What We Make – Chapter Seven: Constants and Variables

Max yawned, but didn’t bother opening her eyes, and buried her face further into the pillow. She felt warm and cocooned, her mind still fuzzy from sleep. As the seconds passed, she could hear faint sounds that seemed somehow so far away from her: passing cars, birds chirping, and Joyce moving around downstairs (making breakfast, probably). Though Max could feel herself getting more awake, she still kept her eyes closed.

She didn’t have to look over or move to know Chloe was next to her. She could feel the warmth radiating from her, could hear her soft and steady breathing. Max smiled, and still didn’t make any move to get up. There was so much they had to do and so much they had to get ready for. She knew all of it was waiting for her the moment she opened her eyes. She wanted to stay there just a little bit longer. She hadn’t gotten this much sleep in what felt like weeks, though she was pretty sure she’d still had weird dreams. She frowned, trying to remember them, but the details were slipping away by the second. Her goal had been to prevent her nightmares, but forgetting them seemed like the next best thing.

Maybe Chloe will make a stoner of me yet , she thought. Compared to her other crimes it really didn’t feel like a big deal.

Max sighed, opening her eyes and blinking in the morning light. She was too awake to go back to sleep, and it was as if her thoughts were beginning to snowball, coming in faster and faster.

She’d done what she’d promised herself she wouldn’t do – she’d kissed Chloe, when everything was about to crash down on them and Chloe was still dealing with Rachel’s death, and now…now what would happen? Chloe hadn’t pulled away last night and it had been more than a quick kiss, more than a dare. Max bit her lip at the memory, even as her chest tightened with the realization that she didn’t know what would happen.

Before – in a time she no longer knew – standing by the lighthouse while the storm raged around them, she’d realized that she loved Chloe, that Chloe loved her, could maybe be in love with her, but…This was a different Chloe, and that was why Max was supposed to wait. Get everyone out of this alive first. Give Chloe space to deal with Rachel and everything else. She was not supposed to tearfully confess to Chloe like some lovestruck anime character…except that was exactly what she’d done.

Max groaned, running her hand through her hair, her face heating up.

You are all that matters to me. Sure, it was the second time she’d said it in this reality, but she hadn’t had the chance to experience the aftermath before.

Chloe knew . Chloe knew and had pulled her back and kissed her again. She’d told her that the timelines and everything else didn’t matter, because they would always be together. She wasn’t the Chloe that Max had spoken to on that cliff, but that wasn’t important. Max felt the same way about her no matter what, and maybe…maybe this Chloe did too.

“Thinking deep thoughts?” Chloe asked, startling Max and making her turn around.

Chloe was leaning up on her elbow, her eyebrow raised, a slight smile on her face.

“N-no, not really,” Max said, shifting on the bed so that she was facing her. She opened her mouth to say something, and then hesitated, not quite sure what to say. When Chloe had dared Max to kiss her they’d mostly dealt with it afterward by making jokes, and this felt too big to joke about.

“Right.” Chloe sat up and moved closer, crossing her legs. “What are you over-thinking , then?”

Max looked down at the covers, her fingers tracing random patterns, willing herself to speak.

“Last night…” She began.

“What about it?” Chloe interrupted. “Not gonna do any rewinds on me, on you?” She laughed, but her voice shook.

“N-no!” Max assured her, looking up and grabbing her hand, giving it a quick squeeze. “I just…” She paused again and tried to think of how to phrase it.

“Having a bit of a Virgin Panic?” Chloe teased, smirking. “Shit, Caulfield, there was just a little tongue – ”

Max lightly smacked her arm, rolling her eyes. “Shut up. Will you give me a second to answer, Miss Impatient?”

Chloe raised her hands in a ‘fine’ gesture, but she was smiling now, and that made Max feel better, made everything seem a little easier.

“I told you that we – that we kissed before, in – in my other reality,” Max began, and Chloe nodded. “Well, we actually – I kissed you after that, too. Before I came back here, when we were on the cliff with the tornado and…”

Her words from before seemed to come between them as she trailed off: You are all that matters to me.

Chloe didn’t respond immediately. “Why didn’t you tell me?” She asked, and while she didn’t sound angry, exactly, there was still a slight edge to her voice.

Max let out a long breath. “I had a lot of reasons,” she said, looking down at their interlocked hands. “I didn’t want to just – just pile all of it on you, you know? I didn’t want to come up and say ‘I’m from an alternate reality, and by the way we kissed’. It didn’t seem like the right time.”

“Sounds like a bullshit excuse,” Chloe interjected bluntly, but without much heat.

Max gave a short laugh. “Yeah. Kinda was. But…I was – I was scared.” She admitted, and then let out a deep breath. “I’d – I’d just told you about Rachel, and, and you didn’t remember this whole week that I’d been through…” Chloe tensed at Rachel’s name, but Max kept going. “I was a different Max on Monday. And – and to me, you were a different Chloe on Tuesday. I didn’t know…I was scared,” she repeated, and she could feel herself starting to ramble. “I – I didn’t want to pressure you or – or take advantage of you while you were dealing with – with Rachel, and, and I should have told you everything but I just didn’t know how – ” She cut herself off, flushing. “I’m sorry,” she finished awkwardly, unable to look up at her.

“Yeah, you should’ve told me,” Chloe agreed after a few seconds of silence. “But there’s no way in hell you’d be pressuring me to do anything, Max.”

Max looked up at her. “No, you don’t understand. With my powers – ”

“I’m not talking about your powers,” Chloe spoke over her, and then frowned. “Unless you’ve been rewinding on me more than I know.”

Max shook her head, and Chloe went on before she could speak.

“Good,” she said. “Cause otherwise all that shit has nothing to do with us.”

“Rachel – ” Max began, and Chloe tensed again, but talked over her.

“Has nothing to do with us,” Chloe repeated, a little sharply. “Fuck, Max, I had a crush on you when we were twelve.”

It took her a second to register what Chloe had said.

“Wait, really?” Max asked, her stomach fluttering.

“Well, yeah,” Chloe shrugged, and to Max’s surprise she was actually blushing a little. “You seriously didn’t notice?” She asked in disbelief.

Max shook her head. “Not at all. But I guess I – I didn’t realize how felt back then, let alone you.” She could feel her face heating up more, and there was a nervous knot in her stomach, but talking about all of this made her breathe a little easier, somehow.

“I didn’t know at first either,” Chloe said. “It wasn’t until – ” She stopped, and then finished: “Until you left. Then I knew.”

Max’s heart sank. “Oh Chloe. I’m so, so, sorry.”

Chloe shook her head. “No, that’s not – I’m –  I’m not saying that to make you feel guilty or, or whatever. I’m just saying that this – ” and she lifted their clasped hands as Max had done – “Has been around for a while.”  She hesitated, and then finished with uncertainty, glancing away: “It – it has for me, anyway.”

Max squeezed her hand. “It has for me too,” She assured her. “Like I told you, I just didn’t know it until we were standing on the cliff together.” And she was saying that I had to let her die. Max pushed that thought away. It hadn’t happened. She hadn’t let it happen.

“We’re not on that cliff now,” Chloe said, taking her other hand. “You’re here.”

“I’m here,” Max echoed, smiling, blinking back a sudden rush of tears.

“You’re not…you’re not going anywhere?” Chloe’s eyes flicked away for a second, and Max knew she’d probably meant for that to sound like a statement, too. Max scooted even closer to her and, after only a second’s hesitation – she still couldn’t quite believe that this was happening – leaned forward and gave her a quick kiss.

“I’m not going anywhere,” She promised when she pulled back, and a slow smile spread across Chloe’s face. For a while they just grinned at each other, and the last time Max had felt this content had been…well, in another lifetime, another morning like this.

Before either of them could say anything else, a knock on the door made them both jump, and Joyce’s voice came from the other side.

“Chloe?” She called. “Max? If you wanna eat before headin’ to Blackwell, you better do it now before it gets cold.”

“Okay!” Chloe replied, though all she did was flop backward on the bed, her arms out to her sides.

“Thanks, Joyce,” Max added, raising her voice a little to make sure it would carry through the door. “We’ll be out in a minute!”

“I’ll hold you to it,” Joyce replied in a slightly teasing tone, and a second later Max could hear her heading down the stairs.

Chloe was staring up at the ceiling, and Max waited a few seconds for her to speak.

“Got a lot of shit to do today, huh?” She said finally.

Max nodded. “Yeah. Tomorrow…” Well, it all comes down to tomorrow, doesn’t it? She thought. “We don’t have a lot of time,” she finished, though she made no move to get off of the bed, and neither did Chloe.

“Says the girl who can hold time in her hand,” Chloe replied, and then she nodded. “Yeah. I know what you mean.”

Max didn’t really know what to say. There were too many thoughts swirling in her head; the storm was tomorrow and Jefferson and the Prescotts were going to get arrested within hours. In her week before she’d have been waking up with a Chloe who couldn’t move, a Chloe who could barely breathe and who lived each day in pain. And here she was, with the storm ahead of her again, more prepared though no readier, waking up with Chloe once more, but this time…

Max leaned over the side of the bed and picked up her camera, pulling herself up again only to lay down next to Chloe, holding the camera up above them in her right hand. Photobomb! She could hear Chloe’s voice, right in her ear, but that wasn’t this Chloe, this reality.

“Here,” Chloe said, (and Max had to look at her, to make sure she’d really spoken) lifting up her left hand to help steady it.

