In case you thought it literally couldn’t have gotten more ridiculously sweet, I bring back some old characters.
She couldn’t remember the first time she had done this, but she instinctively typed 3-1-1 into the keypad. It just… seemed natural.
That’s how she ended up in the diner. It was small, as it had appeared years ago, before the renovations, and empty. She didn’t know the significance in that either. She made it over to a high stool at the counter to wait for Joyce, or one of her little ‘siblings’ that she and Chloe had tutored over the years.
Occasionally, someone walked into the diner to thank her, then promptly leave. Some looked familiar, others were complete strangers. Max only had a vague clue as to what they were thanking her for. Only Kate and Victoria hugged her, with tears in their eyes.
Joyce and William, the world’s greatest In-laws, stood behind the counter, and she didn’t really remember when they got there. She considered ordering, but ultimately decided that she wasn’t hungry. Chloe had fixed up the most amazing Risotto last night and –
Oh. Last night. She was dreaming.
Well, that made sense. Especially when Frank came in and thanked her. She had, technically, never met him before, and he shook her hand – one of the few people to do so – before quickly leaving, wiping at his eyes. She didn’t question the smartly dressed man, but she did note the lack of a neck tattoo.
Apparently, he had taken quite a different step in life. She could only speculate what that step was, but she couldn’t be everywhere at once. He was out the door before she could ask, or wish him the best. Convenient.
It was an almost overwhelming sensation, person after person greeting her and showing their gratitude to her. Sitting on her high stool, she felt like a queen. When Warren approached her, she almost expected him to try to kiss the back of her hand. When he merely shook it, she stepped off the stool to give her old friend a hug.
She remembered her promise a long time ago. He never remembered that hug she gave him. She never helped him in this timeline – not that he needed it. Still, she felt that she owed him, at least that.
“Thanks for being a friend when I needed it,” she whispered, leaning back to hold him at arm’s length. She got a good look at him.
Even she had to admit that the beard on him was an improvement. She wasn’t blind to his advances on her in the past life. Perhaps she would have responded to them one day – maybe even at the drive-in theatre she had rejected, afraid of getting into any relationship at the time.
As soon as she had decided to tie her fate to Chloe’s, his chances were over. But she still hated herself for making him think he had a chance. She knew he had found happiness in Brooke in this timeline, and there were no entanglements happening this time, but… she almost missed the boy she had considered a brother.
“No problem,” he smiled – a very innocent, non-assuming smile – and with confidence, he kissed her forehead. “Thanks. Stay Alpha, Max.”
“You got it.”
Arcadia Bay was a small town, but she could have sworn that she was thanked by the entire town’s population twice over. All except for the one figure in the corner, and she had a guess as to who the hooded person could be. She didn’t notice the figure leaning against the jukebox. Again, convenient.
“I’m no hero,” she tried to say, only to be ignored. All the rest had ignored her physically.
“Yes. We are.”
She turned in her seat – the seat closet to the jukebox – to see spots, and the people in front of her, lined in a row, were suddenly gone.
The girl lowered her camera, an old analog flash, and gave a gentle smile. She lowered her gray hoodie, and a vaguely familiar reflection stared back – someone she actually didn’t expect. “We did good.”
Wordlessly, she slipped off the barstool, and made her way over to her table – the closest table to the jukebox – and sat opposite the girl. “I guess we did, didn’t we?”
“Better than good,” she agreed, sliding the camera over to her. “Fucking Amazeballs.”
That got a smile out of the older woman. “That word wasn’t even cool in 2013. It wasn’t even cool in 2003.”
“I’ve never tried to be cool. I’ve always tried to be… me.”
“And now, there are two of you.” A girl with blue hair, and a dark blue beanie hopped from behind the bench, to land flawlessly into the seat next to her friend. “A fuckup in the highest degree, m’lady.”
She gave her girl a playful shove. “You know you’ve always dreamed about it.”
“Damn right I did,” she growled. “Although being in mom’s diner, I don’t know, kinda kills my lady-boner.”
Max smiled. Her wife had changed so much, but she could see some similarities. “It’s good to meet you.”
Chloe’s playful grin settled. “Max. You’ve changed so much. So… different.”
“And yet, still the same,” her younger hipster self admitted. “It’s been a hell of a ride.”
“Thank you,” Chloe rushed, tears prickling at the corners of her eyes. She wildly shook her head, the bullet necklace clinking melodiously. “Fuck, Fuck! I told myself I wouldn’t cry. Thank you so fucking much!”
Max smiled sadly. “You don’t have to thank me. Thank the girl next to you. I don’t even remember doing what I did.”
“I did what I had to do,” she whispered, reaching for her girlfriend’s hand on the table. “What I wanted to do. If anything, I should be thanking you.”
“Oh, yeah,” She muttered sarcastically, rubbing her thumb in the palm of her hand. “You moved away, and I became a fuckin’ stereotype drama queen bitch. I think the whole fuckin’ world abandons me, and when anyone tries making their way in, I just can’t let go of that past. Pissing away everything I had, dreaming about everything I lost. I’m just so fucking grateful you kept getting on my stubborn ass.”
“My pleasure,” she admitted, leaning into the taller girl’s shoulder. Max forgot that she was so short once. “Blue.”
“I’m not the best with codenames,” The older Max confessed. ‘Blue’ snorted, wiping at her eyes.
