everyone was packing their things, and some were leaving.

A town where the mayor of Arcadia Bay spoke in the TV, applauding the Blackwell geniuses known as Warren - Warren. He was Max’s friend, wasn’t he? - and some other girl with glasses for what they’d found, for the calculations they’d made which was proven to be correct, and warning everyone to leave the town immediately, lest the coming storm would swallow them whole.

“What…?”

And all Chloe could think about was her mom, and that she’d be safe and out of this town and alive, and it was all thanks to Max, because who else could’ve done this but Max?

Even without powers, Max still tried to save everyone.

She was good. Too good.

And Chloe didn’t deserve her, not when she was whole and happy and innocent and Chloe was…

Chloe was home.

Chloe stood at her home, for the first time in a year, and she didn’t cry. She stared at the unfinished paint and how old it looked and breathed in, and out, and went inside, until she was inside her room, until she was on her bed, until she was out like a light.

(Chloe, at one point, threw up what little content she had on her stomach. It was odd, and it should concern her. Max had never told her about puking, only hella heavy migraines and nosebleeds. Then again, Max had never pushed herself this hard, so…)

Chapter Text

Chloe dreamt of the deer, and the butterfly, and Rachel, all at once.

She dreamt of the junkyard, of the old Tempest stage, and of the cliff near the lighthouse. All at once.

All at once.

The figure in front of her couldn’t seem to be able to decide which form to take. So it took all three of them, and kept shifting between forms, one at a time, each second, like a glitchy hologram, just like where she stood, and how the place surrounding her kept changing from the wet of the lighthouse, the neon lights of the Firewalk concert, and the quietness of her room.

And Chloe wasn’t a healthy strong young adult with short, bright blue hair and leather jackets and torn shirts and jeans that spoke of her daredevil personality.

She was a tired, gaunt girl with pale skin who had never really escaped the past, never really found peace, and considered fucking and sleeping and eating as living. A woman with a blank shirt and simple jeans and no beanies or bracelets or necklaces because she no longer felt the need to decorate herself, her tattoos as faded as the blue in her hair.

A girl too broken to move on.

“Chloe.”

And Chloe was sick of it. Sick of not knowing who this deer and butterfly was, why it kept haunting Max, why it gave Max her powers, and why it gave Chloe this nightmare. 

“What do you want?” Her voice was sharp and curt.

“Many things.” 

The figure looked wistful, as if looking at relics of the past.

Chloe was having none of it.

“Like what?”

“Like everything.”

Her chest was hot. As though there was fire brewing inside it, begging to be let out. “Quit being so cryptic!”

Her voice boomed across everything, crossing the edge of the earth. And the figure finally lay still, as did everything else.

Chloe stood on the street where she shared her first kiss with Rachel. If she listened closely, she could hear the sound of two dumb teenagers giggling like the world didn’t matter, making promises to each other about leaving the shitty town and going to every cool-sounding city ever.

“Can’t I miss you, Chlo?”

Rachel stood.

The real Rachel. And not the Rachel with the perfect hair and make-up on and gentle smile and the charm and the wit and the greatness.

It was the Rachel with messy hair, black shirt, short white shorts. The Rachel with bony skin, red eyes, and no smile whatsoever. 

Because why should Rachel smile? She was dead. Buried in a junkyard - their special place to give each other all kinds of kisses. She was rotten. She’d been rotting for months. 

Her life had ended too abruptly for it to be fair.

This was the real Rachel, and she was the real Chloe. This was more real than the reality Chloe hadn’t quite gotten accustomed to, which was pretty fucking ironic considering this was a dream.

Rachel tilted her head to the side, taking a step towards Chloe, throwing a teasing, almost cruel smile at her direction. “What? You don’t think this is really me?”

No. Chloe was no idiot. She knew.

And the look on her face must’ve said so, too, because Rachel snorted, able to look right through her barbed, wired words. “Bullshit. You’ve always known I wasn’t your average Queen Bee. I always have been a force of nature.”

Yeah.

She had been. And there was never really any doubt, not from Chloe. 

She may not have facts or evidence or science to back her up, but she didn’t need to in order to know that Rachel was the storm.

Because Chloe meant it when she said the destruction of Arcadia was Rachel’s revenge.

Because something had drawn Chloe into her, something unexplainable. 

And maybe because Chloe had a thing for super-powered chicks, even if she didn’t realize they had powers, at the time.

Yet, despite knowing the answer, Chloe couldn’t help but ask, “Is the storm really your fault?”, her voice cracking, practically begging for Rachel to lie.

Rachel may lie, but not to her. Never to her.

She shook her head, and took a step, and suddenly Rachel was right in front of her, close enough for Chloe to grab her by the waist, and close enough to twirl the strands of Chloe’s faded blue strands, almost gray, at this point. 

“It’s not a fault, Chloe. Calling it that would mean it’s a mistake.”

Chloe’s jaw hinged as she worked out the words, keeping herself calm. “Rachel. Did you cause this storm?”

“I did. Yeah.”

Rachel was unperturbed, and Chloe thought she may know how Max - the Max of this world - felt when she saw Chloe acting unbothered, being apathetic.

“Why?”

Rachel finally locked gazes with Chloe. And the fury boiling beneath those hazel eyes took Chloe’s breath away.

“Are you seriously asking me that, Chlo?” Rachel shook with anger and sadness. Chloe took a step back. Rachel had always been intense, she knew that, but… Chloe hadn’t realized Rachel was this prone to negative emotions. “This town sucks. I hate it. You hate it. The town probably hates itself. It deserves to be swept away, to rot, to be destroyed, after what it’s done to me.” 

“But the people-”

“Don’t tell me you actually care for them.”

The worst part was that there was a small part of Chloe, the smallest of parts that Chloe had thought would never resurface again, that did care for everyone, that didn’t want anyone to die, that wouldn’t settle for Max and Joyce being alive, that strived for everyone to be alive.

Max was good. Too good. And all of that goodness was really starting to rub off of her. Both from this Max and the real one, back in 2014’s Seattle.

And Rachel, her sweet, sweet angel, no longer looked like an angel to Chloe. She wasn’t perfect. She wasn’t amazing. She was just Rachel, with faults and secrets and fears, just like everybody else.

They were holding each other, as close to each other as they could get without kissing, and yet the distance between them far surpass any distance that had once existed between Chloe and Max - the broken one.

“Rachel…”

If Max were too good, then Rachel was too spiteful, and too angry.

Chloe sighed and nestled her chin on top of Rachel and hugged her. Rachel was frozen, and she was not, and she hugged back, and Chloe pretended not to notice the silent sobs Rachel tried to suppress and just hugged her.

Because Rachel deserve a hug, after all she’d been through.

Because Rachel deserved a lot of things, but a hug was the one thing Chloe could give right now.

“Were you the one to give Max her powers? And to give me mine?” Rachel’s hair tickled Chloe’s cheek as she nodded. “Why?”

Rachel shrugged weakly, a far cry from the girl who’d burned the forest down with a scream and a kick and a photograph. “Because you were about to die. And I couldn’t stand that.”

Rachel was far from who Chloe had thought she was.

Chloe had never felt so old, so worn down, and Rachel reminded her so much of Max, the Max before this mess, the Max in this world. How small she was, how frail, and the light she seemed to carry around her, wherever she went.

The light Rachel used to carry before she died. And the light Max used to carry before the part of her named innocence died.

“Rachel, did we… did we ever really have a chance of…” Chloe couldn’t finish that sentence. It hurt too much. Rachel understood, though. Rachel had always understand her, and vice versa.

“I think so, Chloe. Just not here. Not where you’re standing.” And Rachel kissed her with the kind of kiss that spoke just how much she was sorry, and Chloe wondered if the storm really was Rachel’s fault, and if Rachel really hated Arcadia Bay so much that she vowed to destroy it. “Now, wake up, Chloe. Your mom’s waiting for you, and she needs you.”

And Rachel kissed Chloe again, one last time, and Chloe woke up in her room with her mother right at the door.

Chapter Text

Chloe, with blood all over her face and shirt, remnants of vomit in her mouth, bags under her eyes, and pain all over her body, stared at her mom, speechless. 

Joyce Madsen, the woman who’d given birth to her, the woman who’d cared for her and nurtured her and put up with her sadness and anger for nineteen years, had never looked more unfamiliar.

It hit Chloe, right here, right now, the things she’d forgotten about her mother. How her eyeliner had always felt off to Chloe, never the right shade of color. How neat and perfect her bun looked. The faint smell of cooking that always permenanted her.

And then there were things Chloe had never noticed before, not until now, until Chloe had learned grief and guilt and addiction - true addiction; how tired and old Mom looked, and the wrinkles that was featured in each part of her limb, reminding everyone that dared see it that Joyce didn’t have that much time in this world left, that she was getting older and older by the day.

Chloe wasn’t a young adult with black jackets and black mascara and liked to rebel against any form of authorities just for the sake of it.

Chloe was just a kid who missed her mom.

Chloe launched herself at her mom’s arms, and Mom, as though she had been expecting it, was quick to return the bone-crushing embrace.

Chloe wanted to say how much she missed her and loved her and how painful it was to wake up everyday and not smell her cooking and go downstairs to see her in the kitchen, in her element, and not get lectured for every little thing she did wrong. 

But she couldn’t. She was too tired to speak, to do anything than let her mother guide her back to the bed, as she’d always done back when Chloe didn’t understand death.

Chloe sat at the bed, hunching into her mother’s arms. She recomposed herself, pulled away, looked at her mother, only to break down all over again, quieter this time. Because Mom’s alive, she really is alive, and everything can be different this time, things can be better, and I can fix anything.

Looking at her living, breathing mother woke something up in Chloe. Something that had died along with her. But now it was slowly crawling its way into wakefulness. 

Chloe didn’t feel all that broken anymore. Even when she hadn’t eaten anything for too long, when she hadn’t gotten a restful, real sleep without weird, trippy dreams ever since she arrived here, and even when recently, after abusing her time powers for far too much, Chloe felt as though she was about to pass out and go into a coma… she didn’t feel broken.

Joyce looked worried, because Chloe was her daughter and she was her mother and mothers never stopped worrying. “Chloe, honey, did you… get into a fight with that Justin boy again?”

And Chloe laughed, and couldn’t form coherent words, because her mother was alive, and she was right here, and everything was okay, and Chloe had never felt more alive.

Chloe wasn’t sure what she said to Joyce. She was a blubbering mess and she couldn’t understand her own words that came out of her mouth. But Joyce kept nodding. She was confused, but she kept nodding, like how you’d nod to a toddler with a lisp who was just beginning to understand speech.

Chloe did say “I love you” and “I’m sorry for being such an asshole”, that she made sure.

Soon, Chloe was lying down on her bed, her arms and legs sprawled out, and Joyce sat on the edge of it, patient, waiting.

“Mom, I’m in love with Max,” was the first thing she said, because it was the most important one, especially with how she’d royally fucked up.

But Joyce chuckled the kind of chuckle mirroring Chloe’s own. Like mother like daughter. “I know, dear.”

Chloe paused. “And Rachel. I’m in love with Rachel.”

Joyce laughed a withering laugh, as though Chloe had just learned about gravity and how it worked and was telling her about it. “That’s obvious, too. Tell me something I don’t know, kiddo.”

Okay, then. “I really, really missed you.”

Joyce’s smile was warm, and inviting, and she was alive, in this room. “I missed you, too.”

And Chloe was unsure if she was still dreaming.

“Mom… what are you still doing here? Shouldn’t you be leaving?”

Joyce looked at her, offended, clutching her chest dramatically. “Don’t tell me you actually believe a storm is coming? No, no, sweetie. Nothing’s going to happen in Arcadia Bay. David said so himself. It’s all just a lie. Besides.” Joyce grinned and pinched Chloe’s cheek. “How can I leave without my little hellraiser?”

Chloe blinked. Of course it was Stepdude who was giving her a hard time. Of course it was him who didn’t believe her, and caused the biggest obstacle of all. She should feel like she wanted to scream and smash something and throw up, but she didn’t. She was at ease. Maybe it was because she knew she had the time powers, at her hand, and it was okay to use it. And maybe it was because everything was okay.

So Chloe sighed and said, “David’s good for you.”

A hum of content. “My, my. Chloe Price, calling my husband by his actual name. Oh, how times have changed.”

Chloe shook her head. “It’s me, Mom. I’ve changed.” She propped herself up to face her mother, looking at her right in the eyes and praying she wouldn’t waver. “I’m not… I’m not your Chloe.”

But Mom was a no nonsense woman, so she poked Chloe in the forehead and shook her head, as though Chloe had gotten an F on a test. “What are you talking about, sweetheart, you’ll always be my Chloe.”

Chloe blinked, letting out a small “oh” sound, and flopped back down onto the mattress, looking up into the unfamiliar ceiling the bedroom she’d lived in for nineteen years of her life.

“Mom, do you think I can save this shitty town?” Chloe could feel Joyce’s questioning stare, so she elaborated, as best as she could. “If- if there’s a chance for me to save everyone. Do… do you think I can do it?”

The warmth and comfort of Mom’s presence would’ve been a good enough answer, but her mother, after sighing with a gaze that let Chloe know how much she was proud of her, said, “You’re William Price’s daughter. You can do everything, and more.”

And so William’s daughter reached for the stars, and the clock ticked in the opposite direction.

Chapter Text

“I don’t know who they are,” Max whispered.

Chloe wanted to say she didn’t know them too, and she was as scared as Max was. But that wasn’t what Max needed to hear, and someone had to be strong - or at least pretend that they were.

“They’re your parents, Max. You’ve known them your whole lives.”

Max whimpered harder, and clutched and clawed at Chloe. Her fingers buried themselves in skin. Deep, deep, deep, they clutched.

It hurt.

Chloe didn’t try to stop her from hurting her.

“No. No. She knows them, not me. And they-” A laugh. “They certainly don’t know me. Not anymore. No one knows me.” Max jolted, twitched, and looked up at Chloe. Her smile wasn’t forced, and that broke Chloe’s heart even more. “Only you know me, Chloe. You. Only we know each other. And only we need each other. No one else. No one else.”

This, Chloe remembered thinking, this is all I have left.

So Chloe grabbed, and Chloe never let go.


Chloe, tear-stricken and gaunt, whispered one last apology before jumping out of the truck and into the wilderness, barefoot, in nothing more than a white loose top, this early in the morning.

Max stared, unable to process anything but the lingering feeling of Chloe, all around her, devouring her and making her let out noises of pleasure she hadn’t known she could let out. Chloe, who had touched her with such confidence and vigor that left Max reeling and wanting more.

Chloe, who had taken things a little too fast and a little too far once she’d started to tug at Max’s shirt, declaring that she wanted this to be more than just friendly french kisses.

Chloe, the girl she’d always had a crush on, from the very beginning. That crush only magnified once Max had reunited with her once more, but Max had pushed it aside, because her silly crush that was probably more than a crush wasn’t as important as figuring out what was wrong with Chloe.

And Max realized that Chloe may be in some kind of danger, and called out to her. “Chloe!” She tried to fix her shirt, fix her messy hair, took one deep breath to cool herself down - which didn’t work at all - and ran out of the truck.

Max ran, even though she knew she probably wouldn’t catch up to Chloe because Chloe had always been stronger, faster, and equipped with more stamina, and it had been too long since Max had even done so much as do an athletic stretch.

But this was Chloe, the girl she’d fallen in love with many years ago, so fuck her stamina and speed and logic, Max was chasing after her and she would not stop.

Max stopped upon finding a crowd of people surrounding a lanky, tall figure on the sidewalk in the unusually busy streets of Arcadia Bay as many people packed themselves up, ready to leave, even so early in the morning.

Because nothing was as convincing as having the mayor of Arcadia Bay itself tell you that a storm was coming and you need to pack up and leave immediately.

Of course, Max had watered down the theory, quite a lot. And most of the credit should go to Warren and Brooke. She basically just gathered the two of them and told them to make this storm ‘theory’ believable, and they did so.

They pieced the puzzles together, making the theory even more believable by connecting it to the snow and the dead whales and - heck - somehow even the eclipse.

The next step was having to convince someone with an official degree of sorts - specifically, the science kind of degrees - to approve the science stuff. Luckily, Miss Grant was there, and she’d wholeheartedly approve of their theory, and even bent backwards to help them give it to the mayor.

And the rest was history.

“Chloe! Chloe, wake up!”

“Kid, do you know this idiot?” 

“Yes!” Max hissed, dropping to her knees and cupping her cheeks, wincing at the blood pooling down her nose. “What happened?!”

“Don’t know. She was running like a hobo, then she just dropped dead.”

Of course she did.

Max, helped by a bunch of grumbling strangers, lay Chloe down on the bench, letting her head rest on Max’s thigh. 

Max looked up, as the sun began to cast more than just a dim yellow light. A new day was upon them. A new start. A thursday. The last peaceful day before the storm that may not even be that peaceful, with the two moons and all.

Chloe gasped back into reality. And Max pinched her in the nose, hard.

“What the- Max, what are you- ow. Ow! Ow, ow, ow, ow-!”

Chloe tugged Max back by the wrist, glaring up at her with red-tinted nose and sleepy eyes. She opened her mouth to protest, but Max beat her to it by saying, “ That was for running away like that.”

Chloe winced and held her nose and muttered, “I guess I deserved that,” in a nasally voice.

Max gave a well-deserved flick on the forehead, which caused Chloe to yelp. “And that was for everything else, including leaving me in the dark, this whole time.” Max huffed and crossed her arms and attempted to ignore Chloe’s existence, which was hard to do considering she was resting on Max’s lap.

“Max, I’m sorry.”

“Oh-” Max started “-and I have to drag your unconscious, heavy body with a bunch of locals’ help.”

“I owe you one, Maximus.”

Max looked down, demanding from Chloe just by the rise of an eyebrow. Chloe obliged, tried to sit up by propping her elbows, only for her elbows to give in and for Max to ease her back down again, chiding her once more. 

“Honestly, Chloe. I’m surprised you haven’t died yet.”

“Well, to be fair, I did die, like, five times.” Max gave her a look, and Chloe winced, licking her lips in a way that drew Max’s attention. She’d just kissed those lips. She knew them. Max blushed. She was never going to look at Chloe the same way again. “Yeah, sorry. Sometimes I forgot… I mean I tried, it’s just...” She shook her head, cleared her throat, and looked up at Max. And it was strange, having to look down on the taller girl. It made Chloe look younger, more vulnerable. 

“Maxipad…” Chloe began.

“Please don’t call me that,” whimpered Max. She wasn’t in the mood for Chloe’s ridiculous nicknames. She wasn’t in the mood for Chloe being ridiculous - period.

“I’m sorry for kissing you. I- I should’ve known not to do it. I crossed a line, there.” Chloe held her right hand with her other hand, circling patterns on the palm as she closed her eyes. “And even if I could rewind time, I wouldn’t do it, not to you, because-” Chloe’s eyes opened back, and all Max could see was earnestness “-you deserve to know how I feel about you.” Chloe gulped, and her hands lowered only for her to prop herself back up again. “It’s cool if you don’t feel the same way, or even if you hate me, or something. I just… don’t wanna lie to you anymore, Max.”

