Max looked up slowly, not wanting to meet Chloe's eyes. She ignored the rain lashing against her. She didn't flinch at the flashes of lightning or the rolling thunder around them. The storm...her storm...seemed distant. One thought consumed her: she couldn't believe what she was about to do.
"Chloe...I'm so, so sorry...I...I don't want to do this," Max said.
Chloe stepped forward and hugged Max tightly.
"I know, Max," Chloe said, moving back and looking into Max's eyes, "but we have to. We have to save everybody, okay? And you'll make those fuckers pay for what they did to Rachel."
Max stared back, despair etched onto her face.
"Being together this week...it was the best farewell gift I could have hoped for," Chloe continued, her voice breaking, "you're my hero, Max."
Max shook her head and stepped forward. She couldn't think of what to say...there was nothing she could say to express how she felt. So she reached up, held Chloe's cheeks with her palms, and pressed her lips to Chloe's. Everything she couldn't find the words for, she put into the kiss. All of the time they'd shared, all of the regrets, and all of the love.
Max pulled away, hoping that Chloe understood.
"I'll always love you," Chloe said, backing away, "now, get out of here, please! Do it before I freak."
Max started to take a step towards Chloe but faltered. She opened her mouth to say something, but words failed her again.
"And Max Caulfield?" Chloe said, pointing and continuing to back away, "don't you forget about me."
"Never," Max said.
She willed herself to turn away from Chloe and out towards the bay, where the massive tornado inched towards the shoreline. Max knew that hundreds of people huddled in fear down below. Joyce? Warren? Alyssa? Daniel? So many...and none of them might survive. And still she almost stopped, almost turned back to Chloe.
But instead she stared down at the rain-streaked photo in her hands: the blue butterfly on the bucket. It seemed like she had taken the photo so long ago. She focused on it and in moments, everything was consumed by a bright light, the sounds of the storm faded, and then…
The click and whir of the camera. Max grabbed the photo, holding it for just a moment before letting it fall to the floor. She turned away and creeped to the edge of the stall, peering out into the dingy bathroom. Maybe something would be different; maybe Nathan wouldn't come. She waited.
When the door burst opened, Max jumped back to hide.
Max stood numbly, listening to Nathan's attempts to reassure himself. A part of her felt sorry for him; a small part.
The door opened again.
Chloe said, "I hope you checked the perimeter, as my step-ass would say."
Max looked to the ceiling and then down in despair.
"Now, let's talk bidness," Chloe said.
Max sunk down to the floor, raising her hands to her head as Nathan and Chloe argued. Max trembled as their voices rose.
She knew what was coming...and knew that she had to do nothing to prevent it.
The gunshot echoed through the bathroom.
Max jolted at the sound.
She lowered her head into her arms and cried, her tears dropping silently to the floor. She had the power to save Chloe, but she wouldn't use it.
Around the corner, Nathan panicked.
White spots appeared around the edges of Max's vision. She barely noticed as whiteness coalesced around her and enveloped her, carrying her away to the future.
. . . . .
Chloe…, Max thought, bringing her hand up to wipe away tears that had begun to form.
"Hey Max," a scratchy voice said, "you okay? You just...stopped talking there."
Max spun around so fast that she nearly fell over. She was in a white room; machines beeped cheerfully and balloons floated in the corner. Max was forcibly reminded of Kate. But before Max could take it all in, her eyes fell on the blue-haired figure propped up in a hospital bed.
Max couldn't think. Her breath caught in her throat and her eyes widened.
"Chloe?" she managed.
Chloe's brow was furrowed in concern.
"Yeah Max," Chloe said, "I didn't go anywhere."
Max felt a jumbled wave of emotion crash into her hollowed-out heart.
"Seriously, Max, are you alright?" Chloe said, "you're kind of freaking me out here."
Max rushed forward and wrapped her arms around Chloe, squeezing tight.
"Chloe!" Max said.
