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Life Is Strange: After The Storm

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"Arcadia Bay has been hit with a F5 tornado! Government relief is cooperating with the prestigious Prescott family to search for survivors. If you or a fa-"

A hand rushed to turn the radio off. A purple bracelet seemed to be shown off by sunlight. "Let's go to Seattle. Maybe your family can help us." Her voice was shaky, not as much as her hands. 

"I'm going to call them," Max said as she dialed in their number. A small delay stopped her. Everyone's gone. I could have stopped it. She glanced at Chloe, who didn't notice as she focused on the road. Even with the windows closed, they could still hear the ambulances and helicopters that sped in the opposite way that they were heading. I can still save them. But. She raised her hand to the window, her outstretched arm almost touching the windshield.

"Max. Please." Chloe's attention had turned to Max's arm. A strong lump appeared in her throat, her eyes feeling heavy. "You saved me so far. You saved me from Nathan. You saved me from that creepy art teacher of yours. You saved me from that tornado." God I feel like a asshole for trying to talk her out of this. \

Her arm slowly fell down, blood slowly creeping out of her nose. She turned her head towards her window and lowered it. Her hair fluttered in the wind as she wiped her nose. Blood stained the sleeve of her grey jacket, turning it into a wine color. She finally pressed the call button on her phone, and placed it on speakerphone. It rang for a second, and then a frightened voice answered on the other side.

"Oh my god! Are you okay? Is Chloe with you?"

Max opened the glove compartment and placed the phone on top of a stack of dusted papers. "We're okay. We're on the way to you guys right now."

"What about Joyce? Is she with you?"

A sniffle escaped from Chloe. "No," she forced out. One sniffle turned to multiple tears dripping down her cheek and splattering on her ripped jeans. She pressed the emergency lights and slowly drove the car to the side of the road. Metal railings blockaded them from going over, but both of them knew it wouldn't stop them if they chose to. The truck softly bumped into the railing, pressing their seat belts against their chests.

"We'll get the guest room ready over here. Please be safe you two. Both of us love you."   A beep signaled the end of the call. 

Max leaned over to Chloe's seat, taking the seat belt off. "I'm so sorry, Chloe." She held her as Chloe banged her head against the wheel and sobbed. 

"How do I live with this? Everyone I know is dead. Why was I a asshole to Mom after everything she did for me?" she managed to say through her gasps for air. "Sure, she could do better than David, but she's all I had." Max's hand grabbed hers off of the steering wheel. Her finger smoothed out the back of her hand as she thumbed the bracelet. "And you. I wish I had your power, so if I knew it would all end up as this, I could still say sorry. And maybe do shit different. And not be a ass after Dad died."

"Believe me, you don't want this power." They both sat in the truck, traffic becoming to cloud up the opposite lane. Maybe they feel the same way, Max thought. Minutes passed, and the sobbing began to stop. Harsh thoughts seem to travel from each others minds, like a relay system. 

Chloe sat up, a red mark stuck on her forehead engraved with the texture of the steering wheel. "I kind of always wanted to see what the fuss was about Seattle. Is it true that its always cold as balls there?"

A smile cracked out of Max's lips for the first time in days. "I don't remember."

She pressed the emergency lights off after a few moments of thinking and regaining her composure. "You're the one that lived there for five years."

"Then lets go find out."

Chapter Text

Sunlight danced around a bed, slowly cracking though closed blinds. Several clothes were scattered around the room on top of a light blue oval rug. A bra was kicked over a dresser, its straps barely hanging on to a knob. An alarm clock began to flash the time 8:15 with the beginning of a song being pelted out. 'Sentimental, not sentimental no.'

Max grudgingly pulled the sheets over her head. Fuck. This. Job. She came out from under, her hair bun nearly untangled. Pressing the snooze button, she laid down again. Wish I could just leave. Maybe when I get accepted by some random university. That shit's not gonna happen. Hair trailed down her face, some loose strands stuck on her chin.

