Actions

Work Header

Make Me Better

Work Text:

Just like every time before, she knew she wasn’t supposed to be here. Hell, she never actually was here. But somehow she could always picture it perfectly because, in a way, it was somewhere she had been so many times before. Physically and mentally it was filled with sensations she was used to. The gentle hum of the car’s engine and the careful roll of tires over asphalt that lulled her to sleep in the backseat. The beautiful, but tedious, scenery of Arcadia Bay out the window, with patterns of trees and the sunlight peeking over the hills. The light scent of the air freshener that helped mask how much takeout had been eaten and spilled on the seats. She breathed in and out deeply, savouring the experience, the action simple thanks to the lack of seatbelt.

She would never be allowed in the vehicle without a seatbelt.

And then she would bolt upwards, pushing away all sense of familiarity, because she should not be here. She had seen this happen in so many visions over and over again, but she should not be here. In just a few moments she would see her dad in the front seat get crushed curtsy of a truck owned by a drunk driver, and then her world would go black until she woke up for real.

She didn’t understand why she had to keep seeing this. What cruel god or person or thing was forcing her to see her dad die over and over again? She wasn’t here when this happened. She would be dead if she had been here when this happened.

At the time she had been back home with Max who had been acting so strange. Max was normally really shy and awkward, but she was also quirky and cheerful and full of innocence. The Max in front of her then looked older than her years; haunted by images that could never be unseen, and those events changed her. She had looked sad, and torn, and broken, and made apologies and promises that sounded so heartfelt at the time but rung hollow when she left for Seattle shortly after and hadn’t sent a call or even a text after two years.

But either way, that was what happened. She had been home at the time of the accident. Not in her dad’s vehicle during the crash. So why the fuck was she here?

Then her vision occurred a little differently. It was like time had stopped directly before the crash. No more roar of an oncoming engine or screech of the tires. She couldn’t hear her dad humming to the radio anymore. Couldn’t smell the air freshener. She placed her hand flat on the window, trying to get a sense of her surroundings. Blue eyes darted around, trying to search for any sort of clue. She noticed how her dad’s eyes looked empty in the rear-view mirror, like he was already dead. She noticed how he didn’t have his seatbelt on, either, which was concerning and unusual. He and Joyce were equally adamant about always wearing one in the car, no matter how short the trip was. But sitting there, he looked ready for death. Like he was waiting for it. And right now, with time frozen, waiting was all either of them could do.

No sound. No movement. Nothing. She couldn’t even hear herself breathe.

But then a hand stretched out to meet hers on the other side of the car window. Time was still captured in the moment, except for herself and whoever was outside the car. Honestly at first she thought the hand was just her reflection, but then she saw it move slightly when she hadn’t moved her own. Then she noticed the bracelet clinging to the person’s wrist, a bracelet that had become very familiar to her recently and it took her a moment to remember why.

This meant something. It had to. She had been shown the same vision of her dad dying so many times, had been haunted by this nightmare for too many days to count, yet this time some force—an angel, really—had influenced her vision so she wouldn’t have to experience the crash again. As if this person or force had the power to stop it, or change it, or at least help her overcome it.

This... meant something, didn’t it?

When she looked up and saw the person’s face, she...


 

“Ch... Chloe... Chloe!”

Rachel!

Her best friend’s name spilled from Chloe’s lips as the strawberry blonde jolted back into reality, disoriented by her surroundings. She went to raise her left hand over her rapidly beating heart only to find it trapped in Rachel’s own, but the blonde set her free once she realized what was happening.

That was the same hand that reached out to her in the dream, bracelet and all, but Chloe was too overwhelmed to fully comprehend that thought.

Her heart pulsed irregularly under her fingertips, each pump like war drums in her ears. She was panicking. She... she needed to calm down. But how could she after what she just saw; what she continued to see almost every night? The memory of losing her father was awful enough, and now she was constantly forced to visualize it. How fucked was that? How was she supposed to handle that?

