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The Problem with Destiny

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Max's alarm beeped annoyingly, and she groggily groped with her free hand to pick up her cell and poked at it to turn it off. She saw that it was 8:30; far too early to be waking up in her mind. She still felt tired, as if she could ever have enough sleep - and then remembered something she had previously considered, but had dismissed. But right now, it suddenly seemed very appealing.

I mean technically it's practice.. so it's not like it's a complete a waste..

Max's alarm beeped annoyingly, and she once again groped for her alarm – this time around she had managed to go back 6 minutes, and she realised that she felt completely fine after doing it (although still wanting more sleep). Since the events of yesterday and the coalescing of the two timelines, she had somehow felt stronger within herself – as if her power had been magnified somehow. Either way, she was finding it easier to manipulate time than she ever had done before. Already the amount of time she could rewind was getting longer, without any of the noticeable ill effects she had had previously; she felt like all of the things she was supposed to be able to do were finally, if not in reach, at least appearing on the horizon.

Max's alarm beeped annoyingly, and she once more reached out her hand to turn it off.

“Maxine Caulfield, you do that one more time and I swear I will not be responsible for my actions.”

Ooops.

“Sorry,” she said, “I'd forgotten about that. It's not my fault your are cuddling me like a giant teddy, is it. Still, look – I managed to rewind quite a few times, and I took you with me – and the time I'm going back in a rewind, especially with you - it's getting longer. That was 12 minutes! Just think of the lie-ins I – we! - could have..”

“Mmpphhh,” came the muffled response. Victoria was face down in the pillow, one arm across Max's stomach, with her overlapping ankle providing another precious point of contact between them. True to her word, they had stayed up late eating pizza and just talking, avoiding any mentions of superpowers or alternate realities – just two eighteen year old girls hanging out together; with the added benefit of them stealing the occasional kiss – a simple action which still seemed unreal to them both; so, of course, they had to keep checking it was.

It had eventually got so late that it seemed easier for Victoria just to stay the night – and so with much feigned reluctance she put on one of Max's t-shirts to sleep in (a black one with a small rainbow flag on the front, and the words 'lez be friends' below it. Max had thought it was hilarious when she saw it in the shop), before grabbing some pyjama shorts from her own room. Max didn't point out the obvious that she could have got her own top as well, so secretly delighted she was that Victoria was wearing one of her t-shirts; especially that one.

There had been a briefly awkward moment before they got into Max's bed: it was smaller than Victoria's, meaning they were going to be in closer proximity than they had been before and there was a general shuffling around to get comfy. Eventually they had both settled on lying on their sides, facing each other. Any hope of there being something else to look forward too was swiftly shattered when they both fell instantly asleep.

Max had reluctantly set her alarm early as Victoria had made it clear that she had 'shit to do', as she had put it, and it was now this 'shit to do' that she seemed to be avoiding, her still being face down in the pillow and grumbling.

“The only reason we are awake now is because you said you had stuff to do. It doesn't look like you have that much to do to me, unless it is to undertake a thorough examination of my pillow.”

“It's a comfortable pillow,” Victoria mumbled. She turned her head to look at Max, her eyes sleepy. “Sorry, last night really took it out of me – I mean look at the t-shirt I am wearing. I must've been exhausted to have even considered wearing it.”

“It suits you,” declared Max, her face delightfully close to Victoria's. Victoria rolled her eyes, but her smile betrayed her.

“Well, I needed something to wear in an emergency. And besides, if I didn't wear anything.. well, I wouldn't have wanted you to get too excited now, would I?”

“Why not?” asked Max, her tone more serious than she had intended. Victoria frowned a little, as if trying to think of an answer.

“Because.. because we have school today? And needed some sleep?” Max gave her a disbelieving look.

“Yeah, cos a ten o'clock start is such a hardship. I used to have to do eight o'clock starts back in Seattle, it was murder.”

“Not my fault you were a public school peasant, is it,” said Victoria, ignoring the sudden poke into her ribs from Max. “Anyway, I have to go see Wells remember, don't I. Have to convince him that he needs me here for the good of the school, and the only way I can satisfy my parents enough to stay here is by pretty much taking it over in some aspects.” Max looked unconvinced, as if she was slightly uncomfortable at the thought of it all.

“It seems a bit extreme though, doesn't it? I mean.. it's a huge change for the school and you, isn't there an easier way to do it? Like maybe just talk to your parents about it a little?” Victoria laughed, but it was a laugh full of bitterness.

