The Final Timeline - Before The Storm
Chapter 7: A Stalker's Worst Nightmare
We'd only been driving for a couple of minutes and the awkward silence was already suffocating. If Max had a knife on her, she'd probably be able to cut the tension with it, but alas we were knifeless, so it was eventually David's voice that shattered it.
He cleared his throat and kept his eyes fixed on the road as he said, "So, Chloe-"
She didn't even give him a chance to say anything else before cutting him off with an annoyed huff. "Can't we just sit here and stay quiet all the way to BlackHell? Being in this shitty car of yours is torture enough already."
David sighed to himself and shot a glance at her through the rearview mirror. "Sure, but before we do that I have a question for you, and I want you to answer it truthfully. In other words, for once don't just blurt out whatever your knee-jerk reaction is. I'll even let you stay silent for the whole drive if you want, so long as you actually think about it and give me your honest answer by the time we arrive at Blackwell. Okay?"
Chloe groaned at that but eventually agreed. "Ugh, whatever. Ask your damn question already so we can get this over and done with."
Max almost jumped out of her skin when she suddenly felt Chloe's hand discreetly finding its way into her own, where it was resting idly on the seat between them. She almost panicked and pulled away, but Chloe obviously felt like she needed the support, so she forced her hand to stay put.
And its a good thing she did too, because David's question caused Chloe's grip to tighten in an instant as he rather bluntly asked, "Why do you hate me so much?"
Of-course, I knew that was one hell of a loaded question, so it was no surprise when Chloe wasn't able to hold in her knee-jerk reaction and immediately spat back at him, her voice dripping with venom. "Because you're a fuckin' asshole, and-"
That was as far as she got until Max apparently took a page out of my book by slamming her free hand over Chloe's mouth to shut her up, before whispering into her ear, "That's not helping, Chloe. You might think he's an asshole but it's not the real reason you hate him. I know you well enough to know that's just your anger talking, so please just think about it first like he asked and give him a proper answer for a change. It might do you both some good if he finally understands why you actually have a problem with him."
Chloe glared harshly at her for a few long seconds before exaggeratedly rolling her eyes and grumbling out something that sounded like a muffled, "Fine!"
Max removed the hand from Chloe's mouth, which allowed her to turn and glare out of the window instead, though her hold on Max's hand remained vice-like for the next few minutes, something that she subconsciously attempted to soothe by gently stroking a thumb over the back of Chloe's hand, without even realizing that she was doing it.
After what felt like an eternity, Chloe decided to pull her head away from the window and sat up with a sigh, which was enough to draw David's attention.
The simple answer Chloe came up with should've been obvious even to David, but it still made him flinch. "You are not my dad, and you never fucking ever will be, no matter how hard you try to replace him with your stupid military bullshit. The sooner you accept that, that sooner you can fuck off out of my life. I don't want you in it, and I never have."
David just shook his head in response and carefully pulled over to the side of the road before turning around to face us both. "Chloe, it was never my intention to replace your father, and I'm sorry that you think that's what I'm trying to do. I mean, yeah I would like to become a father-figure to you, and in the future perhaps even a step-father because I really do love your mother very much, but it would be impossible for me to take the place of your real father." Then he glanced at Max for a moment before scratching at his moustache and adding, "Actually, if it wasn't for Max here talking some sense into me, I'll admit that my response might've been something stupid about you having had enough of a vacation from having a father-figure-" Then he held up his hand to pre-emptively stop whatever Chloe's scathing reply might've been to that so he could explain further.
Meanwhile, I winced internally, since Chloe had once told me how this car ride originally went down so I knew just how spot on that bullshit phrase was. However, I tried not to voice my thoughts about it in-case it prompted Max to say something, because fuck knows I really wanted to myself and from the disbelief running through Max's head so did she, but doing so would just make things worse for everyone right now.
Tuning back into the conversation, I managed to catch the tail-end of David's explanation. "And like I said, if it wasn't for Max, I wouldn't even know just how different I am to your real father. Because I don't know if you've noticed but your mother doesn't really like talking about him, and obviously you wouldn't want to bring it up with me either, which I totally understand. Believe it or not, I've lost people too. So I never knew the kind of man your father was until this morning when Max told me, and I see now that I could never even hope to be like him; I'm simply way too uptight, that's just how my own parents raised me to be, but I also have way too much baggage from my time in the army that makes it difficult to let my guard down sometimes, and-"
Chloe rolled her eyes at him impatiently. "Can you just get to the point already?"