"Whoa, Max," Chloe said, wrapping her arms around Max gingerly, "watch it. Loving the affection. Loving it a lot. Just...watch out for my battle wound here."
"Sorry," Max said, standing back and wiping her eyes.
I don't believe it, Max thought, staring into Chloe's face. Chloe's eyebrows were raised in confusion but a smile played at her lips and eyes. How can she be alive?
"No problem," Chloe said, "...are you sure you're okay? One moment you're chatting away and then boom, you're all over me."
"Er...it's been a long week," Max said, "lots of crazy things happening. Just got a little, um, emotional there."
"Ha, no kidding," Chloe said, "For a second there I thought you were going to make a move on me."
A mischievous fire danced through Chloe's eyes and Max smiled.
At least I know it's really Chloe, Max thought.
"Oh," Max said, "that's definitely what I was going for. But then I realized that we're in a hospital room, lots of sharp objects, no privacy. Wouldn't work out so well."
Chloe laughed and threw a small pillow, hitting Max square in the stomach.
Max grinned and threw the pillow back.
"You're adorable," Chloe said.
This is amazing, Max thought as Chloe rearranged her pillows, I'm totally tripping on this. Chloe's alive...somehow...and Arcadia Bay isn't getting flattened by a super tornado. But...this must mean that Chloe's been hanging out with a past version of me. And that means she doesn't know about my powers...or about anything that happened over the last four days. Back to square one.
Max looked around the room. A small stack of papers sat on a table within Chloe's reach. Max's messenger bag rested beside a chair next to the bed, along with a small pile of clothing.
How long have I been in this room with Chloe? Max thought, eyeing a pillow and blanket next to the chair. If past me was anything like current me, I probably haven't left since Chloe got here.
A HiFi, the one from Chloe's room from the looks of it, sat on the floor. A short stack of CDs sat next to it.
Max walked over towards the papers and Chloe said, "so what were you saying before you went all mushy on me? You started talking about that...teacher."
Max could hear the venom in Chloe's voice and knew what the subject must have been.
"Yeah," Max said, stepping over to the stack of papers; it looked like there were photos mixed in as well.
Play it cool, Max thought, if you fuck up and repeat something that past you already said, just blame it on being tired or something. Although why the hell does it have to be Jefferson that we're talking about.
She took a slow breath.
"Mr. Jefferson was one of the reasons I came to Blackwell," Max said, trying to keep her voice steady, "I thought he was an amazing photographer. I thought I could learn a lot from him. I guess I did learn some things...but he was nothing like what I thought he was; he was so twisted and evil," Max said. She had started unconsciously rubbing her wrists as she spoke; she shook out her hands and grabbed onto one of the hospital bed handles.
"Evil; no kidding," Chloe said, her voice tightening, "Nathan killed Rachel...but it never would've happened without Mark Jefferson. I wish I would've been able to get to him before step-d...before David and the cops. I would've smashed that fucker's face in."
At least she knows about Rachel, Max thought, that must have been hard….looks like it still is. Chloe was scowling and Max could see tears in her eyes. But behind the tears...Max looked closer into Chloe's blue eyes and saw...joy. Despite the tired circles and lines of anger that were so familiar on Chloe's face, Max could see peace there, something she'd only seen fleetingly before.
She knows what happened to Rachel, the ones responsible are in jail, and, from the fact that she actually used David's name, she must have found out that her "step-douche" isn't so bad, Max thought, and...she has me, too. I guess this is the first time in a long while that Chloe can actually claim some peace. But she's still hurting…
"Chloe," Max said, "you're the reason that Nathan and Jefferson are in prison right now. If you hadn't taken a bullet, it would...could've been a long time before they were caught. Rachel got justice because of you. And now they won't be able to take anyone else, either."
"Yeah, I guess you're right," Chloe said, "wish I didn't have to take a fucking bullet. Would've been much more badass to be the one delivering the ass-kicking."
