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Damascus

Chapter Text

 

The storm had destroyed Arcadia Bay.

It always did.

It didn't matter whether Chloe lived or not, whether Kate threw herself from the building, or Rachel was drugged and buried underneath piles of scrap and the memories of her lover.

The storm always came.

Max had been through so many timelines she wasn't even sure which Max she was anymore. She didn't know if she was some sort of amalgamation of every Max she'd taken control of – the collective memories of each timeline mashed into the body of a much too thin teenage girl.

She flexed her hand, staring down at the limb that had caused her so much trouble. So much pain.

Max had watched her friends die a thousand times. She had killed thousands more.

The storm was one method, indirect as it was.

She preferred a knife. Sweet memories of plunging it into the body of Jefferson over and over, listening in rapture as her classmates screamed in shock and fear as his blood spilled across the cheap linoleum.

Max had twisted his face into so many delightful shapes, watching as the skin hung from his cheek just so. Whether this tooth or that should be removed with the butt of a pistol, or if she should gouge out his eyes with a toothpick, just to see how long it took.

Sean Prescott was another favourite of hers.

Impaling him on his glasses she found to be a difficult, yet cathartic task – but she'd found that death didn't really phase him. Sean was a sociopath. A functioning sociopath, but one nonetheless.

Max pointedly ignored the fact that she was reminiscing over the grisly murder of the people who had wronged her, and the link of that to her own sociopathic tendencies.

Nathan… well, Nathan was just a scared little boy in her books. Fucked up beyond measure, but a child all the same.

Doesn't mean she hadn't killed him though. His screams still brought a tear to her eye.

Tucking her camera into her bag, Max stared at the photo that she had just jumped into.

Day one at Blackwell.

Without missing a beat, she drew her phone out of her pocket and called Chloe, listening to the familiar dial tone as it droned on and on, before –

"Hello? Who is this?"

"It's Max."

She could hear Chloe's breath hitch on the other end of the line. "I- uh- what the fuck Max? Five years and you call me now? Is this some sort of joke?"

"No, not at all." Max sighed, already knowing how this call was going to go – or could go. It's not as if she'd had it thousands of times. "Listen, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I never called, texted, or even tried to fucking email you. I was scared of what you would say. I can't imagine how hard things have been for you, and I would completely understand if you don't want anything to do with me." She drummed her fingers along the back of her phone, trying to remember what to say. "I just… I'm back in Arcadia Bay. I'm going to Blackwell. If you ever want to meet up and see if we can rekindle our friendship, I'd be happy to. If you don't want to speak with me again, that's fine as well. I just wanted to put the offer out there."

Max was picturing Chloe frowning that way she always did when she was stuck – cogs whirring as she tried to string a coherent thought together.

"Fuck, Max."

"Yeah."

"Jesus, I mean- fuck Max, I can't… you just drop this on me out of the blue? I… fuck man, I don't know what to say."

She could her the tension in Chloe's voice – feel it from there.

"You don't need to say anything," Max stated, her voice gentle. "All I wanted to do is let you know that I'm here if you ever want to speak to me… or beat the shit out of me, considering the last five years of silence."

Chloe chuckled dryly, a slight wheeze in laugh gained from the cigarettes she loved. "Yeah… that uh- that sounds good Max. I'll hold you to it."

"What, talking, or beating me up?"

A low-bit crackling snort met her ear. She really needed a new phone. "Either or. Depends on how I'm feeling."

"I've got to get set up, just moving some things in my dorm. Come by Blackwell if you ever want to meet up, either that or I could catch you at the Two Whales for some waffles. I'm in room two-nineteen."

"That sounds good Maxaroni. I'll uh- I'll talk to you later."

"Sounds good to me," Max said. "I'm gonna' hang up now. Still not good with goodbyes."

Chloe laughed. "Catch ya' later kiddo."

"See ya."

Max pressed the miniature red button on her phone screen, humming as it gave a slight buzz.

Well, that was taken care of. Went better than she expected too.

She lay back on her bed, looking up at the wall of photos she'd already set up.

None were from this timeline.

Max had been clever about it, bringing photos with her that were nondescript. Landscape, still life, and of course – selfies – were dotted along the wall, held up by little bits of drugstore glue.

They were mementos of her favourite timelines. The universes that had stuck.

A shot of the lighthouse overlooking the bay. The place where she and the Chloe of that time had consummated their relationship.

A glitzy restaurant in Seattle. A date with Victoria, having finally broken through her shell.

The totem pole in the middle of the grounds, spattered in what looked to be either blood or paint. The place where they had found Jefferson's body, mutilated and laying beneath the Tobanga.

Not that anyone could tell from the photo. It just looked like someone had attempted to vandalize it, or Samuel had accidentally spilled some paint on it.

She smirked as she recollected the moment. How she'd lain Jefferson's body in front of the Tobanga like a piece of art.

The irony of it delighted her.

Max had considered crucifying him – pinning his hands to the wings that jutted out from the ancient bit of art.

She'd decided that that would be disrespectful to the Native Americans who had once lived there.

A knocking on her door captured her attention.

Jumping off the bed, Max opened the door to be met by the smiling face of Kate Marsh.

"Hello!"

"Hi." Max reached forward to shake her hand, Kate returning the gesture eagerly. "Good to meet you, I'm Max."

"I'm Kate! It's good to meet you too," she effused, practically bouncing with excitement. "Seems we're going to be neighbours."

Max chuckled. "That it does. Which room are you in?"

"I'm in 222," she said, pointing across the hall.

"Good number."

"Yeah! That's the first thing I thought!" Kate grinned at her. "I love it when things line up like that."

"Hey, 219 has a good ring to it."

"That it does," Kate drawled, tasting the words. "Two-nineteen. I like the way it rolls off the tongue. Very… crunchy."

Max laughed aloud. "That's one way to describe it. Do you need any help getting set up?"

"Oh no, I'll be just fine, but thank you!" Kate said hurriedly, looking almost terrified that she'd forgotten to thank Max. "My parents helped me get everything together when we got here. I'm just putting the finishing touches on things."

"Same here, I've got a bit of decorating to do. Might have to drop by a shop to pick up a lamp and other stuff."

"Let me know if you go, I'd love to get some things to decorate my room with."

"Sounds good to me," Max smiled. "It was good to meet you Kate."

"You too!" Kate replied, wandering off to greet the rest of the students.

Max heard a snort to her right, turning to see Victoria. "Yes?"

The blonde waved her off. "Nothing, I just think little miss bible isn't going to last here."

"And why exactly?"

Victoria sneered at her. "What's it to you, hipster-trash?"

Max looked down at her clothes, reminding herself to go shopping when she had the chance. She needed something more… refined than this. "You give her any trouble and we're going to have a problem."

"What are you going to do?" Victoria laughed, walking forward and looking down on Max. "I own this school. So, either learn to keep your mouth shut, or I'll make your life a misery."

Max stared her down, jaw clenched. "Threaten me again."

Victoria flinched, not used to people speaking back. "Keep. Your. Mouth. Shut."

Without hesitation Max grabbed her by the collar and dragged her into her room, slamming the door behind them.

"What are you- "

"Shut the fuck up," Max growled, roughly placing her hand over Victoria's mouth. "I warned you Victoria. You only get one." She leaned forward, breathing heavily on her neck, teeth just barely grazing Victoria's skin. Max grinned as the girl shuddered beneath her- unable to tell whether it was out of terror or arousal.

She had no interest in finding out.

"Don't harass Kate. That girl has been through more than you could possibly imagine. If you dare to bother her, or anyone for that matter…"

Max pressed down on Victoria's mouth even harder, garnering a whimper out of her. "I'll ruin you. The Vortex club – your little parties," she whispered, dragging out the word. "Your entire social standing gone in an instant. Your parents support, their constant funnel of money gone. Because they'd be so ashamed to learn about the things you and your friends get up to.

"Sure, they know you've probably smoked and drank, but do you believe they would forgive you for the other party favours you enjoy handing out?" Max let the statement hang in the air for a moment, staring into Victoria's bloodshot eyes. "A video of you rolling is the least of your worries Victoria. What would your mother think when she learns about what you and Courtney get up to? Tarnishing the family name as your friend bends you over a stranger's bed. What would she say to that?"

She drew her hand away from Victoria's mouth. "Good, that's good. Stay quiet and we won't have a problem. Is that understood?"

Victoria nodded shakily, her entire body trembling. "How do you- "

"I know a lot of things Victoria," Max interrupted, pressing a finger against her lips. "Hush. That was a warning. I'm sure we can be great friends if you don't let your… bravado get in the way of things." She trailed her finger down Victoria's arm, smirking. "You don't wrong me or my friends, and I don't wrong you. Is that understood?"

"Y- yes, yes. Crystal clear," Victoria stammered. "I- can I- uh…" she pointed feebly at the door.

"You can go now. Ta ta, Victoria. I'm sure we'll be seeing each other around," Max deadpanned, waving goodbye. "Have a delightful evening."

Quick as she could, Victoria collected herself, before throwing open the door and leaving as quickly as she could.

"Well, wasn't that fun."

-::-

"I'm sure we'll all get along just fine," Jefferson stated, smiling that horrible, saccharine grin of his. "Photography is just as much an art as it is a science. Your knowledge of both the tool of your trade," he said, lifting up a camera, "and the mind behind it are tantamount to a great piece. Combine the two and I'm sure you'll be making incredible art in no time." He surveyed the class, leaning back on his desk and crossing his arms. "Not to mention I'm here. I'll make sure that you all gain as much from this class as I do teaching it."

Max stood up.

"Yes, can I help you Miss Caulfield? Do you need to go to the washroom?"

"No, that's fine," she said, winking at Victoria as she strolled towards him – grinning as the girl flinched away. "I was just so curious about what you said about gaining from us as a teacher. Could you please explain?"

He waved his hands about. "There's always more to learn, no matter how solidified one is in their field." Gesturing to the class, he continued. "Every perspective is important, no matter the person or their work. There's a reason a…. traditional artist, such as Kate here," he mentioned, pointing towards the girl currently sketching in her notebook, who blushed shyly. "Study other artists work. They learn from it. How to place the line just so, how to frame things in a particular way, to light them so that you can draw out a different feel from the same image."