David's expression soured for a second before he grunted. "The point is that I now understand why you resent me so much, and although I am definitely not your father nor will I ever be, I still love your mother. She's good for me, and I'd like to think I'm good for her too. I don't expect us to suddenly become best buds or anything, but you are going to have to get used to me eventually, even if you don't like me." Then he cringed and added, "So from now on I'll try to give you some space and not be such an asshole, alright?"
From the look on Chloe's face, I got the distinct impression she had just bitten her own tongue to stop herself from mouthing off, instead she shrugged and muttered, "Whatever you say, dude. I definitely won't be holding my breath, though."
For a minute there I thought David was going to try pushing his luck, but he seemed to accept defeat and focused on pulling the car back onto the road.
I decided to speak up in the back of Max's head now. "Well, at-least that's progress, I suppose. Not much, but I'll take it."
Max hummed quietly to herself in agreement, responding with her inside voice. "Yeah, it's a start. But we'll just have to wait and see if he actually tries to keep his word. If he doesn't, then I'll make good on mine instead and drive this stupid car of his into the sea."
I mentally snorted at that. "You'd need to know how to drive first before doing that, which I'm pretty sure is something you don't understand how to do."
Max rolled her eyes. "What, and you do?"
...Touche, you little shit.
I didn't actually let her hear that though, so when I didn't respond, I felt her grinning at her reflection in the passenger side window. "Wow, does the time-travelling bad-ass future me really still not know how to drive?"
Bitch, why bother when I had Chloe to act as my chauffeur? Besides, I had more important things to worry about than learning how to fucking drive, jeez!
She's damn lucky she didn't catch that either, and once she realized that I wouldn't dignify her bullshit with a reply, she instead settled down and enjoyed the silence that David had agreed to give Chloe for the rest of the drive.
It didn't take much longer before we'd arrived at Blackwell, though in that time Chloe had somehow managed to fall asleep, so David had to raise his voice as he called out, "Hey, Chloe? We're here."
She woke up with a start and frantically glanced around the car for a moment before relaxing.
Max frowned. "Hey, are you okay?"
Chloe huffed in response. "I'm just fuckin' peachy. Come on."
Then she flung open the car door and stormed off, leaving us to scramble out after her.
By the time we'd caught up to Chloe and her freakishly long legs, she'd already reached the top of the stairs leading to the main campus.
Max was about to ask her what the rush was, when a strangely familiar voice called out Chloe's name from behind us.
Chloe groaned under her breath and turned around to talk to them. "Oh, hey, Eliot."
Ah, so this must be the Eliot person that future Chloe once mentioned to me... but why did his name make Max stop in her tracks, and why did his voice sound so familiar?
Max must've come to a conclusion before me, because she suddenly growled in disbelief. "No. Fucking. Way."
She abruptly spun on her heel to glare at him and I finally got a good look at his face, causing all the pieces to fit into place as I realized exactly who this Eliot was, which made me reflexively attempt to freeze time.
The fact that it actually worked while I was still in the backseat took me by surprise, but not as much as it did Max, who was already mid-stomp on the way towards Eliot when everything around us went still.
Max stared at the various frozen students milling around campus in confusion. "Uhh... What the fuck is going on?"
That was enough to snap me out of my own shock, as I awkwardly replied, "Sorry, that was my fault. It's another one of my powers. I froze time on a reflex. I didn't expect it to work, but at-least I managed to stop you from probably doing something crazy."
Max rolled her eyes and gestured at Eliot. "Are you serious right now? Last night you broke some guy's fucking finger without so much as a blink. You do remember who this asshole is, right?"
I mentally huffed in response. "Now that I see his face, yeah I do. I'd been informed that there was an Eliot during this time, but I didn't realize it would be Eliot fucking Hampden. He wasn't around in my future so I didn't expect to run into him here. Had I known, I would've already insisted on being the one in control for this."