“No shit. But it’s accurate. Better than ‘Butterfly’, to be honest. I can’t sign shit with that name.”
“Always find something to complain about,” ‘Sam’ rolled her eyes, but Max could still see her grin.
“I gotta keep you on your toes. I’ve got five years of abandonment issues to catch up on before I turn into your lovesick cuddle buddy.”
“Oh, am I looking forward to that.” She turned to Max. “We’ve made some improvements on the original, haven’t we?”
Max tilted her head, and Blue raised her chin and stuck her chest out to model for the two. “I guess. At least the hideous beanie is gone from my Chloe.”
“Let me guess: the beanie was a metaphor for how fucked up my psyche is, and I needed it to block you from my mind and emotions?”
“I thought you wore it because it was a close connection to William?”
“Oh. Well, that, too. Honestly, I’ve been wearing this so long, I forgot. Mostly, I just use it to avoid dyeing my hair for a few days longer.”
Sam deftly flicked off the cotton cap. “So you’re not more damaged than I suspected?”
“Oh, I’m damaged, but it has nothing to do with this old thing. Just don’t ask about the bullets around my neck.”
Sam blinked, and turned to her with a genuine, worried curiosity.
“It was an art project, don’t worry. They’re sniper’s bullets, you know I couldn’t have fired them. I had hookups, but not that kind. Dad served; these are the bullets that were in the flag they handed mom at the cemetery.”
Max leaned back. “You have no idea how long it took for me to figure that out; almost two lifetimes. I didn’t even know Bill served – he never mentioned it before. Chloe mentioned it in passing.”
Blue squeezed her girlfriend’s hand. “I’d love to meet Chloe 2.0. She sounds awesome. And non-damaged.”
The doors swung open behind them. “Oh, boy. You’re not damaged. You’re just unlucky as all hell.”
Max quickly scooted over to give her wife space, smiling at the new edition to her dream, but Chloe would have none of it, turning her back to her and launching herself backwards into her wife’s lap. “Hey, lover,” she whispered, wrapping an arm around Max’s neck. “Hey, hero,” she turned to the full brunette. “Wow. You were a little waif of a girl, once. I don’t remember you ever looking like her.”
Sam smirked. “She made better life choices.”
Blue leaned into Sam’s shoulder. “Looks like we both made some serious fuckin’ moves, too. Maybe you should get some red streaks in your hair, Sam.”
“I didn’t – you – you know what I mean.”
“Of course I do. I just wanted to fuck with ya.”
“You get to fuck me and fuck with me? We can’t have it both ways, sista.”
Sam made a face. “We need to get ‘sista’ out of your language. I can take ‘hella’, but that word needs to go.”
“Just wanted to fuck with ya.”
Max shook her head, wrapping her arms around her wife. “I can’t believe we were ever like this.”
“I never thought our lives could be like this.”
Her wife chuckled. “You know a lot of things.”
“I used to know everything. Now… I’m glad I don’t.”
“I’m glad, too.”
The two girls went still in front of them, frozen in time, their smiles bright, their hands held tightly, permanently.
It was strange, for the both of them, looking into another life, in another time. Sam and Blue – the original Max and Chloe – finally looked as happy as they should have always been. It was what she had always wanted, and while she had gotten a different version of their happiness, she could still appreciate the vision before her.
Her book, released years ago, had a controversial ending – several, actually. Sam and Blue had driven off into the sunset after the storm, based on the true story. The alternate ending had Sam going back to the original scene of the crime, and letting things ‘play out’. Fuck, was that one sad to write.
The second alternate ending had Max travel back, only to take the bullet herself from Nate – well, Matt, in her book. What saddened the both of them was that both would have been viable conclusions, as they would have ended the loop.
She considered writing an ending that had Sam using an old picture of her in Seattle and work from there, but it still wouldn’t make sense, considering the flash-forwards of about five minutes, and it would just be another loop. She was sure it wouldn’t have worked in real life, anyway. She was meant to use that storyboard to end it all, she knew.
And she needed a definitive ending. So, it was all sad endings, regrettably. What she had done, was the only thing that made sense, and she couldn’t exactly make that public knowledge.
Thank God that was fiction. This was the ending she had wanted. It had taken far too fucking long, in her opinion, but it was finally here.
She had often told herself that they were different, now. Separate eras of two couples, a tragic pair versus what they had always wanted to be, but never got the chance to become. Max and Chloe got their happy ending. Sam and Blue never got theirs.
But really, right now, it seemed an awful lot like they did. Maybe, in some other land or time, they were living in happiness, perpetually. Maybe there was an Arcadia Bay made just for those two to go to, imagined by Max, and she got to visit it in her dream for one night only, and Sam didn’t have to go through all this shit, and the two weird girls, for all their flaws and irregularities, got to live happily ever after.
A longshot, of course. But stranger things have happened.
If only she had a –
She looked down at the table, to see her old analog. “Oh.”
With some light maneuvering around Chloe, she picked up the camera and aimed her viewfinder at the couple, their beaming faces sending a tingle up her spine, their eyes locked on each other.
The camera flashed.
The spots faded, and she found herself in her bed.
She blinked rapidly, her fingers ghosting over a camera that wasn’t there. “Hmm?”
“Did you… did you sleep well?”
“Yeah. Why do you ask?”
