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My Saving Grace

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"Going to Blackwell is a mistake."

You didn't think it would be when your mother told you this, her voice cold, and hard, void of any of the doubt that was practically consuming you about attending the prestigious private school.

"Not going is an even larger mistake."

You didn't actually say that, but you had wanted to. Oh how you had wanted to channel your inner teenager and just for once in your life stand up for yourself, to just spit those words out at her to get her to stop sounding so disapproving of your choices.

But the fifth commandment had you biting your tongue against the words. You swallowed them, and instead of back talking, you simply closed her out.
You supposed that could be considered rude, but it was the only way you could handle people talking down to you, making fun of you, belittling you without talking back. It was the only way you could turn the other cheek.

You liked to think that your mother was only being so worried about you going to Blackwell because she cared about your wellbeing and the salvation of your soul, and not just because she was strict and controlling. You understood why she was though. She knew how tempting the world could be, and she didn't want you to stray from the intended path of God.

You just wished she would guide you the way your father has throughout the years. His soft hand of discipline- not to say he wouldn't give you swats, you just swore they were never as harsh as Mother's- with his soft words of guidance. Whereas your mother was the switch of discipline, with her harsh words seeming more like a leash than a guiding hand.

You wanted to go.

You needed to.

You didn't know what it was, the draw that the school was whispering to you every moment, but you knew that it couldn't be resisted.

So, despite your mother's wishes, you were officially enrolled as a student of Blackwell Academy.

It was not so bad. Initially.

The kids at Blackwell are just like the kids at your old high school. (Maybe because most of them are students from there, but oh well.)

Victoria Chase is still a bitch. Pardon your French, but there really is no other word to describe her justly. ("Jezebel" crosses your mind a few times, but you can't bring yourself to legitimately call anyone that. Not with your mother's voice saying the word in a disgusted accusation as she yanked you forward by the collar of your shirt when you had left the top button undone on a particularly warm day.)

Your life is not quite like the movies though. (Or, at least, not the ones your mother allowed you to see.) You are not popular by any means, but you do have friends. You're happy. (As happy as can be you suppose.)

You feel really uncomfortable in the hallways sometimes though. What, with Juliet draping herself all over Zachary, shamelessly wrapping her arms around his neck, and slowly leaning in with a smile on her lips to press her mouth against- sinful. Your mother would hiss the word at you if she caught you in such a scenario. You also hear her say it when, as you lay in bed at night, you hear a feminine laugh followed by gruff chuckle, too low to be a girl's.

So you do the logical thing. The thing He'd want you to do.

You try to teach your fellow classmates about the gift of abstinence.

You are expecting resistance of course. You're a teenager as well, so you understand how... Tempting it can be at times. But then you think about how you will be able to give yourself completely pure to your future husband, joined under the Lord in the way He wants, and it's enough to convince you to not stray. (The memory of how sharp your mother's swats could be also helped to curb any urges, because you haven't a doubt in your mind that she'd give it her all to beat your virginity back into you.)
Your mom would pull her hair out if she came to your school.

You have your first meeting to encourage abstinence, and the only person who shows up is Max, and she is only here because she is being nice and decided to help you carry the boxes of pamphlets you were planning on handing out.

You can tell she wants to go, but that she doesn't want to abandon you. (Fleetingly you wonder if this is how some of the disciples felt, alone, confused, discouraged and greatly embarrassed. You'll have to ask your father about this later.) As you're about to tell Max she can leave, she sits down and reaches into the box she had been carrying, bringing a pamphlet up to her face. You've suddenly added nervous to the list of emotions you're feeling, and you have to resist the urge to yank the educational paper from her hands.

"'Alcohol and Sex. Beware The Ultimate Bedfellows.'" Max reads the title aloud, her voice bouncing off the walls of the too quiet room. She sounds amused. Or disbelieving. (You can't decide which one is preferable.) You blush and look away. "I don't want to rain on your parade Kate, but this kind of makes me want to get drunk just reading this." Max says, a laugh detectable in her voice, but the words still sting. She's your friend, and even she is laughing at your efforts. You try not to let it show that her words bother you. You aren't a particularly good actress though.

"Hey, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to sound like an ass. I think it's kind of rad that you're taking a stand for what you believe in. I know it must be hard and all... With the students here... And the subject... You know..." Max's words trail off towards the end as she starts glancing around while fingering the bottom of her jacket nervously.
"It's fine Max. I just... Thought at least one person would show up." You admit, looking at the box currently in your arms. You almost drop it when you feel a hand on your arm, and you look up to see Max's blue eyes staring at you. (You're not exactly a prude, despite what other kids say, but you find yourself surprised when anyone outside of your family touches you. Your mother always told you that touches between friends could easily lead to something else. Now that you're older, you know it's not really that simple, that "touching is bad" is not necessarily true, but old habits die hard right?)

"I'm not going to lie to you and say that I'm taking up the vow of abstinence, but you can talk to me about it if you want... Or like, we could talk about the challenges of it if you want to. Or- I don't know. I don't know what you'd talk about in situations like this honestly. Church was never a really big thing at my house, and the only lecture I got about sex was to be safe." Max offers, and you don't know which part is harder to process.

The fact that Max would let you talk to her about it and listen to you vent about it, or about the fact that her parents are okay with her having sex outside of marriage. (Your mother would say that Max's parents were "leading her astray by not teaching her to abstain." Not to mention the fact that Max probably wasn't baptized. Your mother would call Max, "a child of the world," and try to A. Bring her to Christ or B. Ban you from hanging out with her.)

You realize as Max's hand drops from your arm that you've been spaced out for quite some time. So you smile at her and ask her to sit as you take a seat yourself. You spend the next thirty minutes discussing the pros and cons of abstinence and you can't help but think about some of the pros to having premarital sex that Max points out.
But you dismiss them from your mind, because you don't want to disappoint Him or your parents. Or your siblings. Or your church.

Max actually starts to come to your meetings regularly, and it isn't until the third one that someone else joins you both in your discussion. Max makes jokes about people starting to think that she's taken the same vow as you did, but that doesn't stop her from coming. You mention her in a letter that you write home. Your mother warns against her friendship, saying that it's the people you're closest to that can lead you astray. Your father congratulates you on making friends, and for taking a stand against the worldly ways of the school instead of caving to them. He also says that he likes "this Max girl," and how "she seems like a good kid". You start talking more freely to her, your father's approval making her seem like a better friend in your eyes.

Then everything goes downhill. So. Fast.

You knew you shouldn't have gone to that party. You knew it.

But you did.

And that's how you end up being branded the biggest slut in Blackwell. (It's almost funny since you know you're not the biggest slut, not by a long shot. But you are the only one preaching about abstinence, so it makes you an easy target.) It suddenly feels like the whole world is against you. Everyone you know is either giving you side glances, or calling you "Make-out Kate". You don't know who uploaded the video, but you do hope that they're quite proud of themselves because they've managed to ruin your life. (The more mature part of you, the part that sounds too much like your mother tells you that it's no one's fault but your own. You chose to go to the party. And, "if you hadn't chosen to be in that situation in the first place, none of this would've happened". You really hate your mother's voice sometimes.)

"Going to Blackwell is a mistake."

Your mother never passes up a chance to tell you that she told you so, and you remember these words of warning as you cry for the fifth hour straight. You're not just sad though, you're angry. You're so mad you could just spit. Victoria is relentless, your church is finding out about this accursed video, you can't even stand the sight of yourself anymore. (Every time you look in the mirror, you just see yourself from the video's point of view as your face presses up to a stranger's. It makes you want to vomit. Or scream. Or cry. Maybe all three would be quite therapeutic.)
Your father sees the video.