Max just scoffed. "Screw that. We're both protective of Chloe. But while I might not enjoy being violent like you seem to, there is exactly one person who I would willingly fight to the death with to keep her safe, and he's standing right there in-front of us!"
To be honest, that didn't surprise me one bit. In-fact, that's exactly why I had tried to freeze time in the first place. While I already had to deal with a certain moster of a teacher and an unstable rich kid in my timeline, nevermind whatever else might happen in this one, the only 'bad guy' this version of me knows about is Eliot. Boy is she gonna wish he was her only problem. So while Max stood there and seethed over her greatest enemy, I took a minute to recall the Eliot Hampden that we knew.
You see, before we became friends with Chloe back in elementary school, we were the typical six year old loner kid that people bullied for being shy and quiet. Which of-course, just made our introverted asses shut down even further, making the cycle worse each time it happened. We were an easy target, so everyone bullied us... except for Eliot, who was the only person that was ever nice to us. But as time went on, he started paying more and more attention to us, to the point of obsession. Sadly, at six years old we didn't really understand the concept of a stalker, but looking back he fit the description perfectly, and we were at-least weary enough to see that his behaviour wasn't good. At one point, he actually tried to ask us to be his girlfriend, and wouldn't take no for an answer when we refused (because surprise, even six year old us knew we were gay... probably?).
Luckily for us, that's when Chloe came into our lives like a bat out of hell and she easily managed to scare him off, thinking he was just another person trying to bully us. He kept his distance after that, and even more-so once the tales started spreading around the playground about Chloe relentlessly beating up all the bullies in defence of us, especially the ones that dared to challenge her. But still, Eliot was always there in the background, just... watching, until one day when we were eight years old, for some reason his attention shifted away from us, and onto Chloe instead. I don't know why. After we noticed he suddenly only had eyes for her, that's when we swore to protect our protector if he tried to pull the same crap with Chloe that he did to us.
Unfortunately, we didn't actually drum up the courage to invervene until almost a week after we'd turned thirteen, when we caught him creepily following us home after school. This was the day before William ended up dying, and by that point we already knew we were moving to Seattle, so if we were ever going to put Eliot in his place, it had to be then. So, since Chloe's house was further down the street than ours, we pretended to head inside and waited for him to walk past, then doubled back to keep our eye on him. Honestly, I have no idea if he would've done anything to Chloe, but once he started getting closer and closer to her on the sidewalk, that's when we decided to make our move and struck.
Now, back then we weren't very strong, and Chloe had always been the fighter, not us; but we managed to pull enough strength out of our asses to drag him into a nearby alley without Chloe having any idea what'd occurred just a few steps behind her. Once we had him all to ourselves, we straight up threatened him, and told him to leave her alone. Lets just say that he might've gotten a little cocky and resisted, asking what we were gonna do about it if he didn't, since he still thought we wouldn't stand up for ourselves, or at-least for those we cared very deeply about, such as the girl we knew by now we had a huge crush on...
How did we respond to that, you ask? By using a move that Chloe herself had 'proudly' taught us, which we'd never had a reason to put into practice until that point – foot, meet groin; Eliot, meet pavement – simple and effective. Then we explained to him that we'd be leaving for Seattle soon, but we promised we would come back one day, and if we found out that he hadn't listened to our warning, we'd do a lot worse than just kicking him in the balls. We left him there curled up in the alley like a baby while we went to play over at Chloe's house for one of the final times during our childhood. As far as we knew, Chloe never did find out about what we'd done, and I was inclined to keep it that way.
So yeah, given the context, even just Eliot talking to Chloe right now was reason enough for me to throw his ass into a fucking wood chipper for all I cared. But if that's how I felt after five years of forgetting about him, then it's no wonder that Max was on the verge of stabbing him with a very sharp-looking pencil which was sticking out of some random student's backpack nearby.
I mentally steeled myself for what probably going to happen next, then spoke up. "So do you want me to take control when I drop the freeze, yes or no? This is your last chance to let me deal with it instead."
Max scoffed at that. "Fuck no. We both made a promise to Eliot, but I fully intend to keep mine."
I sighed inwardly at her Chloe-like stubbornness. "Okay, Max.... then first thing's first; we are not going to kill him, no matter how much we might want to. Got it?"
