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Twenty Øne Pirates

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“Mad Max! Have you seen my bandana?”

“Isn’t it on your head?”

“No! The cool wolf fangs one I use on my face!”

“Did you lose it again, Chloe?”

“I didn’t lose it! I just can’t find it.”

“Do we have to do this every time before a gig, Chlo?”

“Not helping, Max!”

“Have you checked the drawers?”

“Yes! It’s. Not. In. There! Fuuuuuck!”

“Chill Chloe. What about your bag?”

“I’ve spilled everything out! It’s. Not. In. There!”

“Guys! You are up in ten!” The stagehand shouts.

“Fuuuuuck! Max! I am screwed!”

“Chloe!” Max finally turns to look at her best friend. She stalks up to her and grabs the piece of garment on her neck. “It’s on your neck!”

“Oh. Right. Sharp eyes, Captain!” Chloe gives Max a salute, accompanies by her classic shit-eating grin.

“Jesus, Chlo! Can we not do this every time? You know I’m about to shit my pants, right?” Max bounces nervously in her seat at her dressing table, gripping her guitar so tight, her knuckles are turning white.

“Relax! You are Captain and we are the Twenty One Pirates. People will love us even if you screw up.” Chloe laughs while tying the grey bandana around her face to cover her mouth and nose.

Chloe loves this bandana she’d gotten from Etsy. There is a wolf fangs design across the bandana so when she covers her mouth with it, it looks like she is baring her fangs.

It’s so badass.

Or so Chloe thinks.

“Chlo, please don't jinx me.” Max wipes the beads of perspiration from her forehead. The lights from the dressing table are too warm and do nothing to help with her growing anxiety. “I- I can’t afford to screw up.”

“Relax, Super Max,” Chloe gives her best friend a smack on her back, causing Max to wince in pain. Max gives Chloe a death glare.

“Captain never screws up. It’s like there is some magic in that mask of yours that gives you courage and great hand-eye coordination.” Chloe laughs. “If only Max is half as great as Captain.”

“I know right,” Max says as she thumbs her mask softly. “Grandma makes this for me and tells me she has blessed it with a special ‘Granny Charm’ meant to give me more confidence on stage. I really think that’s why I do so well as Captain.”

“Maybe you need to wear this mask around campus, especially around that Icky Vicky so you’ll not always stutter when you talk to her,” Chloe says playfully.

“Guys! Get your asses on stage, NOW!” stagehand yells impatiently.

“Alright, alright! Jesus.” Chloe tugs her black bandana on her head so that it covers all of her short, blue hair. Then, she pulls up a single black sleeve to cover up her skull and flower vine sleeve tattoo, and her transformation into Davy is complete.

“You ready to rock ‘n roll? Time to henshin into Captain!” Chloe twirls her drumstick and gives Max a wink. “Davy is ready to jam! Arr!!”

Max closes her eyes and takes a deep breath.

You can do this, Max. You are Captain.

She exhales slowly.

Max puts her black ski mask over her head and pulls it down to her chin. Then, she straps the red eye patch over her left eye.

No longer is she the shy and socially awkward Max Caulfield who stutters and stammers nervously.

Tonight, she is Captain of the Twenty One Pirates.

“Let’s go, Davy. Time to rock the house down.”

“Ay ay, Captain!” Davy replies cheerfully.

“No prey, no pay!” They high five each other as they leave their dressing room and walk towards the stage.

The cheers are getting louder.

The crowd is chanting “We want Twenty One Pirates” repeatedly.

Captain and Davy are ready.

They strut onto the stage and the crowd goes wild.

Davy waves at the crowd, spurring them on.

“I love you, Davy!” A bunch of girls screams in the mosh pit. Davy gives them a salute and the girls scream even louder.

Captain just walks to her hanging microphone, not addressing the crowd at all. But the crowd is used to it. That is why they love Captain. She appears so cold yet her voice is so warm.

Davy readies herself at her drum set and looks at Captain.

Captain gives Davy a nod and Davy starts playing the beat.

Tonight, the starting number is a rock ballad.

The crowd screams then goes quiet because Captain is now playing on her guitar – the most amazing piece the crowd has heard tonight.

And the fans know it is time, as Captain lifts her ski mask up to her nose – a deliberate and dramatic act that always drive the fans crazy – and starts to sing.


=====

 

It is a boring Friday night for Victoria Chase.

Taylor has just dragged her into a shady, underground club with a cliché, hipster name: The Raven.

“Come on, V! You’ll love it. There’s booze, live music, fantastic atmosphere —”

“Icky, sweaty bodies, body odor and dumb, screaming groupies.” Victoria rolls her eyes. “If I want to have my body pressed against someone’s butt, I rather do it in the Vortex Club.”

Victoria is reluctant to go to an underground indie club but Taylor has insisted that she will go to The Raven with or without Victoria because the guy she has a crush on is playing tonight.

And Victoria’s lackey number two, Courtney, is too busy with her new boyfriend nowadays to join them on weekends.

Victoria sighs.

College life sucks because no one is afraid of her anymore to be at her beck and call, and she seriously doesn’t want to spend Friday night alone.

Only losers spend Friday night alone and she is Victoria Chase, for Christ’s sake.

So here she is, in the middle of the mosh pit with a glass of cheap alcohol, surrounded by screaming girls and rowdy guys.

She has just endured forty-five minutes of rock songs that aren’t really songs. Not with all the screaming in the singing.

But Taylor is clearly enjoying herself. She has gone absolutely crazy with Pisshead’s performance. Victoria has no idea what Taylor sees in that bassist of Pisshead, the one she has a huge girl boner for. He looks like he hasn’t had a good haircut in ages and his clothes are so ragged. In other words, he looks like a hobo.

Hobo looks so bored on stage and even yawn a few times while playing but Taylor insists that he looks damn cool having that nonchalant expression on his face.

Victoria doesn’t get it. How is being uninterested in your own music, cool?

Then again, she will never understand what Taylor sees in that bassist. Afterall, she bats for a different team.

“Isn’t he cool?” Taylor swoons during the interval. “He’s a Sociology major in our school. I swear I’ll ask for his number the next time I see him around the campus.”

“For his sake, I hope he finishes college.” Victoria finishes her drink in one gulp and orders another tequila sunrise from the bartender. The alcohol in this shitty club is so watered down, she needs a lot more of it to even get high. “‘Cos he obviously won’t make it as a musician.”

“Hey!” Taylor gives Victoria a light slap on her shoulder. “Don’t be mean. Pisshead is great.” Victoria widens her eyes in disbelief as she glares at Taylor. “Okay, maybe they are a little off form tonight. But most of the time, they are great.” Taylor backpedals.

“Whatever, Tay Tay.” Victoria checks the time on her phone. Good. The night is still young.  “Since their set is over, wanna go to the Vortex Club now? I’ll get us an Uber.”

“But Twenty One Pirates is playing soon.” Taylor takes a sip of her bourbon coke. “They are the real crowd puller tonight. Most of the people are actually here for them.”

“Fuck me,” Victoria groans. “My ears can’t stand the torture anymore. This indie shit is really not for me. And any band with a cheesy name like Twenty One Pirates is definitely bad.”

“Give them a chance, V.” Taylor gives Victoria her best puppy eyes. “I swear they are the good ones tonight.”

Victoria purses her lips in annoyance. She can just walk out of the club and leaves Taylor here on her own. After all, Taylor did mention she is coming to The Raven even if Victoria won’t accompany her.

But she thinks of all the nights Taylor watched her back and sent her back to her dorm safely when she was pissed drunk from clubbing, and she just cannot bear to leave her best friend here in this shady, underground club.

“Alright.” Victoria concedes. “But if they suck, you’ve to do my homework for a week.”

“Deal.” Taylor smiled victoriously. “But I’m sure that won’t be happening.”

“We shall see.”

When they return to the mosh pit, the crowd has significantly increased. The crowd is getting restless and is making a lot of noise. Someone in the back starts chanting, “We want Twenty One Pirates!” And soon the whole mosh pit is chanting.

Who is Twenty One Pirates? Are they really as good as Taylor says?

Victoria yawns. She doesn’t fucking care. She just wants this to be over so she can go to some place with real music she can dance to.

Then it happens. Two person – Victoria think they are girls, but she can’t be sure – strut onto the stage like they own the place.

The taller one is wearing two bandanas, a black bandana with a white, pirate skull design on her head, and a grey bandana with teeth design on her face. She is wearing a blue tank top and has a single black sleeve on her right arm, and black pants with grey, knee-high boots.

The shorter one looks hilarious. She has a black ski mask over her face. If that is not comical enough, she has a red eye patch over her left eye. Victoria wonders how she can see without tripping over every other minute. Shortie is wearing a sleeveless, black top and has two black armband tattoo on her left bicep. The outfit is completed with a pair of red pants and a pair of black, pirate boots.

The crowd goes crazy. People are screaming and whistling and cheering.

What does Victoria do instead?

She laughs.

She laughs at how ridiculous these two clowns look and how stupid this whole thing is.

Taylor is going to do her homework for a week. She has never been so certain in her life before.

Bandanas starts playing the drums and the crowd screams even harder.

Then, Shortie starts playing on her guitar and the crowd goes silent.

Victoria is no longer laughing. She, like the crowd, has also gone silent.

Because even though Shortie is petite, her fingers are nimble and moving lightning fast along the neck of her guitar, producing the most amazing sounds in the club.

What happens next has Victoria gaping in awe.

In one swift motion, Shortie lifted her ski mask up and sings.

At that moment, Victoria knows that Taylor has won the deal.

She can’t stop staring at Shortie because that is the most beautiful voice she has ever heard. A voice that blends flawlessly with the guitar she is playing, and the beats from the drums complement every note of her voice.

Victoria grabs Taylor’s wrist, her fingers trembling with excitement. She opens her mouth to talk but no words come out. She stays like this until Shortie finishes the first song of the set, her mouth gaping stupidly like a fish.

The crowd goes wild the moment Bandanas end the song with a loud crash of the cymbals.

Victoria finds herself clapping unconsciously.

“Taylor,” Victoria finally manages to find her words. “What are their names?”

Taylor gives her a cheeky grin.

“The drummer is Davy.” Taylor points at Bandanas.

“That vocalist,” Taylor moves her finger slowly at Shortie. “Is Captain.”

“Captain.” Victoria repeats, eyes never leaving that shortie with a ski mask on her face.

“Taylor?”

“Hmm?”

“She is fucking amazing.”

 

Chapter Text

“O.M.G! Tay Tay! You are so right! Twenty One Pirates are amazing !” Victoria is almost yelling at a pitch higher than her normal voice. Her face is flushed red from all the screaming and from the body heat in the crowded mosh pit.

“Right, V? Told you they are the crowd puller of tonight,” Taylor laughs as she loops her hand around her best friend’s arm.

“How can two masked clowns be so fucking awesome?” Victoria only had five, watered down drinks and she is already feeling drunk. She knows it must have been the effect of that performance earlier.

“I think it’s the theatrics of their performance that makes them so memorable,” Taylor replies as her fingers dance around the screen of her phone. She has to tweet about this amazing night. Hashtag: #21PiratesAreAwesome

“They are both girls, right? I’ve never seen any girls play the guitar so skillfully. She’s a shortie but her fingers are so nimble!”

Taylor looks up from her phone and shoots Victoria a look, “Oh… so you like Captain… because of her strong and nimble fingers?” Taylor gives her a shit-eating grin and a cheeky wink.

“H- hey! No... that’s not wh- Dammit, Tay!” Victoria sputters, then nudges Taylor hard, almost knocking her over. Taylor laughs even harder at her flustered friend.

Victoria is never one who stutters and stammers. She is always composed, always confident when she speaks. Taylor is glad the performance has reduced her into a spluttering mess.

“I know you’ve been quite thirsty lately. Maybe you should wait for them to come out and get Captain’s number.”

“No way! I don’t want to be one of those groupies.”

“Hey, at least those groupies get laid. You obviously haven’t in ages.”

“Jesus, Tay!” Victoria’s face actually turns pink. “How would even you know that? Have you been keeping tabs on my sex life?”

“– or lack thereof. Please V,” Taylor scoffs. “We practically spend all weekends together. The only person ever getting any action is Court.”

Taylor sighs and shakes her head. “Argh, I really envy Court. I don’t want to sleep alone tonight.”

“Then stay and wait for the bassist of Pisshead to come out. Hopefully, his banging skills won’t be as lackluster as his music.”

“I’ll stay if you stay.” Taylor gives Victoria a playful smile. “Maybe we can both get lucky tonight.”

“Stop it, Tay, I’m not interested in that Shortie!” Victoria huffs, her cheeks flushed red. “You can stay all you want but I’m getting an Uber and going back right now!”

Victoria taps furiously on her phone, ignoring the annoying smirk that has formed on her best friend’s face.

 

=====

 

Victoria and Taylor are busy looking down at their phones when Max spots them outside The Raven.

She yelps and grabs Chloe, who is walking cheerfully in front of her.

“What the hell, Maximus?” Chloe exclaims as Max yanks her arm and pulls her back behind a wall.

“I-it’s... it’s V- Victoria!” Max whispers frantically while spying the two girls from the wall.

“Oh! Icky Vicky from your photography class?! Let’s go say hello!” Chloe replies and takes a step out, only to have her tank top yanked again. Max may be petite, but she is hella strong.

“Don’t, Chlo!” Max whispers again, arms waving around animatedly. “I don’t want her to know I play in a band.”

“Why not? She’s here to listen to us. She may even be your fan. You should put on your Captain’s charm and charm her panties off. Then you won’t be so uptight all the time.”

Max sighs and runs her fingers through her hair.

“I don’t want the whole school to know about me. You know how I just want to get through college peacefully so I can do music when I graduate. It’s part of the deal with my parents. I don’t need any unnecessary attention from anyone. Certainly not from the Queen of Blackwell.”

Chloe wraps her arm around Max, rubbing her shoulder to calm her nerves.

Her stage persona, Captain, may be great on stage, dominating the gig with her mere presence alone but her real-life persona, Max, can be such a nervous wreck without her mask.

“Are you afraid Vicky may see you differently if she knows you’re Captain?”

Max frowns and looks down to examine the cracks on the ground as if it is the most interesting thing in the world.

“We don’t talk much outside of class. We… we are not even friends.” Max kicks a stone away as she says this.

Chloe has been Max’s best friend since they were kids and she knows how insecure Max can be.

Max is a wonderful girl with many talents – talent in photography, talent in the guitar, talent in singing, talent in songwriting – yet she is always so uncertain of herself. Chloe thought by getting Max to form the Twenty One Pirates with her, she can build up Max’s confidence and show the world just how talented she really is.

And show the world she did. But only as Captain, never as Max. It’s like Max and Captain are two totally different persons.

“Besides, weren’t you the one who insisted we masked our faces so we can have secret identities and lead double lives, and I quote ‘like secret agents’?” Max flexes her fingers to emphasize on the air quotes.

“And look at how well that works for us? The fans love how mysterious we are!” Chloe gloats. “And you’ll totally freeze if you have to perform without your mask and you know it -”

“- and I’ll totally freeze if I’ve to tell Victoria I’m singing in a band with a ski mask over my face, and she will totally sneer at me and I’ll be totally miserable.” Max sighs and slumps against the wall.

“You’re thinking too much, Bat Max. It really won’t be as bad as you imagined.” Chloe says as she peers out from the wall to spy on Victoria and Taylor. “Oh, great! Your queen of Blackwell is getting into a car right now...” Chloe pauses for a few seconds with Max waiting in anticipation. “...and she’s gone. C’mon Max, you can stop hiding.”

Max looks out cautiously from her hiding place. Confirming that the coast is clear, she heaves a sigh of relief. “That was close.”

“Let’s go,” Chloe says as she walks out from where they are hiding towards an old truck nearby. “I’m starving. Let’s grab a bite at Two Whales before I send you back to the dorm.”

“I’m not sure if I still have any appetite left after that scare.” Max shakes her head.

“You can watch me eat then.” Chloe opens the door of her trusty, old truck and hops in. “Just don’t beg me for my food, I won’t share.”

“Not even a bite?”

“Not even a bite. Get your own food.”

Max sulks and opens the passenger door. Lying on the passenger seat is a magazine that is flipped open to the center page with a pull-out poster. Max picks it up and pulls out the poster. She immediately recognizes the model on it.

“Hey, isn’t this Rachel Amber from Blackwell?”

Upon hearing that, Chloe reaches over and snatches the magazine from Max’s hand. “Gimme that. I’ll just… um… keep that.” Chloe says as she carefully folds the center page poster back and places the magazine on her lap.

“You actually bought a women’s magazine? You? Chloe Price?” Max widens her eyes in surprise, staring straight into her best friend’s eyes.

“I- I- er… I bought it for the discount coupons!” Chloe blurts out a lame excuse and immediately regrets it.

Max watches her best friend in amusement. “You sure you didn’t buy this for Rachel Amber? The girl you’ve got a crush on since high school?”

“N-no, of course not!” Chloe waves her hands from side to side frantically. “Joyce wants the coupons from this magazine and I’m just buying it for her.”

“Coupons, hmm?”

“Yes, coupons!”

“Alright then.” Max gives Chloe a knowing smile. Chloe looks away, heat rising to her face.

“Sit your ass down and close the door, Maxter. I need my cheeseburger right now.”

Chloe starts the engine of her truck before taking a quick glance at the magazine that she has placed on her lap.

Rachel Amber is smiling sweetly at her on the front page of the magazine.

And Chloe’s heart skips a beat.

 

=====

 

Max opens the metal door to the Blackwell College dormitory and tries to make as little noise as possible walking down the hallway. Even though it’s a Friday night and some rooms still have lights on, the dorm is generally quiet.

She tries to tiptoe to her room, feeling more like a thief than a pirate. But the last thing she wants is waking her neighbors up and having to explain why she is back late. Her, the shy and awkward Max Caulfield, back late on a Friday night.

Juliet Watson will probably put that as a headline in her latest Blackwell newsletter.

Shyest Student of Blackwell Returns to Dormitory Late on a Friday Night. Shocker!

That is why she tries to stay over at Chloe’s house after every gig to avoid that kind of conversation.

Unfortunately for her, David, Chloe’s step-dad – or as Chloe likes to call him, step-douche – has warned Chloe against any more of these sleepovers, after he found pot in Chloe’s room. Not like Max partakes in these baking sessions with Chloe, but David seems to think otherwise.

Chloe swears she is going to move out as soon as she saves enough money from the gigs and from her barista job at the cafe downtown. In the meantime, Max will have to sneak back to the dormitory every time they have a gig or jamming session.

Max reaches her room and reflexively turns her head to look at the door opposite hers.

The room of Victoria Chase. Warm, orange light is pouring out underneath her closed door.

Victoria is back? Thought she will be partying the night away after leaving The Raven like she always does on Friday night.

Max unlocks her room door with a click and is about to give the door handle a twist when she hears a door opens behind her.

“Aren’t you back early.”

Max freezes. She turns around slowly to find Victoria looking at her with a smirk on her face. In her right hand is gargle cup with an electric toothbrush and a tube of half-used toothpaste.

“H-hi, Victoria. It’s not that early actually.”

“It’s sarcasm, Caulfield. Learn to detect it.” Victoria rolls her eyes.

She turns and is about to take a step towards the bathroom when she notices the guitar bag Max is carrying.

“What are you doing so late with your guitar?”

Max shifts her body weight from side to side anxiously. “Uh… guitar practice?”

“At three in the morning?” Victoria raises an eyebrow and stares at Max in disbelief.

“I- erm… ” Max looks down on the floor, not knowing what to tell Victoria. “I- I practice better at night.” Max wants to bang her head on the wall for saying such a pathetic excuse the moment it comes out of her mouth. She can only pray Victoria will not catch on to that and calls her out on her bullshit.

But instead of calling her out, Victoria’s face lits up and takes a step towards Max into her personal space. Max takes two steps back and immediately has her back pressed against her door with a soft thud.

Victoria is so very near to her now. Max hugs her guitar bag close, desperately trying to create some space between herself and her photography classmate who is now dangerously close to her.

So close, Max can smell the intoxicating scent of Victoria’s perfume.

Flora tone with a hint of lavender.

“Max…” Victoria says, lips parted as she looks into Max’s eyes.

Green, emerald eyes so brilliant and curious and excited. Max inhaled sharply. She can feel her face heating up. Her heart pounds wildly in her chest.

“Have you ever heard of the Twenty One Pirates?”

Max gulps audibly.

“Um…I guess?” Max replies nervously.

Victoria seems extremely pleased with that answer. “Great! Do you know how to play their songs on your guitar?”

Max can feel beads of cold sweat forming on her forehead. “Er… Maybe?”

“Good, let’s go into your room.”

“What!?”

“Or you prefer my room? Whatevs. Just bring your guitar. I want you to play a song for me.” Not even waiting for Max to respond, Victoria grabs her hand and drags her into Victoria’s room before slamming the door shut.

Victoria walks straight to her laptop to fiddle with something, leaving Max standing awkwardly at the door, not knowing what to do. She has never been into Victoria’s room and is just trying to take in as much as she can of this new environment.

Soft, warm light illuminates Victoria’s room; photographs and posters are plastered on the wall; a LED television sits in a corner of her room; her shelves are filled with anime figurines. Max can’t take her eyes off the Saber figurine from Fate/Stay Night.

Victoria likes anime too?

Suddenly, the air is filled with the strumming of a guitar and beats of a drum – a melody extremely familiar to Max. She knows this song like the back of her hand. After all, she wrote it.

It’s the opening number she sang this evening.

Max’s breath hitches when the singing starts. Her voice is now playing through Victoria’s Bose speakers, a voice that sounds so foreign to her, even though she knows it is her own voice.

“Sounds great, isn’t it?” Victoria turns to look at Max with admiration in her eyes. Max has never seen Victoria in this state before. 

“Captain has such a great voice. She must be a real charmer behind the mask.”

Max coughs, trying to clear the lump of anxiety that has raised from the pit of her stomach to her throat. If only Victoria knows how far from reality that assumption is.

Victoria doesn’t seem to notice Max’s uneasiness. She is too engrossed in the music that has now filled her room.

The song soon reaches the chorus.

Victoria closes her eyes and hums along. Her voice is surprisingly pleasant.

Max just stands there awkwardly, watching Victoria enjoying the song.

Her song.

Humming happily along with the voice from the speaker

Her voice.

Victoria sways her body to the beat of the drums and breaks into a little dance.

Max can’t help but smiles.

Victoria is really indulging herself in Twenty One Pirate’s music.

Her music.

It’s the greatest recognition any musician can have.

Soon the singing stops and the music ends with the loud crash of Davy’s cymbals.

Immediately, Victoria whips her head over to look at Max expectedly.

“So?”

Max looks at her, confused.

“So?”

“Can you play that song or not?” Victoria demands, crossing her arms impatiently.

Max looks away from Victoria and bites down on her lips.

Of course she can. But Max is unsure if she should do it and risk having her identity exposed.

“But… why?” Max asks but withers when Victoria glares at her for daring to ask a question.

“I just want to hear it live again. If you don’t know how to play it, just say so. Don’t waste my time.” Victoria scoffs and walks towards Max to reach for the door behind her. “You can get out now.”

“W- wait,” Max blurts out before Victoria can open the door. “I’ll play it. B- but I am not that good.”

Victoria rolls her eyes into her socket. Max wonders how many times Victoria has done that tonight. “Obviously. Just don’t suck.”

Victoria walks to her couch and sits down, waving Max over to take the seat beside her. Max nods obediently and scurries over to the couch, leaving a conscious gap between them.

As Max takes out her guitar from the bag, Victoria adds menacingly. “Don’t butcher the song, hippie. Or I will butcher you.”

Max shudders.

Victoria will probably cut her up into pieces and dispose of her body in the Pacific Ocean if she screws up. Max is certain Victoria has a yacht to get that done easily. Hell, she probably has servants to dispose of the dead body for her and she doesn’t even need to lift a finger.

She swallows nervously at that thought.

Max adjusts her guitar and anchors it on her lap. Her fingers can’t stop shaking as she positions them on the fretboard. This feels more stressful than even her first gig, with Victoria’s glare boring into her very existence.

However, the moment her fingers dance on the guitar, she hears Victoria lets out a small, almost inaudible gasp.

She fumbles a little with the opening, not entirely on purpose since she is feeling nervous, and she can sense Victoria relaxes into the song, head bobbing with the rhythm.

Then, at the part where the vocals are supposed to start, Victoria sings.

She sings.

Reading the lyrics off her phone, Victoria sings the song that Max has sang earlier.

Her voice is not perfect nor does she hit all the notes.

In fact, she even misses the rhythm of the song which Max has to deliberately slow down for her to catch up.

But her voice is breathtaking.

And the moment is magical.

So magical, Max lets go of all her inhibitions and harmonizes with Victoria.

Their voices melded together perfectly.

Victoria looks at Max in surprise, eyes wide with awe and astonishment. But she continues singing with Max, a big smile plastered on her face.

As they reach the end of the song, Victoria closes her eyes and pours her heart singing the last verse.

Max strums her guitar hard, trying to match the intensity of Victoria’s emotions.

The vocals finish first, and Victoria rests her head on the backrest of her couch, smiling contently as Max continues to finish playing the closing of the song on her guitar.

Her eyes remain close even after the song has ended and the room is silent again. The smile never leaving her face.

Max just gazes at her, with the same smile on her face.

Comfortable silence fills the air.

At that moment, no words are needed.

Just heavier breathing from both Victoria and Max from the exhilaration of their earlier session.

But the peaceful moment only lasts a few seconds.

Victoria’s eyes flick open and Max instantly turns the other way, her face turning all shades of red as she’s almost caught staring at Victoria.

“You’re not bad, hippie,” Victoria says in a gentle voice. “Maybe we can do this again.”

Max nods in response, too overwhelmed to utter a single word after sharing that wonderful moment with the queen of Blackwell.

They stare at each other for a few seconds before Victoria clears her throat and shifts uncomfortably in her seat,

“Well then,” Victoria stands up and hastily walks to her door. Max takes the hint and stands up as well, grabbing her guitar and guitar bag with her.

Victoria grips the door handle and hesitates.

“Maybe we can go to Twenty One Pirate’s gig one day.” She says without turning to look at Max, which is great because Max’s face is going from red to white in record time the moment Victoria says that.

“Um…” Max searches for words to say. How can she go with Victoria to her own gig? But Max is never good at turning people down.

“W- we can do that… I guess.”

How is Max going to do that?

“Good.” Victoria finally turns to look at Max. There is a small smile on her face which quickly disappears. “Now get out of my room, Smallfield.”

It’s a half-hearted insult with no thorns nor spikes. In fact, it sounded affectionate.

But Max doesn’t need to be told twice. She scampers out of Victoria’s room and hurriedly heads straight to her own room, grabbing the handle of her door to give it a push, rushing in without even turning on the lights.

She closes the door and leans her back on it, letting out a breath she doesn’t know she was holding.

Max’s blood is pulsing through her veins and she can hear her heart pounding in her ears.

She looks at her fingers, still red from playing the guitar.

Did that really just happen?

Meanwhile, Victoria is leaning against the door on her shoulder, trying to ease her beating heart.

She just had the most amazing singing experience with a neighbor she barely knew.

What is that about?

Victoria and Max cannot believe they actually sang with each other.

Max and Victoria are both glad that they did.

Because it has been a great night.

The night they met.

 

Chapter Text

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Chloe is practically on the edge of her seat with her whole body leaning over the table like she is about to kiss Max. Max quickly grabs her cup of latte to prevent Chloe from knocking it over.

It is a slow, Saturday afternoon and Max is having a much needed cup of latte at the Foxhole Cafe, the coffee shop that Chloe is working in. She still hasn’t quite gotten over the excitement from last night — not the excitement from the gig, she has gotten used to performing in front of a crowd with a mask covering her face. But the excitement of singing unplugged with someone else other than Chloe? That is her first.

“You were actually in Icky Vicky’s room and you both sang a duet?” Chloe asked excitedly, her face inches away from Max’s.

“Um… well, ya...” Max grips her cup nervously, eyes shifting to look anywhere but her bandmate.

Chloe’s classic shit-eating grin just gets wider by the second, relishing the information that Max has just shared with her. “And you didn’t jump into bed with her after that and bang her into the ground?”

“Chloe!” Max exclaims, hands covering her face as if trying to prevent it from exploding out of embarrassment. “We just sang. That’s all! Nothing happened!”

“She invited you into her room! It’s a Netflix and chill situation… except, it’s sing and chill. So what happened to the chill part?”

“We sang and she asked me to get out!” Max is exasperated trying to explain the situation to Chloe. But Chloe is not letting this golden opportunity to tease her childhood best friend slips by.

“Are you sure she didn’t say ‘ Get down and eat me out ’?”

Max reaches over to smack Chloe on her shoulder, earning a yowl from her, which slowly turns into guffaws as Max’s face turns into a deep shade of red.

“I don’t want to talk to you anymore.” Max turns away and pouts, drawing a louder laughter from her best friend.

“Damn, Max,” Chloe shoves playfully at her. “You missed a chance to have your V card punched.”

“Not talking to you!” Max replies, still clearly talking to Chloe.

“You’re the famous Captain of the infamous Twenty One Pirates! Stop embarrassing me and go get laid.”

“Still not talking to you!” Max replies and blows a raspberry at Chloe.

“What a minute. You sang to her and she didn’t even realize you’re Captain?" Chloe places her hand beneath her chin and ponders. “Icky Vicky is pretty darn dense, isn’t she?”

“Chloe, can you give me a hand?” A voice calls out from behind the coffee counter.

“What do you want my hand to do for you, Steph?” Chloe shouts back in a mischievous tone, holding her hand up in the air.

Steph Gingrich, a girl with a white beanie over her head with ginger hair showing underneath the beanie peeks out from behind the coffee machine and glares intensely at Chloe. “You better haul your ass over here, Chloe Price. Now.”

