Chloe always knew she was in love with Max. She wondered why her friend was taking so long to make a move.
“Come on, Doe Eyes! It’s gonna be so great!”
Max looked dubious, barely catching up with her exuberant friend. “In case you haven’t noticed, Butterfly, I haven’t done this before.” And it was true. She had never stepped foot into Arcadia Bay High School, in any reality. This was completely, unequivocally, new territory. And some part of that terrified the shit out of her.
Chloe grabbed her hand, and it was suddenly less scary. “I did. And I was frigging terrified, Max. I’m not letting you go through this alone. Come on.”
“I have no idea what I’d do without you, Chloe.”
“You won’t need an idea. That’s the point.” Her soft smile led them all the way through the front doors. “But call me Butterfly again in public, and I’m leaving you to the sharks.”
That gave Max a giant grin – the first one all day. It was a fitting nickname, for reasons that Chloe could never find out, but when Max had made her blush by calling her ‘my butterfly’, compliment to her nickname of ‘Doe Eyes’, she had to stick to it. The nicknames were far less annoying than they started out, she guessed.
“Do you think we’ll have any of the same classes?”
“… About that… I’ve been asking around.”
“Don’t worry, nothing bad. Everything good.”
“I think I should like the sound of that.”
“Oh, if this works out, you’re gonna love me more than you already do.”
Max seriously doubted it.
She was wrong. The test in front of her was clear, and she was in shock. Here she was, given the chance to skip an entire grade, from a series of exams. Her GPA wasn’t an official score until she entered her homeroom class, but she was well aware that her grades were top par, part of her pledge to work her ass off to be a better daughter and a more dedicated student this time around. The thought of actually attending Blackwell with Chloe may have attributed to that. But she wasn’t expecting a leap year. Not this soon.
Still, she got to work, and started filling out bubbles. She was not going to let Chloe, and herself, down.
“Oh my God! Max, you did it!”
She shouldn’t have been surprised. The test was embarrassingly easy. The American Education system, for the next four years, was on her side.
Still, she felt giddy when Chloe embraced her and spun her around. “Holy crap! I did!”
“Party at the diner! On my pay! Anything you want!”
Instead, she shook her head. “Nope. Better idea. You, me, the Captain, and Blade Runner. What do you say?”
She looked at her strangely. “You want to celebrate by crying at the end of the night?”
“No. I want to celebrate with my two best friends in the world. My teddy and my bestie.”
“And apparently, Harrison Ford.”
“Hah, Hah. My celebration, my choice. You got the popcorn.”
Some part of Max wondered if Chloe found Harrison Ford attractive, having no clue of her orientation in this time. Or, best case scenario, if she was worried that Max found him attractive.
At the end of the movie, it didn’t matter, because the two were wrapped in each other, her head on Chloe’s shoulder, and Chloe’s hand in hers. What truly mattered is that one of Chloe’s favorite movies was no longer tarnished with a memory of a broken girl, asking her best friend to end her suffering.
Max, very aware of her mistakes the first time around, talked to her parents almost daily since they left, never wanting the chance to be estranged from anyone again. And her parents loved as much as they’d always have, she could hear it in their voices, and when she got a better computer and a decent webcam, she could see it on the screen.
Chloe usually sat with her, and occasionally the Price Parents, as they conversed and caught up. Max was always just a little shocked that this was a possibility, but she supposed that was just a natural evolution to her plans, though she didn’t see it coming that way. She was so invested in making sure she had no way of going, she didn’t look into how all three were going to stay. She had assumed that shewould be their anchor. The responsibilities that she took on were surprisingly satisfying and fulfilling, but they were originally just a step towards her goal, of staying in Arcadia Bay. Now, she was the highlight of their little town. She and Chloe were practically neighborhood celebrities.
Everyday Heroes. About time that term started to seem positive in her head. It’s been a few years since she made the Quantum Leap, and the mistakes of the past life, her younger years, were beginning to fade. Not in some kind of magic, memory-wiped way, but more in a distant dream, in-another-life, ‘I’ve got something better to replace them with,’ way.
It was good. Life was good. But the best parts were just beginning. She hoped.
Acoustic music playing in the background. Abstract pictures littering the wall. Bongo, sleeping peacefully at her feet, his nose against her multi-colored socks.
She felt herself drifting off as well, listening to her protégé strum a sweet, sullen tune.
Chloe didn’t mind the weight on her left shoulder, easily resting her head against Max’s as she kept strumming along, spreading her guitar across both sets of laps. She couldn’t have told anyone what she was playing, it didn’t really matter. But it sure was beautiful. And fitting. And she knew she could stay this way for a long time.
