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Don't Break Me

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Victoria wakes up in Maxine Caulfield’s arms.

How many times has she dreamed about this? She knows she couldn’t count them as she stares into Max’s beautiful, peaceful sleeping face, the dawn light coming in slits through the closed blinds in the hotel window. God, it must go back to high school. Victoria tossing and turning in her little dormroom bed, dreaming about kissing the annoying hipster girl across the hall.

She actually did that, didn’t she? Last night had been full of little kisses, Max holding her and pressing her lips to her forehead, her cheek, her neck. And this time she’s not waking up alone, not hating herself for wanting another woman, not trying to be daddy’s good little girl.

She runs her fingers through Max’s soft brown hair, a little longer than it was at Blackwell. Her hand trails downward to Max’s bare shoulder, passing over her bra strap. Goosebumps rise on Victoria’s skin. They hadn’t gone all the way, but they’d stripped down to their underwear to sleep, and even that felt too close. Max had had to hold her tight, which both worked and didn’t work.

Victoria wants her. Of course she wants her. But she remembers other women, artists like herself only not, beautiful and serene and confident, taking Victoria to bed and leaving before the sun rose. Meetings that began with wine and networking turned into eye contact and flirting and then sex, and then nothing. Victoria’s highs always offset by her lowest lows, huddled in an empty bed and trying not to cry. Trying not to wish someone would like her enough to stay.

It shouldn’t hurt this much to remember those mornings. It was always her fault. She never asked them to stay, never implied she wanted anything more than they did. She took what they offered because it was something, because she was desperate, because she didn’t have the strength to deny herself anything.

She still feels like Max is going to leave. They were both drunk last night. Surely she’ll wake up, see who she’s in bed with, and say something nice and gentle to let her down, and that’ll be the end of this nice thing they’ve had going, because Victoria pushed and admitted her feelings and she always ruins everything good for herself.

Max’s eyes open slowly, groggily. Victoria always loved her eyes. Such a perfect blue, captured in so many of her selfies — self-portraits, now that she’s a professional. Victoria waits for them to focus so she can really understand her mistake.

Instead, Max reaches out and cups her cheek. She smiles softly. “Hey,” she murmurs, tracing Victoria’s jaw. God, she’s so cute.

Victoria swallows, not sure what to say. She’s always wanted this, to wake up beside someone, especially Max, and now she’s totally fucking up all the sweetness Max is showing her.

Max doesn’t skip a beat. She leans in and kisses Victoria, holding her there, an arm coming around and grabbing her waist. She pulls Victoria flush against her, deepens her kiss, and Victoria stops shaking for a moment. Max’s lips are firm but gentle, her hand smoothing down Victoria’s back. Victoria feels Max’s hand on her backside and gasps, pulling back despite the sudden tingles, and Max quickly retreats.

“Sorry, was that — that wasn’t okay?” she asks, still holding Victoria close, though her mouth has curled into a frown.

“I — I want to wait a little,” Victoria says, back to shaking again, because what if Max doesn’t want that? Is Victoria just being immature, a little girl scared of sex? But she can’t help but feel like if they actually do, then the spell will be broken, and—

“Okay,” Max says, kissing Victoria’s forehead. “Just wanted to say good morning.”

“N-not forever, you — I do want—”

“It’s okay,” Max repeats, squeezing her. “I just got a little excited. It’s, uh, it’s been a while…” She chuckles to herself. “But I don’t want to scare you away.”

Victoria relaxes again. “I thought that was my line,” she teases, running a finger along Max’s ear — still unpierced. She doesn’t like needles. Victoria smiles thinking of all the little things she knows about Max, over years of friendship, and now this, finally.

She touches her forehead to Max’s and they stay there for a moment, breathing in. “So what do we do now?” Victoria asks carefully.

“I’m changing my tickets and heading to Seattle with you.”

Victoria’s eyes widen. “Wait, what?”

“I’m an independent artist, I make my own schedule, and I want to spend some time with my new girlfriend.” Victoria shivers at the thought of being someone’s girlfriend, and Max kisses her cheek. “Is that okay?”

“I…” Victoria didn’t really think about what would happen after last night. She was too busy being completely shocked that it happened at all to think about how they’d move forward.

“We’ve been dating for years. Shouldn’t I get to see your place at some point?” Max teases.

“Those were not dates. Neither of us thought they were dates, they were just...friendly meals.”