“First my hand, now my ass. I know I’m irresistible but can’t you be a little subtle with your advances?” Chloe grins at Steph while wiggling her eyebrows. Steph throws a tablecloth at Chloe in response. Chloe ducks and the tablecloth hits a soft surface with a wet thud.

“Whoa!” A squeal, follows by a burst of giggles.

Steph, Chloe, and Max turn simultaneously to the source of the voice.

Standing in the doorway is a girl with honey blonde hair; cat-like, hazel brown eyes; perky, pink lips with sharp jawlines. She is wearing a red flannel shirt and black leather pants, complete with a studded leather belt around her tiny waist. A blue feather dangles on her left ear, swaying from side to side as she giggles. In her right hand is the tablecloth that Steph has just thrown, caught perfectly in her clenched fist.

Steph’s face lights up at the sight of this beautiful girl.

“Rachel!” she yells and runs towards the girl at the doorway, wrapping her into a tight embrace. “How have you been? Nice catch, by the way.”

“Never expect the reflex exercises that my trainer makes me do will come in handy in a cafe.” The girl, Rachel, laughs as she returns Steph’s hug. “Never a dull moment with you, Stephy.”

Max, who is watching the whole spectacle quietly, immediately recognizes the girl. She turns to look at Chloe and whispers, “Chlo, it’s Coupons!”

“Shh!” Chloe hisses at Max, her eyes shifting nervously to Rachel, who is still chatting happily with Steph.

It is Rachel Dawn Amber.

The rising star of the modeling world.

The ‘Top 10 New Faces to Watch’ according to Harper's Bazaar.

The most popular student of Blackwell High School two years ago.

The girl everyone has a crush on in high school, including Chloe Price.

Chloe blinks.

And blinks again ten more times.

She cannot believe Rachel is here.

Right now.

In the cafe.

In front of her.

This is a perfect opportunity.

She needs to talk to Rachel.

Needs to go up and introduce herself.

And asks her for her number.

She knows what she needs to do but Chloe just freezes on the spot with her jaws clench shut.

‘C’mon! Go say hi! You’re not Awkward Max. You’re Chloe Price, for goodness sake. Walk up to her, introduce yourself and get her damn number!’

Still, her legs won’t move. She opens her mouth but it only gapes stupidly.

Max quirks her eyebrows at Chloe, watching her best friend open and shut her mouth repeatedly like a goldfish trying to get fish food in the water. She is so tempted to reach into her messenger bag and take out her polaroid camera to snap a picture of Chloe looking awkward. But she has no intention of dying in the hands of Chloe Price today.

Totally oblivious to the internal struggle that Chloe is facing, Steph calls out to her, “Hey, can you make me a hazelnut latte with soy milk? Put it on my tab.”

She then takes the tablecloth from Rachel’s hand.

“Oh, and Chloe?”

Steph turns to face Chloe.  

“Catch.”

And with a swing of her arm, throws the cloth at Chloe.

Under normal circumstances, Chloe has pretty great reflexes. She is a drummer, for god’s sake, and can do all kinds of tricks with her drumsticks while playing the drums. It’s a talent that drives many of her fans crazy during her live gig.

That is why when the tablecloth hits Chloe square in her face with a loud splat, causing her to lose her balance and falls backward, it draws a loud gasp from Max and Steph, both staring at her uselessly for a second or two before rushing forward to check on her.

“Whoa, I’m sorry, dude! You okay?” Steph asks guiltily.

“Chloe! Omigosh, Chloe!’ Max shouts while holding onto Chloe’s shoulder, trying to sit her up. “Are you okay?”

Chloe lets out a low groan. She lifts her hand to reach for that piece of dirty, wet tablecloth that is still smacked on her face. Instead, her hand touches a warm, soft hand that is removing the offending piece of fabric from her face for her.

“Hey, you alright?” asks the most soothing voice Chloe has ever heard. She blinks her eyes open and finds herself face to face with the most beautiful woman she has ever seen. Warm, hazel eyes looking at her with concern, yet with a tinge of amusement.

Chloe sits up immediately.

“Y- yeah. I- I’m fine. Damn fine.” Despite being just slapped in the face with a wet cloth, Chloe can feel the heat rushing rapidly to her face.

“You sure you’re alright? Did you hit your head?” Rachel asks as she reaches to pat the back of Chloe’s head, causing her face to turn even redder.

“I’m sure! I’ve got a skull that is thicker than rock.” Chloe replies, smiling stupidly at Rachel.

“Glad you’re okay, Chloe,” Steph says while giving her a pat on her shoulder. “Do you think you’re well enough to get me that hazelnut latte?”

Chloe does not respond. Instead, she looks at Rachel, then at Steph, then at Max, before shifting her attention back to Rachel again. “M- my name is Chloe, by the way.”

Rachel laughs out loud at Chloe’s sudden introduction. “I figured. I am Rachel.”

Chloe smiles. “I figured.”

Steph waves at Chloe to get her attention. “Um… the hazelnut latte?”

“Oh, right,” Chloe replies before turning her attention back to Rachel again. “You like hazelnut latte?”

“I usually drink black coffee to cut down on the calories but today is my cheat day and I am really craving for a good cup of hazelnut latte.”

Upon hearing that, Chloe stands up immediately, patting dirt off her ripped jeans and white tank top. “You are in luck. Because I am the best barista in the whole of Arcadia Bay–”

“– No you’re not!” Steph protests but Chloe ignores her.

“– and I’m gonna make you the best hazelnut latte you have ever tasted. With soy milk right?”

Rachel chuckles and nods.

“One world’s best hazelnut latte, coming right up!” Chloe swaggers to the coffee machine, leaving Max and Steph throwing each other a bemused look.

“You’ve got an interesting coworker,” Rachel says to Steph.

“Oh, you’ve no idea,” Steph replies, showing Rachel to an empty seat.

Max follows Chloe to the coffee counter with a huge grin plasters across her face.

She knows how much Chloe likes Rachel since high school. She also knows Chloe never dared to approach Rachel at Blackwell High.

After all, Rachel was the princess of Blackwell High, one of the popular kids and a straight-A student. Whereas Chloe was the kid that just lost her father, her grades suffered as a result and she dropped out of high school in her sophomore year.

That is why Chloe took up drumming. She was so angry with her life that her mom, Joyce, thought it would be great for her to take up drumming lessons to vent all her anger hammering on the drum sets. It paved her way to becoming the great drummer of Twenty One Pirates.

“Chlo…” Max starts.

“Max, don’t start.” Chloe cuts in while preparing the coffee.

“...It’s Coupons.” Max continues nonetheless.

“Argh. Stop calling her that.”

“You need to get her number.” Max urges.

“I know. But I need to make the perfect hazelnut latte for her first so don’t talk to me until that’s done.”

“Wow, Chlo. Since when are you serious about your barista work.”

“Shut up, Maxipad.”

Max shuts up alright because out of all the nicknames that Chloe loves giving her, Maxipad is the worst of them all. She hates it and Chloe knows that. So Chloe will always use Maxipad on Max if she wants to win an argument.

Max just stands there observing Chloe intently. She is really hard at work making that coffee for Rachel. Max has never seen her so focused on her job before.

Like Max, Chloe is a great musician that takes great pride in her craft. Performing on stage as Davy, she’s always super focus and never plays a beat wrong. Other aspects of Chloe’s life, however, is lackluster. Since the death of her dad, William Price, Chloe has lost the drive for anything else other than drumming. Doesn’t help that Joyce remarried a military veteran who is constantly on Chloe’s case.

It’s been a while since Max sees Chloe so serious about something other than the drums.

“It’s done!” Chloe says as she sprinkles some hazelnut praline powder on top of the drink.

She brings the coffee to the table where Steph and Rachel are sitting and set it down in front of Rachel.

“Here ya go, the best hazelnut latte in the whole of Arcadia Bay.”

Steph rolls her eyes at Chloe while Rachel laughs.

“Thanks, Chloe.” Rachel picked up the cup and presses her lips onto the edge to take a sip. Chloe watches her with trepidation, waiting for a verdict.

“Mmm, it’s really good. You ain’t kidding that this is the best hazelnut latte in Arcadia Bay,” Rachel gives Chloe a thumbs up.

Chloe beams at Rachel, feeling a sudden gush of heat coming over her in the cafe. She removes her beanie and scrunches it in her hands. “Told ya. I’m the best barista around here.”

“No, you’re not!” Steph objects, shaking her head.

Rachel’s eyes widen as she stares at Chloe’s hair with great interest. “Hey! I just realize your hair is blue!”

Rachel stands up and walks up to Chloe, leaning so close to her, Chloe can smell the light, bergamot scent of her shampoo.

She feels light-headed. The girl she has a crush on since high school is standing right in front of her. And she smells so good.

This must be what heaven feels like.

Rachel reaches over to Chloe and runs her fingers through Chloe’s hair gently, her touch sending shivers down Chloe’s body, causing her breath to hitch.

Max watches from her table with amusement and wonders if Rachel is teasing Chloe on purpose because Chloe’s face is so red, it looks like it’s about to explode.

“I really love the color!” Rachel breathes out, her breath hot on Chloe’s cheeks. Rachel is so close to her.

“Th- thanks. I colored it myself.” Chloe manages to squeak out.

“I need to wear a blue wig for one of my shoots. Don’t think it looks good on me. Blue looks amazing on you, Chloe.” Rachel continues, her fingers still running through Chloe’s hair.

Chloe is going to explode. Max is very sure of it. Anytime now, Chloe Price is going to explode like a hot air balloon. She reaches into her bag and takes out her Polaroid camera because when Chloe goes into spontaneous combustion, Max will make sure she takes a photo of Chloe and use that to blackmail her best friend forever.

“Your hair looks amazing on you too.” Chloe blabbers mindlessly and immediately bites down on her lips for making such a stupid remark.

Rachel laughs while Steph shakes her head and does a facepalm.

“You look kinda familiar, Chloe,” Rachel says while tucking Chloe’s blue hair behind her ears. “Aren’t you from Blackwell High?”

“She was,” Stephy says. “Played D&D with me and Mikey sometimes.”

“Ah… a nerd,” Rachel quips.

“Hey, I’m not a nerd.” Chloe protests.

“Really? Too bad. I like nerds.” Rachel replies with a wink. Steph rolls her eyes. Chloe blushes like a little girl.

“Like real, you do. You have never joined me for D&D before.” Steph adds.

“That’s because you’re not my kinda nerd.” Rachel jokes, shoving Steph playfully. Steph shoves back a little harder.

“You both seems... close.” Chloe probes.

“She’s practically a stranger to me,” Steph replies, drawing a loud gasp from Rachel, as she splays her hand across her chest feigning shock.

“Ouch, that hurts! Steph, we dated.” Rachel whines.

Chloe’s heart sinks at this information.

“It was one month! And clearly a mistake.” Steph huffs out, looking slightly annoyed but her lips are still curled up into a small smile.

Rachel giggles. “Cos you’re not my kinda nerd.”

“More like you’re not my cuppa coffee.” Steph rebuts.

Chloe silently heaves a sigh of relief.

“Chloe,” Steph looks at Chloe who is still standing there and showing no signs of returning to work. “I’m gonna take a break. I’ll leave the cafe to you, alright?”

Chloe wants to protest, wants to open her mouth and asks Rachel for her number but the words are stuck in her throat.

She nods and walks back to the coffee counter, dejected.

Max saunters over to Chloe with a cheeky grin. “Never get her number?”

“Don’t rub it in, Max. I’m not in the mood.”

Max holds out a polaroid photo and waves it in front of Chloe’s face. “I’ve just the thing to lift your mood.”

Chloe shifts her attention from wiping the coffee counter to the photograph.

It’s a picture of Rachel and Chloe.

Max has captured the exact moment Rachel tucks Chloe’s hair behind her ear, smiling warmly at Chloe.

Chloe snatches the photo and looks at Max gratefully.

“Dude! My best friend! My Captain! My Supermax! My hero!”

“So I’ve done what I can for you, Chlo. The rest is up to you.” Max reaches for her phone to look at the time. “I gotta go back to Blackwell now. I’ve a studying session with Kate.”

Max grabs her messenger bag and finishes her latte. “Make sure you get her number.”

“Hey, I’m Chloe Price, Davy of the famous Twenty One Pirates. I’ll get that number. Mark my words.”

Max gives Chloe a hug. “Alright, good luck!”

Then, waves goodbye at Steph and gives Rachel a smile before walking out of the Foxhole Cafe.

She hopes Chloe will be okay on her own.

Although her best friend is charming and confident and have a lot more experiences with girls than Max has, she can be a total mess when it comes to Rachel Amber.

Max recalls all the time Chloe called her on the phone to whine about all the lost opportunities with Rachel in high school. Chloe would always get tongue tied or frozen when she saw Rachel in the hallway.

Today is the first time Chloe actually has a decent conversation with Rachel and Max really hopes something good will come out of it for her best friend.

Max catches the bus back to Blackwell College and has almost reached her destination when her phone beeps.

It’s Chloe.

The Price is Right: I failz. Kill me Max.

Max sighs. She can’t believe Chloe has failed her mission.

Max: Its ok. Just ask fr steph for her no.

The Price is Right: I cant do tt! They dated. Wat if steph still likes her?

Max: =/  I dun think she likes her that way now. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The Price is Right: Im feeling like shite now so NO EMOJI!

Max places her phone back into her bag.

They are dorks. Twenty One Pirates are made up of two socially inept dorks.

Max shakes her head.

 

=====

 

Meanwhile, in room 221, Victoria Chase has just received a new message notification.

Rachel Amber’s name flashes on her screen.

“Damn. The bitch is back.” Victoria mumbles to herself.

Chapter Text

“Why don’t you just ask Steph for Coupon’s number? They seem close.”

Max is having her daily chat with Chloe on the phone and tonight’s conversation is exceptionally important, since it involved her best friend’s crush. Max has her earphones on so her hands can be free to do other more important things, like fetching seaweed flavored potato chips into her mouth.

“Are you outta your mind? I’m not gonna ask Steph for her ex’s number!” Chloe exclaims a little too loudly, causing David to storm out of his room.

Chloe braces herself for David to open her door and barge into her room without permission like he always does. But lucky for her tonight, her step-douche chooses to shout at her through her door instead.

“Chloe! Keep it down! Unlike you, people in this house have actual jobs and we need our sleep!”

And she can hear her step-douche stomping back into Joyce’s room.

“Ugh! He’s such an annoying jackass.” Chloe plonks herself onto her bed. “Can’t wait to move out of this shithole.”

“That’s why we have 3 gigs lined up next week. To earn more money. You even accepted that gig at the abandoned mill in the middle of nowhere. Hope it doesn’t get us killed.” Max reaches for her phone to check her performance schedule. They have a gig every night next weekend.

It’s cool that Chloe wants to kick-start their band career by doing more gigs, in hopes of getting spotted by a record producer. But some of these underground clubs can be really creepy.

“Pfffft. Max, don’t be a pussy. That abandon mill is a famous underground club call Timbre and it’s the only place that can pay double of what Raven is paying us. You should be glad I got us this gig. Only the big names like Firewalk gets to perform there.”

Chloe gets up to open the window and let the cool breeze in. It’s starting to get chilly.

She lights up a cigarette and takes in a long drag.

“Right. I just hope our fans will know how to get to that place.” Max continues munching on her pack of potato chips while searching on Google map for that abandon mill club.

“Don’t worry. Our fans love us and they will be there to support us. Look, I’ll put up the location map on our Twenty One Pirates Facebook page. They will know how to get there.” Chloe flicks the burning ashes of her cigarette out of the window. She takes a puff, exhales before continuing.

“You know, I’ve been getting lots of fan messages lately on Facebook. Mostly about how much they love our songs and love our gigs. But last night, I’ve actually gotten a nude photo from a fan. She said she’s in love with Captain and is dying to meet you.” Chloe laughs in amusement. “You lucky dog!”

Max chokes on her potato chips and starts coughing non-stop. “Wh- what? You’re kidding, right?”

Chloe cackles at Max’s reaction. She can imagine her best friend blushing profusely just with the idea that some groupie has sent her a nude picture. “She is quite hot. Do you want to see that picture? I can send it to you right now.”

“S- Stop!” Max cries out. “No, no, no. We are supposed to talk about you and Coupons tonight. Stop trying to divert the attention to me.”

“Oh? So you’re not interested? Does it have anything to do with that invitation to a particular blonde neighbor’s room that night?”

“Like I told you, nothing happened between me and Victoria, okay! And nothing will happen. Now tell me. Do you want to get Coupon’s number from Steph or do you want me to do it? Because I’m tired of you buying women magazines and looking like a sick puppy.”

It’s Chloe’s turn to blush. “Hey! I already told you, those magazines are for the coupons!”

“Yes, Coupons. I know.” Max smiles smugly.

“I- It’s true! And don’t you dare ask Steph for Rachel’s number. I’ll think about what to do.” Chloe runs her fingers through her blue hair in frustration.

“— but,”

“I’m going to send that nude pic to you if you say another word.”

“Alright! I’ll stop!”

“Good.”

“But don’t you want to know why Coupons is back —“

“I’m uploading that nude pic and tagging you on Facebook right now .”

“Okay! Okay! No more Rachel Amber!”

“Yes. Just drop it already, Maxipad.” Chloe sighs. She knows Max is just trying to help. But when it comes to Rachel Amber, it just gets a little complicated.

She’s an up and coming model now. How can she just ask for her number like some creepy groupie? Besides, she is still not over the fact that Steph and Rachel once dated. When was that? Why didn’t she know? Was it after her expulsion from Blackwell High? Why didn’t Steph tell her about it? And why Steph?

Well, Steph Gingrich is pretty hot, if Chloe can say so herself. She has even wondered a little too often if she should ask Steph out for a date, just for the fun of it.

But this is Rachel Amber she is talking about. Rachel is on a totally different level from everyone in Arcadia Bay. Hell, Rachel can even date Ellen Page if she wants to. She’s on the scale of eleven out of ten.

“Chlo? Are you still there?” Max calls out, wondering if the reception from her phone has dropped.

“Yes, yes, you don’t have to shout, geez,” Chloe says as she stubs out her cigarette into the overflowing ashtray and closes the window. It is getting too cold for comfort.

“Now can we go through the songs we want to perform this week?” Max asks as she opens her room door and walks towards the shower room to wash her hands after her little snack.

“I’m thinking of doing something different for our performance in Timbre.” Chloe sits at her desk and turns on her computer to do some googling. She has always wanted to end her gig with a bang. Preferably an explosion but no clubs will ever allow that.

“Are you having some crazy ideas again?” Max pushes the shower room door and goes in, her voice echoing with each word as the door closes. Someone is taking a shower in the extreme left cubicle.

“You know, we should end the performance with a paintball party, shooting the fans with paintball! How about that?” Chloe continues excitedly.

“What? Are you trying to kill unexpected fans?” Max replies into the earphone mic as she turns on the faucet to wash her hands after stuffing her phone into her pocket.

“Imagine ending the performance with the song, Knives for Hands. The fans will be screaming and cheering, then BAM! Paintball party!” Chloe is on a roll. Who cares if it’s unconventional? punk bands do crazy things all the time. They’re not a punk band, but they can be unconventional. She’s going to end the gig with a bang.

“What? Knives for Hands? Eww.” Max protests, this time over the choice of song. “I…” She pauses and realizes she’s still in the shower room. “ Captain did such a terrible job with this song. Can’t quite hit the high notes most of the time. Are you sure? It’s a terrible choice.”

Max does not expect to meet the person who is in the showers. It is supposed to be a quick run to the shower room to wash her hands and back to the comfort of her room. But as soon as she finishes her sentence, she is hit by a shower loofah on her shoulder.

“Lamefield!?” A familiar voice booms out, sending echoes reverberating in the shower room like it is on Dolby Digital stereo with surround sound quality. Max is giddy just listening to it. “How dare you!?”

The steam from the shower clears and standing in front of Max is the queen of Blackwell, Victoria Chase, with nothing more than a pink towel covering her slim body, water still dripping from her wet, golden blonde hair onto her fair, pale skin.

Max can feel her face flushing red but she simply can’t take her eyes off the alluring sight before her. She parted her lips to gasp softly.

Victoria doesn’t seem to care that she’s almost naked if not for that flimsy piece of towel wrapped around her body. She stomps towards Max angrily and is once again in Max’s personal space. Max tries to take a step back but her back is pressed against the sink and she is once again trapped between Victoria Chase and a hard place.

“How dare you, Lamefield!? Just because you can play one Twenty One Pirates’ song, doesn’t mean you can talk shit about them. Who do you think you are?” Victoria presses her finger on Max’s chest, poking her as she goes ballistic.

“Captain can’t hit the notes for Knives for Hands? Captain can hit all the notes just fine. I’ve listened to this song many times and it’s perfect. Do you think YOU can reach the notes of this song like Captain can?” Victoria’s stares daggers into Max’s eyes. Max just gapes at her, not knowing what to say.

“Cat got your tongue? Don’t you have plenty of opinion on Captain and the Twenty One Pirates?” Victoria continues stabbing Max’s chest with her finger.

“Um…” Max’s mind has gone blank and spits out the first thing that comes to her mind. “Thanks?”

“Thanks??” Victoria’s eyes widen in shock at Max’s unexpected response. “I can’t believe this. Are you trying to be sarcastic?”

“N- no. I mean, I’m happy you think that song is perfect, even though Captain do have trouble reaching those —”

“Stop! Don’t you dare say another word about Captain. Are you trying to piss me off? I’ll not have you insulting Captain again. God! You’re such a social retard!” Victoria lets out a grunt of frustration and shoves past Max, splattering water from her short hair onto Max’s face, as she storms out of the shower room.

Max just stands there in a daze. Everything happens so fast, she doesn’t even know what’s going on and why Victoria has just gone nuts on her. The only thing she remembers from that exchange is how very close Victoria is standing to her, how nice she smells right after the shower, how pale and flawless Victoria’s skin is, and how very hot Victoria looks with water dripping from her beautiful, blonde hair.

“Max? Supermax? You still there?”

Remembering that she’s actually in the middle of a phone call with Chloe, she snaps out of her daze and replies, “Y- yeah. I’m still here.”

“Whoa! Maximus! What the fuck was that about? Did you… did you just get rekt?” Chloe starts laughing so hard that it was almost impossible to understand her.

"Ha-ha-ha! Is that…” Chloe has to stop to take a breath.

“Is that Victoria? Did that queen bitch just go batshit crazy on you because you were criticizing yourself for not being able to hit a note?”

“I don’t know,” Max says. “I think so? I don’t know why she’s so angry though.”

“She likes you, dummy! Well, not you, you, but Captain. Looks like you’ve yourself a hardcore fan, Supermax. Well done!”

“She doesn’t like me!” Max raises her voice at that ridiculous thought.

Realizing that she is still in the shower room and it is not exactly the most conducive place to talk about this with Chloe, as demonstrated by Victoria’s outburst earlier, Max rushes out to go straight to her room but not before stealing a peek at her neighbor’s door. It is shut, obviously, but there’s soft music coming from her room. She recognizes that song immediately.

It’s her song, Knives for Hands.

Victoria thinks that song is perfect. The song which Max always believes is the worst song she has ever recorded. Victoria actually thinks it’s perfect.

Max can’t help but glow at that revelation. Maybe she’s not that bad a vocalist after all.

“Earth to Max. Hello?”

She’s spacing out again. Bad habit, Max. Stop doing that.

“Sorry, was trying to get back into my room ASAP.” Max explains.

“So… your neighbor ambushed you, in the shower room of all places,” Chloe says cheekily. “Was she… naked when she ambushed you?”

“Wh- wh- what?” Max sputters uselessly. “N- no! No, no, no, no, no!”

“That means yes, right?” Chloe teases in a sing-song manner. “You just saw your crush naked, that’s why you’re in such a daze.”

“No, Chlo! She has a towel!”

Only a towel? Wow… Is your nose bleeding from over stimulation now?”

“S- stop it!”

Chloe roars out in laughter. Teasing her best friend is Chloe’s favorite activity because it is so easy to read Max.

“If we drop this topic right now, I am even willing to consider your paintball idea.” Max bargains out of exasperation.

“Deal! So are we cool ending the gig with a paintball party?”

The good thing about Chloe is that she is easily distracted and can jump from one topic to another at the snap of a finger. Max heaves a sigh of relief.

“I’m not sure if Timbre will allow us to bring a paintball gun to the club. Why don’t we just do something less dangerous.” Max tries to talk Chloe down from this crazy idea.

She’s played paintball once. It hurts like hell when hit. And she was hit a lot. Never again, Max.

“You’re such a killjoy, you know that, Maximus? Why are we even friends?” Chloe sinks into her seat and picks up her drumstick.

“So that I can keep your crazy ideas in check and prevent you from getting arrested?”

“Hmm,” Chloe hums as she twirls her drumstick between her fingers. “You’ve got a point.”

“So something less dangerous. Confetti?”

“What are you? Nine? No confetti. We’re not having a birthday party.” Chloe groans as the drumstick she is twirling fell out of her fingers. She bent down to pick it up and sees a can of paint underneath her desk which she uses for her graffiti.

“How about we end it with paint—”

“— no paintball,” Max emphasizes again.

“It’s just paint. We dip our palms in paint and go down to the pit to press our handprints on a few  lucky fans. It’s innovative, it’s fresh, it’s fun and I get to touch some boobies.”

“Chloe!”

“I’m joking! Jesus, Max, lighten up!”

Chloe loves Max to bits but she really can’t stand how serious Max can be sometimes. She thinks too much and is always second guessing everything, including herself. If not for Chloe, they would have never started Twenty One Pirates. Max is very talented but is just too afraid to put herself out there. It took a lot of persuading, a lot of coaxing, a lot of blackmailing and a crazy idea of performing in masks to convince Max into starting the band. Otherwise, Max could never even have taken a step on stage, let alone sing in front of so many people.

“I don’t know, Chloe… It just seems so out of this world…” Max is starting to second guess her idea again.

“We need new ideas to differentiate ourselves from the hundreds of indie bands out there! Do you want to be just another Pisshead?”

That strikes a chord. Max doesn’t just want Twenty One Pirates to be another indie band. She wants to be signed by a reputable record company and cut an official album. She wants her photograph to be the cover of her first album. Max has big dreams when it comes to their band and she is forever grateful to Chloe for pushing her out of her comfort zone to set up Twenty One Pirates.

“Alright, Chlo. We will do it your way. Just give Timbre a heads up, okay? I don’t want us to be thrown out of the club.” Max finally says.

“Stop worrying! Leave everything to me. I’ll make sure —”

Their conversation is interrupted by an urgent banging on Max’s door.

“There’s someone at the door. I’ll text you later alright?” Max ends the call without waiting for Chloe to respond because whoever is banging on her door is about to tear her door down. Max rushes over and opens the door. “Who is —”

“Took you long enough, Smallfield.” Standing outside her door is none other than Victoria Chase. Her hair is no longer wet but set nicely like she has just styled her hair. Her pink towel has been replaced with a cashmere top and a denim shorts, showing off her long legs.

Max wonders if Victoria goes to bed looking like this every night. Who wears denim shorts to bed anyway?

Not waiting for Max to say a word, Victoria struts into her room like she owns the place.

“Y-yes, Victoria? What do you want?” Max manages to stutter out.

Victoria ignores Max as she examines Max’s room. This is the first time Victoria has ever steps into her room. Max tries to kick her dirty hoodie under her bed when Victoria is not looking.

“Um…” Max wills herself not to tremble when she talks to Victoria. “You need anything?’

Victoria turns sharply to face Max, causing Max to let out a shriek in surprise.

“Max Lamefield. Your taste in music is as bad as your taste in fashion.” Victoria finally speaks.

“Hey! That’s not true! Syd Matters is awesome!”

“Shush! I’m not done.” Victoria presses her finger on Max’s lips to hush her. Max immediately lost her words. She can feel a rush of blood to her face.

“Therefore, I’ve decided to introduce you to the greatness of Twenty One Pirates.” Victoria continues as her smirk widens. “You should be grateful because this is a once in a lifetime experience — to hang out with me, Victoria Chase”

Max wants to ask her where exactly are they going, but that finger on her lips is just too distracting.

She can’t think straight.

“You’re going with me to Timbre this Friday night,” Victoria says smugly.

That snaps Max out of her daze.

Before she can even object, Victoria has already walked out of her door and back into her own room.

“See you in class, hipster.”

And Victoria is gone, leaving Max staring wide-eyed at Victoria’s closed door.

She has been invited to her own gig.

Max is in deep shit.

Chapter Text

“This is a disaster, Chloe. I can’t believe you’re still laughing.”

Max is having breakfast with Chloe at Two Whales before she goes for her morning class at ten, which is also the time Chloe starts her shift at Foxhole Cafe.

“C’mon, she asked you out on a date! This is hella amusing, y’know? We all know Victoria is a huge Captain fan but it seems like she has a crush on you too. If this isn’t confirmation that she’s a flaming dyke and you’re totally her type, I don’t know what is.” Chloe says before stuffing her mouth with her favorite cheeseburger.

“For the fifteenth time, it’s not a date!” Max sighs as she pokes her Belgian waffles with bacon mindlessly.

She has lost all her appetite ever since Victoria Chase asked her out last night.

To her own gig.

Max is flattered and frustrated at the same time. It’s confusing. But Max has also come to realize that when it comes to the queen of Blackwell, having mixed, confused feelings are the norm.

Chloe is chewing her food when she looks up at Max in sudden realization. “So how’re you going to have that date with her and perform as Captain at the same time?”

“Oh, you only realize that problem now?” Max pinches the bridge of her nose in weariness.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you the whole morning but you’re too excited about me having this ‘date’, ” Max flexes her fingers to sign an quotation sign in the air, “that you totally forget about this little logistic challenge, didn’t you?”