Max prevented Chloe from standing up by grabbing her on the shoulder. It still felt weird to touch Chloe like this, after what happened. It felt weird to be near Chloe. Max was almost uncomfortable. Max would’ve been uncomfortable if this were anyone other than Chloe.

Chloe looked back, eyes wide, and Max made sure her face was as stern as her voice when she said, “Who said I didn’t enjoy it?”

At Chloe’s incredulous look, Max’s stony attitude broke as she slumped onto the bench, fiddling with the hem of her shirt. “Look, Chloe, I did enjoy it. I really did. It was, umm-” her cheeks heat up “-nice, kissing you.” Max looked at Chloe, and her lips tugged down. “But then you tried to undress me.”

Chloe’s face fell. “Max, I am so, so sorry, I-”

Max held out her hands. “It’s okay.” Max paused, and reconsidered her words. “I mean, it’s not, obviously, but you didn’t know any better. You weren’t in the right headspace to know.”

What Chloe did to her was far from okay. But people made mistakes. And people learned. And Chloe would never try to hurt her deliberately. In the end, wasn’t that all that mattered?

“So… You forgive me?”

Max grinned, and hoped it didn’t look forced. The last thing Chloe needed to know was how heartbroken she truly was. “For now.”

And Chloe paused, for a long, long time. And then she said, “I can’t be with you,” which, yeah, admittedly, broke Max’s heart.

“Oh” was all she said, as she felt dozens of walls building themselves, wanting to lock her in, shutting her down.

“And not because I don’t love you. I do.”

Max looked up again. Did she just drop the L-bomb…?

It wasn’t like it was something that had never happened before. 

Chloe had uttered the L word, many times before, as gleeful, innocent kids. And Max had uttered them back. And they’d hugged it out.

But this was different, though.

This. The way Chloe was looking at her right now. This was unfamiliar. And if it had not come from Chloe herself, Max might’ve been terrified out of her wits. 

Chloe was a storm. Always had been. A big, powerful storm, ready to crush anyone who dared oppose her. Always pulling Max in. Always intense, always making her shiver and feel small and big all at once.

“Ask me why.”

Max blinked. 

She was in the eye of the storm. 

And someone else was there. Someone beautiful and blonde and someone else Chloe loved. Someone Max would like to get to know. 

“No.”

It was Chloe’s turn to say “oh”.

And it was nice. Being able to catch her off-guard like that.

Chloe took a shuddering breath, and grinned the kind of grin that reminded Max of their childhood. A grin that was undeniably Chloe. A grin she hadn’t seen in five years.

“Alrighty, then. Let’s go meet up with Stepdude.”

“... I’m sorry, who?”

Chapter Text

“So, is this the part where you told me how you can predict the future and know stuff you shouldn’t know?”

Chloe shrugged. One hand on the steering wheel, the other propping her cheek, her elbow resting on the window. Well, that was one of the simpler ways to put it. She hadn’t expected Max to be this blunt about it. But then again, she had been pushing the girl off of her limits many times now. It was still bizarre to think that Max had only reunited with her three or so days ago. Time travel’s trippy dude.

“Nah. I’m just gonna show it to you. And to Stepdude, too.” A pause. “Plus, I’m not the only one who can predict the future.”

Max stared, ignoring that second statement. “Stepdude?”

Chloe glanced at her. “You know. David.”

“... YOU MEAN MISTER MADSEN?!”

Max’s sudden increase in volume caused Chloe to jolt the wheel to the side, and for a car to honk at them, and for Chloe to sit up straight and use both hands on the steering wheel.

But could anyone blame Max? Why was it that she was only now finding out about this?

Chloe gave Max a worried, amused glance. “Uh. Duh. Who else could I be talking about?”

There was a pause, before it finally clicked. “YOUR STEPFATHER IS BLACKWELL’S SECURITY GUARD?!”

Chloe whistled howlishly and laughed at Max and her small meltdown. If her hands weren’t on the wheel, Max was certain Chloe would be clapping at her expense.“Damn. I did not expect us to be having this conversation right now.” 

Max glared at Chloe with the kind of glare that demanded answers.

Chloe, upon sneaking a glance at Max and realized how flustered she was, winced again and chuckled the kind of chuckle meant to diffuse tense situations. “Right. Focus.” A pause. “I talked to Mom-”

“You talked to Joyce?”

Chloe nodded. “Yeah, I did-”

“Did you guys make up?” Max leaned closer to Chloe, facing her.

Chloe chuckled and looked at her for one, two, five seconds, only for her to raise an eyebrow at Max. “I thought you said there was never any fight to begin with.”

Max giggled. “Yeah, but I didn’t expect you to admit it just like that. You’re too full of yourself.”

Chloe reached out and ruffled Max’s hair, and Max giggled again - not at all uncomfortable by the contact, despite what Chloe had done. “Rascal.”

That was when Max felt something familiar. Something she’d missed. Something that had been absent for five years, and was only now returning.

Ah, this, she thought. That feeling she got when she was hanging out with Chloe - really hanging out with her, not just pretend to be hanging out with her while Chloe hid stuff from her. 

It was childlike glee. It was playing pirates in an old backyard. It was an 8 year-old girl confessing that she didn’t want to be married to some snotty boy, and her 9 year-old friend telling her she wouldn’t have to marry to any boy, because she’d marry her first.

It was that 8 year-old blinking dubiously - far dubiously for it to be true - then asking, “But Chloe, what if I don’t wanna marry you?”

It was that 9 year-old blinking, grunting, and smiling as she ruffled her head, saying, “Rascal.”

It was home.

Home, at last.

They arrived at Blackwell, and Max made a move to get out of the car, but Chloe grabbed her by the shoulders and told her, “Hey, we should take a picture.”

“What?”

“Yeah, c’mon, dude!” Chloe grinned as though this was something very obvious. “My phone’s dead, so it should be from your camera.” Chloe pouted when Max wouldn’t budge. “Please?”

“Ugh, fine.”

Max’s hands travelled to her bag before she realized that it was broken and she basically had no camera. Chloe hummed to herself. “Huh. I forgot you still haven’t gotten your real camera.”

Max rolled her eyes as she adjusted the camera on her phone instead so she and Chloe could be in-view. “This is my real camera.” Even though it wasn’t. But Chloe didn’t need to know that.

“Sure it is.” 

Chloe suddenly grabbed Max by the neck and pulled her close, causing Max to yelp and widen her eyes as she clicked on the camera. “Photobomb!”

“Photo hog.”

“Heh,” she heard Chloe muttered under her breath. “Some things just never change.”

Click, said the camera.

The picture slowly came out, and revealed two dorks taking a selfie, Chloe suddenly blinked, and blinked again, and looked around.

“What is it, Chloe?”

Chloe looked at Max and smiled. The smile unnerved her, even if she didn’t know why. “Oh, nothing. It’s just that we ought to get that knife you stole from me. We’re gonna need it.”


 

Max was pale and nervous as they walked into where Chloe had said Mr. Madsen was.

“Wait, how would you know where he is?” Max had asked.

“‘Cuz of my superpowers, duh,” had been the unhelpful answer.

Max had wholeheartedly disagreed with Chloe’s suggestion, and Chloe had shrugged and said a simple “okay” .

“That’s it?” Max had asked, appalled. Chloe had never been the kind who would submit to others’ requests so willingly.

“Yeah. If you don’t wanna grab the knife, then you won’t grab the knife.”

Chloe was… weird. Chloe had always been weird, since the moment Max had seen her at that bathroom, but now it was a different kind of weird. A better kind of weird. 

She acted like the Chloe Max knew, even if she sometimes still zoned out and flinched at loud sounds.

They saw David barking orders at other officers near Nathan’s room. Max gulped, all of a sudden, realizing what they were about to do. 

Suddenly, Chloe was in front of her. “Hey, Max, I know you’re scared, but I promise you, nothing will happen to you. I won’t let it, okay?” Max nodded, and Chloe kissed her on the forehead and winked at her. “For good luck.”

And there was a moment there. A moment where Chloe’s head dipped down. And their mouths were close to touching. And Max could see it. In Chloe’s eyes. That yearning. That familiarity. A familiarity Max didn’t share. 

Max should step back. Break this tension before it really emerged. Before Chloe would do more than hug her and wink at her. After all, didn’t Chloe say she didn’t want this, even if she did love her?

Max should step back.

Max didn’t want to step back.

But the moment was gone already, and Chloe sauntered towards David, that cocky grin in place, and it took Max ten seconds to make her brain function again and walk to her, despite the jitters consuming her body.

And as Chloe neared her Stepfather, Max realized that she’d never seen the two interact before.

“Yo, David!” Chloe called out.

Mr. Madsen stopped, squinted at Chloe, and growled, “The hell do you want, kid?”

Oh, boy, thought Max, meekly, already regretting this. This will not end well.

“To tell the rest of Arcadia Bay to skidaddle the fuck out of this town.”

Chloe Price, never one to dance around a topic.

“What?” 

“Yeah, you know. You trusted me before when I told you to do what you did, won’t you trust me now?”

Mr. Madsen’s moustache twitched. “When have I ever done that?”

Chloe’s grin was so bright, it made her look like a kid again.

“When I gave you the info about The Dark Room.”

Mr. Madsen blasked, and the other officers stopped in their tracks to look at Chloe. Max fidgeted, feeling out of place. The dark room? What was that? She was starting to regret this decision. She shouldn’t have let Chloe wander around Blackwell like this. It was clear she was unstable-

“How did you know it’s called that?”

What?

Max looked up.

“Who do you think tipped you off, dude?” Chloe asked, raising an eyebrow. “I discovered Nathan, and Jefferson, and all of the other shit. And Frank too.” Chloe gave Mr. Madsen a look Max had never seen before. It was so out of place, yet it fit her perfectly. “A serial killer would’ve still been on the loose, posing as a hippie teacher.” Chloe started to walk as she continued. “You saw the name on that binder. The empty one. He was about to target Dicktoria. Yet you kept shifting the blame to Kate, like cornering her on Monday when she was alone.”

Dicktor- was she talking about Victoria?! And Kate was in on this too?! What did she mean by him cornering her?

Mr. Madsen glared at Chloe, and boy, he looked angry. “I didn’t know you two were close. Have you two been doing-”

Chloe’s scoff cut him off. “Dude. Me and and the church girl? Seriously? You could do better than that, dude.” She sighed and shifted her weight, crossing her arms. For once, it wasn’t an act of defiance. It reminded Max of how a concerned parent would cross their arms. “It’s not that you’re wrong for questioning her. I get what you were trying to do. Just… you shouldn’t have been so hard on her. You know she was going through a rough time. One wrong move and she would’ve done something horrible to herself.”

“Chloe, what the hell do you know about Kate?”

It took Max a moment to realize the words had come out of her mouth.

Everyone was looking at her; the officers, in interest, Mr. Madsen, in suspicion, and Chloe, in sorrow.

Because Kate was her friend. Her treasured friend. And Max really didn’t want anything to happen to her. And now Chloe was throwing her name around like she knew Kate when Max knew she shouldn’t know Kate. Max had never mentioned Kate. Kate had never mentioned Chloe. How could Chloe know?

Chloe turned to face Max, for the first time since this spiraling conversation started. “Because it happened, Max.”

Max had no time for Chloe’s eerie crypticness. “What?”

“She killed herself.”

And the dam broke, after many days of Chloe being so broken, so miserable, and so apathetic. 

Max didn’t even hear David’s bewildered “what?”.

Her patience snapped.

“Don’t you dare joke about my friend like that!” Even if it was true, even if Kate had confessed about it many times, it didn’t mean Chloe’s actions were justified. “I can take you distancing yourself from me like I’m some kind of kid or a stranger, but don’t you ever involve Kate into your mess! Not Kate! Never Kate!”

I didn’t involve her in anything,” seethed Chloe, looking equally betrayed and angry. “It’s Nathan and Jefferson who did. Just like they involved Rachel.” She pointed a finger into Max’s chest, causing her to stumble back because of both Chloe’s animosity and her strength. “Just like they involved you.”

Max scoffed, trying to cover up her fear at the mere idea. “Stop trying to drag me into this. I won’t- they wouldn’t-”

“Didn’t you whine about how much Jefferson admired your work?” Chloe’s grin made Max take a step back. Her words made her take another one. “About how he begged you to submit your picture for the Everyday Heroes contest. Going to San Francisco for the art gallery alone.”

“That’s enough, Price!” Mr. Madsen’s voice boomed.

Max had never been more glad to have the security guard near her.

Chloe rolled her eyes, fished something out of her pocket, and threw that thing in Mr. Madsen’s direction, who caught it without so much as flinching.

“Chloe?! Why the hell would you have a knife-”

“It’s not mine. It’s Frank’s.”

Mr. Madsen paused. “Bowers?”

“It’s the last piece of the puzzle. The murder weapon.”

Mr. Madsen, who’d been holding it like he knew how to use it, released its grip, looking as though the knife had burned him.

Max stumbled and fell down, looking up at Chloe. She wanted to run or scream or speak but she couldn’t do anything. Even breathing was hard.

It was the knife. The knife Max had stolen from her. How had Chloe gotten it? Max had checked her drawer this morning. It had been there. How had Chloe gotten a hold of it? How did she retain all of this information? How could she predict the future? What was wrong with Chloe?

Too many questions.

Far too many questions.

And fear too. A fair amount of fear.

Maybe, just maybe, Max was starting to understand why she could never be with Chloe. 

And why she should never have come close to her in the first place.

Because maybe Chloe was the dangerous one, here. Maybe she’d never hurt her, but that didn’t mean Chloe had never hurt anyone before. 

Because Max knew Chloe had hurt people. She didn’t have real proof, but she didn’t need to. It was in her eyes. The way her fists sometimes clenched and turned white. The way her eyes travelled around people, analysing them in a way so unlike the Chloe Price she knew. The way her body would tense at loud sounds.

Because Chloe had been hurt. And she had hurt, in return.

Because Chloe - the Chloe Max knew - was gone. And this girl, in front of her, was nothing more than a stranger.

The knife clattered to the ground.

Chloe walked, bent over, and picked up the knife, as though it wasn’t tainted by anyone’s blood. “The deal is, David, you bring this to your cop buddies, and in return, you stop bugging anyone from leaving.” She twirled it, and held the pointy end of it, extending it to David as a gesture of offering. 

“What makes you think I’ll accept this deal?” His nose twitched at the word ‘deal’.

“Because this-” Chloe waved the knife around “-will finally solve the old Damon case that’s been bugging everyone. Amongst other things.”

“What?”

“DNA test. Duh.” A pause. “Or is it a blood test? Rachel never specified…” She cleared her throat, acting as if she were a straight-A student giving a presentation in front of class. “Either way, you’ve got his journals, his memos, his everything after someone anonymous gave it to you. You’ve got everything, it’s true. But this, right here, will seal the deal.”

Mr. Madsen looked at Chloe, and down at her. He looked as terrified as Max felt. Max might’ve imagined it, but his fingers were trembling. “Chloe, is there something you want to tell me?”

Chloe looked up, thinking. She put the sharp edge of the knife on her chin, humming. Max winced. Murder weapon. Chloe was holding a murder weapon. Chloe looked back at David, her nonchalance intact. “Just that you’re cooler than I thought and that I’m sorry I was such a dick to you.” 

Mr. Madsen gaped. And Max had been surprised so much, she was numb at this point. She didn’t care to look deeper, at this point. Chloe said something nice? So what? 

Except she said something nice to Mr. Madsen, someone who didn’t seem to like Chloe, and someone who Chloe shouldn’t like or respect.

“Welp.” Chloe stretched her arms forward. As she sighed in relief, Chloe tossed the knife to Mr. Madsen’s direction, who caught it with the same precision as before, only with terror stricken on his face. “My job here is done. C’mon, Max.”

And when Max came to from her combination of freak-out and meltdown and panic attack, she and Chloe were right outside, at Blackwell’s empty parking lot, with Chloe dragging her by the wrist, her nose bleeding.

Max pulled away and grabbed her own wrist. Chloe’s touch, gentle, burned into her skin, and Max found herself rubbing at it. “What the fuck was that?”

Genuine worry creased Chloe’s face. “Shit, dude. I forgot you don’t like it when people touch your wrists.”

“What?! That is not true!” Why would she even-? That didn’t make any sense. “You know what, Chloe. I’ve had enough of you! I’ve tried to be patient because I thought you were still pissed at me for leaving you! But I have my limits too!”

Max braved herself and took one step forward, closer to the most dangerous person she’d ever known. The girl that used to be her best friend. The girl that used to bring her comfort, but now gave her nothing but fright.

“Chloe… please. Please tell me what’s going on.” She sobbed. “I’m begging you.”

Chloe stared, and started to shake. She pocketed her arms into her jacket, and her shoulders shrunk. “Don’t you think I want to tell you?”

“Then why won’t you?”

Chloe looked at Max. A rueful smile painted her lips. Her eyes were red, Max noticed, and not from weed. “Because I love you too much to let you become like me.”

Chloe braved a step. They were inches apart. Chloe had always been taller than Max. Max would have to tilt her head up, and stand on her tippy toes just so she could be on the same level as her.

Chloe looked down, her face rough with unspoken pain.

Max’s breath hitched as her fingers, calloused yet gentle with their touch, grazed along her cheek, down to her neck, and her arm, swivelling until they met her hand, resting at her palm.

The way Chloe touched her, and her hand, it was as though it held some kind of meaning.

“You have no idea what I’ve done, Max.” Max shivered at her voice and words, and she weakened under Chloe’s piercing stare. This was too much. Chloe’s love was too much. Chloe was too much.“The things I’ve done, and the things I’ll continue to do. All for you. And all for her.”

And Chloe disappeared out of thin air, leaving nothing but the trails of her touch and a shuddering feeling quite like a thunderstorm.



Chapter Text

Chloe arrived at Arcadia’s police station. Rachel stood, by her side. Whether she was a ghost, or a hallucination, or if she really was Rachel didn’t bother her in the slightest.

She supposed that proved how insane she’d gotten.

“You sure you want to do this?”

Chloe stared straight ahead, hunger in her eyes. “I’ve wanted to do this for a year.”

There was an absent of shuffling sound as Rachel shifted her weight. “Why didn’t you tell her, Chlo?” Rachel asked. “She would’ve believed you. She would’ve accepted you.”

Ah. That.

Chloe looked down. The temptation had been powerful, like no other.

It would’ve been easy.

But not for Max. 

“Guess I changed my mind.”

She walked inside with a stride, and slammed a hand on the desk at the receptionist, startling the officer which sat on the desk. “I’m here to see both Mr. Jefferson and Nathan Prescott. David Madsen sent me here. He’s my step father.”

The officer looked at her, uncertain and with fear, and it took Chloe a moment to remember she hadn’t bothered cleaning up the blood coating her face, down to the collar of her white top.

She must look like a mess.