“Was it that dream again?” Rachel asked softly from beside her. Chloe couldn’t look at her yet, but felt herself nod. She was still having trouble breathing and Rachel must have noticed because the aspiring model shifted so she was in the centre of Chloe’s vision, kneeling in front of her. Her expression was welcoming, yet determined. “Alright. You need to relax, Chloe. I’m right here, okay? C’mon, let’s breathe together.”

Rachel’s voice was as warm as her touch as she took Chloe’s hands, squeezing gently. Rachel took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds, before releasing a long exhale and repeating the motions several times. It took Chloe a moment to collect herself, but soon enough she and Rachel were mirroring the same actions. Chloe could feel her heartbeat slowing and her brain calming, like all the intrusive thoughts had been pushed away.

As she calmed, she was finally able to grasp where they were and why they were here. They were at the junkyard, Chloe’s favourite place in Arcadia Bay, and she had come here after a restless night at home mixed with step-douche barking commands her way because she just wanted some peace and quiet. But she hated being alone so she asked Rachel to join her, because the junkyard was a sanctuary they shared. They found it together and owned it together. They got there in the afternoon but Chloe must have passed out for awhile against a wrecked car because it looked like evening was slowly approaching.

This wasn’t the first anxiety attack she had and it probably wouldn’t be the last. But Rachel never judged her and had been helping her since they met. Rachel never talked about her own anxieties much, but Chloe knew Rachel had been caught up in the Amber household’s drama, not to mention those pussy thugs from the punk club. It was bad shit. Scary shit. Fucked up enough to give anyone anxiety attacks, and enough to make anyone educate themselves on how to overcome them.

But Chloe never asked because she could barely handle her own shit right now. If Rachel was ever truly unsure or upset, Chloe just hoped the other girl would trust her enough to tell her the truth.

“Okay,” Chloe sighed after one more deep breath. “I’m okay now. Thanks, Rachel.”

Rachel smiled and waved it off like it was no big deal. It was a big deal. To Chloe, anyway. Rachel had saved her life more times than she could count. She’d repay her someday when her own life wasn’t so fucked up.

The two girls pulled each other to their feet and for a moment Chloe was captivated by Rachel, just like the time when she first saw her. Blue flannel torn at the shoulders, a red tank and dark ripped jeans, giving her the casual punk look but looking like she had walked off a beauty magazine cover simultaneously. She wore a genuine smile, shiny pink lip-gloss and bright teeth, only outmatched by the beauty of her eyes. They were hazel and warm and always made you feel special when she looked at you. Rachel gave her full attention to whoever she was with and it always made Chloe feel so... important.

Max looked at her like that the day her dad died.

A deep cry of a raven filled the air and both girls looked up to see the black bird circle high above them for a moment before disappearing in the throng of trees beyond the railroad tracks. Chloe glared in its direction and gave it the finger.

Rachel laughed. “What did the poor bird do to deserve that?”

Chloe huffed. “That fucker has been following me everywhere. Can’t even smoke in peace in my room anymore with that asshole staring at me from my window like every morning.”

“Clearly it just wanted you to share.” Rachel was still laughing so Chloe flipped her off too, which only made Rachel laugh harder. Chloe felt her stomach flip from the melody. “Chill! You’re sure it’s the same one?”

“Has to be.” Chloe shrugged. “This isn’t a popular spot for ravens and that one seems to be everywhere I go.”

“It likes you. Buy it dinner. Not like it needs that to follow you home, though.”

“Fuck off.” The words were said more harshly than intended, but her shove on Rachel’s shoulder was playful and the giggles that followed were genuine. “God, fuck this shithole of a town. I need a smoke.”

“I got you, girl. Frank gave me some candy last night actually if you want to share,” Rachel said, ignoring Chloe’s sharp look as she pulled a small bag of weed out of her pocket. “If we smoke it now you should smell okay enough by the time you get home that Madsen won’t be on your ass about it.”