"Come on Max! As much as I love that song, you're gonna be hella late again this week," Chloe yelled through the bedroom door. Max could hear her faintly saying, "Pretty sentimental for your dorky ass."  

"I'm going," she said as she stumbled out of bed. The alarm clock began to fade away, the music's volume creeping down. In a matter of seconds, a pair of sweats and a tank top were hastily slipped on. She finally unplugged the alarm clock, the wire getting caught on the bed. I should really get a new alarm clock. Or maybe if I still had my rewind powers I could keep going back until I slept enough. 

As she made her way across the hallway her feet seemed to sink in soft carpet. " Chloe! Can you get the mail really fast?" She continued down, making it to a nearly empty living room, save a decently big flat screen with a cable box sitting in front of a torn couch. 

Chloe peaked her head out of the kitchen as she grabbed a box of cereal. "Just get it after your shift, my presence is requested in the kingdom of Walmart." She poured a generic brand of oat cereal into a glass bowl, spilling some on the floor. "Aw shit," she muttered.

"And the presence of the IRS is gonna be here if we don't check it." Max plucked a handful out of her bowl. "It literally takes about five minutes." She slipped a rubber band out of her hair and let it hang down to the nape of her neck. A chirp of a bird broke the momentary silence. 

She reached into the fridge, grabbing at a half empty milk carton. "Just get the truck started while I finish this." 

"I literally can't leave until your done eating," Max said as she threw her hands up. She snatched a name card laying on the counter. Why did I tell them my name was Maxine. If only I had some way to go back four months ago. "The pets need me too, you know. They're probably sad... or some shit."

"Snakes don't feel anything. Neither do birds." She quickly stuffed the cereal in her mouth. 

Giving a sigh, Max took the car keys off of the key-chain. They rattled in place as she opened the door. "Just hurry, captain." It closed, leaving Chloe alone in the apartment. 

"And that leaves uno," she whispered. Birds started to wake up and sing their own alarms and love songs. Some perched outside on the balcony they had set up. 

"Maybe it leaves dos?" a man dressed in a peach jacket spoke out. He sat on the couch with his elbows placed on his knees. His blonde hair was neatly combed and shaved on the sides. "It's been a while, Chloe." 

Chloe placed the bowl down slowly, almost letting it slip out of her hands. "How? It's been years since-"

The man cut her sentence off. He adjusted himself on the couch and leaned back. "Maybe something big is happening. I've always been here, sweetheart. With or without you noticing. I have to ask you though."  He stood up and walked to her. His footsteps echoed throughout the empty apartment. When they reached the marble kitchen floor they turned into satisfying clacks of hard soles versus the hard floor. Placing his hand on her shoulder, he brushed her hair with the other. However, she didn't feel her hair sway, nor his touch. "When will you accept I'm gone?" 

A vibration shook the counter, making her look down momentarily. Her eyes wandered to where the man were, and there was no one to be seen. The phone had  a picture of Max and her in a photo booth on the lock screen. Answering the call, she placed the half full bowl in the sink and opened the door. "I'm coming, impatient one."

The ride to the Everett Mall was fairly quiet. Except for the occasional honk, nothing had happened. Chloe's mind was infatuated with what had happened. So much so that when they got out her truck, Max commented on her strange behavior. "Are you okay? You usually complain about how awful the drivers are here." She spoke with a concerned tone in her voice. 

Chloe thought for a second while she lowered her leg to the ground. "Just a little tired," she lied. "And also now I have to complain about large people using the scooter things we have. Maybe if you get off before me I can take two of them out and we can race in the parking lot." She mimed a steering wheel turning harshly. 

Max giggled as she closed her door. "Well Petco's all the way on the other side, so I'll see you at lunch, dork." They quickly embraced before heading off into their separate hellscapes.  

