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Six-three-five-three

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Victoria had the idea of taking a photo there and then, with Max going back through it to see how long she had in each photo jump - and to experiment with how her powers worked while she was there.

“This will give us a baseline from which to work with,” she had said, warming to her idea. “Once we know how much time you have, and what the limits on your powers there are, we can work out and practice the message you can write in the time you have available.”

“This sounds just like exam revision,” groaned Max, “this sucks.” Victoria pushed her playfully, a hesitant reminder of the good times they had shared.

“I know. But it's for our own good, isn't it.” She paused, then sighed. “It's really weird to think I won't exist any more. I mean I will, but.. just not me..” Max picked up her hand and caressed it.

“We don't have to do this if you don't want to. But at any rate let's make sure to tell me to be extra nice to you if we do go through with the then, hey? And tell you to be nice to me as well, so they can make the most of the time we are giving them.” Victoria smiled a little and hastily wiped her eye.

“Skip all the drama, eh? Come on, let's get on with it then – there's no point in delaying any further.”



They spent the next hour or so practising, Max jumping back through the photo over and over again. Max first of all timed how long she had within the jump; then experimented to see if there was a way she could hold being there for longer.

“Fuck me this is exhausting,” she gasped after one particularly hard jump. “I can feel it, like a physical barrier dragging me back – it's like I can hold it in my mind, pushing against it to resist but fucking hell is it hard. And the longer I do it for the worse it becomes. I can freeze time though, but it doesn't seem to affect the overall time I can be there.” Victoria handed her a bar of chocolate in an attempt to keep her energy levels up.

“So you can't just stop time and stay there forever. Interesting. How long did you stay in that jump?” Max tore off the wrapper and wolfed it down.

“Eleven minutes, give or take. I don't think I can do much more than that. I think my head is going to explode if I try.” Victoria nodded.

“OK, let's take a break. Do you want to have a little nap or something? I can use the time to draft up this message we are going to leave. How quickly can you write, do you think?” Max shrugged her shoulders.

“No idea. I've not handwritten anything for ages, certainly not anything in a hurry.” Victoria rubbed her hands together slightly gleefully.

“Another thing to practice then.” Max groaned again.

“Oh my god. I'm definitely taking a quick nap then in that case. Wake me in an hour, will you?”

“Sure.” Max went and laid down on the sofa, staring up at the ceiling. Victoria picked up a notebook and began to write, chewing the end of her pen as she tried to think of the correct words to say. She worked quietly for a few minutes, writing and rewriting until she was beginning to be happy with what was taking shape.

“How do you feel about this, Vic? I mean really,” asked Max, still staring at the ceiling. “I mean it will destroy everything we've done together. All those little moments we've had together. Gone.” Victoria looked up from her writing.

“We'll still have done them,” she said slowly, “that will never change. I mean I won't be here to miss them, will I – don't get me wrong, the thought of suddenly not existing is.. well, hard to believe. If that makes sense. But then I remember all those other ones who have existed, or had their life cut short or.. never been with you. So I guess I am just another one of those.” She tapped her teeth thoughtfully. “Doesn't make it feel any better, though. I think I may just be putting off thinking about it until I have too. I need to concentrate on what we are doing, and I can't do that if I am an emotional mess.” Max didn't answer for a few moments, as if thinking things over in her head.

“I guess if it doesn't work out, at least the memories will still be in my head at least. Something for me to cherish, to keep alive.” She rolled onto her side, looking at Victoria.

“We've had some good times though, haven't we?” she said, looking searchingly at Victoria. Victoria looked at her for a second, then put down her pen and walked over. She looked thoughtfully at Max, then bent down and softly kissed her.

“The best,” she murmured, stroking Max's hair. “Now you'd better get this nap in so we are good to go.” Max reached up and put her hand behind Victoria's neck, bringing her down close and letting out a shiver as their lips met again.

“Thank you, Vic. For everything.”



“Honestly, I've got cramp in my elbow. I didn't even know you could get cramp in your elbow.”

“Stop complaining. We have to get this done, we might only get one shot at it so you need to make damn sure you can get all this down in the time you have.”

“And my wrist is so sore. It's alright for you, you are not the one who is having to practice this.” Victoria took hold of Max's wrist.