Max rolled her eyes. "Why the fuck not?"
My response was simple. "Because you're too young to be corrupted by such acts of violence this soon. And last I checked, you don't know how to fight anyway, whereas I do, thanks to the shit I've had to deal with in my future – which I'm keeping from you for a damn good reason – but suffice to say that Eliot here is a small fry in comparison to that. If he's really a threat to Chloe, I will kill him myself without hesitation, not you. Besides, I'm pretty sure kicking his ass right in-front of Chloe would raise more than a few questions that we can't answer without her finding out what we did to Eliot that day in the alley. So, if we're going to confront him at all, it needs to be while she's distracted. Just hold your tongue and wait for the right moment to strike. And if you can't handle him, then I'll take over and do it for you. Agreed?"
Max remained silent for a moment while she thought it over, before reluctantly nodding her head. "Fine, lets just see how this goes first. I'm ready."
I took that as my cue to relinquish my hold on time, which was hella weird to do while in the backseat when I'm so used to using my hands to physically trigger my powers.
Time resumed it's normal flow without skipping a beat, as Eliot opened his mouth to talk to Chloe. "I heard you had a hell of a night. I mean, people are talking about it."
Chloe scoffed right as Max stepped up beside her. "Oh, I'm sure they are. Firewalk was awesome. Except for the part where I got harrassed by a couple of skeevy douchebags, anyway."
Eliot was about to say something else when he glanced at Max and his eyes went as wide as saucers in recognition. "Oh shit, Max... you came back?"
Max mustered the deadliest glare possible and levelled it right at him before replying in an eerily calm tone. "You're damn right I did." Then she spoke to Chloe without taking her eyes off Eliot for even a second, "Those fuckers thought they could ambush you in a two-on-one fight. They were wrong. I told them that if they so much as laid a finger on you, I'd break it. They thought I was bluffing, but I most certainly wasn't."
Chloe frowned at that. "Yeah, you really came out of nowhere like a knight in shining armor and saved my ass. I'm glad you did, but... that's not like you."
Max shot an evil smirk at Eliot. "Isn't it? Those two assholes thought that they could fuck around with my best friend and get away with it. Anyone who thinks I'll allow that is sorely mistaken."
Damn, she was really playing up to my role here and somehow pulling it off. If the panicked expression on Eliot's rapidly paling face meant anything, then he certainly got the message.
Even still, the dumbass tried to shoot his shot right in-front of us. "Right... So uh, Chloe... I was thinking, the Tempest-"
Apparently, Max had already noticed the flyer on the noticeboard advertising the upcoming play while we were in the freeze, because she barked out a laugh and cut him off before he could finish. "Yeah, no. Not a chance. She's going with me."
Then before he could say anything else, she threw an arm over Chloe's shoulder and practically dragged her away from him while Chloe muttered in confusion, "Wait, what? I am? Since when?"
Once out of earshot, Max rolled her eyes and let go. "I mean, only if you want to. I just figured I'd save you from the embarrassment of having to turn the poor guy down."
Chloe raised an eyebrow at that, seemingly oblivious to Max's sarcasm. "And what makes you think I would've said no to him?"
Max stopped and turned to face her before dead-panning, "I've seen the rainbow statue in your room, Chloe. I'm not that dense. So if you try to deny it, I don't believe you."
Chloe deflated instantly. "Shit. I'm not- Damn it. Can we, like... please talk about this later? Or never. That would be great."
Max snorted. "Sure, Chloe. Now weren't you gonna give me that tour?"
Chloe blinked a few times. "Oh. Yeah. But I just need to grab something real quick first, over by those tables."
Max looked where she was now pointing, at a table with two people already sitting there, then hummed. "Well, I guess that gives me some time to explore by myself. I'll come find you when I'm done, okay?"
Chloe nodded at that and walked away towards the table, giving us our chance to confront Eliot.
Max quickly spun around to see where he'd gone in the less than half a minute she'd had her back turned, and spotted him trying to slink away towards the parking lot unnoticed.
She scoffed to herself and gave chase. "Oh, no you don't!"
I snorted inwardly and spoke up in the back of her head. "Run little piggy, run. The big bad wolf is gonna eat you alive, Eliot!"