“My step-Führer gives me shit about literally everything and at this point I couldn’t give a fuck.” Chloe’s eyes fell for a moment and she rubbed the back of her neck. “Frank though? Seriously? Are you trying to get in more shit with those guys?”

“Frank’s different.” Rachel’s tone was solid and left no room for an argument, even though Chloe had plenty. “He’s never given me a reason to doubt him. Plus you’ve been buying from him for over a year, remember? And he gives me all the good shit for free. A win-win. Now come on.”

Rachel led her by the hand over to their hideout, their fingers interlacing in a way that made Chloe’s heart skip a beat. She did not need to go through that breathing seminar again so she tried to calm down enough that Rachel wouldn’t notice. God, that girl was so beautiful. And charming. And smart. And playful. And supportive. And loving.

And damn did Chloe have it bad.

It was obvious as fuck. She probably wouldn’t even deny it if someone asked. Rachel was her angel. Rachel saved her. And with Max gone, Rachel was the only one she could truly call a friend.

Chloe would do anything for her.

The strawberry blonde was pulled out of those thoughts once pulled into the hideout, and was struck with how safe it made her feel. It was still pretty bare; a small table littered with old beer cans and candy wrappers, one wooden chair, a stolen dartboard, a shelf with a few of Rachel’s makeup products and graffiti all over the walls curtsy of both of them. The shack was small and it was messy, but it was theirs, and Chloe couldn’t wait to see it evolve until there was no space left for anyone to take from them.

It was almost funny to think of how indifferent Rachel was to this place when she first saw it. They had some... memorable arguments here, honestly. Ones that left Chloe in tears and breaking shit with a baseball bat.

But now it was their home away from hell.

Rachel sat on the only chair and rolled the joint silently. The silence was comfortable but Chloe always grew antsy quickly, so she picked up a spray can in the corner and doodled a hasty design on the stone walls. It didn’t matter what it was so long as she was leaving her mark.

The aspiring model waved her over and the spray can was discarded without a care. Rachel took the first hit, lighting up the end and puffing out the smoke with a pleasant sigh before passing the joint to Chloe. The taller girl sucked a deep inhale, savouring the smoke in her lungs before letting it out. She loved this shit. It was one of the only things that could relax her nowadays. Weed, and Rachel. Both at the same time were a blessing.

She met Rachel’s eyes, mischievous yet full of warmth, as she passed the joint back, and knew she must have been blessed to have this wonderful girl become such a central part of her life.

They took hit after hit and both of them were feeling the effects by the time Rachel was rolling a second joint. Chloe was suddenly hyperaware of how her clothes felt on her body, how warm they were, and shed her dark grey hoodie and threw it across the room. But then she didn’t feel warm enough so she knelt down and leaned her head on Rachel’s thigh and it felt comfier than it probably should have. Chloe always did get a little more touchy-feely when she was high, but luckily Rachel was similar.

Rachel held out the new joint for Chloe to take. Chloe simply stared at her hand for awhile, mesmerised by how those long, beautiful fingers snaked around the paper, before finally holding it in her own which didn’t look nearly as exquisite in comparison.

“Here,” Rachel started, fishing out her phone and typing something in. “I downloaded that song you showed me the other day. You act hardcore, but I know you love listening to shit like this when you light up.”

Rachel turned her phone on max volume and left it on the table and the softness of the song immediately made Chloe relaxed and sleepy. Nothing mattered now except for her and Rachel. Why should anything else matter when she had Rachel?

Rachel wouldn’t leave her like her dad.

Rachel wouldn’t leave her like Max.

Chloe took another long drag and passed back the joint. She buried her face deep into Rachel’s ripped jeans, focusing on the feeling of the material, the warmth radiating beneath, and the soft music filling her ears.