“No, but I am having to listen to you whinge about it. Here,” she said, “that should help a little.” Max felt Victoria's hand go cold, easing the ache in her wrist a little. Max had been refining and rewriting the script Victoria had prepared for the last hour, and then at Victoria's instance had begun a series of timed writings, designed to ensure that she had sufficient time to get their message across.

“We can't fail, Max,” she said with intensity. “One shot, one try – everything is going to hinge on this. I don't want to throw my existence away for something which we half-ass.” Max looked abashed, and she apologised.

“Sorry, I know I have too. I'm trying my best, I'm just sorry that it has come to this. It's all my fault, if I hadn't..” Victoria put her finger to Max's lips.

“Shhh. None of that. You've laid the groundwork for something better, if your dreams are anything to go buy. I just wish that... I was that Victoria.” She stopped for a moment, looking away from Max. “But I'm not, and I need to make sure that she gets the best shot at it.” Max didn't say anything but just stroked Victoria's thigh gently, as if trying to comfort her. Victoria looked at the hand on her leg and the smiled back at Max.

“Come on, where are we then with this? Does it cover everything we need it to?” she asked. Max nodded.

“I.. I think so. Yes. Given the time we've got, it's the best we can do. I've tried to think what I would be thinking of as soon as I would read it, to try and explain what is going on without making myself freak out. I'm assuming I will not know about my powers, so that's one thing.” She paused for a second, rubbing the back of her neck. “I also put something in about the butterfly. I don't know why, but I get the idea it's going to be around when I leave. It's.. hard to explain, but I get a feeling that.. it is going to be there. Like a guide.” She shrugged. “Eh, even if its not, it'll give me something to look out for.”

“Makes sense I guess. Besides, it has to know we are planning on fucking with time, so..” Victoria stretched a little then looked at Max, a look of longing passing across her face. “I know I keep saying it but I just wish that.. it was me. I know it is me, but.. you know what I mean?” Max squeezed her thigh gently.

“Yes, I do. And if it works as we plan, then I wish it was me as well. But you are correct, this is for the best. We had a good run, the best; but it's time to finally let go I think. And create something new.”

6,354.

Hopefully the last time I have to count.

Which gives me an idea..

“When are we going to do this?” asked Victoria. “I think it should be today, as soon as possible. While you are still... OK. I mean, not had any more dreams or.. tried to.. to..”

“Kill myself again?” finished Max, drily. “Yes, I agree. As much as I want to spend more time with you – I really don't want this to end, Vic, I really don't – we can't put it off forever. I've pretty much memorised what I'm going to write, and I think I can do it in the time I have. So..”

“So there's nothing left to do,” said Victoria quietly, her face sad. She looked at the time on her watch. “It's 10 now, so let's say we do this at 11? Give ourselves a last hour together?” Max smiled at her, tears already beginning to stream down her face.

“OK. One more hour.”



“Max, it's time.”

“I don't want to, I want to just stay like this forever. I don't want to go.” Victoria hugged Max tightly, kissing her on the forehead.

“I know, I know. So do I. But we can't, we have to do this. Come on.” Max reluctantly let her go and sat up, stretching herself out a little as if loosening up. Victoria sat next to her quietly, hands clasped together in her lap. The mood suddenly felt very sombre, as if finally they had come to the end of everything they had had together.

Max reached out and picked up the photograph Victoria had rescued, looking at it. She could already feel the faint pull of it, the feeling of it pulsating in her hands, along with the distant echoes of the past.

This is it.

Time to change everything,

For the better.

“Max,” came a quiet voice next to her, and she turned to see Victoria looking with wide, sorrowful eyes that nevertheless held a light within them. Victoria reached out and drew Max's face towards her and they kissed slowly, as if savouring their last moments together. Max could feel the sensation of her power being triggered at the same time as Victoria's, something which had not happened for quite a while of late and she closed her eyes, becoming lost in the moment.

Soon, too soon, they drew apart, noses touching as Victoria smiled sadly.

“Look what you've done,” she said, half sobbing, looking around them – in the frozen air around them were millions of pieces of ice, suspended in the air – pieces which Max could see were perfectly formed hearts, scattering the light through them.

