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Life is Normal

Chapter Text

The town was just like Max remembered it, all beautiful scenery and miles and miles of trees in every direction. Every part of it gave off the small town vibe that people who lived in the city seemed to envy so much. The campus of her school was pretty amazing too honestly. Greenery everywhere and old brick buildings. If she was being honest with herself it was really nice to be back. Although now she lived in a dorm on Blackwell’s campus instead of in her old house. In another way it was weird being back, so few people knew her now. It was also the school though, it was Blackwell a prestigious grade twelve old academy, many of the kids who went to the school hadn’t grown up in town anyway.
“Do you need help with that?” Max turned to see a girl smiling at her. Her hair was up in a messy but quite large bun and she had a kind smile. When Max took a moment to answer the girl gestured down at the bags around Max’s feet.

“Oh, no thanks I was just taking a minute to admire well,” Max gestured around at the campus at large. She picked up the duffle bag slinging it over her shoulder. “This I guess. My parents helped me take most of my stuff up already but they had to head back to Seattle, they didn’t want to get back to late.”

“My family left already too.” The girl smiled again as they started walking back to the dorms. “So you’re in the Prescott dormitories too? I’m Kate by the way, Kate Marsh.”

“Yeah, it’s still weird to me that the dormitories are named after them it’s so weird.” Max nodded shaking her head a bit. “I’m Max, Max Caufield.”

“So are you from around here then?” Kate asked. “The only people I’ve heard say it’s odd are the one’s who grew up with the Prescott's.”

“I didn’t grow up with them exactly but it’s a pretty small town.” Max shrugged. They’d gone to different school, Max had gone to the public school not the private one but it was still pretty hard to avoid people in this town. “What about you? Where are you from?”

The small talk lasted all the way until they got into the dorms at which point Kate was called away by a couple of other girls who she, as she left, told Max were named Alyssa and Stella. Which left Max able to retreat to her room and set everything up how she wanted it. Part way through sorting through her photos to decide which ones to put up she came across one of her and Chloe. It had been taken just a few weeks before everything had happened, the two of them were smiling and all dressed up in pirate gear. She tucked it into a drawer. At some point she would have to text Chloe and tell her she was back in town. Right now though the idea of it was more than a little anxiety inducing so she just pushed it to the back of her mind. This was made very easy as someone crashed through her door just then giggling.

“Whoops, you’re definitely not Victoria.” A girl with long blonde hair gave Max and up and down look that was almost dismissive and shook her head. “Victoria would never wear that.”

Max looked down at her jeans and teeshirt, with a very cute deer on it, for a moment before looking back at the other girl. “I think there was a Victoria across from me?”

“Of course. Duh.” The girl hit herself in the forehead, though not hard enough for there to be a sound, before turning and leaving without another word to Max.

The rest of the day passed without any other encounters, though that might have been because aside from one trip down to the cafeteria for food Max didn’t leave her room. The next few weeks passed pretty much the same with the obvious exception of classes starting up. Max spent a great deal of time taking photos and a whole lot less time actually interacting with anyone. She also wrote in her journal every day.

During particularly boring lectures, like this one about some ancient photography thing no one cared about, she’d pull it out and read through it. Sometimes adding things in or doodling around the edges. The entries started out ridiculously optimistic about Blackwell and how diverse and interesting it was going to be but her more recent ones were a lot more angst. She still hadn’t figured out how to text Chloe and the longer she put it off the harder it got. There was almost no one who talked to her. It turned out most people who got into Blackwell had gotten to campus weeks before classes started and so had formed groups and friendships already. It didn’t help that she was usually looking at the world through her view finder, her favourite way of keeping the world at a safe distance. She jotted down a couple or her current dilemmas and doodled a sad face in the corner.

“Max, I hate to interrupt your little doodle session but if you could pay attention please. This isn’t art class.” Mr Jefferson said loudly enough to make her jump. “I know that for someone of your talent with a camera these old techniques may seem boring but I assure you they will be on your final exam.”

Max looked up just in time to see Victoria throw her the dirtiest look while Mr Jefferson was looking at her rather than the class as a whole. If looks could kill she’d be dust. It wasn’t her fault Mr Jefferson liked her photography more than Victoria. It would seem however that Victoria, on of the elite, thought differently. Max honestly didn’t know if there was even something she could do to make Victoria believe she didn’t try to draw Mr Jefferson’s attention. Probably nothing, The only things Victoria spent time doing in class was picking on people and desperately trying to get Mr Jefferson’s attention. Honestly Max was almost embarrassed for her.

The rest of the class passed largely without incident up until the end of class where once again Mr Jefferson reminded them all that the Everyday Heroes contest would be in a couple weeks and they should start thinking about getting their photographs taken and brought in. Of course with the last class of the day over Max was once again left without anything to distract her. Except the upcoming Vortex party. She rolled her eyes as she passed a flyer. Honestly they barely let anyone come. What was the point of having flyers up everywhere anyway? She was certainly not going to try and crash the damn thing. To many stories came out of those for her liking. Besides which Vortex Club parties were Victoria’s domain, her and Nathan Prescott’s. Both of whom seemed to hate Max for some reason.

“Maxine!” Oh great speak of the figurative devil, or think of them rather. It didn’t really take much for this one. “Oh Maxine!”

“Max is fine Victoria.” Max turned to look at Victoria trying to keep the irritation out of her voice. Honestly sounding annoyed just seemed to make Victoria more enthusiastic.

“Put any thought into what you’ll be submitting to the contest?” Victoria batted her eyes lashes at Max as she friends walked up to flank her. “I bet I know what you’ll submit. Any guess ladies?”

Her two friends didn’t say anything but they were already halfway to snickering. Max just raised an eyebrow trying not to sigh. She had three guesses and all of them were things Victoria had called out about her in class. Honestly she needed new material.

“I’ll bet its going to be a Maxine Caufield patented selfie.” Victoria rolled her eyes and her friends giggled as if they hadn’t heard this already. “Honestly Max all you ever hand in is selfies, try something else occasionally alright?”

They all flounced off before Max had a chance to point out that she had plenty of photos that weren’t selfies. She rolled her eyes again and headed back to the dorm. At least Victoria and her friends seemed to be headed off campus somewhere which means they wouldn’t be hanging around on the steps blocking the way into the dorms. Now all Max had to worry about was how she was going to tell Chloe that not only was she back in town, she'd waited weeks before telling her so.

Chapter Text

Chloe was driving through the town on autopilot and it wasn’t until she very nearly ran into a girl that she realized she’d driven all the way to Blackwell. Or rather the girl very nearly ran into her as she came shooting out of nowhere into the street. Chloe screeched to a halt and the girl stumbled away a few steps before looking up at her. Disbelief was the first thing that entered Chloe’s head, followed quickly by denial. Max would have told her if she was coming back to town. All hope of that was dashed as recognition flashed across the girl’s face and she darted around to Chloe’s open window.

“Chloe! I’d been meaning to text you!” Max grinned up at her looking just the same as she had all those years ago before she’d gone off to Seattle. “I just couldn’t figure out what to say…”

“For five years?” Chloe snapped without really thinking about it. She’d meant for it to sound like a joke but it just came out sounding hurt. It might be a bit unfair honestly she hadn’t exactly messaged Max either.

Max stuttered out a few syllables of non words before shrugging. “I’m not much good at finding things to say, I’m much better at finding things to take photos of.”

“Ya always did have your camera in front of your face.” Chloe chuckled nodding. “Still got a Polaroid one or have you finally gone digital?”

“I’m way to much of a hipster for digital.” Max shook her head fishing out her camera. “Instant film all the way. Expensive but totally worth it.”

“Come on nerd, get in. I at least owe you waffles for almost running you over.” She gestured at the passenger side door. “I’m sure mom would love to know you’re back too. You always were the favourite.”

“That’s not true!” Max argued as she climbed into the truck. “You just picked fights more often than I did.”

“Exactly.” Chloe nodded pointing to her. “That makes you the favourite.”

"Wait!” Max all but shouted as they were about to leave the parking lot. “I need to give Warren his flash drive, I nearly forgot. Just one second.”

Chloe didn’t even have a chance to snip about some random dude meaning more than her before Max was out of the car and halfway across the parking lot. She watched as Max ran up to a dude with floppy hair and puppy dog eyes. Max had almost definitely said his name but Chloe couldn’t recall what she’d said. Watching Max interact with the guy did however make her wonder if Max was actually that oblivious or if she was avoiding the fact that the guy was into her. It was hard not to laugh as the dude went in for a hug and Max handed him the flash drive. They couldn’t have exchanged more than a few words before Max was waving him off and running back across the lot to Chloe’s truck.

“So who’s that?” Chloe nodded in the dude’s direction.

“Warren?” Max shrugged looking over to him. “He’s in a couple of my classes, at Blackwell for the sciences but he’s got a pretty entertaining taste in movies.”

“Bet mine’s hella better.” Chloe frowned slightly looking out at the road as she drove away from Blackwell. Honestly she wasn’t sure what had come over her, there was absolutely no reason for her to be comparing herself to some random guy she’d never met.

“Guess we’ll just have to see wont we?” She could see Max’s grin out of the corner of her eyes and couldn’t help but smile in response.

Chloe turned on the radio and the two of them lapsed into silence as she drove towards town. About halfway there Max broke the silence.

“I am sorry.” Her voice was so quiet Chloe almost didn’t hear her over the music. She turned it down a bit as Max continued. “I meant to send you messages, letters or emails or something. Even started a few. Everything I wrote just seemed like it wasn’t enough you know? Not after…”

“After my dad died. You can say it, it’s been five years.” Chloe muttered keeping her eyes fixed on the road.

“I didn’t mean to abandon you, it wasn’t like I asked my parents to move to Seattle right after!”

“You weren’t exactly begging to stay either though.”

“I was thirteen I didn’t exactly have much say in the matter.” Max’s stare was fixed into her lap fiddling with her camera. “We were hardly the only ones who left, there wasn’t any work here.”

“You were the only one that mattered.” It slipped out before Chloe could stop it. That it seemed hadn’t changed in the five years apart. Chloe still couldn’t stop things from slipping out around Max.

“I… I’m sorry.” Max mumbled.

The silence that settled this time was a lot more tense than the last one but Chloe wasn’t sure how to break it. Or if she wanted to honestly. It still hurt that Max had abandoned her right after the accident. Everything had gone to shit so quickly after the crash in which her dad died. Max had moved away and other than the first letter which said barely anything other than that she’d made it to Seattle alive Chloe had never received another. Then her mom had had to take so many extra shifts at the two whales dinner it seemed like she’d abandoned Chloe too. Then step-douche had appeared and it had really gone downhill from there.

They arrived at the dinner before Chloe had even decided whether to break the silence or not. Max was out of the truck and half through the door of the dinner before Chloe had even exited the truck. Chloe sighed. It seemed like Max hadn’t changed much since they were kids anyway. Always one to run away from an awkward situation as soon as the possibility appeared. Ah well, she’d said she’d get her waffles and if she was being honest with herself she would really enjoy having Max around and talking to her again.

By the time Chloe entered the dinner her mom was walking away and Max was sitting looking almost sheepish.

“I ordered already, you mom said she knew what you wanted already and she’d just bring it out with my waffles.” Max said all in a rush and half under her breath. “It’s nice being back.”