Take the worst situations
Make a worse situation
Follow me home, pretend you
Found somebody to mend you

Rachel caressed her hair. Long fingers ran through every strand and Chloe wished for a moment she had showered today. But Rachel didn’t seem to care so she didn’t either. The warmth and gentleness of the touch, the sureness of it, made nothing else matter except for the girl beside her. This was the best feeling to ever exist, ever, and Chloe wanted to enjoy it while still in the climax of her high.

“I love birds,” Rachel said out of nowhere, so softly Chloe barely caught it. She faintly noticed Rachel playing with the blue feather earring dangling from her left ear. “They’re so pretty and free. They can fly anywhere and escape and no one can tell them otherwise. They aren’t stuck here. Not like us.”

“We’ll get out,” Chloe mumbled into Rachel’s thigh. “LA. That’s the dream, remember?”

Rachel didn’t respond to that. Instead, she said something completely different. “Ravens are beautiful creatures, but they’re usually signs of bad omens. They represent death, or the souls of the damned, or serve as a warning for something evil that is to come. There’s even a butterfly found in India named after a raven, and butterflies, although beautiful, are usually signs of bad omens, too.” Rachel hesitated for a moment, gently scratching at Chloe’s scalp before continuing. “If a raven really has been following you around, I want you to be careful, okay?”

“Really, Rachel?” Chloe replied, the words making her tongue feel tingly. She let out a single giggle before swallowing the rest down. When her tone returned to normal, Chloe said, “I know the fucker has been tailing me, but you know I don’t believe in that superstitious bullshit. It’s all fairytale stuff. Next you’ll tell me you have time powers or some shit.”

Rachel was quiet after that, which wasn’t that unusual given what they were doing but it still felt kind of strange. Chloe looked up at the other girl and felt her heart jolt that Rachel was staring down at her already with a really intense gaze. As if she were trapped in an internal debate. Rachel was looking at her the same way Max had just before her dad died. With haunted eyes. With something Chloe couldn’t understand and probably wasn’t meant to understand.

Or just all the weed was hitting her at once. Frank really did have the best shit in Arcadia Bay.

Fucking Frank.

“Frank’s bad news,” Chloe said like it was a fact. She frowned afterwards. She didn’t mean to say the words. She knew Rachel didn’t like talking about Frank, and Chloe also knew that Frank wasn’t as bad as she always made him out to be. He was nice to her—well, civil to her—and he did help them escape from those assholes at the mill. But those assholes seemed to know him, which meant he was involved with them, and that meant nothing good.

“Frank’s a puppy,” Rachel replied. She didn’t sound angry or annoyed, but she did break their gaze and that was enough to tell the shift in Rachel’s mood. Chloe followed those hazel orbs to the dartboard on the wall they had stolen from the mill long after the Fire Walk show. Rachel was way better at the game than her. Chloe had only beaten her once and that was probably only out of pity.

Then Rachel’s shoulders sagged slightly and so did her expression. “He’s a puppy,” Rachel echoed, “but he’s surrounded by wolves. They could tear him apart.” Chloe noticed Rachel’s hand move to wipe at her eyes but she didn’t directly look because it might have broke her. “I can’t let that happen to him,” the aspiring model murmured.

“And I can’t let that happen to you,” Chloe spoke, words that once again burst from her lips without her permission. Her arms wrapped around Rachel’s thin waist, squeezing gently. Warm. Safe. Things Rachel might not be anymore if she got more involved with Frank. “Those Anarchy guys weren’t fucking around, Rach. They’re a bunch of self-entitled douchebags, but they also didn’t seem to be past killing or heavy maiming. I...” Chloe felt her eyes sting. She hated it. She smoked weed to avoid these feelings. “I can’t be alone again. I can’t lose you.”

I feel numb in this kingdom

She heard Rachel take a deep inhale and an equally long exhale. The gears in the long haired girl’s brain were no doubt grinding at a frantic pace but Chloe couldn’t even begin to assume what she was thinking about. Her own thoughts were moving slower than her body. She had said ridiculous things and hugged Rachel and even now her brain was trying to catch up with her actions.

