She could feel the cool, slick floor beneath her back and on the palms of her hands as awareness fizzed in like frothy suds from waves breaking in the ocean during a storm. She marginally turned her head to the side and slowly wiggled it back and forth noticing the hard marble-like structure beneath her. Max pushed up on her elbows then to a sitting position and finally opened her eyes.
“Shit,” she grimaced, which echoed down the hallway and deep into the narrow distance, then placed one hand on the top of her throbbing head and the other underneath her nose. In the past, when it felt like a chainsaw had torn through her skull, her nostrils would flow with sticky, scarlet liquid. Part of her expected to have a similar reaction as before, but when she pulled her hand away, she looked down and saw no traces of blood.
The brunette shifted so her arms wrapped around her knees with fingers from both hands entwined in the front, while her thoughts became less abstract, coalescing into sensible and logical understanding. “Something… happened,” she whispered to no one, half-believing an audible response would be returned yet was unable to decipher her own recollection. She wasn’t particularly cold, but she shivered and wished for a warmth that somehow had escaped her.
“Chloe…?” she recalled, almost as if asking a question.
Suddenly, the disoriented girl remembered who and where she was before arriving at this place. She jumped up from the floor, spinning around frantically searching for any sign of her soulmate. Her chest thudded from a thunderous drumming which was rapidly increasing with each passing second. Bile inched up her throat, burning the lining of her esophagus, so she swallowed hard to push it back down. Max took a deeply forced breath to try and calm her nerves, but it did little to soothe her worries. All she saw was an unending hallway in both directions, and she realized she was standing in a room with endless equidistant funhouse-like mirrors.
“Fuck. Des!” Her voice reverberated throughout the confined corridor eventually dulling to a minuscule tone that was no longer within earshot.
Up and down the hallway, and on each of her sides, various reflections of herself stared back in her direction, moving as she moved. Each mirror showed a Max that looked almost identical to the one glancing in at them except for tiny, barely discernible differences. She stepped to the closest mirror and peered inside, immediately noticing her reflection had slight highlights in her hair. Max never really cared much about her appearance, wearing minimal makeup and whatever clothing felt comfortable. Unless she had a meeting for M3 or went out with her wife, she put forth little effort to look nice beyond the minimum. Chloe constantly told her she was naturally beautiful and was sexiest when she didn’t try too hard, so she took that as her cue to be herself and not worry much about how she looked. She wondered what circumstances must have happened for the girl in the mirror to get highlights.
Max shuffled sideways a couple of steps and found herself in front of the mirror beside the first, staring into the eyes of another almost identical image. She squinted and the reflection simultaneously did the same. She raised her arm and the image copied her exact motion, as expected. While the reflection had her arm raised, Max noticed an eerie tattoo on the backside of her triceps. She tilted her head to get a better view of the ink, and what she saw caused her to step backward with a gasp. It was a picture of a dead blue butterfly surrounded by black flies, black hearts, and the words “CHLOE PRICE FOREVER” with “1994-2013” inked underneath. Without warning, tears cascaded down the brunette’s face as she stumbled backwards pressing her back against the opposite wall between two of the mirrors. She slowly slinked to a seating position, tipping over with her head between her knees.
She sniffled and shook, balled on the cold floor, for longer than she knew. Upon seeing the reflection’s tattoo, she felt the same nauseating despair she experienced while hearing her soulmate squirm as she bled out on the scummy floor in the Blackwell bathroom. It was a memory that would no doubt haunt her for the rest of her life, and one that could paralyze her with just the thought. Seeing the image of herself in a universe without the love of her life felt way more real than she was prepared for at the moment.
She finally came to the understanding that what she saw was a reality that didn’t exist anymore in her universe. At the very least, it was rendered irrelevant because of the love she shared with her perfect person. Snapping out of the debilitating state of grief, Max felt calmer than she had since her arrival. Thoughts of her partner and their little family helped push the darkness away from her mind, causing a slight smile to form on her face.
“We’re Max and Chloe… I-I can do this.” She puffed her chest and thought back on the hardships they’d faced since the first storm week, and she knew this was just another challenge they would overcome together.
I need to feel her .