Chloe pauses to think for a while, before stuffing a fry into her mouth. “It’s a small problem. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”

“I can’t figure it out, that’s why I’m asking you. How can I be in two places at the same time?” Max picks up a piece of bacon and brings it to her mouth, chewing it slowly.

“You can just tell her you’re going to get some some fresh air when it’s nearing your gig and slip out.” Chloe shrugs before putting three more fries into her mouth.

“What if she insists on following me out? Or worse, what if she refuses to let me go out?” Max groans out in irritation. This is harder than she thought.

“Then just tell her you’re having explosive diarrhea. You can bet your ass she won’t follow you to the washroom.” Chloe chuckles at her own idea. She’s such a genius.

But if she follows you even if you tell her you’re having explosive diarrhea deadly enough to stinkbomb a small town, then you better be ready to marry her,” Chloe points her greasy index finger at Max and waves it, “Because anyone who’s willing to take your shit is a catch.”

At this point in the conversation, Max has her fingers resting on her temple as she massages it slightly. All this crazy talk is giving her a headache.

“Nah… it won’t work. I think that’s it,” Max slams her palm down forcefully on the table to show her determination. “I’ll just reject her. Tell her I’m in Portland visiting my grandma or something.”

“You sure you wanna do that?” Chloe finishes the last of her fries and takes a napkin to wipe the grease off her lips. “You will suffer from her wrath for the rest of the semester. You know that, right?”

Max shudders just thinking about the stink eye and the snarky remarks Victoria and her friends will give her.

“And for rejecting her date, she might even hire a professional assassin to have you executed. Your body will be fed to the dogs and will never be found ever again.”

“Chloe, don’t be ridiculous.” Max lets out a nervous laughter.

Although it’s not like Max has never considered it. Every encounter with Victoria feels like she’s walking through a field full of landmines. She never knows when she’ll take a wrong step and detonates a bomb strong enough to tear her into a million pieces.

“Oh, but she’s a Chase. She has the money to do whatever she wants with you. Oh boy, if you’re killed, then what will become of our band? Will it be renamed Ten and Half Pirate?” Chloe laughs heartily at her own joke.

Max just sulks because it’s not funny at all. Okay, maybe just a little funny but she’ll never admit that to Chloe.

“Don’t say I never warn you. One wrong move with queen bitch, and…” Chloe draws her thumb across her throat in a slow and painful manner. Max can almost imagine blood spurting out from that imaginary gash.

Now Max can never finish her breakfast. Why is she in such a predicament? Why can’t Victoria ask her to do something normal like shopping or taking a walk along the beach or watching a movie?

“Let’s go, Chlo. I gotta get to my tutorial and you have work.” Max daps away the grease from her lips gently with a napkin and slings her messenger bag across her shoulder.

“But you’ve not finished your food.”

“I’ve just lost my appetite, no thanks to you.”

“Let me help you with that.” Chloe picks up a fork and stabs at the last piece of bacon, stuffing it greedily into her mouth. “Don’t waste food, Mad Max. Especially bacon. It’s a sin to waste bacon.”

Max rolls her eyes at how dramatic Chloe can be when it comes to food. She can’t blame Chloe for it though. Chloe grew up in a household that cooks with love.

She remembers fondly all those times when they were young, cooking in the kitchen with Chloe’s late father, William Price. William always cooks breakfast with them, teaching them how to make fluffy pancakes, and how to cook the perfect crispy bacon.

Max misses William and she’s sure Chloe misses him even more. Chloe seldom talks about him, as it’s a wound that heals too slowly and picking the scab only leaves it raw and bloody and painful.

But that doesn’t mean Chloe don’t honor his memory. The first and only song Chloe has ever written for Twenty One Pirates is called The Price We Pay. A tribute to her dad.

“Why are you staring at me like that? Something on my face?” Chloe asks as she wipes her mouth with the back of her hand, then bunching up a napkin to rub her mouth again for good measure.

“It’s nothing. Let’s go.” Max pushes herself up from the booth and walks towards the exit. She is not going to pick the scab covering Chloe’s wound. She is not going to leave Chloe feeling raw and bloody and painful.

Not again.

Not ever.

 

=====

 

Victoria is in class early, like she always does, seated near the front with Taylor by her side.

Max is late for class, like she always does, seated at the back, alone.

Max’s good friend from high school, Kate Marsh, no longer takes photography classes. Instead, she is now taking illustration classes at Blackwell College to prepare herself for the children’s book she is planning to publish after she graduates.

So Max is always sitting alone in photography class. Fading into the background and observing people is what she does best.

Well, observing everyone except the lecturer, that is.

The lecturer drones on and on. Something about aperture, something about shadows, something about shutter speed.

Max is not listening. She’s staring at the bitchy queen, thinking about that date – no, no, no, the hangout session – that’s going to happen on Friday. She’s thinking about how fair and pale Victoria’s skin is, like porcelain. She’s thinking about how Victoria sang off key to her song, swaying to the rhythm like she’s truly enjoying herself. She’s thinking about how Victoria actually think her song is perfect.

“Maxine? Maxine Caulfield?”

Max is not listening. She is watching Victoria Chase, noticing that she has slowly turned her head to face Max. Time seems to slow down at that moment, as Victoria raises her perfectly manicured fingers to sweep her beautiful, blonde hair out of her eyes to focus her attention on Max. When her deep, green eyes catch Max’s sky blue eyes, Max looks down, embarrassed to be caught staring.

But from the corner of her eyes, she can see the corner of Victoria’s lips slowly curling up into a lopsided smile.

“Max Caulfield!”

“Y- Yes!” Max snaps her head towards the source of the voice, startled.

Her lecturer is glaring at her, looking annoyed.

The class laughs and suddenly she feels like she is back in high school again, under the intense scrutiny of the many pairs of judgy eyes. She sinks into her seat, hoping she can just disappear from this embarrassing moment.

“Pay attention, please! You are pairing with Victoria for today’s assignment.” The lecturer sounds impatient, but he soon moves his attention to the next student.

Victoria gives Max a smirk before signaling Max to take a  seat beside her with a tilt of her head. Taylor has already moved to sit with her photography partner for the assignment, Daniel DaCosta.

“Have your head stuck in space again, Spaceman?” Victoria mocks but there’s no real malice in her tone. “You should come back to Earth someday. We have invented the digital camera here.”

Max rolls her eyes at Victoria but can’t help the tinge of pink creeping up to her face. She can’t believe she has been assigned to work with Victoria today. What are the chances?

“Polaroid camera works just fine if you have the skills to operate it.” Max rebuts, causing Victoria to gasp in shock.

“Are you trying to say I don’t have the skills to operate an antique trash like that??”

Max smiles smugly. It’s so easy to rile Victoria up. “We can always try using it for our assignment later.”

“Are you nuts? We’re supposed to take photographs in the studio today with a model. No Polaroid camera allowed!”

“Right. If you say so.” Max replies nonchalantly and turns away.

Victoria furrows her brows, her nose flaring in anger. How dare this hipster trash doubt her photography skills?

“Give me your camera,” Victoria demands.

“Why?”

“Just give it to me.” Victoria holds out her hand impatiently at Max.

Max reaches for her camera and hands it over reluctantly. “Don’t smash my camera. It’s not cheap.”

“Puh-lease! It’s many times cheaper than my Hasselblad,” Victoria rebuffs as she snatches Max’s camera over.

Before Max knows it, Victoria has the camera aimed at Max and the shutter is pressed. A photograph soon ejects out of the camera.

“Wh- what are you doing?” Max questions as Victoria takes the newly developed picture and gives it a few shakes. She looks at it, smile in satisfaction and hands it to Max.

Max takes the photo and her breath hitches.

In that few seconds Victoria had with her camera, she not only manages to adjust the camera to frame Max perfectly in the photo, she also manages to capture the angle and lighting that actually makes Max looks dreamy and beautiful.

Max never know she can look this good.

“Well?” Victoria asks, her voice is laced with a hint of arrogance.

“It’s – it’s – wowser ,” Max says breathlessly as she turns to look at Victoria, her sky blue eyes twinkling.

Victoria swallows the lump that is suddenly stuck in her throat and looks away, blushing. “T- this is nothing. I’m a genius after all.”

“Hmm, I wouldn’t go that far,” Max grins. “After all, you’ve not passed the ultimate test – taking a selfie with a Polaroid camera.”

Victoria scoffs. “Ha! What’s so difficult about that? Challenge accepted, loser.”

She flips Max’s camera over and takes her time to adjust the angle. Then, to Max’s surprise, Victoria shifts the camera a little towards Max and snaps.

Victoria takes the freshly developed instant photograph from the camera, perks her luscious lips and gives it a light blow, her lips quivering slightly as she does that. Max stares at her stupidly, feeling the burst of butterflies fluttering in her stomach.

Victoria takes a quick look at the picture and frowns.

“How is it?” Max asks as she leans over to take a look.

Max cannot believe her eyes. Victoria has taken a picture of both of them . Max looks a little goofy and surprised in the picture. In contrast, Victoria looks incredible with a charming smile plastered across her face.

She looks stunning.

Though the photo has too much light exposure and did not come out as nicely framed as the first one Victoria took, Max actually thinks the imperfection makes this photograph even more perfect.

“This one sucks. I’m gonna trash it.” Victoria says in a small voice. She is clearly disappointed with the result.

Max snatches the picture out of Victoria’s grip. “Don’t. I want to keep it.”

This is their first photograph together. Even though it is taken as a challenge, Max wants to remember this moment forever.

“Why?” Victoria questions suspiciously. “So you can mock my lack of skills on taking a selfie on an antique?”

Max looks at Victoria with soft eyes. Sky blue searing into green. “Of course not. I just really like this picture.”

Victoria looks away, trying to hide the blush creeping up onto her cheeks.

“Whatever. I am holding on to your photo then. If you dare show anyone that photo, I will make sure your picture ends up in the boy’s restroom.” Victoria threatens but hastily places Max’s photo in her Chanel handbag.

Max does the same, putting their photo in her notebook carefully to prevent it from getting crumpled before stuffing her notebook into her messenger bag.

Then, they both turn to look at each other.

And just like that, the flow of time seems to stand still. Electricity crackles in the air. No words are being exchanged because words don’t matter anymore.

Max smiles sheepishly at Victoria.

Victoria smiles back.

“Vic! Are you coming?” Taylor shouts at the doorway for Victoria, all ready to go to the studio.

And just like that, the spell between Max and Victoria is broken.

Time seems to flow again.

Victoria grabs her bag and camera and rushes to the door, leaving Max behind.

What the heck just happened?

Just when Max thinks the day cannot get any weirder, she arrives at the studio to an unexpected sight.

A girl with honey blonde hair; cat-like, hazel brown eyes; perky, pink lips with sharp jawline stands in the middle of the studio.

“Alright, class. We are very honored to have the up and coming star of the modeling world, Miss Rachel Dawn Amber, to be our model of today’s assignment.” The lecturer declares.

That causes a little commotion amongst the students. Those who knew Rachel from Blackwell High, crowd around Rachel to greet her. The rest of the students starts discussing the subject of today’s assignment among themselves.

Max does the most sensible thing to do at that moment. She takes out her phone to snap a photo of Rachel and sends a message to Chloe.

Max : Look! It’s coupons! She’s the model for my shoot today!

Just as she hit the send button, Victoria appears beside her, startling Max.

“So you like this type of girls, hmm?” Victoria asks inquisitively, a strange tone plagues her voice.

“Wh- what? No, I don’t.”

“Don’t be shy. I can introduce you to her.” Victoria says, not once looking at Max.

Before Max can explain that the photo she takes is not for her, someone rushes past her and pounces onto Victoria.

“Vicky!” Rachel Amber exclaims excitedly, arms wrapping around Victoria’s neck and giving her a kiss on her cheek.

“Hey, bitch. Welcome home.” Victoria returns her hug with a wide grin on her face.

Max stares at the two girls that are locked in an embrace with confusion.

Victoria Chase knows Rachel Amber?

This day just gets weirder and weirder for Max.

Chapter Text

“You miss me, babe?” Rachel asks, her face inches away from Victoria Chase.

“Not really,” Victoria replies with a straight face but her arms are still wrapped tightly around the waist of Rachel Amber.

Max can feel her brain running on overdrive.

Why are they hugging so intimately? Why did Rachel ask Victoria if she misses her? Why are they still hugging? What is their relationship? How long are they going to continue hugging each other? Are they going to kiss???

Oh boy, Chloe will be so disappointed if she sees this.

So downhearted. So dejected. So... heartbroken.

“Smallfield!”

Max snaps out of the zone and looks at Victoria.

“For fuck’s sake, can you stop spacing out like this all the time?”

The couple has finally broken away from their embrace.

“Wh- what?” Max stammers.

“So this is Maxine Spacefield, the space cadet. She prefers people to call her Max Caulfield though. She’s, unfortunately, my partner for this shoot.” Victoria introduces. “Oh, and she’s been like taking your photo secretly. So maybe you should just do her a favor and give her your number.”

There’s that strange tone in Victoria’s voice again.

“No– no– no! Y- you misunderstood. I didn’t– that picture is not...” Max blabbers incoherently, her face turning beet red.

Rachel reaches over and rubs Max’s shoulder gently, causing her to tense up immediately.

“You can always ask me to pose for you if you need a photo, Maxine.” Rachel purrs, sending shockwaves through Max’s body. “I always do that for Vicky.”

Max can see Victoria’s face twitching when Rachel says that.

“You look really familiar though. Aren’t you the girl with that friend of Steph? Chloe, is that her name?”

“Y- yeah. You remember her?” Max shuffles her feet, desperately trying to move away from Rachel’s grip but her hand is still placed firmly on her shoulder.

“I’ll never forget a cute punk chick like her.” Rachel smiles that knowing smile and Max wonders what it means.

It's nice of Rachel to remember Chloe's name. It's even more surprising that she remembers Max.

Max finds it refreshing. She is usually in the background, being the wall flower. 

Being forgotten.

While Max is distracted, Rachel takes her opportunity and goes in for the kill. “So are you and punk chick an item?”

Max and Victoria both widen their eyes in surprise.

Victoria turns and looks at Max with her arms crossed, waiting for an answer.

“She’s my best friend,” Max replies, feeling perspiration forming on her forehead from the intense interrogation.

“Best friend, huh?” Rachel grins in acknowledgment while shooting a look at Victoria. Victoria purses her lips and looks away, her cheeks coated in a light sheen of pink.

Sensing an unspoken message flying between the two of them, Max steels her nerves and probes, “You two seems close.”

Rachel finally lets go of Max’s shoulder as she chuckles. “We are close. Victoria has seen every inch of my naked body after all.”

Max’s jaw drops in shock.

“Hey!” Victoria objects loudly. That light sheen of pink on her face has grown fiery red now. “It’s was for that one shoot! And it’s your idea!”

“And you totally enjoyed it, don’t cha darling?” Rachel’s voice drips with sticky, sweet honey and Victoria rolls her eyes into her socket.

Max is utterly confused and embarrassed by this conversation. She feels like a voyeur that has just stumbled upon a secret she shouldn’t know but couldn’t stop listening in. She wonders how shock Chloe will be when she tells her all of this.

“Max, you look like you are totally imagining us doing that naked shoot.” Rachel teases. “Don’t worry, it’s just a normal shoot. Vicky is a total professional. I’m in her good hands.”

And Rachel gives Max a wink.

Max returns a weak smile and steals a glance at Victoria, only to realize Victoria is looking at her intensely with furrowed brows.

She instantly looks down at her sneakers nervously.

“That’s enough, bitch.” Victoria slaps Rachel on her shoulder to shut her up. “You are scaring poor Lamefield. I still have to pair up with this loser for our photo shoot.”

Rachel is giving Victoria that grin again. She leans over and whispers something into Victoria’s ears and Victoria immediately blushes.

Max wonders what sweet nothings Rachel has just said to Victoria. Chloe will be so disappointed.

Max looks away from the couple.

That’s enough Amberchase for today.

Her heart can only take that much stress for a day.

“You’re zoning out again.” Victoria walks up to her. It’s then that Max realizes Rachel has gone to prep for the shoot. “Too overwhelmed by Rachel?”

“Um…” Max starts but not sure how to say this without sounding too upset. “You shouldn’t ask me to get her number if you’re dating her, Vic. It’s – it’s not cool.”

Victoria scoffs. “We are not dating. She’s a good buddy who loves to stir up some shit. So if you want her number, I can totally get it for you.”

Max looks up at Victoria with curious eyes. “So you’re not together?”

The tip of Max’s lips curls up in relief.

Victoria worries her teeth over her lip and looks away. “Ya, ya. I’ll get you her number later. Now can we get ready for the shoot? I’ll be real pissed if you get me a C for this assignment.”

She walks off, not waiting for Max to respond.

Victoria is upset and Max cannot understand why. If Rachel and Victoria are not a couple, why does she seem so bothered about giving her number to Max?

Is there more than meets the eye?

Is it a one-sided affair that is not reciprocated?

 

=====

 

Max and Victoria have just finished discussing their concept for the shoot when Max notices the multiple notifications on her phone by none other than her best friend, Chloe Price.

The Price is Right: Wtf Maxironi! Y is Rach in ur sch?

The Price is Right: Wats she doing dere

The Price is Right: SEND ME MAWR PIX!!!

Max frowns when she reads the messages from Chloe.

Take more pictures? Victoria already thinks she’s interested in Rachel. She’s not going to risk Victoria’s wrath by taking more.

Especially if Victoria actually likes Rachel that way.

Max nibbles on her nails as she thinks about it. She wonders if Victoria actually holds a torch for Rachel like Chloe does.

Why won’t she, though?

Rachel Amber is gorgeous.

Great hair, great skin, great figure, great personality.

A total opposite of Max.

Unruly hair, dull skin, child’s figure, boring personality.

“Can you move a little to your left?”

Snap

“Fabulous!”

Snap

“Gorgeous, Rachel!”

Snap

Rachel is such a natural in front of the camera. She is so easy to work with, the students love her and the lecturer sings praises of her.

What is truly amazing is how she made looking beautiful seems so easy.

It’s a flair Max sorely lacks.

Hell, Max cannot even conduct a studio photo shoot without fumbling.

She is never used to taking portraits in the studio. Her specialty is in nature and candid photography. Self-portraits are something she likes to take for her own amusement but it’s never done in a studio.

Therefore, Max struggles when she starts her photo shoot with Rachel, not sure how to communicate her visions and ideas with her.

Sensing her uneasiness, Rachel stops the shoot and comes up to Max.

“It’s normal to be nervous working with a model you just met. Relax and place your trust in me. Let me know what you want and I’ll try my best to create it.” She says in that sweet, soft voice. It’s easy to see why people adore her.

On the other hand…

“Smallfield!” Victoria marches up to her, irritation in her voice. “We went through this just five minutes ago!”

“S- sorry…” Max mutters. She remembers the brief and knows exactly what type of photographs she wants but she just doesn’t know how to put them down in words.

“Look, our concept is very –” Victoria starts but Rachel places her hand on Victoria’s back to stop her.

Rachel looks at Max again, eyes all gentle. “That’s the problem with Vicky. She has such a short fuse. So what’s your concept for this shoot?”

Max bites down hard on her lip until it goes pale. Strong pangs of anxiety and uncertainty cloud her mind.

Why doesn’t she have the same courage she had when she’s on stage as Captain? Does she have to wear a mask in order to function like a socially adept adult?

Victoria watches Max struggling internally with herself, and sighs.

“Max…”

To Max’s surprise, Victoria’s voice has gone tender. “It’s like what we discussed earlier. Your idea is great, so what’s stopping you from sharing it?”

Max nods at Victoria, feeling a surge of confidence after that affirmation from Victoria.

“We want to capture two different sides of you for this shoot. Our theme is Fire and Ice. I will be shooting the set of photographs for the Fire theme, so I want to see passion, zest, and feistiness in you. I want to capture a Rachel that is ready to set the whole forest on fire.” Max explains while looking at Victoria, expecting her to jump in to interrupt like how she loves to do in class.

To Max’s surprise, Victoria just nods in acknowledgment.

“Victoria will capture the cool, calm and collected side of you for her set of the shoot, the Ice theme.” Max continues.

“So basically, same feel as our nude photo set?” Rachel gives Victoria a wink.

Victoria just smirks and replies, “You can strip if you like, bitch. No one’s gonna stop you.”

Rachel gives a cute, little shrug and sashays back to take her position in front of the backdrop. Max following close behind, a camera in her hands, adjusting her lens to get ready for the shoot.

Rachel takes in a deep breath and the atmosphere around her changes instantly.

She looks at the camera and she’s no longer the Rachel from earlier on.

She is giving fervor. She is giving ferocity. She is giving fieriness.

She is giving Max the intensity Max has never seen before.

She is burning bright like the sun, threatening to swallow Max whole.

Max tries to capture all of the heat and light and flame emitting from Rachel.

When it is Victoria’s turn to shoot, Rachel’s aura changes again.

The fire is extinguished, contained, and suppressed into a ball of ice.

And just like that, Rachel becomes the moon.

She glows pale.

Tranquility and serenity wash over.

But don’t be fooled, for underneath it all is the jarring sharpness of cold, threatening to bite anyone who comes too close.

Victoria captures every face of Rachel like she has done a hundred times.

Max thinks she probably has.

The rapport between them is flawless.

How can she ever come between them?

How can Chloe?

“That’s it. It’s a wrap! Thank you, Rachel, for gracing us with your presence. I’m sure the students have learned a lot from this session. ”

The lecturer’s voice once again jolts Max out of her thoughts.

Max packs her camera into her bag as fast as she can.

Seeing Rachel and Victoria talking and laughing is suffocating. She needs to get the hell out of the studio.

She grabs her bag and is ready to make a dash for it when someone pats her from behind.

“Going off so soon?” Rachel has that smile on her face again. “Want to join Vicky and I for a meal?”

“Sorry, I have an appointment later.” Max is not lying. She has a jamming session with Chloe this evening.

“Ah, it’s alright,” Rachel says, “We are having lunch tomorrow anyway. I’m sure you’ve time for that.”

“Um…” Max is ready to reject her the second time when —

“You can ask your punk chick friend along. The more the merrier.”

Damn.

It’s easier to reject an invitation if it’s only for herself. But now that this invite has been extended to Chloe, Max knows she has to accept it. For Chloe’s sake.

“A-alright,” Max replies in a small voice. “I’ll ask Chloe along too.”

“Great!” Rachel says chirpily before leaning over to Max and whispers, “Vicky will be so happy to know you've agreed to have lunch with us.”

Max wants to ask her what she meant by that, but Rachel has already gone to find Victoria.

Max knows she has just scored Chloe a lunch date with Rachel. Even though her role for tomorrow is purely as Chloe’s wingman, she can’t help but feel a tinge of excitement for that double date.

Wait, what?

No, it’s not a double date, Max. Don’t be silly.

Max shakes that thought off and takes out her phone to message her best friend.

She can’t wait to see Chloe’s reaction when she tells her this good news.

Chloe owes her big time now.

Chapter Text

“You what!?” Chloe jumps out of her bed, looking at Max with her big, round, azure eyes. She almost looks like she’s about to cry.

“Mmhmm. I got you a date with Coupons.” Max is sitting at Chloe’s desk with her guitar out, trying to compose a new song. It’s obviously not going to happen now. Not with Chloe so excited about the date with Rachel.

“Maxaroni! My hero!” Chloe comes over and wraps her arms around her best friend. “What can I do to ever repay you?”

Max wiggles out of her embrace. “You can start by getting ready for our jamming session. It starts in an hour’s time and I don’t want to be late. You know how strict Skip is with studio timing. He won’t let us use it even for an extra minute.”

Undeterred, Chloe places her arm around Max’s neck to place her into a headlock and ruffles her already messy brown hair.

“Aww c’mon, Maxie. Let your bestie give you a little lovie.” Chloe coos in a baby voice as Max struggles to break free.

“S- stop!” Max struggles for air. “Or I’ll tell Coupons we’re not going for lunch.”

Chloe lets go immediately. “Alright, alright. You win. How did you even manage to get this lunch date? You’re not the sort who will ask someone you just met out for lunch.”

“I didn’t,” Max explains. “She asked me.”

“No way!” Chloe looks at Max in shock.

“Oh, and Victoria is coming too.” Max finally shares with Chloe that this is not exactly a date for just her and Coupons.

“So you didn’t actually get me a date. You got yourself a date and I’m supposed to be your wing woman?” Chloe looks at Max suspiciously. How sneaky is this? Max actually manages to get herself a date with the queen of Blackwell, with the help of Rachel,no less.

When did her best friend get so smooth?

“Th- That’s not how it is…” Max stumbles over her words. “Rachel just came up to ask me if I want to have lunch with them and she wants me to ask you along.”

“Hmm,” Chloe ponders over this nugget of information. “Sounds like Rachel is trying to set you up for a date with Icky Vicky.”

“Wh- what? No, not possible. Rachel and Victoria seem really close. I don’t know if they’re just friends.”

“What do you mean?” Chloe asks.

“The way they talk to each other and the way they look at each just feels like they’re more than friends.” Max elaborates.

“You’re being oversensitive,” Chloe says. “There’s no way in hell Rachel will date Victoria. One’s an angel and the other’s a bitch. No offense to you, Max. You need a bitch in your life to whip you into shape.”

“Hey, that’s rude!” Max protests. “But seriously, do close friends take nude photos of each other?”

“What!?” Chloe’s jaw drops dramatically.

“Vic did a naked shoot of Rachel. I mean, it could have been an artistic photo shoot, but they just seem really close, you know what I mean?” Max looks at Chloe, who is still gaping at Max in shock.

“Wow…” Chloe finally says. “I… I would totally want in on that shoot.”

Max can see Chloe’s mind swimming with images of Coupons, naked.

“Hey! Stop it, you perv.” Max snaps her fingers in front of Chloe.

Chloe blushes, trying to snap herself back to reality. She won’t deny she’s a perv for Rachel. She’s after all, a healthy, hot-blooded woman.

“You know what, Max?” Chloe looks at her friend with an evil glint in her eye. “I will accept the challenge.”

Max looks at her curiously. “What challenge?”

“Challenge of breaking Rachel and Victoria up.”

“What are you talking about?” Max asks nervously. Chloe is giving her that signature shit-eating grin.

Max has a bad feeling about this.

“Operation Breakup Amberchase starts tomorrow!” Chloe exclaims, slapping Max’s shoulder hard with her hand, causing Max to wince in pain.

“Ow!!”

“Be ready, Agent Max. Tomorrow we will make sure Rachel falls hopelessly in love with me and Victoria will be a slave for you.” Chloe wiggles her eyebrows at Max.

“O- okay. But I don’t want Tori to be my slave.” Max says mindlessly.

“Tori? Wow, you already have a pet name for your slave! Good job, Agent Max!”

“Chloe…”

“Call me Agent Chloe.”

Max rolls her eyes. “Are you cereal?”

“You bet your ass I’m fucking cereal! Let’s have a bet, Agent Max. Let’s see who can get a date first. Not a double date like what we’re doing tomorrow. A real date. The loser will need to buy the winner a week’s supply of dinner.” Chloe pumps her fist into the air, determined to win this.

Max mulls over it in silence.

“But Chlo…”

“Agent Chloe!”

“Agent Chloe. I already have a date with Victoria to Timbre this Friday.” Max says while shrugging her shoulders, giving Chloe a small smirk.

Chloe slaps herself on the forehead. “Dammit. I forgot all about that stupid hang out you have with the queen of Blackwell.”

“So… I won?”

“Pffft, you wish.” Chloe places her hand on her best friend’s shoulder and leans over. Max instinctively moves her face back to avoid accidentally having her first kiss stolen by Chloe. “Whoever gets a kiss from their date first will be the grand winner.”

“Wh- what? Hey, that’s not fair! You and Rachel obviously have more experience in that area. I have not even had my first kiss yet,” Max objects.

“You haven’t forgotten Cedric from the seventh grade, have you?” Chloe raises an eyebrow in amusement.

“That’s for the stupid Truth or Dare game so it is not counted! I still haven’t forgiven you for forcing me to play that game.” Max purses her lips as she brushes her thumb across her lips at that memory.

Cedric was this cute classmate of Chloe that she used to have a crush on. That is until Cedric crashes his braces-lined teeth onto her lips during the game, causing his metal braces to grazed her lips. It was a bloody experience.

That is not how Max envisioned her first kiss to be and so it was erased from her mind forever.

“Still mad at me for that, huh?” Chloe gives Max a little shrug. “Just trying to help you out there since you had the hots for him. How would I know he’s such a dummy when it comes to kissing.”

“Point is, this bet is unfair for me.”

“Don’t worry, Agent Max. I’m sure Tori has lots of experience in that area, and many other areas as well,” Chloe pauses and wiggle her eyebrows at Max again, causing Max to blush profusely. “So I’m sure she can teach you. Besides, you guys are hanging out this Friday. You already have an edge against me, so it’s definitely fair.”

Max tries to object but is stopped by Chloe’s finger to her lips. “Uh, uh, uh! No more bargaining. We are late for our jamming session, so you better accept this so we can all get our ass moving to the studio.”

Max sighs defeatedly. It’s a bet she will most definitely lose. But if Chloe really gets to kiss Coupons, she will gladly treat Chloe dinner for a week just to celebrate for her.

She just hopes Chloe won’t get her heart broken.

After all, Rachel seems really fond of Victoria.

 

=====

 

Rachel is really fond of Victoria.

Victoria can be bitchy and snarky all the time, but Rachel knows deep down, Victoria is a friend that can be trusted. And trust is not something that comes easily these days. Especially when she is an up and coming young model.

Rachel has seen how Victoria helped Taylor with her mom’s medical expenses, even going out of her way to get Taylor’s mom a reputable doctor from her family’s contact. Such loyalty is hard to find and Rachel knows she can always rely on Victoria if she ever needs help.