They leaned together, Chloe’s head a little on top of Max’s, with Max more down by her shoulder. Max’s finger hovered over the shutter as she positioned the camera, Chloe’s hand keeping it steady but moving however Max’s directed.

“Okay,” Max said, and they both held their arms still. Always remember this moment. She would, just like she remembered all the others, even if Chloe didn’t.

Hell, Max thought as the camera flashed, Maybe this time I’ll get to keep proof of it.

 

 

Oh man, Max thought as she reached the bottom of the stairs. I could get used to that smell.

In fact, at one time she had been used to it. As a kid, Joyce cooking breakfast had practically been a constant in her life. She half expected twelve-year-old Chloe to come bounding down the stairs – two at a time, never worried that she might fall – but the Chloe behind her had blue hair, and waggled her eyebrows at Max as she came up beside her.

Max giggled a little, and Joyce appeared in the doorway leading to the kitchen.

“You’re gonna be late if you’re not careful, young lady.” She said mildly, but she was smiling too. “Now hurry and eat your breakfast before it gets cold.”

“Yes ma’am,” Max said, while Chloe gave her a lazy sort of salute.

Joyce turned back to the kitchen while they headed toward the dining table, Chloe’s hand brushing Max’s but not grabbing it. She glanced toward Joyce’s back as they sat down, and Max thought she could understand at least a little of what Chloe was thinking. They hadn’t put a label on themselves, exactly. Chloe hadn’t called herself her girlfriend, and they hadn’t made any date plans, but things were different between them now. Were they just supposed to announce it? Casually hold hands at the table? Max really doubted that Joyce would have a problem with any of it. On the other hand, David she wasn’t so sure about; some of the comments he’d made about women didn’t exactly show ‘tolerance’. The fact that Joyce had married someone who would make such comments was also starting to make her feel a lot less confident about how she’d react to the whole thing, and Max’s stomach sank.

She didn’t know if Chloe was having the same worries, but reached over and gave her hand a quick reassuring squeeze anyway, before Joyce turned around and came out of the kitchen with their plates of food. Chloe smiled at her, and Max smiled back, kind of feeling like her heart was rising in her chest, while Joyce set their food on the table.

“Nothing like bacon and eggs after you’ve been up half the night,” Joyce said as she went back for her own plate.

Max’s stomach growled at the sight of the food, and Chloe was already digging in, but she took a second before eating to ask: “You were up half the night?”

“After David woke up the whole damn neighborhood,” Joyce confirmed, scowling as she came to sit down with them. “He still hasn’t been home.” She shook her head. “Won’t tell me what it is at Blackwell that’s keeping him this long exactly, but…” She trailed off, shaking her head again and letting out a long sigh. “Well, he says it’s important.”

“I’m – I’m sure it is, Joyce.” Max said. More important that he even knows.

“Did he, uh, say when he thought he’d be done?” Chloe asked, her voice deliberately casual.

Joyce frowned at Chloe. “No, he did not. Said he’d explain it all later, but it had better be a hell of an explanation.” Max and Chloe exchanged glances at that.

Trust me Joyce, it is, Max thought. What she said out loud was: “Well, he, um, probably wouldn’t do all of this without reason, right?”

Joyce nodded, softening. “Yeah, I’m sure you’re right Max.” She hesitated, and then looked toward the door. “I’ll just feel better when he’s home, and can tell me what’s going on.”

“Hey, I’m sure Sgt – ” Chloe stopped and corrected herself, even before Joyce had the chance to shoot her a look – “ David , will be back soon, Mom, okay?”

Joyce blinked at her. “You’re in a good mood. Usually you’d be complaining about him not bein’ gone longer.”

Chloe shrugged, smirking, shooting Max a quick glance. “I just…slept well, that’s all.”

Joyce raised an eyebrow, but she was smiling a little. “I’m glad one of us did.”

For a minute or two there was silence as they ate, but it was an almost familiar one. Again, Max couldn’t help but think of the mornings she’d spent in this house during her childhood. She could practically see William seated next to Joyce – across from Chloe, and they’d always make faces or wink at each other – and her heart ached at the memories.

“Max?” Chloe’s voice took her out of her thoughts. “Earth to Max.”

“Oh, sorry,” Max said sheepishly. “I was kinda zoning out. What were you saying?”

“Uh, nothing.” Chloe said, glancing away, her cheeks turning a little pink. “You just…had a weird look on your face, that’s all.”

Max’s heart felt like it was warming up in her chest. “I’m okay,” she told Chloe. “I was just thinking that I’m really glad I’m here. I missed mornings like this.”

“Oh, honey,” Joyce said, seeming a little choked up. “I agree. It’s just wonderful to have you here again.” She beamed at both of them. “Seeing the two of you together just feels right.”

“Yeah,” Max said, looking back over at Chloe, who hadn’t stopped smiling at her. “I think so too.”

 

 

As Chloe pulled into the Blackwell Parking Lot, a sense of unease grew in Max’s stomach at the sight of the school ahead of them.

Before, even the thought of Blackwell filled her with pride and eagerness. She couldn’t wait to go there, to become a better photographer, to attend Mr. Jefferson’s class…her breath caught in her throat, and for a moment she felt like she might choke as she remembered that first day.

The way her heart had pounded before walking in the door, because he just had such great vision and she was going to learn so much from him (hadn’t she learned, in the end?). It seemed like his gaze slid right to her (it had) like he’d seen something special in her (she wanted to throw up).

Maxine Caulfield, he’d said, smiling at her (like he’d been waiting for her, and she’d bitten the hook) as he told her she had a gift. Did he plan it then, as he led her to her seat (where he could always watch her) or had he waited until he was alone? Had he –

Sudden pressure on her hand took Max out of her circling thoughts. She realized Chloe was squeezing her hand, anchoring her to the present again.

“Max?” She asked. “Are you, um, hearing your own voice again?”

“N-no.” Max managed a short laugh, squeezing Chloe’s hand back tightly as she sank into her seat. “I’m – I’m sorry,” she said. “I was just, um, l-lost in thought.”

Chloe frowned, a little crease forming between her eyebrows. “What kind of thoughts?”

Max let out a slightly shaky breath. “Bad thoughts,” she admitted, and for a moment she just wanted to leave it there, but Chloe gave her a look and she continued. “I was remembering how happy I’d been to come here, to – to go to Jefferson’s class, you know? Because I admired his work ,” she said in disgust, her stomach rolling.

“Hey,” Chloe said sharply. “You couldn’t have known, Max. No one knew. And thanks to you –” She leaned over to grab Max’s other hand, “– Jefferson is going to go down today.”

Max nodded, drawing small circles with her thumbs on the back of Chloe’s hands.

“Yeah. It won’t be much longer now.” She took in another deep breath and exhaled slowly. For a few seconds, they simply sat in silence.

“Max,” Chloe said, and Max looked up at her. She opened her mouth and then hesitated, eyes darting down Max’s face and then up again.

“What?” Max asked. “Was there so– mpf – ” Before she could finish her sentence, she was interrupted by Chloe kissing her.

Chloe’s hands let go of hers, and then moved up to her shoulders and behind Max’s neck, pulling her closer, Chloe’s fingers then threading back into her hair. It could have lasted a few seconds, or possibly a full minute – it was so easy to lose track of time doing this – and then Chloe pulled back.

“Wh-what was that for?” Max asked, her voice quieter than she meant it to be.

Chloe shrugged, seeming…embarrassed? Bashful? She was blushing a little, not meeting Max’s eye.

“I – I didn’t know what to – ” She hesitated, and then finished: “I just wanted you to feel better.”

Oh, Chloe . Max leaned toward her, wavering for a second, still somehow a little unsure, before kissing her in return.

“I do,” she promised when she leaned back.

“Yeah?” Chloe asked, sounding a little breathless. Then her grin turned wicked, and she wiggled her eyebrows exaggeratedly. “If you wanna stay in here for a while, I bet I could make you feel great .”

Max gave a mortified gasp, her face heating up. “Oh my God,” she said, lightly shoving Chloe’s shoulder and trying to muffle her giggles. “Yeah, b-because I totally want security to take us to Principal Wells for making out in the parking lot.”

“Right,” Chloe said, making a disgusted face. “Even with all this other shit going down, I’m sure Sgt. Dickhead would find a way to lecture me. It’d give these Blackwell assholes something to talk about though, huh?” She grinned again, and despite her earlier words Max was very tempted to stay in the truck after all, just for a few minutes. Even with her power, though, they had limited time, and too much to do.

So, she compromised. She kissed Chloe once more, lingering for several seconds, and then pulled back, and turned to face forward, still holding her hand.

“They’ll have plenty to talk about after today anyway.” Max said, looking out the windshield at Blackwell looming ahead of them. “And they won’t even know the half of it.”

For a while, neither of them said anything, or made any move to get out of the truck. No matter how long they stayed though, this week was still racing to its finish line, and if they had any hope of crossing it…

“Come on,” Max said, letting go of Chloe’s hand to open her door. Chloe did the same, and met Max at the front of the truck, immediately taking her hand again.

Max smiled, for a moment feeling like her heart would burst in her chest. Standing here with Chloe like this would have seemed impossible not all that long ago, but they were here now, together.

And together, they could face anything.