Her eyes peeked over to the half-slumbering brunette. Maxine. Her everything. It didn’t take long to acknowledge it to herself when she thought of it that way, seeing her best friend as something more than just her best friend. The devotion they had for each other, even as something akin to sisters (but totally not, as her dreams reminded her), was something she could never even see trying to simulate with anyone else. The girl was at her hip, and she at the girl’s elbow.
She honestly couldn’t pinpoint when it happened, and she could probably care later, if she wasn’t nervous as hell about it.
It was hard to tell which one of them was the more courageous one. She and Max switched personalities often, but there was never a time when Max backed down from a challenge, even when she was reluctant. They followed each other unwaveringly. Not that they had done anything bad, of course. Teenage angst, whoever it was directed towards, were always hashed out with each other, against the rest of the world. That’s how they worked. They clicked. Chloe and Max. The unstoppable team.
She ended the song on that note, and Max blinked into consciousness. Chloe smirked. “Rise and shine, sleepyhead.”
“Morning, Butterfly,” she joked, fake yawning as she did so. “You’re doing great.”
“Oh, you were listening? I was just pissing around; I wasn’t playing an actual song.”
“That’s what I do half the time I play. Get a nice chord stuck in your head, and that’s all you need if you don’t want a recording contract.”
Chloe pondered the idea. “Nah. I think I’ll stick to canvas.”
“Suit yourself. You really could do anything.”
She hesitated for a second. “Only if you’ve got my back, Max.”
She said it so earnestly. Maybe even with a hint of desperation, like the girl worried about their relationship every day of her life. And that’s what made her weak. She couldn’t understand how she was so powerless around her. She wanted to give that same devotion. “Trying to make me blush, Doe Eyes?”
“Trying?” Her eyes opened up and stared directly into her own. “Really? I have to try, now?”
It sometimes occurred to her that maybe – just maybe – Max was, just possibly, enjoying their companionship almost as much as she was, and maybe wanted a little more out of it. She really couldn’t tell with this girl, she was always this affectionate. “Blushing is an art, dear Maxine. If you think you can make this canvas priceless – no pun intended – then go right ahead. Make my day.”
That one shocked Max into silence. “Don’t…” she lifted her head from Chloe’s shoulder. “Don’t play like that, Chloe.”
“Like what?” A hundred thoughts travelled through her mind. “Your bi-curious friend?”
She stopped before she could reply instinctually. Fuck it. “No. I’m pretty sure where I am. You?”
Wordlessly, Max nudged the acoustic guitar out of their laps, and spread her leg across to sit on her lap. Blue eyes focused on each other, not for the first time, certainly not the last, but this time, it felt a little more special than usual. “I’ve been curious about a lot of things in my life. But I’m always sure when it comes to who I care about.” Her eyes were still searching. “Tell me if you’re scared. Please. Be honest.”
Chloe licked her lips.
“Kiss me, Max.”
It was only after Max smiled softly, a true and real confirmation of feelings, when she truly began to panic. Every single part of her wanted to devour her, to smash faces, to do this quick and God, to stop her heart from hurting her chest so fucking much.
She knew her friend would have a different idea. She had her eyes closed for what seemed like minutes, and only when she felt a gentle touch against her lips, her eyes popped open.
It was so… Max. And she loved it.
She slipped her hands into her brown hair, and tenderly felt her cheeks. She breathed through her nose, sighing in relief.
This was where she had to be; where she needed to be.
If she had the chance to make this happen sooner, she would give anything for that opportunity.
Now, trying to explain this to her parents – that was another challenge she’d have to face. But first, she had a girlfriend to kiss silly.
“Oh, shit. Will, it happened.”
The coffee was held in suspension as he looked left and right, his eyes subconsciously ignoring the newly christened couple in favor of the morning paper – it held a fascinating rags-to-riches story, based in their town, that was sure to be something of a legend in Arcadia Bay history. “What?”
Joyce pointed at Max, who sat on one side of the table, a spoon in her mouth. She then pointed to the other side, and there was Chloe, who sat a little bit lower in her seat. “Observe.”
“Oh.” He raised his coffee. “Congratulations, you two.”
Their daughter clearly wasn’t expecting this reaction. “Uhh…”
“Told you,” Max sung, leaning against her elbow. “‘Let’s get some space,’ she says… ‘Can’t control my face temperature in front of them when I’m around you,’ she says.” She smirked. “Sorry to tell you, Butterfly. You always blush.”