Not like she will abuse their friendship. Although when Rachel first got acquainted with Victoria, her intention wasn’t all that pure. She just wanted contacts from the Chase Space so she could kick start her modeling career. So she tried to befriend the queen bitch of Blackwell, despite her infamous reputation.

However, things didn’t quite go the way Rachel planned. Victoria was highly competitive and always treated her as a threat. At one point, they even spread nasty rumors about each other in school.

Things changed when Rachel found out that Victoria had the hots for their dorm neighbor, Lyla Lee. Instead of using this information as leverage against Victoria, Rachel helped Victoria come to terms with her sexuality and even got her a date with Lyla. Even though things didn’t work out between Victoria and Lyla — since Lyla doesn’t swing that way — Rachel did gain Victoria’s trust and eventually became fast friends.

Their friendship is special, to say the least. Both Rachel and Victoria are attracted to each other and there is always this sexual tension simmering between them. But contrary to the rumors in the grapevine of Blackwell, they have never hooked up with each other before, both deem their friendship too precious to be broken by lust.

Since then, Rachel has always played the wing woman role for Victoria, since her buddy is so hopeless when it comes to love.

That is why Rachel had set up the lunch date for Victoria tomorrow. She has seen how Victoria looks at Max. That lost puppy look in her eyes when she sees Max talking to Rachel; the sudden increase in defense mechanism when that girl is around.

All the spikes and spines are telltale signs of Victoria being in love. The more vulnerable she feels, the more defenses she piles onto herself.

Why can’t Victoria just swoon over her crushes like normal girls? Then again, Victoria isn’t just any normal girl. She’s a Chase. And Rachel has learned over the years that a Chase is not supposed to show any signs of weaknesses.

Her innate defense mechanism has also built a strong sense of denial in Victoria everytime she has a crush on someone.

In fact, Rachel suspects that Victoria herself does not even realize just how much she likes Max.

But Rachel is perceptive. Not only does she know her buddy has the hots for Max, Rachel can already sense that Max also carries a torch for Victoria. The disappointment in Max’s eyes when she learned about their naked shoot is telling.

The date tomorrow is going to be so much fun seeing Victoria and Max fret over each other. Furthermore, Max is bringing that hot, punk chick friend of hers to the date too.

Rachel is certainly looking forward to that.

There’s just one tiny problem.

“You what!?” Victoria glares at Rachel in anger and shock.

Rachel has arranged the date without Victoria’s knowledge.

“Why do I have to go to lunch with that hipster trash and her filthy friend?”

And there’s that spikes coming out again.

“She likes photography, you like photography. I am a model. I just think it will be fun to hang out together.” Rachel shrugs nonchalantly. She is too used to Victoria’s outburst.

“Then have lunch with her yourself. I’m sure Maxine would love that.”

And there’s that defense mechanism again.

“But I want you with me. Don’t you wanna eat with Maxine too?” Rachel purrs out, hand reaching out to stroke Victoria’s arm gently. It’s a cheap trick, but Victoria can never resist Rachel when she gets a little touchy.

“Why would I wanna eat with that loser?”

And there’s that self-denial again.

“Because she’s adorable and you both look really cute together?” Rachel moves in for the kill.

“Wh- what? Are you trying to set us up?” Victoria furrows her brows, trying to look annoyed but she can't hide the redness that is slowly creeping up to her cheeks.

“Maybe? But more importantly, I’m trying to set myself a date.” Rachel loops her arm around Victoria’s. “You see, Max has this friend that’s really cute. Blue hair, hot sleeve tattoo, a real punk chick. You know how I can never resist those type of girls.”

Victoria inhales sharply before letting out a loud sigh. Rachel has always been a good friend and a great wing woman. On the other hand, Victoria has never helped Rachel before when it comes to matters of the heart. Not that Rachel needs any help, she’s never lack of suitors and has no trouble getting anyone she wants, be it man or woman.

“C’mon, Vee…” Rachel looks at her with that sad, kitty eyes that she always use on Victoria when she needs anything from her. “Do it for me?”

Victoria lets out a groan. “You owe me, bitch.”

“Yay!” Rachel wraps Victoria into a hug. “It will be fun!”

“Hmph, I’m not sure about that,” Victoria grumbles. “I’ll be getting hipster stench on me.”

Rachel looks at Victoria and gives her a smirk. “It’s okay if you don’t like her. I’ll just have Maxine to myself.”

Victoria snaps her head towards Rachel and gives her a menacing look. She opens her mouth to utter a protest but bites her tongue. “Whatever. You can do whatever you want with her. Not that I care.”

And there’s that wall Victoria builds around her to protect her heart.

Rachel smiles to herself.

She is going to break down that wall down, one brick at a time, and the person who’s going to help her with this task will be none other than that brunette with cute freckles.

Victoria will not even know what hit her.

Chapter Text

“You nervous, Max?” Chloe asks while drumming her fingers repeatedly on the steering wheel of her good ol’ truck. The Elvis Presley bobblehead doll standing on the dashboard is bobbing its head with every bump of the road.

“Not as nervous as you,” Max replies and gives Chloe a snigger. “Considering you practically begged me to take your truck to lunch.”

Chloe has insisted on coming to pick Max up from the dormitory so they can go to the diner together, even though Rachel has already arranged for the three of them to go together in Victoria’s Maserati since they will all be going from campus anyway.

In the end, Max has to come up with a lame excuse about picking some stuff up from Chloe’s truck in order to convince Rachel to let her take Chloe’s truck to the diner instead.

Rachel sounds disappointed but Max shrugs it off. Her best friend is more important and Max knows Chloe needs her.

Chloe may not admit it but Max knows that she is extremely anxious about the double date later. She can’t even focus on their jamming session last evening and keeps talking about Rachel every other second.

Max has never seen Chloe like this before. Chloe never has any problems getting on with the ladies. She is confident and charming and funny, and ladies love her. Even if things don’t go well on her dates, Chloe never takes it to heart. She laughs, she shrugs, she moves on.

But Rachel Amber… well, Rachel Amber is on a totally different level.

As cheesy as it may sound, it is love at first sight for Chloe when she first saw Rachel in Blackwell High. Unlike most students who tries desperately to fit in, Rachel is never afraid to stand out. She’s vocal, dares to speak her mind, yet is also effectively persuasive to convince even the teachers to listen to what she had to say.

She is mature for her age, yet she never loses her child-like nature, getting into mischief every now and then in school, to Chloe’s delight.

Rachel is just so different from the other girls in high school.

“So you ready for the date, Agent Max?” Chloe gives Max a side glance.

“Why won’t I be? This date is never about me.” Max raises her hand and gives Chloe a friendly slap on the shoulder, causing Chloe to grunt out. “I scored you this date, so you better seize the moment and ask Rachel for her number so that you can ask her out on a proper date.”

“Ay ay, Captain!” Chloe chirps out, giving Max a salute. “You better score yourself a date too so we can complete Operation Breakup Amberchase.”

Max laughs. She can’t believe Chloe is still going on about this mission. But she will be lying if she says she doesn’t feel excited about the double date later. This can be a great practice session for the Friday night hangout with Victoria. Hopefully, Victoria doesn’t bite her head off at lunch later.

Max can never predict what Victoria’s mood will be. Sometimes Victoria can be cold and bitchy towards her. But sometimes, Victoria can be really sweet.

Max still remembers the way Victoria looks at her when they were singing in Victoria’s room that night. The way Victoria smiles so contently after they shared that song. Victoria looks so beautiful when she smiles, the way the corner of eyes crinkle and the way her lips curl up —

“We’re here.” Chloe’s voice startles Max out of her daze. She is so busy daydreaming that she doesn’t even realize they have reached the diner.

“Crap,” Max breathes out nervously. “I don’t think I’m ready for this.”

“Don’t worry, Agent Max. Agent Chloe is here to make sure you don’t make a fool of yourself,” Chloe gives Max a reassuring pat on her back. “But if you really do make a fool of yourself, I’ll be here to laugh at you.” And the reassuring pat turns into a slap on her shoulder.

“Not helping, Chlo,” Max groans out.

“C’mon. We shouldn’t let our dates wait.” Chloe opens the door of her truck and gets out, leaving Max to take a deep breath in the truck.

“Okay, Max, you can do this. It’s just Victoria and Rachel. It’s no biggie.” Max tries to psych herself up. She suddenly wishes she can put on her Captain’s face mask to give her the much needed courage.

“Let’s go,” Chloe opens the passenger door and drags Max out.

The date is held at a diner near the Arcadia Bay Beach, called The Cellar Door.

Chloe is glad that Rachel did not arrange the date to be at Two Whales. Joyce tends to make too much of a fuss towards her daughter if she sees her at her diner.

The duo opens the door and scans the place for Rachel and Victoria. Max instantly spots Rachel waving at them with a huge grin on her face. Sitting beside her is Victoria with a bored look.

Max immediately feels her heart in her mouth.

They walk to the booth and take the empty seats opposite the two girls. Chloe pushes herself into the seat, directly opposite Rachel.

“Sorry, we’re late.” Chloe flashes Rachel her signature smile. “You look amazing, Rachel.”

“I’m surprised that broken truck of yours can even make it to this side of town,” Victoria mutters under her breath, earning a slap on her arm by Rachel.

Victoria purses her lips and sulks.

“Um, Victoria? This is Chloe Price, my best friend.” Max introduces in a soft, meek voice. Max can’t take her eyes off Victoria. She is wearing a cute, blue sundress with a white, cashmere cardigan, looking absolutely stunning.

“Chloe Price? Wait a minute, you look familiar,” Victoria stares intensely at Chloe. “You are from Blackwell High, aren’t you?”

Chloe raises her eyebrows in surprise. “Wow, I’m infamous!”

“Aren’t you that—” Victoria starts but Chloe interrupts her.

“I know what you’re going to say. Yup, I’m that Blackwell legend who was expelled for vandalizing the girls’ bathroom. It is I, indeed.” Chloe gives Victoria a little bow, drawing giggles from Rachel.

“Oh hell no,” Victoria widens her eyes in shock. “You’re that asshole who gave me the wrong answers for chemistry homework! I got into detention class because of you!”

“What?” Chloe furrows her brows in confusion. “Why would I give you answers for chemistry homework when I don’t even do my own homework?”

“You were bragging about how good your chemistry was and I asked you to prove it.” Victoria scoffs thinking about it. “You gave me the answers for chemistry homework that day which spelled F-U-C-K-U on the periodic table!”

Rachel bursts out laughing at Victoria’s story. Even Max lets out a chuckle, clearly amused by this story. Chloe has never told Max that she met Victoria at Blackwell High before.

Chloe has clearly forgotten about Victoria because she looks as amused as Max is.  

“I did that? I’m really quite the genius, ain’t I?” And Chloe laughs as loudly as Rachel does.

Victoria stares daggers at Chloe but can’t help a small smile curling up her lips.

Retrospectively, this is a pretty funny incident to Victoria. And she gets to say fuck you to the chemistry teacher whom she is not particularly fond of. It’s not that bad a deal.

“I don’t remember any of that! My bad.” Chloe tugs the black beanie on her head while stealing a glance at Rachel before looking at Victoria again. “No hard feelings, eh?”

Before Victoria can say anything, Rachel interjects.

“You don’t remember Victoria from your Blackwell days, do you?”

“Well…” Chloe swallows hard, trying to calm her pounding heart as Rachel looks intently at her, waiting for an answer. “Lots happened that couple of years and my memory of high school is kinda fuzzy, so…”

Feeling offended that Chloe doesn’t remember her, Victoria snaps. “What? I practically rule Blackwell, how could you not —”

“I remember you though!” Chloe exclaims before Victoria can finish, her azure eyes piercing straight into Rachel’s hazel eyes.

And at that moment, time seems to stand still, and the world is only the two of them.

Chloe Price and Rachel Amber.

Blue ocean lapping on the light brown sand.

And with each ebb and flow, emotions engulf the whole being of Chloe Price.

She can even hear faint music playing in her mind. It’s almost like their theme song.

Your body is a wonderland
Your body is a wonder (I'll use my hands)
Your body is a wonderland
(I'll never speak again... I'll use my hands)

She can feel the electricity in the air, crackling and snapping. Like a chemistry reaction has just happened and there are sparks everywhere.

Chloe has always been good at chemistry.

“Looks like we may have to leave them alone, Smallfield.” Victoria sighs at Chloe’s obvious oblivious to Max and Victoria’s presence at the booth. “Or they seriously need to get a room.”

Chloe’s face burns red when she realizes that she has been staring too blatantly at Rachel.

“Um…” Chloe struggles for words to hide her embarrassment but Rachel speaks before she can.

“I know you are dying to be alone with Maxine, Vicky. You just have to tell me and we can always excuse ourselves.” Rachel gives Victoria a sly smirk.

It is Victoria’s turn to burn red now.

“Wh- what the fuck are you talking about?” Victoria sputters as she crosses her arms against her chest. “You two are the ones making googly eyes at each other!”

“I can’t help staring since there’s a cute, punk chick sitting opposite of me.” Rachel gives Chloe a wink, causing Chloe to blush even harder.

Victoria lets out a scoff. Try as she may, she can never once fluster Rachel

“Enough of this chatter. Poor Maxine must be bored to death.” Rachel turns her attention to Max and gives her a big smile. “So have you decided on your order?”

“Er…” Max flips the menu nervously. She hasn’t really been paying attention to the menu since it is very distracting sitting opposite the very gorgeous (and grouchy) Victoria. “I think I’ll have the waffles with bacon.”

“Great choice, Maxine! That’s what I’ll have too.” Rachel beams brightly at Max.

“And, um… Rachel?” Max squeaks out in a small voice. “Just call me Max.”

“Sure, Max.” The smile never once leaves Rachel’s face. Max wonders if she ever gets tired of smiling so much.

“So, Chloe, what will you have?”

“Hmm… I’ll just have a cheeseburger and a garden salad with Rachel dressing —” The words are formed before Chloe even realizes it.

Max widens her eyes in shock and nudges Chloe immediately.

“— Ranch dressing! I meant, ranch dressing!”

Rachel and Victoria burst out laughing.

“You have excellent taste, Chloe.” Rachel giggles while Victoria just shakes her head.

Not asking what Victoria wants, Rachel calls the server over and orders for the whole table. Max watches in amazement how Rachel ratters off everyone’s order without missing a beat. She puts in an order of Cobb salad and ice tea which Max assumes is for Victoria.

“Wow,” Max mutters out softly. “How do you know Victoria wants a Cobb salad and an ice tea?”

“Magic,” Rachel mutters out as softly as Max.

“Stop bullshitting the poor girl,” Victoria cuts Rachel off while rolling her eyes. “Or she might really believe it’s magic.” Max wonders how many times Victoria rolls her eyes in a day. It seems a lot. “I only eat Cobb salad when I come to this diner. I’ll kill her if she gets that wrong.”

“C’mon, Vicky. I know you love me and won’t bear to kill me.” Rachel coos while laying her head on Victoria’s shoulder. To Max’s surprise, Victoria does not shrug her off.

“Are you guys dating or something?” Chloe asks point blank, no longer able to contain this burning question that’s been bothering her since the start of their date. “Or dated? Or whatever?”

“You mean, have we boned before?” Rachel lifts her head up from Victoria’s shoulder and gives Chloe a cheeky smile.

“Well...” Chloe looks away before moving her focus back to Rachel again. “So have you?”

Rachel looks at Victoria and they both laugh.

“Rumor has it that we have fucked each other many times —,” Victoria says amidst her laughter.

“— after every Blackwell High parties,” Rachel adds.

“— in each other’s room and some even claims to have seen us going at it in my Maserati!” Victoria continues.

And they laugh again, to Chloe’s annoyance and Max’s confusion.

“So… you guys are fuck buddies?” Chloe asks.

“No!” They both yells in unison.

“We wouldn’t!” Victoria says first.

“No matter how hot I think Vicky is.” Rachel continues.

“Aww, thanks, bitch. I think you’re hot too,” Victoria gives Rachel’s hand a squeeze.

Max and Chloe just look at each other in disbelief. Rachel and Victoria seem too close, they are finishing each other’s sentences and are just sending out vibes that scream “more than friends”.

“The whole Blackwell think we have slept with each other for some reason so I won’t be surprised if you think so too,” Rachel explains. “But we are just really good friends who understand each other’s quirks and temper very well.”

Max nods, trying to digest this information. She looks up and catches Victoria giving her a weird look, one that makes her nervous. Max looks down again to avoid her glance.

“So… what about you two? Best friends?” Victoria asks cautiously.

“BFF since we are kiddos. Don’t you dare suggest we slept together. That’s just wrong.” Chloe places her arm around Max’s shoulder, giving Max a friendly pat.

“Our families are close and we hang out at each other’s house a lot,” Max adds while looking at Chloe, “Until my family moved to Seattle, that is.”

“And my dad died,” Chloe murmurs. “So our families have not met for ages.”

Max reaches over, trying to hold her best friend’s hand but Rachel gets to Chloe’s hand first, holding Chloe’s hand gently.

“I’m sorry about your dad. That’s terrible,” Rachel gives Chloe’s hand a gentle squeeze. The warmth from Rachel’s hand sent a shiver down Chloe’s back.

“I’m fine,” Chloe shrugs. “I have Max and I have my music, so I’m okay.”

“Your music?” Rachel asks curiously.

“I play drums. Max plays the guitar so we always jam together.”

“Oh?” Victoria raises her eyebrows with interest. “Do you have a band together?”

“Ye – ow!” Before Chloe can finish, Max gives Chloe a kick to her shin to shut her up.

“Yeow? Is that a yes?” Victoria probes.

“W- We’re just casuals,” Max answers, wiping the droplets of sweat forming on her forehead. “We play for fun. Not good enough to form a band.”

Chloe looks at Max with a guilty look on her face. She can’t believe she almost blurts out their secret band identity. She is usually very careful about this but Rachel’s presence is too distracting for her.

“Yup, she’ll come over to jam at my place once in a while. I mean we hope to form a band and perform, but we are not good enough.” Chloe lies, looking away from Rachel, hoping her eyes won’t give away that she’s lying.

“A two-person band? That’s fucking ambitious,” Victoria says with a smirk. “That requires tons of talent. Not everyone can be like Twenty One Pirates. Maybe if you practice hard enough, you can reach their level.” Victoria blinks at Max sweetly.

Max smiles back. “Thanks for your encour—” Max starts but is instantly cut off.

“In a million years, maybe.” And Victoria lets out a loud cackle, thinking she has just made an ingenious joke.

Chloe’s face flushes red with annoyance. She opens her mouth to utter a rebuttal but Rachel beats her to it.

“That’s really mean, Vee.” Rachel looks at her with a frown. She loves her buddy to bits but Victoria has a bad habit of putting people down.

Victoria furrows her brows and purses her lips, looking like a spoilt child who has just been lectured by her mom. “It’s just a joke, geez. Don’t people have a sense of humor anymore?”

“It’s not very nice,” Max looks at Victoria disapprovingly, her light blue eyes shimmering with dismay.

Victoria bites down hard on her lip. She has never seen Max upset before and the last thing she wants to do is to make her upset. She knows she has to do something, even if it’s something she hates to do.

“Alright! I’m sorry you’re offended by that.” Victoria crosses her arms and looks away. It’s a passive-aggressive apology but that’s the best Victoria can give. “You guys should watch Twenty One Pirates perform one day. Then you will know what I mean.” She trails off into a whisper, still trying to prove her point but not wanting to upset Max further.

“I’m fucking certain we can play as well as them,” Chloe mutters under her breath, earning a glare from Max.

“So if you form a band, what will you name it?” Rachel turns to Chloe and asks her cheerily, trying to lighten the mood.

Chloe pauses for a while before replying, “Queen of Assholes, inspired by Icky Vicky.” And proceeds to give Victoria a stare down.

“Rude!” Victoria protests leaving Rachel and Max laughing at that witty comeback from Chloe.

The food is finally served and the double date goes without a hitch, except with an occasional bickering between Chloe and Victoria. But even then, it is more friendly squabble than anything else.

Max feels surprisingly comfortable with Victoria and Rachel by the end of lunch. She even catches Victoria giving her a small, gentle smile every now and then.

Chloe feels extremely confident that she has a chance with Rachel and her Operation Breakup Amberchase is a success.

Victoria still thinks this lunch is a waste of time but even she cannot deny that she has thoroughly enjoyed herself, especially when watching Max ate her waffles and bacon with such delight.

Rachel, on the other hand, is mulling over some details of their conversation...

 

=====

 

“Hey babe, you’ve been talking a lot about this band. What’s their name again?” Rachel asks as she plonks herself onto Victoria’s couch after the lunch date.

Victoria claps her hands and squeals in excitement. “Twenty One Pirates! They are amazing! I’ve all their songs on Spotify.” And she proceeds to play the song which Max had played on her guitar in her room the other night.

Rachel listens to the song and smiles knowingly to herself.

Now, isn’t this interesting?

Chapter Text

“Captain Maximus! Are you prepared for defeat!” Chloe’s voice booms out from the speaker of Max’s phone, prompting Max to switch her phone from speaker mode to handset mode.

“Chlo, it’s one in the morning. Can you keep it down? You’re on speaker mode, for crying out loud. Do you want to wake the entire dormitory? Or worst, wake Victoria?” Max chides her off. It’s been a long day and Max just wants to go to bed but Chloe has insisted on calling her as she has a big announcement to make.

“I did ‘cry out loud’ but you didn’t like it,” Chloe rebuts playfully. “That’s not important. There’s a winner in town and guess who it is? Hint, hint, it’s not you.”

“You are the winner, Chloe. Now can I go to bed?”

“Ding, ding, ding! You are absolutely correct. Guess who just got herself a date?” Chloe exclaims in a sing-song manner. Max can almost feel Chloe beaming with pride from the end of the phone.

“Congrats, Chlo. But I’ve gotten a date with Victoria earlier than you, remember?” Max replies in a lazy tone as she lies on her bed, hugging her teddy bear, Captain.

Captain the teddy bear is missing an eye because Max swallowed it when she was four years old thinking the eyes were made of M&M’s. Boy, was Max regretting her decision after she was rushed to the ER by her parents. That’s also the reason why she wears an eyepatch over her eye when she performs on stage. A tribute to Captain, her teddy bear.

“Stop, Maxaroni. She asks you for a hang out session. That’s not a date.” Max can hear the tinge of frustration from Chloe’s voice.

“You are the one that insisted it’s a date, remember?” Max yawns. “So when’s your date with Coupons?”

“Well, yours is not a date, Max, ‘cos I say so.” Chloe sounds so competitive now.

It’s funny because ever since young, Chloe has always been great at so many things that Max isn’t. Her grades were better than Max, she was more athletic than Max and still is, she’s witty and outgoing and smart, all of which are qualities Max doesn’t think she has. But every once in a while, Chloe gets all insecure about herself, and sometimes this insecurity seeps out and Max will bear the brunt of it.

Chloe used to be a girl full of confidence and positivity. That changed when her father, William Price, died in a car accident. William’s death is very traumatic for Chloe as they were really close. Chloe looks up to William as a hero. Max does too.

When William was taken away from Chloe so suddenly and forcefully, it left a hole in her soul that never quite heals, even though it’s been more than six years.

Doesn’t help that Max has to move to Seattle at that unfortunate timing because her father was posted to the Seattle office by his company. Even though Max kept in contact with Chloe whenever she can – thus began their nightly tradition of talking on the phone – Max knows that she contributes to the wound that Chloe suffers from by her not being physically there for her best friend when she needed her the most.

It is Max’s biggest regret and she tells herself she will always be there to support Chloe forever.

“You know what, Mad Max? Rachel asks me out on Saturday. She asks me out!” Chloe’s voice goes up a pitch higher in excitement. “I told you I can charm her pants off!”

“Whoa! That’s great! But don’t you have work on Saturday?”

“I’ve already told Steph to help me cover my shift. I owe her one.” Chloe says happily, sounding like a little kid on Christmas day. “I’m going to get that kiss and win the bet. Just you see, Max.”

“What bet?” Max replies with her eyes closed. Sleep is beckoning but so is her best friend. She’s trying hard to fight off the sleepiness that is taking hold of her consciousness with each passing second.

“The kiss! Whoever gets a kiss from their date wins, remember? One week supply of dinner? Being a slave for the other for a month?” Chloe says smugly. She knows she’s going to kiss Rachel this Saturday. She just knows it and she can’t wait.

“I don’t think being a slave is ever in the bet…” Max drones out. She may be sleepy but she’s not dumb.

“Ha! Shall we up the stakes then?”

“Chlo, it’s unfair for me. You know I’ve never been kissed.” Max murmurs out while holding Captain the teddy bear close to her chest.

Max has dreamt of kissing many times and always wonders how that will feel. Will it be slippery, wet and disgusting? Or will it be like what the movies promise – magical?

“Alright, alright. But remember, you owe me a week’s supply of dinner.”

“You’ve not won the bet yet…” Max protest weakly.

“I might as well have already. Okay, Sleepy Max. You go get your beauty sleep. This badass over here is going to get herself baked. Gotta think about what to do on Saturday, other than locking lips with my angel. Hahaha” And Chloe ends the call without waiting for Max to say goodbye.

Bad habit of Chloe, not that Max minds at this moment. She is too tired to say another word. Her phone slips out of her hand as her consciousness drifts her into dreamland.

 

=====

 

“Maxine…”

A sickly sweet voice is whispering in Max’s ears. Max is confused. She remembers locking her door before going to bed.

Who is in her room?

“Maxine, wake up…”

The voice is so close, Max can feel the warm breath on her skin. She wants to open her eyes to see who it is but her eyelids are just so heavy.

“Maxine… I know you are Captain…”

Max’s eyes flicker open immediately.

A pair of emerald green eyes are looking straight into her light, blue eyes; that supple, pink lips are so close to her face, she can feel each breath being exhaled onto her lips.

“Victoria?!” Max exclaims, feeling totally awake now. She tries to get up but her arms are pinned down by Victoria’s smooth, soft hands, her carefully manicured nails digging into Max’s skin, leaving scarlet crescents on pale flesh.

“Maxine, why didn’t you tell me you are Captain?” Victoria’s voice is low and husky, sending sparks down Max’s spine.

Max can feel her heart pounding heavily in her chest and blood racing in her veins.

Victoria is so close to her, she can even see herself being reflected in Victoria’s bright, green eyes.

“I- I’m not —”

“Don’t lie to me,” Victoria tightens her grip on Max’s arm, nails digging deeper into her skin. Max moans out in both pain and pleasure.

Why does this feel so good even though it hurts?

“H- how do you know I’m Captain?” Max breathes out heavily.

“I can recognize your sweet voice from your song,” Victoria says sensuously. “I wonder if your voice will be as sweet when you scream out my name.”

Before Max can react to what Victoria has just said, she felt soft lips pressing on her chap ones, gently, softly, tenderly.

Her eyes widen in shock but slowly closes as she sinks into the wonderful sensation of Victoria Chase licking and teasing her lips, leaving burning ember on wet lips.

Her fingers reach up to grasp Victoria’s blonde hair as she leaned in, breathing in the scent of Victoria, as she feels the grip on her wrists tightened.

Breaking away to breathe, Max opens her eyes to take in all of Victoria’s beauty as she exhales heavily onto Victoria’s lips.

Without waiting for Max to say anything, the blonde dives back in, leaning into Max and sealing their lips together once more. Victoria grazes her teeth on Max’s bottom lip, asking for passage. Max parts her lips and gasps as she feels a soft, warm tongue flickering playfully on her own.

Kissing is exactly what Max has imagined. It is wet, it is slippery and so very magical.

“Tori…” Max whines out when Victoria breaks from their kiss once again to pepper kisses on Max’s neck and collarbone.

“Maxine,” Victoria’s voice is hot and heavy, turning Max’s core aflame. “I like you. I have got a crush on you for a long time —”

Suddenly, Max can hear percussion playing, a consistent drumbeat over and over again.

Is this their Chasefield theme song playing in the background?

Wow, this is amazing. This is more magical than Max has ever imagined.

The percussion gets louder and louder, accompanied by the strumming of a guitar until vocal comes in.

Something good, oh something good, oh something good

What?

Max can feel vibration on her face as the music gets louder.

Oh something good tonight will make me forget about you for now.

Max jerks up immediately from her bed, panting heavily as she turns off the alarm on her phone.

“Oh crap! It’s a dream?” Max groans as she presses her palms against her face in embarrassment.

Her face is burning and her forehead is wet with sweat. Somewhere below her waist is also burning and wet.

She lies back down with a sigh.

“Wet dream about Victoria? Max Caulfield, are you fucking cereal?” she chides herself quietly, her right arm covering her eyes.

She lies on her bed, trying to slow her rapid breathing down.

Inhale… Exhale...

She moves her hand to her lips and caresses them lightly.

The dream feels so real.

Victoria’s lips feel so warm and soft on hers. She wonders if Victoria is as good a kisser as she was in her dream. Maybe she will find out when they hang out this Friday.

Max flushes red thinking of it.

Maybe she can even win the bet against Chloe.

Max hugs Captain close to her as she smiles herself silly.

 

=====

 

“Lamefield! Lamefield! Stop!”

Max freezes when she hears that voice, flashes of her dream begin flooding her mind.

“V- Victoria?”

“I’ve called you many times. Stop dreaming.” Victoria walks up to Max and stands right in front of her.

Max breath hitches. She steals a look at Victoria’s luscious, pink lips and finds herself blushing profusely. She can almost feel that lips on hers.

“Hello? Earth to Max?” Victoria places her hand on Max’s shoulder, giving her a light shove. Max jumps, startling Victoria. “Wow, are you that stunned? I am standing right in front of you, Spacefield.”

“H- Hi, Victoria.” Max forces a smile out. She tries to look at Victoria but can’t.

“Your face is awfully red. Are you sick?” Without warning, Victoria places her palm on Max’s forehead to check if she has a fever.

Max gasps out in shock.

