Max always hated fights. Even as a child, when her parents fought, their raised voices made her want to run and hide, and her mother taking the car out for a drive after made her unable to sleep until she heard the familiar engine pull in again. Her pillow caught her tears as she clutched onto Captain and tried to disappear just for a moment.
She did all she could to avoid that with Kate, but no relationship is perfect, not even one that had gone two years of friendship and another year in a relationship without a serious fight.
So, Max swore to herself as she noticed the light in the forest was almost completely gone by now. She knew she was in trouble now. Quickly shoving her camera and the last picture into her bag, she ran down the trail she had walked along all day. Pulling out her phone, she swore loudly as it refused to turn on. By the time she made it to where the car was parked and after only making 2 wrong turns that were quickly corrected, the sun’s light had almost completely faded. Throwing her bag in the passenger seat, she quickly started the car and drove just over the speed limit, cursing herself for taking pictures at the farthest forest this time. Traffic refused to work in her favor as well, with a crash on the only high way she needed to take blocking half of the lanes and red lights seemingly at every single intersection. By the time she got home, the moon was well above the horizon and Max prayed against every odd that Kate had managed to fall asleep this time.
Leaving her bag behind, Max rushed up to the door, swearing softly under her breath as she closed it just a little too loudly. Turning around, she saw a light from the living room and swore softly again. She pulled at the bracelets she still wore around her wrist as she walked toward her girlfriend slowly. “Hey Kate. You’re up late.”
Any thought of trying to play off her late return left when she heard the tiredness in Kate’s voice, a sound she hated to learn. “Max, you said you’d be home hours ago.” She got up from her seat, leaving a book behind, and stood in front of Max, stopping her in her tracks.
Max spun her bracelet once before replying, “I know, I’m sorry. Time just got away from me and before I knew it, it was dark and I didn’t bring a flashlight so I got all turned around and… Sorry.”
“Why didn’t you call then?” The question wasn’t harsh, they never were with Kate, but it made Max want to hide again.
“My phone sort of died.” Max took the device to show Kate the black screen.
“Of course it did.” Kate mumbled, making Max pause. A tense silence fell between them, the only sound being the ticking of the clock, until Kate continued. “You always do this Max.”
“Do what?” Max stood up straighter and watched as a switch seemed to flick in Kate.
“This. You keep staying out late without any warning, until midnight if we’re lucky, and then come home like it’s nothing! I can’t sleep when you do, you know that, but this is the fourth time in two weeks that it’s happened.” By now, Kate had balled her hands into fists. “It feels like you don’t care anymore.”
“Kate, you know that’s not true.” Max took a step forward, and Kate stepped back.
“Yes, Max,” Kate replied with an edge in her voice that made Max’s stomach turn, “I know it’s not true, but, God, it still feels like that.” She crossed her arms and stared Max down. Max watched her nose crinkle like it does every time she gets irritated. “You spend more time with Chloe than you do with me.”
Defensive anger bubbled in the bottom of Max’s stomach. This wasn’t fair. It was an accident and Kate wasn’t being fair. Everything became a blur to Max as voices were raised, echoing a thunderous sound that was feared by the both of them. The next thing she knew, there were tears in Kate’s eyes as she walked out the door into the dark. The door slamming echoed behind her as everything came back into focus for Max. Grumbling, she plugged her phone in before she began to pace the house. The sound of the car engine didn’t register as she ranted incoherently under her breath, waiting for that familiar beep to signal her phone was on again. When the realization fully dawned on her, she stopped.
That was their first fight- their first real fight- and Kate had just gone out the door with the car.
Any residual anger was quickly turned on herself. She felt her chest grow heavy quickly and she began fidgeting with her bracelets again. Three years. Three years they had gone without a serious fight and now here they were and it was Max’s own fault. She should have paid more attention to the time. She should have paid more attention to the battery on her phone. She should have done so much more to prevent this. Instead, she got wrapped up in her photography like usual and ruined everything. The photography she had left in the car because she wanted to get inside to Kate as soon as possible. The photographs she had been so excited to show Kate, especially the ones of the doe with a fawn she found. The photographs she originally went out to find to surprise Kate with and make her smile. She groaned, putting her head in her hands. Even when she was trying to do something nice, she still messed it up.
A small beep brought Max out of her own head. She rushed over to her phone, seeing notifications of Kate calling her pop up with a single text from Chloe as well.
Chloe. Chloe would be able to help. Quickly, Max opened the message and typed out, ‘Hey, I’m sorry my phone died. You up?’
She didn’t have to wait long for a response. ‘dude, do you know what time it is?’ Max could picture her sitting up in bed with her still blue hair sticking up slightly. The image made her smile slightly before thoughts of the fight came rushing back.
Human Time Machine (2:09 am): I had a fight with Kate.
