Life waits for no girl to wake

I relive that day over, and over in my dreams. It’s always the same, I can’t change anything, a passenger in my own body. I guess nightmares would be a more fitting description, because it’s certainly not pleasant. It was supposed to be such an important day too.

We were going to spend the weekend together, not that that was special on it’s own. Chloe and I were nearly inseparable, and so sleepovers were commonplace, routine even. This one was different though, this one filled me full of butterflies. I was excited, and nervous. I was going to pour my little thirteen year old heart out to my best friend, and hope she wasn’t disgusted. I was totally in love with Chloe, and I was going to tell her so that weekend.

I was confident that if nothing else our friendship would survive. Our connection was, powerful, magical even. We just fit together, and so if she wasn’t… like me we’d still be able to get through it.

Still, I worried about putting myself out there like that. Who wouldn’t?

Unfortunately, I never got to tell her that day. God, the fates, the universe, or whatever had other plans I guess. The plan to sleepover for the weekend was made that day, so I was going to have to go home and collect my things. Joyce needed a ride home because she had groceries, so, William decided it would be best to kill two birds with one stone. Only one bird died that day.

I was a little disappointed when Chloe had decided to stay home, and finish the pancakes she and William had been making, now I’m glad she did. I was so scared when that truck rammed into the side of Williams car. The screeching, the sound of shattering glass, a flash of pain, and then nothing. I guess I’m lucky I don’t remember more.

All I know about what came next is of course secondhand. My left leg was crushed, and had to be amputated, flying debris form the impact destroyed my left eye, and so they took that as well. I had head, and neck trauma from the force of the impact, and unfortunately swelling that they didn’t catch right away. I was in a vegetative state for almost a year, before I was upgraded? I’m not sure that’s the right word, but I was in a minimally conscious state for another three years, give or take.

It took a long while, but it turns out Max was still home after all. I may not remember much till I Really started coming out of it, but apparently the first thing I did when the lights started coming back on was look for a face I recognized, and asked them where Chloe was. Or sometimes I’d ask about William. Usually I wouldn’t stick around long enough to get an answer, but it was enough to keep everyone hopeful. Well Almost everyone.

I guess somewhere in there Chloe gave up on me. I guess I don’t really blame her or anything, it’s gotta be awful to just come in and stare at someone who might not talk to you, might not remember anything you managed to talk about before, or maybe will one day just shut down, forever. I know she lost William in that accident. Maybe she even blames me, sometimes I blame me. Maybe he’d have been somewhere else on the road if he hadn’t needed to take me home to get my things. I really don’t know the answers. Max the not so great, and not at all powerful. I don’t see all, or know anything.

It’s been about six months since I woke up completely, or officially, or something like that. I’m about halfway through my physical therapy, and my rehabilitation has been described as miraculous. Apparently I’m way ahead of the curve when it comes to relearning how to do normal human things. I haven’t seen Chloe once yet, something I mention to my therapist often, as well as my inability to just work up a little courage and call her.

I’ve been fitted for a glass eye. I kinda prefer the eye patch, but it looks silly with the brand new glasses they fitted me for as well. They’re not corrective, they’re supposed to help protect my remaining eye. I kept the patch though, I guess I’m still a wannabe pirate at heart.

Now that I can walk on my new leg with only a little support, I’ve decided I’m just going to bite the bullet, and go see Chloe. I’m really nervous. I spent hours agonizing over what to wear, and then all I ended up putting on was a generic tee, and a pair of shorts(not that I want to show off my leg, but it’s really hot out today!). I grab my eye patch, and shove it in my bag, and then take it out again because I feel like a complete dork for even thinking it might be something Chloe would want to see. She’s got to be so grown up by now.

Mom’s out of the house right now, and that makes it the perfect time to head out to see Chloe. I love her to death, but she can be really over protective, more so since the accident. I grab the cane mom bought for me at an antiques shop(polished wood with a brass foot, and handle!), and head out the door into the sun. It’s not very far to Chloe’s house, but walking there is still slow going.

By the time I get there, I’m fairly beat. I wish I had brought a bottle of water with me or something. Sweaty Max is not really the first impression I want to make, but there’s not much I can do about it now.

I stare up at her house, and it looks just like I remember it. It looks like no one finished painting after… the accident. For a moment I can almost believe it never happened at all. There’s an old rust bucket of a truck parked sloppily in the driveway though that snaps me back into the present. I guess they’d Have to replace the car, but I’m not sure if this means Joyce is home, or if it belongs to Chloe.

I hesitate at the door, just fidgeting a little as I stare at it. I’m getting more nervous by the minute, what if this was a mistake, what if she stopped visiting me because she never wanted to see me again. What if she’s out right now, with her boyfriend or worse… her girlfriend. It’d kill me to know that maybe if I had the chance to talk to her that day it could have been me. Ironically, Chloe’s not here to make me feel brave enough to face seeing her again.

I take several deep breaths. I can do this, I need to at least know that Chloe’s doing okay, or that she doesn’t want to see me anymore, or something, or anything. I just need to see her at least one more time. I take a few more deep breaths, and begin to feel a little dizzy as I reach for the doorbell. Without much thought, I press the button in a pattern established by Chloe, and myself when we were kids. If she was home, she’d know it was me.

I can hear clamoring behind the door, heavy footfalls coming quickly down the stairs. “Rachel you bitch! I can’t believe you just ran off and left me…” Chloe trails off as she yanks open then door, and finds that I am clearly not this Rachel girl. Fuck, this was a terrible idea, of course she taught our ring to someone else, of course she had a new best friend, or… something else. She stares mouth slightly agape. I stare, trying to get my feelings under control, trying not to just start crying, or screaming. “I-I’m sorry.. I’m not Rachel.” I blurt out, because I handle myself under pressure like a champ… yeah right.