"Ever thought of showing off your own personal projects? I know the Prescott's just love your work."

Jefferson coughed, his laid-back expression quickly morphing into one of restrained anger. "They've been a fan of my work for a long time. My print in People was what led them to suggest me for this job."

Max walked closer to him; her head tilted as she looked up at the man.

"Did they enjoy your piece on Rachel Amber?"

"Excuse me?"

"Your piece on Rachel Amber," she muttered, dragging her finger across his chest – shuddering in disgust. "The way you and Nathan had her on her knees, just begging. Wasn't that an interesting piece?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about," he rasped, placing the back of his hand against her forehead. "I think you need to go see the nurse, come with me."

She pulled her arm away as he went to grab at it, snatching him by the hair and smashing his head into the desk.

"No, no no no, Mister Jefferson," she tutted, wagging her finger.

Quick as lightning, Max grabbed a pencil and drove it into his eyesocket, grinning as the man screamed in pain, the class behind her joining his chorus. "You don't get to walk away from your crimes. Your sins." She crouched, twisting the pencil and causing him to howl again – blood dripping from his eye socket and mingling with the gelatinous mess of ocular fluid that coated his cheek. "This will be all over soon, and you know what – you're not going to remember this."

She grinned at him, the man staring at her in horror through his one good eye, stained in tears. "But I will, and that's what matters." She yanked his head back, drawing a knife from within her jacket and dragging it across his face, a few hairs from his beard scattering across the floor. "Shh, hush. It's all okay. You're going to pay for what you've done. I'm going to drag this out, kill you over and over. It's the only way I can stand your class anyways."

Max scoffed, placing the point of the knife below his jaw, ignoring the mad rush as her classmates finally realized the gravity of what was going on and scattered – either jumping from the window or rushing out the door.

"Why are you doing this?"

"I'm glad you asked, Mark. Can I call you Mark? See, you've been very bad," she drawled, cutting a thin line across the bottom of his chin and cackling as he winced. "You, Sean, and Nathan have gotten away with your crimes for much too long." She wiped a tear from his face, smiling. "See, I've been through this so many times. You get taken in by the police? Nothing." She moved the knife, dragging it along his stomach. "Your whole scheme crumbling as I open you up to the world? Nothing."

Fury in her eyes, Max plunged the blade into his gut over and over. "Nothing ever changes!" she shrieked, reaching into his belly and dragging his intestines onto the floor, grinning as Jefferson screamed. "I have tried to save Arcadia so many times, and it always ends in pain!"

Scowling, she plunged the knife through his throat and into the bottom of his skull, clutching the man by the hair and forcing him to look into her eyes as he died.

"It always ends in pain."

"Get down!"

Max looked up to see Ste- David. David standing in the doorway with his gun drawn, his eyes flicking back and forth between Max and Jefferson.

"I said get down!"

Yawning, Max lifted her pinky and froze time.

She pushed David onto the ground, stepping over him and walking to the washroom. She stared into the mirror as she cleaned herself up, wiping the blood and viscera from her hands.

"Alrighty," Max whispered, drying her hands off. "Let's get back to class."

She practically danced her way back to the washroom, admiring the state of frozen panic in all those she passed.

Victoria's pale white face, vomit staining her cashmere sweater.

Alyssa's look of confusion, eyes wide with fear.

Miss Grant waving her arms above her head, trying to calm down the panicking students.

Max leapt over David's prone body, gun comically raised in front of him and pointed to the sky – his body rigid like a fallen toy soldier.

She laughed.

Taking her seat at the back of the class, Max raised her hand and rewound.

Chapter Text

Max made it through her classes without another incident. Although she was tempted numerous times to leave class and give Principal Wells a Columbian necktie, she instead decided to push down those murderous urges and focus on the positive.

Like how all her friends were alive at that moment. Or how Max was absolutely, completely and utterly sure that she would figure out what the fuck was going on.

She was going to stop that storm, no matter what.

It just may take her another thousand tries or so.

She whistled quietly as the final bell rang, slinging her bag over her shoulder and nearly leaping out of her seat to tag behind Kate as they left their science class.

"You understand what he was saying?" Max asked, slinking up behind Kate.

The prim girl readjusted her bag, shaking her head. "About what?"

"About… perception and stuff like that. How the light changes its behaviour based on whether or not it's being watched." She waved her hands around as if trying to make sense of it through motion. "It just- I don't know, I didn't really get it."

Kate shrugged dramatically. "I couldn't tell you. I'm only taking physics because I need to take a science, and I've always been good at math."

Max chuckled. "I wish I was," she lied, having long ago learned the syllabus front to back.

Hell, I might as well have multiple doctorates at this point, she thought. It's not like she always went back to the start after the storm came. She'd lived her life a few times, beyond Arcadia Bay – beyond America.

She wasn't quite sure how old she was. It was hard to keep a track of things when you'd lived the same life so many times. Not that every life was the same, of course.

Max had once made it her prerogative to piss off ass many people as she could, because why not? A taunting letter in the White House here, a selfie in the Kremlin there… why, she almost started a third World War, all because she got bored.

Christ, she nearly married Dana once. That wasn't a memory she was particularly fond of.

She coughed lightly. "Chemistry was always my thing." Max continued, tapping her chin. "Actually, no. Biology is easier. All you have to do is remember the names and what things do. There's never any formulas or equations to figure out."

"Then why didn't you take biology?"

"Felt like something new."

She laughed aloud at her little joke; the sound strained – plastic. Nothing was ever new to her.

Not anymore.

Max stopped suddenly as her phone buzzed in her pocket. She stared at the screen.

Chloe.

"Hey, uh- I've gotta' take this, but I'll talk with you later, okay? It was really nice spending my first day of classes with you."

Kate smiled widely. "You too! I'm sure we'll be great friends!"

Max grinned back, although she was aware half her smiles made her look like she was about to tear someone's throat out.

Relief washed over her when Kate didn't flinch, instead waving as she walked back towards the dorms.

The buzzing of her phone growing more insistent, Max pressed the green button in the centre of the screen and held it to her ear.

"Yo."

"Max."

"Chloe."

She heard a sigh on the other end, and the sharp grinding of a lighter.

"I'm in the parking lot. If you want to… uh- hang out or something," Chloe said after a moment, pausing to take a drag.

"I'll be right there."

Max hung up, quickly jogging into the parking lot and locking eyes with Chloe – the punk girl sitting on the hood of her truck with a smoke in hand.

She walked towards Chloe and plucked the cigarette from her hands, ignoring her protests as she placed it in her mouth and inhaled deeply.

Max closed her eyes and enjoyed the head rush, smoke trickling across her lips. She returned the cigarette to Chloe, who snatched it from her hands with two thin fingers. "Thanks."

"What the fuck happened to you Max?" Chloe stuttered, waving awkwardly at Max's streetwear getup – although it wasn't called that yet, not for another few years – before pointing at the cigarette. "You smoke?"

"Only when I'm stressed," she replied, holding her hand out. "Can I bum a smoke?"

"Uh, yeah- sure." Chloe reached into her pocket and took out a pack, handing a cigarette to Max. "Do you need my…" she flicked her lighter.

"That'd be great," Max said, tucking the stick between her lips and leaning forward.

Chloe lit her cigarette with a shaky hand, bottom lip sucked between her teeth in that way it always did when she was confused or worried.

"You alright?"

"What?"

Max hopped onto the hood of the truck, letting her heels run across the bumper. "Are you feeling alright?" She gestured to herself. "I know all this can be shocking, to say the least. You don't need to be here if you're not feeling okay."

"No, no. It's not that," Chloe denied, blowing a lazy smoke ring. "I just don't know what to say to you. I thought you'd be, well, same old Max. Ya' know?" She laughed quietly, eyes running up and down Max's body. "But look at you. You've changed. A lot."

Max reached over and plucked at Chloe's blue hair. "So have you."

She squinted as she tried to look up at what Max was doing. "Oh, yeah. Forgot about that. Been dying my hair since Ra- well, since a while now."

"It looks good on you. I like it."

Chloe shuffled awkwardly. "Uh- yeah. Thanks. I grew it myself."

Max abruptly broke into laughter, holding her belly and trying her best to hang on to the truck as she shook ashes all over herself, cackling like a mad woman. "Oh man," she rasped, wiping a tear from her eye. "Fuck, that never gets old."

"What? Are- you okay Max?" Chloe leaned forward and stared Max in the eyes. "You high or something?"

"Nah, nothing. Don't worry about it." Max slapped her hands on the hood, relishing the familiar feeling of rust and pocked paint. "You came all the way out for lil' old me. Want to hang out, or was this just a visit?"

She watched as Chloe fiddled with her bracelets.

"You don't have to if you don't want to."

"No. I do, I… it's just so weird, you know? I haven't seen you in five years and now you're just here. Like you never left."

"Chloe," Max whispered, taking the taller girl's hand in her own and squeezing it. "I fucked up. I wanted to call you every day, text you, even email you. But you know what?"

Chloe shook her head.

"I was scared. I was terrified of what you would say, terrified to know that you were hurting and there was nothing I could do about it. I became scared more and more with each passing day that I didn't contact you… because I knew that every passing day meant things were worse."

Max let go of her hand, stubbing her cigarette out on the side of the truck. "I fucked up, and you have every right to be mad at me. Take as much time as you need."

She started to slide off the truck when Chloe grabbed her shoulder. "No, wait. I'm sorry Max, I should apologize as well."

"Holy shit. Huh, that's new," Max muttered, suddenly feeling a pang of adrenaline.

Chloe had never apologized to her like that before. Not in any timeline. Ever.

"Excuse me?"

Fuck.

She raised her hand and rewound.

"… should apologize as well."

"Why?"

Chloe hung her head, letting out a deep – shaky breath. "Because I had the chance to contact you as well. It wasn't just me who was hurting. I… I took it out on you." She scoffed quietly. "I hated you for a long time you know." She readjusted her beanie, frowning. "Think I still do. Fuck, I dunno' man. I just- it was so hard, what with Dad and all."