“Oh Vic, I love you so much,” said Max, tears falling freely down her face. “I wish we didn't have to do this.” Victoria wiped Max's cheeks delicately with her fingers.

“Just make it all right, Max. Make it all right again.” She pulled away from Max, and time resumed. The hearts fell to the ground, smashing on the floor.

“Go, now, before we change our minds.” Max looked at her one last time, fixing the image of her face in her mind for eternity, before turning to look at the photo.

 

As soon as she saw the flash she froze the world, gazing around the classroom in a mixture of disgust and hope. She knew where everything was down to the last detail; knew that just over there was the woman she had spent the last 18 months of her life with, the woman she was coming back to try and make everything right for.

No time to daydream Max. You have a job to do.

She swiftly opened her journal to a blank page and began to write as quickly as she could, conscious of the time ebbing away against her. She had not told Victoria the entire truth about how long she had in this state, she knew she could force it out by a good few more minutes at an ever increasing difficulty – but it was long enough to do what she wanted to do.

The words flew from under her pen as she wrote the message to herself, trying to tell herself everything she needed to know and about what had happened, and what could happen – but leaving enough out for her to forge her own destiny.

You've got 18 months Max at a minimum. I hope you have forever.

Just as Max felt her hand starting to cramp to where she could no longer hold the pen, she finished. She tore a strip out of the journal and wrote in large letters 'MAX! READ ME!' and put it on top of the journal.

I hope I'm not too freaked out by this. But it's done.

Max carefully got up and walked across the frozen room, studiously ignoring the man at the front of the classroom – now was not the time to think about that. She was starting to feel the effects of holding time still within the past for so long, a creeping vice-like grip beginning to exert itself on her head.

Come on Max, not much longer.

There in front of her sat Victoria, head in her hands and gazing towards the front, not having yet noticed the flash from Max's camera. Max looked at her for a moment, noticing how much younger she seemed, before hesitantly reaching a hand out towards her, feeling a strange tension in the air as her hand got nearer. As she touched her she felt a small jot of electricity that made her jump, and caused Victoria to start and turn to look at her.

“Max! What the..” The words died on her lips as she saw the world was frozen around them, everything held in place except for the two of them, and she looked at Max with a mixture of fear and wonder.

“Vic,” Max said, “I don't have much time. Please don't freak out, but I need to tell you some important things. So listen -” Victoria eyes were wide in shock and she didn't seem to be listening.

“Max, what.. you are.. how..” Max shook her head impatiently.

“Vic, listen to me. I'm not Max, well I am Max, just not the Max you know from this reality. I'm from the future. A future. And I need to tell you about what is going to happen -”

“Is this some joke? Max, I don't know -” Max winced as she could feel the drag of time starting to increase on her, trying to pull her back.

“Victoria, just shut up and listen. I'm from a future we had together. I know about your ice powers, the green butterfly – I have my own one, but it's blue. I've come back to try and put us on a better course. The right course.”

“You know about..” Victoria creased her brow, as another thought came crashing to the fore. “Together? That's..”

“Incredible, I know. And it is. Look, I know about Mr fluffy, your bunny hidden under your bed. I know about how your parents threw him out when you were six and you snuck out in the middle of the night to rescue him from the trash. I know your favourite food is Kaeng Phet. I know you are scared of snakes for some reason, and I know you have a little mole underneath your left breast. Please believe me about what I am talking to you about right now. I don't have much time.” Victoria gawped at her, before slightly shaking her head in resignation.

“OK,” she said simply. “I believe you – how could I not? You've literally seemed to have stopped time and know things that no-one else could possibly know. Wait - you say you don't have much time, where are you going back to?”

“Hopefully nowhere,” Max said sadly. “We are trying to break time to try and make things better, which probably means the end for me. I've written your Max – me, from this reality – a note explaining everything, as she doesn't even realise she has this power yet, and you need to read it too. And you must do what it tells you – don't leave this classroom, stay the fuck away from Jefferson and, most importantly, do what it says regarding the photo. I can't stress this enough.” Max winced again, she knew she didn't have long.

Just a bit longer. Please.