Max straightened her back, found a comfortable sitting position, then closed her eyes, fully intending to contact her wife in their shared mindspace. She soared past the grey as she normally would and searched for the raised spot where her power resided. When she located the area, the tiny mound was flattened like a nail that had been hammered into wet wood. It was still there, just not with the typical consistency as she remembered. “Dammit,” she whispered, trying to grasp the spot and slide it upward. Try as she might, there was no way for her to get to the circuitry and wisps where Chloe’s aura existed.
Another slight panic prickled through her nerves, beginning in her chest and radiating through her other extremities, yet she pushed it aside to focus on the one thing that mattered most.
Maybe if I just release a little rewind, Chloe will feel it and respond .
Hovering over the once raised sweet spot, Max looked down and focused her energy. She pressed the area with as much force as she could muster, and it caused a sharp, splintering pain that pierced through her skull. “Ahhh!” The stinging sensation only lasted a couple of seconds, but it was obvious she needed to steer clear of the area for the time being. It felt sore and tender in a way she hadn’t experienced before. It broke the freckled girl’s heart to know she couldn’t feel Chloe under the current circumstances.
We’re always together, even when we ’re not.
“Where are you, babe?”
A low, screeching hum continuously played on a loop while incoherent thoughts rattled through the girl’s mind. It was like a dreamless, restless sleep fueled by anxiety and dread. “The fuck?” Chloe’s face was pressed against a solid, flat floor that chilled her body to its core once consciousness eased itself back in. She rolled over and opened her eyes, peering up towards a darkened black space where a ceiling should reside, yet all she could view were never ending walls jutting up as far as the eye could see.
“Damn, my head,” she complained through gnashed teeth as if someone was beside her listening while she spoke. Her voice bounced off the walls and echoed throughout the hallway. She reached up and ran her fingers over the messy hair on the back of her head where the pain began. Chloe then stretched her neck out and massaged the area just below the lower portion of her skull, which offered only a slight relief.
“Where am I?” She couldn’t remember how she got there or what she was doing before her arrival, but she was damn sure going to find out. She pushed her body up and forced herself to a stand, stretching her arms and legs as she stood. The floor had been cool to the touch but the temperature in the hallway felt average; not cold, not hot. Despite the rather comfortable conditions, Chloe had this craving to feel affection. She yearned for a very specific warmness to fulfill her desire but couldn’t quite understand what she needed.
She confusingly looked around and realized she was surrounded by mirrors that seemed to house her reflection regardless of how she moved. Bobbing her head left and right, and wiggling her arms around, Chloe tested the images that responded exactly as she expected.
What the hell is this place?
The blonde placed her fingertips on the nearest mirror and dragged them across, from one to the next, as she strolled down the infinite hallway watching various versions of herself appear with each new reflection. She stopped at one in particular, for some reason, and felt uneasy by what she saw.
It seemed to be the saddest image she had come across so far. Her hair was still blue and the time had to be several years in the past. Her face looked heavy like she was holding a thousand pounds of burden on her shoulders. Her skin was tight on her bones and she was extremely malnourished. The dark bags under her eyes meant sleep was something that happened only occasionally. She knew her life had been tough after her father died but wondered what the girl on the other side of the mirror had gone through to end up so feeble and beaten down.
My… dad… died?… Mom…?
“MAAAX!!” She screamed with an animalistic, guttural inflection that came from deep within her, which boomed throughout the mirrored hallway.
Suddenly, Chloe remembered everything. She recalled tunneling in and seeing events unfold through her teenage daughter’s eyes. The older wheelchair-bound version of herself had pushed some sort of button that started a machine which was tearing Des apart. She remembered opening her power, per her wife’s direction, in order to help provide the teen with the strength she needed. The warmth she was missing and hungered for was that of her favorite person in the world and she wanted to be near her so badly.
I-I can’t feel her. Fuck!
She didn’t need to search her mind for the power, it was clear something was hindering their connection, and it fractured her heart into a million pieces.