Max smiled and turned her attention again to the papers and recognized them: they were from the drawer in Chloe's room; drawings and pictures from their childhood. Max picked up a drawing of them as pirates.
Chloe glanced over and said, "going through those again? I can't believe my mom found that stuff and brought it; she's adorable. And holy shit, I know I've been beating you senseless with this but I still can't believe that the first thing I saw when I woke up was your face, Max Caulfield. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Then I realized that's dumb. Then I realized your face looked hilarious. Then I felt bad because you were crying."
Max started laughing but stopped abruptly as a sudden thought occurred: shit, everything we talked about before was erased. Including me admitting how much of a shitty friend I was.
"Chloe," Max said, "I'm so sorry that I didn't call you when I first started at Blackwell. That was so shitty of me...I was always coming up with stupid excuses because I...because I was scared. It should never have been something like this that got us back together. I..."
"Max!" Chloe said, causing Max to take a step back, "seriously, chill the fuck out. We've been over this. Stop guilt-tripping yourself. Yeah, I was pissed. I've wanted my best friend back for five years. And yeah, you were too chickenshit to call me...but I was too fucking full of myself to call you. And hell Max, you saved my life!"
I did? Max thought.
"I did?" Max said aloud.
"Yeah," Chloe said, "you keep trying to weasel your way out of it but you and step-dou, dammit...David, were the ones that found me bleeding on the bathroom floor. You got help there fast. Also, I didn't mention this before, but I know your little secret. When you were in the bathroom yesterday, my mom told me that you've been by my bed from the moment they put me in here. She told me you snuck in here so many times that the nurses finally gave up and let you hang out and sleep here."
Chloe smiled and Max's heart warmed; just seeing that smile was like getting a huge Chloe hug.
"I guess I can't keep any secrets from you," Max said.
"Nope," Chloe said, "can't hide anything when Inspector Chloe's on the case."
She reached out and grabbed Max's hand.
"Just remember Max, you're my hero," Chloe said, laying back down, "so stop beating yourself up."
You have no idea, Max thought. But then she winced inside. I wasn't your hero in the end though, Chloe. What would I have done if you weren't here? Would I have been able to accept that? I don't even know if what I did was the right thing to do. It seems to have worked out. I don't know how though...I didn't think that a shot to the stomach like that was something you recover from.
Max turned and crouched down by the HiFi, flipping it on. The volume was low but Max immediately recognized the song: it was the same one that Chloe had danced to on her bed.
That feels like it was years ago, Max thought, and I'll be happy enough to let my poor excuse for dancing stay in the past that never was.
"Thanks Max, good thinking," Chloe said.
Max straightened up and said, "so...how do you feel?"
"Fine," Chloe said, "well, not fine, exactly, but definitely way less shitty. They're apparently giving me almost no morphine now." Chloe gestured to the drip bag above her. Max tried hard not to think of the last time she'd seen Chloe with a morphine drip.
Chloe continued, "I don't remember if you heard, but the doc says that I'll probably be out of here, drum roll please...tomorrow."
Tomorrow?! Max thought, no way. That's awesomesauce...but also kind of impossible.
"Wow," Max said, "I didn't realize someone could recover that quickly."
"Hey," Chloe said, "don't bet against this body; you'd die to have this body. But seriously, it wasn't that bad. See..."
Chloe pulled her covers aside and lifted a flap on her hospital gown. There was a large bandage on her side.
Her side? Max thought, but Nathan shot her right in the stomach.
Max reached out and put a hand on Chloe's stomach, where she was sure the injury should be.
"Whoa, getting a little handsy there, Caulfield," Chloe said, smiling.
Max pulled her hand back and grinned. She thought carefully and said, "I'm just so glad that it wasn't worse."
"Me too," Chloe said, "they said that if that shithead had his gun pointing just a bit to the left, I probably wouldn't be here. David told me how bad that would've been. I would've told him to shut the fuck up but...I think he actually cares," she paused, "yup, this has been one hell of a week."