Had she been insensitive? Chloe got like that a lot when her emotions overpowered her logic. She was such a screw-up. It was easier to avoid this shit when she smoked alone.

But she loved Rachel more than her own life. And if anything ever happened to Rachel, Chloe probably wouldn’t have her own life to screw up anymore.

Suddenly Rachel stood from the chair, jolting Chloe to the side. The warmth was gone. Why was the warmth gone? Why were her arms empty? Did Rachel prefer being cold? Prefer being alone? Was Rachel going to leave her on the floor and walk out?

She could’ve. It wouldn’t be the first time she had done so.

But times were different. Both of them were dealing with fucked shit and they needed each other.

Rachel knelt down to be eye level with Chloe and gently gripped her hands. Chloe only noticed now how pretty the girl’s nail polish was. Shiny and pristine magenta. Chloe hadn’t painted her own nails in years. She was always horrible at it. She shook too much and got the polish all over her skin and it took forever to get off, and even longer to dry on her nails. How did Rachel make it look so nice?

Stupid question. Rachel made everything look nice. Look beautiful. Gorgeous. Flawless.

Fuck, she loved her. Would she ever tell her? Would anything change if she did? Would anything change if she pretended she didn’t?

She would only get one chance. She couldn’t just rewind and try again if she fucked up. She’d have to live with the consequences just like she always did when her mouth ran away from her.

“Don’t look so sad, Chloe,” Rachel spoke gently, stroking Chloe’s knuckles with her thumbs. Chloe felt her stomach do flips and knew her knees would have buckled if she had been standing. Her legs felt completely numb, but maybe that was just from sitting in this position for so long. Rachel stared at her in a way Chloe couldn’t quite comprehend other than whatever it was, it was pure. It was genuine and vulnerable, yet unwavering. Rachel’s expression was warm and firm. “I’m never leaving you.”

The words were kind, but they made Chloe’s heart pound painfully.

“Max said that, too.”

There goes her mouth again.

“I know you miss her,” Rachel commented. Her tone wasn’t derogatory or accusing. She was stating a fact.

But Chloe wasn’t having it. “No I don’t.”

“Of course.” Rachel raised an eyebrow. The corners of her glossy lips twitched upwards. “That’s why you talk about her all the time.”

“I don’t...” Chloe blushed, looking away. “Fuck off.”

“I love hearing that I’m right,” Rachel laughed. The sound made Chloe’s face burn brighter, but that was in no way comparable to the warmth that just blossomed in her chest. Rachel needed to laugh more often. Thanks to those Anarchy assholes and Rachel’s dysfunctional family, Rachel barely laughed anymore, or even felt like she could enjoy herself anymore.

Rachel Amber was a sixteen year old girl. She looked so pretty when she swayed her hips on the dance floor. She looked so pretty when she lay on Chloe’s bed with a joint in her hand. She looked so pretty when she chugged back a beer and then nuzzled Chloe’s cheek with her temporary foam mustache. She looked so pretty when she taught the boys the cleanest of tre flips on her board. She looked so pretty when she kicked Chloe’s ass at darts over and over again. She looked so pretty when she smiled, laughed, let go of all the expectations her family and all of Blackwell and, fuck, all of Arcadia Bay put on her.

She looked so pretty when she got to be just Rachel.

But she didn’t get to be ‘just Rachel’ much anymore.

“Do you think she’d like me?”

Chloe just stared at Rachel for a moment because she couldn’t even comprehend that that was supposed to be a serious question.

“Who? Max?” Chloe asked.

“Yeah.” Rachel shrugged. She actually looked a little insecure. It was weird, but endearing in a way.

“Probably,” Chloe responded, briefly letting go of Rachel’s hand to swipe her strawberry blonde locks behind her ear. “Max was always really socially awkward. But she always loved taking pictures and you love having your picture taken, sooo there’s a natural bond there.”