Through tear-filled sobs, Chloe’s breathing bordered desperate, as she clawed at her chest and throat trying to pull more air into her lungs. The room began spinning causing her to crouch down so she wouldn’t fall over. She propped herself against the nearest mirror, and squeezed her eyes so tightly it made her nauseous. Thoughts swirled around inside her head bouncing from one painful memory to the other…
“Chloe, listen,” the recording vividly played in her mind, which she still had memorized. “Even if I never… even if we’re moving for good, we’re always together, okay? Even when we’re apart. We’re still Max and Chloe. I will always, always love you. ( sigh ) Goodbye.”
She’d listened to the tape her best friend left after her dad died probably a hundred times, and it was odd how current it felt despite the fact that she was now nearly twice the age she was then. Abruptly, like using an X-Potion in Final Fantasy VII, Chloe felt a sense of healing and vigor wash through her entire body. Even though the recording was from one of the darkest times in her life, the memory of the her best friend’s voice filled her heart with strength. She finally felt clean oxygen enter her nasal passages and travel through her lungs, causing her chest to swell. She released a deep, airy breath, her lungs deflated, and she felt the sadness shift to a much more manageable emotion: anger.
Chloe stood to her feet and ripped the tears away from her cheeks using each of her upper palms. Facing the mirror that contained the tired, malnourished reflection, the blonde screamed at the top of her lungs and punched it with all of her weight. “Shiiit!” A slicing pain scattered through her knuckles, traveled quickly through her wrist, up the arm, and crashed into her shoulder. She hopped around for a moment, grabbing her arm with the opposite hand and cussing, until the pain dulled.
From the center of the mirror, where Chloe had punched, she noticed splintering lines form that were rapidly expanding. A thin metallic layer shattered from the cracks and dropped to the floor with clinking sounds as the pieces all fell, leaving only the mirror frame still hanging on the wall. The same metallic shards began falling from the other mirrors to her sides and behind her. They fell like dominoes beginning with the one Chloe struck, cascading outward like ripples in a pond. One after another, the pieces hit the floor in torrents sounding like tiny explosions as far as she could see in each direction.
The blonde watched in astonishment, wide-eyed and slack-jawed, forgetting how much her arm hurt, until she couldn’t hear the clanking chimes anymore. Turning back to what was once a mirror, she noticed the reflection was gone and replaced by a framed scene from the reality with the malnourished reflection. As she peered deeply into the reality beyond the glass, the hallway phased from her sight, and, like a vacuum, she was sucked inside.
In recent years, Max found herself unable to just kick back and hope for things to happen. She had become more of a doer and wasn’t about to wait around considering the circumstances. For the most part, her confidence soared sky high and it was because of the love she shared with the most amazing girl she’d ever known.
I must find a way to Chloe.
Uncertainty existed in the recesses of her mind because of their barricaded connection, but that didn’t stop her from knowing her wife was out there just as worried about her. On top of that, she knew Des was the one who was hooked up to a machine. She desperately hoped their added power was enough to give her the boost she needed to be successful; whatever that meant. Max had two goals: find the love of her life and make sure she was safe, and figure out what happened to their teenage daughter, also confirming the girl’s safety. She was determined to find answers and it would start with figuring out where she was and why she was there.
Max stood to her feet and approached the nearest mirror. Her reflection seemed to mock her with a smirk that she knew originated from her own face. This would just be another story one day about how crazy her life had been the last few years, and the brunette couldn’t wait to share this most recent experience with her wife.
Suddenly, she noticed a small, splitting crack that splintered like a lightning bolt across the face of the mirror like it had been struck by something. The fissure rapidly grew downward from her reflection causing the girl to take a swift step backwards. A layer shattered from the surface falling downward and pinging the floor with high-pitched chimes just beside Max’s shoes. Like an outward pulse, all of the other mirrors followed the first, dropping a layer of metallic material throughout the hall in each direction.
After several noisy minutes, the crashing dulled in the distance followed by a silence that seemed much quieter than before. Max stepped closer to a glassless-frame and watched a scene where she and Chloe, during the ‘Shitwell’ years, were in her truck driving around. A sense of nostalgia filled her heart and she peered deeply inside recalling how nice it felt to finally reconnect with her best friend so many years ago. Suddenly, she felt the ground beneath her feet dematerialize and a weightless sensation wash through her like she was floating.