Max couldn't hold back the laugh that bubbled up and soon had to stop over by the path to the parking lot, while cursing me and muttering something about a stitch. Crap.
I mentally facepalmed. "Sorry, but you're gonna have to suck it up, buttercup. He's getting away!"
Max groaned. "Jeez, can you give me a moment? Nobody's watching, so you can just rewind enough for us to catch up."
Since I was the one who fucked it up, I reluctantly agreed. "Fine, but just to clarify, in future try not to rely on my powers for everything. I mean, why do you think I learned how to fight? Rewinding time may give you an advantage, but it can only get you so far. Especially against other people."
I gave Max thirty seconds to recover before attempting to activate my powers again, now that I knew it could be done while not in control of her body. Rewinding time from the backseat was even stranger than holding it at a stand-still, and a lot more imprecise than my usual rewinds. I didn't seem to have as much control over it from here, which might explain why my hand always felt like a neccessary component in making it work properly, as if it was acting as a stabilizer or something. The flow of time without it was hard to describe. It certainly didn't feel very smooth, and it kind of... jumped around roughly every few seconds. It was still functional, just a lot less pleasant to look at and made it a little harder to judge when I needed to stop, but at-least I knew it would work in an emergency.
Once we got to the point where Eliot had just reached the top of the stairs leading down into the parking lot, I disengaged from the more than a little sloppy attempt at rewinding, allowing Max to set off again in hot pursuit.
Eliot was practically right in-front of us now though, so he barely even managed to step a foot down the stairs before Max caught up to him and grabbed the back of his shirt. He yelped in surprise as Max dragged him by the collar, taking him around the corner towards the side-entrance to the pool building before slamming him up against the wall.
She visciously snarled at him. "You just couldn't do as you were told and leave Chloe alone, could you?!"
Eliot snorted despite being pinned to the wall. "I can do whatever the fuck I want, she doesn't belong to you."
Max frowned at that. "She doesn't belong to your creepy stalker ass, either! Did you seriously think I wouldn't return and make good on my promise?"
Eliot scoffed. "Oh, no... I'm so scared, not! We both know that you're not gonna do a damn thing. Besides, I could take you any day, but a gentleman doesn't hit girls."
I cringed to myself at his nice-guy bullshit, while Max tilted her head in consideration and grinned at him. "Well, that's too bad for you, because I just got some crazy dejavu here. Did you already forget what happened the last time you thought I wouldn't do anything? Perhaps you need a reminder-"
Then she swiftly brought her knee up, and connected squarely with his groin, in a move that she probably copied from me last night.
Eliot winced in pain, but glared back at her all the same. "Is that really the best you can do? Because I don't care, I already achieved what I wanted to all those years ago."
Max bared her teeth at him, she was growling so hard. "What the hell are you talking about, asshole?"
The evil grin that appeared on his face told me all I needed to know without him saying anything else, but Max was still oblivious. "Well, her dad died and you abandoned her. Even her mother ignored her. She had nobody left in her life that cared. But I did. I stuck by her when no one else would – and she was grateful, oh so grateful for me being there – that she was begging for a way to repay my kindness."
Now Max seemed to catch on, as her eyes went wide. "No- No... Please, tell me you didn't-"
Eliot's smirk got wider. "Oh, I did. Newsflash, your precious Chloe isn't a virgin any-more. It was so easy. She was practically giving it away, and she was more than happy to let me take it. In-fact, she loved it so much that she even became my girlfriend for a year, and I was able to claim her as my own. Because, guess what? You weren't around to stop me like you said you would. So, Chloe belongs to me now. I won. You lost."
Max just stood there and stared at him in absolute shock while Eliot stared laughing like the sadistic piece of shit he was. She didn't seem to react, at all. It was like he'd broken her with just those few words. Which only enraged me even further. Unlike the younger version of myself, I was well aware of the horrors that boys and men were capable of. And with Max seemingly frozen like a deer caught in headlights, I'd heard enough and decided to deal with this bastard myself.
There was zero resistance from Max as I took control of her body, and the abrupt change in my expression was enough to silence Eliot's laughter.