“Okay quit it with the guilty face. What’s done is done, it’s not like we can change the past.” Chloe waved a hand. The statement had been meant to try and calm Max down but she only succeeded in making her look more guilty for some reason. “Unless you can in which case speak now?”

“No of course not.” Max shook her head. “Super powers aren’t real, whatever we might have pretended as kids.”

“Which is a real shame honestly, there should be super powers.” Chloe sighed and leaned back. The juke box chose that moment to throw a fit and Chloe figured that was probably from the cockroach that crawled up it. “Like could you imagine if you had some kind of time powers? You could have done something hella awesome like predicated that cockroach.”

“I like to think that if I had a super power I’d use it for something useful.” Max chuckled and Chloe grinned. It had been to long since she’d heard Max laugh.

“Like what getting a better picture?” Chloe raised an eyebrow and smirked.

“Oh!” Max all but dove into her bag. “That reminds me! I was taking a picture just before you almost ran me over… Ah! Here it is.”

Chloe looked down at the picture Max handed her. It was a nice shot honestly, a bright blue butterfly on a car bumper. It seemed familiar in a way Chloe couldn’t quite put her finger on.

“You should keep it.” Max said quietly with a small smile Chloe looked up just in time to catch. “It seems fitting for you to have it anyway, the butterfly matches your new hairstyle.”

“Order’s up girls!” Joyce appeared with plates of food before Chloe had a chance to argue. She tucked away the photo carefully just in case. She didn’t want it to get dirty.

Max had in fact gotten waffles. Chloe’s plate had eggs, bacon, and toast. Thus the next little while was mostly spent in silence as they enjoyed their food. Chloe spent the silence trying to decide what to do next. A small part of her thought the best idea would just be to take Max back to the school but most of her wanted to show Max all the places that had changed since she’d left. Mostly she wanted to show her the junkyard. It had become her favourite hang out spot even if it had also been the place where she’d spent the most time with Rachael.

“Watcha thinking about?” Max’s voice broke through Chloe’s thoughts. “You’ve got that little line showing up between your eyes again.”

“Again?” Chloe raised an eyebrow at her.

“Ya you used to get it when we were kids.” Max nodded pushing the remains of her meal around with a fork. “It was the look you got when you were trying to make a decision or come up with a lie.”

“Oh.” Chloe shrugged pushing her empty plate away from her. “Well I was just trying to decide if I should do the mature thing and bring you back to school or the less mature one and show you around my Arcadia Bay.”

“Your Arcadia Bay?” Max snorted. “I grew up here too you know.”

“You’ve been gone five years, things have changed.” Chloe shrugged grinning at her.

“Show me.”

So she did. First they just drove around town. Chloe pointed out all the things that had changed since Max left. Max pointed out one’s Chloe missed. All the buildings that had been fixed or torn down. The places the Prescott’s had bought up. The harbor which held far fewer little fishing boats and far more of the Prescott’s company boats. Then she pulled into the junkyard.

“Welcome to American Rust, my home away from home.” Chloe spread her arms to gesture to all of it as they got out of the truck.

“From tree forts to junkyards, how the mighty have fallen.” Max chuckled looking around. “It is very you though, raw and rough around the edges.”

“I’m not sure whether I should be offended by that or not.” 

Max just gave an elaborate shrugged and wandered into the junkyard. Pulling out her camera almost instantly and taking photos. Chloe climbed up onto the hood of her truck and just watched Max wander. She was half asleep in the sun when she heard a click and looked up to see Max’s camera not two feet from her face. 

“Oh come on Max! That’s probably a hella awful picture, let me see.” Chloe protested and held out her hand. She’s expected Max to argue, like Rachael always did and so was quite surprised when Max just handed the photo over.

“Those are the rules remember?” Max smiled at her, that smile Max had always had when Chloe did something a little, or a lot, ridiculous. It was just a little softer than her regular smile and Chloe hadn’t realized how much she’d missed it until she saw it again.

She looked down at the photo, letting her bangs hide the blush she could feel on her cheeks. She wasn’t entirely sure why Max remembering the rules she’d set in place for photos of her as a child would make her blush. She also wasn’t sure she wanted to think about it to much. For what it was worth though the photo was actually nicer than she’d expected. She was leaning back half asleep on the hood of the truck. It made her look peaceful.

“Is it that bad? I thought y-it, the photo looked pretty good.” Max mumbled which made Chloe realize she’d been looking down at the photo for a bit long.

“No it’s not that, the photo’s a keeper I think.” Her voice was just a bit softer than she’d meant for it to be as she handed it back to Max. She looked up with a grin. “I should probably get you back to school before the sun sets though huh?”

“I suppose.” Max nodded moving around to get back into the truck. “That would be the mature thing to do.”

“Ya that’s me, hella mature.” Chloe nodded and got in as well backing out of the junkyard. Off to drop Max back at the prestigious school for smart and artsy kids. She ignored the voice in the back of her mind that taunted that those kids would make way better company for Max than she would.

Chapter Text

The first thing Max noticed that morning on her way to the bathroom was that someone had written something nasty on Kate’s white board. She barely knew Kate but the girl had been nothing but nice. She erased it and drew a smiley instead. She could almost hear Chloe’s voice saying NO EMOJI, all loud and grouchy. It made her chuckle. The shower did a better job of waking her up than the walk to the showers had. Especially since someone decided to run the tap while she was showering. Of course that just meant she was awake enough to hear Victoria hassling someone about a video or something. Whoever it was left and not long after Victoria did the same. When Max got out of the shower the mirror had a url written on it in lipstick, Victoria’s lipstick she had no doubt. She erased it. If it was something Victoria thought worth writing on the wall it likely wasn’t good.

“Hey Max?” Kate’s quiet voice pulled her out of her thoughts on the way back to her room.

“Yeah what’s up Kate?” Max stopped in front of Kate’s door. Kate was looking a bit worse for wear these days, circles under her eyes and her bun was messier than usual. “You doing alright.”

“I just, remember that book I loaned you?” Kate asked blinking at her.

“Oh ya, I’m just about finished it. Do you need it back?”

“It’s just I’ve got a report on it due next week.”

“For sure, I’ll grab it for you.” Max nodded smiling at her. “Just give me a second to get dressed?”

Kate nodded and retreated back into her room. Max looked at the door for a moment as it shut wondering if she should be worried. It was probably nothing. She went into her room and pulled some clothes on, just jeans and a teeshirt like usual. Nothing fancy, it wasn’t like she had any big plans today anyway. It was Saturday so there weren’t even classes.

The book was easy to find, she’d been reading it last night after all. Right next to the cup from the tea she’d been drinking the night before. She didn’t notice the cup still had tea in it until the corner of the book hit it as she was picking it up. She caught the cup before it fell over and breathed a sigh of relief. 

“I really need to tidy up in here, this could have been a disaster.” She muttered to herself tucking Kate’s book into her bag and looking around. She didn’t think there was anything else she’d need, though she did grab an extra bundle of film before she left the room. The door she locked carefully behind her before crossing the hall and knocking on Kate’s door. “It’s Max.”

“Come in.” Max entered and instantly had to blink a few times. It was much darker in Kate’s room than she’d thought. Kate herself was sitting at her desk though she didn’t actually appear to be working on anything. She didn’t look up when Max entered the room. “You can put the book over by my bag.”

Max nodded and looked around. It was only when she noticed the violin that she realized she hadn’t heard Kate play in almost a week. She used to play every morning. Now that she was paying attention there were other things she hadn’t seen lately, things like Kate’s smile. Looking around there were other things that made the worry in Max’s stomach increase. The mirror was covered, as were the windows. None of Kate’s drawings were up anymore. In fact it was like someone had purposely leeched the colour from the room. She pulled the book out of her bag and put it next to Kate’s. She wasn’t really sure what she could do to help Kate except maybe be nicer to her. 

“Max?” Kate’s voice was so quiet Max wasn’t even certain she’d actually spoken until she turned around and Kate was staring at her. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Of course, anything.” Max nodded.

“Have you seen it? The video?”

“What video?” Max asked quietly but the pieces started clicking into place. People around campus snickering over phones, the url Victoria had left on the bathroom mirror, Victoria hassling someone about a video. “Is there a video of you online?”

Kate nodded looking down at her hands. “Of me, doing things…” She shook her head and looked up at Max. “I went to one vortex party and I don’t remember anything. Now there’s this video going around of me making out with everyone.”

“Did you drink a lot?” Even as Max asked it she knew it was a stupid question, this was Kate after all. The girl who ran nearly every religious program on campus, preached about abstinence, and ran seminars on her own time about the problems that came with with drugs and drinking. 

“I had one sip of red wine! I have that much at church every Sunday and nothing like this happens.” Kate was practically shaking and Max stepped forward purely on instinct and took on of Kate’s hands in her own. “I just need to know what happened.”

“I’ll look into it. I promise.” Max said quietly squeezing her hand. “Tell me what you remember and I’ll ask around and figure it out from there.”

“I remember getting to the party, someone gave me a glass of wine, and then everything is fuzzy.” Kate shook as she spoke, squeezing Max’s hand. “I remember bright flashing lights and then I woke up in my room. I just felt so gross. Then this stupid video went up and it was everywhere. Do you think, should I go to the police?”

“No, not yet. You don’t have any proof of anything and the video doesn’t exactly work in your favour.” Max said quietly as Kate let go of her hand.

“So what I should just do nothing? Pretend every thing’s fine and dandy while everyone throws insults at me every time I leave my room?”

“No it’s just,” Max sighed and ran a hand through her hair. “The police don’t exactly have a stellar track record for this kind of stuff. I’ll find more evidence then if we need to we’ll go to the police okay?”

“Fine, whatever.” Kate turned away from Max and slumped over her desk.

Max stood for a moment unsure of what to do before she just left the room. Any hope of not having to deal with anything else for the rest of the day was squashed as soon as she walked down the hall towards the stairs. Her way was blocked by one of Dana and Juliet’s fights. Or more accurately by Juliet ranting and pacing outside of Dana’s room.

“Juliet let me out of here!” One day Max would figure out why exactly the dorm rooms only locked from the outside but today was not that day.

“Either admit you did it or you can rot in there for all I care!” Juliet yelled back at the door and Max massaged her temples for a moment wondering, not for the first time, why Blackwell couldn’t just be the artistic sanctuary she’d imagined it to be before she’d gotten here. “Just because you can’t get a date with a quarterback doesn’t mean you need to start sexting my boyfriend!”

“Who told you Dana was sexting your boyfriend?” Max couldn't stop the question from slipping out of her mouth as she watched Juliet pace. “That doesn’t really sound like Dana.”

“What do you care? You’ve never even spoken to either of us.” Juliet whirled to face Max glaring at her. “I bet you don’t even know my name.”

“Juliet Watson.” Max shrugged, she didn’t say that she remembered it because Juliet reminded her of John Watson and they had the same last name.

“Oh wow, maybe you do actually care about people.” Juliet seemed almost to deflate a little. “Well since you’re so interested it was Victoria who told me she saw Dana texting Zachary.”

“Well have you asked Zachary?”

“He’s not answering my texts.” Juliet shot a glare at her phone before looking back at Max. “It doesn’t matter I know it’s true, he’s been acting weird all week.”