"It's okay," Max said, placing a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "Shit happens. We just have to deal with it as it comes, right?"

"Fuckin' I don't know. I mean, yeah, I guess so," Chloe groused. "It's just weird."

"Shits always weird Chloe. Life is weird. That's just how it is." Max did her best to hold back a yawn, pressing the back of her hand over her mouth. "So… do you want me to go?"

"Nah. Shit. Let's go out and do something. You wanna' hang out at mine?"

"I'd love to."

Chloe slapped her on the back, rolling off the hood. "Come on then, hop in."

Max laughed, swinging open the passenger door and slumping against the patchy seat – shoving an old fast food bag into the corner with her foot.

She couldn't think of anything to say, so she stuck with an old favourite. "This truck is very… you."

Laughing as she stuck the keys in the ignition, Chloe patted the dash lovingly. "She is mine." She leaned forward, rubbing her cheek on the wheel. "Mama loves her baby," Chloe cooed. "She loves her baby, yes she does."

Max gasped quietly, and she couldn't help the fear and excitement that rushed through her veins.

New. Something else that was new.

Novelties were rare for her. Very rare. She had a talent for recognizing something that had happened in a previous timeline. A sentence, a smell, the way a person walked or talked. All those things repeated themselves.

That aching familiarity was what had driven her insane, after all.

But never had she had two new things happen in quick succession, not like this. Not since it all began.

Not after a thousand years spent slamming her head against the wall of time and praying, praying that just this once, everyone would live.

She didn't know whether to be worried or happy.

"Mama?"

Chloe tutted. "Quiet Maximus, don't speak like that in front of my child."

"I only said- "

She reached across the truck and placed her finger over Max's lips. "Quiet."

All she could do was nod, doing her best to ignore the feeling of Chloe's finger on her lips.

New.

"See, there's the Max I remember."

Collecting herself, Max crossed her arms. "Excuse me?"

"You used to be this shy little thing. Didn't know I could still spook ya' like that."

"Don't assume things Chloe."

She backed into her seat, readjusting her hands on the wheel. "Because assuming makes an ass of me?"

Max's voice was cold as she stared Chloe down. "No. Because assuming gets people killed."

Chloe swallowed heavily. "Uh- looks like we're here!" she shouted, a little too enthusiastically. She put the truck into park and hopped out of the vehicle, her arms spread wide. "Home shit home."

Smirking at the expression, Max followed her through the door and up the stairs. "Don't worry about your shoes. Place is a sty anyways."

She soaked in Chloe's room as the girl tossed her jacket to the ground, relishing the musky scent of stale weed and men's deodorant – admiring the way the Christmas lights strung up along the ceiling twinkled as Chloe flicked on the power bar.

"I dig it."

"You dig it? Christ, my mom says that."

Max shrugged. "What can I say? I was practically raised here."

"Oh yeah." Chloe rubbed the back of her head. "Yeah, you were. Uh, I'm gonna' put on some music," she said, grabbing a random CD and popping the tray on the HiFi. You like the Descendents?"

"I'm good with that."

"Do you even know who the Descendents are?"

Max started ticking down on her fingers. "Black Flag, Fugazi, Bad Religion, Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat…"

She paused, raising on eyebrow. "Do I need to list any more of the classics?"

"Uh-huh?"

"Is that a yes, or a no?"

"Jeez, look at you. I thought was the punk here. C'mon, hit me with one of them."

"Topanga? Canadian band. They're new."

"Uh-huh." Chloe crossed her arms. "Isn't that just the name of the totem outside Blackwell?"

Max opened her mouth. "Huh." She blinked a few times. "I never thought of that. Tobanga, Topanga… small world. They've got a bandcamp or something. I can't remember where I saw them, but I remember liking them."

"Max. Everyone has a bandcamp page."

She shrugged. "Doesn't mean they weren't good."

"Whatever." Chloe waved her off playfully, popping a CD into the stereo and setting it to blast.

They stand there for a moment – music blasting – unsure of how to act around each other.

Max with the calm confidence of one who's seen too much – not that Chloe can ever know. And Chloe… she didn't know whether or not to stare at Max or burn a hole in the ground, her eyes flitting back and forth between the two at a speed that should make her dizzy.

Amused, Max watched her.

She tilted her head, a slight smile on her face as Chloe fidgeted, rubbing her thumb across the top of her other hand. "Are you okay?"

Chloe's head snapped up, barely able to hear Max over the roar of the stereo. "Huh?"

Max placed a hand on her shoulder. "I said, are you okay?"

Chloe looked for all the world as if she was about to break down, her jaw clenched tight and brow furrowed as she glared at the wall.

"I'm fine." She shrugged Max's hand off, spinning around and digging through her things before producing a crooked joint – holding it to the sky like an ancient relic. "But I'm about to be even better."

Placing it against her lips, she lit it, inhaling deeply with closed eyes. "Aw shit."

"Better?"

Chloe nodded mutely, a crooked smile on her face. "Yeah."

"Sick." Max plucked the joint from her hands, taking a few puffs from it. "Thanks," she said, handing it back to Chloe.

"Jesus Max." Chloe looked at her, stunned. "Ciggies and the wacky tobacky? You serious? What the fuck happened to you?"

"A lot."

"Seriously." Chloe sat down at the foot of her bed; legs splayed out over the hardwood. "I know we just met up again after like, forever, but you can tell me what's going on."

"You have no idea what you're asking of me."

"Dude, really. It can't be that bad."

Max stomped over to Chloe, looming over her. "You really want to know, Chloe? You want to know what's up with me?"

Pale, Chloe nodded, her joint forgotten.

Kneeling, Max grabbed Chloe by the chin and forced her to look into her eyes. "I have watched you and my other friends die thousands of times. I have killed for necessity and because I enjoy it." She gritted her teeth, watching as Chloe began to shake, face twisted in fear and confusion. "I am old. Impossibly old. I have lived a thousand lifetimes and more, each one more twisted and horrid than the last." She raised her right hand, wiggling her fingers. "With this I have control over time in its entirety, and it has control over me.

"I spent a week frozen just to see what would happen if an entire town dropped dead in the same moment, and it was incredible. Every injury the same, methodical, perfect." Max grinned – a terrible, wicked thing. "Want to know why?"

Chloe shook her head. "W- what the fuck are you talking about Max?" She pushed her away, sending Max sprawling.

She shrieked as Max disappeared, a possessive hand being placed on the back of her head, fingers digging into her neck and temple.

"Want to know why?"

Chloe shivered. "Wh- why?"

Max's hot breath skirted over her ear. "Because I could."

Time froze, and Chloe began to walk backwards, spinning through her previous actions like a twisted marionette.

Max stood in front of her, her right hand raised.

With a sigh, she let reality take its rightful place.

"… the fuck happened to you?"

"I don't want to talk about it."

"Seriously- "

"Chloe," Max growled, her expression dangerous. "I don't want to talk about it."

She flinched, shocked by Max's sudden change in tone. "I- uh… fuck, sorry Max."

"It's fine. I just don't… I'm not ready to tell you yet."

You wouldn't believe me yet anyways, Max thought, studying the blue haired girl. It always takes something… fantastic happening to turn you to the way of the paranormal. Or a lot of convincing on my part.

"Chloe! Turn that shit off!"

"Ah fuck," Chloe swore, ashing her joint and throwing open the window. "Get the stereo, would you? Step-douche is home."

Max flicked off the HiFi, listening as David thundered up the stairs.

Chloe grabbed Max by the arm. "Come on! Hide!"

"No."

She paused, staring at the shorter girl in horror. "What?"

"I said no." She inclined her head towards the door. "I'd like to meet this… Step-Douche of yours."

"Jesus fuck Max, now is not the time."

"Too late," she muttered as the door was thrown open, David blustering into the room with a bravado that would make a performance wrestler jealous.

"Chloe, I ordered you to- " He paused, pointing at Max. "Who's she?"

"Max Caulfield, old friend of Chloe's," she said, offering her hand. "I just moved back to Arcadia Bay a few days ago and thought I'd get back in touch with my old best friend."

David ignored her offered hand. "I'm afraid you chose the wrong kid to hang around with," he cautioned, a scowl on his face. "Chloe probably isn't who you once remembered." He sniffed at the air. "Is that reefer? Chloe, I ordered you to stop smoking! Jesus! What's your mother going to think? Do you want to be just another goddamn burnout?"

Max smiled widely at him. "What's that supposed to mean?"

He blinked once. "Excuse me?"

She smiled even wider. "What do you mean, chose the wrong kid to hang around with?"

"Look at her." He pointed at Chloe, his disdain visible. "This… phase, whatever it is that she's going through – it's been tearing this family apart. You seem like a good kid. You shouldn't get involved with someone like her."

"What's your name?"

"David."

"David, could you please shut the fuck up for a moment?"

He stepped back, reflexively raising his hand.

"You gonna' hit me?"

Clenching his fist, he pulled it back down to his side. "Get out of my house."

Max walked up to him, all five and a half feet of her, and glared. "Is that your first response when you're angry? To hit someone? Is that common for you, David?" She was tempted to punch him herself – although she knew it wouldn't do any good.

Rewinding, as much as she was used to it, was still tiring after a while.

"You almost hit a stranger David. A kid. An old family friend. Did you know Joyce practically raised me? See, my parents love me, they're fantastic, but they're busy people. They did their best to be around for me as often as they could, but when an accident happens and you're left wanting for money… well, you have to work to survive."

She clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth, as if remembering something. "Well, being that my parents were so busy trying to keep their finances under control, I ended up spending a lot of time here with Chloe. Pretty much my entire childhood, in-fact." Looking David in the eyes, she continued. "I'm practically a daughter to Joyce, and you nearly struck me."

Max grabbed David by the wrist, the man wincing in pain at her surprisingly strong grip.

"What are you- "

"Quiet David. I'm speaking."

He slapped her across the face with his free hand, sending Max crumpling to the ground with a dull snap.

