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All That Remains

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It was morning in Arcadia Bay. A young girl, Chloe Price, is eager to wake her best friend, Max Caulfield.

"Wakey wakey eggs and bakey! We're gonna help dad cook breakfast. He's quite helpless at it when mom's not around." Chloe scrambles the covers off a still sleepy Max. Sitting up, she rubbed the crust from her eyes.

"No wakey. Me sleepy." Max's mouth was really dry this morning.

"You sure are tired more than usual. First you fall asleep on me watching Reservoir Dogs last night, now you're about to ditch breakfast for sleep? Sheesh."

Max laughed. "Sorry, I was just doing my best Chloe Price impersonation. Payback when you fall asleep with whatever I want to watch."

Chloe rolled her eyes. She knew she was right. They almost always had to finish their movies in two nights, not one. But Chloe was hoping to change that, tonight.

"I heard Blade Runner is fucking awesome. We should watch that tonight. Harrison Ford is like, super fucking hot for an older dude."

"Watch as much as you can, you mean."

Chloe hit Max with a pillow. "You're guilty too you know! Tell you what, whoever falls asleep first, owes the other lunch at Pacific Steve's Crabs tomorrow."

"You're on. You will give me all your delicious crabs money can buy." said Max

"You're so adorkable. But I'm no prostitute. But there could still be time for that. Then I can give you all the crabs."

They both started laughing. Max reached beside the bed for her analog polaroid. "I'm getting up! But first, let me take a selfie!" Max always had to take a selfie every morning. She had always wanted to make a montage of herself growing up and getting older throughout the years. It was something of an idea she got from having William measure their heights on the wall, only she wanted a more visual representation.

"Photobomb!" Chloe stuck her head into the view of the camera lens right before the flash. Max placed her camera on Chloe's computer desk and Chloe grabbed Max's hand to guide her best friend out of her room; their hands clenching warmly and ever so tightly.

William Price is downstairs, in the kitchen, preparing the two girls a hearty breakfast. He hears footsteps coming down the steps and is greeted by his daughter.

"Greatness has arrived." Chloe revealed herself to her dad in glorious fashion, opening her arms and spinning around in her socks like a ballerina.

"There's my favorite two women on the planet! And uh, that's between us three! Keep it a secret from your mom."

"Ooh, busted. Definitely telling mom she isn't your favorite." Chloe teased, joining her dad in the kitchen.

"Do you remember how many eggs?" William asked, unsure.

Chloe thinks, "Hmm, mom said that depends."

"That's true!" The older man realized.

"So how many eggs?"

"Don't you dare question the chef."

"Like you're the real cook here?"

"I am while your mom is away."

Chloe scoffed. "Yeah, I'll let mom know that too."

The house phone had begun to ring. William puts down the spatula and brushes Chloe's elbow on the way to answer. Joyce is on the other line.

Max leans against the counter next to Chloe and watches her baste the eggs. Chloe couldn't help but smile at her childhood friend. "Well don't just stand there like an adorable wallflower! Retrieve thy flour besides you and help me procure this glorious breakfast!"

Mustering her best British accent, Max responded. "O' captain! Herein lies the flour thy asked of thee!"

Max offered the cup of flour as if she was a knight offering a sword to his master. They overhear William on the other side of the wall.

"Of course I'll come pick you up! Now I have an excuse to get a mocha. Be there shortly. Love you." The sound of the telephone on the receiver had alerted the girls that William had finished his dialogue with Joyce.

"Excuse me ladies, I have to go rescue Yonder Queen at the Save-Mart! She doth have many bags of grub for us to feast upon!"

The two girls laughed at his ridiculous, yet adorable butt in, as he lumbered around the living room searching for his keys. "Uh, dad, we overheard you saying mocha. Me and Max need our caffeine fix. Don't we?" Chloe knocked elbows with Max and winked. She knew how to work her dad to get everything she needed, and William could never say no to Chloe Price.

"Sure, you guys can come with me, but that breakfast isn't going to make itself!"

"Well he does have a point." Max pointed out.

Chloe tapped the counter with her finger tips. "Well its not like there's anything in the oven. We can finish when we get back. Plus we could use that bacon mom bought at the grocery store."

"Ah touche Chloe. You talk a good bargain. I'll be out in the car! Don't forget to lock the door on the way out!"

Chloe spun around to Max and smirked. "Yeah, wouldn't want anyone to steal our eggs and milk."

"Actually Chloe, I think I'm going to stay here." Max looked down, nervously.

Noticing the concern on Max's face, Chloe stopped in her tracks. "What's wrong? Look Max, how are you gonna turn down Starbucks?" She put her hand on her hips expecting a good response.

Max couldn't help but look down away from Chloe's diamond blue eyes. "I don't know. I feel really queasy. Its really hard to explain it."

"Duh, its called hunger, Max. If you won't do it for the mocha, or me, do it for... THE BACON."

"Well, I guess you're right. Now I have to go." Max finally caved. The two giggled as they stepped out of the kitchen and out the front door. The morning sun burned bright into Max's sleepy eyes. She couldn't quite understand why she was feeling as anxious as she was.

Come on Max. Get ahold of yourself.

Chloe opened the back door and bowed to Max, offering for her to get in first. Max obliged.

"When asshole Chloe is more chivalrous than boys." Max remarked with great sarcasm.

"Would you prefer I slam the door on your toe?"

William inserted the keys in the ignition and revved up his engine. "Fasten up ladies. Warp drive... activate."

The two clicked in their seatbelts and they set out for the road. William began fiddling with the radio stations to find the perfect tune for this perfect morning. He found one of his favorites. "If Not For You", a song by former Beatle, George Harrison.

"Hey, here's a thought! If we were each a Beatle, who would we be?" William wanted to play a game with the two girls.

"Max is Ringo." Chloe teased.

"For once I disagree with you. She's totally George, the quiet and reserved one." William supported his choice.

"You got a point. And what about me?" Chloe cocked her head.

"Well—"

Max cut in. "John Lennon, the rebel and resident smartass of the group."

Chloe's eyes widened and nodded her head. "You know me well, Max. Now THAT is accurate. I just hope I don't get shot by my adoring fans."

William proudly boasted. "And I would be Paul McCartney due to my dashing looks and charisma!"

"You dork." replied Chloe, grinning a wide grin. "I guess mom gets Ringo. Yikes. Shafted again. Poor mom."

"Ringo is super cool. And that's accurate anyway considering your mom comes home blisters on her fingers from working all day." William remarked and made a turn, coming up on to a 3 way intersection. He reached his hand down to turn the volume up and then, a truck had collided into them. Everything faded to black.


Chloe's eyes were closed. Almost no time seemed to pass. Now, it seemed as if she was talking to angels. The sound of distorted voices whispered into her ear.

Chloe could feel herself floating. The sounds of what seemed like hundreds of sirens also rang in her ears. Her eyes slowly opened to a beautiful cloudless blue sky. Slowly, her senses began to come to, and her mind was becoming more aware. Why did it feel like she was weightless? And why couldn't she move? Chloe strained every muscle in her body, but no give. She tried to move her head. No give. Her peripheral vision revealed two silhouettes of people on each side of her.

They were paramedics. She came to the realization that she was strapped to a gurney, being carted into an ambulance. "Wh-what happened? What happened?" She asked the medical personnel but no response. There was a bump, and before she knew it, she was being raised inside, what seemed like a box. An ambulance, full of gadgets and medical equipment strewn around her.

Chloe could feel her heart bursting out of her chest. Everything became crystal clear now. With all her might, she sat up and peered outside, much to the dismay of the paramedics. Her strength to pull this off was almost superhuman.

But she wished she hadn't. The sight of what was once their car was completely obliterated. And then she eyed a body on the ground. The body of a bloodied Max Caulfield trying to be resuscitated. Chloe's heart sank as far as it would go. Like a black hole had formed in her insides and swallowed every last bit of breath in her. "Max? MAX?!" she screamed while thrashing about. "DAD?! DADDY?! PLEASE?!"

Panic had set in. Off of the corner of her eye, she saw a man, mangled and bloodied, being put into a black body bag and taken away, disappearing out of her sight. Chloe began to sob uncontrollably, losing all vision, being completely blinded by tears. A half a dozen rescue workers, firemen and policemen alike, rushed over to help the paramedics regain control of their patient.

"DADDY! DAAAADDDYYY! HELP ME! NO! LET ME GO! Please! LET ME GO!"

"Miss, everything is going to be okay."

"LET ME FUCKING GO!" Chloe begged harder than she begged in her life.

Chloe tried to fight back being restrained, until every last drop of adrenaline gave out and she was completely, utterly powerless. Helpless. They began to shut the doors, prompting Chloe to do the only thing she could do. Chloe screamed as loud as she could as the doors shut.

She screamed. Oh how she screamed.

...And she screamed until her lungs gave out too.


TO BE CONTINUED

Chapter Text

 


"You're taking too long!" Max was being shoved off the water fountain by a meaty, older boy.

"S—sorry." Max replied.

The boy kicked at her feet. "Ugly people aren't supposed to use these."

Max took a step back, her eyes glassed with tears she tried to hold in. The bully got in Max's face and kicked her once again.

A strawberry blonde wearing a pirate shirt came out of the restroom and noticed the standoff in the hallway. "Knock it off, Joe."

"Make me." Joe dared. The blonde took him up on the challenge and threw her heavy book-bag at him. In anger, he rushed at her and easily picked her up off the floor, but not before she could deliver a swift kick to his groin. Incapacitated, Joe started screaming for help. Teachers rushed out to their classrooms and confronted the three in the hall. "Miss Price and Miss Caulfield, follow me to the principle's office."

The pair were questioned. They had decided that Chloe's reaction was deemed appropriate. No disciplinary action had been taken on anyone except for Joe, who already had a proven history of bullying.

Max and Chloe were waiting in the main office for a teacher to escort them back to class. Chloe leaned over Max.

"I take it you never been in trouble before. I'm Chloe!"

"M-Max." she answered back, shyly.

"Sorry for what happened. I really hate bullies. You seem really nice."

"I try to be, but people hurt me here."

"No one is going to hurt you anymore. I'll be your bodyguard! How's that sound?" Little Chloe grinned.

"You'll really be my bodyguard?" Max twiddled her thumbs. She wasn't used to kids her age showing her kindness.

"And we can become best friends! I know we both don't have many friends. But I'll pinky swear you, I'll be here for you always because if you're my best friend, that's what best friends do! Pinky swear?" Chloe offered her pinky.

"Pinky swear."

The two interlocked pinkies as a teacher came to collect them.

Max had kept staring at her shirt on the way. Chloe took note of her curiosity. "Ohh you like pirates too, huh?"

Max nodded. "I want to be a pirate when I grow up!"

"Me too! All these boring adults want to be doctors and teachers and astronauts, but why not be a pirate?"

Their chauffeur couldn't help but giggle at how cute they were.

"I know! There's so much buried treasure out there no one knows about!" Max exclaimed.

"And we are going to find it all! Aren't we Max?"

"Yeah! I can't wait till we are old enough to get our first ship." Max was excited. She could smile now. For the first time, she made a friend. And for the first time, she felt less afraid of the world.


The floodgates of Chloe's memories were heavily breached. She was lost in her mind, going through each and every moment in time. War. She was at war with her own mind.

There was great fear, that she'd never get to make any more of those memories with Max and her dad.

Joyce tried to nudge Chloe out of her trance-like state. When she finally snapped out of it, she realized where she was. Upon surveying her surroundings, she found herself in the hospital waiting room, with Ryan Caulfield trying to console a sobbing Vanessa. Reality hit her like a ton of bricks. Why? Why couldn't this be a terrible nightmare?

The doctors deemed her in great condition, but Max and William weren't so lucky. Their lives were hanging on by a thread and it didn't look good for either of them. They wouldn't even let any of them go back and see them just yet, which made Chloe all the more eager and upset.

All she could do is wait. But every minute felt like an hour. It was as if she had died and truly gone to hell where time stood still; where time itself became an instrument meant to prolong her agony.

Something had compelled Chloe to take out her phone to look at the time. It had already been 11 hours since the accident.

11 hours?

Chloe continued to gaze at the clock with her head tilted, as if accusing time of lying.

Her eyes were drawn to her text message icon at the bottom of her home screen. An overwhelming urge consumed her, beckoned her, to look at the last texts Max had sent to her the night before her world had upside down.

-

Chloe: come over? ultra super bored.

Max: When aren't you bored, Bluebeard?

Chloe: when aren't you always a dork?

Max: I think you rubbed off on me. =[

Chloe: NO. EMOJI. ffs.

Max: NO CAPS.

Chloe: NO BFF.

Max: What on earth do you do without me?

Chloe: obviously absolutely fuck all. Just wait till you get back.

Max: Okay Patrick Star, I'll tell dad to drop me off at your house tonight. Feel better now?

Chloe: I'll feel even better when you get here. also getting ice cream would help. dad thinks he's so fucking sneaky hiding the stash behind the frozen vegetables.

Max: When I get there you can distract him while I make a grab for it.

Chloe: damn Max, my favorite snoop. that ice cream is fucking ours.

Max: The heist of a century. Can't wait.

Chloe: hurry here asap hippie

Max: On my way!

-

Chloe didn't know whether to laugh or cry. But she was just thankful that Max was still here on this earth. The texts brought her great comfort that there was a chance, no matter how small, that she could have more convos like these again.

A nurse had approached the Prices and the Caulfields. The two families were eager to hear the news. "Well? What's going on?"

"Your husband, Ms Price, has suffered extensive damage to his lumbar and neck vertebrae. He'll live, and we won't know the full extent until after we repair the damage in his back, but currently, there seems to be loss in motor functions."

"For now right? You're not saying it's permanent, right?" Chloe questioned.

"It doesn't look good, no, but we'll do what we can."

Chloe closed her eyes and tried to take deep breaths. She could feel another nervous breakdown incoming. "And Max? What do you know about Maxine Caulfield?" Vanessa and Ryan stood up to brace for the news.

