Give it another shot: Chapter 9
In any timeline
Someone was knocking the door. She could hear it over the rumbling of a fading nightmare, still tormenting her mind. The knocking became more emphatic, while she opened her eyes and wiped away the rest of the tears, still rolling down her cheeks. She noticed for the first time how uncomfortable she felt, lying in bed still with the jeans and t-shirt she wore the day before.
“Leave me alone, mom.” She said, her voice broken but clearly angry. “I don’t want to talk now!”
“Open the door, Chloe.”
Chloe sat on her bed almost immediately. That was Max’s voice and she sounded awful.
“What are you doing here?” Asked Chloe, with a sharp edge of anger.
“I need to see you, please” Said Max, her voice broken, cushioned by the door. “I’m coming in, you can’t stop me.”
Before Chloe could reach the door and hold it, Max entered the room. The girl closed the door behind her softly. She was wearing a gray hoodie and a dark, notched t-shirt. Over the neck of it, the white bandages hiding the scar of the gunshot were perfectly visible. Dark circles surrounded her reddish and puffy eyes, like she didn’t sleep at all.
“No, no, no!” Thought Chloe, boiling in anger. “You were supposed to leave, damn it! I don’t want you close to me, it’ll only make the pain worse! Why the fuck are you torturing me like this?!”
“Why are you here?” Chloe demanded, getting out of her bed and standing in front of Max, a challenging expression in her piercing blue eyes. “You’re here to give me the fucking killing blow?”
“Why didn’t you come yesterday?” Inquired Max. Her hands were shaking and in her voice there was a hidden tone of desperation. “I panicked, I didn’t know where you were… I called you thousands of times, I almost escaped the hospital to look for you. You can’t do that to me, I…”
“I can’t?!” Snapped Chloe. She could feel her heart race in her chest, the blood in her veins boiling, running like fire, heating her cheeks and her neck. “I’m not the one who is fucking leaving!”
Max opened her eyes in surprise for her outburst. Chloe’s fists were shaking, her face like a mask of anger and pain, as the tears came again.
“No, you listen!” The blue haired girl interrupted her, raising her voice.
“If you’re fucking leaving, the least you can do is hear what I have to say, damn it.”
“You can’t just come back, save my ass, tell me everything you did and just go away again like that. It’s unfair! I felt hope again, after months of desperation. Even with what happened to Rachel, and even if this sounds awful and selfish, I never felt so good since you left. Ever.”
“If I knew you’d abandon me again… If I fucking knew you were going to leave, I preferred you didn’t save me at all!”
Chloe could see how her words sank in Max as her sad expression muted. She looked so fragile, so weak and the pain in her factions was so strong that Chloe’s resolve almost flaked for a second. She felt Max’s pain like it was hers too, her heart aching at the sight of the smaller girl looking at her like that.
“I can’t hate you. Even now, I can’t hate you. I love you, damn it. I loved you since we were kids running in the backyard, pretending to be pirates. Even if you leave, even if you hurt me again I just… can’t. But I’m just so fucking pissed off right now…”
“So, if you came back just to make my fucking awful life last a little longer, you managed it. Congratulations!”
“Chloe, please stop…”
“Now, please, get the hell out of here. Go to fucking Seattle, with your fucking new friends, get married, get a dog, do whatever the fuck you want. But just leave for good!”
She started to cry, even if she didn’t want to. The tears just came and overwhelmed her.
“Get out.” She managed to say with a strangled voice, her gaze fixed on the floor, incapable of looking at the brunette in front of her.
“No, Chloe, you have to listen…”
She looked up and suddenly, both of them were staring at each other, utterly furious breathing hard. Max had grabbed Chloe’s arms with her hands, shaky and sweaty, in an outburst of fury. For a moment, Chloe feared her wound would reopen. She had to remember herself she shouldn’t care about it. She shouldn’t care about how Max’s touch burned either.
“Could you just SHUT THE FUCK UP and LISTEN for ONCE?!” Max blurted with anger. “You can’t just disappear like that! I was Fucking terrified! I saw you die so many times, I… I can’t lose you like that ever again, Chloe!”
