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The Problem with Destiny

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“Will you just fuck off and leave me alone!” The door slammed shut in Max's face, leaving her standing there in the corridor. She didn't know what to do - she felt like everything she was trying to say was just making things worse. She thought she could hear an inquisitive door or two open as those who were still here tried to see what the commotion was about – everyone was still a little on edge after the events of yesterday, and sudden shouts and slamming doors were bound to cause interest.

Max looked anxiously at the closed door, trying to screw up the courage to knock. She knew she had to try, to try and rescue something at least from all of this, but she felt scared of the reaction she would get. She felt like she was already messing everything up, despite having been given an extraordinary gift to prevent her from doing exactly that. She hesitantly raised her hand and tapped again.

“Victoria?” she asked in a small voice.

“I said FUCK OFF!” came the screamed reply, muffled slightly through the door but holding no less venom. Max quailed slightly at the tone, and felt her heart sink even further. She rested her palm on the door, as if hoping beyond hope that Victoria was doing the same and would somehow feel her through the door and open it, but the wood was cold to the touch. She stood there for a moment with her eyes closed, before slowly stumbling backwards into her own room, shutting the door behind her and leaning weakly on it.

She didn't know what else to do. She felt like she had tried everything she could and it still hadn't been enough. Her eye caught her Journal lying on the bed, the Journal that had turned her life upside down over the past twenty-four hours.

Things had started promisingly enough – after leaving the classroom following the arrest of Jefferson they had worked well together. Between them they had managed to find the number of the FBI Agent who they had been told to get in contact with, and coupled with Max using her newly obtained rewind power and a lot of false starts they had convinced the Agent about the truth of what they were telling her – it was then an anxious few hours spent holed up in Max's room while they awaited for events to unfold; hours spent studiously avoiding each other's gaze as they both refused to countenance what they had discovered about each other.

They had watched it happen on the local and then national news, seeing the footage of the arrests of Sean Prescott and various members of the Arcadia Bay Police department. They had both watched with conflicting emotions, pleased that they had managed to set in motion the events of the day, but conscious that every moment further confirmed the validity of what had been written in the Journal.

And that to Max meant confirming other things, which she was not in any shape whatsoever ready to confront, not in the slightest.

Eventually when it was clear that there was no more news that was going to occur that night, and that everything they had hoped would happen had indeed occurred, Victoria had made her excuses and quickly left, shutting the door behind her before Max had even a chance to say goodnight. Max had lain awake on her bed trying to work out what it had all meant, and trying to work out the complicated feelings she had knowing it all stemmed from her old best friend dying – had to die? - before exhaustion meant sleep overtook her.

The following day had started even worse – Max had found herself loitering around the dorm trying to catch Victoria so she could at least try to talk to her – after a fruitless hour of knocking and waiting she had dropped by to see Kate, who she hadn't seen since the morning before.

Kate was still in her pyjamas and had been sitting crosslegged on her bed, reading passages from the Bible when Max had knocked and entered. The room was dark, with the curtains closed and little light seeping in and Max found it strangely oppressive. Max stood there a little awkwardly, unsure as to what to do until Kate shuffled her feet aside and patted the bed. Max sat down gingerly on the edge and looked around the room. The Journal had warned her about this, but in that timeline Victoria's actions had helped move Kate onto a slightly better course, which had only improved over time. Now Max suddenly realised that that seemingly crucial intervention had not occurred due to what they had done, and Kate was still on the brink.

“Um.. how are you feeling, Kate?” Max asked timidly. Kate placed her Bible down on her legs, a finger marking a passage she was reading and looked at Max. Her eyes were a little red and deeply shadowed, and to Max she looked deathly pale.

“I'm.. OK,” she replied. “I mean all the commotion yesterday was certainly something, wasn't it. I can't believe what the news has been saying, but.. I wonder if.. if...” She fell silent and looked down at the book in her lap. Max waited for a moment for her to continue, but she just sat there staring at her Bible.

“You wonder if?” Max prompted. Kate sighed and looked back up at her.

“I wonder if what happened to me is connected somehow. I mean.. I don't know, but..” She looked down again, falling silent once more. Max knew what had happened to Kate thanks to the Journal, but Kate did not know that, and Max knew she had to keep probing.