Victoria retracts her hand instantly, thinking she has hurt Max with her hand. “Are you in pain? Do you need to go see a doctor?”

“I- I’m fine, V- Victoria…” Max stammers. “Y- you looking for m- me?”

“Yes, just wants to make sure you didn’t forget our meeting on Friday. I’m going to introduce you to the greatest Indie band in Arcadia Bay.” Victoria beams brightly. She always looks so happy when she talks about Twenty One Pirates.

“I remember. Thanks. I can’t wait to see them.” Max smiles back at Victoria. She’s glad that Victoria is such a fan of her music, even if she cannot tell Victoria her true identity, that she is, in fact, Captain of Twenty One Pirates.

“Great. I’ll pick you up at around 5? We can go for a quick bite at Taco Bell or wherever before heading down to Timbre. Heard that club is located in the middle of nowhere so there won’t be any place to eat around that area.”

Wow, Victoria has even planned their dinner for that evening. Max never know Victoria can be so thoughtful.

“Oh, and have Chloe told you?” Victoria continues. “Rachel has asked her out this Saturday.”

“Yup, Chloe is ecstatic about it,” Max says cheerfully. She’s glad Rachel has told Victoria about her date with Chloe. That means it is probably a serious thing, right?

“Tell your friend not to be overly happy about it,” Victoria replies coldly. “Rachel just likes hanging out with new people. She’s friendly like that. Tell Chloe don’t get her hopes up. Besides, Rachel is leaving for L.A. this Sunday. She has a fashion shoot next week.”

Max raises her eyebrows in surprise. “What? She’s leaving this Sunday? When will she be back?”

Victoria shrugs. “Her schedule is quite packed. Maybe in 2 weeks time? Or maybe in 2 months time? Who knows? I’m not her agent. I don’t keep track of her schedule.”

Max frowns. She wonders if Chloe knows about this. She really doesn’t want her best friend to be disappointed, especially if Saturday’s date goes well.

“Hey, Vic, are you coming?” Max turns to see Taylor waving at Victoria. Courtney is beside Taylor, clutching a file full of notes.

This is a rare sight. Courtney is seldom seen without her boyfriend lately. Max has almost never seen the trio have lunch together ever since Courtney got a boyfriend a couple of months back.

“You girls go ahead! I will see you in the cafeteria. Grab me a grilled chicken breast sandwich, will you?” Victoria says to Taylor before turning her attention back to Max.

“Is Taylor going to Timbre with us this Friday?” Max asks cautiously. She is hoping the answer is no so that she can spend all that time with Victoria alone.

“Nah, her favorite band is playing at the Raven this Friday, so she’ll be there instead. Never know why she likes the band, Pisshead. Terrible band name, terrible vocalist, terrible songs. She thinks the bassist is cute but he looks like a hobo to me. They are not even half as good as Twenty One Pirates.” Victoria rattles on in disdain.

Her loyalty is with Twenty One Pirates so she will make sure she converts as many people to be their fans as possible. Max Caulfield is her first target.

“I think their drummer is not bad,” Max says without thinking.

“You have heard them play before?” Victoria looks at Max in shock and displeasure. “How could you have heard them play but not the Twenty One Pirates?”

“I- I do listen to Twenty One Pirates. I just don’t follow them. I mean I don’t follow Pisshead either. I’ve just heard their songs before.” Max tries to backpedal. She cannot let Victoria finds out that she and Chloe actually know the band members of Pisshead, at least as Captain and Davy.

“So which do you think is a better band?” Victoria takes one step closer to Max menacingly. Max gulps nervously. The scent of Victoria’s flora perfume is making her dizzy. She is suddenly reminded of that wonderful dream of Victoria she had last night.

Max takes a step back. “I think both bands have their strengths. Both play a really different genre of music so it’s difficult to judge —”

Victoria takes another step towards Max, clearly unhappy with her reply. “Are you deaf? Twenty One Pirates has much better techniques than that trash band Pisshead.”

Max is never one who showers herself with self-praise but Victoria looks really upset with her reply, so she adds, “Y- you’re right. Twenty One Pirates does have much better techniques.”

Satisfied, Victoria nods in agreement. “Right. You will see for yourself on Friday.”

Max smiles nervously. She’s not sure how she can see for herself on Friday since she will be performing.

She will have to ask Chloe for a solution to this tricky problem.

 

=====

 

“What did Victoria say?” Chloe asks impatiently.

Max has just messaged Chloe about Rachel telling Victoria about their date on Saturday and is halfway typing the second message when Chloe calls.

Chloe has no patience to wait for Max’s messages, especially since this concerns Rachel.

“She just says Rachel told her about you guys meeting on Saturday.”

“Victoria never tells you how much Rachel has fallen for me?” Chloe probes.

If Rachel is any other lady from Arcadia Bay, Chloe is certain that she will already be head over heels for her. Chloe always has a way to charm the women of Arcadia Bay.

But this is Rachel Amber, the rising star of the modeling world, not just any other ladies from a small town like Arcadia Bay.

“Hmm, Victoria just says Rachel likes to meet new people, and that she is friendly. So maybe you shouldn’t get your hopes up high yet, Chlo.” Max relays the message to her best friend. She hates to be a wet blanket but she also doesn’t want Chloe to be disappointed. “Did Rachel tell you she’s flying back to L.A. this Sunday?”

There is a long silence on the other end of the phone. Max isn’t sure if she has lost the connection or Chloe is just too shocked to say anything.

“Chlo? You there?”

“What did you just say?” Chloe asks solemnly.

“Um… Rachel didn’t tell you?” Max says cautiously. She can sense the disappointment in Chloe’s voice already.

“When will she be back?”

“I don’t know. Victoria doesn’t know either. Maybe you can ask Rachel yourself.” Max taps her feet nervously. The last thing she wants to see is her best friend gets her hope crush by the girl she likes since high school.

Then, silence again as Chloe mulls over this detail.

After a long pause, Chloe finally speaks. “I’ll ask her on our date. Don’t want to appear too creepy and clingy. Maybe if Saturday goes well, she will be willing to come back to Arcadia Bay earlier for me.”

Max smiles. She’s glad Chloe is still holding on to that hope.

“By the way, Max,” Chloe says. “I’ve bought the paint for our performance on Friday.”

“Paint?” Max is confused. Why did Chloe buy paint for?

“You’ve forgotten about our grand performance? Where we will mark our fans with paint?” Chloe barks out from the other end of the phone.

“I- I remember!” Nope, Max has definitely forgotten.

“So what will we do on that day?”

“Um…” Max forces herself to think back to the conversation on this.

Paint? Paintball? Nope, not that.

Oh!

“We’ll go down from the stage to press our painted palms on our fans. I remember that.” Max says hastily.

“Good. I’ve already informed Timbre and they are crazy about this idea. Say it’s going to be like the Holi festival of India. But I told them it’s not going to be a colored powder throwing mayhem. Just a way for us to go down and connect with our fans.” Chloe updates Max but her voice is trailing off.

Max knows she is probably still shaken to know that Rachel is flying off this Sunday.

Max hums in acknowledgment. “You okay, Chlo?”

“Yeah. But I gotta go now. There are customers coming into the coffee shop. Laters!”

And Chloe ends the call without waiting for Max to say goodbye, again.

Max sighs.

Chloe has her own problems to worry about. She can’t possibly ask Chloe to help her think of a solution for her Friday problem.

Max will just have to wing it.

Chapter Text

“C’mon, Max. You gotta choose one.” Max says softly to herself. She has been pacing around her room half naked for the past twenty minutes, staring at the three graphic T-shirts lying on her bed.

The pink Jane Doe T-shirt is her favorite, so it is the most worn out of the three.

The grey Rock Chick T-shirt is a gift from Chloe and it will suit tonight’s theme the most.

The black Death's-head Hawkmoth T-shirt is the darkest of the three but it seems rather appropriate for the club they are going to.

Max just can’t make up her mind. Doesn’t help that when she asks Chloe for her opinion, she tells Max to go in her bikini.

“Since you’re going to get naked anyway, why not just give the bitchy queen an easy access?”

Max can still hear that evil cackle from Chloe even though that facetime call was an hour ago.

Max groans in exasperation. There is only half an hour left before meeting Victoria at the car park. Victoria has specifically instructed Max to meet her at her car even though their rooms are just opposite each other. Victoria explains to Max that they are not supposed to walk to the car park together to avoid unnecessary rumors in the Blackwell grapevine but Max knows Victoria is just ashamed to be seen going out with a loser like her.

Max exhales sharply.

And slumps into her desk chair defeatedly.

It hurts. It hurts to know Victoria doesn’t want to be seen going out with her.

Max has no idea why she will even dare hope that this is a date. Victoria is just trying to brainwash her into a Twenty One Pirates fan. That is all to this… this thing, whatever this thing is.

Sometimes, Max wishes she can just wear her Captain ski mask out. Maybe then she will be accepted by Victoria as a human being.

Sigh, this is pathetic. Max is spiraling downwards and feeling more and more reluctant to go out with Victoria.

“Geez! Focus, Max!” Max places her palms on her cheek and gives her face a light slap. There is no time to panic and spiral into self-doubt now. She just has to get this over with. If it goes well, then maybe they can progress to being real friends. If it ends in disaster, at least Max can proudly tell herself that she tried.

She scoops up the Rock Chick T-shirt and puts it over her head and pulls it down, wiggling her arms into the sleeves. Maybe Chloe’s charm and courage will rub off her if she wears this Rock Chick T-shirt. She takes out a black jacket from her wardrobe and wears it over her T-shirt, hoping it will make her look less casual.

She hopes she doesn’t embarrass herself standing beside the very fashion forward Victoria Chase with her outfit.

Max reaches for her phone and checks the time. Twenty minutes left.

She unlocks her phone to type a message to Chloe.

Max: I’m nervous as hell. If u dun hear from me tonight, it means I’m dead

Max hits the send button and lies down on her bed, pushing away the other two T-shirts rejects to one side.

Before she can even open up her Facebook app to surf through the newsfeed, her phone chirped with a new message notification.

The Price is Right: Dun u dare die on me. We hv epic gig tonite

The Price is Right: U will b fine.

The Price is Right: U r supermax!

The Price is Right: C u later at timbre. Dun b late.

The Price is Right: Ur stuff r all in my truck n hella heavy. U owe me one, Maxie.

The Price is Right: dun kiss ur queen b4 i kiss mine!

Max smiles looking at Chloe’s messages coming in one after another, not allowing Max to even type back a single reply. She loves it when her best friend is so enthusiastic about her life.

To prepare for today’s “date” with Victoria, Max has placed her guitar, Captain’s face mask and a change of clothes in Chloe’s truck so she can help Max deliver them to the dressing room at Timbre without Victoria knowing.

Max: Thx Che. You’re the best! <3 <3

The Price is Right: NO EMOJI!

The Price is Right: So how r to gg to b in 2 places at the same time? How r u going to david blaine this?

Max: Argh… I dunno. I’ve a few ideas but I dunno if I can pull it off.

The Price is Right: U better think quick. U only hv few hrs to our performance. N we r painting the club red tonite. Dun u forget tt.

Max: Idk wtf i put myself thru tis

The Price is Right: cos Vic has sass and sexy ass. Stop thinking so much n go enjoy urself. Just rem to come on stage when its time to jam. I’ll get everything ready for u, dun worry.

Max looks at the time on her phone and realizes she is running a little late. She stuffs her phone into her messenger bag, runs her fingers through her hair to smoothen it out and takes a deep breath.

This is it. It’s showtime.

 

=====

 

It’s not difficult to find Victoria’s car in the parking lot. Hers is the brightest and shiniest car in campus, a bright, chili red Maserati. No one has a better car than Victoria Chase on campus. No one other than Victoria’s good friend, Nathan Prescott, who drives a white Porsche.

Max has never sat in a Maserati before. Hell, she has never even seen one up close before. Now that she has finally walked to Victoria’s car, she hesitates to get in.

This chili red Maserati probably costs more than Max’s college scholarship. Why do Chase and Prescott need such flashy cars when they are staying in the campus dormitory is beyond Max. It reminds Max of how different her world is compared to Victoria’s.

Max looks down at the gravel on the ground and gives it a light kick. Small fragment of stones hit the tire of the car and bounces off in all directions.

That’s what she is.

Measly gravel on the ground. Why will she ever dare to think that Victoria has asked her out on a date?

“What’re you waiting for, Lamefield? Get in!” Victoria winds down the window and yells at Max in her annoying yet endearing high pitch voice.

“O- okay,” Max replies weakly.

Max reaches the door handle of the car and opens it as carefully as she can, afraid that she might yank the door handle off if she pulls it too forcefully. She cannot afford to even pay for Victoria’s car door handle if she damages it, so she has to be extra cautious.

She gets into the car and is immediately hit by the scent of Victoria’s perfume.

Notes of lavender and bergamot.

It’s intoxicating.

She turns to look at Victoria and gasp softly, taking a moment to take in the breathtaking sight before her.

Victoria is wearing a leopard print cardigan over a tiny, black button down dress; completing the look with black stockings on her long, long legs. A rose gold Chanel necklace hangs on her beautiful neck, together with matching rose gold bangle on her right wrist.

Victoria looks absolutely stunning.

“Jesus, what the hell are you waiting outside for? Expecting me to open the car door for you, princess?” Victoria says sarcastically, her manicured fingers tapping on her steering wheel impatiently. “Oh, and don’t touch anything. You gotta pay if you break anything.”

Max immediately stiffens and holds both her hands up, afraid that her clumsy hands and arms might knock something over.

Victoria throws Max a look and laughs at the hilarious state Max is in. “Gosh, you’re such a dweeb. I am kidding! Put your hands down!”

Max looks at Victoria, who is still laughing at her, and sulk. “I’m just afraid I might break something. I can’t afford to pay it off.”

“You can pay off with your body,” Victoria replies so nonchalantly, Max thought she heard it wrong.

“Wh- what?” Max can feel her face burning.

“You can be my slave forever.” Victoria gives Max a smirk. It’s meant to look smug but for some reason, Max finds Victoria extremely sexy with her lopsided smile and tiny creases forming at the side of her luscious lips.

Max swallows hard and looks away.

“I- I don’t want to be your slave.”

“C’mon, you get to serve me in my big house. What’s there to complain?” Victoria sniggers as she makes a turn out of Blackwell campus and onto the main road towards town.

Max laughs nervously and looks out of the window, trying to hide the redness on her face. She knows Victoria is just trying to rile her up with her usual caustic remarks but it is stirring something inside of Max’s core.

Victoria glances over to take a quick look at Max before turning her attention back to the road. “Hmm, you’re actually dressed quite decently today. Thank god you never go with your usual lazy hippie style… if that can even be called a style.”

Max smiles. It’s a backhanded compliment but it’s a compliment nonetheless. And Max will take that any day from the queen bitch, Victoria Chase.

“So what do you want to eat?” Victoria gives Max a side look.

“Um…”

Before Max can say anything, Victoria cuts in. “Are you allergic to anything? Nuts? Seafood? I don’t want to have to send you to ER in the middle of our dinner. I still want to catch my Twenty One Pirates tonight.”

“I can eat anything. So you can decide.” Max gives Victoria a nervous grin.

“Great! There’s a taco food truck near the cliff where the lighthouse is. They serve the best taco in Arcadia Bay. Let’s go there.” Victoria says as she swerves and cut into the right lane to make a right turn.

There’s a loud screeching sound followed by a loud and long honk. The car behind her has just blasted its horn over Victoria’s abrupt lane cutting.

Victoria lifts her hand up to give the driver her middle finger.

“Fucking morons. They should ban all these fuckers from driving.” Victoria exclaims in annoyance.

Max just looks at her with mouth gaping, as she tries to find her words.

“What?” Victoria snaps when she realizes Max staring at her.

“It’s – It’s kinda your fault…” Max squeaks out in a small voice.

“What do you know? Do you even have a license?” Victoria continues her tirade angrily.

“We are not in a hurry. You should always drive safely.” Max says in a calm and gentle voice. She instinctively reaches over to give Victoria a light pat on her thigh to calm her down, like she has done a hundred times to Chloe when she was riding in her truck and when Chloe was angry at other drivers.

Victoria’s breath hitches, clearly surprised at the sudden physical contact that she never expects from Max. All the anger she is feeling immediately dissipated, and that emotion is replaced by guilt for lashing out at Max.

“A- alright! Jesus, you are really naggy, Smallfield.” Victoria sputters as she looks away, feeling the heat rising to her cheeks.

But Max just smiles at her with the sweetest, most innocent smile that makes Victoria blush even harder.

She turns her head back to concentrate on the road, praying hard that Max won’t notice just how red her face has become and how hard her heart is pounding.

“I do have a license.”

Victoria whips her head towards that meek sound that Max just made.

“What?”

“You asked if I have a license. I- I do have a driving license.”

“Oh. Really?” Victoria gives Max a quick glance before looking back at the road.

Max nods. “I got it in Seattle. Right before coming to Arcadia Bay. Just… never have a chance to drive a car here.”

Victoria looks over again and to see Max looking down nervously at her hands that are placed on her lap.

“You can take my baby for a spin if you dare.”

It’s Max’s turn to whip her head towards Victoria.

“What?”

“You heard me. But only at that stretch of road leading towards the lighthouse. It’s pretty deserted so the chance of being charged with manslaughter will be low. That is unless you crash my car and kill me.”

Victoria gives Max a fleeting smile before turning her head back to the roads.

Max just looks at her in shock.

“I wouldn’t dare to. Y-your car is too expensive. What if I crash it?”

“Wow, you are that bad of a driver, huh? Really living up to your loser reputation.” Victoria says with a sneer.

“Hey, I’m not that bad. But your car is too fancy. Chloe won’t even let me drive her truck and hers is a tin can.” Max says.

“That’s ‘cos that dropout friend of yours can’t afford the repairs if you crash her trashcan truck.”

Max opens her mouth to protest but can’t find any compelling retort. Victoria kind of has a point there. But she can’t just let Victoria call her best friend a dropout and get away with it.

“Chloe is actually really smart. If her dad is still around, I’m sure she will be in college with me. Or even win a scholarship to MIT. She is that brilliant.”

Victoria makes a face to express her disagreement.

“Pffft. She’s such a brute. I don’t even know why the both of you are friends. You are a total opposite of her.”

Before Max can explain, Victoria makes a turn into an empty car park lot and parks the car.

“We are here. The food truck is further down. Let’s go grab some tacos.” Victoria says with slight excitement as she opens the car door to step out.

There is a cluster of food trucks at the far end of the car park. One of the food truck already has a queue forming.

As Max walks closer, she can see that there is a variety of food being sold by the individual food trucks. Apart from tacos, there are trucks that sell fish and chips, burgers, mac and cheese and even one that sells Japanese rice bowl.

“C’mon, Slowfield. The queue is getting longer.” Victoria exclaims as she hastens her steps towards the taco truck.

Max smiles to herself. Victoria really likes her tacos.

Max let Victoria choose her tacos for her since Victoria insists that she knows better. They soon sat down at a park bench near the car park with piping hot tacos.

“I’m surprised you will eat from a food truck,” Max says as she takes a bite of her beef taco. “I always thought you eat at fancy restaurants every day.”

Victoria nibbles gently at her seafood taco before replying. “Not all good food is found in restaurants. I usually come here alone or with Rachel. Taylor and Courtney find street food unhygienic and unappealing.”

Max nods as she takes another bite of her taco. Victoria isn’t lying when she says this is the best tacos in Arcadia Bay.

“I love street food.” Max gives Victoria a smile as she swallows her food. Victoria can feel her heartbeat hastening again. “My dad used to bring us to Westlake Park in Seattle to have lunch over the weekends. Lots of good food trucks there.”

Victoria looks at Max in disbelief.

“No way! I love the Westlake Food Truck Pod! I’ll always be there with my friends after school. That’s why I love street food so much. Seattle has such a great street food scene that Arcadia Bay is lacking.”

It’s Max turn to look at Victoria in surprise.

“I never know you are from Seattle. Why did you move to Arcadia Bay?”

“For Blackwell’s photography program. My parents decided to send me to this armpit of a town because of that. The car is a gift from them as compensation for the drop in standards of living.” Victoria scoffs and rolls her eyes. “Not much of a compensation, if you ask me. So what about you, Lamefield? Why are you here?”

“Same reason as you. For the photography course. I applied for Blackwell’s scholarship and got it.” Max says as she finishes her last piece of taco. “Also, I grew up here, so I want to study in a place I’m familiar with. And Chloe is here too.”

Victoria’s face twitches when she learns that Max is back in Arcadia Bay for that dropout.

What’s so good about that brute?

“How on earth did you become friends with that —” Victoria pauses when she realizes Max narrowing her eyes at her. “— with Chloe?”

Max inhales sharply as she recalls the first time she met Chloe. She smiles and replies, “Chloe saves me from a bunch of boys trying to steal my bike. I think I was six, riding the new bicycle my dad got me for my birthday, on the pavement right outside my house. These boys came out of nowhere and shoved me onto the ground, trying to ride my bicycle away. Chloe happened to be there and came to my rescue.”

Victoria daps the napkin on her lips daintily while she listens.

So the brute saves this loser from being bullied. What a typical story.

“We became best friends ever since. We may seem very different but we actually have lots in common. We both love Japanese anime and manga and video games. We both love music.” Max says gleefully.

“I love anime and games and music too. Don’t see you being my best friend.” Victoria says instantly before her brain can process what she has just said. Her eyes widened in shock when she realized what she has just implied.

“N- not that I even want to be your friend, loser.” She tries desperately to backpedal.

Max giggles and look at Victoria with such a gentle look, Victoria can almost feel her heart melting. “We are friends, Tori. If you want to.”

Victoria’s face flushes red as she looks away, “Don’t call me Tori. It sounds terrible.”

“I think it sounds cute,” Max’s voice is so sweet, stirring the butterflies in Victoria’s stomach.

“Then I shall call you Maxine,” Victoria gives a half-hearted rebuttal, secretly loving that little pet name Max has just given her.

“Max. Never Maxine.” Max pouts as she says this, causing Victoria’s heart to do a little flip.

Why is Max so damn cute?

“You call me Tori, I call you Maxine. It’s a fair exchange.” Victoria smirks. “C’mon Maxine. Time to go. Don’t want to be late for the show.”

Victoria gets up from the bench and starts walking towards her car, leaving Max to catch up with her.

Victoria never expects today to go so well. Maybe Maxine is not such a loser after all.

Meanwhile, Max is sweating buckets as it gets closer to performance time.

Will she be able to pull this off?

She can only hope for the best.

Chapter Text

“I- I don’t mean to be rude… but, um, a- are we lost?”

Max squeaks out in a small voice while sinking into her seat, preparing herself for a backlash from Victoria for even daring to question her.

It’s been half an hour since they left the food truck park. They are supposed to make their way towards Timbre but Victoria is just driving them deeper and deeper into the woods. Max secretly wonders if Victoria is bringing her somewhere secluded so she can dispose of Max’s body after she murders her.

“How dare you doubt my sense of direction, Lamefield,” Victoria spits angrily. “We are certainly not lost. Timbre is just located at a stupidly secluded area.”

Max looks out of the window while picking on her nails nervously. There’s nothing outside but rows and rows of trees that look incredibly creepy in the moonlight.

Sensing Max’s nervousness, Victoria rolls her eyes. “Don’t worry, I don’t intend to kill you and dispose of your body in the words.”

Victoria gives Max a sickeningly sweet smile, causing Max to blush a little.

“I prefer throwing dead bodies into the Pacific Ocean.” Victoria’s smile never once leaves her face. Instead, her smile widens like a Cheshire cat. “The splash when the cold, hard body hits the water is so satisfying.”

Max snaps her head towards Victoria and looks at her like a deer in the headlights.

“Wh- what?” Sweat starts to form on Max’s forehead as she grabs onto the door handle for her dear life.

Victoria shrieks in laughter at Max’s reaction, barely able to contain herself.

“O. M. G, Maxine! I can’t believe you actually fell for that shit! The look on your face is priceless!”

Max let out a breath that she doesn’t know she is holding, lifting her hand up to wipe the sweat off her forehead.

“Th- that’s not funny, Tori. You almost gave me a heart attack.”

“You’re such a big scaredy cat, Maxine,” Victoria smirks, stealing a glance at Max. “You didn’t crap your pants, did you? It’ll be hard cleaning your shit off my leather seats.”

“Of course not!” Max almost screams out, face red in embarrassment. That just makes Victoria laughs louder.

They soon reach a gate with a sign that reads “No Trespassing.” A few cars and a dozen motorcycles are parked in front of the gate.

“We’re here,” Victoria says as she parks. “Timbre is up ahead.”

Max can hear the rock music the moment she steps out of Victoria’s car. The beats from the bass pounded heavily in the air, sending vibrations up Max’s body.

“C’mon, Slowfield.”

Victoria is already opening the gate like she owns the place. Who cares if there is a “No Trespassing” sign? Victoria is a goddamn queen and she can go wherever the hell she wants.

Max hastens her steps to follow close behind. She certainly doesn’t want to be left alone here. This place still creeps her out, and with the music blasting so loudly, she can very well be attacked by a grizzly bear and no one can even hear her screams.

Max has heard a lot about Timbre from Chloe. She knows that it’s an abandoned timber mill turned alternative underground club. But Max never expects to see a literal warehouse in the middle of nowhere. It’s old, it’s dilapidated, it’s dirty.

What did Chloe sign her up for?

“Stop spacing out, Spacefield.” Victoria gives Max a nudge before pushing her gently to the entrance of the club. There is already a queue forming with a dozen of people in front of them.

“Damn it. There’s already a queue. To think we’re already early.” Victoria grumbles.

“Are they all here to watch Twenty One Pirates?” Max asks, genuinely curious to know if they really have that many fans as Chloe claims.

“Of course they are. See how many of them have a bandana tied to their face?”

Max looks around and true enough there are a few people who have the same bandana Davy has, tied around their neck and on their face.

“And see that idiot over there with a ski mask over his head?” Victoria points her manicured finger at a guy who is easily twice Max’s height.

He has a black ski mask on his face and even a pirate eye patch across his left eye. But instead of looking like Captain, Max think he looks more like Jason from Friday the Thirteenth.

“Told you they are famous.” Victoria leans in and talks into Max’s ear, causing Max to gasp out in surprise. Her ear burns red, still hot from Victoria’s breath.

Max looks at Victoria, wondering if she did that on purpose, if Victoria is just teasing her. But Victoria is now looking intently at the door bitch standing at the entrance giving stamps for entry, trying to use her eye power to will that door bitch to work faster, totally oblivious to the effect she has on Max.

Max places her palm on her chest, feeling the intense pounding of her racing heart.

Will tonight be the night Victoria finally finds out about Max’s secret identity?

How she wishes she can just come out to Victoria and tell her the truth. To tell Victoria that she is actually Captain of the band she loves so much.

But she knows that Victoria will never believe her.

After all, she is just a loser in Victoria’s eyes.

Her heart aches just thinking about it. This may have been a wonderful night out but Max knows that Victoria only asks her out because she wants to convert her into a Twenty One Pirates fan.

Nothing more.

“Identity card.” The door bitch’s deadpan voice interrupted Max’s train of thought.

“About time.” Victoria grouses as she shoves her identity card and the entrance fee into the door bitch’s hand, earning a stink eye from her.

The door bitch finishes checking Victoria and Max’s identity card and gives them a stamp of entry.

Like an excited child in a candy shop, Victoria rushes into the club straight to the bar, with Max trying to keep up with that short legs of hers.

“Let’s get some drinks before we go to the mosh pit. You want a beer?” Victoria asks.

“Yuck. Beer is too bitter. I just want a soda.”

“A soda?? You’re at a nightclub, Maxine, not Mcdonald’s. You better get a drink to loosen up. Don’t want you to be standing at the mosh pit, stiff as a board.”

“But I don’t like alcohol…” Max protests weakly.

“I’ll order something sweet for you then.” Not waiting for Max’s response, Victoria turns to the bartender and orders her drinks.

Victoria passes a glass of white and brown liquid to Max, while she has a glass of pink cocktail.

“What’s this?” Max asks. She has never seen a drink like this before.

Then again, Max doesn’t even drink and Chloe only drinks beer.

“Try it,” Victoria says as she sips on her own glass of pink cocktail.

Max takes a cautious sip and is hit by the sweet, milky taste with a bitter undertone.

She likes it.

“This is nice! What is this?” Max takes a large gulp of her drink.

Victoria reaches over to take the drink out of Max’s hand. “Whoa, don’t drink so fast, cowboy, or you’ll be gone before Twenty One Pirates even starts singing. This is a White Russian, and although it tastes like coffee milk, it has vodka in it. For a noob like you, this can be potent.”

But it’s too late. Max has already down more than half of it at one go. She can already feel the warmth of the alcohol slowly spreading from her stomach to the rest of her body.

“Oh no,” Max mutters to herself. She should be more concerned about not being in her best state to perform on the stage later, but the warmth in her core and the buzz in her head is strangely liberated.

Victoria ends up drinking three more cocktails of various color before bringing a bottle of beer to the mosh pit. Max only had that one drink and is already beet red.

“You sure you don’t need a glass of water?”

“You concern about me?” Max gives Victoria a cheeky smile.

This actually brings a blush to Victoria’s face

“Just don’t want you to puke all over me. God, Lamefield, are you drunk already?”

Max laughs.

She’s not drunk. She’s just filled with a glass of white, liquid courage and this liquid courage is pulsing in her veins, threatening to spill out.

But before Max can reply, her phone started vibrating. She digs her phone out of her pocket to see Chloe’s face flashing on her phone.

“Waddup, dawg?”

“Whoa! Holy shit! Are you hella drunk, Maxironi?” Chloe’s voice pierces through from the speaker.

“I’m not! Can you guys stop saying I’m drunk?”

“Mad Max, how many drinks have you had exactly?”