She turned and smiled at Max, saying, "I'm really glad you're here."
"Me too," Max said, putting her hand on Chloe's shoulder.
Max's phone vibrated in her pocket. She took it out and saw texts from Warren:
Warren: Hey Max, your loyal taxi man is here
Warren: Got Blackwell's sweetest wheels to carry you back to school in style
Warren: Tell Chloe to check her phone
Chloe, craning over to see, said, "oh, is that Warren?"
"Yeah," Max said, "he says to check your phone. And why is he claiming to be my taxi?"
"Max," Chloe said, "you've been here for three days straight. Well, except for, like, a couple of hours where you had a play date with Kate. Which, by the way, that girl is amazingly sweet. Thanks again for bringing her up here. But yeah, taxi. Look, I really don't want to let you go...but you seriously need to sleep in a real bed. You started looking more like a zombie than me by about yesterday afternoon and I'm the one who got shot. I promise I'll still be here tomorrow. And don't you dare try the sad puppy routine; it won't work anymore...I think."
Max wanted to protest. I've only been here for a few minutes, she thought, I can't leave now!
Of course it would be very tricky to explain that. She wanted nothing more than to sit here with Chloe. But she could feel what Chloe was saying: this Max's body had not had a restful three days.
I get my best friend back, I'm in love with her, and I get kicked out just a few minutes after I get here? Totally not fair. Ugh. Groan. Fuck, Max thought.
Wait, Max thought, I'm in love with Chloe? She looked over at Chloe, who was idly dancing, with her arms and head, to the quiet music wafting from the HiFi while reading something on her phone. Yeah, I think I am. I'm...in love with Chloe.
The thought made Max's heart flutter.
Friendship or love? Max thought, I guess I did find out.
Max then tried to think of some excuse to stay...but nothing came to mind.
"What did Warren say?" Max said, trying to stall for time.
"Dude, this guy is such a huge nerd. I love it," Chloe said, "he's telling me all about his movie collection. He's got shit I've never seen. And if he's your ride again tomorrow, drag him up here please. Still haven't actually met him. I want to tell him in person that I'll school his ass in both Kart and Smash."
"I don't know, Chloe," Max said, "I've heard he's pretty damn good."
"From who? Him?" Chloe said.
"Ah, point taken," Max said, "but when have you played any games lately?" Max couldn't remember seeing video games of any kind among the mess of Chloe's room.
"With Trevor and the guys," Chloe said.
"And they weren't high at the time?" Max said, crossing her arms.
"Yeah...but then again so was I," Chloe said, shrugging.
"Well go ahead and have your matchup," Max said, "I will gladly be a spectator."
"Oh no, Max," Chloe said, "you can't sit out Mario Kart or Smash. You have to par-ti-ci-pate. Also, I know that you're stalling for time right now."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Max said.
"Nice try," Chloe said, typing out something on her phone, "but I will get reinforcements up here."
"Okay," Max said with a sigh, "fine. You win. I'll be back tomorrow though."
"You better be, Max Caulfield," Chloe said, "despite what I said before, I shall shamelessly exploit your guilt over not calling me to keep bringing you back."
"I don't think you'll have to try too hard," Max said, "I'm never leaving you again."
Chloe rolled her eyes but smiled.
"You know," she said, "I believe you."
"You better," Max said.
She picked up her bag and paused to pull out her camera; her original one, unbroken.
"One photo?" Max asked.
"Hell yeah," Chloe said.
Max crouched down beside Chloe, the two of them leaned in, and Max snapped the picture.
"Okay...see you tomorrow," Max said.
"Yup yup," Chloe said, dancing again to the music, "and next time, I want to see you bust out your moves. We'll thrash this place!"
Max shook her head and slipped out of the room, a wide smile on her face.
She'd made it only halfway down the hallway when her phone vibrated:
Chloe: now its too quiet in here
Chloe: never realized how much noise you make
Max pounced on that one:
Max: That's what she said.