“….No reason. You were just fidgeting, is all.”
“No, not fidgeting. Just thinking. Tomorrow’s a big day.”
“Heh.” She yawned. “You… you said that when we went on our first date.”
“The night you proposed to me.”
“Our friends always said we moved too fast.”
“Statistically speaking, they were right.” She moved over to lay her head on her wife’s chest, and rested her hand on her stomach. “We’ve never claimed to be normal.”
“Ninety-five percent of statistics are bullshit, anyway.” She wrapped her arm around her bare shoulders. “You know I love you.”
“I love you, too. Where did that come from?”
“I don’t know. I just felt like saying it. Just needed to.”
“I get it. You’re not feeling insecure or anything right now, are you?”
“No, no, nothing like that. Just… I don’t want to get up. Lying here, growing old together; it’s not a realistic plan, but it’s my dream.”
“You don’t think we’re old enough?”
“Oh, hush. I’m reaching a milestone tomorrow. You get to yuck it up for another six months before the arthritis kicks in.”
“Don’t joke like that!” she slapped her thigh playfully. “Just for that, we’re getting another mile in on our morning jog!”
“On my birthday? That’s just cruel and unusual. There are more fun ways to punish me, you know.”
“The jogging is your morning punishment. Gotta wait until we’re back in this bed.”
“Kind of a moot point if we never leave the bed.”
She rolled her eyes. “For how old you claim to be, you’ve still got the virility of a teenager.”
“You keep me youthful, baby.”
“…Oh my God! That was so adorably sappy! That’s my job!”
“Hey, I can’t help it! With age comes wisdom! Maybe I’m finally catching up to you!”
Max scoffed. “Yeah, sure. I’m wise. Just because I’m good with advice, doesn’t make me Confucius.”
“Well, you are, technically, seven years older than me.”
“Great time to bring that up,” she rolled her eyes, sighing against her partner’s neck. “Like I could say anything to those people.”
Max blinked. “Oops.”
“Max? What did you dream about?”
“I can’t believe after all those years of hiding the biggest secret in the world from you, I can’t keep a fucking dream secret for twenty minutes.”
“As it should be. Spill it, Max.” She sounded patient – overtly so. She liked that.
“I had a dream – about them.”
“Are you… are you starting to remember?”
“God, no. I couldn’t even tell you anything about the memories of the girl across from me, and she is me. No, this was something weird.”
“This may sound incredibly fucked, but, did you dream about the diner? Before the renovations, I mean?”
Max and Chloe, in the darkness of the night, gripped tightly at each other.
“We don’t know if it means anything, Chloe.” She didn’t have anxiety, but she was sure her wife could hear her shortness of breath. “I mean; weird shit happens to us. That’s just a fact of life.”
“Wasn’t that the fucking problem to begin with? Weird shit doesn’t happen to us! It used to happen to us, and we don’t remember it! If it starts up again, isn’t that bad?”
“Maybe,” she begrudgingly admitted. “It seems very similar to the nightmare sequence I had in my book. But this wasn’t a nightmare. Maybe it’s supposed to be… closure?”
“Hell of a time to give us that closure. The fates that be took their precious time. We didn’t ask for closure. We asked for peace.”
“…It felt good to see them.”
“It did. I won’t lie. It did. But a Goddamn warning would’ve been nice.”
Max’s grip was tense, but a few calm back rubs calmed her down. “Do you wanna talk about it, babe?”
She sighed tiredly. “You don’t wanna just meet back up in the dream diner?”
“Honestly, I don’t think I can sleep right now.”
“I hear you.” She kissed her dear wife’s forehead. “But talking about this shit makes it more… real, you know? I almost feel like this, us, talking about a dream we shared together, is a dream we both need to wake up from.”
“We might be having this same conversation. Trust me when I say that I know a thing or two about paradoxes, and you don’t want to go down that rabbit hole.”
“So, what happens now? That dream, it was a good omen, right? I mean, people were thanking you, and we finally got to see the people we once were. It could’ve gone worse.”
“We’ll chalk it up as a really good dream. A vision, maybe?”
Chloe sighed listlessly. “Hell of a way to start a birthday.”
“A very peculiar morning for that to happen, as well. What if it wasn’t fate that sent that message to us?”
“Who do you think it could’ve been?” She chuckled weakly. “The Originals? You think those two still exist out there? In another timeline?”
Max didn’t reply, lingering on the thought.
Her knowledge of Time Travel, from what she had read in the week that changed everything so many years ago, never really left her mind. Everything was still there, it was just classified as cold, hard facts, more than direct memories and first-person experiences. She remembered two girls walking along the rails in the Junkyard, rather than looking down her arm, smiling at their conjoined hands as they balanced each other.
“Time travel is so fucked up,” Max whispered, linking her fingers around Chloe’s torso.
She may not have directly remembered the sacrifices she made, or she couldn’t remember the impact of each choice, but she could recall the ordeal she went through. She went through hell, and back, and she didn’t regret a second of it.
If, by some fucking miracle that would leave Doc Brown with a brain fart, her 18-year-old self and Chloe’s 19-year old self had lived on in an Arcadia that was never destroyed, or maybe even a place where William never died, or Rachel, or the crimes were never committed in the first place, or…
No. Probably not. But it was nice to dream about it. Which is what she apparently just did.