“Yeah, you really don't know them. Trying to have a reasonable discussion with them is just not going to happen, Max. They are so opinionated, and so convinced that they are right in everything they do, that it's just impossible. They had my entire life mapped out since I was born, to make sure it was fitting with the family I was born into.” Max decided in that moment that pointing out that her description of her parents could easily be applied to her, was perhaps not the best idea. Instead, she looked at Victoria who was now lying on her back looking up at Max's photo wall, and decided to try and find out a little bit more about her family.

I guess if I ever do meet her parents it might be useful. Besides, I should find out more about her, there's a lot I still don't know.

“Why would they map your entire life out? That sounds a bit.. well..”

Controlling? Cultish? Over bearing? Really fucking weird because it is 2013 and not 1813?” Max opened her mouth to protest but Victoria angrily waved it away. “No, it's fine, it's true. It is. But that's just what it was like growing up, this burden of expectation. You know, we are one of those annoying families that delight in tracing our heritage back to the Revolutionary War, and then showing off that we can trace it further back in France. Like some sort of genealogical badge of honour. Fucking ridiculous, as if what my great-great-great whatever did in fucking 17th Century fucking France was fucking important to me.” She stopped, as if pausing for breath, and Max leaned up on her elbow to get a better look at her. Victoria didn't seem upset, she seemed angry; as if frustrated by what hand life had dealt her.

“Well, it sounds pretty cool to me to know about your family that far back,” Max said, gently laying her hand on top of Victoria's stomach and feeling how hard and toned it felt, even through the material under her hand. “I mean we only go back a few generations before we disappear into the morass of Irish and German immigrants.” Victoria turned to look at Max briefly, before returning to stare at the photo wall.

“Well. Yes, it is I guess. I mean it would be if it wasn't used to beat me over the head with our glorious history of mercenaries, arms dealers and Robber Barons. What a glorious thing to be part of.” Victoria almost spat those last words, the venom in her voice surprising Max. “And here I am, the last one – well, the last direct one, there are a few sycophantic cousins around who would love to get their greedy paws on everything if they could. I know some were mightily disappointed when I was born and it meant that I get everything – didn't stop them trying to get my parents to marry me off to them, though.”

“That sounds awful.”

“You've got no fucking idea. Anyway, some credit to my parents I guess – they aren't that stupid. But.. as I told you before, there is an expectation for me to get married and pump out an heir. Keep the family – and the business – going, above all else.” Max gently stroked her stomach, thinking about what she had said. Victoria closed her eyes as Max slowly ran her hand up and down, unconsciously going a little bit further each time.

“Well, you still can,” Max said, “I mean it's probably only a matter of time before gay marriage is made legal here, and it already is in other countries. And having a child is not something I've ever thought about but there are ways and means there, too.” Victoria snorted with laughter.

“Steady on Max, we literally kissed for the first time yesterday and you are already talking about marriage. I mean I know I'm utterly amazing and all, but even so..” Max went bright red, and quickly removed her hand, sitting upright.

“No, no,” she stammered, “I meant just hypothetically. In the future, if you wanted too – not necessarily about us, I mean, not that if it came to it I wouldn't want to marry you assuming we were still together and everything, not that I think we would split up, but I mean you know if maybe -” Victoria poked her in the chest, hitting a part that was decidedly squishy - which Victoria did her best to pretend that she had not just touched.

“Yeah I know, I'm just teasing you. I mean it is an option, but could you imagine that conversation with them?” She sighed and closed her eyes, and Max found her self staring down at her face, admiring the line of her jaw, the proud nose and the way -

“You can either kiss me or get back to rubbing my stomach,” said Victoria, cracking open one eye, “just stop staring. It's a bit weird.” Max smiled and decided to do both; kissing her on the lips before settling back down, and this time placing her hand under the t-shirt, feeling Victoria tense slightly as she did so before she relaxed once more.

“So introducing you to my parents is going to be a complete and utter disaster, really you've got no idea how bad it is going to be. But I really enjoyed meeting yours, they just felt so nice and welcoming and.. what I imagine a normal family is like.”

“Oh my god, my parents are so not normal. This one time, when I was a freshman my Dad decided to pick me up after school to go to a game, and rather than just, you know, be normal, he turned up in full on ice hockey gear blaring an air-horn. I've never cringed so much in my life. I'm convinced that all my social cred evaporated that day.”

“Wait, you had social cred?”

“Oh be quiet, Chase. I'm cool. Everyone thinks I'm cool. You think I'm cool, don't you?”