"David! What the fuck!" Chloe shouted, rushing to pick up Max.

"Quiet."

Max pulled herself to her feet, her crooked nose bleeding profusely.

"Jesus Christ David! You broke her fucking nose!"

"I didn't mean to- "

"You never mean to," Max interrupted, pinching the bridge of her nose. She pointed at Chloe's desk. "Chloe, grab me that pen."

"What?"

"Grab me that pen."

Stunned, Chloe grabbed the ballpoint off her desk and handed it to Max. "What do you need it- "

Max swore loudly as she snapped her nose back into place, before shoving the pen up her nose and pushing.

She gritted her teeth as she felt the fractured bone get pushed back into place.

"Mother fucker," she growled, tossing the bloodied pen to the floor.

David and Chloe watched in muted shock as she grabbed a tissue and tore a thick strip off it, packing it tight and shoving it up her nostril.

"Alright, where were we?"

That seemed to shake Chloe from her stupor. "Max you need to go to a fucking hospital!"

"Nah, trust me, I'll be fine," she said, putting her hand up to stop Chloe. "David, thank you for staying quiet."

"What the fuck Max! He just broke your nose and you're thanking him?"

"For something entirely separate," Max retorted. "Although, I could thank him for making that one of the cleanest breaks I've ever had."

David continued to stare in dumb horror at what was happening in front of him. "You just… how do you know how to do that?"

Max turned towards him. "Necessity," she spat, the lower half of her face sticky with blood. "Now, can I get back to what I was saying before you interrupted me?"

"No! You need to leave my home right this minute!"

"David, do you think you can demand anything of me right now? You've got my blood all over your hand," she said, pointing at his fingers. "I think that's a chunk of skin caught underneath your wedding ring. So, unless you can get rid of a bunch of very condemning DNA evidence in, I don't know, five minutes? You'd probably end up in jail for at least a year or two, and you know they just love child abusers there. Hell, you might get lucky and go to prison!"

She raised her hands in celebration, a hideous, gore splattered smile on her face. "Wouldn't that be amazing! A real penitentiary! Ex-military and a child abuser! That's a lottery winner right there if I've ever seen one."

Max grinned at him as he blanched. "I… honestly, I just get so riled up sometimes. I never intended to- "

"Again, no one ever intends to. They never mean to," she echoed. "But, which of the three of us is the adult here?" She pointed at herself, then towards Chloe. "I mean, we both look pretty young. Hell, I think Chloe's barely a legal adult. I know I'm not. Not for another few weeks at least. But you?"

Max jabbed him in the chest. "You're a full-grown adult! House and a mortgage kind of adult. You're what, mid… maybe late forties? You think other people your age don't have a good wrap on their temper? Ah- " She lifted one finger. "Don't interrupt me. I know you're probably suffering from fifty different flavours of PTSD, but that's no excuse for striking a teenager, let alone breaking my nose."

She stood on her toes, whispering into David's ear. "You're going to get rid of every fucking camera in this house. No more spying on your family, no more hitting Chloe, no more shouting at Joyce. None of it. If you do it again, and I will find out if you do, there is nowhere in the world that you can hide from me. You're hurting, I understand that, but what you've been doing? What you've done to me today?"

She let the question hang for a moment. "Chloe lashes out for a reason. It's because of you. Her father died. He hung the fucking moon for that girl and he died when she was thirteen. Thirteen, David. You think a teenager is going to be even remotely well-adjusted when her father dies? Her best and only friend moves, and within what, two years? Two, three years after her father dies, her mother brings a strange man into her home. She's fifteen, of course she's not going to like him. But you know what?

"She's going to hate him even more when he hits her. When he shouts at her mother and orders his family around like they're his fucking troops. I know you care for her in your own, twisted way, but this is not the key to getting through to her. It only makes things worse. You have no one to blame but yourself… and you better get some fucking help for your PTSD or I'm going to turn you into another statistic. Is that understood?"

Max pulled away from him, the man's eyes wide with fright. "How do you know- "

"I said. Is that understood?"

He nodded once, torn between fury and horror. "Get out of my home."

"Gladly." Max turned around. "Chloe, you coming? I was planning on heading to the lighthouse."

Max coughed into her hand. "Chloe."

"Oh, yeah! Shit, sure, okay- yeah let's go… let's go do that. Fuck," Chloe babbled as she gathered her things, throwing her coat over her shoulder and tucking the half smoked joint behind her ear. "Let's get the fuck out of here."

They rushed past David, down the stairs and out the door in what felt like a split second. Practically throwing themselves into the car, they only calmed down once Chloe had the key in the ignition and they were halfway onto the street.

"Holy fuck!" Chloe shrieked. "That was… crap Max! That was amazing! When did you become such a friggin' badass! Jesus!"

Max smirked, quickly regretting the action. "Ah fuck," she cursed, doing her best not to wrinkle her nose. "How much of a mess do I look?"

"You look like you just murdered someone with your goddamn teeth Maxasaurus." She paused to laugh. "Either that, or you got your red wings just a few minutes ago."

"Fucks sake Chloe," Max swore, unable to hide her growing smile. "That's disgusting."

"You saying you're a prude Max?"

"No, I'm saying that I don't like fucking around with blood."

Chloe bobbled her head playfully. "Uh-huh? Sounds like prudishness to me."

"Chloe, if you're asking me to go down on you when you're on your period, that's a no."

That shut her up immediately, Chloe blushing a painful red as she tried to think of something – anything to say back.

"Fuck you Max."

"I just told you no."

Shouting in exasperation, Chloe slapped her hands against the wheel. "Goddamn Maxalicious, you're worse than me!"

"Had to have learned it somewhere."

"Huh?"

"I said I learned it from an… an old friend in Seattle. She's a bit of an outcast. Rebellious to a fault, but she's got a heart of gold."

Chloe prodded Max with her elbow. "Sounds like a nice girl."

Max looked at Chloe, her gaze soft. "Yeah, she really is."

Chapter Text

 

Max fiddled with a piece of cloth, watching as it aged in her hands. It frayed at the edges, spots appearing here and there as it began to erode. Her fingers burned as she pulled the very essence of time from it, the bright green paling to a sickly, faded yellow.

Just as it reached the brink, crumbling like mortar, she stopped.

The cloth began to reassemble itself, motes of dust reforming and clinging to each other, the strip slowly regaining shape. The yellow seemed to blossom like a forest in spring, great leaves bursting across the surface of the cotton as its colour returned.

Hands tingling, she set the cloth on her nightstand. Pristine.

She glanced about her room, trying to sort out where to begin – whether there was something new to do.

Max had investigated Jefferson and the Prescott's numerous times and had developed a game of sorts from it.

How quickly, and how dramatically could she ruin their lives?

She felt the two were inseparable. Speed signified how good she had gotten, how long she had spent living this twisted life of hers over and over. Efficacy was where she gleaned her entertainment from the act.

Max felt it was too little for them to simply suffer in prison.

No, there had to be real, far reaching consequences aside from a life spent incarcerated.

Maiming was a favourite of hers. Finding clever ways to cripple or wound the three of them in ways that she wouldn't get caught.

Her favourite was when she had rigged Jefferson's stove to go off as he cooked, starting a grease fire so severe that the mans lifetime stint in solitary confinement would be accompanied by horrible disfigurement and a chronic pain so severe that he couldn't stretch without something to bite on beforehand.

Fuck me if there's not something I'm missing though, she thought bitterly.

She'd spent centuries trying to crack this puzzle, and there seemed no end in sight.

Max chuckled to herself as she remembered something her father had told her when she was young and had gone on a jigsaw craze, about starting with the edge pieces.

Punching her bed, she glared at the photo wall, a small part in the back of her mind wishing for serendipity.

Not that that would ever happen.

Max knew everything there was to know about Jefferson and the Prescott's.

She'd scoured their homes from top to bottom on numerous occasions. Torn the Dark Room to pieces in a fit of rage so strong she had stripped the skin from her fingers, revealing the pale white bone beneath.

She knew every piece of the puzzle, yet none of them fit together.

Nathan's mother was no longer in the picture, she knew that. The woman had divorced Sean years ago after she'd found how skilled he was at faking love.

Max scoffed.

Or any other emotions, for that matter.

The man was the poster child for psychopaths the world over. It was no wonder that he and Jefferson gotten along so swimmingly.

She'd never actually contacted the woman beyond an anonymous e-mail letting her know that her ex-husband was about to get what was coming to him, which was returned with a succinct 'Who the fuck are you?'

Well, she did get another reply a few weeks later saying, 'Thank you.'

But Max wasn't exactly sure how exactly any of that was relevant, not when there was a cosmic storm due to arrive in but a month.

She knew the storm was supernatural. That was a fact.

The beached whales, dead birds, and a second moon in the sky made it absolutely clear that there was more at work than just a freak meteorological accident.

Max had tested over and over again to see if it was related to her powers, be it the birth of them or her actively tampering with time.

She had sent herself back to her infancy, breaking reality in two to see what would happen. She was met by nothing.

No earthquakes, raining blood, or the death of each and every first-born son.

Nothing.

But no matter what she did, or didn't do, the storm always came.

"There has to be something," she muttered, standing up to pace her room, shoes thumping quietly against the thin carpet.

Her mind swam back to her earlier encounter with Chloe. How terrified the girl was.

Max's friend, sister… lover.

So many different people wrapped up into one she could scarcely separate this Chloe from the rest.

She had seen them all. Every facet of Chloe Price was as familiar to Max as the wrinkles that lined the back of her hand. She knew Chloe intimately, better than the girl knew herself.

So, she recognized the furtive glances and worried lip for what they were. Fear. Confusion.

Not just any regular, primal fear. This one ran deep. A part of Chloe that subconsciously recognized Max for the creature that she was, immensely powerful and bearing the weight of half a millennium of death; be it wrought at her hand or witnessed.

She knew that fear, because she saw it in the mirror every day.

A glint in her own eyes that told tales of suffering beyond measure. The way she glared at her right hand as if wishing to slice it off and leave it to burn, forgotten.

She chuckled quietly.