Not that it mattered. Much.

As soon as he said a curt, “I’m sorry, kid, but-” Chloe rolled her eyes and raised her hand up.

The world around her stopped moving, and a pressure unlike any other hit Chloe like a dozen buckets of ice water.

She struggled, at first, to move, but she soon got the hang of it, letting herself into the cells, only to pause and gaped at how many cells there were, and grunted before returning to the receptionist.

She unfroze time.

“-no visitors allowed.”

“Oh, that’s okay.” She shrugged. “Can you at least tell me which cell they’re being held in.”

“No, I cannot.”

Chloe stared, and let her head fall down. “You really gonna make me do this?” she asked what was not quite a question, exparated. 

“What are you-”

With a snap of her fingers, Chloe unfroze time again, this time, with a grunt. 

Max had told her about it, with the incident of Kate Marsh on a rooftop, wanting to do an action that couldn’t be undone. She’d told Chloe the experience was similar to rewinding time, only much harder and more painful, ending with her face almost landing on concrete.

Chloe had practised with it, just as she had practised with the rewind. 

She was not a master of it, by any means, but she could at least start the freeze and stop it, even if it would may or may not with her passing out and getting the worst hangover ever.

Chloe hissed as she grabbed the gun from his belt. It was as if someone had pulled the lever on gravity up to the max.

She unfroze time only to swiftly aimed the gun at the receptionist officer.

“Tell me where they are!”

“I- I-”

“Now, dammit!” Chloe cocked the gun, and shoved it to his forehead.

He squeaked like the manchild that he was, and Chloe felt a rush of thrill inside of her, and she grinned.

“Prescott is on the furthest left, and Jefferson is on the farthest right!”

Wow. So fucking convenient. Chloe scowled, and put the gun on her jacket. He started to move, but Chloe paused time again before he could do anything, and rewound up to the point where she was still outside, out of his sight.

Chloe walked away from him. It took her awhile to get to Prescott’s designated cell, but she managed.

(Chloe wanted to throw up, and had almost fainted too many times on the way, but she pushed through it.)

She arrived with a nosebleed, a headache, and a manic grin on her face.

Fuckscott was hugging himself and weeping at the far corner of the room, surrounded by nothing but darkness and filth.

The sight made her chuckle.

She could just kill him right then and there, or maybe just leave him be to rot in prison, his name forever tainted and a normal life out of his reach, but…

“You want him to suffer,” said Rachel with a sigh as she leaned against the wall, arms crossed and one feet planted to the surface. She glowed in beauty, a contrast to this wretched place. “You want people to know what he’s done before you end him.”

Chloe nodded, said, “I do,” and began the beating.

...


 

Max tried not to freak out.

Max freaked out.

Luckily, her friends were there for her; Kate, Warren, and even Victoria.

They helped her sit down after they’d found her standing alone in the parking lot, and Mr. Madsen must had said something to them, because they were looking at her with such great concern in their eyes.

They were good friends.

Unlike Chloe.

“Max, have you not packed anything yet?” Victoria didn’t sneer at her, for once. She looked genuinely worried. It felt wrong to see her like that. “Everyone’s leaving already.”

“Yeah, thanks to you,” piped Warren.

“Even though we don’t know if the storm’s even real.”

That was when Max spoke, after muting herself out of shock. She looked up at Victoria, her tone grim when she said, “It’s real. And it’ll destroy everything.”

Everyone quieted. 

Max’s phone rang. Max dropped it when trying to pick it up. She dropped it twice. Her hands wouldn’t stop shaking. Warren offered to hold it for her, but she declined. “Hello?”

“Max. Maxine, dear.” It was Joyce. And she sounded frantic. “Have you seen Chloe? I can’t find her anywhere. Everyone’s leaving already and- David said her truck is still in Blackwell.”

Maxine stilled again. The shaking worsened. And her voice was robbed yet again.

Chloe, who’d disappeared out of fucking thin air like a fucking ghost. Chloe, who’d toyed with her feelings for far too many times and for far too long. Chloe, who’d looked at her expecting her to understand yet providing too many secrets.

Chloe, who’d used to comfort her when she was scared.

Chloe, who now scared her.

“Max? I’m at the bus station already. I- I don’t want to leave without her, but David says I have to before it’s too late. Max, why aren’t you answering?”

Max opened her mouth, but Warren’s gasp tore off her thought and her words. “Guys, look!”

And so Max looked.

And up there, high in the sky, filtered by the clouds and sprinkled by the stars, hovered two moons.

And all Max could think was that Chloe was right.

Chloe was right.

Max gripped the phone tighter.

Chloe…

“Max, please. Please bring my daughter back. I know she’s hurt you, I know she’s hurt a lot of people, but she’s hurt too. She’s hurting badly. I know she is, Max. I’m her mother. I know .”

Chloe, who was always so gentle, and so, so careful with her. Chloe, who loved her. Chloe, who’d never wanted to hurt her.

“Me too,” Max said, and pressed her phone tighter to her ear, as though it would give both Joyce and herself comfort. “Me too, Joyce.”

“Please, Max.” Max shut her eyes tight, as tears trailed down. She was in pain. So much pain. Chloe scared her. Max didn’t know who Chloe was anymore, and it scared her. “Find my daughter, and bring her back. Bring her back before it’s too late.”

But Max loved her. Even if it pained her, Max loved her.

Just one more chance, Max, she told herself. Give her one last chance.

So Max stopped shaking. And Max started moving.

Chapter Text

Nathan gasped into wakefulness on the first few kicks, and he tried to strangle out a yelp of help, to scream for his precious father to come and save his ass again.

But no one listened.

Or if anyone did, no one cared.

“You killed Rachel.” Blood spitting out of his mouth. A whimper. “Jeffershit made her believe all you two did was take pictures of her.” A kick to the eye. One that resounded in a satisfying quenching sound. “But we both know you’re too low for that.” Blood. Blood everywhere. In his eyes. In his hands. In her hands. Like paint. Paint everywhere. “You have a pretty girl too drugged to fight back or remember getting kidnapped at your disposal.” Paint. Innocent paint. “Max liked to believe otherwise, but I know better.” Sprinkling all over her. Decorating her face and shirt. “I know what you did.”

It turns out, she didn’t need the gun to kill him. Her fist and boots were enough. 

“You understand now, right?” asked Rachel, never too far, never too close, like a blurred image taken from a Polaroid out of an experienced pair of soft hands. As though she was meant not to be in-focus, like there was some deep meaning to it Chloe was too unphilosophical to comprehend. “Why I want them all to burn. Why I want everything to burn.”

The girl who sparked amber into the forest.

Chloe didn’t answer, and moved onto Jefferson.

Yes, she did understand.

At the same time, she understood nothing.

The whole time, Rachel was there. And Chloe realized, with each kick and throw and punch, that Rachel had always been there, always watching, always in her dreams. 

And Jefferson was much more of a talker than Nathan.

It evoked a new kind of rage.

He was worse than Nathan.

He orchestrated everything. 

He. Hurt. Everyone.

“I’ll- I’ll give you anything you want,” he said, even as she broke his lungs. His ribs. His nose. His everything. Him. 

“I swear. I’ll give you anything.” Click, said the camera.

“Money.” Click. “Fame.” Click, click. “Both.”

The camera clicked one last time - a pathetic shuttering sound, too weak to produce a decent film, if it could produce it at all - and died. At long last. It would not speak again.

“It’s done,” Rachel said, looking at the bloodied, bruised, destroyed limbs messily tangled together and bent all over. “It’s finally done.”

Chloe shook her head. 

“Chloe, if you keep this up, you’ll-”

“Not done yet,” Chloe spoke over her pants. “Just… One more.”

And Rachel looked at her, bewildered, then forlorn, and she was gone, as always, and Chloe sighed, and entered one last cell.

Frank’s cell.

Unlike Pressdick and Jeffershit, he was awake, looking at her as though she’d trespassed into his RV and she needed to skidaddle the fuck out of here.

He was gross, slimy, and the thought of him touching Rachel made her want to vomit. 

“I told you I’d make you pay.”

And that ignited something in Frank. Something bloody and gruesome. Something like Pompidou, but bigger, worse, filthier, and more shattered.

How had she been so foolish to consider him a friend?

“You…” he started accusingly, but Chloe didn’t want to hear what he had to say.

A punch. A kick. A string of punches and kicks. 

Frank lied on his back, coughing and wheezing like the pathetic shit of a man that he always was.

“Why’d you do that to her?” Chloe found herself asking. “I thought I could trust you! She thought so, too!”

And Frank chuckled, his teeth red with blood.

“Oh… That. Heh. ‘S not like she didn’t enjoy it-”

And Chloe kicked him again. And she punched him again. Again and again. 

And Frank just never. Stopped. Talking.

“You got it all wrong. Look. I love her, ‘kay? You know I do. I’d never, ever hurt her. She loves me too. What’s wrong with that?”

What was wrong?!

Was he seriously asking that?!

“What’s wrong is that you’ve been doing it for God knows how long behind my back and she never wanted to be with you in the first place!”

And more.

So. Much. More.

Frank was sleazy, and gross, and dirty, and he grinned like he knew it and was proud of it - proud that he’d put his slimy, greasy hands all over Rachel, touching her in places she never wanted him to touch. 

It was all too much. 

“Oh, she wanted it. I can tell. She pretended that she didn’t, but she did. What we have- had was complicated. But I loved-”

One more punch. She couldn’t let him finish it. One last punch. A punch to his nose. Shattering its bone completely. Rendering him unconscious.

Only, it didn’t. Not yet.

He stared at her, genuine confusion filtering his face. It made him look younger, especially with that wide eyes of his.

“I… I don’t get it.” His slur was so bad she had to focus to hear him. Not that she wanted to hear anything that came out of his blood-filled mouth. “If you wanted to kill me, why send me to prison?”

“Maybe it’s because it’s what Max would’ve wanted.” She leaned in, not caring about his personal bubble whatsoever, and relished in the way he whimpered and trudged back. Or tried to, anyway. “Or maybe it’s because I want the world to know what you did.”

She didn’t need to offer him one last punch - a super ultimate knock-out K.O hit. He fell unconscious after giving her a stare a cowering kid would give to the dark corners of his room at night after he’d been woken up by a strange noise.

Chloe stood and swayed and hunched. She was painted with the blood of her victims and her own blood. It coated her face, tainted her shirt. And it ran all the way down to her boots.

The deed was done. And Chloe no longer had any reason to stay here anymore, nor leave Arcadia.

She wasn’t sure she had any real reason for living anymore.

It used to be for Max. Because Max needed her. Because she was the only thing keeping her stable, grounding her.

But now Max wasn’t so broken that she couldn’t handle a moment without Chloe anymore.

Max wasn’t broken at all.

Sure, Chloe had hurt her feelings, but Max was strong in her soft, shy way. She could handle it. She hadn’t lost anyone yet. Her friends would take care of her. Friends who were alive.

And Chloe sat in her bed, looking at her room one last time, committing each and every memory to detail, as a stray tear fell.

She'd cleaned up nicely. After the shower had washed away the blood, she'd put on her dad's old flannel.

It still had his scent. 

Both her beanie and her bullet necklace were resting on her drawer.

She didn't know why, but to wear them at this moment felt… wrong. Fake, almost. She couldn't explain it. And she doubted it even mattered. It wasn't as though she'd tell anyone why if she could. It wasn't as though she could talk to anyone period.

Chloe doubted many things mattered.

She was alone. She had a gun in her hand - the gun she’d stolen from David - and she was alone. 

Because Max hated and feared her, now. She’d made sure of it. It wasn’t like she mattered to Max. Not to the Max in this timeline. Max didn’t know her. And she didn’t know Max. It was better this way. They were strangers. 

And Rachel was dead.

She stared at the photograph of her and Rachel one last time. One last time before she left. She wanted to memorise her, memorise Rachel, memorise the forgotten girl. 

The photograph was bold, and happy, and it envied Chloe. Her, with a middle finger and a wicked grin, and Rachel, always so proper and maintained.

“It’s so fucking unfair, Rach.”

It didn’t make things easier. In fact, it made things harder, knowing that everyone, everyone was alive in fact for those who didn’t matter except for Rachel.

Chloe expected the ghost or hallucination of her to appear. She needed her right now. So, so badly. But even her own damn imaginations abandoned her. Ha fucking ha ha.

As she stared, ringing came to her ears, and everything around her blurred except for the photo.

And there was a click and a shutter as the camera worked to produce the photograph.

And Rachel, alive and healthy and free of anger, bumped her hip into Chloe’s and said, “Nice job, Chloe. You just had to ruin our shot.”

And everything burned down and bettered itself one last time.

Chapter Text

“R-Rachel?”

Rachel, alive and grinning with that smile that always pulled Chloe into falling in love with her. 

“Aww, don’t worry. There’s plenty more where that came from!”

“Rachel.”

Rachel, rolling her eyes and feigning annoyance, even when the sparkle in her eyes and the way they crinkle said otherwise. “Fine, fine. I suppose I could take another shot.”

Rachel, alive, alive, alive-

Chloe wasn’t sure if she’d spoken her name again.

She sure as hell thought of it, though.

In fact, it was the only thing she could think about.

And soon, she couldn’t even think at all. Nor breathe. Or maybe she could. She didn’t know. She didn’t- she couldn’t- fuck, why couldn’t she-

Rachel, alive, hovering over her now, her frown real, genuine, and saying Chloe’s name. But Chloe couldn’t be sure. She couldn’t hear anything. She could only see her mouthing of Chloe’s name. Whether it was a whisper or a yell was up for debate.

And Chloe’s senses returned only to tell her that she was hyperventilating, and crying an ugly cry and and seizing and spasming, and-

Oh.

So this is what a panic attack feels like.

Who would’ve thought?

And Rachel was panicking alongside her, saying stuff about how it was “too much for you” and “you shouldn’t have tried LSD” and “God I’m such a fucking idiot” and “breathe, Chloe, fucking breathe ” so much so that Chloe was sure she wasn’t the only one who was having a panic attack.

And finally Chloe could move, could comprehend, even if a little, that Rachel was here, next to her, and she could touch her.

So Chloe grabbed her, clawing her hands deep into her skin and pulled her into a hug, and heaved in relief.

“Rachel…”

She was a mess. More of a mess than she was when she’d been pulled back into the past, into an Arcadia Bay when it was intact and whole and shitty but alive.

Wow. She missed Rachel. She really, really fucking miss her. She kept telling herself she’d moved on, and she had Max now, and she shouldn’t get too hung up on her, but man.

Seeing Rachel. Actually seeing her.

It broke her in too many ways.

“Rachel…”

She tasted something metallic, like copper, dripping into her mouth. She didn’t have to wipe her hand onto it and look to know it was blood.

“Chloe- fuck- get off so I can call the ambulance for you!”

“I missed you. I really, really missed you.”

“Chloe?” 

There was a hint of fear in her voice, but Chloe didn’t give a shit, not now, not when Rachel was alive and well, and probably scared shitless of and for her.

She kept on hugging Rachel, pulling her close, as close as possible, so that she had no way of escaping, of slipping away from her grasp--

And Rachel flew away from her grasp.

And Chloe was back in her room again.

And she was alone.

“NO!” she cried out, looking around, as if Rachel would pop out of some hiding place and surprise her and declare that she was fine, she’d always been, and this was a joke, and- and-

She tried to stand up, only to find herself unable to. She struggled to sit up. She struggled to breathe. She struggled. 

And Max was there, barging into her room. And Chloe couldn’t see her very well, but she knew Max was crying.

And she could no longer struggle.


Chloe, upon waking up, struggled, even if she didn’t know what she was struggling and why she should struggle in the first place.

All she knew was that she needed to find Rachel, and soon, before it was too late.

“Chloe?”

There was no Rachel. But there was Max. And Max was also in danger. Just like Rachel. Just like everyone. 

Chloe sprung into a sitting position and grabbed Max’s hand, clutching against the wrist, even when she knew how much of a bad idea it was, knew how much Max hated her wrists to be bound, as it reminded her of an unpleasant time in an unpleasant dark room.

“Max?! Where is she?! I need to find her!”

But Max wasn’t Max, and she didn’t scream when Chloe touched her wrist. She knew nothing of any dark, unpleasant room. She looked distressed, less because of the wrist thing and more because of Chloe acting the way she was acting and the fact that her nose was probably bleeding.

Max wasn’t answering. And Chloe hated it. “Max, tell me. Tell me now! I need to find her!”

“Find who?!”

“RACHEL!”

She wasn’t there. Wasn’t with Chloe. Wasn’t in her arms.

Rachel was gone. Missing.

Where was she?

The need to find Rachel was familiar. Chloe didn’t understand why. This was the first time this sort of shit happened. So she pulled her phone. And called Rachel’s number.

“Chloe, stop!”

Chloe didn’t stop.

And when Rachel didn’t pick up, it hit her.

Oh.

She shivered despite not feeling any chill.

Oh. 

She’s dead.

So Chloe wept. Because no way was Rachel alive. It must be some sick dream caused by her return to Arcadia Bay.

Chloe wept, and Chloe barely felt anything anymore, and she felt herself swaying.

She would’ve hit her head on the ground if it weren’t for Max, saving her life for the hundredth time by clutching at her shoulder. “C-Chloe, we- I really think we should get you to a hospital.”

A hospital? “What for?”

“This!” Max hissed, gesturing at Chloe’s form with one hand while the other struggled desperately to keep her upright. “Everything, Chloe! Everything! Your nose keeps bleeding, you keep passing out, spacing out, and trembling and shaking for no damn reason, and you look like you haven’t eaten in days!”

That’s because I haven’t. She’d kept putting it off, like how a child would keep on putting off doing his homework or cleaning his room, telling himself there was always tomorrow. Eating, drinking, dreaming; they all felt unimportant, especially with her trying to figure out how to fix everything.

“Maxie-”

“I saw the gun.”

Chloe froze at that. The gun. The gun with one bullet which she’d planned to aim at herself. 

Chloe gulped. Where was the gun? Did Max have it? Did she plan on keeping it with her? Or did she plan on tossing it into the garbage can?

But it wasn’t like it mattered. The gun itself wasn’t the problem. With the way Max was looking at her, Chloe knew she felt the same way. She’d seen this look too many times, back in the original timeline, in the real timeline, the one where both of them were broken.

It was the look of someone who desperately wanted not to grieve, and didn’t know what to do.

Chloe wanted to rub her hands, but instead, she forced those hands to reach out to Max, to reassure her, to comfort her, just as always.

“I’m okay, Max.”

And then Max slapped her. Right on the cheek.

The impact rang so broadly against these stifling walls, it sounded like a gunshot.

It wasn’t the first time Max had ever hit her.

But it was the first time this Max hit her when she was sober.

Chloe didn’t know what to say. But it seemed she didn’t need to say anything, because Max was doing all the talking for both of them. 