That's the tipping point for you really.

He's always had such faith in you to make the right decision, and you know he's not proud of the one(s) you made that night. But he's still encouraging you with the words of God, and he's still concerned about you. (You cannot recall ever wanting a hug from the man so much as you do now.)


Max is your literal knight in shining armor.

She cares so much that it breaks your heart. (You don't deserve her concern.) You know it's her knocking on your door when you don't show up to your abstinence meeting. You hear her worried voice muffled by the plywood and plaster, your name coming out as a question. You hear her tell herself that you're not currently in your room. (You always found it odd that she talks to herself so openly. Endearing. But still odd.) You see her throwing concerned glances at you during class- when you should be paying attention to Mr. Jefferson's lecture but you just can't bring yourself to care about the Daguerreian process, but that doesn't stop the small grin on your face when Max nails the answer and you can practically see the steam coming from Victoria's ears.

Max checks on you before leaving class, and you can't help but be concerned since she seems so distracted. It's not like her.

Then she checks on you again, and she seems in better spirits so you hope she's feeling better. However you ran into Victoria on your way to the dorms, and you're not particularly in the mood to talk to anyone. (But you still feel bad for dismissing Max. Maybe you can make it up to her later.)

Then Sergeant Asshole (again, pardon your French) is in your face, yelling at you about being up to something. You want to cry, because the only thing you're up to is trying to make it through this nightmare, and trying to remember what happened that night.

Then Max shows up again.

You practically swoon.

She just steps in, all "billy badass" as she would say, telling that man what for. He walks away with his tail between his legs, and you want to crush Max to you in a hug. (You briefly wonder if you'd feel safer in her arms since you feel safe with her around.) Max brushes off saving you, but you can see in the way that her hands are shaking, and the way her cheeks are flushed that she was terrified during the altercation. You can't imagine how much it took out of her to fight a battle that wasn't her's to fight in the first place. (Like you, Max is not very confrontational. Preferring quick witted jabs instead of raised voices or hands.)
You leave towards your dorm feeling elated for the first time in weeks.

But reality sets in again as you walk into your dorm and see a peace sign drawn on your board- you wonder what had been there before- and you walk into your room, the shades drawn, the mirror covered, clothes thrown in a pile near your dresser... It's a mess. You hate messy environments. Too much clutter. It's not easy enough to find things if they are not in their places. "Cleanliness is next to Godliness." (Maybe this is part of the reason you've let it get so filthy in here... To represent the distance from Him that you feel.) Then again, maybe it's just because you spend all of your time crying and trying to force yourself to do your homework instead of cleaning, because you only have so much energy lately.

You love music. You love drawing. You love reading.

So you stop doing all of those things. (Well, you still draw, but the black faces and voids that stare back at you are not what you usually draw. You just stop drawing happy things. You want your drawings to reflect what's going on inside of you. A bit melodramatic possibly, but it almost helps, and you're a teenager, so... That's your excuse.)

You have never wanted to punch someone before. Until now.

You want to punch Victoria in the face until she cries. You want her to cry as much as she's made you. You want her nose to be crooked, eyes blacked- darker than the circles under your own- and you want to watch her blood splatter the tile floor of the restrooms as your fist connects over and over again.

The feeling of such a hateful act legitimately scares you, so instead of giving into that temptation you simply shut down again. You deny that it was you in the video, even though you all know you're lying through your teeth. (You wonder if God understands why you're lying.) You foolishly hope Max will come to your rescue again, but you bury that hope as you realize she's currently naked, and Victoria would come down on you twice as hard (Max too) if she stepped in. So, mentally picking yourself up, you exit the bathroom.

Max is by minutes later, and you can't help but spill your guts to the poor girl. She is just returning your book, and you drop your darkest secret on her. But you don't feel sorry for her anymore when suddenly you're angry with her. (Your mood swings are starting to get ridiculous.) She tells you not to go to the cops. You were hopping that she'd have your back, and maybe even offer to go with you to the police station. The rational side of you knows that she is right. The rational side of you knows that the Prescott's own this God forsaken town, and that the cops are probably in their back pocket. But that doesn't make you feel any better. So you yell at her as much as your hoarse throat and gentle upbringing allows to get out.

Minutes later, long after you hear her dorm room door shut as she left, you come to a realization.
She didn't watch the video.

You want to cry with relief that you didn't know you were holding out for.

"-grabbing at all those guys-"

You want to laugh.

Maybe if it had been just boys it wouldn't be so bad.

But you've watched the video.

You've watched it enough times to have the wolf whistles and cat calls memorized.

You've watched it enough to know that you kissed two girls. At once.

You never really believed that homosexuality is a sin... (You have met too many good people who were not heterosexual to think that. You even met a girl who was bisexual at bible camp once. She was wary about sharing it, but she told you on the third day, because she didn't want to feel like she was lying to you. Your mother of course did not approve of that "lifestyle", but your father had told you that if someone loves God, and dedicates their life to Him, then what's the harm? You take after him more than your mother would like you to, you're sure.)

But you've always envisioned yourself with a husband.

A man.

But you can't help but recall a conversation that Max and you had one day during lunch. She had commented on how attractive Victoria would be if she wasn't such a "raging bitchlord all the time".

You want to pray.

You want to ask God what's happening to you.

You want to ask God why all of this is happening to you.

You find yourself running your thumb over your necklace quite often during the day. Whenever you think about crying. Whenever you think about the video. Whenever you think about how you're losing yourself. Whenever you think about... Killing yourself.

Your church says that people who commit suicide go to Hell.

You're not sure what you believe.

"Suicide is the coward's way out, and those who take it are not only selfish, but damned eternally as well."

You push your mother's words away. They're not your thoughts. They're her words. Her beliefs. (You've noticed that through all of this, you're having a harder time telling the difference between your own thoughts and what you've been raised to believe.

You can't breathe. You literally cannot breathe. You're shaking, and you're crying too hard to talk yourself down. Your walls are getting smaller, closing in on you just like the reality of how bad your situation truly is. Somewhere in your head, you're aware you're hyperventilating. You're having a panic attack. But you don't really know what to do, because you've never had one before, you've just heard about them. Everything is blurring, and you still can't breathe.

Then you're hearing Max's voice through the receiver of your phone. You don't remember dialing her number, or even making the conscious decision to call her, but you're so thankful she picked up. Her voice is soothing, and you are almost worried about how much of an effect this girl has on you, but she's helping you. She's on your side. She cares. She's helping you calm down right now, so that's all that matters.

Or, at least, it was.

But now you're positive that she was faking the whole time, because if your mentor doesn't believe you, and is refusing to help, then how can one girl who has no obligation to you possibly mean it?

She can't.

There's no way.

You're truly alone.

She tries to stop you as you storm away from that... That bastard, don't pardon your French, because none of this fucking matters anymore. (Maybe none of it mattered to begin with.) She tries to stop you, but you're too busy collapsing on yourself to care, so you beg her to leave you alone. (You can't stand her fake caring anymore.)

This is it.

You're almost relieved.

The decision has been weighing on you so heavily, that now that you've made up your mind, you feel calm. You feel a sense of clarity that you haven't felt in... Longer than you can remember.

The rain is cold. You feel it soak through your clothes in seconds. You know that your white shirt is now see through. (Your mother would throw a fit... You feel a smile play at the corner of your mouth because you don't care at all.)

You take a deep breath, the rain and your tears making it hard to make out the faces of the multiple people down on the ground watching you.