Fresh laundry. It’s glorious. It’d been so long since the laundromat in town had banned her. She even borrowed some of Max’s PJ’s to wear while she ran her load so everything would be cleaned. Everything all nice and warm from the dryer. Her clothes don’t feel like sweaty, greasy rags but actual fabric that smells nice.
Her skin prickles from the sense memory of pajamas fresh from the dryer, Dad doting on her and Max during one of their many sleepovers. Some tears fall from her face and she wipes them away quickly, trying to ignore the stinging in her throat. She starts inspecting and folding up her clothes to stuff them back into her bag. Fuck, these jeans have new tears. I need to ask Max if she has a sewing kit, I definitely need to patch them again.
She looks at herself in the mirror and fights back more tears. She actually looks clean, maybe even kind of put together, despite the way her clothes hang off her spare frame, and the hollowness to her cheeks. Things have changed though, with a roof over her head and hopefully regular meals in the future, that’ll change and she’ll start putting back on curves. At least I can stand looking in mirrors now, damn… Total lone wanderer chic, fuck yeah.
She checks her phone, a pile of missed calls and texts from Joyce. Nope.
That she’d be so close, yet so far hurts more than when she wasn’t fucking acknowledging any of it. Was she trying because she was actually coming around, or just scared of something happening to Chloe and trying to manipulate her? Does it fucking matter? She sprawls out on the couch with Max’s laptop and tries to drown the thoughts in cat videos.
It doesn’t work.
Joyce even making an attempt is absolutely batshit crazy, whatever her reasons are. Maybe she should let her try again? I can hear Max being all disappointed in me for just blowing her off.
Fuuuuuuuuck. She’s about to swap the cat videos for some punk rock to psych herself up when the gentle refrains of a violin drift in through the door.
She cocks her head and sits upright. Right, there was a violin case in Kate’s room. She listens, entranced as Kate warms up before launching into an up-tempo waltz. Chloe’s eyes drift closed as the gentle music soothes her frayed nerves. Fuck, she’s really good. I wonder if Max and Kate ever play together? They should, I bet they’d sound great.
She drifts along as Kate switches to a slow, mournful dirge. She should give her mom some kind of chance, right? She doesn’t have to forget the awful shit they did. She never will. Can I even forgive her? Does she have the right to even expect that? She can practically hear Kate scolding her to give her the chance. Rachel had always encouraged her anger and resentment before offering a toke or a drink to make her feel better, but nothing had ever gotten better.
She takes a breath and stares at the phone screen trying to come up with the words. Rules, she should start with rules.
look, if we’re going to start talking again, we need rules. you break a rule, i stop talking for as long as i want.
rule 1: my name is Chloe. only call me that.
rule 2: i am a girl, i am your daughter. don’t misgender me.
rule 3: i start the talking and we take this at my speed.
rule 4: i start talking to david only when i want to.
rule 5: no using dad to guilt me.
Okay. Do you want to talk now?
There, now she can give Max something to actually be proud of her for doing. Her entire body shudders from the pent-up stress of getting those words down and sent. But that’s it, she’s offered the olive branch. I’ll probably get smacked in the face with it but whatever, I can at least say I fucking tried…
“Whoa, shit!! This isn’t real.” Like a light bulb turning on, Chloe realized she had been experiencing a different reality in a universe she didn’t recognize; at least not totally.
As if being woken from a dream-like state, she was back in the hallway staring at the floor where broken shards of metallic material lined the base of the walls.
“And that’s how I fixed this truck,” Chloe said. She placed the cigarette to her lips, inhaled and blew the smoke out the window making a few O’s. “I mean, it’s running, stalled on me a few days ago, it needs a new fuel pump among other things. I need to get some funds together to fix it completely, I might be able to get a loan off a friend.” They parked in, as Chloe called it, ‘Shitwell’ parking lot, waiting for Rachel and Sloane. Chloe let Max choose the music on the radio, teasing her on the choice of ‘Hipster acoustic music’. An RV drove past them and parked in the corner of the lot. “There’s Frank,” Chloe said looking at the RV. The bluenette looked over at Max, she was tiredly slumped on the driver’s side door looking back at her.