She looks different now, but the same. Older, leaner, but still very much Chloe. Her style has changed a lot, since I last saw her. She’s wearing her hair short now, and blue though it’s fading towards the roots. She’s got on a loose fitting Misfit Skull T-shirt, and a ripped up pair of skinny jeans. The black boots she’s sporting completes the look, and it is a good one for her. I like it.

“Fuck, Max! You’re uhh… here.” by the end of her oh so witty observation, she sounds somewhat disappointed. I get it I suppose, she was hoping I was someone else, and she can’t control how she sounds, I can’t really control the way I wince at the tone of her voice either. I’d probably have just run away by now, if I had been further along in my physical therapy. Instead I stand there, cowering for lack of a better word, not quite looking at Chloe anymore.

Keeping Chloe in my diminished periphery, I can see her face as it drops from shock, and disappointment into guilt. I feel really shitty for making her feel guilty, but all I seem to be capable of doing right now is standing here like a kicked puppy. This is definitely not how I wanted our reunion to go. Go team Caulfield…

“I uhh… You, you’re w-waiting for someone, I’ll j-just.. I-I can just come back an-another time.” I finally stammer out. I start to turn away then, so I can slink off and lick my wounds, or something like that. Cry into my ice cream? The weight of her hand on my shoulder stops me though, and I turn back just enough to get a look at her again. She’s so beautiful still, maybe even more so now.

“Shit Max, I’m not waiting for anyone, I just… I’m hella surprised to find you on my doorstep.” The way she’s looking at me right now, like she doesn’t really believe I’m here or I might just shatter into a million pieces in front of her, is intense. I’m still hurt, but I can’t really bring myself to keep walking while she looks like that.

I can feel my eyebrow raising slowly. Hella? What even Is that? Of course Chloe can see my brow raise, and I can see her slowly starting to take offense to whatever she thinks I’m reacting to. I need to say something quick, or this is going to just keep getting worse. “Uh.. Hella? Is that what the cool kids are saying now?” It was dumb, and awkward, but hopefully it’ll defuse the situation.

She’s just staring at me again, and I’m starting to fidget awkwardly. Then she starts laughing, and pulls me in to a bear hug. She smells like cigarettes, and something else I’m not familiar with but I don’t care, she’s hugging me! Crisis averted., or maybe crisis hella averted? I snort a little giggle of my own into her shoulder as I wrap my arms around her in return.

“Still the same old Max Caulfield. Good to know the accident didn’t scramble your brain, or… something.” I can hear the smile in her tone as she speaks, and I pull back to look up at her. I know she’s not trying to be snarky here, but it still hurts s little when she says it. Thinking about it is still hard, and even worse it just reminds me that she didn’t visit once after I woke up. I really wish I was better at keeping my emotions under wraps. I see her smile dying as she looks back at me.

And then, I open my mouth. “You’d actually know that already if you had bothered to visit me after I woke up… six months Chloe. Six. Months.” I’m pretty sure at this point some other Max has taken over my body and has decided I don’t really want this day to go well, or maybe I’m possessed by sassy demons. Max Caulfield poster girl for not knowing when to just shut up.

I probably look just as shocked as she does, but as I brace for impact, she just begins to look really guilty. I was expecting yelling, what I got instead was breaking my heart. She just looked so… defeated then. Now she was the kicked puppy, and I was the terrible human who kicked her. Now we both look guilty, and I’m crying. I really wanted this day to be a good one.

“Shit Chloe, I’m sorry.. I didn’t come here to start a fight, I just really missed you. I just really wanted to see you again.” Way to sound needy Max, yell at her and then get clingy, that’ll make her want to see you again. I sigh heavily, and shake my head trying to get rid of my inner monologue for a few minutes. That doesn’t really work, so instead I try focusing on Chloe again, who now just looks even more guilty.

“No max it’s okay. I didn’t visit, and I am sorry. This year and a half has been fucked up.” She looks so sad when she says it. I press in again, squeezing her with all my (feeble) might. She goes stiff for a moment, but relaxes into me, and even gives me a squeeze back. “Get your bony ass inside Caulfield, all this mushy shit on my doorstep will set the neighbors to gossiping.”

I pull back and look her up and down. I press my glasses up my nose, laughing playfully. “Wowser Chloe, when did you start caring what your neighbors think of you?” I grin up at her hoping it reinforces the playful tone I’m trying to set.

She laughs, thank dog, and shifts to the side. She gestures me in with one hand, the other pressing gently into the small of my back. Her finger tips send electricity up my spine, and if it wasn’t hot today, I’m pretty sure I’d be able to feel my face heating up right now. Alright Max you need to just calm down, or you really are going to scare her away.

“Home shit home.” She says, and as I step inside my eye is caught by a little tack board covered in photos on the wall. It’s been there forever, but I still want to go look. I step up to it to see pictures of Chloe as I remember her, with long hair flowing, and wild carefree smiles. She was happy then.

I look back at Chloe, and catch her watching me. She has a look somewhere between nervous, and in awe. Maybe she never expected to see me again. I flash her a smile, and turn back to look at the photos again. From my perspective these might as well have been taken yesterday. I can feel my smile slipping as melancholy takes hold.

“I love your new hair. You look…” breath-taking, gorgeous, amazing. “Really good. Blue is totally your color.” Wow…eloquent Max, you’re a real smooth operator. Sigh. Once I’ve schooled my expression I look back to find her smiling, just a little, and toying with her blue locks.

She stops, stiffening a little when I turn, and puts on a confident grin. “You like it Mad Max? I was always envious of how Pris rocked her look.” She shrugs nonchalantly. “Guess I just eventually decided , why the fuck not?” Her grin becomes a little predatory as she looks at me. “Maybe we can do the same for you.”

I just laugh, and shake my head. “ I think I’ve dealt with enough changes for now…” I gesture up to the scarring around my eye. I don’t indicate my leg, it’s obvious enough on it’s own, and honestly reminding myself that I’m missing parts still hurts. Bringing attention to my eye is enough of a reminder for now.