You wonder if Max is watching. Maybe she's relieved since she'll no longer have to pretend to care about you.

You take another deep breath, edge your foot further, bend your knees, and-

You hear a pained groan from behind you.

You barely catch it over the sound of the rain, but you do, and when you turn around and see Max you want to cry.

Why can't this girl just let you destroy yourself in peace?

Why can't this girl stop stringing you along? Pretending that she actually gives a shit what happens to you.

You push her away. You threaten to jump, because you want to so badly, but now you're hesitating. You yell at her, and you want to literally push her away from you, because she's starting to make you think about getting down. You can't deny the fact that she's been there for you every step of the way through this Hell of yours, and she knows that. She's playing the hand that she's dealt herself over these past weeks so effortlessly that you cry harder, because it genuinely seems like she cares about you.

But you don't want to believe it.

If you believe that she cares about you, then you'd be losing something if you jumped. You'd be hurting her.

Then she goes for the lowest blow that you think anyone could have possibly landed on you.

Your father.

You chose to not think about him as you climbed up on this ledge.

She's out of cards now, but you're out of steam as well.

She tells you that it's going to be okay.

She makes it sound like she's going to Veronica Mars this school, and pin Nathan Prescott for the asshole he really is.

She makes it sound like you're going to team up and Batman and Robin the kids who have been cruel to you, serving them their justice as well.

You don't believe her for one second, but it's enough to make you hope.

For the first time, in a very long time, you have hope.

She lifts her hand up to you, and it's like slow motion as you reach for her hand. You can't feel anything as you watch your hand get closer to her's. Then you feel her skin against yours.

It's like a bomb going off.

She grabs your hand and yanks you toward her so hard that you both fall back, and suddenly you can feel every rain drop pelting you, you can feel the fabric of your soaked clothes clinging to you, you can feel your own body shake with shivers and your tears, you can feel Max's body shake as she cries with you, you can feel her arms around you, you can feel how you do feel safer here, you can feel each breath in your lungs, burning, cold, there.

You're not dead.

Dear God. You're not dead.

Then David is up on the roof separating you, and you start to protest, but Max tells you that it's okay. You can see the reluctance in her eyes, but you also see the relieved smile on her lips. So you shakily nod your head, and allow yourself to be led off by the man who had been lighting into you just the previous day.

You hear Max's footsteps right behind you.

You feel her grab your hand as you walk by the crowd that had congregated below you. You can't look at any of them, so instead you focus on your hand, joined with Max's.

It'd make a really wonderful photo.

You feel her squeeze your hand as you're forced to separate, you getting in an ambulance that the school must have called while you were up on the roof.

"I'll see you as soon as I can. I promise." Max says, her voice sounding just as raw as you feel. You smile softly at her and nod your head. Your smile disappears when you see David place a guiding hand on Max's shoulder, directing her towards the main school building.

You hope she's not in trouble.

You want to cry. But you're just so tired. You want to go to sleep. But every time you close your eyes you see yourself on the roof. You see yourself falling. You see the look of absolute heartbreak she was giving you the entire time you two were arguing back and forth. You see your hand taking Max's. You see the look of relief on her face as she wrapped her arms around you. You're far too tired to fall asleep, but then a nurse comes in to give you a basket with three balloons tied to it. "Get well soon" is written on one of them, and you've never really considered yourself a sadistic person- well, not until recently you suppose- but you almost scoff at the message. Up until now, no one cared about how you were doing. "Viral slut" was a completely different tune than, "get well soon." You wonder if Max hadn't been able to save you, and you had… You wonder if they would've made a mural in memory of you. You wonder if then, when they had to watch your lifeless body be carried off, if then they would have cared about you.

"In loving memory" or maybe they'd even go as far as, "You'll live in our hearts forever". You honestly would not doubt it. You hope Victoria, Taylor, and everyone else- but especially Victoria- is having an absolute meltdown right now. You hope they realize how close they came to killing you with their constant badgering. You hope they realize that their actions have consequences.

But you're no exception to this rule of life, and you're brutally reminded of that when your father shows up the next day. (He had arrived to Arcadia last night, but the hospital wouldn't let him in since you were checked in after visiting hours were over.) He looks as tired as you've felt these past few weeks, and even though he smiles at you, you can tell how deeply you've hurt him by making an attempt on your life. He won't tell you that though. Instead, he tells you of your family, mentioning that your mother stayed home to watch your siblings. You don't have the heart to tell him that even a white lie is a sin; that you know why she didn't come, that you know she doesn't want you as a daughter right now, maybe even ever again. You know that she's probably more disappointed by your display of "weakness" and "cowardice" than she was when she originally heard of your video.

For the first time you feel a pang of something resembling hatred towards your mother. You've never felt that way toward her before. Many people you've met have always told you how mean and controlling she could be, but you brushed those harsh words off. You know why your mother is the way that she is. It's because she cares about you, and the fear of you not earning your right into Zion scared her, so she did everything in her power to instill the fear of God in you. But now… Now you really just need your mother to hold you, and tell you that she loves you, and that it's going to be okay. It's irrational because your mother has never been that kind of mother, but you're still just a kid, and you want your mommy.

But she's too busy judging you for your sins.

So, for the first time, you think a small part of you hates her. And you hate that, because you're not supposed to hate anyone, ever, but your mother, your aunt, Nathan freaking Prescott, Victoria freaking Chase, Taylor, David Madsen, Mr. Jefferson, and everyone else who added to your shame make you so mad you could spit. You want to scream at them, and you want to take Victoria's phone- the one that was more than likely used to ruin your life- and throw it on the ground in front of all of them and then point at the shattered remains and point out the symbolism and irony of that mess being an accurate representation of your life and yourself at the moment.

Then Max shows up. You can't recall ever smiling so big simply from hearing someone's timid voice. "Um, hi, Mr. Marsh, my name is Max. I'm sorry, I didn't know you'd be here. I probably should have thought of that though, so I'm sorry, I just, uh, wanted to see Kate, and… Yeah. I'll totally go if you want me to?" Max offers the last part, darting her eyes to you, your father, her feet, and the wall opposite of her throughout her whole monologue. You smile softly as you catch her right arm fiddling with the left sleeve of her jacket- she's nervous. As you watch her shuffle her feet awkwardly, you realize your father has been quiet for too long, and you glance at him to find him staring Max down as if she's the first human being he's ever seen. Without a word, he stands and slowly walks toward Max. She unconsciously steps back half a step, her fingers tightening in the fabric of her sleeve, and you catch her eyes as they momentarily dart toward yours.

You're about to ask your father what he's doing, and scold him for making your friend so uncomfortable, but the words dies on your tongue as you watch him slowly place his hand on her shoulder. His body is now blocking Max from your sight, but you can see her thin arms wrap around him, as he leans down and wraps his own around her. Your heart breaks all over again as you see your father's shoulders begin to shake and hear his broken voice thanking Max for saving his little girl over and over. You have to look away as tears of your own begin to fall down your face. Suddenly you know why your father was looking at her that way. He wasn't looking at her as if she were the first human being he'd ever seen. He was looking at her as if she were the first angel he had ever seen. You cry even harder.

Your father leaves shortly after that, promising to be back soon, but wanting to give Max and you some time alone. Max pushes your thigh while telling you to "scootch over" so that she can sit on your bed with you. You hadn't realized how much you missed someone- who wasn't insulting you- being near enough to touch. Max tells you all about the meeting with Principal Wells and how Nathan is suspended until further notice. You want to cry again. Nathan is suspended, and there's going to be an investigation, and you know he's probably covering his tracks as you speak, but you can't help but feel like this is a victory. Maybe Max isn't full of it after all.
Your dad comes back, as promised, and he makes no comment on the position that Max and you are currently in.