“When did you start smoking?” Max inquired, not wanting to bring up the conversation in front of the others.
“Meh, I dunno know, just picked it up ya know.” Chloe exhaled more smoke. “Something to pass time, and ease my nerves.”
“And you have a drug dealer?” Chloe has changed so much. What did you expect? it’s been five years idiot.
“Chillax Max,” Chloe smiled, “I just get some weed and alcohol from him, living with Stepdouche and his bullshit ya need to blow off some steam. Make your brain fuzzy, it’s good, forget about your shit for a while.”
“Hmmm, I think you and Sloane have that in common.”
Chloe looked at Max then turned and looked out her window. “So… is Sloane like your best friend…or your-”
“No… she’s…” Max blushed, “We’re only in a few classes together, I don’t know much about her, till today.”
“And you jumped in her truck?” Chloe said surprised, and even though she hated it, a little jealous.
“At the time she said that someone she knew was hurting and needed help, so, I-I….”
“Hmm, friendly neighborhood SpiderMax.” Chloe smiled.
“She…she was very convincing okay.” Max explained, “Even if she was kinda drunk…and stoned.” Max shook her head, “I’m an idiot.” She let out a tired sigh. “I just…didn’t want her to also get behind the wheel and drive.”
“SpiderMax SpiderMax everywhere is SpiderMax, spins a web any size,” Chloe grinned as she sang. Max yawned and giggled. Sloane and Rachel arrived, parking next to Frank’s RV, “All I’m saying Max is that you were there for someone, someone you barely knew, even if it was under false pretenses. When they asked for help, you acted. Not a lot of people would do that.”
Why couldn’t I be there for you when you really needed help Chloe? Max shrugged one shoulder. She looked away from Chloe and picked at the door’s material, she spoke quietly. “Guess I’ve learned from past mistakes.”
…wait, who’s Sloane?… this isn’t right…
“What the hell?”
Max was immediately pulled from the other universe and nearly lost her balance, landing back where she was standing in the hallway amongst the endless frames and shards of glass. A row of never-ending universes, like the one she just experienced, hung on the walls through empty frames in each direction. It blew her mind how it could feel so real, and she finally understood what Rachel had been trying to show her through the trance in the Watcher’s realm.
We’re all… connected . We’re the same.
She wasn’t sure how, but she knew the shattering of the mirrors could only originate from one source. Chloe was behind it somehow; the feeling in her heart was all the proof she needed. Max had an epiphany in that moment. She and her soulmate weren’t just connected by atoms, powers, wisps, yin and yang, or childhood memories. The two girls were crafted from the same cosmic material that tethered them together for all eternity. It was much deeper than all those other things combined. They had always been together and attached by the pure love they shared with one another.
Max quickly realized there was no longer a need for the sweet spot which had been completely closed off. Their powers were just tools used to help them eventually understand what she was only now fully grasping. They didn’t need to float through the mindspace seeking each other’s energy. It was always within them burning as brightly as a midday sun in the desert. An intense warmth swelled inside her and she could feel her best friend again.
Damn that was insane.
Chloe stood in silence for several minutes as she pondered the universe she had been inside, wondering how it could feel so real. It wasn’t some unrelated, distant version of herself that existed somewhere in the ether, it was really her somehow. She recalled the events of the other reality like she had truly experienced them from some past memory. The rapidity of her incoming thoughts was confusing at first, but slowly the garbled mess formed into a complete understanding.
Shit. We’re all the same.
An intense heat filled the girl’s heart and she looked around the messy hallway to find the source of the pulsating warmth.
Goddamnit, she’s here!
Everything began to make sense and fall together naturally. She and her wife were bound to one another and always would be. Through togetherness, separation, life, and even death, the two girls would always be together no matter what happened, and it would last all of eternity.
Abruptly, the walls, glass panes, and halls bled from sight and transfigured into glowing prisms, decahedrons, and goldenrod lattice matrices, and she could see beyond that tangible world. Peering down what was once an endless hallway, the outline of the girl she longed to feel materialized and stood staring back at her in the distance. “Max!” Chloe cried out. “Fuck, I see you! God, Max!” Her breathing hitched and her heart skipped a beat knowing her perfect person was safe and near her once again.