“They were dates.”

Victoria laughs. “Fine.” She thinks about her sparse, utilitarian apartment and cringes, but maybe having Max around will make it feel less empty. “It’s a deal.”

 


 

It takes some wrangling to get Max and Victoria on the same flight, and they don’t even get to sit next to each other, but it’s done. It still feels surreal, waiting for her in the hall as she gets off the plane, getting a kiss on the cheek when they meet up again, holding hands as they walk through to baggage claim. Like this isn’t something Victoria should actually have. Other people get these things, Victoria watches from the sidelines and wishes. That’s how it’s always been.

They head to long-term parking and pick up Victoria’s car. Before they actually start moving, Max reaches across the seats and takes Victoria’s face in her hands. Her kiss is soft and sweet despite the sudden move, and Victoria’s not sure how to feel other than good once they separate.

“What was that for?” Victoria asks.

Max shrugs helplessly and smiles. “You’re cute.”

Victoria looks away. She’s not blushing, dammit. Max is just systematically trying to take down her entire image. She clears her throat. “You’re cheesy,” she replies, setting the car into gear.

“And you like it,” Max fires back.

Well. She’s got her there. Victoria has no response and instead decides to turn up the radio to avoid silence.

Max reaches over and holds her hand all the way through the city, leaning back in her seat with her eyes closed. “God, I always need a nap after a flight, even if I nap on the flight,” she complains, rubbing her thumb over Victoria’s hand idly. “I hope you have a big, nice, comfy bed.”

“You think I’d settle for anything less?” Victoria asks, glad the ball’s back in her court for a minute.

“I don’t know. You could be living above a bowling alley with a roommate called Bub for all I know,” Max teases. “You never even offered to show my work in your fancy little gallery.”

“It’s not mine,” Victoria reminds her.

“Right, right, you just manage literally everything about it and then your dad gets to yell at you anyway.” Max’s fingers tense on top of Victoria’s.

“He’s busy with the new space in LA. It’s..it’s okay for now.” Victoria bites her lip. She forgets sometimes, how well Max knows her. How much Victoria’s told her in late-night Facebook messages and text messages.

“You still deserve to own that place. You put all the work into it. And you do actual photography that’s worth getting featured there.” Max squeezes her hand. “Victoria, you deserve so much better.”

Victoria’s lucky she’s pulling in to park, because she’d have to stop the car anyway. She covers her mouth with her hand. That simple statement shouldn’t mean so much, but the way she said it, the way no one else has, makes her want to cry all over again.

God, Victoria. Get a girlfriend and you turn into a total weepy mess. She clears her throat and puts the car into park properly, wiping briefly at her eyes.

“Did I say something wrong?” Max asks, drawing back a bit.

“No, it’s not — I’m fine.” Victoria looks over and regrets it, those big blue eyes full of concern. She’s not used to this. Text confessions were fine, but they were always so lighthearted in person, and seeing her actually care like this, it’s overwhelming.

How long has it been since Victoria even had a friend to hang out with on a daily basis? How is she going to handle Max for...however long she’s staying here?

She regains her composure quickly, getting out of the car and leading Max up to the elevator. Max seems a bit less affectionate than she was at the airport and in the car, recreating her high school shrinking-violet posture quite accurately. Victoria knows she should say something, thank her, maybe, but she doesn’t know how to start. She looks kind of cute when she’s nervous.

Victoria takes Max to her apartment, letting her walk through the white, barren spaces. She’d always wanted to decorate more, but in truth, she doesn’t spend much time here. She’s in the studio, or at the gallery, or at the mental care center with Nathan, or across the country networking, or at the gym. Here is just where she eats take-out and falls asleep on the couch at one A.M, where she wakes up and has her coffee before doing all that again.

Still, she put up a few photographs. Her favorites. Things she bought at galleries when she couldn’t help herself. She gives Max a basic tour, receives a wilting look when Max checks out her nearly-empty fridge, and then Max is insisting on bed.

As they enter the bedroom, Max spots the photo hanging just beside the door, and stops in her tracks. She stares at it, a small feminine figure duct-taped to a chair, shot from behind.

“I didn’t know you bought this one,” she murmurs, touching her fingers to the frame. Victoria freezes. Shit. Right.

“Yeah, I, um…” Victoria swallows.

“I always kind of wondered where it went. Back then I was just happy someone wanted it.” Max looks at Victoria.