As she had been talking about her plans to bust Nathan, you had started crying because justice seemed feasible. But once you started crying, you just couldn't stop. A nurse even came in to make sure you were okay, and she almost made Max leave, but that had only made you borderline hysterical, so she was allowed to stay. She had lain back against the bed next to you and put her arm around your shoulder to hold you as you fell apart. She didn't say anything, but merely settled for running her hand through your hair as everything that's occurred, that almost occurred hit you like a semi-truck. "I'm not going anywhere Kate. I've got you." was whispered into your hair when you rested your head against her shoulder, and you stopped crying shortly after that because you believed her. Even if she was lying, you know that she'd never do it intentionally, meaning that she had every intention of keeping her word. As long as Maxine Caulfield was alive and well, you'd never be alone. You'd been too tired to move out of the comfortable embrace of her arms, even going as far as to grab and hold the hand that was hanging off of your shoulder. Max just smiled at you when you did it, so you took that as a sign that it was okay.

You didn't realize you'd been worried about your father coming back with you two like that until your breath caught when he entered the room. He merely looked between the both of you, smiled, and sat down in the chair next to your bed. You couldn't help but think if it had been your mother. She probably would have banned Max from coming in anymore, and she'd have scolded you for being so physical with anyone. You can literally hear her scolding you now, "How unbecoming of you to be wrapped up so intimately with another person, especially another woman. Do you think God would approve of that?" Not for the first time since arriving at the hospital, you wonder how much of your life God actually would've minded, versus how much your mother minded.

The nurse is shooing them out of the room, and you want nothing more than to be able to go home with either one of them. (Although, you're not entirely sure you want to go back to Blackwell, back to your dark dorm, back to all the snide comments, back to the constant reminders of that night that ironically you can't fully remember… Max nor your father have asked you about it yet, and you're extremely thankful for that.) Your father wraps his arm around Max's shoulder, and you don't miss the way she tenses up before relaxing and smiles nervously up at your father. He's going to take her back to Blackwell, and you're thankful she isn't going to have to wait for the bus this late, especially with how bizarre the weather has been lately. (First the snow, surprise eclipse and now an unscheduled meteor shower.)

Max walks back in as if she forgot something, and you're about to ask her what it is, but you keep your mouth shut as she pushes your bangs aside and leans over the side of your bed to press her lips against your forehead. "I'm taking care of your rabbit, in case you were worried about that. Anyway, goodnight Kate, I'll see you tomorrow." She says before you can question her on the intimate gesture, and then she's gone. You're not sure if you're just overthinking the action since you've never really been physical with anyone outside of your family, and even then it was nothing like that. Physical affections were just not… the normal in your household. Not that you ever doubted your family loved you- or at least, not then. Now is a different story, but it has nothing to do with the lack of hugs and kisses that has you questioning that.

"Where's Max?" your father asks upon his arrival the next day. You shake your head and shrug because you don't know, and you're kind of worried. You're afraid you're being clingy, but Max has unknowingly made herself a part of your foundation, and you're not entirely too sure what you would do without her. The thought is enough to make you nauseous.

"They're going to let you out today." your father announces moments later, completely out of the blue. You blink. You thought you'd have more time to figure out what you were going to do after this. Evidently God has other plans for you.

"Why are they letting me out so soon?" You question. You suppose you should be counting yourself lucky, as most people in your situation would likely jump at the chance to get out of it as soon as they could.

"Because I asked them to, but since you're eighteen you'll need to sign your own release papers." You just nod in response. He said it that way as a reminder that you didn't have to leave yet if you didn't think you were ready. You don't know if you are. The thought of going back to that school terrifies you. You can feel your palms become clammy, and you're tempted to just stay in this bed forever, completely forgetting about the outside world. You could forget about Nathan, Blackwell, Victoria, and that stupid video… But you can't forget about Max.

"I'm ready." You don't believe yourself until you hear the words echo off the walls and reach your own ears. You are ready. He looks at you for a second before a smile threatens to split his face in half, and you find yourself smiling back at him as he takes your hand, squeezing it once in the way he's so keen on doing.

"I know you are."

It's so quiet. You've never heard it so quiet on campus before. You want to say it's coincidence, but you know that it's because of you that the tension in the air is thick enough to cut with a butter knife. The principal tells you and your father that you both can be reassured that "nothing like that unfortunate incident will ever happen again." You want to roll your eyes, and the urge calls to attention your shift in attitude since coming to this school. You've never had quite the attitude that you have now. Your mother's words echo in the back of your mind, but you shrug them off, because you're going to try and not be concerned about her opinions anymore. But old habits die hard sometimes, so instead of telling Principal Wells that you can smell the alcohol on him, and he is wasting his breath by telling you of all people, that you won't try to kill yourself again, you merely nod your head and say thank you as he dismisses you, giving you the rest of the day off from classes.

"Are you sure about this honey?" Your father asks, his hand on your shoulder as the two of you stand next to his car. He offered to walk you to your dorm, but you could tell that he didn't want to be anywhere near the spot that was almost your final resting place, so you politely declined, and instead offered to walk him to his car. Your stomach flips at the question, because you're not sure about this at all. You kind of really want to go collect your things from your room, hop in the vehicle with your father, and leave this all in the past. It's probably the best choice out of the ones you're being presented with.

"Max." You don't even realize you've said her name until you see your father raise an amused eyebrow at you. You bite your lip, waiting for his response. He smiles as he nods his head slowly.

"I thought as much. She'll take care of you. Not that you can't take care of yourself, it's just nice to have someone help every once in a while, yeah?" He responds before leaning down and pressing a kiss to the top of your head. He wraps his arms around you in one of the tightest hug you can remember receiving, second only to Max's hug as she yanked you down off the ledge. "I love you so much. Whenever it gets to be too much Kate, remember, God is always there to listen. Even if it doesn't seem like it. Remember, he's the one who got Max here as well. Never forget that he has a plan for each of us." Then you're hugging him as tight as he's hugging you because you're going to miss him and his kind words terribly much when he leaves. He lets go of you, and it's now that your resolve to stay is truly tested. He gets in the car, and almost as an afterthought rolls his window down and gestures you to lean toward him.

"No matter what your mother has told you throughout the years, it's your life, and you know what's right and wrong. Tell Max that I'm expecting to see her next time there's a break." he tells you, smiling at you with that smile that you categorized years ago as his, "Dad Smile", and he winks at you when he says Max's name, and you feel your cheeks burst into flame at his implication. Your father has never made a comment like that, and for the first one to be about Max is… Odd. You wonder if that's how Max and you seem to the outside onlooker. You try to muster up a response to either thank him, or tell him that he's completely wrong about your relationship- or lack thereof- with Max Caulfield, but all you can manage is a small smile and a "yes sir". Then he's driving off, and you're staring at his tail lights until they disappear, and you're alone. You can feel tears making your eyes sting, but you push them back because you're done crying on this campus.

"Shit, shit, shit! Fuck! Max, hold on, it's okay, you're okay! Fuckballs, which one's your room Maxamillion? Come on, work with me here weirdo! Stay awake!"
You whip your head towards the door so fast you're surprised your neck isn't injured. You're already opening your door before you even make the conscious decision to investigate. You see a sight that seems to slow time down to a standstill. Max is practically passed out against a girl with blue hair- she used to hang out with Rachel Amber a lot, what was her name again?- blood running down the front of Max's shirt and covering the taller girl's left shoulder with the deep crimson color.