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Shoppers walked through the toy section, some taking a doll or construction set before going to pay. Chloe watched from afar behind a cash register. They should have really chose someone else to be a cashier. I don't think high school drop out equals good math. Good thing I got my GED a while ago. Thanks to the Caulfield's griping about me being a dropout. She glued her eyes to her phone, scrolling down Instagram and answering the occasional text. 

"Excuse me?" A young childs voice interrupted her scrolling. She glanced up at him, taking note of the Lego set in hand. 

"Hello, little one," she said in a menacing, albeit soft tone. 

The man, who she assumed was the father hopefully, gently moved his sons hand to the counter and placed it on there. "Sorry," he laughed. "Still getting used to going out."

"Is Sean still at that pet store?" the kid asked. His voice was bordering on feminine, but more so innocent. 

He opened his wallet and turned his head down as he took out a twenty dollar bill. "Si, tu hermano todavia esta en Petco." His Latino accent was thick.

Chloe pressed the scanner to the bar code on the bottom of the box. I still don't get the fuss about this Minecraft shit. Captain Boss-ass made me stay a hour longer to set these out for the big release, or whatever he called it. "It'll be twenty four and sixty seven cents." She outstretched her arm to take the bill. 

The man cursed under his breathe, looking into his empty wallet. "Can I head really quick to the ATM? It'll only be a second."

She rolled her eyes. "It's alright, man. Just pay with the twenty and you're good."

"Isn't that illegal?" the kid blurted out. He glanced up at his father. 

Her finger went to her lips, in a shushing motion. "Just be happy you're getting a cheap"- she looked at the box while slipping the twenty into the cash register- "Lego Minecraft Micro World?"

The kid smiled for a short second, thanking her. A few seconds later, they were on their merry way and out the door. 

Her phone lit up, a text from Max forcing her to look down. 'Hey siwy, wyd.'

She slightly scrunched her face in cringe but still responded. "Nothing much, just sold that Lego stuff that I had to stay late for. Can you evacuate for lunch?'

A text came almost instantly. 'Sorry, can't. Aaron wants me to do something about the rat issue.'

A small laugh escaped her, alarming multiple shoppers in her vicinity. "Sorry guy's, crazy but not crazy." Her fingers quickly typed across the screen. 'Aaron wants you to run a errand for Aaron, huh.'

They kept texting until another shopper came to Chloe. "How may I help you, sir madam?"

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Max bent down over a metal cage and peered at the gerbil inside. It brown fur was matted and clumps of bedding stuck to its feet. It must feel so trapped in there. I can't imagine having to be stuck in a tiny room for hours and days on end. She stuck her finger inside and groomed its head. It seemed to smile, jumping at her knuckle. I know how you feel little guy. 

"Hey Max!" a voice said. It belonged to a man presumably named Aaron who had two pairs of rubber gloves. His key chain strap jingled when he stopped walking. "We still gotta deal with this rat thing."

The gerbil turned its attention to the worker who interrupted his petting. Max reluctantly accepted a pair, sighing in the process. "I'd really rather not touch rats."

Aaron slipped on his pair and smirked awkwardly. "It's not like you touched anything worse." 

Her face gave a expression of disgust and embarrassment. She put hers on too and softly spoke. "The past is the past."

"Indeed. And your welcome." He motioned for her to follow him. 

"More like your welcome, weirdo." He's such a creep, but sometimes he's bearable to hang out with. Only at work. Never on my own time. It would be fun hearing Chloe verbally destroy him. They soon entered the backroom. Multiple vents covered the very bottom of the walls. Some merchandise was hung over metal shelves taking up the rest of the room. Air was almost hard to come by, despite ventilation. 

He stuck a gloved finger in the direction of a vent, his other hand retrieving a screwdriver on a shelf. "Take off the cover and tap on the inside of the wall. Remember-", he tossed the screwdriver to Max,"-grab them by the tail and yank them out so you don't get bit."