“So maybe he is sexting someone, that doesn’t mean it’s Dana.” Max snorted shaking her head. “Besides have you ever seen how Dana looks at Zachary?”

“Well, no not really.” Juliet shook her head. “Mostly I’m focused on how Zachary is looking…”

“Dana?” Max knocked on the door. “What are your feelings for Zachary? If you’re not trying to not offend Juliet?”

“Well, uh,” There was a pause during which Max imagined Dana was trying to work herself up to say something. “Well it’s not like she can hate more more than she does right now anyway. I think he’s a flirt, an idiot and a bit of a dick.” 

“I thought you liked him?” Juliet stared at the door like she thought it might grow legs or something.

“I try to be nice to him for your sake.” Dana’s voice got much quieter and Juliet opened the door.

“I’m sorry I thought you were sexting him just because Victoria told me you were.” Juliet mumbled looking sheepishly at Dana.

“You don’t exactly think about things once you’re upset.” Dana shrugged but Max could see her holding back a grin. “Not a good trait for a reporter.”

She left them to their conversation and headed down to campus. There were probably a dozen members of the vortex club wandering around the quad, not to mention that basically everyone on campus except Max herself seemed to have been to at least one of their parties. She still didn’t see the appeal.

The first couple people Max tried to talk just just brushed her off. Though she hadn’t really expected much more from members of the vortex club. The vortex club seemed to have some kind of say nothing pact going on. She’d probably have better luck with some of the regular students who went to the parties. That was when she, quite literally, ran into just one such person.

“What the shit Max, pay attention.” Alyssa frowned at her but really didn’t seem to annoyed.

“I’m so sorry Alyssa I’m just spacing out all over the place today.” Max said backing up a step or two. “Actually while I have you here can I ask you a few questions?”

“I don’t see why not I wasn’t really going anywhere just yet.” Alyssa shrugged and gestured to a nearby bench. “So is it Math you need help with or science?”

“Neither at the moment actually though if you’re offering I might ask later.” Max shook her head as she sat next to her.

“Huh, really? That’s all most people ask me about.”

“Well actually I was wondering if you went to the Vortex club party last weekend? What with you debating joining and all I figured you’re one of the better bets for info.”

“I did yeah, why?” The look on Alyssa’s face went from interested to suspicious almost as soon as Max mentioned the party.

“Well I’m just asking around, trying to figure out what happened there.” Max shrugged not sure whether she should tell Alyssa who she was asking for or not. Honestly Max didn’t know as much about the quieter kids on campus as she did about the louder ones.

“If you’re trying to mix up more trouble for Kate I swear to whatever gods you believe in I wi-”

“No I’m not.” She shook her head holding up a hand to stop Alyssa. “I’m really not. Kate’s been nothing but nice to me. Honestly I’m just trying to figure out what happened. She asked me to, sort of.”

“Fine I’ll tell you what I saw but don’t do anything else to make life harder for Kate, she doesn’t need that right now.” Alyssa warned before launching into the story in hushed tones. She, Kate, and Stella had gone to the party mostly as re-con of sorts. They wanted to see what the vortex club was like up close. It hadn’t taken long for them to end up split up and at first Alyssa had just assumed Kate had gone home because she didn’t see her. Stella had gone off to talk with some other science kids who’d shown up and Alyssa ended up having to clean herself up after someone had run into her. When she’d come back out Kate had leaning on some guy they barely knew and when Alyssa had tried to talk to her Kate had just brushed her off. She’d ended up leaving before Kate did. The next day the video had gone up. Alyssa said when she’d left Kate had just seemed more relaxed than usual, nothing like she was in the video.

“You’re sure you didn’t see anything else?” Max asked when Alyssa was finished talking. “No one watching Kate weirdly or sticking close to her?”

“What are you trying to give Juliet a run for best reporter in our class? I didn’t see anything else.” Alyssa nodded glancing at her watch. “Also I really better get going, I was planning on meeting up with Stella later.”

“Yeah okay.” Max nodded standing up. “Thanks for talking to me.”

“No problem.” Alyssa shrugged heading off with a wave.

From what Alyssa said it sounded like there’d be very little point in talking to Stella as she’d been wrapped up talking to someone about science but maybe there was someone else at the party she could talk to. There was probably plenty of people in the quad proper, she’d just been talking to the people who were hanging around outside the dorms so far. It would also give the benefit of being away from the wet paint smell. Samuel was apparently painting the windowsills of the dorms today.

“So Max I hear you’ve been asking about my parties, are you planning on joining the Vortex Club?” Victoria headed Max off before she even managed half a dozen steps. Her two friends flanking her.

“Fat chance. Why would I want to join your little pop club?” Max replied before she could stop herself.

“That’s good because it’s not like we’d let a hipster like you in anyway.” Victoria’s smile was followed by laughter from her friends and it was all Max could do not to sigh. Right up until Victoria pulled out her phone. “Actually hold that pose,” She snapped a photo of Max chuckling. “Perfect, it’s so you. Don’t worry I’ll put a vintage filter over it before I post it on the social medias. So why don’t you just go fuck your selfie?”

Max didn’t have time to even attempt a come back before she heard a popping sound above her and stepped back just in time to avoid the splash of paint as Samuel’s pain can hit the ground beside them. Victoria and her friends weren’t quite so luck though Victoria got the worst of it. That seemed like the perfect moment to escape so Max just stepped around them and left as Victoria shouted at her friends to go get towels. Just as she reached quad Max’s phone buzzed in her pocket and she sighed as she pulled it out. She almost expected it to be some new drama or fight that she would somehow have to solve. It had been that kind of day. Instead it was a message from Chloe.

[You up for breakfast at the Dinner? I think the omelette's are on special today]

[You know full well your mom wont charge either of us for breakfast.] Max chuckled as she sent her response. It was true though Joyce was far to nice to her. Especially after she’d cut all communication for five years.

[So are you coming or not?] The reply was almost instant and Max grinned. It was almost like being a kid again but with faster communication.

[Meet you there?] Max was heading to the bus before she’d even hit send. She needed a reprieve from the drama that was all over campus lately. This would be perfect.

Max watched the birds fly around as she walked through campus. She pulled out her camera and snapped a picture as one of them landed on top of the statue in front of the school. Then snapped another picture as one of the skaters managed to nearly knock himself out trying to impress a girl who was standing there. She was so busy taking pictures of campus life she very nearly managed to miss the bus. Luckily the driver saw her running for it and waited. Max murmured a thank you before finding and slumping into a seat.

The bus gave her a totally different view of the town than she’d had from Chloe’s truck. Everything seemed quieter somehow, softer. Though that might just have been the fact that she was falling asleep this time around. She let her mind drift as she passed through the town. The sky was a lovely shade of blue today, one that merged with the ocean as they drove past it. She saw a spray far out from the shore that had to be one of the whales the town prided itself on so much. It was reassuring somehow that they were still around. At least that hadn’t changed while she was gone.

Neither it seemed had the dinner. Max smiled as she stepped off the bus outside the Two Whales. It still looked exactly the same, right down to the graffiti in the bathroom.

“Max, it’s good to see you again. Grab a booth and I’ll be right with you.” Joyce called out as soon as she noticed Max walking around the dinner. That too hadn’t changed. Joyce still treated her like family.

She waved and sat down in a booth at the end to wait for Chloe. Joyce brought her coffee and she ordered an omelette because the more she thought about food at the dinner the more she found herself craving one of Joyce’s bacon omelettes. Chloe showed up just as Joyce brought food to the table for both of them. Max found herself reaffirming her childhood belief that Joyce was either psychic or had some kind of Chloe radar going on because she always seemed to know when she was going to show up.

“Max-a-million! Ready for a day of fun and excitement?” Chloe grinned all but jumping into the booth as her mum left.

“As long as it doesn’t involve either of us almost dying sure.” Max chuckled, Chloe looked more excited than Max had seen her in years. It was almost enough to worry her honestly. It hadn’t been unusual as children for Chloe being excited to mean Chloe had found something else for them to do that was borderline illegal.

“Hey that was once!” The protest was loud enough that other folk in the dinner turned to look at them but turned around again when they saw who was speaking. “This time no one could possibly get hurt.”

“Famous last words.”

“Yeah yeah look who’s talking.” The smirk on Chloe’s face was quickly becoming her trademark expression. “Eat your eggs nerd. I’ve got things to show you!”

Max snorted but did set about eating her breakfast. She’d not eaten anything earlier that morning so she was actually quite hungry. It didn’t take long for the two of them to finish eating their eggs. As soon as they both pushed away their plates Chloe was up and all but vibrating.

“Okay let’s go then show me whatever it is.” Max stood up and Chloe was up and halfway to the door when Max’s phone rang. “Just a sec.”

“Oh come on you’ve barely hung out with me at all and you’re going to answer your phone?” Chloe’s frown was obvious out of the corner of Max’s eye as she looked down at the phone. It was Kate calling. Chloe said something else about school friends or something but Max wasn’t really listening anymore.

“This’ll just take a sec.” Max waved Chloe off and answered the phone. “Hey Kate.”

“Hi Max, I just uh. Have you found anything or? I guess it really doesn’t matter…”

“I haven’t found a lot honestly but I’m still looking.” Max said quietly tuning away from where Chloe was making irritable faces at her. “I’ll have tea with you later and talk okay?”

“Yeah. alright. I’ll see you later then.”

“Of course. I’ll message you as soon as I’m back on campus.”

“Thanks Max.”


There was a click before the line went dead and Max tucked her phone away and went to meet Chloe outside. Chloe was silent as they got into her truck and started driving. In fact she was silent basically right up until they got to the junkyard.

“I realized I never actually showed you around before, I just kind of fell asleep.” Chloe grinned and gestured at the junkyard. “The place is basically my home after all.”

Max laughed and followed Chloe into the junkyard. Chloe spent the whole time using her ‘tour guide’ voice and pointing things out as though Max might have missed them the first time she was here.Things like the school buss, the chair on top of a boat that Chloe referred to as her ‘second favourite thinking space’, a little house like structure Chloe claimed was a place she hung out with people sometimes, a little bonfire spot, and the little hill off to the side that Chloe called ‘the patch of nature that hasn’t yet given into the metal life’.

At the sound of another car pulling into the parking lot Chloe and Max headed off down the rail way tracks they’d ended up standing next to. Max figured they both wanted it to be just them for a little while longer. They walked down the tracks like they were balance beams laughing about nothing in particular. Max stumbled, almost falling but Chloe caught her by the hand and ended up pulling them both off the tracks. Max leaned against Chloe for a moment until she managed to stop laughing.

“You’re still a clutz.” Chloe laughed as Max backed up a step.

“And you’ve still got the reflexes to save me from my inability to walk in a straight line.” Max replied smiling at her.

“Well I told you no one was going to get hurt this time.” Chloe’s trademark smirk was back. “Can’t let your clutziness make a liar out of me.”

The sound of a train whistle blocked whatever reply Max would have made and left the two of them darting up the hill and out of the way of the train. They laid down and settled against the hill.

“This moment is so peaceful, I wish it didn’t have to end.” Max said quietly looking up at the clouds as they drifted across the sky.

“Me too.” Chloe’s voice was the softest Max had ever heard it. 