"There appears to be extremely minimal brain activity. Its faint but very minimal."

Joyce and Vanessa were devastated and had to sit back down. Their knees felt like they were about to buckle from under them. For Joyce, deep down, she felt guilt that all of this was her doing. If she just didn't make that call, things would be different.

Feeling extremely nauseous, Chloe ran out the door. She could feel herself having a massive panic attack. Her vision had became dark, and all of her oxygen was sapped from her lungs.

Her nerves were shot.

Joyce mustered enough strength in her legs and followed her outside. She had insisted that Chloe come with her to the Chapel to pray. There was great reluctance in Chloe Price, but this was for her mom, nothing more, nothing less. Whatever faith in God was nearly lost after today.

As the two sat down in the cathedral, dimly lit by candles and overlooked by a statue of the lord, Chloe couldn't help but ball her fists. She hated this place. Always had, but now, moreso.

"Why are we here?"

Joyce had attempted to reason with her broken hearted daughter. "We need all the prayers we can get, hon."

"How do you still put your faith on a giant magical douchebag in the sky after he tried to take Max and dad?"

"Chloe, they are still with us."

"No mom. He is fucking making them suffer. That is worse than death." Chloe objected.

Joyce gazed at the statue looming above them. "Sometimes, we all have to have faith that everything happens for a reason... sometimes its the one thing that keeps us grounded and sane. Its beyond mine or your power to do anything right now, so if there is a God, if he's up there, I have to hope he does something in my stead."

Chloe sighed in disappointment, and quietly got up to leave the chapel. It only hurt her more to stay here. On the way out the door, a frustration built up in her, and she kicked down the benches on her way out. "They don't deserve any of this." She muttered under her breath as she left Joyce, alone, in the house of God.


It was morning. Chloe had finally had a couple short hours of rest, until she was, once again, shaken awake by her mother. Assuming the worst, Chloe had to hasten herself for bad news.

"Chloe, your dad is awake! The doctors are letting us see him for 5 minutes."

Chloe quickly jumped up from her chair. A sense of dread and excitement whirled around in her brain like a fierce typhoon.

Then the nurse opened the room that contained her father. She was almost too afraid to look.

A lump developed in Chloe's throat seeing her dad hooked to dozens of different machines. She couldn't possibly ever come to terms with the fact that her dad might not be able to walk again. She slowly approached her dad, who could only follow her movement with his eyes. Heavy medication couldn't stop William from being coherent enough from recognizing his own daughter.

"Hey sweetheart." A groggy and exhausted William whispered to his crying baby whilst cracking a slight smile.

"You're in so much pain and yet you're still smiling." Chloe choked. "I thought I'd never see that... that goofy smile again."

"Baby, I'm smiling because I've been given a second chance to watch my beautiful daughter grow up. I'm not going anywhere until I do." The smile still lingered on his lips.

Hearing him say that made Chloe lose it. "I love you dad. So, so fucking much." She gripped his bedsheets and leant forward to peck his cheek. Joyce placed her hand on Chloe's back and rubbed it to comfort her daughter's pain. Her tears, although laced with hurt, had hints of happiness in them too.

William closed his eyes, at peace that he could see and talk to Chloe and Joyce again.

Words cannot describe the amount of relief that she got to talk to her dad again, but there was still one other person she absolutely needed to see.

"When can I see Max?"

Chapter Text

 


"You ready? Room 216."

Chloe gulped and silently nodded her head. Seeing a near lifeless Max might be even harder than seeing William. But she had to do it. No matter what.

Vanessa and Ryan held Chloe's hands and walked her into their daughter's room. Chloe immediately noticed how peaceful she looked despite the majority of her being concealed by a breathing apparatus.

Chloe lowered herself on a chair placed beside Max's bed. What could she possibly even say? It took a few minutes for her to calm herself and collect her thoughts.

"Hey hippie. It's Chloe. Doctors said I could come see you. Apart of me didn't want to after seeing dad in the state he was in. That sounds selfish I know. Max, something is bothering me. You knew something would happen. You didn't want to get in that car but I dragged you along anyway and I really hate myself for it. It should be me in your place. I wish to fucking hell it was me. I'd do anything, anything to rewind time for us to trade places. To prevent my dad from going anywhere. Something. Anything but where we are, right now. I know I sound ungrateful, and things could be worse. I may sound like a fucking brat, and I am, but seeing you and dad suffer is more than I can fucking bare. I am fucking losing it, Max. I don't know what to do. You're my rock, Max. You're my everything. And I really want so bad for you to hear me, because I'm hoping you'll just hear my voice and just wake up. Or I'm hoping that I can just wake up and this is all some fucked up dream... but its not. This is fucking real. How can this be real? I don't know what the fuck I'm supposed to do. I'm helpless, Max, and it fucking hurts."

Chloe had cried more in the past 48 hours than she had her entire existence. Everything hurt. Her heart hurt so fucking much.

A doctor entered and signaled visiting time was over. Chloe stood up and rubbed her best friend's brown hair.

"I gotta go Max. I'm coming to visit you every day. Every fucking day, I swear it. I promised you then, and I promise you now, until I can no longer draw a breath on this fucking earth: I'll look after you. I love you with all my heart. I hope you understand just how much."

Chloe grabbed Max's still hand and kissed it, before evacuating the room per the doctor's request.

And so, Chloe had begun to fulfill her promise. Each day, she would pay Max extended visits. She determined that Max was still in there, locked in her own mind, and Chloe was going to try to free her, no matter what or how long it took. Every day she would set herself on that chair and attempt to reach her.


Day 7

"I can't get it out of my head. Its all I think about. Its been a fucking week but it feels like half a year has gone by. Dad is gonna be okay, which is great news. But the bad news is, I don't think he'll ever walk again. He took a lot of damage to the spinal cord. Joyce is losing it even more than I am, if that's possible. But he's with us. Just like you're with us too. You're just sleeping a long time is all. Wake up Max. We need you home. I need you home."


Day 30:

"So today I took it upon myself to fix this janky pedo looking truck. It's a piece of shit but it gets me where I need to go. Chloe got the skills to pay the bills. Well, not really, there's too many bills, but now I can come see you and dad anytime I feel like it so I'm pretty happy about it. Can't wait for us to finally take that roadtrip across country. I cannot. fucking. wait."


Day 67:

"Hey Max, it's Chloe again. They are finally letting dad go next week. He's going to have to go through a lot of care. I got a part time job with mom at Two Whales to help pay for the shitload of bills that's going to be coming our way. But I don't care. Having him home again, thats amazeballs. You're next, you know. I can't wait for the day you'll get the fuck out of dream world and we can be pirates, sailing the open seas again. I have a feeling that day is coming soon."


Day 75:

"I really don't know how mom expects me to keep up my grades with all this shit going on. I'm skipping school just to talk to you as we, um, as I speak. Worth it. If you were alert, you'd probably scold the shit out of me. I deserve it. Blackwell fucking sucks ass. Full of fake people and drama queens. I think if I had to pick one thing I dislike the most, I hate not having my partner in crime with me. You always kept me sane. Was I ever really sane though? Maybe there's still time for me."


Day 89:

“They tore down Steve's Crabs. That place was the bomb. Which totally reminds me, you still owe me that movie date where we were supposed to watch Blade Runner. But I know you, you're just pretending you're in a coma to flake out because you know you're going to lose. You'd have to find a new place to treat me to after I win that bet. But after you get out of here, I promise to treat you first. It'll be the biggest meal of your fucking life.”


Day 91:

"I feel really hopeless. I fucked up pretty bad. I've been trying pot lately to help me relax and I got pulled over today. I have to pay a big ass fine that I can't afford because literally all my money is going all to my dad's medical needs. Mom is really disappointed in me. I'm disappointed in me. My dad somehow understands, bless him, but I still feel like I let him down. I'm thinking I need to pull double duty and work at this auto shop, but I can't because of school. Shit has hit the fan, Max. Wish like hell I could be in a deep sleep with you."


Day 122:

"Wish you were awake to see this. Do you remember that blue hair dye you bought for me? Sorry that I couldn't wait for you to do it yourself, but I'm officially Bluebeard. It would have been kinda funny if the accident left me with one eye, which would give me a great excuse to wear an eye patch and be the pirate you always imagined for me. Arrrrrren't you proud of me? Bluebeard needs her Long Max Silver."


Day 153:

"I dropped out of Blackwell. I just couldn't juggle helping taking care of dad and my jobs. That school was fucking dumb anyway. They are lucky I just don't torch the place out of existence. Wells is a tool, this bitch named Victoria is the biggest piece of shit, and the dumbasses in the Vortex Club need to fucking die. Seriously. Fuck them all. That place won't be missed. Just Chloe venting and letting off some steam. Even if you don't hear me, it doesn't make it any less therapeutic. Maybe I'm just hoping you'll tell me to shut the fuck up and stop bitching. Love ya Max. Always. I'll be back in the morning."


Day 171:

Chloe opens Max's door and walks in with a guitar in hand. Max's guitar. Her dad, Ryan had his own band in his youth, and passed this guitar to her and taught Max to play.

The blue haired teen perched herself on the chair beside a sleeping Max and started strumming nonsensical notes. "Yeah, you know, I'm hoping I suck so bad at this, that you'll wake up and call me out for playing like shit. It was a pain in the ass to get the doctors to allow me to come see you with a guitar, but, I figured I could just sing you a song in hopes you'll wake from your slumber. Sounds like some silly fairytale doesn't it? Cue dreaming Max probably rolling your eyes at me right about now."

She cleared her throat and tuned her guitar to match the song she had learned to play. It was the same song that was last played before the accident. Chloe had listened to this song on repeat almost every day since that fateful day. It was the last beautiful moment they all shared before their lives took a terrible turn. It took a few minutes to mentally and emotionally prepare herself. Then, she began.

"If not for you, I couldn't even find the door... I couldn't even see the floor... I'd be sad and blue... if not for you."

Chloe paused. She could feel the pain swelling up inside her. Never one to be deterred, she kept going.

"If... if not for you..." Chloe started choking up on her tears. "My sky would fall... rain would gather too. Without your love, I'd be no where at all... I'd be lost if not for you..."

Chloe stomped her feet in frustration for ruining the song from her uncontrollable crying, and also hating that her friend was still in this state. Nonetheless, she wiped her tears with her long sleeves and continued. "If not for you... the winter would hold no spring. Couldn't hear the robins sing. I just wouldn't have... have a clue. If n.. not for y... you."

She put her guitar down and hovered over Max, her tears falling down, showering Max's freckled cheeks as she leaned in to kiss her on the forehead. Chloe ruffled her best friend's hair and traced her finger tips along her face. "I love you." She could barely mutter through her sobs. The pain was too much for her. Chloe Price stumbled to the door, guitar in hand. With one last tearful glance, she exited, once again without her friend.


Day 183:

"The best Christmas gift of all would be to hear your voice again. To finally look into your beautiful deep blue eyes, full of life again. I want to open presents with you. I want to build a snowman with you and have snowball fights with you again. I want to decorate more Christmas trees with you again. I want to see your face light up like the beautiful Christmas decorations all over town. I hope you don't mind, I'm going to stay here all day with you. I don't want you to be alone on Christmas. It isn't fair this is how you get to spend it. In a fuck— a fucking hospital bed. I'm going to be right fucking here, Max. Don't you worry. I even got you something."

Chloe pulls out a pirate hat and lays it on Max's stomach. She rests her head on her pillow from her chair, and falls asleep next to her.


Day 214:

At the Price residence, Joyce calls out to Chloe up the stairs.

"Chloe, we are meeting Ryan and Vanessa at the hospital." Joyce shouted for her attention.

"I was just on my way to see Maximus anyway."

Joyce gave pained grimace to William, who reciprocated the same look. It wouldn't be easy breaking this news to her.

The family of 3 arrived at the hospital and made their way to Max's room, where Ryan and Vanessa waited.

Upon entering the door, she noticed Max's family being comforted by a doctor and Vanessa with her head buried in her hands. Chloe automatically assumed the worst. "What... what's this about?"

Joyce put her hand on Chloe's shoulder, not saying a word.

"We were just discussing what we should do with Max..." Ryan looked at Chloe with pain in his eyes.

"What do you fucking mean what to do with her? You mean move her?"

"Chloe, she's not improving and we we were exploring other options... and I know it's going to hurt you, I know... but maybe we should— maybe we should just—" Ryan's words were trapped within.

Blinded by anger, and overwhelming pain, Chloe stomped over to Ryan and got in his face. "Should just what? Give up on her? Is that what you're fucking saying to me?! No! Fuck that and fuck all of you! I don't give a shit who the fuck you are, I'm not letting you take her!"

"Please calm down Ms Price." The doctor urged.

"You're a piece of shit convincing us this is the right thing to do. Don't even talk to me." Chloe shouted back. "You're all monsters! You can't just give up on her!"

William, always the voice of reason, spoke. "Honey, we aren't giving up on her. There's been no signs of her condition improving. I know it hurts, but—"

Chloe ignored her dad and rushed to Max's bed and shook her. "Max, please... wake up. Please fucking wake up! They are going to kill you! They are going to fucking kill you!" Chloe screamed as the doctor tried to pull her off. "I know you're in there Max. You have to give us a sign. Please just give us a sign."

The doctor called for help to take control of Chloe. "Listen to me baby, I love you. Please say something. Please open your eyes!" She was now being pulled off the bed by the staff. Joyce, Vanessa and Ryan are too shocked to move. "Don't take her from me! You can't take her from me!" Chloe gripped the bed tight in order not to be taken away.

Then, the absolute unthinkable had happened.

Chloe noticed movement in Max's lips. Ryan saw it too. "Wait wait hold on!" He planted himself beside Chloe as everyone else looked on. The doctors loosened their grip on the teen and analyzed the comatose Max.

The room was as still and silent as the night. You could hear a pin drop.

