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A Work in Progress (On HIATUS)

Chapter Text

The ticking of the grandfather clock repeated endlessly on Max's ears. She glanced up, 7:34 it read on its old hands.

She was sitting in the dining room of her Seattle home, her eyes glued tiredly on a group of photos haphazardly sprawled across the dark cedar table. Each picture was different and unique, with memories tied to every one.

Good and bad ones.

Her eyes found the picture of a man, his baby blue eyes glowing with fondness and a blinding smile on his face.

She flipped the picture over. Not today, she decided.

Max stood, stretching as her mother came waltzing in, looking tired and drained. She always did look that way these days. Max tried to ignore the bruise on her jaw. "Max," her voice was hoarse, "you've been up all night again."

Max shrugged, "Couldn't sleep." Her voice was quiet, "I'm packed and everything is in the car. Blackwell Academy here I come." Excitement made her body buzz.

Maxine Caulfield was a photographer, she always had been since she got her hands on a camera for her tenth birthday eight years ago. She had a knack for polaroids and most of her work centered around her own selfies.

It was weird, but it was weirdly Max. No one was surprised at her passion and hey, she wasn't a shabby photographer.

But Max didn't wanna be an "okay" photographer, she wanted to be famous. Travel the world and map it with polaroids that would fill galleries. However that took an education, and no high school in Seattle offered such classes. Blackwell Academy, in her hometown of Arcadia Bay, Oregon did. In fact, it was the best in the country.

So, ever since she left the coast town behind, she had been working her ass off to go back.

And somehow, it worked.

"Max." Broken from her thoughts, the girl looked up. She shuffled in her gray hoodie as her mom looked her up and down. "Are you sure you want to go back? Aren't you forgetting someone....." she trailed off as Max purses her lips.

Oh right. No, she hadn't forgotten, how could she ever forget Chloe Elizabeth Price? Her childhood best friend and the girl she hadn't spoken to for five years out of fear. It was bad timing, Chloe had lost her father and the day of the funeral she lost her best friend.

"I'm going to call her." Max said with a strong voice and her mom narrowed her eyes.

"Are you?" She murmured, "Better do it quick, your flight is at nine."

Nodding, Max turned on her heel and bolted down the hallway into her cove. It was a large room that was supposed to be used as a game room or den but Max had fallen in love with the isolation of it and her parents couldn't refuse.

The walls were covered in posters of movies that she liked and a few fandom posters here and there but mostly it was band posters. There wasn't much of anything else, Max had packed everything except the excessive amounts of posters, some old Christmas lights that were broken, her bed (obviously though she did take the fluffy blue blanket from it), and a few other items that were fine being forgotten.

Max reminisced the times she spent in this room. It wasn't anything special, mostly pictures and movies but hey, they were happy memories.

And those were hard to come by these days.

She shook her head, refusing to think about it. She clicked her phone's home button and it lit up in response. She choked, seeing the screensaver was of her and Chloe at ages thirteen, dressed up as pirates and grinning like madmen.

Especially Chloe.

She unlocked it and was lost in time. Her phone was a time capsule, frozen in place for five years. She chewed her lip and eyed the countless ignored messages from Chloe, the countless ignored calls.

She had been a fool.

Taking a shaky sigh, she did something she should have done five years ago and clicked Chloe's name on the missed calls list. She didn't even realize that it was still early and that Chloe was not a morning riser but it apparently didn't matter because it picked up on the second ring.

"..." Max's throat closed as she heard faint breathing. She bit her lip and opened her mouth, wanting to speak.

"...Chloe.." Her voice was choked, full of raw emotions of guilt, sadness, and pain. Tears poured down her face and she covered her mouth to keep herself from sobbing.

"..." The hipster heard Chloe breath yet she didn't answer.

What was Max suppose to say? A million apologies rushed her tongue yet would none come out. Max had ignored her best friend for five fucking years after she lost her father. She should hate Max thought, she probably did which is why she wasn't speaking. Maybe it was to get back at Max, for her silence, and Max deserved it but she wanted to hear Chloe's voice.

"I..." Max swallowed as her voice came out high-pitched with sadness, "Hi.." She said awkwardly, quiet and broken.

There was silence on the other end and Max was considering hanging up but, finally, a voice broke out. Raspy and low and Chloe. "Five years Caulfield."

"Huh?"

"Five years to  return this call." She was smiling, Max could hear the grin in her voice but she could also hear the bitterness. The 'why?'.

She couldn't answer that, not yet.

"I'm sorry." Max broke, sobbing into the phone. "I'm so sorry." She shook her head. "I'm such an idiot, I'm so sorry."

"Stop that." Chloe's voice was stronger now, sounding not as raspy. "Don't call me after five years and break down. I lost my dad and best friend in the same fucking week. If anyone should be breaking down it's me. Five years, Max, I waited for five years."

Max shook her head because the confusion and pain and anger in Chloe's voice hurt. She wanted to curl up, she wished she could have reversed time by lifting her hand and avoid this call but that was wishful thinking.

"I wanted too." The words tumbled from her lips before she could stop them.

"Why didn't you?" Chloe grunted, sounding tired and defeated. "I needed you. I thought I had gotten over you after all these years, but of course, the universe loves to fuck with me. Of course, you would call just when I think I don't need you anymore." The girl laughed but it was bitter.

Max wanted to die.

"I'll tell you everything." Max promised, "But not right now.. Not yet."

Chloe barked a laugh, "So how many years until I hear from you again?" She spat, making Max flinch.

The photographer bit her lip, trying to control herself as tears dried on her face. "I..I'm coming back."

"What?"

Chloe sounded stunned and there was a sound of movement and then a muffled bang and a distant 'fuck!'.

It almost made Max laugh.

Almost.

"I'm coming back to Arcadia Bay for school. Photography." She said softly, "I got a scholarship." She chewed her lip. "I'm coming back to you Chloe." She said that softer, but she knew Chloe heard because the breath on the other side of the line hitched for a moment.

"When?" Chloe asked after a moment.

"Today, my flights in about an hour." Max said after glancing at the digital clock near her bed on the table.

There was nothing but static for a few moments before Max felt her phone buzz. "I sent you an address. Go to it when you get here." Chloe said.

"Wait! I- I- I uh.." Max stuttered before she gulped. "I...I kinda need a ride from the airport? I was hoping you or Joyce could..." She bit her lip.

Chloe was silent before she laughed. The sound wasn't bitter now, it was full of amusement and happiness that made butterflies explode in Max's stomach. "So you think after five years I'm gonna drop everything to come to pick you up?" The laughter continued before she calmed down, "Five years and you're still Max Caulfield. Yeah, I'll send someone." She was grinning and the thought made Max smile.

"I'm sorry." The hipster shuffled, "I left you hanging... I.." Pictures of broken glass flashed in her mind and yelling in her ear made her shudder.

"Hey.." Chloe's voice was softer, yet it ripped Max out of her thoughts violently, and Max could feel her friend's hand on her wrists, as they would have been when they were kids. "I know you can't see me, but look. I was an asshole to ream you like that, I have no idea what's happened to you in recent years. It was shitty timing but.." Chloe hesitated before she sighed, seemingly letting go of her anger, "but we were kids. There wasn't anything you could have done to change it."

"I could have texted you." Max said automatically.

"You could have." Chloe agreed, "But you didn't. It's over with and hey, my number's still the same. You can text me now and, even if it was five years late, you called. That proves you still thought of me."

You don't even know... Max thought, remembering nights she spent sobbing and wishing she could just talk to Chloe.

"Yeah." Max said, taking a shuddering breath.

"Look Max, I-" Chloe seemed to swallow. "I gotta go, but there will be someone to pick you up. Look for a girl: blonde hair, hazel eyes, and a torn up flannel with torn up shorts. And Max?"

"Hm?" Max hummed, reciting the description of the girl who would pick her up from the airport.

"Thank you." Click.

Max was frozen in time for a few moments, her heart hammering in her chest and her phone still cold and pressed against her ear. Limply she dropped it to her side and dropped her hand with it, a stupid smile on her face.

"Maxine?" Her mother poked her head into her room. "It's time. Did the call go well?"

"Yeah, I think..." Max hesititated, remembering the hint of warmth and gentleness of Chloe's voice in her ear. "I think I'm gonna be alright. I think things will be alright."

Chapter Text

The flight was boring and Max slept through most of it.

She waltzed through the Arcadia Bay Airport, tired and stiff. She glanced around, looking at the signs that people held up for a sign of her chauffeur.

"Hey." She jumped and whipped around, blinking once before drowning in a hazel sea.

Her mouth felt dry as she stared at the woman in front of her. She was taller than Max by at least a few inches. Her hair was golden rays of sunlight that fell perfectly over small shoulders, framing her perfect and spotless face. Her eyes were hazel, flickering like embers from a fire. Her eyebrows were perfect, arching slightly as Max's eyes found her lips. Perfect in shape, they were stretched in a loose grin. The photographer blushed as her eyes wandered to the woman's chest, shapely and filled. Her stomach was flat and-oh dog. Her shorts, barely long enough to cover her ass, which by the way was nice looking as well even from the front, were ripped showing more skin of her upper thigh. A tattoo of an octopus was poking from the hole, it's tentacles stretching beyond the bounds of the shorts. A few poked from under her shorts but the rest was concealed.Max couldn't help but wondered where it ended. From her too-small shorts, came shapely legs that ended perfectly into a worn pair of converse and on one calf Max could see a dragon tattoo.

All in all, Max found out two things.

One, this woman was a fucking goddess, and two Max was super fucking gay.

A warm bell-chime laugh made her eyes fly up and stare at the strangers face. The girl grinned, "Maxine Caulfield right?" She asked, stretching her left arm out. Max noticed a little star on her wrist. "Names Rachel Dawn Amber, I'm your escort."

Rachel Dawn Amber, dog even her name was ethereal. "Max." she said hoarsely, "Never Maxine."

Rachel lifted a perfect eyebrow, "Alright then, Max it is." She said easily, a smile on her face. "So, shall I grab your bags?"

"Uh-" Max glanced over at where her stuff had been brought out by staff. "There's allot, how are you gonna fit it in your car?" She asked.

Rachel snorted, "You'll see." She walked over to one of the staff members and exchanged a few words before she turned to Max and gestured for her to follow her out.

Readjusting the strap of her bag around her body, Max paused, gazing at Rachel. She was standing in the sunlight and she practically glowed. In a trained, experienced movement, Max pulled out her camera and snapped a picture, the film sliding out immediately. She shook it out of habit and put it into her bag before she sighed and followed Rachel Amber.

The girl was already packing her luggage in... what the fuck?

Max tilted her head, of all things she expected this certainly wasn't it.

The truck was to beat to death and desperately needed new paint. Hell, it was a wonder the thing even ran, it looked like it was found in some junkyard.

She quickly learned that it was, in fact,  found in a junkyard.

"Chloe fixed her up." Rachel said with a grin, "She always was a little grease monkey." Rachel said, admiring the ride as if it was a new Mustang.

Of course, Chloe fixed this thing up. Max thought as she climbed into the truck. It was oozing Chloe, Elvis bobblehead on the dash and ominous messages of you're about to die and this is much bigger than you written crudely in sharpie.. though it was much darker than the Chloe Max remembered it was still Chloe. The messages didn't help ease Max's anxiety.

"How is this even running? It looks like a trainwreck." Max scoffed, her body trembling slightly. From how chilly it was near the coast or from anxiety she couldn't tell. Probably both.

Rachel glanced at her from the driver's seat, the engine roaring to life as she drove out of the airports parking lot. "As I said, Chloe fixed her up. Spent a bunch of money on her as well, the thing runs better than most sports cars. She replaced the engine and everything, got new tires, and even patched up the hole that used to be down there." She nodded to the floor on the passenger side. "Even touched up the breaks. Runs like a dream honestly, though, I wish Chloe would fix the paint job, she refuses. The color is sentimental for her apparently." Rachel shrugged and Max couldn't believe the motion could look so attractive.

Max nodded mutely and smiled as she stroked the soft blanket that was stitched over the leather. "She ever gonna replace the leather?"

"Shits' expensive." Rachel said with a snort, "She wanted to but the price was too much. Most of what she got was recycled or sold for dirt cheap. It was only relatively expensive because of the sheer amount of fixing up she needed." The girl drummed on the steering wheel with her index fingers, "The leather costed more than it took to fix the truck."

"Are you cereal?" Max asked, giving Rachel an incredulous look.

Rachel glanced at her, her eyebrow raised at the old phrase.  "Super." She responded with a smile.

The two eased in comfortable silence but as they sat Max couldn't help but wonder who Rachel was to Chloe. The girl seemed to know Chloe well and they seemed to be close as Rachel's hazel eyes would light up when she spoke about Chloe. Were they just friends or more?

Max's gut clenched, she didn't want them to be more.

Suddenly she felt sick and she groaned softly, curling up into the corner of the truck. Her body trembled. She should have stayed in touch. She should have fought the move more. She should have called earlier. She should have... She should have..

Then she remembered why she didn't. The smell of booze assaulted her. The sound of glass breaking and screaming echoed hallow in her ears. She let out a sob and held her head, trying to shake her way out of the memories. It worked for the most part, but she could still smell the booze.

"Hey." Max didn't turn to Rachel's voice but she flinched as Rachel touched her back and rubbed it. "Hey.. you're okay. You're safe.."

For some reason, Max was inclined to believe her. Unconsciously she pressed into Rachels touch and soon her breathing became normal.

"Better?" Rachel asked, eyeing her in concern.

"B-Better." Max bit her lip, "I wanna..I wanna lay down." she said, thinking of her only escape from the hellish life of her past. Sleep. "Bed."

Rachel blinked and nodded, "I'm taking you to me and Chloe's apartment," Max felt her heart drop, they lived together? "You can sleep on the couch or in my bed." My bed, thank dog they didn't share the same room.

Guilty, Max nodded and shook her head. Rachel had been nice so far and helped her through her mini panic attack. She shouldn't be thinking such awful jealous thoughts. So what if she and Chloe were dating? At least Chloe found someone better and moved on.

Something Max had yet to do.

Yet, Chloe had said she didn't but how could she have not? Rachel was in her life and even though Max didn't even know her well, she could tell that Rachel was a ray of sunshine. She radiated energy and, if Chloe was still the same mischevious kid that made Max drink wine and stain the carpet, Chloe would be all over that.

Max bit her lip and choked back tears.

She wanted to sleep.

She wanted to get away.

The truck came to a stop and Max rushed out immediately, releasing a breath that was a high-pitched sob. She covered her mouth and fought the stinging tears back, her chest rising and falling unevenly.

The memories were back.

"Max?" Rachel's voice was now close and she looked up, not realizing that the girl had moved over on her side. Her hazel eyes were alight with concern and her eyebrows were furrowed, her lips in a frown. "Max, what's wrong? Did I.." Rachel hesitated and Max blinked, seeing a vulnerability in this seemingly celestial being. "Did I do something wrong?"

"No." The words came out immediately and it surprised Max as much as it surprised Rachel. The hipster paused as she thought over the words and found that she meant them. "No, you didn't..." She shifted from foot to foot and looked down, not willing to show Rachel her eyes, "I just..am stupid." she sniffed and wrapped her arms around her body, protecting it and hunched her shoulders in defense. She could feel something winding up and pressed against the truck as she prepared for something to go flying towards her.

Rachel eyed her with wide eyes before she cleared her throat. "You aren't stupid, overwhelmed maybe, but you aren't stupid." Rachel reached out a hand to touch Max but paused as she flinched and slammed shut her eyes, body trembling. Dread crept in the girl's stomach as an idea of Max's problem formed in her mind. "Come inside." She said softly, ghosting her fingers over Max's shoulders and feeling her heart break as the girl flinched and shuddered at the touch, "You can sleep there." She bit her lip as Max, still tense as ever looked up through her lashes.

Nodding rapidly and still refusing to meet Rachel's eyes, Max followed her inside.

Rachel showed her Chloe's room, thinking being around something mildly familiar would calm her down, and immediately Max flopped onto the girls' bed and passed out.

The door opened and slammed shut as a groan escaped familiar lips.

Rachel was staring at nothing, as she had been for the past hour, her brow furrowed when she looked up, grinning slightly as Chloe walked in.

"Hey, Chloe." She said easily, that smile still on her face but she knew Chloe wouldn't buy it.

And that fact remained true as Chloe took one look at her before her face, framed by beautiful light blue hair, contorted in concern. "What's wrong?" She asked, frowning. "Where's....?" Max, the name didn't need to be said as she glanced around.

"Sleeping." Rachel looked away, biting her lip. Chloe blinked in confusion as to why that was said as though it was bad. "In your bed."

"Oh." Chloe stood still for a moment. "Jet lag?" She asked, confusion still on her face.

"No time difference."

Chloe's face twitched with annoyance, "Then what-"

"Something's wrong with her." Rachel cut her off, "She had a panic attack in the truck on the way here." Chloe's eyes widened, "And I heard her sobbing in her sleep, she was crying out.." Rachel closed her eyes, remembering how Max writhed, tears pouring down her face as she cried out in pain and desperation yet still stayed asleep. "Something happened Chloe, so you can't yell at her for her lack of communication."

Chloe blinked and searched Rachel for any sign of exaggeration but found none. The aspiring model could see that a million thoughts were racing in her mind but eventually, she nodded, "Okay." She promised, "I already sorta yelled at her anyway." Chloe said with a sheepish look.

Rachel nodded, "I'll go get her." She said getting up before she paused, turning to Chloe with a small grin, "Also, you didn't mention the fact that she was hella adorable."

Chloe grinned slightly, "She's still adorable? Of course, she is." She answered her question with a shake of her head.

Rachel disappeared down the hall and entered Chloe's room.

Max was up but she was holding her head and rocking back and forth, repeating something under her breath.

As Rachel shot forward she froze as she heard what Max was saying.

"Pathetic, you're pathetic. Worthless. Ugly." Max was repeating that like a mantra, tears pouring down her face.

No. Rachel surged forward and wrapped Max in a hug, warm and comforting.

Max's breath hitched as she was suddenly embraced and she looked up, tears at the corner of her baby blue eyes.

Rachel's heart broke and she wished she didn't know how to read people so well. She remembered her mom telling her that eyes were a picture into someone's soul.

She hated the picture she saw in Max's eyes.

Something did happen to Max. Something terrible. Something that left her broken and shattered. Something that stole her innocence and kept her from Chloe.

"I'm sorry." Max's voice was barely audible. "I'm so sorry."

"Sh." Rachel rubbed her back and mumbled sweet nothings. "You're okay. I'm here. You're safe."

She felt Max trembling and press closer to her and a wave of protectiveness crashed over Rachel.

Whoever hurt you, whoever made you believe your anything less than perfect is gonna regret the day they were born, Rachel pledged silently as she squeezed Max tighter.

Max let out a shaky breath. "I don't even know you and yet you calm me down so easily." She laughed but it sounded more like she was trying not to cry. "Why are you helping me?"

A million words flew to Rachel's tongue but she only chose three.

"Because I care."

Baby blue eyes widened as tears flowed down Max's freckled face. Her entire body shook and her sobs came out raw as Max clung unto Rachel's flannel.

She cried for a while until it was all out and she felt empty. She wanted Chloe.

Rachel had held her close at first but the contact made Max tense and struggle so she opted to rub Max's back instead to try to calm her.

"I.." Max's voice was raw, "I want Chloe."

Rachel moved immediately, "I'll get her."

Max nodded mutely and curled up in a ball. Her arms were covering her stomach, and her lip was bloody from her chewing it. She probably looked like a zombie or one of those puppies on those abused dog commercials.

Both of those descriptions were scarily accurate.

The sound of boots made her look up, her heart racing as the sound was familiar, she was rushed into a memory, it happened four years ago but it was fresh in Max's mind.

Uneven boot-steps came down the stairs, stalking closer to her room.

It was supposed to be a quiet Wednesday night but that wasn't the case here. Not in this house. Not anymore.

The girl, age fourteen, froze in place on her bed, blanket wrapped around her tightly like armor and papers around her as a dark figure stumbled its way into her room.  The smell of beer that this figure secreted made her want to vomit, overwhelming the scent of vanilla that normally hung in the air.

She held her head down, refusing to meet his eyes. Her throat closed as she trembled lightly, tears already welling in her eyes. She closed her eyes as the figure began to scream, its arms waving rapidly and violently as its speech was slurred. She clenched her fists and covered her ears, drawing her knees close to her chest and screamed as the blanket, her armor, was torn from her body.

She fell with it and pain shot through her head as she slammed the side of it into the floor. The figure was over her now, still screaming, telling her to stop crying, to get up before it gave her a reason to cry. Stubbornly she refused, staying glued to her floor and the figure only screamed more in rage before it stumbled off, slamming the door.

She heard more screaming and went out to investigate and-

"Max!"

Her thoughts ended abruptly and she flinched. "Mom!?"  She cried unevenly, looking around in confusion. She blinked as she took in her surroundings, she wasn't in Seattle.

Then it all came rushing back to her and she rushed to a sitting position. The blood rushed to her head and she closed her eyes as her brain throbbed for a few moments before giving way.

She looked up, seeing Rachel standing there with..

"Max?" The girl was different. Blue hair, punk motif, a full sleeve tattoo but Max could never mistake that voice.

That voice she had been yearning to hear again for years now.

"Chloe?" She echoed in an equal amount of surprise.

Her best friend stared at her in shock and slight horror before she suddenly furrowed her brow. She had a look of conflicted anger and Max only snorted softly.

"Let it out." She ordered, looking down at her lap.

"Five years!" Chloe snarled, "You made me wait five years! Do you realize how shit my life has been without you being there? My dad died, I needed someone and you just bail on me." She paced around and in the background, Max could hear Rachel saying Chloe's name trying to get her to calm down but the blue-haired punk wasn't listening. "How could you do that to me? Why did you do that to me?! You won't even give me a fucking answer and-" Her voice petered out. Max had been clenching the skin of her arms, nails digging into the flesh. She relaxed, deep red and angry crescents now carved into her arms and she looked up into those beautiful ocean blue eyes. Those eyes haunted her nightmares for five years. Chloe looked back, taking in her appearance before she let out a choke.

"What the hell happened to you?"

Max closed her eyes, a single tear rolling off her freckled cheek. "I wanted to call you Chloe." She evaded the question and she knew Chloe caught it because her brow furrowed again, "I wanted to so bad but I.. I couldn't." Her voice lowered into a whisper and she bit her lip again.

"Why not?" Chloe rushed forward and Max choked as suddenly Chloe's weight was against her and her face was inches from hers. Max could smell smoke, weed, and mint on her breath and as she was pressed closer, straddling Max's legs, the hipster should smell cigarettes, weed and mans cologne on her clothes.

Of course, Chloe wouldn't use perfume.

Max looked into those blue eyes and she shook her head, tears pouring down her face. "I'm sorry I can't-" She hesitated, seeing the flash of anger in Chloe's eyes. "I can't tell you." She choked and she looked away, unable to stare into her friends' eyes out of shame.

Chloe was still and suddenly she grabbed Max's arms, making her flinch then relax as she gently ran her thin fingers down the hipster's arm before they wrapped around her hands gently, thumbs rubbing her wrist.

It was something that they did as kids, whenever Max started freaking out. Her anxiety and panic attacks were a thing long before... that. Immediately, Max calmed down and she looked back up to Chloe and was shocked to see her gazing back, her eyes gentle.

"Five years." Max said softly, making Chloe blink, "Five years and you still can't keep your tough girl act up." She smiled slightly as Chloe narrowed her eyes.

"I've gotten better at it." She breathed and Max's heart fluttered in her chest like a caged bird.

"I couldn't tell." She teased back. This was safe. This bantering back and forth. This was them. This was how it was before she left.

The thought made Max's smile waver.

Chloe breathed out a chuckle. "Don't give me that look. At least pretend like your glad to see me." She said.

Max sighed. She dreamed of this moment right here, being able to see, to touch, Chloe. She had dreamed of it for five years. "I am seriously glad to see you." Max replied after a moment.

Chloe smiled slightly, "I'm sorry, yelling at you was selfish on my part. Rachel told me that you had a panic attack in the truck and.. and I shouldn't have torn into you. I have no idea what happened and I really want to know but.. but I'll wait for you to be ready." She promised, squeezing Max's hand.

The photographer trembled lightly, love and affection and an overwhelming contentedness flooding through her body at how safe she was in Chloe's grasp. She hadn't felt this safe since she left Arcadia Bay. She hadn't been this safe honestly.

Max looked into Chloe's eyes and couldn't help it. She leaned forward and tapped her forehead against hers. Chloe immediately closed her eyes, relaxing into the touch. She slid her arms up Max's and wrapped her into a light hug.

Max stayed like that before she buried her head into Chloe's shoulder and just breathed her in. Chloe did the same, and she heard a faint 'Still vanilla' from her shoulder but she was too tired to speak.

The moment continued on and Max leaned back, a warmth in her chest and stomach. "I'll tell you." She told Chloe, "Everything just.. later." She hadn't come to terms with it herself, a large part of her mind was still in denial about it. But she knew with Chloe's help she could move past it.

She just needed some time.

Chloe nodded, "I can wait." She breathed, her hands wrapped around Max's wrist and immediately Max tore them away, flinching as another memory came to the forefront.

She screamed in pain as a rough hand grabbed her arm. The sting made her dizzy and she struggled. "Let go! Let me go!" She cried, pounding her tiny fists onto the stomach of the figure.

"You hurtin yourself?" The figure slurred deeply, its voice heavy with rage. "What is this shit, Maxine!" It roared.

"Let me go! Let me go!" Max cried, "It's Max! Never Maxine!" She struggled against the figure more, crying as pain danced on her arm.

"YOU WANNA CUT YOURSELF?" The figure roared, glaring at her with blue eyes that were once her second favorite. "FINE LET ME HELP!"

"Max." She flinched and drew her knees to her chest, breathing hard as the memory faded.

"S-Sorry." She said, looking at Chloe who had spoken. She was about to say something when her phone buzzed. "C-Can you grab me water? And my bag." She asked. She grabbed her phone and turned the alarm off.

Rachel offered her a cold bottle and she took it as Chloe handed the bag over.

She shuffled through her bag before she saw the pills, she paused nervously, before she grabbed them and moved the bag away.

Chloe's brow furrowed as she recognized the pills. They were the same ones Sergeant Dickhead used for-

"You have PTSD?" The words rang hollow in Chloe's ears.

Max froze on the spot and Rachel glanced at Chloe with confused eyes.

"How do you know.." Rachel began but Max cut her off.

"Yeah." She said softly. "Yeah, I do." She popped a pill in her mouth and swallowed it with the water, coughing slightly.

Chloe stared at her before she sighed. "Jesus now I really feel like an asshole." She flopped on the bed and stared at the ceiling.

"I told you not to tear her apart." Rachel snapped, "You never listen to me." She rolled her eyes, yet under her false anger, Max could tell that Rachel was just as concerned as Chloe was.

She had no reason to care so much.

Yet she did.

The sentiment made Max smile slightly and she blinked as Chloe's voice sliced through the air.

"There's my favorite Caulfield smile." Max looked at Chloe, the punks eyes were lit with the same childhood energy that Max remembers.

She couldn't help it, a dorky smile split her face in two and the bird in her chest fluttered once more as Chloe grinned.

"I uh-" Chloe rose from the bed and walked over to a shelf. Scanning it, Max could see science books haphazardly spread among other knickknacks, along with a copy of Romeo and Juliet. "I know it was your birthday a few days back." She grabbed something and held it out.

Immediately Max recognized the old Polaroid camera. Memories began to swim in her mind, of waking up to pancakes and laughter... how Chloe wouldn't miss a chance to call him out on his swearing despite cursing like a sailor herself, even at age thirteen...

"It was my dads-my real dads- I want you to have it." Chloe held out Williams camera as Max slowly got up.

She took the camera and tensed when Chloe's fingers brushed hers. "This is amazing Chloe.." she breathed gazing at the camera with love. "But I," she hesitated remembering Williams' face. "I can't take this." She shook her head and held it back out to Chloe who only shook her head back, holding her palm out to stop Max from giving it back to her.

"Yes, you can." She said quickly, "He'd kill me about not using it- probably turning in his grave as we speak- and now I know it'll be used awesomely. Rachel tells me you took some pictures of her, you little sneak." Chloe smiled easily and Max stared at the Polaroid camera a bit longer before she smiled.

"Dog, Chloe- thank you." She placed the camera on the bed, making extra sure it wasn't near the edge, and then hugged the punk.

"Yeah, yeah, don't mention it, hippie." Chloe wrapped her arms around Max's shoulders and leaned her head down, burying her nose in Max's hair.

Max smiled slightly before Chloe pulled away, an impish look on her face. "I'll snag this," She held up a picture that Max took of Rachel earlier when her hair was catching the sunlight perfectly. "As a symbol of our reunion, capeesh?"

Max eyed the picture, it was a good shot and Max felt her photographer's heart break a little at the notion of parting with it, but there would be others.

And this time those could include Chloe.

With a small smile, Max nodded. "Sure." She hummed and Chloe grinned.

"Good, now that all that mushy shit is outta the way." She turned to her stereo, grinning at Rachel, who had leaned back and was idly scrolling through her phone letting the two best friends have their moment and switched it to a track. "I feel like stage diving!" She said as the guitars began to blast out of the speakers. "Let's dance!" She cried, flashing her crazed grin to Max.

Rachel looked up, her hazel gaze lighting as she recognized the song that Chloe played.

"You're fucking insane." Max said with a smile because Chloe's energy was infectious. 

"Yep, yep, I'm fucking insane in the brain, let's dance!" Chloe rushed forward, tugging on Max's wrists, "Shake that boney white ass!" She cried, jumping onto her bed and shaking her hips. She then flashed Rachel a look, "You too Amber!" 

Max turned to Rachel and snorted when the aspiring model came rushing forward, hopping onto Chloe's bed and joining her in her stage diving. 

"Or take a picture with your new camera." Chloe suggested as she continued to dance.

Max watched Rachel, enraptured with the way the aspiring models' hips swayed in beat with the music, her hands up and by her head. Then she flicked her gaze to Chloe, who was also moving her hips but also her arms. 

They both were such similar energies yet completely different. Rachel was like a wildfire, get to close and you might get burnt but you also might get pleasantly warm on a chilly night. Chloe was like electricity, amping everything up to a solid twenty on a ten scale. She was wild and, like a circuit, could spread that energy to other people. 

Max couldn't help it, she fished out her new camera and flashed a photo. She pulled it out of the dispenser and shook it before she placed it on Chloe's desk, grinning. 

"Chloe?" A man's voice came from the door of the apartment.

"Ah, shit! Turn it off, turn it off!" Chloe ushered to Max who scrambled to turn off the radio. 

"How many times have I told you to stop blasting that punk shit?" The man's voice grumbled, "Open the door! We need to talk."

"Aw fuck. Welp, fun is over." Chloe said, moving towards the door. Rachel watched her and hopped off and then grinned at Max. 

"She's something ain't she?" She asked, her eyes still lit from adrenaline. 

Max blinked, dog, Rachel was pretty. It was overwhelming being the focus of her attention, it felt like too much. She swallowed thickly and forced herself to speak. "Y-Yeah." She said, then nodded because she felt like just saying 'yeah' wasn't enough. 

Rachel studied her for a moment, "You don't gotta be so nervous." She said, "I'm not gonna bite." Her voice dropped suddenly in a husky purr, "Unless you want me too." 

Max choked, her body suddenly felt too hot, the room felt too hot. Rachel was too hot. Max was too gay. Holy shit. Holy shit.

Holy shit.

Rachel's laughter made her look up, eyes wide and face flushed. 

"Yo, calm down. I'm just dicking with you." Rachel smiled, but now it was warm and comforting and Max immediately loved it. "But seriously, don't be so nervous. I won't hurt you, not intentionally and I'll try not to unintentionally." There it was, there was that vulnerability that was so well hidden. 

Max opened her mouth but then jumped as a man suddenly burst into Chloe's room, the punk on his heels.

"Yo, ever hear of personal space?" Chloe said, slightly irritated. 

The man was short and well-cut. He was wearing a plaid shirt with some faded blue jeans with a belt and buckle holding them securely in place. He also had boots on.

"Rachel." He said stiffly and the girl smiled, but now Max could tell it was forced.

"Mr. Madsen." She greeted.

He turned his head towards Max and narrowed his eyes. "Whose that Chloe? Another one of your friends?"

"Oh my god, I don't even live with you anymore and you're still getting into my shit." Chloe groaned, flopping onto her bed and rolling off the other side to land on her feet beside Max. "Yes, this is my friend. Kind of my best friend since I was like... four?" She thought about it, "Earlier. Either way, yeah she's a friend, a good one." She flashed Max a soft smile which the hipster returned.

Good friend? No, I wasn't a good friend. I still am not a good friend. Max thought self-deprecatingly.

"What's her name?"

Chloe let out a soft growl that definitely shouldn't have been hot but was, "Max. Do you want her address? Social security? Birthday? Tell Rambo to eat shit." She crossed her arms. "Are you done interrogating me David?"

David glared at her, "Watch your mouth, show some respect." He snapped, "And I'm not interrogating you. Ever since you moved out, your mother hardly sees you anymore. She was worried." 

"Then she should have come to visit me instead of sending her guard dog to bite me in the ass." Chloe snapped, looking away. 

David's eyes flashed with anger, "Chloe Price!" He roared, "You know she loves you, she's just-"

"Too busy to come to see her only daughter." Chloe cut him off, glaring back at him. "Too ashamed to come to see her fucked up child," She went on, "Too scared to come to try to make amends." Her voice dropped into a tone of sadness and her punk facade faltered for a second before it came back with a vengeance. "Tell her to stop sending you and to come herself." She snapped, "I'm done with this shit."

David eyed her up and down, his eyes burning. "You're ungrateful." He said coldly. "You don't care about anyone but yourself, even your own mother means nothing." 

Immediately, Max felt searing anger rush through her.

"That's not true!" The words came out of Max's mouth before she could think twice. "No one cares more than Chloe. She's always thankful for everything, it's not her fault everything seems to bite her in the ass in return!" The ball was rolling and coming in fast. "She's had to deal with so much, you have no right to come into her home and yell at her for shit you can't ever understand!" Max froze and she trembled as his angry eyes towards her. She backed up and closed her eyes. "Y-You.." She tried not to cry but she couldn't stop the tears. "Y-You have no idea what she's had to endure just cause I.." Left. 

She looked down tried to calm herself down. His eyes reminded her so much of his.

Please don't hurt me. Please don't hurt me. Please don't hurt me.

Pleasedonthermepleasedonthurtmepleasedonthurtme Pleasedonthermepleasedonthurtmepleasedonthurtme Pleasedonthermepleasedonthurtmepleasedonthurtme Pleasedonthermepleasedonthurtmepleasedonthurtme Pleasedonthermepleasedonthurtmepleasedonthurtme Pleasedonthermepleasedonthurtmepleasedonthurtme Pleasedonthermepleasedonthurtmepleasedonthurtme Pleasedonthermepleasedonthurtmepleasedonthurtme Pleasedonthermepleasedonthurtmepleasedonthurtme Pleasedonthermepleasedonthurtmepleasedonthurtme Pleasedonthermepleasedonthurtmepleasedonthurtme Pleasedonthermepleasedonthurtmepleasedonthurtme Pleasedonthermepleasedonthurtmepleasedonthurtmepleasedonthurt-

"Max." She froze and looked up, seeing hazel eyes looking at her with concern. "Breathe okay?"

"I think you need to go." Chloe said to David, who was staring at Max with a confused and dazed look. 

The man opened and closed his mouth before he nodded, "Y-Yeah.." He said distractedly, "I'll uh-" He paused, gazing at Max. "Are you okay?" 

"Go!" Chloe snapped and David immediately nodded, turning stiffly on his heel and walking away.

Max let out a gross sob and slumped onto the floor. 

Chloe and Rachel eyed her before they looked at each other. 

"Max," Chloe said softly, bending down. "Come on, he's gone." She lifted the hipsters chin and smiled. "Y'know what, let's go somewhere. All three of us, I know somewhere perfect." 

Max stared at her then turned to Rachel who smiled encouragingly. Her eyes flicked back to Chloe's and she felt her heart stutter as Chloe was looking at her with a softness she thought she'd never see again.

"Alright then, take me away Captain." 

 

Chapter Text

Max took some time to freshen up in Chloe's bathroom before she followed Rachel and Chloe out to the punks truck. She sat in the middle and honestly that was a mistake because now she was between two really attractive people and it wasn't helping her mental functionalities.

"Max?" She jumped and looked up, blinking at Chloe who grinned in turn. "You know, after five years I thought you wouldn't zone out as much." She said, smiling at the photographer.

Max shrugged, toying with the sleeve of her jacket. "S-Sorry, whaddya say?" She mumbled, looking down.

"I asked if you wanted something to eat." Chloe said.

"Oh," Max thought about it, "I mean, I guess I could go for Two Whales but I don't think you wanna see your mom." She said, awkwardly shuffling in place.

Chloe sighed, "It's not that." She said softly, "I just.." She paused and frowned, her brow furrowing as she thought about how to word her next sentence.

"You can guess from that interaction that she and David don't get along." Rachel piped in, ready to make it easier for Chloe.

"Who is that guy anyway?" Max asked, looking at Rachel.

"He's my step-dad, but he's more of a step-douche." Chloe answered with a growl. "He and my mom got together after, what, a year after my dad died?" She shook her head. "I never trusted David, he treated me like some child delinquent."

"I mean, you kind of were." Rachel said, "But he went too far with his 'helping'." Her voice became angry.

"I only was because you made me one." Chloe shot at her.

"Explain?" Max chimed in, confused.

Chloe sighed and pulled into an empty parking lot. "Alright so after you left I was adrift at sea." Chloe started, "I didn't know what to do, I just wanted you but.." She paused, seeing the guilt on Max's face and decided to skip forward. "Anyway, my mom started dating David, he's an ex-soldier and he seems to think I'm his cadet. My mom couldn't handle me I guess, I was an angry, out of control fifteen-year-old. I didn't like him and I acted out in defiance." Max felt her mouth quirk up into a smile. Chloe had always done that, act like a rebel against things she didn't like. It always drove William insane but the man couldn't stay mad at Chloe worth anything. "I got into drugs, I snuck out, I went to parties, I slept with boys and girls." Chloe rattled on, "I regret the boys." She said with a small laugh, "That's how I figured out I'm hella gay."

"Hella?" Max echoed, "And you call me the hipster?"

"Hey," Rachel chimed in, "Hella's a good word."

Max couldn't help the giggle but she gestured for Chloe to go on.

The punk leaned back, "I dyed my hair with Rachels support, she and I always get into trouble somehow. I got expelled from Blackhell for skipping school and it just got worse from there." She paused and sighed, "I dyed my hair after I got expelled and still did the same shit that my mom hated and one night at what was supposed to be a quiet family dinner David and I started fighting. It got heated and.." She hesitated, looking at Max before she flicked her eyes away. "And he hit me."

"What?" Max felt her blood run cold. "He did what?"

"He hit me." Chloe repeated, rubbing the back of her neck. "It wasn't the first time he's done it, he doesn't have anything against hitting a woman, he's killed people dammit." Chloe gave a dry laugh, "I was eighteen and sick of it, I told Joyce to choose between me and him and she said she loved us both. I told her that she clearly didn't love me or William at all and packed my shit and left. I rented my apartment and I've ignored her ever since. David figured out where I was staying, because of course he did, and apologized. He asked me to come back home but that place isn't my home. Not while David's there." She shook her head wistfully.

"Asshole." Rachel grumbled, crossing her arms.

Max's mind reeled with this new information. Immediately she didn't like David. How could he hit his own step-daughter? Multiple times? Her blood was now hot as she got worked up over it.

"W-Why?" She stuttered, not able to control it due to how mad she was getting. "Wh-What the hell?"

Chloe placed a hand on Max's thigh. "Welcome to the shitty real world, Caulfield." She said with a smile that Max knew wasn't genuine. "I don't blame my mom, I know she's too busy working to come to see me but I still use it against her because I don't want to face her." She sighed. "In a way, I guess I feel betrayed but she needs David. He truly loves her, I can tell that, but-"

"But that doesn't excuse him hitting you." Max all but growled. "He's an asshole."

Chloe laughed, "Maybe one day I'll try to make a peace with him, for a time we were cool but.." She shrugged, "Not anytime soon."

Max nodded mutely, she was still pissed off. "How can you be okay with that?"

"I'm not." Chloe said, tightening her grip on the steering wheel as she turned out of the parking lot. "It fucks with me but like everything shitty that's ever happened to me, I can't do anything so there's no use in being mad over it. Besides, if I was okay with getting abused by my asshole step-father I wouldn't have moved out when I got the chance." She flicked her eyes to Max and smiled. "But hey, I'm alive. That's all that matters right?"

Max shook her head, "No, this- this isn't okay." She tightened her hands into a fist, body trembling. "Y-You need to fight this more." She told Chloe firmly, "Why aren't you?"

"Max, I told you, there's nothing I can-"

"Bullshit!" Max cried, pounding her fists onto the dash.

"Hey! Watch it!" Chloe snapped, glaring at Max.

Immediately the anger was swept away by guilt and fear.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry, I'm-" Max began to tremble but Rachel immediately swooped in, reaching her hand out and gently grabbing Max's.

"Max, breathe okay?" Chloe said, "Don't worry about it just.. calm down alright?" Her voice dropped, soft now. "Look, I'm not happy about it. I hate it just as much as you do but.. but I can't ruin my moms' happiness. She was awful in the months after my dad died, every night she would cry, it took her two months before she could even sleep in her own room again." Chloe sighed, "If she forgives David and continues to be happy with him then it's not my place to ruin that. In fact, I told her that I forgave him just so she could. I bet she doesn't truly think I did, but it kept them together." She shrugged, "And she's still happy. That's all I care about."

Max said nothing but she nodded, a bittersweet feeling in her stomach. Chloe was willing to go so fucking far to make sure she didn't ruin Joyce's happiness. Max felt a lightning burst of anger as she remembered David's words.

'You don't care about anyone but yourself.'

Bullshit. Max thought, she looked at Chloe who was now silently driving then flicked her gaze towards Rachel who had been silently listening to them this entire time. She met the girls' eyes and blinked in shock when she saw the same look matching what she felt like.

The girl was smiling bittersweetly but her eyes were boiling with rage.

Max hesitated, but she reached out and tapped Rachel's hand in a silent agreement of feelings. Rachel seemed to understand because her expression softened and her smile gave way to a genuine one.

Soon, the three were in a comfortable silence, the radio playing some punk music that Max didn't recognize but Rachel and Chloe did because they were head bobbing to the beat.

"So," Chloe broke the silence as the song ended, "Two Whales?" She asked.

Max hesitated, she wanted food and Joyce's pancakes were the best but, she didn't want to force Chloe to confront her mom before she was ready. If she hadn't forced Max to tell her what happened in Seattle then Max should return the favor, it was the least she could do.

"I'm not hungry." Max lied, her stomach shifting in protest. She hadn't eaten anything since her last meal at Seattle with her mom the day before.

"Liar." Rachel called her out immediately, making Max freeze. She looked at the aspiring model and frowned, shrinking under her hazel gaze.

Rachel seemed to look into her soul, searching it for a few moments before her eyes softened. "You don't want to force Chloe to face her mom, don't you?" She asked softly, hitting the nail on the head.

"Y-Yeah." Max answered before she had time to think, besides she didn't think she could lie to this girl. She looked down, ashamed sightly and bit her lip.

She jumped as she felt Chloe wrap an arm around her. "Jesus Max, your too good for me." The punk said with a light laugh.

No, you. Max thought immediately.

"Look," Chloe smiled at her, "You don't gotta lie to me just for my sake. Me talking to Joyce is gonna happen one way or another, might as well get it over with." She gave the photographer a soft look. "I'm glad it's with you though."

Max felt a lump in her throat, making her swallow thickly. Dog, she didn't deserve Chloe, she didn't deserve that look the punk was giving her, she didn't deserve to be sitting in this truck between the most gorgeous people in all of Arcadia Bay.

She didn't deserve this.

Chloe seemed to sense her troubled mind because she pulled into Two Whales parking lot and quickly parked before she turned and wrapped Max into a hug. Immediately, Max relaxed and the thoughts were silenced.

Chloe pressed her forehead against Max's, "I forgive you, Max." She said softly, "So don't feel bad."

Max felt her breath hitch and she trembled slightly but nodded. She gazed into blue eyes that pulled her to the ocean. A calm washed over her and she nodded lightly, scared to talk because it might break the moment.

Chloe smiled slightly and moved back, much to Max's' displeasure, opening her door and sliding out.

Max felt Rachels heat move away from her and suddenly she was somehow colder than she was before. She shook her head to clear her thoughts and followed Chloe into the diner.

Immediately the smell of coffee, pancakes, eggs, and bacon brought her back to her childhood. She remembered helping Chloe and William in the Price home every morning before school. She smiled as a memory of a flour war that may or may not had resulted in the entire house being white for a few days came to the front of her mind.

Chloe paused, "I need to whiz." She said, her hands shaking in a way that alerted Max that she was nervous. "I'll be back." She turned quickly and disappeared into the back of the diner, where the bathrooms were.

Max considered going after her but a gentle brush of fingertips made her jump and have goosebumps. She turned and looked at Rachel, who smiled.

"Sorry, but best you leave her alone. She won't want you seeing her have a breakdown." Max frowned, "She'll be fine Max, she's stronger than you know."

"You don't have to tell me she's strong." Max said softly, "Believe me I know."

Rachel didn't answer but she moved to a booth and Max eyed some sharpie on the side of the chair that said 'Chloe's seat'. She snorted and sat down across from Rachel.

She felt a little nervous, being alone with Rachel. The girl just gave off an air of confidence that Max couldn't ever hope to achieve like she knew that everyone was looking and didn't care.

Max wanted to know who this girl is.

"So..." Rachel said, deciding to break the ice since Max hadn't. "Wanna play a quick round of twenty questions?" She grinned, "I'll keep it appropriate." She winked and Max's brain short-circuited.

"Y-Yeah!" Max said, too loudly and too eagerly. "Yeah." She said quieter, her face burning with embarrassment.

Rachel grinned, loose and free. "Alright, favorite color?" She started.

"Pink." Max answered.

"Gold." Rachel answered.

Max nodded, "Age?"

"Nineteen." Rachel answered.

"Eighteen."

"Major?"

"Photography."

"Modeling."

Max paused and thought for a second, "Sexuality?" she asked tentatively.

Rachel smiled slightly, "Pansexual." She said, eyeing Max calmly.

Max's mouth felt dry, "B-Bi." She answered, "Girls a little more though." She admitted, surprised at herself for it.

Rachel nodded, "Fair enough. Favorite memory?"

Max bit her lip, "Mornings with Chloe when we were younger. Just being around Chloe in general, I guess."

Rachel laughed and it was quickly becoming one of Max's favorite sounds. "Same, Chloe's a lot of fun to hang with."

"Uh," Max's mind was blanking already, "Zodiac?"

"Leo." Rachel said proudly.

"Libra."

"Least favorite memory?" Rachel said softly, almost hesitant.

Max bit her lip, "L-Leaving." She said softly, "Chloe I mean."

Rachel's eyes softened, "When I caught my dad cheating." She said.

Okay, so now the questions were getting deep. "Ever been in love?" Max asked.

Rachel seemed to pause. She toyed with the feather earring she wore and furrowed her brow a bit in thought. "I.. don't know." She finally said, slowly and uncertain. Clearly, the question had thrown her off, Max felt kind of bad.

"Uh," Max thought for a moment and immediately blue eyes and hair flashed in her mind. "Yeah. I've been in love." She admitted softly.

I still am.

She shook her head to perish the thought.

"Is that a nervous tick?" Rachel asked, explaining when Max gave her a confused look. "You're little head shake thing."

