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The Grieving Process

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Victoria Chase doesn't get Maxine Caulfield.

Or Max. Whatever.

She's always been aloof, shy, alone. Maybe even a little dumb if the sessions with Mr. Jefferson (before he got arrested for some very disturbing things anyway) were anything to go by. And even though she's too quiet, a lot of people seem fond of her which is honestly just so infuriating to think about. Her clothes are unfashionable, her voice is annoying, and yet people like her more. Really? Why?

That is of course a rhetorical question. Victoria knows.

Max is kind. Sympathetic definitely, from what she's seen of her interactions with Kate. She might not seem like it but she smiles an awful lot. She's got talent too, though that admittance from Victoria will never get to see the light of day. Her photos, or whatever few of them Victoria has managed to snatch off her desk, are actually breathtaking. Beautiful, candid. They make you feel things just by looking at them.

It's a funny thing really. Having so much knowledge about art and photography, having all the money for the best equipment, all to be overshadowed by some introverted nobody who barely has any of those.

Hate. The perfect fuel to obnoxiously throw those photos right back at her with the snappiest, bitchiest comment. That's her thing. She's Victoria Chase, for shitting out loud.

And yet... Victoria glances up from her phone, openly eyeing the girl in question as she saunters into class and plops down on her seat. And yet. Max keeps her head down, stares at her hands, not moving even as Kate Marsh places a hand on her shoulder.

What a goddamn mess.

It's been almost two weeks since the burial of Chloe Price. Victoria didn't know much about her. Not enough to be called her friend anyway, just that she was Max's best friend and the head of Blackwell security, David Madsen's stepdaughter.

Nathan shot her in the girl's bathroom some weeks ago. She has a good idea for what reason.

She came to the burial for human decency if anything. Nathan was the one who shot her dead. Max had been nice to her on more occasions than she will ever be willing to admit, and it just felt like the right thing to do.

Especially considering how Max is doing now. She doesn't talk anymore. Not to Kate, not to Dana, probably not even to that nerdo boy whatthefuckishisname. Distances herself from those who wants to come closer, drags herself through her classes and disappears for the rest of the afternoon.

Victoria knows grief. Knows enough of pain.

Knows enough of hurting, life melting away. She can smell it for miles.

Max reeks.

Victoria eases on her seat when Principal Wells marches into the classroom. He launches into a godawful monologue about Blackwell, the importance of education, the impact of art and photography on society, and then finally gets to the point that no suitable replacement for Mark Jefferson has been found yet.

She gets the subliminal message: We'll find a good teacher soon, else Blackwell's photography program is fucked.

The students start to leave after Principal Wells. Behind her, Courtney is blabbing on and on about unimportant things and Taylor isn't anywhere in sight. With a harsh shush to Courtney's direction, Victoria starts for the door but topples when someone bumps into her from behind.

She turns and scowls down at Max Caulfield, leaning to blocking the exit effectively with her arm. "Oh look, it's the selfie ho of Blackwell," She sneers. "You even gonna apologize for that, Max?"

Max shrugs, fidgets on her spot. Says nothing. Kate answers for her with a lame apology. Victoria rolls her eyes, "Whatever. Mute loser." and then stalks down the corridor.


 

It's hard to properly get hammered these days.

The Vortex Club has been practically disbanded since Nathan's arrest, because really he is the Vortex Club. Without Nathan there's no money, no place to hold a party, no proper liquor, and no drugs. Victoria could try to talk to Principal Wells about using the school as a venue like Nathan has plenty of times before, but she's no Prescott. The Chases don't have a leash on Wells and don't have cops for footrests.

Victoria grumbles, takes another shot as the crowd in the apartment hoot and holler over raspy music. The speakers are old, flaking. The drinks are lousy and everything about the place is disgusting. The air, the smell, the carpets. Hell, even the people.

"How did you even find out about this place?" She asks Taylor irritably over the music. Taylor looks up from her purse, stops ransacking it for something.