She steps forward to examine my scars more closely, and I can feel my heart pound as she does. I don’t really want her looking at the ugly parts of me, but then I don’t want her to back away either. It takes me a moment but I turn my face up to her so she can see properly.

“Not exactly like in the movies but still pretty bad ass Mad Max.” I laugh, it’s a little weak but genuine. “So.. did it, screw up your vision… or did you just get a pair of hipster goggles?” I laugh again this time wholeheartedly, and shake my head.

“No… um, I’m supposed to wear these to help protect my remaining eye.” I bite my lip looking away, I’m not sure why I’m suddenly feeling so ashamed to tell her that. “ I uh, had an eye-patch for… for a while, but it looked kinda dumb under the glasses so…” I shrug, pulling my eye back up to hers, she looks guilty again. “So I got fitted for a glass eye. Besides, I wasn’t sure if going full pirate wouldn’t be a little too much.” My lips quirk into a playful smile, and I watch as it catches. Chloe grins back at me. I love her smile.

“Full pirate can Never be too much, you should know that already First-mate Max.” She laughs brightly, and I find myself laughing along with her. It’s almost like no time has passed by at all. “Come on, let’s go up to my room… It’s a little different than you remember, but it’s still in the same place.” She steps back, and gestures me towards the stairs.

Okay Max, you have this, you’ve practiced stairs a Million times. I take a deep breath, and proceed her up the stairs. It’s slow going. I’m being very careful, and well, I haven’t finished with physical therapy yet. I’m not exactly in top condition anymore, but I’m actually doing really well. Which of course I immediately jinx by thinking so, and now I’m falling instead. Suddenly she’s just there, arms around me, keeping me steady. She feels so solid, so real against me.

“Oh fuck, Max! Are you okay?” She sounds a little panicked, and here I am just enjoying myself. “Seriously.. earth to Max? Are you okay? Fuck should I call 911?” Oh right.. I need to use my words.

“No, no.. I’m okay, sorry.. just a little shaken up.” I take a deep breath, and with her help get myself righted again. “Umm.. Sorry Chloe, I’m not exactly back to one hundred percent just yet.” I look down, embarrassed to have to admit it.

“Fuck dude, you scared the shit out of me. Let’s not do that again…” She exhales loudly, and wraps her arm around my middle. I guess she plans to support me, and I’ll admit part of me is loving it. The other part though kind of resents that she feels I need her help, and is even more annoyed that I actually kinda do at the moment. I’m broken out of my little inner argument by the sound of Chloe muttering something that sounds an awful lot like “I just got you back..” but I’m not sure if that’s just wishful thinking, or not.

Honestly, I’m probably leaning on her more than I need to, but it just feels so nice. I mean if I’m being honest with myself this is probably a terrible idea. Just because Chloe’s here, doesn’t mean I’m not just pining after a memory. Time moved on for her, I’m the one who got left behind in dreamland.

I feel her tug on me a little more urgently, and I realize I’ve stopped moving during my reverie. I can feel my cheeks flush as I begin moving again. I turn my head to see if she looks mad. She doesn’t but still I feel the need to speak up. “Sorry. It’s been a little harder to focus since… everything.”

“You finally have an excuse for spacing out… in fact you probably could get away with all sorts of things now.” she’s grinning, it’s playful, and fun, and is not doing quite enough to cover up the tightness in her expression that indicates her concern. It’s cute how she still puts on a brave face for me. Maybe not for me anymore exactly, but… I still like it.

“You’re an ass…” I giggle softly, and lean into her just a little bit more.”Besides… could you see me doing something like that? Most of the time when I got in trouble, it was because you convinced me to do something with you, or for you. You always made me feel braver than I was, like I knew what I was doing…” There’s naked longing in my voice by the end, and I begin to clear my throat softly like that’ll hide it. It doesn’t of course, but if Chloe notices she doesn’t say anything.

“Well with the Arcadia Bay pirates back in action, I’ll just have get back to my bad influence duties.” She grins over at me, and I laugh along with her. This is good, this is exactly what I was hoping for, well… maybe not exactly, but I’ll take what I can get.

“Well…”I lean into Chloe again as we make our way up the stairs, and to the right. “I did kinda leave while Mom was out, so she wouldn’t try and stop me.” She wasn’t kidding about her room either. It’s a mess now, she was never exactly tidy, but this was major. All the posters I remember from when we were kids are gone now, replaced by band posters I don’t recognize, graffiti, and…girls. That’s probably good news for me, provided those aren’t just more band posters I don’t recognize.

“Seriously Caulfield? I didn’t know you had it in you. Maybe I have less to do than I thought.” Chloe laughs, and then pulls away just enough to round on me. Her face gets serious as she looks me in the eye. “You got this Mad Max?” Her brow perks up, and she examines me carefully. I’m not sure if it’s just my insecurities or not, but I feel like she’s staring more at my glass eye than any other part of my face. Just keep your cool Max, she’s clearly just worried about you, nothing else.

“No.. I mean yes! Sorry, I’m fine I mean.” I bite the inside of my cheek, and shake my head. “It was just… stairs are a little trickier for me now.. and well, I just haven’t had much chance to practice outside of physical therapy. It was just a little slip..” I look down at the floor, suddenly feeling more than a little shy. “I’m glad you were there though…” I can feel my cheeks heating up, though I’m not sure anymore if it’s because I fell, and I’m embarrassed, or because Chloe caught me.

Chloe crosses the room, and throws herself down on her bed. “Welcome to my lair…” she gestures around grandly from her place on the bed, and I can’t help but grin in response. “I think it’s time for me to Medicate… so could you maybe set us up some tunes while I work on this?” She reaches under the bed, and pulls out a little case. My brows furrow as I watch curiously for a moment, before I realize what she’s doing. She’s rolling a fresh joint. “C’mon Max, music… pleeeeease?” she begs, while looking at me with the puppy dog eyes, and a roguish grin.