“It was before we were really friends, but I was still…” Stalking you, Victoria thinks, but she pushes that aside. “Following your work. I liked this one. It’s dark and creepy, not like a lot of your stuff, and I just talked to the owner and asked.”

Max grins. “You had such a crush on me.”

“A professional admiration!” Victoria objects. “The crush was totally separate.”

“Sure.” Max leans up on her tiptoes and kisses Victoria on the cheek. “And that is a nice bed. Do you mind if I nap, like, seriously?”

“Go ahead.” Victoria considers. Usually she clears her schedule the day of a flight so she can just sleep or recover in whatever way she wants. But she’s not sure she should get back in bed with Max. Especially not as Max takes that as invitation to throw her jacket on top of Victoria’s dresser, kick her shoes off, and shimmy out of her jeans.

Victoria isn’t even sure where to look as Max crawls into her bed. “Are you coming?” Max asks, her voice quiet.

Oh, to hell with it. There’s nothing else to do and she looks warm under there. She takes off her own extra clothing, down to just her tights and blouse, and gets under the covers after Max makes some room.

Max carefully reaches out and touches her shoulder. Victoria feels herself tense and wishes she wouldn’t. “Hey,” Max says softly. “Am I...am I being too much for you?”

“What do you mean?” Victoria asks, though she knows why she’s being asked.

“You just...I guess I just feel like we’ve known each other so long, all I want to do is make up for lost time. It feels like I was wasting a bunch of time with my other exes when you’ve just been waiting here, and I know you so well, I just…” Max looks down. “It’s like everything just clicked and I want to do all the couple things right now. But if I’m going too fast…”

Hearing all of that feels good. Victoria can’t at all deny that. But if Max is being honest, she should be too.

“I’m just not used to this. Any of it. I’ve never had a girlfriend. And the women I’ve been with...it was only one night. And I keep thinking if we...if we go further, then I’ll just wake up alone again. That you only want one thing from me.”

“Of course I don’t—”

“I know, but I don’t know how to stop feeling this way,” Victoria admits. “I—I think I need time. To...to figure this out.”

Max scoots closer and buries her head in Victoria’s chest. “Whatever you need.” She takes a deep breath. “Victoria, I really, really want this to work. I don’t want to lose you. You were important to me before last night, okay?”

Victoria holds her and sighs. “Okay,” she breathes. “How...how long were you planning to stay?”

“I dunno. A week? Maybe forever?” Max says into her top.

“Don’t you have things to do off in New York?” Victoria asks.

“I could just move all my stuff here,” Max mumbles. “It was just home base for a while.”

Victoria swallows. Now that is too fast. “Let’s stick with a week,” she suggests. “We can have a little space after and...and figure out what we wanna do.”

Max slides up and kisses the tip of her nose. “Deal.” She yawns and turns over, letting Victoria spoon her. Their legs lock together, and it feels more right than Victoria could’ve ever guessed. “Naptime now. Dinner later?”

“Deal.”

 


 

Taking Max out to dinner is something Victoria is able to do, quite well, in fact. She’s had practice over the years, even if it’s a little unnerving to have Max preparing for the date in Victoria’s apartment. She avoids looking at her too much when she gets out of the shower and changes, taking her turn after and trying not to think too much about the freckles on Max’s shoulders.

But the restaurant is a familiar one, where they first met up after Blackwell, actually, and talking with Max has always been easy. Max tells Victoria about the new show she’s been putting together, suggests it might be a good fit for the Chase Space (Victoria’s sorely tempted and swears she’ll talk to her father) and Victoria tells tales of pretentious artists she has to feature and it really is...normal. It’s what they’ve always had, except now Victoria doesn’t feel dirty when she looks at Max, when her eye contact goes too long, when she wants to lean across the table and kiss her. The persistent voice at the back of her head that said You’re lying to her, you’re disgusting, you’re a creep waiting for her guard to come down is finally, finally gone.

And then they leave together. They don’t separate when Victoria goes to her car, sleeping alone across the city from one another. They share a quiet space, and Max holds her hand again, and it’s starting to feel normal.

Wine and an on-demand movie finish out the night, Max eventually ending up on the couch with her head in Victoria’s lap, staring up at her with tipsy affection. When the credits roll (Victoria was barely paying attention anyway) Max reaches up and hooks an arm around Victoria, pulling herself so she’s sitting sideways in her lap.