“What happened to you, Kate?” Max asked, reflexively flexing her hand as she felt that now familiar feeling at the back of her head that told her time was under her control, ready to remedy any mistakes. Kate looked at her with eyes brimming with tears that threatened to spill over.

“Max... I.. I went to one Vortex Club party and ended up making out with a bunch of people and I have no memory of it. I swear to God I had one sip of red wine and then I drank water.” Max knew what was coming, but having to hear it like this from her friend nearly broke her heart.

“One glass of wine isn't much, Kate. I can't believe it was only just that. But.. what happened then?”

“I remember...I remember getting sick and dizzy, and then Nathan Prescott said he would take me to the hospital. Which he clearly didn't. I recall driving for a long time then I woke up in a room. Somebody was talking to me in a soft voice and I thought it was a doctor, until I heard Nathan and felt a sharp sting in my neck and...and... that's all I remember! I don't know what happened. I woke up outside my dorm room the next day. I didn't have any marks or bruises, but I felt gross.” Max reached out and touched her arm.

“I believe you Kate – with everything that has happened how could I – or anyone else – not?” Kate began to weep a little.

“You don't understand Max, it's just my word. My.. my family won't believe anything I say.. to them I'm just a.. just..” Max reached out and hugged her gently, trying to offer what comfort she could.

“I'm sure once the police have done their investigation it will all come out, Kate. And then no-one can't not believe you, that you are the victim.” Kate was silent for a while, wrapping her arms around her knees and hugging herself tight.

“Do.. do you really think so?” she asked, with a little hope creeping into her voice. “Would people believe me then?”

“Yes, yes of course,” said Max quickly. “Of course they would. As soon as the court case is over then it'll all be out in the open. You have to trust me, Kate.” Kate looked at her.

“Court case? How long would that take..?”

“About two years, I would guess,” said Max, waving her hand a little. “Maybe a little more.”

“Two years?” said Kate, aghast. “I can't wait two years! My life is a living nightmare Max, everyone talks about me and hates me. Take Victoria with that video..”

“She regrets it,” said Max, cutting her off a little too defensively. “Believe me, she regrets every second she took that.” Kate rolled her eyes.

“Yes, Max, which is why she hasn't even shown her face to apologise. Not even one word. I know you want to see the best in people Max, but.. I'm not sure there is any in Victoria.” Max sat there in silence, trying to work out if she should rewind the conversation and try again.

To get what, exactly? Kate to speak to Victoria? Why?

Victoria needs to do this, not Kate. She needs to show she cares, help Kate -

Her thoughts were interrupted by a gentle knock at the door.

“Who is it?” Kate called, giving Max a puzzled look.

“It's Dana,” came the reply, and Max was sure she saw a tiny flicker of a change in expression on Kate's face. “There's some people here who want to talk to you. They say they are from the police. Principal Wells is here, too.” Kate looked at Max wide eyed, before standing up and walking over to the door, forgetting she was just dressed in her pyjamas. She opened the door and was immediately hugged by Dana, who whispered in her ear asking if she was OK. Kate nodded with a small smile then tried to peer past her at the people behind in the corridor.

Max craned her neck and saw a man and a woman, both dressed in serious suits and wearing jackets with the word 'FBI' emblazoned across it in yellow. Principal Wells was lurking uncomfortably in the background, with a slightly pained expression on his face.

“Kate Marsh?” said the woman, extending a hand. “I'm Special Agent Jane Glowacki, and this is my colleague Special Agent Sam Barnes. I'm sorry for the intrusion, but we would really like to speak to you about certain events that happened to you on October 4th, in connection with another investigation we are currently pursuing. We would like to ask you if you would be able to accompany us to the station to answer a few questions, and maybe give a statement?”

“October 4th ?” said Kate, her voice faltering. “You mean.. the night.. the...” Agent Barnes nodded.

“Yes, ma'am,” he said gently. “We would like you to come and tell us everything you can recall of that night, if you are prepared to do so? It would be of great assistance in our ongoing enquires.” Kate looked at Dana and then at Max, and Max saw in her face a sudden realisation that here, finally, were people who not only believed that something had happened to her, but wanted to help and could actually do something about it – to give her the power to get a resolution.