“I- Oh my Dog I am so, so sorry, Chloe, I didn’t mean- it’s just that- you-” Max gulped. Her hands were outstretched towards Chloe, but not quite touching her. She looked like she wanted to, though. “You were- I just hate it when you act like that, like you’re fine. You’re not, Chloe. I know you’re not. I’m quiet, not dumb.” And she was crying, Chloe realized. She’d been crying, this entire time. Why did Chloe only now notice it? Was she that messed up in the head to not figure out that the girl she loved was in pain because of her? “And something’s wrong with you, and I don’t know what, and you won’t let me help you for some reason, and it makes me feel like I’m- like this is all just some huge joke to you!”

In a way, it was.

But Chloe would never say that, not to her. 

Chloe wanted to smile. 

It relieved her to know that Max had hit her, not because she knew Chloe wanted to kill herself, not because she thought she was Jefferson or Nathan, and not because she, in her addled mind, blamed Chloe for killing everyone.

It made her happy to know that Max cried not because she blamed herself for everything, or that she missed all of her friends in Blackwell, or that she’d seen Jefferson and Nathan in her dreams again.

Truly, it did.

It meant that, even if Chloe had messed up everything else, at least Chloe had saved Max. Even if it meant pushing her away.

Arcadia Bay was always quiet, but now it was almost a ghost town. It would be a ghost town, soon. Once everyone was gone. 

It almost felt like a dream.

Max was beautiful. And Chloe smiled and wasn’t ashamed as she stared at her. 

“I think it’s time for you to leave, Max.” Max paused, and hiccuped. She stared at her as though she wasn’t sure what to do. Chloe looked at her window, and tried to imagine everyone in Arcadia Bay leaving this cursed town. She wanted Max to be one of those people. “The storm will come soon, I wager.”

“Will you leave too?”

No. Of course not. Chloe smiled and nodded. Max stood up, and turned to face the door, then looked back at Chloe. “Take care of yourself, Chloe.”

Perhaps the other Max, the broken one, would’ve hesitated before declaring that she needed to be near Chloe, to not let go of her again. Maybe she wouldn’t need to hesitate at all; not standing up in the first place, not letting Chloe tell her what to do.

But not this one. Not this one.

And so Max left Chloe, probably to return to her after a five-year gap.

As soon as the door closed, Chloe grabbed the picture again - the one of her and Rachel. 

It can’t have been a dream.

It just can’t.

She wouldn’t accept it. Even if it was reality.

She took a moment to look at the picture again, and remembered how real it felt to touch Rachel, how real Rachel’s skin was, and her voice, and her mannerisms, down to every twitch and jolt and roll of the eyes and crinkle of the smile.

And Chloe, never bothering to wipe clean of the blood on her mouth and caking her shirt and fists, whimpered, “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon,” as she tried her best to rewind without rewinding, somehow enter into the photograph, to the moment when it was taken.

And somewhere, some part of her berated her for not thinking about this option, for not realizing this option existed in the first place. Because of course the photo-jump thing didn’t only work on the butterfly picture. That would be stupid. And damn it , why hadn’t she think of this before? Why would it only work on the butterfly picture? It was absolute nonsense! And didn’t Max said something about meeting Dad again? Saving his life, somehow? And it costing Chloe’s own life in return?

Chloe had thought of it as utter nonsense; a side-effect of the many rewinds she’d kept pushing herself to do.

Chloe stopped her efforts momentarily to clutch her head and her mouth, heaving. The pain was getting worse. She was getting worse. 

But it didn't matter. 

She didn't matter.

She stopped for but a moment, and pushed forward, stretching herself onward carelessly, painfully, and unhealthily.

Chloe had thought wrong, it seemed.

As she kept on rattling, “Please, work, please work, please fucking work already,” it occured to her;

She could bring Rachel back.

Chapter Text

So Chloe, upon entering the past of the past, grabbed Rachel one more time and hugged her. “Oh God, oh fuck. Rachel.”

And Rachel did try to push away, because why shouldn’t she? Chloe was being Chloe, being weird, being crazy, and Rachel was alive. She was saying something along the lines of, “Does LSD seriously turn you all touchy-feely?”, but she was alive.

And Chloe pulled away, after quite a while, only to look at her in the eyes, smile a teary smile, and kiss her.

But Rachel didn’t kiss back, and that was what snapped Chloe back to reality, make her realize that Rachel didn’t know what had happened - or would happen - to her. 

So Chloe pulled away, and ignored Rachel’s, “Do you need to, like lie down?” and cupped her cheeks.

“Rachel, listen to me.”

“Chloe?”

And that was when Chloe realized she didn’t know what to say. How did Rachel die, exactly? By hanging out with Pressdick? By having a massive girl-boner for Jeffershit?

They were the logical choice, but the word that came tumbling out of her mouth instead was, “You need to stop banging Frank.”

And fear crosses Rachel’s face, and she paled, and she stepped away from Chloe as though Chloe would hurt her and that hurt Chloe. “What?”

And Chloe didn’t know what to say. She opened her mouth and closed it and tried to open it again only to find that she couldn’t, for some reason. Because why was Rachel looking at her like that? Like Chloe was going to yell at her or- fuck, hit her. She wouldn’t. Not now, not even before . She wasn’t- she would never be cruel, not to Rachel, not after she’d realized what losing her felt like.

She was not him.

In the end, all that could tumble out of her thick, cold tongue was a simple “Rach” and that was all it took for Rachel to snap.

“Fine. I did it. I fucked him. I cheated on you. I fucking did it, Chloe!” Rachel roared, and Chloe took a step back, because wow, she’d forgotten how intense Rachel could be. “Is that what you want to hear, huh?! You really want to feel good about yourself that bad?!” She scoffed. “As if you’ve never cheated on me.”

Chloe felt every muscle in her body harden and every bone threatening to break.

She trudged to Rachel, fast and ruthless like a bull, snarling like a dog, and pointed one sharp finger into the center of Rachel’s chest.

“I have never, not once, cheated on you.”

Rachel sneered. “Bullshit.”

Chloe growled, and press her nails into Rachel’s skin deeper. “How could you even think that?” she murmured, her voice hoarse, her teeth clattering. Her body felt hot. It was odd, because, if she remembered correctly, then the month was supposed to be late November or early December, and the first snow was going to fall tonight.

And the only reason why Chloe remembered was because she and Rachel snuck out of their bedrooms late that night and goofed around from the streets and into the junkyard, young and carefree, and Chloe had tried to eat the snowflakes as they fell while Rachel had cheered and whooped from the side.

“How could I- Are you serious , Chloe?! I knew you were daft but- but this is too much!”

Huh?

“Haven’t you ever seen the way those Blackhell chicks look at you!? The way every girl looks at you?!”

The fuck?

“Ugh! It’s so disgusting! Don’t they know boundaries?! I know we never really made it official but they should know ! They should fucking know that your dumb ass is mine!”

Excuse me? “My ass isn’t dumb-”

“And one of them had the audacity to come up to me and- and- fucking told me she was gonna try to steal you away!”

“Who?”

Rachel stopped, all of a sudden, and shrunk under Chloe’s gaze. She hugged herself and looked away and sighed. She mumbled something inaudible, something along the lines of “Tori”, then said in a stronger tone, “Does it even matter?”

“... No. Guess not.” Chloe stepped forward, reaching out for Rachel, only for Rachel to take a step back.

“Rachel… It’s okay.”

Rachel’s head snapped up in shock. Chloe mustered the most genuine smile she could. 

She extended her arms.

“C’mere.”

Rachel looked wary, at first. She looked at Chloe and searched for something. She blinked, apparently finding something. She choked a sob and threw herself at Chloe.

It would’ve been weird for anyone else to see the perfect Rachel Amber be this much of a wreck. But Chloe wasn’t just anyone. Rachel, for some fucking reason, liked her, and trusted her this much.

Chloe wondered if Rachel would still loved her after knowing what she had done.

But then again, Chloe still loved her, knowing what Rachel had done - or what she was about to do, in this case.

“I’m sorry. I’m so, so fucking sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

“It wasn’t. He wouldn’t let me go, Chloe. I tried to get away, he just wouldn’t-”

“I know, Rach. I know.”

But would leaving Frank take care of everything? 

Chloe supposed not. If she had only one chance at this, she needed to be smart.

But for now, Chloe was content to stay like this, holding her lover in her arms, as more and more tears fell.

Rachel was alive.

Rachel was alive.


Chloe stood by the doorway, distracted by what was outside their hideout. Everything was orange. It looked like fire, but warmer, less dangerous, and whiter.

She got the hang of it. This weird power, weirder than the rewind, and how it worked.

The trick was to remember. Remember every bit of detail. Remember how the memory was supposed to go. Just- remember.

The more she forgot, the less focused everything became. If that happened, she knew she was going to get propelled out of the past.

And, oh yeah, she had to concentrate. Like, real fucking hard. And her head got fuzzier and more painful, the longer this went on.

But that was okay. She’d be fine with dying so long as she got to see Rachel one last time. She was pretty sure she was dying anyways, with how much she’d pushed herself. Not like it mattered or anything.

“-loe?”

“Huh?”

Chloe looked back at Rachel again, who sat on the couch, and noticed something weird. Not a bad kind of weird, but not a good one, either. She didn’t know how to explain it. She didn’t even know what made her feel a little weird. 

“Why are you not mad at me?”

Chloe brushed aside that weirdness, staring outside. “I’ve been angry for years,” she muttered absentmindedly. “Now I’m just glad.”

“Years?” Chloe stared back at Rachel, who had paled considerably. “Chloe- I- I’ve only been banging Frank for, like, a week.”

Shit.

Chloe rewound and got a massive headache.

“-hy are you not- Chloe?”

Chloe stumbled on her weak legs and leaned on the doorframe for support, breathing heavily, and wishing Rachel wouldn’t pay it any mind.

“Fuck! Your nose is bleeding again!”

Oh, yeah. Chloe had forgotten how much of a worry-wart Rachel could be. When it came to Chloe, that was.

Before Chloe could even say ‘hella’, Rachel was guiding Chloe to their ragged old couch, letting Chloe rest her head on her lap. 

It was all too intimately familiar.

Chloe wished Max was here. Her Max, not the one whose heart she’d broken. What would she have said? What would Rachel think? Her and Max, together. 

Rachel would probably beat the shit out of Max for “stealing my girl!”

Max would probably say something along the lines of “I’m sorry, I thought you were dead but I also would like to kiss Chloe!”

It would’ve been hilarious.

Chloe wasn’t sure even Max’s power could deal with Rachel’s wrath.

Then again, she wasn’t sure Rachel could handle Max’s puppy eyes and little o-shaped lips. 

Chloe found herself giggling.

It, obviously, worried Rachel.

“Umm… Chloe?”

“Sorry, sorry. Just-” a chuckle “-thinking about Max.”

The hands trailing down Chloe’s hair tensed and stopped the motions completely. “Max?”

“Yeah.”

“The Max you promised you don’t miss anymore. The Max you swore you won’t think about anymore.”

Chloe hummed. “Well, to be honest, I never really stopped thinking… and missing…”

Rachel looked at her incredulously, unable to decide if she should smile or not. She looked so young, and she made Chloe feel so old.

“Seriously, Chlo?”

“Don’t be jealous babe,” Chloe winked, “it’s not like I never stopped missing you too."

Rachel’s worry subsided into fondness. “Ugh, you’re such a sap.”

“You love it.”

“Sadly, I do.”

Rachel was alive. She was alive and well.

But she wouldn’t be for long if Chloe didn’t do something about it.

The prospect of losing Rachel again after getting her back. It nauseated her. More than anything.

“Chloe, what’s-”

“You need to stop hanging out with Jeffershit and Dickscott.”

And that triggered another round of repulsive moodiness.

Rachel looked away, not trying to hide her anger. “You are never trying LSD again.”

Chloe pushed herself up. Their noses almost touched. She so, so wanted to taste Rachel’s lips again, to memorize it and cherish it the way she’d never done before because she used to be an idiot who smoked and drank and wasted her life when she could’ve done more.

Maybe she should’ve been a better lover for Rachel.

Maybe if she had been better, Rachel would still be alive.

“I’m serious, Rachel.”

Rachel jolted away from Chloe, causing them to hit each other in the nose. Chloe hissed while Rachel uttered a loud “Shit!” that didn’t seem to be caused only by the pain.

Rachel stood up. Shoulders broad. Body tense. Eyes aflame.

“Well, I am too! You’ve been acting so fucking strange! You knew I banged Frank, but you’re not mad, like, at all! Then, you have this look in your eyes when you’re looking at me! It’s like- it’s like you’ve seen Hell and it’s really fucking with me!”

“Fine, that’s alright, be angry at me for all I care-”

“And that ! That right there!” Rachel flicked her index finger towards her, as if a point had been made. She looked so angry. No, not angry. Mad. At what? Chloe was unsure. “I’ve been trying so, so hard to make you care about yourself for once! It was working! You were okay! And now it’s like you’re back to who you were before- only- only worse!”

Worse, huh?

I guess watching everyone die and knowing your dead lover rise up from the dead after being drugged and raped does that to you, huh?

But Rachel didn’t know that. Rachel didn’t know anything. Not of the Jefferson and Nathan’s dangers. Not of Arcadia Bay’s curse. Not of anything. 

This wasn’t the Rachel she’d come to know for the past few days, and even before all of that. This wasn’t a ghost, or a hallucination. She was here, she was real, and it somehow felt wrong.

Just like with Max, Chloe was alienated from Rachel. She was Rachel, yet she wasn’t.

And Chloe wanted to die all over again.

“Rach…”

Rachel was saying something. Chloe couldn’t bring herself to listen. But she tried to, anyway. She wanted to hear Rachel’s voice again. She’d missed it. In the end, all she caught was, “-so don’t fucking tell me who I get or don’t get to hang out with! That’s a fucking red flag and we both know it, Chloe.”

Chloe grunted. Her, throwing off red flags? Ha! Yeah. Sure thing. But so did Nathan, and Jefferson, and Frank. Did Rachel took notice of those flags and stray away from them?

Chloe wished the answer was a yes.

“You don’t understand-”

But Rachel cut her off with that condescending, motherly-sounding tone of hers, as if Chloe was being a needy child. As if nothing bad was going to happen.

“Nathan is my friend. One of my closest. I know you two never see eye-to-eye-”

“HE KILLED YOU, DAMMIT!”

Rachel gaped. Shock quickly turned to spite. Rachel stomped her shoes to the floor, baring her teeth. For a moment, she looked like she wanted to question Chloe, but her anger won out over her logic. “Fuck you, Chloe! You know what, we’re done here!” She turned and walked away in one swift motion. “No, no, wait!” Chloe tried to reach out, only to stumble and fall down. “Fuck! Rachel!”

But Rachel was gone. Rachel left her, abandoned her, just like Max, just like Dad, just like everyone. She went into the orange and the white of the outside, where nothing seemed real.

Reality began to blur. Chloe could hear echoes of the present and future beckoning to her, pulling her forward.

Chloe knew what was happening. And she rewound without thought. 

“Nathan is my-”

“Argh!”

The pain was too much. Everything was too much.

Chloe registered something solid pressing against the back of her head. She tried to open her eyes, caught a glimpse of Rachel looking down on her, only to close them again. 

“Chloe!? Chloe! That’s it! I’m getting your ass to the hospital! And then we’re- we’re talking about this. Fuck. You may not even remember this.”

Oh, how funny it was for someone else to think she, of all people, would not remember.

Chloe laughed, and with all the strength she could muster - which wasn’t much - pushed herself off of the floor, ignoring Rachel’s cries of protest and worry.

Chloe remembered. Chloe remembered everything. It was why she was the way she was, after all. 

Chloe blinked, and noticed something odd. 

“... I’m… sweating…”

Rachel laughed. Her laugh sounded too loud. Too forced. “Yeah, no shit, sherlock.”

But that wouldn’t cut it. 

Chloe wiped the beat of sweat on her face, and accidentally wiped the red of her blood as well. She looked at her hand. It was red. All of it was. Rachel uttered a low “Jesus Christ” under her breath. 

This room was too hot. 

Chloe was sweating. Rachel was not.

Even with all of these heat, she wasn’t sweating.

Rachel’s eyes had a small flicker to them. It was something Chloe had used to dismiss as a trick of light, or labelled as Rachel Amber being Rachel fucking Amber. But that was then. This was now. And Chloe no longer believed anything mystical was bullshit.

When did Chloe ever see Rachel sweating, exactly?

So Chloe stared at Rachel with bewilderment and a hint of hate towards herself. How could I not have figured this out sooner?

A small smile morphed into her mouth. It was cruel, and too satisfied for anyone’s taste. Chloe couldn’t help herself, though. This all just made too much sense. “You have powers too.”

Chapter Text

The silence was overwhelming, and suffocating, and made it seem like the world was frozen.

Chloe hated silence. She always had.

“What?”

Rachel said that word as though she didn’t understand what Chloe was talking about. And it would’ve been convincing were it not for the shock in her face.

It never occurred to her that Rachel had had her powers this soon. It probably should've. If the dead version had powers, why couldn't the living? Hell, technically, Chloe was dead, and here she was. Time powers 'n everything.

Because her dreams were never just dreams and Rachel was too special to just be a missing girl.

“You do, don’t you?”

“I- I don’t…”

“It’s no use lying to me now, Rachel.” A wolfish grin appeared on her face. Chloe barked a chuckle, her shoulders trembling with the motion as she swayed. “My god. It’s so fucking obvious, how could I’ve missed it?”

Because Chloe used to be a big idiot who would never care about how hot the temperature had gotten or how sudden thunder and rain had come when she’d been busy arguing about pathetic, meaningless things with Rachel.

Because the Chloe of now had seen Rachel in a light other than beautiful.

The light that was the storm.

The light that was the ghost.

The light that was the dark.

Because the Chloe of now would think twice before brushing off the way Rachel had burned an entire forest down with a lighter and a kick and a scream.

Because the Chloe of now knew better than to write off any weirdness as a result of technicality, and not more.

“Rach… Why did you never tell me…?”

Rachel was shocked. She was, obviously, still angry, but she held it down, not expecting Chloe to be civilized about this. She sighed and hugged herself and looked down and she looked so, so small and so, very scared.

“I don’t know. I don’t think- I don’t know what’s wrong with me…” Rachel sniffled and looked up at Chloe to smile a grim smile. “Maybe it’s because I knew you would never believe me.”

“I would, Rachel.” Even then. Even before the return of Max and the existence of time travel and the destruction of Arcadia Bay, Chloe would believe Rachel, always, no matter what. She’d believe anything, when it came to Rachel. She had been that in love with her. Still was.

Rachel seemed to understand and follow her train of thought. “Yeah, but not for the right reasons.” She shook her head. “And it’s not like I understand it myself. Most of the time, I just ignored it.”

But something still didn’t quite make sense to Chloe. “You control fire?” She tilted her head to the side. It made sense, but at the same time, it didn’t.

Rachel seemed to think of the same time, wincing. She extended her hand towards Chloe, and it took Chloe too long to realize she was still sitting on her ass in this hard, uneven as fuck concrete. “Nah. I don’t ‘control’ anything.”