"A friend. No one special. Cheer up, V," Taylor rolls her eyes. "You gotta at least give me some props for managing to even find something like this. And here -"

Victoria catches a small packet thrown to her and holds it up in the right light to see it filled with unmarked pills and tabs. "What the hell is this?"

"Also from a friend. Nathan isn't around to hand out party favors anymore."

Tilting her head, Victoria produces one from the packet and stares, rolling it around in her palm for a time. She looks to Taylor next with a grumpy expression. "This better be good, Taylor."


 

The drugs weren't any good. They were fucking terrible. It tasted like shit, whatever that was that Taylor fed her. Her throat itched and the nausea swept over as soon as it went down. Even now she feels like she wants to vomit.

For someone who just got into the dorms alone so late she's making so much of a racket. Cursing and grumbling, stomping angrily down the hall. She's pissed, she's so so pissed, about Jefferson, about Nathan, about the Vortex Club, about her parents threatening to move her back to Seattle. Jefferson was the only good thing about Blackwell's photography program, so now that he's gone, what's left to stay for?

Fuck everyone. Victoria stops in front of her door and fumbles for her keys. Searches her purse for a long time before she realizes she doesn't have them and starts screaming in exasperation and banging on her door. No one in the hall has the balls to come out and tell her to shut up. Good.

She grunts, punches one last time then sinks to the floor. She doesn't need this shit. 

 

At the end of the hall, something clicks open and Victoria looks up in time to see Max coming in from the stairwell. Head down as always, taking slow careful steps, trying not to wake anyone in the floor. Unlike her, obviously.

Max doesn't show any signs of noticing her there on the floor even as she stops in front of her door, 219, right across from her. Victoria stares. Burns holes on her back.

"Where have you been, Max?" With just that small hint of malice. No answer.

"I'm talking to you, Max. Don't you ignore me, I'm right here." Nothing. Max unlocks her door and opens it quietly, turning on a dim set of lights inside. "Oh, you're really doing this, huh? You're really doing this? Right now?" Max steps into her room and shuts the door. Victoria's knuckles turn white when she balls her hands into fists and she rises, slowly, glaring at the door marked 219.

She blinks. She loses it.

A hand flies to the doorknob and wrenches the door open. Victoria stalks toward Max and grabs her by the hood of her jacket, spinning her around forcefully until they're face to face. The height difference makes it so easy to glower.

"I was asking you a question back there," Victoria starts. Max listens without looking. "Where have you been, Max? No, where have you been going? We've started to notice, you know. Your disappearing," Max seems to fidget. "You going on afternoon dates with someone? Not that science nerd who keeps hanging around you, right? That guy's too fucking weird to matter to any girl.

"Or do you have other appointments? What have you been doing, Max? Why so quiet?"

When she gets no answers Victoria grabs Max by the collar of her hoodie. Wills her to look up. Max still doesn't lift her head. "I'm talking to you, selfie ho, don't ignore me like you're fucking better than me! You and your blue-haired punk trash mashed together are still nothing compared to what I have!"

She doesn't know why she said it. Doesn't know why she had to mention Chloe Price, the dead girl with the hole in her stomach. Taylor's pill has started to give her a headache and her head begins to cloud a little. But she knows she isn't imagining it when Max finally looks up. Knows it's real when their eyes meet.

The ache in her head makes it hard to think and remember things, but it's kind enough that it allows her to process the fact that she's kissing Max, never mind who started it. It's harsh, rough, lousy. All teeth and tongue, their foreheads bumping, the taste of rust heavy in her mouth. Victoria doesn't know whose lips have started to bleed.

They both crash down on the bed, notebooks and papers swept to the floor by unruly arms. Max makes a sound and Victoria bucks, pulls their bodies flush. Reaches for the spot between Max's legs to grab through the fabric of her jeans. Her teeth work the soft flesh of Max's neck, tongue licking up the taste of her skin and sweat.

It's exquisite. Tons better than Taylor's drug kind of exquisite.