“Chloe! I see you too, babe!” The girls ran up to one another and could feel the other’s embracing warmths, auras intermingling like a hug but at a much deeper and profound level. Their energies appeared and disappeared, swirling through the other like a hand passing in and out of running water. They tickled one another and played together like two pirate girls running around town without a care in the world. It was a perfect existence where the two could be together and fully enjoy the other’s presence.
After several unmeasured, playful moments, the initial excitement died down a bit and Chloe noticed the walls to the sides and floor down below blinking back into her view. Solidity and tangibility returned, and Max was there with her arms wrapped around Chloe’s torso in a content hug that she never wanted the girl to release. She pulled the brunette back and instinctively pressed her lips against her mouth, intensely savoring her favorite taste in the world. She ran her hands through her partner’s frizzy, soft brown hair with a ferocious attack that felt both passionately sloppy yet emotionally under control.
“Moms!” The voice in their minds was swift and startling, and the married couple clearly recognized their teenage daughter calling out to them. They broke from their fervid trance but still clenched onto each other with both arms. Chloe never wanted to let her favorite person go, latching on tightly as if her partner might float away like a helium balloon if she released her grip.
“Shit, Des?! Are y-you okay?” Max shuddered like she was coming down from a high and had just realized they were still not out of the woods yet.
“I’m good, Mom. But listen to me…” Her voice faded in and out like a radio signal on the brink of losing reception. “Fuck, I’m so glad I can hear you again. For a moment I thought… you… you…”
“It’s fine, Des. We’re fine.” Chloe spoke up in an attempt to soothe the girl’s concerns. “We’ve been worried about you too, sweetheart.” The words coming from her own mouth sounded tender and almost overly kind.
“What the hell happened to you? Why was that other damn Chloe trying to rip you apart? I swear to god, if she hurt you…” Max got straight to the point, as she typically did these days, with a fiery disdain in her voice.
“No, you’ve got it all wrong. She was trying to help me split myself throughout the multiverse so we can pull everyone back together, and it worked. She’s like the brains behind saving every single one of you and I’m the tool she’s using to repair what was broken. We’re so close now! You two are the prime versi… and we must…. …. safe… …I am only… and…… ……. one last time ………. …….. …..” The transmission was failing, and the young girl’s voice dwindled to a static-like hum, finally tapering out to silence.
“Des?” Chloe knew, and suspected her wife did as well, that Des’s communication line was long gone. The way it flashed through their minds didn’t feel like it had before. It was almost like some machine or computer had sent her to find them and relay specific information. Unfortunately, the message failed before any pertinent intel was presented.
“At least she’s safe, babe. I can’t tell you how relieved I am to hear that she’s not hurt.”
“Yeah for damn sure.” Chloe tenderly placed both hands on each of Max’s freckled cheeks and pulled her in for a kiss. “Max, I love you so goddamn much. The more we find out about ourselves, the more I just wanna touch you and hold you… and… I dunno, be near you.”
“Me too, Chlo. You are my everything. I get to fucking laugh with you and be sad with you, share with you, and care wholly about you. I get to walk and run with you, build our lives together, and just be around you. It’s the only thing I’ve ever truly wanted. What we have is so so damn special, babe.”
The older girl swiped a stray tear from her cheek and bumped her petite wife with her shoulder. “Stop that shit, Maximus. Your goopy ass wont make me cry; I refuse! Plus, we need to focus on getting out of this place. So… how this hell do we get outta here?”
“No idea. Oh,” there was an inquisitive shift in Max’s tone, “is your power, like… blocked, Chlo? I think I understand everything in a way I hadn’t before. Our connection is so much deeper than just our powers. We don’t need them.”
“Yeah,” she confirmed. “I think it’s gone; and I can’t say I’m not thrilled about that shit. Part of me hated that it was always just fucking there, calling out to me.”
“Remember Tom?” Max asked, placing a flat hand on the small of Chloe’s back.
“You mean that slimy fuckface that told me I needed to die? Yeah, I remember the bastard. Fuck em.”