“What about rain? Thunderstorms? You control them too?” Chloe took her hand, her knees buckling as she stood up. It was okay, though. Rachel was there. And she, of course, helped her to sit back on the couch for the second time that day. Chloe felt silly. She was the one with time-travelling powers yet she was the one in-need of saving. She wondered if Max had ever thought the same way.

“Wow, hold the brakes there, Chlo. Like I said, I don’t control anything.”

Rachel chuckled the kind of chuckle she let out when she was nervous, and Chloe shut herself up from going all analytical and science-y. Rachel was still scared, still clueless. She didn’t know what was to come. To her, their biggest concerns now were finding out a way to get money to leave Arcadia Bay. 

Chloe thought of the storm, the dead people, and Max. “Then how do you do it?”

Self-consciousness filled Rachel, shaking her.

“... You probably won’t believe me.”

Chloe frowned and said “Rachel…” in a warning, almost parental tone. 

It worked on Rachel as well as it worked on Max. Rachel’s arms fisted to her side and she stomped. “Ugh. It’s got something to do with my feelings! Okay? Yeah, it’s super geeky and emotional and shit and you’re definitely gonna laugh at me!” 

And Rachel hid her face in her hands and even that didn’t stop Chloe from seeing how red her cheeks were and God damnit, this was why she loved Rachel.

Chloe was high. On life. On everything. On actual LSD. Rachel was alive. She was here. Chloe could hug her or kiss her or make out with her.

She chose the second option, planting a kiss on Rachel’s forehead to coax her out of her embarrassment.

Rachel’s voice was small when she asked, “Aren’t you gonna tell me I’m crazy?”

Chloe smirked. “I’m considering…”

“Chloe…”

That tone did the trick. 

“Okay, okay. Sorry.” Could you really blame her for not letting an opportunity to tease slip away? “Go on.”

Rachel’s hard stare on her stayed for a couple more seconds before she relented with a sigh.

“Like, you know that there are, like, different kinds of anger, right?” Chloe nodded. “Like, there’s this- like the wet kind.” Chloe frowned, but nodded again. “Like you just wanna keep on screaming for hours and just smash everything to the ground. Then, there’s the dry kind. The kind where you’re just done with everything. The suffocating kind, the kind that makes you laugh-”

“What does this have to do with you burning down an entire forest down?” And creating a fucking tornado, she didn’t say.

“Everything.” How sure she sounded silenced Chloe. Rachel fixed her with a look that said she still didn’t quite know how to explain it. “The kind of anger I feel correlates with the kind of…”

“Power you have?” Chloe suggested after she got over the fact that Rachel had just said the word ‘correlate’. “So, if you’re super mega pissed at everyone, like, at the whole town, you create a super mega storm.”

Rachel was puzzled. For obvious reasons. “Well, I guess? I don’t know if I’m that awesome, but…” She nodded, more to herself than to Chloe. “Yeah. Yeah, basically.” After a sigh, she continued. “And it all started when I moved here. It only worked when I’m here. Never anywhere else.”

Of fucking course. 

She looked at Chloe again. An unearthly fear filled her face, as though Rachel knew full-well what was going to happen, and had always known for a very, very long time.

“I wasn’t kidding when I said I wanted to leave this town.” Her voice was low, wistful, and Chloe couldn’t help but think of Max, standing there, facing the storm, and how haunting she was. Like she wasn’t even a real person. Or even a human. “There’s something about it that… that just unnerves me, like… like something’s going to happen to me. Something bad.”

“Like you dying?” Chloe choked, finding that breathing took a toll on her.

Chloe’s poker face mustn’t be as ‘poker-y’ as she thought it was, because Rachel’s eyes widened and a new kind of terror struck her face like a lightning. “You said- you said that I have powers too . Meaning…” She gasped. Both of her hands went up to cover her mouth. And Chloe knew she knew. Rachel knew. “Oh my god.”

It was no use trying to hide anything now.

“Yeah.”

“Since- since when?”

Chloe puffed out her mouth like a pufferfish. “Since we took that picture? I guess? Or you could say since, like, four days ago? Maybe, like, a couple of months or even two whole fucking years into the future.” She winced. “Really depends on what kind of ‘when’ you’re talking about.”

Now, one of the greatest things about Rachel Dawn Amber was that she was smart. Like, hella smart. She could piece things together in a manner of seconds and she could do it with the pieces that were vague and small and seemingly have no connection.

So of course, after searching inside Chloe’s eyes for something, it was no wonder that Rachel, still tense and scared, had her face fall down and flatten as she sighed the kind of sigh a resigned mother would sigh knowing that her rebellious teenage boy got into trouble again.

“Please don’t tell me your powers involve time-travel.”

Chloe gulped. She laughed to try and brush the tension off. “Well, technically speaking, they’re not really my powers-”

“Chloe Elizabeth Price, do you or do you not have time powers?”

“... Yeah.”

“Have you or have you not been using it without me noticing?”

“... Maybe.”

“Sweet mother of god…” Rachel’s face switched into concern. “Is that why you’ve been acting weird lately?”

Chloe raised an eyebrow. “Really? ‘Weird’. That’s how you wanna describe…” She gestured up, like she didn’t know how to say it, before gesturing to herself. “Well, me.”

“Oh, would you prefer shitty instead? How ‘bout endearingly idiotic? Or amazingly obvious?”

“Forget I asked,” she grunted with a scowl.

Rachel smiled that cheeky smile of hers, and Chloe melted as she pretended not to melt. She was a badass, dammit! 

“How does it even work, exactly?” 

“Huh?” 

“Your powers,” said Rachel, a curious and excited glint in her eyes, making her look far younger than she really was. “Can’t you just travel back to where, I don’t know, Hitler was a baby and killed him?”

Chloe laughed what might be the realest, happiest, and most genuine laugh in a long while. “No, no,” she said, once she got her bearings, grinning at Rachel’s embarrassed and offended flush. “I wish I could, but I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“I can’t just travel to whenever I want. I can only travel through photos.”

“... Why?”

Chloe opened her mouth, yet no words would come out. She looked down, frowned, and tried to think of an answer, scratching her head. Huh. Yeah, now that she thought about it, how did it make sense?

Rachel was looking at her as though she was thinking of the same thing. She opened her mouth, was about to say something, but Chloe’s sharp intake of breath as dizziness waved over her again.

A terrified “Chloe!” filtered through the air, and through the pain, Chloe smiled at Rachel’s genuine “Oh man, are you gonna cease to exist on me?! Right after you dropped a fucking time-travel bullshit bomb on me?!”

So Rachel took care of Chloe again. She guided her into sitting down on her knees, resting her head on Rachel’s collarbone.

“Jeez, I feel like a baby,” she muttered, which Rachel didn’t respond to. Chloe could hear her heartbeat, this close. It was fast. Too fast for her comfort. “Hey, now. I’m okay. You don’t need to worry about me.”

“I do, though.” Rachel sniffled.

Chloe sighed. She could feel something shifting. And she knew what it meant. “Rachel, I don’t have enough time. I’ll forget about everything soon. Just… know that I love you, okay. And I just want you to be okay. And I am so, so sorry for freaking you out, for being such a bitch to you. And please, leave Nathan and Jefferson alone.”

“... That’s the first time you ever said that to me.”

“Said what?”

“That you love me.”

Chloe froze. She thought of all the moments she had with Rachel. All those precious moments. Even from the Tempest, back when they’d first met, Rachel had declared her love for Chloe. 

And yet…

All these years, and she never fuckin-

“I get it, though. You’ve been hurt enough. By your dad dying. Your mom absent from your life and Max leaving and Stepdick-”

“He’s not really all that bad, you know.” Chloe whined when Rachel pushed away from her, but that whine died down when Rachel gave her a look. Suddenly Chloe remembered how much she used to hate David. “Yeah, yeah, you heard me. I, badass punk drop-out Chloe Price, admits to our resident Stepfucker not being that much of a fucker.” She snorted. “I mean, how could I hate him? The guy saved Max’s life.”

“Max…” There was a light in Rachel’s eyes. One where she looked relieved and interested and more. “She’s in on this?”

“I fucking stole this power from her.”

“How, though?”

“Dunno. It had something to do with deers and butterflies.” A pause. “And I think bluejays too. Maybe.” Rachel didn’t say anything, which prompted Chloe to ask, “What?”

“Nothing.” Rachel looked at Chloe again, and she admitted to her lie and sighed. “I may or may not have… some kind of a… connection to animals, too.”

“... You’re fucking shitting me.”

Rachel giggled a toothy giggle. “I wish I was.” 

She looked hysterical. Then Chloe realized that Rachel was just now finding out about this and thought that it could’ve gone worse. Rachel was taking this well. Rachel didn’t just look hysterical, she was hysterical.

Chloe looked outside. More and more of the white had began to seep through into the room. The objects inside blurred. Everything was brighter.

She was running out of time.

Chloe looked straight at Rachel and said tearily, “I’m scared you’ll die on me again.”

“I won’t, Chloe, I won’t.”

A tear fell. “How can you be so sure?”

And Rachel smiled that sweet Rachel smile that pulled away all the weight burdening Chloe’s shoulders, and she kissed Chloe on the forehead, right between her eyebrows, down to her nose, and finally to her mouth, as Chloe faded.

“Just trust me” was what carried and accompanied Chloe through time and space as she was about to deal with a new unknown.

Chapter Text

Chloe didn’t open her eyes after she’d arrived in… wherever she was. She was on a bed. Whose bed? Was it hers? Max’s? Rachel’s?

Chloe had forgotten the difference.

And even if she didn’t forget she knew she couldn’t be sure, not with the way she was panicking.

She didn’t want to change anything by saying anything wrong or weird. 

She was on a landmine. One wrong step and with an explosion, everything was over.

And there was no powers to save her now. Chloe had been pushing it too much. She doubted she could rewind for even a second. 

But she had a feeling she didn’t need to. 

There was a sense of freshness, of strength, of comfort that wasn’t there before. There was no pain surrounding Chloe. Not even a migraine. She was in bliss. Everything felt heavenly.

Everything was okay.

Chloe could feel it.

At long last, everything was okay.

“Wakey bakey, Chloe,” a sweet, angelic voice hung through the room, followed by an amused chuckle. “Hey, that rhymed.”

Blue eyes. Brown, fluffy hair. An old, meaningful camera in her hands. 

Chloe smelled the weed and the smoke and the jasmine perfume coming from the warm body next to her, the warm body entangled into her, the honey-like scent of the shampoo.

Max had always worn strawberry perfume. And she never smelled like weed.

“Rachel…?”

Hands, delicate and soft, cupped her cheeks. It was almost embarrassing, how quickly Chloe shuddered in yearning at the touch. “You good, Chlo?”

Chloe couldn’t answer. She was scared.

Rachel seemed to know. “Hey, it’s okay. Open your eyes, Chlo.”

So Chloe did, only to be greeted with the sight of Rachel, lying on her side, facing her with a watery smile, and slightly pink eyes that must be caused by weed.

“... Hi,” Chloe said, her breath taken away. Her mind was blank. Her chest was weighted, and not by fear or sadness, for once.

“Hi.”

“You’re… here.”

“No, I’m actually in Vegas, surrounded by two beautiful exotic women.”

Chloe snorted. “Only two? Weak.”

“There she is.” Rachel smiled. “I was kinda worried when you passed out all of a sudden, there. Still think taking you to a hospital was the obviously better choice but someone-” Rachel’s glare told Chloe exactly who that someone was “-refused because we couldn’t waste our money on ‘the expensive medical shit’.” 

“Well, hospitals are shittily expensive.”

Rachel hummed, impressed. “Never thought the word shit could be used as an adverb.”

Things were different. Rachel was Rachel but there was something about her that was different. Something she couldn’t quite put her finger on. 

Chloe licked her lips. “Umm, Rachel…” She didn’t know what to say, how to say what she wanted to say. Would Rachel even remember what had happened? Would she really believe Chloe? Especially when Chloe suddenly forgot all about their rollercoaster-fueled emotional talk which ranged from subject to subject.

“Chloe?”

“It’s me.”

“Obviously.”

“No, I mean…” Chloe gulped, and trembled lightly. She was afraid. Of what? She wasn’t sure. She looked right into Rachel’s eyes and tried to communicate what couldn’t be said through words. “It’s me.”

Rachel was smart. Smarter than she should ever be. Smarter than just a 4.0 GPA. She was smart in a way no one could ever understand. 

And Rachel knew. With a squint, and a gasp, she knew. “You mean…”

And Chloe felt out of place. As though she was intruding in a special moment between someone else and Rachel even when that someone was her.

“Yeah.” Chloe’s voice was hoarse. “Wow, umm, yeah. S-sorry, I just… I can’t believe I did it… You’re here. You’re really, really here…”

“You gonna bawl your eyes out again?” Despite the jest, Rachel smiled like it would be okay if Chloe did cry. Hell, she herself looked like she was about to cry.

“No. I’m no wuss.” Okay, so maybe one or two tears fell as Chloe kissed Rachel, long and deep and not at all rough, but who gave a shit? Rachel was alive. She’d done it. “Fuck, I can’t believe it,” she said after she pulled away. “You’re alive, Rachel.”

Rachel’s smile was big and beautiful. “I am.”

“Wait, what about Nathan?” Chloe pushed herself up. Or tried to. The pain in her head prevented her from actually following with the motion. She hissed, and ignored Rachel’s worry. “A-and Jefferson? Did they-”

“They’re locked up, Chloe.”

The prospect dizzied her. She wasn’t sure she heard correctly. “What?”

"David found the bunker after we told him about them acting weird, even if you-" Rachel poked her in the nose "-never told me what exactly they were doing."

"Well, to be fair, I wasn't exactly in the right headspace." Chloe cringed. "Nowadays, I'm not sure I'll ever be…"

"Hey, don't be so glum!" Rachel bumped her, though her smile, Chloe noticed, was a little too wide for her liking. "We did it! Everything's not perfect, but it could be worse!"

But maybe Rachel's smile was perfectly wide enough as it was, and it was just paranoia again.

So Chloe closed her eyes and let herself relax. "Okay."

Damn. She forgot how wiped she was. All of this time bullshit was really starting to mess with her. Her head was awful and she felt like seconds away from vomiting or passing out or both.

She let her eyes drifted across the room, settling down comfortably on Max's white camera. Or, well, Dad’s camera.

Thinking of Dad made her happy in a wistful way. During all of this time bullshit, he was a topic she’d never dared touch. Perhaps it was the fact that it was Dad - sweet, old Dad, whose image had never been ruined, not even by the storm or Jefferson or anything.

Perhaps she’d found someone not to replace him, because no one ever could, but someone to love as greatly as she once had loved him.

Dad was old country songs. Dad was wistful smiles. Dad was everything nice.

And Chloe wanted to preserve that.

And perhaps the reason why she never dared to try and save him was because she was too scared of ruining him too, the way she’d ruined everyone in Arcadia Bay, especially Rachel and Max.

But that was okay. It had to be okay. She’d never get to see him again, and that was okay. (No, it wasn’t, but admitting that would break her all over again.)

Chloe blinked and smiled sadly. "I never actually gave it to her in this timeline…"

So many meaningful memories, lost. All in order to fix everything. Perhaps this was the biggest sacrifice of all; our memories for our lives.

A flash of Max entered her mind. A smiling Max. A laughing Max. A curious Max. Chloe could almost see her, standing in front of her, a dopey, goofy, dorky smile on her lips. In fact, she did see her, for one fleeting second. But the image was gone before it ever really existed.

But that was okay, though. She’d find Max soon. Hopefully, in Seattle or Portland or, well, someplace other than here, where a storm would destroy it, if it would even come at all, in this timeline.

Next to her, Rachel had begun to stir from her cat nap.

"Huh?"

"The camera. I gave it to her as her birthday gift," Chloe recalled. 

Rachel didn't answer. Chloe assumed she fell back to sleep. But the mattress never shuffled. And, upon turning around, she saw Rachel, pale as a ghost.

"Rach?"

"Chloe…" Rachel choked and brought her hand up to her mouth, and Chloe realized the redness in her eyes were not caused by marijuana. "Max is gone."

Chapter Text

The walls of Chloe’s room provided themselves as shelters from the outside world. 

Perhaps in the outside world, everyone was already on the road away from Arcadia Bay, away from the impending doom. Everyone must be worried about the lives they were forced to leave behind.

Or maybe they weren’t.

Maybe they knew, this entire time, how much of a hellhole Arcadia Bay was, and though they complained and whined and grumbled, they were glad. So, fucking glad.

But that was outside. In the world. Away.

And this was here. This was Chloe and Rachel. And no Max.

"What?"

Rachel looked at her as though they’d danced this dance before, as if she’d seen Chloe this way before.

She looked sad. And she looked tired. 

"She's dead, Chloe."

The door opened. Its sound startled Chloe. She turned to see her mom, alive and well and looking a little pissed and still here, still in Arcadia Bay.

"Now, now,” Mom said, hands on her hips and a scowl on her face. “I thought I told you two to come down for dinner ten minutes ago."

"Mom?!” She threw herself off of her bed and into a standing position. She almost regretted it due to the pain in her head, her chest, her lungs, her everything. “What are you still doing here?!"

The anger in Joyce’s face increased. "Well, where else would I be? Madagascar?"

Chloe looked at Rachel, betrayed. "You didn't tell them about the storm?!"

"Wha-?" Rachel looked as shock as she felt, and not at all angry as she felt. "Storm!? What storm are you talking about? We did it! We busted Jefferson and we found out who killed Max! Isn't that enough?!"

Chloe's mind was reeling. "M-Max can't be dead."

Rachel looked at her in pity. "Chlo…"

Joyce’s pity was worse. "Oh, sweetie-"

"NO! SHE'S NOT !" Chloe got up, fell, and refused everyone's help, jolting away from all of their touch. "She can't be." She got up and teetered to the desk, using the surface as leverage. "I just- I just saw her."

"Chloe-"

"This!" Chloe held the polaroid camera for everyone in the world to see, her hand shaking, her face flushed, and not just in anger. "This is hers! She loves this camera!" ‘Loves’. Present tense. Because she's still here, somewhere. She's still alive."

"That’s not-"

"And now it will belong to her once I give it to her!” Chloe was a rabid dog. And she wanted to bite. “I'm giving this to her so where is she?!" 

Joyce sobbed and turned to leave, ignoring Rachel’s “Joyce, wait!”

Chloe only half-noticed.

The camera dropped down to the desk. Chloe cursed, scrambling to make sure it was broken because it couldn't be broken, after all the storms it had survived.

What Chloe found was much worse than a broken camera.

It was Max's face. Smiling. Carefree. 

And on a missing person's poster.

 "I thought you knew, Chlo. I'm so, so sorry."

But Chloe couldn't register Rachel's voice or touch or sobs or her anything.

She was too busy looking at the date of when she went missing.

April 22nd.

The same date Rachel had gone missing.

And Chloe knew. Because she was there. And she made the poster so of course she knew. And she must’ve made this poster too. Every detail was the same. The way it looked. The details in the photo. Everything. She’d made this. 