“Okay, sure, but,” Rachel continued, adamant on the subject apparently, “but do you think she’d like me? Not the things that I like. Me. As a person. As a person who is now your new best friend, and a person who has also multiplied the shit in your life by like tenfold. Do you think she would like me?”

“No doubt. Why are you so worried about this? She’s off in Seattle. It’s not like you two will ever actually meet.” Rachel was looking at her strangely again and Chloe chose to ignore it this time because her mouth just wouldn’t stop moving. She got like this a lot when she talked about her old best friend. “But Max always saw the best in people. She’d probably love you as much as I do.”

Chloe usually didn’t realize right away when she said something she shouldn’t have said.

But she definitely shouldn’t have said that.

Luckily for her she was in love with an angel, and said angel didn’t let her wallow in her anxiety and insecurities and instead held her tight, burying her face in Chloe’s hair. Chloe was overwhelmed with warmth and the scent of weed and vanilla perfume.

“I know that you think you’re not really good with words,” Rachel said, “but you always manage to say just the right things when I need to hear them.” Rachel squeezed her tighter, impossibly so, and released a shaky breath against Chloe’s ear that sent shivers up her spine. “I’m sorry for all the times I shut you out or made you feel like you weren’t good enough. I’m the worst kind of asshole. Maybe even worse than those pricks from the mill. And I know you keep saying that I saved you but the truth is you saved me, too. I would be trapped in my family’s misfortune if not for you. I’d probably be off doing cocaine with Nathan Prescott if it weren’t for you showing up in my life when you did. You’re just this shining beacon in my life, one that always lights my way even when I don’t deserve it.” Rachel pulled back just enough for Chloe to see her face and the strawberry blonde felt her throat tighten at the shimmering in those hazel depths. “Do you have any idea how much you mean to me?”

I feel numb, make me better

Those words made Chloe’s heart slam against her ribcage and she temporarily forgot how to breathe. Sometimes that was a question she asked herself. Chloe was bad with words but at least she spoke honestly. Rachel tended to speak with a honeyed tongue but her words could mean anything; everything and nothing at the same time. She was a manipulator even when she didn’t want to be. It was almost impossible to tell when her words were genuine or when they were a tool to get what she wanted.

Even here, phrasing that as a question was Rachel’s way of avoiding a direct answer. Either she couldn’t say it or didn’t know how to, so she pushed it on Chloe to come up with an answer herself. It could be argued that was manipulative, but Chloe couldn’t take this as a bad thing because it forced her to repeat that question in her head over and over again while she looked deep into Rachel’s eyes where her answer would always be.

Of course Rachel cared. She always cared, even if didn’t say it. Chloe’s abandonment issues tended to make her forget that fact without constant reminders, but it was this moment she would remember whenever she doubted Rachel again.

The strawberry blonde finally managed a smile. “If it’s even half of what you mean to me, then I have a pretty good idea,” Chloe said. Her voice was wavering and her eyes felt wet. She licked her lips and continued around the cotton lodged in her throat because she needed Rachel to hear this; to hear how much impact she had on her life. “When I’m with you so many of my depressing thoughts just... go away. I’m not trapped in the memories of those who left me. Instead, I can focus on what’s most important: that I’m with the one who chose to stay. You... you make me better.”

Rachel bit her lip harshly and a single tear rolled down her cheek. The golden blonde never liked looking vulnerable, Chloe knew this, and also knew that Rachel would have normally swiped away that tear as soon as it formed. But instead she let Chloe cradle her face in her calloused hands and thumb the droplet away. Rachel was so warm and Chloe took a moment to just enjoy their closeness; the quietness around them that blocked out how much of a shitshow revolved around their lives.

Rachel’s eyes flickered between Chloe’s and held her gaze as she slowly turned her head in Chloe’s hold to place a gentle kiss on her palm. Those pesky butterflies formed a twister in Chloe’s gut and the strawberry blonde was instantly reminded that she would do anything for this girl. Anything to keep Rachel safe and happy, even if she had to sacrifice herself to do so.