“Look that one looks like a butterfly.” Max pointed up at a couple of clouds a few moments later. 

“Kinda does ya.” Chloe’s hand entered her field of vision pointing at a different patch of clouds. “That one looks like a deer.”

“Hey it totally does!”

Eventually Max would have to go back to school and deal with all the drama, for now she was pretty content to lay here and point out cloud shapes with Chloe. Just like old times.

Chapter Text

Chloe woke up a few days after hanging out with Max on the train tracks, the sun was shining through her window, and the house was quiet. The perfect weather to contemplate what she was going to do when Max came over later that day. That lasted for about thirty seconds before the sound that had woken her up repeated itself. Her cell buzzed again singing some obnoxious love song Rachael had set as her own ring tone and she hadn’t figured out how to make go away. Chloe sighed and stared at the phone for a moment debating whether it was worth ignoring Rachael’s call.

Before she had a chance to come to a decision about that the phone stopped ringing. Deciding Rachael must have decided whatever she wanted to bother Chloe with wasn’t that important Chloe rolled out of bed and turned on her CD player. The disc that was in it automatically started playing and Chloe chuckled to herself as she went around the room gathering things to take a shower. The CD was some ridiculous mix her and Max had made as kids, she’d forgotten that she’d been listening to it the night before. She turned it up loud enough she’d be able to hear it in the bathroom, no one was home to complain about it anyway.

When she got out of the shower her phone showed three missed calls and a handful of texts, the music had apparently been loud enough she hadn’t heard it go off. One text was from Max, about how she would probably be late when she came over later because classes or something. Two texts were from Rachael, that in and of itself was odd, Rachael hadn’t spoken a word to her in weeks, not since they broke up. The texts themselves were bullshit, one was asking who the new girl was, and the other was insinuating Chloe was using Max as a rebound, as if Max was rebound material. The three calls were also Rachael and as Chloe was debating whether to answer the texts or not Rachael called again. It rang once, twice, in Chloe’s hand before she answered it.

“What do you want Rach?” Chloe sighed as she answered the phone.

“Don’t you sigh at me, you didn’t answer. I was worried.” Rachael's voice sounded more annoyed than worried over the phone but the two weren’t really that far apart where she was concerned.

“Thanks for your concern but I’m fine, I was just showering.” Chloe hit the speaker button and chucked the phone onto her bed while she changed.

There was a burst of static that turned into Rachael’s voice about halfway through a sentence. “-ster girl, she’s far too boring to be a rebound from me, honestly I expected your taste to be better.”

“She’s not a rebound!” Chloe snapped glaring at her phone. “We’re not dating, we’re not even sleeping together, she’s just an old friend. Honestly there’s no reason for you to be jealous, especially since you’re the one who broke things off this time. ”

“Not jealous, just letting you know that hanging around with the hipster chic isn’t exactly great for your reputation.”

“I have a hella rep, Max hardly factors into that.” Chloe laughed glancing over at the photo of a blue butterfly she’d added to her collection of Max related things. “If anything she’ll improve it.”

“Well I don’t think you should hang around her to much, old friend or not she’s boring. She’s exactly the kind of person we used to make fun of.”

“She’s the kind of person you make fun of.” Chloe corrected her scooping up the phone and going downstairs, she was in the mood for pancakes, maybe if Max hurried there’d even be some left for her.

“Look, I’m just doing this for your own good, just hang out with her less. She’s boring and hella bad for whatever rep you have left without me.”

“Rach you don’t get to tell me who to hang out with.” Chloe dropped the phone on the counter and set about making pancakes.

“Maybe if you actually listened to me for once-”

“No Rachael. Okay? No you don’t get to have a say in who I’m hanging out with. God, we’re not even dating anymore your opinion shouldn’t matter at all!”

“Does it?” If Chloe didn’t know better she would have thought Rachael sounded hopeful, that was of course just her deluding herself into thinking Rachael still cared.

“No it doesn’t. You broke up with me remember? That means you don’t get to call me every day and you certainly don’t get to tell me who to hang out with!” Chloe snapped reaching over and hanging up the phone. There was a few seconds of absolute silence before Chloe heard the front door slam. She hadn’t even heard it open. “Shit.”

Chloe spun and ran for the door, when she opened it Max had only made it to the bottom of the steps. Once the door was open both of them stopped moving, though Max didn’t turn back towards the door. Despite Chloe’s best efforts to come up with something to say it was Max who spoke first.

“So that was…?” Max’s voice was quiet and it trailed off but it sounded an awful lot like the voice Max used to get when she was upset.

“Rachael, she’s uh…” Chloe trailed off rubbing the back of her neck, she wanted to say ex but on again off again girlfriend would also fit, in fact this was probably the longest they’d spent not dating in almost two years and it had been less than a month. “We’re not dating right now.”

“But you were.” Max turned around and Chloe almost wished she hadn’t, her face had that careful mask on it, the one that looked calm and collected but meant Max was upset. It had gotten more convincing over the years they’d been apart. Chloe just nodded unable to say anything. “How long.”

“Almost two years?” Chloe shrugged. “Not the whole two years though, we-”

“You break up a lot.” Max interrupted, nodding like she suddenly understood something. “So you’re on a break with your girlfriend right now, makes sense.”

“That’s not, it’s not like that Max. It wasn’t just some fight this time, we broke up. It’s over.” Just saying it felt like twisting a knife in her gut but she needed Max to understand that. She needed Max to understand her.

“Sure, of course not.” Max made a motion that was only half a shrug then pulled out her phone and answered it as it started to ring. “Kate? What’s wrong?”

“Really Max? We’re in the middle of-” Chloe stopped speaking when Max glared at her. Max was speaking to quietly for Chloe to hear her from the doorway so she just dug her toe into the spot where the floor met the door frame and glared at it like it was the cause of all these problems.

“I have to go. I’ve got projects due.” Max’s voice followed the click of her hanging up, she never did turn off the sounds on her phones.

“No wait, I was making pancakes.” Chloe jolted up and ran down the steps to where Max was standing. “You can work on your projects here an-”

“No I have other things to deal with that don’t involve you and your ex or girlfriend or whatever.” Max waved her hands and then pressed them to her face for a moment. “Thanks for the thinking of me when you made pancakes but I have to go.”

“But…” Chloe trailed off as Max walked back off down the path towards the bus stop.

“Bye Chloe.” Max called it over her shoulder before she darted across the street.

Chloe kicked the door frame on the way back into the house. She was greeted by the smell of smoke just before the alarm went off. That was just absolutely perfect, of course the pancakes had burnt while she was trying and failing to make Max like her again. Once she got the alarm to shut up and binned the pancakes she picked up her phone and sent Rachael a text.

[Max hates me now and it’s all your fault.]

A few minutes later Chloe’s phone dinged and she opened it immediately hoping for a text from Max, instead there was one from Rachael.

[I’m sorry, I’ll fix it]

Chapter Text

Kate and Max were only just becoming friends but that hadn’t stopped Max from agreeing to ask around about what happened at that party she’d gone to and it certainly didn’t stop Max from noticing when she wasn’t in class. Today was one of those days. This was the third time already this week Kate wasn’t in photography class. The class had been holding less and less interest for Max these days between Mr Jefferson’s increasingly creepy attention to her work and Victoria’s consistently shitty attitude towards her. So when a crying Kate ran past the building and towards the dorms Max shoved her journal in her bag and left class ignoring Mr Jefferson’s demands to get back in her seat.

Max made it back to the dorms in record time but Kate was no where to be seen. Despite the fact that he normally kept away from students unless they talked to him first Samuel gestured Max over as soon as he saw her.

“She went up.” He said as soon as she was within earshot. “The angel girl, she went up. She wants to fly but she has no wings, not while she’s here.”

Max looked at him for a moment before it clicked. Then she was running, as she left she heard Samuel speak again but she didn’t hear what he said. The repeat of ‘she has no wings’ in Max’s head drowned out everything. The crack of thunder behind her barely reached her ears and as the door to the dorm building swung shut behind her the first drops of rain started to fall.

When she got to the roof Kate was standing a step or two back from the ledge looking out over the courtyard. The door clicked shut behind her and Kate turned to look at her. “You can’t stop me Max, there’s nothing left for me here, nothing matters anymore…”

“You matter!” Max stepped towards her slowly, she didn’t want to spook Kate into taking the step backwards. “And not just to me, you’ve got friends at Blackwell. Let us help, like we’ve been helping by erasing all the crap people have been writing on your white board.”

“I’m glad to hear you guys worry about me, that makes me feel better.” Kate nodded sounding a little less dead inside and more like she was on the verge of tears.

“Of course we worry Kate, we’re your friends!”

“I do feel better when I talk to you on the phone, or over tea.” Kate nodded wrapping her arms around herself. “I always feel like you really listen.”

“Kate please trust me, come stand with me okay?” Max held her hand out to Kate as she took another step forward.

“Why? You’ve been telling me to do nothing!” Raindrops scattered from Kate’s hair as she shook her head. “The other day when I asked you if I should go to the police you said to just wait!”

“We needed proof Kate.” Max could feel her voice shaking as her hand dropped back to her side. “The police almost never do anything unless there’s undeniable proof, I’ve been asking around trying to find some. Most people aren’t talking but I do have leads. I think Nathan drugged you but I still need to find some solid evidence against him.”

“Nathan Prescott? That would make sense, he’s a scumbag.”

“Think of it like we’re cleansing Blackwell, we just need to find the evidence then straight to the police.”

“Thank you Max, that’s the first time I’ve felt hopeful in a week.” There was an almost smile on Kate’s face when she looked back up at Max but it was gone in a heartbeat. “Find proof seems like asking for a miracle though and I don’t think I believe in those anymore.”

“But now I do, and you’re one of the reasons why. Come down with me and I can tell you more.”

“You’re such a good person Max, even if you’re full of crap.” Kate’s foot inched forward as she spoke. “But I’ll come with you, you’re my friend.”

“Forever.” Max stepped forward and held out her hand to Kate again. “Can we hug on it?”

Kate didn’t say anything else she just collapsed forward into Max’s waiting arms. They both collapsed to the ground Kate clinging to Max like a life line. Max murmured comforting words into Kate’s ear as she held close. When security got to the roof that’s how they found them, Kate still clinging to Max and Max stroking her back. A quick twenty questions and a dozen promises to visit Kate in the hospital as soon as she could later Max found herself sitting in the office being practically interrogated. The principle sat behind his desk glaring across at her and Nathan Prescott, one of the security guards stood to the right side of the desk, and Mr Jefferson stood at the opposite side of the desk.

“Why were you on the roof in the first place Ms Caufield? Did you know she was going to jump?” The principle glared at her as though she’d been up there to push Kate.

“I saw her run past the classroom and thought she might need someone to talk to.” Max glared right back, she’d told this to the security team and the principle already when she gave a statement. “It’s just pure luck I got there in time.”

“She did leave class early and without permission, though she didn’t explain why at the time.” Mr Jefferson said, also not for the first time.

“Do you have any idea why Miss Marsh would attempt such a thing?” The principle’s glare hadn’t gotten any less and Max was starting to wonder if that was actually just his face.

“Something happened at the vortex party she went to, we think she was drugged, plus there’s the video going around,” Max turned her glare on Nathan. “Not to mention the constant harassment and bullying from most students.”