Chloe: badass max
Chloe: quick on the draw
Max: Are you feeling lonely?
Max: I'll come back.
Chloe: go! sleep! real bed!
Chloe: no more zombie max
Max: Are you sure? I can read you a bedtime story.
Chloe: actually tempted
Chloe: but no
Max: Okay… :(
Chloe: NO EMOJI!
Max chuckled and thought, I guess some things just stay the same.
Chloe: oh shit I think nurse nazi is coming
Max: Oh no! Good luck! <3
Chloe: ill let that one slide
Max slipped her phone back into her pocket and sighed, continuing on towards the stairs. Max knew her way around; Chloe's room was only one or two down from where Kate's had been.
Chloe's alive, Max thought, and I have no idea how, exactly...she definitely got shot right in the stomach the first time...right? Does it matter? I certainly can't complain, that's for sure. No storm and lots of Chloe? I'll take it. But still...something different must have happened.
Max left the hospital and found Warren leaning up against his "wheels" in the drop off zone with Brooke in the passenger seat, leaning out and chatting about something that required a lot of hand motions.
Oh, Max thought, that's interesting. Looks like Brooke finally got Warren; good for her. Good for both of them, really. I might've been slow to figure out that Warren had a crush on me...but he was completely clueless about Brooke. It was sooo obvious. I bet they're "going ape" next week. Kind of wish I was going too...but Brooke was seriously dying to visit the drive-in. Maybe I could convince Warren to drum up some tickets for Chloe and I for the next movie.
"Hey Max, hurry up and get over here!" Warren said with a grin, "Chloe texted me that we might need to come up and drag your ass out."
"So you're both part of this conspiracy to steal me back to Blackwell?" Max said.
"Yep," Warren said, "Brooke and I have been assigned to make sure you get back to your room and into bed. And wow, Chloe was right, you do look a bit like a zombie."
"Gee, thanks," Max said.
"We should do a zombie movie marathon," Warren said.
"Er, I'm not that big of a fan of zombie movies," Max said.
"I'm not either," Brooke said from the window.
"Eh, to be honest, neither am I," Warren said, deflating a bit, "but it seemed appropriate."
Max smiled and got into the back seat. Warren jogged around to the driver's side and they sped off towards Blackwell, the sun setting out in front of them.
Max stared out the window, watching the passing trees as Warren and Brooke discussed their upcoming trip to the drive-in, with numerous Charlton Heston quotes sprinkled throughout. At Brooke's first rendition of "damn dirty apes!" Max returned to her thoughts from earlier.
The storm never happened and Chloe is alive, she thought, but can I still use my ability to rewind time? Would that cause the storm all over again? How the hell am I supposed to figure this out? I don't want to play around with something that could kill a lot of people.
She glanced over at Warren and Brooke, laughing in the front seat, and another thought occurred to her: I have the two smartest Blackwell students in the car with me. Maybe I can get some more brain power onto this problem.
"Hey Warren? Brooke?" Max said.
"Yeah?" Warren said, halting yet another "damn dirty ape" line. Brooke looked over her shoulder.
"I have a...um...a hypothetical question for you both," Max said.
"What's it about?" said Brooke.
Max thought for a moment, Okay, do I try something metaphorical here or just go literal? Hmm...definitely literal...these two could probably recite time travel movies in their sleep.
"It's about time travel," Max said.
"Liking this already, Max," Warren said.
"I...um...had a really weird dream last night. It took place back on Monday before, you know, the incident," Max said.
Warren and Brooke nodded.
Max described the basics of what happened during her four days in what was now an alternate timeline, doing her best to keep it in the guise of a dream. She began with the vision of the tornado, followed by her discovery of her abilities when saving Chloe in the bathroom. She detailed the strange natural phenomena, peppered the story with examples of rewinding during the investigation of Rachel's disappearance, and described the storm.
"...and then we figured that everything had started after I saved Chloe in the bathroom," Max said, "and so I went back to that moment and...and I didn't do anything to save her."