And then they’re kissing. No, they’re making out. And it’s different this time, different even than Chloe, who’d been wet and sloppy and drunk that one night (always just one night) and it had felt somehow more than the others, raw and full of pain and lust, but Max…

Max doesn’t push. She doesn’t bite, or dig her nails into Victoria, or pull her around trying to get something else to start. Her hands wander, but they just trace the lines of Victoria’s body, slow and soft and ready to stop at the slightest sign. She doesn’t push her tongue into Victoria’s mouth, but her lips are amazing. She keeps coming in, backing off, planting lighter pecks along Victoria’s neck, cheeks, jaw, shoulders. It’s easy to reciprocate, easy to hold her and touch her and kiss her. It feels like they’re lost in each other forever.

Max eventually falls against Victoria, pinning her to the back of the couch, head tucked under her chin. “You’re a good kisser,” she murmurs.

Victoria raises her eyebrows, stroking Max’s hair. “That can’t be true.”

“I’ve kissed a lot of people a lot of times.” Max raises her head and kisses her cheek. “You’re a good kisser.”

“But I—”

“Shh.” Max leans in and meets her mouth again. “Just listen to me for once, okay?” she says with a smirk as she pulls away.

Victoria is not going to tell her how hot every aspect of what she just did made her, but she can’t help shifting uncomfortably and feeling her cheeks light up in red. Max giggles and rests against her happily.

“Bedtime?” she mumbles as Victoria starts to doze off.

“We slept half the day away already,” Victoria says through a yawn.

“We have the right,” Max insists. “We’re adults, and I’m gonna spend all day tomorrow without pants because I can.

Victoria thinks something, and then she realizes she can say it. “Now that’s a nice image…” she teases, drumming her fingers on the small of Max’s back.

“Are you actually flirting with me?” Max pulls back and puts her hand to her chest in mock-shock.

“I can flirt!” Victoria objects.

“Sure, you say that now, but you certainly didn’t Chase me yourself, I had to do all the work,” Max replies with that infuriating I-just-made-a-bad-pun grin she gets.

Victoria groans. “You don’t get to be on my lap anymore if you say shit like that.”

“I’m not gonna be on your lap for much longer anyway if we’re going to bed,” Max points out.

“Good point.” Victoria stands up and dumps Max onto the floor — gently, letting her slide off. She looks up at Victoria with a fake pout.

“You could at least carry me to bed,” she complains.

“Ask nicely next time,” Victoria suggests, walking away and letting her scramble to her feet herself.

Once Max is behind her, she leaps up on Victoria’s back and wraps her legs around Victoria’s waist. “This works too,” Max says smugly, kissing Victoria’s ear.

“You are a literal child.”

“I’m a couple months younger,” Max says, blowing a raspberry. “I get to be the immature one.”

Victoria heaves a heavy sigh. “All right, you win.” She grabs Max’s thighs to help her balance and painstakingly walks to the bedroom ( lift more, Victoria, she chides herself) and lets Max down gently on the bed. Max unspools her legs and leans back, making eye contact as soon as Victoria turns around. God, that smile. It should be illegal. At the very least, it shouldn’t be pointed at Victoria.

She looks away as she undresses and gets into her nightwear, pointedly avoiding the oversized t-shirts stuffed into the back of the drawer because dammit, she should at least try to look good for Max. The nice silky ones will do. Max doesn’t need to see Depression Victoria, hopefully ever.

By the time she’s finished, Max has done as she implied and changed into a t-shirt and no pants whatsoever, Victoria’s remembered her plans for tomorrow. Don’t show her Depression Victoria. Right. That’s a reasonable goal.

Victoria sinks down on the bed and runs her hand through her hair. “Max, I — I have work tomorrow, and I’m going to visit Nathan after. He’ll...he’ll be upset if I’m not there.”

Max crawls up behind her and wraps herself around Victoria. “Okay,” she says simply.

“I don’t always come back from that feeling good.”

“I know.” Max reaches an arm around and squeezes Victoria’s hand. “Text me when you’re on your way home. I’ll order pizza.”

Victoria leans back into her, smiling a little. “You’re sure you won’t…” She sighs. “We just got together, I shouldn’t be—”

“Victoria, I know you. We get to skip the impressing-each-other phase, okay?” Max says, getting up on her knees and kissing Victoria’s neck. “That’s kind of why I’m excited about this whole thing. I know we work well together if we don’t have any stupid expectations in the way. So let’s just not have them.”

