The shower was running when Chloe woke up. She checked the digital clock on the nightstand and groaned. Hearing the water turn off, she knew it wouldn’t be long before her future bride would come and bounce on the bed in an attempt to wake her up. She half-expected Rachel to give her new information during the night but did not recall having a dream. Chloe remembered falling asleep with her freckled friend laying on her chest watching a movie on Netflix. Waiting for the inevitable waking that was bound to come, she buried her head under her pillow.
The door clicked open as Chloe peeked one eye out from her burrow. The light from the bathroom spread around the silhouette of an incoming body creating a forward-facing shadow. As it approached, the newly blue-haired girl recognized towels wrapped around the head and the middle area of the incoming individual. “I see you peeking out. Get your ass up, babe.”
“Ugh. You sure we can’t just sleep in?” Her voice was muffled and barely audible. As the person repositioned herself, Chloe could make out her features a bit better. It occurred to the half-awake girl that the towel nearer the middle had been removed, and its contents dimly visible. “Oh, shit.” She removed the pillow from around her head and sat upright squinting to get a better glance.
“Ha! I knew I could get you up without having to bounce you this time.” The freshly showered and unclothed girl went over to the dresser to dig out a bra and panties making sure she bent down at a precise angle. She quickly slipped the articles of clothing on and, with hands on hips, turned to face her audience.
“Heeeeeey, I wasn’t finished looking, no fair.” Like a moth to a flame, Chloe had no choice but to stand up and head in her lover’s direction. She leaned in for a kiss and placed her hand flat on the girl’s abdomen. As she slowly inched downward her fiancé took a step back and swatted at her arm. “Max, please.”
“Not yet, Chlo. You can have your reward AFTER we finish our photo-shoot. We gotta get there before sunrise. Now, go jump in the shower.” Even in the dim light, the disappointed girl could see her half-naked partner smiling, clearly pleased with her teases.
“Fine, whatever,” she mumbled. “But you owe me big time. I mean BIG TIME! Do you know how hard it is for me to resist you?” The bluenette huffed and stomped towards the bathroom and jumped in the shower.
When she returned, after washing, her photographer friend was dressed in a hoodie and jeans and had laid out some pieces of clothing Chloe hadn’t seen in years. “It’s strange to see you in your old clothes. I remember your wardrobe, or lack thereof, a few years ago. Damn, it takes me back. And you’ve laid out my suspenders and old jacket? It’s like some kinky younger Max and Chloe cosplay shit.”
“I just figured we’d need to get into character for the shoot. Mainly you, of course, but I decided I’d play my role too. Are you fine with it? To be honest, it is sorta weird for me too, babe.”
“Yeah, I think it’ll be fun to pretend we’re teenagers again. And for my reward, Extreme Maxine, I think we might just need to stay in character.” Chloe bounced her eyebrows up and down as she watched her best friend giggle.
Max helped her lover get dressed and handed her the coffee she made while she was in the shower. They stopped and looked in the mirror and were both wowed by the sight. Besides subtle changes, like Max’s longer hair that was parted on the side making her forehead visible and Chloe’s covered tattoo, the girls looked very much the same as they did as teens.
“Part of me just wants to get this over with, but the other part can’t wait to see you tear it up in front of the camera,” the younger girl admitted.
“Yeah, well, if you’d let me have some fun first, it sure would make my day start off right.” She turned the photographer towards her and slid her tongue down and along her collarbone and neck. Chloe knew all of Max’s spots and took every advantage to tease her friend, hoping for a pleasurable outcome.
“I hear the words, love, but you’re not pushing me away.”
“It’s so hard to resist when you kiss me there.” A pleased grunt or two escaped the younger girl’s mouth, her eyes closed and enjoying the sensations.
“I know. Sooooo, just don’t resist.”
Max pushed away surprising her lover and apparently herself. “Chlo, we have to do this. We’ll have time to play later. But damn, you’re hot; freshly showered and everything.” She edged forward for a quick peck and jumped back. “Can’t get too close or there’ll be no stopping us.”
“You win, Caulfield, you win. Dressing like a younger version of ourselves is really turning me on though, I can’t explain it. Wish I’d have just attacked you in my room when you first came back to me and wanted to fix your broken camera. Though, I think I was still trying to process you being back in my life and Rachel was still missing and all that shit.” She paused for a moment, then continued. “Speaking of, did she visit you last night?”
“No. I crashed so hard I don’t even remember dreaming, and under normal circumstances, that would be good. It would mean no nightmares, but yeah, I was secretly hoping for… something.”
“Maybe she was giving us our privacy. With such a fucked up future looming over us, I think she might not want us to rush anything. Seems like we’re on the right track, taking it slow and all.”
“I’m sure you’re right. Like you said, we have to live our lives as normally as possible.” The younger girl walked up to her partner with her arms wide open. “Okay, Chlo. I’m coming in for a hug. I think I’d like one, but that’s it. Don’t try anything. No means no.”