“I guess we’re not doing so bad for a pair of fuck-ups, huh?” Rachel laughed gently, her expression brightening.

Chloe nodded, letting out a relieved sigh at the return of Rachel’s humour. “These fuck-ups will rule this shitpit someday.” Chloe stood up, holding out her hand for Rachel to take. “C’mon, now that we’ve gotten that mushy shit out of the way, let’s go hunting.”

“Go... hunting?” Rachel questioned with a raised brow, but took Chloe’s offered hand anyway and allowed herself to be pulled to her feet. She retrieved her phone from the table and turned off the song that had looped multiple times by now before burying it back in her jean pocket.

“Yeah, for shit for our hideout. It’s emptier than my wallet, which is saying something. We gotta find like a couch or a mattress and drag it back here.”

“Why?” Rachel snickered. “So you can sleep on it?”

“Dude, fuck yeah.” Chloe gave a wolfish grin. “How can we call this place a hideout if we can’t take spontaneous naps here?”

Rachel shook her head but kept laughing. “Sleeping is still one of the top things on your mind, huh?”

“In case it wasn’t obvious by how I passed out against that car earlier, I’m barely getting any sleep at home. Would rather do it here where I can smoke in peace and be with you.”

Rachel didn’t verbally respond, but the way she squeezed Chloe’s hand was response enough.

Chloe led them out of their hideout and into the horde of the junkyard, piled high with trash and hopefully more hidden treasures. The teenage girls leaped over old car parts and wrecked signs and many planks of wood, carefully avoiding all the smashed beer bottles and used needles.

“I’ve been thinking about getting a tattoo,” Rachel blurted as they searched around a long abandoned fire pit.

“I was expecting this conversation eventually,” Chloe responded. Rachel always did seem like the girl to get inked as soon as she was old enough. The image of Rachel Amber covered in sexy tattoos was an appealing one. “What of?”

“Something small to start off,” Rachel said, kicking aside an empty pop can. She wore a small smile. “A little star on my wrist, just to see what it’s like.”

“What’s special about a star?”

“Well...” Rachel paused, either to collect her thoughts or decide what to reveal. Hazel eyes twinkled as they stared up at the sky that was slowly shifting to an orange gradient. “Stars are something that are always there but only visible to us at night. You can see them but you’ll never be able to reach them, yet the stars shine brightly enough for us that we can observe their beauty even from so far away. That’s how people see a lot of other things in life, too. Their wants and desires are directly in view but they’re too far away to reach them. I’m like that too sometimes, with my modelling and how I’m worried that my dream job in Los Angeles is like a distant star. With this I could like... I don’t know, feel closer to achieving my dreams or something?” Rachel giggled, twirling her feather earring around her finger. “Sounds cheesy saying all that out loud.”

“Nah, that was beautiful,” Chloe replied with a smirk. “You should write a poetry collection.”

“Really?”

“Fuck no.”

Rachel snickered, face glowing in amusement. “As I said before, you always know the best things to say.”

“That’s why I’m here.” Chloe ignored when Rachel flipped her the bird and pretended to look busy kicking aside piles of broken decorations. “If you get the star and you like it, what else are you gonna get?”

Rachel thought about it for a moment. “I was thinking about a dragon on my calf.”

Chloe turned to look at her, intrigued. And trying to mask how hard she was picturing it. “And what’s special about the dragon?”

“Other than they’re badass?” Rachel chuckled, resting a hand on her hip. “Well, they’re a recognizable creature no matter where you’re from, but they mean so many things in different cultures. One thing they’re universally known for though is being water deities. They have control over storms and hurricanes and stuff like that.”

Chloe had been reaching over to grab a box but paused when she heard that, struck by some really violent and frightening and strangely vivid images for a moment. But they vanished as quickly as they came, as if she weren’t supposed to see them in the first place. Instead she just glanced at Rachel with an amused grin. “What I’m getting from this is that you either want to have an Arcadia Bay sized water gun fight, or you want to be Storm from the X-Men.”