My voice came out cold and calculated. "So, you admit to taking advantage of a grieving girl just to satisfy that tiny limp dick of yours, huh? Not only are you a creep and a stalker, you're also basically a rapist. I'm so sick and tired of monsters like you thinking you can just do shit like that and get away with it. Well, this time there is going to be consequences. You just made the biggest mistake of your life and bought yourself a one-way ticket to hell, Eliot Hampden... because if there's one person I will gladly kill for without hesitation, it's Chloe Price."
The look on his face once I'd finished speaking was priceless, pun most definitely intended.
He didn't get a chance to say anything though, before I'd started dragging him further down the path, and all the way around to the back of the gym building facing away into the endless forest, free from prying eyes.
I'll spare you all of the details. But I didn't kill him. I told Max we wouldn't, no matter how much I wanted to. But that didn't mean I couldn't make him suffer, so by the time I'd finished with him, he was a battered and bloody mess on the ground... though still very much alive. If I had to guess at my handiwork, he likely had at-least a couple broken ribs, his nose looked like it now belonged to a pig, and both his lips had been split wide open. Since I couldn't also cut off his dick and shove it down his throat to make him choke on it without him probably dying from the blood loss, I had to settle for stomping on it a few times instead. I'm sure it still worked... probably. If not, oh well. He didn't deserve to be making babies anyway.
Barely satisfied with my work of art, I picked Eliot's pathetic ass up off the floor and shoved him up against the brick wall, with my arm pressing tightly against his throat as I hissed menacingly, "If you thought I was actually going to kill you, I'm sorry to burst your bubble like I did with your balls just now. Killing you would be too easy, and you deserve far more than what I've given you, but I want you to always remember this moment; you got your shit kicked in by a girl called Max Caulfield, and if you ever so much as come within ten feet of myself or Chloe, or even any other girl at this school – I can promise you just like I did that day in the alley – that next time I will shatter every single bone in your body and make sure you have to eat through a straw for the rest of your life. Oh, and if anyone asks what happened to you, I suggest you say that your dumb-ass accidentally fell down a flight of stairs... or twelve. Doesn't matter to me, no one would believe you anyway, because I made sure to leave no evidence. I know how to cover my tracks, so don't even bother. Nobody hurts my Chloe and gets away with it. Nobody."
Then I effortlessly tapped into my powers and rewound us back around five minutes or so, bringing him along for the ride now that I could actually do it without the pain barrier thing getting in the way.
Eliot had apparently managed to pass out on the way, from the effects of the rewind I assume, which was probably a good thing, since he wouldn't be aware of my powers. So once I dropped my hold on time, I launched one final kick into his stomach to wake him back up, then promptly walked away and left him leaning there against the wall, as I casually headed back towards the main campus like I hadn't just brutally assaulted a guy. At-least there were no bruises on my knuckles, since I'd been smart enough to use my feet for the majority of the beatdown, so people wouldn't be able to connect the dots.
When I reached the edge of the parking lot, I whispered under my breath to the still-silent Max. "Hey, I'm sorry that you had to see me being violent... again."
I barely even caught Max's whisper of a response in the back of my head. "Well, I'm not..."
I frowned at that. "Seriously? Are you okay? That was quite a bomb he dropped on you."
She remained quiet for so long that I thought she wouldn't reply, until I was almost deafened by it. "He got off way too fucking lightly!"
That made me abruptly stop in my tracks and glance at my reflection in one of the notice-board windows. "I agree with you. But... I don't want you to become like me, Max. I know the shit I'm capable of, and it even still scares me sometimes. I can't promise you won't get some mental scars with the things that are coming in this timeline, though when this is over I still want you to be able to live a normal life. I'm only here to make sure everything else turns out okay – but I'm damaged goods – and I know that I'll probably never get that myself. I accepted it long ago."
The sharp thud that connected with the inside of my skull made me wince. "Idiot, you do realize we're basically the same person now, right? So unless you can figure out a way to get out of my body afterwards, we'll have to find some way to co-exist without looking like we're completely insane, because me having a normal life kinda hinges on you not fucking it all up!"
I just sighed to myself and didn't bother responding to that, instead I continued focusing on my quest to find where the hell Chloe had disappeared to while we had been busy dealing with the stalking rapist shitbag known as Eliot Hampden.