She flinched as she grabbed it, a small pain shooting in her palm. "Shit, that hurts. Maybe you could've passed it, and not threw it at me." She ignored his apology, blanking him out of her mental state. Her hand waved dust away, letting her breathe as she unscrewed the cover. It went in a inch, before she pulled it out suddenly. Her unzipped jacket scraped across the floor and swept a small amount of dust onto her cheek. "Wait a second. So you brought me here to find the rat king?"

He picked the screwdriver up from beside Max. "I'm gonna find him in one of these other vents, if I can. You can hear them through the wall slightly, so if I hear it somewhere else other than my vent, I'll try and send it your way."

"Well, I'll send it back. To you. And hope it bites you." Her voice was stern, and he could tell she was agitated. She laid down again and heard echoes of scratching. "I hear it over here." A thumb went up over on the other side. Soft knocks on the side brought the scratching and scurrying louder. I think this is illegal, in a lot of states. But we are all broke, and not enough money for those exterminator guys. So they bring in the weird guy and the shy girl. Basically the same thing except we bitch at each other most of the time. This is one of those few times that we aren't arguing over the cutest bird in the store. 

The noise stopped, and both of them looked at each other. Aaron shook his fist up and down, rattling the whole vent system and battering their eardrums. "That should get him on your side."

Unfortunately she had covered her ears and clenched her teeth. She turned on her side, yelling at him in curses, which was very surprising for even Max. A small gust of wind and coldness flew across her face, the sudden realization dawning on her. 

Unfortunately he didn't cover his.

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"And this rat came across, and jumped on my fucking face!" Max shivered, although blue blankets did keep her warm and comfortable. Her crossed legs were nearly in the middle of the living room, the television on low volume. Something about football, but it was zoned out. 

Chloe leaned back against the foot of the couch. It slightly moved back, forcing her to readjust. "This is what you get for screwing that asshole," she laughed. A pile of mail was in the middle, and they each handed each other different envelopes to open. 

She raised her middle finger, issuing a paper wad speed ball coming at her head. "If I could still rewind time, I would go all the way back and say no. And maybe not go to Petco."

"I just don't get why hi-" Chloe's voice dropped off and went mute. She simply handed a letter to her.

Max's eyes read across the first sentence. 'You have been accepted into the San Jose State University. Congratulations.' 

 

Chapter Text

So," Ryan Caulfield spoke through his glass of water. "What have you two been up to?" He placed it down on the wooden table. Light sparkled the water from above. Apart from small talk, it had been mostly quiet in the dining room of the Caulfields. Nothing they weren't used to. 

Chloe threw her hoodie string behind her back. The clothing in question happened to be one of Max's old hoodies. It still had Coca-Cola stains on the stomach area from when they went out with one of their friends to watch a horror movie, and Max tossed her cup into the air and splashed on multiple people in the row. I wonder if she ever rewinded and fixed it, she thought. "Something amazing, as usual," she said with a smirk. 

A thick glob of yellow grease dripped down Max's pinky and onto the paper plate below as she took a bite of the pizza. If it didn't taste sooo freaking good, I might have given up pizza. We're here for a good time, not a long time I guess.  She could hear mumbles of Chloe and her parents conversating, although she chose not to jump in. The thoughts of the letter from last night had her eager to finally leave everything she knew behind,  but she was comforted by the knowledge of the land and people. Something about the unknown left her with chilling thoughts. Suddenly a hand grabbed onto her shoulder, alerting her to real life. "Earth to Max, you there?" 

"Sorry, I was just excited." She changed her expression, putting a genuine smile on her face.

Vanessa sarcastically and suspiciously glanced at both of them. "What have you two really been up to?" 

Max and Chloe gave each other a side eye, almost as if they were letting each other choose who broke the news. After several seconds Max spoke up surprisingly. "We were looking through our mail last night, and we found two letters from San Jose State."

The two parents broke out gleaming smiles. Chloe continued the poorly planned surprise. "Somehow I get to spend the next four years of my life taking care of this little pirate." She reached down and held two of Max's fingers.