Max tilted her head, still confused.

Rachel sighed, "You get this like, distant look in your eye and then you shake your head and come back to the real world." she explained.

"O-Oh." Max thought for a moment, "I guess yeah. Worst fear?"

"Hurting people." Rachel said immediately.

Max's mouth felt dry, she had so many fears but one jumped out to her. "Chloe hating me."

"Never will happen." Rachel said with a laugh, "She talked about you a lot when you were gone, took a while for me to break that habit."

Max felt warm at knowing Chloe spoke about her to this celestial being.

"Any dreams?" Rachel asked.

"To be a world famous photographer." Max said, "I wanna mark the world with my polaroids."

Rachel grinned, "You're already marking Arcadia Bay with em'," She said, "I want to be a model in LA."

"You could do it." Max said, her photographer mind drooling at how picturesque Rachel was.

The aspiring model smiled, "Thank you, means a lot coming from you." She said with a wink.

Max's hand twitched nervously, her heart leaping to her throat. "D-Does it?" She asked.

"Hell yeah, you're a bomb ass photographer. In fact, I was hoping you could take more pictures of me sometime." She grinned, "If you'd like, of course. You don't have to keep sneaking pictures."

Max blushed and looked at her hands. "S-Sorry." She said sheepishly.

"Don't worry about it, honestly it's not the weirdest thing that's happened to me. Besides, I don't mind a cute hipster sneaking photo's of me." She leaned forward slightly, her eyes growing half-lidded and her words becoming a bit huskier.

Max's brain went on meltdown mode, flashing red lights and obnoxious alarms included. Her body felt too hot and her blush was probably to her neck by now. She couldn't tear her eyes away from Rachel, she took in every part of her face. Her eyes, her eyebrows, her cheeks, her nose, her lips, her chin, her jaw. She focused a bit too long on the aspiring model's lips though.

"Max." Her heart stopped as Rachel purred out her name. "Have you ever masturbated?"

"W-What happened to staying appropriate?" Max choked out, her heart hammering in her chest and her mind being flooded by thoughts of Rachel. She swallowed thickly as Rachel laughed lowly.

"It's an innocent enough question," She slid her hand across the table and brushed her fingers across Max's arm. Goosebumps and heat followed her fingertips as they danced across the photographer's arm. "I do, frequently." She said, unabashed.

Max was still, her mind on overdrive and her body still heating up. Every touch from Rachel felt like too much and being the center of her attention was definitely overwhelming. Her body trembled, but not from anxiety, not fully anyway.

"I-I uh.." Max felt like she was getting sucked into a vacuum of hazel. "Y-Yeah." She admitted, "S-Sometimes."

Rachel smiled, "What do you fanta-"

"Nope." Max said immediately, "My question." Her brain was fried and she quickly searched for a question that would diffuse this sexual atmosphere, but it was hard to focus on anything because Rachel was still touching her. "U-Uh... favorite food?" Her voice was slightly higher pitched.

"Pussy." Rachel said without missing a beat and Max died.

Her breath caught in her throat and she began to cough. Rachel quickly began to tap her back, helping her catch a desperately needed breath.

"Shit sorry," Rachel said apologetically, "I didn't mean for you to choke." The corners of her mouth twitched, fighting a grin, and Max could immediately tell she stifled a dirty joke. "You are super easy to make flustered y'know." She smiled kindly, her eyes still glowing with guilt. "Don't worry it's cute." She dropped her voice a bit, "Are you okay?" Max was taken aback by the concern in her voice. She had sensed a shift in Rachel's demeanor, a crack in that mask she put up. Being out in public with Rachel had gotten Max some attention, in fact as soon as they walked into the diner, all eyes were on Rachel and Chloe, before peering at Max curiously. Max pieced it together quickly that there were many Rachel Ambers, but this one, the one in front of her, was the genuine one. The real Rachel Dawn Amber.

She smiled slightly. "I'm fine, just caught me off guard." She said, her cheeks still a bit red. 

Rachel's eyes seemed to search her as if checking to see any lie in her body language or tone, Max didn't mind nor did she put up a fight. She didn't think she could hide anything from Rachel, she kind of didn't want to either. Maybe this slight crack in the mask that the aspiring model wore was a way in, a way to know this girl better. 

"Alright," Rachel said, relaxing slightly. "if you say so." She gave a grin, "I lost count of how many questions, wanna keep going?"

Max hesitated, "It would be yours." She said, but Rachel shook her head.

"I asked if you were okay, that counts." 

Max hesitated, she glanced up and noticed that Joyce was coming from the kitchen. She paused for a moment before she looked back at Rachel. "Have you and Chloe ever like... dated?" She asked softly.

Rachel opened her mouth then closed it, her brow furrowed. "I-" She started but then she looked down. "We have something going on." She said, "I don't know what but it's new and intense and terrifying. And awesome." Her voice dropped a little as if she was afraid to admit it aloud. "How about you guys? I've never seen Chloe like that." 

"What do you mean?" Max blinked, she wasn't even surprised at Rachel's answer. The two hadn't acted like they were dating, but there was something there. 

"I mean," Rachel leaned forward, "that Chloe always tries to keep up her punk facade." She said, "And that girl can hold a grudge, be pissed off for something that happened years ago. Like you, she could have forced you away easily but-" She stopped and gave Max a look that held so many emotions it made Max feel overwhelmed, "she didn't." She tilted her head slightly, a confused yet intrigued expression on her face. "That's pretty unheard of from Chloe Price, you should feel lucky Caulfield, you're pretty special." Rachel smiled dazzlingly. 

Max shuffled in place, feeling warm inside. Being called special by someone like Rachel Amber? She knew Chloe could hold a grudge, she could when they were kids and Max was sure she got a lot better at it as she grew up, so maybe Rachel was right. But then again, Chloe could never stay mad at Max, even when they were kids, she couldn't. One look at sad Max and Chloe immediately brightened back up, telling Max that it was cool and that they should go play somewhere.

Max frowned slightly, I'm not special, I'm pitiful. She thought, biting her lip.

"Stop that." Rachel ordered swiftly, "You really are special Max and I'll get you to believe it one way or the other." She grinned and her eyes shone with mischief. Max couldn't help but return the smile, just a small twitch of her lips.

"Max Caulfield, is it really you?" Joyce's southern lilt made her look up. The woman looked exactly how Max remembered her, maybe a little bit more sleep deprived but perfectly the same. 

"Hey Joyce," Max said with an easy smile, "Yeah, it's me." She gave a nervous and breathy laugh. "You look the same." She said.

Joyce rose a brow, "Like I'm still working at Two Whales after five years?" She asked, placing two mugs on the table. 

"Pretty." Max said, laughing a bit as Joyce gave her a skeptical smile. 

"Nice save, glad to see you're still smart." Joyce said with a grin, then she narrowed her eyes at Rachel. "Maybe not too smart if you're  hanging out with this troublemaker." She said, but there was affection in her voice. "I didn't take you for the type to hang out with hellraisers, Max." She said, giving the hipster look.

"I hang out with Chloe." Max pointed out with a shrug. Rachel gave a stifled chuckle at that.

"You bring out the best in Chloe." Joyce murmured, her tone sad. She smiled at Rachel before something seemed to dawn on her. "You and Chloe are attached to the hip, are you two fighting again-"

"No, we aren't." The woman whipped around and stared at her daughter.

Max turned in her seat and eyed the punk. Chloe's hair was slightly disheveled, she probably was running her fingers through it excessively, she did that allot when her and Max were younger too. Her eyes were slightly puffy and red, and Max could tell the redness wasn't her being high. 

"C-Chloe," Joyce eyed her daughter, looking as if she was a ghost. Max noticed she was gripping an empty mug so tight her pale knuckles were white. "Jesus Christ." The woman breathed and closed her eyes. "You want coffee, right? I'll go get it." She said, turning on her heel and retreating quickly to the kitchen.

Chloe watched her silently before she sat down next to Rachel, slumping slightly. 

"Chloe-" Max began but stopped when Chloe looked up.

She looked so unhappy and guilty, her eyes shining with angry tears, and her mouth slightly open, her brows knitted together. She looked like a beaten puppy. 

"She couldn't even look at me for more than a minute." She said with a bitter laugh that was too much like the one she gave Max the day before she left Seattle. 

"How long has it been since you talked to her last?" Max asked gently, reaching across the table to grip Chloe's hand.

The punk gripped hers back tightly, "Six months, give or take a few." She grumbled.

Rachel wrapped her arm around Chloe's shoulder. "She's just as emotionally messed up as you are about this Chloe." She murmured, "She obviously needed a breather, she looked like she was one second away from fainting. Give her some time, she'll talk to you." Rachel smiled slightly. 

Chloe relaxed into her two friends touches and sighed, "I really fucked up. I already lost my dad, I-" She choked, swallowing as she aggressively wiped a tear threatening to fall from her pale cheek. "I can't lose her." She tossed a glance towards the kitchen.

"You won't." Max and Rachel said in unison, making Chloe flick her gaze between them.

The punks blue eyes slowly brightened, "It hasn't even been a full day and you two are already telepathic." She said with a loose grin, "That's hella cool."

Max couldn't help but giggle at that, Rachel chuckling under her breath,  then a movement made the photographer look up.

Joyce was coming back, looking more composed yet she still looked emotional. "Here you are." She poured black coffee into the two mugs on the table and set a clean one down, pouring some coffee into it. "What will it be for you girls?" She asked, smiling slightly. 

"Eggs and bacon." Chloe said immediately. 

"Same." Rachel said, grinning.

Joyce nodded and turned to Max who glanced at Rachel and Chloe, "Guess I'll have what they're having." She said, giving a shy smile.

"Done, it'll be out in a jiffy." She turned and disappeared into the kitchen, screaming at the cook.

Chloe eyed her for a moment before she sighed. "So, what did you nerds do while I was gone? Make out?"

"You wish," Rachel answered, jabbing Chloe's side with her elbow. "no, we played twenty questions. Max is an interesting person y'know." She smiled at the hipster and Max couldn't stop the blush that dusted her cheek.

Chloe rose a brow, "Hands off Rachel, I know what happens to people you find 'interesting'." She put up air quotes to emphasize interesting, giving the girl a light glare.

Rachel looked at her in mock offense, "Hey what's that suppose to mean-"

"You know damn well what that means." Chloe cut her off, "Max is off limits." She said, her voice almost a hiss.

"Um?" Max blinked, making the two turn to her. "What?"

Rachel shook her head, "Chloe is quick to judge peoples motives." She accused, tossing a glare at the girl.

Chloe snorted, "Your motives are always the same Amber." She looked away.

Rachel tensed her jaw, "Not this time." She said in an almost whisper, her eyes meeting Chloe's. 

Fire met electricity and Max was awkwardly trapped in the middle of it as the two girls exchanged silent words. 

Sensing the tension between the girls, Max looked up. She saw the jukebox and an idea forming in her mind. "Hey Chlo, you got a quarter?" She asked, making the punk glance up. 

Chloe fished in her pockets for a few moments and produced the silver coin, "Sure I do, why?" She asked as Max plucked it from her hand. 

"Because," Max waltzed over to the jukebox, slotting the coin into the hole and scrolling the selections it had. 

There wasn't much but one song jumped out to her, it was a recent song but it played on the radio before Chloe switched the station either. She grinned slightly and pressed it. 

  One two three go! My baby don't mess around me. Because she loves me so. And this I know for sure. 

She turned to Chloe and grinned, singing along.

"Oh my god, Max." Chloe groaned, snorting as she stifled her laughter.

Uh, But does she really wanna.  But can't stand to see me walk out the door.. 

Max continued loudly, grinning.

"I'm disowning you!" Chloe covered her face, convulsing with humor. 

  Don't try to fight the feelin' Because the thought alone is killing me right now. Uh, Thank God for mom and dad For sticking two together 'Cause we don't know how. UH! 

Max paused as Rachel suddenly stood up on the booth seat. She looked up and saw Rachel's eyes gleaming and couldn't help but grin. 

Hell yes.

"Rachel- oh my god!" Chloe pressed her face against the table as her best friends teamed up against her.

  Hey Ya. Hey Ya. Hey Ya. Hey Ya!

Rachel and Max sang together, Rachel dancing on the booth seat, her hands and hips waving. Max couldn't help but sway her ribs back and forth, her arms following the movements.

Chloe looked up, shaking her head in disapproval as the two continued to sing. She tried to keep a straight face but seeing Max dancing exactly as she used to when they were kids she couldn't help the grin. Slowly the anger and tension between the three ebbed away and she sat up, moving as Rachel jumped down, joining Max near the jukebox to dance with the girl.

 Shake it, Shake it, shake, shake it, Shake it, shake, shake it, Shake it, Shake it, shake, shake it, Shake it like a Polaroid picture  

Chloe joined them in the song, nudging Max with a grin at the polaroid picture part. Soon the three girls were dancing in a circle.

As the song ended, Rachel burst into laughter, her warm bell-chime making the world seem just a tad brighter. Her eyes were ablaze with energy like she could continue forever despite her light pants. 

"Yo, Max you have got to get more ideas like that more often." She said, grinning at the hipster. Her entire body seemed to be humming, "That was awesome!" 

"Hella cool." Chloe's eyes glowed with energy, panting lightly. She had the same party aura as Rachel but she shifted from foot to foot restlessly, much less composed than the aspiring model.  

Max smiled shyly, that wasn't easy for her. She was hyperaware of everyone surrounding her: the cop, some boys that Rachel called Justin and Trevor, a trucker and a few others; she had only been brave enough to do it because she was doing it for Chloe. 

And Rachel

She blinked, confused at the small voice in her head. Rachel?

She gazed at the blonde, tilting her head. The girl seemed to have calmed down slightly and was now looking at her warmly, a genuine smile on her lips. Her hazel eyes were flecked with gold and green, the gold flickering like embers in a fire. She hair was slightly disheveled but it wasn't messy, and for once the mask was off. Her entire body was relaxed and her aura of energy now had a warm contentedness to it. 

Yeah. And Rachel. Max agreed with her head voice, a dorky grin slithering its way on her face.

"Alright, you little party-goers." Joyce's voice made them look up, the woman had leaned against the counter and was watching them with food in her hands. "Go sit down if you want this warm."

Quickly the girls shuffled to their booth, all giggling and smiling. As Joyce walked over and placed the food down, she eyed the three girls as they dug in with affection. 

She nodded in approval, turning on her heel to leave them be as they scarfed the food down.

Rachel took care of the bill and as they walked out, Chloe was stopped by Joyce and the two began to talk.

Max didn't have to linger or consider staying this time. She followed Rachel out to the truck and got in, watching as Chloe hugged her mom and kissed her cheek. The punk climbed into the driver's seat as Max and Rachel got buckled in.

"You good?" Rachel asked, looking at Chloe with a gentle look.

"Huh?" Chloe looked up, "Yeah, yeah I'm good." 

Both Rachel and Max exchanged looks but said nothing as Chloe flicked on the engine and pulled out of Two Whales parking lot.

As they drove back to Chloe's apartment, Max heard Chloe sniff. She looked up in concern but found it was unnecessary. She felt fingers brush hers and looked to her right, meeting Rachels' eyes. Silently they came to an agreement, they would save Chloe the embarrassment of being called out, but both of them took solace in the tears falling down her face and the happy smile on Chloe's' lips. 

Chapter Text

The week passed by quickly, staggeringly so, and soon the day to move into Blackwell arrived.

As Rachel pulled up to the school- Chloe had to go to work, she hadn't told Max what her profession was but said it wouldn't be long before she found out, so she made Rachel drop her off early so Max could shower- and Max looked at the building, the photographer felt a trill of excitement go down her spine.

"Don't drool." Rachel teased as she flicked the ignition off. Max gave her a smile before she hopped out. She followed the model as she opened the gate of the truck and grabbed a box. "What's your dorm number?" Rachel turned her hazel gaze to Max who was eyeing the fountain.

"U-Uh," Max fumbled in her pockets and produced a messily folded and slightly crumpled up paper. She unfolded it hastily and scanned her eyes over the small text. "Two nineteen." She said after a moment of searching.

Rachel nodded, "Alright then, grab your shit and let's go." She said.

Nodding, Max grabbed a box and followed the aspiring model into the dormitories, silently in awe at how nice everything was. The campus was so large, it made Max feel smaller than usual. Pressing closer to Rachel in response, she looked up as the model opened the door leading to a hallway where her and Max's rooms were.

"Hey look who it is!" Max blinked as a girl with auburn hair came forward, smiling. The hipster swallowed. Was every girl in Arcadia Bay drop-dead gorgeous except her? The one time you don't want to be the exception. She thought sarcastically as she gave a girl a quick look up and down.

She had auburn hair that was pulled into a tight ponytail. She had triangle earrings and her eyes were a dazzling blue- Max couldn't help but prefer Chloe's however- and her smile was bright and cheery. She wore a spaghetti-strapped white tank top that had her blue bra peaking from the top and some faded blue jeans.

She was gorgeous, but not in the rough, punk way that Chloe was.

"Hey Dana." Rachel greeted, "Already making yourself comfortable I see." She said, giving Dana's bare feet a pointed look. "Do you realize how fucking gross that is? You're going to give someone a fungi infection." Max snorted under her breath, over the week she got to learn some new things about Rachel. A few of those things included her scathing tongue and smart-ass attitude, Rachel could destroy people with just a few words yet she chose not to, opting to light-hearted teasing with people she knew would understand that she wasn't being serious.

Dana grinned, "You wound me." She turned to Max, "I spy a new victim of Blackwell." She gave a smile to the girl. "The names Dana, Dana Ward." She held out a hand before she paused, realizing that Max couldn't shake it with a box in her hands.

Rachel snorted, "Sure you aren't naturally a blonde?" She shot at Dana who flipped her off in response.

"Didn't you already trash your room?" Dana asked Rachel, "Whose boxes are those?"

"Mine." Max answered, "My name is Max, Max Caulfield." She introduced herself with a shy smile.

Dana grinned, "Oh? Well, pleased to meet ya Max Caulfield." A loud ding made her look down at the phone in her hand. "Sorry lady and Rachel, have to take this. I'll see you around Max." She gave the photographer a smile before she turned towards Rachel and stuck her tongue out, "Later bitch." She said before she waltzed off, heading towards what Max assumed to be her dorm.

"Cya slut!" Rachel called after her before she grinned down at Max. "Dana is awesome, she's like a mom to all of us. If you ever need anything go to her if Chloe or I am not available." She told Max.

Max nodded and followed her to a room at the very end of the hallway. She opened the door and took in the appearance of everything. It was bare, of course, and minimalistic in nature but Max could dig it. Rachel turned on her heels, "You start to unpack everything, I'll bring you more boxes." She disappeared out the door and Max followed her instructions.

By the time all the boxes were brought out, Max had already basically finished her room. She didn't have many possessions in all honesty. What took the bulk were the pictures for her 'memorial wall', which included all of her selfies and other pictures.

She glanced around after Rachel brought her last box the model told Max that she was going to her room that was the closest to the doors leading outside.

Stretching her tense muscles, Max moved out of her room and began to walk down the hallway. Her thoughts were buzzing, with excitement, nervousness, and awe. She couldn't believe that she was here, in the best high school in all of the country when it came to specialized studies. How lucky she had been to get in, she knew her selfies weren't the best but Mark Jefferson seemed to think so.

Oh dog, Mark Jefferson. He was going to be her teacher for an entire year! The thought alone made her body tremble in anxiety and fear. He had personally sent her a letter, saying how excited he was that she made into Blackwell Academy and how much he looked forward to meeting her. He wrote so eloquently, Max felt like a military leader who had just received word from Rambo. He was so famous, his pictures were amazing and his eye for art was just... amazing.

And he would be teaching her-

She crashed into something suddenly, letting out a yelp as she fell back.

"Sorry!" She cried, looking up.

Over her, a girl sneered. Her green eyes like a snake, piercing her soul but not in the way that Rachel's did. She was pretty too, blonde hair in a pixie cut and she had impeccable taste in clothing.

Then she spoke.

"Yeah, you best fucking be. These clothes are worth more than your fucking tuition!" She spat and the snake comparison was suddenly not so far off. Her voice was laced with venom.

Max cringed and she quickly scrambled to her feet. She felt in her back and pulled out her camera, frowning when she saw it was smashed to pieces.

"Aw, are you cereal?" she grumbled to herself, silently grateful she had opted to put William's camera in a safe place until she would use it again.

"What the fuck is that?" The girl hissed, eyeing her broken analog camera in distaste. "Oh god, you're a photographer?" Her eyes widened before they glowed with mirth, "Oh, I know. You're a hipster bitch who thinks her pictures actually are worth something, is that it?" She gave a low laugh.

Max flinched, "My pictures aren't bad.." she tried to defend herself quietly, but there was no strength in her voice and her body trembled.

The girl laughed, loudly, "It's 2003 honey, polaroid cameras haven't been relevant since the 1970's." She gave Max a pitying look, her eyes steely.

Her voice had attracted the attention of others, girls were now watching the display, a few eyed Max in pity while others were avoiding the situation altogether.

"Though with how raggedy your clothes look there's no hope for you." Max self-consciously wrapped her jacket around her tighter as this random chick tore into her. "How did you even get in here? You are definitely not rich enough."

Max flinched and dropped her eyes, tears threatening to pour from her cheeks. This girl was even more ruthless than Chloe. "I-I got a scholarship." She said, but now it didn't sound as amazing.

The girl laughed loudly, making Max cave into herself. "Of course you got a scholarship! Blackwell is famous for handing those out of pity." She rolled her green eyes so hard that Max thought they would get stuck. "You should just leave now, Mark Jefferson won't tolerate someone like you. He doesn't settle for second best."

Max froze, second best?

Memories flew to her mind, all bad, yet instead of breaking down it just made her blood boil.

No. She wasn't going to go through this again. She wasn't going to let some.. some.. some bitchy, rich snob tell her that she was second best without even knowing her. She looked up darkly, the tears dried already, and in her vision, she could see an outline of a man, his blue eyes burning with the same sneer she had.

Her body moved like a panther, her hands like claws as she grasped onto the girl's collar.

"Listen here, bitch." She snarled, glaring into her green eyes. "I didn't come here to fuck around with the likes of you. I came here to get an education and I busted my ass off to get that scholarship. Just because daddy paid for you to get A's and into Blackwell doesn't mean that you have a right to bully others." The girl's green eyes widened and her breath hitched as Max suddenly turned on her. "I'm not here to be second best, especially to rich snobs like you who think that money buys everything." She tightened her grip and snarled, pushing her nose into the preps. "You better strap in tight honey," She said mockingly, "Because a storm is coming." With that, she shoved her back and glared at her, radiating pure rage.

The hall was silent and all eyes were on Max and this random elite.

Suddenly Max was shoved and she stumbled back slightly, looking up to see a blonde girl glaring at her. She turned to elite bitch, "Victoria, you don't have to take this." She spat, giving Max a glare that the hipster returned.

Victoria, Max made a mental note of her name.

Victoria, who was dazed, suddenly seemed to sober up, "Shut the fuck up Taylor!" She hissed, "I know I don't have to take that, especially from a stupid hippie." She glared at Max, "You don't know who you're messing with." She whipped around and stomped off, her heels obnoxiously clacking on the tile before she stormed from the dorms, Taylor and another girl right behind her.

Max watched in icy rage before her eyes found Rachel's, who was standing a few feet away from where Victoria was a few moments ago, the aspiring model's hazel eyes wide in shock.

"Holy shit." She said, before her body convulsed in giggles, "H-Holy shit! Max do you know what you just fucking did?" She rushed forward and grabbed the hipsters shoulders.

"No." Max answered, her voice monotone as her rage subsided.

"You just tore into the self-proclaimed 'Queen of Blackwell'." Rachel had a madman's grin on her face. "Victoria Chase."

"She's a mega bitch." Max said with a growl.

Rachel nodded, "Sorry you had to learn this way, but I think she'll leave you alone after that embarrassment." She smiled encouragingly. "Yo, we have GOT to tell Chloe about this, she'll be all over anything that has to do with Victoria taking an 'L'."

Max nodded mutely. She eyed the door where Victoria left, unable to stop but feeling that her action would have consequences.

"Holy shit Mad Max!" Chloe said, her voice crackling over Rachel's phone.

It was a little bit after the whole Victoria fiasco, Rachel had let Max chill in her room (Dana was right, Rachel did trash her room already, clothes and makeup everywhere) to cool off. In the week that led up to this day, Max had gotten used to Rachel's presence and being alone with the girl was becoming less and less scary. It was still nerve-wracking because Rachel was beautiful and Max was trash compared to her, but Rachel's easy-going and warmness always diffused the nervousness that the hipster felt.

"I know right!" Rachel said from beside Max on her bed. "It was hella fucking awesome, you're missing out Priceless." She said with a grin.

"Sounds it," Chloe said with a cough, "Yo, we have got to hang out soon. Classes don't start until Monday right? We have two days to kill, what do you say we introduce Max to The Butterfly?" Chloe was grinning, "Bring her over."

"Will do Priceless, cya soon."

Max grinned slightly, "So we're off?" She asked as the blonde hung up.

"Eh, she can wait twenty minutes." Rachel rose from her bed, "I'm taking a quick shower and then we'll be off." She told Max, "You stay here, alright?" She gathered some extra clothes and her toiletries.

"I'll be waiting." Max said as Rachel walked from her room, hips swaying.

It was silent, Max could faintly hear the sound of running water as Rachel showered. She learned over the course of the week Max had also learned that Rachel took her sweet time showering- the girl wouldn't be out anytime soon.

She stood up, muscles relaxing as she stretched. She glanced around Rachel's room, figuring she could find something to mess around with to keep herself busy and out of her own head.

"Um, hello?" A shy, mouse-like voice made her look up.

In the doorway was a girl, dressed modestly in a high-collar shirt and skirt that reached her ankles, gazing back at her with kind hazel eyes. Her hair was blonde and tied messily in a bun and a small smile was on her face.

Max blinked, "Oh uh, are you a friend of Rachels? You just missed her, she's showering." Max said in a rapid fashion. She didn't know why she assumed this girl was a friend of Rachels', she didn't look like she had much of a wild side, Rachel seemed to gravitate towards that sort of crowd.

The girl shook her head, "I'm not an enemy of Rachel, we're friends I guess, she's kind to me." The girl looked around awkwardly and Max blinked.

"Come inside." She said, suddenly realizing why the girl was awkwardly looking at the doorway.

"My name is Kate Marsh." The blonde walked into the room and stretched out a hand. "I'm at 222. Pop by if you ever need anything, I even have a cute bunny you can pet!" She gave a small laugh that made Max feel warm.

Max decided that she liked this girl.

"Will do," She shook Kate's hand, "Max Caulfield. I'm in 219. Same goes to you." She let go of the girl's hand and took in her cross necklace that she hadn't noticed before. "Religious?" She asked.

"Yes, but I'm not going to go after you for hanging out with Rachel. She makes her sexuality very apparent. Besides, if you love someone then you should love them, no matter what gender or race they are." Kate said kindly, her hazel eyes glowing.

Max nodded, glad to know that this girl wasn't a religious nut. "Glad to know. I'm not." She shuffled awkwardly, "Religious I mean."

Kate nodded, "I understand it's not for everyone. I don't condemn or hate you for it. Just isn't your... 'scene'?" She asked, tilting her head.

"One way of putting it." Max said, "Praying to God just hasn't done much for me in the past. In fact, made things worse, cause even though I wanted to believe things would change.." She choked slightly, her eyes stinging with barely-held-back tears. "They didn't."

Kate nodded, her face softened. "Yeah, I understand." She smiled, "Do you need a hug?"

Max blinked at the blunt question before she awkwardly shook her head. "No, sorry. I don't mean to freak you out."

Kate laughed again. "You haven't. So," She turned her head and took in the room. "Friends with Rachel?"

"Uh, yeah. Met her about a week ago. I uh-" Max hesitated, contemplating how much to tell Kate. "Rachel and I share a mutual friend. I was an asshole to said mutual friend but we worked it out. She sent Rachel to pick me up from the airport."

Kate nodded, "Who was the friend if you don't mind my asking?"

"Chloe Price." Max said, smiling at the way the name rolled from her mouth.

Kate's eyes lit with recognition, "Woah, no way. You mean Chloe 'Tag the bathroom if you get kicked out of school' Price?" Her eyes widened in shock. "You and she are friends?"

Max felt defensive and protective, "Chloe isn't that bad. I don't doubt she did that but she's complicated, gone through about you know? Yeah, I'm her best friend." Max puffed up a little. "Just cause of the way she looks-"

"No, no." Kate cut in quickly, holding her hands up in defense, "I don't judge people based on looks. I haven't talked to Chloe but I've seen her and Rachel together before. Also, the kids here seem to talk about her." Kate smiled apologetically. "Rumors already and the year hasn't even started."

Max snorted, "Yeah? They can keep Chloe's name out of their mouths if they don't want Rachel on them." She gave a small laugh, "Or me I guess." She gazed at Kate, "You don't look the type to listen to rumors, I promise whatever Chloe did wasn't the real her. I mean, she does love tagging things so that was definitely her but she's actually really sweet once you get to know her."

Kate nodded, "I can tell by the way you talk that you think highly of her. Maybe I'll talk to her next time she comes to visit Rachel and now I guess you, she kind of scares me, to be honest. She just has this... 'I don't care' attitude. And she's always so relaxed, I kind of envy her."

Max nodded, "That's my Chloe." She said softly not quite realizing what she said until she saw the blonde raise her brow. Blushing slightly, Max continued on quickly.  "She's all bark and no bite really, she wouldn't hurt anyone who hasn't hurt her first."

The blonde nodded, "Maybe you can introduce me." She said before she looked behind her. "I'd best be off, it was nice talking to you, Max. Maybe we can schedule a tea session sometime?" She smiled and Max found herself nodding.

"Yeah, of course!" She said, smiling.

Kate nodded and turned but then she paused, "Hey, I uh.. I completely understand what you mean with Chloe." She looked at Max and the brunette was a bit startled at the sudden empathy in her expression. "I have a friend like that too, everyone thinks they're a bad person but they're just misunderstood is all. Everyone can be a good person if they try." With that, she walked out and Max was left a little stunned.

Rachel soon appeared, adorned with a white t-shirt, a green flannel overtop of it, and ripped faded jeans. "Yo, Supermax- that's what I'm calling you now, thank Chloe it was her idea- you good? You look like a talking deer just visited you."

Max turned her confused expression to the girl. "If I'm seeing and hearing talking deer it means I'm sleep deprived." She said snarkily, "No just," She hesitated before giving in to Rachel's curious gaze. "A girl named Kate came and talked to me."

Rachel's eyes lit up, "Kate Marsh? Oh yeah, the girl's a total sweetheart, she makes it a point to greet everyone. She even gave me some homemade cookies her dad delivered." Rachel shuffled over to her make-up desk, gazing into the mirror as she applied some eyeliner. "What did she say?"

"She just greeted me and said that if I needed anything she was always free." Max said.

Rachel grinned, "Like I said, a total sweetheart. I'll have to go thank her sometime."

Max nodded, "But she talked about how rumors of Chloe already started spreading."

The aspiring model grunted, "People can't keep their mouths shut is all. They're probably rumors about me and her."

Max rose a brow but somehow she sensed that that discussion was one Chloe would have with her. "I got defensive and she assured me she didn't judge people based on rumors. As she was leaving though she paused and told me she had a similar friend. Who everyone thinks is mean but they're just misunderstood?"

Rachel blinked, "Is that so?" She looked contemplative. "Did she say they?"

"Yeah."

"There are no agender or genderfluid people here. Not that I know of." Rachel paced lightly. "Oh, this is definitely juicy."

"Are you always looking for drama?" Max rose a brow, laughing as Rachel shot her a wounded look.

"Drama finds me, Maxwell." She said, "Afterall, I am a pretty awesome actress."

"Modest too." Max said sarcastically, nudging her with a shoulder as she followed Rachel outside her dorm and the dorm doors.

"Shut up." Rachel said but she was grinning.

Max liked this Rachel, the real one. Rachel never seemed to pretend with her and Chloe but there was something there. A barrier that no matter how hard Max pushed and pulled never seemed to break.

For some reason, the tense moment at Two Whales came back to Max. It had been a good week since that occurred, but she had a feeling that whatever Chloe was getting onto Rachel about and this barrier were connected somehow.

She'd have time to piece it together, but for now, she was content just talking to the girl as Rachel drove them to Chloe's mysterious place of work.

"Man, this year is going to be insane." Rachel said, jolting Max out of random thoughts. "I mean, it hasn't even started and there's already some beef and mystery!" She grinned at Max and the hipster couldn't help but return it because Rachels' energy was infectious.

"Beef that I didn't want." Max said softly, "But no one messes with m- Chloe." She had to make a hard stop, My Chloe? Really Max? She's a person too you moron. She scolded herself with a shake of her head.

Rachel rose a brow and Max blushed slightly scowling at the aspiring model. "Don't give me that look Mad Max." Rachel said, "I heard that hard stop, what were you gonna say huh?" Her tone was light and teasing but Max could see the genuine curiosity in her eyes.

"Nothing." Max looked away, fiddling with the sleeves of her jacket. "Nothing at all."

"Maaaaax." Rachel groaned out.

"Nada." Max shook her head stubbornly, her jaw clenching.

"Maaaaaaaaaax." Rachel drew her name out longer, the tone of it pitching into a fake whine.

" Zilch." Max refused to back down.

"MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAX." Rachel's voice was a yell now and Max covered her ears in defense of the high-pitchness of it.

"Jesus Rachel!" Max hissed, "I think my eardrums are bleeding." She rubbed her ears and glared at the model. "Why does it matter so much?"

"Because you're still a mystery and I don't want you to be." Rachel said, gazing at her. "You don't exactly wear your feelings on your sleeve as Chloe does."

Max gave a slight smile at the topic of Chloe. "Oh dog, that girl can't hide her feelings well at all. She once straight up told a kid that her voice was really annoying and made her want to chew aluminum foil."

Rachel side-eyed her silently for a few moments. "You know, she talked about you a lot when you were gone." She said softly, her tone making it clear she wasn't bringing it up to be malicious.

Max couldn't help the stab of guilt she felt, even if Rachel wasn't trying to make her feel bad Max didn't think she could ever forgive herself for what she did. "Yeah, I vaguely remember you mentioning it before." And she wasn't lying.

Rachel tapped on the steering wheel for a few moments, thinking of the best way to continue the conversation. "She talked a lot about how much of a nerd you are." She said, smiling slightly.

Max snorted, "She says I'm the nerdy one but she was always better at science than I was. In fact, she wanted to be a chemist when she was like.. ten." Max smiled at the memory. "Though overall, I made better grades than she did."

Rachel nodded, "She said that you took hella cool pictures and drew really well. But she talked the most about just how.." Rachel hesitated as if she realized something. Her brow furrowed and a little bit of panic set in her eyes before she relaxed, "you two were gonna take over the Bay as pirates."

Max caught that minor hiccup. Her photographer observation assured that. She wanted to press because that was definitely not what Rachel was going to say but she didn't want to make the model angry, especially while she was the one driving. So, for now,  Max let it drop

"We still are." Max said without missing a beat. "Except now I think Chloe wants to take over the world."

Rachel laughed her bell-chime laugh. "She probably could, as long as you were there by her side." She mused, smiling at Max.

Max blinked, teasing the idea in her mind before she smiled. "Of course she could, I'm not ever going to leave her. Not again. Not ever." Max promised softly to herself.

Rachel eyed her silently, her eyes calculative before they softened and she flicked them towards the road again. "The world better watch out then. Max and Chloe are back in business." She joked before she pulled into a parking lot and switched the ignition off. 

Wasting no time, the aspiring model hopped out of the truck and Max had no choice but to follow. She looked up and eyed the building. It was sorta brooding compared to every other building, the brick was sprayed a dark blue and a giant blue butterfly with black markings was at the top of it off center. 

The Butterfly was the name of this building, and Max smiled slightly at the choice of font. It looked like 'The' was in sharpie and 'Butterfly' was spray painted.

Definitely a place Chloe would hang, Max glanced over at Rachel who was waiting for her by the door. 

Max looked back up at the building and felt around for Williams camera, thankful she had been wise enough to grab it after breaking hers, and snapped a quick picture if the butterfly. She didn't know exactly why she had been compelled to do so, but she learned a long time ago that she should follow her photographers' instinct. As the photo slid from the dispenser she heard Rachel shuffling and took it as a sign of impatience. Shaking the polaroid, she placed it inside her bag and followed the blonde.

Rachel rose a brow at her, "Your showing me that picture later." She said as she opened the door. 

Max nodded in a silent agreement and followed Rachel into the building. Instantly, the smell of apple cinnamon wafted through the air pleasantly. She looked around the dimly lit place, in front of her a few paces was a counter with a register peeking over it. No one was at it but Max assumed there was someone nearby. To her right, there was a row of comfortable looking chairs and a few to the left by the door. Black lines drew her gaze to the pictures on the wall, intricate designs with line-weight variation captivated her.

All at once, it clicked in Max's brain. She had been an idiot not to realize. 

"Chloe's a tattoo artist." She said in a moment of realization.

"Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner." Max looked up, seeing Chloe Price herself grinning. "Surprised?"

"Not really." Max gazed around, "It looks like somewhere you'd work." She said.

Chloe rose a brow, "Why? Dark and badass?" She said cockily, her eyes alight with happiness.

"Chloe, you're hair glows in the dark." Rachel teased, causing the tattoo artist to flip her off.

"Scary looking but super cozy." Max said, smiling at Chloe who blinked. "But yeah, also badass."

Chloe opened and closed her mouth for a few moments before she straightened up, coughing to cover up her surprise. "Of course." She said, sounding as if there was more to that sentence but it didn't come out. "Well," She said, breaking a semi-awkward silence. "After I moved out I needed some money. I called up a buddy and he gave me a loan, I used the money to buy this place and fix it up, then opened shop. It was slow business at first but once I got a few regulars and my work got out there it's always bustling with profit." Chloe gazed around her shop with pride in her blue eyes, "It's.. weird, knowing I own this place lock stock and cracker barrel." She murmured, "Almost... magical." 

"It is magical." Max eyed her friend. Chloe's back was towards her, a rim light effect on her due to the lantern-like lights hanging from the ceiling in front of her. Due to the mahogany wood, she seemed to have a.. mysterious vibe. Like the cover of a murder mystery book or horror movie. In a fluid movement, she fished her camera from her pocket and snapped a quick picture, taking time to consider the lighting and naturally moving to get the best angle. 

The click resonated in the building and Chloe turned around in response and rose a brow. 

"Unbelievable." She teased but she walked over and grinned at the picture as Max shook it and gazed at it herself. "Hella dope picture though." She said, her eyes soft.

Rachel leaned against Max, putting her chin on Max's head and eyed the picture. "Show us the one you took outside." She murmured.

Max filled out the request and she smiled at the two pictures in both of her hand.

The three girls were silent as they eyed the picture before Rachel finally spoke.

"Ya know Max, Chloe was right. You really are a damn good photographer." 

Max looked up into her hazel eyes and felt her heart hammer in her chest at how close Rachel was. She wanted to say thanks but the words didn't come so she nodded. 

"Welp, my shift is over for today. Why don't we go chill at my place, play some video games and get my high on." Chloe said, grabbing some keys from behind the counter. 

"Hope your planning on sharing." Rachel said making the punk scoff.

"Of course, what would my smoke sessions be without you bumming off me?" She teased, nudging her as she walked to the door. She opened it and pressed the key into the keyhole and twisted it, locking the door. "Yo, Max, you coming?" She looked up at her friend who was still looking at the pictures.

Max looked up at Chloe, then around the tattoo parlor, then back at Chloe and in a moment of overwhelming emotion she rushed forward and hugged the punk tightly.

"Woah.. mushy alert." Chloe hugged her back awkwardly, "You okay first mate?" She asked, looking at Max in slight concern, her brows furrowed. 

"I'm fine just.. I'm so glad I'm with you." Max, for once in five years, felt at peace. But there was a pull to it, a knowledge so deeply rooted in her mind that it felt like a physical weight. She knew this wouldn't last, this feeling of peace and happiness, but she wanted it to, she wanted it to last oh-so-badly. "Chloe, I may not.." She hesitated, trying to think of a way to voice her feelings. "I may not last forever." She said softly, gazing into her friends' blue eyes.

Chloe looked confused and she gently grabbed Max's hands, holding them gently in her own. "That's alright," She said, "We will. Forever." 

Max's lip shuddered and her eyes stung with tears, she squeezed Chloe's hand and the punk interlocked their fingers, drawing Max closer. 

Baby blue and ocean blue eyes stared into each other, and Max could feel herself inching closer, or was Chloe moving forward? She couldn't tell, but she knew one of them had moved because their noses were much closer than they were before. 

"Hey!" Rachel broke the tender moment, causing the two to lean away quickly. "You nerds coming? That weed isn't gonna smoke itself!"

Max laughed slightly and grinned at Chloe who cleared her throat and Max hoped she wasn't imagining the slight pink tint on the punks cheeks.

"So," Chloe grinned at Max, recovering just as quick as she did when she and Max were kids. She had the same look as well, her eyes bright, filled with hope and happiness and energy, and a wide smile on her face, only on the verge of looking insane. "Care to join me, first mate?" She said smoothly, squeezing Max's knuckles because she hadn't let go.

Max squeezed back, "I'll go where ever you go Captain." She promised, "After all, this ship will last-"

"-Forever." Two voices melded perfectly together as they walked to a beaten up truck, a blonde gazing at the two grinning girls in confusion before she shrugged it off, deciding she'd figure it out eventually. 

Chapter Text

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I'm thankful to all of you who comment and kudos this story, it really motivates me to see how many people like my work! Also, I'm gonna warn you now, there's gonna be inconsistencies with song dates in real life and this story because plot convenience, so hopefully you guys don't mind too much.

Anyway I just wanted to say thank you to all my readers and I hope you have a wonderful rest of the day!

Chapter Text

Max looked up nervously. No. No!

Panic rushed in her veins and her breath came out rapidly.  She couldn't be back, she was just away from this place, she was with Chloe. 

Chloe!

"Max? Dear, why do you look so worried?" She froze, statuesque in her appearance. No, no that wasn't him. That man died a long time ago. 

She couldn't help it, she looked up and choked back a sob as her gaze fell upon Williams' kind and gentle face. 

"You look like you've seen a ghost." William said with a laugh, "Come inside, you and Chloe have been playing out here all day, the heat must be getting to you." 

Max looked around, confused and dazed as she saw a younger, blonder Chloe walk inside, eyeing her in confusion and concern. She followed her best friend and sat down at the table, thanking William as he set down a glass of lemonade. 

"You should look at her, she's not looking so well." She looked up and froze.

In a flash of color, the room turned red and cold blue eyes met hers', piercing her soul to the core.

"Is that so?" The man growled, his eyes glowing with malice as he staggered closer to Max. 

"N-No." Max stumbled from her chair and looked towards Chloe for help but the blonde was simply eyeing her in cold contempt. "No, please!" She let out a scream as the man's hand grabbed her hair and tugged her up roughly. 

Tears gathering in her eyes, she stared into the man's blue orbs that were so much like her own. 

"Stop crying!" He demanded, "Or I'll give you something to cry about, you hear me, bitch?!" He roared.

Max let out a choked sob and twisted from his grip and ran. She didn't get very far and she turned in fear as the man followed after her, roaring curses and threats.

As he towered over her, she saw something eerily familiar and a cold stone of dread and fear settled in the pit of her stomach when she recognized the object that he rose in his hand.

A belt.

"NO DAD PLEASE NO!" She let out a yelp and the air left her lungs. Her blue eyes looked around wildly, wondering where she could run to next when the realization set in that this wasn't the Price family home. 

She was in her dorm.

She looked down and blinked. She had fallen on the floor, it seemed. Max picked herself up and tossed her blue blanket onto the bed after she untangled herself from it.  Her head rattled, everything hurt but at least it wasn't from a metal studded belt. 

She drew her gaze to her clock and sighed. She had thirty minutes to kill before it would be 6, the time she set her alarm to, and it would mark her first day of class. She knew with that terrible nightmare still fresh in her mind she wouldn't be able to fall back asleep.

Speaking of falling, Max looked around in confusion. Chloe had snuck into the dorms with her to hang out with Max before the first day of school started. They had turned on movies and fell asleep, cuddled together on the bed, yet the punk was nowhere to be found. 

That's when she saw a note on her mirror. She grabbed it and smiled at the handwriting that was undoubtedly Chloe.

Hey sorry, Mad Max, I was gonna stick around but I didn't want you to have to deal with me in the morning when you have classes. It was hella awesome to hang out with you again, reminded me of when we were kids, we should balls to the walls do it again soon sometime. Maybe at my place? Anyway, it's 5 in the morning and I'm hella fucking tired so I'm going to hop on outta here- Signed, Captain Chloe.

Ps. You talk in your sleep and it's hella adorable.

Ps.Ps. Also, you look adorable when you're asleep, sorry if that's creepy.

Ps.Ps.Ps. You'

Max squinted at the note but whatever was written there was scratched off to be indistinguishable. She smiled at the note anyway, only Chloe would do something like this. 

She laughed quietly and folded the note, placing it inside her drawer with the picture of her and Chloe when they were younger. She pushed it shut and sighed, sleep was impossible so she gathered up her toiletries and some fresh clothes and headed towards the showers.

After refreshing herself, she brushed her teeth and turned off her alarm, which rung as soon as the hipster wondered into her room. She glanced around, her first class didn't start until around 7, so she had an hour to kill. 

Briefly, she toyed with the idea of going to visit Kate, but she didn't wish to wake anyone up so instead, she gazed at something under her bed. A brown leather case of sorts, that hadn't been used for some time.

Memories flooded her mind, only to get shut out as she moved robotically towards the case and grabbed it, laying it on the covers and opening up the buckles. The lid was opened with a creak and the hipster stared at the contents within. Well, content, one instrument. That hadn't been touched since the day she got it. 

She picked it up and it was like a strange primal instinct, she couldn't help as her fingers twitched to strum the strings. She let them, taking in the light sound of the chords. She remembered when she was given this. It had been a present, but it was more of a 'shut up' present, something she was given to get her to stop whining. 

It had worked for a few months until she overheard her dad- noRyan, say as such.

"God damn, these months have been great. Finally, that girl stopped whining about Chloe and spends all her time in her room strumming that stupid ukelele." He was talking to his friends, who snickered in reply and congratulated him on it. 

Max was going to show him a song she had finally gotten a hang of but hearing those words pour from his drunken mouth all pride and love for the instrument felt cold. She had slunk back into her isolated room and tossed the instrument into its case, promising herself that she would never play it again.

Max strummed it again, Ryan wasn't here now. He was gone, left in Seattle with only the memories of her broken childhood. He had no power anymore, this instrument could be a symbol of Max's newfound freedom. 

The hipster strummed a few chords and a song came to her in a flash of remembrance. It was a song she had written so many years ago she almost forgot about it but now it came back in a flash of nostalgia. 

I don't know my name...

The words tumbled from her mouth shakily, her voice shy and soft. Almost like it was too scared to be heard or come out at all. 

I don't play by the rules of the game...

Like the song held some sacred power, the hipster couldn't stop. The beat and relaxation of it all made Max close her eyes, gently swaying to the rhythm of the song. 

For once she forgot about the rest of the world, her troubles, her anxiety, her past. For once she let go of her fear and leaped, continuing to sing- she couldn't stop if she tried- not caring who heard or listened.

Rachel

Verse after verse tumbled from a voice that was so unique it made Rachel freeze in her tracks. She had just taken a shower when she heard the ukelele and someone singing.

It wasn't new for the girls' dorm to be filled with songs, whether it was from Kate Marsh playing her violin, Dana Ward blasting some punk songs, or Rachel herself thrashing out, the dorm was used to music early in the morning. 