“You are ridiculous.” I shake my head, laughing softly as I begin to make my way over to her stereo system. It’s easy enough to turn on, and set up, but… no CD’s anywhere in sight. My brows furrow a little in consternation, as I look back at Chloe. “Sorry to ruin your fun Captain Chloe, but there are no disks over here.”

She gives me a mildly annoyed look as I interrupt her. “There’s a few around here somewhere Maxi-mus. Just have a look around. I know you want to get your snoop on anyway.”She gestures around the room with one hand, and I wrinkle my nose at her in response. She’s not wrong though.

I stick my tongue out at her as she gets back to her clearly very important work, and then begin to look around. Where are you little disks? Come to Max. I poke into a few boxes, finding mostly old photos of Chloe and William. Finding them makes me really sad. William was amazing, like a second father to me. I can’t imagine how much worse Chloe must have felt. I’m sorry William… maybe if I hadn’t been so set on staying that particular weekend, you wouldn’t have been at that intersection.

I take a deep shuddering breath and wipe at my eyes roughly. No time fall apart now First-mate Max, Captain Chloe needs her music. With another deep breath, I begin my search anew. Hello there.. That’s a disk I see. I head over, unfortunately only to find half a disk. This half says Rachel on it. Did Chloe make this For Rachel? Did she break it on purpose? I start looking around to see if I can find the rest. What I end up finding instead, is far more interesting.

I find a photograph, crumpled into a ball next to her little trashcan. I really can’t help myself, I Have to straighten it out and see. I pull it open, and run my fingers over the back side repeatedly to work out as many wrinkles as I can before I turn it over. It’s a picture of Chloe, and a very pretty blonde girl with a blue feather earring.

Is this other girl Rachel? Chloe looks happy here, or at least like she’s having fun. I don’t really get to ruminate on the contents of the picture for long though, as Chloe is suddenly there yanking the picture away from me. I nearly jump out of my skin in the process.

“What the fuck Max?! Don’t touch that!” I look over at her to find her glaring back and forth between me, and the picture. I kinda freeze for a few moments, as she finally crumples the picture up once again. I wince as this leaves all her glaring for me.

“I.. I didn’t mean t-to, I mean… you said.. I was looking for disks, and it-it was on the floor, and you pretty much invited me to.. to look snoop around anyhow.” My brows begin to furrow towards the end up my stammered defense. I can feel my hands beginning to ball up. That really wasn’t fair, she did tell me to look around, though I’m sure she was only half serious. I deflate slowly, peeking up at Chloe. “I’m sorry… she must be.. important to you, for you to be so.. mad.”

I can see the fight draining out of Chloe as well, leaving behind a mix of guilt, and pain. She sighs, and tosses the crumpled picture at her trashcan. “Yeah Max, you could… say that. That’s Rachel. Amber. I thought she was my angel.” I can feel her words stab me in the heart, and a second ache hits me as I watch her pull her knees to her chest, and hug them.

I step over to the bed, and lower myself down so I can scoot back next to Chloe. I reach out slowly, giving her plenty of time to let me know she’d rather have space, before I wrap my arm around her back. I pull her against me, squeezing gently, trying to impart whatever comfort I can give. I don’t say a word. I just wait, and let her decide if she’s going to continue or not.

She leans her head onto my shoulder, and I can hear the tears in her voice as she continues. “She saved me Max… I was in a pretty shitty place for a while, and she was there. Dad was gone, you were… gone too, Mom was wrapped up in that douche-bag.” She takes a deep shuddering breath, and I tighten my grip on her just a bit. “We were going to get out of Arcadia. Leave this shit pit behind, and head for L.A. Rach was going to be a model. I was going to… I don’t know, just Not be here.”

That hurts. She was planning to just leave everything behind, including me. Let’s not make this about me right now though. I give her another light squeeze, keeping my face turned just a little away so it’s less likely she’ll notice if I can’t keep my face neutral. I know I’m failing already, I was never very good at keeping a good poker face.

“She disappeared about a year ago, Max. She didn’t say a word to me, just gone. No one seemed to know anything, her shithead parents wouldn’t even Talk to me.” I can feel her growing more, and more tense as she goes on. I run my hand in a slow circle on her back, and take a peek over at her. She looks hurt, and pissed. “I was frantic, I was putting up posters all over town, and just generally being a nosy shit to everyone I though might know anything. Then, I finally get a letter a month ago…” She pulls away and reaches under her bed to pull out an envelope. “Here.. since you like to be nosy, you read it. Fuck! I’m not stoned enough for this shit.” she hops up off the bed, and goes over to her stereo, and plugs her phone into it. She turns up the sound, and heads back over to flop down on the bed. She gets to work on her joint as I pull out the letter to have a look.

The letter is fairly succinct, and written is neat cursive. I lick my lips and hesitate before reading. I don’t know what I’m going to find in here, and I can’t just rewind if this is too private for me to read. Part of me wants to leave it alone, but I just know I can’t help myself. I’m going to read it.

Dear Chloe,

I’m sorry for how this happened. I believe this is for the best, I promise you that. I’m not who you want me to be. I just can’t be what you want, or give you want you need. I do love care about you Chloe, we have had an intense connection, but not how you thought wanted, not for me anyway. I did try My parents told me what you’ve been doing since I left. You can stop now, and move on. I hope we can be friends again Chloe. I do miss you, and I think you’d love it out here. When you’re ready, e-mail me, and we’ll work out a good time to visit. I wish you all the best Chloe, you deserve it.

Rachel

P.S. When you finally get up the courage to visit Max again (if you haven’t already) tell her hi from me.

I really don’t know how to feel about this. Part of me is happy they aren’t, maybe even weren’t a thing, part of me is sad Chloe’s hurting, and well Part of me is angry Rachel hurt her to begin with. I slip the letter back into the envelope. I place it down on the bed, and take a deep breath.