 

 

Kate and Warren were supposed to be waiting for them by the girl’s dorms, mostly to make it easier and safer for Kate; Max, Chloe, and Warren had all agreed that they didn’t want to risk her running into Jefferson or Nathan. Warren had even been walking Kate back to her dorm every night, and Max was glad for it. They both texted her to let her know when they were safe in their rooms, but a part of her would still feel worried until she saw them again with her own eyes. She wondered what it had been like for Chloe, for Rachel to be there one night and gone by morning. A sick feeling rose in her stomach, and she gripped Chloe’s hand.

Chloe gave her a squeeze back, and Max relaxed a little, then picked up her pace as the courtyard for the dorms came into view. She couldn’t keep getting lost in thoughts like that. There was too much they still had to do, and she needed to focus.

All the same, it felt like a knot in her stomach loosened when she spotted Kate and Warren standing by the front door of the girls’ dorms. They were talking, standing together, and didn’t notice Max and Chloe’s approach at first. Kate’s arms were crossed, and she looked a little hunched over. As they got closer, Max saw that Warren’s hand was on her arm, and it looked like he was the one talking to her. Kate nodded and gave him a small smile that widened as she caught sight of Max and Chloe. She waved, and Warren turned to do the same before he started talking to Kate again.

“ – that’s going on, it could be related. Nothing would surprise me at this point,” Warren was saying as Max and Chloe drew level with them.

“What could be related?” Max asked, looking at Kate in concern. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Kate replied. “I just, um, had a bit of a scare this morning, that’s all.”

Chloe’s eyes narrowed, glancing quickly around, asking in a low voice: “Did Nathan or Jefferson – ?”

“No, no,” Kate assured her. “It’s – it’s really nothing I should be worked up over. A bird crashed into my window this morning, that’s all. It – it startled me. Woke me up.”

For a second Max’s ears rushed with the sound of hundreds of birds hitting the window, and she shuddered.

“With those whales washing up on shore it all seemed a bit too much for coincidence,” Warren added.

“You’re right,” Max agreed grimly. “There are dead birds all over town, and who knows what else. Last time I thought they were signs of the storm, and it’s starting to feel like I’m right. Now that we know it was always coming…”

“Kinda feels like a warning, huh?” Chloe mused. “Nature telling you to get the fuck out.”

“Or an omen,” Kate murmured, gently touching the cross hanging from her neck.

“Animals sense things like that before we do, at least sometimes.” Warren said. “You know, like canaries in a coal mine.”

“That comparison doesn’t really make me feel better,” Max admitted. Does that make me the miner letting them all die? She wondered. No, she told herself. She wasn’t going to let them all die, and she had no control over the storm.

Warren started to apologize, but Max waved him off. “It’s fine,” she told him. “You guys got everything you need?”

“Yes,” Kate said, reaching into her bookbag and pulling out a large stack of flyers. “Are you sure you don’t want us to go with you?”

“We’ll get these out faster split up,” Max reminded her, but Kate shook her head.

“N-no, I meant – ” She glanced around and lowered her voice. “With Frank.”

“Yeah,” Warren confirmed. “We’re more than happy to be your backup.”

Max smiled at both of them. “Thanks –”

“– But we can handle Frank,” Chloe finished for her, slinging her arm around Max’s shoulders. “He’s not as scary as he likes to pretend he is.”

“And I’ve done this a few times before,” Max admitted. Plus, this time I won’t have pissed him off by trying to shoot him, she thought, though we won’t have his money either. “Just get these flyers up around here and anywhere else you can think of, and make sure you’re as ready as you can be for tomorrow.”

“Yessir,” Warren said, saluting her.

“If you’re sure,” Kate said, looking between her and Chloe and smiling. “We’ll meet you back at Chloe’s when we’re done.” She passed half of the flyers over to Max, who put them in her own bag. People would probably be confused about all the papers with directions to storm shelters, but by tomorrow Max hoped it would help save them.

“And we’ll let you guys know when we’re done with Frank,” Chloe promised. She glanced around again, and then leaned in closer, keeping her voice soft: “Max said it shouldn’t be too much longer now, and we’ll see all of those bastards arrested.”

“Good,” Kate said darkly. “It’s no more than they deserve.” She exhaled a little shakily, and for a second seemed to be holding back tears. Warren put his hand on her arm again, giving her a concerned look, and she smiled in response. “I’m okay,” she said to all three of them. “I’ll be – I’ll be okay.” She took in a deep breath, squaring her shoulders. “And they’ll never hurt anyone else again.”

“No,” Max agreed. “They won’t. We’ll make sure of it.”

“They’ll be behind bars by tonight, just you wait!” Warren said, as if he’d been the one to see it happen before.

“Not even all the money in the fucking world will be able to get them out of this,” Chloe added, with more than a little satisfaction.

“You’re right.” Kate nodded. “After today…there’ll be no going – ” She was cut off by her own ringtone – a pretty piano theme – and she shot them an apologetic smile as she pulled out her phone. Her smile froze as she stared at her screen.

“Kate?” Max asked, a sense of dread curling in her stomach. “Are you – ?”

Kate shook her head, very quickly, her fingers tightening on the phone as it continued to ring. She hesitated for a second and glanced at the three of them before putting it to her ear.

“Hello, Mother.” She said in a soft voice.

Max sucked in an angry breath, her fists clenching as Kate seemed to fold into herself.

Warren frowned at her in concern. He gently touched her arm again, and then pulled back.

At Max’s side, Chloe scowled. “I swear if she gives Kate any shit,” she said under her breath to Max only. “I’m going to grab that phone and give her a fucking piece of my mind.”

“Not a bad idea,” Max replied in a low voice, not looking away from Kate. She was tempted to grab the phone herself, and tell Mrs. Marsh exactlywhat she was doing to her daughter.

“Y-yes, it’s true I’ve missed class – ” Kate began, and then she stopped, wincing at something her mother said on the other end of the line. Her head bent down, shoulders hunched. “I – I’ve been sick.”

She straightened, suddenly, head snapping up. “No, Mother! I h-haven’t been – been partying!” She closed her eyes, taking in a deep breath. “I told you, I’ve been sick. I know, Mother. Yes, I p-promise I’m telling the truth. I’ll – I’ll make up all the work I’ve missed, and – ” Kate froze. Shakily, she nodded, her lips pushed together, looking for a second like she would throw up.

Max, Chloe, and Warren all stepped closer to her, but Kate held up a hand to keep them back.

“Y-yes,” Kate whispered, blinking rapidly, her breath hitching. “I know, Mother. Yes. Yes, I – I know what I have to do.” She stood straighter again, and her voice was a little steadier as well. “I – I will. Goodbye.” She ended the call, and put her phone back in her bag with trembling hands.

After a second of silence, Max stepped toward her. “Kate…?

“Oh,” Kate said, letting out a little sigh, her hands coming up to her face, covering her eyes. “I- I’m sorry.”

“For what?” Max asked, reaching forward and lightly touching her shoulder.

“Kate, you have zero reason to say sorry,” Chloe said. “You haven’t done anything wrong, got it?”

Kate slowly lowered her hands, but didn’t look up at them.

“Well,” Warren said, hesitating for a second before grabbing her hand, “Technically there was that breaking and entering.” Kate gave a short snort of a laugh before he went on. “But – but anything that your mom was saying? She’s the one who’s wrong.”

Kate gave another shuddering breath, sniffling, and this time she did look up at them, unable to hide her tears any longer, but she was smiling too. “Oh,” she said, stepping toward them, her arms hooking around Max and Warren’s shoulders, moving them toward Chloe to include her in the hug.

“A f-few days ago, I – I never thought anyone would s-stand up for me like this,” she said, holding them tighter, and they looped their arms around Kate as well. “A-and wh-when she called I – I didn’t think I could face her alone. Thank you ,” she finished, and it didn’t matter that the group hug was a little awkward: Chloe’s height kind of threw it off balance, not to mention Max was pretty sure Warren was stepping on her foot.

Instead, they all seemed to draw closer together, holding Kate tightly between them, until the bell for class startled them apart.

“Um, I guess that’s our cue to go,” Max said, stepping back and looking between Kate and Warren. “If – if you’re okay?”

Kate nodded, wiping at her eyes. “Y-yes, I’ll be fine. You two go on ahead.”

“Are you sure?” Max asked, and she nodded again in response. “Be safe, okay?”

“You guys too,” Warren replied, moving closer to Kate.

“Let us know if you need our help,” Kate added. “Please, Max?”

“Promise,” Max told her, giving her a quick smile and adjusting the bag on her shoulder.

“Don’t worry,” Chloe assured them with a cocky smirk as she took Max’s hand and began to turn away. “We can handle Frank Bowers.”

That’s right, Max thought as they began to head back toward the parking lot. Frank and the fliers and the arrests…and then we just have to face the storm.

 

 

Frank’s RV looked the same as ever parked on the beach. Though she had already changed a number of things about this week, she couldn’t help but feel the echoes of her previous one as she got out of the truck and stepped onto the sand. She’d been here before to talk to Frank – on this same day, even, which was kind of a surreal thought. She’d seen the dead whales dotting the coastline, and what would happen if they came on too strong or pissed Frank off. Even though it had been her idea, she didn’t like being here again, or the feeling of repetition it gave her. Everything had gone so wrong so quickly after they’d seen Frank in her other reality…

Max shook her head, and let out a deep breath, forcing herself to think about the upcoming conversation as she made her way up the beach toward the RV. In one hand, she held a small bag with dog treats and a toy. They’d stopped at the local pet supplies shop on their way over (dropping off fliers as they went) and Max hoped it would get things off to a smoother start since they didn’t have the money Chloe owed him.