However, this was different. This wasn't just a song, this was a cry in the dark, a poem written entirely and unapologetically from the heart with chords filling the gaps in the lines. 

Who? Rachel searched out the sound like a bloodhound on the scent of a rabbit. She briefly paused, smelling tea from Kate's dorm and made a mental note to ask for some later, before continuing her hunt. 

It was short-lived as she found her way in front of Max's dorm, her jaw dropping as she saw the hipster on her bed through the crack of her open door, singing and playing a ukelele. 

You ask me why I cut my hair and changed myself completely...

Max's voice was soft and shy, almost like it didn't want to be heard but the words were so solid and powerful you couldn't stop but listen. 

Rachel's mind reeled and she sat down, pressing her back against the wall near the door. She tilted her head and listened, wanting to hear more. 

I don't know my name

I don't play by the rules of the game

So you say, I'm just trying

Just trying....

Rachel found her foot tapping in the beat, a loose smile played at her lips. She heard a door open and saw Dana looking around confused before the cheerleader caught sight of Rachel and rose a brow in question. 

A door opening in front of her made her look up to see Victoria and Taylor walking out. Victoria's brow was furrowed in confusion as she saw Rachel sitting on the wall in front of her.

Taylor opened her mouth and Max chose that moment to continue to sing.

I went from bland and popular to joining the marching band

I made the closest friends I'll ever have in my lifetime

"Holy.." Taylor breathed quietly, looking at the door of Max Caulfield. 

Victoria stared in awe, her brows still furrowed. 

I am lost...

Max's voice cracked as if she wasn't trying to cry. Rachel clenched her fist, earning an eyebrow raise from Taylor as she noticed the protectiveness of the gesture. 

Trying to get found in an ocean of people

Please don't ask me any questions, there won't be a valid answer

I'll just say...

She took a breath, hesitating.

Rachel listened, waiting for the strum of the chords and smiled when Max finally continued.

That I, don't know my name

I don't play by the rules of the game

So you say, I'm just trying

Just trying...

The chords stopped and Rachel cocked her head, straining her ears in case Max just was playing softly but there was nothing but white silence.  

The aspiring model furrowed her brow. There had to be more, it couldn't have just ended there could it?

Taylor, Victoria, and Dana- she had wondered over with Juliet on her tail- watched the door before Juliet broke the silence with a soft "This is totally going in the news." and scurried off to report. 

Dana followed her, trying to convince her that wasn't the best choice but knowing Watson Rachel figured the dorm mother wouldn't get very far. 

Taylor was staring in awe and she dragged her eyes to Victoria as if looking for guidance but even the self-proclaimed queen seemed confused as to how to react.

Rachel watched her expression morph from confusion to awe, to a smidge of respect before it set in a frown. Without saying a word, Victoria whirled on her heels and walked down the hall.

Rachel stood up as Max opened her door.

"Quite the performance Caulfield." Rachel said, making the hipster squeal in shock and turn to her, her baby blue eyes wide.  Rachel stared into them and smiled, a real smile, "Not bad," The aspiring model walked past her, needing to go to her first class soon. "not bad at all." 

Max

The hipster sighed for the hundredth time that day. She already had two breakdowns in the bathroom and she was already getting forced to talk about her old home but of course, she was. Seattle was like art heaven and this was a major art school, it would baffle anyone why an obviously avid photographer would want to come back to Bigfoot Ville.

She looked around the numbers until she found the science room and walked in, already done for the day and desperately wanting to go to her photography class when she heard a friendly voice say.

"What's got you looking like you inhaled a bunch of vinegar?" She looked up and saw a kind looking boy, about 16, with brown hair and gentle brown eyes. He was grinning, looking a bit like a mad scientist. "Don't do that by the by, terrible idea." he joked.

Max cracked a smile despite herself, "School." She said, deciding to humor him.

The boy leaned back in his stool, "I hear you, I'd rather be playing DnD. The name's Graham." He flashed a cheeky smirk, "Warren Graham." He said, purposely deepening his voice as he outstretched his hand.

The hipster bark a laugh, "Max." She said, taking his hand and shaking it. "Max Caulfield." Subconsciously, Max noticed how warm Warren's hand was despite how cold the room was. 

"Weird name for a girl but I can dig it."  Warren said with a grin, "I haven't seen you around. You new?" 

Max nodded, "I used to live here but I moved and now I'm back." She said, having gone through the verses a million times already.

Warren grinned, "Well if you ever wanna watch sci-fi movies for free hit me up, I got a flash drive of... borrowed movies." His eyes glittered with mischief and Max couldn't help that laugh that bubbled in her throat. 

"Ah, I see." She teased, "A pirate, seems the bay is full of them." Blue hair and ocean eyes flashed in her mind, causing her to smile. 

Warren's face was just a bit pinker he opened his mouth when the bell rang.

Max sat beside Warren and smiled as Kate walked in with the teacher. She sat beside Max with a smile only an angel could have.

The science teacher was cool, or hella cool as Rachel and Chloe would say. Her name was Mrs. Grant and she was all about equality and she made science easy to understand. Max liked her and so did Warren by how the two bantered all class period. 

"Hey Maxamillion," Warren said as she walked past him in the hall. "Where are you going next?"

"Photography." Max said, a tremor of anxiety rushing through her.

"Oh cool! I have to stop by there, mind if I walk with you?" Warren asked, flashing her a smile.

Max shrugged, "Sure." She said.

Together the two walked through the hallway, Warren did most of the talking. He was going on about different planes of existence and other things that Max couldn't hope to grasp a basic understanding of but she liked the way his eyes lit up when he spoke so she listened.

"Hey, can I see your phone?" He suddenly asked.

Max rose a brow and he hastily went on, "No girl can resist my movie stash, you'll come crawling to me eventually. It'll be easier for you if you can text me, I'm generous like that." He said, his tone mockingly cocky. 

Max laughed, "Oh? Where are all these girls? Invisible?" She snarked, feeling a bit bad as he deflated just a bit.

Warren fumbled for something to say, looking around his cheeks a bit red. He rubbed the back of his head, "Ah... you got me." He said with a laugh.

Max snorted and gave up her phone. "Here." She said, watching as he punched in his number and handed it back to her.

"Nice, see, told you no girl can resist me." He nudged her shoulder and she rolled her eyes.

"Sure Warren." She smiled as she walked into her photography class. She looked around but deflated as she didn't see the legendary Mark Jefferson. 

"Hey, move it!" Came a growl. 

Max jumped and whirled around, flinching as she saw a light brown, maybe really dirty blonde, boy glaring at her with blue eyes. She fumbled out an apology and moved out of the doorway.

"Hey, lay off her." Warren came to Max's rescue immediately, glaring at the boy. "God, why do you always have to be such a prick?"

"What the fuck did you just say to me nerd?" The man got into Warrens' face, his eyes flaring with rage. "I OWN you! Don't forget that."

Warren rolled his eyes, "You're daddy doesn't own me Nathan, the only person he owns is you apparently." He scoffed, giving Nathan a glare.

Nathan let out a roar and lunged but Warren was quicker than Max gave him credit for and dodged as the rich kid charged. Nathan slammed into Marks desk with a cough and he rounded on Warren but the nerd jumped out of his way and shoved him to the ground.

He grabbed something off of the teachers desk and gave Nathan a guarded look. The two stared at each other in silence before Warran let out a sigh and walked off.

Nathan watched him go and he stumbled to his feet. His blue eyes locked with Max's and the rage returned, "What?!" He spat making Max flinch. "That's right, be scared. I can kill everyone here and get away with it!" He said cockily rounding on his heel and charging to the back of the class. 

"Jesus Christ, day one and he's already giving people death threats?" Max didn't expect that familiar voice nor the wave of relief that flooded through her as she recognized it.

"Rachel?"

Rachel

Rachel watched as Max turned to her, a doe-eyed expression on her face. The aspiring model smiled, "Hey, I didn't know you had this class with me." She said, "Can't say I'm complaining."

Max gave a sigh that held all the emotions of someone trying not to break down. "I'm hella glad to see you." She said, giving a small smile.

Rachel grinned at the usage of 'hella' but the joy was dampened by her energy. She seemed way too tired on the first day. She had been like that all day, a mushroom cloud of bad energy seemed to be following her like the plague. 

And her smile was semi-forced. She hid her emotions pretty well but Rachel was a master at picking people apart. She had been looking forward to this class all day and because of Nathan fucking Prescott that excitement was stomped out, it was going to be stomped out anyway but Prescott being a dick was somewhat irritating. 

Rachel wrapped Max into a hug, feeling the girl tense before she relaxed and laid her head onto Rachel's chest. It was something that Rachel noticed before, Max did it with Chloe as well. Rachel assumed it was the consistency of her heart thumping that Max liked, or her breathing, either way, she wasn't going to stop the hipster. 

She leaned down and brushed her lips against Max's ear, her heart stumbling as she felt Max shudder against her. "Hey," She breathed lowly, "You'll be okay. After this class why don't we go hang out? Just you and me until Chloe gets off of work." 

Max nodded against her and Rachel begrudgingly moved away from Max, keeping her hands on the hipsters' shoulders, wanting to keep in contact with her as long as possible. Max looked up, her eyes were lighter now, filled with a genuine happiness that made Rachel give her a grin. Max giggled softly and smiled back, dorky and awkward but oh-so Max.

Rachel felt her heart ache.

"I see why Chloe likes it so much." Rachel said. "Your smile. It's cute."

Max blushed, looking down to hide her face. 

Rachel laughed slightly and pulled her hands away. "Class is starting soon, pick a place." She said, gesturing to the room.

Max looked around and her eyes rested in the corner a bit too long. Rachel followed her gaze and saw Victoria, Nathan, and Taylor all staring at them. Queen B(itch)'s eyes were narrowed, a thoughtful expression on her face. Taylor had her brow raised and Nathan just looked like he wanted to murder someone. 

Rachel looked at Max and nudged her, making the photographer snap out of whatever thoughts she was having. She did her trademark head shake and walked to the table all the way to the back, sitting down.

Rachel followed her, hopping on the table as Max began to set out her things along with her prized camera. The aspiring model laid back, smiling as the sun glowed across her face. The scent of vanilla wafted to her nose and she relaxed fully into the table, eyes closing. Max teased her quietly, "I don't think you're allowed to do that Rach." 

"Why not?" Rachel said, not opening her eyes, "Not hurting anyone." She liked the giggle that was Max's response.

She heard the door open and close and the heavy footsteps of Mark Jefferson. Her mind immediately did a 180, her muscles twitching and tensing but she stayed relaxed with a great deal of self-control.

She heard a click and opened her eyes, looking at Max with a raised brow. Max gave her a shit-eating grin and shook the film that slid out. 

"How many times do I have to tell you, you don't have to sneak pictures of me." Rachel said, giving Max a fake glare.

"How many times do I have to tell you to not lay on my tables, Ms. Amber?" The hair on Rachel's neck stood up as she felt blue eyes barring into her soul.

Her throat felt dry and it took all Rachel had in her to sit up idly. She couldn't ignore him, she wanted to but that would attract too much attention. So she looked up and flashed Mark a smile. 

"How many times have you told me?" She said her voice light.

Mark rose a brow, his lips twitching in a smile that made Rachel's insides churn. "Enough for you to understand that you're not supposed too. Unless you want to stay after class." His tone was threatening. To anyone else, it was a teacher threatening a student with detention but Rachel knew better. His words made her blood run cold and her shoulders want to hunch. But she stayed loose and relaxed.

"Sorry Mark," She cooed, feeling disgusted as she did, "Can't today." Can't ever, "Have shit to do." Fuck you.

Mark rose a brow as if he couldn't believe it, the prick. 

"I see.." He said slowly, calculating twisted numbers. "Well if you don't want to I suggest you get off my table."

"Sure thing." Rachel hopped off with a surprising amount of grace. She flipped her blonde locks back and flashed Max a smile but the hipsters' eyes were fixed on Mark Jefferson. 

Rachel felt a pit rise in her throat as she sat down on her chair, leaning back and kicking her feet onto the table top.

Mark fixed his gaze on her, his jaw tensing up subtly. Rachel was getting on his nerves, she could tell that under his calm facade' that he was getting very irritated. A sick satisfaction ran through Rachel and she smiled at him innocently. 

Mark kept his gaze on her for a moment too long before he dragged his eyes away. Her gut clenched as he noticed Max. 

"Ah, a new photographer to add to the ranks?" He smiled kindly. "Well then, why don't you stand up here and introduce yourself to the rest of the class?"

Max opened her mouth, a panicked look in her eyes. She looked around and caught Rachels' eye.

The model nodded faintly and Max slowly stood from her seat. Rachel followed her.

"Rachel, I did not ask you to come to the front." Mark said.

"You didn't ask me to not come either." Rachel said, giving him a grin. "Besides." She flicked her eyes to Max, "I-" 'm not letting you hurt her. "'m under a strict order to always be with Max. Sorry, doctors orders." She said, earning a few chuckles from the class.

Jefferson rose a brow, "And who's this doctor?" He asked, crossing his arms. Always trying to be superior. 

Rachel crossed her arms, mocking him but making it look like she wasn't. "Doctor Priceless." She said with a grin.

Max snorted, "Oh dog." She cackled, "Did Chloe actually?" She asked, looking at Rachel.

"She hella did." Rachel said, smiling at her, "I'll show you the texts later in my room." She couldn't help the wink.

Max flushed and looked down to hide it.

Jefferson cleared his throat, "Well then, if you insist." He fixed Rachel with his stare for a few moments before he turned to Max. "I read that you have an anxiety disorder. Am I correct in my remembrance?" Anger flashed through Rachel as Mark blatantly called Max out in front of the class. 

Max tensed, paling. Rachel grabbed her hand and interlocked their fingers, remembering the 'Max training' she received from Chloe. Max squeezed her hand and Rachel ran her thumb over her knuckles as the hipster worked up the courage to answer him.

"Y-Yeah." She said, her soft voice loud in the silent classroom.

"PTSD?" Mark said, leaning back on his desk.

Max trembled and Rachel wanted to skin this teacher alive.

"Yeah." Max answered, looking down.

Mark was silent for a few moments before he pushed up his glasses. "Max." Rachel gritted her teeth, that was his teacher voice. The voice he used to spout some bullshit that the girls ate up like candy. "I understand that it is very hard to think about, but without your past, you wouldn't be where you are. Your portfolio is very impressive, especially your early pieces considering you were how old?"

"Thirteen." Max answered softly.

"Thirteen, that is damn impressive." Mark smiled. "Remember, if you ever need anything my door is always open."

Not a damn chance asshole.

"So is mine and it's closer." Rachel said, her tone joking but she knew Jefferson would pick up on the connotation. 

She saw his fingers flex against his desk and considered it a success. 

"Sometimes Rachel," the model caught that lilt, "Students need to speak to an adult instead of their friends." Mark said, his voice edging dangerously.

"Sometimes friends are all someone needs." Rachel retorted, refusing to back down. "Afterall, who else would Max be able to get high with?" She winked at the hipster who rolled her eyes.

"That was all you and Chlo." She said softly, "And you shouldn't talk about it so openly."

Rachel scoffed, "Don't act like you didn't take a hit or two. I have the proof, Mad Max." She nudged the hipster with her shoulder. Max shook her head, looking up at the ceiling as if praying.

"I see you have a Polaroid." Mark cut in, "Is there any reason?"

Max looked at him then at her camera. "It makes everything nostalgic." She said, "And.." She hesitated, hearing Victoria snicker and scoff in the back. "And I'm just a sucker for old-fashioned things." 

Rachel fixed Victoria with a smile that she knew unnerved the girl. "And Max takes hella good pictures. Like the ones she sneaks of me." She turned to the hipster fondly.

"You make me sound like a creep." Max pouted adorably.

"Poor baby." Rachel teased and Max glared at her, looking as threatening as a baby deer.

"Why don't you show us one of your pictures?" Mark asked, turning on the projector. 

Max hesitated before she took out a picture. It was the one with Rachel sprawled across the desk, the sun making her skin glow ethereally. Her blond hair flowing around her and a relaxed smile on her face. 

Mark put the picture so the entire class could see and Rachel smiled at the approving hums though she felt a bit sour as she saw Victoria roll her eyes and Nathan wasn't even looking. Taylor, however, had a bit of respect in her eyes.

"You shouldn't scoff," Mark looked at Victoria and Rachel resisted the urge to cackle. "It takes a certain special skill to be good at polaroids." He gestured to the picture, "Unlike our digital cameras, you cannot edit your pictures on a polaroid. That means the photographer has to pay special attention to shadows and contrasts, for a polaroid to be truly great the photographer must have a keen and special eye." 

As Rachel listened she felt sick, he was kissing up and Max was falling for it. She shuffled uncomfortably but beamed at the praise. Rachel bit her lip and stayed still, not able to cause a scene.

"Look at the way the sun is positioned perfectly, how natural the model is." Mark went on, "Was this the only picture you took?" He looked at Max.

"She only ever takes one." Rachel said quickly, "And that's enough."

"Amazing. You truly have a gift Maxine." He smiled at her.

Max tensed, "Max." She said, "Never Maxine." Her tone had a finality to it.

Jefferson rose a brow, recoiling in surprise and intrigue in his eyes.

The bell rang and Max snatched her picture and put it into her bag. 

"Max wait." Jefferson said, "Why don't we chat for a bit longer. I want to ask you more about your polaroids." 

Like hell you do. Rachel leaped into action immediately.

"Actually, she can't." Rachel swung an arm around Max and smiled at Mark. "She's chilling with me and we have bidness to attend to." She turned to the photographer with kind hazel eyes. "Right Mad Max?"

"Yeah.." Max said, "Sorry, Mr. Jefferson." She apologized bashfully, "I am a huge fan of your work though." 

Jefferson nodded but Rachel wasn't a stranger to the hidden rage he had at being rejected. "I see, well you girls head off and have fun then."

"We will." Rachel practically dragged Max out of the classroom and away from Jefferson's blue eyes. 

As soon as they were far away from the room, Rachel let out a breath she didn't know she was holding and sighed, a gross feeling tingling across her skin.

"Rachel? What's up? You were kinda... I don't know, digging into him." Max gave her a confused look, "Aren't you excited having him as a teacher, he's a world-famous photographer. He could jumpstart your career easily." 

"You're naive." Rachel couldn't help the venomous words from leaving her mouth. Max flinched at the tone and deflated a bit. Rachel sighed heavily, "No, god, look, Max," Rachel stumbled her composure rapidly declining. "Look, can we get to my dorm?" 

"Sure Rachel." Max followed the model as she sped walked towards the dorms. 

Rachel's mind raced with thoughts and memories. Memories she would rather forget but knew would always stay there like a leech sucking the life from her. It had happened six months ago yet it was fresh. She could still feel...

No

She felt tears flow down her face and rubbed at them roughly.

"Rachel?" Max's small voice made her look up. 

Max was eyeing her in concern, her blue eyes open and soul wanting to do nothing more than help.

Rachel's heart ached again.

 "Yo Maxamillion!" A boy that Rachel recognized as Warren called. He was coming towards them with a dopey grin on his face. "How's it hoppin'?"

Rachel impatiently moved towards the dorm door, not wanting to deal with anyone or anything right now.

"Good," Max flicked her eyes towards Rachel, "Look Warren, I'll text you later kay? I'm a bit busy right now."

Rachel watched as Warren deflated a bit and felt his disappointment. "Oh, yeah that's fine." He smiled suddenly and walked off.

Rachel moved inside the dorm room hallway and shoved past Victoria.

"Rachel!" Max cried, following the model into her room. Rachel let her in and slammed the door, locking it.

She sat down on her full-sized bed and sighed. Then she sighed again. And again. Then she broke down, tears running down her face. Rachel didn't try to stop them, there was no way she could. 

She wished she could just get over it, let it run off her back like water but that was false hope. She knew that she wouldn't ever be able to get over what happened.

"Rachel." She looked up and eyed Max. The hipster was staring at her in concern, "Rachel what happened?" She asked firmly, sitting beside her. 

Rachel laughed slightly, tears still pouring and frame still shaking. She moved closer to Max, the photographers vanilla scent washing over her soothingly. She laid her head Max's lap and closed her eyes as Max ran her fingers through Rachel's hair, messaging her scalp.

A few minutes passed and Rachel finally cracked an eye open, "You noticed me tearing into Jefferson?" She croaked, voice hoarse from crying.

"Yeah." Max grabbed a bottle of water and handed it to the model. Rachel took it gratefully and drank it selfishly. "He was a bit creepy but I don't know if he deserved that much of a hard time."

Rachel gave a dry laugh, "No he does. In fact, he deserves so much more than a fucking hard time." Undisguised hatred laced her voice and she looked away from Max, not wanting the hipster to see into her broken soul.

Max didn't deserve to know just how much of a fuck up Rachel was. How broken she was. It was better she lived in blissful naivete'.

"Rachel, even if he was a little creep I don't think he deserved it. I mean, you really aren't supposed to lay on the tables anyway." Max tried.

"If only it were about the stupid tables." Rachel barked another dry and humorless laugh. "It would be so much easier." 

"Rachel you have to tell me more," Max said desperately, "I can't help if you don't say anything."

"You wouldn't understand." Rachel shook her head. I don't want you to understand, Please, stop looking at me like that with your adorable blue eyes that let me in so easily. Stop smelling like vanilla, stop being so welcoming. Stop petting me.

"You're not letting me understand Rachel." Max said, "Please, I want to help. I don't like seeing you so beaten up."

"This isn't even the tip of the iceberg."  Rachel gave a self-deprecating smile. 

Max eyed her silently, her blue eyes so soft and caring. Rachel stared at them and her mind clicked so many things in place.

She wasn't blind, she wasn't stupid. Rachel knew that Chloe was in love with this girl and it wasn't hard to understand why. Max was so caring and considerate and effortlessly adorable all the time, but she had a snark to her, a venom-tipped tongue that made Victoria Chase run with her tail between her legs. She had seen it, in the way that Chloe was with Max. Rachel noticed the exchange at The Butterly; she's never seen the punk drop her act so quick, or Chloe's eyes and expression soften so quick when she gazed at another person.

Yet there she was, gazing at Max with such a tender look that it was amazing how Max didn't even notice. Chloe was undoubtedly in love with Max, she had been since they were thirteen and even though... even though Rachel tried to help her past it, she could never let Max go.

And it used to infuriate Rachel. It used to bother her to an unmeasurable amount of degree but now she knew why. Now Rachel understood why Chloe was so hung up on someone who abandoned her in her greatest time of need, even if it wasn't Max's fault.

Max wasn't someone you could just get over, she wasn't a fling that you picked up and left within the week. She couldn't be. Something about the way she was lulled you in, made you feel safe and welcomed, made you want to open up about everything.

This was a dangerous situation, Rachel gazed into Max's eyes and she couldn't help as her gaze quickly flickered towards her lips. They looked soft, would they be though? Was Max Caulfield a good kisser? 

Chloe would never forgive her if Rachel acted on this instinct- no, this need- she would just be adding to the pile of shit that she created with Chloe. The shit that the two of them needed to talk about but refused to whenever they were alone. 

So Rachel controlled herself, but she was thinking about it. God was she thinking about it.

"Rachel?" Don't say my name like that.

Rachel didn't respond, not quite yet. She knew if she spoke there would be more in her tone. Her want would come out and she couldn't destroy what she had with Max the way she destroyed everything else. 

The way she destroyed what she had with Chloe.

Tears poured from her eyes and she rubbed at them, "Max, god.." She rose and turned, her knees touching the photographers. She looked at Max and her mind panicked as Max leaned in and touched her forehead to Rachels'.

Vanilla overpowered Rachel's senses and mint breath wafted over her face. She wanted to kiss Max, she hadn't felt the urge to do so strongly since Chloe. In a way, the feelings she felt with Max were like the ones she felt for Chloe. New and powerful and awesome.

She let out a shaky breath, "Max.." She breathed as she opened her eyes.

Blue orbs gazed into hers and Rachel dug her fingernails into the bed to keep herself rooted. 

There was a silence between them, the girls pressed against each other and gazing into each other eyes. 

Max frowned a little, "What happened? Why did you?" She asked.

Rachel took a shaky breath, her mind recalling the events that haunted her.

"The truth is Max, Mark Jefferson.. isn't a good person."

Chapter Text

"Not a good person, what do you mean?" Max's mind reeled. She didn't understand how someone, as composed as Rachel Amber, could break down so suddenly. Even in the classroom, Max only noticed her biting comments because they held just a bit too much emotion, barely enough to be noticeable but Max noticed because she knew how Rachel was.

She had seemed so relaxed but now Max was beating herself up because how couldn't she have noticed how uncomfortable Rachel truly was? 

"He-" Rachel choked back a sob. "Six months ago," The model looked away. "Me and Chloe we.. we got in a big fight. I did something stupid, I do a lot of stupid things, and Chloe found out. We got into a huge argument and she completely closed me off. It was only recently that she stopped doing that." She looked up, seemingly to check if Max was following. Max nodded and gestured for her to go on so with a shaky breath Rachel continued. "In those few months I... I started confiding in Mark, he was kind and so unlike all the pigheaded guys around here. I didn't fall in love with him, I have my standards, but he became like... a father." She sighed and hunched her shoulders, pulling her knees to her chest as if trying to protect herself. 

Max stared at this vulnerable Rachel in front of her. Rachel didn't ever show her true emotions, she wore masks, only being truly free with Chloe and Max herself. But now she questioned that, the way her voice trembled when she talked about Chloe, it made her think that Rachel was being genuine because Max was there to mediate or balance the two out. 

Max reached out and gently rested her hand on Rachel's knee. "Go on." She said softly, giving her a reassuring squeeze. Rachel flashed her smile to show she appreciated it and drew in a heavy breath.

"We... kept it professional, only meeting during school hours but... but one day he offered me something I couldn't have hoped to refuse." Rachel bit her lip. "He offered a simple photoshoot, he said he knew some people up in LA that he could get in touch with. He knew about my dreams to move out there after school and he was offering me an easy way into the industry. I thought he was so thoughtful that I couldn't say no." More tears poured from her eyes and Max was quick to wipe them away with her thumb. Rachel leaned into the touch and continued. "We met at his house and the photoshoot was done. It was professional and quick and when it was over, I thanked him and went walk away but..." Her voice hitched and Max grabbed her hands, interlocking their fingers and wiped away Rachel's tears. "But he grabbed me and..." She trembled. "He asked where I was going, saying that I couldn't leave so soon." 

Max felt something writhe in her stomach, she knew where this was going. She desperately hoped that she was wrong but the way Rachel was talking, the way her body language was, the way her eyes were so open and vulnerable. There wasn't an alternative. 

"He raped me." Rachel said bitterly, "He said if I didn't sleep with him then he would make sure that I would never get into the industry. He said that he would destroy me, everything I was would be gone. The whole would shun my name and I would cease to exist. He said it would be as if I died." Her voice shook. "I was trapped Max, I could stop it. I tried, I fought and fought but..." Her voice faltered and she looked away. "He dropped me off at the dorms and I showered. I showered for hours but I didn't feel clean, I felt so gross Max." She broke down, her voice cracking, and Max held her, tears pouring from the hipsters eyes now too. "I felt so fucking disgusting that I.. I went out and got shitfaced. Chloe found me almost dead on the side of the road. I wanted to so desperately forget what happened that I gave myself hella alcohol poisoning and it almost killed me." She leaned her head against Max's shoulder, drinking in her scent. "I.. I told her what happened and she blamed herself. She said she never should have left me and we cried together in that hospital room." Rachel sighed, "We never talked about all our other emotional baggage but we were back to normal again and that's all I cared about." 

Max nodded and ran her fingers through Rachel's hair. "Dog Rachel that's..." Max couldn't find the words. "I'm sorry." She squeezed Rachel tightly. 

They stayed like that for a long time, holding onto each other like they were afraid that one would break if they let go and in a way it was true. Max didn't realize how much she enjoyed and cared about Rachel. She hoped Rachel felt the same way, could the aspiring model feel how hard Max's heart was beating? Could she sense how nervous her closeness made Max? 

The hipster sighed and snuggled closer to Rachel, her eyes drifting shut. For now, she tried not to think about anything else but coconut and Rachel Dawn Amber.

Chloe

A rough sigh fell from the punks lips. She had called Rachel five times and Max seven. 

It's just like before. Said a bitter voice in her head, She's leaving you again.

Chloe growled, "Shut up me." She grumbled as she stood from her seat. Her bones cracked as she stretched. She had just gone done with a session and had another scheduled in about thirty minutes. She had hoped that Max or Rachel could come and keep her company but...

She let out a growl as that voice came back. Please, you already know Rachel doesn't care about you. Why did you expect any different from Max? She left you.

"Shut up." Chloe growled, her eyes stinging.

You aren't worth their time.

"Shut up.

After all, you've never been worth Rachels. Have you?

"I said SHUT THE FUCK UP!" A roar ripped from Chloe's throat as she punched a wall. Pain sparked from her knuckles and flew up to her shoulder. She let out a yelp and held her hand close to her, biting back tears.

She needed a smoke.

She walked from the hallway past the receptions table.

"Yo Chlo, you good?" She paused, looking at Justin. The skater blinked, "Nevermind." 

With a huff, Chloe walked outside, shuddering lightly from the cold breeze and fished around in her pockets. She grasped a roach she had laying around and placed it between her lips. She flicked her zippo, her hand briefly warming due to the flame, and lit the end of it.

The smell of weed wafted into her nose, she put her zippo away and sucked in a breath of hot smoke, drinking it greedily into her lungs before she blew out the smoke in a trained, experienced sigh. 

"I could have you arrested, you know." She didn't need to look up to recognize that gruff voice. 

"Fuck off David." Chloe growled, taking another hit and ignored the security guard. "You wouldn't want me in the hands of the pigs, I know that and you know that. You can't scare me. Not anymore."

She heard David shuffle, "Chloe, I've said sorry. I don't know what more you want." 

"The memory of my step-father slapping me gone." Chloe took a harsh hit and spat out the roach as it burnt her lip. She stomped it out and glared at David. She knew she was being unfair but right now she didn't care.

David stared at her with a look of a broken man. "Chloe, I wish I never had put my hands on you." He murmured, "But you kept pushing me-"

"And that makes it okay to hit your child." Chloe finished, her anger quickly building. "Leave me alone and get the fuck away from me. I'm working." She shoved past him and made way for the door but David side-stepped in front of her.

"Chloe Elizabeth Price," He growled, "I'm not leaving until I can sleep knowing my step-daughter doesn't have it in for me." 

Chloe clenched her fist, "God, you are so fucking paranoid. 'Have it in for me' really? If I fucking had it in for you, I would have forced mom to leave you."

"You almost did." David grumbled.

"Poor man." Chloe spat, "Maybe Joyce leaving you will teach you some basic respect." She shoved David, making him stumble back. "Get the fuck away from my workplace or I'll file a restraining order." Chloe crossed her arms. "I don't have it in for you David, I just want you to leave me the hell alone."

"Chloe, you're my daughter. I care about you." David said, taking a breath that Chloe recognized. He was trying to hold back, he was making an effort not to blow up like he normally did.

The punk glared at him, wanting so desperately to say that she hated him but knowing it would be a lie. "I already talked to mom, did she tell you? We're fine, you don't have to come and bother me about it."

"I'm didn't come for Joyce." David said softly, "I came for me."

Chloe felt like her center of gravity had been shifted. She eyed David and her anger melted away. He had left his post at Blackhell to come to talk to her, not for the sake of Joyce, not for trying to fix Chloe's and Joyce's relationship; he had come for himself. He had come to try to salvage the broken pieces and bitterness between Chloe and himself.

Chloe sighed and dropped her arms to her side. She wished Max was here, facing her problems was always so much easier with Max around. "Look, you're a grown ass man. If you want to talk to me swing by my apartment, don't stalk me at my place of work." She looked up seeing a car pulling up. "I have a customer. We'll talk eventually just.. not now." 

David clenched his jaw and for a second Chloe could swear his eyes were glossy, as though he was trying not to cry, but he looked away with a curt nod. "Sure, Chloe. See you round', soldier." He said softly and rounded on his heel and walked away.

Chloe released a stressed breath before she smiled at her customer. "Right on time, come back into my room and we'll get started." 

Hours ticked by slowly and soon Chloe closed up shop. She checked her phone and sighed, nothing from Max or Rachel.

They've forgotten about you.

Chloe shook her head, wishing that part of her didn't agree with that stupid voice. Justin had already left, which meant that Chloe had to close shop alone. 

The punk stood and began to shut the lights off, trying her best to ignore the small twinge of betrayal she felt. What happened to best friends? She thought bitterly, not knowing if she was thinking about Max or Rachel. Probably both.

She locked the front door and rushed to her truck. "Fucking cold." She grumbled as she slammed the door shut. She switched on the ignition and a blast of warm air unthawed her bones, making her sigh in relief. 

She sat there for a few moments, wallowing in self-pity when she felt her phone buzz in her pocket. She grabbed it and frowned slightly, briefly wondering if she should be petty but part of her was overjoyed so she pressed the answer button.

"So you finally thought of me, aye' Max?" She drawled, trying not to sound passive aggressive but also sounding passive-aggressive. 

"Sorry, Chlo," Max's voice was soft, "I was busy with Rachel and I lost track of time."

Busy with Rachel? Chloe felt her blood run cold, "What did you and Rachel do without me?" She asked, trying to keep the jealousy from her voice.

"Talked." Max said evasively, "About stuff."

"Real specific Maxo." 

The hipster let out a rough sigh that made Chloe wince and her heart ache. "About the photography teacher." She said softly. 

Oh

Chloe felt a wave of guilt rush over her. How could she think that Max would do that to her? 

She left you before, didn't she?

That wasn't her fault, asshole.

She still did it, what's stopping her from leaving you for the amazing Rachel Amber?

Fuck off.

"Chloe?" Max's voice snapped Chloe out of her mini mind battle. 

"What did she tell you?" Chloe asked softly.

"That you two fought six months ago." Of course, she would, "So she turned to Jefferson for guidance and he offered her an easy way into the modeling industry. But when she went to the photoshoot he.." The hipster faltered, but she didn't have to finish.

Both Chloe and Max knew what happened that day.

Bitterness filled Chloe's mouth. "I wanna kill him. The school has no idea how fucking creepy he is. Rachel isn't.. isn't the only one he's.." Chloe couldn't say the word, she didn't have to.

"Until we get proof we can't get anywhere." Max said, "But I know how you feel, trust me I.. God, Chloe she sounded so broken I-" Max drew a shaky breath and Chloe knew she was trying not to cry.

"Hey," A voice so soft came from Chloe's throat, she didn't know it could do that. "Max listen. We're gonna figure it out alright? I'm sorry you had to learn this way that Rachel wasn't this perfect angel that everyone says she is." Chloe didn't hide the bitterness in her voice. Max probably thought she was bitter about Jeffershit; Chloe would let her believe that.

"Yeah," Max replied, her voice quiet. "Look, I gotta go. I don't think it would be good for Rachel to sleep alone so I'm gonna chill with her."

Chloe bit back a protest, "Yeah, that's probably for the best." Lying through your teeth.

Shut up.

"Chlo, I'm glad I came back." 

A smile snaked its way onto the punks face before she could stop it. "Yeah, I'm glad too." She said softly, meaning it with her full heart.

"I gotta run, I'll text you in a bit okay?"

"Alright." 

"Bye, Captain."

"Cya, First Mate."

The line went dead and Chloe dropped her phone on the seat beside her. 

She's going to sleep with Rachel

"I know."

You know how Rachel gets.

"I know."

Especially with those who don't know how she really is.

"I know."

So you're just gonna let her take your Max away?

"Shut up me." Chloe pulled out of the parking spot of her work quicker than she needed to and what was legal. She turned and flick the gear into 'D' and sped down the road. 

You're useless.

"Shut up."

Pathetic.

"Shut up."

A complete waste of time. That's why Rachel slept with him, because you weren't enough for her.

"I said shut the fuck up!" Chloe shouted to herself, slamming her fist on her steering wheel. Her eyes flicked down and she briefly wondered if she was going insane when a flash of brown made her slam on her breaks, the truck screeching to a halt as she twisted the wheel. Her tires skidded on the pavement before the truck came to a complete stop. 

Chloe was stunned into silence for a few moments, adrenaline rushing in her veins and heart hammering in her chest. "What the fuck?" She said softly, opening her truck door. She quickly checked under her car and in front of it, thanking whatever God there was that there was no carnage.

"Pompidou! What the fuck is wrong with you?!" She froze, completely static as a man with dirty blonde hair came charging past her. He grabbed the German Sheppard-Pit mix and checked him over. "Thank God." He breathed when he apparently didn't find anything. "Don't you ever fucking do that again, got it?" He growled, giving the dog a glare before he rose to his feet. "Hey, thanks for skidding out of the-" He paused, going as still as Chloe was when he turned to her. "No fucking way." He gave a low laugh but it was humorless.

Chloe opened and closed her mouth a few times before she settled on a tiny smile, bitterness swimming in her stomach. "Hey, Frank." She said, "Thought he was trained not to bolt." 

Frank snorted, "He is but he recognizes your truck." 

"So he goes on a death mission?" Chloe asked, raising a brow, "Keep him on a fucking chain, if I had been going just a bit faster.." Her mind was fried, not only because she was coming off the adrenaline but because of-fucking-course she would come face-to-face with her old drug dealer and...

Rachel's former lover.

"But you weren't, and you know I'm not going to put this dog on a fucking chain. If I did that it would be just like the mill." He crossed his arms and glared at Chloe for a few moments before he looked around, searching. "Hey is Rachel-"

"No." Chloe spun on her heel and opened her truck door.

"You didn't even let me finish." Frank said, his voice growing angry. 

"You don't have to." Chloe gave him a cold look, "Didn't she tell you already, she doesn't want anything to do with you anymore." the punk didn't know if she was saying it to remind him or herself.

Frank let out a sigh, "I just worry about her. She wasn't exactly the best when she talked to me last and I saw that hospital band on her wrist, what happened?"

"Like you give a shit." Chloe spat, hating the universe for making her deal with her step-douche and her ex-drug-dealer.

Frank growled and rushed forward, grabbing the punk. "Look." He paused before letting go of Chloe's arm. "I know that we majorly fucked up okay? I know that was a shitty thing to do and I completely understand Rachel not wanting me in her life anymore." His voice softened, "I just, I don't want her hurt okay Chloe? I trust you to take care of her because I can't, I never was able to." His voice dropped.

This situation was too familiar. Chloe couldn't do this. "It was months ago Frank. Drop it." She pulled herself up into her truck and eyed him coldly. "Get your fucking dog out of the road if you don't want him hit." She slammed the door closed and drove away as fast as she could. 

Franks shape faded in her mirror until he disappeared altogether and she let out a low huff of relief. She needed to get away, she wanted Max but she was with Rachel. She knew in her heart that Max was right, Rachel couldn't deal with the memories triggered by seeing Jefferson again alone. Max was being an amazing person being there for Rachel, a better person than Chloe; who was sitting in her truck getting insecure about it.

The tattoo artist turned down a road. She knew where she could go to disappear for a while.

She turned her phone off and tossed it in her glove box before she made her way towards the train tracks.

Max

The hipster smiled, "Thanks Kate. That tea really helped." She said softly as to not wake Rachel up.

Kate smiled, "Of course, though I have to ask, what happened? She's not looking so hot." 

"She wasn't feeling too well after photography." Max said, knowing that Kate wouldn't understand the double meaning. 

The Christian nodded, "I see, well I hope she gets better soon." Her watch beeped and she smiled at Max apologetically. "Hey, I have to go." She said, making Max nod.

"I notice you seem to leave during this time, do you have a job or a meeting or something?" Max asked, genuinely curious.

"No, I just hang out with a friend is all." Kate said with a bashful smile.

Max couldn't help it, "A friend huh?" She teased, not as smoothly as she hoped but the meaning was received because Kate's face turned red.

"Yeah, just a friend." She shuffled, smiling slightly. 

Max smiled, "Don't let me stop you then, see you around Kate." She hugged the blonde, grinning to herself as she smelled lavender perfume, seemed Rachel was right in assuming that this person was a little more than a friend.

The girl walked off and Max turned, moving back into Rachel's dorm.

The aspiring model was asleep, curled up in her blankets. Her golden tresses her splayed across her pillow like tiny sunrays. She would have looked peaceful if it wasn't for the troubled look on her face. Her brows were slightly furrowed and her lips were pressed together in a slight frown as if even in sleep she was dealing with the bullshit of waking life.

She probably was.

Max sighed and grabbed her phone, shooting a text to Chloe.

sent 7:38

Max: Hey Chlo

The photographer waited about ten minutes and frowned when she didn't get a reply. 

She probably got high and passed out. Max said, rolling her eyes and smiling. Dummy, I'm gonna have to yell at her about that.

She placed her phone on the bedside table and crawled into bed with Rachel. Weariness made her vision dance as her eyes fluttered closed. She felt Rachel shuffle and arms wrap around her. She opened her eyes tiredly and smiled as she saw that the aspiring model had pressed closer against her.

Coconut and vanilla wafted in the air twining together and leaving a haze that made Max fall asleep almost immediately.

???

Light eyes stared out, a black camera dangling from his neck. 

Too far.

He had taken it too far.

A shaky breath fell from his chapped lips, venomous words echoed in his head. He couldn't do this alone, he needed a partner. Someone just as willing to risk their neck as he was.

His pale eyes drifted towards a window and a thought went to his mind. 

Them

Maybe, he saw how they were in class. Some.. tension was there. He could feel it.

He'd bide his time for now, just until he could confirm it. But for now.

He smiled at a boy who walked up, his eyes bright.

"Didn't think you'd show." And it was true.

The boy shuffled awkwardly, "I felt bad and you haven't gone apeshit yet."

A laugh fell from his lips, he liked him. He didn't have a filter, he said what he thought even to someone like him. 

"You haven't pissed me off yet, anyway, you ready?"

"Yeah, let's go."

Chapter Text

"And then she comes up with some surprise guest and my entire campaign was ruined!" Max smiled slightly, watching Warren as he got heated up by a DnD session he had had recently. "Complete bull if you ask me."

"Sounds like it," Max laughed slightly, "What happened then?" She prompted, checking the time she had until the bell would ring.

"That's the real kicker, she-" Warren began in full swing but choked out when his phone buzzed. He pulled it out and looked at it once before he began to put it back into his pocket. Realization slammed his face and he checked it again, furrowing his brow in confusion.

"What?" Max asked, blinking at her friend.

Warren looked at her before looking around nervously. "Nothing, just something stupid." He said slowly, his eyes shifting back and forth.

Max opened her mouth to call bullshit but the bell saved Warren. The boy quickly grabbed his bags, "Hey sorry Max, I gotta go, talk to you later!" He called as he booked it out of the science room.

"Never seen him in much of a hurry to leave this class." Kate said as she walked up to Max, who was staring after open with her mouth still open. "What do you think happened?" She smiled at Max kindly, making the hipster shake herself out of the shock she was in.

"Dunno, but he's a terrible liar." Max said as she grabbed her bags. "I just wanted to say thanks again for helping me with Rachel." It had been a few days since Max learned Rachel's terrible secret. Since then, she began to notice how much of an actual creep Mr. Jefferson really was. He had been trying to get Max alone but Rachel always stepped up or Max came up with some bullshit excuse. It was beginning to irritate him, Rachel had told Max, but Max never noticed.

Kate shook her head, "Please don't mention it," She said, "I was simply doing the right thing is all. Besides, Rachel is a good girl, despite all the rumors that get spread about her."

That's another thing Max noticed recently, how many people fell at Rachel's feet when the aspiring model so much as breathed next to them and how many people seemed to hate her guts.

Namely Victoria Chase with the latter.

"Have you seen how Victoria treats her?" Max asked as they traversed the halls towards photography. "She's such a bitch."

"Vic-toria isn't that bad." Kate said softly, a small edge to her voice.

Max rose a brow at the Christian, "Were you not around when she completely tore into me moving day? She's a total asshole for no reason. I mean, she has everything, she has no excuse for how she treats others." She grumbled, bitterness seeping into her tone.

She paused, hearing Kate's footfalls stop, and turned. She was a bit frightened at the look she was getting from Kate. The Christians eyes, though clear of malice, were intense with some sort of emotion.

"She doesn't have everything, Max." Kate said, her voice soft but filled with fire. "Not in the slightest." With that, she began walking again-faster than before- and disappeared into the photography classroom.

Max, again, was left dumbfounded and frozen. It seemed to be a pattern today, was everyone in a bad mood or what?

"Are you planning on ever coming inside Ms. Caulfield?" She jumped, looking up to see the icy eyes of Mark Jefferson digging into her.

Anger erupted through her veins like a wildfire; hatred and disgust making her clench the strap of her bag. "Of course." she said, a bit to roughly.

She stepped towards the door and notice that he was only keeping it open enough for her to slip in but not without brushing against him.

Pervert. Max thought.

She turned, sidestepping into the classroom and sucked her chest and stomach in. Successfully, she made it into the classroom without indulging whatever disgusting fantasies he had and she tossed an innocent and shit-eating smile to him before she sat down at her table. She glanced around and frowned when she didn't see Rachel.

She didn't blame the model for wanting to skip Jefferson's class, but this was the fourth time this week.

Jefferson began to call role, Max didn't listen as she pulled out her phone.

To Junkyard Queen

Maxamillion: Rach? Where are you??

sent 2:01

Junkyard Queen: Outside smoking

received 2:02

Maxamillion: Rachel you're gonna get in trouble

sent 2:03

Junkyard Queen: -shrugging emojis-

Max was about to type something when Jefferson's booming voice sounded over her.

"Max! We do not use phones in my classroom, especially when I'm calling roll call." He said, eyeing her down. "Give me it, this is not the first time I've had to yell at you for it."

"Like hell, I'm giving you my phone." Max couldn't stop the venomous words from spitting from her mouth. She shoved it into her pocket, knowing she couldn't turn back now. "I was just texting my mom, chill out." She blamed Chloe for this rebellious behavior.

"Your mother should know that you are in class." Jefferson said, glaring at her. "Give me your phone, Ms. Caulfield, or I will be forced to get the principal involved."

Max clenched the sides of her seat. She felt all the students eyes on her, she pulled out her phone and Jefferson held his hand out expectantly. The screen flashed and she blinked at the message.

Junkyard Queen: Don't you dare.

She bit her lip and looked at Jefferson, toying an idea in her mind. She glanced to the side and saw Rachel standing there at the window her hands open. She looked at Jefferson and couldn't stop the smirk on her face.

"What phone?" She asked and tossed it.

Her Irish luck held true as it slid through the open slit of the window and fell into Rachel's hands. The model rushed away and Max broke for the door. She opened the classroom door and bolted down the hall.

"Maxine Caulfield!" She heard Jeffersons' roar from the hallway but didn't look back, adrenaline rushing in her veins.

She turned and opened the school doors and made a break to the parking lot, knowing that's where Rachel was heading. She grinned as she saw Chloe's truck and jumped into it.

"Chloe Elizabeth Price!" David's booming voice came from the campus, "Don't do this!"

Max paused, hearing the desperation in his tone. She looked up and saw him, Jefferson, and the entire photography classroom coming towards the truck.

"Chloe drive!" Rachel demanded, glaring at the punk who was sitting stock still.

The punk roused herself and shifted gears, "Sorry David." She called and slammed on the gas. The tires screeched against the pavement before the trunk flew forward. Max held onto the door handle for purchase and she glanced behind them.

Victoria was watching the scene with a dropped jaw, Kate beside her with a shocked look; shock was the universal emotion for most people except a certain few.

David had a helpless and defeated look on his face as if he was this close to breaking down. Mark Jefferson looked like he was about to kill someone, rage was undisguised and unchecked on his face, his blue eyes were slits of ice.

And Nathan Prescott.