"Ch..ch..chlo." She began to stammer her first word since the accident but couldn't finish it.

Through her tears, Chloe could smile for the very first time in 8 months. "It's Chloe. Max, I'm here." Chloe took Max's hand and her fingers entwined over her's. "My beautiful Max. I missed you so fucking much." Chloe brought Max's hand to her mouth and kissed it over and over.

The room, completely stunned, just watched. Warm smiles formed on each individual and Vanessa jumped from out of her chair and began to hug her husband in relief. Although Max couldn't say another word, that was all the reassurance everyone needed. There was brain activity after all, completely throwing the doctors for a loop.

And to Chloe, all those long weeks and visitations, every single day, twice a day, had her patience, and persistence rewarded. Max Caulfield wasn't awake yet, but hearing her voice let Chloe know that Max was always there, listening to her.

Every single day.

Chapter Text

A/N: Looks like I'm going to have more time with this than I initially thought. Expect an update every 5 or so days. There's a heavy chance for this story to extend far beyond the initial 9 chapters I originally penned for. Enjoy


It was strange to her that every time Chloe dreamed, Max was always there.

As if Max herself was projecting herself in Chloe's mind to comfort her. But it always broke Chloe's heart every time she opened her eyes, it was nothing more than a fantasy.

Or was it? Chloe and Max used to have deep discussions with one another about their dreams. There was a theory that the two agreed upon, that maybe dreams were real after all. What if you had access to old memories of your alternate timeline selves? What if everything you ever dreamed connected you to any and all versions of your past and future selves?

It was quite the wild theory. But Chloe believed it. It was an easier pill to swallow to know that her best friend was just going on little trips in time and that she'd return when she's had enough. By now, it had been just one week since she uttered her first word. Progress was being made in her recovery, slowly but surely. It wasn't a matter of if how, it was simply a matter of when.

Chloe massaged Max's hands and played with her fingers for hours whenever she got the chance to. By this time, she had already counted every single freckle on Max's face and arms multiple times. She kept note of every breath she took. Or recount how many scars she's had from the accident. She would always check to see if the nurses had been doing a good job keeping her clean. But that never stopped Chloe from wiping Max down with wet wipes herself when she saw fit. She was used to this at home with her father now.

Life since then hadn't been easy. Both Chloe and Joyce worked their jobs tirelessly trying to keep the bill collectors happy. It was never enough. It'll never be enough.

And taking care of William was a task in and of itself. But it was worth it.

Chloe would have rather be tired and feel overwhelmed than to bury her father. No matter how hard it got, she never complained. The accident had forced her out of that selfish shell she once cocooned herself with, and it made her grow up. Fast.

The day that Max comes to, would be the day Chloe could be a kid again. That much was certain.

Chloe was distracted by her phone vibrating in her pocket. Not her normal phone, however. No. Her burner phone. That could only mean it was one person. Frank Bowers.

Frank Bowers was the local drug dealer from Arcadia Bay. He was typically no nonsense and didn't exactly exude optimism. When it came down to it, he still sympathized a tiny bit with Chloe's situation. Or at least, she always had that impression. He seemed very slightly easier on her by comparison.

There was a bit of a problem with this alliance however. Chloe knew she needed to stop smoking pot in order to have more cash on hand for all of the expenses owed from the hospital. But damn it, if weed didn't help her stay calm in these tough times.

And every now and then, Chloe took on small jobs from him for a cut of all his sales, which definitely helped her out tremendously. Working with Frank was rather simple. He had only had two rules to abide by: Pay on time, get the job done. And so far, Chloe had been on top of that. She shuddered at the thought of what he'd do if she hadn't.

Chloe was quick to flip open her phone to read the newest text.

Frank: Price. I'm across the street from hospital. Pizza Hut parking lot. Meet me there.

When Chloe stood up, she kissed Max's forehead as she had made a habit of doing every time she had to go. "I love you Max. I'll be back soon."

Chloe hopped in her truck, lit up a cigarette and pulled out of the parking lot. As she arrived at the meeting spot, she knocked on his RV to the beat of the opening riff of Led Zepplin's 'Black Dog'. This was a sort of morse code he had in place for his customers so he knew whether or not to open the door for them. A disheveled, scruffy Frank emerged from his RV and looked around suspiciously before inviting Chloe in.

Chloe took a drag from her cigarette and leaned against the kitchen sink. The smell was absolutely horrible in here. Between the scent of dog urine, old food that wasn't properly scraped and washed from the pile of dishes behind her, and the terrible plumbing, Chloe thought this is exactly what hell smelled like.

"I need you to do me a huge favor this time." Frank faced her from his driver's seat.

"Always happy to help. What did you have in mind?" Chloe sneered.

Frank sat up in his seat and stared her down without saying a word. It took her a few seconds to process. Her eyes had diverted to the door. "No way, I'm not sleeping with you."

"The CIGARETTE, Price." Frank reminded her.

"What?! Oh. Right." Chloe was made awkward as she crushed the butt on her shoe and tossed it in the trash bin. One thing she couldn't wrap her head around, was the fact that Frank hated her smoking in his domicile yet it was absolutely okay for him to toke up.

"Got another one that's not answering my calls. This one should be easier than the last. She's at Blackwell."

Almost all of Frank's job requests run-of-the-mill fetching cash or simply reminding the clients that they have a deadline. But this one was different. All the clients so far were never at Blackwell. And none of them have ever been female.

"You do know I dropped out there months ago, right? I'll be grilled the second I step foot on campus." she reminded him.

"Not my problem. Look, you're the one that came to me for extra work. If you can't handle what I ask you, stop wasting my time." he growled.

That wasn't an option. Chloe absolutely needed the extra cash. The bills from her father's equipment and needs were exceedingly overwhelming as the weeks went by. No, if there was anything she could do to keep her dad comfortable again, she would do it. "Relax, not saying I can't do it, just saying this one is going to be trickier. I just might need more time." she bargained.

"You got 3 hours as usual. I either need her payment or a phone call from her back." Frank didn't budge. He never seemed to budge. "I don't like it when my customers ghost me."

"How about a strongly written letter?" Chloe grinned in attempted humor to ease the tension. He never took his eyes off her which made Chloe all the more uncomfortable. It was always hard to break his stoic, no nonsense facade. The day she could, would probably mean the end of the world.

Frank shifted in his seat, facing the outside world from his windshield. "Are you in, or are you out?"

Chloe stuffed her pale hands into her hoodie pockets and made her way to the exit door. "Gotcha gotcha, just tell me a name."

"Her name is Rachel. Rachel Amber." His face almost seem to twist in disdain. Chloe noticed his expression but didn't bother to ask any further questions. Questioning Frank Bowers and trying to get answers was no different than pulling teeth.

"I guess I'll see you in a few. Hopefully you won't have this thing smelling like complete ass when I return." Chloe closed the door behind her and hopped in her truck. Just the thought of going to that cesspool was enough to make her gag. Chloe exhaled a deep breath and started her engine. "Shitwell, here I come."


Not engaging with anyone there seemed like an impossible task. There were a fair bit of students conversing and roaming campus. The best thing she could do was walk to the girl's dorm with her head down looking down at her phone. Just like everyone else seemed to do when they didn't want to be bothered.

But blue hair. Too. Fucking. Recognizable.

Shit, the blue hair.

Chloe quickly slipped the hood over her head hoping no one had already caught on and walked across the lawn of the main schoolyard, browsing her phone as planned.

She had little to no time to formulate a better plan getting in the dorm, but this is the best she could do. There was a sigh of relief once she got to her destination. Very few people were around the dormitory and thankfully the main doors were unlocked this time. As she trekked up the stairs, she crept through the halls, eyeing every door and their whiteboards.

Kate Marsh, Dana Ward, Courtney Wagner... Victoria Chase. Hold the fuck on.

Chloe's eyes shifted up and down the hallway, checking to see if anyone had noticed her.

The temptation was too much. Chloe took the marker from the tray and opened the top with her teeth. The sound of the tip squeaking on the whiteboard could be heard through the hall as she scribbled.

'Dick cheese is my favorite snack' was what she wrote, followed by a doodle of a penis with tiny mushrooms growing on it.

Fuck you, and the Boretex Club.

Proud of herself, Chloe spun around and pranced to Rachel's room across the hall.

Yay for process of elimination.

When she knocked and no one answered, she turned the doorknob and entered. It was quite a surprise what she saw. Whoever this Rachel girl was, she had really nice things. And she especially seemed to be fascinated with stars. There were dozens of books of astronomy neatly lined on the shelves. Even a telescope.

And she was... an actress? Chloe picked up posters of an upcoming play with Rachel's name listed as one of the cast mates. Chloe couldn't believe a chick like this would even be meddling in Frank's affairs.

Interesting as this girl was, Chloe had work to do. That money was her priority. It was only a matter of time before Rachel would barge in and find a stranger snooping around.

Chloe removed a few books and movies from her shelves and searched behind them. Every drawer flew open, every box, every shelf, even the mattress was being meticulously looked over. No stone left unturned.

Nothing.

Fuck me, how does Frank even know this money is actually here?

Feeling defeated and running out of time, she tossed a paperback novel at Rachel's telescope positioned right in front of the window. She knew better than to cause a commotion, but seriously, fuck this.

Chloe picked up anything within distance and threw it. Shoes, DVDs, book, anything she could get her hands on. As she picked up a stuffed bear, she could feel that it was way heavier than it should ever be. Chloe inspected it and found a slit that had recently been sewn in.

Clicking her switchblade, Chloe reopened the cut and dug her hand through the cotton until she felt it: a thick wad of paper. No. Two?

Bingo.

Chloe stuffed both stacks of cash in her hoodie and took off as quickly as she could.

As she made her way out, she was caught off guard. There was a girl sitting on the bottom steps of the entrance, almost blocking her. A beautiful girl, dressed in a checkered black and red sweater and long flowing golden hair. When Chloe tried to walk by, the girl looked up at her and tugged on her to get her attention.

Chloe had to keep her composure. Just a few more feet and she was out of here. No option but to play along.

"I know you. You're Chloe Price." The blonde teen spoke.

Flattered, Chloe replied. "Nice to see my legend lives on."

"We've never met. I'm Rachel."

Chloe could already feel herself start to sweat and panic started to set in.

"Well, uh Rachel, it's very nice to meet you."

"You were in that horrible car accident, right? There was a rumor going around that you died, you know." Rachel was curious. A little too curious. Her eyes seemed to stare right through Chloe.

There was silence. Chloe crossed her legs, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible. "Heh- maybe I still am. Maybe you're just seeing ghosts."

"Maybe. But I don't understand what a ghost would want with material things like that cash you're hiding in your jacket."

Oh.

Shit. Shit. Shit.

Observing Chloe's reaction only confirmed Rachel's suspicions. With nothing left to lose, Chloe began to stand up from the steps to make her escape. However, Rachel's hand firmly grasped her arm and pulled her back down to her.

"Chloe Price, I know you're here because of Frank, but I can't give him this money. I need it."

"And? You don't think I need this too?!" Chloe hissed back at the teen girl beside her, yanking her arm away from Rachel's clutches.

"You wouldn't understand. I have to get out of here. That money is my only ticket out of this fucking hell hole. If I don't follow through, I'll be dead before this year is through." Rachel reasoned.

"You sound so sure."

"I'm very sure. I am... involved with very bad people."

"And how is this my problem?" Chloe's patience was running out.

"...Because he'll kill you too. Without hesitation."

"Wh- what? Who is he?"

"Damon Merrick." Rachel whispered, as if his name alone was some forbidden taboo.

Chloe stares and blinks at the girl who is now cradling her head in her hands. This was serious. It wasn't some idle threat to scare her. At least, that's what her gut told her. Rachel could have easily screamed and got help from the security guard, or fight her herself if she wanted to. Instead, she confronted her in civil fashion, warning her of the consequences. And she didn't have to.

Rachel turned her head to Chloe. "I'm sure you have your reasons for doing what you're doing. But what good are your actions when you'll be dead and buried before you'll see your results?"

Rachel did have a point. However, if Chloe botched this up, she would be losing out on a working relationship with Frank, which she desperately needed for her family to stay afloat. The income from her normal jobs were peanuts in comparison to the cuts she gets from Bowers. She had to make a decision.

Chloe groaned and punched the concrete between her legs in frustration. She had no idea what to do.

"You don't trust me do you?"

"Well you are apparently a really good actress." Chloe snidely remarked and stuck her nose up in the air.

Rachel's eyebrows furrowed. It figures that this blue haired drop out would be doing extra snooping in her room.

"You've already done your homework on me?"

"Yeah. And another thing that confuses me, I saw that your dad is the district attorney of Arcadia Bay, yet you can't go to him for help?"

Rachel's shoulders slumped and her face turned red with anger. "Not an option. Fuck him. Lying, manipulative, cheating scumbag. He has strong affiliations with a lot of criminals in Arcadia Bay. I'd soon just end my own life before I ever go back home and ask him for help."

Instead of answering, Chloe breathes a heavy sigh and digs through her jacket for the two stacks of money and drops them on Rachel's lap. Chloe quietly gets up and walks away.

Not expecting that kind of response from her, Rachel stood up after her.

"Chloe, w- wait!" Rachel shouted for her attention but Chloe never even bothered to turn around.

"You're doing all this for your dad aren't you? Your heart is in the right place. I'm the one being selfish. I'm so sorry." There was a mutual understanding between the two.

Chloe looked over her shoulder, her eyes gazing into Rachel's with pity behind them. Wasting no time, Rachel sprinted towards Chloe and took her hand to place one half of the two bundles of money in her palm.

"Tell Frank this is the best I can do for right now."

"Something is better than nothing." Chloe shrugged and slid the offering back into her pocket. "You sure you're fine with this?"

"No, but I'll come up with something."

"Can't you just go home and ask your family for a loan or something?" Chloe suggested, trying to figure out a better solution for her.

Home. Family. Chloe immediately regretted bring that up to her again. It seemed it was a touchy subject for her.

