3 Months Later
Max often thought about the mind-blowing, post-life experience she went through with The Matchmaker. She remembered every detail and could close her eyes for an almost hallucination-induced recollection whenever she wanted.
After making her final decision, choosing to be with Chloe for all time, followed by leaving the Two Whales diner simulation, Max was taken to the prime energy source. She was allowed to connect and experience a brief moment of what it would be like to actually become The Matchmaker herself. The energy no longer existed as bright, white lightning-like spires, but as an infinite number of scattered specks belonging to individuals.
As she scanned the current of countless particles, she recognized the energy that belonged to Rachel Amber. Her brave friend shined brightly and danced around like she was having a blast. Max momentarily felt Rachel’s pleasure as if it was her own. Her friend was laughing and playing like a child, and it caused Max to smile– filling her heart with delight. The girl who sacrificed her life and became a fierce fighter for she and Chloe’s safety was having a blast, existing within the energy source’s pure joy.
Similarly, she located Esther’s energy within the source and knew the girl had received the redemption she sought. The former zealot also sacrificed her life for Max and those that she loved, even without as much of a connection as Rachel had to them. Max knew Esther spent her entire life believing a false truth, and it warmed her heart to know the girl made the right choices when it mattered most.
Chloe’s voiced bubbled with excitement, pulling the photographer from her own head.
The two hugged and Chloe tenderly helped Max to her feet from the side of their bed.
During the coma, Max’s brain wasn’t able to receive the full amount of oxygen it required, causing a disconnect between her right leg and her mind. She needed a cane for assistance now, though the medical team was hopeful she would eventually gain most of her mobility back with physical therapy. Luckily, the movement in her leg was the only long-term issue that came from being away from her body so long. Additionally, Chloe created the cane design herself, so it was radiating with a badassness that could only come from the former punk.
“Where were you, love?” Chloe tilted her head and looked into her wife’s eyes.
“Everywhere. Nowhere. … Just lost in my mind, I guess.”
“Well, get the hell outta there; we have a plane to catch! This vacation was your choice. Chop, chop!”
“Yeah, I know. Things take me a little longer these days.” Max nodded towards the cane she was positioning for better balance.
“I still think you should try and fix it with your power. I know you can do it, Max. I’ve seen you do some amazing shit. For you, this will be easy peasy.”
Max shook her head. “I’ve never used the power on brain functions before. Even if I knew I could do it right, and not give myself a stroke in the process… I-I just can’t. It doesn’t matter.”
The taller of the pair placed a palm on both of her spouse’s cheeks, pulling their faces close together. “I love you, Max. Whatever you decide to do, I know it’s the best choice… always. And, you know me; I’ll carry your bony ass everywhere over my shoulder if I have to.”
Max’s giggle was halted when she felt her favorite person’s lips wrap around her own. They enjoyed a minute of connection before Chloe pulled away.
“Well, come on then. Let’s get going. This vacation was your idea. Although, bringing all this M3 equipment means you’re planning on working. I wish you would just relax and shit.”
“I need to work, Chloe. I feel like I haven’t in so long. Plus, how can a photographer travel to Europe and not take advantage of the amazing scenery. There are so many places I want to shoot!”
“Yeah, I know. I get it. But don’t think I’ll let you get away with working your ass off. I know how you get. It’s sexy as hell, not gonna lie. But, like, not even one-eighth of the time. This is our vacation, Maxter. We’re gonna fucking vacation the hell outta Europe.”
Max shifted her cane and craned back in for a quick kiss. She pulled away with a dramatic smack and smiled. “I need to work, for sure. But trust me, I need YOU. I’ll work some, we’ll do couple stuff with Vic, Kate, Steph, and Alex, and we’ll have some ‘us time’ too.”
“Mmm, I like the sound of that.” Chloe waggled her eyebrows and slid her hand down her wife’s side, landing on her hip. “You’re devious, Max Caulfield-Price. Might need to punish you soon.”
“Too bad Des and Pearl declined the offer. It would have been a nice time. Maybe they didn’t want us gals cramping their style.” Max playfully rolled her eyes, imitating one of her daughter’s infamous eye-rolls. “They would have had their own room, if privacy was a concern.”
“I dunno, Maxi. I know, when we were their age, we would have done anything to be alone together. They’ll get a full month without us. Remember when we lived with your parents? It was so nice when we got the house to ourselves.”
“Yeah, but Chloe, it’s a free trip to Europe. At 21, we would have jumped at the opportunity. I mean, all expenses paid… HELLLLOOOO.”