He had no emotion on his face; it was terrifyingly neutral, however, his eyes were slitted, as if he had something on his mind. He looked like how the photography teacher did most times when he was able to restrain himself.

That chilled Max the most.

She tore her eyes away as Chloe rounded the corner away from Blackhell.

"Holy shit." She breathed, closing her eyes. "Holy shit."

"Holy shit is fucking right." Chloe snapped, "What the fuck were you thinking Rachel, getting Max involved?" She glared at the model and sighed roughly. "Look, I know how hard it is-"

"No, you fucking don't!" Rachel growled, "You have no fucking idea because you weren't thereMax was." There was a finality to her voice- like this wasn't something up for discussion.

Chloe clenched her jaw and slammed on the breaks. The car skidded to a sudden stop and Max was flung forward along with Rachel.

"What the fuck-" Rachel began angrily but she was cut off with a hiss.

"Get the hell out of my car."

Max blinked in shock, was Chloe serious?

Yes, she was, Max knew that look in her eye. Her blue eyes were dark with anger, her lips in a thin line, her expression stony.

Rachel stared at Chloe with a dropped jaw before she growled and opened the door of the trunk, slamming it shut and flipped Chloe off.

Chloe flipped her off back and drove off, leaving Rachel Amber stranded.

Chloe

Red.

Red was all she saw.

Tears were stinging in her eyes. How could she say that? How could she tell Chloe that she wasn't there?

She doesn't care, you learned that a long time ago Price.

Chloe sniffed, "Fuck!" She punched her steering wheel as she screamed out. She pulled off of the road into familiar territory and flung herself out of the truck.

"Chloe!" She distantly heard Max's cry but she wasn't concerned about it. She grabbed a bat and began to swing it around, destroying whatever she fucking could.

One hit too many and the bat shattered so she moved to her fists, punching car windows until they shattered, shards of glass and splinters of wood dug into her hand but the pain didn't register.

"Fuck you Rachel!" She screamed, kicking a can of beer that she distinctly remembered being the can she drank before her and her Junkyard Queen fucked in their hideout.

"Chloe stop!" She froze, whipping around to whoever the fuck just ordered her-

Her anger stilled when she saw Max's face.

Tears were flowing down them, her entire body was trembling, her hands clenched in tiny fists. She was gazing at Chloe with open eyes, so wide and full of emotion yet Chloe only focused on one.

Fear.

All ministrations of Chloe's mind were halted. What am I doing? She thought with a spark of horror. She froze in her tracks and stared at Max, unable to contain her tears anymore she let them fall.

Pain snaked it's way up her arm and she looked at her bloody hand. "God, what am I doing?" She sobbed, dropping to her knees. The fire that burned in her belly had been stomped out by the realization that she, Chloe, was scaring her best friend.

Her best friend.

Her Max.

Max rushed over to her and held her close, her tears were still coming but they had slowed. "Chloe, your hand." She said, gazing at it.

Chloe laughed slightly, "Fucked it up worse at one point." She said as she began to pick the glass shards from it. "There's some hydrogen peroxide in my truck and some rags, can you bring them to me?" She asked, "And the first-aid kit."

Max nodded mutely and rushed away, Chloe watched her go.

Her heart ached and she busied herself with picking stuff from her hand. She had gotten all of it out by the time Max returned. She poured the anti-bacterial liquid on the wounds and hissed at the pain before she wrapped it in the rags.

They turned red with blood but she was mostly patched up for now. She silently thanked whatever God existed that she didn't have work for the rest of this week due to heavy snow apparently coming in at any time.

"I'm sorry Max, I didn't.." She choked a bit. She wouldn't have to apologize to RachelRachel would have said something that this time was better than the last time, or simply she would have kissed her and made Chloe forget all about being mad. She would have made Chloe wake up feeling numb but satisfied, she would have left the scent of coconut and summer in Chloe's nose, left warmth where she had touched the night before.

Then she would have left altogether.

She always did.

"I didn't mean to scare you." She continued hoarsely, "I just wanted to destroy things, I wasn't thinking." She looked away, "I'm so sorry."

Thin arms wrapped around Chloe's waist and the punk all but melted into them. "It's okay, Chlo-bear." The hipster murmured, "I just.. you were hurting yourself."

"Not the worst I've done to myself." Chloe said jokingly, trying to lighten the mood.

Max tightened her grip and Chloe considered it a fail. "I'm serious Chlo," A definite fail, "You'll be lucky if you don't have scars."

"I know," Chloe wrapped one arm, the one with the non-bloody hand, around Max's neck and pulled her close, breathing in her vanilla scent. "I know.." She sighed, breathing it in more because as creepy as she felt for it, it calmed her down.

It reminded her just why she fell for this little hipster when she was thirteen and realizing she was gay in the first place.

Reminded her why she still was falling for this hipster.

They stayed like that, not wanting to let each other go because this was normal. This was home for them, or at least Chloe hoped it was home for both of them. She felt more at home in Max's arms than she did in Rachels'.

A part of her screamed that wasn't quite true.

She blocked it out.

It was only until Max decided that she was going to wrap Chloe's arm that they parted but they made sure to keep in contact. Goosebumps rose from Chloe's tender skin as Max wrapped it, her fingers gently brushing against her hand.

Max always had to patch Chloe up when they were younger.

"Nothing has changed." Chloe commented with a crooked smile. "Still playing nurse."

Max blushed slightly, "Shut up." She shoved the punks shoulder and Chloe couldn't help but tease her more.

"You're eighteen, that's legal, why don't you dress up for me?" She waggled her eyebrow suggestively and took glee in Max's blush and adorable pout.

"Dog, you're so mean to me." She grumbled, looking away. It wasn't her normal snarky reply, which indicated that yes Chloe had gotten under her skin.

Was Max hoping..?

No. She wouldn't.

Chloe deflated a bit and cursed her toxic mind. She hated it, hated constantly questioning herself, hated not being able to feel validated at all by anyone. Maybe that's why she still ran to Rachel when things got tough because Rachel knew how Chloe's mind worked; she knew how to make Chloe feel special.

Even if it was complete bullshit.

"Chloe." Blue eyes looked into lighter ones. "What's going on? I mean, in these few weeks you and Rachel have been... strained to say the least. Is it my fault?" Oh typical innocent Max, to assume immediately that it was her fault.

Part of Chloe wished that she could lie but it felt like a felony when she gazed into her friend's eyes.

So she said, "I don't know, maybe?" she sighed, "Look, Max, there's a lot of baggage between me and Rachel." She rubbed her arm and looked away. "Baggage that we never talk about because-" we don't want to destroy what tatters remain, "because we don't need too."

"That's complete bullshit and you know it Price." Max said sternly, glowering at the punk just a little bit.

Chloe sighed, "Yeah, you're probably right..." She paused, "No- you are right." She corrected herself, "We should talk about it but never is the right time."

Max blinked and stared at something past Chloe, "How about now?"

"What?" Chloe followed her gaze and frowned when she saw Rachel fucking Amber trudging towards them, her hands in her black skinny jeans. Her red and black flannel was unbuttoned, showing her Firewalk t-shirt.

Chloe felt her heart stutter as she was reminded of that night. The night she had met this celestial being.

No matter how bad they got, she could never hate or regret Rachel.

The blonde looked up and Chloe knew that she had been crying. Her eyes were too puffy for it to not be true. She still looked stunning.

They were tensely silent for a long while before Rachel leaned forward. Chloe put her hand on the blonde's shoulder, leaning away just enough to let Rachel know that this wasn't going to be "fixed" like they always "fixed" things.

Rachel's eyes flashed with a mixture of sadness and pain, Chloe forced the part of her that wanted to give in to Rachel down. She refused to give in this time, she couldn't handle giving in this time. She hadn't ever been able to handle it but she did because she was scared of losing Rachel. She still was but a sense of self-preservation that she didn't have before was forcing her to care.

No, it wasn't self-preservation. It was Max. She didn't want Max to see how broken she was. How broken she had gotten.

"I'm sorry." Rachel spoke so softly that Chloe, deep in thoughts and realizations, almost missed it. The punk looked up with wide blue eyes. Rachel was like an inferno when she was angry, Chloe normally had to wait until she had cooled to embers before she could come to talk to Rachel. And it was always her, it was always Chloe who went to Rachel.

Except for last time.

Last time Chloe was committed to ignoring Rachel, forgetting she existed, because it hurt so much. Seeing, hearing, even thinking of Rachel hurt too much.

It sometimes still did.

Chloe's mouth felt dry, Rachel was apologizing?

Rachel came running backToo me?

The tattoo artist hesitated before she sighed, she could never be angry at Rachel for too long. Even in the six months, she longed for the model back; it was only the spite and self-pity that fueled her to continue shunning the blonde out.

"S'fine." She said.

"It's not." Rachel's voice was thick with emotion, she was so vulnerable, so breakable. Chloe wanted to bow to her then and there.

"It is." Chloe said, trying to put a firmness to her shaking voice. "Don't worry about it."

Rachel looked into Chloe's eyes and the punk remembered why she had been so infatuated with her in the first place. Rachel's eyes made her feel warm despite the fact that she knew the model could see through her layers and layers of protection, that iron husk that Chloe tried to wear always.

"We need to talk." Rachel said softly, her eyes glinting with tears.

"Later." Chloe promised, knowing she was going to break it.

The model bit her lip and glanced to the left, Chloe hadn't forgotten that Max was standing there, watching in silence. Hazel eyes flirted back to ocean blue ones and the blonde nodded once.

Tearing her gaze away from the aspiring model, Chloe looked at Max. "Welcome to my home away from Hell." She said, gesturing to the junkyard.

"A junkyard? Fitting." Max said, giving a wry smile.

"Why?" Chloe asked, walking deeper into the yard, "Because I'm also a wasteful pile of trash?" She tossed a self-deprecating smile over her shoulder.

Max scoffed, "Rough, sorta grimy, and plenty of danger." She said, "But yes," She snarked, "Also because your garbage." As if to prove her point so kicked a can. If Max was snarky it meant she felt more at ease.

"I can't believe you haven't shown her our domain." Rachel said, her voice unnaturally tense.

She was nervous using the word "our", Chloe didn't blame her. 

"Haven't exactly had the time." Chloe said, trying to keep accusation out of her tone. "Besides, it's ours. Wouldn't be right if just one of us shows it to her." She tried to ease Rachel's stress with a grin.

It semi-worked, Rachel tossed her a small grin in return but she was still tense. She looked relaxed to anyone who didn't know Rachel but Chloe could see it. In the way her eyebrows weren't raised all the way, in the way her lips didn't look as loose as they normally were when she smiled, in the way her back was straighter than it would have been in any other situation; not that Rachel slouched, but she almost never had her shoulders that squared unless she was pissed or uncomfortable. 

"How did you guys find this dump?" Max asked, looking around. Her gaze paused on something and Chloe followed it to the camera she had destroyed when she was freaking out four years ago.

Guilt rushed through Chloe, it always did when she looked at what she had done. "U-Uh Rachel showed it to me." She cursed herself for stuttering because now Max was eyeing her with a raised brow. "I skipped school with her the day after we met at a Firewalk concert." She explained, relishing the easier days back when all she wanted to do was run away with Rachel. When all the emotions she felt for Rachel was love. "We jumped into a train and jumped out near here." She gestured around, "It's been our hideout ever since."

"We even have a playhouse." Rachel chimed in, grabbing Max's arm. "Come on, I-" Rachel hesitated, "We can show you."

I can show you. That's what she was about to say. I can show you

Chloe clenched her jaw before she forced it to relax. "Yeah." She said, "Come on." She waltzed deeper into the trashpile towards her and Rachel's little piece of tranquility. 

It was exactly how'd they left it, empty pizza boxes, booze, soda, packs of cigarettes. Chloe flopped onto the couch and Rachel sat at her makeup table.

"Come on Max, it's safe." Rachel promised, smiling slightly at the hipster.

Chloe tried not to think about what was going on in Rachel's mind but a dark voice hissed into her mind.

She wants to take her.

"Huh." Max hummed, making Chloe jolt out of possibly- definitely bad thoughts,  as she stepped inside and took in the appearance. Anxiety swam in Chloe's gut, she wanted Max's approval. She watched with hyper-awareness as Max walked about the small place, picking up and looking at things. She was always a bit of a snoop, never could keep her curiosity at bay.

Chloe watched as Max stumbled upon a specific scribbling on the wall. 

Rachel was here

Chloe was here

Max seemed to contemplate for a moment, glancing behind at Rachel and Chloe. It was as if their minds connected because Chloe swore she could hear Max's small voice go.

Not to intrude but... I was here also.

With that, Max grabbed a marker and wrote:

Max was here

Chloe grinned, "Now we're all like, hella best friends forever." She said, wishing that it was that easy.

"Totally." Rachel agreed, no doubt wishing the same thing.

Max glanced between the two for a few moments before she grinned. "Hella." She said and Chloe felt her heart stutter because that was adorable.

The things you do to me, Maxine Caulfield. Chloe thought with a genuine wistful smile.

The three sat in comfortable, slightly tense because of Rachel and Chloe, silence. Chloe stared at the wooden board ceiling, tuning out as Rachel and Max began to talk about school. Her minds swam, many of them inky black and evil but one stuck out to her.

"That's a dollar for the swear jar!" 

"You mean your college funds?" 

A car, destroyed in the junkyard with a girl pounding on it with tiny fists wishing she could just have her father back. A crow watching her with silent, judging eyes.

Click.

Chloe jumped and looked up, blinking. Max was shaking a polaroid and Chloe rolled her eyes. 

"One day you're going to get into trouble for that." Chloe grumbled.

"Like you could ever stay mad at me." Max snarked and Chloe flipped her off, knowing she was completely right.

The hipster grunted, "Well, we have all day. What do you guys wanna do?" She asked.

Chloe swung up into a sitting position and thought for a few moments. She glanced over at Rachel, who shrugged in response, then drew her eyes around the hideout.

"We can stay here until you have to go back to Blackwell." Chloe said, "Why not?"

Max shrugged, "Sure, I'm not picky." She said with a smile that made Chloe's insides warm.

Max

The hipster never felt this happy since childhood. It felt natural hanging out with Rachel and Chloe, despite the slight tension between Chloe and Rachel. It wasn't too noticeable, but Max had a keen sense of attention; she saw the way that Rachel only barely brushed her fingertips against her when she touched Chloe. 

She longed for the two to talk it out, but she had told Chloe that she needed too and she trusted that the punk would. She didn't want to force Chloe into doing it, the blunette would when she was ready.

Max hoped she would when she would be ready soon.

Hours passed by, jokes were cracked along with one or two bottles of beer, laughter and the sound of passing trains filled Max's ear as the sun began to set.

"Holy shit!" Rachel giggled, she wasn't drunk but she was definitely feeling the effects of the alcohol. "Max, you have got to take us to Seattle one day." 

Max tensed, visions flashing in her mind. She gulped thickly and tried to force the darkness away. "Y-Yeah, sure." She said, smiling nervously.

The memories faded and turned to visions of summer as Rachel tossed her a grin that made her heart skip a beat. 

Why had it skipped? 

Max wasn't given enough time to think about it because she stepped out of the truck with Rachel behind her straight into Principal Wells. 

The man glared at the three girls, "Maxine Caulfield." He rumbled, "I hadn't expected someone as academically successful as you to fall into this type of crowd." He gestured to Rachel who was standing stark-still with wide eyes. 

Max's mouth felt dry, she opened and closed her mouth a few times in an attempt to speak but she couldn't. A shadow moved and she looked up and gulped as she saw Mark Jefferson waltz over, a look of triumph in his blue eyes.

"Fuck." She heard Rachel breath and she looked at the model. Her hazel eyes were fixed on the photographer, her fists have clenched the knuckles turning white.

Chloe moved in front of the aspiring model in a protective gesture and Max gravitated towards the punk, linking their fingers. 

"Do you have any excuses for yourself?" Wells bellowed, puffing his chest out as he glared down at the girls. "Mark tells me you were disrespectfully on your phone as he was calling the role and that you have been disobedient this entire week. I thought better of you Maxine." Of course, Mark would make himself sound innocent.

Max couldn't help it, "It's Max." She said, "Never Maxine-"

"It's Maxine." Wells growled, "It's Maxine when you are a student disrespecting one of the most qualified and successful teachers and photographers in the world. It is an honor to be taught by him and I thought that you, being a photographer, would understand that best." He spat and Max wanted to vomit as the scent of booze washed over her. 

She couldn't do this, her breath came out in rapid succession, her mind toyed with the image that her eyes were seeing. She saw her father, standing there with rage-filled blue eyes. She saw a bottle in his hand, raised and ready to throw. She saw the man that almost.. almost..

"Hey, get the fuck away from her." Chloe shoved the principal back, "You reek dude." 

"Don't touch the principal!" Mark snapped, "Last time I knew, you were expelled. Doesn't your father work here?" He was taunting her. Egging her on. 

Max clenched Chloe's arm, trying to ground both herself and the punk who looked ready to kill both of the men.

"Wells. I think it's worth mentioning that Mr. Jefferson takes every moment to call Max out in class. I know that a teacher is supposed to make a student think, but isn't he suppose to make every student think? Not just one?" A new voice made the group look up. Nathan Prescott was talking towards them, his expression neutral. "He does it with every new female student, never males." 

Mark stared at the rich kid in horror and, for a split second, anger as principal Wells sputtered for a response. 

"Mark, have you been calling Ms. Caulfield out in class?" Wells turned on his friend, regarding him with a drunken stare.

The photographer regarded the principal with a cool stare. "I suppose maybe I have. I was impressed with her portfolio you see," Max wanted to spit on his face, "I guess I have gone to far on my testing her knowledge." He hung his head slightly, his stance pitiful now. "I expect a lot from you, Max." He gave her an apologetic look that would melt any woman's heart if they didn't know his dirty secrets. "I hoped for more." 

He was insulting her, saying she wasn't good enough. She recognized the venom despite the tone the teacher was talking with. 

Max bit back a snort, "I'm sorry sir." She said forcefully "I will restrain from using my phone in class but I was texting my mom, she hasn't been in the best of health recently." It wasn't a total lie but not a complete truth.

Mark narrowed his eyes for a moment before he nodded, "I see, well wish her my condolences." He turned to Rachel and the model looked down, not meeting his eyes.

"Rachel." 

Max felt her insides churn at how he spoke her name, packed with emotions. Rachel looked up through her lashes.

"I hope you are able to attend my next classes, or else I'll be forced to request a private meeting." He said and Max tensed. She felt Rachel stiffen and glanced over at the model, her heart breaking as she saw the genuine horror on her face.

"I won't." Rachel said, "I promise." She felt right into his trap.

Mark nodded, turning and disappearing into the school,  and Wells turned to Max, "While I cannot say I am too pleased with you skipping school and causing such a disruption, I did not know that you were under such pressure. This is not the way of Blackwell, every student is to be treated equally, no matter how impressive their background is." He was going back on his very own words, just to make himself look good. Max wanted to spit on him too. "Mark is an honest man," Oh god shut the fuck up please, "I know he means what he says." Seriously shut the fuck up. "I hope you enjoy his class. As I said it is an honor for him to work here." Kiss ass

Max nodded numbly, wanting the man to leave desperately. 

Wells smiled, "This won't be on your record, consider it an apology on the behalf of Blackwell." He was probably too drunk to do the paperwork or remember this in the morning. With that, he turned and, walked?- no- floundered away. 

Max let out a breath she didn't know she was holding and released her death grip on Chloe. 

"Fuck him. Fuck both of them." Chloe snarled, glaring after the drunk man. "I swear, we'll find a way to-"

"Chloe." Rachel's voice was hoarse and warning. The punk turned and noticed that Nathan was still standing there, watching the three girls.

Max looked at the rich kid up and down. "Why'd you help us?" She asked, raising a brow.

Nathan shrugged, "You looked like you were about to freak out so I decided to get that asshole away from you." He nodded towards where the principal left. "I know you have PTSD, figured him bellowing wasn't helpful." Nathan shrugged again. "I have this entire school under my feet, especially that try hard." 

Max didn't know how to respond, "Well uh, thanks." She replied.

Nathan eyed Rachel, "You look like you need to sleep for a year." He said, "I suggest you get back to your dorms, the security guards patrol this area first." With that he turned, "And Chloe, I'm sure you don't want to face your dad so you should probably hop off. I'll walk the girls back."

Chloe fumbled for a second before she grumbled. "Sorry Max, I really don't want to see that asshole right now."

"It's fine, Chlo." Max grabbed her hands and gave her a grin. "It was amazing hanging out with you, I'll text you in the morning." 

Chloe smiled and nodded, the two girls stared in each other's eyes for a second too long before Chloe cleared her throat and walked away, getting into her truck and veering away.

Rachel leaned on Max, "I never wanna see him again." She murmured and Max knew she wasn't talking about Principal Wells. Max interlocked their hands in a comforting gesture and Nathan waved them to follow.

Having no other options, Max and Rachel followed the prep to the dorms where Nathan opened the doors and watched as they walked inside. 

The hipster paused and turned to him, feeling so many emotions that it left her rattled as the prep looked up at her and quirked the corner of his lip up in a tiny smile before he walked away, disappearing into the dusk.

Max closed the door, her mind swimming as she moved into her dorm after wishing Rachel a good night and collapsed into her bed.

Her body and mind felt drained, she numbly turned on her stereo, the sound of indie music floated through her dorm. Her eyes felt heavy but the sound of her phone buzzing beside her dead made her jolt. She tiredly unlocked it and looked at the message, expecting either Rachel or Chloe's number on the screen. 

Instead, it was only one chilling message.

From: Unknown

You better watch out, Maxine Caulfield

Chapter Text

Days drug by without much of a hiccup and soon it was October. School life had taken over and soon Max found herself less and less engaging with the outside world. Even her daily texts with Chloe and Rachel had become sparse. 

She hoped this would inspire the punk to finally talk to the model but she figured that was wishful thinking. She had tried to nudge Chloe along subtly but the punk always made some excuse, indicating that she wasn't ready. 

The hipster sighed and leaned back in her chair at her desk. She had been slaving over the copious amounts of homework she had for an hour and she was only around halfway done; she still had an essay to type up and a lab report.

Oh not to mention the Everday Heros Contest.

Also known as the Kiss Up To Mark Jefferson Contest.

Max wasn't going to give that evil man any fucking picture of hers but he had turned it into a twisted way to insult his students. Where if you didn't turn in a picture it would affect your GPA or grades in the class but he would call you out constantly as the bell rang. 

Kate told her just to turn in a picture so he wouldn't once she saw how much it bothered Max, but the photographer was stubborn. 

She sighed again as she began to work on the lab report when a knock at the door resounded in her dorm.

She looked up, speaking over the indie music she called: "Come in!"

The door opened and closed and she glanced behind her, tossing a smile as she recognized who it was.

"Hey Max." The girl said, smiling kindly.

"Hey Kate." Max responded, resuming her typing.

"Doing homework?" Kate asked, sitting down on her bed and looking over her selfie-wall for new additions. There weren't many.

"Yeah, Ms. Grant's and Ms. Hoida's." 

"And Mr. Jefferson's....?" Kate let it hang in the air but the message was clear.

Max sighed and twisted her chair to face the Christian, wishing she could tell Kate but it was too risky, she was almost completely sure that text a few weeks ago was sent by Mark and if it was she didn't want to drag Kate into it. 

She needed to talk to someone, but she couldn't bring it to Rachel or Chloe. They would be too hasty. 

The photographer toyed with telling Kate and not telling Kate. It was moments like these she wished she had time powers, so she could live one outcome and, if she didn't like it, reverse time and live another until she liked it. 

She remembered how poorly Kate reacted when she grumbled about Victoria. That conversation never sat right with Max and thus it caused this weird tension between the girls that Max hated. Her inner battle must have shown on her face because Kate gently gripped her shoulder. 

"Max, you can tell me." The dirty blonde said, her hazel eyes gentle and clear.

"Can I?" Max couldn't stop herself as she voiced the insecurity. "You got mad at me last time I confided in you." She wished she could take it back but at the same time, it needed to be said. 

Kate hesitated, her mouth opening and closing for a few moments before the girl sighed. "Look, Max, I know I didn't exactly word that right." The religious girl rose to her full height and looked away. "I meant that Victoria isn't as... perfect as everyone thinks she is. Far from it."

Max blinked, "And that gives her an excuse to completely be a bitch?" 

Kate shook her head, "It doesn't and I.. I actually talked to her about it. Victoria isn't good at apologizing and she has so many insecurities. She feels a pressure that no high schooler should ever have to feel all because of her mom. She's a businesswoman and rose Victoria to believe that she had to be stone cold because it was a man's world. Victoria still holds these beliefs despite the fact that I've been trying to teach her that the world isn't dog eat dog." Max was a little rattled at the bitterness in Kate's normally chipper tone. "She wanted to apologize but... social structure." Kate sounded like she was mocking the prep at the end. 

"I see.." Max murmured, "I suppose it's fine but I still think she's a total bitch."

Kate barked a laugh, "Yeah, many seem to. She's actually really sweet once you get through to her." Her eyes turned a bit moony and a dorky grin weaved its way onto the blondes face.

"Oh?" Max teased with a low vocal inflection and the tension between the two girls seemed to disappear as Kate gently shoved her shoulder and blushed, laughing. 

Max giggled with her friend and smiled, glad that the two had talked it out instead of leaving it as it was. 

Now if only Chloe could.

The thought of Chloe and by extension Rachel brought Max back to the problem at hand. She frowned and sighed, "Kate, I have to tell you something. Something you may not like."

Kate nodded, "Anything." She said, "You can tell me anything, Max."

Max bit her lip, trying to piece together a way to say it gently but having no way to do so. "Jefferson is a bad person. A very bad person." She said seriously, looking up at the Christian.

Kate blinked, flinching at the sudden change of tone. "What?"

"Look, you might not want to believe me, but haven't you noticed how creepy he is? He.." Max hesitated, she didn't want to spill Rachel's secret. It wasn't her place. "He hurt someone, really bad." 

Kate searched her friends face, looking for some sign of sleep deprivation or humor, but the way Max spoke with such genuine emotion and looked at her with open eyes that held nothing but the truth... she knew searching for such signs would be futile.

"How did he hurt someone?" Kate asked softly, looking at her friend's eyes.

Max shook her head and Kate seemed to understand that she couldn't talk about it.

"He isn't this amazing guy, he's terrible and needs to pay up for his sins." Max wasn't religious but Mark Jefferson deserved to rot in Hell. 

Kate nodded, looking Max up and down. "So what are you planning on doing about it?"

"I don't know." Max grabbed her phone, "Not only that but he's been sending me threatening texts, or at least I think this is him." She pulled up the message and showed it to Kate who frowned as she read it.

"Max, you should take this to the police." She said, her hazel eyes wide. 

"With what proof? A text that came from an unknown phone with no way to link it directly to Jefferson?" Max shook her head. "I have nothing on him yet, but once I get enough dirt I'm taking him down, even if I fall with him. Rachel deserves to know that she can sleep without him being anywhere near her." She looked away and clenched her fist. "I swear on everything that I'll do whatever I can to expose him. What he did was disgusting."

Kate handed back her phone and stood in silence. For a few moments, there was nothing but the sound of Local Natives floating through the dorm before Kate finally spoke again.

"Victoria..." She sounded hesitant as if she knew she shouldn't say this but had to. "Victoria has had her... run-ins... with Mr. Jefferson." She said slowly. "She never gave me details but it frightened her enough to sleep with me in my dorm for a few days a few weeks ago."

"A few weeks ago?" When Mark first announced the contest she remembered that Victoria had stayed behind, leaning over the teacher's desk and otherwise kissing up to the man. Max had been tempted to say something, even if Victoria was rude she wasn't going to let Jefferson molest another teenager, but Rachel had ushered her out before she could decide on what to say. 

"Yeah, the second day of the contest being announced or something like that." Kate said, "I can't quite remember. Either way, she came into my dorm shaken up but she refused to talk about what had happened. All she told me was to avoid Mark when no one was around." The Christian frowned, "Ever since I've just been doing what I can to respect her wishes and to pass that class without so much as a hiccup that would warrant him wanting me alone." 

Max nodded, "That's wise." She murmured, "He's a total wack-job." 

Kate sighed, "Well he can't get away with this. How will you gather evidence to expose him with? He's a very charming man and so many of the girls look up to him.. even Principal Wells kinda doats on him."

"Principal Wells is a kiss ass anyway." Max said, tapping on her knees. "I don't have answers right now Kate, but once I do I'll run them by you. I can't do this alone and if I go to Chloe and Rachel-"

"They'll want to rush in without a plan." Kate cut her off, nodding. "Yeah, I understand. I'll do all I can to help you. I'll see if I can a story out of Victoria about what happened but I can't promise you any results." 

"Anything would help." Max said, glancing up at her clock. "I have to get back to work and it's time for your daily tea session with Victoria isn't it?" 

Kate blushed and nodded, "Y-Yeah, I'll see you around Max, nice talking to you." 

"Mhm." Max hummed in response, turning around her chair to get back to finish typing her lap report.

"Max?" Kate's voice was soft and Max rose her head to show she was listening. "You don't have to do this alone. I'm with you, whatever happened that day- whatever he did to Victoria affected her badly. I can't endorse someone who would willingly mess an innocent student up so badly." With that, she closed the door and left Max alone.

Ceilings beginning notes began to play from Max's stereo as the door clicked shut. Max hummed and muttered the lyrics as she typed away on her computer.

An hour later and she was done with her homework though the relief was replaced with dread as she remembered that she had to finish up something for Ms. Grant. She wasn't particularly bad at science, but she wasn't the worse. Ms. Grant had liked her report and experiment so much she had asked Max if she could do an extended worksheet based on her thought process. It wasn't that much extra work and it would get her some brownie points and extra credit so Max wasn't complaining too much. However, it did require her to go to the library and pick up a book so she roused herself to a standing position and grabbed her bag. 

She slipped on her converse and walked out of her dorm. The hallway was filled with the usuals around this time, Alyssa looking at the board for news, some extra students that Max didn't remember the names of moving to and fro. She heard loud punk music blasting from Dana's room and peeked inside to see the former cheerleader and Rachel trashing it out on the bed. 

Rachels body moved hypnotically, her hips bouncing and her arms moving in a practiced dance that left Max captivated.

"I spy someone who wants to join." Dana's voice made Max jump because suddenly the cheerleader was there and tugging Max into her dorm, a grin on her face.

"No way." Max pulled her arm away, "I don't dance."

"That's a lie!" Rachel cried, "You danced in Two Whales with Chloe and me." 

"I did it for you and Chloe only." Max retorted regretting it almost immediately as a coy smirk snaked its way onto Rachel's face.

"Oh, so I suppose it was a private show?" Rachel said in a low seductive voice that made Max's knees wobble. 

She never considered herself sexual in any capacity, but something about Rachel made Max weak. Maybe it was because Rachel was so unapologetic with the way she exuded sexual energy or how easily Rachel could dominate a situation but something made the hipsters head spin and lungs feel light.

"Yo, back off." Dana nudged the aspiring model. "It's like... illegal to tease Max like that, she's too easy."

"Hey! I'm not easy." Max cried and blushed when the two blondes gave her looks. 

Rachel moved first, slowly and deliberately stalking closer to Max akin to a lioness stalking a gazelle. The hipster, for some reason despite herself, was slightly frightened and took a step back into the wall as Rachel invaded her personal bubble. 

The scent of weed and coconut invaded the hipster's nose and while on paper it may sound unpleasant, Max couldn't get enough of it at that moment. She flicked her eyes up into Rachel's, her teeth capturing her own lip between them. 

Rachel's eyes darkened as they flicked down to her lips, "Not easy?" Her voice was impossibly deep as she leaned forward, invading Max's space even more. "How far do I have to go then hmm?" God, Max's mouth felt dry. She couldn't look anywhere else but those dark hazel eyes. Her heart was hammering in her chest and it took a surprising amount of thought to keep herself breathing properly. 

"How far?" Rachel's lips brushed Max's ear and she jolted, those words coiling around her brain like a boa and constricting it until all Max could think about was Rachel.  She felt Rachel breath out a laugh and trembled as the aspiring model bit down on the shell of her ear. 

Pleasure spiked up Max's spine, making her open her mouth in silent bliss. She gripped the model's waist for purchase and spontaneously regretted it as Rachel pressed closer, now completely flush to the hipster.

She looked up and blinked, "Rachel.." Her voice was a small squeak, her body was trembling, from fear or excitement Max didn't know, she didn't care.

Rachel lifted her head and looked at max with one hazel eye. "So easy." She said softly before she wrenched herself away. Max felt cold and uncomfortable without Rachel's weight against her, her body tingled in ways she never knew it could and a haze of coconut and cannabis clouded her mind. 

She looked up, staggering slightly to distribute her weight on her own feet again and stared at Rachel with a flushed face. What just happened? 

Her mind immediately went into meltdown mode. What just happened? Did Rachel just make her horny? Why? Was this a cruel joke or was Rachel actually interested in Max like that? 

"You suck." She said, nervous because that wasn't what was suppose to have happened but it did and it was terrifyingly exciting. 

Rachel looked at her and for the first time Max saw her fear and wonder completely unabashed. Max felt a tremor of fear in her stomach. Rachel wasn't sure how to handle it either. 

She swallowed thickly, "I gotta go." She blurted out; the atmosphere was too hot and heavy. She needed to get away from the smell of cannabis and coconut. She shot away from the dorm room, not caring if Dana or Rachel called after her and quickly made her way outside.

She shivered as the autumn air closed around her. She drew herself closer to her jacket and sighed, the cold was clearing her mind.

Rachel just made a move on me to prove a point. That's what it was. That's all it had to have been. She rationalized, closing her eyes and taking a breath. Feeling more grounded with that rationalization, she trudged towards the library. 

She was around halfway through when she felt her phone buzz in her pocket. She paused and fished it out of her jeans, her heart hammering as she thought about who could be texting her. The most likely candidate was Rachel, was she going to text Max teasing her? Asking her if they could continue? Apologizing? 

Out of all of those, what she didn't expect something eerily familiar.

Unknown

sent at 9:57

Unknown: Go to the back table at the library, the one nearest to computer 20. Hurry.

Max furrowed her brow; if this was Mark Jefferson, which she was almost one-hundred percent sure it was, she didn't want to go straight into a trap. She tapped onto her keyboard to type something when another text quickly popped up.

Unknown: I know what your thinking Max. You're wrong. I'm on your side. Now go, before someone else catches on to what's happening.

Max looked around, this person was nearby. Watching her. Stalking her.

Her skin crawled and she weighed her options before she decided. This could be her one chance to get dirt on Mark if he was luring her away. She tapped record on her phone and shoved it into her pocket; if he tried something she would catch it all on tape. She walked towards the library and slipped into the building, her heart thundering in her chest.

She looked around, trying to catch a glimpse of her quarry but saw nothing. The library was desolate. Her footsteps were unnaturally loud as she followed the texts directions and blinked when she saw a drive on the table simply labeled "WIP" in silver sharpie.

Her phone buzzed and she tapped the record button to stop recording and looked at the text.

Unknown: Go to your dorm and lock the door and close the blinds. Don't show anyone but those you trust this drive. It's proof of the evil in Blackwell, the poison that's rotting us to the core. You can't just bring it to the cops how it is though, not enough evidence. Solve the riddles and expose the rat. I'm counting on you, I will offer you insight. Good luck Max.

Unnerved, Max slipped the drive into her pocket and ran out of the library, slamming into someone as she rushed down the hall. 

"Slow the fuck down." She recognized that snobbish voice from anywhere. Max looked up, fixing her blue eyes onto Victoria's green ones. The prep frowned, "You look like shit. What did you see, a ghost?" Sarcasm laced her voice, a small smirk fixed on her face.

Max wanted to retort but Kate's words floated to her and she couldn't bring herself to insult Victoria. "Sure." She said, to emotionally scattered to come up with a snarky reply. 

Victoria's smirk fell slightly as if she was disappointed by Max's lack of reaction. "But seriously, you look like shit." She said, pursing her lips as if she was going to regret what she was about to say. "Did something happen?" She asked, "Not that care but I have to keep tabs on everything that happens in Blackwell, after all, what kind of queen would I be without knowing what my subjects are up to?" She said defensively, crossing her arms.

Max eyed the blonde for a few moments before she shook her head, "Nothing happened but something is about to. Kate is going to ask you questions, answer them." Max moved past the photographer before she paused, "And keep it low-key. Can't you feel it Victoria?" She let that hang in the air for a few moments.

"Feel what?" Victoria sounded mystified and the girl visibly tensed when Max turned to her with an intense expression. 

"A storm on the horizon." 

Chapter Text

Rachel breathed in deeply, the burn of weed going down her throat and resting in her chest. She breathed out the excess smoke and sighed.

She was an idiot.

She closed her eyes and took another drag of her joint, the thick haze of her high wrapping around her mind as the smoke coiled and floated around her room, making it look like an opium den. 

What the fuck was she thinking? Flirting and hitting on Max? Chloe's best friend? The girl that Chloe had been in love with for literal fucking years?

She yelped as she burnt her lip, not realizing that she was stressfully taking a hard hit that left the joint to small to smoke. She shoved the remnants of it into an ashtray, knowing that she could just take the weed from the various other too-small joints to make another full one. 

Hey, my teachers from sixth grade would be proud, I'm recycling. She mused as she shoved the ashtray under her bed. Her mind was a thick fog, she stared at her ceiling her eyes finding the golden fairy lights she had up. 

She didn't know how long she was staring at them for but a knock at her door made her jump and look up. 

"Come in!" She called, pulling herself into a sitting position albeit with a bit of struggle.

She wasn't expecting to see Victoria Chase come into her room, the prep wrinkling her nose the smell.

"You fucking hotboxed your room?" Victoria said, "Unbelievable." She rolled her eyes before she searched Rachel up and down. "Have any more?"

Rachel's mind took that in slowly, "Yeah, I hotboxed it." She said slowly, "Is it really that unbelievable?" The blonde reached under her pillow and pulled out a small bag with a few more joints inside it. "Yeah. Here." She shoved her bag off the bed, not caring that it had books that she'd have to pay for if they got damaged and gestured for Victoria to sit down.

The prep walked over and sat down, taking a joint and Rachel's lighter. 

"It's barely noon." Victoria said, her tone accusing but Rachel thought she heard concern under it.

"Yeah so? Hurry up and light up, I wanna keep smoking." Rachel took a joint and waited for Victoria to light hers so she could light hers.

The prep shrugged and flicked the lighter and then passed it back to Rachel.

The two smoked in silence for a while. They hadn't smoked together in a while, since their sophomore year, since before Victoria let her jealousy get too far.

"What are you even doing here?" In her drug-induced state, Rachel didn't have the patience to be tactful. "You tried to drug me before our play in tenth grade."

Victoria breathed out a puff of smoke. "I did." She said.

"Then what the fuck do you want." Rachel asked, her fuse quickly draining. "If you wanted to bum some weed off me fine, but you didn't have to sit down and smoke with me."

"You told me to sit down." Victoria was definitely soberer than Rachel was but that fact only made Rachel angrier. 

"I don't want you here." She said but she was too high to actually do something about it.

 The prep sighed, "I feel bad you know." She said. "For what I did to you. For what I do still." 

"Is that so?" 

"Yeah." 

Rachel didn't know what to say, she wasn't sure why Victoria had told her of everyone, she had Taylor and Courtney to vent to. 

"Why tell me?" Rachel asked.

Victoria shrugged, "You were around." She replied, taking another hit. "I ran into Max today."

Rachel flinched slightly at the mention of the hipster, "Yeah?"

The photographer nodded, "She looked scared and she came running from the library. I went inside but nothing was in there other than dusty old books and a sharpie that was on the floor." The blonde leaned back, stretching across Rachel's bed. "You know anything about that?"

The aspiring model frowned, "No. Max hasn't spoken to anyone these past few days." She tried really hard to keep the sadness from her voice but she was baked, it wasn't happening. 

Chase fixed her eyes onto the blonde, "Did Rachel Amber finally find another toy?" She asked, raising a brow.

Rachel clenched her fist, "Max isn't a toy." She began but Victoria cut her off.

"Yeah, but Price was." 

The blonde tensed and stared at the prep in shock. Seconds passed before she finally stuttered out. "S-She wasn't." But the argument sounded pathetic even in her own ears.

"Sure." Victoria said, "It's not any of my business anyway."

"I tried to fix it with Chloe." Rachel said, her mind swirling into a pit of self-hatred and guilt. "I tried to fix.." No, she hadn't.

She was too afraid to talk things out because she knew that what she did completely justify Chloe not being friends with her anymore. So instead when Chloe had started to talk about it she kissed the punk, knowing that like all the times before Chloe wouldn't be able to resist. They landed on the bed that night, just as they did all the other times they 'made up' with each other. 

She didn't fix anything. 

She just made it to where it would be too awkward to bring up so Chloe left it alone. And she knew she was doing that.

"Fuck I.." Rachel held her head, tears flowing down her cheeks at an alarming rate. The fog in her mind morphed into images of Chloe. Most were obviously works of her own mind being a dick but then there was the one.

Chloe staring at her, tears in her eyes and her blue eyes wide. Betrayal, love, pain, sorrow glowed in those gorgeous ocean orbs. Her mouth was open in a sob. 

"Rachel? Why?"

She would never be able to unhear that voice, that sorrow, a pained voice that she never knew that Chloe could emanate and hoped she never had to.

That voice that she made her emit. 

"Fuck!" Rachel sobbed, ugly and clear sobs. 

"Rachel, calm down." Victoria sounded frightened. "Shit, I didn't mean to give you a panic attack." The prep ran her fingers through her hair anxiously. "I'll get Max. Don't move." She ordered before she staggered from Rachel's room, leaving the door open.

Rachel curled up, sobbing. "Chloe.. I'm so sorry." She sobbed, "I'm so so sorry." She looked up and saw blue eyes staring back at her. "I didn't mean to hurt you!" She sobbed, "I never wanted-" She choked on her spit and coughed, her breaths coming out rapid. "I never wanted this!"

"Rachel?" She looked up, her vision blurry and the fog playing tricks. 

"I'm so sorry Chlo.. I love you.. I always have." She sobbed. She felt arms wrap around her and cried harder, struggling in that gentle grip.  "I don't deserve you, you deserve so much better. You've done so much for me and I used you." Her body trembled under the strength of her sobbing as she clenched onto "Chloe."  "I love you so much."

"You're okay Rachel." Why didn't she say 'I love you' back? 

Rachel looked up, "I love you." She breathed, willing Chloe to say it back.

"I know Rach." No, there was uncertainty. Even in her drug-induced mind, Rachel could hear it.

"Chloe.."

"Rachel I'm not-" 

Rachel didn't listen, she pressed a harsh kiss against Chloe's lips. It was rough and desperate, it was everything Rachel feared and all Rachel had.

A hand pushed her back, it was gentle yet her body rag-dolled and she slammed back onto the bed. A sea of sudden soberness washed over her and the fog cleared.

Chloe wouldn't have pushed her away so gently. Chloe would have shoved her, Chloe would probably be yelling right now, telling her she can't manipulate her anymore. 

In her high Rachel had one terrifying thought.

That wasn't Chloe.

Her body shot up.

She looked up and her vision, still blurry, cleared. She stared in horror as she recognized the girl before her. Not tall and lanky, not wearing a bullet necklace, tank top, ripped jeans, and boots but short, wearing a Jane Doe t-shirt and jeans with no holes, along with a converse.

Max.

Rachel blinked, then blinked again, trying to see if this was an illusion her doped up mind was creating but when Max offered her a sad smile she was left with a cold sureness. She had admitted to Chloe's best friend, the hipster that was so in love with the punk she didn't even realize it herself, that she was in love with said punk.

She looked into Max's eyes, was there actual concern in those blue eyes or was it a trick of her high? 

"Max." Her voice was hoarse, she lapped at her lips trying to rid herself of cottonmouth.

Max blinked, her eyes full of concern. "Rach.." Her voice was soft, "Are you okay?"

No. Not by a long shot. "Water." Rachel rasped, wanting Max to leave so she could think, even for a brief time.

Max nodded, "I'll go get you some." She said and moved out of the aspiring model's room.

Rachel tugged at her golden tresses. What the fuck was she thinking? This was pointless, not forcing Chloe to talk to her able shit was pointless but she knew Chloe. If she tried to force the punk into a corner it would just damage them farther beyond repair. 

And Rachel didn't want that. God, did Rachel not want that. She loved Chloe, she always had. From the day they met in that stupid windmill Rachel was head-over-heels. She had started all this, she was the first link in a broken chain.

She hated it. She hated the idea of love. Because it was a concept that locked her to one place and Rachel had been fighting control since sophomore year. Love was something that she watched destroy the only good person in her life, her step-mom, and she wasn't willing to allow herself to fall to the same fate. 

Rachel was scared. It was as simple as that. Rachel Dawn Amber, true Queen of Blackwell, Queen of Arcadia Bay really, Junkyard Queen, the DA's perfect daughter, was scared of love. Scared of the commitment and responsibility it held. Scared of being locked down enough to not be able to leave Arcadia Bay and all of its bad memories behind. 

The high was receding and Amber was crashing hard. She never self-harmed in her life- unless you counted getting piss-drunk and higher than Mt. Everest- but today she was considering it. She was thankful when Max walked back in, brandishing a cold bottle of clear liquid.

The hipster offered it silently and Rachel smiled in an attempt to diffuse the obvious tension as she took the water. She chugged it and tossed the plastic container down onto the floor. 

Max sat on the bed, on the edge as if she was afraid of invading Rachel's personal space. 

It was odd, Rachel never thought about her own personal space. No one assumed she had any due to her sexual nature. Her heart skipped a beat, Max was too good for her.

Max and Chloe both were too good for her.

"Rachel." The photographer's voice jolted her from her thoughts. She drew her hazel eyes to meet baby blue. "Are you okay?" 

"No." Rachel gave a dry laugh. "No. not at all."

"Do you want to talk about it?" Max asked, hesitant. Like a mouse.

Rachel closed her eyes, breathing deeply. 

"I'm so confused Max." Her mouth moved on its own. She was in touch with her emotions, she knew what triggered all this. It was her stupid tendency to push boundaries, to test the limits of people who she knew could handle it. 

Or thought could handle it.

She saw the fear and uncertainty in Max's face when she pulled away. The shock was evident. What was supposed to be a meaningless tease turned into something that Rachel wasn't ready to admit but knew was true. Something she hadn't come to terms with.

Her feelings for Max.

She had written them off, excused them as thinking the hipster's mannerisms were cute. But the more she talked to Max the more she fell for her, just like she did with Chloe.

Just like how she continues to with Chloe.

She had miscalculated, misjudged. She was so afraid of losing and hurting people after what happened between her and Chloe six months ago, she pledged to herself that she would never intentionally or unintentionally hurt someone ever again. 

Rachel was manipulative by nature, but instead of using it to cause chaos she used it to try to help people. To show them how much fun they could have if they just let go. She used people sure, but she wanted it to be a beneficial relationship. Not a parasitic one.

Not like her relationship with Chloe. The one where she took everything the punk had to offer and then, in stupid desperation, threw away and destroyed everything that they had in one fell swoop.

"Is it possible to love more than one person?" 

Max

The hipster rose a brow at Rachel's question. 

She pondered for a moment before the photographer nodded. "I guess yeah you could." She murmured, briefly wondering about her own romantic feelings. 

Rachel

Rachel laughed, "I'm such an idiot." Her voice was bitter, angry. 

"That's not true, you're smart Rach. You're just hurting." Max crawled onto the bed and sat in front of the model. "You're perfect and amazing the way you are Rachel, you don't have to change yourself."

Rachel shook her head, "That's not what I want to do. Well, not much anyway." Rachel sighed heavily. "It's so fucked up Max. I did terrible things to Chloe. I used her. Completely. I lead her on and then, just because I couldn't fucking control myself, I slept with her drug dealer to get some free weed." The blonde's voice was turning hysteric. Max reached over and intertwined their fingers, rubbing Rachel's wrist.