"Max?!" Your voice comes out strangled, and the girl whips around to face you and she looks just as scared as you feel, and you're already helping the strange girl carry Max back to your room before she even has time to try to protest. You lay her on your bed, and you're thankful for how lanky and small she is.

Max is practically unconscious, and she just keeps muttering about a tornado, and a deer, and you almost smile when you hear your name a couple of times thrown in the nonsense rambles, but you're far too concerned about the blood that is almost literally pouring out of her nose. "Here, take this to the bathrooms and run it under the tap." You tell the other girl in a voice that reminds you of your mother's when she would tell you to straighten up your attitude- it left no room for argument. The girl looks torn between staying with Max and listening to your command. The look she gives you as she takes the washcloth from you makes you wonder if she has a problem with following orders- because you won't judge her character on her hair or the colorful tattoo on her arm. You grab a random shirt from your closet and press it to Max's nose as you gently tilt her head back.

You're so scared that you're shaking. Max doesn't look good at all, and now she's no longer mumbling, so you're afraid that she's completely unconscious. You find yourself praying that she's okay as the other girl returns with the wet washcloth. "What's wrong with her?" You ask as she hands you the cloth while gingerly sitting on your bed next to you to be closer to Max. She stares at Max without even looking at you for so long you wonder if she heard your question- even though you know that she had to have since it was so quiet in your room.

"She does this sometimes." You only hum in response. She's lying to you. You know it, and you wonder if she knows you know it. You've known Max for months, and she's never once done this. You even make a point of saying so to this strange girl. "We've been best friends for years. She used to do it all the time when we were kids, but I freaked out because she outgrew it when we were like ten. I just wasn't expecting it." You still don't necessarily believe her, but she seems much more confident in her story than she was a few seconds ago. She places her hand on Max's thigh, worry scrunching up her face. "Do you mind if I smoke in here? Nerves." You mind a lot actually, but you shake your head despite your opposition. You watch the way she takes the cigarettes out of her pocket, how she places the rolled up tobacco in her mouth with ease before lighting it with a lighter you hadn't seen her grab. "Want one?" She asks, the lit cigarette bobbing between her lips as the scent of cigarette smoke begins to saturate your room. You do. You've never had one before in your entire life, but the way it seems to calm her down, the way it seems to solve her problems is enough to make you want one, to see if it will provide you the same solace.

"No thanks Chloe." You mumble. You couldn't remember her name from when she attended here, but the cigarette hanging from her lips and the relaxed smile are enough to jog your memory. She shrugs her shoulders as she leans back to put the pack back in her pocket. She inhales deeply on the object and closes her eyes. You want to draw her. She looks so comfortable despite the circumstances, and you can't help but feel jealous of the natural ease that seems to radiate from her. You glance away from her and lift the rag away from Max's face, and to your relief the bleeding has stopped. Now you're the one being torn between a decision. You don't really want to leave Max alone with Chloe, because you kind of fear that they won't be here when you get back, but you also want to get Max out of her blood stained shirt and her room is just down the hall... "Will you stay here while I go get her a new shirt?"

"Yeah, no problem." She says, waving the hand holding her cigarette, and you realize that her ash is about to fall on your bed, so you make sure to hand her the trashcan before you leave. (And the bloodied cloth, telling her that she can wipe off her shoulder with it and throw it away when she's done.)

You look at Max's whiteboard, and you can't help but smile at the odd drawing she left there. Your mind wanders back to the roof, and you remember her saying how she was the one who would erase the foul messages from your own whiteboard, and you don't know what you'd do without her. (Or... You suppose you do know what you'd have done without her. The thought gives you a chill.) You take a deep breath and open the door.

A bomb went off. That is the only feasible explanation for the absolute train wreck that is Max's room. Her room is not usually messy, so you can't help but wonder what caused this sudden disarray. You tell yourself that you're just going to grab a shirt and not be nosey. You tell yourself this twice. You tell yourself this as you start rummaging through the mountains of books that are piled up around her room. Quantum physics? Max isn't particularly gifted in math, and you briefly wonder if Warren came over one night. But then you see the cluster of stick-it notes above her laptop. Time travel? What is Max getting into this stuff for? You decide you'll ask her about it later, as you grab a random shirt from her closet and leave the messy room, along with it's questions behind.

Chloe doesn't spare you a glance when you come back in, her eyes are trained on Max's face, and as you notice this, you of course are now staring at her face. There's a red tint around her nose and mouth, and her eyebrows are scrunched up. She looks troubled. Chloe must've finished her cigarette, because it's no longer in her hand, but the foul smell is still clinging to your walls. Your first instinct is to wrinkle your nose at it, but Chloe looks up at you now and you realize that you've just been standing there with your back against the door like a loser. She opens her mouth to say something, closes it, looks back to Max, then back to you, and opens her mouth again, only to shut it once more and repeat the cycle. She looks so tired. You've never seen her not hyped up. (She was always on cloud nine when she was around Rachel.) Seeing Chloe this way is borderline alarming. She seems so serious. So... Out of character.

"How are you feeling?" She asks finally as she exhales heavily and leans her head against the wall she's on. You want to recoil at the words. They instantly push you back to that day, to that exact moment when your knees were bent, mind made up, rain encouraging you down on its own journey towards the earth. Then Max shows up all over again. All comforting words and- maybe empty- promises, and they're enough to rescue you from the memory. You swallow.

"Good. I um, didn't know you knew about that." You answer, already knowing how she knows, but wanting some clarification on the subject. Chloe nods her head, her eyes closed as if she's trying to rest like Max is. You wonder why everyone is so tired lately. Everyone in this school just seems so drained. You wonder if this is purgatory for you all. (Even though your church doesn't believe in such a place.)

"Max was worried sick about you. She wouldn't shut up about it. About you. She kept going on and on about how she was trying not to 'shit her stomach out' when you were on the roof. She called the hospital four times in two hours to reaffirm what the visiting hours were." Chloe trails off, and you wonder if she realizes how her just so casually mentioning your suicide attempt seems a tad inappropriate given how (not) long ago it was. Then you realize who you're thinking about, and how Chloe was always very outspoken about her thoughts. (Social rules of courtesy be damned to her.) Instead of apologizing though, she laughs. A small fragile thing, that you're not entirely sure is supposed to verbally manifest itself. "She's got it bad for you Kate Marsh." You blink.

"I don't understand." Chloe opens her eyes and just raises an eyebrow at you. She shakes her head. She laughs again, but this time it's sad, angry, hollow, and you'd swear- if that wasn't something you're still uncomfortable with due to your upbringing- a bit accusatory.

"We've been best friends for years, but as soon as you call or text, she blows me off. It's not fair." Chloe sounds angry, but when she looks at you, it's more confused and hurt than anything. (Betrayed. You think she sounds very betrayed.) She sighs after a few seconds of you just standing there because you don't know what to say. "Shouldn't there be like, someone checking on you periodically? You know, so soon after?" She doesn't outright say it, but your mind still takes you back to the roof momentarily. (You briefly wonder if there will ever be a time that you won't relive the experience every time it is brought up.)

"Yes probably, but I imagine that Principal Wells is too busy getting drunk and worrying about the Prescott's suing to be too concerned with procedure at the moment." Your voice shocks you since you reply with such an acidic tone. You didn't realize how much faith you'd lost in the staff here until just now. You've lost faith in a lot of things lately. Max stirs, and you both direct your attention to her instead of each other. She groans, and you're next to her in the very next moment, you brush her bangs out of her face and find yourself worrying your bottom lip with your teeth when she scrunches up her face in what looks like discomfort.