"The only home I've ever known is ashes now. I can't go back. I just can't." Tears welled up in Rachel's eyes.

"I'm sorry..." Chloe looks down at the ground and continues to walk the other way.

"M-maybe I'll see you around again?" Rachel yelled out.

Chloe paused. "I'm just a ghost, remember? But in case we do, I promise to be a better one next time."

Rachel couldn't help but laugh through her pain as she watched Chloe disappear from her sight.

The mission was a success. Sort of. She didn't expect Frank to be thrilled that the full sum of the payment wasn't in his possession, but no doubt he'd take it.

Fiddling with her keys to open her car door, she felt it. The feel of cold metal being pressed firmly at the base of her skull. She knew exacly what horrible predicament she was in. Her eyes closed tightly, hoping to god whoever was behind her wasn't going to pull the trigger.

A whisper sent shivers throughout her entire body. "I believe you have something of mine." Damon Merrick pulled the hammer back of his revolver, as warm tears began to stream down Chloe's cheek.

This was it.

Chapter Text

It only takes a single instant for someone's world to turn upside down.

In the case of Chloe, any sudden movements mean certain death. "Please, the money is in my jacket. Just get it and let me go. Please." Chloe pleaded, trying her best not to piss off this loose cannon any further.

Damon obliged and withdrew the wad of money from Chloe's hoodie while still retaining his pistol to the back of her skull. "That's a start. I'm going to need you for a few more minutes, lady." Damon tightened his grip around the back of her neck, bracing for someone approaching them. However, Chloe could barely make out what was even just few feet in front of her, as her eyes were glassed over with fearful tears. Only the sound of a familiar voice was all she could rely on for further context.

"Damon! Baby, let her go. We can get out of this place, together. Right this instant. All you have to do is let her go."

The voice belonged to Rachel Amber—approaching Damon and his hostage. Chloe had no idea this... boogeyman Rachel had previously spoke of, happened to be her own boyfriend.

"That's funny, baby." Damon mocked Rachel. "I always knew it, you fucking slutwhore. I overheard you were planning on running away. You were afraid I'd find out about you fucking Frank behind my back, weren't you?"

"Damon, what are you talking ab—"

Damon rolled his eyes while pressing the barrel harder against Chloe's head. "Play dumb with me again, and, I'll smoke both of you right here, right now without fucking hesitation." The malice in his voice proved he was just the guy to do it, too.

Rachel, come the fuck on... he's not bluffing.

"You pull that trigger, no money on earth is going to help you when you're rotting in jail, you piece of shit." Rachel furiously shot back, knowing she couldn't sweet talk her way out of this one.

"Shut your mouth." Damon retorted. "You got something of mine too, don't you?"

"If I give you this, you have to promise me you'll let her go." Rachel was essentially bartering for Chloe's life.

"You're in no position to bargain with me."

"Are you really that fucking insane that you'd kill both of us in a public place with a security guard on standby?" Rachel scowled.

"Point taken. I might guarantee this one's safety but your's is another story."

"I understand. I'll give myself up. You have to let her go in return."

Whoever this Rachel chick was, had balls of steel. Why would she even care what happens to a thief who pretty much trashed her fucking dorm?

Exercising caution, Rachel slowly walked up to Damon with her half of the money. He extended his hand out and snatched the money out of Rachel's hands; his gun finally lowered just enough off Chloe for Rachel to spot an opening. With a swift knee to Damon's groin, he dropped his gun and fell to the ground. Taking advantage of his incapacitation, Rachel pounced towards the firearm.

To no avail.

Damon grabbed Rachel's legs and tripped her. Overpowering Rachel, Damon mounted her and rained blows from above, with Rachel trying her damnest to block every hit. But he was much stronger, more faster, more beefier, and it wasn't long until she was eventually overtaken by him. With no other way out, her peripheral vision showed the weapon laying beside her. Rachel struggled to reach her right arm to wield it, but Damon had already knew what she was planning. The two grabbed the weapon at the same time and wrestled with each other to pry it from each other's grasp first. When it came to Chloe, all she could in that moment, was to stand there. By no fault of her own. It was fear.

She needed to make a decision.

With haste, Chloe turned around from the scuffle and jumped in her truck. With a stomp, she floored the gas pedal with all her might. As she took off, the sound of a gunshot rang out on campus which prompted all the startled students nearby to seek refuge.

But Chloe didn't stop. She didn't look back.

And she felt like a chickenshit for doing so.

When she drove a few miles up the road, she passed by a brigade of police cars and ambulances heading to Blackwell. Feeling unnerved, she pulled over to an abandoned parking lot to collect her thoughts. She could feel a panic attack creeping up on her— something she had gotten very frequently ever since the day of the accident. Her hands trembled and her breathing became labored as she tried as hard as she could to maintain control of herself.

But it was all in vain. The events that transpired just minutes ago, finally sank in and started to eat at Chloe. Could she have helped Rachel? Why didn't she try to? Who was shot in that scuffle? All these questions plagued her already fragile mind. She felt like such a coward, but getting the hell out was the only thing she could think about in that moment. Fight or flight, they call it. She chose flight.

And she'd have to live with that decision.

The first on her list of priorities now was to go and pay Frank a visit. There were a lot of burning questions that had to be asked. Chloe cranked up her truck and drove to their prior meeting place, where he'd undoubtedly be still awaiting her arrival.


"Did you get the job done?"

Chloe just glared at him, without a word. This was a stare that had actually made him feel uneasy. Which was a first. It was he who usually applied fear tactics to his clients, not the other way around. Frank thought he was past that intimidation game bullshit after falling out with Damon. Oh how he thought wrong.

Chloe lunged at Frank with her pocketknife in hand and put the cold blade to his neck. Possessed by anger and still riding high on adrenaline, Chloe had transformed into a different person.

"You set me up, Frank! You didn't tell me it would be a fucking suicide mission! You could have stopped me and warned me to say 'Hey, by the way, her boyfriend is a fucking psychopath that stalks her'. Fuck you, Frank. Fuck you."

In defense of his owner, little Pompidou nipped at her heels to try and pry Chloe away from Frank.

Surprised at herself with how psychotic she was acting, she withdrew her blade; her eyes darted around in paranoia. She didn't know what came over her. And that absolutely terrified her.

Am I really no better than Damon Merrick?

Frank, completely taken aback, looked into her eyes with remorse. "Look, Price... Chloe, I didn't expect Damon to be on the campus."

"Well he was! With a fucking gun. Now that Rachel girl is probably dead because of me! Because of you!" Chloe couldn't believe he didn't think this through well enough.

Sat in silence, Frank was ridden with guilt. If there was any spilled blood, it was purely on his hands. The once unbreakable demeanor he had flaunted around to everyone in town, had now broke. Now, he was more or less, a broken down man, questioning every decision he had ever made up to this point. The woman he fell in love with could be laying in a bloodied heap. All because of him.

Chloe was absolutely right.

"I'm sorry, Chloe..."

An apology was the last thing Chloe ever thought would come out of his mouth. The sincerity of his voice felt real enough, but apologizing wasn't going to bring back Rachel or wash the memory of being held at gunpoint

"Would you fucking explain what the fuck is going on between you three?"

Frank, again, sat in silence. Even after all of that, she felt at the very least he owed her some clarity of the situation. Chloe threw her hands up in the air.

"Of fucking course you won't tell me." With a look of disgust, Chloe slammed the RV door behind her and went back to her truck.

In a fit of anger, she beat her steering wheel with hammered fists. Now what? Severing ties with Frank put her in a bad spot with her financial situation.

Oh but...

That was the very least of her worries.

No. Now poses another issue. Chloe had to get this truck off the road. There was no way she'd risk driving this thing around town now on the off chance police were searching for a vehicle that escaped the scene of the crime. Regardless of intentions, Chloe too, had become a criminal, working for a drug dealer and stealing money. If she got caught, she would be looking at a few years behind bars. And that was something she couldn't afford to take chances on.

The junkyard.

That was the best place for it.

When she arrived, she parked the truck and unscrewed the license plate with her blade, tossing in in a heap of scraps. Chloe reached inside for the pirate towel covering up the torn and tattered seat and folded it over her arm. No way she was getting rid of this, as this was a gift from Max on Chloe's 10th birthday. Chloe had always been sentimental about her belongings.

Before she departed, she gave one last look around the junkyard. Chloe beheld a familiar sight. One that immediately sent tingles down her spine. Anxiously biting her bottom lip, Chloe crept closer to inspect it.

No fucking way.

The sight of her dad's old car was completely demolished. How anyone got out of that heap alive, was beyond her understanding.

Chloe with great apprehension, climbed in the remains of the passenger seat and pinched her fingers on the dial of the smashed in radio, turning up the volume of nothing but the sounds of silence. In her mind began flashes of the immediate aftermath of the wreck. It was all she could think about now. It was all she could ever think about. Blood. A corpse being zipped up in a black body bag. Those horrifying sirens pounding into her head.

All Chloe could muster was a hum. Humming had helped calm herself down many times before. But this time, even that idea seemed to crash and burn. Chloe pulled her knees to her chest and rocked back and forth, counting numbers backwards, doing anything she could to keep her mind calm. Maintaining her mental breakdowns throughout the months took a lot of work. But this? This was nigh untamable. Uncontrollable.

But it was too late. A tsunami had breached the levees of Chloe's mind. And she was completely helpless. Chloe couldn't hold it in anymore. She screamed at the top of her lungs, until they burned— until her throat wouldn't allow her to scream anymore. Too many thoughts. Too little control to suppress them. She caressed her head and rolled around in complete agony, at the mercy of her shattered mind, for the next two hours.


It had been a long, stressful walk to her house. When Chloe closed the door behind her, William called her over from the dining room. Chloe pitifully pulled up a chair and sat down, avoiding eye contact with her dad. This let William know something was wrong.

"You can't let your mom see this." William warned as he stared at the baggy of marijuana laying on the table that Chloe forgot to take with her. Leaving this out in the open was so uncharacteristic of her. Even she gasped at her mistake.

"I know..." Chloe felt so ashamed her dad had to find out like this.

William could hear the hoarseness in her daughter's voice and see the sorrow in her eyes. "Honey? What's the matter?"

"Everything." Chloe put her head down over her arms. "Can I ask you something, dad? If I were in your position instead, you would do anything to make sure I got the best care, right?" She almost mumbled from under the table.

"What a silly question. You know I would."

"Even if that meant you dealt with lots of very bad people and have to do very bad things?"

William paused to take in what she meant. "Are you in any danger Chloe?"

"I really don't know..."

Although not being entirely direct and clear, William could appreciate the fact Chloe could open up to him. Even after telling him that startling revelation, William retained his comforting smile. That same smile he had back at the hospital when he was at death's door. Only William.

Only my dad.

"I can't fault you for doing your best for yourself and for your family. We all get reckless trying to help the ones we love. I can't tell you how many times I've even thought about robbing a bank when times were tough."

"You? Nice guy William holding up a teller with what, an Olive Garden gift card?" The thought of her dad doing anything like that was so ridiculously unbelievable, that she couldn't help but laugh out loud.

"I know, it probably wouldn't have worked out as well as it did for you."

"You mean to tell me that you don't love me any less?" Chloe lifted her head out from her folded arms and blinked.

"Absolutely not. There's nothing you could do or say to change that. Except for that time you and Max ate all my Snicker doodle ice cream while I was at work. That definitely made me question my love for you." William giggled.

William always had the best sense of humor. There was never a time where he ever lost his cool, even when Chloe gave him hell. She always envied him for that trait. Chloe always wondered how she was even his daughter, as she had always been so confrontational, super cranky, and full of attitude. William Price was too good for her. Too good for this world. To her, William was the closest thing to an angel in a world of devils.

"You are the biggest dork. The only person to ever give Max a run for her money." Chloe wrapped her arms lovingly around her father. It still broke her heart that he'd never be able to hold her back. Those hugs were always the best. He definitely had no equal in that department. But the memories of them were her's to cherish forever.

"I love you."

"I love you too sweetheart." He assuringly whispered into her ear.

"I'll be upstairs for a bit. Just call out if you need anything." Chloe parted from him and marched up the stairs. To relax, she set her stereo to play 'Santa Monica Dream' by 'Angus and Julia Stone'. Chloe unwrapped the baggie of weed that she picked up on the kitchen table and rolled it neatly into her folding paper and sealed it once the joint had became firm enough. Chloe pat herself down searching for her lighter until it donned on her that she had left it in the truck. At the junkyard.

Fuck.

Searching for a spare in her room, she began to throw shit around, in much the same manner as she did to Rachel's room.

That's when it all hit her.

Her fingerprints— her DNA, was everywhere and on everything she touched in Rachel's room. And had the police searched her dorm for evidence, there was no doubt she'd be pegged as Damon's accomplice.

Chloe was now a fugitive on the run.

Her thoughts were disturbed by a loud ringtone of her cellphone. The sound made her jump and she was almost too afraid to look at the caller ID. When she let it ring a few times more, she mustered enough courage to at least glimpse at who was calling.

This is... Max's mom?

Chloe answered and heard Vanessa Caulfield's shaky voice.

"Ch..Chloe?"

It didn't take long for anxiety to set in. Chloe felt churning in her stomach. Her entire body tensed up as a reflex, and she flinched as if bracing for a physical blow.

"Oh God, our baby is awake! Meet us at the hospital as soon as you can!"

There wasn't a single word, nor book, to describe the immense rush of happiness and relief surging through Chloe's very being.

"I'll... I'll be right there!" Chloe put her hand to her mouth in a state of shock and dropped her phone. She fell to her knees and fanned off happy tears seeping through her eyes.

"Thank you. Thank you so fucking much. Thank you so much." She whispered to no one in particular. But if there was, in fact, a God, she needed him to hear it.

A silver lining had finally come. And Chloe could breathe again.

Chapter Text

Max is finally awake.