The blonde wanted to melt into that contact, she wanted to savor the warmth it brought to her chest that Max cared enough to try to ground her. But, she knew she had to get this all off her chest, she needed to say something. "Frank loved me, I knew he did. He wasn't putting pressure on me about it, but he would let touches linger to long, eye contact last a fraction of a second more than it needed to. It was a stupid mistake, Chloe and I had gotten in an argument about something that didn't matter- fuck I don't even remember what it was." Rachel gave a breathy and slightly crazed laugh. "We fought and I rushed to my dorm. I needed something to calm me down but there wasn't any way of getting booze that night and I smoked my last joint." She ran her fingers through her hair anxiously, her body going back into the same panic she felt that day. "It was so fucking loud Max, my mind wouldn't shut up. So I.. I called up Frank and asked him if we could meet to make a deal." She remembered how shocked he sounded, along with a twinge of happiness. She remembered thinking it was sweet, cute almost. "We met and he handed me the weed and named his price. I had nothing on me and Chloe ruined Franks' generosity. He would take his weed back if I didn't pay up or at least harass me about it and I couldn't do either so I.." A lump formed in her throat and she swallowed it down. "So I flirted with him and brought him to bed. The sex wasn't bad, it was pretty great but I.." She laughed, humorless and dry. "God, I woke up next to him and I was horrified." She was crying again and she let Max rub the tears away. "I told him that this shouldn't have happened and I left, he tried to get me back but I cut bridges with him as much as I could. I felt so guilty. Chloe found out, I think she saw me and Frank's texts, and we got into a huge fight. She ignored me for six months, Max, she completely cut me out of her life. The week you came back was the first week we actually started talking again, we had hung out the day before but it was full of tension and bad vibes. It was only because of you that I and Chloe are even getting along." 

Max was quiet and Rachel felt anxiety stab at her heart, she had miscalculated again. She had misjudged yet again. Now Max was going to leave and Rachel would be alone again. Her mind worked too fast but all functionality short-circuited when Max pressed a small kiss to her lips.

And Rachel fell in love. It was fact, proven, incontestible, undeniable. Rachel Dawn Amber fell in love with Maxine Caulfield right then and there. 

Rachel felt tears roll down her cheeks, knowing that this would further complicate things but not caring because the warmth of Max was comforting. The smell of vanilla wrapped around her mind, making her dizzy and tired. Her body swayed and she was pushed back onto the bed. She closed her eyes and looked up, Max was eyeing her with gentle eyes that shone with concern. She searched for love or affection but.. she...was...so..tired...

So she fell in a blissful unconsciousness, filled with kind blue eyes and impossibly soft lips. 

Max

The brunette sighed, leaning back to sit on her legs. She eyed the sleeping Rachel for a few moments and ran her fingers through her hair. 

Why did I kiss her? Max closed her eyes. She knew the answer, it had been an instinct. She saw Rachel thinking herself into a panic again and her brain wracked for something to do and that was the first idea to come to mind. 

But why was that the first idea? Max didn't know and right now her brain was too fried to come up with a solution. 

She stood up and stretched, debating if she should just sleep in Rachel's room for a bit or if she should go back to her dorm. She decided on the former, thinking that the blonde needed someone to be there right now and set off to her room to grab her pillow and a change of clothes. 

With a plan, she set out to her dorm and collected the things she needed. As she wondered about the room her eyes found the driver from the library. She hadn't looked at it yet, she almost didn't want to. 

Her... intel? had said that it was 'proof'. 

She took the driver, knowing that Rachel had an old laptop that she never used and shoved it into her pocket. Tomorrow she would look at this so-called proof with Chloe and Rachel. 

She sighed and walked back to Rachel's dorm, pausing as she felt eyes on her. She looked around, not seeing anyone in the hallway. Her phone buzzed in her pocket.

Unknown

sent at 12:47

Unknown: I see you Max, you look confused.

Max swallowed her fear and quickly typed back.

Max: Who are you?

Unknown: Does it matter? I know things you don't. I know things you need to take down the rat.

Max: Are you Jefferson?

Unknown: No, he's the rat. I cannot tell you who I am but I can tell you some things. You have a lot of questions Max, don't you?

Max looked around, still feeling eyes on her.

Max: Where are you?

Unknown: Close but not too close. I'm watching you. 

Max: Well stop, it's creepy.

Unknown: Sure.

And like that, Max didn't feel eyes, yet her skin crawled with uncomfortableness. She moved into Rachel's room and sat on the blonde's bed, pressing her back onto the headboard.

Max: Are you my age?

Unknown: That would be telling, but yes. I'm your age. Trust me a little more now?

Max: Not in the slightest.

Unknown: That's probably wise, these days no one is trustworthy, not even your precious Rachel Amber.

Max tensed.

Max: You know Rachel?

Unknown: Everyone knows Rachel in this town.

They had a fair point, but Max didn't like the insinuation that the text had.

Max: What do you know of her?

Unknown: Her dad's the DA and her mom is some drug addict that left her when she was young. Her mother came back a few years ago to buy more drugs from Frank and Rachel caught him cheating on who she thought to be her real mother. Ever since then Rachel and her dad don't get along so well. Heard she got in some trouble with a lady friend of hers, they stopped talking for a long time. I wondered what had happened, but they're talking again now, aren't they?

Max: How do you know this?

Unknown: Sources. Like I said Max, I know much more than you do.

Max let out a frustrated huff, her hand twitching.

Max: What do you have against Mark?

Her messenger didn't respond right away. As soon as she was about to put her phone up a text popped onto her screen.

Unknown: He took something from me that he can't ever pay back

Max felt her gut clench, her blood running cold.

Max: Did he.. rape you?

Max: You don't have to answer if you don't want to.

Unknown: Yes. 

Max felt tears roll down her cheek, disgust of Mark growing. 

Max: I'm so sorry.

Unknown: He'll pay. He'll be sorry. I know you haven't checked the driver, you should soon. Later today. With Rachel and that blue haired chick. Text me once you do. 

Max: Sure. 

Unknown: I'll be waiting.

Max put her phone up and rubbed at her face. Another victim of Mark Jefferson. How many more people had he hurt? Max didn't want to think about it.

She grabbed her phone and clicked Chloe's name. 

"Yo, Maximus. I was wondering where you had disappeared. Finally remembered you have friends?" Chloe was teasing her, she knew that, but the photographer felt a stab of guilt.

"Sorry Chlo.." She said, sounding sort of like a beaten puppy. 

"Don't worry about it Max, I'm just dicking with you." Chloe said quickly and Max could see the gentle smile on her face, her eyes lit with amusement and just a touch of panic because Chloe never liked to upset Max. "What's up though? I haven't heard from you in a hot second."

"Sorry again, classes have been kicking my ass." Max said, shifting her weight awkwardly.

"You're telling me, more and more clients are showing up for me. The Butterfly is in hella bidness." The photographer smiled, hearing the grin in Chloe's cocky voice.

"Well, are you free for this weekend?" Max asked, "I need to talk to you and Rachel, about something serious." 

Chloe was quiet for a few moments before she spoke, "Yeah, I could come over. Are you with Rachel right now?" The punk sounded... apprehensive. Max figured that the two hadn't spoken about anything yet but she didn't have the energy to bring it up.

"Yeah, she had a bad trip though, freaked out." Max replied. Upon hearing Chloe's sharp intake of breath, the brunette quickly went on. "She's okay now, I got her water and aired out the room, she's asleep right now." She tossed a glance towards the blonde, who was, true to her word, still asleep. 

"Did she..." Chloe hesitated, "Did she say anything stupid?" 

Max paused, briefly toying with the idea of telling Chloe about what Rachel said but decided that she didn't want to further complicate things between the two. "No, she didn't say much of anything. I mean she talked but.. nothing really made sense."

Chloe hummed with understanding and Max felt guilty that she lied to Chloe. The delinquent was so trusting of her, believed Max's word without hesitance. The hipster tried to take solace in the fact that she was simply trying to help and that there would be a day where she would be able to tell Chloe but right now the strings holding the bluenette and blonde were taut as it was. Max didn't want to be the cause of it snapping.

"Alright then, Super Max-" Chloe grunted, obviously standing up, "I'll be there in a few. Gonna go home and shower first, I hella reek."

"Gross." Max said, rolling her eyes. "How do you even sweat that much, all you do is sit and draw on people with a needle."

"And those people paid good money for a hella rocking tattoo and they're watching every move you make. It's hella nerve-wracking Max, not as easy as everyone thinks it is." Chloe shot back.

The photographer frowned, "Sorry Chlo, I didn't mean for it to sound like you don't do anything. I'm hella proud of you, y'know. If you told me five years ago from today that my best friend was gonna own a tattoo shop that was super popular..." Max drew off, thinking for a moment. "I-I'd probably believe them. Cause you can do anything." 

"Aw' shucks, yer' makin' me blush." Chloe teased, opting for a really terrible southern accent. 

"Oh shut up." Max blushed out of embarrassment and laughed, "God, you suck." 

Chloe laughed with her before the two calmed down, sighing in unison into their respective receivers. 

"Hey, Max?" Chloe spoke up.

"Hm?" Max hummed.

"Thanks." Max felt her heart stutter, she could just see the genuine smile on Chloe's face, feel her eyes looking at her with affection. "You always pushed me to be better than what I was." Feel her hand rubbing the photographer's wrist and look away because Chloe sucked at feelings. "I guess that's what kinda spurred me on. I was fucked up for a while after you left but Rach kinda helped." See her shifting her weight because Chloe really sucked at feelings. "Once I realized I wasn't ever going to get out of this shithole anytime soon, I figured I might as well make something out of it. If I couldn't leave the town with too many bad memories then I was gonna make better ones." 

Max smiled, "Is that why you made the Butterfly?"

"Yeah," She was nodding, Max could sense it. "At least part of it. Rachel was the first one to have the idea actually, she saw one of my sketchbooks and my tags were all over the 'Bay and mentioned it to me. Said if I could fix up a junkyard truck, I should be able to make a kickass tattoo parlor. We talked about leaving for a long time, ditching this place and heading to Los Angelos, but I think we both knew it wasn't gonna happen. We didn't have the money, simple as that. I thought about using the money I borrowed to disappear with her but when I suggested the idea Rachel kinda blew me off. She said that I should use it to better myself, not to run away from my issues." Chloe sounded bitter and sheepish. "I learned a few days later that she slept with the guy I borrowed the money from." 

"Frank?" Max asked.

"How'd you know?" The delinquent sounded shocked.

"Rachel said his name when she was tripping." Max figured she could admit that, "She said he was a mistake." Also true, "A really bad one." 

Chloe snorted, "Least she admits it." 

Max frowned, "Chloe.. she's not a bad person. She really does feel bad for what happened." 

"Can we not talk about this?" Chloe grumbled, "I'm having a good day."

Max let out a rough sigh, "Fine Chlo. Can you be here soon?"

"Yeah."

"Alright, see you then." Max said, clicking the hang up button.

Chloe

"Bye." Guilt swam in her gut. Max was right, Chloe told herself, She's always right! But the rebellious  teenager that she never grew out of screamed that Rachel made her choices and that she deserved whatever guilt came with them.

But then the softer side of her reasoned that Rachel had suffered enough and Max was right, they needed to talk about shit.

Chloe let out a loud groan, gripping onto the hard leather of her steering wheel. This shit was getting to deep and too complicated. She had to talk to Rachel at some point, but she was afraid to bring the past up. Mostly because it still hurt, despite all the shit that Rachel pulled on her Chloe didn't want to lose her.

She loved Rachel, she had fallen for her the night they made out under a streetlamp or at some point before. She had helped Chloe at her lowest point and the punk owed the blonde her life, because at some point she really was ready to end it. 

Chloe couldn't let that go.

The pulled into her apartment complex's parking lot and parked in her normal spot. She even tagged it with some spray paint, an image of a butterfly, when she first moved here. The landlord wasn't happy but he got over it. She got out of the car and climbed up the stairs to her apartment but paused when she saw a familiar face standing outside her door.

Frank.

The man was smoking, his dog laying at his feet. Pompidou looked up and growled, he never was fond of Chloe, causing Frank to shush him and look at the punk.

"What the fuck man?" Chloe grumbled, "How long have you been here?"

Frank shrugged, "Does it matter?"

"Kinda." Chloe shoved him out of the way so she could unlock her door. She opened it and walked inside, shedding her tanktop as Frank followed her with his mutt on his heels. She glanced at the man who looked around. "Oh yeah, sure, make yourself at home." She said, her voice dripping with sarcasm, "Not like I care about privacy or whatever." She walked back into her bedroom and grabbed a change of clothes.

"Cut the sarcasm Bulldog," Price sat on her couch, "I wanna talk business." 

"Well, wait a fucking second. I'm showering, don't eat or touch my shit." Chloe ordered firmly as she moved into her bathroom.

She didn't hear Franks' response, but his tone was agreeing. She didn't have time to deal with him, she needed and wanted to get to Max. She thought of ways to get rid of the drug dealer but came out blank, Frank was persistent, if he couldn't talk now he would keep coming back and she didn't want to deal with his name being associated with her place of work if he went that far. Sighing, she washed her hair, shaved, and washed her body in a span of around twenty minutes and tossed on a clean bra, a white tanktop with a wolf on it, and some ripped jeans and clean socks. She switched her beanie for a snap-back, put some clean socks on, and slipped on her boots. 

She walked out of the bathroom and rose a brow at Frank who was drinking a beer. 

"What did I tell you," She grabbed the bottle out of his hand, "about touching my shit?" She wasn't truly annoyed, she just liked the irritation on Franks' face.

"You were taking to damn long." He huffed. "Anyway, I wanted to ask you somethin'" 

Chloe rose a brow as she moved behind the couch into the tiled kitchen. She put the beer back into her refridgerator and then leaned her elbows beside Franks head. "Shoot." 

Frank looked up at her, "What do you know about Nathan Prescott?" 

Chloe paused, taken aback. "He was bullied in sophomore year and then turned into an asshole. I mean he was always an asshole but he got worse." She rose to her full height, "Think he's majoring in photography and he's a part of a shitty club called the Vortex Club. The club host parties that he pays for cause his daddy owns the campus basically. His pop isn't a nice man, either, heard rumors that he left Nathan unattended most of his childhood and only talks to the kid when he's pissed about something." Chloe shrugged, "All in all not much. He's best friends with Victoria and he's hella into drugs." 

Frank frowned, "He's been... weird lately. He's been distracted most of the time we do our deals and he's only been taking weed. He normally gets stronger shit." The deal leaned forward, his brows furrowed, "He said he's watching somebody. Someone who can control Chaos Theory." 

Chloe blinked, "Shit happens because shit happens. That's what Chaos Theory is, it's something that you can't control or alter, unless you can control time itself." 

Frank looked at her, "I'm not lacing his shit, I've been tempted though. Anyway I say keep whatever friends you have at Blackwell close to you."

"You think he's talking about Rachel?" Chloe considered it but she didn't think so.

Frank looked away, "Don't you have other friends?"

Chloe froze. "That creep better keep away from Max if he knows what's good for him." She snarled. "Look, Frank, I gotta go. Is this all you wanted to talk about? Gossiping about one of your customers?"

Frank stood, "I'm just saying he's tripping balls right now. I figured since you have people who go to school with him I'd tell you."

"You're worried about Rachel." Chloe accused.

Frank growled, "I loved her Chloe." He said, "I still love her. Even if she doesn't want anything to do with me." 

"I loved her too." Chloe growled back, clenching her fists. "I loved her before you two even-" She cut herself off, feeling tears stinging behind her eyes. She blinked them away and glared at Frank, "Before you two even fucked behind my back." She spat.

Frank looked visibly wounded, "Chloe, I apologized for that. I told you, she came onto me."

"And because your a fucking pig you took the bait." Chloe looked away, "Get out of my house Frank, get out of my life, I don't want to see you anymore. All you ever fucking bring is bad memories."

Frank frowned and took a small breath. "I'm sorry Chloe, I wish we could go back to how we were before. We were friends once."

"It's your fault, I didn't fuck this up." Chloe knew that wasn't quite true but at this point she just wanted the man to leave. "I didn't fuck someone knowing that someone you considered a friend was in love with her." Chloe was trembling with anger and sorrow.

The drug-dealer looked away, "I wouldn't take it back." He said, "But I wish it could have been different. I can't do anything to help make it up to you, I give you free weed, I gave you that ten-thousand so you could buy that building, I don't have anything else to give. How many times do I have to apologize to convince you I'm sorry?" 

"You can get on your knees." Chloe advanced on him, snarling out the words. "You can grovel and kiss my shoes for as long as you fucking want." She glared at him with icy hate, "But you can't change the past Bowers. You took my trust and betrayed it, you knew I loved her, you knew and didn't care. All because she was some cheap fuck!" She was shouting but she didn't care, "You want to know what you can do to earn my forgiveness?" Frank looked at her with round eyes, looking more like the innocent Frank Chloe knew before he changed. "You can run with your tail between your legs. You can hide your face and let me never see you again." She spat, "I never wanna hear of Frank Bowers, I want you to cease to exist." She looked away, "Get out of my house." 

Frank stared at her before he stood, Chloe met his eyes and felt rattled as she saw genuine hurt and sorrow in them. He looked like every dog that he's ever saved from mills and dog-fighting. Scared, alone, wanting nothing but love but not knowing how to do anything but fight.

She watched him leave, Pompidou in his stead and soon the sound of his trailer disappeared.

Chloe stood alone in her living room, her mind swimming with guilt and anger when her phone ringed.

She fished it out of her pocket and saw a text from Max.

Maximus: Yo, you coming?

Chloe took a breath to ground herself, reminding her brain that Max needed her to be chill right now before she quickly typed a reply.

Captain Price: Yeah, just give me a sec

Chapter Text

Rachel's head swam for a moment as she rose from her slumber. She looked around groggily as her vision came into focus and she looked around. She looked up and saw Max was typing away on her laptop, her brow furrowed in concentration. Rachel watched her work for a few moments before she looked around again, trying to remember when she had fallen asleep. 

She didn't remember much of what happened in her smoke session but she knew she had freaked out, she felt drained and her head and eyes hurt. She had been crying hard, but she couldn't remember what about. Rachel concentrated and brief images and memories began to present themselves in the fog of her mind but they weren't significant. One memory came to the forefront, making her blink in shock. 

The kiss.

Max had kissed her.

Albeit, it wasn't like Chloe's kisses; Chloe's kisses left her needy and hot. Left her wondering what more she could be doing with the punk.

Max's made her sleep with a smile on her face, made her swim in a sea of vanilla and kept her dreams peaceful. No sexual intentions, no needy hands, desperate begs, or explorative tongues. 

She wouldn't have it any other way. 

Rachel rose to a sitting position and Max snapped out of her trance. 

"Shit didn't know you were awake." Max smiled kindly at her and Rachel's heart did a flip. "You okay? I could get you another bottle of water. Kate's coming by with tea soon and Dana wanted to stop by once you woke up."

"Probably to yell at me." Rachel laughed a bit and held her head. "Tea sounds awesome right now, and some painkillers." 

Max moved her laptop off her lap and reached into a drawer, grabbing two tabs of aspirin from the bottle Rachel kept. The blonde was an avid drinker and partier and had wisened up enough to keep a bottle accessible and in a drawer she always opened in the morning. The hipster handed them over and Rachel took them dry. 

"Thanks." It wasn't instant relief, but Rachel knew they would work. 

Max nodded, "Chloe's coming over." 

Chloe.. 

I'm so sorry Chlo... I love you, I always have.. Rachel jolted at the sudden memory, she looked at Max in panic as she began to remember the rest of her freakout.

"Rachel." She snapped back into reality and blinked at the hipster. Max was smiling, her eyes knowing. "I didn't say anything, I figure that you two can talk about it. It doesn't have to be today, or tomorrow, or even the next day." Max frowned, "But, it has to happen and it has to happen soon. I'm in some deep stuff right now and I need both of your guy's help to make Mark pay, but if there's tension or bad vibes.." She trailed off but Rachel didn't need her to finish.

"I know Max." Rachel looked away, "I've always known but.. I'm scared."

"Scared of what?" A curious, angry, motherly voice broke through. "Because if it isn't of what I'm going to do to you, you had better reconsider." 

Rachel tossed the dirty blonde a crooked smile, "Hey Dana." She said quietly.

The girl looked pissed and worried, "Rachel what the fuck were you thinking? You can't smoke by yourself, not after..." She shuffled, "The fight." 

Rachel knew what she was talking about. During the fight she and Chloe had, she had smoked almost every day, leaving herself to have terrible trips. Dana had banned her from smoking alone after the sixth one in a week. 

The blonde shrugged, not knowing what to say because there wasn't much she could. 

Dana sighed roughly and wrapped her arms around the blonde. "You're an idiot. You need to stop doing this to yourself, you're gonna end up killing yourself one day." She cupped Rachel's face in her hands and the blonde closed her eyes, trembling lightly because Rose used to do this whenever she came home hammered. "Rach, look at me."

The aspiring model looked up, gazing into Dana's blue eyes. She wasn't mad, not truly. She was mad at Rachel's vices, the fact that Rachel felt so lost that she had fallen back on her crutches. She was mad that Rachel felt so horrible that she tortured herself to this point. 

She loved Rachel, like a daughter or a little sister. And she didn't want to lose her.

Rachel closed her eyes again, she didn't want to peek into Dana's soul again. It was too much for her, she wasn't ready to accept that people actually cared about her and that what she was doing wasn't only hurting her.

Dana tapped her forehead to Rachel's, "I'm taking your weed away again and I don't want you sleeping alone."

Rachel nodded, Dana had done the same thing when she and Chloe were fighting.

Dana sighed shakily and pulled back. "I'll go get Kate, smells like the tea is done." She moved from the dorm and Rachel looked out of the door to see that people were peeking inside Rachel's room. Her eyes met with Juliet's but the light brunette disappeared. 

She looked worried too. 

"Where's Vic?" Rachel asked, looking at Max who had given the two privacy and was back at typing on her laptop.

Max looked up, "Vic? You mean Victoria?" She pondered for a moment, "Said something about going over to Nathans'" The door to the dorms opened and closed and shouting from the hall made the two girls look up.

"What the fuck chick?" Nathan.

"What the hell is wrong with you?!" Victoria.

"Tell me the truth, you shithead!" Chloe.

Chloe!

Rachel flew to her feet, getting hit with a wave of dizziness and staggered out into the hall.

Chloe had Nathan by the scruff of his shirt, her fist drawn back to strike. Her face was deadly.

"Chloe what the fuck?" Max cried, pushing past the blonde, who wasn't much use, and grabbed her friend's wrist. "Let him go."

Chloe turned and Rachel was convinced she was going to snap like she normally did but when she saw Max her expression shifted entirely.

Rachel watched in amazement as the sharpness of Chloe's expression melted away as if it hadn't ever been there in the first place. Her brows relaxed and furrowed not in anger, but guilt and sadness. Her mouth relaxed into a slight frown. Her hands relaxed and she let go of Nathan's shirt.

The prep-boy stumbled back and blinked in shock. He, like Rachel, never seen the punk switch like that on a dime. 

Max 

Max brushed her fingers along the punk's wrist, interlocking their fingers and massaging the delinquent's wrist with her thumbs. She gazed into Chloe's ocean eyes, confusing swimming in her gaze. 

What set you off? She thought.

Chloe looked at her, her face like a guilty puppy's. She was protecting Max, Max knew that expression. It was the same she had when she had beaten someone up in middle school for making the hipster cry. 

Max leaned up and tapped her forehead against Chloe's breathing out slowly. Chloe sighed.

"Sorry." She said gruffly, her voice still rough from anger. 

"I'm not the one you should be apologizing to dork." Max said affectionately, giving the punk a smile.

Chloe looked at her and couldn't help it. She returned the smile, albeit it was small and crooked.

And like that, the tension around Chloe faded, like it wasn't ever there. Chloe pulled Max close, so that their stomachs were touching and wrapped her arms around the hipster's waist. She closed her eyes as she relaxed into the forehead touch completely, Max gently touching the bluenettes' face, cupping her cheeks to do so.

All of a sudden, they were kids again. Max was a tiny hipster calming down her pitbull of a best friend, whose knuckles were bloody and her temperament too snappy for even adults to feel comfortable getting close to when she was charged up like she was.

They stayed like that until a cough made Chloe look up.

"Hate to break it to you, Mad Max, but people are staring." She gave Max a perverted smirk, "Should we give them a show?" She teased.

Max flushed and shoved the punk away, making the tattoo artist howl in laughter. "Dog, way to ruin a moment! You suck major balls." She grumbled, pouting and looking away.

"You're too cute to take seriously when you're mad." Chloe said, making Max flush and pout deeper. 

"I'm not cute." The hipster grumbled.

"You're right." Chloe nudged her, "You're hella adorable." She winked and Max let out a loud groan.

"Go into the room." She shoved the laughing teen into Rachel's room, "And stop starting fights!"

The hipster turned to Nathan, "I'm sorry about her." She apologized, even if this guy was a dick to her she didn't want to give him another reason to target her. "She's really sweet once you get past all of the asshole." She tossed a glare towards the door, trying to calm her heartbeat.

Nathan blinked, looking unsure of how to take all this in. "How the fuck did you do that?"

Max perked up, tilting her head. "Do what?"

Nathan gestured wildly, "That psychopath was this close to beating me into a bloody pulp and one touch from you made her melt into.." He seemed to struggle for a word, "into a harmless puppy!" 

Max blinked, "That's all Chloe is." She looked back at the room again, seeing that Rachel had gone back inside. "She's mostly harmless."

"She's beaten the shit out of people here on more than one occasion." Nathan growled.

Max tossed him a crooked smile, "I said mostly." She said with an awkward giggle. 

Nathan snorted and he looked at Victoria.

The prep girl huffed, "Keep your dog on a chain then." She growled at Max, "She shouldn't even be on campus."

"And he," Max nodded to Nathan, "Shouldn't be in the girl dormitory, no matter if his father owns them." She crossed her arms, steeling herself. "Keep this quiet and nothing will happen."

Victoria narrowed her eyes before she snorted, "Whatever hipster." She spun on her heel and began to walk back towards her dorm before she paused. "How's Mrs. Perfect?" She asked.

"Why do you care?" Max rose a brow, "You don't like anyone outside your circle."

Victoria let out an annoyed huff, "I'm not heartless Max, I have feelings." She scratched her arm, "And I don't hate you." She said slowly, "You just bother me." 

"Wow, I was almost moved." Max snarked, rolling her eyes.

"God, can't you just-" Victoria rounded on her, glaring venomously. "You're a good photographer Max," She huffed, catching Max off-guard with the sudden non-backhanded compliment. "You impress me despite being so far underneath my status in society. You worked your ass off to come here and you got Mark's favor." Max tensed at the teacher's name but forced herself to relax. "You're the biggest threat I've got." She looked away, "And you stand up to my bullshit, all the other idiots here don't have balls as big as yours." 

Max rose a brow, "Glad you think their so big Vic." She teased, making the blonde flush and open her mouth to retort. The photographer held her hands up in surrender, "You're photos are fine Victoria. And unlike me, you actually put them out, you're ten times braver than I am." She gave a laugh. "You're balls have got to be like, a hundred times bigger." She went on, grinning at the prep.

Victoria eyed her silently before she snorted, though it sounded suspiciously like a covered up laugh, and smiled back. "Yeah, whatever." But there was gratefulness in her tone. 

"Rachel's fine." Max said, "Or at least she will be." 

Victoria snorted, "She'd better. She's the only decent model in this fucking school." With that, she walked towards her dorm. Nathan followed her more slowly before he turned and looked at Max.

"Control the pitbull and now the snake." He mused, raising his brow. "You're weird Max." 

Max chuckled. "So I've been told." She smiled at him, "Give Victoria a few days and it'll be a cat and mouse game again."

"Nah," Nathan shook his head, "That was genuine respect." He gave a shrug, "Sorry for being a dick." He said, giving Max a smile. "I'll see you around Max." With that he followed the blonde, disappearing into her room.

Max sighed softly and glanced around, seeing that many of the students had either moved on or were whispering, gazing at the hipster in amazement. 

Her eyes found Kate, who was slipping out of her room with a cup. 

"Tea?" Max greeted, smiling.

Kate nodded, returning her smile. "I see you got onto Victoria's good side." She said, tossing a glance after the girl.

Max snorted, "I don't know if Victoria has a good side but I guess." Max shrugged, "Nathan said I earned her respect. Don't know what I did." she took the cup from Kate's hand and the Christian snorted.

"You stood up to her. You didn't give in, everyone else does." Kate smiled, "Everyone except Nathan, you, and I. Even Taylor and Courtney let themselves get walked over sometimes." She gave the two girls a glance. They were gossiping, tossing Max suspicious looks. "She needs people who see past that facade' she puts up in her life." 

Max blinked, her mind connecting that to how she was with Chloe. Everyone thought that Chloe was this unpredictable rabid animal; Nathan's nickname of pitbull was pretty accurate she thought.

Big and scary from the outside, with a mighty bark and a sharper bite. But on the inside she was truly gentle and just needed the right amount of love, turning into more of a harmless puppy when it was received. 

"That's why she has you." Max said, "You teach her things that no one else has." Kate blushed.

"I try." She admitted.

The photographer laughed, "She's lucky."

Kate smiled, "Yeah? So is Chloe."

Now it was Max's turn to blush. "Dog, I can't believe everyone saw that." She covered her face. "Seems like Chloe's facade has been permanently tarnished."

Kate laughed, "She'll forgive you, I think." She smiled, "That was pretty amazing though, and cute. You like her?"

Max stuttered. "W-What? N-no? Y-Yes?" The hipster thought for a moment, "I dunno." She rubbed the back of her neck, "I guess? I haven't really thought about it."

Kate blinked, "Well you should, maybe then you'll notice."

Max looked up, "Notice what?" She asked, but Kate was already making her way to her room.

The Christian tossed her an all-too-knowing smile that made Max feel somewhat uncomfortable. "You'll know when you notice." She winked and closed her door, leaving Max standing in the hall, one hand holding a cup of hot tea and the other frozen on her neck.

Max roused herself and thought about Kate's words, anxiety scratching at her stomach. Notice what? 

She sighed and moved into Rachel's dorm, closing and locking the door. 

Chloe was laying on the bed beside Rachel, who sat up as Max offered her the cup.

"Remind me to kiss Kate." Rachel said, "God, that girl is a literal angel." 

Chloe rose a brow, "I see her with Vic all the time, going to the coffee shop across the street. They're a pretty cute couple, Victoria is totally into her."

Max blinked, "Seems the feeling is mutual then." 

Rachel snorted, "About time, those two are not subtle at all with their staring." 

Max laughed slightly before she climbed onto the bed, sitting on it. She looked at Chloe and Rachel silently for a few moments before she sighed. 

"So," Chloe prompted, "What's up Super Max?"

"Close the blinds." Max ordered and Chloe followed it quickly before returning to her spot. "Alright, so you guys know how I've been trying to expose Jefferson?"

"Yeah?" Rachel asked, "Can you do it yet?"

"No," Max said, "Well, I don't know. I've been getting these texts, by an unknown number." she showed them a picture of the very first text she received. 

The two read it and Chloe immediately growled. 

"That's Jefferson."

Rachel nodded in agreement but Max shook her head.

"That's what I thought at first," She said, "But then, today I got these texts." She switched over to her inbox and tapped on the unknown number, she passed her phone over to Chloe and Rachel leaned over, reading the texts with the punk.

Chloe's brow furrowed, "It could be a trap." She pointed out.

Max pulled out the driver, "One way to find out." She said, "He said that this has proof of Mark being a bad guy. Why would he give me anything that I could use to expose him?"

Chloe tilted her head, "Cockiness?"

"No." Rachel's voice was small, "No, Mark takes every precaution he can ensure he won't be caught. Even if he gave Max even the most cryptic of information, if she can tie its traces back to him he wouldn't make the risk. If this driver really does contain something it means we can confirm that it's not him."

Chloe furrowed her brow, "Alright, but what if it doesn't contain information and has a giant virus or something on it?" 

Max frowned, she hadn't thought about it.

"Use my extra laptop." Rachel said, making Max look up. "It's brand new but I haven't ever used it. My dad gave it to me." Her voice was filled with bitterness. 

Max rose a brow and glanced at Chloe for guidance. The delinquent shook her head, this was something Rachel would have to tell Max if she wanted to know. The hipster looked around and saw the laptop on the floor. She picked it up and opened it, brushing off the dust and unlocked it. 

She looked up at the two girls, taking a breath to steady herself, and plugged the driver into the laptop. 

The information downloaded quickly and Max was brought up to a document.

What she saw horrified and disgusted her.

Pictures of girls, pictures of files with names. She felt Rachel and Chloe looking over her shoulders.

"What the fuck is this?" Chloe asked, sounding horrified.

Max scrolled down and almost vomited. 

"No..." Rachel said, her tone stunned.

It was a picture of Rachel naked, Jefferson was still inside her. Blood and semen were around her and Rachel was unconscious. 

"Who the fuck does this?" Chloe asked, voice shaking with anger and sadness, "What kind of world does this?"

Max shook her head and scrolled past the awful picture to some text.

She blinked and read it out loud.

"Mark Jefferson's first real victim is Rachel Dawn Amber. He lured her to his house with the guise of a photo shoot that could kickstart her wish to be a model and then raped her until she fell unconscious. She woke up an hour after he had his way with her and he drove her home." She looked at Rachel.

"It's true." Rachel murmured, "All of it."

Max felt sick but she forced herself to keep reading. 

"Since Rachel, he has been preying on other girls. He made advances to one Kate Marsh, who had not fallen for his traps. Another victim of Mark Jefferson is Victoria Chase, who is his most recent."

Max scrolled down and felt a sob rise in her throat.

Victoria was unconscious, tears and mascara staining her face, blood was around her and Jeffersons erection was standing up proudly despite the monstrous atrocities it had just committed. 

"Victoria, oh god." Chloe cried. 

"Victoria had stayed behind, trying to fox her way into a better grade when Jefferson struck. He pinned her onto one of the tables and silenced her screams with a shirt. She passed out because of the brutality, much like Rachel, of his actions and was discarded outside of the dorms. She went to her friend Kate Marsh, who let her in quickly. Chase warned the girl not to ever allow Jefferson to get her alone and Marsh honors those wishes as best she can." Max read, bile rising in her throat. 

"He's disgusting. This is proof." Chloe said, shooting to her feet. "We could go to the police right now."

"No, we couldn't. This doesn't have solid evidence, to the police, this would be accusations with no real lead." Rachel said, "We need something that we can pin on him without a shadow of a doubt."

Max nodded, "Rachel's right Chloe, we can't get justice yet. We need more information, more evidence to use in a case against him."

Chloe huffed, "If he's as meticulous as Rachel says then he'll leave nothing, the bastard."

"Unless we exploit something." Max said, scrolling through. "Wait, Chloe, listen." She began to read an article out loud. "Jefferson has taken a keen interest in a student from Seattle, Maxine Caulfield. He called her out on the first day on her PTSD without pity and has tried to get her alone multiple times, Rachel Amber makes excuses so that she can't.

"Is that true?" Chloe asked, blinking.

"Yeah, all of it." Max felt her skin crawl. "They even know about my PTSD." Max furrowed her brow.

"Only people in that classroom would know those details," Rachel said, "especially noticing me covering for you."

Max nodded, "I know."

Chloe's mind was working, one glance at the tattoo artist and Max could tell. Her brows were close-knit and her eyes shifted as she pieced things together. Suddenly, she snapped her eyes up and looked at Max.

"It's Nathan. Nathan Prescott. He's your informer. God, it all makes sense, Frank was telling me everything." She paced around and Max rose a brow.

"Frank talked to you?" Rachel asked, sounding a bit disturbed. From Frank or Max's findings on the driver, the hipster couldn't tell, probably a mixture.

"He told me that Nathan was acting weird, he said that Nathan has been watching someone, someone who could control Chaos Theory." Chloe said. "Chaos Theory, at its core, basically means that shit happens because shit happens. No one can truly control Chaos Theory unless they could control time."

Max snorted, "Your tripping, I can't control time."

Chloe groaned, "It's a metaphor, you see? Nathan doesn't mean really controlling time, though that would be dope, he means you can alter the past. Two victims of Mark Jefferson who can never speak out, their history is unknown. That moment of time is unheard of, but you Max? You can change that, you can 'control' time."  

Max blinked, taking Chloe's words in. "But only if I piece together this puzzle and pin something on him." She finished, "And it's three victims. Nathan too."

Chloe frowned, "He'll pay." 

Rachel nodded, "No more victims, no more innocent people broken."

Max nodded, "We're coming for you Mark." She declared, glaring at the screen.

Chapter Text

Chloe's eyes hurt. 

It had been two days and classes were starting up again, leaving her in limited communication with Max and Rachel. She had been tasked with doing digging, pulling information and seeing if she can find things that Max could use to piece together a location. 

The rest of the document had been filled with cryptic clues, non-sequiturs, and information that led nowhere. However, one bit of information did lead somewhere. In the picture of Rachel, Chloe had noticed that there was a bit of mail. It was blurry but Chloe had been able to find an address, where Mark Jefferson lived. 

She used google maps to scope out and found nothing, it was seemingly non-existent. She even typed it into her phone and it led a to a middle of a forest then stopped, completely in the dead of nowhere.

"God, if I was a hella socio-psychopath teacher what the fuck would this shit mean to me? It's not an address yet its written like one." Chloe said out loud, thinking before she slammed her fist onto the desk in frustration, "Fuck! Why does the universe love to shit on me? I didn't fucking sign up for your fucking puzzle!" Puzzle! Chloe snapped her eyes up suddenly, overcome with a sudden thought. "If I was a socio-psychopath creep teacher I wouldn't just leave shit in plain sight, I'd have people send me shit in code or something. Hell yeah, now we're onto something!" It was farfetched but the artist was desperate, Chloe turned back to the address and squinted at it hard. There had to be more, this couldn't be yet another thing that led nowhere. She let out a groan, her head hurt from squinting too hard. She leaned back and rubbed her temples. 

The bluenette stood and stretched her aching body and looked up, hearing her phone ring. She answered it sighed.

"Yo Maximus." She said.

"Actually, it's not." She blinked, not expecting to hear Rachel's voice, "My phone died and Max went to shower. But she wants us to meet up again, think you can come to get us?" 

"Sure. Be there in a little bit."

"Thanks, Priceless." Rachel said before she hung up.

Chloe frowned, nicknames between her and Rachel were becoming sparse but then again, their friendship was on its hinges. 

No, she didn't want to think about that right now. There was a maniacal asshole on the loose and it was up to her to find something to pin him down. 

She stood and grabbed her keys, locking her door and making her way to her truck.

Rachel

The blonde sighed, rubbing her eyes. Classes and playing CSI Arcadia Bay was taking its toll on her, and Max has evident by the bags under her eyes, but they were surviving. Even if Rachel was persevering through sheer willpower alone, she was determined to take down Mark. She wanted that terrible chapter of her life to end, she wanted to be able to sleep in the dorms without fear, she wanted to stop hearing his groans and laugh in her ears when she slept. 

"Rachel?" The blonde looked up, smiling at Max. The hipster's hair was wet and she was now wearing a purple and black flannel and some regular jeans. "Did you remember anything else from where you were taken?"

Rachel shrugged, "His house, I think. I don't know, my mind tries to destroy the memories of it so much, it's foggy." The blonde had been trying to come up with something more concrete but she didn't want to remember that day, despite it being imperative that she did.

"It's okay. I understand how hard it must be to think about." Max smiled at her and Rachel's heart did a flip.

"Max.." She began, her mouth feeling dry.

"Hm?" Was the relaxed response.

"Why did you kiss me?" Almost immediately, Rachel regretted asking such a thing. Max's eyes widened in surprise, then her brow furrowed and a small frown was fixed onto her face. "Sorry, I just.. wanted to know." Rachel tried to take it back, her mind echoing with the fact that it was stupidity like this that ruined things between her and Chloe. They could have been something more had she not-

"Rach, stop thinking so much." She looked at the photographer guiltily and Max smiled. "I kissed you because I didn't know what else to do. You were freaking out and.. and I completely spaced. My mind completely blanked out and I was hella scared." Max shifted from foot to foot, "I've always seen you as this force that couldn't be broken, it was scary to see you in such an awful state. You're a physically inclined person, you're always touching me or Chloe, I figured that something like a kiss would get you to calm down and ground you." The hipster looked at the blonde shyly, her face turning red. "I was right."

Rachel blinked, staring at the hipster with a concealed look before she rose to her feet. Max looked at her nervously, her hand twitching in the way it did to prove that she was nervous and she took an unconscious step back. 

Rachel softened her look and Max visibly relaxed as the aspiring model closed the distance between them and wrapped Max into a tight hug. Vanilla invaded her senses and mind, coiling her brain with warmth. Her heart was pounding, she hoped the hipster couldn't hear or feel it. 

She didn't want to ruin this, she couldn't ruin this. 

She pulled her face away and Max tilted her chin up, looking into Rachel's eyes. 

They were so close, simply staring into each other's eyes. Hazel gold-flecked eyes stared into a baby blue sky, leaving Rachel breathless. Max was so considerate, so understanding, so kind. Despite Rachel's overwhelming issues and terrible vices, she never ridiculed the blonde, never ran away. She was like an ancient oak tree, like the one on campus that's been there since the school opened in 1910. Where ever she was, she stayed there, deeply rooted and like a force that could not be broken. 

Rachel was undeniably in love with her and that terrified her. She couldn't hurt Max the way she hurt Chloe, she wouldn't let herself do it. 

She was leaning forward, her body moving on its own accord, her nose brushed against the brunettes. She paused, her eyes flicking towards Max's lips and back up to her eyes, Max noticed the movement and a tremor went through Rachel as the hipster bit her lip in anticipation. 

"Max.." Rachel's voice was barely above a whisper, "Do," Rachel swallowed the thick lump in her throat, "Did you mean it? When you said that it was possible to be in love with two people at once?"

The photographer blinked as if she hadn't expected the question to be asked and Rachel wished she could deny the thrill that went through her as she hoped Max was imagining kissing Rachel rather than the blonde asking her a question when they were this close.

"Ye-Yeah, I mean.." Max furrowed her brow in the adorable way she did when she was confused, tilting her head slightly. "I don't see why not? Why?" The brunette looked into Rachel's eyes, her soul completely open. 

So fragile, Max reminded Rachel of a snowglobe, like the one that Chloe had in her closet. Pretty to look at but one mistake, a strike of the slightest clumsiness, and Max would shatter. 

Rachel let out a slow breath and leaned in, their lips almost touching. 

"Because I think I lo..." 

Rattle

The two girls jumped apart, as the door creaked open. 

"Sorry I took so long, fucking hella traffic. Why does everyone think right now is the best time to go get groceries?" Chloe grumbled as she walked into the room. 

Rachel's heart was pounding, she almost kissed Max again- no fuck that. She almost just confessed her love to Max! Chloe's best friend. The girl the punk was in love with! She looked at the punk with wide eyes, unable to hide her panic.

The dropout blinked, looking between the two girls in confusion. "What? Why are you both staring at me like I walked into some secret CIA meeting? Is the FBI hiding in your closet Rach?" The punk tossed a crooked smile towards the blonde that reciprocated the gesture half-heartedly.

"Like hell they are," Rachel said, trying to calm her heartbeat and regain her composure. Damn, Max was super bad for her. Ten minutes and Rachel's mask and guard was useless against the hipster.  "besides, so what if they were? That's like, hella classified information." Rachel smiled, falling into her regular snark and grace again. She tossed a wink towards Chloe, "Though, I suppose if you do a blood pact with me I could let you in on what I and Max were discussing." 

Max let out a choke and Rachel smirked, knowing full well that the hipster had caught onto her insinuation. 

"Sorry Rach, not my time of month." Chloe said, grinning. "Talk to me in like, six weeks."

"Oh dog, ew Chloe." Max said, pulling a face. 

The punk laughed, "What, easiest way to get blood right?"

"Canceled." Max said, "You are canceled." 

Rachel let out an amused snort as the two began to banter back and forth as Max tossed on her shoes and follow the punk out. The blonde lagged behind, taking in the scene.

Chloe was grinning, her brow raised as she egged Max on. Her eyes and face were relaxed, she looked genuinely happy. And Max, Max looked adorable as fucking always. Her nose scrunched up in slight annoyance, a smile on her face and giving the blunette a false glare. It was almost comical how unaware the two were of their obvious attraction to one another. Especially considering that Chloe had slipped her hand into Max's without a second thought or delay. 

Rachel paused at the steps leading towards the student parking lot, frowning.

And she almost kissed Max. She wished that she could ignore the jealousy that festered in her stomach at the sight of Max and Chloe so happy together. She wished she could be in the picture too, she wished she could slip her hands in Chloe's and Max's and glow in the affectionate gazes she might receive.

Wait what?

Rachel did a raincheck, because what the hell? 

And then she sighed, because as much as she wished it wasn't she knew it was true. 

She still loved Chloe, with all her heart and soul.

But now Max was part of that equation too.

"Rachel, you coming?" Max's small voice made her look up. The photographer was concerned, it was written all over her freckled face. She noticed the shift in Rachel's atmosphere.

The blonde wanted to cry or scream but she only offered a tiny smile.

"Yeah, I'm coming." She said, following Max to the truck.

Things just got even more complicated in Rachelville.

Chloe

Her slender fingers tapped to the beat of the Firewalk song. She glanced beside her, her eyes scoring over Max for no reason in particular other than wanting to look at her. Then her eyes drifted over to Rachel.

Even with their walk-on-eggshell relationship, Rachel normally would be jamming to Firewalk. But, right now she was looking out the window, refusing to make eye contact with Chloe or even Max. She had her elbow propped on the side of the car, her palm holding her chin. Something was wrong, Chloe could feel it in her bones but she didn't have the energy to fight with Rachel, especially in front of Max. 

So she put her eyes back onto the road, singing along with the lyrics. She wasn't a particularly good singer, but she liked to think she didn't totally suck either. She pulled into her parking spot and parked, flicking the engine off and hopped out of the truck.

Soon, the three girls were in Chloe's room, sitting on her bed with snacks, Chloe's laptop, Max's laptop, and a notebook. 

"CSI Arcadia Bay, hella yes." the dropout cracked her knuckles, "I guess we'll just discuss what we've uncovered?"

"Sure." Max said, looking at Rachel.

The blonde was staring at her feet. She felt the eyes of the two girls on her and snapped her head up, "Huh?" She asked, blinking in confusion.

Chloe frowned, "I said we'll discuss what we've uncovered?" She said, raising a brow.

Rachel looked confused for a split second before it seemed to dawn on her. "Oh, yeah. Uh," She fumbled around before Max handed her notebook to her. "thanks." The blonde took the notebook and smiled at Max.

Max smiled back and the two locked eyes for a second before Rachel looked at Chloe.

Chloe narrowed her eyes, she hadn't missed that contact. What exactly were they discussing before she had gotten there? She could just ask but she'd have to come up with some smoother way than just demanding an answer. As much as she loved verbally abusing people in submission, she wasn't fifteen anymore. And it wouldn't work on Rachel and she didn't have to the heart to do it to Max.

Rachel flipped through a few pages before she sighed. "I wrote down all I remember of the location he took me too." She frowned, "I remember thinking it was weird though because he took me in the complete opposite direction of his house. Everyone knows where Jefferson lives, or at least they should. His address got leaked soon after he came to teach." Rachel explained, making a confused looking Max nod. "I didn't ask him about it, I trusted him." Rachel's voice turned bitter, "We drove to this shady warehouse in a shady part of town. That's where we did the photo shoot." 

"So if we find this warehouse, we could find more answers." Chloe said, her mind working.

"Bingo." Max said nodding. "Do you remember there being a camera?"