This is so fucked up, I’m so sorry Chloe…” I start to turn back towards her when I feel a little twinge in my nonexistent leg. Uh-oh this is bad. I try not to wince too hard as it feels like my calf is starting to knot up. I begin trying to visualize flexing my leg, but it’s not doing much good for me this time. I let out a little whimper as it just keeps getting worse.

I can feel Chloe moving, sitting up. She places her ashtray in her lap, and looks over at me. Her glazed eyes starting to register some concern. “What’s up Mad Max, you look a little pale…” I bite my lip, and try Not to look like I’m in excruciating pain when I look over at her. I fail, and her look of concern deepens.

It-it’s nothing…” I wave dismissively, as I grimace at her instead of smile. I reach down, to remove my prosthetic. I can feel my cheeks begin to burn as I do. I’m embarrassed, and in pain wonderful. I really don’t want her to see my like this, but it really hurts.

Yeah okay dude… really looks like nothing to me.” I’m pretty sure she was rolling her eyes as she said that, it certainly sounded like it, but I didn’t look to be sure. I was busy wrapping my hands around the remainder of my thigh, and trying to massage the pain away from my nonexistent calf. It actually does help sometimes. Not so much this time.

I can’t help the whimper that slips out as I go to speak again. “ It’s.. s-sorry, it’s just my leg. Umm.. C-Chloe do you have a-a heating pad or, or something H-hot I can wrap..” I grit my teeth, and squeeze the remainder of my leg harder. “Anything, Please Chloe..” I’m whining, I know it, and if it didn’t hurt so much, I’d probably be embarrassed by it. In this moment I just don’t care.

Her eyes go wide a moment, and she jumps up. “Oh shit! Yeah dude hold on…” she makes her way to the door, and yanks it open, heading out into the hall. She heads for the bathroom, or it looks like it from here anyway. I can feel the tears starting to fall despite my best efforts.

I want to cut off leg right now, but that’s crazy since it’s already missing. My musings are interrupted by a strange male voice yelling from downstairs. “How many times have I told you to stop blasting that punk shit!?” The distraction is kind of nice, but doesn’t do enough for me. “Chloe, we need to talk I’m coming up!” This ought to be great.

Next thing I know there’s a man staring at me from the doorway, just watching my clutch my leg, and try not to cry. He’s got a crew cut, and a really dumb looking mustache. He’s dressed up like a security guard or something, but from here I can’t tell where from. The look he’s giving me is suspicious. At least until he zeroes in on my leg, then he just looks… haunted.

Thankfully Chloe pushes past him before it can get any more awkward. She has a steaming wet towel, thank dog. I could kiss her. More than I already could. All the kisses. I pull my sock off, and help her get it wrapped around my leg. I fall back practically moaning with relief. I’ll be embarrassed about that one later.

We both seem to have forgotten about the man for a moment, or at least I did. Chloe’s could be just ignoring him. Either way he speaks up, breaking my reverie. “Why is she here? You know I don’t like strangers in my house.” He sounds like a total jerk.

Chill, she’s not a stranger. This is my friend.” Chloe snaps back at him. I kinda like that she’s sticking up for me, though I’m not sure if it’s for my benefit right now, or just to piss him off. I’ll take either one right now honestly.

Oh great, another one of your friends.” The way he stresses the word friend does not paint me in a very good light. I can’t really help the frown I make when I hear it. Chloe was already scowling, but she really looks like she’s about to explode now.

No, not just one of my friends.” Chloe makes air quotes with her fingers, and I fight to stifle a giggle. “This is Max.” The way she says my name makes me smile at her. I mean it feels really good that she’s invoking my name like I’m special somehow. I really want to be, at least to her.

He raises his hand and jabs his finger towards Chloe aggressively. “I don’t care who she….” he stops dead mid sentence and turns his attention back to me. “The one who was in the…hospital?” His eyes fall from my face to my leg again. I’m really starting to feel uncomfortable the way he keeps staring at it.

After what seems to me to be and unreasonably long time, his eyes slip away from my leg. Unfortunately the fall on Chloe’s ashtray on the bed nearby, and his eyes narrow. He steps forward quickly, and reaches down to grab the joint Chloe stubbed out earlier. “Is this Grass? Chloe How many times…”

I can see him gearing up for a lecture, and I can see the fight in Chloe’s eyes. Before I can think much further on the subject I suddenly find myself speaking. “ It-it’s mine! I-I’m the one… umm.. my leg, it has been Really hurting I was just trying to… but it didn’t help. I-I’m sorry…” At least I’m pretty sure my face looks convincing right now. I feel like I’m going to cry just from how anxious speaking up like that makes me feel.

My eyes drop to my lap. He’s going to know, he’s going to know, and then he’ll be pissed at me, and at Chloe again. I’m broken from my musings by a surprisingly gentle male voice. “Look Max, I understand wanting to escape after something bad happens…” I peek back up at him, gaping in surprise. It doesn’t last long though. He begins to get his fire back. “But this shit is illegal. Chloe has a history, and I don’t want it around her.” His voice just kept getting louder as he talked, so now he’s practically yelling.

It’s practically legal…” I mutter out in my own defense. This is of course a mistake, and I know that right away. I just can’t seem to control my mouth today. Begone sassy demon, the power of Christ compels you! I doubt that worked at all, I’m not that lucky or religious.

I can see his face turning red as he stares at me, perhaps wondering if I’m an idiot. I was wondering that too, after I spoke up.”It’s Still illegal!” He waves the joint in my direction. “I could call the police right now and…”

Chloe gets up placing herself between us. “Dude leave her alone! She said she was sorry, and her leg really fucking hurt, so just back off! She’s been through enough shit without you getting up in her shit for trying to feel better!” Chloe crosses her arms, and I presume glares at him. This looks like it’s going to turn into a shouting match though, and I really don’t want that.

