A/N: Title is a reference to the movie “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”, which is about exactly what it sounds like. It’s also an excellent movie, and I highly recommend it. All of the chapter titles will follow a similar theme, and will be references to other movies/books/shows/etc about time travel.
If you like, please comment or give kudos! Thanks so much to everyone that’s taken an interest in this story – I hope you enjoy the ride.
Max paced restlessly in front of her bed, her phone pressed to her ear, waiting for Chloe to pick up. Come on, come on.
She’d waited as long as she could bear to call, trying to figure out what her plan was going to be. Of course, with rewinding, she hadn’t lost any time, but she’d lost her patience. She knew what she was going to do, at least for now, and she needed to hear Chloe’s voice again, as proof that she was really here and alive.
Max’s heart leapt as Chloe finally answered.
“Hey Doc Brown, how’s it hangin’?” Chloe asked. “We still on for Two Whales?”
She’s alive. Max could barely breathe. She’s alive. Her throat felt tight, and she couldn’t swallow around the lump in it.
“…Max?” Chloe asked, when she didn’t say anything. “You there?”
“Chloe,” she managed, taking in a shaky breath, tears spilling out from her eyes.
“Whoa, Max,” Chloe’s voice changed immediately, going softer, concerned. “What’s wrong?”
Max tried to answer, but the words wouldn’t come. She let out another shuddering breath, just barely holding back a sob. She covered her mouth with her hand, tears falling thick and fast now. “Chloe,” she choked out. “I– I – ” she nearly screamed in frustration, but only cried harder. Why couldn’t she stop?
“Max, I’m coming.” Chloe’s voice took her out of her overwhelming emotions for a moment. “Where are you?”
Max took in a few deep breaths, trying to steady herself. “B – Blackwell.” She sniffled, and wiped her eyes with her wrist.
“Okay – what’s your room number?”
Again, Max had to take a second to gather herself. “219.”
“Okay.” Chloe’s voice felt so close, for a second she could feel her there, as her voice vibrated in her ear. “I’ll be there soon, Max.”
Max nodded, even though she knew Chloe couldn’t see it. She was still trying to relax her breathing and calm down, but the tears just kept coming. Talking to Chloe was helping, though. Talking to Chloe always helped.
“Hey,” Chloe said suddenly, “If you think we’re getting off the phone you’ve got another thing coming. You’re staying on the line with me, all right?”
Max actually laughed, smiling a little and wiping her eyes again. That answer was easy. “Always.”
“ – and then Justin starts singing some Adele song into the toilet.” Chloe said, laughing again and panting a little – Max knew that she was climbing the stairs now, and would be up by the dorms in a minute. “And he kept having to stop to barf, but then he would just pick the song right back up again!”
Max laughed and sniffled. She wasn’t sobbing uncontrollably anymore, but she still hadn’t been able to stop crying, and Chloe had done all the talking. Max was glad for it. Every word, every second she listened to Chloe’s voice, the tightness in her chest loosened just a little.
“Okay,” Chloe said, and Max heard a door open and close on her end. “I’m on your floor. I’ll be there in just a second.”
Max clutched the phone more tightly, nodding. “Okay.” She lowered the phone and ended the call, looking over at her door. She stood, still gripping her phone in her fist, and waited, listening. Was that footprints she was hearing now? She stepped closer to the door, hardly able to breathe.
Yes! Those were footsteps coming closer, and closer, and –
A knock sounded on her door. “Max?” Chloe called from the other side.
Max nearly tripped over herself getting to the door. She opened it with a shaking hand, and there she was. For a second all Max could do was take in the sight of her. The worried look on her face, the brightness of her hair, how fucking pretty she was.
Then Max launched herself at Chloe, throwing her arms around her.
Chloe caught her too, like Max knew she would, even though she was obviously surprised.
“Max,” she said, and Max looked up at her, sniffling and blinking away the tears in her eyes. “What’s going on? What happened?”
Max let out a shuddering breath, closing her eyes, holding Chloe even tighter for a moment. Then she stepped back, and pulled Chloe inside by her hand, closing the door behind her.
“Chloe, there’s – ” Max hesitated, struggling to phrase it as best as she could. She laughed, wiping at her eyes again, and when she faced her Chloe was staring, looking even more worried now.
Max sat on the bed and pulled Chloe with her gently. Okay. She had to keep it together, had to get Chloe to understand.
“A lot’s happened,” she began. “And Chloe, I – I need you to listen to me, okay? I know it’s going to sound pretty unbelievable…”
“More unbelievable than rewinding time? Don’t know how that’s possible,” Chloe quipped, squeezing her hands. “You’ve still gotta prove that one to me, you know.”