Rachel thought hard about it, "No, it was super drafty and pretty empty. Mark said it was an old greenhouse, amazing lighting." As much as the aspiring model hated Mark, she couldn't deny his eye for good picture locations. "But, there was a code. To open the door."

"Do you remember the numbers?" Max asked.

Rachel shook her head, "No, he blocked my view. There was some equipment in the greenhouse, a canvas, and some lights." 

Chloe clicked her tongue, "Well that gives us more than what I got." She said, "A place to start, maybe that'll crack the code I'm working on." 

Max looked at the delinquent, "What do you mean code?"

"In the.. In the picture of Rachel." Chloe swallowed down disgust, "There was an envelope, at first I thought it would be an address but it leads nowhere, just some part of the woods." Chloe said, "So I thought to myself if I was some asshole perverted teacher, what would I do with my mail? It looked pretty important, so I thought maybe it'd be a code but I have nothing other than that."

Max sighed, "Alright, we'll explore the greenhouse tonight, but we need to get that code."

Rachel furrowed her brow, "I don't know who would know it." She said, "I'm sorry Max."

"It's not your fault Rachel." The hipster reassured her.

"Yeah, don't sweat it Rach." Chloe piped in, getting a weird feeling from the apology. Was Rachel apologizing simply for not knowing a passcode or was there something that Chloe didn't know? 

Gah! To hell with this bullshit. Chloe thought, "What were you two talking about before I got there?" She asked, more roughly than she wanted to.

Rachel and Max froze and looked at Chloe with deer in the headlight stares. Rachel recovered first, because of course, she did, "We were actually discussing the other victims." 

Chloe rose a brow, staring into Rachel's eye with a flinty stare. "You were, were you?" She replied.

Rachel nodded, "Yeah."

"And why?" Something about this felt fishy, Chloe's gut was screaming that Rachel was lying but catching Rachel in a lie was almost impossible.

Unless you were Chloe Price.

Rachel rose a brow, "Because maybe they know more than we do about the situation. Like Nathan, he outright told Max that he knew more about Jefferson than Max did."

Using information all of them knew, if they were truly talking about the victims then they must have come up with something.

"Alright, so what do you got?" She asked.

"What?" Rachel looked confused.

"About the victims, what did you come up with?" Chloe narrowed her eyes at Rachel.

The blonde shifted, "Nothing, we both came up blank."

"Convenient." 

Rachel let out a small huff, "What the fuck do you want Chloe?" She snapped, "I don't have all the answers you want."

Chloe growled, "I think you're feeding me bullshit, yet a-fucking-gain. God, can't you just tell me the truth for once?" She spat, feeling bad as Rachel flinched.

"Guys, can you not?" Max tried but Rachel was already retaliating.

"Alright, so we weren't talking about the other victims, so what? We were just talking, about stuff that maybe I don't want you to know." She looked away and Chloe blinked.

Rachel was hiding stuff from her now? 

Was that really what their relationship had come down to?

"Chloe." The tattoo artist looked at Max. The hipster was looking at her desperately, "Please, can we focus on the task right now? Unless you both are ready to finally talk to each other." 

Chloe's mouth felt dry, she didn't want to talk, not with Max here. Something about this fight, the quarrel that Rachel and she were in, it was something that Chloe didn't want Max to be exposed to.

"Fine. I can drop it." Rachel said, wrapping her arms around herself. "We can talk about shit later."

Chloe bit back a snarky 'You said that last time and then you slept with my drug dealer' and forced herself to nod. "Sure." She said coolly.

Max

The hipster looked between the two girls. 

She felt conflicted. 

On one hand, she knew that what Rachel did to Chloe major fucked up Rachel mentally and that the blonde tortured herself on the reg about it.

On the other, she understood that it fucked with Chloe even more, that the blunette would blame herself because that was in Chloe's nature. To blame herself for other's mistakes. 

She wondered if Chloe blamed herself for Max leaving.

She stopped wondering. 

A tense silence lay thick between the three, both Rachel and Chloe were avoiding each other and Max's eyes. The hipster was finally getting fed up when her phone rang.

She opened it, blinking in shock.

"Warran wants me to meet him." She announced, "He said it's important."

"Prolly wants a piece of the Caulfield." Chloe teased, "Have any condoms?"

"Oh dog, ew Chloe!" Max shoved her, "I'm about as sexually active as a sea-sponge, no I don't carry around condoms." She rolled her eyes. "I'd bet you do though."

Chloe puffed up, "What's that suppose to mean?"

"You a virgin Chlo?" Max shot back.

"Hell no!" Chloe said indignantly, "I'm a hella sex god, I lost my v-card in sophomore year." 

"Dunno if that's something to be proud of." Rachel said softly.

"Probably not, but add it to the list of fucked up things I've done." Chloe said with a shrug, then she thought for a second. "And no, I don't carry condoms."

"That's a shock-"

"I carry dental dams." Chloe winked and Max's heart stopped.

The hipster choked on her spit and she broke out into a coughing fit, her face burning. The photographer glared at Chloe, her airways reopening up causing her to breathe heavily for a moment. 

"You're a jerk." She said lamely, her mind not quite functioning to yield a snarky reply. "You hella suck."

"Yes, I do." Chloe purred, making Max choke again. She stood up hastily, trying to ignore Chloe's raucous laughter and, with as much dignity as she had left, uttered.

"I'm leaving." So not the most dignified response, but it was the best Max had to offer. She turned and walked out of the dorm, hoping that Chloe and Rachel got along long enough so she could talk to Warran about whatever he needed to talk about. 

She navigated her way outside and sighed. She wished that Chloe's comment didn't get under her skin but she couldn't deny that they left her with morbid and heated curiosity. Of course, her mind, while not pervy, was having a field day with the punks insinuations. 

An experienced mouth trailed it's way down Max's stomach, making the hipster squirm. She heard a low chuckle and she looked down in annoyance, ready to retort. Her breath caught in her throat, half-lidded blue eyes were looking up at her, teasing and full of lust.

"Something wrong Max?" Oh god, was Chloe's voice always that deep? Would it be that deep in this circumstance? 

"N-No." Max responded, her voice watery. 

"Max?" Chloe repeated.

"No." Max said little stronger.

"MAX!"

"Huh?" The daydream faded but the heat that Max felt in her lower stomach didn't. She looked around and saw Victoria glaring at her. "W-What?" She asked, her face turning red. Of course, it would have to be Victoria.

Green eyes studied her with contempt, "Move. I want to go back to my dorm." She ordered, "You should pick your times to have wet dreams, hippy."

A blush was a permanent feature on Max apparently, how could she have forgotten to mark 'Be a dick to Max Caulfield day' on her calendar? 

"Oh god, I was joking." Victoria gave a dry laugh, "Let me guess, it was about that loud blue-haired dropout?"

"Leave her alone." Max grumbled, moving out of the doorway, "I moved, you can leave me alone now." She hadn't even fought Victoria's accusation.

The prep eyed her for a few moments before she let out a rough sigh, "I've never seen her act the way she did with you that day. Not even Rachel has her that wrapped around her finger." 

Max didn't even look up, "Oh?" Why was Victoria even bothering talking to her, she's never before.

"Those two were always causing trouble with each other but never once did I see Chloe go soft on Rachel." Victoria went on. Max was getting impatient, why did she care what Rachel and Chloe used to get up too? 

Am I jealous? Max thought humorously. 

"In fact, I don't think I've ever seen Chloe go soft with anyone." 

"So what?" Max snapped, "Chloe isn't this... worthless delinquent that everyone thinks she is." Max growled, "She's super sweet and hella smart, especially with science." 

Victoria blinked, not expecting the outburst before a small smirk snaked its way on her face but it was softer, not as sharp or condescending. "She likes you, you know."

That made her do a raincheck, "What?" Max asked, not quite understanding.

Victoria gave an impatient huff, "It's obvious, at least it is to anyone who isn't you." She crossed her arms, "That smile, that look in her eye, that softness in her face, that isn't a look you give to a 'best friend' or whatever you two call each other. That was a look of pure adoration and love." The prep eyed her nails, "It's cute. Kind of." She reached for the dorm doors and opened it, "Open your eyes, Caulfield. You make this being nice thing hard."

"Why are you even being nice to me?" Max asked, focusing on that rather than trying to wrap her head around the fact that Chloe might be in love with her. 

Victoria's demeanor changed, she was almost timid yet her voice was sharp. "A friend told me I should try it."

"Kate?" Victoria tensed slightly before she relaxed.

"Yeah. Katie." 

Katie? Victoria was giving Kate Marsh endearing nicknames? 

"Don't look so shocked." Sarcasm dripped off of Victoria's voice, "She's been kind."

Max was faced with two options but one wasn't even a choice now. Victoria was a dick to her but now she was helping Max, even if it was in a rough and annoyed fashion of doing so. "She really likes you," even if Max was oblivious to peoples feelings about her, Kate's crush on Victoria was glaringly obvious. "don't hurt her." There was a hint of a threat in the hipster's voice and Victoria caught on because she looked back at Max, opening the dorm doors.

"Wouldn't dream of it." She said tersely but there was a something genuine to it, a promise.

Max watched the door close behind Victoria and sighed.

Chloe loves me? 

Oh thanks, brain, just gonna jump straight to that route are we?

Chloe loves me?

Max let out a groan and rushed down the stairs, when did she get so gay? She let out a rough sigh and paused, looking around.

Warren told her to meet at one of the tables but he was nowhere around. She let out another sigh and grabbed her phone when a hand grabbed her wrist. 

With a yelp, she turned, and ripped away from the hand, her eyes wide in alarm.

Nathan Prescott was standing there, his eyes wide with surprise. 

"Don't punch me." He said, holding his hands up in surrender, "I come on Warrens behalf."

Max narrowed her eyes, "You hang out with Warren?" She asked dubiously, not quite believing it.

Nathan shoved his hands in his pocket, "He doesn't deal with my bullshit and he believes in me. No one else here does." He looked around with slight aggression before he turned back to Max. "Don't be so shocked, I didn't believe it when I saw Chloe go soft on you. No way a stupid hipster would ever hang out with some drop out like her, I thought to myself, turns out I was wrong. You're not stupid and Chloe is-" Nathan hesitated, "I don't know what Chloe is but she's.." He trailed trying to come up with a word.

"Wild?" Max suggested, believing Nathan just a bit more.

"I guess." Nathan pulled out his hands and cracked his knuckles, not in a threatening gesture but a nervous one. "Anyway, Warren doesn't even remember sending that text cause he didn't. I sent it." He admitted, making Max raise a brow. 

What did Nathan Prescott want with her?

"I wanted to give you this." Nathan pulled out a paper. "There's been word on the street that you're trying to rid Blackwell of an evil." Max's eyes widened. "Don't look surprised, I know everything. Especially when it comes to Victoria's business." Victoria must have told Nathan that Kate talked to her on Max's behalf. "I respect that but you'll need a way in. This will help you." He passed the paper. Upon further inspection, it was folded nicely and sealed. "Burn it once you're finished with it." Nathan cracked his fingers nervously, "I don't know what you're getting up to Caulfield, but I hope to whatever God there is that you're smart. Don't get lost in the dark." With that Nathan shambled off, shoving his hands in his coat pockets.

Max watched him leave, feeling that those words, 'Don't get lost in the dark', were much more than a simple warning. 

Rachel

The girl looked around nervously. 

It was night, the time to snoop around, and Chloe was late.

"Calm down. There she is." Max said, pointing to the truck coming down the road. 

"This is crazy." Rachel had done many insane things in her life. Sneak into a Firewalk concert, attack some sleazy dudes, skip school and jumped off a train, started a forest fire, and spy on her dirtbag father to name a few. Oh and getting stabbed by some drug lord, that was pretty high on her crazy list. 

But sneaking into some perverted teachers den? The place she got raped? 

This was a new high.

She hopped into Chloe's truck, Max on her tail. 

"This is the only way." Max said, she buckled in and looked at Rachel with a curious expression, "Hey, isn't your dad a DA? Why don't we go to him for this case?"

Rachel gave a dry laugh, "Because the entirety of Arcadia Bay's legal system knows he's a cheating son-of-a-bitch, he's lied one to many times to be taken seriously. Besides," Rachel crossed her arms, "I never wanna see his fucking face again." 

"Fair enough." Max said softly, "You know anyone else?"

"Skip. He joined the police force a few years back and he's a detective now somewhere in Portland." Chloe piped up.

"No shit? Skip is a detective for the police force?" Rachel said, slightly surprised. "How'd you figure that out?"

"Went to a show a few months back." Chloe said, "His band was the opener and I snuck backstage. Almost got kicked out but Skip stopped security, he wasn't shocked to find it was me." The punk smirked slightly. "He'll be happy to give one more 'fuck you' to Blackwell."

"Whose Skip?" Max asked.

"Used to be a security guard, he got fired cause of me." Chloe said, guilt slipping into her voice. "He took a bullet for me with Wells and.." She shrugged, "We're cool now." 

Max nodded, leaning back in her seat. She looked tired but determined, and a touch distracted.

Rachel eyed the photographer, wondering what was on her mind but not having the energy to try to read her. She looked up at Chloe and sighed, "This is insane. I was thinking, don't we have enough proof?" She didn't want to go back.

"Don't coward out now," Chloe said, "We're in this together, no matter what happens. Besides, you said that we needed more."

"We do." Rachel said softly, "I just don't want to go back." 

A hand touched hers and she jumped, looking up to see Max smiling at her. 

"I know this is hard, but we have to stop him." Max interlocked their fingers. "I was looking over the evidence earlier. If we can get one thing, one irrefutable proof, a confession or something, all this will be over. Not even a mob-hired lawyer will save him." 

Rachel breathed out, "I want him in jail, trust me. I just.." Flashes of hands on her came to her mind and she looked away, trying not to cry.

"It's okay Rachel." Max touched her cheek, making the aspiring model to turn to gaze into baby-blue eyes that kept changing because of the changes of light of the night. "You don't have to do this alone. I and Chloe will be behind you, every step of the way."

The blonde blinked once, wanting to brush her lips against Max's but she couldn't. Not in front of Chloe. She bit her lip, it took more self-control than she thought to lean away from Max, away from that scent of vanilla that followed the hipster around like the plague. 

"Thanks Max." She said softly, smiling at the hipster.

Max smiled back and nodded.

The truck slowed to a stop. 

"We're here." Chloe's voice made Rachel's anxiety shoot through the roof. 

The senior looked up at the building. Memories swam in the murky waters of her mind, all bad and terrifying. 

"We're here." She repeated softly, staring at the greenhouse that brought her so much pain. 

"Let's go." Max said softly, "I want to get this over with."

Chloe nodded and jumped out of the truck, Max following her lead. Rachel stayed still for a few moments, ironing her will, and followed.

Same tree, same bush with red flowers, same stupid lawn decoration, same gravel path. She snaked her eyes up and froze. 

The same fucking door.

Chloe looked at her, "Rachel." She said softly, "Rachel come on." She offered her hand, her blue eyes glowing in the moonlight.

Rachel blinked at her, shocked that the punk was even being kind to her. Ever since the argument she had been cold but now all that hostility was gone, replaced with the Chloe Price that Rachel knew and loved with every fiber of her being. She gripped the delinquent's hand and interlocked their fingers. She felt a small hand slip into her other hand and looked to her left, seeing Max standing there.

Adoration made her heart swell and throb, Max was right. It was possible to love two people at once. God was it possible and God was it beautiful. She gave a sigh to steel herself and squeezed Chloe's and Max's hands. 

"I'm okay." She said softly, "Let's get this over with."

Max nodded and moved to the door, letting go of Rachel's hand and leaving it alarmingly cold. The blonde watched with curiosity as Max fished a paper from her pocket and unfolded it, breaking a sort of seal. She recognized the seal, it was one that the Prescott's used.

"Where?" Chloe began to ask but Max shook her head.

"Doesn't matter but it's the code." She punched it in and the door opened. 

"Holy hell." Rachel said in awe, "Was that what Warren gave you?"

"Nathan gave it to me." Max said, "I don't know how he knew and I don't care, come on." She moved into the building and, exchanging looks with Chloe, Rachel followed her.

She looked around, her eyes adjusting to the darkness. She bit her lip, everything seemed untouched since that day except the table seemed to be fixed, no one can ever accuse Rachel of being easy.

"Look around for anything." Max said, "Be alert." 

Chloe nodded and rushed off in one direction and Max took off in another. 

Rachel sighed and walked around, her eyes scanning for anything that she could use. She paused, her eyes training onto something that she didn't remember. A couple of things, under a tarp.

She walked over to it hesitantly and opened the tarp, letting out a confused sound that alerted a nearby Chloe.

"What?" Chloe whispered, walking over to the blonde. "Find anything?"

"Look." Rachel pointed to the things. "Chloe do you know what this stuff is?"

Chloe looked at them, not recognizing the importance. "Uh.. lights? Those shutter things that flash for school pictures?"

"Yeah but look at them, these are professional grade." Rachel said urgently, "They're super expensive." 

"Rachel he's a professional photographer." Chloe deadpanned, looking slightly irritated.

The blonde wasn't even mad, she wasn't talking clearly. "Chloe these.. these weren't here before." She said softly and understanding dawned in Chloe's eyes as she suddenly knew the significance. 

Rachel closed the tarp and looked around, "That camera." She walked over to the one pointed towards Jefferson's set up, "It's new. All of this," She gestured to the set-up, "isn't what he had before."

Chloe was pale now, "He got all new equipment."

"How did he afford it on a teacher's salary. Chloe this.. all this, is more than even he can afford." The blonde pulled her hair, her heart racing. "This isn't right."

Chloe gripped her shoulder. "I don't know what's going on but we need to hurry up." She said, her voice urgently and hoarse with fear. "Where's Max?"

"Here." Max's voice made Rachel jump. The photographer was holding a few polaroids and a yellow paper case. "I found his office, this should lead us somewhere. Let's get out of here." 

Rachel nodded, all to for that idea.

Together the girls made their way out of the building when something nagged at Rachel. 

"His old camera." She said, "I need to find it. It'll have everything."

"Rachel," Chloe's voice was warning, "you can't. Besides, you saw the same thing I did. It isn't there."

"It has to be, all photographers' keep a backup." Rachel said, "I'll be a few minutes." 

Max shook her head, "It's too risky, we can come back at another point but we have to go." 

Rachel shook her head, "Max, that camera has everything we need, with it we can end all this." She urged, "Please, I need to get it." 

Max opened her mouth when a voice made her freeze.

"Yes, yes I know!" 

That voice was familiar.

Mark.

The three girls scrabbled to the shadows as the devil came into view. He was on the phone, looking annoyed.

"Will you listen to me?" Rachel flinched, his voice was angry and loud. It was too much, too much like it was that day. "Yes, I'm aware that him leaving my mentorship could cause problems but he hasn't done anything. He didn't know the full extent of my plans, he knew nothing of my project. I made sure he didn't." The man paused, tapping his shoe. "Nathan isn't as smart as you give him credit for. I will keep an eye on him, but I promise you, he knows nothing of what we're up to. Just hurry up and send your hire to the address I already sent you and tell them to be careful will you? Last time they moved my shit, they broke one of the lights. Wouldn't want to spend another eight thousand dollars replacing it would you, Mr. Prescott?" 

Rachel heard Max let out a sharp exhale and she glanced back at her companions.

Chloe's brow was furrowed with confusion and anger. Max had almost the same expression but there was a question, a 'Why?".

"Sure, Sean." Mark was saying, "Yes. Alright. Talk to you soon. Bye." He hung up the phone with a rough growl. "Idiot." He snarled, "Making me father his dumbass son and, because he was an idiot, is making me clean up the mess." He let out a huff as he punched in the code. "Fuck!" He roared as he kicked the door open and slammed it closed. 

Rachel flinched and looked at Chloe and Max, 'Run.' She mouthed and together the three rushed behind the building towards Chloe's truck.

She rushed into the vehicle, Max on her heels and Chloe flicked the engine to life and slammed on the gas, making the tires screech as she drove away from the greenhouse.

"What. The. Fuck." Chloe said after they were a few miles away. "Mark is in cahoots with fucking Sean Prescott?"

Max nodded, "Not just cahoots." She said, "It's in the file." She held the yellow envelope. "Can we go to your place Chlo?"

"Yeah." Chloe murmured, she looked at Rachel who was gripping the 'Oh shit' handle. "Rach?"

"This isn't right." Rachel croaked, "Chloe those lights, that camera. That wasn't-" She tightened her grip, "Prescott." She choked. "He-" Her thoughts were swarming like a hundred angry bees, stinging her with words before rushing off. 

"Rachel, breathe." Max commanded lowly, rubbing her back. "Talk." 

Rachel closed her eyes, trying to regulate her rapid breathing. "Max, there were new lights, ones that Mark wouldn't ever be able to afford on a teacher's salary. He doesn't make enough in a year to afford them, especially not with as much as he had. A-And a new camera." 

"Sean Prescott is giving him money." Max said, "I'll show you two what I found but we need a safe place."

"Here we are." Chloe said, parking her car. "Come on." 

Chloe 

The punk sat on her bed, Rachel beside her. Max pulled a few things from the envelope, a few checks, a few emails, and some letters. 

She also set some polaroids out.

Chloe swiped the checks and her heart stuttered. "That's a hella a lot of money." She said, "Almost a hundred thousand. All checks signed by Sean Prescott."

"But why?" Rachel said, her voice almost a cry. Chloe moved by herself, holding the blonde close. "Why is Sean helping him? Why would anyone help him?"

"Dear Mark Jefferson, I hope this letter finds you in good health. I've received word that my son, Nathan, has recently been causing trouble in Blackwell. This displeases me immensely, I know you are a very successful businessman and photographer and I know my son can learn many things from you. I propose an arrangement if you teach my son all you know and get him to stop causing trouble,  I will send you money as compensation for having to deal with the idiot. Signed Sean Prescott." Max read aloud. 

Chloe snorted, "What a dick." She growled. 

Max nodded, "Dear Sean Prescott, how much?" She flipped to another email. "Dear Mark Jefferson, I will send you around a hundred thousand for your assistance, provided my son actually learns a thing or two. Dear Sean Prescott, I am confident he will. He's not the smartest, but he has an eye for shadows. Dear Mark Jefferson, I don't care. Just straighten him out or you will not get any compensation." 

Chloe, grabbed the papers from Max, her eyes scanning the words. "That was a few months ago, before Rachel.." She hesitated, looking down at the blonde cuddled next to her. "These are after. Dear Mark Jefferson, I've received word that Nathan is no longer your apprentice. What has he done to displease you? Dear Sean Prescott, Nothing, everything was going smoothly but one day he told me that he didn't need my help anymore, that he could get into the industry without my charity. He hasn't spoken to me since; he barely participates in class as well. Dear Mark Jefferson, That is extremely alarming. I hope you didn't let him catch a whiff of our agreement. Either way, his grades are acceptable and he hasn't been causing mayhem. You've done your job and I have no use for you anymore. You will receive no more consistent payments. However, because you did your job and did it better than I could have hoped, my resources are extended to you. If you ever need help with anything, just text this number. Dear Sean Prescott, Thank you, I actually have an idea, an experiment, if you will on a few things I would like to do. However, I have no funds to accomplish it. It could help broaden your grip on more industries easier, without having to wait for your son. Dear Mark Jefferson, Text me the details, the funds are yours." 

Rachel shook her head, "I knew Sean was a dick but this is downright disgusting."

"Maybe he doesn't know?" Max tried but then she sighed. "No, I've heard he's stingy with his money. I'm sure he's well aware of what's happening under his nose." 

"Mark's giving him a place in the photography world." Chloe said bitterly, "He probably doesn't care as long as he'll profit from whatever Mark is doing." 

Rachel nodded, "What else is there?"

"These pictures." Max handed the polaroids over. They were just a few shots of the office and greenhouse but there was something that made Chloe look again at one picture. It was a picture of something that looked familiar. 

"Max where did you take this?" She asked, looking at the hipster.

"In his office, there wasn't anything of note other than the emails and stuff. But there was this board with a torn up paper." She said, "I thought I'd snap a photo." 

Chloe stood up and moved over to her computer, she tapped the lock screen open and looked at the image that she had concluded was some sort of code. 

"It's not a code." She said, "It's a piece of directions leading somewhere." Chloe tapped on her desk excitedly. "This could lead straight to everything that could expose what he's doing. Drive.." She began to work silently, using the picture to try to piece together the sentence. "Drive to the water tower, if you hit.. dirt.. path.. so far.." Chloe tilted her head. "Turn down.." She squinted her eyes. "Damn, there has to be more."

Max nodded, "I took more pictures, you're free to look at them." She yawned. "I'm beat. I'm heading to bed." 

"Same." Rachel said softly, standing up, "I'm sleeping with Max, you look like you're gonna be up all night working." She told Chloe, "Try to sleep before five." 

Chloe waved them off, looking between pictures.

She passed out at four fifty-six am but she had gotten a little bit of progress.

Drive to the water tower, if you hit dirt path you've gone too far. Turn right at tower and...

She'd figure out the rest later. 

Chapter Text

Rachel glanced to her right.

Max was still there, her head down and her eyes half-closed. She looked fine, other than the purple-bluish bags under her eyes.

Had she not slept well? They had slept in the same bed the day previous and Max had sacrificed her sleep to comfort Rachel when she woke up with a nightmare.

Rachel bit her lip and looked at the clock, ten minutes of this hellish photography class and it would be over with. She slipped her phone out and quickly typed 'U ok?' and sent it to Max.

A moment later the hipster shuffled and Rachel watched as she stealthily slipped her phone out. Baby blue eyes flickered towards her and Max smiled and nodded, pressing her pointer finger and thumb together in a circle, the universal sign for 'Okay'.

Rachel looked into the photographer'se eyes, that wasn't quite true. Something else was bothering the brunette but... Rachel couldn't quite see what it was. It was shrouded in a cloud of mystery and confusing as if even Max didn't know what was up.

"Rachel." The blonde tore her gaze away from Max, blinking as Nathan called her name.

"Sup, Nate?" She smiled at him, Nathan was weird and creepy sometimes but he had a lot of mental issues and his dad was the biggest douchebag in the world. Rachel figured it'd be best to be nice of him, besides he was nice to Max and was her possible informant.

"There's a Vortex Club party on Friday." He said, "I figured you wanted to be VIP?" He rose a brow and Rachel realized what he was truly asking about.

Drugs.

"Uh," Rachel glanced over at Max, who was staring off into space again. "could I bring a few friends?" She asked sweetly.

Nathan tapped his fingers, "Who?"

"Max and Chloe?"

Nathan's jaw clenched, "The blue bitch that almost beat the shit out of me?" He asked.

Rachel bit her lip and nodded, "She's really not that bad and she parties hard. She's a total blast once you get to know her. Besides, I don't think Max would go unless Chloe went with." She said that a little softer, her heart aching in her chest.

Nathan blinked, raising his brow. Her tone change wasn't subtle, Rachel didn't have it in her to be subtle anymore. "Sure, I guess. If you say so but," He glanced over at Max, noticing Rachel stealing glances. "something wrong Rachel?" Intrigue laced his question.

"No." Rachel lied, so easily and naturally that it scared her. She glanced over at Max, who Kate was now chatting with. The Christain must have said something funny cause now Max was smiling a dorky smile that made Rachel's heart melt.

God, did Max always have that many freckles or did she get new ones? Was her nose always that small? Was Max always this cute?

Yes, yes, and probably. Rachel answered her own questions and a small adoring smile dawned her face.

"I'm fine Nate." She said softly, "Just... thinking."

Nathan shifted his weight back and forth, "Thinking." He deadpanned, "With a creepy smile?"

Rachel flicked her eyes toward him, "Creepy?" She retorted indignantly, not really offended because she figured she probably did look a little creepy just staring at Max and grinning.

Nathan glanced over at Max pointedly and Rachel followed his gaze. The hipster was laughing now, Kate along with her, and her face had a little blush on it.

"I mean I guess I get it." Nathan began, "She's... alright." The prep-boy shrugged, "Didn't think nerdy girls were your type."

Rachel snorted, "You haven't heard Chloe rant about science for two hours straight." She muttered, "Besides, Max is different."

"Like em' both?" Nathan asked.

Rachel shrugged, "Don't know, " She did, "I guess," Yes, "they're both pretty great." They're both amazing.

The brunette eyed her for a moment, studying her. "I'd say go for it then." He said honestly, "Life's too damn short to deal with... setbacks." Rachel's intuition buzzed, she looked at him sharply.

"What kind of setbacks did you deal with Nate?" She kept her tone light, that of a friend.

Nathan shoved his hands in his lettermens, "What setbacks haven't I dealt with?" He mused, "There's a lot I don't tell people, not even Vic." He looked over at the blonde who was watching Kate with an adoring look in her eyes, about time, Rachel had been keeping tabs on that development since Max told her that Kate and Victoria were hanging out.

"Like what?" Rachel said, "Humor me."

Nathan laughed, "Nah." He shook his head, "Nah, not happening." He repeated more seriously, "Not that I don't trust you Rachel but..." He shrugged, "You wouldn't want to know my shit." He said, "Though I guess I'll give you this, I'm seeing someone. Maybe if you pay attention you'll figure it out." He shrugged again, though it seemed more like a twitch.

Rachel stood up, leaning close to Nathan. "How did you know the code." She said, almost inaudibly, looking into his eyes.

She was met with an iron door, she blinked and saw that Nathan wasn't smiling anymore. He looked... ashamed? Nervous? Sad?

"Sometimes, Rach," Nathan said as the bell rang and students began to pile out of the classroom, "things are best left buried." With that he grabbed his bag and walked off, leaving ever hair on Rachel erect and her intuition buzzing.

She looked around and saw Jefferson eyeing her.

Time to go.

Rachel stretched, trying to relax under Jefferson's stare and turned to Max, who was still chatting with Kate at her table.

"Bell rang lovebirds, you can talk photography later." Rachel teased, waltzing over to them.

Max rolled her eyes and Kate blushed.

"We're not talking photography." Kate said softly and Max shot her a grin.

"We're talking that Kate has a girlfriend." Max sing-songed, teasing and playful.

Rachel felt warmth in her belly as she watched Max tease Kate, all in good fun, of course, a little bit more.

"Alright, alright. Enough." Kate's face was tomato red, "Max, we should hang out today, if that's okay?" She directed that question towards Rachel as the blonde began to walk out of class, sick of Jefferson just sitting at his desk watching her.

Rachel paused at the door, "Sure." She said with an easy shrug. Max had other friends, Rachel couldn't take all her time despite herself wanting to. "Come on though, it's a nice day."

Max snorted and followed Rachel, lagging behind with Kate and still whispering with her. Rachel had a feeling that Max wasn't talking about Victoria's and Kate's blossoming relationship but she didn't want to intrude.

She sighed as the sun's golden rays touched her face, she grinned to herself and rushed towards the fountain, hopping on it and balancing on the ledge. She hurt a few clicks of an old camera and twisted her neck, looking back at the culprit.

"You have to show me those before you keep them." She ordered, grinning to show she wasn't really serious. If Max was taking the shot, the picture would be perfect every time.

"Sure." Max said with a small grin on her face. She checked the time and turned herself to Kate. "Catch the bus?" She asked, tilting her head slightly.

Kate checked her watch, "Uh, yeah. Let's go." She nodded to Rachel, "Nice seeing you, Rachel." She said warmly, "Sorry for taking Max away."

Rachel waved her off, "Don't be, Max has other friends- not just me."

"Yes, please keep talking about me as if I'm not here." Max said sarcastically, making Kate giggle and Rachel grin. "Rachel knows I'll make it up to her." Rachel felt a heat score through her and she mentally yelled at herself to take her mind out of the gutter. "Don't you Rach?"

Rachel's mouth felt dry and her entire being ached to say 'You know it' in a sultry tone but something about this seemed too sensitive to joke like that; so instead she nodded.

"Yeah, don't sweat it." Rachel waved her off, she hopped off the fountain to land in front of Max and hugged the girl, breathing in her vanilla scent. "Have fun." She said softly, her breath tickling Max's neck.

She felt the girl shudder and twitch under her, the blonde couldn't help but grin a little at the cute reaction. Her mind flooded with ideas that would make Max squirm and she mentally yelled at herself to calm down.

Reining herself in, Rachel pulled back and pulled out her phone. "It's time for me to get my bake on." She winked at Max, who was blushing slightly and waved at Kate. "Bye."

"Bye Rachel." Kate grabbed Max's arm and together the two walked away towards the bus stop.

Rachel watched them, mostly Max, until they disappeared and sighed, her body slumping. She grabbed her chest and felt her hammering heart. She really needed to control her mind, Max was too innocent for any of Rachel's antics-sexual or non-sexual.

She let out a frustrated grunt, Rachel knew herself. She knew that this wasn't a lust for the girl that caused a small roadblock in her and Chloe's relationship. This wasn't something she wanted to spite Chloe.

She was in love with both of them.

She knew that, her heart and soul knew that, fuck even Nathan-fucking-Prescott was starting to catch on to it.

But Max was so undeniably in love with Chloe, it was so obvious that it shocked Rachel that Chloe hadn't noticed. Well, not quite. It didn't really shock Rachel, not truly, Chloe was oblivious with emotions as is, however, Max's affections were poorly concealed. They were natural with each other, it was a natural magnet tugging at them.

And then there was Rachel.

But Chloe was so undeniable in love with Max. She never needed her punk facade' to protect herself with Max. She would go to the end of the earth for the brunette even if she had ghosted her for five years. Five years and Chloe still let Max back into her life, if that didn't speak volumes about how important Max was to Chloe then nothing did.

And then there was Rachel.

But fate had brought the two best friends back together, as if it wanted them together.

And then there was fucking Rachel.

The blonde tugged at her hair and let out a sharp exhale. She tried to calm herself down, knowing she made stupid decisions when she was having a breakdown. Her mind flashed back to the first time Chloe and her found the junkyard, when she freaked out and possibly lost Chloe forever but somehow she didn't. Even with her freaking out and sudden mood change, Chloe still came to her. Still talked to her. Still loved her.

'Like... Like a friendship? But.. more?'

That memory floated through the aspiring models head, causing Rachel breathed out a laugh and close her eyes.

She needed to talk to Chloe.

She reopened them and fished her phone from her pocket, typing a quick text to Chloe.

Sent 12:34

Rach: Hey Priceless? Can you pick me up from BlackHell, I wanna go to the junkyard

Priceless: Just you and me?

Rach: Yeah, got anything to smoke?

Priceless: I'm offended, you should know I always got the goods

Priceless: B there in 5

Rach: You're amazing, c u

Priceless: I'm Priceless

Rach: Damn  right

Rachel smiled slightly, the conversation went well and Chloe even initiated some sort of playful bantar. That was a step in the right direction, or at least, Rachel hoped it was. The blonde wondered around for a few moments before she heard a snobbish voice.

"You look different."

She turned to see Victoria, Nathan, and of course Victoria's lackeys, Taylor and Courtney (Who were definitely dating because Rachel caught them having sex in the shower two days ago).

"Do I? Maybe it's the hair." Rachel said, the comment snarky but said in a way to be joking. The wind blew around her and her hair flowed like a cape behind Rachel, fanning out like the suns' beams.

Victoria snorted, "Or the lovesick, puppy-eyed expression." She replied, her green eyes narrowing.

Rachel shrugged, she didn't have the care or energy to deny anymore. She was so sick of fighting, she had been fighting since she learned about her dad and her real mom. She was sick of being in denial about her emotions, she was sick of wearing this 'perfect Rachel Amber' mask she always had on. She was sick of lying about her emotions.

"Who knows?" She said, the chilled air making her adrenaline flow as her mind went blissfully blank. "God, don't you love this weather?" She outstretched her arms to the sides and spun in a circle, laughing. "Don't you feel alive?" She grinned at Victoria who was probably thinking she had gone batshit crazy yet the photographer was actually smiling.

"Sure Rachel." She said, raising a curious brow. "It's cold as fuck but sure." 

Rachel opened her mouth to say something no doubt stupid when a honk made her grin. She knew that cars horn anywhere, Chloe had arrived. She waved off to Victoria and run towards the truck, practically flying into the familiar leather seats. 

Chloe rose a brow to her, "You're hyper as hell, what's up?" 

Rachel turned to Chloe, fondness simmering in her belly. "Just enjoying the vibes." She said, gazing into Chloe's eyes.

The punk opened and closed her mouth, a small blush on her cheeks. "Stop that." She grumbled, putting her truck in reverse and backing out of the parking lot. 

Rachel grinned, "Enjoying the view?" She tried, knowing that Chloe would feel her intent gaze.

"Unbelievable." Chloe said, shaking her head as she rushed to the junkyard. "You're kind of the worst."

"You make me the best." Rachel said softly, feeling daring and light enough to move closer to Chloe, leaning her head on the punks shoulder. 

"Do I?" Chloe glanced at her before her eyes darted back to the road.

"Yeah." Rachel murmured, putting her hand on Chloe's knee. It was a fairly innocent touch by Rachel's standards but the blonde knew it would have Chloe thinking about non-innocent things. 

Chloe shook her leg, "Stop that." She ordred firmly, fixing Rachel with a small glare. "I'm driving, do you want us killed?"

"I didn't do anything." The aspiring model said with a small grin, "You're the one with your head in the gutter."

Chloe shook her head, mumbling something that Rachel didn't understand before she parked and switched the engine off. "Home away from Hell." She said, opening her door and stepping out. 

Chloe

Many things were going through Chloe's head as her feet hit the soft dirt of the junkyard. Her mind was a swirling tornado, threatening to tear everything up; so loud that she barely registered her truck door slamming shut as she walked towards the hideout.

She wanted to believe Rachel, she wanted to believe that Rachel meant what she said. But there was always that nag in the back of her mind, the painful reminder that Rachel had said she cared about Chloe and then slept with her drug dealer.

Chloe needed answers. She was so sick of this. So sick of feeling like shit over something that shouldn't have even been a big deal but was. She was sick of avoiding the diner because she didn't want to see Frank, as he was a regular. She was sick of feeling trapped again in Shithole Bay. She was sick of being in love with Rachel Amber yet she wouldn't trade it for the world.

She sighed as she fell onto the old couch and looked up at Rachel who immediately walked over to the stereo and switched it on. The hum of Firewalk echoed in the background and Chloe watched as Rachel bounced around to the beat, a grin on her face. The punk willed herself to stay still but this was so familiar, so comfortable, that the blunette didn't think twice when Rachel urged her up.

Soon the two were dancing and laughing, it was as if the last six months never happened. Now they were just Chloe Price and Rachel Amber, the two kids who obviously have something going on but won't admit it (Victoria's words not Chloe's). The two kids who wanted to run away together.

The song ended and Rachel was beaming. Chloe couldn't help but grin back.

You need to talk to her Chloe. A voice that sounded suspiciously like Max said in her mind. Chloe knew she was right, she always was, but right now things were going so well. She didn't want to ruin it, ruin the moment of happiness she and Rachel were sharing. A moment where nothing of the past mattered. 

So the two danced, there bodies pressing and moving together in a harmonized ritual that seemed to be an instinct given to them at birth. The hideout was a blur of posters, graffiti, and passive-aggressive signs, that Chloe didn't care about anymore. Everything was out of focus but Rachel, who was a sharp HD image in the punks mind; she stuck out in the greatest of ways.

A rush of adrenaline and happiness, that's what Chloe was going to blame it on, but suddenly the two were face-to-face, their lips crashing together awkwardly before smoothing out as their bodies recognized the action. Chloe's hands found their way onto Rachel's hips, her thumbs digging into the bone. She felt Rachel's slender arms snake around her neck, felt Rachel's full chest onto hers, and stomach press against Chloe's own.

An electric current of arousal went down Chloe's spine, this was her Rachel, her angel, the girl she had fallen for almost immediately and helplessly in the windmill. A wave of possessiveness forced the punk closer, her teeth nipping the blondes lower lip in a demand.

Rachel breathed out the smallest of moans causing a burst of heat to spread through Chloe's stomach before she obligated. Chloe grinned slightly, Rachel almost never let her lead. Taking advantage of it, Chloe slipped her tongue into Rachel's mouth and greeted the blondes in a bold hello. 

So familiar, so nice, just like before. Before she-

What am I doing? Reality crashed down on Chloe causing her to freeze and recoil back as though she had been struck. 

Rachel opened her eyes in confusion, "Chlo?" She was panting, out of breath, but Chloe heard the neediness, the heat. "What's up?"

"What are we doing?" Chloe asked softly.

Rachel blinked, "Making out?" She said, unable to come up with a normal witty, Rachel response. She hadn't experienced anything sexual since him and it was showing.

"No I mean-" Chloe felt a tingle down her spine, her mind screaming at her to just forget about it and keep kissing Rachel because god she missed it. Manicured nails scraped the back of Chloe's neck, which shouldn't have turned her on so much but it did because it was Rachel. "I mean-" Chloe gripped the blonde's hip tighter, trying to sort through her horny mind for the words she needed. "What are we doing?" She repeated uselessly, "Why are we doing this? This.. back and forth." 

Rachel rose a brow and somehow, because it was Rachel, Chloe found it hot. "That's how making out works Chlo." She said.

Chloe let out a low groan, a thrum in the back of her throat. She let go of the blonde and backed away, needing to distance herself from the girl who was screwing up her mental functionality. "No, why are we making out." She said slowly, "Why are we needing to talk but avoiding it once again." 

Rachel bit her lip, "I wasn't the one who started it this time Chloe." She said, avoiding answering.

Chloe exhaled through her nose, "God, why can't-" She clenched and unclenched her fist before she cracked her knuckles nervously. "Why are we making this so fuckin' hard?" She demanded, the dam that was blocking her emotions cracking. "When was the last time we even talked about this shit?" Another log was breaking. "How many times have we had sex because we didn't want to talk about this shit?" And another. "What haven't you told me about?" Another. "Why... Why did you sleep with Frank?" Burst. "Why did you sleep with him when you knew I was in love with you?"

Chloe's desperate voice echoed in her ears. The radio had glitched out and now the two were left in silence, Chloe looking at Rachel with teary eyes. 

"What did I do wrong?" Her voice cracked, torn and broken. She had kept this in for months, she was done.

Rachel looked at her with wide eyes, "Chlo.." She murmured, her voice gravelly. "Chlo, you didn't do anything wrong, I'm just an idiot." She gave a dry laugh but she didn't smile, the laugh was nothing more than a sharp jerk of her shoulders. 

"I loved you, I-" Chloe bit her lip, "I still love you. I gave you everything and then you-"

"We were fighting Chloe, I was scared of losing you I needed weed." Rachel crossed her arms and held herself, "Frank doesn't accept late payments anymore and I had no money, I slept with him for free drugs; it wasn't because I loved him."

Chloe felt her heart ache, "You lost me by sleeping with him." She said lowly, tears rolling down her cheek.

"Did I?" Rachel looked at her sharply, "Cause last time I checked your still here." 

Chloe dug her nails into her palms, she knew Rachel was right but something in her screamed to prove her wrong. 

"We weren't dating Chloe." Rachel went on, making Chloe freeze. "We've never dated, we always said we had something but do you even know what the fuck we have? Cause I sure as hell don't anymore." 

Chloe trembled, that one detail, that one fucking detail, was the biggest issue about her insecurity. The one logic point she had nothing to fight against. "We still had something, we still.." Chloe struggled a bit before a flow of anger rushed through her veins. "Is that what you're hiding behind?" She demanded, "The fact that despite the fact that we said I love you and kissed and fucked, we weren't dating?" Finally, a counterpoint.

Rachel bit her lip, "I'm not hiding behind anything Chloe." She looked into the punks eyes, "I fucked Frank, I'm sorry. Nothing I do or say will ever change that, I wish I could just reverse time but I can't." Pain swam in those beautiful hazel orbs that Chloe wished she could hate but loved. "I fucked up, I used you, Chloe." Tears poured down Rachel's face, "I freaked out and made a stupid decision that benefitted only me." she ran her fingers through her blonde tresses in a stressed motion. "I basically cheated on you." She said softly, "I betrayed your trust and I-" Rachel's shoulders shook with a silent sob. "I don't know how to fix it." She whispered.

Chloe stared at her. "Why did you do it?" She asked, her voice watery. 

"Because I didn't care at that moment. The only person I was thinking of was myself." Rachel looked down.

The punk closed her eyes, cold tears pouring down her face. "I loved you. I love you." She said softly.

Rachel breathed a laugh. "I love you too. I always have, since before the windmill."

Chloe reopened them, her body quivering under her crying. "You knew what it would do."

"I didn't care." Rachel whispered, wrapping her arms around herself. 

"What else have you kept from me Rachel? How many people get to call you theirs?" Chloe demanded, her fingers clenching into a fist.

"Max kissed me when I freaked out." Rachel said, looking up with clear eyes. "And I liked it. I like Max." She admitted, "I almost kissed her again, that's why we looked like deer in the headlights when you opened the door that one day. I asked her why she kissed me and she started saying things and they were all true and all so sweet and I.." Rachel ran her fingers through her hair, "She said she figured it would calm me down. I asked her if it was possible to be in love with two people and she said she guessed it was." 

Chloe furrowed her brow, her stomach had a cold stone in it. Rachel kissed her Max? Her best friend? Anger flooded through her veins, fiery and intense. 

Rachel bit her lip, "I love you Chloe. But I also..." she swayed as if she was on a boat at sea. "I also fell hella hard for Max." Rachel shuffled, "That probably sounds fucked up."

"You'll hurt her." Chloe growled, glaring at Rachel. "What makes you think you're good enough for my Max?" She demanded, moving forward. 

Rachel flinched, "I'm not." She admitted, making Chloe freeze. "But that doesn't change the fact that I fell for her." 

Chloe eyed Rachel, her mind swimming with anger. "You kissed her." She snarled.

"She kissed me first." Rachel said softly.

"You couldn't control yourself. You've never been able to control yourself, have you Amber?" Chloe spat out her name like it was poison. "You fucked Frank because you couldn't control yourself, you got involved with Jefferson because you couldn't control yourself, you took advantage of Max's kindness because you couldn't fucking control yourself!" The punk's voice grew louder with each accusation, her body stalking forward stiffly with each sentence until she was in Rachel's face. 

She was close enough to feel that Rachel was trembling, she glared into those hazel sunset eyes. Chloe watched as tears flowed down her perfect face. 

"Every time we get into fights we have sex because you can't talk about, because you can't handle it, because you're so immature and pathetic you can't stand the thought of owning up to your own shitty actions!" Chloe was screaming, the building seemed to shake. She didn't care who could hear her, she didn't care if Rachel was sobbing violently. Her mind was screaming at her, telling her to make Rachel feel the same pain she's held back for six whole months. 

And for once, Chloe decided to listen.

"I wish I never have met you." Chloe growled lowly, "I wish you disappeared and I never found you on the side of the road." She snarled, shoving her face in Rachel's. "I wish I-" Tears poured down Rachel's face and the punk cursed at herself for feeling bad for Rachel. "I wish I never fell in love with you." Chloe cursed her voice for cracking and her eyes for tearing up. She cursed the tears that flowed down her face. She glared at Rachel but the anger was gone, replaced with icy regret and disgusting satisfaction.

She had nothing more to give now, she had nothing to scream, nothing to feel mad about. Chloe was empty now. 

The punk leaned back, moving away from the sobbing blonde and stared at her in slight horror. 

She had done this. Chloe tried blaming Rachel but she couldn't.

Shame filled the blunette and she staggered towards the door, looking back at Rachel.

"I'm so sorry." Rachel hiccupped through sobs. "I'm so fucking sorry."

Chloe stared at her silently, cold tears still flowing down her face. Her body, her instinct, screamed to tell Rachel it was okay, to wrap Rachel in a hug and cry with her.

But instead, she did what Rachel would have done. 

She stepped out of the hideout and walked to her car. She switched on the ignition and left Rachel behind her in her trucks dust. 

