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We Were Younger

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An exhausted Max Caulfield stumbles through her bedroom door in a daze. Kicking off her converse, she fell back onto her bed, arms sprawled and staring at her ceiling fan. Tests today at Blackwell really kicked her ass. Toppled with the fact she was riding on 19 hours without any sleep from studying tirelessly, sleep was finally within her grasp. And boy, did she need it.

Today was supposed to be a special day. The day she reached adulthood to be exact, but all she felt was her own immaturity. She had no idea what she was doing, nor what she was going to do. Why she chose to meddle in photography, she had no idea. Just because she loved taking shots, didn't mean she thought she was any good at it. Others claim they saw hidden talent, but she only saw herself as nothing more than a wannabe. It was the word of others that she had to go on.

Nothing more than a painfully ordinary day. No parties. No friends. No cakes. None of that typical birthday shit, other than a phone call from Ryan and Vanessa Caulfield to wish their daughter a happy birthday. She couldn't help but reminisce of all her magical birthdays she had as a child, but in doing so, only made her more melancholy over the past. Those days are long over now.

Adulthood can go to hell.

When she began to give in to close her weary eyes, her phone had dinged and vibrated over and over in her pocket. This startled her, in her tired state of mind. She stood up; her hands reached into her pocket and pulled out the device. A gasp escaped her and her eyes had widened as far as they would go.

No. Fucking. Way. A Facetime call?

Max's breath was stolen away when she saw the ID was none other than Chloe Price. Right then and there, her legs wobbled from under her. Never before had she felt so tempted to both do something and not to do something at the same time.

Should she just— No. This is a matter she couldn't ignore any longer. For far too long, she had put off the inevitable. There was no fighting it now. She had to. Max flinched, prepared to feel her best friend's wrath.

Here goes nothing.

Sitting back down, her trembling finger swiped the unlock screen, and she opened the video call.

Max was taken aback seeing this pale, blue haired girl sitting on the edge of a messy bed. She almost didn't recognize her, only the surroundings that she could make out in the frame; the familiar site of what she once called her room as well.

They both gazed at each other, without so much as a single word being uttered. Chloe almost looked like a deer in headlights, as she never expected Max to pick up. And Max, well, Max was equally stunned.

"Uhm, hi."

"Hel..lo." Chloe was bewildered.

So awkward. Where to even start.

The two stared at each other in weighted silence for a short while longer. Surreal didn't even begin to describe this moment in time. But it sure was a very long time coming.

"So, my Rad Max is the big one-eight. You're still as adorable as ever."

Chloe finally broke out. She just couldn't help but admire Max's delicate features. Seeing her again when she never thought she ever would, made her happier than she had ever been in a long time. There was also the added bonus; she got even cuter, which she didn't think was even possible. Chloe couldn't help but put her phone to her face to get a better look.

"You can see me right?" Max was wondering why Chloe was peering at her so intently.

"Oh I definitely see you. Looking good Max. I dig the homeless vibe." Chloe inserted her trademark quip.

Naturally, Chloe had always been a smart ass. Max couldn't imagine that quality changing even after all this time. At the same time, it was fascinating from a physical standpoint, with how much Chloe had changed. Other than the short blue hair, and her punk-ish attire, she couldn't help but notice that tattoo on her arm. "Wowsers. Now that is cool."

"Badass right? I'm thinking of getting more. And before you ask me the obvious question, yes, it hurt. Like a motherfucker."

Max's attention was drawn to the words written in black marker behind her that read 'Can't sleep' which drew immediate concern.

"Hey, uh, Chloe?"

"What's up hippie?"

"I know this is a stupid question but...are you... doing okay?" Max couldn't help but ask.

"Well, now I am, now that I'm finally graced by your presence after 5 years."

There it is. Max had to hold her tongue. This time, she couldn't tell if it was Chloe being sarcastic as usual or if she meant it. That familiar smile though, gave Max some indication Chloe was clearly enjoying this. And despite how awkward it was for Max, she was too, even though she knew what was yet to come.

"Oh. Yeah, right. Don't mind all the emo graffiti and shit plastered everywhere." Chloe turned behind her.