The parents nodded in agreement, and she covered her face with her hands. “Oh… please kill me…”
“Oh, relax, Chloe,” Joyce waved it off. “Max told us almost two years ago, before she moved in.”
Max sighed, resting her head back. That was the biggest gamble she had taken so far. Saying out loud that you had a crush on their daughter was no small feat, especially when she was about to make permanent residence under the same roof. She had to tell them at some point, and knew it probably would have been even worse if anything happened without warning. Having found shelter in their house for nearly a decade, it was hard to imagine they didn’t see the possibility, and she chose to be honest about it.
Her gamble, fortunately, paid off. “The fact that she said anything made us sure we made the right choice to have her live with us,” Joyce continued, somewhat pleased at the look on her daughter’s face. “Now, don’t be surprised, Chloe. Max could never keep a secret from us. It’s just not in her to try.”
She eyed her new girlfriend with a loose jaw and wide eyes. “Well, you sure as shit hid it well from me!”
“That’s a couple bucks for the swear jar,” William remarked without missing a beat, before going back to his paper. “We could finance a car with the cash we saved for that thing. Maybe I should look into investing like this ‘Fields’ lady did.”
“I’ll cover her this time, Will,” Max graciously proposed, looking around the table at the Price family. “And thank you. For understanding.”
“Max, you’ve always been a part of this family,” Joyce admitted, “and Chloe’s a remarkable child. She deserves someone as special as you. That girl cares so much for you, and we know you two are good for each other.”
At the sight of Max’s confident, unwavering smile, Chloe made the choice to stand up, her bowl in hand. With purposeful, almost pre-planned steps, she made it over to Max’s side and sat directly next to her. “Okay then, now that my personal life is off the table forever,” she looked pointedly at her parents, “are there any new sleeping arrangements I should be angry about?”
Her mother just shook her head. “I trust you two.”
“I could turn the garage into another room,” William conjectured after a satisfying sip. “But then the sounds would just get echoed around the house. No one’s getting pregnant, do what you want.”
Now Joyce was the one to look embarrassed. “Will!”
Chloe sank even lower into her chair, and Max grabbed her hand before she could completely escape under the table. “Sorry. If it helps, I’ll be a quiet little mouse.”
Her girlfriend shook her head ruefully. “It. Doesn’t. Help.” And yet, when thirty seconds passed, all was back to normal, the two chewing their respective cereals, their ankles crossed under the table as they pondered the world ahead of them.
Chloe caught Max’s ankle with her own, and held it there. Max hid her smile behind the spoon.
Still sunny. No epic storms. So it wasn’t the end of the world yet. And that was the end of Max’s biggest concerns for the day. At least she was allowed by the fates that are to be happy for now.
Chloe, however, tried to hide her emotions under a veil of confidence. Max had known Chloe twice over, and she knew when a front was put up. “Stop and relax, Chloe. There’s nothing to be scared about, remember? That’s what you told me.”
“Max, I don’t believe in half the shit I say. Let’s just get in there, and get it over with.”
The circulation in her hand was failing, so she was forced to use her other hand to grab at her arm. “We can’t just walk in, let everyone see, and walk back out. It will never be ‘over with’.”
“Not with that attitude, Max! If we let them get to us, the terrorists win!”
“Chloe, look at me.” She dug her heels into the ground, and Chloe had no choice but to turn to her. “Calm down. You and me, remember? Just think of this as a bad dream. Now picture me with a flamethrower.”
Chloe’s eyes brightened at the distant memory. “You and me versus the world, huh?”
“Okay.” With a shuddering breath, she loosened her death grip. “But I’m kicking the ass of anyone who insults you.”
“We’ll take the monsters down,” Max promised. “But kicking ass would only give them the last laugh. How about sabotage?”
“Carefully planned revenge? I like it. That’s why you’re the smart one.”
“I thought I was the pretty one.”
In the midst of dragging each other to the school, Chloe chanced a look to her side, at her girlfriend. “Beautiful.”
This time, it was both Chloe and Max blushing as they approached the entrance doors, and Max felt more comforted to see a familiar face, waiting for them with a brilliant smile. She wordlessly held out her hand, but Max shook her head. “Thank you. Thank you so much. But Chloe and I have to do this on our own. I don’t need your parents on you.”
“You’re my best friend, Max. They’ll know about it in a week. My mom’s set in her ways, but I don’t care. We all make our own choices. I want to support you.”
The couple hugged the girl’s frame, and Max felt tears come to her eyes. This was the only acceptance she truly cared about. “Thank you, Kate. You’ve always been a good friend to us.”