Not that maiming herself ever did anything. The power wasn't tied to her hand, but it was the association that mattered.

No. She would have to remedy that fear, find a way to make Chloe comfortable around her even if she didn't wish to drag the girl into yet another maddening attempt to stave off the oncoming disaster.

Chloe had sacrificed enough, even if she wasn't aware of the fact – but Max would be damned if she didn't give her the friendship she deserved. The friendship she needed to culture so that Chloe may survive the niggling thoughts in the back of her mind, whispering poison and blight.

To prevent yet another tally being added to the many times that Chloe Price had taken her own life.

Max knew the demons Chloe suffered. A fear of abandonment, and the knee jerk reaction to cling to anything worthwhile to come her way that accompanied it.

Just as she had completed her fifth lap, a knocking sounded at her door.

Curious, Max opened it to see Kate standing in front of her, a shy smile on her face.

"Hello!"

"Hi Kate," Max replied, tilting her head. "Is everything alright?"

"Yes, yeah, everything is okay." Kate clicked her tongue as she glanced shyly at the ground. "I was… wondering if you wanted to hang out? I have a bunch of TV shows and stuff downloaded on my computer if you want to watch them or something."

Max smiled kindly. "I'd love to."

Kate lit up. "Really? Oh, awesome! Uh- "

She waved her hands about as she trailed off, mouth hanging open.

"Do you mean right now?"

"Yes?" Kate squeaked, her hands still held out awkwardly. "I mean, if that's okay with you?"

Max chuckled. "Yeah, that's fine. I could use a distraction anyways."

She'd always loved Kate.

Max had once described her to Chloe as 'human sunshine,' and Chloe couldn't find it in her to argue. There was a brightness about Kate, this nearly bottomless sense of excitement that she always seemed to carry with her.

Max had sworn to never let Kate experience the darkness she once did, to allow her to feel anything that even resembled despair.

Not after she had seen her fall from that roof and paint the sidewalk in her blood.

Never again.

"So…?"

Max blinked. "Lead the way."

Grinning, Kate took her by the hand and lead her to her room – Max sending a heated glare Victoria's way as the girl watched the two of them.

"Not a word," she mouthed, Victoria's patent sneer quickly replaced by a look of unadulterated fear.

Good.

She shut the door quietly behind her, smiling at the familiar sight of Kate's room.

It was nice to see it clean and bright, the mirror on her wall uncovered.

Max threw herself down on the Kate's bed, hands behind her head. "What did you want to watch?"

Kate paused as if to think, before grabbing her laptop and charger and bringing them over to the bed, sitting herself down beside Max, legs crossed.

"My sister… well, one of my sisters got me into Doctor Who recently. I was watching it over the weekend, and I remembered you said you liked sci-fi, so…"

Max froze, fingernails dragging across her scalp. "Doctor Who?"

Kate frowned. "Is that… is that okay?"

Max had to keep herself from swearing.

She'd spent her entire life avoiding anything to do with time travel. No books, no shows, no movies. Nothing. She was quite proud of the fact that she'd gone what must have been nearly five hundred years now having never watched a single episode of that show.

Max quickly realized she was scowling, wiping the expression off her face and smiling weakly. "Sorry, I had a… a friend who was really into that show. We had a big falling out, so I sort of swore never to watch a single episode."

"Spiteful, huh?"

"Oh man, you have no idea."

Kate turned her attention back to her laptop, navigating through folder after folder. "It's… it's okay if you don't want to watch it. We can watch something else."

Closing her eyes, Max shook her head. "No, let's watch it. I can't keep doing this forever. Who knows, I might actually enjoy it."

"Yeah?"

She nodded. "Yeah."

"Awesome!" Kate cheered. "I know you'll love it. Trust me, it's a great show."

"I'm holding you to that," Max replied, smirking. "I expect nothing but excellence. Fine art."

Kate snorted. "I wouldn't exactly call it fine art… but it's definitely entertaining." She pursed her lips as she scrolled through the episodes. "There we are."

"Have you seen this episode?"

She shook her head. "No, not yet."

"Risky, going in blind like that."

"Quiet," Kate bubbled, slapping Max on the knee. "There's some weak episodes, but they're not ever bad."

Max stayed quiet as the show began, nearly rolling her eyes at the introduction of a police box spinning through a vortex.

Unrealistic, she thought as it carried on – a massively hyperactive man in a bland suit leading a pouty blonde about a derelict space shuttle populated by some terribly named creatures called the Ood.

"That is one ugly son of a bitch," Max said, grimacing at the tentacle faced monstrosities.

"Language," Kate chided, not taking her eyes off the screen. "You think they're the bad guys?"

"I wouldn't be shocked if they were."

The continued watching, Kate throwing in an accomplished 'I called it!' as the Ood were revealed to be villains after all.

Max couldn't help but hold her breath as they moved on to the second episode, which revealed the true enemy to be a massive creature that names itself Satan. She glanced at Kate as the girl clenched her hands into fists. "You alright?"

Kate nodded. "I'm fine, I'm just…" she grabbed at the cross around her neck, waving it at Max. "I don't know how to feel about the idea of taking scripture and using it for a sci-fi villain."

"We can watch a different episode if you'd like."

"You sure?"

"Yeah," Max repeated. "I don't want you to be uncomfortable."

Kate sighed, closing the show and picking the next episode on the list.

They sat there in silence for a while, watching as the Doctor seemingly bumbled his way through yet another insane situation, and Max found her irritation growing.

"He just lets them fu- friggin' die?" she bursts, unable to hide her contempt for the character.

"Well, it's explained in the show that there's some things he can't fix if they've already happened."

Max shook her head. "Bull. Anyone with that kind of power would drive themselves mad trying to fix every wrong they came across."

"Is that what you would do?"

Max let out a broken laugh, the sound more reminiscent of a hiss. "Absolutely."

"I don't know if that would be the best thing to do," Kate argued, pursing her lips when Max turned to her. "Like, there's things that we can't change, right? Even if we could… the past is the past, shouldn't things stay that way?"

"Like hell," Max spat, incensed. "This Doctor is a joke of a character. How can he walk around so cheery when he's probably seen things that would break a regular person? How can someone just pretend that everything is okay? Doesn't he ever snap?"

Kate swallowed heavily, a touch of fear in her eyes. "He does. You haven't seen them yet, the Daleks. They're his archenemy, I guess. Robot squid things that are born to kill. He fought in a war, lost his entire planet to make sure that they stayed dead – but they didn't. So, whenever he sees them… well, he kinda' loses it."

Max gritted her teeth, remembering her first day with Jefferson in this timeline. "Why doesn't he just kill them and be done with it?"

"Because he doesn't work that way. He tries to be better."

"Why?"

"Because only he can keep himself in check," Kate whispered, her voice dry. "No one else is powerful enough."

A furious scowl on her face, Max clenched her jaw, trying her best to breathe steadily.

"Is everything okay?"

"No!" Max shouted. "Nothing is okay!"

Shrinking back, Kate's hand shook as she closed the laptop, setting it aside. "T- talk to me Max."

"What do you want me to say to you? Huh? That I know more than anything else what that fidgety pricks life is like? That I'm old? Terribly, terribly old?"

"Max, what are you talking about?"

Fingernails dug into her palm so deeply as to break the skin. Max opened her hand and showed it to Kate. "See this? See this blood?"

Kate nodded.

Max denied the effects of time upon her hand, pulling it back to before it was damaged. She stared into Kates eyes as the girl realized what was happening, her hand covering her mouth as the skin on Max's palm knit back together, the blood vanishing.

"See this? Well, you're never going to remember it. Not when I pull back, not when I rewind." She kept her hand held up, fingers splayed. "This is my curse, Kate. There's a reason I never wanted to watch that damned show."

Understanding washed over Kate. "Because…"

"Because I live it. I live it every goddamn day of my life. I've lived it for longer than you can possibly imagine."

She felt the power course through her as she reversed time.

She also felt Kate grab onto her hand, tears in her eyes.

Max was horrified as Kate was taken along with her, pulled along in time. Her eyes widened in fear as Kate's jaw dropped, watching as the sunbeams that cut through slatted shades and cast shapes across the floor shifted, growing brighter as time reasserted itself.

"Fuck!" Max cursed, letting go of Kate and pulling back, a frenzied look in her eyes. "How did you do that?"

"Do what?" Kate asked frantically. "You did that!"

"No!" Max jumped to her feet, tugging sharply on her hair. "No! That's never happened before! Never!"

"Max, you're scaring me!"

"You're scaring me Kate," she growled. "How did you come along with me? How?"

Kate gulped. "Like… back in time? I just- I just held your hand."

"But that's not possible." Max bit her lip, drawing one hand over her face. "I… I don't know how long I've lived Kate. How many timelines I've saved, how many I've destroyed. I have lived this life a thousand times, and this has never happened."

"Never?"

"Never."

Max knew she was panicking. She knew that her heart was beating fast enough to bruise her ribs and tear a hole through her chest.

She couldn't hurt Kate, but Kate can't know. She couldn't tell her what she's seen, what she's done, what Kate has done.

She can't know.

"Max, you're babbling. What can't I know?"

"Fuck!" Max drew up her fist, punching herself in the head and eliciting a gasp from Kate.

"Max!"

She jabbed a finger in Kate's direction. "No! You can't know this! You were never supposed to know this!" She turned away, tugging on her hair again, pain being the only thing that kept her lucid. "I have kept you safe from this in every timeline I've visited. Why the fuck is everything in this timeline new!?"

What God did I piss off?

She felt a hand settle on her shoulder and jumped, a panicked breath escaping her lips. "Max, breathe."

So she did. In through the nose, out through the mouth.

Her shaky nerves begin to settle after a while, and she had the sudden urge to murder someone.

"I have to go."

"Max!"

She ignored Kate, throwing the door open and sprinting out of the dorms, destination already mind.

Max pushed past Stella as she continued on her warpath, the girl shouting in anger as she was tossed unceremoniously to the ground.

She stomped up the steps to the boy's dorms, shouldering Trevor out of the way and kicking Nathan's door open.