Chloe had her cellphone to her ear and paced around in her room like an animal trapped in a cage. She could hardly contain herself.

The first thing Chloe did upon hearing this news, was call up her mom. Joyce was in the middle of her shift at Two Whales when she received the call. When Joyce picked up her cellphone, she was met by her enthusiastic daughter's voice— something she hadn't heard in a long, long while. Surprisingly, there wasn't any questions pertaining to what happened to Chloe's own ride to get there.

No. Joyce was just as eager as Chloe to drop everything she was doing, and go see whom she regarded as her second daughter. Joyce requested to leave early, and it was granted to her, much to her delight. Buckling her seatbelt in her specially made handicapped SUV, she began her drive to pick up Chloe and William at home.

When the family of three arrived, they were greeted by Vanessa and Ryan Caulfield— both smiling ear to ear. "She's so excited to see everyone again. Especially you, Chloe." Ryan mentioned while nudging her with his elbow.

"She's waiting for you." Vanessa sweetly pointed at the door.

"Are you guys coming?" Chloe was a bit perplexed why Joyce and William decided to stay back with the Caulfields. This was the moment everyone had been waiting for. The uncertainty— the storm they all had to endure, how could they not?

"You should see her first, Chloe. You need this." Joyce snuck a warm smile. "She needs this, too."

Chloe nodded to her mom in acknowledgment and gripped the knob to Max's door. Taking a deep breath in anticipation, Chloe slowly budged it open and was met by her best friend in the whole wide world staring right back at her.

Now, during her existence, Chloe had seen beautiful vast blue oceans, had seen expanses of snow capped mountains and valleys, had seen how amazing starry nights were over desert skies, and not one, not a single one, was more breathtaking than seeing Max's deep blue eyes looking into her's again.

Like a moth to a flame, Chloe was drawn to the light of her irises. As she edged closer to the bed, she could feel herself crying once more. But for once, these were not tears of sorrow. These were tears of joy. Chloe collapses herself on the chair placed beside the hospital bed, and leaned into Max— burying her face in the sheets to suppress her tears so that Max wouldn't have to see her cry.

It was in vain.

The sounds of Chloe choking back tears brought sadness to Max. Seeing her sad had always made her sad too, as if she their souls entwined as one.

Almost too weak to move her arm, Max reached over and started stroking her best friend's blue hair in an effort to comfort her. "This... really suits you."

Feeling Max's light touch sent little shockwaves through the synapses of Chloe's brain. "I... missed you...so fucking much." Chloe, with great care, pulls Max closer towards her and uncontrollably sobs.

"Everything is going to be okay, Chloe." Max assured her— and with all her remaining strength, she rolled over to her right side to come face to face with her best friend. With the same shaky hand, Max diligently brushes Chloe's tears off with her thumb. For a few moments, there wasn't anything left to be said, as Max and Chloe were content just getting completely lost in each other's eyes. Eyes they both waited so long to see again.

Chloe exhaled a few long heavy breaths to calm herself and nestled her cheek onto Max's shoulder. She couldn't be more happier that she was reunited with Max again.

"I was really scared." Max broke the silence and replied in such a manner that drew concern to Chloe. "Really scared I'd never ever wake up."

"Hah. Look at Maximus Prime being the pessimist for once. I knew you would all along. It's just—" Chloe's focuses her stare near the door and developed a frown. "I don't think anyone else did. I had to fight to keep you on life support. Those fucking asshole doctors didn't think you'd wake up. They really convinced your parents you weren't going to wake up. Looks like you really showed them."

"Hey, dad told me about William. How is he holding up now?" The brunette was curious.

"Oh you know my dad, always in good spirits. It's impossible for him to be worried about anything. He's not from this earth, Max." Chloe giggled. "He's absolutely stoked to see you. So is mom."

"That totally sounds like William. He's like, the coolest dad ever. Not to dock points from my dad, but—"

"He's hard to compete with, right?" Chloe butted in with a proud grin.

"Very. But, erm... Chloe?"

"What is it?! What do you need?" Her new tone alarmed Chloe.

"My arm... I'm losing circulation." Max didn't want to disturb this priceless moment in time but the pins and needles sensation bothered her.

Chloe urgently picked her head up from Max's shoulder. "Oh shit, sorry."

"Don't be, you goof." Max could barely laugh. Despite sleeping for what she felt like was an infinite amount of time, she had never been so tired.

And Chloe was quick to notice. Her instinct kicked in to help. She pat down her pillow and pulled the sheets over Max to get her comfortable. She didn't want to burden Max further. The sooner she'd rest up, the sooner she'd return to normal. And the sooner she'll finally get to come home— leaving this hellhole for a long, long time. "You know I would love nothing in this world more than to stay and hang out, but I have to let you rest." Chloe stood up out of the chair and hovered above Max.

"Don't you think I've done enough resting?" She looks up at her while attempting to flex her arm to regain blood flow.

"I know. You've gotten more sleep than I've gotten in my entire life." Chloe chided. "But I'm cereal Max. Rest. Now." Chloe's voice was more stern in her request. She bent over to kiss Max on the forehead as she had done many times before and took a few steps toward the door before Max stopped her in her tracks.

"Stay with me, Bluebeard. Just for... a little longer."

Chloe smiled. "Your wish is my command Long Max Silver— as long as they'll let me stay." She happily obliged and sat back down next to her. Max offered her hand to her best friend, which Chloe began to tickle and stroke with her fingertips. "You really feel like talking Max? I can just lay here with you if you want."

Max knew she barely had the energy to converse, but talking with Chloe is all she wanted to do. "I'll always want to talk to you, Chloe Price. But enough worrying about me. How are you, uh, holding up with—"

Interrupting her, Chloe knew what Max insinuated. "My dad? Max, I'm not going to lie to you, it's been really, really fucking hard. And that's not even the half of it. What's worse is that I got... mixed up in some shit today."

Max groggily blinked. "What kind of shit?"

Not wanting to go into it quite yet, Chloe sighed. "Dude it's a long story. I don't want to put you in another coma."

"On the flip side, if it's long and boring enough, maybe I can feel comfortable getting the rest you want for me so bad." After all this time, Chloe's dry wit rubbed off on Max. It definitely made Chloe proud of her in a way. "So tell me. I'll try my best to hold on as long as I can."

"I just... did something illegal and... cops might be, uh, looking for me." There was no better way of putting it. For the moment, for her, it was better than admitting she was held at gunpoint and ran away like a coward when someone needed her help.

"Holy shit." Max uttered.

"Yeaaahhh. But I'm probably being paranoid about it."

"What exactly did you do that was illegal?" Max continued to press her for more information.

Tell her now? Tell her later?

"Uh, pot." Chloe absolutely hated lying to her but now isn't the time for Max to stress and wrack her brain worrying about her so soon after waking.

"I remember. You once told me you got busted for weed and were fined. You... got busted again?"

Wait.

What the fuck.

Chloe was completely thrown off by this. How could she have memories of what she had said if she was totally unconscious? Goosebumps formed on Chloe's forearms and the hair stood up from the back of her neck. "What else do— do you remember me saying?"

"I remember... you singing to me. What was that song again?" Max asked, as if it was nothing that she essentially had a superpower. Like this shit wasn't at all fucking strange.

So this must be what they mean by having an out of body experience.

Chloe's eyes shifted left and right while her brain tried to make sense of this revelation. After hearing this, Chloe was once again, taken aback she'd even been aware of even that, too. That had been months ago. "You remember me singing to you but you don't remember the— it was playing on the radio before that guy plowed into us." It made her physically sick to her stomach recalling the collision that nearly took their lives.

"I don't remember the accident itself. Just about everything that came after." Max admitted. "I know this sounds super weird, but I could hear... everything... going on around me a lot of the time, but I couldn't say or do anything." It seemed Max was equally as shaken as Chloe at this moment.

How was it possible that Max had been completely aware this entire time? Doctors had said her brain activity was zilch. Nothing there. It was enough for them to give up on her, and yet here she was reciting memories she shouldn't even be able to recollect. But it would explain how she could respond to Chloe when they were about to pull the plug. Then again, it wasn't uncommon for patients at the end of the coma to start regaining some semblance of consciousness. That could be explained, sure, but what about literally everything else?

"I didn't mean to freak you out." Max shifted to her back, almost ashamed.

"It's just... amazeballs. It's totally like you have powers. I'm going to have to start calling you SuperMax." Chloe nervously chuckled.

All of this was maybe a bit too much information to process. Things were made awkward really fast. To change the subject, Chloe wanted to hear what Max thought about the pirate themed room she spent months decorating for her.

"Oh, by the way, you like what I've done to the place?"

"I absolutely adore it. You did a really good job making it less... hospital-y." Peering around the room, Max couldn't help but admire all the cute little mementos Chloe had decorated the room with. Items such as all their old pirate drawings, several framed photos, pirate ship models, Glowie Bear, a pirate hat, Mr Sharkie, even William's camera Max had drooled over so much.

"He said it was your's when you would wake up." Chloe noticed where Max's attention was drawn to.

"Wowser. I need to thank him when he comes in. Can I see it?"

"This is your day, Max. Anything you want!" Chloe hands Max her dad's polaroid camera. It felt like it weighed close to a hundred pounds as Max could not maintain enough strength to hold it. She accidentally snaps a photo of herself as it falls to her chest. The light from the flash had triggered a horrible pain behind her eyes. Max groaned in displeasure as Chloe took the camera away and gripped Max's hand in concern. "I guess that was a bad idea. Are you alright?"

With a pained groan, Max closed her eyes. It felt as if her brain were placed in a frying pan on a hot cooktop. "I'm fine. Guess I'm not used to all the crazy visuals yet."

Chloe knew they were pushing it. "That's enough excitement for the day. I'll take this as a sign for me to go." Chloe didn't want to prolong Max's discomfort. As happy as Chloe was to see her, she didn't want to undo everything and risk Max's health. Not to mention her family still had to see Max. To her disappointment, it was her time to go.

Max was a little confused. "You're not going to stay a little longer while Joyce and William come in?"

Oh how she wanted to. Chloe never wanted to leave her side. There was no where else on the planet where she'd rather be. But she knew what she had to do. "If I did, you and I both know you'd push yourself far too much because we'd be talking all night. We're both low on batteries. I can't be selfish so I gotta let you charge." Chloe made her point. Although deep down, she was kind of lying to herself. She dreaded leaving. Very much so.

Max could understand where she was coming from. It too, pained Max to see Chloe go, even though she knew it definitely wouldn't be the last she'd see her. Throughout their years together, Chloe had become something of a security blanket to her, or— a big tall, and blue teddy bear. Because Max always felt the most safe and secure in Chloe's presence. Chloe didn't know it at the time, but she was the light she saw in her darkness.

That melancholic expression shown on Max's face told the story. Chloe didn't want to disappoint her. Right then and there, a lightbulb went off in her head. She dug around in her pockets, sifting through cigarettes, money and lint. "I'll tell you what. I have a surprise for you but you have to keep it secret. I don't know if they'll let you have it, but keep it on the down low anyway." Chloe whipped out her burner phone originally used for Frank and went into the contacts to program her own cellphone number. She paused to contemplate before erasing Frank's contact from the list and handed it to Max. "This way we can always keep in contact!"

A giddy Max graciously accepted the phone and tucked it in a crevice of her bed. "You're the best, Chloe."

"Oh I know." Chloe replied wryly. "Text me if you can't sleep tonight. You're awfully spry for someone who's been in a deep sleep so I'm sure you will."

Before Chloe could leave, Max stopped her once more. "I don't want to hold you up again. Sorry. I just... really wanted to say I love you. I never got a chance to say it back to you every day you'd visit."

She assumed Chloe would be weirded out by her keen memory again.

Hearing these words made Chloe bite her bottom lip to keep herself from bawling like a baby, so she thought to mask her true reaction with a cheerful smile. "And I love you, my adorkable first matey." Chloe winked at Max and exited the room.

As Chloe exited, she was overcome with a giant tsunami of emotions. She puts her hand over her mouth and her back slides down the wall until her bottom hits the floor. The elating feeling of hearing Max say "I love you" was perhaps the most precious moment of all.

"Everything go okay Chloe?" William yelled out from across the hall."

She sniffled and stood up in response to his voice. "Yeah dad. It was hella amazing."


Later on in the night as Chloe jumped out of the shower, she was alerted by her LED screen lighting up. Chloe caressed herself with a towel to dry off before she picked up the phone laying on the bathroom sink. It was just the person she wanted to see.

-

Max: Hi there 8)

Chloe: omfg i've never been so fucking happy to see your emojis in all my life. how is it going?

Max: Well for starters, I already want to move away from this hospital food junk. Think you could convince Joyce for a plate of her delicious belgian waffles when you guys come over in the morning?

Chloe: i don't think she needs much convincing, Maximus. she loves feeding you.

Max: You have a point. Ooh you know what else would be awesome?I wouldn't even mind biscuits and mashed potatoes from KFC.

Chloe: goddamn it, Max, you're making me hungry af. hope you know im totally treating u to whatever you like the second u get out of there.

Max: I. Am. Drooling. But really, I was just texting you to make sure you weren't thrown in the slammer.

Chloe: pshhhh. would u come and visit me if i was?

Max: Always. But let's hope that doesn't happen.

Chloe: who knows. im not gonna stress about it too much.

Max: If I'm honest with you, I can't help but be really worried about you.

Chloe: look, max, like u said, everything is going to be fine. im still mad spooked but as long as ur here, im not as worried as much, u know?

Max: I'm the best aren't I? ^_^

Chloe: hey now, don't overkill it with the emojis. but that you are Max! The greatest. i think u should get some sleep hippie. i'll swing by first thing in the morning. got some things to show u that u definitely wanna see.

Max: I can't make any promises on the sleep part, but I'm not going to lie, I am SO stoked about tomorrow.

Chloe: do it for me Max. u & me both. C u bright & early!

Max: You bet!