Chloe No Emoji (2:10 am): and I’m up what happened?
Human Time Machine (2:11 am): Came home super late and upset her. I don’t even remember half of what I said :(
Human Time Machine (2:11 am): She just took the car and drove off too
Chloe No Emoji (2:12 am): shit Max that sucks
Chloe No Emoji (2:12 am): guessing you need some best friend advice then?
Human Time Machine (2:13 am): Please
Chloe No Emoji (2:15 am): give her some space for now and let her cool down for now. if she’s not back by the morning go look for her but honestly my money’s on her returning in no more than an hour
Chloe No Emoji (2:15 am): don’t worry it’ll all blow over and you’ll both be the sickly cute couple you always are
Human Time Machine (2:17 am): Thanks Chlo, you’re the best
Chloe No Emoji (2:17 am): i try
Human Time Machine (2:18 am): Also why are you up this late?
Chloe No Emoji (2:19 am): it’s a secret
Human Time Machine (2:19 am): Go to sleep you dork
Chloe No Emoji (2:20 am): okay mom night
Chloe No Emoji (2:23 am): and seriously don’t worry
Chloe No Emoji (2:23 am): she’ll be back find and you’ll both be okay
Max smiled slightly at her phone, setting it back down to finish charging. Kate would be back. All she had to do now was wait and plan out her apology.
Waiting proved to be harder than she thought. She figured out her apology quickly and turned on the tv as a distraction. Each time she glanced at the clock it seemed only a few minutes had passed. Worry grew in the pit of her stomach as she played with her bracelets for the third time that night alone. Faintly, she wondered how much more of her fidgeting her bracelets could take.
Finally, she heard the car pull into the drive way and the door close. After a final glance at the clock to see Chloe had been right, Max all but ran to the door and pulled Kate in before she could so much as take out her house keys. Max kicked the door closed as she hugged Kate close. It was only a second before Kate hugged her back just as close. She hid her face in Max’s shoulder, taking a deep breath to prepare to speak when Max beat her to it. “Kate, I’m- I’m so sorry. I didn’t pay enough attention and I made you worry. I shouldn’t have and I’m sorry.”
Kate faintly smiled. “It’s okay, I was pretty harsh on you too, and I’m sorry.” She slightly squeezed Max before continuing, “I guess we both worry too much, don’t we?”
Max hummed softly, leaning back to kiss Kate’s forehead. “You were right though. I need to pay more attention to the time. I’ll try harder not to do it again.”
It was Kate’s turn to kiss Max’s forehead, going just slightly on her toes to reach. “And I’ll try harder to trust that you’ll be back eventually. Deal?”
Max smiled, leaning forward to hide her face in Kate’s hair, which she realized had been pulled out of a bun. She must have gotten completely ready for bed while waiting, Max thought. Realizing Kate was waiting for an answer, she nodded. “Deal.”
They stood there for a minute, slowly letting the tension dissolve, before Kate pulled back with a grin. “Movie time?”
“Kate, it’s almost 3 am.” She let herself be lead by the hand back to the living room by her girlfriend, who promptly seated her on the couch and went to search through their movies.
“It’s been a rough night. We deserve a little treat, don’t we?” She held up an old VHS that made Max grin.
“Oliver and Company? No fair, you always fall asleep during that!” Max, however, made no move to get up and stop Kate as she put in the movie to play.
“Exactly why it’s perfect for right now.” Kate turned around, smiling almost proudly as the tv began to whir, rewinding the tape. “I grab the blankets and you grab the tea?”
Max mock saluted, “Yessir.” Max hopped off the couch, a bounce in her step as she made her way to the kitchen. “Chamomile?” Kate sounded her approval from their shared room. Max pulled out the appropriate box from the cabinet and set the water up to boil. She looked back over to the couch and saw Kate already laying out an array of blankets, leaving one to the side to lay over the both of them after. Her heart swelled with a mixture of emotions as the kettle sounded. Max quickly finished up the tea, bringing it over to the small table they had next to the couch to let them both cool. Kate, already sitting with half of the last blanket over her, lifted up the other half for her. Max slid in next to her and soon wrapped an arm around Kate, pulling her closer.
They sat in a comfortable silence as the movie began, telling the story of the kitten they both love. Eventually, Max buried her face in Kate’s side, her arms pulling the slightly smaller girl closer. She made a small noise, nuzzling Kate. Kate smiled, gently pulling Max’s face up so she could kiss her properly. “Me too,” was all she said before she let Max continue to hide her face, Dodger singing on the bright tv screen.
Slowly, Max felt Kate’s breathing slow. She smiled slightly, seeing the movie wasn’t even half way through. Carefully, Max moved her head enough so she could gently kiss Kate’s cheek. “Goodnight, angel.” She whispered, letting her own eyes close as well.
Their tea laid there, forgotten until morning.