I-I really am… sorry I mean, it was a dumb idea. I just… wanted it to stop hurting. I won’t be trying that again. I promise.” I try and sound as pathetic as possible, and really given the atmosphere of the room right now, it’s not hard. Drawing attention back to my leg couldn’t hurt, it did seem to have an effect on him. I keep my head down, not even daring to look right now. I just hope it’s enough and he decides to drop it.

I decide to look up just a little, and I can see him wavering. I also hear Chloe taking in a breath like she’s getting ready to speak. This will probably be bad. Thinking quickly I reach up on hand to tug at her shirt while unwrapping my leg with the other. “Chloe could you please reheat this for me… It’s cooled off, and I’m still hurting some. Please?” I bite my lip and look up at her with the biggest eyes I can muster. It’s not hard really, I may not need her to help me, but I really Need her distracted for a moment.

They both speak at nearly the same time. “Sure thing Max..” Chloe takes the towel from me as the man, eyes on my scarred leg, says: “Just make sure it doesn’t happen again.” He turns and starts to tromp out of the room, as Chloe turns and flips him off with both hands. I exhale the breath I didn’t realize I was holding, and slump down where I’m sitting. “That was scary..”

Chloe looks back down at me, and grins. “Dude, Max that was Awesome! Thank you for being so cool.” she leans down and throws her arms around me. I can’t help but lean into her, and smile. Now I’ve got a little of my pep back. Ugh did I just think that?

She smirks as she straightens up. “I’m going to go reheat this for you… You better not blaze up in my room while I’m gone.” I laugh, and roll my eyes at her, as she turns and heads out to the bathroom.

I bask in the afterglow of Chloe’s hug for a few moments while I have the time to myself. I’m also left wondering just who that man was. Joyce’s new boyfriend probably. Chloe at least knew him, and he did call it his house, so maybe not so new after all. I frown at the thought of Chloe being subjected to that guy for any prolonged period of time. Poor Chloe, I know no one could replace William, but being forced to spend time with this guy… I shake my head repressing a shudder, no thank you.

Chloe returns shortly with a steaming towel. She sniffs the air exaggeratedly as she heads over, smirking at me. “Looks like you’re in the clear this time Snoop Max, but I’m watching you…” I shoot her a glare as she begins to gently wrapping the towel around the remainder of my leg. She just laughs at me, it makes me want to laugh too. “Seriously though dude, you hella saved my ass. Step-fucker is Always up in my shit.” She frowns, eyes narrowing as she shakes her head.

Oh fuck!” It slips out of me before I can think better of it. “Joyce Married that guy? Are you cereal?” So much for trying to sound like I’ve actually grown up a little. Not that I really feel like it anyhow. Is this how everyone feels, or just people who miss a big chunk of their life? I can feel my cheeks heating up a little either way, but it’s too late to take it back.

Chloe perks an eyebrow at me, and then begins to laugh. “You gave me shit for hella, and then you just asked me if I was cereal? I guess you haven’t really changed much at all. Same old Max Caulfield.” She shakes her head wonderingly, while I try not to die of embarrassment.

I must look pretty dismal, because after a moment Chloe takes pity on me. She settles down next to me, her arm wrapping around my shoulders. “I didn’t mean it was a bad thing Max. I really fucking missed you, you know? Even though I got caught up in my own shit and stop visiting, It’s not like I stop wondering. It was just hard you know?” I can hear the vulnerability creep into her voice, and I lean into her. “I didn’t know if you were coming back.”

I slip my arm around her waist, and lean my head on her shoulder. “I’m going to tell you this, but you Can’t get all guilty about it, okay? “ I give her a little squeeze, and she gives me a little non-committal grunt in return. “I’m taking that as agreement…” I purse my lips for a moment, and take a deep breath. “When I first started becoming more aware of the outside world again, when I started looking around, and talking for short periods of time. Mom said the first thing I did was look around at everyone. Eventually I zeroed in on mom,and called her over, so I could ask her where you were. I don’t really remember that, but… It just, I feel like a part of me knew we were apart, and was trying to come back.” I know I’m blushing all over again, not to mention I’m sure Chloe thinks I’m some kind of sappy idiot, or something. “Pretty lame huh?” Way to totally save face Max. If only self directed sarcasm could save me.

I don’t look over at Chloe, I’m honestly afraid of what her face looks like right now. She doesn’t help me assess her reaction either, as she’s keeping quiet for now. I have long enough to start to panic, before she reaches her arm around my shoulders, and gives me a squeeze. “Yeah max, totally lame. You should be ashamed.” She’s laughing, but I can detect a hint of something else in there. Something good I hope.

Chloe pulls away, and I nearly fall over. I do manage to spare myself that embarrassment though. She looks over at me, and then down at my leg. She reaches out and gives it a little pat. “How’s it feeling?”

I tense a little, but she doesn’t react, so hopefully it was low-key. Part of me wants to get That leg out form under her hand, and another part of me just likes that she’s making contact. “Huh? Oh, yeah it’s fine now. Thanks Chloe.” Not exactly smooth but at least I’m talking like a human being.

Well then, strap your peg on Long Max Silver, we should be shoving off.” She smirks at me as she gets up, and stretches. She’s gotten so tall, I feel like I haven’t grown at all.“Now that Step-Fuehrer’s home, we should go. We don’t want to risk him marching his ass into our business again today.”

Chloe grabs her keys, and leans back against her desk. She lights up a cigarette as I slowly unwrap my leg. Feeling like she’s watching my every move as I do, I look over at her as I reach for my prosthetic. She is in fact watching me. My cheeks flush a little and I look back to what I was doing, trying not think about it. She’s probably just curious, most people are, it just makes me feel so self-conscious.

I can hear her fidgeting with her keys, the atmosphere feels heavy. I know she’s got something she wants to say, or ask. The soft intake of breath informs me she’s about to speak. “So… Does it hurt a lot? I mean is that a common thing you get a lot? Or wait no… umm.. does that, is that… Shit. What happened?”