“Easier said than done, Caulfield.”

“Try for me?” Max suggests.

Victoria breathes out a long sigh. “I will.”

Max pulls her down into bed and there’s no more talk for the rest of the night, just Max’s arms around Victoria, fingers tracing designs in silk.

 


 

Victoria sits in her car outside her apartment building, leg jiggling madly. This shouldn’t be so nervewracking. She’s going home to her girlfriend. That’s a good thing.

She takes her phone out of her purse to distract her, let her calm down. She scrolls through her conversation history with Max, trying to get back to where she was before the visit with Nathan.

Max’s selfie comes up and she relaxes, despite how much it had incensed her to receive it in the middle of the day. She stands in front of Victoria’s bathroom mirror, Victoria’s Sailor Jupiter shirt draped over her body, a smug smirk on her face, freckled thighs just barely in frame. Your shirts are cute ;) was the text sent along with it.

Victoria smiles to herself. Just as nosy as she was in high school. Victoria has no chance of hiding anything from her, and yet somehow that feels freeing. The stress of hiding what a weirdo she is can be left behind.

And Max looks really, really cute in that picture.

Her phone buzzes, and a new message is added to the conversation.

Max:

Pizza’s almost here, hurry up so I don’t have to put pants on :3

Victoria sighs, pushing back the lump in her throat. Normally after a day like this she’ll go home, change into something comfortable, and watch something old and familiar, letting herself cry when it comes to her. Today she has to keep herself together, at least a little.

She finds the pizza guy in the elevator and takes the food off of him, giving him an entirely-too-generous tip and leaving him to ride back down alone. With some careful juggling she manages to unlock her apartment (why did Max need to lock if it she’s home all day?) and slide the pizza onto the kitchen counter. Max calls her name from the bedroom.

“I’m home!” Victoria calls back. Max pads out from the hallway, still in Victoria’s shirt, and leans up on tiptoes to kiss her.

“How was your day?” she asks.

Victoria’s struck by how nice this all feels. If Max moved in tomorrow, it’d be hard to object. She never thought she’d actually get this, this totally fucking normal domestic lifestyle.

“Victoria?” Max asks carefully, trailing a hand down her arm.

“Sorry. Yeah, it wasn’t the best. Kind of sucked ass, actually.” Victoria takes a paper plate and gives herself two pieces, walking over to sit on the couch. Max follows quietly, snuggling up to her side and laying her head on her shoulder. Victoria’s never seen Max with one of her other partners, but this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. The girl was always very physical with her affections...especially towards Chloe, back in the day.

Just knowing that she’s worth this kind of attention from Max eases the knot in her stomach a bit.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Max asks after they’ve had a few minutes to eat.

“Not right now,” Victoria admits. “I just...want to unwind.”

“Then get out of that stuffy office-wear,” Max suggests.

Victoria can’t help but agree, and since Max has already gotten into her lazy-day drawer, decides to give up the act and just throw on a Gurren Lagann shirt and sweatpants before heading back out to the living room. Max is in front of the TV, being slightly suspicious.

“What are you putting on?” Victoria asks, trying to lean around her to see what she’s setting up to stream.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within,” Max answers, bounding back over to her with a shit-eating grin.

Victoria groans. “Max—”

“I used to think this was the shit when I was eighteen,” Max continues, wandering over to the kitchen and opening the liquor cabinet. “Now let’s have a drink and laugh at it.”

Max has the best ideas.

 


 

Cuddling with Max is so fucking good.

Through the haze of her buzz, Victoria just keeps thinking that, over and over. She’s got an arm around Max’s shoulders, the room is dark with only the blue light of the credits rolling over them, and the day has passed through her instead of roiling in her gut. Max nuzzles into her shoulder.

“Feel better?” Max asks.

Victoria nods and leans into her. “Yeah.”

“Do you want to talk about today?”

Victoria sighs. Well. It involves Max. She should know.

“I told Nathan about us today,” Victoria begins. “He...reacted weird.”

“Weird how?”

“He...he said…” Victoria swallows. “He knew I was into women. He said he knew that since we were in high school, because of the way I’d look at girls, the way I treated you. But he thought I was bi, because I used to hook up with guys because I was stupid and closeted and thought it’d help. So he...he didn’t think seriously that I’d want to be with someone. Except for him.”