Max hands were shaking, her eyes full of tears. She was the vivid image of desperation and fear, but Chloe didn’t budge. She felt like that pain was some kind of twisted joke, since she was the one who was supposed to be upset for being left alone again.
“Don’t give me that crap!” Replied Chloe, utterly furious. “I don’t want to listen to ANYTHING you have to say. Get away from me, dude! What the…”
Max made a step forward, grabbed Chloe’s face with both hands in a fast movement and their lips connected. Chloe froze, still like a rock the very moment she felt Max’s warm lips on her own, pushing hard and furiously. Her mind was in blank as her eyes wide open looked at the freckled girl kissing her. She felt the anger flow through her system and dissipate in half a second, as all her body relaxed together. She finally melted, incapable of holding back. She closed her eyes and returned the kiss as furiously as the brunette did.
Max was soft as silk, and yet warm as the sunlight. The smell of lavender soap and the scent of her bare skin were intoxicating and addicting, something Chloe didn’t imagine even in her wildest dreams. She felt something wet on her cheek, but she wasn’t sure if that were her tears or Max’s ones. She could see through her narrowed eyes both were crying.
Max dragged her closer, almost pulling her from her hair. The kiss became hungrier, pushier, as Chloe leaned in, opening her mouth and letting Max’s warm breath in with a soft and low moan. Chest against chest, Chloe’s arms surrounding Max as the brunette came even closer, balancing on her tiptoes.
Chloe was the first to pull back, just enough to catch oxygen with a noisy inbreath, resting her forehead against Max’s.
“Why?” She whispered. “What is this?”
“I’m not leaving.” Said Max. “That’s what I was meaning to tell you since I came here, Chloe. I’m not going anywhere.”
“What?” Chloe opened her eyes and stared at Max’s, only a few centimeters away. “But I heard you say, at the hospital…”
“I’m not leaving you. Ever.” Said Max, her voice strong and resolved. “The nurse told me you were there and… I don’t know what you heard but I don’t care what my parents say.”
“She… she told her parents? Amazeballs! This is fucking insane!”
“I’m not going to leave you ever again.” Max continued, her voice shaking. She swallowed audibly. “Everything that happened, happened for a reason. The only possible explanation I have for my power, is that got it because I was a coward and I didn’t save you as I should have the first time. And It let me fix it. This is destiny. I don’t need any more proof to know I’m where I must be now.”
Chloe’s heart was still racing, beating painfully against her ribs, her guts twisting and jumping, overjoyed, butterflies flying inside her, everywhere. Then, she felt pain. The same pain she felt that dark day at the cliff. The same pain that almost dragged her to the edge, the same pain that almost made her finish it all. A fear struck her suddenly. Something that didn’t consider since she realized how much she loved Max.
“When you left… I felt abandoned. I wanted to hate you for it. But I couldn’t. I was angry and did a lot of stupid things. I did stupid things to forget, to ignore the pain… but when I saw you in that bathroom… taking that shot for me like a goddamn hero I just… And then everything you had written in the journal, everything you went through, for me… I was such an idiot, I got you into so much trouble… Because that’s what I am. Trouble.”
Chloe sobbed, letting out all the agony she had anchored deep inside her.
“You are.” Said Max. And then, despite the tears, she smiled. A lovely, sweet and warm smile that made Chloe’s heart jump. “But I can choose. And if the past insane fucking weeks taught me something it’s that in any timeline, in any world and in any version of reality… I’d find you and I’d choose you. You’re my sidekick, you’re my companion, you’re my fucking best friend and… and I love you, Chloe Price. Nothing will change that.”
Chloe let go a shaky and relieved laugh.
“I love you too. I always did. Since we were kids. ”
Then, Max smiled and pulled her again for another kiss.
The rain kept falling, clashing against the walls and the glass of the window. Chloe’s room was warm, lit only by the Christmas lamps over the frame of the window and the ceiling. The sound of a slow guitar melody filled the air. She was lying on the bed, looking at the ceiling in silence, enjoying the last drag of her joint. The ashtray was resting on her belly, going up and down as she breathed softly. A lot of mixed memories and warm feelings floating in her mind, as she sighed, looking at the younger girl, not far away from her.