“Ugh, fine.” They wrapped their arms around each other and snuggly squeezed. Max ran her fingers through the taller girl’s blue hair seeming to admire every strand. The warmth from the smaller girl’s body and head helped calm Chloe’s heart. Everything felt perfect, except for that nagging scene that was playing over and over again in her head. She kept seeing their daughter, who looked like a mixture of Max and herself somehow, being shot and killed. The present and the future were working in complete opposition by bringing her a deep contentment as well as a dark horror. Letting go of the embrace, the girls finalized preparations for the shoot and packed the car.
On the road, they playfully teased one another and chatted about old times, not discussing the bleak future that awaited them if they didn’t make a change. Max seemed to be distracted, but Chloe didn’t want to dig in because she was certain her mind was also wandering to their daughter.
“Hey, Chlo? I know it’s in the past, and I know we talked about it a ton a few years ago, but I have a question.”
“Yeah, love?” She figured her perfect person was going to ask something about the years after her family dragged her to Seattle and she practically ghosted her. After the first storm week, it was clear to Chloe that none of it was Max’s fault, it was because of her parents – and they had more than made it up to them ever since. Regardless, she was pretty sure her cute photographer would never be able to forgive herself, so she made it her mission to comfort her when those same old feelings arose.
“When I first moved back to Arcadia Bay, I was so scared to meet back up with you. Like you said, even when we were kids, we knew we would be connected forever. I was just ashamed, and sad, and I felt so lonely. But never once, did I not miss you, and I hoped destiny would pull us back together… and it did.”
“Yeah, we have talked about this before, but I didn’t hear a question in there.”
“Chlo, do you think things would have been different if I didn’t have my rewind power? You were so mad at me, and it didn’t seem like you and I would be able to fully rekindle our friendship until you found out I was ‘super-sized’, as you said.”
“Dude. I mean… dude. Yeah. Shit yeah! We’re Max and Chloe, we were always going to be together. You know that! The rewind, Rachel, and all that shit just helped to speed things up. That week happened so fast, and fuck. Look at us. Things are perfect… or… were perfect.”
“You keep thinking about her too?” Max knew her partner well enough to know their hearts were both still ripped open thinking about their little girl.
“Fuck yeah. I can’t stop. You saw her, she’s so goddamn beautiful! We have to live our lives and not rush it, but we have to do something soon, right? It’s tearing me up inside.”
“Same. After the shoot, I say we rent a cabin at Deception Pass and spend a romantic evening together and forget about everything. Then tomorrow, we completely focus again on fixing shit. What do you think?”
“Welp, you know how to make me feel better. You did say ‘romantic evening’, right Max?”
“Indeed, I did. You think it’s hard for you to keep your hands off me? Well, I got news for you, you are a goddess. My gorgeous, hilarious, tall, amazing, sexy, blue-haired goddess.”
Chloe hadn’t ever heard her fiancé call her a goddess before, but part of her really liked the sound of it. In a way, they both worshipped the ground the other girl walked on, so the title seemed fitting. “Goddess? Hmm. Why do I love the sound of that?” The cute girl in the driver’s seat grinned and looked as confident as ever.
Pulling out her phone, the bluenette checked their business email. She had flagged several messages to check back on later. With a few more minutes before they arrived at their destination, she figured she had enough time for a handful of responses. Several galleries and numerous individuals regularly contacted them regarding residencies and exclusive pieces. It wasn’t uncommon for random individuals to ask if Max would do private sessions. On several occasions, she was even asked to shoot personal and sometimes nude photos. They were in a very good spot where M3 could be extra choosy with which jobs they took, and never accepted a gig without it fitting the photographer’s style. Filtering through the messages, Chloe responded first to Brody Holloway. He had requested to join them at their wedding to write a story for his blog.
Arriving at Destination Pass, the girls unpacked the items necessary for the shoot. They had become efficient at packing and unloading the photography equipment in bags and cases that they could sling over their shoulders. Different shoots called for different items, and this one was no different. Their equipment included: two cameras, multiple lenses, lens hood, multiple tripods, lighting, filters, a laptop, and a remote control. Max was more of a viewfinder gal and rarely used the camera’s screen. She did use the laptop a large portion of the time to see the digital images in a larger window, however. Finally, she brought tons of extra batteries. They found out the hard way a couple of years ago that extra batteries were more than essential.
The girls parked the Subaru just below the Deception Pass Bridge in the designated parking area and toted the equipment across. Max insisted they walk all the way to the opposite side and set up just below the bridge on Pass Island. As the sun rose, the creeping rays of light bounced off the still thick morning fog. The photographer hurried them along, commenting how quickly the fog will burn off with the sun peeking through. She positioned her fiancé and began to shoot. Chloe angled, pointed, grimaced, smiled, turned, pivoted, and did everything Max asked so the session would go quickly and smoothly.