"What the fu- "

He didn't get a chance to speak as she laced her fingers around his throat and began to choke him, slamming Nathan against the wall and admiring the fear in his eyes. She ignored the pain as he scratched at her arms, legs flailing wildly as he tried to fight back.

Nathan managed to loosen her fingers somewhat, and he let out a strangled, "Why?"

She kneed him in the crotch with all her strength, pressing even harder as he continued to splutter uselessly. "You know exactly why," she growled, upper lip curling in distaste as spit dribbled down his chin. "Rachel Amber ring a bell?"

His now bloodshot eyes widened, face turning purple as he began to lose consciousness.

"Don't worry Nathan, this will all be over soon."

He continued to kick, fingernails drawing jagged, bloodied lines across Max's forearms, but in the end it's useless.

His blows grew weak, eyes rolling back in his head as he let out one final, rattling gasp.

Max continued to choke him long after he had passed out, until she could feel the last beat of his heart against her palm.

Panting and furious, she let his body fall to the floor, spitting on it for good measure.

The blood gone from her ears; she came back to reality.

She could hear screams behind her. Shouts of 'Murder!' and 'Max has gone postal!' echoing into the dorm from outside.

Max turned around to come face to face with Kate, tears running down her cheeks and vomit staining her shoes.

She sighed.

"Why?" Kate whispered, aghast.

She shrugged. "This is me."

Max raised her hand before Kate could react, before she could do whatever it was that lead to this, rewinding until she found herself mid-sprint in front of the girl's dorm.

She stumbled, slamming into the concrete.

"Fuck," she muttered, pulling herself to her feet and checking herself for any damage.

Just road rash.

"Max!"

"I need time alone," she said, not turning around to face Kate. "I'll speak with you tomorrow."

"No."

A strong hand gripped her shoulder and twisted her around, Kate's tear-streaked face but a foot away from her own.

"What."

"What?" Kate countered. "What? That's all you have to say to me after… whatever that was?"

"There's nothing to say," Max seethed, tearing herself out of Kate's grasp. "Just pretend this never happened."

Kate's voice was low when she replied, "How can I, Max? How can I pretend that you didn't just do the impossible?" She licked her lips, shaking her head as if to toss her thoughts into place. "How could anyone ever forget that?"

"Because if you don't, I can't guarantee your safety."

"What do you mean? You're speaking in riddles, Max."

Max sneered, grabbing Kate by the arm and dragging her closer, their faces nearly touching. "There is more at work in Arcadia Bay than me. I have spent the last five centuries trying to prevent a cataclysm. You have never been involved, and I will make sure it continues that way."

"Cataclysm?" Kate faltered, her face drawn. "Like…"

"Not exactly Revelations, but it's fucking close. So if you want to make sure I finally prevent the oncoming apocalypse, don't ever bring this up again." Max spat out the last few words, her expression dangerous. "Understood?"

Kate stuck out her chin. "I can't just ignore whatever this is. I'm going to help you."

"Not a chance in Hell."

Max practically pushed Kate away, squaring her shoulders.

"Stay out of this Kate. I'd rather not see you die again."

"Die?"

"Enough!" Max marched past her, towards the forest.

"Max!"

She ignored Kate's pleas, disappearing into the tree line.

Chapter Text

Max ignores Kate’s existence, and every second of it kills her.

She knows the girl is too good for this world, kind to a fault and oh so naïve.

Kate only began to truly grow into herself after overcoming her demons – those of which were provided by the high bastard himself: Nathan Prescott.

Being drugged and then vilified by both her family and friends nearly destroyed Kate. Nearly killed her. But being saved by Max (in the timelines she managed the feat, something she found to be inordinately difficult regardless of her experience) served to propel her to new heights.

Kate was always successful.

She found fame and fortune in the wholesome art of children’s illustration and storytelling, later going on to create a young-adult franchise that served to be nearly as popular as J.K. Rowling’s wizarding universe.

Hell, she even got her own theme park in one of the timelines. Max quite liked that one.

Kate was special, and Max had sworn to herself long ago to never drag the poor girl into the nightmare that was her life.

Not that they weren’t friends, of course. She would never deny herself such a thing.

The light that Kate brought to her life was something she found hard to come by. It grounded her. Yes, Max had fallen in love with Chloe, Rachel, Victoria, and a plethora of other women she had found far and away from Arcadia Bay, but Kate’s friendship was sacred.

Only once had she brought Kate underwing and had her tag along. It was early on, long before Max had cracked.

It ended in disaster.

No matter how hard she had tried to keep Kate from harm, she couldn’t save her. Misery seemed to follow her like a bloodhound, and if Kate was around there was sure to be disaster.

Shot in the head. Butchered with a dull knife. Strapped to a cinderblock and tossed into the sea. Overdosing on the cocktail of sedatives Jefferson used, a combination of GHB and heroin to be exact.

Kate always seemed to die around her. Even more so than Chloe.

And isn’t that an accomplishment.

She had found no real way to prevent those deaths, even with her powers. Well, not without Kate being horribly scarred.

If Kate had anything to do with Max while she was trying to prevent the storm, her life would lie in ruin.

“Murphy’s fucking law,” Max growled under her breath, dragging her pen across her notebook and tuning out the droning voice of Mister Brooks, Blackwell’s history teacher.

Max had no idea how the man could turn such a fascinating subject into something so painfully dull, but somehow, he did.

The fall of the Roman Empire? Ruined.

A discussion on the American slave-trade? The man somehow managed to make it sound like a footnote in their country’s history.

The Space Race? Oh, just a boring little argument between the Americans and Russians. Nothing much to see there.

She’d slip a knife in his ribs, but she was sure he’d somehow make that boring as well.

Max glanced up, quickly regretting the action, as her eyes immediately drifted towards Kate; the girl studying her intently.

Kate had tried to confront her multiple times in the last few days, her tongue tripping over itself as she attempted to wrangle a sentence together; to find some way to speak to Max about her impossible powers.

Because that’s how Kate viewed them. Impossible.

She couldn’t understand how Max could do what she does. Not within the realm of academic understanding, of course. No, Kate couldn’t even begin to rationalize the idea that Max could control time.

Kate knew that Max had done it, yes, but she could grasp the concept as well as one could visualize the sheer size of the galaxy.

Theory was all well and good, but the human mind wasn’t made to understand such things.

I barely understand it myself, Max thought, tearing her eyes away from Kate.

She couldn’t help but notice the girl flinch, doing her best to stifle the sneer that threatened to creep over her face.

Don’t hurt her. Don’t speak to her, but don’t hurt her.

As soon as the bell rang Max was gone, throwing her bag over her shoulder and dashing out the open door as quickly as her feet could take her.

She slipped past the other students in the hall, weaving through them with practiced grace.

Max barely paid any attention to where her feet were talking her, blinking in confusion when she found herself standing at the bus stop in front of Blackwell. She sighed in relief when it came within a few short minutes. Slipping some change from her pocket, she paid her fare and took a seat.

Exhausted, she lay back and tried her best to relax, gazing out the window with a bored expression.

Resigned to heading towards the Two-Whales – as there wasn’t really anywhere else off-campus to spend her time – Max drew a notebook out of her bag and looked over it.

“What to do… what to do,” she muttered, jotting down a few piece thoughts about her day.

Max never really broke the habit of keeping a journal, although her writing became vastly more cryptic as time went on. Key phrases and gibberish symbols made up her notebook, slung together in such a way that only she could understand.

She snorted aloud, realizing that her journal looked more like the Voynich Manuscript than a teenage girls diary.

Not that she was really a teenager, of course, but she realized long ago that she wasn’t far from it, emotionally at least. Insanity tends to lead to a bit of stunting after all.

That, and reliving your teenage years decade after decade. No room to grow.

She tucked her notebook away as the bus rolled towards the modest diner but stopped herself before pulling the cord to announce her stop.

Lowering her hand, she leaned into her seat.

The bus drove on for another five minutes before Max got off, walking up the gravel road she found herself on towards Frank’s RV.

He normally parked it just outside the town limits, just enough out of the way to never have cops or highway patrols passing by.

Not that people didn’t know what he did, Max knew that a good portion of the police in Arcadia Bay were regular customers of his – but they had an agreement.

He stays out their way, and they stay out of his.

“What a fucking cesspool,” she grumbled, knocking on his door.

It swung open, revealing Frank in all his glory. Neck tattoos, messy goatee, and the same stained leather jacket he always wore.

“Who the fuck are you?” he growled, a cigarette dangling out of his mouth.

“Who is it?” a woman’s voice called out.

Frank eyed Max dangerously. “Some fuckin’ kid.” He took a long drag off his cigarette, blowing the smoke in Max’s face. “So, who the fuck are you?”

“I’m new in town, wanted to pick up.”

Frank ashed his cigarette on the side of the RV, his free hand tucked into his jacket pocket. Max had to stop herself from smiling at him. As if Frank could ever best her in a knife fight.

“You got the wrong place, kid. Get the fuck outta’ here.”

He went to shut the door, but Max placed her hand against it before he could. “Heroin. I know you sell.”

Frank laughed loudly, turning his head to whoever else was in the RV. “You hearing this shit? Girl scout here wants some smack.”

Max swore as Chloe stepped into view. “Frank you don’t…” Chloe’s mouth dropped, her eyes widening.  “Max?”

She rewound immediately.

“…fuck outta’ here.”

“Weed. I’m new to Blackwell, Victoria sent me.”

He frowned. “Victoria?”

Max raised her hand, holding it flat a few inches above her head. “Yeah. Blonde bitch, about yea’ high?”

Frank stuck his head out, looking both ways before nodding. “Get in here.”

Max stepped into the RV, feigning shock as she locked eyes with Chloe. “Hey!”

Chloe smiled widely. “Maxaroni! Hey bud! What’re you doing here?”

Max jabbed her thumb towards Frank. “Came to pick up. Heard that Frank is the guy to talk to.”

“Damn straight.”

Frank scowled at the two of them. “You know each other?”

Max nodded.

“Well, you better remind this dyke that she owes me.”

Chloe threw her hands up. “Christ, Frank. You know I’m good for it.”