Chloe laughed. “Yeah, good point.”
“To be fair, we’re lucky M3 has grown so big.” Max’s tone changed from lighthearted to melancholy and introspective. “There are literally tens of thousands of photographers who deserve to enjoy our success. Makes you kinda think, ya know? What would we be doing if M3 hadn’t taken off?”
“Well, I can remember other multi-versions of myself who were mechanics, scientists, truck drivers, specialized government agents… I mean, we could have been anything, really.”
“Yeah,” Max agreed. “I think most versions of me were just involved in photography somehow. Your future had many more different directions. You’re so smart and talented. Mine was basically just art.”
“Just art? Dude!? You are fucking amazing! And… what does it matter? In every potential universe, we were together in one way or another. Our destiny has always been to make the other better and… it’s us, ya know? Just us. The jobs we do are background shit. It hardly matters at all.”
Max thought about her partner’s words. “Yeah, of course.” She knew Chloe was right.
A phone suddenly buzzed. They had been locked in on one another, in a sort of tunnel vision, so the text startled the married couple. Chloe took a few steps from the side of the bed towards the dresser to obtain her cell.
“Looks like Vic and Kate are already at the airport. Shit. Didn’t we tell them we’d get there like half an hour ago?”
“Yeah, let’s get a move on. We can blame it on my… situation.” Max again bobbed her head towards her dormant leg.
“Oh, and I have another text from Pearl. It’s a shot of Des on her bike. Says they’ll miss us while we’re away. How nice.”
“That’s sweet of her. Tell them we’ll miss ‘em too.”
Chloe finished typing, then spoke. “Done. Love those chicks.”
“Yeah, same,” Max responded, a toothy grin tightening the skin on her cheeks.
“All the luggage has been packed, Maximus. I just need to get one more thing; saved the best for last.”
Narrowing her eyes, Max looked around the room and then out into the hallway. She didn’t see any other bags laying around, so she was confused what Chloe was talking about.
“Here we go.”
Before she could react, Chloe scooped Max off her feet, laid her across her shoulder, and carried the brunette towards the garage.
“Holy shit, Chlo!” Max laughed as her wife gently spanked her while carrying her through the house.
“I hope your parents have fun in Europe,” Pearl said, one arm stretched around her girlfriend in a side hug, casually walking towards the parking lot. They just finished brunch at a new restaurant in downtown Portland and were planning on taking a full day’s ride to the coast.
“They’re probably at the airport by now, but text ‘em my love.”
“You got it, silly lady.” With her free arm, the brunette removed her cell from her pocket and sent Chloe the message. “Done. I sent that pic I took of you on your bike this morning.”
Pearl returned the phone to where she found it and immediately stopped on the sidewalk, causing Des to slightly stumble. Pearl turned towards the blonde and placed each hand in the girl’s front, leather pockets.
“What are you doing?” Des was still getting used to the fact that Pearl was enamored by her. Even four months after falling in love, it still didn’t feel natural for the red-streaked blonde to have confidence in opening up and feeling loved. The idea that she was enough for Pearl, still intimidated her in many ways; but she was working on it.
“Just feeling a bit handsy, that’s all. Maybe it’s the two mimosas talking but… I just wanna kiss my dragonfly. You got a problem with that, Miss?”
Des’s self-doubt never swayed her from her own urges. Pearl’s lips glistened in the mid-morning sunlight, and they looked like a perfect landing spot for hers. She remembered the way the girl tasted the last time they kissed, and her heart began racing. With the brunette smiling up at her, with both hands now touching Pearl’s inner thighs, a pleasurable tremor cascaded through the biker’s body. She leaned down just as the athlete was tilting her face upward.
On a relatively busy street, with others milling about, Des and Pearl linked together in an act of we-don’t-give-a-shit-if-you’re-watching, pure love for one another. Des’s hands instinctively found their way to her girlfriend’s lower back and the side of her head. One was gently caressing the athlete’s soft skin above her jaw in tiny circles, while the other found its way under her shirt and to her bare back. As the blonde’s lower hand began descending even further, Pearl stepped back with an impish grunt.
“Wow, Dragonfly. You’re about to attack me right here in public. I didn’t know you were into exhibition play.”
“Oh, God.” Des could feel her cheeks warming. An awkward, sheepish energy caused her to bring her hands together in a ball and fidget around. She had been totally swept up in the moment, forgetting where they were.
“Oh, don’t be embarrassed, Baby. Although, you look cute as hell with pink cheeks.”