"Your room looks super different from what I can see."

"Chyeah. I can give you a refresher tour if you want."

"That would be super amazing."

"Your wish is my command."

The video feed shook as Chloe flipped out of her bed onto her feet. "And today on MTV Cribs, here's my humble abode."

Chloe tiptoed around her room holding the phone tight, being careful not to trip over anything. Her hips rotate to pan around the room so that Max could be hit with a wave of nostalgia.

But Max couldn't help but notice cigarette butts, pipes, bongs, and empty bottles of alcohol littering the desks and floor. The state of her room told the entire story of how she handled the circumstances of her life. It donned on her that Chloe had spiraled out of control at one point. And it absolutely tore Max apart.

When Chloe panned to her dresser, something had caught Max's eye in particular. One thing she didn't expect to see.

"Is that... a ukulele?" Max pointed out, trying to ignore the booze and drugs laying about. She had no idea Chloe was into musical instruments.

"Indeed it is, Max."

"I love the ukulele. I always wanted one but I'm already really bad enough with my guitar as it is. Are you, uh, any good?"

"I am absolute fucking rubbish. Why do you ask?"

Ahh, a fellow self doubter.

"Just wondering."

"Oh, I know. You want me to play you something huh? Well guess what? You haven't earned it, even if today is your birthday." Chloe huffed.

So much for breaking the ice.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have asked."

Chloe playfully replied. "Kidding again. I'll tell you what, Long Max Silver. I'll play for you, but in return, you got to do something for me."

"And what would ye, almighty Bluebeard, like?" Max's interest piqued.

"I want you to..." Chloe paused and pondered for added suspense. Keeping Max on her toes was always fun.

Max was quick to offer anything in return. It was the least she could do. "Whatever you need, Chloe!"

"Well you are 18 now. Does this mean you're allowed to send me your nudes?" Chloe smirked. Max, not expecting that kind of response, nearly dropped her phone.

"Wait, what? Uhm, surely you can't be serious right?"

"I am serious. And don't call me Shirley." Chloe had waited ages to use that line. "Wow Max, it's been so long you forgot my name, huh?!" Chloe further teased. If there was anything better than keeping Max on her toes, it was making her red in the face. That was when Max was at her most cutest.

Boy, did she miss that.

Max stammered, still caught off guard. "I'm not, I mean— holy shit, I—"

"Well you did say anything, dork. And relax, Caulfield! We barely know each other now, I'm not that much of a pig." Chloe laughed out loud.

Oh yes you are.

"You got me there. I can say you have definitely gotten a lot crazier than when we were kids." Max began to relax and giggled with her.

"And you're still Max Caulfield after all these years." Chloe interjected with a grin. "Here's my offer, you said you have a guitar, right? A song for a song?"

"I'm pretty terrible." Max admits.

"You're starting to sound like me. We can both be terrible together, at least. Do we have a deal?"

Max nodded. "You bet."

"And do you promise not to laugh?"

"Not a chance." Max reassured and leaned in closer to her screen. Boy, she was giddy as hell. A free concert, courtesy of Chloe Price was something she never knew she needed. Until now.

Chloe sighs. She gets up from her bed and props her phone against her dresser and adjusts it so that Max has a clear, full body view. Retrieving her instrument; she begins to play a few strings much to Max's excitement.

"I dedicate this song to a very special someone on their birthday." Chloe cleared her throat and began.

'I don't want you

But I hate to lose you

You've got me in between

The devil and the deep blue sea

I forgive you

'Cause I can't forget you

You've got me in between

The devil and the deep blue sea

I want to cross you off my list

But when you come knocking at my door

Fate seems to give my heart a twist

And I keep running back for more

I should hate you

But I guess I love you

You've got me in between

The devil and the deep blue sea.'

Feeling slightly embarrassed, Chloe set the ukulele beside her and reached for her phone. "Satisfied now?"

Max was conflicted. The lyrics were unquestionably about her, that much was certain, but there was also something incredibly dreamy about her performance. "I absolutely adored it."