“This. Us. It never would’ve happened if it weren’t for time travel.” A hand played with her hair, stroking it. It comforted her. “I’ll always be grateful for that. I don’t know who decided to fuck me over in the first place, but I hope it’s not the same God that gave you your powers, because I’m so fucking grateful for that, and for you.”
Max sniffed. “Happy birthday, Chloe.”
Dream, or vision, or whatever it was, she still had Chloe, and they were happy. She couldn’t say the same the last time she had a vision like that.
Time Travel was indeed a paradox in itself, but the question that had lingered since the beginning of the concept itself could never be answered; Should it exist?
No. Yes. Both. Neither. As she had discovered on their second anniversary, she couldn’t do it anymore. She couldn’t redo her mistakes or decisions. It didn’t really worry her. She didn’t have that paranoia anymore – benefits of having memories taken away – and she didn’t miss it.
Maxine the Time Goddess. That had a damn good ring to it, but she’d pass on that any day.
Unless, of course, something happened to Chloe. She’d admitted to her wife quite a while ago, after she lost those powers, that she ultimately would have used those powers again if something like thathappened.
“Well, it’s a damn good thing you don’t have those powers, then.”
So fucking selfless. She loved and hated that.
Maybe the vision was a guarantee? A paranormally signed decree that everything was finally right in the world, as it should have been?
She wondered what changed, now of all times?
“Max? Maxy… wakey, wakey… I want my breakfast in bed.”
She blinked herself awake. She must have fallen asleep thinking. “Sorry. Rough night.”
“Of course. That’s why I let you sleep until noon.”
She sat up in the bed, staring at her wife curiously as she moved a tray into her lap. “What’s this?”
“Birthday present to myself.” She slipped into bed next to her, mirroring her wife. “Breakfast in bed for the both of us.”
“Are you making up for the fact that you let me oversleep our morning run?”
She waved it off, handing her a fork and butter knife. “Eh, we’ll jog twice as far, tomorrow. This is for me. After that shit, we needed this.”
“Hold on, let me take a picture of this meal before we dig in.” Chloe gave her a blank stare. “Kidding, babe. It was only a phase.”
She narrowed her eyes. “I’m watching you, Pricefield.”
It had been a decade, when they returned to Arcadia Bay. There had been periodic visits, for the sakes of their regular friends, their parents, and their museum, but when they felt ready, they set off to travel the world again.
The globe, sans Antarctica and the less tolerant areas, became victim to their travels, and the couple made sure to canvas it all. Every destination spot, every culture, every different way of life, they wanted to see, document, draw, and photograph views that had rarely been seen before. They even received offers for protection, so the two could capture their lovely, albeit repressed, home cities. Legal troubles kept them from visiting those places, however, but laws were steadily changing around the world.
Sometimes, they had company. Kate and Victoria had joined them most times, keeping them from being isolated in their epic road trip. Former Blackwell and Arcadia High classmates accompanied them in their journey; Courtney, Dana, Taylor, Stella, their current partners, and their parents had all taken an invite to join them. Of course, they weren’t as close to their guests as they were to Kate and Victoria, but it didn’t hinder the fun they had. Max even got a few friends to appreciate film cameras a little bit more.
She even used digital cameras a few times. The first time she saw it, Chloe claimed that the world would never be the same again.
In another time, Max would have told her not to jinx it. Instead, she hooked an arm around her wife and took a selfie. It was the first picture she ever got out of her computer’s printer. Of course, she framed the original, and they took copies wherever they went, on every hotel nightstand, and every timeshare. She’d seen their autographed copies online for insane amounts of money. It was flattering.
“Do you ever think we’re too rich?” Chloe wondered once.
“What? I can’t hear you! The motor on this yacht is just too damn loud!”
Her wife laughed, stretching back into the sunchair. “Fair point!”
Through all the charities she participated in, and the donations she had made over the years, she felt she could justify splurging once in a while.
William certainly loved the boat. So much so, that he wasn’t disappointed on Father’s Day.
Again, Max felt like her old self wouldn’t have bought William a boat, always calculating what could go wrong.
She needed to be free from those shackles. She was thankful to forget.
She was enjoying life. Enjoying Arcadia. Enjoying the world.
Really, she did feel like she had all the time in the world, and the strange vision Chloe and she had only seemed to cement it.
But… what if she never made the choice to leave her original Chloe behind?
It’s something she didn’t have to dwell on – considering she didn’t remember at all – but that never took away her innate curiosity.
It’s what made her Maxine Pricefield. That, she knew, would never change.
Part II – Twenty Seconds Later
“Weird shit happens to us all the time. We should really be used to it by now.”
Max nodded. “Yeah. You’re right, of course.” She ran a hand through her brunette locks. “It’s fucking weird though, right? I get to finally see what we’ve become. The choices I made to get us there, Chloe… I haven’t cried that way in a long time.”
She shrugged, sitting cross-legged on her bed. “Come on. Get in next to momma.”
Max smiled that goofy smile, that still made her stomach flip, and slid in next to her lover. “You seem calm. Don’t tell me you’re used to this shit, Chlo.”
“Of course not. I’m the emotionally unstable one. You wear your emotions on your sleeve. Sometimes, I wish I could do that. Makes me feel a little more human.”
“You’re showing your emotions, now.”
“I’m working on it. For you. Because that shit needs to go two ways, right?”