“Don’t make it sound like I’m dying, Max. You guys are perfect together. No amount of old lessons can tell me any different. Your happiness – it truly feels like a blessing.”
Chloe had a firm, bright smile on her features. “I never had any intention of going to hell. But at least I’m in good company.” She squeezed Max’s hand. “But I feel like with you on our side, you could maybe put in a good word for us?”
Kate chuckled. “Your lives are my salvation. None of us have a chance if you two can’t make it. Eternal damnation to anyone who says any different.”
Max reached out and squeezed her friend’s hand. “You are awesome.”
She sagely nodded her head. “Come on, Pricefield. Get your butts in there and show off your happiness! But, probably not too much, because you might get suspension for PDA.”
“People are taking this a lot better than I expected. I can’t believe how supportive Kate was. She seemed to know before we did. Still, I’m glad our friends were just as surprised as I was. Even the Joy Nazis didn’t rain on our pride parade. Still, a lot less fanfare from the other … you know, supporters.”
“Did you expect streamers?”
“… Maybe an introductory rainbow wristband. A ‘welcome to the club’ type gift.”
She eyed the black band on her arm as she put the last book in her locker. “Huh. I should’ve thought of that in Art class.”
“I don’t mean to be a downer, but isn’t there usually a calm before the storm?”
Max’s papers spilled out of the locker. “Dammit!”
“And it begins,” Chloe chuckled, leaning down to pick up the few sheets, missing the brunette trying to control her tremors. “Oh, don’t get me wrong, we’re a badass team, and nothing’s gonna get us down, it’s just… it’s real quiet, you know?”
Max forced out a laugh. “Yeah. Sure. Are you complaining? I prefer the honeymoon phase to end later rather than sooner.”
“Wow, Doe Eyes. At least put a ring on it, first.”
“I’m getting mixed signals here. A wristband or a ring?”
“Hmm…” Chloe pondered as she handed over the papers. “Decisions, decisions…”
“Time to go to work, Butterfly. We’ll talk matrimony in front of your mom.”
“Prom’s coming up.”
“Err… Chloe, would you do me the honor of going to prom with me?”
“What? Oh, shit Max!” she laughed. “I was just trying to hash out if we even wanted to go. It’s not exactly our kind of function.”
“I was actually gonna write an article about how subjective and… judgmental it was, earlier this year. And then I got a girlfriend, and it wasn’t so difficult anymore to see myself enjoying one of those things.”
“We dance, we drink, we talk to our friends, we see a couple break up, we see a couple sneak off, we go to the hotel after party, and you get lucky.”
“One problem – I’m the school photographer.”
“There are some things at prom that a camera should never be pointed at, Caulfield. I’m sure the staff will understand. Don’t you have underlings to take your place?”
Max mulled the idea over. “I think I can call a few people. I know Amanda could help. I might even be able to rope a teacher into it. I doubt she’d have a prom date.”
Chloe clasped her hands together, and Max smiled at her excitement. “So it’s settled! So what d’you wanna do? Prom or no?”
“Well, it doesn’t have to be the only thing we do that night…”
“Of course not. You’re getting laid. Refer to previous itinerary.”
Max shrugged, her smile still in place. “Well, I at least want to work for it. Let me take you out for the night. I’ll plan the evening.”
“Max Caulfield, taking me out on an actual date? Is this really happening?”
“I’ve taken you out before, Chloe.”
“Not in actual dresses, and corsages, and done up hair.”
“What do you consider ‘done up’?”
“You know… something that would make you say…”
“I was looking for the word ‘Wow’.”
Chloe tentatively reached up, and felt through the strands of her girlfriend’s multi-colored hair. “Am I supposed to pick one?” she joked.
Max shook her head. “You can, if you want. Joyce helped me, and I think I like it. At first, I was looking at a blue streak. I couldn’t not pick up a bottle of that. And then I saw purple hair dye, and red, and orange. Maybe a little pink. Couldn’t let it all go to waste. I’ll alternate. So which one do you like most?”
“Full, honest opinion? Brown.” She took her girlfriend into her arms and kissed her. “But I have a weakness for the blond. And red. Just don’t go full color on me. Mind if I borrow one?”
“Sure. What would you like?”
“Hmm… I think I’ll go with blue.”
“You know, I think I could see that on you really nicely.”
This chapter’s scenes were, purposefully, short and sweet, in favor of the ridiculousness of the next chapter. You’ll love it.
Prom’s coming up. So is Valentine’s Day. Coincidence?
It’s gonna get real sappy, people. Cuddle your puppy/kitten/pillow/significant other.