She stopped, feeling her phone buzzing multiple times in her pocket.

“Holy shit,” Chloe said, staring at her own phone. “Max, it’s – it’s happening.”

Max’s heart leapt to her throat and her fingers couldn’t quite seem to press the buttons right to unlock her screen. But there it was: four texts – five, her phone vibrating in her hand again. Two each from Kate and Warren, and one from Dana.

Max, they’re arresting Jefferson and Nathan!!! Kate’s read. We haven’t left the school yet, they’re in handcuffs!

I wish you could see the look on Jefferson’s face right now, said Warren’s. Wait, you can:

With that, her phone buzzed once more, and she saw a slightly blurry picture of Blackwell’s hallway. Jefferson seemed smaller, somehow, his shoulders hunched, face pale, seeming to be realizing that there would be no charming his way out of the situation. The image was more than a little satisfying, and she read Dana’s text – OMG Max you are missing the craziest shit – with a smile.

“Two down,” Chloe said, still staring down at her phone, a little crease between her eyebrows. “It almost seems too good to be true.”

“We’re getting justice for Rachel, and Kate, and everyone,” Max said, and then paused. “You’re right. It doesn’t feel real. I don’t think any of it will until I’ve escaped this week.”

“Yeah,” Chloe said. “We’ve just gotta get a favor from a drug dealer that I owe money to, evacuate as many people as we can, and get out of town ourselves before we’re killed by a giant tornado.” She laughed, shaking her head..

“Well,” Max laughed with her. “When you put it that way…” She looked at the RV ahead of them and let in a deep breath. Time for that favor from a drug dealer , she thought.

She held out her hand to Chloe, who smiled as she took it, and they finished the walk across the beach to Frank’s RV.

They exchanged a glance one last time as they approached the front door. Chloe stepped in front of it and knocked twice, then moved back to stand with Max again, her arms crossed.

Max heard Pompidu barking inside the RV, and Frank’s heavy footsteps getting closer and closer to the door until he pushed it open. For a few seconds, he simply eyed them, going down the few stairs to the ground slowly.

“Well, what do we have here?” He asked. “You lookin’ to sell me some cookies?” He laughed, but there was an edge to his tone as he answered his own question. “No. Chloe, here, is all about buying, isn’t that right? And borrowing what she can’t pay back.” He turned to Max. “Who the fuck are you?”

“This is Max,” Chloe said, gesturing toward her. “She’s my – my partner.”

Frank snorted. “Right. If you’re here, it must be because you have my money.”

“Uh.” Chloe fidgeted. “Not – not yet, but – ”

“We have this!” Max interjected before Frank could speak, thrusting out the hand holding the bag. “Chloe told me you have a dog. I, um, bought these on our way here.”

Frank stared at the bag in her hand for a solid three seconds, and then gave a short laugh.

“What the fuck is that supposed to be? I don’t know what you’ve told your friend here, Chloe, but you owe me over three grand, and if you think some dog treats will change that, you’re about to get a rude fucking awakening.”

“It’s just a gift,” Max said, gesturing with the bag again. “A sign of – of good faith.”

Frank gave her another long look, and then took the bag.

“Good faith,” he repeated, opening it. “Well, Pompidu will like these, so I guess we’re cool for now. But you still owe me big, Chloe,” he finished.

“I’ll get you the money,” Chloe insisted. “It’s just…going to take a little longer than I thought.”

“You’ve been saying that shit for a while,” Frank pointed at her, the threatening gesture somewhat offset by the bright purple bag in his hand. “So, if you’re not here with my money, what the hell do you want?”

“Just to talk,” Max said. “That’s all, we swear.”

Frank narrowed his eyes, then made a ‘go on’ gesture. “Then fucking talk. Oh, and I’m not getting you high.”

“We’re not here for that, okay?” Chloe crossed her arms, glancing at Max before going on. “We – we just…want to know what you’re doing tomorrow?”

“What, so I can get you high then? No deal,” Frank scoffed. “What I do is none of your goddamn business.”

“We told you, that’s not what we want,” Max said, hesitating for only a second before finishing: “But we…might want a ride.”

“A ride ,” Frank repeated in disbelief. “Are you fucking – ? Does this look like a goddamn taxi service to you?” He gestured at his RV. “You owe me money, and you’re asking for favors?

“Max doesn’t owe you anything,” Chloe said sharply. “That’s all me.”

“Oh, that changes everything,” Frank snorted, and then narrowed his eyes at Max. “I don’t know who the fuck you are, and I don’t want to. The answer’s ‘no’.”

“Wait!” Max said before he could try to head back in his RV. “Please – ”

“What?” Frank crossed his arms. “More goddamn questions? Spit it out, I’m not a patient guy.”

“We know,” Max replied before Chloe could, a bit of irritation coloring her tone. After all she’d been through and seen the past week (weeks) she was long past done dealing with Frank throwing his weight around.

Frank gave a short laugh, though he seemed anything but amused. “Oh man, are you fucking serious ? Is this supposed to be your backup, Chloe?”

“That’s right,” Chloe said, grabbing her hand.

“Yeah,” Max replied mildly, giving him a level smile as she threaded her fingers with Chloe’s. “You won’t like me when I’m angry.”

Frank glared at her. “What the fuck are you playing at, girlie? You think talking like that makes you tough shit?” He stepped aggressively toward her, and Chloe tensed at her side, but Max stayed where she was, staring back at him.

In that moment, it was all so clear to her. The way Frank spoke to her, the way he moved – all of it – meant that he thought she was afraid of him. That she should be afraid. For all the jokes, Frank was the one who was dangerous when he was angry, and there was a time she’d been scared of him, but now –

 

There’s a blinding camera flash, and all she can see behind it is Jefferson’s smile, and all she can hear is his voice, but what she remembers in that moment is finding Rachel’s body. The rotting smell had been so strong she could taste it, gagging her. She’d known that Rachel had died cold and scared and alone; now Max was going to die just like her 

 

Max shook herself out of the memory, focusing on Chloe’s warm hand to ground her to this reality. No, she wasn’t scared of Frank Bowers anymore.

“Huh? What’s your fucking problem – ?” Frank demanded.

“You are,” Max replied. “You’re my problem, Frank Bowers.”

For a second he just gaped at her. “Excuse me? You wanna say that again?”

“I said you’re my problem,” Max repeated easily, “Because you sold Nathan Prescott GHB.”

Frank’s eyes widened in surprise, and then he scowled. “I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. Chloe, don’t you or your ‘partner’ show your faces around here again without my goddamn money.” He turned to head back to his RV.

“You sold GHB to Nathan,” Max said as if he hadn’t spoken, taking a few steps after him, Chloe keeping pace with her. He stopped, and faced them again.

“I told you, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about!” Frank’s hands clenched, and he reached his free hand down toward his hip – where his knife was, Max knew – so she kept talking.

“Yes, you do! You know more than you want to admit, don’t you?” She didn’t take her eyes off of him. “Just what do you think Nathan wanted to do with GHB, huh?”

Frank’s eyes darted away from her, his hand in his pocket now. “I don’t – ”

“Do you know Kate Marsh?” Max asked, and Frank blinked, clearly surprised, his arm stilling.

“No,” he answered shortly. “And you’ve worn out my patience, so you get the fuck off – ”

“Off what?” Chloe asked flatly. “The beach ?”

“I have had it up to here – ” Frank drew his fist out of his pocket, his knife flipping open. “ – with you little shits! Get the fuck away from my RV before I make you!”

“No,” Max said, raising her right hand. “We’re not going anywhere.” She rewound.

She breathed in slowly and held it as her fingers strained in the air, grasping, pressure pounding in her head. She pulled on the band of time, slowing it bit by bit until it stopped. She exhaled a little shakily, and then lowered her hand, staring at the man frozen before her and trying to ignore her headache. At this point, she was starting to think it wouldn’t ever stop hurting, that maybe the pain, too, was something she’d just have to learn to live with.

This shouldn’t take long, though, she thought, letting go of Chloe’s hand as she walked the short remaining distance to Frank. No matter how used to it she was getting, moving through frozen time was still very strange, almost dreamlike somehow. The knife she took from him was definitely real, though, and she handled it very carefully as she took her place opposite Frank again. She could feel her hold on time – like a constant vibration in her mind – and she exhaled as she released it, the world rushing into motion around her, almost knocking her off of her feet, Chloe holding her steady.

“What the fuck…?” Frank whispered, staring down at his hand, and then he began digging furiously in his pockets, and glancing at the ground around him. “Where the fuck – ?”

Max straightened, holding the knife out for him to see.

Frank stared at it for several seconds, his mouth a little open. His eyes flicked to her face, and then to the knife again.

“I told you,” Max said, as if she hadn’t done anything, though while she spoke she felt blood drip from her nose and to her lip. “We’re not going anywhere. There’s more we’ve got to talk about, and you – ” She narrowed her eyes at him as she wiped the blood from her face – “ You , Frank Bowers, are going to listen.”

He opened his mouth and then closed it again, continuing to stare at the knife in her hand.

“You said you didn’t know Kate Marsh,” Max went on, gingerly folding the knife closed, and at that Frank finally looked away from it and at her face. “But you should. You sold GHB to Nathan Prescott, and he used it to drug Kate.”