"Max, hey, not sure if you can hear me yet, but I've gotta head out. Dave's going to get home and freak right the fuck out if I'm not there. Uh, I hate to do this, but I think you'd be okay with Kate watching you, so... It's the best I can do." You watch her as she talks to Max, she's holding her hand and looking at her face with such a concerned expression that you feel as if you've seen too much of the usually guarded girl. Her expression shifts to wary and slightly judgemental when her gaze lands on you. "Just... Take care of her got it? Have her text me when she wakes up. If I don't hear from her by tomorrow afternoon then it's your ass got it?" You nod in response still trying to process your emotions due to the interaction. After a few seconds she smiles at you looking relieved, and she stands up and walks backwards to the door, her hand fumbling behind her for the doorknob. "Alright, cool. Thanks. Later Kate. Bye Max. Please be okay." She says the last part as the door closes in front of her, and it was whispered so softly that you almost didn't catch it. (You don't think you were supposed to.)

Now you're alone with an unconscious Max Caulfield. You want to hold her hand like Chloe had, but you can just hear your mother now, "That's oddly intimate don't you think? That's how it starts you know. It starts with hand holding, and before you know it, Satan has you both shedding your clothing and sinning. He's tricky that way." Your heart gives a painful pang at the thought of your mother. Your father had been so nice and supportive that you managed to overlook the fact that she's disowned you. You're about to start crying over the loss, but Max starts to work her mouth as if she's trying to speak. You sit down on your bed and take her hand in your own, using your other to toss her clean shirt back behind you to the foot of the bed.

"Chloe?" You hear the confusion and worry in her voice, but the part that catches your attention is the very strong current of fear that is laced in that one syllable word. You wish she had stayed just ten minutes longer.

"Afraid not." You answer, trying to ease her discomfort with the illusion that you're completely relaxed. She opens her eyes and glances around your room before they land on you. You smile softly at her, but it feels more like a small grimace.

"Kate? What? Where's Chloe? How'd I get here?" Max asks as she sits up. She starts backing up from you, her hand slipping from yours and you can tell she's trying not to fall apart in front of you. You imagine that is what you've looked like for the past few weeks.

"She couldn't find your dorm and was quite scared given your, uh, state, so I helped her get you in here. She had to go home, she said David would freak if she wasn't home. I told her that I'd have you text her when you woke up." You are answering her questions out of courtesy more than anything, your attention being focused on the increasing rise and fall of Max's body as her breathing increases. "Max, what's wrong?" Her eyes dart from you to the door, and you think she's about to dart out of your room, but she just raises a closed fist to her forehead and squeezes her eyes shut. You don't want to pry. You know better than anyone that people prying never helps. You want to wait for Max to choose to tell you what's bothering her, just as she did for you time and time again. But then she's crying. Not that soft cry that is just to purge ill feelings, but the kind of cry that you'd become intimately familiar with over the past month. It's the kind of cry that threatens to rip you apart. You don't know what to do. You want to hug her, but you're not sure if she'd allow that... She sobs and brings her legs up to her chest and she just looks... So vulnerable. Your knight in shining armor is falling apart. Your heart breaks, and you scoot toward her and wrap your arms around her. She slides her arms around your neck and buries her head in the crook of your neck. Her tears are running down your neck, soaking into the grey t-shirt you put on this morning, and you can almost feel them sinking into your bones. You rest your chin on her head and run your hand up and down her back. (You're doing what you had wished someone would do with you during times like these.) You shift so that your legs are outstretched on either side of her, because she had been leaning over your leg, and you didn't think that was comfortable for her. Now that she's not being blocked by anything, she grips herself tighter to you, and it reminds you of how she hugged you on the roof. Now you're crying. You wish you could be strong enough to not cry while she is, but you're so scared and confused and worried about the girl in your arms that you can't help it.

"Max, what is wrong?" You know you didn't want to pry, but... But there is obviously something very big crushing Max, and the very least you can do is try to help alleviate the suffering she's obviously going through. She'd do the same for you. (Has done the same for you.) She takes a deep breath. Then another. Followed by another one. Finally, her sobs have turned to sniffles. You continue the motion of your hand over her back the whole time- you find it comforting to you as well- and her grip on you never loosens.

"You asked me what I was doing on the roof... A lot of people have, because I shouldn't have been up there. The time it took Zach to come get us... I physically shouldn't have been able to get to you on time." Max says these words with such a sullen tone that you don't rightly know how you're supposed to take them. She sits up, pulling her head from its hiding spot. "Kate, I- it's a really long story, but I can sort of time travel. Like, I can't go forward or speed it up, but I can go back in time and- please don't look at me like that." She's talking so fast now that you're having trouble processing it, and you can only imagine the look you're giving her right now, because you were expecting her to be serious.

"Is that what all that stuff in your room was? You aren't making any sense." You kind of want to be mad at her. You're genuinely concerned about her well being, and she's going to make a joke? She shakes her head and looks like she's about to cry again.

"Kate, I know how it sounds, but you have to believe me. I'm being so completely serious. Please. I got the power to rewind time earlier this week, and there's a giant fucking tornado-tsunami type thing that's going to rip Arcadia Bay to pieces this Friday. I'm going insane, because I don't know why I got this power, and now I'm losing it- that's why I was passed out- and there's the storm, and fucking Nathan Prescott, and- and I just know Rachel Amber disappearing is tied into this somehow, and I'm just so-" she takes a deep breath, and you think she's going to continue her rant, but she starts crying again. You've never seen Max like this.

"This Friday? As in tomorrow?" You believe her. It's stupid, and illogical, and you're still more skeptical than sold, but you don't think Max would be like this over nothing. She stops crying so suddenly, it's as if your words slapped her.

"Yes. Oh my god, I didn't realize it was Thursday. Kate. The world is ending tomorrow..." She looks so broken. (You wonder if that's what you've looked like.) You want to reassure her that the world can't end tomorrow, because no one but God himself knows when Judgement Day is coming. You're not sure if you would've actually said that to her or not, but you don't get the chance to find out because Max is cupping your face between her hands and asking if she can kiss you. (Max always cared about your feelings.)

She smiles so sadly when you shakily nod your head, and you don't know why you're giving her permission to kiss you. "Have you not sinned enough Kate?" Your mother's voice is in your head as Max presses her lips to yours, but it's gone by the time you close your eyes and kiss her back. Kissing Max is very different from kissing those people in that video- or at least you think it is since your memory is still a tad bit foggy regarding the events of that night. You think you should feel wrong. You should feel dirty. If the video wasn't bad enough, now you're consciously, soberly choosing to kiss a girl. Your church would shun you if they saw you now, your hand shaking slightly as you raise it to rest against Max's neck, her hands still on your jawline. Yet... You don't feel wrong. Max loves you. Max saved you. Max was- is your knight in shining armor. If she were a boy, and your life a story, then she would no doubt be your romantic interest. Your life is not a story however, and she is most certainly not a boy, but that doesn't matter to you. If you felt safe when she held you, then you feel invincible when she's kissing you like you're the only thing keeping her sane. She pulls back, and when you breathe in it makes you light headed since you kind of forgot to breathe for however long you've been kissing.

She looks at you, her lips wet from your own, and she looks far more somber. "Do you want me to make that not happen?" She asks, her tone small and tired. You're still trying to catch your breath, and your body is reminding you that you have a crud-ton of hormones so you can't really understand what she's asking.

"I don't- what do you mean?"

"I can go back and not kiss you. You won't remember it happening, because technically it wouldn't have happened. Like... Do you regret it? Because if you do, I won't ask you to do it the next time, I just don't want to die- especially not without doing that at least once." Max looks so conflicted, and you don't know how to respond because she's still bent on that time travel thing.