“Yes, of course I will,” she said, her voice already sounding stronger. “I just need to get dressed first - I'm sorry I'm just in my pyjamas, I didn't expect any one to come see me today.” Both Agents nodded and said they would wait for her in the corridor, moving to speak to Principal Wells, while both Max and Dana went to Kate to offer their support.

“Kate, this is amazing!” exclaimed Dana. “The FBI! This must be to do with that video Victoria took, it must be linked to Nathan and everything. Do you want me to come with you?” Kate nodded gratefully, and Dana rushed off to make herself look more presentable.

“Do you want me to come as well, Kate?” asked Max. Kate grasped Max's hand with both of hers and smiled at her.

“No, Max, but thank you. Could you keep an eye on Alice for me? I don't know how long I will be.” She paused, then looked at Max with a hopeful expression, something Max had not seen from her for what felt like a long time. “They are going to help me, aren't they? They believe something did happen to me.”

The photos in the dark room. They must have found them. No wonder they came here so quickly.

"Yes, Kate, they do,” said Max, smiling at her. “Of course I'll keep an eye on Alice, you just call me if you need anything.”

Kate had left with Dana and the two Agents twenty minutes later, leaving Max on her own again. She suddenly felt very alone, as if there was no-one left for her at the dorm – and the one person she thought she must talk to was nowhere to be seen. Max decided to go outside and get some air, it might help her try and think things through – she still had not fully processed the fact that Chloe was dead, nor that she was now a time traveller – nor the fact that apparently she was supposed to be with Victoria in some future.

That last part seemed right now to just be a sick joke to top off the unbelievable other things, a mockery of what her life was right now. Just as she was closing her door, as if summoned she saw Victoria appear at the end of the corridor. Her heart leapt whilst her stomach dropped, and she felt an increasing anxiety as Victoria came marching towards her.

“Victoria, hi,” said Max, smiling weakly at her. Victoria stopped and just stared at her, and Max could feel the air cool around them – something she knew from the Journal – that damned Journal! - was a sign that Victoria was feeling either very anxious, or very, very angry. She didn't know what was worse.

“Max,” said Victoria coldly. “What do you want?” Max quailed a little under her gaze, noting how her eyes seemed to be more green than normal, as if lit by an inner light.

“Um, I was thinking.. maybe we should.. talk?” she said, her voice faltering.

“Leave me alone, Max. I don't want to talk to you right now, OK?” said Victoria, turning to her door. Max put out her hand to stop her, her fingers touching her arm which felt icy cold. Victoria flinched at the touch, and Max hastily withdrew her hand.

“Victoria, please, we need to talk about things,” sad Max. “This is all too much for me right now, I need -” Victoria rounded on her, pointing a finger in her face.

“I said, I don't want to talk about it. Not now, not ever? Do you understand me? Are you hearing me correctly? Are the words getting through into your brain?” Victoria seemed to tower over Max, who found herself wilting under her, as if afraid of the tall blonde girl.

You are strong Max, stronger than ever now - don't forget that.

Somewhere within Max a spark seemed to ignite, and she found courage from somewhere deep within that she didn't know she had.

“No,” she said, trying to stand up straight and show she was not intimidated. “We have to talk, Victoria – we need to work out what to do about.. well, us, the.. things we can do. The future.” At the sound of the word 'future' Victoria seemed to wince, and Max shivered involuntarily from the sudden onset of cold that blasted through her.

“Will you just fuck off and leave me alone!”

Victoria Chase lay on her bed staring at the ceiling, feeling like her entire world had ended. Only little more than twenty-fours ago – only one day! - her life had been as perfect as she could make it. Staring down at the other students of Blackwell from atop her perch, safe in the knowledge that the carefully maintained façade she had built up over the last few years was intact and impenetrable. No-one knew the truth, no-one would ever dare ask her – feared rather than respected, she knew she had few real friends but accepted it as the price she had to pay to keep her secrets buried.

And now?

And now in the space of one day my life is fucking ruined thanks to Max fucking Caulfield.