Max inhales sharply. “Oh, Victoria…”

“He said that…” Victoria chokes back a sob. “He said he didn’t see the point of getting out of the care facility, if he couldn’t be with me. He was so calm about it.”

Max holds Victoria close as she tries to gather her breath.

“It feels like it’s my fault, now, that he won’t ever leave, I wanted him to be happy, I wanted him to be free, but he made it sound like, like he just expected, he wanted me, and I never knew, and now he’s just going to rot in there forever because of what I am, and…” Victoria tries to wipe the tears from her eyes. “And I don’t know what to do.”

Max holds her as she cries. Victoria can’t say everything else that’s running through her mind, it’s too much to be put out there into the world. The way she feels like she’s wasted her life looking after Nathan. The way it feels like half her purpose for being alive at all has been stolen away from her, or never existed in the first place. The dark ideas she’d had in the car of just abandoning him and moving to be with Max instead, or anywhere but here, free of him and her parents and all the bits and pieces of her upbringing that keep her trapped in this city.

“There’s nothing wrong with you,” Max whispers. “You’ve been really good to him. I know you have.”

“But he’s — he just wants to stay —”

“It’s not your fault if he does. And he won’t. If he was this calm telling you that, he might change his mind. You told me he’s making progress. He can get out on his own, or he can improve enough that they’ll make him leave.” Max smooths her arm. “You can’t be the only one responsible for him. None of this is your fault.”

“I was just so happy to finally be with you and then I went to him, and now it’s like I’m a teenager again, like I hate being gay and I hate loving you and I never wanted to feel like that again.” Victoria sniffs. “I’m such a fucking mess.”

“You’re not,” Max says softly. “You’re doing your best.”

“It’s never enough.”

Max leans over and kisses her gently. “It’s more than enough for me.”

When Victoria’s spent, when there’s nothing left for her to say or cry out, Max takes her to bed. It’s starting to feel normal to fall asleep beside her. Victoria wonders how she ever managed without her.

 


 

The next morning, it feels like they have a routine of some kind. They wake together, eat breakfast together (toast and cereal; Max bemoans the fact that neither of them cook and suggests they should both learn sometime) and Victoria heads off to work after Max says she’s going to visit some friends of hers in the city. When Victoria comes back, stressed and drained, Max soothes her, shows her the pictures she took while she wandered around that day, relaxes into the couch and drinks tea with her. The days pass by easily and wonderfully, despite it all.

There’s no pressure at home, now. It all melts away when she sees Max, and for the first time in her adult life, her assistant doesn’t call her a workaholic all week. Even the idea of going further with Max starts to lose the scary edge. Victoria’s allowed to set the pace, to introduce tongues and biting and wandering hands to their makeout sessions, though she still stops herself from taking off any clothes. Things always get at their most heated when they’re lying down to sleep together, and that’s when Victoria’s stupid memories and associations decide to kick in, too.

Victoria finds herself dreading the calendar. Max already bought tickets. She’s going to leave soon, and then things will be back to the way they were before. She regrets saying that Max shouldn’t stay forever. It’s really starting to feel like she should.

 


 

Max falls down onto Victoria’s bed, sighing as she turns over and makes room for Victoria. They settle in together, Victoria waiting for Max to kiss her because god damn she wants to kiss Max right now, but instead Max seems troubled. Her lips are curled into that little frown of hers.

“Only two more days,” she says. She lies on her side, wrapping an arm around Victoria’s waist. “When do you want me to visit again?”

Victoria wants to say You can just walk out the door and come right back in and that’d be fine, but she did set a limit, and they should figure out how to do this. Not just jump in headfirst. “Whenever you want,” is her answer. “Just ask first.”

“Okay.” Max draws closer. “I—I know I seem a little clingy, but...this just feels right. I know I haven’t stayed in one place for more than a year since I got out of school, and you probably think I’m just a big flake, but...I’ve kind of wanted to find a reason to stay somewhere.”

“You haven’t before?” Victoria asks.

“Not really. After Chloe moved to L.A. with Rachel, there wasn’t a lot of point in hanging around Arcadia Bay anymore. And when I lived in L.A. for school, I kind of...had to leave after a while. Being around Chloe that much…” Max sighs. “You really did call it, you know. God, I actually got, like, ragingly jealous. I didn’t even feel like myself.”