And Rachel touched her again, and Chloe jolted away from her touch. The finger she pointed was not accusing, or menacing, but Rachel's face crumbled all the same.

"You… She took your place…"

"Chloe?"

"I gotta-" Chloe fell again, and couldn't get back up. She willed herself to, when she looked at Rachel, because Rachel was here and she was fine and everything was okay except Max is dead, Max is dead, Max is dead- "I have to go-"

"Go where?"

Anywhere. Everywhere. The past. Future. So long as it’s not here. "I don't-"

"Chloe, wait!"

"I can't be here, Rachel."

And Rachel seemed to understand. 

"Then let me come with you."

And Rachel probably did understand, more than she herself did.

"Please."

And of course, Rachel, as always, took care of everything, because Chloe really didn't want to talk or think.

Max was dead. Max was dead. Rachel was alive, and this was the price. Everything had a price. Everything had consequences. Rachel was alive, and Max was dead.

Neither Joyce or David seemed to give them much trouble about going 'somewhere'. Rachel tugged her, gained her attention, and dangled the keys between her fingers.

And Chloe shook her head, and showed Rachel her shaking hands. She was in no state to drive. Rachel nodded and was silent until they were both in the car.

Max was dead.

"I thought this was all over,” Rachel said, gripping the steering wheel as though her balance and rational thoughts on it even though she hadn't started the truck. "I thought- with them gone, we're breaking the curse!"

"Max thought the exact same thing."

Chloe saw, from the corner of her eyes, Rachel flinching, but she didn't care much. She was tired. She just wanted to go to bed and pretend this never happened. 

Her old life in Seattle was better than this. Being broken and together with a broken Max was better than this.

Chloe refused to look at anything but forward. And forward, standing in front of the unfinished paint job of her house, was Max. Max, a phantom, a ghost, a hallucination, a best friend, a lover, a heartbreaker. She was Max. Only, she wasn’t.

Chloe looked away.

She couldn’t stand this.

"Chloe…"

Maybe she should just end her life. Wouldn't that be simple?

It should fix everything, shouldn’t it? She was what started it all. She and every breath she took. She’d killed Arcadia Bay. And now, she’d killed Max.

She should just end her life.

But then Rachel… 

Rachel would be all alone.

"Chloe."

But that was okay. Rachel didn't need Chloe. Not really. Sure, she loved her and all, but she had people who were better than Chloe. Less broken. They could care for her just fine.

"Chloe!"

But she couldn't ever do that to Rachel.

Chloe knew all too well what it was like to be left behind by someone you love, even if that someone might not love you back, so she turned and faced Rachel and asked, "Yeah?"

"The storm."

"Yeah."

"It’s real. I didn’t want to believe it but its real and it's- it’s coming tonight. I can feel it, Chloe," she said like it mattered. "We don't have much time to evacuate everyone!"

Chloe blinked. What did that have to do with anything? "We don't."

"Chloe, what do we do?!"

Chloe wanted to tell her not to do anything, because nothing would really work. Or maybe something would work. Did it matter? This whole town had been dead for a year. 

"Wait, the storm…"

Why was it still coming?

"Yes! The storm! God, Chloe, please, listen!"

"You're here. So why's it-" But it clicked all too soon. "No…"

Rachel's breath hitched. And despite never meeting her, Chloe could feel a sense of dread, a dread she was feeling, as she said;

"Max's revenge."

A numbing chill enveloped Chloe, and right outside of her house, surrounded by the old that was the painting, stood Max.

"The storm's coming." 

The wind howled rougher, harsher. 

The car's temperature rose. Chloe hadn't fiddled with the warmer yet.

"Chloe, where do we go?"

"The lighthouse." She was at a loss. And she didn't know who she was speaking to anymore. "That's where it ends. That's where it begins.”

Always.

Chapter Text

At this point, Chloe would settle for only three people making it. Not an entire Arcadia Bay, not the good people in Arcadia Bay, just three people. Max, and Rachel, and Joyce.

She’d settle for that.

She’d settle for dying. Who knew? Maybe she’d get to see Dad again. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

And so Rachel stood, staring at the setting sun, as Chloe sat on the bench, having no energy left to do anything.

The wind had grown bigger, harsher. 

Time was running out.

The storm was coming. And it was going to destroy everything and everyone.

And Max was dead and Rachel was alive and the world was twisting and turning in all the wrong ways.

"Chloe."

Chloe looked up. Rachel looked at her with a look intimately familiar, even if she didn't understand why.

"Chloe, I love you. So, so much. And I will never, ever stop loving you." 

Chloe frowned. "Rach, why are you crying?"

Rachel shook her head, as though she was missing the point. And maybe she did miss the point. Max did say she was so easily distracted, even though she herself was the same way - probably worse off than Chloe, actually.

The sun was gone. And it was raining. And Rachel looked ethereal.

“I think I’ve always loved you since I first saw you, you know?” She chuckled, and ran a hand through her hair that had begun to dampen. “Even before that stupid Firewalk concert, I’ve noticed you around school. And, and…” She shrugged to herself. “I dunno. I wanted to get to know you. So I did. And I’m glad I did.”

No, no, no.

Rachel couldn’t be doing what Chloe thought she was doing. She couldn’t.

Chloe stood up, pale and afraid, only to fall down. Or, she would’ve, if not for Rachel, who scooped her up with one arm.

Thunders made their appearance, and they were as flashy and as awe-striking as ever.

This was it.

This was really happening.

Chloe passed out.


She was on a bed. Her bed. Their bed.

The scent of death hung around the room, never to disappear. 

“Sometimes I still go back to the past.” A hand, brushing against her forehead, tracing down through her jawline, and resting on her chin. 

Chloe wanted to cry. She couldn’t move, and she wanted to scream.

“Sometimes I save her. Sometimes I save everyone. Even him.” A wistful sigh. A pressure on her lips - soft and hungry - that she wasn’t sure she wanted to recicoprate, if she could even do so. “Sometimes, I go to a world where everything’s fine, and I get scared.”

Another kiss, on her chin, right below her lips. And more, and more kisses, traveling below. 

After one long kiss, followed by a bite, the voice spoke again; honey-dripping and cold as ice. “I get so, so scared I went back and undid everything, just so I could be with you.”

Another sigh. One that sounded happier. More at ease.

The hand travelled down to her chest, downwards. It roamed. It roamed everywhere. 

“Not the you that’s happy. The real you. The real Chloe. My Chloe.”


"Don't worry... We'll be okay..."

Chloe gasped and fell down. Rachel fell along with her. The storm was here. And they were at the lighthouse. And the clouds were black. And everything almost looked black and white. Even Rachel, who was normally always so colorful and lively. She looked dead. Everything looked dead. Everyone was about to die. Max was dead. 

Chloe was staring down on the ground, her palms meeting the grass and muddy dirt, watching immersively as drops of blood dripped down, like the drips of water around them as the rain poured. Drip, drip, drip. 

“Chloe? Chloe, can you hear me? Please, say something.”

Chloe pushed herself off so she could look forward. She ended up sitting with her legs draping on the rocky ground. She looked around, not knowing exactly what she was looking at.

“Rachel? I… I must have passed out… Sorry..."  

Before she could apologize, Rachel was already saying, “Oh, thank God. Don’t you dare do that to me again.”

Chloe’s eyes drifted down to the ground as she struggled to fight off her exhaustion and sleepiness. She felt oddly hot, even surrounded by all of this chilliness. And it wasn’t because of Rachel, either. The heat came from inside her, surrounding her like gooey toxin.

What… What was that…?

It didn’t feel like how Max had described her visions. It didn’t feel like a regular nightmare either.

Chloe had no time to dwell.

Chloe and Rachel helped each other up. Chloe gasped as she stared forward.

Oh. And there it was. The bastard that had haunted her dreams, kept her from achieving her happiness, tied her down in depression. The bitch that had ruined both her and Max’s life, along with completely wiping away all the other lives in this shithole of a town. 

The storm.

The fucking storm.

Two girls watched, comforted by the safety of the lighthouse, standing on a cliff, as it roared and screamed, full of endless anger, and no remorse whatsoever.

Chloe cried. Not in sadness, and not in anger. She just cried. 

Rachel noticed. 

She walked up from behind Chloe to grab her shoulder with one hand, pushed her so she was looking at her. Rachel looked pissed. “Chloe. Chloe, I know that look. I know what you’re thinking. And fuck all of that, okay? You… You saved me with these powers, so don’t blame yourself!”

Chloe wanted to defy her words, because Rachel looked so sad, so her words couldn’t be true. But they could. And it was.

“You saved me, even after everything- everything I did to you.” Rachel chuckled. Her shoulders shook as she did so. She was soaked. And she was shaking, and not just from the adrenaline. And she was beautiful. “Even when I don’t deserve it, you saved me. Over and over again.”

“Rachel…”

Rachel was smiling. Chloe didn’t like that. Not one bit. 

She remembered the time when she’d smiled like that. Or tried to, anyway. She remembered looking at another girl that was just as precious as Rachel was and thinking that yeah, yeah , this was okay. It might not be perfect, but it was okay. This was how she was going to die, and that was okay.

“Chloe, I love you. I love you so much it- it’s not even fair to call it love anymore. It’s- fuck!” Rachel gripped her own arms and spread them around, not knowing what to do with them. “I don’t know what to call it!” Rachel laughed. She actually laughed. “I want you to be happy. I want you to be safe. But I can’t give you that.”

“No…” Chloe was too weak to do anything other than whisper. 

Rachel smiled a pretty smile. It was a contrast against the darkness, the ever growing intensity of the wind, forcing them to move towards every direction, never constant. Against the lighthouse, which stood boldly, proudly, never to disappear, not even with time. It was a contrast against everything.

She was a contrast against all things cruel.

"Save her, and make things right again."

"No, no, no, no." Chloe gripped her hard enough to hurt, and hard enough to bruise.

Rachel didn't seem to notice the pain. "Let me go, Chlo."

Chloe gripped harder. "No, there's got to be another way. There has to be." Chloe sobbed and hated herself for sobbing. "I have time travel powers, for fuck's sake! I’ve been given a second chance! I’m not gonna waste it!"

"And it'll break you," said Rachel, calmly, as though it were a fact and not some made-up bullshit. "It's already breaking you."

Chloe paused for one moment. One sliver of a moment.

The flickering in Rachel’s eyes told her she saw that sliver.

"The fuck are you on about?"

"The fact that you barely remember what's real and what isn't. That you keep passing out. That you're literally toying with time and space. "

"But that's… that's not…" Chloe gulped and tried to think of something, anything that would dispute Rachel's argument. But she couldn’t. It was futile. She was no idiot. She’d done her research. Time-travel wasn’t just going through time. It was extending your body beyond any capable means. It was forcing your brain into soaking up information that weren’t there before. It was being thrown around like a ragdoll through the future, past, and present, so much so that you never could be certain where you were, or if this was even reality.

"You know it’s true."

It was.

Rachel smiled like she knew. Like Chloe wasn’t the only one who could see into the future.

Because Max had been dying too. And Chloe had been too blind and desperate and angry to see it. Too scared at the prospect of losing Max, so she chose to ignore it.

Because the nosebleeds never stopped. Neither did the passing out. Even after months of never using it, of staying holed up in Seattle, Max never truly recovered. And not just mentally.

"Fuck you, Rach," Chloe said, because what else was there to say? "You're an asshole, you know that?"

"I am. I really fucking am."

Chloe broke at that. "Rachel, I can't do this."

"No, Chloe." And a sliver of her own voice slipped through Rachel when she said, "You're the only one who can."

And two girls stood on top of a cliff by the lighthouse, facing an ineffable storm as they held on to each other. One wanted to die and one had to make a choice.

It ended the same way it began.

Sacrifice Max.

Or sacrifice Rachel.

One lover or the other.

Choose, Chloe. Choose.

Chapter Text

Chloe came to a decision far too late. She came to a decision as the storm began to hit and the whole world shook.

Heh.

A decision.

As if it could even be called that.

"No."

Rachel, who was known for her coolness, her smile that never faltered, her ability to stay calm in all situations, faltered completely. "Chloe-"

"No. I have the powers to save both of you.” Chloe held up her hand and looked at it. “I can bend time to my will-"

"At what cost, Chloe?!"

Chloe threw that hand down to give Rachel a scathing glare. "Don't you dare give me that look. You were about to throw yourself into a fucking tornado for a town you didn't even like."

"Yeah, but I like Max -"

"Well, I 'like' Max too.” She paused, and looked at Rachel, and softened. “And you. So…" 

The picture she found was of them at the booth. A black and white picture of them, giggling like crazy. It would have to do. She didn’t know exactly what she was going to do, but she knew she needed to escape this present in order to find out. 

"Goodbye."

"NO!" Rachel swiped her phone from her hands, and Chloe gritted her teeth. They were running out of time. The tornado had caught the boat already. Chloe couldn’t stand it. She couldn’t let it hit Two Whales. Not a chance. 

"Give me back my phone, Rach."

Chloe made several attempts to take it from Rachel, but Rachel was more agile, and even if she was smaller Chloe was tired from all of the time-bullshit and actual, reality bullshit of pushing herself too far without sleep or food or- or anything.

"No," Rachel sobbed. "You'll die if you keep this up."

"You don't know that."

Rachel scoffed. "Look at yourself! You can barely stand!"

"Fine."

Chloe blinked, and one second later, she was down on the ground, panting, wheezing, unable to tell up and down, and Rachel’s arm was tied to the bench using some chains she found tucked away around the lighthouse, unable to do anything.

"Chloe!"

Rachel screamed as if she didn’t expect Chloe to use her powers. Well, Chloe didn’t too. She didn’t think she had enough energy to rewind for even a second, much less stop time.

She gagged and threw up. It was red, she noticed. She was actually puking out blood. Who would’ve thought?

"Shouldn't have… done that…" 

Chloe's hands shook as she hovered on the edge. She tried to focus on the picture, but it, along with everything else, shifted in and out of focus.

Chloe tried to bring the phone up, but the tremble quivering her body made her let go of the phone.

Chloe couldn't manage more than a simple "no" as her phone, her only salvation, dropped and disappeared down against the pointy rocks and harsh waves.

Great. Absolutely terrific. Fuck.

Max was dead. And she had no way of saving her. Absolutely no way.

Chloe wanted to die.

"Chloe, let me go, please! Let me help you! Chloe, you need help!"

What I need is the damn picture, she thought, her inner voice a roar, and stopped at the thought.

But why?

What was the reason?

It never made any sense. 

How could she travel through time using nothing but a photograph? How could Max have done it? Was it because of her affinity for photography? Was that all?

But it was never really the picture that let her travel, was it? If that were the case, she could’ve travelled through just about any picture and end up in places like fucking Bali or Paris or the north pole.

But no.

It had to be pictures she took.

It had to be pictures that made her remember another time. A picture that triggered a memory. Because pictures triggered memories.

And if that were the case…

Chloe’s right hand left the soil, bloody and shaking.

“Chloe, what are you doing?”

Chloe didn’t answer. She grunted, and pain flared up across her arms, into her head, with the simple motion of raising it. Everything shook and it was hard to breathe and dammit, this was the most horrible idea ever but she’d do it anyway.

Below her, far and down below, she could almost hear it, the sound of the people in pain, in fear, in grief. She could hear her mother screaming, crying, whispering, praying, moments before the diner blew up.

The diner wouldn’t blow up.

Not if she had anything to do with it.

“Chloe! Chloe, stop! Don’t do it!”

Chloe Price stood at the edge of the cliff. She might as well be opening her arms, and letting her exhaustion, and the rain beating down on her guide her down. She might as well be falling down.

Chloe smelled the earth, and tasted blood. 

Chloe closed her eyes and tuned out Rachel, and all of the shaking, and everything, leaving her alone and in the dark and terrified beyond her wits.

She pushed, using the familiar ache which meant her powers were doing its job and pushed, pushed far beyond what she was capable of.

There was no way she was making out of this alive.

But that was okay.

So long as Rachel and Max would, she was content with it.

She screamed a scream she couldn’t even hear. A scream she was sure would rip her throat open. She scream along with the storm.

Until she wasn’t screaming anymore.

Until she wasn’t moving.


Chloe woke with a start, screaming “Max!” as though she was about to lose her. She thrashed and turned around, growling when her movements were restricted by a pair of hands on her shoulders. “L-let me-”

“Chloe! Chloe, it’s me!”

That voice. “Max?”

The girl above her, beautiful and kind and perfect, nodded, smiling a teary, toothy smile. “Hey, you okay there, She-Hulk?”

Chloe blinked, let out a sharp exhale and grabbed Max’s upper arms. “M-Max. There was the storm- and- and Rachel-”

“I know, Chloe.”

Chloe looked up, hopeful. “What?”

“And it’s okay.” Max kissed her on the lips. It was wet and hard and it ended too soon. “You’re okay.” Before Chloe could think or move, Max kissed her again, harder and wetter and longer, and she let Chloe forget.

Because this was Max.

The real Max.

At long last.

And Chloe’s hands wandered into her shirt, memorizing each and every curve, no matter how small or frail they were. They trace patterns into skin. Any kind of mindless, swirling patterns. And her lips tried their best to suck deep and deeper and deeper, and her chest swallowed with pride at each and every little noise Max made.

And something was wrong.

And it took Chloe too soon to realize what was wrong.

And she righten that wrong by flipping their positions, so Max was below her and squirming and at her mercy, and Chloe was where she belonged.

She chuckled a throaty chuckle when Max glared at her and kissed her to death. 

Chloe kissed her everywhere. Her neck. Her shoulders. Her everything. 

Because this was their way of comfort. Of forgetting. Of letting go. This was them telling each other that, “Yeah, the world sucks, but at least we’ve got each other.”

And despite being so, so broken, Max tried her best to give Chloe her own feist. And Chloe loved it. She grinned a hard grin and she kissed harder, faster, rougher. She kissed until she bruised. And Max’s gasps of pleasure was oh-so-satisfying.

Max’s trembling hands travelled up and tugged at Chloe’s white, pale shirt. Chloe let her as she began to tug up at Max’s own shirt as well.

Max’s face, horrified and flushed, looking at her as though she’d done something wicked, something that couldn’t be undone, something unspoken, crossed her mind, and Chloe stopped in her tracks.

“M-Max-” her voice trailed into a moan as Max’s lips tugged down at her bottom lip, biting it. “Max, wait-”

Max didn’t stop. So Chloe forced her to. She pushed the girl down and kept her there. And Max looked at Chloe with confusion and a small twinge of hurt. But it was nothing compared to what she’d seen. What had happened before. Back at the junkyard. Wait. The junkyard?

“Max- I- I-” She gulped and stumbled over her words. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“What do you mean?”

“I…” Chloe was at a loss for words. “You…”

Max’s eyes flashed with understanding, and Chloe was relieved, up until she opened her mouth and said, “If you don’t want us to do this, then we won’t.”

“I-It’s not that, it’s just-”

“It’s okay, Chloe. I get it.” Max gave her the most gentle smile yet and tugged her with enough force to send her lying down on top of Max. “We’ll just cuddle.”