Frank’s face actually paled a little, and he glanced away from her again.

“Look,” he said. “I – I didn’t – ”

“What?” Chloe demanded, still at Max’s side. “You didn’t want to think about it? Lucky for you, ‘cause Kate can’t do that.”

His head actually bent at her words, his fists clenching.

“You didn’t drug her,” Max said. “But you sold GHB to Nathan. What did you think he wanted it for?” She didn’t give him a chance to answer. “Youdidn’t think. Well – well you’re going to have to fucking start. Kate has to live with what happened for the rest of her life, and so should you.”

She walked closer to him, Chloe staying with her, and Frank didn’t back away, but he pretty much refused to look at her, his hands still clenched at his sides. He was shaking a little.

“Kate wasn’t the first,” Max continued. She hesitated for only a second before she asked: “Just what do you think happened to Rachel?”

Frank froze, and then slowly lifted his head. His eyes were wide, and stared at her as if he’d never seen her until that moment. “What – what are you saying? Rachel – Rachel, she – you don’t – ”

“Rachel is dead !” Chloe shouted, and all the color drained from Frank’s face. “She’s gone,” Chloe said more quietly, her voice breaking. “Because Nathan fucking Prescott overdosed her.”

“N-no,” he shook his head, backing away from them again. “That can’t – that’s not – ”

“It’s true, Frank,” Max said, never looking away from him. “I – I wish it wasn’t, but it is. The people responsible for it are getting arrested as we speak, and details will be in the paper by tomorrow.”

He was still shaking his head, tears in his eyes. “No! No – I – I don’t fucking believe you!”

Max let out a bitter laugh. “By tomorrow, you will. And tomorrow…” She paused before finishing: “When you see that we’re not lying, that’s when we’ll want a ride.”

This time it was Frank who laughed: loudly and for a full minute as he sank to the ground. “A ride,” he repeated. “All – all this and you want a ride ?”

“There’s going to be a storm tomorrow,” Max said, as if he hadn’t spoken. “A deadly one. And after you know that this is the truth…” she leaned over to look him in the eye. What had he said to her in that other lifetime, injured and also on the ground, while the storm raged outside? “You want to ‘enter His house justified’, don’t you?”  He stilled at these words, and she knew she’d remembered correctly. “Kate Marsh will be with us tomorrow. Help us and whoever else we can get out of here alive. Do the right thing.” She straightened, but Frank didn’t say anything, didn’t move.

Max walked away from him, tucking his knife in her pocket and taking Chloe’s hand. They walked along the beach in silence, and she only looked back when they reached the truck. Frank was still crouched on the ground, though now his hands were over his face.

“Do you think it worked?” Chloe asked. She was staring back at Frank too. Her face was still a little pale, eyes kind of red.

“I don’t know,” Max answered honestly. “I never did anything like this before, but…I think once he knows the truth, he’ll help us.”

“And if he doesn’t,” Chloe said optimistically, “We can steal a bus.”

Max laughed, and then winced, rubbing her head.

“You okay?” Chloe asked, gripping her hand and turning toward her.

Max smiled thinly, another wave of pain reverberating through her skull. “I – I will be. Freezing time is easier than it used to be, but…” she sighed, massaging her forehead with her palm.

Chloe frowned, narrowing her eyes. “You’re bleeding.”

Max reached up to her nose. “Oh – shit.” She tried to say something else to assure her, but suddenly was unsteady on her feet. She swayed a little, Chloe’s hands catching her around the arms.

“Whoa there!” Chloe kept her steady, leading her closer to the truck.

“Th – thanks,” Max said, stumbling a little. Her feet were too heavy, like something was dragging them down, but she managed to stay upright.

“Don’t pass out on me now,” Chloe warned. “Or I’ll kick your ass.”

Max gave a short laugh, though she knew from how tightly Chloe held her shoulders that she was worried. “It’s j – just your turn t – to sweep me off my feet.” She said as Chloe helped her climb into the truck. Max’s head slumped back, and she closed her eyes, hoping it might help the pain. She felt another drop of blood fall to her lip, and she wiped it away as she heard Chloe get into the driver’s seat.

Max frowned, realizing that wasn’t all she could hear. The voices were there again, buzzing in the background. She could make out the structure of fractured sentences, words, her own voice, and others. If she listened hard enough she thought just maybe she could see snippets of memory –

Chloe’s hand touched her shoulder, snapping Max back to the present. “Hey, I said no passing out.”

Max smiled, opening her eyes briefly, though her head was still pounding. “I – I’m awake. I think I just need to relax for a little bit.”

Chloe nodded, pulling out her phone to check the time. “We still have a while before we’re supposed to meet Kate and Warren. I think I know just the place we can chill.”

 

 

Walking the path up to the lighthouse was a little difficult  (though not nearly as much as it had been during her nightmare) but Chloe supported her every step.

As Max was sitting down on the bench, she felt her phone go off in her pocket. Her fingers fumbled a little as she picked it up, a message from Kate lighting up the screen:

Finished up! Where are you guys at?

Lighthouse, Max texted back. Come on and head this way, we can go to Chloe’s together.

“Kate and Warren are gonna meet us here,” she said when Kate confirmed they’d be there soon.

Chloe nodded, taking a hit off of the joint she’d brought in her pocket. She offered it out to Max, who considered it, but then shook her head.

“Tonight I will, probably,” she told Chloe. Hell, she’d likely need it just to calm down enough to sleep. Max looked out over the town. It was almost hard to believe that tomorrow a tornado would be there, ready to swallow up Arcadia Bay. But she could also see the whales dotting the coastline, could feel a chill in the air. The storm was coming. There was nothing they could do to stop it, and tomorrow…

“Whatever you’re thinking can’t be helping your headache,” Chloe said, nudging her shoulder. “Your forehead is all wrinkled.”

Max laughed, even as it sharpened the pain in her head. “Sorry,” she said, pushing away visions of tornados in her memory. “You’re probably right.”

“Usually am,” Chloe said, matter-of-factly.

Max snorted. “Whatever you say.”

“Exactly.” Chloe grinned, and this time Max was the one to give her a playful shove.

They fell silent again, and despite what she’d said, Max wondered if Chloe was having just as hard a time trying not to think about tomorrow. For all their planning and conversations, it still felt like they didn’t really know what to do. Because we don’t, Max thought. don’t. They could talk about Frank’s help and stealing buses all they wanted; even though she’d faced the storm before Max knew she was barely more prepared for it.

“Still kind of hard to believe all of this is happening, huh?” Chloe asked.

“I can’t believe how fast it all seemed,” Max sighed. “Even though I’ve – I’ve done some of it before, lived this week before, it feels like it passed in a moment.” She paused, teetering on the edge of just blurting all her worries out at once. “It’s scary,” she admitted. “I – I feel like I sh-should know more about tomorrow, be – be more ready, but – ” She cut herself off, her eyes starting to sting, head pounding again.

“Hey,” Chloe held her wrist. “Max, without you we wouldn’t even know about the storm at all, let alone all this shit with Jefferson and the Prescotts.”

Though Chloe’s hand was warm, Max shuddered. The chill felt so much stronger now, and she could hear a faint howling in her ears, like rushing wind.

Chloe’s hand was on her back, and Max nodded at her, “I – I’m fine,” she said, even as the wind grew louder – she could feel it whipping at her now – and rain so icy it may as well have been hail. She closed her eyes, curling tighter into herself, trying to ignore it all, but it was as if she could feel the ground shift beneath her feet, Chloe’s voice calling out to her as she tumbled –

 – And Chloe’s hand was in in her own, fingers slipping as the wind threatened to tear them apart

Herself, as if she were in front of a mirror, speaking desperately: “ – Prescotts are going to – ”

“Max!” Chloe’s hands held her shoulders, and she tried to stay in this moment, this reality –

The gunshot rang in her ears, silencing everything –

The hospital gown seemed to tangle up her arms and legs, even as Chloe fought to keep her standing –

“ –because of you, they want revenge!” Her other self was talking louder, faster –

“ – pass out on me!” Chloe was saying, her hold on Max tightening. “Please – ”

“Please, please no – ” She was shaking a lifeless Chloe lying in a broken street –

They were huddled together, crouched low to the ground as lights flickered above them –

Kate and Warren were lying across from the wreckage, bent at the wrong angles –

“I’ve got you,” Chloe said, her gentle fingers brushing back Max’s hair. “It’ll be – ” A noise behind them cut her off, and her eyes narrowed as her head snapped up to look –

She could feel the press of the gun against her skull –

“Listen to me!” Her other self cried, and for a moment Max could sense her gripping her shoulders –

“ – the FUCK away from her!” Chloe shouted, but she sounded far away, and the hands she’d felt were cold, pressing her to the ground –

Nathan pointed the gun at her with shaking hands, tears in his eyes, his parents standing behind him –

The hospital was collapsing on top of them, there was no way out, no way –

Sharp pain in her neck, sharper for a moment than anything, and she writhed in the arms that were pinning her down –

She could see the storm clouds forming, funneling, twisting to the ground –

Her head lolled to the side, and she could barely keep her eyes open. Haze was settling over her like a fog, even as she fought to move, to find Chloe, to push off whoever was holding her, but all she could do was stare at the patterned spiral above her. It was coming toward them – no, they were going up into it, rising higher and higher even as the world seemed to fade around her, and Max faded with it.

She caught a glimpse of the clear sky, and held Chloe tighter, knowing it would all be over soon.