"Well I'd hope so. I'll take your word for it." Chloe shrugged.

Max was almost relieved that they could still have joke and have so much fun together after all this time away. "You know, I didn't expect everything to turn out this way."

"What did you expect then, Max?" It wasn't really much of a mystery to Chloe what Max was expecting. She knew.

"Chloe, if I'm being really honest, I expected you to hate me after all this time. And I wouldn't blame you if you do. I really deserve it." Max could no longer hide from what she did to Chloe and made a point to address the elephant in the room. It wasn't healthy to pretend it never happened. Which is exactly what Chloe was doing. Max needed to owe up to her mistakes before trying to repent for them.

"If you really want to talk about it, I'm going to drop you with something that I really need to get off my chest. Are you sure you want to hear it?" Chloe's entire demeanor had completely changed.

Max gulped nervously and hung her head down. "I'm sure. Just really scared." she admitted with a quiver in her voice.

Chloe had to summon every bit of her courage for what she was about to say. "Max, I... I was really pissed for a long time. I'll spare you a lot of bullshit, but truth is, I just couldn't stay mad at you. I never could. Every time I would try to hate you, I would hear something that sounded like your name. I'd see a photo, I would see the mementos you left me, you'd visit me in my dreams, all of it, just made me clamor for you again. You know.. it's like, like I have that fucking syndrome. What's it called—"

"...Stockholm." Max uttered, almost in shame she knew what Chloe implied.

"That's the one. Like I was your hostage and no matter what you did to me, I just kept loving you. Let me ask you something, do you know how painful it is to turn on the radio and virtually every song would constantly, in some shape or form, would remind me of you? How hard it was to go out in public and seeing people being best friends to each other and knowing you'll never get to feel that again because you've closed yourself off to anyone and everyone?"

"...I do." Max could barely speak. Holding her tears back was a near impossible task at this point. In that fleeting moment, Max has a flashback of her time and 'friends' in Seattle. She remembered feeling hollow. Max too, could never duplicate the same love or bond with anyone else. How could she?

Even most of Max's music was tailor made for her to ponder the past she left behind. Max felt she had no sense of belonging anywhere except for when she was with Chloe.

Those words had cut deep.

Chloe continued on, her heart breaking more and more with every single breath.

"I used to think I was fine just being alone after you left. I used to just fucking think it was my destiny. Then I would play that message you recorded for me, the day we buried dad, and I'd play it just to hear your voice again. Because I was too afraid I'd forget what you sounded like. You... you want to know what's sad? I played it just about every single day for 5 years. Just to remind myself of who I am. To remind myself of who you were. To remind myself who we were. On that tape, you told me that you'd always love me, and that we'd always be Max and Chloe. I just want to ask you one question. Did you mean it? Do you still mean it?"

"Ch— Chloe." Max's eyes were red and puffy. "I am so... so fucking stupid." The amount of hurt she inflicted on someone who loved her this much, just made her hate herself even more.

"Do you mean it, Max?" Chloe whimpered, pushing her for the truth.

"...Yes." Max sniffed back some of tears. "I do..."

"Then let's be Max and Chloe again. Let's not be strangers anymore. Despite what you think I feel, I want to let you know I really, really love you too... from the bottom of my fucking soul. And I don't want to go through my entire fucking life without you anymore. I've waited so long to say that to you. I'm so sick and tired of pretending like you weren't ever here when people tell me to suck it up and move on. Moving on was never something I was any good at." A pained expression was plastered all over her face now. "Look, I didn't call you to guilt trip you. I can't just remain bitter. I realize that. The real reason why I called you because someone really special was born on this day. That special person's name is Max Caulfield. And no matter what, I love her more than... anything." Chloe began to weep. She had finally achieved catharsis after what felt like an eternity apart.

Hearing Chloe pour her heart out broke Max. All she could do was cry. Her phone dropped to her chest, leaving Chloe with only a view of the ceiling, and there were only sounds of her sobs. Chloe's too.

Chloe's screen suddenly cut to black. Max was gone.