“Why hasn’t she gone to any authorities then if she suspected being drugged?” Max wasn’t sure which of the adults asked the question so she leveled her gaze at the principle.

“By the time she suspected it it was long enough after that any drugs would be gone from her system, and any other tests would have turned up nothing for results. Typically even with evidence cases like her’s tend to be ridiculed and ignored.” Max shrugged. “We decided to wait until we had tangible proof, instead of just other people’s statements.”

“What are you trying to insinuate about the Vortex club?” Nathan snapped at her. “That we just go around willy nilly drugging possible members?”

“Just that drugs are readily available at Vortex parties, I’ve got plenty of sources to confirm that.” Max snapped and was halfway to saying more, Nathan looked ready to explode as well but Mr Jefferson stepped in.

“Look, we’ve all had a long day. I think it’s best if everyone takes some time to think things through before we go throwing accusations at each other.” Max turned back to see him look at the principle. “Everyone needs time to calm down.”

“Yes, we’ll get to the bottom of all of this later.” The principle nodded looking around at everyone. “Mr Prescott you will be suspended for the duration of this investigation on the grounds that you are supposed to be in charge of these parties and the club, regardless of the possibility of drugs the video did happen at one of your parties. Mr Jefferson you should have noticed that something was wrong, especially as she was one of your students who often stayed late to help. Mr Madsen, you and I will be investigating this matter further starting tomorrow. Lastly Miss Caufield the school owes you it’s thanks, you saved a life today.”

“You’ll hear from my father about this.” Nathan snarled it as he stormed out and Max could have sworn saw the principle almost flinch.

She shrugged off both Mr Madsen and Mr Jefferson on her way out of the office. It wasn’t their company she wanted or their help she needed. Her first thought was to go visit Kate but she doubted they’d be letting anyone but family in this early and she didn’t want to impose. It didn’t even occur to her that her feet had their own idea of where she should go until she reached the main green space at the front of the school. Of course she’d automatically walk towards the bus, the diner was currently the only place in this town that made sense to her.

Max paced around the green space trying to decide if it was worth the possibility of running into Chloe after their little fight, she still hadn’t really had a chance to process that Chloe had been dating someone. Just as she was about to decide against going a girl ran up to her. The girl looked about her age, maybe a bit older and with longer blonder hair.

“You must be Max, the one I’ve heard so highly of from Chloe lately. You really haven’t changed your look since you were a tween huh?” The girl gave her a smile that had the hair on the back of Max’s neck standing up. “The suddenly speaking highly of you is a bit odd considering up until now all I heard about you was ‘oh that’s Max she was really cool right up until she moved away and stopped talking to me’ and that was only because I asked about a photo.”

“And you are?” Max raised an eyebrow, she couldn’t tell if the girl actually disliked her or was just really bad at talking to people.

“I’m hurt, surely Chloe has talked about me?” The girl pressed a hand to her chest, a bit over dramatic in Max’s opinion. “I’m Rachael, Rachael Amber. Chloe might have referred to me as her angel.”

“Nope sorry.” Max shook her head looking at Rachael, she had to admit she was a little curious. Judging by the way this conversation seemed to be heading she’d guess that the Rachael was the one who had been on the phone with Chloe the other day. “Are you the one she used to date? She doesn’t really talk about you much.”

“We’re just on a break, we disagreed about some silly little thing and Chloe freaked out. You must know how she gets.” Rachael shook her head. “If she’s not talking about me then she must truly be heartbroken over the whole thing.”

“Uh-huh.” Max said just waiting, she’d seen the girl around campus but Max wasn’t exactly someone her kind of person just started talking to out of the blue.

“Oh darling you don’t need to look so worried, I didn’t come over to bother you really.” And Rachael looked so sincere that Max almost believed her, at least until she kept talking. “I just came over to warn you. Chloe’s bound to loose interest soon and come back to me. You’re just a rebound.”

“Chloe and… wait rebound?” Max tilted her head as she looked at Rachael and almost burst out laughing when it clicked what was being implied. “You think we’re sleeping together? Haven’t you heard of friendship before?”

“Of course I’ve heard of it, you’d have to think I was hella dense to believe I’d really not known friendship was a thing.” Rachael looked almost offended but there was something else in her expression that made Max think she might have no even thought of that as a possibility. “In any case you’re just her latest plaything, she’ll get tired of you eventually. You might as well leave first, then at least you might save some of your dignity.”

“No.” Max shrugged. “Maybe we fight sometimes, and yeah it was a dick move not to try harder to keep in touch, but we’re friends. I’m not just going to ditch her on the off chance she might get tired of me.”

“Wow, you’re hella more dense than I’d figured.” Rachael’s expression was closer to a sneer now. “Little hipster bullshit like you doesn’t belong anywhere near a punk like Chloe, back off before you get hurt.”

Max was still trying to process if she should take that as a threat or not when she heard the voice she least wanted to hear at that moment.

“Wow Max you sure know how to pick your friends huh?” Victoria Chase, queen bitch of Blackwell Academy. “First the punk and now this,” The up and down that Victoria gives Rachael is far from friendly. “Someone really needs to give you a lesson on what kind of people you want to be seen around.”

“Yeah you and everyone else apparently.” Max muttered but she wasn’t certain Victoria even heard her as Rachael spoke.

“Wow for once the Queen B says something that I agree with.” Rachael’s sneer had been turned on Victoria from the moment she spoke and Max was getting the feeling she’d walked into the middle of something far bigger than just people not wanting her and Chloe being friends.

“Anyone ever tell you you’re just a bit of a control freak?” Victoria smirked crossing her arms. “And you don’t even have the fashion sense to pull it off, soft punk was so three years ago.”

“Some of us have enough of a personality that we don’t need to distract people with pretty clothes.”

“A personality? Is that what they’re calling it these days?” The laughter that followed the statement sounded so real it caught Max off guard but Victoria’s smile looked almost as deadly as a knife. “Last I checked you were nothing more than a chameleon.”

The implications went over Max’s head but from the way Rachael bristled whatever they were they hit a nerve.

“Still better than only having friends because of my money.” From the look on Rachael’s face she thought she’d struck the final blow.

“If that’s what you think of my friends than I pity you.” Victoria sneered and looped her arm through Max’s. “My friends like me despite anything they might not like, unlike yours.”

Rachael was radiating fury but Victoria didn’t give her a chance to reply again as she dragged Max back towards the school. Max didn’t speak while they walked, this day had been to long already and of all the things she had been prepared to day with this afternoon getting possibly threatened by Chloe’s ex and having Victoria of all people come to her rescue were not any of those things.

“So not friends then?” Max blinked when Victoria spoke to her looking around, they were in some clearing or another in a wooded area, likely near the dorms. “Earth to the hipster, you and Rachael? I’m assuming based on that that you’re not friends.”

“Not at all.” Max shook her head as Victoria let go of her and sat down leaning against a tree. Max sat down where she’d been let go of, though sat down was a kind description fell would be a better one. “In fact I think she might want me dead?”

“Not her style, just out of the way.” Victoria shrugged.

“You two know each other then?” Max guessed and almost wished she hadn’t asked when Victoria glared at her.

“It’s a long story.”

“I know the feeling.” Max nodded looking up at the sky, mostly to avoid Victoria’s glare. “I’ve got a few of those myself.”

“You and the punk?”

“Yeah that’s the longest story I’ve got.” Max looked back at Victoria with a small smile. Whatever Victoria saw in her expression she just nodded.

The two of them sat in silence for a while, Max looking around at the scenery and Victoria mostly looking at Max.

“So Rachael Amber’s kind of a dick huh?” Max said after the silence started to feel strained.

“A bit yeah.” Victoria laughed and Max felt the tension unknot itself from her chest. The conversation flowed easily after that, mostly Rachael Amber stories from Victoria but there was the occasional story from Max about Seattle and what it was like. When it started getting dark they headed back to the dorms parting as they neared the crowds without really needing to discuss it. There were some people it just wouldn’t do to be seen around. It had been a long day but Max wouldn’t complain about how it all turned out.

Chapter Text

Chloe grinned practically bouncing in her seat as she drove up to Blackwell. She’d been planning this for days, ever since Max over heard that stupid call with Rachael. It had taken a day and a half of sucking up to convince the step-douche that she wasn’t up to no good. Then it had just been a matter of waiting until Friday because there were no classes the next morning. Nicking step-douche’s keys to the school had been even easier than she’d thought with him not watching her every move. She left late, late enough she was honestly worried Max might have fallen asleep already. Especially as Max still wasn’t answering her texts. That wasn’t going to bring Chloe down though! This plan was going to work and then Max wouldn’t be mad anymore! At least that’s what Chloe told herself as she parked her truck and headed towards the dorms.

Just as she was turning the corner towards the dorms she saw Max and was just about to bound over to her when she realized who she was sitting with. Well if it wasn’t the prep queen Victoria Chase. Only where did she get off sitting so friendly with Max. Chloe paused, to far away to hear but she could see them well enough. The two of them were sitting on the bench just outside of the dorms. Victoria was sitting primly as she did whenever Chloe had the misfortune of running into her. The way Max was sitting though felt like a punch for Chloe’s gut. Max was siting with her legs crossed on the bench facing Victoria and she looked more relaxed than Chloe had seen her in years. Chloe was just about to slip away and abandon her plan altogether when Victoria looked up and nodded towards her saying something to quiet for Chloe to hear. Max turned towards her and smiled slightly. Chloe couldn’t hear what she said to Victoria as the two of them got up but whatever it was it made Victoria laugh before they parted.

“I didn’t think you’d come.” Max said once she was close enough that Chloe could hear her voice clearly.

“Course I came, I said I was going to come.” It took everything Chloe had not to scuff her shoes under Max’s gaze. The possibility that Max was still furious and Rachael hadn’t followed through on her promise to fix it seemed much more likely now that Max was in front of her. “So uh, you and Victoria then?”

“It’s a long story.” Max chuckled like the words were a joke but Chloe must have missed the punch line. “Never mind, what’s the big surprise you wanted to show me?”

“Ah right.” Chloe nodded and fished the keys out of her pocket and held them up for Max to see. “The keys to your little world. Want to break into the pool with me?”

“Chloe,” Max sighed sounding almost disappointed.

“Come on Max it’ll be just like when we were kids, you and me running off where we aren’t supposed to and having fun.” Chloe gave her her best puppy dog eyes.

“You’ve always been awful at puppy dog eyes.” Max’s smile flickered across her face despite her tired eyes.

“And they always worked on you anyway.” Chloe said mostly hoping it was still true.

“Yeah.” Max nodded looking away and for a moment Chloe held her breath thinking Max was about to send her home. “Yeah okay let’s do it.”

“Yeah!” Chloe punched the air before grabbing Max’s hand and dragging her off towards the school’s pool. “Mad Max and Chloe back in action!”

After a couple seconds of fumbling with the keys Chloe opened the door and gestured for Max to enter. Once they were in she turned to Max with a grin. “So, boy’s or girl’s?”

“Girls duh? Why would I want to go into the boys change room?” Max shook her head and Chloe laughed.

“Of course.” She led the way through the change room and while Max was poking around and looking at things she headed into the pool area. Then she remembered something and stuck her head back into the change room. “Hey Max! See if you can find the lights for the pool while you’re poking around!”