I can’t help it, I laugh in-spite of myself. I look over at her for a moment, and shrug trying to look nonchalant. “It happens sometimes, it’s not really that common. It’s just phantom pains… It’s probably mostly psychosomatic at this point, but they can get kinda intense.” I shrug again, and look back to my prosthetic, making sure it’s fitted into place correctly. “My body has probably adjusted by this point. It’s just being around people puts it in my mind, and well, sometimes that means my leg starts hurting.”

I grab my cane in one hand, and raise the other towards Chloe. I can get up on my own, but why turn down the opportunity to have her help me anyway?”Help me up?” I give her a small smile, and the puppy eyes. My smile turns to a grin as she stubs out her cigarette, and pushes away form her desk to take my hand. She pulls me to my feet gently, and I get my feet, and cane steady before she let’s go. “So where to now captain Chloe?”

She laughs softly, and turns heading for the door. “Off to find booty of course!” She leaves me to follow behind, just like she used to. Much like when we were kids, she also doesn’t stray too far ahead, she’s waiting by the top of the stairway to help me down. Despite the new tougher exterior, she’s still quite sweet. I lean into her just a bit more than I need to as we make our way to the foot of the stairs.

She leads us outside, and over to that rust bucket of a truck in the driveway. Must be hers. She leads me around to the passenger side and opens up the door for me with a mocking flourish. I laugh and slide inside. It looks like her room, messy, with graffiti on the walls. I reach out and poke the little Elvis bobble-head she has on the dashboard as I wait for Chloe to get in.

The truck starts up with no real trouble, which surprises me given it’s appearance. We start off down the road in companionable silence, I occasionally glance over to watch Chloe as she drives. I occasionally catch her taking a second to peer back at me. It makes me feel like fussing with my hair, and clothes. It’s almost like I believe I can somehow improve my look, if I just rearrange myself enough. Yeah right.

My phone rings then, breaking our little bubble. I sigh for our lost moment, and dig into my pocket to retrieve it. The screen is lit up with my Mom’s picture. I knew this would be coming eventually, but I still blanched anyway. “Shit..” Chloe reaches over and taps my leg gently. When I look her face is only partially turned towards me, so she can raise her brow at me quizzically, and keep her eyes on the road. “Time to pay the mother I guess.” She chuckles quietly at my tortured attempt at a pun.

I take a deep breath, swipe the screen, and bring the phone up to my ear. “Hey mom…” I brace for impact, earning a look from Chloe. It’s hard to tell what it is exactly out of the corner of my eye, but it looks kinda like amusement meets sympathy. To be fair if I was in her position, I’d probably look the same.

Don’t you Hey mom me. Where are you?” I can’t help it I roll my eyes. I exhale softly into the phone, mistake on my part, as it prompts my mom to continue. ”I know you feel like I’m being over protective, but you’re not even finished with your physical therapy yet. I’m just worried about you.”

I sigh again, I really can’t help myself. “I know mom, but I did leave you a note. It should be on the table. I just went for a little walk down to the Price’s place. I wanted to see Chloe, And my physical therapist says I should be active as long as I don’t push myself. It’s not all that far, and I took it slowly.”

I can hear scuffling noises in the background for a few minutes. “Ah-ha! I found it… Still, do you want me to come get you? I can drive you home if you’re tired.” I just barely hold in my groan. I close my eyes silently counting to ten. I do understand why she’s like this, but I just really wish she’d back off a little.

No, that’s okay mom, when I’m ready Chloe will take me home.” I say before actually looking over at her for confirmation. She makes a face at me, but it’s playful, and she nods a confirmation shortly after. “She’s got her license, and a truck, so I won’t be walking or anything. It’ll be fine I promise.” I purses my lips for a moment, and lower my voice a little. “Just.. please let me have this. It’s really important to me.”

I can hear her sigh heavily into the phone, but other than that she’s completely silent for several nerve wracking minutes. “Fine… But you tell Chloe to bring you home as Soon as you feel a little tired, and Don’t you push yourself. Am I understood?” She was trying to keep up the stern tone, but mostly she just sounded worried. I kinda hate myself a little for making her sound that way, but on the other hand… I was here now, with Chloe, and I was going to get to continue being here.

I let out the breath I didn’t realize I was holding till this moment. “Yes Mom, as soon as I’m feeling tired. Thank you.” I break into a grin, slumping back in my seat, relaxed. “ Love you mom.”

Love you too sweetheart, have fun, and Don’t over do it.” I can’t help the groan that slips out. “I know, I know I said it already, but just be careful okay? I’ll see you later. Bye baby girl.”

Bye mom.” I slip the phone back into my pocket, and sigh once again. It’s happening a lot since mom called, I wonder if there’s a connection. I look over at Chloe, who’s smirking to herself. Probably thinks that whole interaction was hilarious. My cheeks flush a little as I think about the fact that she was witness to that.

Mom’s a little overzealous since the… accident. I mean I Totally understand why she gets this way, but, It can get to be a little too much.” I shrugs turning my eyes back to the road ahead. It looks like we’re headed for the lighthouse.

So…” Chloe breaks the silence, with a hint of mischief in her voice. “ This is…” She reaches one hand off the wheel to gesture one finger between the two of us. “…really important to you, huh?” Fuck. Of course she heard me, I guess I didn’t lower my voice quite enough. I can feel my cheeks heating up, while I’m sure Chloe’s just grinning away.

Oh.. y-you heard that huh?” I bite my lip looking out the side window to hide my face. I take a few steadying breaths, and shrug. Fuck it. “ I.. well It Is. Important I mean, You’re important to me, our relationship is important to me. I’ve been gone so long, and I-I mean to me it doesn’t feel like as long as it was for you, not exactly, but it was a long time. I want to at least get back what we used to have… or something close. I get that you grew up without me, and we can’t go back but…” I can hear my voice breaking, my eyes are starting to well. I’m losing my control.