Victoria tries not to think that she’s just Max’s second choice. It’s been years since that happened. And she should try to lighten the mood for once in her life. “Why do you think I never met any of your exes?” Victoria teases, running a hand over Max’s side. It doesn’t matter who she loved in the past. Max is here now.

“That was the other thing. I kept wanting a person to keep me tethered, but I just...the boyfriends and girlfriends I had, I don’t know if I tried. Or if I was meeting them the right way. I wanted someone who’d wait for me, I guess. Someone who’d let me be myself and love me anyway, and then I’d actually want to settle down with them because...I don’t know, it’d prove something. I know how stupid that sounds.”

Victoria can’t help but let out a little laugh. “So you’re saying I’m your perfect girl?”

“Don’t get all high-and-mighty,” Max says, playfully shoving her. “But when you told me, I...everything clicked. You were here the whole time. I’m still kind of reeling from that, that you like me that much, that it didn’t even matter that you didn’t have me and that I wasn’t around all the time.” She runs her fingers down Victoria’s cheek. “And that I felt the same way about you, it just took a perspective shift. I just had to think about you in another way, and it was like, BAM.”

Victoria closes her eyes and lets herself feel Max’s touch. She feels warm. Max’s words wash over her.

“I know it probably seems like I’m moving really fast, but...it’s because I love you, Victoria,” Max whispers.

Victoria doesn’t know if anyone’s ever said those words to her before.

She wraps Max up in her arms and holds her tight.

“I’ll...I’ll try to make sure I don’t rush this. You were right. But I had to tell you,” Max says. “You’re always telling me stuff…”

“Thank you,” Victoria murmurs. “I’m glad you did.”

 


 

Victoria wakes up slowly in the morning, Max wrapped around her body. The sun rises through her window and casts perfect shadows all down Max’s angles and curves. Victoria could take a thousand pictures of her in this moment and they’d all be beautiful.

Tomorrow Max leaves. But today has all kinds of possibilities.

Max stirs beside her, cute sleepy sounds escaping her as she snuggles up to Victoria. Victoria sneaks an arm in under her and pulls until Max gets the message and lies on top of her, hands on either side propping her up, her hair falling down to frame their faces.

“Good morning,” Max says with a smile.

“Good morning,” and Victoria leans up to kiss her. And she doesn’t stop.

She ends up pushing herself into a seated position against her pillows, Max on her lap with her hands on Victoria’s hips. Victoria’s heart starts pumping as their lips meet again, as Max’s grip tightens.

It’s not just one night. It’s one morning, one of many, and the days will stretch on and on.

Victoria slowly trails her hands down from Max’s shoulders, relishing the moment her palms graze Max’s breasts through her t-shirt. Her nipples are hard and sensitive, Max letting out a sharp gasp and twitching with the lightest touch. She pulls back an inch. “Victoria—”

“Don’t stop,” Victoria breathes, staring into her eyes.

“Okay,” Max says, her breath shaking, a wide smile breaking out over her face. She pushes her hair out of her face.

Victoria can’t hold back. She’s wanted to touch Max like this for years, dreamed about it, guiltily fantasizing about it after long, hard days. The women she’s actually been with may have had softer, curved bodies, bigger breasts, longer legs, and that’s all supposed to matter, but it never did. It was always Max (or, she’ll admit, Chloe after a certain incident) that she thought of.

She’s glad that Max takes control quickly, though. Victoria’s never quite sure what to do and now she feels nerves running through every inch of her body. Seeing Max take her own shirt off helps her relax; she doesn’t have to make every move anymore.

Max leans down, hands moving to unbutton Victoria’s pajama top while she sucks on her neck. Victoria puts her hands on Max’s back, unable to stop the smile on her face from growing, shaking with anticipation. She’s finally ready for this.

Once they’re both topless, Victoria indulges another of her fantasies by pulling Max in and taking a nipple in her mouth. Max immediately squeaks, arching her back into Victoria, panting as she swirls her tongue. Max repositions herself, straddling one of Victoria’s thighs and grinding down on it, a wet warm presence on Victoria’s skin, closing her eyes and biting her lip until Victoria pulls back.

Before Victoria can act, Max surges forward and pins her against the headboard with her mouth. It’s so easy to give in. Max isn’t rough, but she’s firm, reassuring in her desire even as her hands wander down Victoria’s chest, fingers pinching and rubbing little circles. Victoria shudders under her attentions, random spasms in her legs making her thigh buck up between Max’s legs, which produces the most delightful breaks in their kissing.