Max

Max laughed slightly as she and Kate walked out of the bus and up the Blackwell stairs leading to the front of the school.

"Not even, Blade Runner is like, legendary status." The hipster told Kate, "You should definitely watch it with me and Chloe some time." 

"Maybe." Kate's eyes wondered from Max's to something behind her but the hipster was to busy thinking about Chloe to notice. 

"Max!" The hipster jumped and she looked at Kate with wide eyes. "Isn't that Rachel?" Kate pointed behind the brunette and Max turned, her heart falling as she saw Rachel staggering towards Max. 

"Rachel!" Max cried, breaking out into a run as Rachel swayed on her feet. She barely made it as the blonde slumped into her arms, body trembling and sobs spilling from her mouth.

Max felt eyes on her but she didn't care. "Rachel? What happened?" She placed her chin on the blondes head.

"C-C-C-C-C-C-Chloe..." Rachel managed, burying her face into the brunette's chest. "God, I suck!" She screamed, clawing at Max's shirt.

Max bit her lip and looked up as a tall shadow loomed over her. Dana gripped Rachel and got her to stand on her feet without swaying.

"My dorm Rachel. Now." She ordered softly, "Max help her." 

"I got her." Max said, her mind spiraling. 

"Alright, alright! Move out of the fucking way!" The photographer blinked as Nathan began to shove people out of the way. "Move now!" He roared and the students ran off, giving the four students more room than needed.

Nathan eyed Rachel with a guarded expression before he sat against a tree, waving for the three girls to move on.

Dana blinked in shock, "Thank you Nathan." She said before she and Max began to take Rachel towards the dorms.

"Don't mention it." Nathan said lowly, "Ever."

Soon, the girls were in Dana's room, Rachel clinging to Max.

"Rach, what happened?" Max asked softly, brushing the blonde's hair out of her face. "What did Chloe do."

Rachel looked up, her eyes focusing. She stared at Max for a few moments before she let out a slow breath trying to calm herself.

Dana situated herself beside Rachel, rubbing slow circles in the blondes back. Max interlocked her and Rachel's fingers, her thumb rubbing the back of the models' hand.

Rachel breathed in and out for a few moments before finally..

"I called her after you left..." 

 

 

Chapter Text

Max opened her eyes, glancing to her right. Rachel was curled up beside her, body pale and frail.

She was like glass, one wrong touch and everything would shatter. She had been that way since yesterday when she told Max and Dana everything that had gone down.

'I'm going to kill her.' Dana had said once Rachel finished.

'I deserved it.' Rachel said quickly, 'Besides, she felt bad for it. She couldn't even look me in the eyes afterward.'

Dana still looked pissed but she relented beating Chloe into a bloody pulp and opted for helping Rachel to her dorm so the blonde could sleep.

Max had followed and the blonde easily pulled the hipster into sleeping with her, not the wisest choice when Max definitely still had homework she needed to do but she figured she'd worry about that later as the scent of jasmine flooded her senses.

"Max?" The hipster snapped out of her memories at a small voice. Hazel eyes were boring into her and Max was surprised she hadn't felt them staring at her.

"Hm?" Max hummed.

Rachel moved closer to her, leaning her forehead against Max's chest and tangling their legs together. Max's hands came to wrap around the blonde as if it had been drawn by an ancient instinct, rubbing slow circles in the muscle of her back.

"I don't want to go to class today." Rachel said softly.

"You don't have to." Max murmured, "You can sleep in here."

"Stay with me?" Rachel looked up into Max's eyes and the hipster knew that she couldn't refuse this girl. Not now, not ever.

"Always." She replied softly, not really caring about the implications.

Rachel's lips curled into a soft and tiny smile, making Max's heart skip a beat and soar simultaneously before she drifted back off to sleep, her breathing slowing as she slipped unconscious.

Max didn't know how long she laid there staring at Rachel, her mind was wondering with conflicting thoughts. She wondered how Chloe was doing and made a mental note to check-up on the punk later before she heard a shuffle.

Her eyes refocusing, she was swept into a hazel sunset, golden rays and green flecks of the sea. Max's breath hitched. God, this girl was gorgeous.

"Max?" Rachel murmured softly, her fingers lightly grazing the hipster's arm. Goosebumps followed their wake, along with electric tingles. "Why are you doing this?" Her voice was small, weak- but not weak in the physical sense- emotionally weak. "Why are you helping me so much? I don't deserve it."

"Yes, you do." Max replied quickly, her hand moving on its own to move Rachel's hair out of the models' face. "Chloe's just angry and hurt." Max hesitated, "I'm going to check on her later." She said softly. "Maybe I can talk some sense into her."

Rachel trembled, "I don't deserve her." Rachel said softly, "I hurt her so much.." She closed her eyes and took a shaky breath. "All because I didn't care."

"I don't think that's why you did it Rachel." Max said softly, making Rachel open her eyes and look at the hipster in confusion.

"What?"

Max bit her lip, "You care about Chloe so much, it's obvious even to an oblivious starfish like me." Max pointed out, "I don't think you slept with Frank because you didn't care about Chloe. Even when you guys had that fight in the car before, you came back. Even though you were upset, angry, hurt, whatever, you came back Rachel." Max's voice was filled with conviction, "Why didn't you just go sleep with someone else? Chloe didn't come to you, Chloe left you alone like before. Yet, the outcome was different."

Rachel's eyes were wide now and Max knew that she was now staring at Rachel Dawn Amber, not Ms. Perfect, not Rachel Amber queen of Arcadia Bay and BlackWell, not Rachel Dawn Amber the DA's daughter. Just Rachel Dawn Amber, the nineteen-year-old who was afraid of commitment, who was scared of love, who wanted to get away from Arcadia Bay.

Max was staring at the Rachel Amber who had wanted to run away with some broken delinquent kid the moment she laid eyes on her.

Max had stripped Rachel of all the layers of protection she had, ripped her of the masks she wore. Max wasn't good at reading people but her gut, her soul, her being was screaming at her that this was the real Rachel.

"Why didn't you just go back to him?" Max said, "Or someone else?"

Rachel blinked, her brow furrowing as if she hadn't thought about it and was slightly mad that she hadn't. "I don't... I don't know." She said, but Max's gut screamed wolf.

"Liar." Max said softly, making Rachel flinch.

"Max, I-" Rachel dug her fingers into Max's skin, gripping it to ground herself. "I don't.."

"Don't lie." Max murmured, pressing her hand to Rachel's chest. Her heart was beating quick, "Listen to this instead," She tapped where Rachel's heart was, "of this." She tapped Rachel's head.

The blonde bit her lip, "I care." She said softly, "I love Chloe with all my heart, I couldn't bare to hurt her again like last time."

"Why did you do it, Rachel?" Max asked again, her voice barely audible.

Rachel's hand fidgeted, clenching and unclenching Max's arm.

"Because I thought I lost her. I was so scared of her never coming back. I was so sure she would come to find me that when she didn't I.. I broke down. You were right Max, I live for physical touch, I can use words fine, but if you show someone you love them instead of constantly saying it, it means more. It holds more weight." Rachel took a breath, "Physical touch is what grounds me, makes me know that I still exist and still matter. I've always counted on the fact that Chloe would always be there whenever I needed to ground myself, but she wasn't that time because I chased her away. God, I was so arrogant that I.." Rachel trembled, "I thought she'd come back regardless, I didn't count that maybe she'd want to teach me a lesson and do the same shit I did to her before." The blonde laughed but it was humorless, "So when she didn't, come back I mean, I had a mental breakdown and went to the only person I knew who had drugs and would be down to fuck."

Max looked at the models' face. "Why didn't you tell Chloe that?"

Rachel bit her lip, "Cause I didn't know then." She said softly before she shot up. "I need to tell her, I need... I need.."

Max grabbed her, "Chloe wouldn't listen, you know that. She needs time to cool off."

"But I need to-" Rachel began, her tone urgent.

"Later." Max promised, grabbing Rachel's shirt and tugging the blonde back into a laying position.

Rachel let out a small huff, "Why?" She muttered, looking up at Max through her thick eyelashes.

Max gulped, her heart racing a little. She hadn't noticed how close Rachel was and she was a fool to not have known. Her body was hyper-aware that their stomachs were centimeters from touching. The smell of jasmine wafted around the hipster, trapping her mind in a purple field with a golden sunrise, with flecks of a green sea on the horizon.

"Because," She started, knowing that Rachel was waiting for an answer. "Chlo just needs some time."

Rachel blinked slowly before she leaned forward. Max's heart stuttered and stopped for a half-second, Rachel was so close now Max could feel and smell her minty breath with the underlining scent of cannabis.

Subconsciously, Max's eyes darted down to Rachel's lips and her mind toyed with the idea of kissing her again before Max looked back up into those hazel orbs.

Rachel leaned close, almost brushing her lips against the photographers before she lifted her head and Max felt nimble fingers combing through her hair.

"Your hairs a mess." Rachel murmured against her ear, making Max shiver.

"Yeah?" Max breathed out, trying to deny that she was feeling any sexual feelings towards the blonde. "Your fingers are the reason for me being a mess." Max mumbled without thinking.

Rachel was quiet for a long time, at one point Max was sure she fell back asleep. So sure, in fact, that Max moved closer to her and closed her eyes; however she wasn't that lucky. Suddenly there were teeth nipping under Max's ear and the hipster let out a small squeak as the tiny action sent a shock down her spine.

"That so?" Max squirmed at the sudden deepness Rachel's voice had, at the sudden purr.  The hipster took a risky glance up and wished she hadn't.

The models eyes were half-lidded, holding heat behind them, a small smirk played at her lips.

Max had two options, end this- the unappealing option- or wait and see what happens- the right option.

Gathering her scattered thoughts, the photographer nodded. "You cursed me, you keep drawing satanic symbols on my arm." She snarked, thanking whatever God there was that she still had it in her.

"Not Satan." Rachel said slowly, leaning forward and capturing Max's earlobe between her teeth. A heated tingle shot down towards Max's crotch. "It was my symbol, after all, every succubus has one."

Oh dog, this girl was gonna kill her.

The hipsters mouth felt dry and her brain short-circuited. Her entire body was on fire, more so in certain places, and she felt too hot. Max wanted the blanket off, she wanted her clothes off.

Good dog, what's wrong with me? The thought had almost no time to register before Rachel swung her leg over Max's body, fluidly straddling her hips.

Rachel was eyeing her, hazel orbs heated. "Tell me if this is too much." She murmured.

"What are you-" Max began before she let out a squeak as Rachel began to kiss her neck. "Shi.." Max breathed out, overwhelmed by the pleasure that wracked her body.

Rachel raised her hand and tilted Max's head, blessing her with fuller kisses. Max tried to hold back the moan that bubbled up from her chest and she was surprisingly successful, the moan barely ghosting her exhale.

"Cute." Rachel said lowly, her voice vibrating against Max's neck.

The hipster opened her mouth but only squeaked when she felt a sharp nip at her pulse point. "Rachel!"

The blonde chuckled against her skin, the sound low, and licked where she bit as an apology.

Max trembled, everything about this felt good and she couldn't imagine anywhere else she'd rather be but a thought drifted to her head that made her mental train screech to a halt.

Chloe.

Not that she was alone, but that she wasn't here.

Max wanted Chloe to be here, doing the same thing Rachel was doing.

"Max?" The blonde looked up at Max through her lashes and Max felt her heart skip a beat.

"Yeah?" Max said after a moment, her mind lagging behind.

"You good? You tensed up." Oh right, Rachel was still on top of her and could read people like children's books, of course she would sense Max's sudden thoughts.

Max forced herself to relax, "I'm fine." She assured the blonde, already missing those lips on her skin but wishing they were coupled by the hands and mouth of a certain blue-haired delinquent.

"Don't lie to me. What's up? Do you not like it?" Rachel sounded small once more, her tone anxious.

"No." Max said before she realized that Rachel would take it as 'no' she didn't like it. "No wait, mean no as in I liked it." Max said quickly, breathing out a laugh at herself. "It was hella nice actually." She said softly, her body fully agreeing with that statement.

"Then what's up?" Rachel asked curiously, lifting her head causing her hair falling down into her face making her jolt slightly.

Max chuckled and brushed the golden strands out of her face, "I wish Chloe was here. D-doing the same thing." She said shyly, look away with her face burning. "Dog, I'm sorry that probably sounds super-"

"Hot?" Rachel breathed, her tone unnaturally deep. "Fuck Max."

The brunette blushed and looked at Rachel. "What?" She asked, tilting her head.

Rachel rose so she was sitting on Max's hips, looking down at the photographer. She ran her fingers through her golden locks exhaling loudly. She flashed a smile that made Max's heart feel light.

"You. I'm normally not this easy." Rachel chuckled.

"Easy? Oh." Max blushed and sputtered slightly, "Are you-Did I- Holy shit." Max's face burned hotter and she stared blankly at Rachel, her mind a horny mess.

Rachel laughed, warm and airy, like a summer breeze. "You're hella hot." Rachel murmured, her face slightly pink and somehow Max thought it was endearing. "God can I-" the model cut herself off and let out a huff. "Chloe would kill me if she knew what I just did."

"She'd kill me first." Max said, "I let it happen. I wished for it to happen." She hadn't meant to admit that second part but now that she said it she knew it was undeniably true.

Rachel's eyes darkened, if that was possible, more. "Max." Her voice was deep again, raspy and coming from somewhere at her throat for the sole purpose of making Max quiver.

"Hm?" Max hummed, looking away because looking into the eyes of a horny Rachel felt like looking in the eyes of a bull while wearing all red.

"I'm super turned on." Rachel deadpanned, "And it's your fault." She flashed a grin that made Max's heart skip a beat.

Max snorted out a laugh, thankful that Rachel was making an effort to take away from the nervousness she felt.

"Unfortunate." The hipster shifted and Rachel immediately moved off of her. "I have to shower and head over to Chloe's." Max said, twisting her neck to fix Rachel with a sultry look that she didn't know she had. "Feel free to have fun while I'm gone." She said with a confidence she hadn't known was inside her.

Rachel

Fuck.

The blonde watched Max leave and a few minutes later heard the showers turn on.

Fuck.

Rachel breathed out slowly, trying to calm herself but Max's squeaks and moans echoed in her ear. The way she twitched under Rachel, the way her toes curled when the aspiring model found the sensitive place under her ear and jaw.

Rachel bit her lip, she heard Max's voice outside her dorm door saying bye and the dorm halls doors open and close.

Rachel shot from her bed and locked her door before she climbed onto her bed and unzipped her shorts. Her hand and mind moved on their own, her brain created images of Max arching her back, her nails digging into Rachel's back as the blonde kissed down her stomach.

Her hand slipped into her shorts and she wasn't shocked at how soaked she was, Max seemed to do things to her. Her index finger twitched and brushed her clit.

The reaction was instantaneous, Rachel let out a sharp gasp and her hips bucked as a lightning strike of white-hot pleasure shot down her legs and back up to her crotch again. She twitched as her fingers rubbed circles in her clit, her jaw fell open as continuous moans flowed from her mouth like a sirens song. 

Her clit seemed to be creating its own magnetic pull, drawing the blonde's fingers onto it in circles over and over until Rachel was seeing stars. Her jaw was permanently dropped, her throat continuing to make music.

Biting her lip, Rachel pictured a hand tugging her hair after Rachel teased her breasts for a bit too long. Looking up, the aspiring model was looking to baby blue eyes that were looking at her as though she was a goddess. Grinning, Rachel began her southbound journey lower, nipping random places on a freckled stomach. Above her, Max squeaked her legs twitching and widening; a reminder to Rachel that there was still work to be done. The blonde kissed down to Max's naval and toyed there for a little, making the hipster shiver as she licked and kissed it before the blonde was nestled between Max's legs. 

Rachel rubbed her clit more vigorously as her mind pictured Max's scent and heat so close, her folds glistening with proof that Rachel's ministrations were appreciated. Her clit was swollen and just begging to be touched. In her mind's eye, Rachel looked up at Max who nodded with excitement akin to a child on Christmas. 

With a sly grin, Rachel kissed pale thighs that looked like they have never seen the light of day. Above her, Max moaned. 

"God, you take forever." Max moaned out as Rachel trailed kissed her other thigh up to her heat. 

Rachel chuckled out loud, and her fingers slowed. In her imagination, her tongue was as slow as her fingers were, teasing the brunette as much as she could. 

Above her, the desired effect was taking place, Max moaning loudly. Her nails dug into Rachel's scalp, making the blonde moan and her fingers work faster against her clit. 

Like magic, the scene continued on its own without much thought. Rachel's tongue worked against Max in her mind while Rachel's fingers worked against herself in the same fashion. 

Max's moan's filled the blondes head and the blondes' moans filled her room. As the scene grew hotter and longer, so did Rachel's moans as she squirmed against her bed.

It was embarrassingly quick how fast Rachel was getting close but she didn't care, her body tensed and the heat shot to her feet, making her toes curl, before shooting back up to nestle in her core. Waves of heat crashed over her as her clit was a magnet to her fingers, drawing them to rub in circles more and more until finally, the thin string snapped and her orgasm washed over her. 

Rachel's entire body twitched as a high-pitched moan broke from her throat, loud and uncaring. Her fingers kept going until she grew too sensitive and she was forced to quit.

Slightly damp and panting, Rachel lay satisfied in her bed, the sexual image faded away. She closed her eyes and breathed, calming her heartbeat until finally, she shifted in her bed, cringing at the wetness between her thighs. 

She stood up and grabbed onto the bed, her legs still wobbly. She cleaned herself off and got into clean boxers that definitely were Chloe's but she didn't want to think about it, and laid back down when it hit her.

She had just masturbated to Max. 

"Fuuuuuuuuuuuck." She groaned, leaning her head back in exasperation. 

Max

  The hipster blinked as she opened the door leading into Chloe's apartment.

"Chloe? I'm here!" She called, not wanting the punk to think she was getting robbed or something. There was no response to her announcement, making the brunette frown.

"Chlo?" She called, closing the door and locking it before she moved towards the punks room. "Chlooo?" She poked her head into the punks room and saw that Chloe was asleep.

Max paused in the doorway, eyeing the sleeping punk. Chloe never slept during the day unless she was super high or upset, and, with the lack of fresh weed stench in the air, Max knew that it was the latter. 

The hipster was faced with two options now, leave and come back later or just hang around until Chloe eventually woke up. 

With her mind made up, Max stripped out of her jacket and bag, setting them on Chloe's desk. She eyed the document that was pulled up and smiled slightly. 

Even despite the fights, Chloe was still piecing together things from Jefferson for Max and Rachel. The hipster glanced over at the punk, "Still the same softie I remember." She whispered to herself, a small smile on her face.

She turned away from the laptop and kicked off her shoes and socks, shoving the white pieces of fabric into her actual shoes. She then climbed into Chloe's bed, situating herself to be slightly upright but the pillows supported her back so it wouldn't hurt. 

"Max...." The brunette jumped, looking over at Chloe who now was slightly awake and staring at her. "Whatareyadoinghere?" She slurred her words together, too tired to separate them. 

"I wanted to see how you were doing." Max whispered, "Go back to sleep, we can talk later." She promised, gently running her fingers through Chloe's soft hair.

The punk closed her eyes, moving closer to Max. "Cuddle." She grunted out making Max chuckle softly.

The brunette moved and allowed herself to be pulled to Chloe's chest, the warmth enveloping her entire body. Chloe's breathing slowed, indicating that she was asleep.

Max continued to play with the punks hair, knowing that she would still wake up and complain if Max stopped for at least ten more minutes. She closed her eyes, leisurely listening to Chloe's heartbeat. 

She blamed the warmth, the nostalgia of cuddling with her best friend again, and rhythmic heartbeat for her actions, there was simply no other reason why she would feel overwhelmed with this type of urge. But, looking up at Chloe's sleeping face, Max couldn't help it.

She leaned up and kissed the punks lips gently.

Chloe opened her eyes slightly, her eyes unfocused and clouded with sleep. A small smile graced those soft lips and Chloe tugged Max closer. 

They kissed, slow and gentle. Little pecks that lead into a soft waltz make-out. No tongue because that was too rough and unnecessary. It was sleepy and slow but Max wouldn't have it any other way.

Kissing Chloe, now, that was an idea that had never occurred to Max and now that it was happening she couldn't believe it never had. 

They parted and Chloe grinned slightly, "Better when awake." She mumbled, "Show you.." Her eyes drifted shut and Max watched amused as Chloe pulled her into a tight cuddle and fell asleep.

"Goodnight dork." Max said with a smile, ruffling Chloe's hair before she closed her eyes, falling asleep with the taste of weed, cigarettes, and energy drinks. 

She wouldn't have had it any other way.

Chloe

Groaning, the blunette opened her eyes. She was warm and the scent of vanilla overpowered her nose, alerting her that Max was next to her. 

She glanced down and smiled at the hipster, she was still asleep, her forehead resting near Chloe's collarbone. 

Gently pulling her hand from underneath Max's pillow, she shook the tingles away and thought.

Holy shit Max and I made out when I was half-asleep. She thought, her face burning. And I promised I'd show her I'm better when fully awake.

Chloe bit her lip, glancing at the photographer again. She could show her.

Every fiber of Chloe's being was alight with some instinct, some primal want, need. 

The punk moved smoothly, straddling the hipster. Max jolted slightly, opening her eyes. They were confused for a few moments before they flicked up at Chloe.

"Chlo?" She yawned, "What are you doing?"

Chloe's mouth felt dry, her heart was beating fast, her hands trembled. 

"Max." Her voice was deepened and Max blushed slightly. Chloe grabbed the hipsters hand and put it on her chest.

The tattoo artists had always mega sucked at talking, at words in general. She would much rather show then tell her emotions. It was why she and Rachel were such a good match, Rachel could articulate her emotions but preferred experience and the blonde never minded getting worshipped. There wasn't another word to describe that Chloe did, she worshipped Rachel.

She still subconsciously did. 

Clearing her thoughts of golden sunrises that had turned cold, Chloe forced herself to stay in the moment. She was with her Max. Her best friend. Her first love.

That was something Rachel could never take from her.

"Chloe you're trembling." Max said softly, gripping the cloth of Chloe's shirt. Chloe knew she could feel it, feel under her palm that the blunettes heart was racing. 

Overwhelmed with a want, Chloe leaned down and captured the hipsters lips. Her body automatically went slow, little pecks until Max got over the shock and kissed her back. Soon little pecks melded into long kisses, no tongue because it would be intrusive at the moment. 

Chloe felt one of Max's hands go on her hip before going onto her back. Chloe knew what she wanted and knew how she could get it so, with that in mind, she bit down onto Max's lip.

The photographer moaned, her nails digging into Chloe's back making the punk groan.

Just like that, the atmosphere changed from sweet to something a little more heated.

It was now that Chloe slipped her tongue into Max's mouth, exploring before prodding the brunette's tongue with hers. Max squirmed and squeaked under her and the hand that was on Chloe's chest pushed.

"Can't breathe." Max gasped but Chloe only leaned back down.

"Breathe through your nose." She said before she kissed Max again, the photographer melting into the kiss and breathing through her nose as Chloe said. 

Time became irrelevant, frozen almost. It was just Chloe and Max now, making out on Chloe's bed in the middle of the afternoon. 

Soon, Chloe parted and placed a few open-mouthed kisses on the brunettes next and Max moaned again.

"Fuck.." She arched her back slightly, her body shaping itself to mold together with Chloe perfectly. 

"God, you're hot." Chloe growled, biting down.

"Ah!" Max dug her nails into Chloe's back, making the punk growl again.

Her mind was swimming with lava-like heat. Her body ached with need, her crotch was heated. Chloe needed Max, wanted her so fucking bad. But there was a chain holding her back, it was weak and all it would take to break it would be a tiny tap but it was there. A tiny ounce of self-control.

Chloe bit her lip and licked that bite mark as an apology.

"Can I leave a hickey?" That would satisfy her, a mark proving Max was hers.

"Fuck, I don't care." Max chuckled, leaning her head back. "Just somewhere I can hide it."

A wave of heat made Chloe all but lunge down and bit down hard on Max's collarbone.

"Chloe!" Max's voice was high-pitched and breathy. Chloe couldn't stop now, she didn't know if she would stop ever.

She shoved a knee between Max's legs and the hipster groaned.

"W-wait, not.." Max trembled, "Too much."

"Sorry." Chloe took her knee away and Max let out a disappointed but relieved sounding sigh.

"S'fine." She moaned as Chloe began to suck on the spot she bit and soon Chloe pulled away, kissing the angry red mark.

"You bruise like a peach." Chloe commented with a grin, eyeing the purple mark.

"Yeah?" Max was breathing heavy. "Jeez, that was one way to wake me up."

"Sorry." Chloe felt a stab of guilt, "I totally just took advantage-"

"No. If I didn't want it I would have stopped you." Max cut her off, shaking her head with a grin. "But I hella wanted that."

Chloe bit her lip and shifted as heat nestled her core. "Stop turning me on or I'm liable to actually fuck you." 

Max laughed, "You need some time alone?" She teased, her eyes relaxed.

Chloe glared at her but felt no real anger. The fact that Max was joking, playingteasing, her, was a good sign. A sign that she hadn't lost Max, that Max was still hers.

"Can I admit something?" Chloe whispered, laying beside the hipster.

"Hm?" Max looked over at her, her fingers immediately tangling into Chloe's colored hair.

"I think of you as mine." Chloe said softly, "I guess I never thought anyone was good enough for you other than me."

Max paused and Chloe whined, moving her head to make Max keep playing with her locks. Getting the hint and laughing, Max continued to scratch at her scalp.

"Dork." She said softly, smiling before she sighed. "I think of you as mine. My journal is filled with 'my Chlo', an entire page dedicated to you." 

"Yeah?" Chloe's heart lept and she grinned. "Have I charmed Max Caulfield?"

Max smiled before she bit her lip, "You're not the only one." She admitted and Chloe felt her heart plummet. "Chloe, I think we need to talk but.." The hipster looked away. "But it involves someone you probably don't want to see right now."

"Rachel." Chloe knew instantly and something in her brain screamed. No, no, no, no, no Rachel couldn't have her. Rachel couldn't take the one thing that would kill Chloe to lose. Rachel could take all she wanted from Chloe, just not Max. 

Max grabbed her face. "Stop, I'm not going anywhere and I'm not choosing between you two." She said sternly, 

"But you-" Chloe was confused and Max smiled, taking out her phone and dialing a number.

It rang twice before Chloe heard a voice that made her heart both drop and soar.

"Max?" Rachel sounded hesitant. "What's up? How's Chlo?"

Chloe shifted, something in her warming to the fact that Rachel still cared. Still spoke in that soft voice when she asked about her.

"We need to talk. All three of us. Can you come over to her apartment?"

Rachel didn't answer, before she spoke in a tiny voice. 

"Are you sure she'd want me there?"

Max glanced at Chloe with a look that Chloe hated because she knew Max was right.

Rachel still loved and cared about her, Rachel wanted to give Chloe space. 

"I'm sure." Max said slowly. "We need to talk."

Rachel breathed in slowly. 

"Be there in fifteen." 

Chapter Text

HOOOOOOOLY SHIT YOU GUYS ARE AMAZING

Alright so I know I've been silent for a long time and there are many reasons for that. At first, it was finals week kicking my ass but as time went on I got more and more depressed. It got so bad that I tried to take my own life and.. I'm dealing with the repercussions of that decision.

I'm in a MUCH better place now however and I finally feel up to writing this story. I didn't want to crap out chapters to appease you guys because I knew if I did that I wouldn't be satisfied with the work as it came together to the huge climax that's coming. I wanted to be proud of this story that I've lovingly crafted with intricate detail and that requires time.

It might come to a surprise that I'm only 16, a soon-to-be junior in high school and that this story doesn't have an outline. I've just been writing and seeing where things take me. This entire story has been one huge experiment for me to challenge my abilities to write on the fly and it's really helped me improve.

So with that, I'm saying sorry for the long wait and I promise that a chapter will be out sometime this week. I can't exactly place when, I might reread this story to freshen myself up on it and figure out the idea I originally had for it, but either way a chapter WILL be out this week.

Thank you so much for your time and love for this story, it makes me proud that I can write something that captivates people and piques their interest, leaves them wanting more.
With that, I say see you guys soon.

Chapter Text

Hazel eyes flicked between baby blue and ocean blue eyes. Silence lay thick between the three girls, a tension between two of them.

Max watched as Rachel shifted beside Chloe, the punk watching her for a half-second before redirecting her attention back to Max.

"So?" Rachel asked, softly, almost too softly to be heard. "What's up?"

Max felt her chest tighten as she stared at the two girls. They had been everything to her, helping her through her anxiety. Rachel had been an angel ever since she met her and Chloe... Chloe was Chloe. That's all Chloe ever needed to be to make Max feel happy.

She loved them both so much and her heart was aching to tell them.

"I.." Her mouth felt dry. Saying those words were much simpler in her head. Max had always been awkward with her emotions, in articulating them. She wasn't as bad at it as Chloe, but she was shy by nature despite her notorious snooping. "I like you both." She blurted out, her words sharper than she had meant for them to be.

Taking a shaky breath she restarted, "I like you both." She murmured, her tone softer this time. "I can't... I can't choose between you two."

She peeked through her lashes, gauging the two's reaction. Chloe's mouth was agape, her brow furrowed, while Rachel had her brow raised and her mouth open.

Max blushed slightly, "I really love you both." She began softly, "Rachel you're amazing, fun, loving, and you care. You've never taken me out of my comfort zone and you're hella good at reading me, you know when to quit and when to push." She must have said something amazing because Rachel Amber was blushing. She turned to Chloe, "And you, Ms. Price," She said in a jokingly flirtatious tone that she didn't know she could do. "are my best friend and first love." She admitted, "I've had a crush on you way back when you beat up that guy for pushing me." She laughed slightly at the memory, "I guess... I guess I never thought I was good enough for you until I saw how much you really cared about me. You not shoving me out of your life, even though it's well deserved after my five-year silence, speaks volumes and kind of validated it for me. I've never doubted your care for me," she flicked her eyes into those ocean blue orbs that she loved so much, "but I guess I was too scared of fucking up. You were so broken, I didn't want to hurt you even more." She's never pondered how endearing a blush could look, but on Chloe, it was nothing but.

Chloe scratched the back of her neck, "Of course I care," She murmured, "I care about both of you a hella lot." She turned and smiled slightly at Rachel, trying to ease the tension that was between them. "Even if I'm an asshole, I.." She fumbled slightly, "I-"

"You give a shit." Rachel said bluntly, smiling at the appreciative look she received from the punk.

"Yeah." She replied softly, "I do." She murmured, looking down sheepishly.

Rachel shuffled and Max looked at her, then Chloe, then down at her lap. She chewed her bottom lip for a second, feeling both their eyes on her before she sighed. "I can't choose between you two." She murmured, reiterating that fact clearly. "I don't want to choose between you two. I-" Her confidence faltered and she clenched her fists, digging her nails into the palms of her hands. However much she struggled, she needed to say this. "I- I want..I want both of you." She finally said, "I-If you'll have me." She added sheepishly, she had been thinking so much of herself she hadn't really considered how this might make the both of them feel.  

A tense silence filled the room and Max was considering being like 'April fools! Hah got you guys!" when she felt a cold hand on her shoulder. 

Jumping at the sudden contact, she snapped her head up and saw Rachel looking at her, the blondes face oddly serious. 

"Max." She said softly, "Are you sure you can handle both of us?" She murmured, "Do you really want both of us? A relationship with even one person is hard enough, let alone two. I know I get jealous.." She trailed off, pausing for a second, "I don't want you to think you're obligated to choose both of us because I gave you affection." She finally said, "I don't want to force myself into an equation that has nothing to do with me." She looked at Chloe meaningfully and suddenly Max understood why Rachel was being so hesitant.

She knew that Chloe had been in love with Max ever since she left. She had to deal with the aftermath of Max leaving and she didn't want to take something that Chloe had wanted for such a long time away. 

Heartmelting at the consideration, Max couldn't help but feel selfish as a small bit of panic set in. She willed Chloe to say it was fine, that they could figure it out but she looked at the ground, hiding her face so she wouldn't influence the blunettes decision. 

There were a few footsteps and Max looked up just in time to see Chloe kiss Rachel, it was quick yet intense, lasting five seconds or shorter until the blunette pulled away with a lopsided smirk. 

"Date both the people I love?" She rose a brow, "Count me the fuck in." 

Max couldn't help but snort and giggle, the sound soft and light, her heart felt like it was on clouds and nothing but happiness flooded her limbs. 

Chloe turned to her and a shy look crossed her face. 

"Max- May I-" She began but Max was already moving. 

Crossing the foot between them, Max leaned so she was inches from Chloe's face, having to tip-toe a bit and whispered:

"Kiss me, dork." 

Chloe didn't hesitate, grabbing Max's face and kissing the brunette deeply. 

Letting out a sigh, Max relaxed against her childhood best friend, now girlfriend, and grinned into the kiss. 

Chloe laughed slightly and rested her forehead against the hipsters.

"You have no idea how long I've wanted that." She whispered, a small grin on her face.

Max giggled, "I'm sure I can guess." She wrapped her arms around Chloe's neck, "Kiss me again." She missed the feeling.

Chloe breathed a laugh and obliged, this time biting down on Max's bottom lip, making the offended squeak. This allowed the punk to slip her tongue into Max's mouth and explore around, marking the territory as hers. 

Max's heart was about to burst out her chest, tingles of pleasure and butterflies swam in her belly and her legs were starting to feel like jello. Chloe seemed to sense her weakness because suddenly her strong arms wrapped around Max to help hold her up and to allow her kiss the photographer deeper.

"Not to burst on your parade but.." Rachel's voice made Max jump as it was in her ear. "I want a kiss." She spun Max around and Chloe made a slight sound of protest before she was silenced by Rachel kissing Max. 

"Oh god, that's hot." Chloe breathed, and Max wanted to laugh but Rachel's tongue was doing things to her that made it hard to think about anything but the blonde herself.

She let out a slight moan as Rachel rubbed her tongue against Max's and coaxed it into her own mouth where she sucked on it. A stuttering breath came from Max's lungs and her head felt dizzy. 

This kiss wasn't as innocent as Chloe's, it wasn't filled with the same child-like excitement and impulsiveness. It wasn't the kiss of someone who had been in love for years and that love was finally getting reconciled. 

This was the kiss of someone who wanted more. 

Max knew this and yet.. she was okay with it.

Rachel pulled away, she gave Chloe a look before she looked back at Max, "Bed." she ordered lowly and the hipster's body buzzed in response.

The aforementioned laid down on the bed as requested and Rachel climbed on top of her while Chloe cuddled her side. 

Placing a kiss on her lips, Rachel smirked slightly, her eyes filled with a heat that made Max's brain short-circuit. "Tell me if this is too much."

"What're you gonna- ah!" Max's question was answered as Rachel's soft lips found her neck. 

Rachel chuckled and Chloe let out a grunt, "Can't have all the fun." The punk said before she kissed the left side of Max's neck.

"Oh dog.." Max breathed as pleasure threatened to overpower her. She tilted her head back, wanting more and wanting to get away simultaneously but also never wanting to leave.

The photographer let out a yelp as a hand touched the sliver of skin that was visible due to her bunched up shirt. It was Rachel's hand, soft and gentle and questioning. 

'Is this okay?' The question was clear as day. Max hesitated slightly before she grabbed Rachel's hand and moved it slightly higher then pressed down on it, a boundary on the flat of her stomach, a line that Rachel couldn't cross for now. 

Rachel pushed down, a signal she understood and began to trail her fingers along the pale skin that hasn't seen the sunlight in a long while. 

Max let out a small noise of content and then she moaned as Chloe, not wanting to be outdone, bit down on her neck and sucked. 

"C-Chloe," She breathed, "d-don't leave a mark." 

Chloe hummed against her skin, tickling Max slightly. "I won't." She promised softly, bringing her hands up to feel Max up along with Rachel. 

The photographer was swimming in pleasure, she couldn't imagine a better place to be other than trapped between her girlfriends. Chloe's hand twitched and Max gasped as she squeezed her boob through her Jane Doe shirt. 

"Chlo.." She arched her back into the touch before she moved Chloe's hand away. "N-Not yet." 

"Sorry." Chloe apologized with a chaste kiss on her cheek before she rerouted her attention back onto Max's neck. 

Max wondered how long this would go on, not that she minded, but she was rapidly becoming needier and she knew she wouldn't be able to go farther than this with Rachel and Chloe, at least not yet. 

She was about to ask for it to stop when the front door suddenly swung open with a loud bang.

In a flurry of motion, Chloe stood up. "What the hell?" She growled and charged from her room ready to defend her home.

Max, a little lagging behind, roused herself and rose, following Chloe with Rachel in front of her. 

What she saw next she couldn't believe.

Nathan Prescott, bloodied and beaten bleeding heavily from what looked like a bullet wound in his stomach. 

He looked up, giving a small grin but his eyes screamed help and pain. 

"Well, Maxine seems the rat is on the scent." 

Chapter Text

"So you're the intel?" Chloe asked in disbelief. 

The trip to Arcadia Bays hospital was a short one, now the three girls were in a room with Nathan propped up in a hospital bed, hooked up to monitors and other various machines. 

Nathan nodded slowly, keeping his eyes closed.

"How did you get all the pictures of me?" Rachel demanded, her eyes flaring. She looked furious.

"How did you get any of the evidence you have?" Max chimed in.

Nathan opened his eyes and sighed, "I used to be his apprentice." Nathan murmured. "I used to look up to him, he was the only father I had." Nathan shook his head again. 

Chloe opened her mouth but Nathan held up his hand, "Let me start from the beginning." he said.

Grabbing a chair, Max sat down along with Chloe and Rachel.

Nathan drew a breath and began, "When Mark was accepted into Blackwell, he and my father hit it off great. It makes sense, both are sociopaths who stop at nothing to get what they want." Nathan let out a dry chuckle, "I began to see more and more of Mark, at meetings with my father, in my house. The two were... friends, or at least allies working for a common goal." Nathan looked down at his hands, "My father told Mark about my dream to be a photographer, my infatuation with beautiful models and my dark pictures and Mark seemed keenly interested. He told me that if I trained under him he could make me a star, his pupil, someone who could do what he did but better." Nathan looked up, "Better than Mark Jefferson? I was sold. I was a fool." His expression dropped into sorrow, "I did everything he asked, lying to girls so that they would become my models, manipulating my friends into agreeing into things they didn't understand. All because I thought that it would make him proud. I wanted someone to be proud of me for once." His voice cracked and he rubbed at his eyes, trying to hide the tears. "Then that... that bastard took it too far." He hissed, "He manipulated Victoria, raped her and took sick photos of her. He showed me them and I raged but he said that to be a photographer as good as he was, you must be willing to make sacrifices, to always take a shot." He spat, "So I did. I took my shot right into his gut but somehow the fucker survived." Nathan let out a laugh, "And now he's hunting me. Trying to silence the only threat he knows of before he's exposed." Nathan's eyes flashed, "I know everything. I can show you everything but it can't happen overnight." 

Max's mind reeled at all the information but a question stook out in her mind, "You shot him?" She asked, "When?"

"It was months ago, my father was pissed and offered to pay the hospital bill for him. But the wound isn't healed, it's a weakness of his." Nathan paused, "I have this insane idea, but it could work." 

Chloe grinned, "Insane is my middle name." She said, "What is it?"

Nathan grinned slightly, "I can get a police force rallied to storm his base of operations. However, I know by my father that he changed the location. What I need you three to do is place a tracker on him." 

"A tracker? Without him noticing?" Rachel said in disbelief. 

"It's a silent one, a design he used to stalk women and kidnap them when they were alone only better." Nathan explained, holding a small, flat, thin disk that blinked every few seconds. "Place it somewhere he won't notice."

"Hell no, this is insane." Rachel said, "I'm not letting myself or-"

"I'll do it." Max cut her off, making Chloe and Rachel freeze.

"No." They said together, "No way in hell." 

"I have to." Max said, "This.." She wavered, her resolve faltering before regaining strength. "This is the only way."

Rachel and Chloe exchanged gazes, both uncertain. Chloe looked back at her, blue eyes round.

"Max, you do realize what the risk is. I mean... he could-" 

"Don't finish that." Max looked away, her tone sharp. "I'm aware of the risks but..." A thought crossed her mind, a sapling of an idea that, if executed well, could grow into the tree of Jefferson's undoing. She looked back at Chloe and Rachel, a smile on her face. "It's time I be an everyday hero." 

 

Chapter Text

Max sighed, staring at the photo in her hand. It was one of the 'Butterfly' and she didn't want to let go of it so soon.

However...

It was a damn good photo, and it would be an excuse to get Jefferson alone. 

She looked up, staring boredly ahead at the lecture the photographer was giving. She didn't care about the bullshit spouting from his mouth, she glanced at the clock, willing for time to move faster. 

"Max," She looked up, looking into Jefferson's icy eyes, "are you even listening?" He said in an annoyed tone.

The brunette scowled, "Does it look like I am?" She retorted sharply, looking at him challengingly. 

She saw the mans mouth twitch, as though he wanted to snarl, but he only frowned, "Max, I don't know what has gotten into you. Your portfolio is amazing and you have clearly worked hard to get here and now that you are, you're slacking." Concern laced his voice and Max wanted to vomit. "I have tried to reach you, but I am at a loss. I know this may be hasty, but if the people you surround yourself with are holding you back then-"

"Shut the fuck up." Max snarled, her tone filled with venom. Gasps and whispers erupted around her as she surged upward. Her hands slammed on the table and her chair toppled over behind her. "Don't act like you know me or the people I hang out with."

Again, she saw Jefferson holding back his anger, it was subtle, but his jaw was clenching slightly and there was a bit of uncertainty lighting his eyes. 

"Alright, it was only a suggestion. Clearly, you know how to run your life more than I do." He held his hands in surrender. "I misjudged you, Max," He admitted, "and I'm sorry, that will not happen again." There was an ominous promise in his voice that made Max's skin crawl but she fought it away. 

"How about," She grumbled, "instead of worrying about things you have no place in you teach the class." She sneered, "Afterall, that is what they pay you for is it not?" She lifted her chin, a ghost of a smile on her face.

Jefferson blinked slowly, another way for him to control his anger, "It is," He turned and opened his jaws, "Now the-" A ring rang out in the classroom and he let out a sigh. "We will pick up tomorrow. Now, remember, the contest is due by the end of this week and the winner will get extra credit. Taylor, you must turn a picture in and Max-"

The brunette stood and walked up to him, she gripped the tracker tight in her right hand and the photo in her left and passed the latter to the teacher, "Here." She said coolly before she blinked. She hoped her eyes looked daze and she shifted her weight back onto her heels.

"Max?" Mark blinked in confusion as his student started to fall over. "Max!" He gripped her by the waist to support her wait and Max flung her arms around his neck as though by instinct.

She pressed her right hand tight to his neck, letting the tracker stick underneath his collar where it wouldn't be noticed and she dazedly looked up.

"Huh?" She asked, blinking her eyes a few times to really sell her point. She suddenly snapped back, "Oh dog, I'm sorry!" She apologized, though the sorry felt like venom on her tongue. She jumped back, out of his grip,  and stared at her teacher with round eyes.

Jefferson looked baffled, his arms still outstretched and he let them drop. "Are you okay? What was that?" He asked, "Should I contact the nurse?"

"No!" Max shook her head wildly, "No, I just skipped lunch and I guess I just.. got dizzy." She lied easily. 

Mark tilted his head, "Are you sure, I should take you back to your dorm, it's the least I can do." He offered, his eyes filled with concern that Max knew was false.

"It's okay," Max shook her head, "I have to meet someone anyway and we'll probably get something to eat." She smiled at Jefferson and, as sweet and cheerfully as she could said, "I'll be okay!" 

Jefferson's mouth twitched, "Are you sure?" He stepped closer, "I should at least offer you some water..." 

"I'm fine." Max shook her head again, "Really, you don't have to worry about me Mr. Jefferson." She checked her phone. "I really have to blast, thank you for catching me and I hope I win that contest!" She turned on her heel and ran off.

Jefferson watched her, something in his mind weaving. He looked at the picture and all thoughts of suspicion disappeared. Max would for sure have to win, this photo was stunning. But more than that, she seemed to see through his disguise and he couldn't risk having another Nathan running around should she find anything incriminating against him. 

A tremor of worry went through him, Max was close with Rachel, closer than he's ever seen anyone with the blonde. What if she had told Max what he did...

No. Mark composed himself and threw himself a smirk. Scared of a mere child? He mocked himself, No, this was simply a minor roadblock in a bigger plan. He destroyed Victoria's spirit, he had killed Nathan, and he had forced Rachel into silence and submission. He would simply have to make sure Max wouldn't be any more of a nuisance than she had become. 

With a small grin, he set the photo on his desk with all the other half-assed photos the students had turned in because of his griping. 

He glanced back at where Max was sitting and resolved himself. There would be more than a simple extra credit in it, he would offer his student's something they all wanted.

Recognition. 

But in the end, Max would win.

And so would he.

With a quiet laugh, he walked out of his classroom, turning off the lights and locking the door. 

 

Max sighed, her heart hammering in her chest. 

"So?" Chloe asked as her girlfriend climbed into her truck. 

"It's done." She murmured, "Where's Rachel?" She wanted nothing then to cuddle up and smell the blonde's coconut scent waft around her. 

"With Nathan, did you know that bastard's father hasn't even tried to contact him?" Chloe let out a snort, "Unbelievable, and I thought had family issues." 

Max snorted and glanced out the window when a girl caught her attention. "Chloe stop." She ordered tersely, making the blue slow down and stop.

"What's up?" Chloe asked, undoubtedly raising a brow but Max's eyes were transfixed on a scene playing out before her.

Victoria Chase, diva and queen of Blackwell, was crying into.. Kate Marsh's shoulder. The Christian girl lifted the blonde's chin and smiled, saying something that Max couldn't hear and leaned in, kissing her softly.

Victoria melted into the kiss and the two bumped head's against the others, Kate smiling gently and Victoria closing her eyes and finding comfort in the touch.

"Woah, when did those two become a thing?" Chloe had put the truck in park and had watched the scene unfold. "That's hella drama. Rachel's gonna be all over that." 

Max sighed, "Hold on Chlo." She unbuckled and opened the door.

"Wait, hold on, what are you-" Chloe started but Max had closed the door, making the punk huff and lean back in her seat, the air conditioning blowing frigid air onto her face. 

Max moved towards the couple, who were too preoccupied in each other to notice and when she was about a foot away, Max smirked slightly. 

"Friend." She teased, making Kate and Victoria jump away from each other and look at her with wide eyes. 

Victoria opened and closed her mouth like a fish but Kate only giggled.

"Alright, you caught us." She said, looking a bit embarrassed. "I figured you would at some point, Max." 

Max grinned, "I'm not the brightest of the bunch but even to me it was obvious you were pulling a Romeo and Juliet." She teased her friend before she looked at Victoria.

"Nathan's alive." She blurted out, making Victoria recoil.

"What?" She asked, "Why did you, wait, how do you know?" Victoria asked, her eyes hardening.

"Victoria, it would take a century to explain it all." Max said, "But I.. I know what Jefferson did. To you, to Nathan, to Rachel." She said softly and Victoria's eyes widened.

"How?" She demanded. 

"Nathan.. showed me in a way." She told Victoria. "He has information that no one else does. Access to.. to pictures." She looked away, "I didn't look to be disrespectful. Nathan was my intel, he wants to destroy Jefferson from the inside out. That's why he showed me this drive of the victims, with pictures and dates and times."

Victoria looked disturbed but intrigued, "Nathan trusts you." She said in slight shock.