Max nodded. “I know, and I promise I will, whatever you need me to do. But first you’ve gotta listen to me, okay Chloe? Please. Please listen to me.”
Chloe furrowed her eyebrows, and looked at her for a long moment. She nodded slowly. “Okay, Max.” She said. “I’ll listen.”
Max looked down at their hands, still clutched around each other, and began.
They leaned up against her bed, legs splayed out on the floor. Chloe’s knees were drawn up to her chest, her arms wrapped around them. They hadn’t said anything for a few minutes now. Max had no idea what to say, and wasn’t sure she could even talk anymore.
It hadn’t been easy. Of course, to Chloe the conversation hadn’t taken as long, but every rewind just steeled Max’s resolve. She had to get Chloe to understand, had to tell her everything. There wasn’t any fucking thing they couldn’t figure out together, especially if they got more help too.
Chloe hadn’t believed her at first. Max managed to prove her rewind power similarly to how she had in the diner, but when it came to Rachel…Chloe had shouted her denial. Then, she’d wanted to make Nathan and Jefferson pay – make them hurt and suffer, and go charging out with no plan. So Max had to tell her about everything else too, about the Dark Room, being trapped there, Jefferson shooting her, everything with William and that alternate reality, like she had before (or like she’d never done, now, even though she remembered doing it).
It hadn’t been easy, but Chloe had listened. Chloe had stayed. Chloe had cried with her, and for a long time they just held each other, unable to say anything at all. They were still at that point, not talking, just staring blankly at the wall in front of them. They even seemed to breathe together.
“The storm…” Max said when she could talk again, and Chloe lifted her head off of her knees to look at her. Chloe’s eyes were red, and seemed bigger than usual, wide and worried about what else Max was going to say.
Max shook her head. “I don’t know what the answer is. Everyone and everything seems to be telling me that I’m – that you – ”
“That I’m supposed to die,” Chloe finished, her voice low and rough from crying.
Max nodded. “And we – we were standing there, and you gave me the butterfly photo. You t-told me that I could go back and change everything, stop the storm…and I was supposed to choose between letting – letting you die – ” Max hiccuped and wiped at her running nose – “Or – or letting the town die.”
“Max…” Chloe said softly, reaching forward and just barely brushing her arm with her fingertips, sending a short tingle through Max’s body.
“But I couldn’t.” Max shook her head. “I couldn’t let those be my only options. So I came back.”
“How?” Chloe asked. “I mean, I can’t pretend I understand…” she shook her head, exhaling slowly. “Any of this, but…”
“I think…” Max hesitated. “I don’t know for sure. I don’t know how I got this power, or, or anything, but it seems like I came back through…my own memories. I still used a picture to get here,” Max ran a hand over her head, fingers tangling in her hair. “But it was different, too. Normally when I do that it’s like – like I can’t leave the borders of the photo. I can’t leave the moment, you know? I’m just there to make whatever changes I make, and then I sort of…snap back to my body in the current time. But this is different.” She held out her hand in front of her, not enough to rewind, just to look at it. “I don’t know why it’s different, if it’s because I went through my own mind or, or whatever, because I’ve never felt any of those things when rewinding before. Or seen any of those things…”
“What do you mean?” Chloe asked, drawing her knees closer to herself, wrapping her arms around them.
“It was like…” Max trailed off, trying to find words to describe it. “It was like I was everywhere, all at once, at all different times. I could see and hear and feel things, things from my memories and – and things I’d never seen before.” She shook her head. “I don’t know.”
Chloe snorted, leaning forward and resting her head on her knees. “I don’t know what to say about any of this.”
“Me either,” Max put a hand over her eyes, leaning back against the bed. “And I lived through it.” She let out a slow breath. “And I think…I think there’s more to the storm than I thought. More to it than – than you just having to die. I think there’s…” Max paused, her eyebrows coming together. “I don’t know – it might have been all in my head, but I think…I think there’s a connection between the storm and the Dark Room.”
“A connection?” Chloe repeated. “What do you mean?”
Max shook her head again. “That’s just it. I don’t know.” She turned to look at Chloe, meeting her eyes. “And that’s part of what we have to find out. The more I think about it the more I feel like I don’t have the whole picture yet. At first I thought everything that I’d seen was telling me there were only two choices, but I don’t think that’s true anymore. There’s more I need to understand, and if we figure it all out…we can get justice for Rachel and Kate and all those other girls. We can figure out the truth about the storm, and then maybe we can save the town.”
And you, Max thought. I’ll save you no matter what.
