The sun had not quite appeared when Max had taken off from Seattle earlier that morning, but now—two hours or so later—it was fully above the horizon. She yawned; she was not normally an early riser. Some coffee later that morning would do her some good.
Pulling into the apartment complex, she found a parking spot that was reasonably close, then got out of the car, taking her duffel bag (a small one, but enough for one night) with her, and looked around. The apartments all looked the same, but she fortunately remembered the building and apartment number. Approaching the door, she held up her fist, preparing to knock.
The door opened before she had the chance to knock, and Max found herself staring into the face of a thin, beautiful blond woman of the same age as her, whose face lit up immediately.
"You made it!" said the blonde in a borderline squeal. She made a dramatically sweeping bow, gesturing toward the inside of her apartment. "Welcome back to the castle, my lady."
Max giggled as she entered. "Why thank you, my lord."
Taylor's apartment was anything but a castle, but Max was glad to see it nonetheless. She guessed it to be about five hundred square feet or so, with a single bedroom through which one had to walk in order to get to the single bathroom. To be fair, it was still twice as large (and probably a lot cheaper) than the studio apartment where Max had been living in Seattle at the time she and Taylor had first become reacquainted several months ago; at least Taylor didn't have to choose between having a bed or having a sofa.
Max had barely set her duffel bag down on the carpet when Taylor wrapped her arms tightly around her, nearly suffocating the brunette. Max returned the hug in equal measure, and they held that pose for a while.
A moment later, Taylor relaxed her grip and looked into Max's eyes. Saying nothing, Max put her right hand on the back of Taylor's head and pulling the blonde's face toward her own.
Their lips met, and time seemed to stand still for a moment. The contact started with lips against lips, then tongue against lips and teeth, and then finally tongue against tongue. Taylor rested her hands on the small of Max's back, as Max's left hand reached up and cupped Taylor's face.
When they finally separated, Max whispered, "I'm so glad to be here."
Taylor giggled. "I can tell. Have you had breakfast yet?"
"I grabbed something before I left," admitted Max. "I could use some coffee, though."
"Coming right up!"
They went around town for a bit that day, eating at their favorite diner; this was the same one where they had caught each other up on their old Blackwell classmates the first night they had become reacquainted with one another. Later they went to the park, the same one where Max had first revealed her time traveling powers to Taylor.
Later that evening, the two women laid on their sides, with Taylor spooning Max. They had changed into their sleep clothes—Max in her shorts and t-shirt, and Taylor in her nightshirt—and were both laughing throughout the episode playing on Taylor's laptop, which rested at the foot of her bed.
Eventually, the theme music by Nerf Herder started blasting over the closing credits for the fourth time that evening.
"And that's the end of that disc," said Taylor, getting up from the bed and ejecting the DVD from her laptop. "Want to watch another?"
"Uh, maybe one more, if I can stay awake. What's the next episode like?"
Taylor thought for a moment. "Let's see...we just watched 'Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered', so that would make the next episode 'Passion'. It's a great episode, but not the happiest one to go to bed on."
Max sat up. "Then let's call it quits for tonight. 'Surprise' and 'Innocence' were great, but dark enough; I'm just glad we had that last one to lighten things up a bit. I also thought 'Phases' was cool; I totally love Seth Green as Willow's werewolf boyfriend!"
Taylor beamed as she sat down on the bed facing Max. "It always makes me happy to bring another soul into the religion of Buffy the Vampire Slayer." She gave Max a quick peck on the forehead then looked at her. "I hate that you have to go back to Seattle tomorrow morning."
"Me too," Max groaned. "I wish I could have gotten out of the afternoon shift at the store."
"Well, at least we had today. Shall we go to bed now?"
Max glanced to one side. "...Yeah, I guess so."
The blond woman frowned. "Did you want to do something else first?"
"No. It's just...well, it's just that I..."
Taylor nodded patiently as Max struggled to find the words.
Finally: "Look, Tay, there's something I've been wanting to talk to you about."
"Um...okay. What's up?"
"What would you say that...you and I are?"
"...Not really understanding the question, Max."