“Yeah? Well, you keep spending all your fuckin’ money on my weed. Doesn’t really seem like you’re interested in paying me back.”

“How much?” Max interrupted.

“What?”

“I said, how much?”

Frank snorted. “Bout’ three grand.”

She hummed, thumbing through her bag and pulling out a cheque book. “Got a pen?”

He stared at her in disbelief. “What?”

Max held her hand out, shooting a wink in Chloe’s direction.

Not that Chloe had the mental faculties at the moment to do much more than gape at her.

“A pen.”

He stood there for a moment, not quite processing what was happening. Frank blinked a few times, shaking his head. “Yeah, yeah, gimme’ a sec.” He pulled open a drawer, rifling through it. “Here,” he said, tossing the pen towards her.

Snatching it out of the air, Max quickly filled out the cheque, signing it with a flourish. “This should cover what she owes you, plus interest.”

Frank took it from her, glancing over the cheque. “You fuckin’ serious?” He stared at Max, waving the slip of paper in her face. “This isn’t gonna’ bounce?”

“It’s not going to bounce. Trust me.”

He apparently found that incredibly amusing, roaring with laughter. Frank bent over, hands on his knees as he tried to catch his breath.

“Damn. Looks like this kid has your back, huh? Not like that bitch Ra- “

“Not a word,” Chloe hissed, finally collecting herself. She glanced at Max, confusion in her eyes. “You needed to pick up?”

“Yep.”

“I’ve got you.” She pointed towards one of many jars lying on the counter, packed full with thick cloves of green. “Gimme’ an eighth of the girl-scout cookies.”

“I thought you didn’t have any more money,” Frank retorted, fingers tickling at his pocket. “Could barely afford a twenty.”

Max put her hand up. “Does Chloe owe you any more money?” She pointed at the cheque. “Apart from what I just gave you?”

He crossed his arms. “No.”

“Then shut up and let her buy the damn weed.”

Frank studied her for a moment, before his lips pulled into a wry smile. “You’ve got guts, kid.” He snatched a plastic bag out of the drawer, pulling the latch off a mason jar. “An eighth?”

Chloe nodded.

He eyeballed it, pulling a small handful of buds out of the jar and placing them in the bag, holding it up in front of his face with one eyebrow raised.

Frank didn’t say anything as he handed the baggy to Max.

“Cheers.”

“You two going to get the fuck out of my house now?”

Max fiddled with the bag, a frown on her face. “Chloe, let’s get out of here.”

“Not without my money.”

Grumbling, Chloe took out her wallet, handing Frank a stack of bills. “This should be enough.”

He counted them over, nodding once. “Get out. Now.”

The two of them slid out the door, Max tucking the baggie into the pocket of her jacket.

As soon as they were out the door, Chloe grabbed Max by the shoulder and dragged her around the RV.

Ah, that’s where she parked it.

“Holy shit Maximus! That was crazy!” Chloe shouted, throwing her arms around Max as soon as they’d gotten into the truck. “You’re such a badass!”

Max hugged her back, a soft smile on her face. “I try my best.”

“Hella. Fucking. Awesome.”

“Hella,” Max echoed, tasting the word like a delicacy.

Chloe whooped as she stuck the keys in the ignition, tires squealing as the truck tore away, spitting mud in its wake.

“Christ on a pogo-stick Max! First with step-douche, now with Frank? You’re on a fuckin’ spree!”

Max scratched her arm, glancing at the crook of her elbow. “What can I say? I’m a badass.”

“Can’t believe little Max is buying drugs,” Chloe said, dragging out the word like she was telling a horror story. “Although, you did hit that joint I whipped out when you were over.”

“I don’t think I’m the Max that you remember.”

“Yeah, uh- yeah you’re not wrong there.” Chloe coughed into her hand. “Bit different, but I mean, you’re still Max.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

Max frowned out the window, trying to hide her frustration.

After living so long and seeing so much she’d picked up a few… bad habits.

She didn’t exactly have to deal with withdrawal symptoms, considering her ability to rewind before she had even gotten injured – or high.

As such, harder substances didn’t have much of an effect on her.

Yes, she craved on occasion, but it never damaged her.

At least, that’s what she told herself.

Heroin took away the pain. It took away everything.

After so many years, Max found she needed an outlet, some way to push away the horrors she’d witnessed. Yes, killing was a past-time of hers, but it was only that. A way to quell the boredom, to make sure she stayed sharp, prepared in case she needed to defend herself.

Again, that’s what she told herself.

Heroin was something she’d picked up along the way, probably a hundred timelines in.

She’d found herself plagued by nightmares, and that was when she managed to find sleep. Her days ran longer and longer until she found herself fainting from exhaustion.

The insomnia nearly killed her once, passing out on the sidewalk and stumbling head-long into traffic. The only reason she’d survived was because she’d been pulled out of the way by a random passerby.

Heroin gave her a moment of respite. A few precious hours tucked away from the world and all the pain it could bring.

She grunted quietly. Frustrated.

It looked like she’d have to settle on weed instead. At least she wouldn’t have to rewind after using it. That got exhausting after a while.

“So, where to?”

“Huh?”

Chloe smirked at her. “Lookin’ pretty out of it there. I said where to? What do you want to do?”

Max hummed. “I’m starving. Two-Whales?”

“Sounds good to me,” Chloe said, flicking her turn signal and pulling over to the right side of the highway, ready for the exit. “You still hooked on waffles?”

“God, yeah.” Max laughed. “I swear they put crack in those things.”

“Wouldn’t surprise me. A diner in a bumblefuck town like this has to make money somehow.”

“Hey, this isn’t a bumblefuck town.”

Chloe scoffed. “Yeah? What else would you call it?”

“The armpit of Oregon?”

“Ha! I guess. You haven’t lived here the last five years. Shit gets boring.”

“I bet,” Max agreed, choosing not to mention that she’d lived in Arcadia Bay for a few hundred years at least.

Chloe drummer her fingers against the wheel as she pulled into the Two-Whales, quickly nabbing a parking spot.

Clapping Max on the bag, she jumped out of the truck. “It’s waffle time, baby.”

Max paused in front of the door, frowning. “Did you just call me baby?”

Chloe only grinned at her. “Come on, let’s get some food. Have you said hi to my mom yet?”

She shook her head. “No, I haven’t had the chance to tell Joyce I’m back. Did you?”

“Nope.” Chloe swung open the door. “She’s going to be pissed at you, you know?”

Max let out a long sigh. “She is, isn’t she?”

“It’s all good kiddo.” Chloe slapped her on the back. “I’ll defend you.”

“You defend me? I think I can handle myself.”

Chloe practically flung herself into a booth, stretching out across it like a lazy cat. “Hey! I can be a badass too.”

“What’s this about badasses?”

Max turned around, grinning at a confused Joyce. “It’s good to see you.”

“See you? Who- oh! Max!” she pulled the girl into a hug, patting her a few times in the back. “My God, it’s been so long. What? Five years?” Joyce pulled away, tugging playfully on Max’s cheek. “How dare you not come by and visit.”

Max put her hands up in surrender “I swear Joyce, I’ve been busy. I finally got myself set up properly at Blackwell.”

“Huh. Well, don’t you be a stranger, okay?”

Max nodded. “Promise.”

“Good.” Joyce patted her on the back, directing Max to her seat. “What can I get you two?”

“Burger and fries, extra Bacon,” Chloe swiftly replied. “Oh, and a shake! Chocolate.”

“Waffles and a cup of coffee for me, thanks,” Max said when Joyce directed her attention towards her.

Joyce mumbled as she jotted their orders down on her notepad. “Waffles? You sure about that?”

“As long as they’re as delicious as I remember.”

She smiled. “So polite! You could learn a lot from her, Chloe.”

“C’mon. Not now mom.”

Joyce rolled her eyes. “Just saying.”

“I’ll keep it in mind,” Chloe groused, staring at the ceiling. “Thanks mom.”

Chloe leaned forward in her seat, propping her head up on her hands, elbows resting on the table. “So, what was all that?”

“All what?”

“With Frank.” Chloe waved her hand above her head aimlessly. “You paid for my shit.”

“I… have quite a bit of money saved up. I thought I’d help out a friend.”

“Just like that?”

“Yes. Just like that.”

Chloe pursed her lips. “You sure? Also, when the fuck did you come into enough money to just throw around three grand like that?”

Max very nearly replied, ‘Five days ago, cheating the stock market.’

She instead went with something safer. Max had already accidentally revealed herself to one person, and she didn’t want Chloe getting involved just as much as she didn’t want Kate to.

They both ended up dying. Often.

“I got lucky. My mum bought some scratchers for my birthday and one of them was a winner.”

“Damn.” Chloe whistled. “How much?”

“About three hundred thousand.”

“Jesus Max. That’s some ‘fuck you’ money right there.”

She laughed. “I wouldn’t say it’s ‘fuck you’ money, but it’s more than enough to get me through college and another decade without suffering.”

“Yeah. You can go anywhere you want to,” Chloe mumbled, and Max couldn’t help but notice the resentment in her voice.

“Are you really going to be like this Chloe?”

“Be like what?”

“Be jealous. Angry about it.” She reached across the table, patting Chloe on the arm. “Trust me, I know how to make even more money using what I have. I help my friends.”

“You sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure. Now stop being a bitch about it. It’s not a good look on you.”

Chloe sighed. “Look, I’m sorry. I just… I’ve wanted to leave this place for so damn long. Living in this armpit is a fucking drag, and I just want to experience something, you know?”

“I get what you mean. Just don’t try and base our friendship – as new as it is – on money. I literally just paid off your very curious debt to a goddamn drug dealer. What’s that all about?”

“I…”

Chloe clenched her hands into fists, tongue flitting across her bottom lip. “Me and my… a friend, we wanted to get out of Arcadia Bay. She convinced Frank to loan me enough money to get ourselves set up in L.A., but our plans fell through before we could even get jobs.

“After we were forced to come back, everything went to shit.” Chloe paused, rolling her eyes. “Well, more to shit. She- she’s no longer a part of my life, and I don’t exactly have a great job at the moment what with being a drop out and all. Money is… it stresses me out.”