“Max, anyone who thinks of themselves as cool isn't 'cool'. And who even says cool now? That's really not cool.”

“Whatever. Well you're stuck with me now, so you'd better make me cool or suffer the ignominy having me around you. Anyway, I'm happy you liked meeting my parents. They told me they'd like to meet you again. For some reason.”

“They would?” said Victoria with genuine delight. “I'd love that as well. I mean only if you want me to, of course. We don't have to tell them that we are.. you know.” Max slid her hand gently across Victoria's tummy, delighting in the feel of the skin underneath her fingers, letting them follow the dips between her abs.

“Mmm, I think I could make that happen,” she said, “providing you behave. But if we do go, then you go as my girlfriend, nothing less. They practically thought you were anyway, I think, that time you came over. They dropped enough really unsubtle hints.” Victoria didn't answer for a moment; she was either thinking about what Max's parents thought of her, or more likely the fact that Max's fingers were definitely getting a little more adventurous in their exploration of Victoria's stomach.

“I would like that,” she said eventually. “To be able to be open about this part of me with at least some people will be such a relief for me. I mean it's going to suck here for a while but it'll get better. I'll make it get better.” That last part was said with a grim determination; having decided on this course for her life, she was now going to see it succeed no matter what – and Max had better be prepared to be dragged along with her. Any further talk from Victoria was cut short by the feeling of Max's fingertips gently swirling down below her stomach, grazing the top of her shorts.

“Yeah, about that,” Max said. “I want to do all sort of sickening couple stuff with you, but.. honestly, I'm afraid of what people will think. Certain people specifically. And especially as this is so soon after.. everything that happened. It's not like we can tell people how we have really got together, is it? People will think that there is some ulterior motive from..” Max paused, unwilling to voice what she thought, and instead concentrated on what her hand was doing and giving Victoria a kiss on the cheek.

Max's thoughts were increasingly being occupied by visions of her Saturday night, and she could feel herself getting hotter and hotter at that memory. This was being coupled with the very subject of that vision literally being at the end of her fingertips.

“Me?” finished Victoria, with a loud snort. “That's.. harsh, but fair, I guess. I know I have a shit reputation, and it is going to take a fuck load of work to turn it around. But I will. I want to.” There was a heavy silence as they both seemed to feel the air suddenly feeling very thick and hot, as Max bent over Victoria again to give her a kiss, whilst her fingers moved slowly upwards in circles.

“So do I,” said Max in thick voice, her eyes alive with desire as she bent in and kissed Victoria again. “We can make.. it work.” Her fingers swirled further upwards until they brushed up against Victoria's breast, causing her to sharply breathe in and then gently grab Max's arm.

“Max,” she said, “I.. I.. erm... I mean.. can we.. just stop a second?” Max froze and then swiftly withdrew, looking mortified.

“I'm sorry, so sorry,” she stammered, “I thought.. I just... I mean.. I really like you and.. I thought you..” Max looked away, biting her lip, clearly upset. Victoria sat up and gently put an arm around her shoulders.

“Max, I really like you too,” she said, “but I literally had my first proper meaningful kiss with a girl last night, and I'm not quite ready to go that far just right now. I mean I really, really want too, the thought is on my mind like all the time, but.. I just want it to be.. good. I've never done it before, and I'm afraid that I'd be.. disappointing.” Max turned her head to look at her, and her face was full of earnestness.

“But it doesn't have to be absolutely perfect,” she said quickly, “I mean just being with you is amazing and so would everything! Trust me, I know as -” She bit her lip, cutting herself off and looking embarrassed. Victoria squinted her eyes and looked at Max with suspicion.

“You know? What do you mean, Max? Is there something you're not telling me?” Max suddenly seemed fascinated by her duvet cover, picking at it as if there was a loose thread she had to attend to. Victoria watched her for a second, before grabbing her hand to stop her.

“Stop it, it's annoying. I have to say, though,” she remarked, “you have surprised me by how.. confident, I guess is the word, you are about this all. I mean I would have never have thought that you'd be so.. explorative so soon.” Max huffed and looked a little affronted.

“Just because I'm a little awkward sometimes with people doesn't mean I don't think about or enjoy sex stuff, Vic,” she said. “I'm just like anyone else.”

“I know, I know.. but I did think you had no prior experience in it like me, am I wrong? You still haven't done it yet, have you - like me?” Max bobbed her head a little, as if uncertain.

“I.. I guess, yes,” she said in a voice so quiet Victoria nearly missed it.