Max called back an affirmative and Chloe went out to test the water. She grinned as she ran a hand through it, it was even warmer than she’d hoped. A few minutes later she heard a switch flip and the pool lights lit up.

“Max does it again.” She murmured grinning at the pool, she pulled off her shirt and pants with ease revealing the bikini she had on beneath them. Sometimes planning ahead was actually useful.

“Feel better now?” Max asked from closer behind her than she’d expected and Chloe jumped, stumbled, and landed in the pool. When she got her legs under her and surfaced Max was practically doubled over laughing.

“Oh sure, scare me then laugh at me.” Chloe pouted up at Max. Which was when she noticed that at some point Max had changed into a swimsuit of her own. She looked down at the water before Max caught her staring.

“You’d be laughing to if you’d seen the look on your face.” Though she was no longer laughing it was still obvious in her voice.

“Yeah okay, you going to join me in here or what?” Chloe rolled her eyes. “It’s warm I promise.”

“Kawabunga!” There was another laugh, and then there was a splash and Max was next to her in the

“Really Max? Kawabunga?” Chloe splashed towards Max with a laugh.

“Well it’s what all the cool kids say in Seattle.” Max splashed back with a smirk.

“If you were so cool in Seattle why’d you come back to this place?” Chloe leaned back staring up at the ceiling. “No one’s cool here, unless I guess if you count the Vortex club but I wouldn’t call them cool as much as I’d call them rich.”

“Well for one Seattle didn’t have Blackwell.”

“Really you came back to this hell hole of a town for a school?” Chloe looked up with an eyebrow raised.

“And Seattle didn’t have you.” She said it so quietly that if Chloe hadn’t seen her mouth move she would have assumed she’d imagined Max’s voice.

“Oh,” It was all Chloe could manage for a second or two but it was a long enough pause for Max to get that worried look on her face. “Well of course you’d come back for me, I’m pretty great if I do say so myself.”

“Yeah okay I see your ego hasn’t changed a bit.” Max splashed more water her way and Chloe splashed back laughing.

Which of course led to a splashing war which only ended when the both of them tired out enough that they leaned against the edge of the pool. It was followed by a few minutes of comfortable quiet between the two of them. It was Max in the end who broke the silence.

“So your girlfriend isn’t my biggest fan.”

“I told you we broke up, wait, what?” Chloe turned slightly so she was facing Max. “She talked to you?”

“Yeah came all the way to Blackwell to tell me to stay away from you.” Max nodded still staring at the wall opposite them rather than looking at Chloe.

“But you’re still here.”

“Really?” Max looked over at her with a small smile but it was the most unreadable expression Max had shown her yet, Chloe felt a pang in her chest. She’d never missed the days when they could speak through facial expressions alone more. “When has one or two people’s opinions ever made us not hang out together?”

“Yeah but I mean,” Chloe took a breath and looked up at the ceiling trying to put her jumbled thoughts into words. “Rachael can be awfully convincing.”

“I go to Blackwell Chloe, I went to most of middle and high school in Seattle, I’ve dealt with worse than one angry ex of yours.” The matter of fact way she said it made Chloe look at her again but there were still no answers on Max’s face, she probably picked up that trick in Seattle too.

“Speaking of ex’s?” Chloe wiggled her eyebrows at Max grinning suddenly.

“Hell no.” Max shook her head. “I had some friends but there was no one I dated.”

“Seriously?” Chloe rolled her eyes. “Seattle apparently has hella bad taste if no one dated you.”

“Don’t hate Seattle to much Chloe, people asked I just never said yes.” Max laughed shaking her head.

Chloe wasn’t entirely sure how to respond to that admission, her thoughts on the matter were getting more jumbled by the second.

“Come on, the pool feels like it’s getting cold and we should split before security makes their rounds.” And points to Max for once again being the one who knew how to break the silence.

“Yeah come on.” Chloe nodded and turned so she could pull herself out of the pool.

They got dressed and slipped out the side door just as the security came through the front shouting questions. Chloe grabbed Max’s hand again dragging her to the truck and they were speeding away from the school before security had a chance to get to the parking lot.

“So wanna crash at mine tonight?” Chloe grinned looking over at Max to see a completely unreadable look on her face. “What did the chlorine wash out all my dye or something?”

Max shook her head and a smile replaced whatever the other expression had been. “Not all of it no, and yeah I’ll crash at yours, I can’t exactly go back to the dorm dripping wet and smelling like chlorine.”

Which is how the two of them ended up sneaking back in and passing out in Chloe’s bed still damp and smelling like chlorine. Laying there as Max’s breathing slowed and evened out made a smile drift across Chloe’s face. For a moment it felt like they were kids again. Maybe they'd even make pancakes or something together in the morning.

Chapter Text

“Do you want waffles or pancakes?” It was Chloe’s voice that woke Max up the next morning, the question quiet and trailing in that way that made Max think Chloe had probably been talking for a while.

“Hmm?” Max blinked a few times as the ceiling came into focus and her brain processed the question. When she turned her head to look at Chloe she was just looking at Max and waiting for an answer. “Pancakes are always good.”

“Pancakes it is then.” Chloe nodded and shifted slightly, more of a resettling than an attempt to get out of bed. “In a bit though.”

Max let out a huff of breath that was nearly a chuckle as she tucked herself more comfortably into the bed. It only took a few moments of peace before Max’s fingers were itching to capture it in a photo. She picked up the camera and felt a sudden warmth behind her as Chloe shifted so they would more easily fit into the photo. At least Max convinced herself that was the reason Chloe was suddenly spooning her and resting her chin on Max’s shoulder. The flash and click of her camera was a familiar noise by now and the photo printed out. Max grinned as she held it out to Chloe.

“I approve.” Chloe chuckled settling back again, though there was distinctly less space between the two of them now.

“Good, because I intend to keep it regardless.” Max tucked the photo and camera both back into her bag.

“That’s hella harsh Max.” Max didn’t have to look at Chloe again she could hear the pout in her voice.

“Yeah yeah, you’re supposed to get the last say.” Max shook her head and sat up halfway, her grin almost a smirk as she looked at Chloe. “Only for what goes in the family photo album though.”

Chloe let out a dramatic sigh but didn’t argue the point. Then rolled to the side and into a sitting position with her feet on the ground. “You can grab whatever out of my closet if you don’t want to smell like chlorine.”

“Thanks.” She rubbed the back of her neck before tucking the photo into her bag, it would go into her journal later. “I hadn’t wanted to ask.”

“I mean my stuff might be a bit big on you but it’s better than stuff caked in chlorine right?” Chloe stood up and smiled at Max before heading towards the door. “I’ll go get started on pancakes while you change yeah?”

“Sure.” Max nodded standing up to look in the closest while Chloe walked out of the room and down the stairs. The closet was full of clothes that were very Chloe, though not very much like what Max normally wore. Of course all she normally wore was deer themes t-shirts and jeans. After a moment of deliberation she pulled a button up plaid shirt and a pair of jeans out of Chloe’s closet and sipped into them. The jeans weren’t a bad fit but she had to roll up the arms on the shirt and even buttoned up it was still clearly at least two sizes to big.

When she got downstairs Chloe took one look at her and started snickering. “Max, you could have picked anything out of that closet.”

“This works though.” Max looked down at her outfit a small smile growing herself, the shirt really did look silly done up when it was so clearly to big.

“Come on dude step out of your comfort zone, embrace your wild side or whatever the kids say these days.” Then Chloe grinned and stepped away from the bowl she was mixing and towards Max. “I know! Kiss me, I dare you.”

“What?” The word was more like a strangled squeak than a word.

“Double dare you.” It was Chloe’s grin that did it. The grin that was equal parts challenge and certainty that Max wouldn’t. So of course Max stepped closer and kissed her, just a quick peck on the lips. Chloe stepped back and blinked at her. “Damn, fine you’re embracing the wild side, now please go put on something else. At least a tank top under so you can wear the shirt unbuttoned.”

“Yeah yeah whatever you say.” Max waved a hand but went back upstairs and did just that, found an old tank top in the back of Chloe’s closet that fit her well enough and went back downstairs.

“Much better.” Chloe nodded from her position by the stove once Max came back into the kitchen.

As Chloe made the pancakes Max set the table and they had one of the conversations where they talked about nothing consequential at all as they moved around each other. It wasn’t long until they were both sitting at the table and stuffing pancakes into their mouths. It took until they were both nearly finished eating before Max remembered she’d intended to go visit Kate today.

“Drive me somewhere?” Max asked quietly looking up from the remainder of her pancakes.

“Yeah sure, where you need to go?” Chloe looked curious more than anything as she put down her fork, clearly sensing a change in the atmosphere.

“The hospital.” Max pushed the last few bites into a pile and put her fork down. “I need to pay someone a visit.”

“What is someone dying?” It was clearly meant as a joke but despite the smirk and raised eyebrow there was just a bit of worry in Chloe’s eyes.

“No, not much chance of that anymore.” Max shook her head leaning back in her chair and looking out the back windows.

Chloe didn’t respond to that and Max didn’t look up to see what her face was doing, she didn’t really think she wanted to know. Neither one of them really spoke again aside from a half started and abandoned conversation about the weather as they went out to Chloe’s truck.

By the time they arrived at the hospital Max almost welcomed the six rounds of paperwork and explanation that came with trying to get in to visit a patient. Yes she was a friend, yes she knew the rules, yes blah blah blah. Eventually they made it past the desk and upstairs to Kate’s room.

“Hey Kate.” Max smiled at the girl in the bed as she walked through the door, Chloe leaned against the wall beside the door looking decidedly uncomfortable. “You were still a bit out of it last time I was here, so I figured I’d visit again.”

“Hey Max.” Kate smiled setting aside a pad of paper that Max was thrilled to see had bright and colourful drawings on it.

“This is Chloe.” Max gestured towards her and Kate sent a smile in her direction, Chloe just nodded without uncrossing her arms.

“Your childhood friend?” The smile Kate gave her radiated warmth and Max couldn’t help but return it as she nodded. “Good, I’m glad you finally got around to talking to her again.”

“Yeah me too.” Max nodded and sat in the free chair between Kate’s bed and the window. “Mostly I came by to update you on everything that’s been happening at school, I doubted they’d thought to send you reports or anything.”

“Yes everyone has been rather quiet on the news front.” Her nod was almost sad but her smiled was still warm as she gestured to the shelf covered in flowers and cards. “Lots of well wishes though, most of them from the same people who’d been sharing the video and laughing at me.”

“Some people are like that I guess, you probably scared them more than a bit.” Max reached out and Kate squeezed her hand. “Maybe they’ll think it through more next time something like this happens.”

“I hope so.” Kate grinned and pointed to her sketchpad with her free hand. “Did I tell you I’m planning on writing a children’s book? It’s going to be about bullying.”

“That’s great Kate!” She grinned squeezing Kate’s hand gently, thrilled that Kate seemed to be working her way back to optimism. “So what do you want to hear about first?”

The question seemed to give Kate pause for a moment before she decided with a nod. “Start at the beginning.”