 

 

Her fingers were tingling.

It was the first thing she was conscious of noticing, what seemed to pull her forward from the blankness of before. As the seconds passed, the tingling spread through her body, but she couldn’t move. She struggled to open her heavy eyelids as sounds started to come to her: muffled at first, but familiar. Voices , she realized, even though the words themselves made no sense to her; it was difficult to focus on them when everything was still so dulled.

She was lying on her side, cheek pressed to the cold ground, arms curled up close to her face. She tried to move her shoulders, but honestly couldn’t tell if she did it. Slowly, as if they were speaking a language she was only just starting to remember, the voices were starting to become clearer. Beyond the voices, Max could hear someone crying.

She tried to talk, but the sounds that escaped her barely resembled words. “Ch…ooo…eeeee…”

“Max!” Something warm moved up against her, and Max could feel hands on her shoulders, then the side of her face. “Oh, Max, you’re awake – ”

“Max! Max, are you alright?” Warren , she realized. She could hear him moving off to her right, getting closer to her.

Max slowly opened her eyes, blinking to clear the haze that continued to hover over her. She shifted her head, just a little, still barely able to move, but the world started to come into focus, and she recognized her surroundings. Posters about wildlife in the area peppered the walls, along with nautical diagrams and a plaque detailing a brief history of the building. She hadn’t seen it since she was a kid, but the inside of the lighthouse hadn’t changed too much. There was a sinking feeling in her stomach, and she knew that something was wrong, but she couldn’t quite understand. Even as she stared at the people in front of her, her mind took a moment to put together what was happening, and then the realization burned like a bullet in her gut that she half remembered.

Sean and Amelia Prescott were standing together, gazing down at her, but they weren’t alone. They were both holding guns: Sean pointing his toward Max, while Amelia’s was pressed against Kate’s temple. Kate was kneeling in front of the Prescotts, her hands bound. She was crying.

“K-Kaa…” Max began, trying as hard as she could to get her tongue to work. “Kaaate…”

“M-Max,” She whimpered, shaking. “I – I thought you were n-never waking up – ”

“Yes,” Sean Prescott said, stepping a little closer, and Max felt Chloe’s hold on her tighten. “I thought for a moment that perhaps we had given you too much.”  He hadn’t looked away from Max, his head a little to the side, as though he was studying a photo hanging on the wall.

“We had to take that risk,” Amelia said, speaking very quickly. Her glassy eyes were fixed on Max, but somehow seemed to be looking right through her, or beyond her. “We don’t know what she does, what she could do – ” She stopped herself, and then laughed. It seemed to echo oddly in the lighthouse, the hairs on Max’s arms standing on end. “What she could do! Why couldn’t I see it?” Amelia asked, but she didn’t actually seem to be talking to anyone in particular. Her hair was coming out of its elegant bun, her dress was slightly wrinkled, and her hands holding the gun were trembling. Kate winced and closed her eyes as the muzzle shook against her head.

“Miss Caulfield will have the answer to that,” Sean said, not looking away from Max. “Once she’s able to speak.”

Max’s eyes rolled up to look at Chloe, who was holding Max even more tightly than before. The drugs they’d given her – same as the ones Jefferson used, she was sure – were still flowing through her system. She couldn’t really move or talk, and that meant she’d barely be able to use her powers if at all.

Chloe was saying something, and Max focused on her words, her face, though it took several seconds for her to realize that Chloe was explaining what had happened. “ – came w-with Warren and Kate, and you were already passing out, I couldn’t stop them – ”

“We had to make sure you couldn’t interfere,” Sean Prescott went on, still pleasantly.

Interfere ?” Chloe asked, laughing harshly and glaring at him. Max could feel her hands shaking. “What’s your ‘master plan’ here again? The entire town will be out for your blood – and – and people will notice we’re missing! You’re not going to get away with this, motherfucker!”

Sean and Amelia Prescott stared at Chloe, and for a moment Max was sure they were going to lose it completely as tension seemed to charge the very air.

Then Amelia Prescott laughed, tightening her hold on Kate’s hair, pulling her closer with a sharp tug.

“You’re right, Miss Price,” She said, but she was still staring at Max. “None of us are getting away.”

Max’s stomach sank – fuck fuck fuck they’re going to kill us – and tried even more desperately to move, to do anything.

“If – if you were going to kill us you’d have done it!” Warren’s voice stuttered a little on the words, but he was up on his knees, and hadn’t turned his attention away from Kate.

“No, no,” Sean Prescott moved closer, pointing his gun at each of them in turn as he spoke.

“If we killed you, Miss Caulfield would have no reason to tell us anything. And now, she has three very good reasons to.”

“T…tell…?” Max choked out, her eyes now flicking around the room. She had to think, had to do something, buy time until she could use her powers or –

“Yes,” Sean Prescott’s voice hardened. “We have questions for you, Miss Caulfield. After all, we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you.”

Chloe’s hands clamped down on Max’s arms. “What the fuck are you – ?

She broke off as Sean Prescott aimed his gun at her, and for a second Max was sure her heart had stopped. She’d seen Chloe get shot so many times –

“That,” Sean Prescott looked down at Max, who was now able to wiggle her fingers, “Is what Miss Caulfield is going to tell us.”

“I don’t…know what…you’re talking…a-about…” Max said. Her tongue was still thick and heavy in her mouth, and it was as if her lips had forgotten how to form words properly.

“Don’t lie!” Amelia Prescott pulled roughly on Kate’s hair, and Kate cried out in pain. Fury shot through Max’s veins like adrenaline, and she clenched her fists. “All of it – everything I could see, can see, it – it was always you! Everything we built and you – YOU destroyed it all!”

“Wh – what – ” Max forgot all about trying to move for a second, unable to understand. She was talking like she knew Max had turned them into the police, but how could that be?

“I told you,” Amelia pressed the gun to Kate’s head again, and Max couldn’t breathe. “ Don’t lie . I saw you. Over and over and over again – too much – ” Her eyes seemed to almost glaze over as she spoke even faster, – “Always you, ALWAYS, sneaking and stealing and ruining everything!” her voice was rising, hand shaking on the gun.

“Amelia!” Sean Prescott shouted over her, and she stopped in the middle of her sentence, still staring in a vacant sort of way as he stepped away from Max, Chloe and Warren. He gently ran his fingers up her arm to her shoulder and squeezed it.

“Amelia,” he said again, more quietly, and Max was taken aback by the rather affectionate gesture.

Amelia blinked and shook herself, straightening and focusing on Kate again.

“Of course,” She said, glancing at her husband, some kind of silent communication passing between them.

Max could feel strength returning to her. Her body was still heavy, but she could move her legs a little. As she shifted, she felt something hard in her back pocket. Her heart jumped in her chest, and then started pounding. Frank’s knife! It seemed the Prescotts hadn’t bothered to search her once she’d been drugged. If she could just get in the right position, then maybe…but she’d never be able to get the knife out of her pocket without the Prescotts noticing, not until she could use her power…

“Miss Caulfield,” Sean’s voice caught her attention again. He was still keeping his conversational tone, but there was an edge to it now. “As your friend here so delightfully pointed out – ” He gestured at Chloe with the gun – “None of us are getting away, and we are short on time. You came to our house to find what you needed, but we acted quickly to stop you. We knew you would break into our offices, but even with us calling the police somehow you slipped right under their noses. Every step we’ve seen you take, and you manage to be several ahead of us.” He moved even closer.

“How did you do it?” He asked, his voice almost a whisper.

“H-how?” Max repeated, trying to think quickly, desperately. What he was saying – how could he know about what she’d done? How could they have been expecting them, called the police, almost caught them – how could they be asking these questions of her? “I…” She took in a deep breath. She had to keep them talking. “I can’t…I can’t t-tell you if I d-don’t un…understand.”

Sean Prescott’s eyes narrowed, and he tilted his head back a little. There was a long silence, Kate’s quiet crying all she could hear as the seconds dragged on. Then he smiled again, giving a short chuckle and a shake of his head, like he pitied her.

“Did you think you were the only one?” He asked her, as if he were questioning the logic of a child. “Then, I suppose you have been too…distracted to think about it.”

“Only one?” Max repeated, even as she started to understand, a heavy weight of dread settling in her stomach.

Sean continued to smile. “We all have ways of getting what we want. Some of us just have considerably more power to make it happen.”

“Oh, fuck.” Chloe breathed.

“You…” Even though Max knew what this meant, she still couldn’t believe it. Chloe’s hands were gripping her arm tighter than ever. “You…”

“Us,” Sean Prescott corrected lightly. The hand holding the gun was trembling very slightly, in contrast with his calm voice. “So, let there be no more pretense, Miss Caulfield. I am going to ask you this question one more time.” He did not raise his gun, but rather moved a little to the side, so that Amelia could drag Kate roughly forward, as if they were taking center stage. Kate’s knees were bruised, maybe even a little bloody, and she gasped in pain, crying harder. “ How did you do it ?”

Max tried to blink back the tears filling her own eyes. Could she rewind yet? She had to get Kate away from them, get Chloe and Warren out. Even with all her plans and preparing she’d fucked everything up all over again.

“Please,” She said, even as she wiggled her hands, trying to reach for her hold on time. It was as if it was just beyond her fingertips; she could sense it there, but couldn’t pull it back quite yet.