“I’m sorry, but try not to take it out on me, okay?”

“I… yeah, I can do that.”

Chloe suddenly perked up, head bobbing. “Food.”

Max rubbed her hands together as Joyce strolled over, setting their plates down in front of them. “Milkshake and a coffee, sugar and cream is right there,” she announced, pointing at the little rack of condiments. “Gimme’ a shout if you two girls need anything.”

“Thanks mom,” Chloe blurted, already tearing into her burger.

Max echoed her thanks, quickly drenching her waffles in syrup and digging in.

They sat and ate, the only sound between them being hurried chewing and the scraping of forks and knives.

“We good?”

Chloe looked up at Max. “What?”

“Are we good? Everything kosher?”

She nodded enthusiastically. “Why wouldn’t we be?”

“You looked pretty damn scared of me the last time I saw you. I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t freaking you out or- ”

“Max,” Chloe interrupted, pointing at her with her fork. “I’m gonna’ be honest. You did freak me the hell out when you got all up in step-fucks face.” She paused, searching for the right words. “What you did… I’ve never seen someone do that kind of shit, even in movies. Not like that. You fixed your own broken nose. A broken nose, Max – and you did it like you’ve done it plenty of times before. Hell, you even said you learned from experience.”

She stuck a fry in ketchup and bit off half of it, chewing slowly. “Step-douche doesn’t know that shit and he was in the friggin’ military. Don’t get me wrong, I hate the guy – especially for what he did to you, but he saw combat. Actual firefights. It doesn’t get more serious than that.

“So, little Max Caulfield hitting me up one day out of the blue? Five years later and she’s getting up in the face of a guy who did two tours, only to have him slap the shit out of her and then pop her nose back into place like it’s no big deal?” Chloe finished the rest of her fry, her cheeks puffing out. “Yeah, that’s gonna’ scare the fuck out of me.”

Max’s shoulders slumped as she leaned against the wall. “Look, if you don’t want to hang out with me, I get it. I’ve uh… I’ve been through some pretty nasty shit Chloe. Stuff I can’t tell you about. I just want to make sure you understand that there are things I can’t talk about, things you can’t know.”

She speared a piece of waffle with her fork, toying with it absently. “I’ll be honest with you, I owe you that much. I’ve seen some shit… done some crazy things. Things I’m not proud of. But you know what?”

Chloe blinked. “Oh, that wasn’t rhetorical?”

Max laughed, taking a sip of her coffee. “Sorry, I’m prone to dramatic pauses.” She steepled her fingers. “I like you a lot Chloe. I never forgot our friendship, not for a single day. It’s what’s gotten me through all the shit I’ve had to deal with these last few years.”

More like last few centuries.

“I just don’t want to lose that friendship, even if it’s just begun again.”

Chloe stirred her milkshake, eyes locked to the table.

“Shit, Max.”

“Yeah, I know.” She rubbed the back of her head. “Sorry.”

“No, no, don’t apologize,” Chloe stammered, grabbing another fry. “I didn’t expect you to be this forward, is all. Look, I… I like you a lot too. I missed spending time with you, tearing around this shithole town and pretending to be pirates…”

She snorted in amusement. “We were great friends. The best of friends. I shouldn’t let some fuckin’ stupid little thing like you moving get in the way.”

“Chloe, you were going through a lot.”

“Yeah, but I shouldn’t have pushed you away. It was pretty shitty of me, and I regret it.”

Max smiled at her. “And I regret not ever calling you.”

“Hey, we both didn’t call.” Chloe grinned, bits of potato stuck to her teeth.

“Oh, gross.”

“What?” Chloe ran her tongue over her teeth, scowling. “Ah fuck, that probably was really disgusting, wasn’t it?”

“Very.”

“Damnit Price, you’re supposed to be smooth,” Chloe chastised herself.

“The smoothest of the smooth. I’m sure you have the ladies eating out of your palm.”

Chloe blushed. “Oh, you heard that, huh?”

“Kind of hard to ignore what that prick said.”

“It… it doesn’t bother you?” Chloe asked, a glimmer of fear in her eyes.

“Chloe, I’m gay.”

“What.”

Max pointed at herself. “Gay. A lesbian. Dyke.”

“Hold up, hold up.” Chloe put both her hands in the air. “Little Max Caulfield is gay?”

“Uh, yeah?”

“But you had such a huge crush on… what was that fuckin’ kids name? Jake? James?”

“Jason.” Max ran her fingers through her hair. “Probably because he looked like a tiny butch chick.”

Chloe cackled, slapping the table. “Ah shit, you’re totally right. Little Justin Bieber lookin’ motherfucker. Damn.” She raised her eyebrows. “So, you’re a bona fide lesbian?”

“Do I have to repeat myself?”

“No, it’s all good. Just trying to wrap my head around it.”

“Take all the time you need.” Max glanced over her shoulder. “Your mom is coming back.”

Joyce leaned on the booth; the corner of her mouth turned up into a smirk. “You two done?”

They both nodded, stacking their plates and handing them to her.

“The waffles were even better than I remembered.”

“Aw, thanks Max. You’re too kind.”

“Really, they were fantastic.”

Joyce waved her off, smiling widely. “Always with the flattery. You two get out of here, I don’t want this one,” she pointed at Chloe, “Causing any trouble.”

Max laughed, while Chloe grumbled quietly. “Can do.”

The two of them got up.

“Thanks mom,” Chloe said, looking unsure of herself.

Joyce leaned in close, whispering in her ear.

Whatever she said caused Chloe to blush fiercely, stammering wordlessly in reply.

“Enough. You two go have fun. Paint the town red.”

Max grabbed Chloe by the hand, dragging her out of the Diner. “Thanks Joyce.”

“Any time, Max.”

As they got into the car, Chloe turned to Max. “Back to Blackwell?”

She nodded. “Yeah, I need to get some homework done.”

Chloe drove off, humming along to the music blasting out of the speakers as she drove Max home.

Max twiddled her thumbs, wishing she had stuck around to pick up a little more from Frank.

What can ya’ do, she mused. Probably not a good idea anyways. I have to focus on fixing this shit anyways. It’s too early for me to be fucking around.

“What’cha thinking about?” Chloe asked, interrupting her thoughts.

“Nothing much, just math problems.”

“Ugh, well don’t go asking me for help. I’m miserable at math.”

“I could always ask Ka- “

Max paused, frowning.

“Who?”

“Nobody.”

“Oh, I think a hear a story here,” Chloe taunted, taking her eyes off the road for a moment. “Lay it on me.”

“It’s nothing. I just had a falling out with a friend. It’s not something I’m really interested in talking about.”

“She your girlfriend?”

Max coughed, looking at Chloe incredulously. “What?”

“Your girlfriend,” Chloe repeated, clicking her tongue. “Sounds to me like girlfriend troubles.”

“She’s not my girlfriend, and I’m not interested even if she wanted to be. That girl is a bleeding-heart Christian. She’s good, don’t get me wrong, wouldn’t ever hold my sexuality against me; but she’s as straight as straight comes.”

“Ah shit. You fell for a straight girl.”

“Chloe, I’m not interested in her like that,” Max stated vehemently, staring Chloe down.

Max noted that Chloe’s expression seemed a touch more thoughtful. “Alright, alright. Forget I said anything.”

“Thank you. Anyways, she’s not my type.”

“Uh-huh? And what is?”

Max tapped her chin. “Hm. I’ve never really thought about it to be honest. I just like who I like.”

“C’mon Max, gimme’ a little fuel here. I might have to play matchmaker for you some day.”

Max chuckled. “You, playing matchmaker? Seriously?”

Chloe pouted. “Aw, come on. Tell me.”

“Ugh, fine.” Max tapped her fingers on the arm rest, nose crinkled. “Probably someone clever… smart, and they’d have to have a wicked sense of humour. Well, if we’re talking personality, that is. Physically? I don’t know, I like strong women, that’s for sure.”

Chloe hummed. “Some head crushing thighs?”

“Jesus Christ.”

“What! Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it!”

They pulled into the Blackwell parking lot as Max laughed, shaking her head. “What about you?”

Chloe put the truck in park, turning to face her. “I don’t know.”

“Yeah? Come on, I told you.”

Sucking air through her teeth, Chloe turned to face Max. “You really want to know?”

“Of course.”

Before Max could react, Chloe had leaned forward, kissing her on the lips. “Little sassy brunettes,” she whispered.

“Oh.”

Max pulled away, shocked.

Chloe had never made the first move on her. Ever.

“I, uh- “

“Oh, fuck.” Chloe’s expression morphed into one of dismay. “Fuck, fuck fuck!” She shouted, slamming her hand on the wheel.

“Chloe, I- “

“It’s fine, just get out.”

“Chloe.”

“Get out of the truck.”

Max sighed, placing her hand on Chloe’s shoulder. “I’m sorry.”

“Get. Out.”

She raised her hands placatingly. “I… I would be interested if I didn’t have a ton of shit going on right now, okay Chloe?”

Max knew she had to focus on what was happening in Arcadia Bay. She didn’t have time for a relationship until Jefferson and the Prescott’s were put away.

She didn’t have time for a relationship that she knew would destroy Chloe’s life.

The timing wasn’t right. If she was to… entertain the idea, it would have to be after Arcadia Bay was safe – after she had solved the mystery of the storm and put three incredibly dangerous people in prison.

Chloe growled. Honest to God growled. “I said. Get out of my truck.”

“Alright.” Max acquiesced, grabbing her bag off the floor. “This won’t fuck things up between us?”

Grunting, Chloe turned away, looking out the window.

Max pursed her lips. “I still want to be your friend, Chloe.”

“Can you get the fuck out of my truck? Please and thank you?” she retorted, not turning around.

“Fine. Just know that you can always call me, okay?”

Chloe stayed silent as Max stepped out of the truck, landing noisily on the pavement.

“Don’t be a stranger Chloe,” she said as she shut the door, watching as the truck peeled out of the lot.

Max stared into the distance. “Well, shit.”