Victoria wasn't sure what was worse – the fact that Max knew she had powers, the fact that Max knew she was a.. a.. one of them; or the fact that she had been shown a glimpse of a future where she could be herself, where she could be happy in just being the person she secretly wished she was.

She replayed for what felt like the hundredth time the conversation she had had with the other Max, the Max who had appeared from nowhere and upended her life.

Are we happy in the future, I had asked. And we are supposed to be. But how can that even be possible? She hates me for everything I have done, and I can't admit to her - to anyone – what I am.

I just can't.

Victoria groaned and rolled over, burying her face in the pillow. She could feel her anxiety rising within her, and she knew what that meant – another thing to be ashamed of, and another thing Max fucking Caulfield knew about. She hated that she was so weak and couldn't control it, she hated the fact that she was different from other people rather than the normal girl her parents wanted, and most of all she hated the fact that she secretly wished she could have a happy future with Max.

But that's never going to happen, is it Vic. Face reality. It's just a mirage, a cruel dream fate has shown to torment you.

The thought made her tear up in anguish and she found herself crying silently into the pillow, her tears freezing into icy droplets, despairing at how unfair she felt life was being to her right now, seemingly oblivious as to how much of this was of her own making. After a few minutes she tried to pull herself back together, to try and slip on the Chase persona once more. She smiled bitterly to herself.

Who am I kidding. Max knows it's all fake, she knows everything. And if she can really travel through time what the hell am I going to be able to do about it?

If she can go through time. I mean, I saw what she did but.. wait, what if she does that in every conversation we have? What about just now – what else happened that I don't know about? What did she find out or do?

How can I ever trust her?

Victoria remembered something she had read in the Journal – that she could travel through time with Max if they were touching each other. The thought sent a brief thrill through her, but also the sickening realisation that to do so meant she had to be with her, and to be with her meant facing up to what Max knew about her. And that meant facing up to who she really was and what was supposed to happen between them in the future.

Yeah, supposed to. Looks like you've done a good job of fucking that up already. You haven't even said a word to Kate since Sunday, let alone after everything that has come out. I don't even know where she is right now – would she even speak to me? Maybe Max could help?

That's right, get everyone to do the dirty work for you. How very Victoria Chase. No wonder Max can't stand the sight of you.

Victoria's thoughts went around and around in this viscous circle of self loathing, until she felt that she couldn't take it any more. She knew she had to take some more of her medication, but thought that it alone might not be enough - she needed something stronger, despite her efforts to give it up. She got up and walked over to her desk, picking up a small orange bottle and shaking out two small pills of Venlafaxine. Picking up a glass of water she put a little ice into it then downed it in a single gulp, before sitting down at her desk and opening a small draw.

She pulled out a small ornate metal box with a combination lock and entered in 2195. It quietly sprung open and she rooted through the contents – a few precious keepsakes she kept hidden: stubs from shows she remembered; a picture of her with her family when she was much younger, smiling happily at the camera in a snowy landscape; a letter telling her she had won 1st prize in a competition; a stolen Polaroid of Max doing a selfie, which she looked at longingly for a moment despite herself; a woven bracelet Nathan had given her a few years ago which she picked up and examined, before throwing into the trash with some force, and finally a small silver pill case. She eagerly opened it and then with a groan dropped it. It was empty.

Oh shit. I forgot I had run out. I need to go to Frank.. but I can't, can I? Not after what happened – didn't happen – the last time. I mean that won't happen again, but the police will be all over him... it's too risky.

And I really don't want Max coming to save me.

She dropped the pill case in frustration, running her hands which were trembling slightly through her hair. She knew she was losing control again – every slight setback seemed to trigger her at the moment. She closed her eyes and tried to control her breathing, silently counting in her head between each breath, her hands gripping the side of her desk. When she felt a little better she opened her eyes and saw to her dismay that she had still frozen part of the desk.

For fuck's sake Vic. You are going to destroy your room at this rate. How do you exactly plan on explaining that one away?

She looked around her room, at the posters on the wall, the bed where she slept alone every night, and made a decision.

Maybe I don't need to.

I'm fucking done with this place.

She grabbed her keys and hand bag and left the room.