“No pressure. We go at our own pace. Our own rules.”
“Our own time.”
“That’s what I’m counting on.”
They lay together, enjoying each other’s company, reflecting on the past, wondering about their future.
The past was worrying enough as it was.
The last thing they remembered was Max staring with blurred eyes at their dream board, while Chloe sat in the hallway outside her room, hugging her knees.
There were a few terrible, painful moments of silence. Then a loud – break? – crack? And then a stomp.
The second round of silence was just as painful, and just as deafening in her ears.
She felt something beside her. She looked up from between her knees, and looked over.
Max reached around her, and intertwined their fingers. “No,” she whispered, her tears flowing freely down her cheeks. “We really do have all the time in the world. I want to spend that time with you.”
Chloe wiped at her eyes. “Max, we don’t know what might happen between now and then. You need to do this.”
“I don’t need to do a Goddamn thing!” Her outburst was accented by a tight squeeze. “I am Max fucking Caulfield, Time Lord! I make the decisions! I decide my fate! And if I want to spend the rest of my life, here, with you, then I can’t think of a single reason why I shouldn’t!”
She raised both their intertwined knuckles, and kissed them staring directly into their eyes. “Destiny. It was supposed to be good to us, when we met. It’s fucked us over too many times already. I won’t let it happen again. I don’t even know what might happen next time, but things have a funny way of fucking up for me. I don’t want to live the rest of my life watching my back, or yours, and you’d barely know who I am! This is the final choice I’ll make. And maybe I’m making the wrong one. But I just can’t… I can’t stand the thought that I’ll have to start all over again to earn what we have right now, and I really don’t think I can make everything right again. I don’t want to go back. I want to stay. So that’s what’s happening. If you have a problem with that, then that’s just too fucking bad. But I will not abandon you again, Chloe. Never again.”
Without warning, she leaned over and kissed her. And perhaps, Chloe rationed, she didn’t have a problem with that.
Max made a different decision. Instead of going ten years back, she decided to stay, and live out this life with her best friend. Five thousand dollars and a truck, and a gun, and their dreams.
They had the rest of their lives to feel sorry. But it wouldn’t be apart.
That was yesterday. Yesterday according to them, anyway.
That night, they dreamed. They thought they would have the usual nightmares. They were at the Two Whales’ Diner, the diner that was destroyed, so they had a pretty clear vision of what they thought they were going to see next, and they were going to be in the eye of the storm. Instead, they saw a beautiful woman sitting at the bar, being thanked, repeatedly, by what looked like the whole town.
Max began to know things. With each time a town member spoke, her active imagination began to unravel each story~~~
Kate had met her in high school; she was a sophomore at the time, and the timid blonde a mere freshman. They had befriended immediately, Max not even needing her past experiences to endear herself to the girl.
Sans William and Joyce, Kate was the only person Max had ever vented to about her feelings for Chloe before their relationship began. That conversation wasn’t staged – she was genuinely frustrated in how long she had to wait before Chloe was ready to respond to her advances. Legitimately, Kate comforted her on her woes.
Victoria didn’t expect to make friends. She had money to do that for her, and her talent spoke for itself. That all changed when Max approached her, someone she couldn’t compare to in either category and rather than make her a lackey, which she would have seriously considered had the offer arose, she instead wanted a friend. That worked just as well.
And then, Victoria met Kate.
Never had she been so honest with herself, in front of Kate. Never had she realized how alone she really was before she was introduced into the circle of friends, but Kate showed a special interest. The Christian girl was so knowledgeable, almost always knowing the right thing to say and the right scripture to quote. That, in a sense, should have annoyed her – she never liked to be the one being taught a lesson. But the companionship shared between the two was something she cherished, and she gave as good as she got, giving some advice to her friend to help her cope with the world around them – not many were willing to accept her far too innocent nature, and she was not too forgiving of the sinfulness of over-privileged teenagers.
That’s what they loved about each other. It only took a couple of pushes from Arcadia Bay’s resident golden couple to become the ‘platinum’ couple, as Victoria liked to call themselves.
“Wow,” Chloe noted, leaning against the jukebox. “Kate and Victoria, huh? I didn’t see that coming.”
Neither did Max. But she wasn’t complaining, seeing how good a friend Victoria had become.
She also couldn’t see David Madsen becoming a preacher.
“H-holy shit! Me? I helped David fucking Madsen become a fucking Rev!?”
It didn’t take long to figure out that Chloe could imagine everything that Max could. They had the same memories coming to them – funnelling into them like a beer keg, drinking in the information.
She imagined Madsen, an ornery man, sitting alone at the diner, staring out the window. A girl with blue tips in her hair approached him with his meal – a simple hamburger and fries was all he could afford at the moment – before quickly dashing away from the table.
Fortunately for him, she didn’t hear his comments on her choice of hairstyle.
Unfortunately, she heard him comment on her girlfriend’s red streaks as she served the table next to him.
Max, unaware of the moment, had gone to the back for fresh utensils – as Chloe intended, preferring to keep this indiscretion private – before she slid into the seat across the table from him and chewed him out in the quietest of whispers.
Even she couldn’t figure out how that led to the man finding peace within himself, but he came by the next week to apologize, and the week after that to just talk, and about a month later, to inform her of his move to Los Angeles. He told them of his online classes, and felt the need to be in a more populous city.