Damn right, and we are gonna get straight Aye's. Max huffed out a silent laugh and looked down at her pizza crust. High five, inner me.  "San Jose is also giving us that aid stuff since we went to Blackwell." It pained her greatly to say that name. Through a full month, her life had been changed. After an entire year she still hadn't figured out if it was for the better or worse. Sometimes it felt like it changed for the absolute worst, and other times she was morbidly glad it happened. Of course she felt guilty of the lives lost as she knew that her actions caused it. Fortunately, having Chloe at her side for the better part of her adulthood and childhood equaled out. 

Ryan pushed his empty plate away an inch from its original point. "I knew someone who went to San Jose State but they moved around a couple years before we did. Said it was one of the better schools. Cheap, good programs, especially the photography program." He waited for Max to return a smile but she only raised her cheeks slightly. 

Chloe stretched herself out on her seat, smoothly moving her mouth close to Max's ear. "I heard they have hella hot ass teachers," she whispered. It garnered a fast kick to the ankle. 

"Better be hot down there. Too cold to wear anything but three hoodies." Max gave her a sharp look without turning her head. She turned her attention to the clock behind Chloe, reading the roman numerals on the edges. Holy shit it's ten already? As if on queue, Chloe held up the empty plate and scooted her chair back. It smoothly slid across the waxed wood floor. 

"It's been nice being back here for the first time in a week, but me and Max have to go bag shopping to prepare us for more hellacious schooling." She stood behind Max and embraced her. Something about having something or someone to hold comforted both of them, as when they would binge-watch Netflix. Somehow they manage to end up laying on someones lap or just sitting in between their legs. A frequent thought of 'oh please don't take this the wrong way' always crossed their minds but they simply ignored it. 

Vanessa and Ryan stacked everyone's plates onto a marble counter and said their goodbyes. One by one they embraced and headed out the door and down the steps. 

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The aroma of cigarette smoke managed to sneak in from the next door. Weirdly, Max could feel the tension in her shoulders die down. Reminded her of the few short days she lived in smoker Chloe's room. "Chloe! I thought you said you stopped!" Max pulled a part of Chloe's jacket, using it to cover her nose. She placed a book down next to her.

She gave her a cockeyed look while slowly yanking it back onto her body. "I'm pretty sure you don't have ass-ma, or asthma." Finally Max let go and sunk in the couch. "Whichever one it is."

The TV softly roared the commentary of a basketball game. Only Chloe was somewhat listening, with Max deep in a novel. It's black cover reflected the light from the kitchen as she turned her self to lay down. A strange feeling had accompanied them all the way from the Caulfield household. Not malicious, but not exactly benevolent either. Both of them acknowledged it and were just waiting for someone to break the ice.

Loud sirens of a ambulance brought Chloe back into the real world. She glanced down at Max, who was cuddled up with the same book. Dare I say, she kind of looks adorable when she does this? Not that I'm like, attracted to her. I can see why people are, though. She raised a arm and patted Max on the head, bringing a gaze of blue eyes upon her.

"Right at the best part too!" Max lowered the book on her stomach.

"Were they about to start explaining how a time travelling photographer can literally fucking predict the next thirty seconds?" She reached for the book and tilted it so she could see the cover. A picture of a butterfly expanding its wings was slightly faded as a stylistic choice.

Max handed it to her, extending her arm to land a soft slap on the chin after. "A criminal photographer."

"Trespassing does not make you a criminal, dude." Chloe thumbed through the pages. Suddenly that strange feeling came back fiercer, begging to be discussed. Everytime she ignored it but now it had to be said. "Would it be weird to say that I saw Dad sitting on this couch?" I sound like a crazy ass person right now.

The mood darkened enough for Max to cautiously look up at Chloe. "Are you sure? Maybe you didn't take your medicine. You know how bad it gets if you forget."

"Calling it medicine makes me feel like I belong in a fucking mental hospital." She quickly realized how passive-aggressive she sounded, sucking through her teeth. "Sorry. But I did. Before I woke you up."