They pulled into the Blackwell parking lot just as Max finished; Warren and Brooke were silent for a few moments.
"Wow Max," Warren finally said, parking the car, "that was super intense. I don't think I've ever had a dream that intense...and I can't believe you remembered it. And in that much detail! The most detailed dream I've ever been able to remember was about five seconds of me fighting Kirby with a wooden sword on the Empire State Building!"
"Yeah Max," Brooke said, "that's pretty impressive recall. Have you remembered dreams in this kind of detail before? Maybe you should keep a dream journal. With dreams like that, you could supplement your photography with fiction writing."
"Yeah, I've remembered a ton of dreams," Max said.
Not exactly true, Max thought. The only dream she remembered that well was the nightmare during the storm...and she still wasn't sure what the hell that had been.
The trio left the car and began walking towards the dorms.
"But," Max continued, "this was definitely the most real-feeling dream I've had...er, in a long time."
"Also sounds like it was a rough dream," Warren said, "it's bad enough to nearly see your friend get killed in real life...but then to see her die in a dream what, three times?"
"That sucks," Warren continued, shaking his head.
Brooke nodded before saying, "well, now that you've told us this crazy dream, what was the question you had about it?"
"The tornado," Max said, "what do you think caused it?"
"Hmm," Brooke said, "I'd caution that dreams don't usually have much logic to them...but that being said…"
"It sounded pretty consistent, didn't it?" Warren said.
"Yes," Brooke said, "it really did."
They both seemed to zone out for a moment as they walked. Max was about to say something when Brooke broke the silence.
"In this dream...or in the hypothetical world in which this dream existed, did the tornado still happen after going back and not interfering in the bathroom?" Brooke asked.
"No," Max said.
"Then, given the events of your dream, it would seem that the interference there was the cause of the tornado," Brooke said and Warren nodded.
"Er, what part of the interference do you think might have caused it?" Max said.
"Hmm," Warren said, "that's tricky. What were all of the things that happened again? In the bathroom at the beginning?"
"Um, there was me rewinding time," Max said, "there was Chloe not getting shot...and Nathan getting away, which meant that Mr. Jefferson didn't get arrested, and that really fucked with Kate too. And then there were a cascading set of consequences after that."
"Okay," Brooke said, "let's go one by one and look at the consequences: as you continued using time travel in the dream, did the eventual storm become more severe?"
"No," Max said, "it was exactly as I first envisioned it."
"Okay," Brooke said, "and did the storm or anything else become less severe after Chloe...um...died or after Nathan was killed or Mr. Jefferson caught?"
"No," Max said, "everything was the same no matter what. Er, unless I went back and let Chloe get shot."
"You thinking what I'm thinking, Warren?" Brooke said.
"Probably," Warren said, "I'm thinking that Dreamland Super Max here took a time hammer to a particularly sensitive spot in time, a point from which important consequences branched out."
"Agreed," Brooke said and turned to Max, "in this dream of yours, it would seem that you disrupted nature in a big way by changing that moment. There had to be a reaction to that. Hence, apparently, tornado. Your brain does seem to be able to dream in a logically consistent manner. Pretty impressive."
They reached the dorm and both Brooke and Warren followed Max up towards her room.
"So, what if, in the dream, Chloe hadn't died but, like in reality, was only injured? Wouldn't the storm happen?" Max said.
"Maybe not," Warren said, "after all, it seemed to be the combination of all of those things happening at once. If only most of it happened the original way, I'd think the consequences wouldn't be quite as severe."
"Agreed," Brooke said, "imagine if you changed Nathan's gun or gave Chloe a Kevlar vest. Or if Nathan was put in detention instead of arrested or if you rewound time in the bathroom without affecting anything. The closer the events and consequences were to the way they were 'supposed' to be, the less nature would be perturbed by it. At least that would follow how you've described things."
"So, if Dream Max still had her time powers," Max said, "she could use them without getting Arcadia Bay plowed into splinters by a hurricane or something?"