Max – the one that sat on the stool at the bar – had considered following the religious route, very seriously. She had even considered taking those same classes to officiate Kate and Victoria’s wedding, as Kate had sheepishly admitted to dreaming about once.
But she couldn’t agree to some conditions. She couldn’t lie, and she had to accept some conditions that just weren’t possible. Not with what she’s seen, had been capable of, and had been through.
David, surprisingly, understood at the time, never one to judge again, and when he was done getting to know the couple, he quickly agreed to pay Chloe back by marrying her and Max.
Chloe coughed on her cigarette smoke, and Max, seeing that she was in a dream, didn’t see much urgency in trying to rescue her. Still, she twisted in her bench to look at her in concern. It was a small cough, but she knew the blue haired girl was alright when she took another, giant inhale of the little death stick, before coughing again.
Apparently, that last thought was a shock to her. She almost didn’t see why it would be – marrying Chloe was, at the very least, a possibility to her. She certainly didn’t go through all that shit for curious experimentation. But it was nice to visualize the confirmation.
Max shook her head and looked back over to the stool, watching her older self begin to shake hands with what looked a lot like an older version of Nathan Prescott.
She didn’t expect to have helped everyone. She half-entertained the thought of her having helped Mark Jefferson, but knew in her heart that there wasn’t a chance in hell. Nate was, in the end, more of a victim than a suspect, like Harley Quinn to the Joker.
As Nathan smiled a full smile, one she hadn’t seen since she tried correcting her mistakes the first time with William and entered a bizarro alternate life, she knew that the man known as Mr. Jefferson was not only stopped, but dead. She just had a feeling. She’d learned to follow her gut over the past two weeks.
Nate’s mother was strict, but his sister was fair. Katherine and Kristine, respectively, took on the mantle of raising the youngest, as he was hit pretty hard with the patriarch’s abandonment of the Prescott family. He had gone to public school – like Kristine had chosen to go to – and was raised as normally as possible, pointedly ignoring his father’s wishes of making him understand his ‘place’ in the world as the top of the food chain.
When the news hit that Sean was found in Colorado in his hotel, dead of an overdose, Nathan – Nate to his friends – didn’t have much of a reaction. His father was dead to him long before their discovery, and his mom and sister more than filled the void.
The Vortex Club was something he began to fund in high school, and kept alive for his own purposes – he liked parties, and he liked a fun, safe drinking environment with his friends – not like there were many other places for teen parties, anyway. And if people were going to talk about him behind his back because his father fell from grace, then he wanted to be in the know.
He was utterly perplexed at Max’s lack of comfort around him. At first, he assumed that she just didn’t trust men in general, but as it nagged at him more and more as they worked together for the club that she helped elevate to a new level, he realized that she was friends with everyone. Everyone loved her and her wife, and they returned the sentiment.
She had a room in the Prescott Dorms, he knew. And he knew that because he was living in the Pricefield Dorms at the time. But he didn’t trick himself with the notion that they were on equal footing. She could have just as easily renamed Blackwell itself. His family couldn’t hold a lavish reputation like that. She could. She didn’t see him as an enemy. So why the cold – or, more accurate, slightly chilled – shoulder?
He felt isolated in a way. He knew he shouldn’t care about this one person’s distrust of him, but it got to him in a harsh way. Even her wife got along better with him, and in the corner of his eye, he always saw Max distracting herself, never once looking at her own wife talking to him.
It couldn’t possibly have been for jealousy reasons, either. Chloe wasn’t exactly attracted to him, for obvious reasons, and despite her beauty, he wasn’t attracted to her, for those exact same reasons. Chloe even gave him a ‘Welcome to the Club’ gift, a rainbow wristband. So, no worries there. That only left one possible reason.
He didn’t want people to judge him because of his father. And this was Maxine fucking Pricefield he was referring to. Her opinion was the only one that mattered in Arcadia!
He could see her reasoning, when she explained. It wasn’t his father at all – it was Nate himself. Well, someone who looked like him. To hurt someone as nice as Max, they sounded like a piece of shit to him. God forbid he ever ran into the fucker.
He never got the name of the guy. Due to his connections, he felt that it would be best if he never asked. The temptation would be far too haunting, and he had already been taking medicine for certain episodes he had when he was younger.
That stray thought concerned Max. Not that he was taking medicine, but that he once had self-destructive episodes. He had wanted to hurt himself. Jefferson, in the previous timeline, must have seen the signs before his parents, and used it to his advantage – used the boy to hurt other people.
“Fuckin’ asshole,” Chloe muttered, and Max was almost in sync by a millisecond.
She was happy for Nathan. In a world full of victims – she, Chloe, Kate, Victoria and Rachel – she had almost forgotten that there are a lot of brands of victims that could get hurt just as much.
She didn’t recognize a lot of people that came into the establishment, nor did she recognize their importance, but they looked so grateful to get a handshake from the woman. It was almost as if she had changed their lives in some meaningful way as well. As each person walked away, and each person came into the small diner, her grin wouldn’t fade any less.
“There’s someone missing,” Chloe crossed her arms and leaned back against the jukebox. “Did she… pass… again?”
Max shook her head, removing her analog from her pouch. “I’ve never met her. Would be hard to have her in my dream.”
“Your dream? I thought it was mine?”