"Max? Don't go. Please. Don't go." Chloe pleaded with the emptiness of her feed. She was absolutely devastated. The feelings of that horrible day came rushing back to her which made her throw her phone and wail in agony.

Writhing around in her bed, like a wounded animal, Chloe's very soul was crushed. It really was her destiny to lose the people she cared about. All of her efforts to regain that one missing piece of her life she held dear, had backfired. In a blinding rage, she began to rain down fists on her mattress, screaming at the top of her lungs.

She was gone. Again. It was all her fault. Again. She scared Max away for good.

Joyce rushed up the stairs to assess the commotion. When she opened the door, she was met with an emotional Chloe.

"I'm drowning, mom." Chloe choked.

"Your call to Max didn't go too well I take it." She took a seat next to her ailing daughter. In an effort to comfort her, Joyce wrapped her arm around Chloe, but by this point, she was too far gone. Inconsolable. Joyce could only offer her words of wisdom.

"She deeply cares about you Chloe. We all handle loss differently. She handled it in her own way. Just like I had to when I met David. It wasn't easy, it wasn't, but pain is different for everyone and we do what we can to overcome it. I didn't mean to hurt you when I chose to move on with David, and I'm sure she didn't mean to hurt you by waiting so long to reconnect with you again. I'm not Max, only she knows why, but I can understand she had her own ways to cope. That's how you know how much it hurt her too. When she's ready, she'll come to you. You two are going to grow old together. I always knew that from the moment you brought her home to us, you know." Joyce couldn't help but think back to those magical days.

As expected, Chloe had no response.

Realizing she just needed space to collect herself, Joyce stood up and exited her room. When she made her way downstairs, she noticed the front door open and saw that David was speaking to someone. Upon the realization of whom he was talking to, Joyce's face lit up in delight.

"Chloe, open your window. You have a very special visitor outside." Joyce yelled up the stairs.

Chloe jumped from her trance-like state of mind.

It couldn't be. Was this...

The sound of a guitar could be faintly heard from outside. Chloe wiped her tears with her bare arm and wasted no time ripping off the curtain and forced her window open.

And there she was.

Max Caulfield began to strum one of her favorite pieces by Syd Matters. One in particular that always made her think of Chloe. She gazes up at Chloe standing speechless in the window and silently mouths the words "You're always my best friend. I love you."

David Madsen and Joyce watched from the doorway with warm smiles, taking in the beautiful reunion of two friends. They turned to each other in a loving stare as Max started to sing.

'Let's say, sunshine for everyone

But as far as I can remember

We've been migratory animals

Living under

Changing weather

Someday, we will foresee obstacles

Through the blizzard

Through the blizzard

Today, we will sell our uniform

And live together

Live together

We played hide and seek in waterfalls

We were younger, we were younger

We played hide and seek in waterfalls

We were younger, we were younger

Someday, we will foresee obstacles

Through the blizzard

Through the blizzard'

Her voice was the most beautiful sound Chloe had ever heard. Never before had she even knew of this gift that Max had kept from her after all these years, even when they were together. Chloe sprinted downstairs and out the front door past her mom and stepdad. She rushed Max with open arms. The guitar slipped out of the brunette's fingertips and onto the ground as Max clutched Chloe as hard as she could in return.

"You're... actually here." Chloe couldn't believe it.

"Here to stay." Max buried her face in Chloe's shoulder. Feeling the familiar warmth of Chloe again made her feel like she was on top of the world. Today happened to be the greatest birthday she ever had, after all. And being in her arms again was the greatest gift she could have ever asked for.

"I never thought in a billion years, Max fucking Caulfield, would ever show up at my house again, let alone serenade me like that. Only you." Chloe cracked up, still in complete disbelief she was actually holding her other half.

"A song for a song, remember?" Max reminded her while continuing to nestle herself into Chloe.

"Hey, Max?"

"...Chloe?"

"I love you so much for it." Chloe reached for Max's hand and slipped her fingers between her's.

From that moment forward.

After living far apart.

After every obstacle together and alone.

Through the harsh winter of their strained relationship.

Spring had come at last. Max and Chloe's bond had begun to bloom again.

Only this time to last... forever.