There was silence again for a few seconds. Max checked the time on her phone. It was still morning. Even though it felt like she’d been there for hours and hours talking to Chloe, it was probably closer to about two hours. She still had more to say, about her plans and telling other people, but she didn’t think that part would take as long. She took in a breath to speak, but Chloe beat her to it.
“I just can’t believe…” Chloe said slowly, and Max looked over at her again. “That you would do all this for me. All these things you said – the – the Dark Room, and these alternate timelines, and everything…I mean you don’t contact me for years and now you’re saying you did all of that?Why?” Chloe shook her head, wiping at her eyes with the heel of her hand. “Why would you do that for – for me?”
For a second, Max was back at the tornado, on that cliff by the lighthouse, wind rushing in her ears and rain pelting at her skin. You are all that matters to me.
But the memory faded away, and she was left staring at a Chloe that she hadn’t kissed. A Chloe who hadn’t broken into Blackwell with her, investigated with her, found the Dark Room with her. She still felt the same. It didn’t matter what timeline she was in – Chloe was Chloe. But to this Chloe…Max had only been back in her life for a day.
“Because you’re my best friend,” she said, and well…that was true too. “I know I was an asshole, but I’m going to make up for it Chloe, I promise.”
“It…sounds like you already have,” Chloe replied, looking down at the ground and then back up at her again.
“So, you believe me?” Max asked, leaning a little toward her. Please, she thought. Please.
Chloe didn’t answer at first, but she didn’t look away from Max either, holding her gaze. Then she nodded. “Yeah,” she said. “I believe you, Max.”
Max lets out a breath, and got on her knees, crossing the little space between them and hugging Chloe again. “Thank you,” she said softly, and she felt Chloe’s arms come up around her as well. It was actually a bit of a reversal from how they usually hugged. Since Chloe was taller, Max’s face always ended up at her shoulder. But Chloe’s face was pressed into her shoulder now, and she turned her head, her nose ghosting along Max’s collarbone, and Max felt the barest touch of Chloe’s lips as she breathed. Max’s stomach fluttered, and warmth seemed to spread from where Chloe’s breath hit her skin, going through her all the way down to her toes.
Max pulled back, her hands on Chloe’s shoulders.
“We can do this together,” Max said, keeping her eyes locked on Chloe’s. “But we’re going to need some help, too.”
“Help?” Chloe scoffed. “The police won’t do anything – “
“Trust me, I know,” Max fought the spike of anger she felt about that. “Nathan even being involved means that the police won’t do shit to help us. And most people aren’t going to believe us, but I know some people who will. Or at least, who I think will.”
“You think?” Chloe arched an eyebrow, sounding not the least bit convinced. She blinked rapidly, and Max knew she was fighting tears again.
Max shrugged. “This part I’ve never done before, but we need the help, Chloe.”
“Why?” Chloe’s voice rose. “Everyone in this fucking town just – ” she clenched her fists, her whole body shaking. “I was the only one who kept looking for Rachel, and look what happened – look what happened because those motherfuckers didn’t do ANYTHING to help!” She got louder with every word, and she jumped to her feet and started pacing. Max was on her own feet seconds later, hands half up, ready to go and hug Chloe again.
“I know, Chloe,” Max said, trying to keep her voice level even as she also started to cry. “I know, Chloe, but we can get justice for Rachel, and we can’t do it alone – ”
“Why the fuck not?” Chloe rounded on her. “Huh? We don’t need anyone else, Max, and everyone else will just let us down – ”
“Because you’ll die, Chloe!” Max snapped back, and Chloe’s mouth fell open. “It will just happen all OVER again! If people had come with us, or – or known where we were going, you wouldn’t have gotten shot by Jefferson, and I never would have ended up in the Dark Room!” A violent shudder worked its way across her body, and for a moment she could feel the duct tape tearing at the hairs on her arm, could feel the needle stabbing into her skin, and Jefferson’s voice in her head: It’s like I say, Max: always…take…the shot. Nausea rolled in her stomach, and she staggered, leaning against the wall, gagging.
“Max!” She heard Chloe come toward her, and felt Chloe’s hands rubbing up and down her back, holding her hair out of her face. “You okay?”
Max nodded, gasping and swallowing as the nausea faded. She wiped her forearm across her mouth, and said weakly: “You seem like you’re experienced in dealing with people who are about to puke.”
“Lots of practice,” Chloe replied dryly, with something of her typical humor.
“Living the punk rock life?” Max asked, and Chloe actually chuckled a bit at that one. The gentle rubbing motion of her hands slowed, and one of them came to rest on her lower back. It felt very warm, and Max didn’t want her to move her hand.