“Um, lemme count… one?” Max giggles.

“What the…” Max can hear Chloe slapping her forehead. “You fucking lightweight!”

“It’s so fun here, Chlo! Wish you were here!” Max giggles again.

“I. AM. HERE!” Chloe is practically yelling in exasperation right now.

“Oh. Right.” Max giggles some more.

“Shit, Max. We are performing in forty-five minutes!. You better get your ass backstage soon. You still need to change.”

“But… I don’t wanna leave Tori…”

Victoria heard her name and turns to look suspiciously at Max.

Max just giggles back, giving her a silly grin.

Victoria bites her lips nervously and looks away.

“I don’t give a shit. Get your ass backstage in fifteen minutes.” Chloe commands before hanging up.

“Who’s that?” Victoria asks.

“Just Chloe, being concern that I might be drunk.”

“You are drunk.”

“I’m not! Just happy.” Max continues her giggling.

Victoria furrows her brows in concern.

“I will go get you some water. You stay here.” Victoria turns and disappears into the crowd.

Max doesn’t even notice that the crowd has started streaming in and there now are people all around her, waiting for the performance to start.

Four guys are now on stage preparing for their set. Max suddenly remembers that a new band, The UnXpected, is performing before them tonight.

Time is ticking. Max needs to get to the waiting room soon. But what about Victoria? How can she just leave her here alone?

The UnXpected starts to introduce themselves to the audience and people start moving their way to the mosh pit. That’s when Max realizes it’s almost impossible to find Victoria in this crowd, just like it’s impossible for Victoria to find her.

A perfect chance to bail.

“Sorry, Tori,” Max utters under the breath. “Maybe one day, I’ll tell you the truth.”

Max pushes her way through the crowd and towards the door leading to the backstage. She shows the performer’s confirmation text from Timbre’s management to the bouncer standing guard. The bouncer, who looks a little like The Rock with his bulging muscles and bald head, opens the door for Max.

Max unlocks up her phone to text Victoria, only to see that Victoria has already sent her a message.

Queen Vee: Wtf r u?

Max: I dun feel v well. Went out for fresh air

Queen Vee: R u nuts?? It’ll b diff to come in once 21 Pirates starts their set!

Max: Pls go ahead. I’ll come find you later.

Queen Vee: I will but dun u dare bail on me, Spacefield!!

Max chuckles. Even over text, Victoria finds it necessary to call Max names. It’s kind of endearing.

“Batmax! Finally! I’m about to shit my pants!” Chloe sees Max running into the waiting room and walks over to give her best friend a hug. “How did your date go?”

“Really well. Tori is really sweet.”

“Tori? What kinda strange, doggo name is that?”

“Don’t be rude. It’s a really cute name.”

“Cute name for a bitch like her!” Chloe exclaims but stops when she sees Max pouting angrily at her.

“You don’t have to be mean. I really like her.”

Chloe splays her hand across her chest and feigns shock. “Did you just confess that you like the queen bitch? Dude! What has Icky Vicky been feeding you?”

“This really nice drink called White Russian. Much better than your beer.”

“Can’t believe you’re drunk on a sissy drink. Enough chit chat! Go get change! I’ve placed all your stuff at the dressing table.”

Max walks over and gives Chloe a tight hug. “Thanks, buddy. I know I can always count on you.”

“Ew, stop your mushy crap. Go get ready now!”

 

=====

 

Victoria manages to squeeze all the way to the front of the mosh pit, with a little shoving, a little pushing and a little staring that can turn anyone into ice. She settles herself down and looks around.

There’s still no sign of Max.

Victoria: I brought u here to listen to 21 Pirates. U betta b in the club to catch them play.

Victoria keeps her phone in her Chanel purse and ponders.

When has she become so weak that she has to come to some godforsaken club in the middle of nowhere with the biggest loser in Blackwell?

She should have asked Taylor to come instead. Maybe Courtney. Or even Nathan.

Why did she ask Lamefield?

This has been the question that’s been floating in her mind quite a bit lately.

Why does she feel like Max can understand her taste in music? Why does she feel that Max can understand her like no one can?

Why does she feel the need to want Max to understand her?

The club is too loud, her head is swimming and her heart is pounding too fast.

What’s wrong with her?

The crowd suddenly gets restless. Victoria looks up and immediately knows why.

The UnXpected has finally finished their set and that means Captain and Davy will be coming on soon.

Victoria takes out her phone hastily. Seeing no reply from Max, she texts her again.

Victoria: WHERE R U, LOSER?

She stares at her phone and wills Max’s name to come online and look at her message.

It feels like an eternity but Max’s name finally appears online.

Victoria waits anxiously as she sees Max typing a reply.

Lamefield: I’m at the back. Too crowded to squeeze in. I’ll catch you after the performance ok? Sorry

Victoria practically throws her phone into her purse.

Damn you, Max Caulfield, leaving me all alone in the mosh pit like an idiot.

But she has no time to be upset for long because Davy is now strutting onto the stage like she owns it, with Captain prancing close behind.

Prancing?

Gosh, is Captain high on something?

Victoria chuckles.

Captain looks silly but it’s pretty darn cute.

Davy takes a seat and waves.

The crowd goes wild. Girls are screaming, guys are cheering. Everyone is chanting, “Twenty One Pirates!”

Davy twists the drumsticks in her hand and brings it down to the drums with a series of beats.

And everyone has their hands in the air.

Everyone but Victoria, because she is waiting.

Victoria is waiting.

And waiting.

Captain finally raises her hands up in the air and strums down hard on the guitar.

The crowd cheers even harder now.

Captain’s nimble fingers are moving lightning fast along the electric guitar and Victoria just watches on breathlessly.

She is so close to the stage, it almost feels like she can touch Captain if she just stretches hard enough.

So she did. She raises her hand towards the stage and she shouts.

Captain lifts up her ski mask up to her lips – the act itself causes Victoria to lose her breath – and smiles.

Victoria swears that Captain is smiling at her but before she can even verify this, Captain begin singing and Victoria completely lose her mind.

Who cares if Max Spacefield is not here with her? All she needs is Twenty One Pirates.

Captain’s voice is like a drug and Victoria is willing to be utterly addicted.

 

=====

 

Max loves being Captain. It’s freeing, it’s liberating, it’s exhilarating. She can play her guitar and sing her heart out with no fear of judgment because no one knows it’s actually Max Caulfield who is singing and playing the guitar behind that mask.

So with a little alcohol and her face hidden well behind the ski mask, Max walks onto the stage with a spring in her step.

Well, maybe more than just a spring in her step since she is practically prancing, but Max is absolutely excited about playing tonight.

Especially since she can see Victoria looking so longingly at her at the mosh pit. Max knows that tonight, she needs to give it her best because her biggest fan is watching her perform.

Max steals a glance at Victoria every now and then and never once did Victoria move her sight away from her. She is always staring at Captain attentively and intensively, swaying along with the beat of the music and singing along with Captain.

Max remembers their intimate singing session in Victoria’s room. It makes her smile while singing the same song on this very stage, this time, with Victoria singing along as an audience.

Song after song, Victoria sings with Twenty One Pirates, knowing the words to every single one of their songs like the back of her hand. And Max just sings harder because she feels like she needs to compensate Victoria for leaving her alone in the mosh pit and the only way to redeem herself is to give Victoria the best performance ever.

They are soon singing their last song of the night, Knives for Hands.

Max remembers how Victoria think this song is perfect, even though it is evident that Captain has difficulty reaching the high notes.

So Max tries, on this very night, to make this song perfect.

For Victoria.

And Captain sings, as hard as she can, to reach the high notes of the song.

With that motivation in her heart, Captain makes a perfect run of this song, reaching every high note there is in the song. The song soon comes to an end and as she strums the last note on her guitar, she points at Victoria and gives her a thumbs up.

Even though the lights in the club is dim, Max can see Victoria gasping in shock and her face flushing scarlet.

It’s deeply satisfying.

The crowd cheers as Davy finishes her final drum solo for Knives for Hands with a loud crash of the cymbals.

Captain pulls her ski mask down again and is about to walk off the stage when Davy grabs the microphone and shouts.

“Yo, cool folks of Timbre! Wassup!?”

The crowd responds with whistling and clapping.

“We have a very special post-performance activity just for you! We will be choosing ten lucky fans from the mosh pit, and we will be leaving our handprints on you with paint!”

The crowd breaks into cheers. The ladies, in particular, are screaming excitedly.

“You can choose to have our handprints on your body, on your face or on your clothes. Anywhere you want! But no asking us to touch your naughty bits, okay? Who wants to have our handprints on you?”

The crowd is going crazy at this point. Hands are flying up in the air.

Davy turns and gives Captain a look.

Immediately, Captain knows Davy is giving her a shit-eating grin even though her bandana is covering her mouth. And Captain knows exactly what Davy is going to do.

Davy lifts her hand up in the air – drawing loud screams from the fans – and points to the first lucky fan in the crowd.

Of course, it’s going to be Victoria Chase.

Victoria looks absolutely ecstatic as she pumps her hand in the air.

The rest of the nine fans Davy chooses are – unsurprisingly – mainly ladies with just one guy from the crowd.

The chosen fans are ushered to a special corner near the backstage by the bouncer, The Rock look-alike, while Captain and Davy rush backstage to get their paint.

“Are you cereal, Chlo? Why did you choose Victoria!?”

“Chose her for you, Mad Max. You get to be up close and personal with her. Isn’t this what you want?”

It is what Max wants. But she rather be up close and personal with Victoria as Max, not just as Captain.

“C’mon, Super Max, stop daydreaming! Let’s go paint the town red.” Chloe grins as she holds up a can of red paint. “Boobies, boobies, here I come!”

 

=====

 

Victoria still cannot believe her luck. Out of so many fans in the mosh pit, she is chosen for this once in a lifetime chance to be up close and personal with her favorite band. And she is the first fan to be chosen! What are the odds?

Victoria wonders if Max is watching somewhere in the club. How she wishes that Max is here to share the joy with her.

She takes out her phone from her purse to check her text and sees three messages from Max.

Lamefield: Wowser, you’re handpicked by 21 pirates! (ノ^ヮ^)ノ*:・゚✧

Lamefield: soooooo awesome! O(≧▽≦)O

Lamefield: I will catch u near the entrance later. Enjoy ur time with them. ;)

Victoria smiles.

Silly Lamefield and her childish emoticons.

It’s really cute.

The door to the backstage opens, jolting Victoria out of her thoughts.

“Yo yo, ladies,” Davy gives all the girls a big hug.

“And bruh,” she fist bumps the only guy in the group.

Captain follows behind Davy and although the girls all want a hug from her, Captain chooses to shake their hands instead.

One by one, Captain shakes her fans’ hands politely, until she reaches Victoria Chase.

Victoria stands in front of Captain, green eyes shimmering with admiration and happiness. Her lips quiver with anticipation and her hands stretches out to shake Captain’s hand.

Captain takes her hand and Victoria can feel the warmth from Captain’s hand, electrifying the goosebumps on her arms into existence.

“I- I’m a huge fan o- of yours. I love you, Captain!” Victoria stutters out, face flushed with excitement.

All of a sudden, Victoria finds herself in the warm embrace of this masked woman, and she is engulfed by the sweet scent of cherry from Captain. It smells strangely familiar.

“Thank you,” Captain whispers, her breath hot on Victoria’s ears, sending shivers down her spine.

“Captain, time to get to work,” Davy yells, and Captain breaks away from Victoria.

Victoria immediately feels cold from the lack of contact of Captain’s warm body.

It is then, Victoria realizes that she is the only fan Captain hugs.

Victoria can’t help but smirks proudly.

Of course Captain only has eyes for her. She is Victoria Fucking Chase after all.

While she is still absorbed in those thoughts, the fans around her start shrieking in joy. Davy is already dipping her hands in paint and pressing them on the fans’ waist and chests.

Victoria watches Captain closely. Unlike Davy who seems to be enjoying the interaction with their fans, Captain looks awkward and reserved.

Captain always ask for permission to touch her fans and always presses her hands gently on places like the fan’s back or the shoulders.

One by one, the fans are ushered away from the area after they get the handprints from the Twenty One Pirates. Victoria soon notices that she is the last fan left in the area.

Being able to have some alone time with the Twenty One Pirates is a dream come true for Victoria. As she stands there in anticipation, Davy dips her palms into the paint and walks up to her.

“So, what’s your name?” Davy asks with paint dripping from her hands.

“Victoria. Victoria Chase.”

“Victoria. That’s a real pretty name, babe.” Davy gives Victoria a wink, causing Victoria to smile shyly.

“Hey, Cap! Isn’t Victoria the name of the girl you have a crush on in school?” Davy turns to look at Captain, eyes glimmering with mischief.

Victoria turns to look at Captain and catches Captain looking intensely at her. Captain looks away instantly.

“Shut up, Dav,” Captain grunts out in annoyance, drawing a giggle from Victoria.

“Alright, m’lady. That cardigan of yours looks awfully expensive. You sure you want paint on those?” Davy asks.

“They will be priceless once I have your handprints on them,” Victoria replies with a smile.

“If you say so, Victoria Filthy Rich. So where do you want the handprints to be?” Davy asks.

“Um…” Victoria ponders while looking at Captain.

Davy immediately gets the hint. “Alright, tell you what, I’m gonna press my hands on your back, and my buddy, Cap, will do the front. You okay with that?”

“Yes! That’s… That’s great.” Victoria smiles brightly at Davy before turning her back towards her.

Davy gives Victoria a slap on her back – causing Victoria to wince out in pain and Chloe to stifle her laughter – before signing off her name.

“Alright, Cap, she’s all yours!” Davy shouts as she gives Captain a wink.

Captain is already on standby, with paint on her palm.

“So Victoria,” Captain speaks in a tone so soft, Victoria almost cannot catch what she said since Captain has her ski mask over her mouth. “Where do you want my handprints to be?”

Victoria stares straight into Captain’s right eye – since the left eye is covered with an eye patch – and tries her best not to stammer when she replies.

“On my breasts.”

Davy almost chokes and Captain stares at Victoria in shock.

“You sure about that?”

“Never been more sure in my life.”

Captain gulps nervously.

“Okay.”

Captain takes a deep breath and carefully moves towards Victoria’s breasts, her hands shivering as she does that.

Sensing Captain’s hesitance, Victoria takes both her hands and cup them on her breasts.

Captain’s breath hitches and her hands freeze. She looks at Victoria in panic but Victoria just gives her the warmest smile she has ever seen from Victoria.

And Captain just can’t stop looking at her.

In that magical moment, something shifted in the air.

And Victoria feels a ball of courage swelling in her chest.

She leans in and plants a kiss on Captain’s lips over her mask.

That caught Captain by surprise and she jerks back in shock.

Hurt and embarrassed by Captain’s reaction, Victoria apologizes. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me, didn’t mean to do…”

But before Victoria can even finish her sentence, Captain lifts her mask up to her nose and presses her lips onto Victoria’s.

Chapped, soft lips burning onto Victoria’s lips.

Electricity crackles at the edges of Victoria's vision as she closes her eyes.

Just as Victoria moves in to deepen the kiss, Davy’s wolf whistles pierce the air, loud and sharp, pulling them back to reality.

And as fast as it happens, it too ends abruptly as Captain hastily steps back and pulls her ski mask down.

“Have a good night, Victoria,” Captain utters before she turns and hurriedly walks through the door leading to the backstage, disappearing out of sight, leaving Victoria hot, flustered and confused.

“Don’t mind her. She’s just shy. I’m sure you’re a good kisser,” Davy says with a small laugh. “See you very soon. Victoria Filthy Rich.”

With that, Davy also disappears backstage and Victoria is left alone, stunned by what has just happened.

She touches her lips gently, still feeling the warmth and pressure from Captain’s lips.

Victoria grins contently.

She takes out her phone and opens up her text messenger.

Victoria: U r not gg to believe tis.

Chapter Text

“You did it! I can’t believe you fucking did it!” Chloe is running around the dressing room and squawking like a headless chicken

“If I knew all you needed is a little alcohol for you to kiss someone, I would have pumped you full of alcohol long ago!!”

Max looks up at Chloe, face flushed with embarrassment and excitement.

“I won’t kiss just anyone, Chloe.” Max smiles bashfully.

Chloe pounces on Max, put her into a headlock and ruffles her hair. “Whoa! Is that a confession? Is it, Maxironi?”

Max tries to wiggle out of Chloe’s death grip, in vain. So she surrenders and let her best friend messes up her already messed up brown hair.

“I don’t know if I like her, Chlo. I just feel really comfortable hanging out with her. She’s nothing like her queen bitch self when she’s with me. She’s really cool, really caring. She’s… really nice.”

“Oh my god! You are in love with her! My baby Max is all grown up!” Chloe yells excitedly while ruffling her hair.

Although a part of her feels sad that her best friend has fallen for some other woman other than herself, Chloe is really glad that Max is finally honest with her feelings.

Since young, Max has always been plagued with low self esteem. Afraid that she might offend people if she says the wrong things, Max will rather keep to herself and not talk to people. Not a great trait for making friends. That’s why Chloe is her only close friend since young.

Although Max is much better now and has a grand total of 3 friends in Blackwell — the religious Christian girl, Kate Marsh, who is even more shy than Max; the gorgeous cheerleader, Dana Ward, who is practically friends with everyone; and that weirdo, Warren Graham, who is only friends with Max because he has a boner for her — none of them have ever pushed Max out of her comfort zone the way Victoria Chase has.

It is Chloe’s first time seeing Max so happy and relaxed and contented after hanging out with someone other than herself.

Chloe is jealous, as much as she is happy for Max.

But she knows that one day, she will need to let Max spread her wings to take her first flight. And perhaps Icky Vicky can be the wind beneath Max’s wings when that time comes.

Chloe cringes just thinking about it. She just hopes Icky Vicky won’t let her best friend crash and burn.

“But Max, I hate to burst your bubble, but you kissing her as Captain, will just make her fall for Captain, not you. You know that, right?”

Max looks up at her best friend and sighs.

She has never intended to kiss Victoria tonight. Not as Captain and certainly not as Max.

But that moment was just too magical and her body just reacted on its own.

Her fingers brush against her lips as she tries to remember the sensation of Victoria’s lips on her own and it burns.

It burns with desire.

It burns with passion.

It burns with a need that Max never knows she has.

And she knows she needs to feel Victoria’s lips on hers again.

Max just hopes she has not screwed up her chances with Victoria.

Just then, her phone vibrates with a new notification.

Speaking of the devil.

Queen Vee: Where the fuck r u? R u eaten by the bears in the woods? Nv c u at entrance, im bk at the bar. U hv 3 min to get ur ass here.

“I gotta go, Chlo. Victoria is looking for me. Call you when I’m back in the dorm.”

“Wait, Max. Your hands are still red. Better clean it before you meet the queen bitch.” Chloe throws her a cloth soaked with rubbing alcohol. Max rubs her hands hastily on the cloth before rushing to the door. She stops, turns around and gives Chloe a shit-eating grin.

“Looks like you’ll be treating me dinner for a week.”

Chloe looks at Max with eyes wide open. “What?!”

“I won the bet.”

“No, you didn’t! You cheated! Captain kissed her, not you, Max.”

“I am Captain. Besides, there are no rules that state we can’t kiss our dates as our alter-ego. So too bad, Chlo. Dinner’s on you.”

Max shuts the door, leaving Chloe cursing in defeat.

 

=====

 

Victoria is on cloud nine.

She can still feel Captain’s lips on hers, so warm and gentle and soft.

She touches her lips, trying to recall that electrifying sensation.

Nothing can spoil her mood tonight. Not even a missing Max Lamefield who has abandoned her at the club and disappears to god-knows-where.

So when Max comes running to her from god-knows-where, Victoria doesn’t even feel a tinge of frustration. In fact, she should thank Max for disappearing on her which provided Victoria the opportunity to be alone with the Twenty One Pirates.

“S- sorry, Tori,” Max tries to catch her breath. “I- I kinda got stuck at the entrance trying to re-enter the club.”

It’s a lie. Something Chloe taught her. A lie that is logical and the least likely to arouse any suspicion from Victoria.

Max pauses and braces herself for the backlash from Victoria. After all, it takes her seven minutes to reach Victoria’s side when Victoria specifically states in her message that she wants her to be here in three. She is four minutes late.

Instead of yelling at her, Victoria gives her the biggest grin Max has ever seen from Victoria. Victoria loops her hand over Max’s arm, totally oblivious to the sudden stiffening of Max’s body and the redness crawling onto Max’s face.

“You will never guess what has just happened, Maxine.”

The excitement and happiness in Victoria’s voice cause Max’s heart to skip a beat.

“Wh- what happened?”

“I kissed Captain from Twenty One Pirates! And she kissed back!”

“Oh! Oh wow!” Max squeaks out. “That’s awesome.”

“It’s beyond awesome. She only kissed me. Me!” Victoria sighs dreamily. “Guess even the Twenty One Pirates cannot resist my charm.”

Max looks at Victoria gushing over the kiss that she has just given her and remembers what Chloe says.

Victoria is going to fall for Captain, Max’s alter-ego, not Max Caulfield.

Her heart clenches at that thought.

The phrase, ‘you are your worst enemy’, never makes as much sense to Max until now.

“You like her, V?”

“Of course I do! Captain is so damn talented!”

Max’s heart clenches harder.

“Oh.”

“I wonder how many fans she has kissed before. She seems really experience with this whole routine, though.”

Max chews on her lips. Is the Captain she portrays such a flirt?

“I am sure she doesn’t kiss her fans at all,” Max replies without thinking.

“Really? How would you know?” Victoria looks at Max doubtfully, causing Max to panic.

“W- well… she… she wears a ski mask! Hard to be kissing the fans with a piece of fabric on her face, isn’t it?” Max sputters out.

“What the!” Victoria stares at Max in astonishment and starts laughing. “God, Lamefield, that’s the lamest thing I have heard you said tonight!”

Max smiles sheepishly. She has never seen Victoria laughs so much before. In school, Victoria is always showing others her resting bitch face, spewing venom at students who dare cross her.

Tonight, Victoria is showing a side of her that Max will have never thought of seeing.

The side that is sweet, happy, cheerful, positive, caring and even kind. All adjectives one will never associate with the queen bitch, Victoria Chase.

But tonight, she is showing it all, to Max.

And it is all because of Captain.

This conflicted feeling of happiness and sadness is giving Max a headache.

“So did you enjoy the music by Twenty One Pirates?” Victoria asks while looking at Max expectantly. There’s a certain earnestness in her tone, almost like she is afraid Max will find this night boring.

Max nods and smiles.

“It’s the most fun I ever have in months.”

And she sees Victoria smiles before turning away, ears flushing red.

“Good. Let’s get out of here, Slowfield. Can’t wait to go back and frame my cardigan up. These handprints will cost millions next time. I’m sure of it.”

 

=====

 

They walk out of Timbre and stroll slowly back to Victoria’s car, with Victoria humming Twenty One Pirates songs along the way. The path was dark, with the moon being the only light source lighting their way.

Victoria can’t stop looking at Max, even though she knows she has gotta stop staring.

Oh, how beautiful Max looks under the moonlight, her freckles seems to be dancing on her pink flushed face.

Why hasn’t Victoria noticed how fricking beautiful Max was before?

They walk past the ‘No Trespassing’ gate and finally gotten back into Victoria’s car. Victoria cautiously takes off her cardigan and puts it at the back seat of her car, careful not to smear the handprint on her leather seat.

She gets into the driver seat and immediately notices something peculiar about Max.

“Why are your hands so red?”

Max has a look of shock on her face, like she has just been caught stealing cookies from the cookie jar. “I- I- I ran into Davy and s-shook her hand. Guess the red paint was from her hands.”

“What? When was that?”

“Right before meeting you, at the washroom…” Max looks nervously at her hands, trying to rub the paint off on her jeans.

“Guess it’s both our lucky day.” Victoria chuckles as she starts the car engine to reverse out onto the gravel road. “Who do you like better? Captain or Davy?”

“Th- they are both good, I guess.”

“C’mon, Maxine. If you have to choose one?”

There is a long pause.

Victoria glances over to look at Max. Max’s brows are furrowed and creases appear between her nose. She looks like she is seriously contemplating this question.

“Captain, I guess…”

“Great taste. But she’s mine, alright? Don’t you forget that.” Victoria jokes.

There is a long pause again and Victoria wonders if Max has taken that joke seriously.

“I know. You have kissed her after all.” Max says in a voice so meek and uncertain, Victoria almost never catches it.

She turns to look at Max, but Max is already facing the car window and looking at the vast nothingness out in the dark.

Victoria wonders if Max is upset that she has kissed the band member that Max likes too.

No, that doesn’t seem plausible. Max has only watched them perform tonight. And she has never told Victoria that she likes Captain before. In fact, she has never even said she likes Twenty One Pirates before.

Why does Max sound so upset then?

Or perhaps, in the very unlikely scenario, is Max upset because Victoria kissed Captain?

Is Max jealous that I kissed Captain?

Victoria’s breath hitches just thinking of that very unlikely scenario.

No, no, no. Don’t be silly. She’s just tired from the loud music and the booze.

Victoria’s mind is running at a thousand miles per second.

The very possibility that the Maxine Caulfield, the hipster who uses vintage Polaroid camera and wears silly cartoon T-shirts, with cute freckles and messy brown hair, could possibly be upset because Victoria has just kissed Captain is blowing her mind.

All this thinking is giving Victoria a headache.

Victoria is certainly happy that she gets to kiss her favorite band member. But why does knowing that, in the very unlikely scenario that Max is upset with her kissing Captain, makes her feel so weird?

What is this conflicting emotion she is feeling inside?

“Tori?”

Max calls out suddenly, causing Victoria to jump in surprise and steps hard on the brake, which in turn causes Max to scream a little.

The car comes to a screeching halt on the empty street.

“What?! Was there something on the road?” Victoria exclaims.

“No, no. Sorry. Don’t mean to scare you.”

“Then what is it?”

Max looks down again on her jeans, then out of the window, then down again, before looking straight into Victoria’s eyes.

Victoria swallows hard. She has never realized how blue Maxine’s eyes were until now.

Clear, blue skies, like that of a summer’s day.

Warm, gentle, tender.

Victoria can feel her breath quickening.

“Thank you, Tori. I have a great time today. I- I hope we can hang out again.” Max mutters out, her face turning pink.

Warm, gentle, tender.

Victoria bites down hard on her lips. She can feel the heat from her face, burning all the way down to her core.

It’s unbearable.

So she does the one thing she really wants to do at that moment.

Victoria lunges forward and takes Maxine into her embrace.

Sweet scent of flora and citrus from Maxine’s shampoo fills the air between them.

And all are silent, except for the rapid sound of pounding hearts, as they nestle in each other’s embrace.

After what seems like a long time (yet not long enough), Victoria finally lets go of Maxine and gives her a smile.

“I have a great time too, Maxine. I would love to hang out again.”

Maxine returns Victoria a smile.

Warm, gentle, tender.

Chapter Text

“And so like, she actually kissed me! And only me out of those bunch of people they handpicked! It’s such a fuck yeah moment, Rach!” Victoria lets out a chortle, before remembering she has a facial mask on her face. She adjusts the mask that has slipped off, presses it firmly on her face. “Guess even Captain cannot resist my charm.”

Victoria is lying down on her bed, with a facial mask on her face because moisturizing her skin is the most important regime before bedtime.

She has her earphones on while she talks excitedly to Rachel on the cellphone, sharing the most unbelievable day she just had, with her.

It’s rare for Rachel to have some spare time to talk to Victoria. She is, after all, an up and coming model who is always busy with modeling assignments around the world.

Years ago, Victoria would have been bloody jealous over Rachel’s current achievements. Rachel has always been Victoria’s biggest rival in high school, and they have even fought over the same lead role in the school play.

But after knowing Rachel better as a friend who in turn helps Victoria be more confident about her talents and herself, the insecure teenage girl from high school who bullies other people to feel better about herself has blossomed into a self-assured young lady in college.

The insecurity may rear its ugly head every once in a while but Victoria knows to never let it defines and determines who she is as a person.

“Captain kissed you? That’s interesting…”

Rachel sounds intrigued.

“Interesting? Is that all you have to say after I’ve been kissed by the band member of the most awesome band in Arcadia Bay?” Victoria huffs out.

“I mean it’s awesome. How’s the kiss?”

“Hmm… It feels uncertain. Almost like she’s inexperienced or maybe she’s just really nervous – which is ridiculous – I mean, I should be the one nervous, right? She is the Captain of Twenty One Pirates. For all you know, she’s been kissing and even fucking different groupies after every gig.”

Rachel actually sniggers like there’s an inside joke that Victoria is missing on.

“I highly doubt that, Vee. But where’s Max when that happened?”

“Pffft,” Victoria rolls her eyes instinctively, not like Rachel can see her over the phone. “That loser was lost in the crowd. I was all alone in the mosh pit during the performance. Can you believe that?”

“I can, actually…”

“What?”

“I mean it’s obviously Max’s first time watching a live gig in a club. She must have been overwhelmed,“ Rachel taps her fingers on her study table and smiles. “So how’s your date with Max? Did you kiss her?”

“Wh- what?! Why would I?” Caught off guard by Rachel’s sudden question, Victoria sputters. “Besides, it’s – it’s not even a date.”

“You sure about that?”

“Abso-fucking-lutely!”

Rachel sighs. Her friend is so bloody dense. It’s time to call her out on her bullshit.

“What’s your deal, Vicky? You obviously like Max –”

“– No I don’t!”

“– You obviously do. It’s fucking obvious.”

“Why the hell will I like that loser, bitch? I am Victoria Fucking Chase!”

Victoria is flustered. Layers and layers, the walls are piling up. Maybe if she piles more bricks and concrete, Rachel will not be able to see through her like she always does. Maybe if she piles more bricks and concrete, she will be able to suppress these emotions that have been threatening to spill out since she sent Maxine back.