Max was already shaking her head. “I doubt it. This feels too real, and I’m the one with the fucked up supernatural vibes.”
Chloe looked like she wanted to rebuke the statement, but she couldn’t think of something to say. “I… I coughed, though,” she muttered, not loud enough for her girlfriend to hear. She held a hand to her chest, still feeling the pain of the spasm.
Almost as if to prove her point, Max summoned her trusty camera into her palm and pointed it at the woman. The room suddenly emptied, and the three remained.
She took the picture. “We did good.”
She and Max talked to the couple that could’ve been, and Chloe saw herself in the mirror, twenty years from now.
She fucking hated it.
Not the woman. Older Chloe was absolutely stunning, for someone who was now as old as her mom. She was beautiful, and confident, and radiant, and happy….
So not Chloe.
A week ago, from her perspective, she had told her best friend the most truthful thing she had ever revealed out loud, in her life – she was a mistake. A genuine and honest mistake. The Universe only needed to confirm it. She had no doubt in her mind that if Max had agreed to go back, not ten years but ten days, and let Nathan shoot her like destiny had intended, everything would have gone back to normal.
Max hadn’t gone back to fix the world, though that was genuinely her intention. She went back to correct a mistake. She did what Chloe thought was impossible, and fixed her.
Suddenly, the older couple was gone, and the two were alone.
Chloe’s smile faded, and Max squeezed her hand tighter. “Don’t ever think that. Ever.”
“How do you – ?”
“Maybe this is your dream. I don’t even know what my own thoughts are, but I know what you’re thinking, and it’s pissing me off.”
Her head drooped low. “Sorry, Max. I’m sorry. I’m just… sorry. It’s in my programming. She’s so… and I’m so…”
“You’re both Chloe. But she’s not my Chloe. I like my Chloe just fine.”
“No, you don’t. Because you wouldn’t have changed a thing, otherwise.”
“I didn’t even choose to go, Chloe. That’s a different Chloe and a different Max, for all I’m concerned. She took a different path.”
The bluenette didn’t seem to be listening, so Max, frustrated, left the table.
“So much for the best part of the story,” Chloe despaired, leaning her head in her hands, the cotton cap slipping off her head again. “My dream’s turned into a nightmare.” She chuckled dryly. “Story of my fucking life.”
“So, do you see a problem with this?”
“Hm… I don’t know, Max. She seems pretty damaged to me. I know I didn’t make that mess better.”
“Ah, girls, give her a break. She’s been through a lot.”
Chloe shuddered. And then she looked up.
Rachel Amber stood with her arms crossed, only a small smirk betraying her earlier statement, and whatever joke she was going to say next died in her throat. “Fuck, Chloe. You really think I’d abandonyou?”
“That does seem to be a trend,” William Price agreed, shaking his head. He moved to Max’s side. “Then again, I literally did walk out on her.”
Chloe saw her two best friends and her father look upon her with nothing but love.
She had no fucking idea what was going on, or how any of it was happening. But now, maybe for the first time, she truly realized the love that surrounded her, up above… and on Earth.
“Thank you,” she whispered, and Max simply nodded.
“I’ll you leave you three alone.” She began to walk towards Joyce.
“Hold it!” She quickly hopped out of the booth, and took her friend by the hand. “Rachel, this is Max. My girlfriend.”
“Bout time.” Of course Chloe had talked about Max non-stop to Rachel, but she wasn’t expecting William to mirror the statement. “Honestly, I spoil you. I can’t help but think that all of this is my fau- oomph!”
She had her arms wrapped around her father so tightly, and he didn’t feel the least bit uncomfortable. “Shut up,” she murmured, and melted into the tangle of arms as the three joined together, quickly followed by Joyce.
Max lingered behind, crossing her arms as she stood against the booth, wishing she still had that camera.
She still had no idea what was going on or how all of this happened, but she’d happily sleep forever if this was what it was like.
Four days. It was in a span of only four days, and the week that followed was a hell of an aftermath. Technically, it started when Rachel was killed – how she was alive, and talking to Chloe, Max didn’t fully understand, but she was here – and it all started unraveling from there.
It was so surreal, seeing Chloe so happy – she needed to see that. There was a chance she would have never seen that again. She remembered the speech Chloe gave her before she left her in the room with the Dream board, when she was supposed to be going back to the past just the previous day.
She said I was going to fall in love with a different Chloe. A better Chloe. She tilted her head at the sight of her best friend being embraced by her family and her once departed friend – almost like a cocoon. And maybe I’m old school. But I think I’ll stick to the original. She looks pretty damn awesome to me.
“Get your skinny butt over here, hipster.”
She shook her head in the negative. “I think I’ll hang back. You three have a lot to talk about.”
She scoffed, breaking apart from the group. “And you think you won’t be brought up a thousand fucking times!”
“At least the swear jar was a good investment.” William noted.
“I introduced you to Rachel, now I need to introduce her to you. God knows I told her enough about you that you’ve practically met.”
“She’s not exaggerating,” the redhead deadpanned. She smirked. “Hi. I was your temporary replacement for a friend. Her lying, backstabbing, in-over-her-head friend.”
It was truly amazing how one speech changed the course of time, and yet, bring around the same consequences.
In another life, Chloe had given up on Max. She had been angered when she returned – furious, at Max, Rachel, and herself. Max for never keeping contact, Rachel for ‘abandoning’ her, and herself, for being the victim. She had to forgive Max, and eventually herself, in order to move on from her best friend’s betrayal.