“…I’m with you on this, Max,” Chloe said, taking Max out of her thoughts. She straightened, and turned to look at Chloe. “Whatever you want to do,” she finished. “I’m with you, Super Max.”
Max reached down and grabbed Chloe’s hand. “I’m with you too, Chloe,” she vowed, and Chloe squeezed her hand once, and then let go.
“Well then, fearless leader,” Chloe said with a little of her usual bravado, “What now?”
Max squared her shoulders, taking a deep breath. “Now, we go see Kate.”
Max hesitated outside Kate’s door, her hand raised to knock. She was cutting it close, but she hoped Kate hadn’t already left her room. She glanced down the hall, by the door where Chloe was waiting. She needed to talk to Kate alone first, convince her that she could trust Max, trust Chloe, and trust Warren. The four of them together had to be better than her and Chloe alone – it had to make a difference.
After a few seconds she heard Kate’s voice from the other side: “Wh-who is it?”
“It’s Max,” Max replied, stepping closer to the door. “Can I come in?”
“Did you bring my book?” Kate asked.
Shit. I forgot about the book! She could run and go grab it…or just try to make Kate listen. Max shook her head. If she had to, she’d rewind. “Um, no, I’m sorry. I forgot it, Kate. I – I promise I’ll get it to you later, but I…I need to talk to you.” Max pressed closer, her face almost against the door. “Please.”
Max waited, holding her breath, and then she heard noises in the room – Kate getting up and walking toward the door. She stepped back as Kate opened it.
“After you stepped up and defended me from David yesterday, how could I say no?” Kate asked, and she sounded slightly happier as she said it. She moved aside and gestured for Max to come in.
Max went inside, closing the door behind her, and followed Kate over to her desk, where Kate sat down. She looked sickly-pale in the dim lighting, and though she tried to smile, she couldn’t keep it up for long.
“Wh-what do you want to talk about?” Kate asked, avoiding Max’s eyes.
Max took a breath, and faced her directly. “Kate, there’s something I want to tell you. And it’s probably going to freak you out, and it’s not going to make any sense, but I need you to listen, and trust me, okay?”
Kate stared at her in confusion. “I don’t understand what you’re talking about, Max, but…” she gave a humorless smile. “You’re one of the only people I feel like I can trust around here. What do you want to tell me?”
“Thank you, Kate. I’m so glad that you trust me.” Max hesitated. “So, I know you’ll have questions, and I promise I’ll explain everything.”
“I still don’t understand, Max,” Kate said. “Please, just tell me what you’re talking about.”
“Okay.” Max braced herself; she hated just…unloading all of this onto Kate all at once, but she had to do it. She said the first part in a rush: “I know what happened to you the night of the Vortex Club party.”
The effect of her words was immediate. All the color seemed to drain from Kate’s face, and she gaped at Max, her mouth open a little. “H- How did you…?”
“I promise I’ll explain later, but the point is: I know that you were drugged. I know that you were…” Max swallowed, pushing away her own memories of the Dark Room. “…taken to a place with bright light. I know that something terrible was done to you, and I know that you’re feeling scared and alone.” Max leaned over, putting her hand on Kate’s arm. “But you’re not alone, Kate, and I want to help you get justice.”
Kate continued to stare at her, her eyes filling with tears. “Max…I – I don’t – ” Kate took a deep breath, turning her head and wiping her hand across her eyes. “I haven’t told anyone about what happened. But what you just said, it – I’ve been wondering if I w-was drugged.”
“You were drugged.” Max got on her knees on the floor, putting her hand on Kate’s arm again. Kate met her eyes, and Max held her gaze as she went on. “You’re not the only victim. Together we can keep anyone else from being hurt, and we can make the people who did thispay for what they’ve done.”
“But – but if you know who did it, we should go to the police!” Kate’s voice rose, even as it shook.
“I know, Kate,” Max said, trying to keep her voice as gentle and calm as possible. “But the police around here aren’t going to help us. That night…Nathan Prescott said he was going to take you to the Emergency Room, right?”
Again, Kate gaped at her. “How…” She shook her head. “Yes. That’s one of the few things I actually r-remember about that night.”
Max rubbed soothingly on Kate’s arm with her hand. “That’s why we can’t tell the police. Nathan’s involved, and the Prescotts own the police force. They’ll cover up anything to protect their family name.”
Kate’s eyebrows pulled together, and her eyes filled with tears again. “But – but then how can we get justice?”