“OK, I will read it, I promise – I guess it will make more sense than you are now?” Victoria paused, looking around in wonder at the frozen world again. “But.. this is all you? That's.. incredible.” She looked at Max's hand on her arm, then up at her serious face, eyes hard and cold but with a hint of something behind them. “Tell me. Are we happy in the future?” she asked quietly. Max smiled a little, looking down at the girl who was her girl, but not her girl.

“You will be. But yes, it was just the best while it lasted. But look, I am going to have to go and sit back down before I slip away again – but there is one thing I want you to do. Please listen carefully, I can only say this once..”



Max sat back down in her seat, composing herself. The sensation of having to go back was screaming inside of her head; she could feel the walls of reality closing in on her, and she felt suddenly nauseas with worry that it would not work, that it was all in vain. As it came rushing up towards her and everything went white she swore she saw the faintest blur of blue.



Please let this work.



Please.



Max blinked as the flash went off, the sound of the camera sounding strangely slow and laboured. The sound around her seemed to be as if it was in a bubble, strangely muted. Her attention was grabbed by a brilliant flash of blue and she looked down at her arm and saw a butterfly nonchalantly sitting there, as if watching her.

What the..

Before she could react it flapped its wings and flew off, and with it time seemed to resume its leisurely course. Max could hear Mr Jefferson at the front of the class, calling her out for taking a selfie.

Way to go Max, nice job to annoy Mr Jefferson. What did you think would happen? She put the camera down on her desk and saw a large, hand written note on it. She looked at it in puzzlement.

Wait.. that wasn't there a moment ago. Who wrote that? It looks like my writing. But..

She picked up the paper and turned it over in her hands – it definitely looked like her hand writing.

'Max read me' – read what? She then saw that her journal was open, and the page was filled with endless lines of her writing, looking as if they were written in haste. She felt a slight tingling sensation in the back of her head as she looked at it in puzzlement, and bent forward to read what it said.

'Hello Max ,' she read, 'You must be a little confused right now, but don't be. I – we – have written this in what little time I have, and you must read it all. Don't freak out – it'll all make sense, trust me (well, trust you). I'm not sure when, but you should see at some point a little blue butterfly. Say hi to it if you do while reading this – it's kind of important.' Max blinked a little, slightly stunned by what she was reading.

What the hell is this? Who wrote this? How did it know about the butterfly – and where did it go? What is going on? Max was aware that Jefferson was still talking about something, but she was too distracted to care at the moment, and continued to read. 'Basically I'm you from a different reality. Crazy I know, right? But it'll all become clear in a moment. Oh, a little tip – the answer is The Daguerreian Process invented by Louis Daguerre around 1830.' As soon as she read this Max seemed to snap out of her focus, tuning into Jefferson's voice.

“...can you please tell us the name of the process that gave birth to the first self-portraits?” She saw that he was looking directly at her, waiting for an answer.

Oh shit. What did it say?

“The Daguerreian Process invented by Louis Daguerre around 1830.” Mr Jefferson smiled at Max's response, sending a thrill through Max.

“Somebody has been reading, as well as posing. Nice work, Max.” Max beamed back at him.

Wowsers, it was actually correct! That's... magic! She unconsciously glanced over at Victoria and was startled to find her staring directly at her, a strange expression on her face. Their eyes met and Victoria held her gaze, not looking away until Max blushed slightly and looked away.

Now why did you blush, Max? That just makes you look like you are hiding something. She looked back down at the message she had been left. 'That should keep Jefferson away from you for a moment. I bet you looked at Vic, didn't you – spoiler alert, but she is important to you. And is the best thing that will ever happen to you.' Max started as she read this, and couldn't resist sneaking a quick peek at Victoria. Victoria was still glancing at her, as if trying to catch her attention, and Max quickly looked down again, feeling the heat rising in her cheeks. It felt like there was an itch inside of her head, an itch that she need to scratch.