“So… you talked to your parents about…. this?” She asked, letting the smoke slip through her parted lips. She wasn’t sure how to tag them at this point. Girlfriends? Lovers? The term “friends” didn’t cut it any more. Not after that kiss.
Max, who was sitting on the desk looking through the steamy window, frowned her lips as she always did when she was thinking. They had been in comfortable silence for a while now, a notorious contrast with the furious argument that ended up in a confession that led to a proper make-out session.
“I did.”Said Max, giving her back to the window and looking straight at Chloe with an expression she couldn’t identify. “Mom freaked out, of course. I wasn’t expecting less, knowing her. Dad… Dad was always more open minded, at least.”
“But what did you tell them exactly?” Asked Chloe, extinguishing the joint in the ashtray and putting it away as she sat on the bed.
“I didn’t know for certain you’d feel like you do,” said Max, shrugging a little. “In other timelines I knew but… I also knew my power could screw up realities so bad that the people in them aren’t the same anymore. So I couldn’t be certain it’d be… the same.”
“What do you mean with that?” Insisted Chloe, frowning. “You wrote in the journal that I dared you to kiss me and you did… But nothing more. Did… something else happen that you didn’t write down?”
Max shook her head, and a visible chill ran down her spine as the rumble of a distant thunder scared her. The brunette looked through the window apprehensively.
“She’s… scared of the storm? She saw the tornado in the other timeline… maybe there is more to it that she’s letting out. That, the panic when I didn’t answer the phone… and the Dark Room.”
“Yeah… there was more.” Max wasn’t looking at her or anything else, just glancing into nothingness. It was obvious she didn’t want to talk about whatever happened to her, even if it involved Chloe.
“We don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to, Max.” Said Chloe, worried. “But… You know, you have nightmares and stuff… I see you shivering every single time you hear a thunder. You’re staying here for the time being, at least until you’re healed, but… I just need to know how to help you get better.”
“I don’t know if this is something I’d ever overcome, really” Said Max, her voice shaky. “That week was… something nobody could forget easily.”
“But you’re here now, Max. You fixed it.”
“And you’re alive and with me, I know.” Max nodded, as she was trying to convince herself of the veracity of her words. She sighed. “It’s not gonna be easy.”
Max bit her lip for a moment, looking for the right words to express herself.
“Let’s… start from where we left off… Friday was… hard to write down. First, I escaped the Dark Room after bouncing through a bunch of alternate realities, thanks to the photos I took.”
“I… saw what Jefferson did to Rachel.” Said Chloe. She could feel the blood heating up as she remembered the awful images the nightly news broadcasted a couple of days ago, while Max was still unconscious. “The news showed it. Did he…?”
“I can’t say it out loud, I can’t even think about that bastard all over Max with a camera. It makes me sick.”
Max didn’t answer. She just looked away, her lips frowned and her eyes wet.
“Crap. Way to go, Chloe.”
“I’m sorry.” She said.
“It’s okay. You… should know.”
Max got up from the chair and sat down on the bed, next to Chloe. Instinctively, the blue haired girl rested her left arm over Max’s shoulders, pulling her close. It was so… odd. They had always been touchy when they were kids. Chloe even knew Max’s tickling spots, after uncountable fights. But this closeness was another matter entirely. Max didn’t seem to bother at all, it felt almost natural. It didn’t seem like something new to her, and that intrigued Chloe more than anything.
“He took me after he… We went to the junkyard, after we read Nathan’s text… It was all a setup, he never sent us that message. By that time, Nathan was already dead. He tried to warn us about Jefferson, but I ignored the call as I was searching for you in that stupid party.”
“He killed Rachel anyway. I don’t give a fuck if he tried to redeem himself or some shit like that.”
“Jefferson killed you. He drugged me so I couldn’t rewind to avoid it. The nightmares will never let me forget that.”
Chloe pulled her closer, as Max shivered again. The lightning outside lit the room furiously. The blue haired girl could feel the younger one’s body trembling against her side.
“I’m here now.” She said.
“Yeah… I try not to think about the dozens of dead Chloes I left behind that week.” Max shook her head. “Anyway… I don’t remember most of what happened in the Dark Room, to be honest. Just… flashes. Jefferson kept me dosed almost all the time. And when I was awake he was… out of it. I mean, truly insane. He even argued with himself loudly, it was so… so horrible.”
