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Okay. So you pretty much always wanted the hell out of Arcadia Bay. You didn't care where else you ended up, just... just as long as you got out of this fucking hick-hole. You hate the place. It cost you your father, your best friend since before you could remember. Everything.

But you're really not prepared to see it torn apart by a tornado. Or for how fucking sick the sight makes you feel. But you watch anyway, because Max... Max is pressing into your side and burying her face in your shoulder. Max, who somehow chose to keep you safe over an entire town of people, even if you would've understood, and would have liv-- died with that decision.

She's shaking so you pull her in tighter, and watch because Max can't. Because as much as you still hate the damn place, there are people in it that you don't hate, so maybe... maybe this is your atonement for being her first choice. To at least watch as they suffer, because as much as they matter to the one person who could – maybe – have stopped this, for some inexplicable reason, you matter more.

Jesus, what a mindfuck.

“Chloe.” Max startles so hard that it travels from her body and into yours, and then her head jerks up and her hands grabs tighter at your shoulders. “We have to move.”

You don't question it. Not with the way her voice is trembling or the way her eyes are flicking from one thing to the next. You just let her grab your hand and follow when she pulls, and somehow hear the snapping of wood over the howling wind. The rain stops lashing at you when you reach the relative shelter of the wooded hillside, and you wipe your face clear and look back to see a massive pine tree crash against the ground where the two of you stood just moments ago, then break with a loud crack and tumble down into the sea, along with half of the overlook.

“Shit.” Your heart is pounding against your ribs and it feels like you're choking on your own breathing, but Max's hand is still wrapped around yours in a white-knuckle grip and that manages to ground you. So you make a joke; one that's bad and based way more in adrenaline and panic and fear than seeing any actual humor in the situation – something along the lines of whether or not Max is keeping track of how many times she's saved your life at this point – and it isn't until several moments after you've said it that you realize that Max isn't smiling.

She's shaking, in fact – everywhere - and she must be trying to get it under control because her hand is gripping yours hard enough that it feels like she might just break it. She's bending forward and grabbing at her head with her face all screwed up, and the wind and rain and everything is way too loud for you to hear that she's hyperventilating, but you can see how fast her chest is moving and that's really all the clues you need.

“Hey.” You couldn't wrest your hand free if you set your boots against her stomach and pulled with all your might, so you grab her shoulder with the other one, instead. “Hey, hey; Max. Max!” She crumbles and you go with her and fuck, you're wishing that you'd eavesdropped a little longer that night when David was talking about PTSD and anxiety attacks, because you know enough to think this might be one, but not enough to know what the hell you're supposed to do to help.

“Max, look at me; okay?” Her face is ashen-fucking-white and her breathing is coming in shuddering gasps, and you try to be gentle when you cup her jaw and tug her face up, but her eyes are wide-open and focused on absolutely nothing and she is scaring the ever-loving shit out of you.

You force yourself to breathe because nothing good is going to come of the both of you freaking out, and if you have to be strong for Max right now, then damn it, that's what you're going to be, Price, so suck it up!

“Max.” Somehow, your voice sounds calm in spite of the total and complete freak-out that's happening inside of you, and you manage to keep your fingers from trembling when you brush her sopping hair back and try to will some focus into her eyes. “Hey; come back to me, okay? Everything's fine, I promise.” You're officially lying through your teeth, but the bruising grip on your hand is easing ever so slightly, and while Max's eyes remain way too wide and she's still gasping for air, her gaze is at least starting to move.

It's a panicked, way too fast flickering more than anything else, but it's a lot better than the chillingly still, empty look from earlier. And you really don't know if physical contact is good or bad right now, but having her face and hair touched doesn't seem to make Max freak out more, so you take a chance and tuck her head under your chin.

It's probably the weirdest looking hug ever; your left hand is clenched in Max's right, your right hand is curled around the back of her head and her left is fisting in the drenched fabric at your waist. She's also stiff as a board and still breathing entirely too fast for your liking, but you keep murmuring against her temple and stroking the back of her head and hope that you're doing some sort of good.

You must be, because after what feels like a minor eternity, she slumps against you so abruptly that you bite back a curse and have to catch yourself to keep from falling on your back in the mud. But you manage, and then everything else just disappears because Max is holding onto you for dear life and sobbing into your shoulder and fuck if you care about anything else in the world when your best friend is coming apart at the seams.

Honestly, you wish that you could do more; that you could just fucking fix this somehow and spare her all this bullshit. Hell, you could have done that – you gave her the damn picture – but Max vetoed that and there's a large part of you that'll keep reeling at that knowledge for a long while yet.

It doesn't keep you from wishing for some other way, but all you can do is hold her while she shakes in your arms, promise over and over that everything's gonna be okay, and hope that it's enough.