Max draws away, trailing a hand down Victoria’s stomach, to the waistband of her pants. “Can I…?” she whispers in Victoria’s ear.

Yes,” Victoria sighs. Max slips her hand under and kisses Victoria’s neck, but that’s not enough. “Take them off,” Victoria clarifies, holding her hips up and eliciting another little squeak from Max.

Max nods, sliding down the bed with Victoria’s pants and panties in hand. It feels freeing when Victoria’s bare, no more suffocating heat and damp trapped beneath fabric. Max’s eyes go wide when she looks back up after discarding Victoria’s clothes.

“Come here,” Victoria murmurs, extending a hand and beckoning her forward. She expects Max to straddle her again, but instead she crawls between Victoria’s legs, pushing them apart, and now Max’s tongue is on her clit.

Everything goes out of focus. Nothing exists in the world but Max’s lips and tongue and Victoria’s clit. Victoria closes her eyes and pitches her head to the ceiling, gripping Max’s hair in her hands and groaning out her pleasure. Max’s experience shows in every lap, the way she moves from sucking to licking to flicking to god-what-is-she-even-doing.

But Victoria knows she’s not quite going to get there as she plateaus, her body quaking and wanting more but Max simply unable to give it.  Victoria needs more.

She pulls up on Max’s hair, getting a questioning look as Max rises. “I want you in me,” she says, grabbing Max’s wrist and guiding it towards her. Max shifts her position, getting herself on Victoria’s thigh again.

Victoria tenses when she feels Max’s finger enter her, then relaxes, settling into a slow, steady rhythm as Max explores. She carefully probes until suddenly she hits a very good spot. “There,” Victoria pants, “And, and more.

Max gets the message and adds another finger, and it’s perfect, stretching and filling Victoria, and she can feel herself getting close. “H-hold my hand,” she stammers, because she wants Max to feel her, wants to be connected at that exact moment.

Max doesn’t ask questions, just takes hold and lets Victoria interlace their fingers and grip hard. Her grasp grows tighter and tighter as the coil within her winds, and then Max repositions her thumb and hits Victoria’s clit with each thrust of her hand. Victoria lets out a whine, knowing she’s about to come undone.

“Max, I—I’m gonna—”

“I’ve got you,” Max says, matching her whole body’s movements to her hand, closing her eyes. Victoria tenses the muscles in her thigh to really give her something to grind on, planting her foot and raising her up an inch. She gasps and loses her pace for just a second, but comes back with a vengeance.

Victoria breaks, her fingers clenching on Max’s hand while grabbing the pillow and muffling herself with it with her free hand, her voice high-pitched and so loud and Max is still going. Victoria can feel her reciprocating the grip on her hand, she must be getting close too. The strength in Victoria’s leg is about to give out, and she can’t even keep herself upright for much longer. She can feel the aftershocks fading but she wants to see Max come, wants to feel her too, so she struggles to keep her eyes open and her leg taut and watches.

Max is less dramatic than Victoria, but Victoria can still tell. Max freezes in place on top of her, opening her mouth and letting out choking sounds, spasms rocking her body briefly until she falls forward and puts her head on Victoria’s chest, their hands still joined.

The air is filled with their heavy breathing. Victoria wraps her arms around Max and enjoys her weight, her presence. Max swallows eventually and sits up, shaking her hand loosely at her side. “You have some strong hands,” Max says with a dry laugh. “Ow.”

“Sorry, I — I just wanted —”

“I loved it,” Max says, leaning in for a soft kiss. “We should do that again.”

Again. The idea is tempting. But something in Victoria’s head twinges. “Shit! Check the time?” Victoria asks suddenly, looking around for her phone.

Max leans over the nightstand and flips it over. “Nine?”

Victoria groans. “Shit, I forgot to set my alarm, I need to—”

“Take the day off,” Max murmurs, setting down the phone and leaning in to kiss Victoria’s neck. “How long has it been since you did that?”

“Too long,” Victoria admits. “Hand me my phone.”

Victoria calls in. She doesn’t say why, though she wants to tell them I’ve decided to fuck my girlfriend all day. But no one really needs to know that. This day is for Victoria and Max, and so are the rest of the days, going on and on and on.

Tomorrow Max leaves. But she’ll be back. It will never again be the way it was for so many years.

Victoria’s life is changing, and that doesn’t scare her anymore.