"No. I uh, don't regret that. But I'm just... Max, I want to believe you about the time travel thing, but that's just so... I don't know." You want to believe her. You really do. She believed you when no one else would. But time travel? The end of the world? That's a bit much for blind faith. She brushes her bangs out of her eyes and tells you to think of a number, any number at all. Then she tells you to tell it to her, because this is the first time she's gone through this. She asks you why you picked that number, and you tell her that too. She then asks you for a second number, and the reason for that one as well. Then she tells you that you'll believe her soon.

"Think of a number, any number you want." She almost looks excited. "Do you have it?" You nod your head, unsure of how this is going to prove her "powers". "Your number is three, because of 'The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit'. How very you Kate." You blink. She knew. How'd she know? "And in case that wasn't enough, I need you to think of a second number. Got it picked out?" You nod your head again, and you're trying not to get scared. Max couldn't be telling the truth. No way. (Your mother would probably regress society hundreds of years and call it witchcraft.) "Thirteen. How old you were when you were baptized." Max couldn't have known that. You never talked about your baptism with her. It never came up- at least, not your age at the time of.

"How'd you do that?" You ask because you don't want to know the answer. She tells you that you told her in the previous timeline. She's telling the truth. She's not lying. She can reverse time. You want to ask her about the other day. You want to ask her if you jumped. (You know you did. You would still have jumped had it not been for hearing her on the roof with you.) You want to ask her if you should be dead right now. You want to ask her about everything.

You ask to kiss her instead. Then you're kissing, and you're crying, and your hands are pulling at the hair at the nape of her neck. The world is ending- or at least yours is- and it shakes something fundamental within you when you realize that your world should have ended two days ago in front of the building you're currently in.

She's stroking away your tears with her thumbs, and you think it's funny since she's crying too. You're both falling apart. The world is crushing you both with its cruelty, and you question why God is letting all of this happen. For the first time in your entire life, you feel anger towards Him. During this whole "video" escapade, you weren't mad at God, you were just confused and sad.

But now you're furious. You've never been so mad in your entire life. You bite Max's lip because you just need to do something, anything to express how pissed off you are. You realize a half a second later that you probably hurt her, and you're about to apologize but her soft moan stops you from doing that. It stops you from doing anything really. Kissing her included. She opens her eyes slowly, as if she's waking up, and asks you what's wrong. Her eyes are beginning to gain a pink hue to them from her crying so much, and you don't imagine you look any better.

Everything. Everything is wrong. Literally, everything is wrong. But you don't tell Max this. Well, you don't tell her using words, but you're pretty sure that she gets it from the way you're kissing her. You've never expressed this much emotion, it's almost overwhelming, but it's as if a dam broke because you can't stop yourself.

You push Max's shoulders back toward the mattress before you even realize you've made the decision to move. She gasps when your tongue is suddenly in her mouth, and you compare the feel of her tongue to the fuzzy recollections of the same feelings from that party. From what you can remember, they don't even come close to comparing.

Then she's sitting up, and you're about to question her, but you stop the thought when you realize that it's because you have been tugging the hem of her shirt up. (You forgot to give her the clean one you got for her.) You smile softly at her when her arms immediately cross over her chest once the shirt is off- and tossed somewhere behind you- because it's such a Max thing to do. Then the gravity of what you're about to start hits you. You're straddling Maxine Caulfield on your bed, and you just took off her shirt, and you want to keep going.

You know how sex works. You're eighteen after all. Not that you've ever watched porn or demonstrations like that- you can only imagine the hell fury your mother would have brought down upon you had you done that. But you've been raised to be abstinent, to be the perfect woman of God. With that thought in mind, you press your lips to Max's collar bone and you smile as she takes a shuddering breath.

Yes, you wanted to remain abstinent, but you also wanted to not want to kill yourself for weeks, and you also wanted to live past tomorrow, but you don't always get what you want. Now you don't want to die as a virgin. (As cliché as that sounds, it's true.) You'll be damned if you don't get at least one thing you want before you die. (You're probably damned already.) For the first time since you turned twelve, you let your mind take a rest, and you let your instincts and hormones take charge.

You kiss the slight swells of Max's bra-clad breasts as your hands cup them through the pink material. You're so nervous. Just because you want this doesn't mean you're any good at it, and you don't want to be bad at this- like, who wants to be bad at sex? But it helps calm you down when Max whimpers and arches into your hands. Your hips are starting to protest the straddle you have over Max's legs, so you shift to straddling just her right leg, and when you move your leg between her's you can feel the warmth radiating from her. Out of curiosity you press your thigh against her with an intentional pressure and gasp when Max grinds her hips down on your leg while her hands grab your hips. She grabs the hem of your shirt and slowly inches it up, and you realize that she's silently asking you if she can undress you too. Max's cheeks are tinted a light pink, and she's breathing as if she's just run all the way from the school building, and she's still concerned about your comfort. God bless her.

You lean down and lightly kiss her before telling her it's okay. She sits up again, and she trails her palms up your sides as she raises your shirt making you shiver. Then you're just in your bra, and this is the most exposed you've ever been to someone. You understand why Max crossed her arms since you do too without even realizing it. She smiles at you and gently grabs your wrists to pull them away from you. She breathlessly tells you that you're beautiful, and you laugh when she starts to explain that you're beautiful with your clothes on as well, but that it's on a "whole different level" when they're off.

You're glad this is happening with Max. When you lean down to kiss her, your torsos touch again, and she's so warm that you think she might be running a fever. Feeling her skin against yours is so... Surreal. It's a delicious sensation, and you're reminded of the sermon where your preacher was explaining how Satan tempts with the senses. You understand why this is one of his greatest temptations now.

Max wraps her arms around you as she leans up and starts kissing down your neck and- you're pretty sure you just moaned, but it didn't sound like your voice at all. You push yourself up when you feel the slackening of your now undone bra so that you can take it off. You don't have time to feel insecure as Max sits up and puts her mouth over your- oh God. Your head falls back and your hands automatically go to Max's head so that you can grip her hair. She does it again to the other one, and you've never been so aroused in your entire life. Your chest is rising and falling so fast you're surprised you haven't passed out.

She starts pushing your shoulders back, and now you're the one on your back with her on top of you. With the lighting coming from your windows- since you opened the blinds upon your return earlier- hitting the left side of Max's body you're struck with the want to draw her. But your hands are busy wrapping around the back of a her neck to bring her down to get a kiss. Her thigh presses against you, and your breath catches in your throat. Your hips are moving without any thought- which is really convenient since the more they move, the harder it gets for you to think.

She kisses down your jaw, your neck, and between your breasts, leaning back on her feet as continues her journey down your stomach. Your hips jump for an entirely different reason when you feel the tips of Max's fingers slip under the waistband of your green sweats. She looks down at you, still asking, and it's enough to make you tear up because Max is literally everything you hoped for in your first time. (Aside from the whole, not married and not male parts of course.) But she is caring, and gentle, and she is so focused on you being completely comfortable and it's just such a contrast to how alone and trashy you've felt for the past weeks that it catches you off guard. You nod your head and tell her to go ahead. (You've never been more sure of a decision than you are now.)