“Did… Did he…?”
Their gazes crossed for a brief second… and then Max looked away, shaking her head, her eyes wet and her face red.
“I don’t know. I don’t think I want to know either.”
“Damn, I want to kill that bastard with my own hands! Fucking pervert! He better rot in that shithole for the rest of his fucking life.”
“It’s over now.” Said Chloe, but her voice had a sharp edge of hate that she couldn’t smooth.”You escaped…”
“Yeah, I managed to get back, just before you… Just before you were gone. I told you to find David and Jefferson got busted that night.”
Chloe nodded, trying furiously to remember that entry of the journal. She was having a hard time avoiding daydreaming about killing Mark Jefferson in multiple and painful ways.
“We ended up in the beach and you kinda passed out.” Continued Chloe.”You had some kind of nightmare and… that’s it. You didn’t write anymore.”
Chloe raised an eyebrow when Max let a little chuckle escape.
“That nightmare was so obvious. Everything I feared was there just… teasing me. I saw you, making out with a bunch of people…. How insecure.” She shook her head with a little cynical smile. “I even talked to myself… or at least a very cold and mean version of myself. I can’t believe she was right in so many things…”
“Like what?” Asked Chloe, trying to catch Max’s eye, unsuccessfully.
“I’m not a good person, Chloe.” Replied Max plainly, shrugging a little. “I’m selfish and I used my powers just to manipulate people. I even was about to let the whole town die in that storm, if that meant that you’d be alive and with me. I’m a monster.”
“Dude, you’re not a monster.” Chloe managed to turn, so she faced Max. She never let go of the younger girl’s hand. “I… I’d have done it. If it meant you’d be alive and with me, I’d have chosen you over the town.”
“You wouldn’t” Said Max with a sad smile. “That’s why I was in the bathroom and took the shot.”
“What do you mean?”
“It was your idea.” Max’s gaze was intense and full of remorse. “You… you had the photograph I took that day in the bathroom and you gave it to me… you asked me to let you die so the people of the town could live.”
Chloe blinked and frowned, trying to process the new information.
“That doesn’t sound like something I’d do…”
“Well, you did. Kinda. That Chloe didn’t want Joyce and David to die. You asked me to go back and let… Nathan shoot you and… And I didn’t wanted to. You said… you said I was the only one who could fix this and…”
Max finally broke down. She had been managing to keep the pain and the fear as hidden as possible, but that seemed to be her limit. She just hugged Chloe and cried her eyes out, while the taller girl caressed her hair and held her close. For a while, only sobs and rain could be heard.
“After that I…” Max voice was low, throaty and weak. “I realized what I was feeling. It was always clear to me, since we were kids but I tried to ignore it. But after all that happened and… when you gave me the picture I… I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I kissed you. For real, not because of a stupid dare on a sleepover. I wouldn’t let you die for my storm, for my mistakes. That’s why I came back and instead of letting things happen, took the shot. And here we are now.”
Silence took over the room for a while. The rain outside seemed to deplete slowly and finally, it stopped. Chloe sighed.
“Who would have thought this would be what happen to us when we grow up?” She said dreamily.
“Certainly not me. I’ve never considered myself special in any way, and then… I discover I have bizarre time travel powers.”
“You became super Max, literally.” Said Chloe with a sad smile. “And I became a punk-ass expelled from school and with a police record that fills an entire archiver.”
“Well… Maybe I can be a good influence on you from now on. Or not. Maybe you’ll drag me definitely to the Dark side.” Chloe rolled her eyes a little. “I’d love you to be my partner in crime.”
Chloe dedicated Max her best happy and confident grin.
“Only if you’re my partner in time.” She said, resting her forehead on Max’s, never leaving her gaze.
“Forever?” Asked Max, with a playful smile.
“Forever.” Replied Chloe, as she leaned for a kiss.
Previous Chapter: https://lifeisstrangefans.com/give-it-another-shot-chapter-8/
Here? I’m the punk queen of Arcadia Bay, of course.
In real life, I’m an artist, gamer, crappy musician, game dev and a wannabe writer. Oh, and I’m always running late. MaiQueti in a nutshell.