“Please, please…d-don’t hurt them. I’ll…” Max hesitated, trying to think of anything else she could do, but until she could rewind, she had no choice but to keep talking.

Someone else spoke before Max could, surprising all of them.

“N-no!” Kate cried out, shaking her head, even as Amelia Prescott pulled painfully on her hair again. “Y-you’re going t-to k-kill us,” she sobbed. “N-no m-matter what! M-Max sh-shouldn’t t-tell you a-anything!” She squeaked in fear as the gun pressed against the side of her head, closing her eyes for a second, but then she opened them again, hands clenching. “You’re g-going to p-pay for what you’ve d-done!”

Oh, Kate, Max’s heart ached with pride and fear.

Amelia Prescott shook her head. “That’s not the way it works, especially not with Miss Caulfield. Isn’t that right?” She was staring at Max, but there was something off about her gaze, like a camera that couldn’t focus properly. “We sacrifice all manner of things for the people we love. Against all logic or reason. No matter who we thought we were.”

“W-was Nathan your sacrifice?” Warren demanded before Max could respond. His shoulders were shaking, and he was crying, but also glaring at the Prescotts without flinching. “Y-you’ve left him behind to take the fall with Jefferson – ”

Amelia’s finger curved around the trigger of the gun pressing against Kate’s head, and he stopped speaking at once.

“Don’t you dare…” Amelia breathed, “Talk about what you don’t understand. If it weren’t for HER – ” for a moment she pointed the gun at Max, her arm shaking – “Nathan would be with us! He’d have taken hold of his destiny and stood among the wreckage of this – this damned town! We’d have everything we ever worked for, and now…” She lowered the gun, laughing softly. “Now none of us will get away,” she whispered.

Max stretched out her fingers, feeling time just barely out of her grasp.

“If I…if I tell you, you have to let them go,” she said, though she knew it wouldn’t work, knew they would be lying if they agreed. “This…you said this is all my fault, they – they have nothing to do with it!”

“Miss Caulfield,” Sean Prescott said, sounding somewhat impatient now, “I said there would be no more pretense.” He shook his head. “You have danced around this question, trying to buy yourself time. I think you’ve had enough.” He glanced back at Amelia, and gave her a quick nod. She moved the gun to the back of Kate’s head.

It happened faster than Max could understand it.

The sound seemed to hit them with as much force as the gunshot, a BANG that reverberated in her bones. Kate jerked – her eyes and mouth widened in surprise –  and then went limp, arms dropping at her sides, knees giving out beneath her as Amelia released her hair and let her fall.

There was blood on the floor, blooming out from Kate’s head like a halo, and even as Warren screamed she couldn’t believe it – it was a dream, a vision of another reality, she just had to blink and it would be gone, it wasn’t real.

Chloe was yelling, cursing, crying, but Max couldn’t understand any of it, there was no air in her lungs, no air left in the world, Kate couldn’t be gone, couldn’t be dead, it wasn’t real it wasn’t real-

Amelia Prescott raised her gun again as Sean began to approach Warren, and this action shot through her fear and fury and denial, and her hands strained, the joints in her fingers threatening to pop, everything else seemed to slow around her as she screamed – and then she grasped it.

It was like there was a wire in her hand, sharp edges digging into her palm – a thread of time? – but she just curled her wrist to pull it tighter. She panted, her throat raw, pulling and pulling on the wire of time as the people around her seemed to move by inches. Seconds crawled backward, and she pulled it as slowly as an anchor being dredged up from the depths of the sea. She stopped and held time still, just for a little longer, using the last of her strength to twist and pull the knife out of her pocket, then force it between Chloe’s hands. She turned forward while she let go, and the world spun as time began to move forward again.

“ – matter who we thought we were,” Amelia Prescott was saying.

Tears leaked out of Max’s eyes, dripped down across her nose, and to the floor. She gasped, trying to push away what she’d seen, what happened –No, it didn’t happen anymore , she told herself, focusing on Kate’s crying – wonderfully alive – face. Kate was alive. Warren and Chloe were alive, and they were going to stay that way.

She could feel Chloe moving behind her, hands hidden by Max’s back, carefully and quietly using Frank’s knife on her own bound wrists. Max had to keep talking, make sure the Prescotts didn’t notice, didn’t kill any of them, not again.

“My power…” Max knew she had to be careful, had to think. She’d rewind again if she had to, but she knew it would be even more difficult, and she honestly wasn’t sure how long she’d be able to hold it. Keep them distracted, she told herself. Even if it means telling them the truth – or some of it.

“It’s time,” she said, and both Sean and Amelia Prescott stared at her. “I can go back in time.”

For several seconds, neither of them moved, they simply looked at her. Clearly they hadn’t been expecting that, and Max pressed the advantage of their surprise.

“Th- that’s how we got away from the police,” she said. “A- and all of it. You – you’re right I n-never expected there to be anyone else l-like me.”

“Like you?” Amelia repeated, barely moving her lips.

Sean let out a sharp laugh, running a hand over his face; for a second it looked like he was crying.

“All these years of planning – generations of my family – all of our work, and progress, and this – this child gets a gift that would have given us everything?” He laughed again.

“Of course,” Amelia seemed to be talking to herself, as if she’d forgotten everyone else was there. “Of course . I saw you, always, everywhere, but never…” Her gaze sharpened suddenly, and for a moment everything seemed to freeze again as she put her gun up against Kate’s head. “How do you do it?” She demanded, pulling Kate further forward. “When can you go – how far back – ?”

“Just a few minutes,” Max said, as she felt a slight movement behind her. Had Chloe cut through her tape? She didn’t dare look away from Kate, or stop talking long enough for the Prescotts to notice anything. “It – it wouldn’t work,” she went on. “Even – even if you could convince me to go b-back…I couldn’t change anything for you.”

“You’re LYING!” Amelia’s fingers were like claws in Kate’s hair, threatening to rip it from her scalp.

Max could barely breathe, but she shook her head. “N-no! Please, it’s the truth! Please – !”

“If she could go back, she’d do it to save herself and her friends,” Sean spoke over her, raising his gun to point directly at her again. “I suppose this means we gave you just the right amount.” He smiled, showing more of his teeth than usual.

“It means you were wrong!” Chloe said before Max could respond. She moved her hands against Max’s back, a slight pressure that Max took as assurance. Her hands must be free, she thought.

“Is that so, Miss Price?” Sean asked. “I’ll admit to not being as familiar with drugs as yourself – ”

“No, you were wrong about destiny,” Chloe said, and now Max tilted her head to look up at her. She was deliberately drawing their attention, antagonizing them. What was she doing?

“You said Nathan would have ‘stepped up and joined you in your destiny’,” Chloe went on, and now Max could feel her clutching something tightly in her fists. “But you let him hang around that psychopath Jefferson – or was that destined too?”

Sean and Amelia hadn’t moved, hadn’t spoken, just stared at her.

“Jefferson was going to frame Nathan for everything! He even has proof that you knew about his dark room! And then…” Chloe laughed, as if it was all a hilarious joke. Her voice was strong, but Max could feel her shaking. “He – he would have killed Nathan! You want to – to ramble on about destiny? You said all of this was because of Max, but you – you brought this all on yourselves! Your ‘careful planning’ didn’t take that into account, did – ”

She stopped as Sean levelled his gun at her.

“And how exactly would you know that?” He asked quietly. The silence that followed almost felt like a solid thing, thickening the air. “Amelia,” he said when no one answered, as if he were asking her opinion on the weather, “I think Miss Price would be more… productive in your hands.”

“N-no, wait – ” Max tried to move closer to Chloe, whose palm went flat on her back, rubbing it for a second in a soothing motion. Was this – was this what Chloe had wanted? Getting Kate out of Amelia’s grasp was good, but Chloe going in her place wasn’t any better as far as Max was concerned.

Amelia pulled Kate over to Warren and deposited her roughly next to him. Kate nearly fell over, knocking against Warren, who held her up as best as he could with his own hands bound. Max could see him whispering what she assumed were words of comfort as Kate continued to cry.

Chloe stilled as Amelia approached, then stood and walked obediently to where Amelia had held Kate, the gun against the base of her skull. Max could see now that Chloe’s hands were clasped tightly in front of herself, arms bent as if she were praying, her fingers threaded together. She’s hiding the knife , Max realized, as well as the fact that her tape has been cut.

Chloe kneeled, keeping eye contact with Max. Her eyes were red, but she gave a small smile. Max could see the tension in the line of her shoulders: she was waiting for the right moment, and Max had to be ready too.

“Chloe,” she said, finally able to speak normally again. “It’ll be okay.” I believe in you. I’ll be ready, whatever happens. She hoped Chloe could understand the unspoken words.

Chloe’s smile widened just a little, though she paled as Amelia shifted the gun, pushing it hard against her. Max’s stomach churned, but she couldn’t think about Chloe getting shot. She had to breathe, had to focus, had to trust in Chloe.

“We should have started with her,” Sean said, almost conversationally. He laughed softly. “She was there in your head, always. Well,” he shrugged, walking closer to Max. “Hindsight. I suppose you know all about that, Miss Caulfield? I could see it on your face, when you came to our house. You knew you shouldn’t have come. You should have learned your lesson then.”

 You didn’t,” Max spat back at him, still watching Chloe.

Sean Prescott stopped and bent over her, his gun inches from her face. Max at last looked up at him; for a moment, with the light framing and shadowing his face, she could see Jefferson there instead. She blinked, and Sean came into focus again.