Chloe’s hand is warm as she takes a hold of mine, and laces our fingers together. She gives my hand a little squeeze, and just like that my downward spiral halts. I take a deep breath and give her a grateful look. “Sorry..” I utter softly, practically a whisper really.

Don’t worry about it Mad Max, I was just teasing.” She casts a quick look over at me before looking back to the road. “And I mean, I feel the same way. I mean not the same way, but I mean the important part. I fucked up not visiting, but… we’re here now right? Nothing’s going to separate us again.” She emphasizes her statement with another squeeze of my hand.

I smile over at Chloe, relaxing again. I give her hand a little squeeze of my own, and resettle myself against the backrest. We fall back into companionable silence, as Chloe continues on down the road. She takes her hand back though as she turns in to the little parking area in front of the path that leads up to the lighthouse. My hand feels so empty now, and it leaves me feeling a little lonely, even though Chloe’s still right here.

C’mon Super-Max.” Chloe jerks her head towards the path, before she hops out of the truck. I watch her for a moment, before following suite. I shuffle around the front of the truck to try and catch up. She keeps a steady pace ahead of me until she reaches the little gate blocking the path up. She pulls it open for me and holds it. I grin at her as I pass through, so chivalrous.

As we head up Chloe slowly starts to pull ahead of me. I was never exactly fit, and always had a hard time keeping up with Chloe, it was just harder now. She continues to outpace me, getting further head. She finally turns to look back at me, and smirks. “Hurry up slow-poke.”

I huff softly as I glare up at Chloe.“Chloe.. I can’t exactly keep up as well as I used to anymore..” She does at least have the presence of mind to look a little ashamed. I do attempt to put on a little more speed though anyhow.

Sorry, I forgot..” she rubs the back of her neck as she stands there waiting for me to catch up. “You… need some help making it the rest of the way?” She fidgets awkwardly, and I can’t help but smirk at her. I reach out my hand as I approach and take hers firmly. We start up once again, together.

I keep hold of her hand, tugging gently when she starts to pull away. “Are you trying to get away from me? Or is it those legs of yours.. so very long.” I giggle softly, giving her hand a squeeze. “You got taller, and I just stayed the same… at least mostly.”

We reach the summit, and she pulls me off towards the bench. I let go of her hand though in favor of a little exploring. I first head for what’s left of the tree we carved our initials into, and am happy to find they survived. I reach out to run my fingers over them reverently. I straighten up, and I head for the map, to look for where Chloe marked our tree-fort. I’m gratified to see that, that’s still there too.

I slowly approach Chloe from behind. Looking at her on the bench looking so relaxed, the lighting is perfect. I pull out my phone, and line up to take the shot. I smile down at the picture I just took, and head around to Join her on the bench.

Have a seat Pete.” Chloe gestures to the bench next to herself with a cigarette. I smile at her as I settle down, perhaps a bit closer than is strictly necessary. She smiles back at me for a moment, and I’m sorry to see her smile go as she turns her eyes to the horizon. “This is so perfect… you used to want to be a photographer. They got a fancy ass name for… this?” she gestures around broadly.

The golden hour…” I sigh wistfully, and turn away from the horizon. I watch Chloe in profile as she smokes. “Despite the umm… hiccups, today has been great. I kinda wish it would never end. I’m so glad you’re here… we’re here, together.” I bite my lip turning back to the view.

Shit Max… you can’t just, say things like that.” I can hear her voice waver, and I look over at her. She’s staring at me, as though she can’t believe what she’s seeing is real. It’s intense, and I can feel my cheeks heating up under her gaze. “Everybody leaves me… You, Dad, Rachel. You all left.” I can see the hurt in her eyes, and I watch as she begins to cover over her vulnerability with anger.

Chloe! That’s not fair… I didn’t Choose to leave you, and neither did William. I… I also came back Chloe, I came back to you.” Bite my lip hard enough I’m worried I might draw blood if I don’t let up. I don’t look away though. “ Rachel… was obviously an idiot. That was a really fucked up thing she did, but I’m back, and I’m not going anywhere. I’ll try my hardest not to I mean, I can’t control everything, but you Have to believe I won’t let anything I can control keep us apart.”

I slide over until our thighs touch, and gently take her hand. I lace our fingers together, and turn our hands over, back and forth nervously. “That weekend… I was going to tell you something. But then the… accident. I never got to.” I take a deep breath, and let it out slowly, and then another. “Chloe I was so completely in love with you, and I was going to tell you that. I know you’re still hung up on Rachel, but… I just wanted you to know, I’m here, you know when you’re ready. Or… if you even want me. I mean of course I’m here as your friend not matter what! I just..”

Before I can work myself up further, I feel Chloe’s hand on my cheek, gently guiding my face in her direction. She’s leaning in. Is this happening? I’m freaking out! This isn’t just some dream right? Then her lips are on mine, and she’s kissing me. We’re kissing, and it’s soft, and gentle, and tastes a bit like cigarettes. It’s Chloe though, and so it’s perfect.

She pulls away, much too soon for my liking. Her eyes are wet, and I’m not really all the surprised to find mine are as well. “I’ve been waiting a long time to hear you say that Caulfield. You sure know how to keep a girl on the hook.” She laughs softly, and I join in laying my head on her shoulder. “As much as all those years hella sucked, this feels like…”

Destiny?” I finish for her, with a little smirk. “But yeah… It does. This is right, it’s meant to be.” I fidget a little bit in place. “Sorry, I guess I’m getting mushy.” She laughs, turning her head and kissing the top on mine gently. “So.. are we, a couple now?” I ask with some trepidation.

She laughs, and slips her hand form mine to wrap her arm around my shoulder. “We’re better than that Max, we’re partners in crime.” She gives me a little squeeze, and another kiss on the top of my head. I laugh along with her, allowing myself to melt into her side.

Forever.” I reply, and I know that we will be.

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