"Well, I don't want to speak for your dream world," Warren said as they reached Max's door, "but if using the powers later didn't seem to make things any worse, it seems safe to say that your dream world was only really pissed off about that one event."
"Actually," Brooke said, "that's one thing that has me confused."
"What?" Max said. She opened her door and turned on her light. Brooke and Warren followed her in.
"The tornado vision," she said, "it came before the bathroom incident...and yet the bathroom incident was what supposedly caused it. What's up with that?"
"Yeah, I was wondering about that too," Warren said, "it does suggest another possibility...maybe there was another factor involved. A third party...or a wizard or something. It seems like there's a piece of the puzzle missing there."
Max immediately thought of the spectral doe...and of the butterfly. I'd better not mention those...I'm probably pushing to the limits of what they'd be willing to work with as it is.
"Or," Brooke said, "it's because we're dealing with a dream world."
"Yeah, that does make more sense," Warren said, smiling.
No, it doesn't! Max thought.
"I guess I was getting caught up in it," Warren continued, "Brooke's right, Max, you should write that dream down! It would make a great story. Maybe don't tell Chloe how many times she died though."
That made Max wince.
"I think it's even more interesting to consider what caused the dream," Brooke said, "it's fascinating."
"What do you mean?" Max said.
"Well," Brooke said, "I'm no psychiatrist but a lot of that dream seems to make sense. Your friend was shot right in front of you just a few days ago...and your dream had you constantly protecting her from danger. Seems like you were exercising a psychological urge to act out a hero scenario. The time travel mechanic fits in as well; it's a power that allows you to reverse events...to reshape things as you want. And after what happened in the bathroom a few days ago, I imagine that would be very compelling. And...er...I'm sorry Max, it couldn't have been easy to be there when that happened."
Brooke put a hand on Max's shoulder. That took Max by surprise; she'd never seen Brooke show any kind of affection before.
"And the villains in your dream?" Brooke continued, "they were Nathan and Mr. Jefferson. It all fits right into what you're experiencing now. I've never been one for dream interpretation but it really is interesting to see how everything lines up here."
"And the tornado at the end?" Warren said, "I think even I had dreams about storms after that crazy one we had on Wednesday."
"What storm?" Max asked. There hadn't been a big storm on Wednesday...at least there hadn't in Max's original timeline.
"Are you kidding?" Warren said, "there's no way you could've slept through that. Half of Arcadia Bay was without power the next day."
Wowser, Max thought, sounds like nature did have a response to Chloe not dying. Not going to shed any tears over a day of lost power though.
"I guess I'm as tired as I must look," Max said, hoping the excuse would cover up her lapse in knowledge.
"Oh right," Warren said, "bed time. Even Time Warriors need sleep."
"Okay okay," Max said, "I promise I'll go to bed."
"Good," Brooke said.
Brooke opened the door and Warren started following her out.
"Wait, what if I cause another storm?" Max said.
The pair turned back.
"I mean, say I had another dream and did some time rewinding and saw another tornado coming?" Max said.
"You're really committed to this, Max!" Warren said.
"Well, I'd tell your dream self to just go back and stop yourself from doing whatever it was that started it," Brooke said, "or maybe do it differently or change something such that you don't get on nature's bad side. Small changes instead of big ones."
"Ha, I can see it now," Warren said, "Brooke Scott: Time Travel Consultant."
Brooke playfully elbowed Warren in the ribs.
Max laughed and said, "thanks guys, really...and sorry for being so weird."
"Don't apologize," Brooke said, "that was a pretty awesome story."
"Seriously," Warren said, "you should write it up."
They turned to leave but Warren stopped and looked back at Max briefly with an odd expression, his head tilted and an eyebrow raised as if he'd just thought of something. But he shook his head and walked out with a cheerful "good night!" and closed the door.