“Aren’t I… heavy?”

A snort was her answer. “Well, you were . And now you practically have the same weight as me.”

“Oh.”

It was true. She was a fucking twig. Not having any appetite to eat does that to you.

The silence that stretched was all-too-familiar. Chloe knew what Max was going to ask before she asked, “Do you wanna talk about it?”

Chloe remembered how she was before this. She wasn’t exactly muscular, but she had been far better off than now. 

It was almost like she could feel herself, in her body a year ago. 

She could see her short, blue hair. She could feel something other than bone and skin and small lumps of meat underneath her body. She could run a marathon for days without end.

Why, exactly, could she remember all of that? It was vivid. Almost too much so.

“Chloe?”

Oh. Right. Max was asking her a question. Chloe cleared her throat and sighed into brown hair, melting into Max.

“Dunno. It’s all just… blurry. I was reliving that week, only… things were different.” How exactly it was different escaped her. “I fixed everything, I think. But… wait, wait no.” It wasn’t she who fixed it all, wasn’t it? “You did it. You fixed everything, and…” A smile. A pure smile. Wide doe eyes. Freckles against the setting sun. “And you were okay. Really okay. And… And Rachel was there.”

Max hummed. Her nose bumped against Chloe’s collarbone. Chloe stared up at the ceiling, and unknowingly gripped Max tighter. “That sounds perfect.”

Perfect didn’t sound right.

It didn’t sound right at all.

Chloe tried to remember, and couldn’t. Not as clear as she wanted to. It was lost in the haze of the morning and Max. 

She did remember one thing, though. One clear thing.

“I had to… I had to make a choice. Either sacrifice Rachel and let you live, or, or…”

Max shifted, pushed herself away from Chloe’s arms to look down on her. And Chloe remembered faintly of another Max, not quite a kid, looking down in the exact same way, as the shores of Arcadia Bay whispered and the townsfolk shuffled in a hurry.

“Oh, Chloe… That must’ve been horrible.”

It was. Chloe agreed. “You weren’t there.” Chloe quivered. Max stared at her all-too-intently. Chloe grabbed her hand, not at the wrist, never at the wrist. She wanted to feel her. To know she was here. With Chloe. Alive. Never to leave her, ever again. “You were there but you weren’t you. You didn’t remember. You left me. You were happy but you weren’t you and I just missed you so, so much.”

Chloe’s voice broke. Chloe broke.

And Max broke down along with her.

“I’m here, Chloe. I’m right here.”

She was.

She finally fucking was.

She was here. They both were.

Chloe was home.

Chapter Text

Chloe lay on the bed for a long, long while. She wasn’t sure she wanted to get out of bed today. How long had it been since she got out of bed and actually, well, did things instead of moping around?

As if she’d done anything other than mope around for the past year.

But it was okay. Max was there. She’d understand. She always did. She was all that Chloe needed. She was everything. And Chloe was her everything. And that was all that mattered.

She stared at the digital clock on her phone. 

There were no clocks in their apartment. None other than the ones on their phones. 

Max had stared at it too long, one day, and refused to breathe. She’d freaked out and broken it. When Chloe had brought a new one, a couple of days later, the same thing had happened.

So Chloe gave up.

And there was no real clock.

So she had to look at this shitty phone of hers to look at the time as she mulled over her dreams. Were they even dreams? Or was it some sort of fucked-up drug-induced hallucination?

But Chloe didn’t do drugs anymore. Not because she didn’t want to, but because she felt it too much of an effort. She didn’t think even the good kind could be an escapism for the horrors plaguing her mind. Nothing could. Escapism was a dream. A very tempting dream, but a dream nonetheless.

It was 7th October, 2014. And it was 8:14. Chloe was in bed, in Seattle, with Max, away from the world.

She gulped, and she looked at Max. Max was so fragile, so gaunt. She looked like a ghost more than a girl, with those eyebags and untamed long hair and the way she’d sometimes look at Chloe without really looking.

She thought of the different Max. The one with color in her cheeks. The one who wouldn’t stare off into nothingness. The one who was still brave enough to take pictures on her white, old camera. The one who still loved photography.

But that wasn’t her Max. And this was. This was the real Max.

“This isn’t her, and this isn’t right.” Chloe stared. In front of her, with her arms crossed and a playful lilt in her voice, was Rachel. She looked as beautiful as ever. And the way she stared at Chloe made her gulp. “You know this isn’t right.”

Chloe gulped again and uttered a pleading “Rachel” but she was gone. She was gone, before she was really here.

Chloe, like many times before, stared into nothingness. Tears trailed down, yet she had no desire to cry. She didn’t sob or wail or heave. She barely realised she was crying.

Fuck. I need a smoke.

She threw herself off of the bed, and couldn’t shake off the feeling of uneasiness the longer she was away from Max. 

But that was okay. Completely okay. It was completely normal to not know how to function when your lover was out of your sight, right?

Chloe opened the door to the backyard. A bird fell down, right in front of her. She gasped. “Shit!”

She didn’t turn away. Turn away to stop staring at the corpse. She’d seen far too many corpses for this to bother her.

Its neck was bent in the wrong way. Its wings kept twitching, and twitching, and it didn’t twitch anymore.

It was a blue jay.

Chloe stared at it. At those feathers. At how blue they were. And how easy it would be to pluck a single feather and turn it into an accessory. It would be so, so simple. And Chloe wondered how Rachel had gotten her own earring. Did she pluck it out of a dead bird she found? Or was she the one to kill that bird in the first place?

Footsteps. Loud, and rushed. Someone was running. Chloe turned only to let out an “oomph!” as a weight crashed into her. It was Max. Max was here, and she was sobbing uncontrollably, and breathing unevenly, and gripping at Chloe like she’d die if she ever stopped gripping.

“I- I thought I lost you- I didn’t see you-”

“Max.”

“I thought you were gone.” Max was hurting her. With her touch, her iron-clad grip, she was hurting her. Chloe let her. “Fuck, Chloe…”

“I’m here, Max, I’m here…” She rubbed Max’s forehead, and wished someone was doing the same to her. 

Max giggled tearily. “I’m so broken, Chloe.”

Chloe sighed. She stopped petting Max only to plant a kiss into Max’s head. “Me too.”

Max didn’t quite pull away, but she did push herself back, far enough to meet Chloe’s eyes.

Chloe saw the storm.

“At least we’re broken together.”

And Max was kissing Chloe. There was no innocence to that kiss, nor any sweetness. If Chloe didn’t know any better, she’d think that there was not even an ounce of love in that kiss - just hunger, and a strong need, a strong desire, and nothingness. 

The kiss was absence itself.

And Max was walking away with a smile too wide, humming a tune and saying something about breakfast, leaving Chloe to stare into the horizon, where dozens of birds lay, unmoving. 

Welcome home.


Chloe stared at the sky through the window, where it would flicker from its regular grey-ish blue with no clouds into flames of orange and white. 

“It’s no dream,” Rachel said, sitting next to her on the bed, making herself feel at home as she skimmed through Max’s magazines. She’d never been able to do that before; actually interact with the world of the living. Chloe chose not to comment on it. Everything was still very much fine. “You notice how frustrated Maxine looks?”

“She hates being called that.”

Rachel feigned ignorance. “Frustrated?”

“No.” Chloe glared at her as Rachel snickered. “Maxine.”

Rachel stopped snickering. She let her eyes wander around the pages. She stopped. And she spoke. “What makes you think she still cares at this point?” 


Chloe's nose bled, and the first thing that came to mind was to hide it from Max.


Chloe heard a thud, and, as fast as lightning, she ran through the living room, where Max, shaking and panting, gripping at the couch as she lay on the floor.

They’d done this dance before. 

They’d done it too many times.

Max looked at her and grinned a smile too wide for it to be real. “Sorry, Chloe. I tripped. You know me, I’m such a klutz.”

Chloe didn’t speak. She couldn’t.

She tried not to remember about that time they went to the doctor to check up on Max, to find out why she kept on passing out, all of a sudden. 

She tried not to remember the way the doctor had looked at them after he’d scanned her brain; horrified and confused and sad. Really, really sad. As though he was grieving already. As though Max was dead already.

She tried not to remember the way he gently told them that there was nothing anyone could do, because they simply didn’t know how to fix a brain as broken as Max’s. 

Because Ryan and Vanessa weren’t really on a business trip, were they? They were trying to escape. 

(Because just like their daughter six years ago, they didn’t know how to deal with death.)

“Why do you keep doing that?”

Chloe blinked, and realized she hadn’t moved. Hadn’t tried to pick Max up from the ground. She went and did just that, struggling with Max’s tiny weight and tinier frame. 

“Doing what?” she asked, and looked down on Max, who looked like the kind of daze where you were questioning reality. She almost looked accusing. What she was accusing Chloe, she didn’t know.

“Looking at your hand.”


Chloe vomited, and kept on vomiting despite having no more content.

She wondered if she'd end up vomiting out her organs.

She wondered if that would make her stop vomiting.


Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

What made it home was the routinity. The lack of real activities. The way they’d just stay within each others’ presence and not do anything.

They never went outside. Not even for a short walk. Not for anything.

It should drive them stir crazy. It didn’t.

Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

They disliked the outside world.

They disliked the way people would laugh and live and love, oblivious to pain and grief and loss. 

They disliked the way the world moved on while they were stuck in the past. No, not just stuck. They could move on, but they didn’t. They chose not to. Why, exactly, Chloe had forgotten. Maybe she was afraid. Maybe they both were. Because the world outside was an unknown. And they’d never faced the unknown before, even when they had. 

Routinity. It was what kept them going, even if barely.

Time was nonexistent in their bubble. They hated time. Time had screwed with them, and now they didn’t want to have anything to do with them.

Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

Time was nonexistent. But somehow Chloe knew the date was October 8th.


Chloe's nose kept bleeding, and Chloe's mouth kept dumping out food.

Max noticed on her sixth nosebleed.

Max saw, and Max stared, and Max knew.


The TV was static, yet they kept staring at it as though there was something more than just static, as if there was a sitcom show full of laugh tracks and cheesy jokes and predictable punchlines.

They pretended to be invested, when clearly, they were far off in their own heads. 

For Chloe, it was Rachel. Rachel and her words, her smile, and a worried look on her face, and the way she’d shouted at Chloe to not push herself.

Oh, Rachel. Sweet, sweet Rachel.

Rachel, who was still dead. Rachel, who was staring at her expectantly with that look on her face, leaning against the glass frame of the window. She looked unreal, so controlled and calm against the red splotches of the birds that had hit the window. The blood they’d yet cleaned up due to their hesitance to step outside, to really see the damage, to know what it meant.

“Max, what if… what if I told you there’s a… a chance to make things better?”

She hadn’t meant for it to come out. 

She hadn’t meant for Max to hear it.

Rachel nodded and disappeared, leaving Chloe to deal with the aftermath of not keeping her mouth shut. 

“Chloe, stop.”

The sound of her feather earrings jingling didn’t leave, though. It stayed, for an unnaturally long amount of time.

And Max was there. Looking at her the way she always would when Chloe was thinking about killing herself. Why was Max looking at her like that? She was being serious, for once.

“What?”

Chloe tried to scooch away, to look at Max better, to better understand why she was acting the way she was, but Max wouldn’t let her. With a swift movement, she was gripping Chloe’s hand - the hand that could let her rewind. 

Chloe tried not to make a big deal out of the way Max’s eyes narrowed. The way a flicker of madness, and strangeness, and something Chloe couldn’t identify flashed across her face. 

“You can’t keep doing this to yourself.” 

Chloe swallowed. Did she know? “Max, let go.”

Max stared right through Chloe. She was looking at something far beyond what Chloe could comprehend. What anyone could comprehend. “You can’t keep looking back to the past and- and keep telling yourself that things could be better.”

“But they could -”

“NO!” 

Thunder. Rain. A butterfly, on her hand. A storm, right beneath her peripheral vision. Max, looking scared. Too scared to make a decision. Too scared to make the right decision.

“Max…” 

“I. Made. A decision, Chloe.” Max refused to let Chloe go. Even if it was hurting her. Both of them. Even when it was better to let go. She’d forgotten how to. “And I won’t ever, ever regret a single thing.”

And Max stared at her, and kept on staring. Until Chloe looked away. Until Max blinked, and walked into her room, leaving Chloe in the dark, with echoes of Rachel, and a grim realisation.

Because Max was good. Too good. And she wouldn’t hurt a fly. But she forced herself to murder thousands of people. Or maybe it was Chloe who did that. Maybe some kind of force did - a force beyond their comprehension.

And now Max was trying to own up to it. Or she was pretending that she did. She was pretending that she was okay with it. With everything. All for Chloe. “All for you,” she would say. “All for you,” because to say anything else would ruin her even more, and she couldn’t afford that, didn’t want to stand that. She was broken enough. She didn’t want to be even more broken.

It was 23:50.

And it was October 9th.

Chloe had become her anchor, and her lifeline.

And why, pray tell, would anyone want to let go of their lifeline?


Chloe heard music.

There was no music, yet she heard it anyway.

She heard that of old rock songs from unknown bands, trying to evoke anger within her. And she heard that of calm, peaceful guitar, trying to lull her to sleep.

The music. They overlapped.

“I used to wonder who Max was.”

Rachel was grace. Rachel was beauty. And Rachel was walking around, no direction in mind, hands clasped behind her back. She always did that sort of thing; pacing and saying thoughtless things. It made Rachel Amber look mysterious to her. Now, it just made her pissed.

Rachel was pacing, and she was humming. And she looked beautiful, and unreal. Chloe sometimes wondered if she ever was real.

“She wonders the same about you,” Chloe said, and stopped at the thought. She flicked on her lighter, and flicked it off. On, off. On, off. The fire was in her control, just like it had been in Rachel’s control.

“Chloe?”

Chloe didn’t need to gaze at her to know Max was looking at her in concern. Maybe suspicion. Shock, definitely. Or maybe not shock. Maybe Max no longer felt shock. Chloe certainly didn’t.

Chloe kept staring at the lighter. On, off. On, off. Click, the lighter said. Click, click. Just like a camera.

Rachel hummed. “She’s pretty cute. She would grow up to be a beautiful woman.”

Chloe shut her eyes for a moment. She could almost see Rachel, leaning down so she was face-to-face with Max with no regards for personal boundaries, cooing at her freckles. Rachel always did love Max’s freckles, whenever Chloe showed her their childhood photos.

“Yeah.” Chloe sighed. “She would.” They both would. She and Rachel. Fuck, they were beautiful now; Rachel with no realness to her, and Max, with the lack of sleep and food and beliefs.

Chloe loved them so much she wanted to destroy a whole bunch of Arcadia Bays for them.

“We would all have been the best of friends.”

Chloe could picture the three of them, hanging out, laughing, wondering the kind of jobs they’d have, gossiping about other girls - well, Rachel would gossip; Max would nod politely and pretend not to be uncomfortable talking about other people while Chloee would tell her to knock it off and scoff and roll her eyes.

It was a beautiful picture. A clear picture. Almost as clear as a photograph.

Chloe’s throat was heavy. Chloe’s chest was heavier.

“I know what you’re trying to do, Rach,” Chloe said as she turned to look at her, “and I want you to stop.”

But Rachel wasn’t there. There was only Max.

Max, who was staring at her with exhaustion. So much exhaustion. She wanted this to end. They both did.

And Chloe realised that she was being selfish.

And Rachel’s voice, and her voice only, echoed in the air, like wind, asking, “Why would I stop when it’s working?”


It was barely October 10th. It was 4:10 in the morning, and Chloe was pacing, while Max watched. 

Chloe was jittering. She couldn’t stop shaking. She couldn’t stop thinking of everything there ever was to think about.

“Max. What the hell have we been doing?”

“Living, Chloe.”

“Bullshit.” Chloe shook her head. She shrugged off Max’s attempt to touch her, to calm her down. She couldn’t let Max distract her. “We haven’t been living, Maxine.”

Chloe waited for Max’s glare, for Max huffing and pouting and glaring, saying something along the lines of, “It’s Max, never Maxine.” 

But the moment never came.

It never came.

Max just stood there. And she was a shell of her former self. 

“You’re alive, Chloe. And I’m alive too. Isn’t that what matters?”

Those words. She kept on repeating them, over and over again. Like a mantra. Like a truth.

It wasn’t the truth.

Why couldn’t Max see that?

“Look at us, Max!” Chloe gestured to herself, to Max, to their room, to the barricaded windows, to the lack of photographs, and mirrors, and clocks. The lack of fresh air. The lack of live. The lack of anything. “Fuckin’ look!” 

Chloe was shouting. Max should be flinching, cowering, telling Chloe how much she hated loud noises, or shouting back. But no. She just stood there. And watched. And refused to acknowledge anything. 

Max smiled. It was a pretty smile. Chloe hated it.

“All I see is you. Breathing. Frowning and angry and sad-” she chuckled “-but alive.”

Max reached out for her. Chloe didn’t pull away. She couldn’t. She needed Max just as much as Max needed her. Her exhale was brittle. She melted at Max’s touch. Max knew how to touch her. She knew how to make Chloe forget, even when Chloe didn’t want to forget. 

“That’s not how we do things, Max. That’s not the way things work.” It was less of a strong statement, and more of an off-handed, thoughtless mutter.

The hand stopped.

Chloe opened her eyes - when had she closed them? - and Max was shaking and refusing to look at her.

“Oh? Are you telling me you would’ve done things differently?” Chloe almost took a step back. The bitterness in Max’s voice was too much. She had trouble standing on her ground. “Had it been Rachel, would you have sacrificed her for a whole Arcadia Bay?! If it had been her, or me, against one town, what would you have done?!” 

Max looked at her, at long last, and there was so much anger in there. Her anger bled into Chloe. And Chloe found herself gritting her teeth, feeling her veins pop out of her skull. “Max, don’t you dare.”

“Who would you have sacrificed?! What would you have chosen!?”

Chloe pushed Max. So hard she almost fell. But Chloe wouldn’t let her fall. So she gripped Max by her shirt. Indecisive. Confused. Scared. Shaking.

Max didn’t bother standing into a straight position. She stayed upright, trusting Chloe not to let her fall and get hurt. Yet she stared at Chloe, deviant, and Chloe stared back, full of spite.

“I would’ve carved my own path,” she started out, slowly. “Make a different choice of my own. Make it so no one had to be sacrificed! So no one had to die for any cause! MAKE IT SO BOTH OF YOU WOULD BE ALIVE!”

And Max tilted her head to the side, and smiled a rueful smile, and Chloe wondered when had she become the emotional one, and when Max had become this apathetic.

Perhaps Rachel was right. 

Max gently, ever so gently, brushed Chloe’s bangs out of the way - faded blue, mixed in with natural dusty blonde. Chloe shivered at her touch, and shivered again when those gentle fingers trailed down, forcing Chloe to close her eyes with a soft, quiet kind of firmness. 