Max picked up the Journal and flicked through the pages. The first couple were familiar, her naïve musings on her first week in Blackwell. And then.. then came the pages of swiftly written text, full of spelling mistakes and errors that she recognised as her own whenever she wrote in haste, and her own, normally neat handwriting taking on a slightly spidery form as if the writer was desperately trying to write as much as possible, as quickly as they could. She traced her finger along the text almost reverently, reading for what felt like the hundredth time the story of the Max who had gone before her, and had sacrificed herself to make this all happen.

She seems so brave, so confident, so sure of herself. And what exactly have you done with it so far? Yeah, the Prescotts and Jefferson are behind bars, but that was the easy part. You knew everything you had to do.

You didn't help Kate, Victoria can't even stand to be in the same building as you, let alone speak to you.

And to say nothing of you not even getting in touch with Joyce. Chloe is dead, and you just don't seem to care.

Max tried to dismiss that thought from her mind, not ready to think about that – she had not been in touch with Chloe for five years, and for some reason even when she was back in the same town as her she had still failed to get in touch – and now it was all too late, she was dead and she had willingly let that happen – and all for what?

Max closed the Journal and noticed that a picture had fallen out – it was the picture she had taken in the class, the one she was supposed to destroy next week.

Why do I have to destroy it? It's just a picture..

She stared at it – it was quite a good shot all things considered, although she looked a little pale, probably due to the flash going off too close to her. She leaned forward a little, as if drawn to it for some reason –

- the photo flickered

- voices echoing in her head

- being drawn slowly through the photo

Max jerked her head back, sweating slightly. She threw the photo away from her, screwing her eyes shut, hearing the pounding of her heart.

Jesus Christ. What the fuck was that! What the fuck was going on?

As if in an echo of a past lecture, she heard her voice reciting: But the most important thing to remember right now is this: never travel through a photo - the one on your desk in particular.

Max smacked her palm against her forehead.

You're such an idiot Max. That was exactly what you told yourself not to do. Can you literally not do anything right?

Trying her best to not look at the photo, she gingerly picked it up and tucked it back safely between the Journal's pages, before hiding it in a drawer in her desk. She looked at the time on her cell – it was a little after midday, and she was at a loss for what to do. Kate and Dana, what seemed like her only real friends in the dorm -

- now you let the only other one die -

- were gone with the FBI and as Kate seemed to have a ready amount of support from Dana, Max felt she was largely superfluous. The person she had been told she should be with was currently locked in her room telling her, no, screaming at her, in no uncertain terms that she didn't even want to see her. With no classes scheduled until Monday Max suddenly felt very abandoned and alone, as if she was realising how precarious her enjoyment of Blackwell really was.

This was not helped by her continued studious avoidance of confronting the death of Chloe – Max knew she would have to seriously think about it at some point but the thought of it made her feel even less like staying around the place where it had happened. Almost unconsciously she unlocked her cell and scrolled through her contacts.

“Hey Dad. No I'm fine, nothing to worry about. Are you at work? Oh no, I was just wondering if you could come and pick me up? No, nothing has happened, I'm OK. It's just there's no classes until Monday and.. and I feel like just coming home to see you. Dad no, of course I'm not dropping out, don't be... no, I said I'm fine, I just want to see you and Mom for a few days. Yes, of course. Thanks Dad, you're the best.”

Given the distance her Dad would be here around four – she felt slightly guilty about ringing him while he was at work, but she knew he would drop everything to come and pick her up. With a few hours to kill she spent her time packing her bag (including the Journal – she didn't want to leave that around for all and sundry to read) before practising a few songs on her guitar, snacking on some granola bars in lieu of a proper lunch while she did so. The dorm was still quiet and the time dragged ever so slowly towards four, and she tried to while away a bit more time watching videos on YouTube.

I wish I could fast forward time. This waiting is killing me with boredom.

She thought for a second and tried to see if she could – all that happened is she added a few more minutes on her waiting time, along with a slight headache. By quarter to four she had had enough and grabbed her bag, making sure to take her Journal with her, before leaving her dorm to go wait outside. As she did so she bumped into Taylor who was standing outside Victoria's room, and whom to her surprise greeted her with genuine friendliness.