Then she's pulling down your pants and panties in one go, and you feel as if your legs are suddenly longer with the amount of time it takes her to get them off. Your legs close of their own accord, and now you want to get Max naked too, because you think it'd be easier for you if you weren't the only one. So you sit up and reach for the button of her jeans, and she smiles and kisses you as she helps you remove her clothing by taking off her bra. (You have to let Max finish taking off her pants though, since they get caught on her shoes that neither you nor Chloe thought to take off.) You can tell she's just as nervous as you in the tenseness of her muscles, but you appreciate that she's taking charge of the situation for you. Again, you're reminded of how much she cares about you, and you wonder how you could've ever felt alone with her and your father in your corner the whole time.

Her hands on your bare thighs are enough to bring your attention back to the demands your body are making. She leans forward to kiss you, and everywhere she touches you is like touching an open flame. Her skin against your own in places that no one else has even see, let alone touched is causing your body to practically thrum with lust. She runs her hands up from your hips to your breasts, and the feel of her palms against your sensitive chest is enough to draw a whimper from your throat. She pulls back slightly to kiss your forehead as she tells you how beautiful you are, and then she's kissing down your body again. The only difference being that she keeps going past your belly, and places a kiss on each of your hips.

You're going to die. You are going to literally explode if she doesn't do something about the building pressure inside of you. Then she starts kissing down your right thigh, just to return up your left one, and you know what she's planning on doing. You can't imagine anyone wanting to do something like that their first time, just right out of the gate like this, and you're about to ask her, but she looks at you with a gaze so full of want and desire and love that you forget how to form words. You're quickly reminded of a few as her fingers slip between your legs, making circular motions around your clit.

She tells you how wet you are, and you want to feel embarrassed by that, but she sounds so proud that you don't think you should be. She tells you to look at her and then she's slipping a finger inside you, and you try to keep eye contact, you do, but your body is being so overloaded that you have to squeeze them shut to keep from screaming out. You can feel her slender finger pumping inside of you, and you try not to think about how many times you've seen the same hand positioning a camera, or taking notes in Jefferson's, or felt that hand against your shoulder, but it's a daunting task. You know that if you survive tomorrow, you'll never be able to look at her hand without wanting her to give you this immense pleasure again.

Your hips are thrusting to meet Max's hand, primal instincts knowing how to get that feeling of more. Your eyes are still closed when you feel Max start to move, but they shoot open when you feel a hot breath against you right before- "Jesus Christ. Holy shit. Fuck." It takes you approximately twenty seconds to realize that those words came out of your mouth- that they had to have, since Max's mouth was preoccupied at the time- and you can't find it in you to be sorry for your language. You have a hand in Max's hair, pulling her closer to the source of this earthly pleasure. You can feel your thighs literally trembling as she works in earnest.

You have heard girls talking about receiving oral before, and how much they had loved it. You didn't understand how you could be so comfortable with someone having their mouth down there, but boy, did you understand it now. You're pulling her hair harder, and now your other hand is fisting in the sheets, and your voice is higher than you've ever heard it before, and something has to happen or you're going to cry. Then Max goes lower, and you feel her tongue inside of you, and that's a mind blowing feeling as well.

You're reminded of a passage in the bible, where God says that it is better to cut out one's own tongue, than to say something that would damn them for all of eternity. But, as of right now, you'd like to protest that statement. You can't imagine wasting such a beautiful muscle. Then you're reminded of how your mother would tell you that the tongue is the devil's tool. You think he chose well.

Your entire vocabulary has been reduced to two phrases, "Oh God", and "Max." (Sometimes it's a single phrase made by joining those two together.) You might think it's sad, but you can't really think of anything other than the feeling radiating from between your thighs. You can't stay still. Max has her arms wrapped around your legs, hands splayed on your hips to try and get you to be more still, and you keep trying to grab something, but it all gives too easy to satisfy whatever urge it is that's demanding you have your hands grabbing something. You finally get some satisfaction out of grabbing at Max's back. You can only reach her shoulders, and you're ninety percent sure you're scratching her, but you just cannot stop.

Then something shifts. Your toes are tingling, and if you were going to explode earlier, then you're absolutely going to die if something doesn't happen soon. The tingling travels up your legs, and your muscles are tensing, and Max's name is falling from your lips because you need to tell her that you're about to orgasm, but then you're gone. You're moaning her name instead of warning her, and every single nerve in your body is on fire, and your back is arching off the mattress, and you see Max look up at you right before you squeeze your eyes shut.

Then you're falling apart in an entirely different way, and Max is wrapping her arms around you ask you start to cry. You want to stop crying, but the world is ending tomorrow, and now you're going to lose this- this- whatever this is with Max, and you might lose her, and the thought is enough to keep the tears coming. So you kiss her to stop her from asking you what's wrong again, and you think she understands what you're feeling because she lets you, and she kisses you back just as hard.

The world is ending tomorrow, and you don't want to waste any of today. So you slide your hand down her soft stomach and down to between her legs. Her breath hitches as you think of how soft she is down here. She bites your shoulder when you slip your middle finger inside of her, and you get what she meant about being wet.

You don't know why that's arousing, but it is. She has her arms wrapped around your neck, and her teeth are still digging into your shoulder, and she's making the most delicious sounds you've ever heard. You slip your ring finger inside of her as well with one of your thrusts, and she bites your shoulder even harder as she moans. You have to bite your lip because it's so tantalizing, and you have to hear it again. You think you could maybe reach your thumb up and- Max moans your name and if you thought just her moans were tempting, then her saying your name like that, like it's a prayer is absolutely sinful.

Your arm is starting to burn, and Max is kissing your neck whenever she's not cursing or saying your name like a mantra. You don't know how long you go on like this, but it's an eternity and not at all long enough at the same time. Then she's digging her nails into your shoulders- and you wonder if there's something wrong with you since pain shouldn't be arousing- and she's saying your name over and over with her voice raising in pitch each time until she's not. She stops saying your name because now her mouth is busy biting your shoulder as she whimpers while her hips are jerking on your fingers.

You wonder if you looked that beautiful when you came.

You understand why Max didn't want to wait for marriage before she had sex. You understand why no one does. You don't regret doing this with Max, not one bit. You just regret that the world is ending tomorrow, and that you won't be able to figure this thing with Max out further than you two have.

You remind her that she needs to text Chloe that she's awake. She tells you that she isn't sure she is, that she's pretty sure she's dreaming. So you pinch her, and you both laugh, and she kisses you, soft and gentle. You think it's a damn shame the world has to end right as it becomes perfect. She's looking for her phone, and you're looking at her, and before you realize it, you find yourself praying.

You're praying that God spares you both tomorrow, whatever storm may come. You pray that He wouldn't be so cruel as to send you a guardian angel just to take her away as soon as she becomes yours. You pray that He doesn't send the storm at all. You pray that He won't take your sunshine away. You pray that He allows you to see your father again. You pray that nothing changes, because despite the fact that you still have to figure out what Nathan did to you, you don't want to lose Max. You need her. You think she may need you as well. You pray, begging, pleading with Him to not take your life, or your saving grace.

Because you want to live. You think about how forty-eight hours ago you were content to end your life, how you wanted it, how you needed to put yourself asleep. But now you want to live. You do not want to die. You want to live your full life- even if you're on borrowed time- with Max at your side like you know she will be. You pray He doesn't take this opportunity away from you, because you think you might be able to fall in love with her at some point in the future. You pray He gives you a second chance to prove it.

Max crawls back on the bed with you, and as she wraps her arms around you, you know that even if He doesn't answer your prayer, that you will both get through it. Because out of all of the events leading up to this point in time, there's one thing, one person you have not lost faith in, and she's currently telling you that it's going to be okay. So you believe her. Even though she might be full of crap. She's been your knight in shining armor this whole time, and you know she'll do everything in her power to solve this problem.

You pray it's enough.