-

Already exhausted from doing even a mundane task such as texting, Max placed the phone under her pillow and stared a hole through the ceiling. There was a looming fear fogging her mind about sleeping, for she had already been asleep for far too long. For the better part of a year, Max had only seen darkness, she had only experienced lucid dreams and nightmares alike. Going back to that place again, that state, was the last thing she wanted to do right now.

For it was the fear of never waking back up.

So Max patiently waited and bided her time until the break of dawn. Her time was spent doing simple brain exercises such as mathematics, memorizing films and reciting lyrics from her favorite artists. Thankfully, her memory had not seem to have faltered after all this time. Usually, coma patients had loss of motor functions and suffered brain damage, but Max didn't feel as if she suffered that fate.

At least to her knowledge.

Right before the morning light beamed through the blinds to signify a new day, Max had caught herself falling asleep. Not by choice however. Her tired brain had won the tug-a-war and she dozed off right before the sun rose over the horizon.

After a couple hours of rest, Max opened her weary eyes and checked the time on the phone. To her surprise it was already a quarter till 9.

Hearing footsteps come closer down the hall, the door crept open which made Max beam in excitement. Until she spotted her parents walk in with sulking expressions plastered over their faces, and Officer Berry trailing behind them.

Immediately, she could tell something was very wrong. Vanessa and Ryan hold each other's hands and stare at each other, unsure of how to put everything into words.

"Sweet—" Vanessa's voice cracked as tears began to glass her eyes. As a man, Ryan felt like he should be the one to break the news.

"Max, baby... she's gone."

Max couldn't understand what he meant. What did he mean she's gone? Who's gone? "Dad, what.. what." She struggled to formulate a complete sentence. Something she could easily do even after waking from a fucking coma, but now she can't even talk.

No. She couldn't even think. This had to be one of her fucked up nightmares. Had to be.

Officer Berry whispered something into Ryan's ear and perched himself next to Max. It had greatly pained him too, to break such news. "We believe Chloe was walking, on the way to see you here, when she was shot. EMTs said she passed away on the way to this hospital about an hour ago. We arrested the piece of shit who did it. We have no leads on why he shot her. Did... did she ever mention to you that she was in any trouble?"

Max was of course, too shocked to answer.

"Berry, I don't think now is the time to be interrogating our daughter." Vanessa snapped back in anger. Berry realized his mistake and apologized to the family profusely.

But it was at this point, that Max had begun n to suffocate.

She didn't know what came over her, but in a panic, Max ripped the sheets off of herself and leaped from her bed. Max didn't get very far before collapsing. Her leg muscles had developed severe atrophy and couldn't carry her for long. Vanessa, Berry, and Ryan rush to try and help her up, but Max starts flailing about and swatting them away, opting instead to crawl for the door with next to no concern over her wellbeing. "I want to see Chloe!" Max yelled out as she pulled herself forward to escape their clutches.

"Max, please."

"I WANT TO SEE CHLOE!" Max shrieks echoed through the hospital.

"She's not here anymore, Max. We're so, so, sorry." Vanessa buried her face in Max's back.

A flash of Chloe's smile burned deep into Max's brain. Then a vision of Chloe, in a fetal position, surrounded by a puddle of her own blood, crossed Max's mind. Chloe was just trying to come see her, and now she's dead.

No way to die.

No way to fucking die.

Max wasn't in control anymore.

Suddenly overwhelmed, Max's eyes started to roll in the back of her head and she began convulsing, much to the horror of everyone in the room. A yellow foam oozes out of her mouth onto the floor which prompted Berry to take immediate action to turn her over on her side so she wouldn't suffocate. Vanessa and Ryan scream for help, and dozens of nurses and doctors rush in to the rescue.

It was back to total blackness for Max Caulfield. There were only sounds of distorted voices and the whirring of what sounded like a heavy machine, vibrated through her ears. When Max had come to, she found herself being carted into a round MRI machine. As Max lay inside, zoning out at the luminous lights above, only one thought had crossed her mind.

Just one.

She wished she had never woke up.

Chapter Text

 


It had been two days.

Two days without food.

Two days without sleep.

Two days without Chloe Price.

Max sits pitifully in a wheelchair, entranced by the candlelit flames beset around the casket containing Chloe Elizabeth Price.

There was nothing that could possibly hurt more than seeing Chloe, lifeless, in an open casket. Max could never understand why people do this— why people want their last memory of the one they love most, is to see a shell of who they once were. As far as Max was concerned, the person there was merely a mannequin modeled after Chloe.

As fate would have it, that was not to be the case.

Max is very still, uncommunicative; unresponsive— watching everyone taking turns to pay their respects. A part of Max wanted to just stay exactly where she was. There was great apprehension to see Chloe face to face, for the Chloe she would want to remember, was the girl full of laughter and one always seeking adventure. That wasn't her.

It couldn't be.

That was, until, for a second, one split second— Max could swear she heard Chloe's voice. At this point, she didn't care if her mind was playing tricks on her. That was unmistakably her. Max knew that voice all too well. It confused her how no one else in the room seemed to notice.

Following the sounds of the familiar whisper Max does her best to wheel herself to her open coffin. Putting all her weight on the armrests, she pulls herself up with all her might and braces her body over Chloe's casket, staring at her pale beautiful face.

"Hey, Chloe." Max could only let out a raspy whisper as she had completely damaged her vocal chords from screaming and crying the previous nights. "Wake up, Chloe. I heard you, you goofball."

No response.

"Chloe, please... wake up." Max shook her.

Nothing.

"Chlo—"

A hand on her shoulder shook Max out of her trancelike state and she looked up to see her father standing next to her. He didn't say a word, he just let his daughter grieve.

She was losing it. Denial was one of the 5 stages of loss and Max felt it in spades. Coming to terms with herself losing her sanity, Max's bottom lip quivered as she leaned in to kiss Chloe's chilled forehead, just as Chloe had kissed Max goodbye after she visited her. Warm teardrops falls onto Chloe's cheeks as Max slowly pulls her face away. Right now, she wished to God that she lived in a fairytale where her tears were magical and could bring back the lost.

But this was no such fairytale.

Taking her sleeve, Max wipes the mess she left behind off of Chloe's face. She remembered how Chloe had done the same for her too. It was a strange parallel of events, she thought. Only this time, Chloe wasn't going to be the one to wake up, as Max had. And it was this thought that absolutely killed her.

I wish it were me, instead.

As everyone got their chance to see Chloe, the Caulfields, the Prices, as well as other relatives and family friends surround a projector. A slideshow with Chloe's favorite music begins to play, showing the precious and priceless memories Chloe had left all of them. The day she was gifted Bongo. The first day of school. All of her birthdays, her on vacations, her and a healthy William hugging in front of a Christmas tree.

And then, Max and Chloe in her backyard, decked out in their pirate gear— pretending to sail out of Arcadia Bay. The photos that came after were mostly taken by Max herself. One of Max's favorite things in the world was photographing her. Chloe was the perfect model. Always had the brightest, comforting smiles, always had the best, goofiest poses, always had a great fashion sense. Chloe was a natural at being in front of the camera, even if she didn't want to admit it. Max was so proud to have had the privilege of taking so many of her. Oh how she wanted to take more. It was hard to fathom that there would be no more memories with her to make, or photos to take.

There was a brief pause in the slideshow. The pictures had halted, and the music had faded out into silence. The moment that a new song begins to play over a new batch of photos, was the moment that sapped what little oxygen Max had left in her lungs.

As it was "If Not For You".

Max hung her head low in response. She remembered it now. Clear as day. She remembered Chloe trying to sing this to her through her anguish when she was at her bedside. A sharp ache pierced her heart as Max struggled to breathe. All she could do is sob uncontrollably as the song reminded her of the amazing soul she lost.

Beside her, the once unbreakable William Price had also succumbed to grief. He didn't want to show it, or admit it to anybody else, but his motivation for living had now vanished— like a candle's flame in the wind. Seeing his daughter grow up was all he held onto— through all his physical pain and suffering. Chloe had been his world. Chloe was his angel. Chloe had been the glue that kept this broken man from falling to pieces. He had Joyce, of course, and he always would, but his true will to live lay with Chloe. And it would be buried with her, too.

For Joyce, she was riddled with guilt and complete disgust over herself. It had been her that made the call for her husband to pick her up, leading to the crash that left William in a wheelchair. And it had been her that told Chloe that morning she would have to walk to the hospital as she was running late for work. Feeling as if she signed her own daughter's death warrant, Joyce buried her face in her hands as the slideshow continued to rub salt in her wounds. The loss of her daughter was the hardest blow she ever had to endure. She would miss waking her up in the mornings. She would miss how her face used to light up when Joyce would treat her with breakfast every morning. She'd miss the singalongs on the radio and their monthly mother-daughter only picnics they used to have in the park. Coming home and never seeing her daughter there, ever again, wasn't a life she would ever get used to. Not in a million years.

Everyone always tells you to remain strong when losing the ones you love. They always say you have to take time to grieve and then try to move on. But sometimes, there are times where you simply can't. No matter how hard you try. For these 3, the possibility of letting go, was a fool's dream.

Some time later, once the wake was finished, they all gather outside for the burial. As they all stand together in unison, a light drizzle befell the sky, almost as if even the angels in the heavens came to pay their own respects to the fallen teen.

They weren't the only ones that came. Out in the distance, a gruff man stands next to his pup, chugging down a bottle of Thunderbird whiskey as the rain pattered on his leather jacket. Frank Bowers wipes his mouth with his hand and and slicks his wet hair back; his eyes full of remorse. If anyone blamed themselves the most for this tragedy, he especially did. He put her up to this knowing just how dangerous Damon Merrick was. Frank knew he should have put a bullet in his former best friend. But he didn't, and now the damage was irreparable. He felt like he led her like a lamb to slaughter. Two good people died this week because of his carelessness. The only thing holding him together— from putting a bullet in his own head, was little Pompidou.

"I hate that it happened to you, kid. I have no one to blame but myself." Frank uttered as he turned to stumble away.

The priest finishes his sermon, and everyone slowly disperses from the burial site, leaving only Max, and Chloe, alone. She had asked for a few moments in solitude together as she tried to gather her thoughts for a proper verbal farewell.

How do you say goodbye to your best friend? How do you put it all into words? And how exactly is it supposed to make you feel any better for doing so?

A loud roar of thunder boomed behind Max as she sat motionless in her wheelchair. With every bit of might she could muster, Max stood for the first time without any support. Rain trickles from her nose to the grave below her feet.

"I don't know what to say, Chloe. It's so hard... trying to say what I'm thinking. If only you were here. If only I could just see you again. I had to fight through complete darkness just to be with you, and when I finally got through that, all that waited for me was... more darkness. I'm in hell, Chloe. I can't breathe anymore. I can't eat. I can't sleep. I can't even think. All I do think about is how much I miss you. And Chloe.. you never stopped being there for me. You never stopped being my friend. And I really want to let you know you were my world. You made my world Chloe. We both know... I'll never have a friend like you. I just—what in the hell am I supposed to do now? I don't know what I'm supposed to... supposed to do." Max clenched the rain in her fists and dug her nails into her palm, hard enough to draw blood. The pain in her skin compared to the pain in her heart was the equivalent of going from a mosquito bite to getting hit straight on by a speeding bus. It didn't phase her one bit. Her bloody, trembling fingers reaches in her pocket for a note. On this note, a written poem. Gathering her stolen breath, Max recites the words she wrote for this occasion.

"If I only had a few minutes of that day you passed away

I would have time to tell you the things I needed to say.

I am not fine, I am not okay, because now there aren't enough words to convey

But such as the price you pay

When you truly love someone in Arcadia Bay

Come hell and high water, even though we are now astray

You are in my heart and mind; forever you will stay."

Max crumples the poem in her hands and lets it fall into the hole in the earth. "I love you. I will always love you. Goodbye..."

Wounded and defeated, Max rolls herself to her waiting family under a big oak tree. As everyone gets in their cars, Max settles into the back seat as the vehicle starts to roll forward. Max turns around in her seat and watches her best friend's grave as it fades from her sight.


At the Price residence, the two families get together for a feast to honor Chloe. Both families sit around the dining room table, and attempt to share their best stories of Chloe. All except Max who never even said a word, or lifted a finger to touch her food. Joyce could feel the affliction emitting from her eyes and body language.

"Feel like coming with me hon?" Joyce excused herself from the table and asked Max. "There's something Chloe left for you." Without a spoken word, Max solemnly nods to her.

Joyce helps Max climb up the stairs. Her deteriorated leg muscles wouldn't have allowed her otherwise. She would have to go through many grueling weeks of physical therapy to walk or stand unassisted for long periods of time. They enter Chloe's room upstairs after a bit of struggle. Joyce lowers Max gently on the edge of Chloe's bed and grabs a journal and a large lead canister sitting on her old computer desk, and offers them both to Max. "This is what she was carrying on the way to the hospital when she was shot. She couldn't wait to show you this."

Max's mind took her to the last time she spoke with Chloe. "You know, that was the last text she ever sent me." An extremely painful lump gathered in her throat. "She sounded so excited. I couldn't wait that morning for her to come back. I would have never guessed that would be the last time I would... I would hear... from her." Her heart sank like a stone in the ocean. Joyce leans over to hug Max close. It was difficult for both of them to hold back more tears.

Releasing her grasp on Max, Joyce stands up and brushes Max's hair with her open palm. "You probably should be alone for this. I'll leave you to it. Holler downstairs if you need our help. And Max... take as long as you need to." Joyce departs, but not before taking one last sorrowful glance around her daughter's room. The door closes and Max looks down and starts sifting through the pages of Chloe's private thoughts. Every entry was addressed to her, as if she was speaking directly to Max. One entry in particular stood out the most.


November 27th-

"This place is a joke.