“Shut up, Pearl.” Des shoulder-bumped her girlfriend, upset at first. She was pissed off that the brunette could make her feel so vulnerable. It wasn’t fair that her emotions could swing so extremely in such a short amount of time. Quickly, however, after looking into Pearl’s eyes, that emotion turned into a deep appreciation and admiration for the girl she loved.
Slowly, she felt the corners of her lips beginning to curl. The more she thought of how much she cared about Pearl, the more her scowl was transforming into something better. A couple of seconds later, Des couldn’t stop laughing. Her giggling fit must have been contagious, as the athlete also began laughing.
They held hands between them, interlocking their fingers like a zipper, laughing the entire way back to Des’s bike. The problems of the world didn’t matter in that moment. At some point, Pearl would have to finish college, and Des would have to decide what she wanted to do with her life. They were two girls who had faced some crazy shit and made it out together. Everything else would have to wait, today they only wanted to spend time with one another, simply existing as girlfriends.
The laughter had died down when they finished their three-block stroll to the vehicle. Des released Pearl’s hand and performed a quick, routine check on her bike, readying it for their trip. The plan was to take highway 26 from Portland to Canon Beach. Pearl wanted to visit a microbrewery there so it was added to their tentative itinerary. After spending the afternoon enjoying drinks together, they would hit the beach for some fun in the sun.
After going through her checklist, and realizing the bike was ready to go, Des hopped on and helped Pearl shimmy behind her. Twisting her head towards the back, the biker planted a kiss on her girlfriend’s cheek. She turned back around, placed her helmet on her head, and pushed the starter button below the throttle handle to crank it up. In no time at all, Des and Pearl were on the road.
As the wind and the bike vibrated their clothes and skin, Des felt freer than she ever had before. With the girl of her dreams in love with her, currently holding onto her hips as they sped down the highway, she couldn’t imagine a better life. Sure, they soon had important decisions to make that would impact their future. But today… they were happy. It was all that mattered.
After about an hour into their ride, Des started thinking about what her mother told her after returning from her coma. She said the universe would require something else of her and Pearl, and it would be a big deal for them. The red-streaked blonde wasn’t sure what it meant, but she knew they weren’t completely out of the woods yet; at least not forever. But it didn’t make much of a difference to her. Like Max and Chloe before them, Des and Pearl were ready to face whatever came next. Love was their strength, and nothing could get in their way.
**The beautiful artwork of my favorite original character (Destiny) was created for this chapter by the amazing Catsigma. Please check them out on Twitter!**
Well, that’s a wrap!
Words cannot possibly express what this series has meant to me. I’m blown away by the tremendous support from those that contributed in one way or another. Whether you helped me edit a chapter, left a kudos, made a single comment on one chapter, or inspired me through your words or your writing, you are part of what has made this entire thing so special to me! I wish I could properly describe how I feel. Since I’ve come to the conclusion that nothing I say would fully express my emotions of this moment, I’m simply going to list the names of those that assisted in one way or another below. I just hope I have done justice to two of the most amazing characters I’ve ever met. Max and Chloe mean a lot to me, and I just pray the journey we went on together was impactful to at least one person.
As writers, we all have different reasons for sharing our personal time with the community. Some people think fan fiction writers give thousands of their own hours to others without really gaining much for themselves. Don’t believe that for a second! I, personally, gained soooo much from writing for this fandom. Mainly support during tough (and dark) times in my life. Also, I’ve gained (hopefully earned) confidence in myself and my own writing abilities, my own art. Speaking of, I am currently in the process of writing irl. When the time is right, I will share my professional work and make it known to the community.
Finally, please take care of one another. As far as I can see, we only live once. Every single person you come in contact with, be it in-person or online, is having an individual human experience. 99% of them are caring and have good hearts. Most EVERYTHING negative that takes place comes from misunderstandings. If individuals involved just chatted for a few minutes, keeping an open mind, we would solve so many issues that plague our world.
Anyway, from the bottom of my heart, thank you!
It takes a village, as they say, to raise a child. Same goes for writing a story. These people will forever be appreciated by me for their contributions to The Only:
Don’t Nod, Square Enix, Deck Nine (for creating the Life is Strange characters and canonical stories)
Daniel H Gray
The writers in this fandom I failed to mention.
The artists in this fandom who continue to bless us with their talents.
Everyone on Max’s Room Discord server (I miss y’all!)
Everyone in the Life is Strange FanFiction Discord server
My beautiful wife Ashlee and my daughters Amelia and Nora!!
(anyone I failed to mention because my emotions are escalated at the moment!)
THANK YOU ALL!