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At Arm's Length

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It’s surreal to be here, sitting across from Mr Jefferson in a prison visiting room, nothing but a small table separating them. Her body is screaming at her to run. But there are things she needs to talk about, and the only person who would have believed her is dead.

Maybe Mr Jefferson won’t believe her, but he’ll know what she means when she says what she’s been through. And, to be honest, she doesn’t care if this asshole thinks she’s crazy.

“Max Caulfield,” he says.

God, just the sound of his voice is enough to make her shudder. She tries not to let it show. He’d love to know he has that kind of power over her.

There are guards in the room with them, she reminds herself. She’s safe.

“I have to say,” he says, “I was surprised when they handed me the visitor application form.”

“But you still filled it out,” she says.

He shrugs. “I was curious. And I can’t say I don’t miss seeing your doe eyes in my classes.”

God, he’s such a creep. Maybe it was a mistake to come here. She wishes she could turn back time and tear up every selfie she’s ever given him.

Not that turning back time has worked out great for her so far.

“So,” he says. “What can I do for you, Max?”

“You can listen,” Max says. “I’m here to talk about my time in your Dark Room.”

“Hey,” one of the prison guards says, frowning. “I’m sorry if he put you through that crap, but you shouldn’t be here if you’re one of his victims.”

“She’s not,” Mr Jefferson says, giving Max an odd look. “You saw it after I was arrested?”

“You put me there,” Max says. “You drugged me and tied me up and photographed me for your sick collection.”

Mr Jefferson considers her for a moment.

“Well,” he says eventually, “I can’t say this isn’t a flattering fantasy.”

“It’s not a fantasy,” Max says. “What I fantasise about is breaking your head open with a baseball bat. This is the shit you made me live through.”

“Then I must have injected myself,” Mr Jefferson says, “because I don’t remember this at all. And I must have destroyed the photographs, which I assure you I would never do. Not if you were my subject.”

“I don’t care if you believe me. You did this to me.”

“Seriously,” the guard says, “there are rules. You’re a victim, you can’t visit.”

This is a problem. She doesn’t want to get kicked out before she’s had a chance to get this off her chest. She takes a moment to try to think of a convincing lie, and eventually she decides the unconvincing truth will do.

“It’s okay,” Max says. “I turned back time and stopped it happening. But I still remember it.”

The guard stares at her for a long moment. “Well, fine,” he says, eventually. “Whatever. I guess there are no rules against that.”

Mr Jefferson raises his eyebrows. “I see. You get to enjoy modelling for me in the safety of your own mind, and then you undo it with time travel. You’re still going to claim this isn’t a fantasy?”

“Like you can judge other people for their fantasies, creep,” Max says. “I know it sounds like bullshit. It’s real.”

“So what is this?” Mr Jefferson asks. “Why did you come here? You want me to feel remorseful for something I never did?”

“I don’t care how you feel,” Max says. “You’re not important.” (He almost flinches at that, and holy shit it’s satisfying.) “I care how I feel. I feel like talking, and you’re going to listen to me because there’s nothing else you can do.”

-

“Max Caulfield,” Mr Jefferson says. “Again.” He sits down opposite her. “I’m only allowed eight visits a month, you know. As entertaining as it is to be lectured by a delusional girl, there are other people I might like to see.”

“And how many of them still want to see you?” Max asks. “Now that they know what you did?”

Mr Jefferson’s jaw tightens for a moment. “Well, you certainly seem eager enough.”

Max shrugs. “Therapy’s expensive.”

“I think you’re forgetting I’m not a teacher any more, Max. I no longer have to listen to every little problem of a bunch of whiny teenagers. It’s one of the few perks of being in this place.”

“So take me off your approved visitors list,” Max says.

She doesn’t know if she actually wants him to or not. She’s not sure these visits are good for her, but she can’t bring herself to stop coming here. She needs someone to take the decision out of her hands.

“Maybe if you start to bore me,” Mr Jefferson says. “I suppose you’re here to talk about your ‘experiences’ in my Dark Room again?”