“You’re right,” he said softly. “We should have killed you then.”

“Th-then why d-didn’t you?” Warren burst out. His voice shook, but rang loudly in the room, startling both Max and Sean Prescott, who turned to look at him.

Warren was on his knees, Kate leaning against him. They were both still crying, but Warren seemed ready to leap to his feet.

“Why kill what you can twist to your advantage?” Sean asked quietly, standing straight again. Though he was answering Warren, was was still staring down at Max. “I thought with Miss Caulfield distracted, with the police there to catch you – ” he stopped, and then gave a quick laugh. “I suppose you’re right. We didn’t learn our lesson either. Not until it was too late for us.”

“So much for your destiny,” Max said, eyes flicking from Sean to Chloe. She could feel the moment coming, sense it like a charge in the air.

Chloe moved, and in her peripheral vision Max saw the knife in her palm, saw her twist her wrists apart to free them from the tape.

“And yours,” Sean Prescott murmured, levelling his gun, his hand steadying as he aimed –

Chloe stabbed upward into Amelia Prescott’s hand, forcing the gun away from her skull.

Amelia’s finger pulled the trigger as she screamed, the BANG shattering the air even as the gun clattered out of her injured hand and to the floor.

Sean whirled around while Chloe snatched the gun from the floor, but Warren had staggered to his feet and charged; he crashed into Sean, knocking him off-balance. Amelia stumbled backward, cradling her injured hand as Chloe advanced on her, gun held high and aimed right at her.

Two more gunshots cracked the air, and Kate screamed Warren’s name.

Max’s head snapped back to Warren, staring in horror as she realized his charge had done nothing to stop Sean’s gun. He’d been hit in the shoulder and the stomach, the blood was spreading across his shirt like dye, and unlike Kate he started to realize what was happening, his face contorting in pain and fear –

Max thrust her arms up without thinking, curling her wrists and straining her fingers with all of her strength, feeling like her bones were ready to pop out of their sockets. She grasped time, pulling it backward before Warren’s knees even hit the ground.

His shoulders rolled upward, he stood slowly, the bloodstain shrank until it vanished, and then he was back by Kate on the floor. Max could see Chloe’s knife pulling out of Amelia’s hand, and she let time flow again.

Everything rushed together; her head was pounding and her stomach rolled with nausea. Still she lunged forward half blindly at Sean Prescott’s legs. Amelia screamed behind him as Chloe stabbed her, and Seam stumbled as Max knocked into him: he almost fell over, but managed to catch himself. He kicked out at Max, hitting her in the chin, snapping her teeth painfully together.

In the next second, Warren rammed into him, this time knocking both of them off of their feet, the gun skittering out of Sean’s hand when it hit the ground.

Max swayed as she stood, and then staggered toward the struggling Warren. Sean had him pinned now, his hands closing around Warren’s throat –

“Let him go !” Kate shouted, and Max stopped in her tracks. Kate was holding Sean’s dropped gun. Her knees were bleeding, she was trembling from head to toe, tears dripping down her chin.

“I s-said,” Kate moved toward Sean, who slowly began to raise his hands, “L-let him go .”

Max walked closer to Kate, still a bit unsteady on her feet. “Kate,” she said, holding out her bound hands. “I can take that.”

Kate hesitated, glancing at Warren as Sean Prescott stood and stepped away from him, and then nodded, quickly – and with some clear relief – handing the gun over to her.

It was heavier in Max’s hands than she remembered David’s gun being, but that might’ve just been because she was exhausted and the drugs were still wearing off.

Still, she held the gun steady and carefully, focusing on Sean Prescott.

“Move.” She told him, jerking her head toward where Amelia was slumped against the wall, Chloe keeping her there at gunpoint. “Over there. Now.”

He did as she said, his hands a little up in the air. Max followed behind him, stopping next to Chloe but not taking her eyes off of him. She knew he and Amelia would still do anything to try to gain the advantage, and she wasn’t about to give them the chance.

“You okay?” Chloe asked, shifting to stand closer to her.

Max nodded, though she was pretty sure her nose was still bleeding. “Yeah. You?”

“Fucking peachy.” She replied.

Max smiled, unable to help chuckling a little, glancing away from Sean to see that Chloe was smiling too. Max wanted nothing more than to kiss her, tears welling up in her eyes as she really took in Chloe’s face for the first time since she’d woken up. Her lip was bleeding, and there was a bruise on her cheek, but she was alive. They were all alive.

“You okay Warren? Kate?” Max called back as she forced herself to focus on Sean and Amelia again, keeping the gun in her hand as steady as she could. Sean was sitting beside his wife, examining her bleeding hand, which Max noticed still had Frank’s knife in it.

“Y-yeah,” Warren said as he and Kate come up on Max’s left to stand level with her and Chloe.

“I-I’ll b-be okay,” Kate said. She was still crying, and she had her arm around Warren’s waist, while his was around her shoulders, both clearly helping to support each other.

“M-Max, Ch-Chloe, I- I’m so s-sorry,” She went on. “They – they surprised us, a-and – ”

“I think – I think they were following us,” Warren said. “And I think – ” he paused, and Max saw him glance at Amelia. “I think they were ready for us. It’s not your fault, Kate.”

“It’s no one’s fault but these fuckers,” Chloe said, jerking her head toward the Prescotts. She had barely turned her attention away from them, though Max saw her glance at Warren and Kate every few seconds, as if assuring herself that they were there.

“She – they – texted you f-from m-my phone,” Kate’s head bent. “A-and you g-got hurt trying to st-stop them g-grabbing me – ”

“Yeah, lot of good that did.” Warren squeezed her shoulder. “You’re hurt too.”

Max wanted to hug them both – and have a nice long cry herself – but there would be time for that later.

“Warren’s right,” She assured Kate, shifting the gun to one hand to grab Kate’s with the other.

“You didn’t do anything wrong. You were so brave, Kate.” For a moment she could see her lying dead on the floor of the lighthouse again, and bile rose in her throat, but she pushed the memory away.

“All of you,” she said as she let go of Kate’s hand to hold the gun steady again. “You – I – I couldn’t have gotten through this without you guys. Thank you.”

“Pretty sure we’ve got you to thank,” Chloe said, as if she were correcting an obvious misunderstanding. “I’m guessing there were some rewinds.”

Max closed her eyes for a second, trying in vain to not see the fresh memories as clearly as if they were happening again. “A – a bit, yeah.” She shook her head. “But honestly I – I could barely do anything. You – all of you – taking action like you did…that’s what really saved us.”

“Okay, so we all saved each other,” Chloe said, somewhat impatiently. “What the fuck do we do now?”

“We sh-should call the police,” Kate said immediately.

“Yeah, get them a cozy cell between Jefferson and Nathan,” Warren added with contempt.

Max nodded. “Call David,” she told Chloe. “Tell him…tell him Sean and Amelia Prescott attacked us at the lighthouse. We’ll figure out how to explain it all when he and the cops get here.”

“Got it.” Chloe started to lower her gun, and then hesitated, narrowing her eyes at the Prescotts.

“Slide us that knife,” she said, raising the gun a little higher.

For a moment Amelia glared at her. Sean didn’t look at Chloe at all, just touched the handle of the knife very gently, but made no move to pull it out. He didn’t need to: within seconds Amelia did it herself. She hissed in pain,  a little blood flicking up from the knife and splattering across her cheek. She placed the knife on the floor and slid it across to Chloe, where it stopped just short of her boot.

Chloe quickly picked it up and put it in her pocket. “Warren,” she said. “You feeling up to holding this and watching these fuckers while I call David?”

“Of course,” Warren said immediately, accepting the gun as she passed it over to him. Max didn’t know if he’d ever shot one before, but he definitely looked like he was willing to. Bruises were starting to form around his neck where Sean had been choking him, and Max’s own throat tightened at the sight.

Chloe stepped back just a little as she put her phone to her ear, but Max could tell she was still watching Sean and Amelia.

Max didn’t like how quiet they were. They hadn’t said anything to each other, hadn’t made any kind of move, but Max rather thought that they were waiting for the right moment, just as she had been. Amelia’s bleeding hand was pressed against her chest, Sean’s hand over top of it, maybe to stem the blood, or to comfort her, or both.

“We’re at the lighthouse,” Chloe said, taking Max out of her thoughts. “And, uh, some shit’s happened, and we need you to get the police and come here right away.”

. Max glanced at Kate and Warren. Warren was keeping the gun steady, and Kate was still standing next to him and leaning on him a little, but she was also watching Sean and Amelia, no longer crying.

“David, David – yes, we’re okay,” Chloe went on quickly. “Kinda beaten up, but you’ve gotta bring the cops okay? Sean and Amelia Prescott are here, they attacked us – ”

She stopped, and though she couldn’t quite make out the words, Max could still hear the sound of David’s panicked voice, and Chloe hurried to speak over him.

“Look, David, please, I – we’ll – explain when you get here, just – just hurry.” Chloe ended the call before he could ask more questions, and put her phone back in her pocket. She moved right up next to Max again, crossing her arms. “Now what?”

“It won’t take long for David and the cops to get here,” Max said. “But that doesn’t mean we won’t have time to get some answers of our own.” She walked a little closer to the Prescotts, keeping the gun in her hand leveled at Sean, ignoring how heavy it was getting.

“Now,” she went on quietly, “We have questions. And you’re going to tell us everything .”

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