“You guess? Did you have another relationship before then? I mean that's fine, you can tell me..” Victoria paused, then her eyes widened and put a hand to her head. “It's not Warren is it? Please god, tell me it's not Warren?”

“No!” said Max explosively, as if the very thought caused her pain. “Oh my god Victoria, don't even.. just no. Of course it's not, that's.. I mean.. come on.” She winced a little, as if thinking about it a little too much, before turning to fully look at Victoria. She took a deep breath and looked at her directly, making sure she had both of Victoria's hands safely in hers. “Promise.. promise me you won't get mad when I tell you. Promise.”

“Max..” said Victoria, trying to extricate her hands as a pained expression worked its way across her face. “What did you do..? It wasn't Taylor, was it? I knew she was too hot to let her be anywhere near you, I should've have..” Max shook her head impatiently.

“No, Vic, just -”

“Fuck me, it's Dana isn't it? I knew it, that's why she is always so fucking nice to you. I hope that massive rack of hers was fuc-” She was cut-off by Max lunging at her, using her lips to silence her mid sentence. Despite herself Victoria kissed her back, forgetting her rant as she once again found herself enjoying the sensation of kissing her new girlfriend. Max eventually drew back and looked at her, face slightly flushed.

“Right, are you going to listen to me now?” Victoria nodded, licking her lips as she did so and looking hungrily back at Max's mouth. Max twisted her fingers together as she worked up the courage to explain, fearing it would not go down well at all, no matter how she tried to explain it.

“Right, then. OK, well, don't get mad or anything, but it was.. you.” Victoria blinked in surprise at her words, before looking puzzled.

“Me? But.. we've never..” Her face turned serious and she appraised Max with a cautious look. “Wait, you haven't been fucking around with time and with me, have you? We agreed that.. but no, you'd never, would you..?” Max vigorously shook her head.

“No, of course not, I would never – that would be.. just, eugh. No.” She breathed in deeply before continuing, watching Victoria's reaction to her words carefully. “So on Saturday night I sort of had another.. time in the other reality.” Max slowly explained what she had experienced, and how she had felt what the other Max was feeling - and how she just might have enjoyed herself as well. “Honestly, having two orgasms at the same time in different realities, one of them down to you, was just.. mind blowing.” There was a silence that began to stretch longer and longer, and Max looked worriedly at Victoria, who was just staring off into the distance. Eventually the silence became too much for her to bear and she felt she had to fill it.

“Victoria, say something, please? You're not mad at me, are you? Are you?” She reached out to touch Victoria's arm in a gesture of reassurance, but Victoria didn't seem to even notice.

“Vic? Hey.. I'm still here.. waiting..” Max tried to keep her tone light but it was increasingly becoming tinged with worry. Eventually, after what seemed an eternity Victoria sighed sadly and looked at Max. She didn't appear to be angry; she just looked sad and resigned, as if she had lost something that she could not get back.

“I'm not mad, Max. Not at you. I am mad at the fucking universe though. It's just so... so unfair. I wanted to be the one who you had your first time with, I wanted to be able to make you happy and make it all amazing and everything.” She held up a hand to forestall Max's objections. “No, Max, despite it being me to you, it wasn't me. It was.. other me. And other Max. She was the one who did it.. not me. And I wanted to be the one.. when I was ready, when I knew I wouldn't fuck it up or not make it good. It had to be perfect, I had to be good at it. So I was going to have a whole plan and everything and now.. now I've been fucked over by myself. Fucking brilliant.” She let out a bitter laugh and looked down at her lap, looking miserable. Max quickly shuffled over and just hugged her, resting her head on her shoulder.

Max didn't know what to say or do; nothing she had read in the magazines she had stolen from her Mom and read voraciously in her room when she was younger, or what she had read on the internet as she got older, had prepared her for this eventuality in a relationship. But then, maybe nothing could; maybe this was just something they had to figure out for themselves.

“We're less than a day in and I'm already messing things up,” she said quietly. “I'm so sorry, Victoria. I just didn't think. Do.. do you want me to take it all back? Make it so it didn't happen?”

“What?” Victoria exclaimed, before grabbing Max's arm to make sure she couldn't rewind without her. “Don't you dare. That's such a.. a Max thing to suggest. No, I am – we are – dealing with this. No do - overs, Max, not for this – I'll just find out again anyway, won't I?” Max didn't say anything but went back to hugging Victoria, this time keeping her mouth firmly shut so as not to make things any worse.