She wanted to talk about Chloe today. To tell him he killed her friend. But she can’t bring herself to, not when she killed Chloe too.

He doesn’t deserve to hear about Chloe, anyway. He deserves to hear what a scumbag he is. “Do you even realise what you put any of us through?”

“Please. My so-called victims were barely conscious. Why does what happened matter if they can’t even remember it?”

“Wow,” Max says. “You’re right. You’re completely not evil.”

“It’s just one more reason everything you’ve been saying is nonsense,” Mr Jefferson says. “You wouldn’t remember any of this if you really had been one of my models, you know.”

“I think you drugged me less than you usually would,” Max says.

Mr Jefferson snorts. “Because you think you’re my favourite?”

“Because you were planning to kill me,” Max says. “I already knew too much. So you didn’t have to make sure I wouldn’t remember anything.”

Mr Jefferson sits up slightly. “You’re saying you were conscious during our sessions.”

“What’s this? I thought there were no sessions, Mr Jefferson.”

“There weren’t. Answer the question. You were awake?”

Max shrugs. “Kind of. Sometimes.”

“How was it? Tell me how it felt.”

The look in his eyes is definitely too eager. Max makes a face. “Not if you’re going to get off on it.”

“I don’t get off on – I’m an artist, Max.”

“Seriously?” Max asks. “You’re seriously trying to claim there was nothing sexual about what you were doing? I guess it’s a coincidence they were all girls, right?”

“I shouldn’t expect you to understand. You always were a mediocre student.”

It stings, and she’s furious with herself for it. She should be long past caring about his opinion of her.

“All I saw in that room was a sick asshole’s porn collection,” she says. “The slightly unconscious model is often the most open and honest? You’re so full of shit.”

Mr Jefferson frowns. “Where did you hear that? Did Kate tell you that?”

“You told me,” Max says. “When you’d tied me up to waste a load of film on your fucked-up fantasies.”

There’s a flash of real anger in Mr Jefferson’s eyes. “Don’t push me, Max.”

“Or what?” she asks. “What are you going to do to me?”

Mr Jefferson’s eyes dart sideways, to one of the guards supervising the room. He can’t lunge at her without being restrained, and they both know it.

Maybe that’s the reason she keeps coming back to talk to him. He offers her no sympathy. Little real understanding, or at least not the understanding she needs, looking at things through the eyes of the victim instead of the perpetrator.

So maybe it’s just that she needs the role reversal. Now she’s the one who gets to talk and know she’ll be listened to. He’s the one who’s helpless, nothing to fight back with but his words. And, if those words get too much for her, she can leave. She can get up from the table and walk out of the door, and he’s the one who’s trapped here.

He can try to toy with her, but she’s the one with the power now.

She tries not to take too much pleasure in that. If she compares herself to him for too long, she’ll start to feel weird.

Still. She wishes she could take a picture.

-

Mr Jefferson cracks a couple of visits later.

“How the hell do you know any of these things?” he demands. “Half of this didn’t come up in the trial. You’ve told me things about my philosophy I’ve never even mentioned to Nathan. How are you inside my head like this?”

It feels good to screw with his thoughts, but there’s a weird anxious suspense tightening Max’s throat at the same time. It takes her a moment to realise what’s wrong. It almost feels like he’s starting to believe her about the time travel. And Chloe is meant to be the one who believes her. Chloe and Warren, briefly, in one timeline. People who actually care about her. Not this fucker.

Her power was something important that she and Chloe shared. She shouldn’t have brought Mr fucking Jefferson in on the secret.

Mr Jefferson drops his voice, looking intently into her eyes. “Are these your thoughts, Max? I made a mistake when I chose Nathan. Maybe you could have been my successor.”

Fuck, no. This is so much worse than him actually believing her. Max pushes back her chair to stand up.

“Don’t—” Mr Jefferson reaches across the table to grab her wrist, and in an instant the guards are on him.

Max leaves without another word.

-

Three months later, she receives a letter from the Arcadia Bay Correctional Facility. All it says is ‘Visit again someday. I miss you.

She burns it.