So Max, check this shit out. I got in trouble today (surprise surprise) and had my notebook taken away because they said it was a 'distraction'. You damn right it's distraction. I need this distraction to keep myself from losing my fucking marbles. I can't afford counseling, I can't afford antidepressants, but I can afford the time to write to you in this. Besides seeing you, its the only therapy I have. And these assholes tried to take all of it from me. Obviously I stole it back though, so I'm not too pissed, but nobody seems to understand the kind of war raging inside my mind. All except for you and this journal. Bet you feel even more special, huh? Good because you are. Unlike other people here. I hate the way people look at me at this place, especially bitches like Victoria Chase who think they're hot shit because they have their head on their shoulders. But deep down, I know, she and everyone else are as equally as fucked up as your's truly. People judge too much and think you're a lunatic because you stop talking to people because of your depression. You become useless to Principal Wells and the teachers because you start slipping on your grades... because of your depression. And no one asks how you're doing. Everyone just goes through the motions without a fucking care about the person beside them.

I hate to say it, but if it was even Victoria Chase in this situation, I would have sat down next to her and given her some kind of support, not talk shit to my fucking entourage about whom she thinks is beneath her because someone is different and feeling some other type of way. That's why you need to wake up, Max. You're not fake like everyone else. You never got scared of who I was, even at my lowest of times. To have that kind of understanding of who I am, and vice versa, kinda makes us... soulmates... don't you think? Love you Max. Did I mention for you to wake up?"


Seeing Chloe's fall into mental illness, and how no one was there to help her, upset Max. But she understood. Trying to fit in at school, being shy, quiet and reserved, she received her fair share of bullies. It was so frightening just showing up. She'd come home from school hiding her bruises and would lie to her parents about having a good day when she really didn't. But then Chloe came into her life and changed everything. No one ever hurt her again. And Max could be honest with someone about what she was going through without fear. Without Chloe around, Max would have never been able to regain her self esteem and confidence in herself, even if she still had a long way to go.

She absolutely felt that entry.

Placing the journal down, her attention drew towards the black weatherproofed barrel. What could possibly be in here?

The top of the lid unscrews and Max takes a long hard look. Inside, was a rusted tin lunchbox chock full of items Chloe and Max had stashed away for their future selves— this was their time capsule they had buried together nearly 8 years ago. Max sprawled out all the contents all over the bed and closely inspected each memento of their youth. She grabs 2 letters, one from past Chloe to future Max, and one from past Max to future Chloe. She opens the envelope containing the letter from Chloe to Max first.


Dear Future Maxine,

Ahoy wayfarer from 2003! By now, you and me are teenagers! Cool, right? It won't be long until we become boring adults with jobs and stuffs like mom and dad. But hey, at least then we can get a lot of money and we can afford to live together! Don't forget to tell future me that we have to paint our house gold too just in case even future me has bad memory. Oops.

I hope life has treated you well. Here's hoping you finally got a talking parrot that your parents said you could have when you're older and more responsible. Whatever that word means. Anyway us from the year 2003 wanted to write predictions and what we love about our friendship.

Here's a list of everything I love about my best friend:

1- You're the prettiest girl ever and you're a super nerd (in a good way!)

2- You are really funny and have the best jokes!

3- You take the best photos of us.

4- I think your freckles are the cutest thing EVER even though you get made fun of for them. I love counting them and get excited when I spot more.

5- You share your candy with me and let me copy your homework. (I do too you know!)

6- You always have my back and we never fail to save each other!

7- You once scared the monsters away from my closet. Go Max!

8- When I get in trouble at school, you're always there to make me feel better.

9- You are my first true friend and you are the only friend I'll ever need!

10- You make life better and fun all the time!

I know we promised 10 but I made one more.

11- And you're my hero, Super Max.

I hope by now you and I have plundered the Bays of Arcadia and are blessed with plenty of gold and riches. But even so, lest not you forget, that the greatest treasure of all is friendship. (and love!)

Also remember that you are the coolest most awesomest person in the whole wide world and I imagine you're even cooler now whenever you get to see this. You still won't be as cool as me though. Future me is going to be badass. (PS I hope dad doesn't see this cuss word or I'll get in trouble.)

I'll always be cheering you on Max. Always!

Your Friend Forever,

Chloe Elizabeth Price.


With a most heavy and wounded heart, Max collapses back first onto Chloe's bed. Clenching the letter close to her chest, she rolls around in pure agonizing torment. It completely shattered her to see how much Chloe had loved and deeply admired her, even back then. Of course she knew she meant the world to Chloe, but seeing it in fine print helped her grasp a better understanding of how Chloe truly felt. This was more than just a simple friendship. This was unending, unwavering loyalty and love.

Chloe could have tried to develop her life while Max was hospitalized, but instead, made it her own life to revolve around seeing Max through to the bitter end. While Max had been fighting for her life, Chloe never left her side. When Chloe had any spare time, she would see her every day. At school, Chloe, instead of doing her schoolwork, she would instead, vicariously talk to Max via her notebook. There wasn't a second when Max wasn't on Chloe's mind. She finally understood.

She understood her true worth. Max was loved. Max was adored. Max was everything to this person. And Max knew there would never be anyone or anything in this world, or the next, to fill in this empty void left behind in her heart.

It sickened her. With the life they shared together, Chloe had made sure to look after her. And all Max could think about was how she couldn't be there for her when she was gunned down.

No.

No. No. No. She knew better. She knew better than to blame herself. There wasn't anything she could have done. But in her mind there were endless questions that told her otherwise. Could she just have asked her to stay with her that night?

Stop thinking. Please stop. She knew better. Her mind was playing those fucking tricks on her again. All she was doing was feeding the guilt; that damned monster lingering in her soul. Don't listen to it. Starve it.

Otherwise it'll consume you until you let it eat you alive.

As Max tended to the stinging of her soul, she heard a whisper not unlike what she heard at the funeral. There it was. It was her voice again. Coming from outside.

Max peered from Chloe's window. Rays of sunshine had finally broke through the clouds as if to signal a new beginning. A blue butterfly materializes from the sunlight and flutters it's wings before resting on the windowsill.

This was surely a sign that Chloe was there, even in death, watching over her. This was her. She could feel the familiar warmth of Chloe's presence in the room. This time, she most definitely wasn't crazy. This time, she really was there. Max couldn't see her, but she could damn well physically feel Chloe's warm embrace. She could feel Chloe's hair tickle the back of her neck.

And she could finally, coherently hear her again.

"Come find me." A whisper beckoned her.

Max had no idea what she meant by that. "Chloe... Chloe... what am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to find you?"

"Look to the pieces of our past and we'll be together again. I promise."

Resting on Chloe's pillow, was a polaroid picture flipped backwards. This wasn't there before, she knew that for a fact. Max reached for the photo and flipped it around. To her surprise, it was the same picture Max had taken the day of the accident. She had forgot all about this moment in time.

Following Chloe's instruction, she meticulously looks at the photo. But the longer she stared at it, the more her head hurt. In an instant, every single memory she had stored in her mind, both hidden away and vivid alike, flashed before her all at once like a lightning strike. Blood poured from her nose, dripping onto the photo in her hands.

"Chloe... help me. I think I'm dying."

"It's okay, Max. Just close your eyes." Chloe's voice assured her through the pain.

Max gave in. No more hurt. No more memories. No more Chloe. No blue butterfly. Just complete and utter darkness.

Yet, not cold.

Not lonely.

But warm, enveloping darkness.

A flash of a camera pierced the skin of her eyelids, and when her eyes opened, she was back in Chloe's room. On Chloe's bed. And Chloe Price, in the flesh, staring at her from above.

"Earth to Max, you okay?" Chloe wondered why Max had fallen back down onto the bed after taking their photo.

Going from utter sadness to overwhelming happiness, Max sat right back up and quickly embraced her best friend that she thought she had lost forever.

"I'm... doing awesome! We are awesome!" Max took Chloe's hands and ecstatically bounced up and down on the bed in pure joy.

Still, there were so many thoughts, so many questions. Suddenly, it hit her like a bag of bricks. What happened before wasn't all a terrible nightmare she just now woke up from. The realization was that she was reliving the same day she had once experienced before.

But how?

Why was she back here? Hold on... did she jump through time... from that photo?

At any rate, if there was a way to change everything, Max was going to take advantage of it. Not letting go of Chloe's hands, Max pulled them close to her chest so that Chloe could feel her heart beat. This was the moment of truth.

"Chloe, there's something I have to tell you..."

 

Chapter Text

"I'm listening, Max." Chloe was now concerned.

The feel good high from seeing Chloe again was short lived. Reality soon sunk in. Knowing where she was, on this exact day, made her feel extremely sick.

Really sick.

How she got there and why, was a question she'd have to figure out later. For now, there was little time to waste.

"Chloe, you have believe me. I think— I know terrible is going to happen."

Hearing Max drop this bombshell on her, Chloe couldn't help but feel uneasy. "That's pretty fucking ominous, Max. So, what's going on? What do you know?"

"If I tell you, please promise not to freak out."

"That's the total opposite of what people do when they're told not to freak out."

Before Max opens her mouth to say anything, she realizes what she is about to spill out to Chloe, is most likely going to be passed off as nonsense. She would need to prove to her that she wasn't, in fact, going crazy. And before telling her anything, Max had to be exactly sure this day played out how she remembered, or if anything had already changed.

"Just... can we go downstairs for a minute?" Max fearfully proposed.

Chloe doesn't understand the gravity of the situation but nods her head, and the two make their way down.

In the kitchen, William is making breakfast and overhears their footsteps. "There's my favorite two women on the planet! And uh, that's between us three! Keep it a secret from your mom."

Hearing this again made Max shudder, meanwhile Chloe goes to help her dad with the eggs. When Max listens in on their dialogue, it plays out eerily similar  the same as it did before, confirming to Max that this was, indeed happening as she remembered it.

That was all the proof she needed.

"Can I borrow you, Chloe? Please?" Max tugged on Chloe's shirt to pry her away from the countertop. They both step away into the living room where Max puts her hands on Chloe's shoulder and stares intently into Chloe's deep crystal blue eyes— all the while trying to compose herself in preparation for the worst case scenario.

"What if I told you... everything that'll happen in the next 2 minutes exactly?" She boldly proclaimed.

Chloe was understandably baffled. "Wh— what are you talking about? How can that even— could you please stop working me and tell what's going on?"

"Listen to me very carefully. I know this is going to sound really strange, but Joyce is going to call William to ask him to pick her up at the grocery store any second. Your dad will agree, as he wants to go pick up a mocha. When he gets off the phone, he will talk to us, saying these exact words: 'Excuse me ladies, I have to go rescue Yonder Queen at the Save-Mart. She doth have many bags of grub for us to feast upon.' Afterwards, he tries to search for his keys."

"Max, what... have you gone insane? How would you know all of this?" She asks in disbelief.

"You don't want to hear this, but we were supposed to go with William and we get in a really horrible accident, and... I get put in a coma, William won't be able to walk again, and you later get shot and killed when you come to visit me at the hospital." It may have been too much information for Chloe to process, but Max had to tell her the honest truth. It would kill her inside if she didn't.

"Come on, that's just a dream, right? That was just a really bad nightmare and—"

The phone rings.

Feeling her heart thudding in her chest, Chloe slowly turns around to see her dad picking up the phone. That was, indeed, her mom calling. A deep sense of dread was instilled on both the girls as this happens. They only wish it were all a nightmare.

And then, Chloe hears his dialogue with her. And to them. The same exact lines, word for word, that Max had accurately predicted. Hearing this made it difficult for Chloe to take in what just transpired. In a state of shock, she lowers herself down on the sofa, as she could feel herself fainting at any moment.

Never before had Max wanted so badly than to join Chloe to comfort her, but she was now face to face with William, who walks in the living room in search of his keys. This was it. If she didn't act fast, the consequences would be catastrophic. No way was she going to let William get in that car. "Uhh, I think I saw them in the bathroom sink upstairs." Max lied, hoping he wouldn't notice the untruth lying behind her eyes.

Thankfully, he had bought it. "Aha! I must have left them there after I took a shower last night. You're a life saver, Max. Let me go check."

If only he knew I really was trying to save his life.

When William continues his search upstairs, Max takes advantage of this distraction and throws everything from the coffee table to the floor, frantically searching for the keys herself— as she knew he had found them here before. When she sees shiny silver poking from underneath a magazine, a powerful rush of relief surges through her body.

But her job wasn't over yet. Far from it.

Less than a minute later, footsteps were heard coming back down the stairs. Her eyes quickly look around the room for a better hiding place. In a quick act of thinking, she spots a house plant and runs to it to bury the keys in the soil. There'd be no way he'd ever look in there.

She thought wrong.

He comes back down holding something in his hand; a keyfinder.

"They weren't upstairs, Max, but I did manage to find this beauty. I bought it at a Radio Shack a few days ago since I'm making it a bad habit at losing them. Watch this!" William presses the button to beep for his keys. If the beeping was any indication, they were definitely nearby.

Max's legs wobbled a lot like jello. She never once counted on William to have anything of the sort. God, she felt so fucking stupid that she didn't notice the tracker on the keys before sneaking them in the pot.

So fucking stupid.

Walking towards the sound of the beeps, he pauses in front of the plant and stands there in bewilderment, before taking his hand to dig in. As he pulls out the keys, he shakes the remaining soil into the plant, all the while looking around at Max and Chloe. "Now which one of you—"

His eyes catch the dirt on Max's hands. Max was caught in on the act. "Gotta say, Max, I'm a little disappointed. I don't know what's gotten into you, but I'll leave you some time to explain, after I get back from picking up Joyce."

"Wait. William... Please, take the bus instead." Max begs him as he walks out the door.

"Dad, please listen to her." Chloe finally snaps out of it and stands up; looking her dad dead in the eyes. "Please."

He relents and ponders for a moment. But William doesn't say anything and turns around to step out the door. Max and Chloe both turn their heads to look at each other as they hear his car engine start. They run outside to see him already pulling out of the drive way. Chloe yells for her dad and attempts to sprint towards the car, but her legs weren't fast enough. William was gone.