“She isn’t nearly as appreciated as she should be. And yes, to both.”

Rachel wandered over to Chloe and pushed some objects out of the way so she and Chloe could both haul the box to the ground together. It was filled to the brim with blue cushions and other than being hella dusty they looked to be in decent shape. Jackpot. No more pain from sitting on the hard ass floor. After a tiny huff of exertion, Rachel asked, “Would you ever want to get a tattoo?”

“I don’t know. Maybe,” Chloe mumbled, not really giving it much thought, still more interested in Rachel with tattoos than herself. But then again, if Rachel got some she’d feel like a pussy if she didn’t get one, too. And Chloe knew it would piss off Joyce and step-douche to no end and that was always a plus. “I’d look more punk rock with one, wouldn’t I? Maybe if you decide to get your storm dragon then I’ll get something. I’ll need to save up.”

Rachel gave a sudden laugh. “With what job, hun?” the aspiring model asked, gently mocking. A teasing smirk quirked her glossy lips upwards.

Chloe returned the smirk with equal mischief. “Doesn’t matter what job they have if their wallet is easy to pick.”

“You’re terrible.”

Chloe stuck out her tongue. “You love it.”

“I do.”

That answer was more genuine than Chloe was expecting and it caught her off guard. While Chloe was still unprepared, Rachel inched closer and in a swift movement laid a soft kiss on Chloe’s cheek. “Invite me next time,” she whispered into Chloe’s ear before lifting up the box of cushions and wandering back towards their hideout.

Chloe’s hand unconsciously rose to touch her cheek that was burning from Rachel’s touch. When she pulled back, her finger was shimmering slightly thanks to the residue of Rachel’s lip gloss, a visual clue that what just happened actually happened and Chloe didn’t just imagine it. She wanted to follow Rachel’s retreating form but her feet were frozen to the ground and all Chloe could do was stare at the girl who could transform her into a flustered mess without even trying.

The girl who probably didn’t realize that every simple thing she did for Chloe today would keep Chloe strong, just like Max wanted her to be.

Chloe knew Max and Rachel were two entirely different people leading two entirely different lives. They would probably never even meet. But Chloe felt like her life was over when Max left and only regained her will to live, her strength, when Rachel swooped in like her guardian angel. She brought Chloe back from her lowest point. Chloe knew it was impossible that the two of them could have met before or had any contact, but it seemed like both Max and Rachel were set on being there for Chloe when the other one couldn’t be. Two different people but with goals that made them the same.

It was almost like Rachel had heard Max’s promise of always being there for Chloe and swore to keep it for her.

That was impossible. She knew it was.

But... maybe one day it wouldn’t be?

“You coming, slowpoke?”

Chloe was broken out of her thoughts by Rachel’s voice. The shorter girl had turned to look at her, and even from such a distance Chloe could make out the warmth in her hazel eyes and the beauty of her smile. The setting sun pierced through the trees and made Rachel’s hair glow so intensely she looked like a goddess.

For a moment Chloe was frozen again, like she shouldn’t be allowed to take up space anywhere near someone so beautiful, but eventually she remembered how to use her legs and jogged up to Rachel’s side, immediately swooping the box out of her arms to relieve her of the weight. Rachel didn’t complain, and instead wrapped an arm around Chloe’s waist as they both walked back to their hideout, attached at the hip.

They had come so far together. They both started as broken girls; one who felt like she had lost everything, one who felt like she didn’t even know herself, and two who felt trapped in this unstable fishing town. Nothing made sense to either of them... except each other. And through each other they found comfort. Stability. Strength. Friendship. They made each other better. Compared to what they used to be, Chloe was happy, overjoyed even, at how they were now.

Chloe’s cheek still tingled from Rachel’s kiss and she smiled.

And maybe, one day, she and Rachel would be something more.