“Oh, Chloe… That’s… That’s just not the way the world works, Chloe.” The words should sting. It should stir up anger, and spite, because what did Max know about the real world? Instead, all it did was make Chloe want her more. “I know you miss her, and your mom, and David, and- and everyone. But they’re gone. Forever. And we can’t change that.”

Max never started out viciously. She always took her time. Really built into things. She started with light, peppering kisses, and teasing hands, roaming and brushing but never quite touching. Not yet. Not until Chloe was fully in her control.

“... No.” Chloe blinked. She opened her heavy eyes to stare at nothing. “We can change things. We always can.” Max didn’t stop. “And you taught me that, Max.” Max stopped. Chloe could feel her confusion. It took her a moment to know that Max didn’t remember what she’d done, about the way she’d saved everyone in Arcadia Bay without any powers - just her brains and her creativity. That was a different Max. That was a happy Max. This wasn’t. “I’ll make things better. For you and Rachel. I’ll make it so none of you would have to suffer. I’ll… I’ll fix everything.”

“What about you?”

Chloe smiled, said, “I’ll rest,” and let Max guide her to their bed, where they’d forget.

Max touched her like she knew exactly who Chloe was and what would make and break Chloe, and pretended that she was still the shy, geeky, dorky girl she had once been who would’ve blushed and freaked out at the word ‘sex’.

Rachel touched her like she was tired of pretending, of seeing everyone else pretending. She touched her without a hint of hesitation. She knew what she wanted, and she knew what Chloe wanted, and she gave what Chloe wanted and took what she wanted. Simple as that. 

Max touched her. Rachel touched her. They were so, so different. Yet Chloe loved them all the same.


They were laying in bed.

“... Do you remember how you used to be, Max?” Chloe couldn’t tear her eyes away from the ceiling, not even to look at Max. “I used to think you were too good for me. That you were too good period.”

The silence stretched on. 

Chloe heard rustling. Covered with the clouds of flaming white and orange were a tree. There was a squirrel on that tree. And a bird. Two birds, really. A blue jay and a raven. They stared at her like they were enjoying themselves, like they were waiting for her to tear everything to the ground, like they were waiting for her to realize that Max was never here, never with her, and she’d been alone, this entire time.

“And now?”

Everything was gone. Everything except for Max.

“I still think you’re pretty.”

It was 9:14.


They spent the day watching TV, eating, playing, and fucking.

Max would shake sometimes. And she’d forget where she was. And she’d look outside as if she was expecting it to rain.

Chloe didn’t cry. She tried to pretend everything was fine. All the while, Rachel was there, watching like she knew what was going to happen, like she was waiting for some kind of climax, explosion, fireworks, anything.


Max stared at her hand like she expected it to be more than a hand. She frowned, and she twitched and moved each finger experimentally, and she frowned deeper, as though something was missing.

She blinked, and she flexed it in every way. Her hand was just a hand.

Chloe pretended as though she didn’t know anything. As though she hadn’t stolen something from her. As though nothing was absent.


Max’s phone rang. Chloe looked at her expectantly. It must be Ryan and Vanessa. They must be calling her to check up on her.

Max cringed. Chloe frowned.

“They’re your parents.” You’re lucky you still have parents, she didn’t say.

Max looked older than she had any right to be. She looked at the phone with disinterest. As though her parents weren’t her parents. As though they didn’t matter. As though they were strangers. 

Max shut off her phone, and hid it in the drawer, never to be opened again. She looked at Chloe and smiled like she didn’t expect Chloe to say no. “Let’s just watch TV.”

And how could Chloe say ‘no’ to the only thing keeping her from breaking?


Chloe’s nose bled. She tried to wipe it away, to keep Max from seeing it. But Max saw it. And Max stared. And Max knew.

It was 17:51.


The walls were cracking. The world was cracking. Chloe refused to move. Max laid on her lap. The couch wasn’t comfy, not in the slightest, but she didn’t move.

It was 20:17.

Max’s eyes didn’t twitch. Her inhales and exhales were so, so faint they might as well cease to exist. 

She looked dead.

“She's dead,” said Rachel. Only, it wasn’t Rachel standing in front of her. It was the deer. Chloe did nothing but touch Max on the arm, ever so slowly, in case it wanted to hurt them.

The deer kept staring. 

It was all it could do. It was all anyone could do. Stare. Stare, because to do anything else might shake everything, change anything, and no one wanted that. 

“She’s dead, and so are you.” The deer’s mouth didn’t move. Chloe didn’t know where the voice came from. Chloe didn’t know where anything came from. Chloe didn’t know anything. Chloe didn’t know.

“And what about you?” Chloe inhaled her cigarette. Setting fire to her insides for fun. Collecting pictures for the storm that wrecked her home. It was the storm that wrecked her home. “Are you dead?”

“You’ll break her again. But don’t worry. She won’t remember. No one will.”

It was the storm that wrecked our home. And you caused it.

You caused it.


23:50.

Chloe walked outside, in the night, alone.

She raised her arm.

“Chloe, no.”

She didn’t pull down her arm. She did look back, though. And there Max was, terrified, and angry, and not in control.

“I have to do this, Max. You know that.”

For once, it was Max who was crying.

For once, Chloe wasn’t crying.

She’d run out of tears.

She’d broken down too many times, and now she was just tired. It was time for her to rest.

23:53. 

Tick tock, Chloe. Tick tock.

“Please.” Max’s eyes were wide, and red, and twitching, and she did not blink even once. “I know what’s going to happen. I’ve seen it. I still see it. The future. The visions. The dreams. I still have them and you know it.”

Chloe did know. Because she hadn’t been given all of Max’s powers. Only most. And she never, ever had gotten a vision.

It was strange.

She couldn’t find out why. Just like she couldn’t find out why these powers exist in the first place, and why she and Max were the ones cursed with them.

Too many questions.

Chloe hated questions, especially when they held no answers.

“We don’t fit in a perfect world, Chloe. We never do. This, right here, this is enough. What we have is enough. Can’t you accept that?”

23:56.

Chloe refused to look at her. Her hand felt less like a hand and more like a gun. A gun pointing at Max. A gun meant to kill her. A gun she held. 

Shakily, she lowered it. It still hung in the air. She refused to fully withdraw it.

She didn’t want to kill Max.

“Don’t you think I know that?” 

How many of her memories were truly theirs to share? And how many of Max’s memories?

Chloe had heard her say things she never remembered saying, and vice versa.

Chloe looked at Max. She expected herself to be crying and shaking like a blubbering mess of a baby. But no. She held herself firmly, boldly. She was afraid, it’s true. But she wouldn’t let her fear stop her. She wouldn’t let anything stop her. Not even Max.

Still, though.

She needed to do this. A parting words, of sorts. One last chance. One last try to make Max understand.

“Max, I’ve caught a glimpse of what the world could be. What we could be.” Chloe clutched at her chest. Badum, badum, badum. Her heart was wild. Its beatings, erratic. So wild, so big, so much of a rush it could just crash and stop beating altogether. “It’s amazing, Max. It’s amazing because you were there. And she was there too. And you were all happy.”

23:58.

“What about you?”

Chloe shook her head. She was not the point. “I want that. I want that for you. For both of you. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.”

23:59.

And it wasn’t as emotional as it could’ve been.

This was no real climax. 

Chloe wondered if there ever was a climax - the height of it all.

This, right here and right now, wasn’t as grand as two girls standing on a cliff at the lighthouse, facing the beautiful storm.

This, right here and right now, was reality.

And reality wasn’t tears of goodbye. It wasn’t screaming and crying and heartfelt words.

Reality was a chaotic calm.

Max opened her mouth and closed it. She brought her hands to her mouth and wept. She knew she couldn’t do anything. Not anymore. 

There was no last words. No “I love you”s. No “Goodbye”s. There was nothing. Nothing but absence. 

Max wept, and she fell to her knees, and she kept weeping.

But it was alright. Rachel was there. Holding her. Comforting her.

She looked at Chloe, with redness in her eyes, trembles in her mouth, and nodded.

Chloe faced away from them. She looked up at the darkness, and reached up for the stars.

Maybe that’s your problem, Chloe thought to herself, unsure whether it was Rachel or Max she was referring to. You want to fix everything AND live. 

That’s the problem all along.

00:00.

Chloe Price twisted time, and Chloe Price burned the world.

Chapter Text

She, on the busy road, walked alone.

An old, white camera thumped lightly against her chest, its strap hanging around her neck.

The only indication that it was night time was the small moon, covered by clouds, hanging in the sky. Other than that, Los Angeles was as busy and bright as it was in the day.

She blinked as she caught something interesting.

Click, said the camera, producing an image of a blue butterfly hanging on a particularly cool photograph of a deer. The picture hung in a gallery. An art gallery.

She inspected as the camera whirred out the polaroid result, making sure to shake it even though she knew it wouldn’t make a difference.

And hey, the picture didn’t look half bad, especially with the low lighting and stuff. 

There was something about that picture that was nostalgic. Sad, even. It pulled her in. 

She blinked. The clock on her phone reminded her that the time was 23:54.

Well.

It wasn’t like she had anything better to do. 

She went inside.

The gallery was empty. Not that it surprised her, considering what time it was.

She walked aimlessly, trying to deduce what all of these photographs meant, even though she was sure none of her deductions weren’t all that true.

“Are you kidding me?!” 

She jumped at the sound, and turned to find a girl. She looked like an average, every day girl. Or, at least, she would’ve, if not for the three bullets shining on her chest.

Oh, wow. She was wearing a bullet necklace. 

And she was staring at her. Double wow.

“Uh, sorry…” she said, not exactly understanding why she was even sorry. I mean, she did cause a commotion… 

“No, no.” The girl waved her hand. “It’s just… Why are they putting up this bastard’s photograph?” She pointed at one of the pictures on the wall. It was indeed a creepy-looking picture. It was all black and white. The girl in that picture had tears in her eyes. Was it just an artistic choice or…? “They must have known that he’d almost drugged and kidnapped that teenage girl.”

“Seriously?” The camera in her chest thumped as she shifted her weight, bewildered. She paled. “Did he…?”

The girl looked at her, and her features softened. She looked pretty. “No. The cops caught him just in time. So, thankfully, no. He didn’t.” She looked back at the photograph, and her nose wrinkled in disgust as she grunted. “That’s not all. This photograph was taken years ago. It’s not even supposed to be here. This art gallery was meant for, like, new photographers to show off their hella wicked pictures, and stuff.”

Oh. She hadn’t known that.

She scratched her chin, a little self-conscious. 

“That does sound unfair,” was all she could say.

The girl snorted. “Yeah. It really is.” She blinked, and smiled, and extended her hand. “The name’s Rachel. Rachel Amber.”

23:56.

“Price. Chloe Price.” Chloe took the hand and shook it, feeling like a million bucks. “So, what brings you to this lovely establishment?” This Rachel Amber girl didn’t look to be the artsy type of girl. She looked more like a model, or an actress, or a lawyer. Or all three. “Does this building happen to belong to you?”

Rachel snorted. “I wish. But no. It’s Vicky’s. Victoria Chase, I mean. You might’ve heard of her.” She looked at Chloe expectantly. Chloe simply shrugged. Rachel eyed her, then down on her camera.

Chloe blinked, and pieced the puzzles. She waved her hands. “No, no. I’m no photographer. I could barely take a less-than-shitty photo.” She picked up the old camera. “This was actually my dad’s.”

A small pause. “Huh.” Rachel tilted her head, roaming her eyes up and down. Chloe couldn’t help but blush. Wow, this girl was bold. Chloe loved bold girls. “You look kind of artsy, especially with that hair.”

“Are you kidding me?” Chloe hit her chest proudly, making sure to puff it out to make herself look manly. “I’m as punk as anyone can get.”

Rachel laughed. And soon Chloe broke character and laughed alongside her. Rachel’s laugh dimmed down. Her eyes trailed back to the picture, before it quickly darted away. 

“I still can’t believe she had the audacity to put his photograph.” She sighed and ran her hand through her hair. “I mean, I knew she was a bitch, but this is just too much… even for her…”

“Actually,” a new voice called, “Tori never wanted his picture to be anywhere near her first gallery, but her parents insisted.”

Rachel and Chloe turned to see a girl around their age, with short brown hair, a small frame, and, most noticeably, absurdly cute freckles.

She wore a formal outfit, unlike Chloe - who wore nothing but a tank-top, even this late - and Rachel - flannels. Nuff said.

Chloe thought she looked nice.

Chloe thought the blue feather earring on her left ear completed her hipster look.

“Tori?” Rachel snorted. “I’m surprised she lets you call her that.”

The freckle grinned. Her grin was different from Rachel’s. It was smaller, and showed more teeth. But it was equally nice to look at. “Oh, no. She doesn’t.”

“Wait, you two know the owner of this gallery?” 

Chloe looked back and forth between the two girls. She was kind of mesmerised, and a little intimidated. Both of them were kind of hot in their own ways. She’d never felt so lucky.

The freckle and Rachel looked at one another and shrugged to themselves.

“I guess so,” Rachel said.

“Yeah,” the freckle nodded. “Must be a coincidence.”

Yeah. Must be.

She walked towards them and stared at the picture. She looked sad. And a little ill. Understandably so. 

“I used to admire him. Back when I first started photography.”

Chloe whipped her head to meet her eyes, incredulous, and more than a little concerned. “You met him?”

She had no idea who this ‘he/him’ was, but from Rachel had told her, she was glad of her ignorance.

The freckle smiled at her, as if she didn’t want Chloe to be concerned. “No. I used to wish I did. But now…” 

Rachel, besides her, winced. “Yeah…”

Yeah indeed.

“I planned to go to Blackwell.” The freckle shrugged at Chloe’s confused stare. “This, um, art school in Arcadia Bay, a small town in Oregon. It was my childhood home. I thought it was the perfect idea for me to get all nostalgic and tutor under him. I heard a lot of good things about the school too.”

Rachel chuckled, and put a hand on the freckle’s shoulder. “Well, trust me, dude. I used to go to Blackwell, and it was not as hipstery as everyone made it out to be.”

Arcadia Bay.

That name rung many bells in her head.

“Isn’t Arcadia Bay that town that got destroyed by that huge tornado?”

Both the freckle and Rachel winced at that, and Chloe suddenly felt like an idiot for not watching her mouth. They both had come from Arcadia Bay. Of course they wouldn’t take that disaster nicely.

The freckle looked down. It was Rachel who uttered a low, despondent, “Yeah. It is.”

“Shit.” Chloe exhaled and pocketed her hands, not knowing what to do with them. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to bring up any bad memories.”

Rachel smiled at her like she had nothing to be sorry for. The freckle looked at her. And though she couldn’t quite manage a smile, she still said, “It’s okay.” Ugh. Me and my motor mouth.

Chloe bit her lip. She rubbed her hands despite it being not all that chilly. Well, if we’re sharing life stories, might as well... “I could’ve ended up living there, you know?” She wanted to look away, embarrassed, thinking they wouldn’t take her words seriously. But they did, based on the way they were looking at her. So Chloe continued with the clear of her throat. “My parents used to live there, I think. When my mom found out I... invaded her womb.” Rachel smiled appreciatively at her awesome joke. Max blushed lightly. “Yeah, when she found out, they decided to skidaddle the fuck out of there. Something about wanting a better future for their absolutely badass and cool daughter.” Chloe winked. “Their words, not mine.”

The freckles blush deepened. Rachel feigned her skepticism. “Suuuuure. And did they also happen to mention how much of a cutie their daughter is too?”

The freckle snickered. Chloe blushed. “Oi.”

The freckle grinned up at her. “I mean, you are kinda awesome.”

“Awesomely badass,” Chloe retorted.

“Nah,” chimed Rachel. “Awesomely cute.”

“I am a rebel. Look.” Chloe growled, and scowled, and tried to look intimidating, because she was intimidating, dammit! She fished out her pocket to show them the weird deer and butterfly picture. “I took a picture of a picture. Even though it’s illegal.” Without warning, the little freckle stole her picture. Chloe blinked. She didn’t register what was happening, not until she heard Rachel’s burst of laughter. “Hey! Gimme that!”

She made grabbing motions without really trying to take it back. The freckle was looking at her fondly, almost impishly.

“You’re lucky the photographer of this picture finds you pleasant enough not to report you to the owner of this gallery.”

One beat.

Two beats.

Three-

“Wait, the fuck?!” Chloe felt the heat of embarrassment creeping up on her cheeks. Oh, fuck.  

Rachel looked not at all mortified, and genuinely gleeful. “Seriously? You’re Maxine Caulfield?!”

The freckle - Maxine - blushed in her own embarrassment. She chuckled and twirled with a strand of her hair and kicked at the floor, refusing to meet anyone’s eyes.

“Well, I mean, it’s Max, never Maxine, but, um, yeah…”

Chloe soon learned that Max “Never Maxine” Caulfield was a young, aspiring photographer freelancer, and she’d been working with Victoria Chase - who owned this gallery and happened to be Rachel’s high school rival - to make this gallery exist in the first place.

The whole time, she could’ve wondered about how big of a coincidence it was that they all, at some point, had been to Arcadia Bay. She could’ve wondered about why the bullet necklace and the blue feather earring looked familiar. She could’ve wondered why she got along so well with all three of these girls.

But she didn’t.

Instead, she laughed, and she smiled, and she let happiness flood over her like a weed’s buzz.

Just as they were about to get to the serious topic of whether or not the blue dye of Chloe’s hair made her look artsy or not - it did not, it made her look badass - her phone buzzed.

Chloe groaned, and blushed at their curious glances.

She picked up the phone.

“Yeah, yeah. I know I should be home already. I know that, Dad.”

Her cheeks blushed at Max’s earnest smile and Rachel’s teasing smirk.

“Well then you should know why I’m calling you,” Dad’s voice rang from the other end of the line. “C’mon, David’s an old friend of our family. It would be rude not to come and see him while he’s still in town.”

Chloe slapped her head. Shit. How’d she forgotten?! David was visiting! Fuck! “I know,” she lied. “I’ll be home in a giffy.” 

Rachel snorted, and Max tilted her head to the side, muttering, “Who even says giffy anymore?” which she promptly ignored.

“Great, love you, sweetheart.”

His tone was genuine enough for her to lose the heat in her cheeks and let her shoulders relax. “You too, Dad. Always.”

As soon as she hung up the phone, however, she became tense, and her cheeks became hot.

“So, are you still sure you’re a badass punk?” Rachel winked at her.

Chloe gave her the finger.

Rachel laughed, and Max snickered.

They talked, and they walked, and Chloe had never felt more at home.

It was probably cheesy to say, but tonight might be one of the best nights of her life.

Before she left, she made sure to get both of their numbers, and promised them they would meet up again. They promised the same to her, and wasn’t being sarcastic about it too.

Just as she was about to leave, she had a fine idea of taking a group selfie.

If Chloe were in a better state of mind, she would’ve noticed how the world blurred and darkened and stilled as they posed for their picture, seemingly in awe of them, and turning quiet out of respect for them.

A deer sighed in content, and the blue butterfly kept on flapping its wings. 

Click, said the camera. Click.