"He's at the Arcadia Bay Hospital, Jefferson tried to shut him up but it didn't work." Handing her a paper with a room number on it,  Max looked around. "Look, we have a plan but... but it requires me being bait." She told Victoria. "I don't know what else that entails but if I..." She paused, she had thought about the potential of Jefferson catching on and silencing her but this would be the first time she'd voice it. "If I disappear.. promise you'll look for me." She didn't know why she was asking Victoria this of all people but if anyone would notice Max's whereabouts after Chloe and Rachel, it would be Victoria. She'd miss her verbal punching bag.

Victoria blinked, "I promise and Max?" Max looked up, blinking her eyes. "You're brave, braver than I ever could be." 

Max sighed, "Jefferson was right about one thing." She said as she turned away, "Anyone can be an everyday hero. The only thing he didn't count on is that for someone to be a hero there has to be a villain."

Max walked away, her mind swimming in thoughts.

And in every story, the hero always wins. 

Rachel 

The blonde eyed Nathan for a long time.

The brunette stared back, his eyes narrowed.

"I know what Jefferson did to you." She stated softly.

Nathan shrugged, "I know what Jefferson did to you." He replied smoothly. 

Rachel huffed and leaned back, "You're working for the same goal yet.. you're doing it from the shadows."

"Because if I was forward, I'd be dead." Nathan said with another shrug. 

"You are more open with Max." Rachel observed.

Nathan's mouth twitched, "Because she doesn't remind me of what I did, of what I could have done." He looked up at Rachel guiltily, "He was going to make me drug you." He said, "To kidnap you but after Victoria.. he took matters into his own hands."

Rachel felt sick talking about this. "And you were going to do it?" She asked.

Nathan hesitated, "No." He finally said, "I wasn't. But even then, my refusal to comply meant nothing. He still did his damage." He looked away, "That's why Max is special. She can control time in a way. Haven't you noticed? By her being the voice for the victims, Jefferson is on the defense. He senses that Max is a threat." 

"She could be taken." Rachel growled.

Nathan sighed, leaning back. "She could. But if she is, she won't be too hurt. Trust me things will be okay, Rachel."

"How can I trust you when you're putting my girlfriend in danger?" Rachel demanded, "How can I trust you when you were a pawn in that bastards evil schemes?" She glared at Nathan, "How can I trust you, Nathan?"

The prep looked at her, "You can't." He said with a shrug. "Trust is an individuals choice and if you don't want to trust me you won't, regardless if I do anything to earn it or not." 

Rachel's mouth felt dry, he had bested her. 

Her phone buzzed and she saw that Chloe had texted her that she and Max had arrived. 

At the same time, the door swung open and the two aforementioned walked in. 

"Heyo!" Chloe said as she barged in. Rachel rolled her eyes at her childishness but Max laughed.

"So?" Nathan asked, getting right down to business. 

"It's done." Max told him and Rachel sucked in a sharp breath. 

She didn't like this, she didn't want what happened to her to happen to Max.

And if she's careful, she won't. A voice told her, making the blonde sigh.

"What can we do now?" She asked, making the girls look up. 

"Wait." Nathan said softly, leaning back. "Wait until something gives."

Chloe let out a grumble. "All this waiting is making me antsy." 

"Entertain yourself." Nathan waved his hand dismissively. "You guys should go, keep me updated, Max should have my number."

Rachel nodded slightly and followed her girlfriends out. She felt Nathan's eyes on her as she left the room, but when she turned to look at him, he had closed his eyes, seeming to fall asleep. 

Frowning, the aspiring model walked out of the room and closed the door. 

"I'm bored." Chloe said, "Let's ditch this place and go to the diner. I could use some bites." 

Max smiled slightly, "Sure, I'm hella starving to. Rachel?" She turned to blue eyes to the blonde, who was staring at Nathans door silently in thought. 

"Huh?" She blinked a few times, her mind registering that she had been asked a question before she nodded, "Oh, yeah, I could use something to munch on." 

Chloe rose her brow, "Yo, you cool Rach?" She asked, "What did Nathan say that creeped you out so much?"

Rachel shook her head, "Nothing," She lied, knowing both Max and Chloe could see through it. She remained silent as both judging and disbelieving blue eyes peered into her before she groaned. "I just hate that we're putting Max in danger and everyone is fine with it." She blew up slightly, glaring at Chloe accusingly.

Chloe's eyes darkened in rage and she opened her mouth but a sharp look from Max made her freeze.

"It isn't that no one cares Rachel." She explained calmly, making Rachel turn her attention to the hipster. "Chloe is just as concerned as you are, trust me." She grinned slightly and glanced at Chloe who sighed.

"I might have ranted to her on the way here." Chloe muttered, recalling the conversation. "I asked Max if she was really okay with all of this because if not then I'd do it." 

Rachel blinked, she should have known. 

Idiot. She thought to herself, flicking her eyes to the ground unhappily. 

"Rachel, I did this so you wouldn't have to relive it over again." Max said.

Rachel let out a sigh, "But what if you... what if he.... what if it happens to you." She asked softly, almost inaudible as she looked up, her brows furrowed.

Max gripped her hands, interlocking their fingers and smiling. But it didn't take long for Rachel to see the sadness and, worse, acceptance in her eyes. 

"Then so be it." She said with a shrug, but her tone shook. "Sometimes Rachel, monsters are just too face. I'm saving you from this one." She gripped her hands tighter in a reassuring motion. 

Rachel's heart softened and melted and she pulled the hipster close, burying her face into Max's neck and hugging her waist tight.

She felt Max wrap her arms around the aspiring model's upper back and hug back just as tight. Closing her eyes, Rachel breathed in the vanilla scent she had come to love. 

"Thank you." She whispered into Max's ear. 

"Don't mention it, Rachel," Max looked up and placed a soft kiss on Rachel's lips. 

For once, Rachel just let it be soft. Because for once, soft was okay. This was okay. She didn't need to forget things or distract from what needed to be fixed. She didn't need to feel teeth on her flesh and nails scraping her back because she enjoyed the pain she couldn't bring to inflict on herself.  

For once, she liked herself enough to indulge this. 

And that was what made Max Caulfield truly special. 

She made Rachel like herself. 

That was a feat that only Chloe was able to do before, and even then Chloe didn't do it consistently, Max never failed to make Rachel feel special. 

"Stop thinking so much." Max's voice cut through her thoughts, making her refocus on the girl before her. Max was smiling, her eyes light and playful as she kissed Rachel again. 

Rachel sighed, "I was thinking about you.."

"Why think about me when you have me right here?" Max cut her off gently, gripping Rachel's hands again. "Come on, I'm starving." She giggled, "Enough worrying." 

And like that, Rachel let her worries flow to the back of her mind. She would always be worried about Max, the girl was so fragile, but looking at the brunette in front of her she realized that wasn't necessarily true. 

Max had grown, she wasn't the panicky girl Rachel had picked up from the airport. 

Rachel wondered if Max helping Chloe and herself through their issues, made her forget her own. 

The aspiring model mused to herself, Max's anxiety had faded with time, by the end of the second week Max was almost a completely different person. Her PTSD didn't even pop up much anymore, only when there were direct triggers. 

She looked at Max again, who had begun to drag the blonde towards the elevator and was talking earnestly with Chloe, and smiled. 

"What?" Max asked, raising a brow which was definitely a habit she had picked up from Chloe.

"Nothing, just wondering when you grew so much." Rachel asked, "You aren't exactly the same girl that landed here a month ago."

 Max shrugged, "I found strength in helping you two." She admitted, "You guys make me not hate myself so much." She murmured, looking down at her hands. "You keep me out of my head. That was something my friends in Seattle could never do." 

Rachel laughed, "Some friends."

"They weren't bad just.. they weren't Chloe." Max blushed slightly and Rachel didn't even have to look at Chloe to know the blunette was blushing profusely. 

"What's with all this mushy shit?" Chloe grumbled, oh yeah, she was for sure embarassed.

Rachel let a small grin but froze as she saw a figure standing at the opening of the hospital doors.

"No way." Chloe growled. 

"What?" Max asked innocently, not quite knowing what was going on.

Rachel clenched her teeth as the figure locked eyes with her. So many chaotic emotions were in his soul, excitement, confusion, worry, love.

The man walked up to them, his eyes sweeping the trio before he locked onto Rachel.

"Frank." Rachel greeted tersely.

"Rachel." He greeted, equally as strained. "Could we go outside? These fuckers kicked out Pompidou." 

Rachel sighed, glancing at Chloe. The tattoo artist eyes were filled with undisguised rage. 

"Sure, Frank. You'll just find another place to bother me if I don't." Rachel said and Frank flinched.

"That's not why I'm here, I didn't even know you were here." He defended himself.

"But you aren't complaining." Rachel shot back.

Frank flinched again but he didn't reply. 

Once outside, Frank looked at Chloe. 

"Look I know you hate me." He started, and Chloe opened her mouth but Max shot her a look and she snapped it shut, scowling. "But, I didn't follow or stalk you here." He flicked his eyes to Rachel and the blonde could see he wasn't lying.

"Then what?" Rachel asked, "If this a coincidence, and I see it is," She glanced at Chloe and the blunette scowled deeper now that she knew she couldn't ream Frank for following them around. "then why are you here?"

Frank sighed, glancing down at his dog, which had immediately come to greet Rachel. 

The blonde looked at the mutt and sighed, a small smile on her face. She had always liked the dog, and she couldn't help but get down on a knee to pet him and let the former fight dog lick her. 

Frank watched her for a moment, his eyes swimming with emotion. Rachel stood up and looked at him challengingly. 

"I came to see Nathan." He admitted.

The three girls exchanged surprised looks, it seemed that Max had caught on to who Frank was and what his history with Chloe and Rachel was. 

"Why?" Max asked.

Frank looked at her and rose a brow, "Who the fuck?" He asked.

"Max." The hipster held out her hand, "Max Caulfield."

Frank's eyes glittered with recognition. "Oh, so you're the chick who left." He gripped her hand and shook it. "Frank Bowers. Chloe told me about you. Cool that I can now put a face to the name."

Max looked away, "I didn't want to leave."

"Yeah? People do a lot of things they don't want to." His voice had an edge and Rachel squared her shoulders knowing he was referring to their affair. Only he was speaking for her, not himself. "Either way, you asked why?" Frank lit a cigarette and sighed, "What all do you know about me Max?"

"You were Chloe's drug dealer and slept with Rachel." She said bluntly.

The man leaned against the wall, taking a drag and breathing it out. "I was Nathan's too and the dude started acting weird." He said, "Then I hear word that he's in the hospital cause some asshole shot him? I-" He hesitated, "I wanted to check on him, make sure the idiot's okay."

"Why?" Rachel snapped, making Frank tense slightly. 

"I don't know okay." He snapped back, his voice rough. "I just, even though he's a customer he's also a fucking person and.. I've seen him fucked up on shit okay? He's messed up and I..." Frank struggled before he laughed dryly, "I don't fucking know." 

Rachel eyed him up and down and sighed, "Room 213." She said, "He's probably still awake."

Frank hesitated, "Just like that?"

"I don't hate you." Rachel said, "I just would rather forget you exist." 

Frank sighed, "I still love you." He said.

Rachel frowned slightly.

Frank hesitated, eyes flicking towards Max and Chloe, "You don't love me." He continued.

"No, I don't." Rachel agreed, gripping Max's hand as Max gripped Chloe's. 

Frank observed them and sighed. "I'm sorry." He said, deflating. He brushed past Rachel stopped. "I hope they make you happy, cause I never could." With that, he moved back into the building and Rachel let go of a breath she didn't know she was holding. 

"You okay Rach?" Chloe asked, her eyes concerned.

"Y-Yeah.." The aspiring model sighed, "Just, never want to see him again." 

Chloe grumbled, "Same." 

"Let's just go home." Rachel murmured, "I'm tired."

"We can crash at the apartment." Chloe said.

Chloe

It was Friday and Max and Rachel hadn't said much about Jeffershit other than he now was saying that whoever won the Everyday Hero contest would now see their picture displayed for the town to see and that he would invite some professionals to speak to the winner.  

With a sigh, the tattoo artist glanced at the time. It was almost five and Max hadn't texted her as she normally did.

She's probably with Rachel, Chloe thought as she locked up her shop tiredly. It was much earlier than she normally locked shop, but she had no more appointments and she didn't feel like staying three more hours in an empty villain. 

"Chloe?" She jumped, whipping around to see Rachel, crazy-eyed and panicked. "Have you seen Max?" She asked.

"She's not with you?" Chloe asked, her heart plummeting to her stomach.

Rachel looked pale, "She won." 

"What?" 

"She won the contest."

Chloe felt horror creep up her spine. "We need to go to Nathan." The boy had been released and was now living with Victoria.

Rachel nodded and, together, the two girls set off both with fear and determination. 

Just hold on Max, Chloe thought as she switched on the ignition to her truck. We're coming!

Chapter Text

"Where did you see her last?" Chloe asked Rachel, her heart hammering in her chest.

"After she won the contest, Mark held her back. I watched them. Max left and I walked her back to the dorm but then Max said she needed to go do something for Ms. Grant and I stupidly thought she'd be fine since Ms. Grant was just outside the dorm gates.." Rachel trailed off, guilt heavy in her voice. "God, I don't know what I'll do if she gets hurt." 

Chloe expected jealously but only worry washed over her like a tidal wave. "I don't either, but I promise you we'll find her." She promised, reaching over to grip Rachel's hand.

Rachel's hazel eyes glowed with concern. "Chloe, I'm sorry." She said, "I've done so many shitty things to you and now I've dragged Max into the mess I created. If I hadn't been so desperate I wouldn't have gotten mixed up with Mark." She looked away, "If I had taken a step back I would have seen how terrible he was." 

"There's nothing we can do about that now Rach," Chloe said, "but we can save Max from him." She pulled into Victoria's driveway and switched off the ignition. "Come on, we don't have time anymore." 

Rachel nodded, "Alright." She said, following the punk.

Victoria opened the door, "Nathan's already on it." She told them before Chloe had time to knock. "Come on, hurry." 

Chloe exchanged looks with Rachel before they both bolted into the house. 

If it had been any other time, Chloe would have taken time to look over how huge Victoria's house was, with victorian esque architecture coupled with modern techniques and outfitting, but her mind was focused on Max. 

Nathan was on the couch, tapping on a laptop. 

"What are you doing?" Rachel asked, raising a brow. 

Nathan glanced up before he looked back down. "I'm trying to find Max. That tracker she placed on him, it tracked him out somewhere east out of town but it stopped pinging somewhere right here." He tapped his laptop and Rachel leaned down to see what he was pointing out. 

"The woods?" She questioned out loud. 

"Or at least just before it." The photographer sighed, "something's interfering with the signal, if I could just tap into the same signal...." he bit his lip. "I could reverse engineer it and find where he's at." Nathan tapped a a few keys. "But I've never seen something with this much protection, it's simple enough security, my father nor Jefferson is a genius when it comes to tech, but it's time consuming." 

"We don't have time!" Chloe growled, slamming her hands down. "Rachel," she flicked her eyes towards the model, "do you remember where that greenhouse is?" 

"Well, yeah, it's not exactly hidden." Rachel said, tilting her head slightly. "Why?"

"We're going back. We need clues and I suspect that greenhouse has all the answers." Chloe rose to her full height, her back straighten and a determined fire in her eyes. "Lead the way." It was said like an order. 

"I'll keep working. Send me anything worth interest." Nathan hesitated. "The signal stops right before the woods just out of town, after hitting up the greenhouse if there is anything there that indicates.." 

"We'll go straight away." Chloe promised, before nodding to Rachel. 

Max

Max opened her eyes slowly, her head was pounding and her body ached, as if she hadn't moved in months. 

She shifted her blurry vision around her, Where am I? She flinched, a sound of a cameras click sounded somewhere close to her. Off to the right. 

This place was bright, too bright, enough for it to hurt Max's eyes. She laid her head down again, her eyes slipping close. She felt so tired, so... tired.

Click

She opened her eyes, that was a camera. She turned her head and eyed the blurry mass above her, it's hands holding what looked like a camera. 

Her throat felt dry, Where am I

Panic began to set in, this entire situation felt wrong. She fought against the tiredness, she tried to clear her head of the fog that enveloped it and she forced her vision to focus. She looked up again and snarled. She tried to move her hands only to realized that there was rope around them, bounding her wrists together. 

"Jefferson." 

The teacher looked surprised for her to speak. "Max." He greeted, his tone low. "Why are you awake?" He whispered that, as though asking himself. 

"Why am I here." Max shot back, pushing herself into a sitting position. She glanced around, this room, it looked familiar. The way the lighting was, that white table... 

"Because you won." Jefferson's tone was sick, filled with glee that only a child should feel in a very different circumstance than whatever the fuck this was. "You won the contest Max, and that means you get to have a kickstart to your career." He smirked smugly, "With a very particular few." 

"Sickos who get off to teenagers manipulated by someone meant to protect them?" She hissed, kicking her foot out and toppling the tripod in front of him over. A very satisfying sound of it hitting the ground hard made her smirk. 

"You little bitch!" Jefferson rushed forward and tangled his hand in her hair and tugged it, making Max yelp in pain. "Oh you're lucky Max," he leaned in, his blue eyes alit with primal anger. "You're lucky because even though I could break you," he jangled his belt for emphasis, "I have a plan for you." 

Max glared at him, despite the dryness in her throat she gathered spit in her mouth and let a ball shoot out of her mouth. 

Jefferson flinched back as the saliva hit his face and he growled, bringing his hand back and slamming it hard in her cheek. 

"You ought to behave," Jefferson wiped his face off, "after all, you wouldn't want Chloe or Rachel hurt right?" He grinned slightly at the way Max's eyes flared. 

"If you lay one hand on them-" Max started, cutting off the teacher when he tried to speak over her, "I will personally flay you." 

The creep hesitated, as if he hadn't expect her to fight so much. He backed away before he grabbed something off of the white table. "Maybe this will calm you down." He said calmly, approaching her with a vile and needle. 

Max backed up against the wall behind her, shaking her head and lashing her feet out at him. 

She slammed her foot into his stomach a few times until he wisened up and grabbed her feet, throwing him down before he straddled her. 

Pain from her neck flared before a fog returned to her mind again. 

"Fuck... you...won't.. get.. away.." the fog and darkness returned. 

Rachel  

She shifted through the papers on his desk. Her eyes searched for anything that contained clues. 

When Rachel and Chloe arrived to the greenhouse, they found that the security door had been unlocked. The cameras and lights were gone, they had been moved. 

Rachel let out a frustrated screech, this was all her fault. She should have been more careful, she should have known that he was bad, her instinct had told her to stay away but of course she didn't listen to it and now Max was-

A clunk on the ground made her look down. 

A phone?

She picked it up and inspected it further. It was black and came straight out of the 90's. She pressed the home button and narrowed her eyes when it lit up. 

"Chloe!" She called, the blunette appeared in the doorway of his office straight away. 

"Find something?" She caught the phone thrown at it in response. "Jackpot!" She began to browse through it and Rachel watched as the girls face dropped. 

"This is..." Chloe hesitated, "Jefferson's way of talking to Nathan's dad." She clicked through it. "And random bullshit..." she narrowed her eyes. "Keep looking. I'll try to decipher this."

Rachel nodded and returned to her task of looking. 

Chloe  

The blue eyes of Chloe darted over the words. The texts between Jeffershit and Prescock were disgusting, money transferences, ways to keep Nathan quiet, ways to kidnap girls, and... 

"The dark room." Saying those words out loud made Chloes stomach turn like saying Voldemorts name, if you were a nerd like Max.

"Walk hundred paces north, hit tree with blood, and move the earth." Chloe was convinced this man was insane. 

Then something in her intuition buzzed. 

Wait... 

"Drive to the water tower, if you hit dirt path you've gone too far. Turn right at tower and.." 

Her mind reeled. "Rachel!" She rose to fast and dizziness made her sway. "Come on!" 

She dialed Nathan's number on her phone. 

"Yo?" Nathan's voice answered. 

"Chloe?" Rachel began but Chloe waved her arm for silence. 

"The woods. Hundred paces north, tree with blood, move earth." She spouted. 

"Tree with red moss, I've seen it before. And move the leaves right?" Nathan was on bored, "Shit, I think I know what it is. Okay Chloe listen to me carefully, he's in the.."

"Dark room." They said in unison. 

"Right, it's a highly secure area and he has a gun. I'm going to send the police there now, don't go alone." He ordered curtly. "Also be careful, I think I'm almost in his cameras but it won't be long before he notices." 

"Right." Chloe nodded by instinct, "We have to go." She told Rachel, hanging up the phone. 

Rachel nodded and ran outside to Chloes truck when a voice made her freeze. 

"Chloe?" 

The blunette whirled around to see David. 

"Chlo, what's going on?" The man moved forward, "There's word going around that you've been getting caught up in something..." he hesitated, "Where's Max?" 

Chloe didn't want to tell him, "Why do you care?" 

"Because I've been tracking you." The man admitted, "I know what you've been doing and I want to help. You need to get to the dark right?" Chloe exchanged looks with Rachel. "I can take you there," he continued, "I know where it is, and it's not where you think."

"Where?" Chloe began to text Nathan, listening to what David had to say. 

"It's not in the woods, I've gone there, where the moss grows on the tree. All that's there is security cameras so Jefferson can eliminate any who are getting to close." He fumbled in his pocket and handed them a slip of paper. "Trust that I'm telling the truth. I have buddies stationed there that will help, please be careful, I can't handle it if you.." he hesitated. "Hurry, Max might not have time." 

Chloe searched his eyes, "Thanks dad." She murmured before hopping into her truck, Rachel on her heels. 

Chloe breathed shakily, eyeing him in the front mirror before she sped off. "Tell me where Rach." 

Rachel unfolded the paper and choked. "You're not gonna like it." 

"Where?" 

"Let's go to a concert Chlo." 

The punk tensed, the mill. 

"Alright, let's go stage diving."

Max  

She opened her eyes, panting. She looked around and found that Jefferson was sitting on the couch in front of her, his eyes on a laptop. 

"I have to say, your friends are diligent. Who do you know that can hack into an almost perfect security system?" Jefferson's eyes flicked up to hers, a dangerous light in them. 

"Like fuck I would tell you." Max's head hurt, her whole body throbbed. "Fuck you." 

Jefferson slammed the laptop shut, "Don't get smart with me Max," he spat, rising to his feet. "Whose trying to find you? Is it those girls? Is it that annoying science nerd?" He grabbed her shirt and tugged her into a half standing, half sitting position. "Who?" He snarled, his eyes dark. 

Max glared at him unflinchingly, "Eat shit." She shook him off and fell back, drawing herself up as much as possible as strength found its way in her limbs once more. 

Jefferson glared at her before he walked to the table. "Well it's whatever, I have enough photos. You're no longer necessary." He turned with a needle that had significantly more clear liquid then it had last time. "If your friends find this place, it'll be too late, you'll already be dead. Just like Rachel should have been." 

Rachel  

The girl hopped the fence and nodded to the armed police who nodded back in respect. She rushed inside the mill where David's men were, ex-military she was certain. There was a dangerous light in their eyes, a sheen of battle that didn't seem to faze them. 

Chloe was staring at a metal door, "It's unlocked, is everyone ready?" She asked, turning towards the men.

Rachel opened her mouth to reply when a shriek relieved and terrified her. 

"Get the fuck off me!" Max! 

Primal fire made Rachel move lightning quick. 

Max  

She kicked the pervert again, making him grunt in pain. 

"Just. Stay. Still!" He screamed, lunging again. 

Max rolled away and kicked his knee, making him curse. The two stared at each other before he lunged, she splayed her legs out and used them to try to push them away but he was strong, the needle point was almost touching her neck. 

Screeeeeeeech

"Huh?" Jefferson froze, he looked up confused and Max kicked him hard in the balls and bit down on his hand, so hard that she tasted his blood. 

"FUCK!" Jefferson crumbled but he snarled and stabbed her neck with the needle and pushed the plunger down as much as he could before Max scrambled away as shouting overcame her senses. 

The lights began to swim in her eyes again. "No, no no.." she breathed, trying hard to fight against the drug. "Chloe.. Rachel!" She cried, seeing their blurring faces merged together and their voices meld into a culmination of syllables that were indecipherable. 

And the fog took over once more. 

Rachel  

Rachel stared at the girl unconscious, so much like her..

Anger flared through her, she turned to Jefferson who was on the ground with guns pointed at his head. 

"What did you do?" Rachel asked, her voice shaking with rage. "What did you do to her?"

Jefferson smirked at her, "She got the reward." He said with a shrug, "After all, she did win the contest." 

Rachel clenched her fist, "You raped me," she snarled, tears pouring down her face. "You took advantage of me, you raped Victoria and you violated and abused Nathan." She stepped forward, stiff-legged and angry. 

One of the military men held out something. A gun. 

She stared at it in awe. 

"End this." The man said gruffly. "I won't say anything. It's what this pig deserves. We'll just say it was suicide." He nodded to his men and they quickly began to dismantle the cameras, "And if anyone tries to say anything different," there was a hard look in his eyes as he stared down at Jefferson. A look that only a soldier, trained to kill, could have. 

Jefferson looked terrified suddenly, "You can't-" he choked, "You won't!" 

"If she doesn't, I will." Chloes voice was low with rage. 

Rachel grabbed the gun and pressed the barrel to Jefferson's head. She could feel the two choices. Don't shoot. Shoot. Don't shoot. Shoot. 

She stared at him, memories flying through her head, the grooming, the manipulation. The rape. 

She curled her lip, "Convince me not to Mark." 

The photographer stared at her, his mouth opening and shutting like a fish out of water. His eyes were blown with fear, the fear she once had felt single handily, the fear that made her have night terrors, the fear that made her look over her shoulder all these months, the fear that would stay with her until she felt the cold kiss of death. 

The blonde growled, Convince me!" She roared, making Jefferson flinch. 

"Y-You'll be no different." He stammered out, "You'll be just like me!" He spat, flinching as she shoved the cold barrel of the gun against his head. 

If I'm going to burn for this," She breathed out a laugh that was borderline maniacal, "then I'll see you in Hell Jefferson." 

Bang

Chloe  

Blue eyes watched the photographer slump over. 

It was over. Finally. 

The months of torment was over. Jefferson's blood pooled from his wound, his lifeless eyes staring up in horror and desperation, his jaw slack in a wordless scream. 

Her body felt numb, her eyes burned with exhaustion. There was a buzz around her, the ex-military speaking with the chief who was under Nathan's heel. The cops gathering evidence and checking Jefferson's body for anything. Everything melded together in her ears as a loud ring before her brain shouted. 

Max! 

She looked down at Max as one of the paramedics picked her up, "The ambulance is outside. You can ride with her but I think you should help your friend." He told Chloe, giving a look towards Rachel before he disappeared with Max. 

Chloes nodded numbly and swung her head to face Rachel. 

She had dropped the gun, her hands dangling lifelessly at her side, her hazel eyes fixed on the teachers slumped over body. Chloe took a step towards her, "Rachel-" she began but froze as Rachel turned her haunting gaze to Chloe. 

Relief, sorrow, grief, those were the first emotions that Chloe could distinguish in the storm of emotions in her eyes. Whatever the tattoo artist was about to say died in her throat, not that she knew what she was going to say. Stumbling forward on her shaking legs, she simply pulled Rachel into a tight hug, staring forward at the wall barely registering as Rachel began to silently sob and hold onto the bluenette as though she was about to lose her forever.

This moment reminded Chloe of how the bay was after it was struck with a bad storm one winter, the petrichor thick in the air, the seagulls chattering few and far between overhead. The calm after a storm, where all you did was look around to see the puddles and flooding. 

The destruction. 

For now, Chloe was content with the sounds of sobs and the slickness of blood pooling onto her shoes. 

The sounds of it finally being all over.

Chapter Text

When Max awoke, she awoke with a sudden jerk.

"Chloe! Rachel!" The names tore through her throat, making her cough with pain soon after. She looked around, her vision blurring and her stomach twisting. Heat coursed through her body and she felt bile rise in her throat, "C-Chloe..." she rasped again before she leaned over and puked.

She vaguely heard the door open and a woman go, "Oh!" Before there was a swarm of people around her as she vomited.

The liquid was sickly green and reeked something awful. Max fell limp against the bed and took in the people around her and realized she was in the hospital.

"I'm sorry." She murmured to the nearest nurse, who smiled at her sweetly.

"No worries, we're just glad you're alive." Her eyes darkened slightly before she looked away, "We'll clean this."

Max didn't have the energy to talk anymore so she simply laid back on her bed, staring at the ceiling. Her thoughts buzzed like bees in her head, memories of the darkroom led the swarm, making Max tremble slightly.

She jumped as something brushed her arm and she turned to see the nurse holding out some ice water, which Max drank greedily.

Sighing as the dryness was eliminated, Max looked around again. "Where's Rachel? And Chloe?" She asked, her heart quickening as she worried. Had it been too late? Did Jefferson-

"They're in the lobby, they'll be up shortly." The nurse assured her, sitting on the edge of the bed. "The police will be with them," she said softly, her eyes uncertain, "they said they had questions."

Max nodded, "What happened to me?"

The nurse drew in a sharp breath, "You were drugged, a borderline overdose of Gammahydroxybutrate, or what is essentially liquid ecstasy. In small doses, it acts just like that of the pill, euphoria, sensual, uninhabited, or sleepy. In larger doses, it makes people pass out." The nurse hesitated before adding softly, "It's been linked to many rape cases."

Max blinked in a daze, "I remember everything." She murmured.

The nurse had a pained look on her face. "Save it for the police." She suggested softly before she stood.

The door opened and Max grinned slightly as she saw Chloe and Rachel.

"Chlo! Rach!" She tried to move but the nurse quickly stopped her, shaking her head worriedly.

The two punks blinked at her. Chloe was eyeing her, her eyes glowing with tears as she rushed forward and hugged Max.

"I'm so sorry!" She cried, her tears landing on Max's neck, "I'm so sorry!"

Max shook her head, pushing Chloe away so she could wipe her tears. "Don't be, dummy," she murmured, her heart light with love. Chloe grinned then shuffled to the side of the bed.

Her eyes traveled towards Rachel and she frowned as she saw the look in the normally bright hazel eyes. They were sunken in and dull, dark bags underneath them. Yet she still smiled, that same dazzling smile that Max fell in love with every time she saw it.

"I'm so glad you're okay." Rachel moved forward and hugged her, Max returning the hug and nuzzling her neck.

"I'm glad you are," Max whispered in her ear and she could have sworn she felt Rachel tremble, but the model was up and sitting on the end of the bed before she could be sure.

Max looked up at the sound of more footsteps and she smiled as she saw Joyce rush in, David on her heels grumbling at how fast an 'old woman' could move. "Max!" Her southern voice boomed, "What the hell did you get yourself dragged into?" She demanded, her eyes hard as she stared at Max before they softened and she wrapped the girl into a hug. "Thank God you're okay. I thought the worst.."

Max smiled slightly, "How long was I out?" She asked, glancing around and locking eyes with David.

The ex-military stared at her, somehow more grizzled looking than she last remembered. As the question tumbled from her mouth he looked away, his jaw tensing.

Max blinked in confusion, she looked towards Joyce, who looked down her hands gripping her bed frame which creaked under her weight.

Even Chloe and Rachel avoided her eyes, Chloe furrowing her brow in a way that indicated she was upset and Rachel getting this thousand-yard stare, as though she was reliving terrors too much to describe.

Max knew she had.

"How long?" She demanded, her voice shaking.

"It's been two weeks Max." Chloe broke the silence, her voice cracking with emotion. "The reason we were in the lobby is that they thought you weren't going to make it and.." she cut herself off, her lip trembling and her hands balling into a fist.

In an instant Max understood, she leaned back her head resting on the mattress, "Jesus Christ," she whispered, running her hands through her hair,

An ugly silence filled the room as Max processed everything when the door creaked open.

Through the door stepped a middle-aged man, probably in his early to mid-thirties. He was handsome, slightly taller than average, thin but filled out, with kind green eyes. He had a beard, full but maintained in a way that made her think this man was a father. His hair was slicked back, but not with gel, it looked like he just ran his fingers back through it as a few strands were sticking out of place.

Max looked him over, he was wearing a black vest over a blue shirt that was tucked in, he had black dress pants that were secured firmly to his waist with a belt. On his belt was a badge, marking him as a person of the law. His shoes weren't anything special, looked like the dress shoes William wore once to prove a point to Joyce.

Max smiled at the memory, recalling how much William complained that his feet hurt after that and how he tossed them into the back of the closet, never to be seen again.

The man extended his arm, "Hello Max," he greeted, "My name is Matthews," he grinned slightly, "Skip Matthews." He winked and Max felt a laugh bubble in her stomach. Oh, this man was a nerd, she could sense it. "I'm a private investigator but I work closely with the police force in Portland."

Max shook his hand, "Nice to meet you." She said softly, glancing over at Chloe. "You hired a private investigator?" She teased, making the girl go red.

"I didn't hire him." She piped, looking away.

Skip laughed slightly, "I've known Chloe for a long while," he looked at the tattoo artist, "I lost my job because of her."

"Chloe!" Joyce snapped, glaring at her exasperatedly.

Skip held his hands up, "No, no!" He shook his head, "It was the best thing to ever happen to me." He reassured Joyce, "I was lost and making less than I should have at Blackwell anyway, the principal couldn't give less of a shit about me."

"That drunken fool?" David snorted, "It's a wonder that school hasn't gone under."

Skip nodded in agreement, "After I was fired, I focused on music for a while, making singles and albums here and there. I'll never be Firewalk, but people kept coming back for more and more." His eyes glittered, "Soon enough I made enough money to live comfortably. I loved music but I knew it wasn't going to get much further than it had already, so I went to college and got a degree in criminal justice and I've been an officer ever since." He nudged Chloe, "I wouldn't have done that working at Blackhell," he winked and she rolled his eyes, grinning. "So when she called, I figured it was time I returned a long owed favor." He smiled warmly, "I'm mostly here as a formality, however, I know what happened," he took a wavering glance towards Rachel, "and I can assure you that you won't be hassled after this report."

Max understood in an instant and nodded, looking down at her feet. She had passed out as Rachel pulled the trigger but she remembered the bang. She let out a shaking breath and met Skips' eye, "Ask away."

...

"Officially, his death has been rolled a suicide." Max rolled her eyes at Principal Wells faked sadness. He couldn't act worth a damn and all the students knew that he was lying, though no one but those involved knew of the atrocities Jefferson committed, the principal wanted to keep his squeaky clean reputation. "There will be a memorial in his honor in front of the school." He backed away from the podium and that was that the assembly dispersed and Max found Rachel in the crowd.

"This is all bullshit," Max said softly, making Rachel hum in agreement just as soft as she did. Max's heart clenched in her chest as she took the model in. She had gotten thinner, her hair was a rats' nest, and her clothes were wrinkled. "that asshole doesn't deserve a memorial." Max growled. Not after what he did to you. The words needn't be spoken, Mark had taken something that Rachel could never replace.

The model sighed, "Classes are canceled. Wanna go see Chloe?" Her voice was thin and distant. Her eyes clouded with thoughts and memories that Principal Wells's speech had stirred up. Max reached out a hand and gently tapped her arm, her heart clenching as the blonde flinched away from the contact and wrapped her hand on the area where Max had tapped.

When Max met her eyes, she saw hell. Pain, regret, sorrow, anger, hatred all melded down into one haunted, sunken-in, stare. Her hazel eyes, normally flickering like embers, we're now dull charcoals left forgotten. Then she saw an emotion that made her chest tighten, guilt.

She feels guilty for flinching away. The thought made Max want to cry but she pushed the feeling down and offered a small smile.

"I got reminded about it.." Rachel murmured, her eyes glazed, "I'm sorr-"

"-Never be sorry for that." Max interrupted her firmly. She offered her hand and Rachel stared at it hesitantly before she reached out and twined their fingers together.

The photographer wished she could pull the model into a hug but she reeled in the want and led the blonde away.

She sped past the memorial for that jackass as quick as she could, Max didn't want Rachel to see anyone crying over him or mourning his loss. He didn't deserve it, then a voice made her freeze in her tracks.

"Aren't you going to pay your respects?" It was Dana, the cheerleader had spotted them passing and chased them down. "He was your teacher, right Max?"

Max tensed and glanced at Dana then at the memorial.

It was extravagant and looked like it cost a lot of money. Many flowers had been placed as a frame with the center being Jefferson's smiling face as the photo with dark letters reading: "To a man who wanted everyone to be an everyday hero. Rest now, Mark Jefferson."

It made Max sick.

"I've already paid him farewell." She muttered, looking away.

Dana mistook her sharp tone and avoidance of eyes as a sign that Max was upset because she reached over and gently rubbed at the tenseness of the photographer's shoulders. "You don't have to pretend you're not hurting. He was a wonderful man."

"Dana, please," Max begged in a strained tone, feeling Rachel tense beside her. The model thankfully didn't turn around, she too didn't want to see students mourning the death of her tormentor.

But the cheerleader, ever peppy and not wanting anyone to be sad, kept going. "Max, it's okay." She cooed then turned to Rachel, "I know that you and-"

"Dana, don't you know how to take a goddamn hint?!" Rachel's voice was a low, angry snarl that made the cheerleader flinch back as though the model had swung.

The students in the yard turned, eyes wide as they realized who had spoken in such a tone. Slowly a crowd began to form, though they stayed behind Dana in case a fight broke loose.

"I... I was just trying to..." Dana trailed off, too shocked at Rachel's outburst to form a coherent sentence.

Rachel did not incline to allow her the time to come up with one, "We aren't sad about his fucking death," she hissed in a scathing tone, "good fucking riddance." She spat, earning loud gasps from many of the students gathered around before she gripped Max with an iron grasp and led her away.

Max dropped her gaze and allowed herself to be dragged, she glanced behind her to see that the cheerleader was watching them go helplessly confused.

Sorry, Dana. Max turned her back on the girl and followed Rachel into the bus where they sat down in the back.

Rachel slumped in her seat and held her head in her hands, silent tears flowing down her face. Her body shook and trembled with sobs that were unheard and Max could do little but offer a hug that Rachel declined.

The photographer stared on helplessly as one of the girls she had fallen in love with sobbed relentlessly, her knuckles white as she gripped and tugged fistfuls of her blonde locks.

"I'm sorry Rachel." Max's voice was barely a whisper, "I'm so sorry."

The blonde looked up, roused by Max's words, and stared at the photographer before she stood abruptly.

"Chloe." Her voice was strained and Max nodded, following the blonde off the bus and towards the large building.

The two walked in silence as the bus lurched away from them, Max's eyes were fixed on Rachel, noticing every tense feature on her face. The way her eyebrows were furrowed, the way her eyes were sunken in with dark circles under them, the way not even the sun could make her eyes shine.

The way her normally kissable lips were thin and tense.

Max couldn't help it, she gripped Rachel's wrist gently as they reached the door and the girl paused, turning towards Max in confusion.

"What?" She asked, her voice soft and barely audible.

"Kiss me." It was almost an order, Max watched as Rachel's eyes flickered with shock and something else before returning to dull grayness.

"What?" Rachel recoiled as Max stepped closer.

"Kiss me, Rachel." The photographer leaned in close, her nose brushing Rachel's.

The model blinked, her eyes confused and uncertain.

Max flinched, suddenly her heart lurched as the memories of what had happened recently rushed back to her. Her form began to tremble and she leaned back suddenly, "Never mind, that was a stupid suggestion," She's not ready! "I'll give you space, I'll.."

Her voice drifted in the air as Rachel stared at her. Then the girl breathed out a shaky sigh.

"Do you really want me to?" Her voice was soft and vulnerable. An uncertainty glowed in her eyes that wasn't typical for her.

Max wished she could lie and say no but... "Yeah." Her voice was low and sheepish, "I've wanted to touch and kiss you for awhile now." She couldn't help a little sadness weave its way into her voice.

Rachel didn't say anything but she step closer and grabbed Max's hand, interlocking their fingers, and lowered her chin to look into Max's eyes.

Dull gray eyes searching baby blue eyes, Max stood very still and let Rachel analyze her before the model smiled slightly.

There it was, a little glimpse of the Rachel Max had come to know. The model leaned in and brushed their noses together and Max felt her heart skip a few beats.

Max gripped the girls waist hesitantly and Rachel's breath hitched. She leaned in and brushed her soft lips to Max's, and a shock ran down Max's body.

Want rushing through her, the photographer leaned in slightly and Rachel responded in kind. Lips colliding, Max relaxed against Rachel, feeling the models small form melt into hers. It was a slow waltz, multiple lazy and long pecks that ended in soft sounds of lips pulling apart.

Rachel leaned into the kiss, giving it more depth and feeling and Max was almost overwhelmed. The amount of desperation that the model poured into every movement of her lips made Max dizzy. The blonde gently pushed her into the window of the building, bracing her hands on Max's thin hips.

They pulled apart and Max stared up at Rachel, who had tears in her eyes. She took in every beautiful feature that she had fallen in love with and then lifted her gaze to Rachel's eyes and stared into the soul that she had fallen in love with.

"I love you Rachel Dawn Amber." Max let the words be soft but absolute, feeling Rachel's grip tighten and saw her eyes widen. The photographer leaned in and kissed her cheek, "I love you." She murmured, leaning up to kiss her nose, "I love you..."

Rachel let Max cover her face in kisses before she pushed Max against the glass and captured her lips in a surprisingly soft kiss considering the rough actions. Max placed her hand against Rachel's chest and felt the nineteen-year-olds  heart pounding against it. A small smile rose on her lips and Rachel's soft growl made a trill of pleasure run down her spine.

"Stop smiling, you're fucking the kiss up." There was no anger and, for once, the tenseness was gone from Rachel Ambers beautiful face.

"Am I?" Max grinned and leaned in, "I'll make it up to you." She breathed and captured Rachel's lips.

Again, their lips danced in a slow waltz.

Rachel

This was a language she understood. Unspoken words and phrases ran between them. Apologies and promises. The model let herself relax into a silent bliss as Max kissed her.

Once again, the photographer was sunlight piercing through the dark storm clouds that had taken hold of Rachel's mind. The dark memories faded away as did the memory of lifeless eyes staring at her accusingly.

Max pulled away and wiped the tears rolling from Rachel's eyes away, "I'll keep you safe.." her voice was soft and Rachel felt her heart tremble.

She leaned forward, breathing in vanilla, and nuzzled the photographers neck. Max's arms wrapped around Rachel's neck and her breath hitched as the models nose brushed under her ear.

Rachel froze slightly as impure thoughts came to the front of her mind but she shook her head to clear them.

She didn't want it. Not right now and probably not for a long while.

Max leaned up and kissed under her jaw then placed a few more kisses on her face again.

Rachel grinned slightly, genuine happiness making her heart throb.

"You okay?" The hipster breathed, her mint breath making Rachel want to taste it again.

"I won't be a hundred percent for awhile." Rachel admitted softly, leaning her head against Max's. "But... I think I'll get through it."

Max smiled and leaned up to kiss the model one more time.

Their lips connected and Rachel melted.

Once again, she had fallen hopelessly in love with Maxine Caulfield.

It was far too soon when Max pulled away and giggled softly, the sound making Rachel smile.

They stared at each other for a few moments before Rachel sighed.

"Come on, Chloes waiting." She said, leaning back to give Max space.

The photographer nodded and led Rachel inside. The model glanced around, smiling slightly as she saw heard a funky groove float through the air.

Cause you're my painkiller

When my brain gets bitter

You keep me close

When I've been miserable

Rachel blinked and she couldn't help but glance at Max, who seemed to know the song because she was grinning ear to ear and humming along.

And it takes forever

To let my brain get better

You keep me close

You keep me close

The model listened as Max sang the song softly, her baby blue eyes closing as she listened. Rachel couldn't help but feel that the lyrics were calling her out specifically because as she stared at the photographer bouncing from artwork to artwork in the wall she couldn't help but relate the two.

The song faded away then Chloes voice echoed from down the hall where her studio was. "Alright, that ends the ink today. Next week for the color, same time, same day?" There was a squeal of a chair and soon the punk emerged out of the room, followed closely by...

Rachel tilted her head.

Huh.

Nathan followed behind her, "Same time. Same day." He agreed, glancing at the expensive watch on his wrist briefly before flicking his dark brown eyes up.

"Hey Rach." He said easily, making Chloe blink in surprise.

"Sup, blondie." She chirped but Rachel's eyes were fixed on Nathan.

"A tattoo? Didn't figure you'd be getting one." Rachel titled her head and the Prescott shrugged.

"Needed a change." The teen glanced at his phone as it buzzed. "Gotta go." He passed the two girls, "See ya on the flip side." He did a small wave without looking back and disappeared out of the glass doors and rounded the corner of the building.

Rachel glanced at Chloe curiously, the pink was behind the counter typing into the computer what was most likely the scheduled appointments and such.

"What's his tattoo?" The blonde couldn't help but ask.

Chloe flicked her eyes up and Rachel, despite herself, felt her heart thump a little harder as she looked into the ocean eyes of the punk.

"It's a custom." Chloe replied, flicking her eyes back down much to Rachel's dissatisfaction, "It's weird though." Her lip quirked up into a smirk.

"Weird how?" Max asked, tilting her head cutely.

"It's a lemon."

Silence fell over the two girls as they processed Chloes reply and Rachel recovered first. A snort tore through her throat and she began to cackle.

"A lemon?" She echoed through her laughs.

Max couldn't help but join in, laughing much quieter than Rachel however.

Chloe was grinning, "Yeah a sorta detailed lemon. Says it's an inside joke."

"With whom?" Rachel demanded and Chloe met her gaze with a lopsided grin that made Rachel want to pin her against the wall.

"You won't believe it." The punk said, and Max leaned on the counter with Rachel.

"Who?" Max demanded, her curiosity getting the best of her.

"Warren!" Chloe bursted, and Rachel felt herself recoil in shock.

"Warren? You mean that nerdy science geek?" Rachel asked, tilting his head. "Short think with brown hair?"

"That's him." Max chirped, then cringed, "Twink? Ew, Rachel." She laughed but it was one of those grossed out laughs.

"That's what he is!" Rachel replied with a shrug then a devious thought struck her. "Hey Maxie," she purred, and the photographer rose a brow at her, "do you think Nathan just pins him down and-"

"Ew! Ew! Ew! Ew! Ewewewew!" Max cried, covering her ears and walking away. "Gross, disgusting.." she cringed and stuck her tongue out.

Rachel couldn't help the shit-eating smirk that split her face in half and Chloes laughter from in front of her rang pleasantly in her ears.

"Nice." Chloe high-fived the model, then interlocked their fingers. "Are you okay?" She whispered as Max ranted about the fact that the less she thought of Warrens sex life the better.

Rachel felt her heart thump in her chest as she stared into the sea.

Normally she would lie, she would say yes and go about her day with a mask disguising her true feelings. But Chloe and Max would see through that facade in an instant and Rachel knew it.

She let out a small sigh, "I won't be okay for a long time Chlo." She murmured softly, "But..." she eyed Max, who still was ranting away. "But I will be." She said with a small grin.

Chloe followed her eyes and breathed out a laugh. Then she said words that made Rachel not just fall but plummet in love with the punk all over again.

"We'll get through this together Rach. You, me, and Max."

Chapter Text

Hey so I know plenty are waiting on this story and I appreciate every single one of you.

...However, I suffer from ADHD and I go through these bouts of hyper-fixation. It’s pretty common I’ve heard and that’s what this story was, something I cranked out when I was hyper-fixated on LiS- and the unfortunate reality is that I’m not anymore.

Now that doesn’t mean I won’t revisit this story. Nah I’m sure I’ll be hit with a want and I’ll return to it- in fact I can guarantee it. But until then, it’ll be on a Hiatus.

Buuuut that doesn’t mean I won’t be writing. I’m in desperate need of an outlet currently and my current obsession is the Fallout universe- which I’ve been revisiting due to random nostalgia. It’s 6 where I am at right now... give me until 8 and you’ll have a little story to chew on.

That’s a promise.