Oh my god she caught me again. What does she want with me? What have I done wrong now? And what did it mean by the best thing that will ever happen to me? She hates me, doesn't she? I mean she is pretty and intelligent and always wears the nicest clothes, but how can she be the best thing for me? Am I dreaming? She pinched her arm and yelped a little at the pain – she certainly wasn't dreaming like she had been a few minutes ago. 'It's really important that you don't leave the classroom until you have read all of this – and no zoning out like you normally do. Whatever you do, don't go to the bathroom – and don't let Vic leave, or talk to Mr Jefferson either. I'm going to try and tell her this too, but just in case do whatever you can to stop her – tell her you know about her secret, anything – and then get her to read this, she'll understand.'

She snuck another quick peep at Victoria, aware of Jefferson droning away still at the front. Again she caught her eye and she mentally kicked herself for looking at her again. She's going to think you are some sort of stalker.. Max deliberately looked back down at her journal – and the next section made her catch her breath.

'I don't know when it is going to happen – probably when the butterfly turns up – but when it does, that's when you'll get it. Your power – the most amazing thing in the world - the ability to manipulate time. It's how I wrote this to you, and how you will change the world. You'll know when it is there - it's like a tingling sensation in the back of your brain – hard to describe but you'll know it when you have it. And then you can feel it in your mind, sense it around you, the tendrils of time – like thick strands to grab and pull on and do as you will.' Max felt like she stared at the words for hours, though it could not have been longer than a few seconds. She was aware that the time to the end of the lesson was approaching, and she still had a lot to read.

I need more time to finish reading this.

Then she suddenly realised that she could feel it, like the words had said – the sense of time travelling around her, twisting and turning on its course, and all she had to do was pull on it. She instinctively reached out with her hand and pulled; feeling a sense of power, of energy, build up within her.

The world seemed to slow, then slowly started to go backwards.

“Fuck me!” she exclaimed, letting go of her grip on time, causing it to continue its march onwards.

“Max Caulfield, I do not appreciate outbursts like that in my classroom,” came the voice of Mr Jefferson along with a few sniggers from those around her. “You will see me after class, Max.” Max went bright red and sunk down into her chair.

It's real.

Oh my god it's real.

I'm not going crazy, am I? I can travel through time?

Max tried again, knowing what to expect this time and slowly rewound time as far as she could until suddenly she seemed to hit a limit, signified by a searing pain in her head. She let go and time resumed, from shortly after she had answered Jefferson's question. She looked in wonder at her hand, turning it around to look at it from all sides as if expecting to see some magic glow..

Wowsa.

I'm a mother fucking time traveller.

She looked around the classroom to see if anyone had noticed, but everyone seemed to be studiously ignoring Mr Jefferson instead. Everyone, except one person – Victoria, who was still maintaining her vigil of covertly watching Max. This time Max gave her a cheeky little wave with her hand, emboldened by the fact she hoped she could take it back if she chose to. To her surprise, Victoria merely nodded at her, then looked forwards again, as if satisfied. Pondering this unexpected interaction Max returned to her journal.

'When you will get this power, I am not sure, but it will be within the next ten to fifteen minutes of me writing this. It's amazing to believe, I know, but you will able to do so much with it in time. There are a few things you need to know about it which I will tell you about, but the most important thing to remember right now is this: never travel through a photo - the one on your desk in particular.' Max frowned at the words..

Travel through a photo? What does that mean? It must be important for me to tell me right now though. That is so confusing to think.

'I'm going to as briefly as possible tell you what happened to me, and what will happen in the future – you need to find a way to stop this from happening - make everything work out the way I hope it can. And more importantly, you need to make sure you bring Vic with you. She has a power as well, although she tries to keep it hidden. We are connected, and there are others out there who are similar to us. But the bond with Victoria is.. well, I'll let you both hopefully find out for yourselves. However, in the next few minutes, Nathan Prescott will..'

Max sat there reading the tale written down for her by an alternative version of herself, a Max that suffered through countless realities to end up writing this final message she was leaving behind. Max read about Nathan, Chloe, the Prescotts; the disappearance of Rachel Amber and the involvement of Mark Jefferson; of Victoria and their eventual bond – and the broken future it resulted in. She found herself having to rewind time on numerous occasions to ensure she finished it before the end of the lesson, finding each time that the rewind was already becoming easier for her to manage.

As she read she felt a tear roll down her cheek, as she realised how much this Max had suffered, how much she had sacrificed to give her a chance at a better future. The ending, when it came, was short and to the point.