“Alright.” Max nodded and took a breath trying to organize everything that had happened at school in the last couple weeks into a discernible order. “After I got you off the roof Nathan got suspend and the principle and Mr Madsen started investigating, the police got involved after Mr Madsen confirmed the drugs theory. The Vortex club got shut down due to the drugs and in part the video and the principle said it wont open again until they can ensure the removal of all drugs. Once the police were there girls started coming forward with stories about Nathan or Mr Jefferson or both sometimes.”

“Did you?” Kate raised an eyebrow at her but Max just shook her head. A small frown formed on Kate’s face but Max just kept going with her story.

“Didn’t need to, the weird favoritism thing was barely anything compared to some of the stories the others were coming forward with.” Max shrugged. “So he was fired and is currently under investigation by the police for possibly being involved with the drugs going around at the vortex club parties. Nathan’s almost done his suspension but wont be allowed back to school until after he’s gotten counseling or something, we’ll see just how much influence his father has soon.”

“Good, Nathan needs help.” Kate nodded her smile coming back again. “I’m glad it’s all getting sorted out.”

From there the conversation drifted to class work and possibilities for new photography teachers and the more normal kind of school drama news. Chloe eventually moved from the doorway to the chair on the other side of Kate, though she didn’t join in on the conversation. In the end it was the arrival of Kate’s dad that stopped their conversation.

“So Kate’s dad seems to like you.” Was the line that Chloe used to start the conversation once they were heading back out to the car.

“Yeah.” Max rubbed the back of her neck as she got in. “He’s under the impression that I’m some kind of hero.”

“From what they said you stopped Kate from jumping off the roof.” Chloe climbed in and tapped on the steering wheel for a moment before shaking her head and starting the car. Whatever she might have been thinking going unsaid. “You should probably go back to school, you’ve got classes today right?”

“Yeah, I mean I’ve missed English and photography but with Mr Jefferson being fired and Ms Hoida still being out sick those aren’t exactly important classes anymore.” Max said leaning against the door and watching the scenery blur as they headed back to town and Blackwell.

Chapter Text

It wasn’t until the day after Chloe had dropped Max back off at school that her brain finished processing the conversation they’d had in the pool. In particular what Max had said about Rachael coming all the way to Blackwell to tell Max to stay away from Chloe. That was in fact the first thought she had when she woke up that morning, it might have even been what woke her up.

It only took her a dozen minutes to get ready and be out the door and into her truck headed towards the one place she knew Rachel would be. Another couple minutes and she pulled up to the junkyard, home away from home. She cut the engine and got out, she couldn’t see anyone else but that meant very little. She walked easily through the abandoned cars and junk until she got to the room she and Rachel had set up as a club house of sorts. She settled onto one of the chairs to wait.

It took less than an hour before Rachel walked into the clubhouse, looking for all the world like she’d won something. “Chloe! It’s been a hella long time hon!”

“What did you say to Max?” Chloe frowned up at Rachel.

“Nothing much,” Rachel shrugged her expression flickering for a moment. “I just warned her that she might end up hurt hanging out with a punk like you. She’s not-”

“I wouldn’t hurt her.” The force with which Chloe said it surprised even herself. As did the fact that she was suddenly standing.

“You wouldn’t mean to of course.” Her tone was clearly meant to placate. “I just had to warn the kid that she was just a rebound, it-”

“Why would you do that? You said you were going to fix it not try and make it worse!”
“I was fixing it!” Rachel insisted holding her hands out towards Chloe. “She needed to know what she was getting into.”

“She knows already, we’re friends!” Chloe snapped forcing herself not to step towards Rachel. “We’ve been friends since we were tiny.”

“I just…” Rachel trailed off with a frown clearly trying to come up with some way to explain.

“You told Max to stay away from me! What was that-”

“You were supposed to come back to me!” Rachel snapped out, her decidedly calm expression breaking into something closer to distress. “That’s how this is supposed to work, when we fight you always come back!”

There was a moment of silence where Chloe just stared at Rachel unsure of how to respond. “That’s not how relationships are supposed to go Rach…”

“It was working.”

“It wasn’t Rach,” Chloe shook her head, crossing her arms in an effort not to reach out to Rachel. “If it was working we would have fought hella less than we did.”

“You were supposed to be mine, it would have worked out if miss deer in the headlights hadn’t shown up all of a sudden.” Rachel stared at the ground looking like she was debating between crying and kicking the dirt. “I was the only one in this town you cared about.”

“Rach we can’t base our entire relationship around being the only tolerable people in town.” Chloe shook her head before holding out a hand. “Look we can still be friends if you think you can manage that, Max coming back doesn’t mean I’m never going to talk to you again.”

The look on Rachel’s face as she looked at Chloe’s hand wasn’t something Chloe could read, then Rachel looked up at her and the expression was more like disgust. “I don’t need your pity, I already have plenty of friends!”


“Don’t you ‘Rach’ me! Go hang out with your little hipster toy. Hope it was worth it for you.” Rachel sneered at her before whirling around and storming off.

Chloe threw her hands up in the air, talking had never been their strong point really. Before she left the club house she fished a picture out of one of the drawers. A photo of her and Rachel laughing, it was just a little blurry and she was only barely in the frame of it. She tucked it into her back pocket.

The drive back into town wasn’t really long enough to sort out any of her feelings so Chloe just kept driving, it really shouldn’t have been a surprise to her when she ended up at Blackwell. The damn place seemed like the beginning and the end of everything lately.

Blackwell really was a nice campus, especially this time of year with the trees going more orange and red by the day. She’d only been wandering a few minutes when she heard laughter, the kind of laughter that used to make her flinch. The source wasn’t hard to find. Victoria and her friends were standing over some poor kid with a sketch book. It was a scene she’d seen what felt like a thousand times, from all sides of the interaction.

“Knock it off Victoria.” Max walked up with her arms crossed and Chloe ducked behind the nearest building not even sure why she was hiding.

“Oh come on Maxine-”


Victoria rolled her eyes and continued. “Max, you have to admit it’s a little funny. The boy is looking for a muse.”

“Yeah he’s an artist, they do that.” Max’s expression was almost relaxed. “Chill out Victoria, no one needs you adding extra misery to their lives.”

“Whatever Max.” Victoria rolled her eyes again and flounced off with her friends in tow.

“Thank you Max.” The boy stood up smiling at her. “Warren speaks highly of you but I didn’t put much stock in it.”

“You shouldn’t Warren’s a little full of it honestly.” Max shrugged and Chloe suddenly felt like she was intruding. She crept backwards until she was certain Max wasn’t going to look in her direction and then turned and walked quite quickly to a different part of the campus.

“Warren! Dude wait up!” A kid yelled as he ran past her towards one of the nerdier looking kids she’d seen around campus. Clearly they were both here for the science program. “Dude did she say yes?”

“What?” Warren, it had to be him, looked at the other kid more puzzled than anything. “Who?”

Chloe was almost out of earshot when the kid answered him. “Max! Man come on don’t tell me you didn’t even ask her, she’s not dating anyone just ask if she wants to go to the movie otherwise you’ll end up third-wheeling again.”

“Look man she’s still upset about the Kate thing and Victoria has been even more all over her than usual.” As Warren answered Chloe found the nearest tree and sat under it. Today was apparently a day for eavesdropping. “Next time I can talk to her without someone interrupting I’ll ask alright?”

“You’re sure you don’t want to ask someone else?” Chloe glanced over when she didn’t recognize the voice and saw that a girl had walked up, based on the arm around her waist she’d guess that was the girl Warren’s friend was dating. “I mean Max has ducked out on at least two of your invites.”

“Third times the charm?”

The girl rolled her eyes and her boyfriend shrugged. “Sure man good luck.”

The bell chose that moment to call everyone back to class and Chloe used the commotion to head back to the parking lot and leave campus. Now she was just going to have to think of a way to ask Max about the drama that seemed to be surrounding her on campus without letting it slip that she’d spent an afternoon spying on Max’s fellow Blackwell students.

Chapter Text

“Okay so now that the Kate thing is over and there aren’t any exams coming up soon I was wondering uh,” Warren paused for a moment taking a deep breath before speaking so fast it was all nearly one syllable. “My friend got tickets for four to this new movie that’s coming out this weekend and I was wondering if you wanted to come with me as my date please?”

“Uh,” Max glanced around the rapidly emptying classroom before sighing, she’d been hoping she would be able to avoid this conversation, forever ideally. “Look Warren-”

“You’re busy right? An exam in one of your art classes? Or some new classmate who needs saving. I get it.” He nodded but clearly did not get what she was trying to say. “Super girl gotta save the world and all that.”

“That’s not it Warren.” Max tucked the rest of her things into her backpack. “I’m going to say this as nicely as possible, you’re not my type. I don’t want to go out with you.”

“So maybe some other time?” The squeak in his voice would have almost made Max sympathetic if she hadn’t been in a bit of a rush to get back to her original plan of doing nothing for the weekend.

“Not anytime Warren, you’re a cool guy and I wouldn’t mind continuing to be friends but I don’t want to date you.” She swung her bag onto her back and started to walk away before stopping and looking at him once she was almost at the door. “Ask Stella, you guys actually have interests in common.”


Max nodded before walking off. Stella would be thrilled, she’d been throwing Max dirty looks every time Warren called her over for weeks. She didn’t really pay attention to where she was going, it wasn’t like she had anywhere to be now that classes were over for the day. It didn’t come as much of a surprise when she found herself in a nearly empty field at the edge between campus and one of the many forests. Well empty except the beer bottles of course. The sunset (when had it gotten so late?) reflecting off of the bottles was pretty enough that Max knelt to try and capture it in a photo.

“What are you up to?” The voice was too deep to be one of Max’s classmates and loud enough that it made her jump. It only took a second after locating the source of the voice to place his face, David Madsen, paranoid school security guard and Chloe’s step-dad.

“It’s just me Mr. Madsen.” Max called taking the few steps towards him so he could see her face in the rapidly dimming light

“Ah sorry Maxine, I thought you were one of the ones who normally hangs out around here.” He frowned glancing around her, as though perhaps whoever he was trying to catch was hiding behind her. “They’re constantly out here drinking and making a mess.”

“It’s just Max.” She held out the photo she’d taken after a second. “I was just getting a photo that’s all.”

“Almost pretty considering.” He gestured to the field.

“That’s what I thought too, hence.” Max gestured with the photo before tucking it into her journal for safekeeping.

“I know we’ve not seen eye to eye but you’re a good kid.” David nodded. “I think you’re a good influence on Chloe.”

“I’ve always thought of Chloe as the good influence to be hella honest with you.” Max shrugged looking around at the campus wondering idly if there was a reason for the abrupt subject change. “She’s always had my back, being friends with her was the best lesson on loyalty I could have hoped for.”

“Is that why you were so set on helping the Marsh girl?”

“Part of the reason I guess.” Max shrugged again trying to piece together how to explain. “Kate is good to everyone no matter what they’ve done to her, she deserved answers that’s all.”

“That’s all?” The look on David’s face was somewhere between disbelieving and flabbergasted.

“You’d be amazed what people will do on principle.” Max smirked slightly looking up at the clouds, plenty of people had done crazier things for their principles.

There was a moment of quiet before David spoke again. “Running up to the roof wasn’t something someone does on principle.”

“No that was friendship.” Max nodded, the gesture was as much in agreement as it was thoughtful.

“Well you keep out of trouble now, possibly find somewhere better than this area of campus to hang out.” David nodded as well before heading off again on whatever his patrol route for today was.