"No..." Chloe slows down, now afraid for her dad's life. When Max catches up to her, Chloe turns toward her and swallows. "Max... how do you know... for sure?"

"I don't know for sure. Maybe... maybe we delayed time so that it doesn't happen.." Max tried to ease the palpable fear and tension in the air. But that answer wasn't good enough. Chloe didn't want to deal with what ifs. She wanted to know if her dad was ever coming home.

They take their time to walk back to the house, and when Max opens the door, she sees Chloe still fixated on the road outside her house. "I'm waiting out here... for dad."

"Then I'll wait right here with you."

The two sit on the concrete steps in the front of the house. Chloe pulls her knees up to her body and lays her face down over her arms. Maybe Max's theory was right. But then, what if she was wrong? Her heart hoped for the best. Her mind feared the worst. But she knew she needed to hold onto the hope above all else.

Above all else.

They sat at the front of the house in silence, waiting anxiously for William's arrival. Seconds seemed like minutes. Minutes seemed to turn into hours. And an hour felt like an entire day. Time seemed less like an instrument keeping reference of the past, present and future. Right now, time was more akin to an instrument of torture. It was something Max understood all too well, and witnessed first hand, just how cruel time could be. And how it would continue to be— for, out of the corner of Max's eye, she spots a cop car pulling up to their street. Max's mouth gapes open; tears already forming in her eyes— as she directs her attention at Chloe beside her.

"Wait, Max, why is he pulling up to our house?" Chloe whimpers.

She doesn't respond. But she knows exactly why. And deep down, despite the denial, Chloe knows too.

"Why is he pulling up to our house?!" Chloe stands up in a panic.

No. No. No. This can't be happening.

Officer Berry steps out of his patrol car— somber; alone. He solemnly walks up to the front door and takes off his service cap from his head and places it over his chest, kneeling down to Max and Chloe. It takes him a few moments to collect himself before finally finding the right words to say. "Chloe, your mom and dad were in an accident..."

"Wh... wh... what do..."

"I'm sorry. They are with God, now."

Hearing those words, Chloe completely, and utterly breaks down.

And so does Max.

A scream travels through the neighborhood and Chloe lays there, face down in the grass, drowning in her tears. Beside her, equally as inconsolable, was Max, holding her face in her hands— crying. With every excruciating wail Chloe let out, it tore a deeper hole in Max's aching heart. Even after getting a second chance to change everything, she instead created an equally devastating new timeline: one which Chloe was made to suffer.

And Max felt nothing but crushing guilt. Joyce and William, were dead. All because of her.

All because of her.


3 days later

A familiar sense of deja-vu triggers in Max's mind, as she stands over the caskets of both Joyce and William Price. Sneaking in a glance beside her, Chloe stands there, clad in black, staring down with the deadest, bleakest eyes. For her, there were no more tears left to cry— as she had cried until she couldn't anymore.

She wanted so bad to hug Chloe and soak in all of her despair. But she couldn't. Not now. Chloe was inconsolable. She hadn't spoken to Max or said a word to anyone ever since Berry showed up at her doorstep.

Why do bad things happen to the best people? Max couldn't understand why her best friend had to go through so much. She didn't deserve any of it.

Ryan Caulfield nudges her daughter that it was time to go. Max really doesn't want to leave Chloe there, alone. Where does she go now that both her parents were dead? Why couldn't her dad just take her in to come live with them? She needed a family to love her and support her through this terrible loss.

As the Caulfields get in their car, Max turns around in the back seat and spots a mysterious man walking up behind Chloe, and it appeared he had whispered something into her ear. Chloe remains despondent through all this, still.

Who is he? Max doesn't recognize him or the woman holding his arm. There was no time to figure it out, as the car pulls away from the cemetery. Max felt like she was in an endless hell as she watches her best friend, once again, until she fades from view.

Another sleepless night. Another round of tears. Another night of pondering endless questions. How could she even think about sleep? After all, Max felt responsible for robbing Chloe of her family. And that would be something she would have to live with for the rest of her life. Why. Why. WHY was she even given a photo to play God and to fix her mistakes if all it did was create more mistakes? It was beyond Max's realm of comprehension.

But then she thought, would it be possible if she could get a chance to undo everything again? Fuck, Max hated herself for thinking that. If she got another chance, somehow, some way, would that reality be even worse than the previous two? Or was the risk worth it?

You can't play God anymore. You have no idea what you're doing.

Max covers her face in her pillow.

It didn't matter anymore. Life now was more scary than the utter darkness she experienced while comatose. Oh how could she only imagine how scary it was for Chloe, who is now without a mother and father to shield her from the horrors of this new world Max had changed for the worse.

Max didn't want that to be the outcome. She'd have to play God after all. She'd have to try again.

Turning on her lamp beside her bed post, she slides open the drawer and pulls out the photograph she used to travel back. She sees Chloe and herself smiling at the time, completely unaware of what was yet to come. The longer she focused, the more her head hurt. Just as it did when she did it the first time. Max has to force herself to look away. So she did still have these powers.

Fear was holding her back. Going back into time again, without a foolproof game plan would be such an unwise decision. She would have to take her time to think things over, certainly.

Tomorrow. I'll try tomorrow.

Turning off the light beside her, Max again, attempts to close her eyes to try to get what little sleep she could to refresh her scorched, troubled mind.

When dawn arrived, Max woke up to find an unexpected older text sent by Chloe about an hour ago. Hopefully this was a sign that she was feeling better today. She was quick to open it.

Chloe: hey, let's hang today k Max?

Max: You sure you feel up to it? With everything that you're going through..

Chloe: i've never been more sure. you're all i have left.

Max: Anything you need, Chloe.

Chloe: you know where American Rust is?

Max: I do. Is that where you want to meet up?

Chloe: yeah and no. we are going on a little pirate adventure and that'll be our starting point.

Max: Are we going to find real buried treasure?

Chloe: you know we will.

Max: I'll be there in half an hour.

Chloe: i'm already here. Take your time.

American Rust was such a strange place to meet up and go on said pirate adventure. Max wracked her brain figuring out the significance of the location and why Chloe wanted to be here of all places. They had so many other hang out spots. Why a creepy junkyard?

Arriving at the entrance, she identifies Chloe leaning on the hood of a crushed automobile; drinking what appeared to be a bottle of whiskey. The whiskey used to have a home in William's chinaware cabinet, but evidently Chloe found it and was doing whatever she could to numb the pain. For Chloe Price, this bottle was a lifeline; a quick fix in the hopes it would make this meet up a little easier.

Chloe sees Max approach and she attempts to hide the drink behind her back. She wasn't expecting Max to arrive before she could finish the bottle. As for the reasons why, Chloe didn't want her best friend to see how far she had fallen.

"How are you holding up?"

Stupid, stupid question Max. It should be obvious.

She never was good at giving emotional support.

"Better now that you're with me." Chloe knows that Max knows, so she doesn't hide it anymore. Chloe pulls out the beverage and takes a quick swig, before throwing the bottle against an old sign— smashing the glass all to pieces.

"Can I show show you something, Max?" She wipes the drip off her chin with the back of her hand.

"The treasure, I presume?" Max injects a little playfulness in this awkward situation.

Chloe says nothing and guides Max through all the scraps and heaps of metal and steel, and stops short behind a broken down school bus. They eventually come to a halt. Chloe nods her head in the direction of none other than William's car, that is in a nearly unrecognizable heap; save for the still intact tag on the front. Goosebumps begin to form all over Max's forearms. She slowly walks her way over and brushes her fingers against the severely dented hood. Memories of all the trips they all used to take together begin to overwhelm her.

"Mom and dad are still here. You know, I still see them. I still feel them." Chloe hauntingly replies.

Max's lips quiver as she takes a step back from all that remains of the vehicle.

"You don't believe me, do you?" The older teen sulks.

"Actually... Chloe... I do."

"You don't think I'm crazy?"

"Not crazy. Listen, I never told you the reason why things are the way they are now. When you had died, you still came to me... in the form of a blue butterfly. I couldn't see you, but I knew you were there. Then I heard your voice. You told me— you told me to look to the pieces of our past, and that picture we took the morning everything happened, it just... appeared." Max reaches in her pocket and pulls out the photograph in question. She strokes the filmy surface with her thumb before handing it over to Chloe.

Chloe closely inspects it and looks back up at Max. "I told you to come here?"

Max further explains herself. "I looked at the photo and the next thing I knew, I blacked out and ended up back here. Back to you. Chloe. I tried to make things right for you. I'm so sorry about everything that's happened..."

"Don't be..."

Before Max could react, Chloe envelops Max in a warm embrace. Resting her chin on Chloe's shoulder, Max felt like she didn't deserve this hug after what she did. Or more to the point, what she didn't do.

"Hey, I promised an adventure, Max. The lighthouse is just 2 miles west. I've really been itching to go back." Chloe lets go and points her finger up at their old safe haven.

It had been a long time since Max had been but she was more than ready for the change of scenery. "Ready to set sail, captain?" Max awkwardly tries to get Chloe in the mood to be the innocent kids they used to be.

"Batten down the hatches! Heave ho, Long Max Silver!" Chloe surprised Max with enthusiasm. It seemed Max was successful in getting a tiny piece of that old Chloe back, even if it was only for a fleeting moment. With the lighthouse as their next destination, the two begin their journey— following train tracks on the way there. Max and Chloe interlock hands, trying to maintain balance on the steel beams despite Chloe's slight intoxication. When Chloe looks beside her, she comforts her freckly friend with a smile. However, this wasn't the same smile Max was used to. Under normal circumstances, Max adored her smiles, but now, it only made her more unsettled— for this wasn't a real Chloe smile. This smile was extremely hollow.

Max became increasingly, and rightfully worried about her future state of mind.

"It... sure is beautiful out here." Max tries to maintain small talk. Anytime Max was faced with drama, she felt no different than a turtle going back in it's shell. There was clear self hatred for how she handles everything. Max felt like she wasn't helping.

"Know what I hate about this time of year?" Chloe asks in rhetoric. "The fact that winter is right around the corner."

"Really? This time of year gives me some comfort."

"And why is that?" Chloe wondered.

"When leaves fall, I see it as the tree shedding itself from what's holding it back. And no matter what, the tree knows that after every harsh winter, it'll be whole again."

Realizing what that analogy referred to, Chloe shook her head. "Hate to break it to you, but that's a winter I don't see ever ending."

"It might not ever, but I can promise you, no matter what happens, I promise you, no matter how long it takes, I'll see you through it to the end. Even if it never happens. For either of us. Even if you never get over the hurt, I won't let you suffer alone."

It took days for Max Caulfield to finally dig deep for the words she wanted to say.

This was supposed to bring Chloe comfort, but it only hurt her even more, as she finally confessed and let go of Max. "Look... The real reason why I brought you here is... I— I'm moving away to Salt Lake City. Dad's brother, Aaron and his wife, they're taking me in to live with them." You could tell admitting this devastated Chloe greatly.

The confession felt like a hot knife plunging into Max's heart. It all made sense now. That man who was speaking to Chloe at the funeral, was William's brother. And Chloe brought the two of them out here to spend one last time together before leaving her, and Arcadia Bay behind.

Then it happened. Max was once again, at a loss for words. She stopped walking and bit her bottom lip. A gust of wind enables the colorful leaves at their feet to twirl in the air around them. "Chloe...I—" Max's words were falling short as a train whistle signifies it's impending approach cuts her off. "Shit. We got to move, Chloe."

As the train rapidly closes in on them, Max retreats from the train tracks. When she notices that Chloe isn't following beside her, she glances back to see Chloe standing in the middle of the railroad.

Still.

Unmoving.

It was that familiar look. Seeing that look in her eye again... that same look she had at the funeral, Max knew.

Chloe wasn't Chloe anymore.

Chloe had given up.

"I'm sorry... I'm not strong enough. Please turn away. I love you, Max! Always!" She raised her voice over the train's incoming commotion.

"CHLOE! NO!"

Before the train was mere feet from colliding into her, Max quickly tackles Chloe off the track causing them to tumble against a tree on the outskirts. With Max's heart racing in what seemed like thousands of heartbeats a second, she crawls to, and hovers over Chloe to see if she was okay. Max was met with rejection as Chloe scurried away from her.

"Why didn't you let me die?!" Chloe hollered in pain. "I don't think I can deal with losing you... and... I just want to be with mom and dad... I want to be with mom and dad." Chloe's fingers twitch and she rocks back and forth in additional misery.

It was foolish to try and pretend like she knew what Chloe was going through. Sometimes, words weren't enough to seal the cracks in someone's soul. So Max sits herself beside Chloe, and doesn't speak.

She doesn't move.

She doesn't think.

The weight of Chloe's decision to end it all, catches up to the now orphaned teen, as she collapses her weary head onto Max's lap. Max could feel her warm tears soak in through her jeans. "I— I am... so... so..." she too, can't speak. Chloe felt like she was a ship sinking to the bottom of an ocean and the lighthouse was her means of safety and security.

Chloe finally manages to speak. "I was so stupid..."

Max stirs above her. It really hurt her hearing her best friend in the whole wide world question the kind of person she was. "Don't say that. Please, please don't. You're really, really smart. You're the most amazing person I've ever known, or ever will know. I know you're feeling helpless right now. I know you feel like you have nothing to live for. And yes, you may have lost them... but you'll never lose me. You don't have to worry about anything changing okay? You're dealing with so much stuff. You don't deserve any of this. Chloe... listen. Even if you never... even if you're moving away for good, we're always together, okay? Even when we're apart. We're still Max... and Chloe. You know I will always, always love you... please... just stay strong. You'll never ever be alone." She embraces Chloe as tightly as her shot, weakened muscles would allow.

"When I go, promise... you won't forget about me..." Chloe turns up to, and gazes into her best friend's soft azure eyes for comfort.

"Never." Max leans down and kisses Chloe's warm forehead and continues to cradle Chloe in her arms. If this ship had in fact, sunk, Max was going to go down with her captain.

Always.