Because Victoria can still remember Maxine’s scent, her warmth, her smile. The way her freckles seems to light up when she laughs. The way her brown, messy hair seems to frame her tiny face perfectly.

“Whatever you say, Vee.” Rachel’s voice snaps Victoria out of her thoughts. “Just don’t forget to be honest with your feelings once in a while. I won’t always be here to be your sounding board and guiding star.” Rachel’s once firm voice turns gentle and soft.

Victoria sighs. “I know. You’re flying off on Sunday. When will you be back exactly?”

“I don’t know. My agent is still planning my schedule. Maybe in two weeks time? Or maybe two months?”

Victoria lets out a chuckle. “That’s exactly what I told Max when she asked when you’ll be back. So you’re really meeting that dropout, Kari, tomorrow?”

It’s Rachel’s turn to chuckle. “Oh, for fuck’s sake, Vee. Her name is Chloe. At least remember Max’s best friend’s name, will you? And yes, I am having a date with Chloe. Technically, it’s today, since it’s already 2 in the morning.”

“What? A date? You like her that way?”

“Why not? She’s cute, her hair is cool and her tatts are so damn hot.” Rachel giggles.

“But you’re leaving on Sunday.”

“What’s the big deal. It’s not like we are getting married. We hang out, we have fun. It doesn’t have to be complicated.” Rachel shrugs. Dates are meant to be simple and fun. There’s no need to be so serious. That’s the problem with Victoria. Always so serious over everything.

“She’s obviously smitten by you. It may get complicated if you are not careful. Besides, if you break her heart, she will go crying to Max and Max may come running to me for advice since you are my buddy. Now that’s complicated .”

“Relax, Vee. Why are you always overthinking things? Don’t worry. I will not leave a mess for you to clean up when I leave for L.A., okay? I promise.”

“Just… just don’t sleep with her, okay?” Victoria ruffles her hair in frustration.

It’s not like her to be a moral police and neither is she a saint. Victoria has her fair share of fun in house parties and clubs and she’s all for a little no strings attached fun.

But Chloe Price is different. She is Max’s friend and now that Max and Victoria are in a good place, Victoria does not want anything to harm their new found friendship.

“Yes, mom,” Rachel drones out, yawning. “Why are you so concern? Are you jealous that I might sleep with her?”

“Oh, puh-lease,” Victoria hisses, “Like I will be jealous over you.”

“True that, since Max already has your heart.”

“– What!? She does not–”

“– Whatever, bitch. Keep telling yourself that and maybe you will believe it. I’m going to get my beauty sleep now. Ciao!”

“– Wait, hold on! I’m not –”

And Rachel hangs up without even waiting for Victoria to say goodbye like she always does when she is sleepy.

Victoria is left wide awake with that dried up piece of facial mask still on her face, mulling over Rachel’s last words before their conversation ends.

Max already has your heart.

Victoria swallows hard.

Does she, really?

 

=====

 

Chloe is bouncing in her seat anxiously, exuding nervous energy that can be felt anywhere from within a hundred feet radius.

It’s so bad, Steph has to come over to give her a slap on her shoulder.

“Ouch! Hey! What’s that for?” Chloe barks.

“Stop your fidgeting. You’re making our customers nervous.”

“There are not many customers anyway,” Chloe swings her hand around to show Steph that all the tables around hers are empty.

Steph gives Chloe a smack on her shoulder again and Chloe winces out in pain. “My point exactly, you fool. No one even dares to take the tables around you because you are bouncing away like a drug addict going cold turkey. Why are you meeting Rachel in Foxhole anyway.”

“Not my idea. She wanted to say bye to you or something. You know I rather not meet here. It’s weird, given your history with Rachel.” Chloe removes her beanie to run her finger through her blue hair, a habit of hers when she’s feeling uncomfortable.

“Jesus, Chloe. We dated for one month. I wouldn’t even call that dating, to be honest.”

Chloe looks down at her fingers as she scrunches her beanie. She is curious to know more, but is she ready to know more?

Maybe she isn’t. But she needs to know.

“What happened? How did you guys start and why did you guys end?”

Steph shrugs like it’s the most uninteresting piece of story in her life. “She’s hot. They called her the Princess of Blackwell. Super popular among the jocks and skaters alike. Everyone wanted to be with her, but no one ever succeeded. So I thought to myself, maybe this dyke can achieve what no boys can ever achieve in Blackwell. So I asked her out, she said yes, and we got together after our first date.”

Steph pauses as if trying to recall the details of that short-lived relationship.

Chloe stares at Steph anxiously. “And? Don’t leave me hanging.”

Steph smacks her lips dramatically before continuing. “Rachel loves hanging with different groups of people and spending her free time socializing. She’s friends with everyone – the jocks, the cheerleaders, the stoners, the nerds, the elites, even the misfits. For me, I just enjoy hanging out in my room and chillaxing over a good movie, y’know. We are just too different. I can also tell that she’s not that into the relationship, so I ended it. It’s okay though. It’s nothing serious anyway.”

Steph shrugs her shoulders again like it’s nothing.

“Rachel is a rolling stone. She belongs to everyone and no one at all. You know what I mean?” Steph gives Chloe a pat on her shoulder before walking back to the coffee counter.

Chloe frowns, trying to process this piece of information.

Chloe has always been popular in Arcadia Bay, with girls and even boys swooning over her. Chloe always knows what to do to make the girls want her. She always knows how to play the game when it comes to the art of seduction.

But Rachel Amber is different. She is in a totally different league. Chloe has never felt so out of control in her entire dating life. It scares the hell out of her, yet at the same time, it excites and rejuvenates her.

She feels a tap on her shoulder. Thinking it is Steph, Chloe snaps. “What now, Steph?’

“Do I look like Steph to you?” A warm, cheeky voice asks.

Standing behind Chloe is Rachel Amber, with that enigmatic smile on her face, her blue feather earring dangling as she flicks her long, honey blonde hair.

Chloe has never seen anyone so beautiful in her life before.

“R- Rachel! I, um, didn’t see you there.” Chloe stands up hastily, knocking over her wooden chair which crashes on the floor with a loud bang.

Steph does a facepalm before walking over again. “God, Chloe. Can you stop making a ruckus and scaring the customers?” She says as she picks up the chair from the floor.

“Hey, Stephy love,” Rachel goes up to give Steph a hug, which she returns. “I’m going back to L.A. tomorrow. Just wanted to say bye.”

“So when will I see you again?”

“Why? Miss me already?” Rachel gives Steph a playful shove, which Steph returns a little harder.

“Please. Just wondering how many more months of peace I will get before you come back to disturb my life again.”

Aww, Steph. I will miss you too.” Rachel says with a chuckle. “I’ll text you when I’m coming back. I hope to see you get hitched the next time I’m here, okay? Stop playing your dragon game and go get a girlfriend.”

“First, it’s called Dungeons and Dragons. Second, if that girl can’t handle me playing D&D, she ain’t the one for me.” Steph shrugs nonchalantly.

“Alrigh, nerd. You can go back to making your coffee now. I have a hot date with this hot babe here.” Rachel loops her arm around Chloe, causing Chloe to blush like a little girl.

Steph rolls her eyes but returns a friendly wave to them both and goes back to her work.

“So where do you want to go?” Chloe asks after Steph walks away.

“Did you drive?” Rachel turns and looks straight into Chloe’s eyes. Her face is so close now, Chloe has to suppress the urge to kiss her lips.

Chloe clears her throat nervously. “Y- ya. It’s a lousy truck though, not something fancy like Bitchtoria’s red, shiny car.

“Great! Tell you a secret. I actually love riding in trucks, and I can’t wait to ride on yours.” Rachel gives Chloe a little smirk while licking her lips, causing Chloe to blush even harder. “C’mon. Show me where you parked!”

It really shouldn’t be called a truck because it really is more like a trash can. But Rachel seems genuinely excited when she sees Chloe’s truck.

“This is so cool!” Rachel exclaims as she climbs onto Chloe’s truck. “Holy shit! That’s such a cute Elvis Presley bobblehead!”

Chloe just looks at Rachel fondly as Rachel examines every single item and graffiti in Chloe’s truck. She cannot believe her high school crush is actually here, inside her truck, going on a date with her.

She feels like the luckiest girl in the world today.

“So where are we going?” Chloe asks as she starts the engine. The truck comes to life with a loud rumbling roar.

“It’s quite a drive from here but it’s one of my favorite place to hang out in Arcadia Bay. You won’t be disturbed by anyone there.” Rachel says with a sparkle in her eye.

Chloe smiles. She can’t stop drowning in Rachel’s beauty.

“Sounds interesting. Where is this place?”

“Just drive. I’ll give you the directions.”

“I’m very familiar with Arcadia Bay. Just tell me where it is and I’ll bring us there.” Chloe says as she drives out to the main road.

“I am pretty sure you won’t know how to get there,” Rachel says it like a challenge.

Chloe loves a challenge.

“Try me.”

“If you say so,” Rachel retorts playfully. “American Rust Junkyard. You know where that is?”

Chloe turns to look at Rachel, eyes wide in surprise.

American Rust? This junkyard is practically Chloe’s home away from hell. When her dad, William Price, passed away and her mom, Joyce, remarried Step-douche not long after, Chloe would often skip class and hopped onto a train to the junkyard. She would stay there all day, smashing cars up and scavenging for treasures. Or just lying on the hood of a car and daydream about how different her life would be if William is still alive, and if Max, who was in Seattle at that time, is still around.

It’s also the place where Chloe found her first drum set. And although broken, she would smash the hell out of the cymbals and the drums that still work, venting all her pent up frustration without people complaining of the noise. It paves the way to her love for music and drums.

American Rust is her sanctuary, a quiet place from the all the unnecessary nagging and lectures from her mom and the school. It’s a safe place away from her Step-prick who is determined to make her life a living hell and just wouldn’t leave her alone.

It’s the place where she found and fixed her truck. It’s a place not even Max goes often enough with her because she enjoys going on her own to seek solace away from her chaotic life.

And now, Rachel Amber, the rising star of the modeling world, the ‘Top 10 New Faces to Watch’ according to Harper's Bazaar, actually wants to go to a junkyard for their date?

It sounds almost like a prank. But Rachel looks totally serious.

“American Rust? You sure about that?” Chloe asks cautiously, wondering if Max has set that up because her best friend knows how important that place is to her.

“Damn sure. It’s a special place I go when I need some peace and quiet. Hope you’re okay with hanging out in a junkyard.”

“Are you kidding me? American Rust is where I found this truck. It’s also my special place.” Chloe looks at Rachel, only to find Rachel staring back at her, straight into her soul, smiling that enigmatic smile.

“So, shall we?” Rachel asks, never losing that sparkle in her eyes.

Chloe smiles and steps on the accelerator.

This is going to be one helluva date.

Chapter Text

“Here we are.” Chloe stops her truck next to a rusty red sports car missing its wheels, and off the engine. She looks at Rachel and gives her the Chloe’s signature smile. “Shall we begin our amazing dumpster date?”

Rachel chuckles. “Let’s go.”

Chloe steps out of the truck and takes a deep breath. “Ahhh…. Smells like rust, garbage, and dead rats. Home sweet home.”

Rachel takes her time to look around, taking the surrounding in. “It’s been a long time since I came here. Not exactly a place a model should be seen going to.”

Rachel walks around slowly, almost like she is admiring the place. “But I have always found the junkyard such a lovely place. It’s colorful, it’s messy, it’s chaotic. It’s actually a perfect place for a photo shoot.”

“Oh yes, that sounds like a rad idea. You can call it Waste Couture and wear clothes made up of plastic bags.” Chloe chips in eagerly.

“That’s exactly what I thought! I wanted to ask Vicky to be my photographer, but when I broached this idea to her, she freaked out.” Rachel shakes her head at that memory. “Thought I was out of my mind and said she will get tetanus if she goes to a junkyard.”

Hearing Rachel brings up Victoria, Chloe scoffs. “I’m surprised you actually thought of her. Why would that rich bitch go anywhere near a junkyard?”

“Vicky is rich, yes, but she is not that spoilt. She just seriously thinks it’s dangerous, that’s all. You know, broken glasses, sharp rusty objects, tires threatening to roll off the top of the pile and crush you to death. If I have not stumbled upon this place, I would have never know that junkyard can be so charmingly rustic.”

Chloe furrows her brows. She cannot understand the charm of Victoria Chase.

Her best friend, Max, is obviously smitten by her.

Her crush, Rachel, treats her like a good buddy.

And they just can’t stop talking about her.

“You and Victoria are really close. I am surprised you both have never dated. Or were you still confused about your sexuality at that time?”

Rachel stops in her tracks and turns to look Chloe straight in her eyes. There’s a certain fire glowing in her eyes that makes Chloe gulps nervously.

“Thought I have mentioned this the last time.” Rachel sighs like Chloe has just asked a touchy question. “But if you’re really curious, Victoria and I do consider dating for a while.”

Rachel pauses dramatically to flick her honey blonde hair. Her long, blonde hair shimmer under the sunlight, leaving Chloe holding her breath.

Rachel gives Chloe a smile, a smile that sends a shiver down Chloe’s spine.

Rachel is so beautiful.

So beautiful.

Chloe wishes she can be hers.

But she knows Rachel belongs to many people.

The photographers. The editors of magazines.

The shakers and makers of the fashion world.

Her fans.

And here Chloe is, just a poor girl from a small sleepy town.

Does she even deserve to be with Rachel?

Maybe Victoria is the only one qualified to be with Rachel.

“We started off as rivals, you know. I am competitive and Victoria hates to lose. So we are always fighting. Things changed when we are paired up for a photography project in high school. Two competitive people working on a project we both are very passionate about. We not only want to be the best in that class. We want our project to be the best Blackwell has ever seen. So we put down our differences and work hard together.”

Rachel climbs up the hood of an old, blue sedan and sits down, waving her hand to signal Chloe to join her. Chloe gives a shy, impish smile before walking hastily over, sitting next to Rachel.

“It’s through working with her that I realized just how similar we both are. We are both serious about our craft — Victoria with her photography and myself with my modeling — so we actually work really well together. There are times where we quarrel and almost chew each other’s head off. But most of the time, Vicky is able to see where I am coming from with my ideas and I can certainly understand hers. It’s hard to find someone who understands your dreams, you know.”

Rachel looks at Chloe and gives her a curious smile.

“Like how you have Max who understands your quirks and habits.”

Chloe hums, thinking about what Rachel has just said.

“So why didn’t you both date, if you are so compatible?” Chloe asks.

Rachel laughs, giving Chloe a pat on her shoulder.

“We are not compatible. We are just very alike. It’s not the same. I certainly do not want to date myself, you know what I mean? I know I am a handful and I don’t want to handle me. Victoria is the same. She knows she wouldn’t want to handle someone who is so similar to her. That’s why I think Victoria will be more suitable for someone that’s opposite of her. Someone like Max.”

This time, Chloe turns and look at Rachel, giving her a cheeky smile. “So Victoria has confessed to you that she likes Max?”

Rachel let out a burst of hearty laughter. “Of course not! Vicky is the most clueless, most oblivious person you will ever meet. She might appear to know it all, which is true when it comes to photography and maybe branded clothes, but when it comes to the matters of the heart, she’s utterly hopeless.”

“But she does like Max, doesn’t she?”

Chloe looks at Rachel anxiously.

On one hand, she hopes Victoria reciprocate Max’s feelings. After all, Max has had a crush on Victoria ever since Victoria answered the question about the first self portrait in photography class. Something about “daguerreotypes” or whatever the shit that is.

On the other hand, Chloe is not that sure Victoria is the right woman for Max’s first relationship. Victoria seems more like a hookup material and Chloe certainly does not want Max to invest too much emotions if Victoria is not going to be serious about Max.

“You sure are bothered when it comes to Max. Yes, I am pretty certain Victoria likes Max that way. She just doesn’t acknowledge that, being the dense idiot she is. I do intend to stand back and let nature to take its course, let her discover it herself. I hope you will do the same, regardless of how much you may feel like interfering.” Rachel looks at Chloe with a seriousness that Chloe has never seen before, sending her heart pounding with both fear and excitement at the same time.

“So tell me, Chloe, what exactly is the relationship between you and Max? Don’t tell me you guys are just BFF because it sure feels more than just friends, especially your feelings towards her.”

Chloe exhales nervously. What the hell? Why is Rachel asking this on their date? Sure, she did ask Rachel about Victoria, and perhaps it’s only fair for Rachel to return the favor. But no one has ever asked her that directly. No one has ever questioned their friendship.

What the hell, Rachel?

Chloe takes in a deep breath and exhales again.

“I knew Max since she’s six. We grew up together, share dreams together, build a pirate ship together —”

Rachel laughs at that, clearly finding it adorable.

“— we were practically joined at the hips. She always knows what I am thinking about, always understands why I am acting out, and is always patient with me. Sometimes, I wonder what I did to deserve such a great friend like Max. When dad died, Max called me every day from Seattle to make sure I was okay. It’s difficult not to have a crush on such a wonderful person.”

Chloe exhales shakily and bites down on her lip.

There.

She says it.

The biggest secret that even Max does not know.

Chloe has a crush on Max.

Had.

Chloe looks at Rachel, waiting for judgment to come her way.

But Rachel just looks at Chloe with those inquisitive eyes, smiling that mysterious smile of hers, like she already knows. She says nothing, waiting for Chloe to continue.

“We are too close. I know her well enough to know what kind of person she needs in her life and I’m certainly not someone good for her. Besides, we are as close as siblings and I only love her like a sister now. And as her sister, the last thing I want is for Max to get hurt by someone unworthy, y’know what I mean?”

Rachel listens attentively, nodding in acknowledgment. “I do know what you mean. But this is Max’s journey and Max’s alone. As much as we want to help, there is only this much we can do before we mess it all up, so why not let Max experience it on her own. And if she fails and falls, I know you’ll be there to catch her, won’t you?”

Chloe looks at Rachel as she mulls over what has just been said. Rachel is making an awful lot of sense. She has to let Max go on this journey alone. Just like Max has already created an opportunity with Rachel for Chloe.

“You’re right. No point worrying over something outta my control. Besides, this is supposed to be our date, why are we even talking about Victoria and Max? We should be enjoying ourselves!” Chloe says with a wink.

Rachel laughs, “That’s more like it. We should find a place and chill. There’s a nice shack up ahead. You brought any pot?”

Chloe points to her truck. “It’s in there. I’ll go get us some.”

Chloe grabs the joint from her truck’s glove compartment and joins Rachel as they walk to the shack.

“Welcome to my little hideout.” Rachel chirps happily.

Chloe recognizes that place. It’s a place she comes when she needs to do some thinking in the junkyard. “I’ve been here before. I like to sit at a corner to daydream or just to think about stuff. Never expect you to be hanging out here.”

“This shack is my secret hideout. I should be surprised you were hanging in here. Technically, you are trespassing into my territory.” Rachel has a mischievous glint in her eyes.

“How is this your territory? Your name is not written anywhere in this shack.” Chloe retorts back cheekily.

But before Chloe can bask in that glorious comeback, Rachel takes out a black sharpie and wrote “Rachel was here.” onto the wall.

“There. My name. On the wall of my shack.” Rachel replies smugly.

“Not fair!” Chloe lunges forward to grab the sharpie in Rachel’s hand. Rachel dodges and Chloe bumps straight into the wall. Rachel howls out in laughter.

“Ah, so you want to play rough, huh?” Chloe looks at Rachel with a shit-eating grin. She stretches out her hands to tickle Rachel but Rachel moves out of the way before Chloe can even touch her.

“Too bad for you, slowpoke, I do a lot of reflex exercises with my trainer. Doubt you can ever catch me.” It’s Rachel’s turn to have that shit-eating grin.

That only lit the fire in Chloe’s belly. “Oh no, you don’t. This is war.”

Chloe propels herself forward from the wall, trying to use the momentum she gains to give her an upper hand. But before she can grab Rachel, Rachel does a spin and slips past easily. Chloe couldn’t believe her eyes. How on earth does Rachel move so fast?

Chloe tries to follow Rachel’s movement, but it is near to impossible. Rachel is always one step ahead of her.

That is until Rachel tries to dodge Chloe’s hands but kicks a metal box that is lying around the shack and lost her balance. Rachel almost falls on her back when a pair of long, warm arms catches her.

“Gotcha!” Chloe exclaims in excitement.

Not only has she managed to catch up to Rachel, she has also saved Rachel from falling flat onto the ground.

She smiles triumphantly.

“You okay, Rach?”

Rachel looks up at Chloe and winks. “I’m good, thanks to you.”

It is then, Chloe realizes that she has Rachel in her arms — warm and soft and tender — and that her lips are inches away from Rachel’s lips. Just a little more, a little more and she can taste Rachel’s lips onto hers.

Chloe’s heart is pounding furiously in her chest. A million and one questions are racing through her mind.

Should she go in for the kiss? Or should she let go of Rachel like a decent human being would do? What if Rachel slaps her for kissing her? What if Rachel slaps her for not kissing her?

Before Chloe can even make a decision, she feels a pair of warm, smooth lips pressing against hers. Chloe eyes widen in shock as she sees Rachel’s face magnified till all is a blur.

Rachel is kissing her.

Rachel Amber is kissing Chloe Price.

Holy shit! Rachel is kissing me!!!

But as fast as it comes, it is gone in a second.

“There. A thank you kiss for my hero” Rachel says as she pushes herself out of Chloe’s grip and plants her feet firmly onto the ground.

Chloe just stares at Rachel in awe and shock, not knowing what to say or how to react.

Rachel kissed her.

She kissed her.

She kissed me!

Those words keep screaming inside Chloe’s head as she stares blankly at Rachel like an idiot.

Seeing Chloe frozen in place, Rachel snaps her fingers to try to get Chloe out of her daze.

“Chloe, you alri–”

“Th- Thank you.”

The second these two words escape Chloe’s lips, she slaps her mouth and gives herself a facepalm.

She has just thanked her crush for kissing her.

Loser. What a loser, Chloe.

Rachel bursts out laughing, clearly not expecting Chloe to say that to her.

“You’re welcome.” Rachel pauses to breathe before laughing out loud again.

Chloe’s face flushes into a multiple shades of red, hoping the ground will just open up and swallow her whole.

Seeing Chloe blushing like a little girl, Rachel reaches over and holds her hand, opening her fingers and stuffing the black sharpie onto Chloe’s hand.

“You caught me. You deserve to write your name on the Wall of Glory. Go on. Write it.”

Chloe looks at the sharpie in her hand and gives Rachel a bashful smile. Walking over to the wall where Rachel wrote her name, Chloe takes the cap off the black sharpie and writes.

Chloe was here.

Chapter Text

“You okay, Chloe? You high yet?”

Rachel is already slurring her words and yet she is worried about Chloe.

Chloe laughs.

“I’m okay. I’m a pro at this shit. It’s you I’m worried about. You okay, Rach?” Chloe gives Rachel a cheeky wink.

Rachel exhales a cloud of happiness, giggling in the process. “I’m peachy. Feeling just a little high and fucking relax.”

Rachel passes the blunt to Chloe, where she promptly put it on her lips and inhales. She can taste the sweet taste of Rachel’s cherry flavored chapstick on the blunt.

It’s intoxicating.

“So do you get high a lot in your line of work?” Chloe looks at Rachel curiously. She has heard all kinds of rumors about models, how they party a lot and sleep their way to the top. Though she is certain Rachel Amber doesn’t need to use sex as leverage to reach where she is now since Rachel is oozing with pure talent.

Rachel let that question hangs in the air for a while, humming as she thinks of an answer. It takes her ten seconds to finally reply but that ten seconds already feels like an eternity to Chloe. The weed is totally screwing with Chloe’s sense of time.

“Many girls do get high frequently, especially at post-event parties. Some girls are also doing some pretty hardcore stuff.”

Rachel takes the blunt back from Chloe and takes a smoke. Chloe looks intently at Rachel. Admiring her beauty, her flawless features, and her long, silky honey blonde hair.

She still cannot believe she is spending time with Rachel Amber right now.

Alone.

In the junkyard.

It is like a dream comes true.

“I’ve partaken in a few of these sessions before.” Rachel continues. “But one time, I took a pill given to me by a fellow model, and it fucked me up real bad. I puked the whole night away. Since then, I have sworn off all drugs. Pot is the only exception since it helps me relax and chill. Keeps my mind from wandering all over the place.”

Chloe reaches over to sweep Rachel’s hair to one side, tucking them behind her ears. Seeing no objection from Rachel with her touching, Chloe slides her fingers down from Rachel’s earlobe to her neck.

Rachel giggles at Chloe’s touch. “That tickles,” and does a little wiggle to move her neck out of Chloe’s reach.

“Oh, sorry. I don’t mean to.” Chloe retracts back her hands hastily in embarrassment but Rachel catches her hand, stopping her from removing her hand totally.

“No, don’t be sorry. I like it when you do that. I just have a very sensitive neck.” Rachel gives Chloe the most seductive smile Chloe has ever seen in her life.

Chloe can feel her heart pounding heavily in her chest and blood rushing to her face. She looks away from Rachel, trying to calm her heart that is racing a million miles an hour.

But she can’t look away for long because Rachel is caressing her fingers, giving soft kisses on her fingertips.

Chloe gasp in surprise, bitting down on her lips to suppress a moan that is coming up from her throat.

Rachel is just so damn hot.

She wonders how many men and women would kill to be in her position right now.

But Rachel stops what she is doing abruptly — to Chloe’s dismay — and gazes into Chloe’s eyes.

Chloe gulps nervously. She can feel beads of perspiration forming on her forehead like she is about to melt into a puddle from that intense look from Rachel. A look that seems to be able to peel away all her defenses and stare straight into her core. A look that makes Chloe feels naked and vulnerable, yet safe and warm all at the same time.

“You never tell me why you keep coming to the junkyard. What are you trying to escape from?” Rachel asks, her eyes never once leave Chloe’s eyes.

“Wh- who says I’m trying to escape. I just like to chill out here.”

Rachel never once breaks her gaze. “No one comes to a junkyard just to chill. You go to a beach to chill. You go to a cliff to chill. You don’t come to a junkyard to chill. You come to a junkyard to smash some shit up because nobody is going to care how much mess you make.”

Chloe smiles.

Damn, Rachel is good.

Does no good to hide it from her anyway. Rachel is too perceptive.

“My dad passed away when I was fourteen. He’s a good man. A loving husband and a great father. I missed him so much…”

Chloe chokes as she says this. It’s been more than six years but it still feels like yesterday when he died. Rachel holds tightly onto Chloe’s hand to give her the assurance and comfort that she needs.

“Mom found a douchebag to replace him soon after. And that douche is a total control freak. Used to be from the military so he thinks he can boss me around like I’m some goddamn recruit. My home was no longer a home. More like hell to me.”

Chloe clenches her other hand so tightly, her knuckles turn white. Rachel, as sensitive and observant as always, reaches over and places her hand over her fist, and Chloe relaxes instantly.

“I found this junkyard by chance. Max was far away in Seattle and I really missed her. One day, I was so pissed with Step-Prick that I decided to run away from home. I hopped onto a freighter train that’s going to Seattle, hoping it will bring me to Max.”

Chloe holds onto Rachel’s hand, thumbing her hands gently. Rachel’s hand is so soft and warm, she can feel her warmth engulfing her entire being. Chloe has never felt so comfortable with anyone before. Other than Max, no one has ever bothered asking her about herself.

No one has ever bothered about her, period.

But Rachel cares. She is looking at Chloe like she is the only person in the world, listening to her story attentively.

“Well, I chickened out before the train got out of Arcadia Bay. I had no money with me and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to find Max. Don’t wanna be sleeping on the streets of Seattle, so I decided to abort the mission. I jumped off the train and ended up here, in American Rust. I wanted to leave immediately. After all, it’s just a dirty junkyard. But then, I saw it.”

Chloe stops to take a deep breath.

She has actually never told anyone about this before. Not even Max. Max always thought Chloe likes to come to the junkyard because no one is there to bother her. But there’s actually another reason.

A real reason.

“I saw my dad’s car in the junkyard. The car that he was killed in.”

“Oh, Chloe…” Rachel wraps her arms around Chloe, and pats her head, stroking her blue hair tenderly. Under normal circumstances, Chloe would have found this appalling. She hates being treated like a kid.

But at this very moment, this is exactly what she needs.

She feels safe in Rachel’s arms.

She feels wanted.

“I keep coming back here because… because it feels like William is still here. I can scream and shout at him, tell him that he’s an irresponsible asshole for leaving mom. I can blame him for not coming back to rescue me from that douchebag and for abandoning me. At the end of the day, it feels like I am coming back home… You know what I mean?”

It must have been the weed that they have been smoking. Because before Chloe knows it, she is sobbing into Rachel’s shoulder like she was fourteen again, while Rachel hushes her down with gentle pats down her back.

“It’s okay, it’s okay.” Rachel coos softly as Chloe cries.

It has been more than six years since that accident.

And Chloe has not shed a single tear since the funeral.

What’s the point of crying when it will not bring dad back? That’s what Chloe thinks. So she bottles her tears up and uses that energy on her drums and the Twenty-One Pirates. It is more constructive that way.

But today, as Rachel wraps Chloe into her warm embrace, the wall that Chloe has built up since she was fourteen, just came crumbling down.

Down.

Down.

Down.

Until there is nothing left.

Nothing left except Chloe Price.

Chloe doesn’t know how long they stayed like this for. It feels like a whole day has gone, but the sun is still shining brightly through the window of the little shack when she finally sits up and wipes her tears away.

The weed is definitely screwing with Chloe’s sense of time.

“You feeling better?” Rachel asks. Eyes twinkling with concern.

“Y- yeah.” Chloe sniffs. “Sorry I got so emotional. I blame it on the weed.”

“Hey, it’s okay. You need to let all these negativity out once in a while. It’s not good to bottle it all up.”