Shit, Max though, maybe I said too much. But if there's one person other than Chloe that I could trust with the truth, it would be Warren. And with everything I just told them, I laid the foundation for it...maybe someday I can let him in on the secret.
Max sat down on her bed, kicking off her shoes and staring at the opposite wall.
So what really happened? she thought, how is it that Chloe got shot in a different spot? Maybe it something small was different, like what Brooke said. Maybe I made a noise when I went back? Maybe one of them heard the noise and that was enough to change things. That's the only thing that makes sense. If a future version of me had gone back to change something, then I wouldn't be here...I would still be the version of me that had been at the hospital with Chloe.
Max rubbed her eyes. She was half tempted to sneak down to Brooke's room or Warren's to run this past them. But that would probably tip either of their opinions of her straight into basket-case territory.
The only other possibility I can think of is that something needs to be changed in the past that I haven't done yet, she thought, but that doesn't make sense either because if that was so, Chloe wouldn't be alive. Okay, so if it's impossible that it was a future me and is impossible that it's something I need to do, it must have been something that I already did...right? Unless of course I'm missing something. Ugh...I'll just have to accept for now that things are good. I don't have to explain everything. Just...focus on something else.
Max shook her head and looked around her room. Everything looked pretty much as she remembered it. Some pictures and papers were scattered around.
Past me must have rushed to grab what she needed to be up at the hospital with Chloe, she thought, I heartily approve.
She walked over to the window and looked down at the plant on the floor.
Hey, Lisa's still alive, she thought.
A note was resting on the plant:
Lisa can't wait for her real mom to come home!
Oh Kate, Max thought, you're the best. I'm so glad you didn't have to go through what you did when Nathan and Mr. Jefferson didn't get arrested...you'd already been through so much and you never deserved any of it.
She glanced up at the window and saw an owl sitting on the tree branch outside of her window.
Wow, Max thought, reaching for her camera, the photo opportunities that I get...better take the shot.
Max froze. That last thought repeated in her head, this time with Mr. Jefferson's voice. An unpleasant shiver cascaded through Max. Her right hand inched towards her left wrist but she tightened her hands into fists.
No, she thought, you are not taking this away from me.
She grabbed her camera out of her bag, her jaw clenched. She turned off the light and snapped a photo of the owl. She flicked the lights back on, shook the photo, and put it on her desk.
You didn't take Chloe away from me, Kate's still here, your ass is in jail, and I'm going to keep doing what I love until your pretentious voice is out of my head, however long that takes, Max thought.
She put her camera away and almost immediately began to feel the drag of fatigue again. Staying awake any longer would simply be futile. She sluggishly pulled off her clothes, tossing them onto the floor before pulling on her pajamas and collapsing into bed.
One fucking hell of a strange week, she thought. But the thought of Chloe brought a smile to her face. She rolled over and almost immediately fell asleep.
. . . . .
Max felt a gentle breeze and a scene appeared around her, blurry and out of focus.
What? She thought, wasn't I just sleeping?...is this a dream?
Sunlight streamed through faint trees around her and she saw that she was standing among a group of people, all walking slowly beneath a tall archway. She looked down and saw that she was wearing a black dress, her doe necklace over it.
I don't even own a dress like this, she thought.
She looked up at the archway and could barely make out the blurry lettering: Arcadia Bay Cemetery.
Oh no, she thought, her glance darting from side to side, what's going on? Is this another vision? This doesn't feel at all like the vision of the storm. That was perfectly clear; I can barely see anything here.
She followed along with the people around her, squinting at them. She was pretty sure that it was Dana over to her left. And she thought she could see Warren...and maybe that was Principal Wells further in front. And in front of him? A couple, too distant for her to identify through the bizarre haziness.
She passed under the archway and moved with the group; a long walk deeper into the cemetery. Then, up ahead, she could see something different materialize: a brown casket among the headstones, flowers around it.
Is it Chloe? Max thought, Is it Kate? What is this?
The scene faded around her as she approached the casket. Everything turned to white and it was gone.