The clothes go quickly, Max's and hers both. The sheets cling to the sweat on their skin. The pillows crush under both of their weight. Victoria's hand finds what it's looking for and her fingers go deep, slow and pacing and dragging. Teeth are grazing the edges of her ear and she hears sounds, small and contained from the girl beneath her.

With her free hand, Victoria pushes herself up. Disconnects their bodies save for the busy fingers and their legs brushing, lays that hand on Max's collarbones to inch up to her shoulder, then her throat.

Victoria goes faster, feels Max start to claw on her arms, her hands. The air around them fills with noises, growing heavier. Their sweat and scent both, mingling on the sheets. Victoria pumps and pulls, staring like watching is enough to get off on, breathing heavily herself. Finds Max oddly beautiful, flushed and tense and moaning. Max sweating, sparkling almost in the dim glow of the lights hanging over the bed, mouth open in heavy breaths and strangled gasps and whimpers, nails digging scarlet marks on her skin. The sensation is stingingly delectable.

Victoria curls her fingers harshly, Max beneath her tensing and vibrating in bliss. Max bites her lip until it pales to keep the scream in. Victoria helps shut her mouth with her own.

Max switches with her shortly after. Victoria writhing underneath, wringing the sheets with trembling hands, shaky breaths leaving her mouth as a warm tongue traces shapeless pictures on her chest and throat. It's her turn to fill the room with noises. Her muscles stiffen and slump all at the same time, the flesh of her thighs and stomach going taut with their motions. It's hard to breathe, hard to think, hard to feel anything beyond the flaming dip between her thighs.

Her muscles coil and she finally gets hers, throwing her head back and spine arching. Shuts her eyes and grinds her teeth, hoping against hope she could fight the scream. Max helps her with that in the same way she did. Their mouths meet, their teeth click. The trembles eventually subside.

And Max starts to cry.

Victoria doesn't hug her or anything but she lets Max collapse on top of her. Lets her bury her wet face in the inlet of her neck and shoulder, sobbing disconnected words that fly over Victoria's pounding head. The skin there grows cold with the tears but she doesn't move, can't find the strength or the reason to.

Instead she just listens to the grief, breathing as the Max breathes, her heart beating as the Max's beats. Max is light, unsurprising really, considering her size. It's almost a comfort to have her body where it is.

The sobs slow but don't die down until minutes later. Max mumbles something about Victoria wanting to turn the overhead lights off but she shakes her head no, chin bumping. Max's temple. The top of Max's head smells like shampoo, flowers, and sweat. Victoria sleeps to the scent. 


 

This being the weekend meant better clubbing opportunities, or so Victoria announces as she skips down the dormitory stairs to the courtyard. Courtney voices her agreement. Taylor says nothing, just the way Victoria likes it. Messing up like Taylor had takes a whole fucking lot of forgiving ("Just say it, were you trying to fucking poison me?")

The night looms over them, starless, a brilliant black sheet thrown over the vastness of the sky.

It's cold too, squalls coming once in a while in freezing puffs. Victoria brought a jacket for the night out. Bronze and made of finely woven cashmere to go with the rest of her fabulous outfit. Beautiful and priceless to go with beautiful and priceless queen bee.

Max isn't wearing a jacket though. All this cold and no jacket. Victoria sees her in a plain, ugly t-shirt, shivering arms hugging her body as she walks toward the dormitory building. She hasn't seen Max since the other night, completely disappeared as soon as the weekend morning kicked in. Max seems to have not told anyone about their little encounter yet, but -

Victoria expects a smile, maybe a look. The smallest form of acknowledgement is crucial especially after an encounter like theirs. But Max climbs up to the Prescott Dormitories' entrance without much of a glance in her direction and Victoria just stares at her shuddering back. Stares even longer as the door shuts.

"V? Hey, come on, let's go."

"Go on without me."

"But -"

Victoria walks up the stairs to the entrance and goes back into the dormitory building, slamming the door behind her to discourage any thought of disobedience. She stalks the halls with purpose.

No. Victoria Chase doesn't get Max Caulfield at all.