"What I mean is...are we dating? Are we girlfriends? Friends with benefits?"
"'Friends with benefits' would imply that we're fucking. Which, last I checked, we aren't." The blonde grinned impishly. "Yet."
The brunette woman made a face. "Hey! Not having sex was your idea. You suggested we should take it slow, and I agreed! And you're not answering the question."
Taylor took a deep breath. "I guess I haven't really thought much about it. I don't oppose the idea of eventually becoming official girlfriends, but I'll need more time."
"...What makes it 'official', Taylor?"
"You know...telling others. Being exclusive. That sort of thing."
"Have you, um, seen anyone else lately?"
"A threesome a couple weeks ago with a married couple in their forties. It was actually more enjoyable than I expected. You?"
"Went on a couple dates. A guy from work, and a brother of a friend of mine. Neither ended up leading to anything."
When they had started dating, the two women had come to a rather odd arrangement. They had agreed that their relationship would be open until either of them wanted otherwise, at which point it would be decided whether to end the relationship or commit to becoming exclusive. They were allowed to see—even sleep with—other people, so long as they were safe about it, and honest with each other and the other people, and as long as there was no commitment to the other people; in short, as long as no one was cheating on anyone else. Many would consider it ironic that Taylor, who had had many flings and one night stands, didn't want to have sex with Max yet because, unlike with all her hookups since Blackwell, she actually cared for Max and had expressed fears that sex would make things all the more complicated and painful if the relationship ultimately didn't work out.
"So where's all this talk about making it 'official' coming from?" asked Taylor. "Is that what you're wanting now?"
It was now Max's turn to take a deep breath. "A month or two from now, my parents are taking me on a trip for a few days for my birthday. We're going to Port Angeles."
"Port Angeles...that's somewhere on the northern border of the state right?"
Max nodded. "It takes about three hours or so to get there from Seattle."
"That sounds like a lot of fun. I've never been to Port Angeles, but I've heard it's pretty cool."
"It is. My parents and I went there a few times before I came back to Arcadia Bay, but it's been a while now." She took another breath. "So...the reason I was asking about us is...if you're able to get the time off from work...would you want to join us for the trip?"
"Max...I don't...I mean..." stammered Taylor. "I'd...I'd love to, but don't you and your parents want to make this a family trip?"
Max smiled. "I appreciate how considerate you are, but it was actually their suggestion that I invite you along. Being that it's my birthday and all."
"You...told them about us?"
"Not much. Just that we knew each other from Blackwell then ran into each other a few months ago. Also that you work at a bar and that your mom was having medical issues during our time at Blackwell and that she has since passed away. I hope that was okay..."
"It's fine. I've never hidden it from anyone."
"Anyway," said Max, "Mom and Dad were getting concerned when I kept going out town for overnight trips but not for photography related reasons, since I left my camera equipment behind." She shrugged apologetically. "A little more difficult to hide since I moved back home, and I'm not very good at lying to them."
"So," replied Taylor, "as far as they know..."
"We're just really good friends," finished Max.
"...I see. What would they think? Of you and me, if we did make things official? How would they handle it?"
"You mean their only daughter dating another woman? It might take some getting used to, but they'd be okay with it. It's not like either of them are religious, and their political views are pretty left of center."
"...And what would they think of me?" asked Taylor.
Max smiled. "I think my parents would love you. That's part of what I'm hoping to get out of this trip. I'm hoping maybe it will help us decide where to take the relationship going forward. So what do you say?"
"Well...I'd love to go. I'll have to check with my manager and coworkers at the bar but I think I can trade some shifts around to make it work if I have to; I should still have some unused vacation time as well. The earlier the notice, the better, so I'll need the exact dates as soon as possible."
"Totally. Do you have a passport?"
"I'll have to look for it. I renewed it during my brief time in college, so it should still be current."
"Good. You'll want to bring it with you."
Taylor smiled. "Sure thing."
A few minutes later, they had crawled under the blankets. They kissed one more time.
"Good night, Tay Tay," said Max.
"Nighty night, sweet Max," said Taylor. Then she reached over and turned off the bedside lamp.