Max took the book back and placed it face down on the carpet. Sitting up, she slowly scooted closer to Chloe. "Did he say anything?"

She bit the inside of her cheek. "He asked when I was going to accept it." That question had sat in the back of her mind since yesterday morning. Truthfully, she accepted it a long time ago. But sometimes she resented him for dying. It makes no sense after three years it would happen again.

The crowd cheered loudly. Maybe one of the teams scored a touchdown, but only Max guessed as she would take photos of the Seahawks games. Apart from that she wasn't all that into sports. "It's your mind, Chloe." She pointed behind with her thumb. "Take them, maybe it'll stop."

"It happened four years ago, too. But in my dreams. I would wake up in his car, and everything in it was kinda like foreshadowing, now that I think of it."

"Like visions?" Her gaze went back and forth between Chloe and the TV.

"Yea. Like yours. I don't think Super Chloe sounds as good as Super Max," Chloe scoffed.

Giving a small smirk, Max fixed her eyes on her camera sitting on the kitchen counter top. That camera has been with her for a year.

It was William's old camera.

She remembered when Chloe handed it to her. "At least someone would use it," she had said. Guilt was noticable at first, but now it was a sweet momento. Her photography had significantly slowed down, although earlier in the day they went to a lake nearby to take photos. They didn't come out that well due to the clouds. But her standards of a good photo were much higher than a random on the street.

Half a hour of momentary silence went by. The feeling had left both of them uncomfortable. Max looked down at the ESPN logo, the time under it. Damn. Eleven already? I should probably go to sleep so we can start packing for our cross country trip. Wish we could take a plane there, but maybe the road is gonna give me better shots for the program there. She playfully slapped Chloe's shoulder. "I'm gonna head to bed. Night, Super Chloe."

Chloe nodded her head, peering at the lighter thrown in the corner of the room. She looked behind her and waited for Max's door to close. Better put my joint to good use before she bitches at me again. The smell of marijuana filled the living room. Nothing that she wasn't used to. But at least she didn't have to worry about a strict stepdad busting her. And Max for her 'joint'.

"You never learn, do you. Even as a kid you were hard headed," William leaned against the window pane of their balcony. "This journey ahead is gonna be hard."

Chloe looked at him with a furrowed eyebrow. "Its just going down to Cali. Only thing is maybe getting busted for weed." She raised the joint to her mouth and walked to the balcony door. There was no reflection of him as she opened it, although he adjusted his arm.

He followed her outside and placed his elbows on the wooden half wall. Distant honking filled the night air, a strong urban smell accompanying it. They looked at the cars passing by with their bright headlights shining down the road. "You're going to find out something about Maxine that's going to ruin you."

Chloe flicked the lighter, raising it the joint in her lips. "That she smokes too?" she chuckled.

"No, Chloe. Something serious. There's a reason she never texted back." His voice was wavering.

She deeply inhaled, coughing slightly. "Because she was busy with Seattle. I already know."

William stepped away from the edge. "You'll see soon, sweetheart."

"How soon?" Another deep inhale and exhale, smoke floating off into the sky.

William laughed coarsely. "Do you know why you were so infatuated with Maxine?"

"Because she was my best friend. And she left right when..." She ashed the joint. It fell to the ground below, a puddle extinguishing the flame. "You died. I had nobody."

"And you told her, right?"

A cold wind made her shiver. "Yeah. I did."

He admired the skyline. "Tell her how you really feel." His nose crinkled as the smoke reached him.

She cracked a smile, her eyes shining rose from the TV light as she looked back at him. Holy shit. At this point I don't know if I'm really high or if this is actually real. "I already do. She's my best friend and my lifesaver. Literal human clock."

He puffed out his cheeks, swinging his arms back. "It's okay."

A flutter in her chest. "What do you mean?" She cracked a smile while tapping her foot.

"I won't judge."

"I still don't know what you're talking about dad."

"You will soon." His voice began to echo, seeming to be further and further away from Chloe. "I just hope your ready."