“Hi Max, how are you?” Max blinked in surprise at her friendly tone – she couldn't recall Taylor ever being this nice to her. Mind you, she was usually in the company of Victoria, so she didn't have that many differing situations to draw from.

“Oh.. er.. Hi Taylor. I'm.. um, fine.. I think. You?” Taylor looked at her with a small smirk on her face.

“I'm fine, Max, all things considering. Are you going somewhere?” Max looked at her blankly until Taylor sighed and pointed to her bag.

“Oh, yes. Just going home..” Taylor looked a little puzzled, but didn't pursue the line of questioning. She cast a glance towards Victoria's door, before giving her a little wave and beginning to walk off.

Huh. Something going on between her and Victoria? I wonder what it is?

Earth to Max, superpowers, remember?

“- things considering. Are you going somewhere?” Max nodded back at her, holding her bag up.

“Yes, I'm just going home for a few days – my Dad is coming to collect me. Are you here to see Victoria?” Taylor sighed and rolled her eyes.

“I was. She's not answering her cell, nor is she in her room. I don't suppose you know where she is?”

“Me? Why would I know where she is..?” Taylor tilted her head to one side, as if calculating something in her head.

“Oh, never mind, I'll see you later -”

“- don't suppose you know where she is?” Max shook her head.

“No, I saw her this morning when we had a little.. um, disagreement, but not since then.” Taylor folded her arms and leaned against the wall, coolly looking at Max with some undisguised interest.

“You and Victoria having a disagreement? I'm shocked.” Max laughed a little.

“Yeah, I guess it's not that surprising. But I was actually just trying to speak to her, after everything that had happened yesterday. I just wanted to see if she was OK.” Taylor nodded thoughtfully.

“Yes, yesterday certainly was a day of surprises. Who would have thought all that had been going on just in this school? Did you suspect Jefferson, Max? Victoria always said you were his favourite, he didn't try to.. you know...”

“Not in this reality,” said Max, a little darkly. Taylor gave her a strange look as if she thought she had misheard, and frowned at the tone of voice Max used.

“I mean, not at all, no,” continued Max. “I guess I was lucky, or he just wasn't interested like that. Thank God, I mean what if he had.. I'm glad they've arrested that fucker.”

“Yeah,” Taylor agreed. She looked at Max for a moment, then gave her a warm smile. “You're OK, Max, you know? Let me know if you see V, will you? Here's my number, just in case.” She gave her another quick smile and walked away, leaving Max watching her go with a happy expression.

Wowsa. That went better than I ever thought it would. And all it took was a little use of the timey-wimey power.

This might not be so bad after all.

Feeing pleased with the outcome of her manipulations Max went outside to wait for her Dad, passing through the quiet quad to sit on the wall of the empty car park, idly dangling her legs off the wall. The day was warm and she watched the sun slowly riding down towards the horizon. On an impulse she fished out her camera and took a picture of the empty car park as the sun rays filtered down through the trees, habitually shaking the resultant photo before looking at the results.

Not bad. The empty car park is most melancholy, as if echoing with the sound of students who have left, never to return.

God you are such a Drama Queen, Max.

The sound of a car made her look up and she saw the welcome sight of her Dad's Honda Civic as it turned in. He gave a little toot on the horn and as he pulled up and wound down the window.

“Maximus!” he bellowed, “your chariot is here!” Max was glad there was no-one else around to see this – her Dad had seemed to specialise in trying to embarrass her as much as possible at every moment – something she was secretly happy about, but would never admit it.

“Daaaad!” she complained, hiding a grin. She opened the door and threw in her bag, before giving him a quick hug. “Thanks for coming to get me, Dad. Sorry if I dragged you away from work.” He looked at her with a smile, but his eye were serious.

“It's OK, I was owed some time anyway – but Max, why do you want to come home? Has something else happened? Are you OK, kiddo?” Max shook her head.

“No, nothing is wrong. It's just.. after everything that has happened, and with no classes, I just wanted to be at home. That's all. Just come home and see you both.”

And get as far away from this mess with Victoria as I can.

He looked at her for a moment, as if trying to see if there was more to it, before putting the car in gear and taking Max far away from Blackwell.