'It's up to you now, Max. I don't even know if I am going to exist any more after this. I left Victoria on the 17th May, 2015 at 11 o'clock in the morning. Remember this time. I don't know what will happen then; I hope life will continue as normal and you will remain to live out the rest of your life. I have seen your future, I think, and it looks so happy that I wish I could have experienced it. I guess I will, in a way.

Look after yourself, Max. Do better than I did.

Max

P.S DO NOT FORGET TO DESTORY THAT PHOTO AFTER A WEEK!

P.P.S Look after Kate, she's an angel and needs your support

P.P.P.S Vic is the biggest dork on the planet when it comes to anime'



The bell rang dismissing the class and Max sat there stunned, trying to work out what was happening to her in this world. In the space of around ten minutes she had discovered that she had the power to manipulate time, had read a message from an alternative version of herself warning her about the future, and to top it all off.. apparently her and Victoria Chase were meant to be together.

As if summoned by her thoughts she saw Victoria get up out of her seat and turn towards her. She seemed to hesitate slightly, as if waiting for the coast to be clear before walking slowly over to Max. She stood there awkwardly for a moment, as if uncertain as to what to say. Max looked at her shyly, trying to get the courage up to say something.

“Er.. hi Victoria,” she stammered slightly, “um.. I think.. I have something for you..” She held up the page of her journal as a shield, as if protecting herself from Victoria's wrath. Victoria looked at her, eyes widening sightly.

“It's real, then” she said quietly. Max bit her lip and nodded nervously.

“I think so. You can really.. do those things?” Victoria winced slightly, but nodded imperceptibly.

“After a fashion,” she said quietly. “It's not something I try to think about.” She reached out and took the journal from Max's hands and started to read the page, chewing on her finger as she did so. After a short while she stopped reading and looked at Max, her face inscrutable.

“I guess all we can do is wait and see if what is supposed to happen, happens?” she said, glancing over her shoulder at Jefferson. “It seems incredible doesn't it, yet..”

“.. yet here we are,” finished Max, looking past Victoria at Mr Jefferson, conscious of Kate still sitting quietly by the window. Victoria pulled up a chair and sat down opposite Max, folding her arms and looking at her with a mixture of curiosity and detachment, as if afraid to get too close to her. Max on her part fiddled nervously with her hoodie, her mind struggling to comprehend everything that she had been told. She had always had a secret crush on Victoria, admiring the girl from afar – her quick wit, her skill at photography, her effortless style. Even when she had been mean to Max she had deluded herself into thinking that she had seen something else behind it, some ulterior motive given away by subtle hints and signs that only Max thought she could see.

Us two were together!

We kissed!

We had se-

“You OK, Max?” asked Victoria, already seeming to behave unusually towards Max, much to her consternation. “You're going a little red. I need to finish reading this.. message. Let me do so then we can talk somewhere private, OK?”

Victoria continued to read the journal in silence whilst Max sat there nervously, desperately trying to flush her mind free of the overriding thought of Victoria Chase being naked. There was no other sound apart from the ticking of a clock and the sound of Mr Jefferson shuffling papers at his desk.

Suddenly the sound of a shot in the distance made them both jump, and they looked at each other in nervous confirmation.

It's happening. Just as it said it would.

Max watched as Mr Jefferson's head jerked upright and he looked towards the door. After what seemed like a lifetime he quickly stood up and ran over to it.

“Max, Victoria, Kate – you girls stay right here, OK? I'm going to see what that was - wait until we tell you it's safe to leave!” He ran through the door, slamming it closed behind him.

Max knew in a detached way that somewhere her best friend Chloe, the girl she had been planning on reconnecting with but had been too cowardly to actually do so, was dying on the floor of the bathroom. The thought made her feel slightly sick, but it was fighting with a giddy rush that everything she had read was true, everything.

Victoria sat forwards, making her chair scrape across the floor, catching Max's attention as she put the journal back down on the table.

“So, Max,” she said, her voice falteringly slightly, “now what?” Max picked up the journal almost reverently, looking at the writing that laid out an alternative future, a future that suddenly seemed to promise so much.

“I don't know, Victoria. But we've got eighteen months to figure it out.”