That all changed when Max had gone back in time to save her father, then quickly corrected everything. She thought that everything had gone back to normal. It didn’t – not by a long shot.
She had cried. She had put her heart out for her best friend, who didn’t know that she had just helped her die, and was about to send her father to die just to save her. But the message was delivered in a heartfelt speech.
“Listen; whatever happens, I want you to be strong. Even if you feel like I wasn’t there for you… because I will never abandon you, Chloe.”
Max didn’t think that would mean anything. When she appeared back in her normal timeline, and they were looking at the board for clues on Rachel’s whereabouts, nothing had changed.
What she didn’t remember was how happy Chloe was to see her the day she was almost shot. What she didn’t remember was how they had quickly began reminiscing on old times, and how their lives had changed so drastically, and how happy they were to be back in each other’s lives. She didn’t remember how Chloe had dared Max to kiss her, and it wasn’t even a choice when she leaped forward and lingeredon her lips.
Max remembered Chloe’s self-doubt throughout her adventure, blaming her and missing her father.
So when she shook Rachel Amber’s hand, a new set of memories came rushing into her mind, and she was left gasping, holding onto the practical stranger.
Chloe loved Max. She knew that before the kiss, before she had even introduced her friend to her Junkyard hideout. She knew when she saw her friend’s cell phone.
Five years apart, and their pirate photo was her wallpaper. three cell phone changes later, and their picture was the first thing she looked at every morning.
Chloe never gave up. She had believed her friend, and believed that Max would never abandon her. Even when she did.
“H-holy shit,” Max murmured, stumbling in Rachel’s grip.
“Max?” Chloe was already at her side, fingers on her cheek, inspecting her closely. “You okay?”
“Wow,” she breathed. “Actually… I feel a lot better.”
“I hope Rachel didn’t cause that,” she joked, a genuine smile on her lips.
“No… that was all you, Chloe. But Rachel makes a great comforter.”
“I guess that’s what I’m here for,” the redhead admitted, patting both friends on the back. “I know I have a lot of explaining to do, Chloe, about Frank, and other things. But if we can delay that as long as possible, and just relax and catch up for a while, then I’m down with that.”
“Oh no, sista.” Chloe’s grin took on a more sinister tone. “I’m not letting you go that easy. You’re answering all my questions.”
“And we’re calling Frank,” Max added, looking around the heavily detailed diner. She may have had good memory, but this was ridiculous. Maybe this was an eternal dream, or they were actually in the diner in a town that was never destroyed, given a second chance at life that she had refused to take, with people she refused to save.
Maybe this is what Heaven is like.
“We can save that for later,” Joyce interrupted with a stern tone. “You’ve never let one of my Belgian Waffles go cold before, and I sure as heck won’t let you do it now.”
Max decided that ultimately, it didn’t matter. Dream or not, alternate reality or not, afterlife or not.
She was very willing to see this through.
Chloe grabbed her hand, and pulled her into the booth. “God, I’m frigging starving! Unless it’s not on the house. In that case, Max is starving for the both of us.”
Max sighed and checked her pockets. “You know, you could always try working here.”
“Maybe. if you join me.”
“Maybe, if that whole ‘photography’ thing doesn’t work…out…” She paused. Furrowing her brows, she wiggled her fingers in her pocket. With a frown, she pulled out a single plastic card.
‘Maxine Pricefield’, the credit card read.
This was all terribly fucked up, she wasn’t afraid to admit. Having William and Rachel materialize in front of her with her thoughts was bad enough, but this?
She thought she had seen stranger things. Apparently not.
She was good at adapting. It was beginning to look like The Time Goddess was becoming, simply, a Goddess.
No complaints from her. No complaints from anyone.
“To family,” William announced, raising his root beer in the air.
Chloe flicked her finger against his glass to make a ‘clink’ sound, before digging into the plate placed in front of her. Rachel laughed. Joyce shook her head as she put down Max’s plate.
The taste made her recognize that this, one hundred percent, was not a dream.
“To all the time in the world.”
“To making the right choices,” Chloe followed up, her mouth full. “Even when the choices are shit.”
“I liked my toast better,” William pouted. “And I’m the only one with a glass.”
“To life.” The group quickly turned in their booth, and were blessed with the sight of Kate Marsh holding up her soda across from her. “And the strange things that make us who we are.”
It was a toast they could all agree to.
End. Well, not really. There were a fuckton of questions she still had. But her waffles were getting cold, and she was very willing to solve one problem at a time.
So… the end. For now.
Yes, this really is the end. I’ve got nothing else to say about this story.
Life is Strange, whether it becomes a movie (confirmed), or a sequel game series (rumored to be confirmed(?)); I hope I find something just as inspiring. And if it’s good, I’ll definitely do something with that as well. Steven Universe, a show I’ve binge-watched the past couple of weeks, so… there’s that commission half-way done. Any more requests? Check out my Patreon for more details.
Until then, I’ve got a lot of sexy criminals, geeky BDSMs, and magical harems to write about. Just as sweet, I promise. I think.
Please, don’t be afraid to leave a comment or a review. I need to know if you liked it, or you thought it was missing something, or if you are terribly confused about me skipping back and forth through time.
Thanks for reading!