“I have a plan,” Max promised. “And like I said, I’ll tell you everything, but we’re gonna need some help if we’re going to do this. And to get their help…” Max hesitated again. “They’ll need to know what happened to you. You don’t have to tell them if you don’t want to,” she assured her, even as guilt clawed at her for even asking this to begin with. “If you want to, I can tell them. But we need to have all the information to do this. And – and if you really don’t want anyone else to know, then we won’t. But I know you can trust these people, Kate, and together we can get justice.”
Kate scoffed. “First you tell me not to go to the police, and then you say to tell complete strangers about all of this!”
“Not complete strangers!” Max said hurriedly, wincing. “You know them both. Chloe Price and Warren.”
“Warren?” Kate’s surprise seemed to distract her from her anger. “And Chloe Price…I didn’t know that you even knew her.”
Max smiled a little. “I’ve known Chloe for…pretty much my whole life. And I swear that you can trust them, Kate.”
Kate didn’t say anything, but neither did Max, waiting for her response. Kate looked down at her folded hands in her lap, fidgeting a little in her chair. Max kept waiting.
“I still don’t understand any of this,” Kate said at last, her voice low. “But…you keep being here for me.” She nodded, closing her eyes and exhaling before opening her eyes again. “I trust you,” she finished firmly. “I’ll do what you’re saying.”
“Thank you, Kate,” Max said, squeezing her arm. “Can you meet us down in the parking lot in about – ” Max checked her phone – “Twenty minutes? We’re going to go to Chloe’s house, and I’ll explain everything there.”
Kate gave her another long look, and then nodded. “Okay. Yeah. I can do that.”
“Good.” Max squeezed her arm again and stood up. “I’ll see you soon. We’ll get justice Kate. Together.”
“You sound so sure,” Kate replied, shaking her head. “It…” She laughed a little, her eyes tearing up again. “It makes me want to believe that too.”
“You can believe it,” Max insisted. “Together we can figure everything out.”
Kate didn’t say anything else, and Max didn’t know what she could say.
“See you soon,” she told her instead, and she went out the door.
As she closed Kate’s door behind her, Max saw Chloe at the end of the hall. She was waiting by the door to the stairs, leaning up against the wall. She looked up as Max approached, and stepped away from the wall, hands in her pockets.
“How’d it go?” She asked. Her eyes were still a little red, and her tone flat, like she’d completely calmed down and wasn’t bothered anymore. Max knew better. That’s how Chloe sounded when she was so upset she was on the verge of shutting down. I’ll be here to help keep that from happening, she told herself.
“Kate’s gonna meet us down in the parking lot in twenty minutes,” Max answered. “Now we just have to talk to Warren.”
Chloe’s face became a little more pinched at that. Before, Max wouldn’t have understood why, but now? She knew that Chloe was jealous. Chloe had always tended to cling to people, and that was especially the case after everything with her dad, and Max leaving, and then Rachel disappearing. But Max wasn’t going anywhere, and she was going to make sure Chloe knew it.
“Chloe,” Max grabbed her hand, immediately cursing herself when she saw the startled expression on Chloe’s face. This Chloe wasn’t used to Max grabbing her hand so much, or even touching her as much as she had been. After they’d kissed, all these invisible lines that had been in place for touching each other had seemed to vanish, but that hadn’t happened here, might not ever happen here. She could remember exactly how Chloe’s lips felt, but now it hadn’t happened, and Max wasn’t sure if that meant that it had ever happened at all.
“Chloe,” she went on, “You know I can’t do this without you, right?”
Chloe didn’t say anything, and didn’t look at her for several seconds.
“Seems like you could manage just fine without me,” she said finally, and Max recognized that tone too. She was trying to pick a fight.
“What do you mean?” Chloe asked, a little hitch in her voice. “That we’re connected, or – or whatever?”
For a moment, Max could hear Chloe’s voice from another time. We’re obviously connected.
“Definitely,” she told her, and Chloe actually smiled a little as they started through the door and began walking down the stairs.
“Come on,” Max said, pulling her along. “Let’s – ” She stopped, shaking her head. It was like whatever she’d been going to say had just popped out of her mind. She felt tired, suddenly, and she wobbled on her feet.
“Max?” Chloe came around in front of her, her eyes going wide. “Oh, shit. Max, your nose – ”
Max reached up, feeling the blood trickling down to her upper lip. “It’s fine,” she said, though her tongue felt slow and heavy in her mouth. “It’s – ”
Like someone pulled the ground from under her feet, Max fell, her knees buckling under her as her vision swam. She could vaguely feel Chloe supporting her, talking to her, and Max shook her head like a wet dog, trying to clear it. Her eyes fluttered as she fought to keep them open, but she couldn’t do it for long and everything went black. The last thing she heard was Chloe’s voice, ringing in her ears, calling out her name.