Chloe smiles at Rachel lovingly. She is really like an angel sent from above.

Her angel.

“Thank you.” Chloe leans forward to give Rachel a kiss.

A kiss that Rachel returns and deepens.

Lips melding together like it is always meant to be and their sighs fill the air like a symphony.

“Rachel…” Chloe pants heavily when they finally break away to take a breath.

“Yeah?” Rachel smiles at Chloe, her face flushing red. Chloe wonders is it from their kissing or from all the smoking.

“I– um–,” Chloe chokes.

She wants to tell Rachel not to go to L.A., to stay in Arcadia Bay with her, that she loves her since high school and she wants to have her babies.

“So what’s your story? Why do you like to come to the junkyard so much?”

But Chloe decides to ask a normal question instead, like a normal human being.

Rachel looks at Chloe with a tinge of suspicion. She is perceptive like that. But she chooses to answer that question, for Chloe’s sake.

“I found out my mom was not my real mom. Found out that my dad has been lying to me all these while. Found out that my biological mother is a junkie. Found out that my dad forcefully separates me and my real mother since birth. That’s why I decided to come to the junkyard to smash some stuff.”

Chloe’s jaw drops in shock. Never in her wildest dream will she ever imagine that Rachel Amber has a family history like that.

She is Rachel Amber. The daughter of the district attorney. The ace student of Blackwell High. The Princess of high school.

Rachel Amber. The daughter of a junkie and a lying lawyer? What kind of soap opera drama is this?

However, Rachel shrugs, like what she has just said is the most normal thing in the world.

“I- I’m sorry for asking…”

“Don’t be. It’s nothing. I’ve long gotten over it. Why do you think I dropped out of law in college to become a model? It’s to give a middle finger to my dad. He really wanted me to be a lawyer, not a Victoria Secret’s model showing her body in lacy underwear to the whole world on national tv.” Rachel scoffs as she mentions her dad. Her face twists in disdain.

Chloe laughs. She is surprised at how well Rachel is taking this whole thing.

“So where’s your biological mom now?”

“She tried looking for me. My dad actually stopped her from visiting me, can you believe it? Even hire some thugs to threaten her. Imagine that! A district attorney in cahoots with local thugs. He’s a fucking asshole.”

Rachel is seething. Chloe has never seen Rachel like this before. Teeth clenched, face red, eyes narrow in pure anger.

Chloe leans over to give Rachel a peck on her cheek, and Rachel immediately relaxes her body.

“Sorry. That’s why I don’t like to talk about my asshole dad. Always brings out the worst in me. Anyway, I was lucky to finally meet my mom with the help of a local dealer who knows the thugs. My mom’s clean now. I even invited her to L.A. to visit me one day. She hasn’t visited me yet, even though I offered to pay for her tickets and accommodation. But I can tell that she is really, really proud of me and what I have achieved. Much more than my dad, that’s for sure.” Rachel finishes up the blunt and extinguishes the lighted bud on the ashtray.

“I am very proud of you too,” Chloe says softly. “You are the first supermodel from Arcadia Bay. You are like our town treasure.”

Rachel laughs heartily at that comment. “Ya right, I can be an Arcadia Bay mascot too. Instead of a tiger suit, I’ll just be in my underwear.”

Chloe blushes at that thought and smiles. Rachel looks really hot in those underwear shots. She knows it very well. She has every copy of the magazines that Rachel is in.

“You mentioned during our double date that you play in a band right?”

Rachel’s question catches Chloe off guard.

“What?”

“You are a drummer, ain’t you?”

“Oh, right. I do play the drums.”

“And Max plays the guitar?”

“R-right. Yes. She does.”

“You know, if you ever feel like trying it out in L.A. and needs a place to jam over there, just let me know. I have some contacts who will be thrilled to try out new indie bands.” Rachel chirps cheerfully.

“Really??” Chloe sounds a little too happy and excited.

“Yes. Really. Scouts there are real active too. Who knows, you guys may be talent scouted.”

“Well…” Chloe thinks this is a great opportunity. But she can’t reveal their identity to Rachel now.

The time is not ripe yet.

“Think about it. You don’t have to answer me right away. I just think your band will be pretty popular if you perform in the L.A. indie scene.” Rachel says with a mischievous glint in her eyes.

“Max and I just play for fun. W- we don’t have a band. I don’t think we will be good enough for the L.A. indie scene.”

Chloe lies.

Deep down, she knows Twenty-One Pirates are ready to take over the world. But Max needs to finish college first. It’s a condition set by her parents before they agreed to fund her guitar lessons and her equipment.

“Oh? Well, if you say so. The offer is always on the table.”

Rachel smiles that knowing smile again and Chloe swallows nervously.

Why does it feel like Rachel already know their secret?

“Well, it’s getting late. We better head back. I still need to pack my luggage.”

Oh, right. Rachel is leaving for L.A. tomorrow. Chloe can feel her heart clench at that thought.

“When will you be coming back again?”

Rachel shrugs.

“Two weeks later? Two months later? Who knows. I’ve kind of lost track of my schedule. Gotta check with my agency when I get back.”

Chloe frowns. She tries not to show her disappointment, but it is just so hard.

It is now or never.

“I will miss you.”

Rachel turns and looks at Chloe, a small smile plaster across her face.

“I will miss you too, Chloe. It has been a fun week. Thanks for making my trip back to Arcadia Bay so memorable.”

Chloe can feel a thousand emotions bursting out of her chest.

Happiness, ecstasy, joy.

“Help me thank Max too. She’s such a gem. There really aren’t many girls like her around anymore. Down-to-earth and genuinely nice. You’re lucky to have her as your bestie. While here I am, stuck with Vicky.” Rachel sticks her out her tongue cheekily.

“Do me a favor when I’m not around, will you?” Rachel places her hand on Chloe’s shoulder as she says that. “Vicky really likes Max but she doesn’t know it yet. Just like Max likes Vicky but doesn’t acknowledge it. I know you don’t really like Vicky but for my sake, can you be nicer to her and don’t try to cunt block her?”

Chloe laughs at that word. “What? Cunt block her?”

“Yeah, like cockblock but lesbian version.”

Chloe laughs even harder now.

“Can you do me that favor now, Chloe?”

Chloe nods. “I will try. No guarantee though. Icky Vicky doesn’t exactly like me very much.”

“That’s because you’re too close to Max. She’s like this when she feels threatened. Just throw her a bone and she will be wagging her tail in no time.” Rachel winks at Chloe.

“Like a bitch she is.” Chloe burst out laughing.

Chapter Text

“You brought her to the junkyard? Wow, you must have hated her, Rach.” Victoria says through her earphones as she buffs her fingernails. Manicure time is very important to Victoria Chase but so is time with Rachel Amber who is going back to Los Angeles tomorrow. They need to catch up over the phone before Rachel flies off.

“Not everyone hates the junkyard like you, Vee,” Rachel chuckles. They can be so alike yet so different at the same time. “Chloe loves American Rust as much as I do.”

“I’m not surprised she does, though. She’s trashy after all. Not saying that you are. You’re just… misguided.”

“Oh god. You really should stop judging a book by its cover. A junkyard can be full of treasure too, just like a punk chick can be charming as well.” Rachel objects with a groan.

Victoria gags. She can never understand Rachel’s taste.

Might as well. That way, they will never fall for the same girl, otherwise, they would have to fight to their death for the same girl. Victoria may be well to do, and good in her studies, but she has no confidence that she can win Rachel if they fall for the same girl. Rachel just has a certain, unexplainable charm that makes her very attractive.

That is also why she manages to become one of the rising stars in the modeling world. Rachel just has this aura of rustic charm that makes people want to keep looking at her.

Victoria should know. She was once under Rachel’s spell too.

She once also found it hard to keep her eyes off Rachel.

“And you know what, Vee?” Rachel’s voice breaks Victoria’s train of thought. “Open your eyes and open your mind. Then maybe you might finally see what you have missed out all along.”

Victoria tilts her head in confusion, not like Rachel can see that through the phone. “What the fuck are you talking about? You tripping now?”

Rachel lets out a hearty laughter.

“It’s fine if you don’t get it. You will soon. I hope.”

Victoria scowls. She hates it when Rachel speaks in riddles and expects her to guess what she meant.

But that’s Rachel for you. Others call her mysterious. Victoria just calls her a bitch.

“So what’s the deal with you and Chloe now, Rach? You guys banging?”

“Yup.”

“What!?” Victoria almost falls from her chair. Damn this Rachel Amber. Back in Arcadia Bay for merely a week and she’s already getting laid.

“Nah, just pulling your leg. I can imagine you almost falling off the chair when I said that.” Rachel laughs again. She loves shocking Victoria just to see or hear her reactions. It never fails to amuse her.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Victoria spits. “You know she’s Max’s best friend right? And Max is staying just opposite me, right? I don’t want to be hearing the cries of a blue hair punk every night just because you can’t keep it in your pants.”

Rachel rolls her eyes, not like Victoria can see it. “Please. I am not some horny frat boy, thank you very much. Besides, Chloe is not just a fling or a one night stand. I am actually pretty interested to see where we can go from here.”

Victoria is shocked into silence this time.

Rachel is actually interested in that blue hair dropout? How can that be possible? Rachel works with all the top models in L.A. and there is no lack of hot lesbians who want to be with Rachel. If she so wants it, the number of girls queueing to jump into bed with Rachel can form a line so long, it spans from Arcadia Bay to Portland.

So why the hell does Rachel wants to give that punk a chance? What the hell does she see in that loud mouth punk?”

“You still there, Vee?”

“— the fuck, Rach? You serious now?”

“Never been more serious.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake!”

“Uh, uh, uh. No fucking. We are not at that stage yet, though we do want to tear each other’s clothes off at the junkyard today. I can see Chloe trying her best to keep in control. Cute.” Rachel sniggers at that thought.

“Ew! Bitch, stop this at once. I’m gonna puke. Seriously? What’s so good about Kari?”

“Chloe, Victoria. Stop calling her Kari. And what’s not good about her? She’s hot, she’s funny —”

“— She’s a dropout! With no steady income! And is still staying with her mom!”

“So?” Rachel rebuts stubbornly.

Rachel hates it when Victoria interferes with her life. She hates it even more when Victoria judges people by superficial stuff like income and an education when she should really be judging people by their character.

“You are a supermodel, Rach! If you so wants to, you can have any queer women in L.A. Why Chloe?”

“Is this about Max Caulfield?”

Victoria grunts out in frustration. “What does this has to do with Maxine?”

“Because Chloe is her best friend, and you’re interested in Max.”

“I am not interested in Maxine!”

“Do you even hear yourself, Victoria?” Rachel exclaims out of exasperation. Why is her friend so dense?

“It’s fine. I don’t want to talk about Chloe with you anymore. I’m going to be in L.A. for the next couple of weeks or even months anyway. Who knows what will happen when I am gone. So there’s no point discussing something that might not even happen.”

Victoria bites hard on her lower lip. Rachel has a point. It is too premature to discuss this.

And besides, it is none of Victoria’s business. Why is she so upset about Rachel being serious about Chloe anyway? Is it because she likes Rachel more than she dares to admit? Or did Rachel hit the nail on the head by correctly pointing out her feelings towards Max, when she herself is so uncertain about it?

Damn. This conversation is meant to be a short, catch up call before Rachel flies off. Victoria never meant for it to become so mind-boggling.

“You are right, Rach. Not my place to comment about your life too.”

Rachel sighs upon hearing the sound of defeat in Victoria’s voice. “Vee, you are my buddy and I know you care. Just… just trust my judgment a little more, okay?”

“Alright.”

“Good. Now promise me you will think about what I’ve just told you. Open your eyes and open your mind. You will be able to see the truth if you do.”

“What do you even mean by that crap?”

Rachel ignores Victoria and continues. “Don’t miss me too much and remember to behave yourself and be kind to Chloe and Max. I don’t want to have to come back to clean up your mess.”

Victoria groans. “I am not a cat.”

“You behave like one. I’ll text you when I’ve reached L.A., Vee. Love ya, bitch!”

Victoria sighs. She loves and hates this bitch so much.

“Love ya too, bitch.”

 

=====


“She’s so perfect, Batmax! We had such a great time just smoking pot and getting high, having a heart to heart talk and getting to know each other. I don’t know what to do now that she is leaving Arcadia Bay tomorrow.”

At the very same time Victoria and Rachel are having a lively conversation over the phone about Chloe, Chloe is excitedly updating Max her version of the date over the phone.

“You still haven’t told me what happened today,” Max asks anxiously. She knows how much Chloe loves Coupons. She has had a crush on Coupons for the longest time and Coupons is definitely Chloe’s Achilles heels, always able to render the witty and articulate Chloe speechless or incoherent.

“We went to American Rust. You know, the junkyard we have been to before but you ain’t very fond of?”

Max hums in acknowledgment. She knows where American Rust is, of course. Chloe has brought Max to the junkyard a number of times.

Once, Chloe even managed to steal David’s handgun and convinced Max to come with her to the junkyard so Chloe could shoot some bottles in American Rust. Max, against her better judgment, actually went along with Chloe’s plan, and almost got killed by a rolling tire while she was helping Chloe look for bottles for her to test her shooting skills. Since then, Max has avoided going there.

Why will Rachel Amber agree to go there with Chloe?

“Wow, Chlo, you actually managed to convince Coupons to go American Rust?”

“Wrong. It was Rachel who suggested going there.”

“No way!”

“Yes way! It seems like I’m not the only one who finds American Rust charming. What can I say? Rachel and I have great taste.” Chloe smirks gleefully.

Now that is surprising indeed. Max will have never thought the up and coming model of high fashion will ever step foot into a junkyard. Perhaps Coupons and Chloe are more compatible than she thinks.

“So what did you do there, other than smoke weed and get high?”

“Nothing. We were just chillaxing. And talking about our families.”

“Really?” Max sits up in surprise. They actually talked about their families? That is so unlike Chloe. The topic of family always brings up unpleasant memories for Chloe, so she never likes to talk about them.

“Yeah. I always thought I am the only one in Arcadia Bay who has a fucked up family. Never expect Rachel having a similar fucked up family like me.” Chloe pauses to take a deep breath, thinking about what Rachel has shared with her today.

Guess they both have daddy issues.

“Who would have known that the daughter of the District Attorney will have family issues like me. Y’know, it makes me admire her even more because unlike me who drop out of high school after William’s death that fucked up my life, Rachel actually soldiered on after all the bullshit she went through and got fantastic grades in school. I mean, damn, she even managed to get out of this armpit of a shithole to become a famous model in L.A.!”

Chloe never knows she can love someone so much, her heart is clenching just at the thought of Rachel leaving Arcadia Bay to Los Angeles tomorrow. What can she do to hold on to this amazing woman?

“That’s really impressive. But Chlo, you’ve not told me the most important piece of information yet. Did you kiss her?”

“Hell ya! I kissed her, she kissed me, we kissed so many times, it makes my head dizzy. Damn, girl. Rachel is such a great kisser. I’ve kissed a lot of women and I dare say Rachel Amber is the best kisser I ever had.”

Max laughs at how enthusiastic Chloe becomes just talking about kissing Rachel.

“That’s great. But don’t forget, you owe me a week of dinner.”

“Hey! That’s not fair! You didn’t even kiss Icky Vicky as Max Caulfield, you coward!”

“You never set any condition that I have to kiss Victoria as Max, so it’s fair.”

Chloe scoffs loudly. Her BFF is such a cheater.

“Fine. But I can only afford a week’s worth of coffee at the Foxhole.”

“Well, how about you just treat me one breakfast at Two Whales and we’re even?”

“Deal! But just because I agree to treat you, doesn’t mean I admit you won the bet, Max the cheater.”

Max chuckles happily. Her best friend can be such a sore loser at times.

“Fine, fine. Whatever you say, Chlo.”

Chloe pauses. There is another important thing to discuss with Max. Something Rachel mentioned earlier...

“By the way, Mad Max. Have you ever thought of leaving Arcadia Bay and perform at an underground club elsewhere?”

Max’s heart skips a beat when Chloe asks that. Of course, she has thought of leaving this small fishing town and venture into a bigger city, somewhere where people will appreciate her music more.

But….

“Of course I have. But you know it’s difficult for me, right?” Max replies in a small voice.

“Why don’t you rebel just this once, Mad Max? C’mon, you’re in college. It’s time for you, — for us — to spread our wings. We should make a debut in L.A. Show those big city folks what we are made of.” Chloe urges on excitedly.

She has been thinking about what Rachel said earlier and think this is the best way for Twenty One Pirates to progress, and for her to have a shot with Rachel.

“But Chlo… you know my situation is complicated, right. I can’t just go AWOL on my parents and drop my studies in Blackwell. I made a promise to my parents.”

Chloe goes quiet. Of course, she knows about Max’s situation. Her parents have been supportive of her interest in music, but it should never be at the expense of her college degree.

Damn.

If only Chloe doesn’t know Ryan and Vanessa well.

But they have been really nice to Chloe since she was a kid and it just feels wrong to pressure Max into rebelling her parents.

“Yeah, I know,” Chloe replies disappointedly. So disappointed, Max just can’t bear to leave her in this state.

“How about we try to save up for a trip to L.A. this summer, and see which underground club allows us to jam for one night. We can use that opportunity to test out the city crowd?”

“Really?” Chloe’s voice cheers up instantly. “Hella yes! Let’s do that, Super Max! L.A. is going to love us!”

Max laughs happily. Although she is not sure how she is going to get enough money to go on a trip to L.A. she is equally excited at the thought of performing in a big city.

It will really be the time to test out the skills and the songs of Twenty One Pirates.

Max is shaking with excitement just thinking about that.

Chapter Text


“Taylor…”

“Hmm?”

Taylor hums as she chews on her gum. Victoria and Taylor have just finished their final lecture of the day and planning to go to a coffee house to chill out. Courtney will be meeting them at the coffee house with her boyfriend, Marcus. They are practically inseparable now, to Victoria and Taylor’s dismay. It is so difficult to have some quality girls’ time nowadays since Courtney can’t bear to leave Marcus side.

Victoria wonders if Taylor will be the same once she finds a serious boyfriend. All her flings in high school are never serious and since Victoria is the Queen Bee of Blackwell, Taylor and Courtney used to prioritize her over any boys.

Oh, how things have changed. The woe of adulting.

And why the hell is Victoria Chase still single? She is rich, smart and most importantly, so fucking gorgeous. Why hasn't anyone ask her out on a date yet?

“I think Max is ghosting me.”

And the loser whom Victoria so kindly graced with her presence is avoiding her.

Victoria has been trying to talk to Max since their last… outing but she has not seen Max the whole weekend. They have a photography class today and Victoria thought she could catch Max in that class. To her disappointment, Max was late for class and chose to sit with that snob, Evan Harris, instead of sitting in the empty seat behind Victoria which she may or may not have reserved for Max before class.

Victoria even witnesses them talking after class, and what seems like an exchange of handphone numbers.

This is so annoying.

Victoria wonders if Max has a thing for Evan. After all, Evan is the best photographer after Victoria, and he is really not bad looking, if Victoria may say so herself. Although there have been rumors that Evan Harris is gay. But who knows? Nowadays, people swing many ways.

Maybe Max is one of them.

“Why do you think Max is ghosting you? Didn’t you guys just bond over Twenty One Pirates gig last week?”

Taylor does not even stop to look at Victoria when she says that. As much as Taylor love her BFF, she is also too used to Victoria getting paranoid over people avoiding her. Victoria used to be Queen Bee of Blackwell High after all and is still not used to the fact that people have a social life outside of Victoria and are not obliged to be at her beck and call.

“How would I know? If I have an answer I won’t be asking you, Tay.”

Taylor stops in her tracks, sighing. “How can you be so sure she is ghosting you?”

Victoria looks straight into Taylor’s eyes, “She has not come to find me the whole of last weekend. How dare she ignore me like this, after what I have done for her, bringing her to watch her the best indie band in Arcadia Bay.”

“It’s the weekend. She most likely has plans.”

“What plans could that hipster possibly have? I know her pathetic excuse of a best friend is out with Rach, so what was she so busy with?”

Taylor lets out a sigh. That’s the problem with Victoria. Always thinking that she is the only one with a social life.

“I am sure Max has other friends, Vee. Like that ultra religious girl? Kate?”

“Eww, that conservative snob? I don’t even know why Max hangs out with her.”

“They are kind of alike, don’t you think?”

Victoria scrunches her face in disgust. “Please. Max is waaaay better than that snob.”

Taylor raises her eyebrows in surprise. When did Victoria change her views on that hipster? Two weeks ago, Max was Lamefield, Smallfield, and Loser. Now she is way better than Kate?

“Vee, C’mon. She really isn't that much different from Kate. Max is kind of an introvert, isn’t she?”

Victoria scoffs. “So Max is so introverted that she can’t even reply to my text, huh? She did not reply my text at all.”

Taylor gives Victoria a quick smile. The last time Victoria is this paranoid is when Courtney just started dating Marcus and had missed Victoria’s text because she was out with him. To see Victoria being so affected by Max clearly means something. This is getting interesting.

“So what was your last text to her?” Taylor probes.

“I texted her ‘Good night, nerd’ when we came back from the gig.”

Taylor raises an eyebrow. “And?”

“And no reply from her the whole weekend after that!” Victoria huffs out in exasperation. Does she have to explain everything to Taylor? This is so frustrating.

“And did you text her after that?” Taylor sounds like she is trying to suppress her laughter.

Victoria scoffs so hard spit actually flies out and landed squarely on Taylor’s arm. Taylor gives Victoria a face of disgust before wiping it on her skirt. “Taylor, the rule of texting is, you should always be the one who starts a conversation if the person ended the conversation the last time.”

Taylor can no longer suppress her laughter. “What the shit! What kinda fucked up logic is that?”

“It’s social rule 101!”

“Nuh uh, it isn’t. Maybe it is the social rule for you when you’re the Queen Bee. But don’t forget, Caulfield don’t follow by that set of rules. For God’s sake, Caulfield doesn’t even abide by any social rule, being such a socially inept nerd.”

Victoria frowns deeply, wrinkles showing between her eyebrows.

Taylor has a point. Lamefield is, after all, Lamefield. But…

“Then why didn’t she take the seat behind me? I have to fight with Jessie that bitch to keep that seat empty just for that hippie.”

“So that’s why you got into a fight with Jessie? God, Victoria. The things you do for love —”

“— Ew, please. It’s not love.”

“Whatever, Vee. The point is, how would Caulfield know you reserved that seat for her? It’s not like you texted her to tell her you’ve gotten her a seat —”

“— Like. I. Said. Why should I text her when I am the last one who texted her on Friday night?”

Taylor rolls her eyes a little, turning her face away so Victoria cannot see her do that. Victoria may not be Queen Bee anymore but Taylor is still a teeny bit afraid of Victoria. “She is not that sensitive to know that. If you want to talk to her, why don’t you just go up to her and say hi?”

Victoria’s face is now red with annoyance, her chest puffs out like she is about to explode. “Why should I?”

It is Taylor’s turn to let out a sigh of exasperation. “Whatever, Vee. Suit yourself. Maybe there’s a reason why Courtney has a boyfriend now and you’re still single.”

Victoria turns and glares at Taylor, causing Taylor to shrink a little. But she stood her ground nonetheless.

“Right. So what’s your excuse for being single then, Tay Tay?”

“Cos I’m stuck with babysitting you —”

Before Taylor can complete her sentence, Victoria gives her a slap across her shoulder, causing Taylor to yells out in pain.

“Ow! What the hell?”

Victoria turns and walks away, pouting. She can’t deny the fact that Taylor is right, somehow.

She still needs her friends to, well, help her in certain areas of her life. When it comes to matters of the heart, she just has no idea what to do.

Even so, Victoria can't help but wonders when her best friends have all grown a spine and starts talking back at her.

Sigh, she does miss being on the top of the food chain in high school.

Adulting is so hard.

 

=====

 

Max wonders if Victoria is avoiding her.

She has not heard from Victoria since their ‘date’ that night. Not even a text over the weekend.

Max doesn’t understand. She thought things went well the night they hang out. She even thought they shared a moment together. She felt sparks flying that night. The way Victoria looked at her, the way she smiled, the embrace Victoria gave Max in her car is seared eternally into Max’s mind.

Max thought after that night, they would become closer. Maybe hang out together again.

But Victoria never texts her over the weekend.

Not even once.

Not even a hi.

Not even a “hey loser.”

Maybe it is just Max’s wishful thinking. The moment they shared and the sparks she felt may all just be inside Max’s head.

Victoria likes Captain after all. Victoria has kissed Captain after all. That is way more significant than a hug.

Even though Captain is technically Max, so Victoria actually kissed Max.

So technically speaking, they kissed.

But Max doesn’t want to have her first kiss with Victoria due to some technicality.

Max wants her first kiss with Victoria.

As Max.

Sharks. This is so frustrating, it’s blowing her mind.

The Price is Right: Dude, if u r so bothered, y dun u just text her?

But Max did not text Victoria. Not even once.

Instead, she texted her best friend, Chloe Price, instead.

Max: But what if she is busy? What if she finds me a nuisance? What if she starts to find me needy? It was after all just a normal hang out between two friends.

The Price is Right: U r overthinking again, Mad Max. Y can’t u draw ur power fr Captain n be more decisive? Jesus. I'd rather have a life of 'oh wells" than a life of "what ifs."

Chloe is right. She should take that step to text Victoria first.

Or better yet, walk up to her room and just knock on her door. Asks Victoria if she wants to hang out.

But every time Max wants to walk out of her room to go to Victoria’s door, she freezes.

Every time she picks up the phone and scrolls to Victoria’s name, she stops.

Chloe is right. She should do something. But sadly, Max isn’t Chloe.

So Max waited.

And waited for Victoria to text her first.

But it never happened.

Saturday comes and goes. No text from Victoria.

As Sunday starts rolling by, Max begins to be consumed by her own self-doubt.

By then, she is very sure she has done something wrong for Victoria to ignore her like that. She replays the scenes from Friday again and again, trying to find clues of what she did wrong.

In Max’s mind, there seem to be hundreds of things that went wrong that night, but the most critical mistake that Max has done that night is leaving Victoria in the mosh pit alone.

It is a mistake that cannot be avoided but should have been better handled.

Max knows she has screwed up. And she will have to find a chance to apologize to Victoria.

That is, if Victoria even wants to talk to her.

But she gotta try, regardless. They have come too far to go back to square one. She has to talk to Victoria in their photography class on Monday.

Max is so bothered by Victoria’s radio silence that she shuts herself in her room the whole of Sunday, and does what she always does when she is in this kind of mood.

She takes out her old Polaroid camera, the one William used to have, the one that Chloe gave Max as her eighteenth birthday gift, and she took a whole bunch of silly selfies.

She laughs when she sees some of her shots. She bet Victoria will have something to say about her selfies. She will probably scoff at her badly taken photos and asks Max to go fuck her selfie.

If Victoria ever sees her photos, that is. At this rate, Victoria may not even want to see Max again.

Sigh.

If only Victoria will open her door now and ask her to fuck her selfie.

Max spends the rest of her Sunday doing what she does best besides photography.

She writes and composes.

A new song for Twenty One Pirates and a new song for her to vent her frustration.

A new song that she hopes will eventually reach Victoria when she goes to a Twenty One Pirates gig again.

Max can only hope.

She spends the whole night writing the new song that she wakes up late for Monday morning photography class.

She rushes to class, hoping and praying that the seat beside Victoria will be empty, only to find Taylor sitting beside her.

Of course, Victoria’s best friend will be the one to sit next to her. What is Max expecting? They have only just hung out once and Max expects to be treated as someone more than a friend?

But Max really needs to speak to Victoria.

To ask how she is.

To clear the air about Friday.

To apologize.

Max walks to the empty seat behind Victoria, hoping to find a chance to talk to Victoria. But before she can even put her messenger bag down, the girl next to the empty seat – Max thinks that girl is called Jessie, she still hasn’t quite remembered everyone’s names yet – glared at her so fiercely, she almost bore a hole in Max’s brain.

Max gulps and continues walking, making a beeline to the next empty seat beside Evan Harris.

Evan Harris is a good photographer, the best after Victoria and herself but he can be very standoffish, ignoring everyone he deemed unworthy. It’s not something Max minds though. After all, she doesn’t want to make small talk with anyone today, or rather, any other day. So sitting beside Evan is just perfect for her.

Now all Max has to do, is to wait for the lesson to be over and catch Victoria before her next class.

Time seems to really stretch when one is waiting. The lesson seems to go on forever. When it finally ended, Max grabs her messenger bag and is about to stand up when Evan, who never like to talk to anyone, spoke.

“You have a minute, Max?”

Surprised by the sudden conversation, Max gapes like a goldfish, not knowing how to respond. So she just nods. From the corner of her eye, she can see Victoria leaving the classroom with Taylor.

She can feel the sense of dread sinking into her stomach as Evan starts his talk. She has just missed the opportunity to talk to Victoria.

Now what?

“Max, are you listening?”

Max snaps her attention back to Evan.

No, she is not listening.

“Yes, I am listening.”

“Good. So are you in?”

“Um… in what?”

“Being the photographer for the protest. You sure you’re listening?”

Max turns a deep shade of red. She is never good at hiding her emotions, especially when she has just been caught lying.

“Um, what protest?”

Evan frowns deeply. “I’m in this sustainability group and we are trying to form a protest against climate change and plastic use. We need some photographers that day to take photos for our social media use. I could use some help. So? How about it?”

Max shuffles her weight anxiously from one leg to another. She really isn’t interested.

“Are you in or what?”

But Max is never good at saying no. Especially if the person asking is looking more impatient by the minute.

“I- I guess I will…” before Max can complete her sentence, Evan jumps in

“Great! I will sign you up then. Give me your number. I will text you the info.” Evan gives Max an insincere, lopsided smile.

Max gulps nervously.

What has she gotten herself into this time?