“I really don't know what to think Max, it's so.. ugh, I know it's not your fault but like I.. really wanted it to be our first time together, you know? Like for both of us..”

“But it will be,” said Max quickly, “It will be – what happened didn't really happen, you were not actually there. It was just like a.. memory, a feeling. Not like the real thing will be, not with you here. Like really here.” Victoria smiled thinly, knowing Max was just trying to comfort her but appreciating the gesture regardless.

“Of course it will, everything is better with me there.” There was another silence, this one slightly less worrisome to Max than the last. However Victoria was clearly thinking about something, judging by the frown on her face and Max looked at her, expectant; but once more after a short while she couldn't bear it any longer.

“What? Tell me. Stop frowning like that, it worries me.” Victoria hummed in her throat.

“It's.. well, it's silly. But like.. you've seen me naked now, haven't you?” The image of a naked Victoria flashed once more across Max's mind, making her face flush.

“Um, yeah. I have; it's kinda hard to forget to be honest..”

“That's another thing which is unfair.” Max looked at her, and then without even really thinking about it let go and started tugging at her top, beginning to pull it up over her head.

“Max.. what.. what are you doing?” said Victoria, half shocked and half trying not to laugh.

“Making it fair to you,” said Max from somewhere underneath her top. “Argh, my arm is stuck, can you help me.. I can't..” Victoria went to tug her top back down again, but not before making sure she got a good look at the Max underneath it as she did so.

“Stop it, silly, you're being ridiculous now. You don't need to do that.” With Victoria's help Max pulled her top back down, looking slightly sheepish.

“I.. I just wanted you to not feel left out. I am being really ridiculous, aren't I?”

“Yup.” Victoria smiled at her and ran her hand through Max's hair, before pulling her forward for a kiss. “Look, it's just going to take me a bit of time to think through this, OK? But it'll be fine, I promise. I'm just upset that.. that my grand plan has been destroyed by me. I'm such a bitch, aren't I.”

“Yes, you are,” said Max, smiling carefully at her and looking a little relieved that Victoria didn't seem to annoyed. “But you are my bitch. And I know you got a good look a moment ago either, so.. consider yourself busted!” Victoria laughed a little, and her smile was genuine.

“Yeah, OK. I did. We're even.”

“And?”

“What do you mean, and?”

“And did you like what you saw?” Victoria opened her mouth to answer, then pointed at Max.

“You first. You've seen everything.” Max shrugged, and answered easily.

“You're hot. But you know that.”

“Eh, let's not get into the insecurities I have over my body. But you are also hot as fuck, Max. Like really. I'm so lucky.”

“We both are, then.” They looked at each other then burst out laughing. Victoria made pretend gagging motions, as if to hide her real feelings.

“Oh my god, listen to us - we are sickening.” Max nodded enthusiastically, and leaned up against Victoria happily.

“I know! It's so good!”

“God you're such a dork. Anyway, as lovely as this is I have to go. Wells waits for no man – but he will wait for this woman. Well, hopefully he will.” She stood up but Max grabbed her arm and pulled her back down again for a kiss. After a few minutes Victoria pushed her away and tried to get off the bed again.

“Max, I mean it,” she said, “I'll be late.” Max grabbed her arm again, and Victoria felt herself being taken back through time.

“Not if I do that,” murmured Max, pulling her down once more. After another few minutes Victoria broke away once more.

“No Max, I mean it – I have to go. I don't want you hurting yourself when we can do this any time. Besides, I don't want you to have too much of a good thing.” Max flumped herself back down into the bed, pouting.

“You're assuming you're a good thing, Chase. Don't you go getting a big head, now. Well, a bigger one than you have.” Victoria blew her a kiss and walked to the door and paused, turning to look back at Max as if memorising the moment.

Max looked at her as she stood there, face soft and gentle, shorn of all its hard edges and pretence; in that moment to Max she looked like the most beautiful thing in the world. She found it hard to believe that Victoria Chase, the Victoria Chase, was standing there in all her perfection, dressed in her silly t-shirt with her hair all mussed up and makeup free, and that she was hers.

“Well, let me know how it goes with Wells,” she said. “You'll be fine.” Victoria gave her a smile, before nodding confidently.

“Of course I will – and no matter what, I'm not leaving you. And I'm certainly not letting my parents try and send me anywhere else. See you later.” She turned and opened the door, mind already planning for what she needed to wear and exactly what face to put on to overawe Wells, to reinforce the impression that she was the one in charge, not him. She stopped suddenly, her departure arrested by the person standing in front of her.

“Oh. Kate.”