“Well, he lost control and became obsessed with the way it felt, and I don’t really blame him to be honest. I was worried about going down the same path, but because of our love, I didn’t need to feel anything besides you. You are more than enough for me, babe. Without you, I don’t know what would have happened to me.” Chloe threw her arm around the girl’s neck and squeezed her in for a snug side hug not saying a word for several seconds.
“So,” the taller girl began, breaking the momentary silence, “these mirror frames are still here. What do you think would happen if we both go inside the same one, ya know… together? I think that might be our next move.”
“I dunno, Chlo, but how many times have you followed me without really knowing if we were doing the right thing? If you think we should, I’m with you all the way… forever.”
“Maxi Max, I told you to stop with the goopy shit. We need to figure this out.” She smirked and watched as her wife returned the gesture with a heartfelt grin of her own. “Besides, I would follow you anywhere. I’m never leaving your side, dude. I’m still your faithful chauffeur and companion… ya know, in life and everything. I go where you go.”
After a quick peck on the cheek, the shorter girl turned and faced the long corridor and pointed with an open palm. “Well, which one should we choose? Does it even matter?” The lovers strolled through the hall looking left and right, observing, but not too deeply, the infinite number of universes that lined the hallway.
In one, they watched a young version of Max that seemed more like a superhero than anything else. She was freezing time, killing bad guys, and working her ass off to make sure she and Chloe were safe from the Prescotts.
In another, there was a nightmare version of Max that somehow collected the memories from hundreds of lifetimes because of the instability of the universe. It seemed like Max and Chloe were in a time loop being mocked by nightmare Max, but the onlookers just shrugged and kept walking.
There were several where Max had died, several where Chloe had died, and some where both died, but neither girl even flinched as they saw these unfathomable existences. They passed by dozens of universes and briefly witnessed both joyful and extremely dark events play out. In all cases, Max and Chloe were present in one way or another, even if it were just in memories, still deeply tied to one another.
If the wheelchair-bound version of Chloe and their teenage daughter were successful, they would somehow be able to mend the multiverse and all versions of themselves would be restored. At least that’s how the taller girl interpreted what was happening, and she knew her partner had a similar understanding.
“What about this one?” Max spoke up as she turned to face the inside of the frame, not completely focusing yet to avoid getting pulled inside again.
“Works for me, love. But, Max, when I was sucked through to that other universe, I had no idea I wasn’t… well, me. It took a little while for me to realize it wasn’t where I belonged. What if we don’t recognize things, like, ever? What if we never come back?”
“Don’t think like that, Chlo. The same thing happened to me, and we both figured it out and returned safely. If you really believe this is what we’re supposed to do, then let’s do it. We’re Max and Chloe, together we can do anything. Plus, this one looks like we’re enjoying some Chinese food. I could definitely eat.”
“Now you’re speaking my language. Yeah, we look happy. I think we’ll enjoy it there. It’s as good a place as any, I suppose.” Chloe looked over at her first mate, not knowing when they started holding hands but was very glad they had. “You ready?” The brunette shot her an impish smirk that caught her off guard.
“I’m the readiest,” Max replied with a slight giggle and a pump of her eyebrows.
“Dammit, love. When we get back, you’re mine. You deserve what I’m gonna give ya. I can’t fucking wait to get your clothes off.” She twisted her lover around and they were face to face, bodies pressed against one another. She could feel every curve of her wife’s frame and wished they were back home right then. Unfortunately, they still had work to do. She craned down, gingerly pressing her lips against the younger girl’s while running her free hand through thick, dark hair.
“Sounds great, babe, but you don’t get to have all the fun, I wanna play too.” Another onslaught of kisses followed then Max took a half step back, pulling their lips away from one another. “We gotta go, Chlo. The sooner we get through this, the quicker we can be back to enjoy that alone time you’re talking about.”
Chloe grinned and nodded in agreement then turned so the pair was looking into the same frame where versions of themselves were laughing and eating food alone together in an apartment she didn’t recognize. “I love you, Max.”
“Love you too, Chlo. See you on the other side.” Chloe squeezed her wife’s hand and nudged her hips with her own. Reality swirled around like a twisting plume of smoke and the girls vanished from the hallway.