She did take his advice once he’d left though and headed back to the dorms, it was getting late anyway and the last thing she wanted to do right now was get caught breaking curfew. Almost all of the rooms had light spilling out of them along with muted conversations but there were few enough people in the halls that Max was able to get to her room without anyone stopping her. That was a luxury these days now that everyone, with few exceptions, saw her as a hero rather than as herself.

Max sat down at her desk to sort through the pictures she’d taken over the course of the day and to write in her journal about everything that had been happening lately. She’d just gotten to writing about her odd conversation with David when she heard her door creak open and then click shut. When she turned around Victoria was standing where even if the door opened no one would be able to see her and looking sheepish.

“You forget which room was yours again?” Max raised an eyebrow, she really couldn’t figure out what this relationship with Victoria had turned into. Clearly Victoria didn’t hate her anymore, any barbs she threw had lost their sting and she even occasionally talked to Max of her own volition but Max wasn’t sure if she’d call them friends exactly. They definitely didn’t act like friends when other people were around, in fact it was hardly any different than it had been before everything when others were around.

“Ha ha ha.” Under different circumstances the look on Victoria’s face might have been a sneer, if she hadn’t looked quite so tired. “If you must know I’m here because this is the last place people will look for me.”

“Because you hate me.” Max nodded and gestured for Victoria to sit on her couch. “Want a cup of tea? I was about to make some.”

“Uh,” Victoria frowned at Max for a moment before sitting and nodding. “Tea would be lovely.”

Max closed her journal flicking on her kettle on the way from her desk to the cupboard she kept miscellaneous dishes in to pull out two mugs and a couple of tea bags.

The silence stretched for a few minutes while the kettle started to boil before Victoria spoke again. “I don’t hate you you know.”

“That’s good, hating me would be a waste of energy.” Max said watching the kettle boil and pouring the steaming water into the mugs.

“I didn’t like you because Mr. Jefferson favored you so much.” Her hands wrapped around the mug Max put in front of her. “I didn’t realize he was such a creep.”

“Pretty much no one did.” Max shrugged sitting next to her on the couch.

“I was a jerk.”


A moment of silence followed before Victoria sighed. “I’m sorry.”

“Just do better next time.” Max looked at Victoria with a half formed smile. “Like maybe ask if the girl is okay when you find a video of her instead of sharing it and laughing.”

Victoria started at her for almost a solid minute disbelief clear on her face. “Aren’t you upset about how I acted towards you?”

“A little but I’ve heard worse than whatever your best material is.” Max glanced out the window before looking back. “Kate’s different, she always wants to see the best in everything. You and the others almost wreaked that for her.”

Quiet fell while they drank their tea, each lost in their own thoughts. Outside the sky finished darkening and the sounds of people moving through the halls decreased.

“Growing up I was always told I had to be the best.” Victoria’s voice was quiet when she started speaking again. “An A wasn’t good enough unless I was top of the glass, a gold medal was worth nothing if I wasn’t ahead of everyone else by a dozen points. I got good at tearing people down so I could get ahead. Until I got here.”

“Hard to be the most talented when everyone is used to being best huh?”

“Something like that, I thought I just needed to get better at making others fail.” Her fingers tapped against the nearly empty mug. “At some point I guess I stopped trying to get better myself.”

“You also picked the wrong department if you wanted to be the best.” Max set down her own mug. “The arts is subjective, the same four photos could be ranked eight different ways it just depends on who’s the judge.”

“Maybe that’s why I liked photography originally.” Victoria mused looking around at the photos tacked to Max’s walls. “It didn’t have a points system, not really.”

“Focus on that then.” Max stood up taking the two, now empty, mugs to her desk. Her phone vibrated in her pocket but she ignored it. “Forget the competition for a while, just focus on your art.”

“You know for a dweeb you give pretty good advice.”

“I’ve been talking to Kate a lot lately, guess she’s rubbing off on me.” Max chuckled leaning on her desk and looking at Victoria.

“She’s good.” Victoria looked down at her hands. “I sent a card but maybe I should go apologize in person, start trying to do better.”

“She’d like that I think.” Max said with a smile. “You know she’s writing a kid’s book about bullying, you should ask her about it.”

“Yeah, yeah I should.” Victoria stood up smiling back at Max. “Thanks, for the tea and the talk. You’re not so bad yourself.”

“Yeah I tend to grow on people once they talk to me.” Max said.

Victoria snorted waving as she left the room, headed to her own now that it was late enough no one would be looking for her. Max thumbed open her phone to see why it had vibrated and frowned at the message on her screen a pit forming in her stomach.

[Meet me at the dinner for breakfast tomorrow? We need to talk] -Chloe

Chapter Text

Chloe drummed her fingers on the table berating herself as she waited for Max to show up. Her text hadn’t had enough context, why did she pick the dinner, why was she already on her third cup of coffee, why had she arrived so early, what exactly was she going to say, why had she thought this was necessary-

“Good morning?” Max’s voice interrupted her thoughts and Chloe looked up to see an expression on Max’s face that she actually recognized, this wasn’t the first time Max had spoken. “Makes me feel a bit better that apparently you’ve also managed to freak yourself out.”

“Yeah…” Chloe trailed off as Max slid into the booth across from her.

“So whatever we need to talk about do you want to do that immediately or can we eat first?” Max said after a few minutes of silence.

“Uh, yeah food. We can food.” Chloe nodded looking down at the menu that she knew that Max knew that she’d had memorized since she was twelve.

“Good, I’m starving.” Max’s smile looked a little strained as they ordered waffles and Chloe realized Max must still be a nervous eater.

“I’m sorry…” Chloe muttered looking down at the table once the waitress who worked on her mother’s off days took the menus. “I didn’t mean to make you nervous, I just-”

“Thought texting the bare minimum would be fine and I’d just be able to fill in the blanks?” Max cut her off and Chloe nodded slightly, it wasn’t how she would have phrased it but close enough. “Contrary to popular belief I’ve never been able to read your mind Chloe.”

“I know I’m just really bad at this.” Chloe crossed her arms on the table and more or less sank into them.

“This?” Max prompted and when Chloe peeked up at her she had one eyebrow raised, the only hint that she was nervous, she’d always been good at hiding nerves.

“Talking about things.” She wasn’t even sure Max would be able to hear her muttering. “Like that it hurt when you stopped sending me letters or when I realized you’d been back for weeks and not told me or how awful I felt after you overheard the phone call with Rachel. That should all be over now by the way.”

The silence that followed her words stretched until she had to look up at Max, the second she did Max caught her eyes, the expression on her face wasn’t one Chloe recognized and she felt the knot in her stomach tighten. Just before the eye contact got uncomfortable Max looked down at her lap. “I’m sorry, I never intended to hurt you I just didn’t know how to help and I got scared.”

“I…” Chloe trailed off as the waitress brought their food, once she was gone Chloe fiddled with her fork. “I’m just glad you’re back, this place didn’t feel the same without you.”

“What about Rachel? Thought she was your angel after I left? At least according to her.”

“On the good days yeah but no one could replace you.” As Chloe said it she was torn between looking at Max to watch her reaction and looking away to avoid it. “Besides me and her are done, done done, I told her as much a few days ago. What she tried to do with you wasn’t cool and she doesn’t get to pick who I spent my time with.”

“I believe the term she used was rebound.” Max smirked slightly as she got to work eating her pancakes.

Chloe just groaned and rolled her eyes, the idea of Max being a rebound was in and of itself absurd. “I’m sorry about all that, Rachel and me being me and-”

“You don’t need to apologize for being you.” Max said shaking her head and sounding like she wanted to laugh. “You don’t need to apologize for Rachel either, not your fault she decided I was competition.”

Chloe chuckled and silence descended for a few minutes while she picked at her food and Max cleared her plate. A thousand ways to say what she wanted to ran through her head but she shrugged it off. It didn’t take long until Max was finished eating. Chloe pulled out a few bills and set them on the table. “Wanna get out of here?”

“And go where? The junkyard?”

“A walk?” Chloe suggested with a shrug. “We could head towards the beach?”

“It’s freezing out.” Max rolled her eyes but she was standing before Chloe could try and argue her point.

Chloe stood up and followed Max out the door, waving at the waitress as they left.

They’d been walking for a few minutes in silence when Max suddenly grabbed Chloe’s hand and tugged her off the sidewalk and into a patch of trees. “Hush look, there’s a deer.”

Chloe looked in the direction Max’s camera was now pointing and there was in fact a deer. Standing and looking vaguely in their direction, as they watched a butterfly landed on its nose. Then Max’s camera clicked and the deer bolted. Chloe glanced at Max. “Did you get it?”

“Yeah!” Max grinned and held up the photo for Chloe to see but Chloe was a little distracted by the hair falling across Max’s face and how gentle her fingers were on the photo and the ghost of the feeling of her hand in Max’s. The pause between them stretched and then suddenly she was talking.

“I’m hella bad at this Max and I’ve been trying to psych myself up for the last day or maybe longer and it’s not really working but I like you a hella lot, like think about kissing you like you.” She saw a dozen expression flash across Max’s face in the seconds after she spoke, the main one being disbelief. “Look I’m serious Max, I’m not just fucking with you. I’ve liked you for a long time I just… Well I thought I’d figured it out to late.”

“To late?” Max blinked still looking like she didn’t really trust her own ears.

“After you left, the way it hurt when you stopped writing.” Part of Chloe wanted to hide but she kept looking at Max, waiting for what she was saying to have an impact. “The way it felt, like I’d lost you, it made me realize that what I felt for you wasn’t entirely just friendship.”

“No.” The way Max said it felt like a knife in Chloe’s gut. Then Max started shaking her head and kept talking. “No, you’re, I’m not…”

“Max?” Chloe reached out towards her, her hand stopping just short of Max’s.

“But you…” Max was staring at Chloe’s hand like she wasn’t sure what it was. “You said I’m not…”

“I said you weren’t?”

“You snorted at Rachel saying I was a rebound.” Max said it so quickly it almost sounded like one word.

“That’s because you’re not.” Chloe touched Max’s hand lightly. “I don’t do flings to get over people anyway unless they know already that’s what it is but you wouldn’t be one even if I did.”

Max just took Chloe’s hand and turned it over, tracing the lines on her palm.

“Max?” Chloe reached out with her free hand and touched Max’s cheek, lifting her chin so she could see Max’s face. A dozen things to ask or say ran through her mind but one seemed a bit more pressing than the rest at the moment. “Can I kiss you?”

As Chloe waited for an answer she felt Max’s fingers intertwine with hers and then Max was kissing her and it was nothing like her carefully planned out scenarios but it was also exactly what she’d hoped for. When Max pulled back Chloe’s hand stayed on her cheek and Max’s eyes seemed to search Chloe’s face before she spoke softly. “I’ve wanted to do that for years.”

“We’re both fools.” Chloe chuckled resting her forehead against Max’s.

They stayed like that for several minutes until Max jumped up, tucking her camera back into her bag and tugging Chloe to her feet. “Come on, you said we were going to the beach.”

Later that evening Chloe found the photo Max had taken of the deer tucked into her coat pocket, it joined the one of the butterfly in her box of Max related items. This time though there was a caption, a line of little hearts drawn by Max.