The taller girl watched as her best friend worked her magic. She was smooth, funny, decisive, and confident during the shoot. She knew exactly what she wanted and captured the moments perfectly. When Max was concentrating, she ran a hand through her own beautiful hair and chewed on her tongue from time to time, which was super cute to her subject. Chloe had zero doubt this session was going to be a success. After moving to several locations around the island and bridge, she insisted that the photographer join her in front of the camera for a few photos. Despite her reluctance of the suggestion, the brunette accompanied her partner laughing and enjoying their time together. The pictures were perfect, as was the moment, and both girls knew it.
Around lunchtime, they decided to pack up and go to the C.C.C. Interpretive Center for some chips and sodas from the vending machines. When they arrived, Max noticed some thick dark clouds rolling in across Bowman Bay and immediately started setting up to shoot again. “I’m starving, Super Max. Didn’t we get everything we needed at the bridge?”
“These clouds over the bay are marvelous. We gotta get some shots in.” She pointed towards the sky above the water with a serious and professional look on her face that secretly turned Chloe on.
“How can I say no to a face like that?” the subject asked.
“You can’t, Chlo, it’s impossible.” The younger girl’s smile was perfect, and she would do anything for the love of her life. Chloe willingly modeled as they finished the shoot and loaded the car just before the rain started falling. From the Subaru, the bluenette made reservations over the phone. The closest available cabin was a private spot on Ben Ure Island. They would need to take a boat to access the area, which Max thought would be fun. After another call, Chloe lined up a shuttle and had the rest of the evening planned. Finally, after a quick trip to town for food and supplies, the engaged couple was ready for some alone time. They took the shuttle and arrived at the island.
Opening the door, supplies in hand, the duo settled down ready to relax. They set their items in the kitchen area and sat together on the couch. “I’m pooped,” the photographer said as she brushed a single strand of blue hair from her partner’s face, tucking it behind her ear. “I want to have a romantic evening, but can we just sit here for just a little bit?”
Chloe thought for a moment while slipping her arm around her little brunette, then responded, “Of course, love. We’ve been busy, and we deserve to relax a bit. Plus, you’ll need your energy for later.” She raised both eyebrows and leaned down for a quick peck on the top of the head. She pressed her nose in and took a deep inhale of soft brown hair, a smirk forming on her face.
“Oh really, now?” the recently sniffed girl reacted. “What if I say I’m not in the mood, and just want to cuddle?” Chloe felt her partner’s body shift and look up and back towards her, eyes scanning until they landed on her lips.
“I’d say you’re full of shit, Maxi Max. I know what that look means. But I will admit, a good Max Caulfield cuddle session will work… for now.” The girls leaned in closer and sat in silence, both sets of clear cerulean eyes shut, enjoying the others’ embrace.
“Chloe, Max… good you’re both here. I think I’m getting much better at this dreamspace stuff. Oh, I love the blue hair!”
The girl’s awareness returned first, and she glanced around the room until she met two nearly invisible hazel eyes looking at her from the side of the overstuffed couch that her and her fiancé were huddled up on. She gently elbowed her partner and drew her attention towards their friend. “Rachel, where are we? It looks like a warehouse.”
“I created this space to feel… what’s the word… ah, neutral. It’s meant to help you focus and not get distracted.” The ghostly girl’s arms were folded in front of her chest, hips propped to the side. As Chloe began to stand, Rachel held her hand out to stop the girl from getting up. “I think you should just stay where you are and focus.”
“Rachel,” the brunette spoke, “it’s good to see you again, but what are we doing here? I don’t believe you would bring us here right at this moment without a purpose.”
“Chloe,” Rachel began, “this girl is a keeper.” She pointed towards Max. “She’s feisty and gets right to the point sometimes. I think I’m in love.”
“She’s mine, Rach. We’ve been over this already.” The trio shared a humorous smile and relaxed a bit. Chloe realized how weird this all was and shared the same sentiments as her partner. She knew if Rachel pulled them into the dreamspace, it was either good news or bad news, and she was hoping for the former.
“You girls are precious. Anyway, I think I figured out a few new things. Plus, you two have your powers back. I want to see what they can do here.” Rachel smirked, clearly proud of herself, which filled the taller girl with hope.
“I’m sorry, Rachel, I don’t mean to seem rude or anything. This is just so strange, and we all know what’s riding on us figuring it out. Thank you for your help.” Chloe knew if this were any other circumstance, Max would have stood up and given Rachel a hug. She was a very touchy-feely kind of person most times, and the older girl loved that about her.
“Don’t thank me yet. There’s still work to do, and literally the only thing I want to do is help change your future. I’m kind of obsessed.” She walked around the couch and stood behind her sitting friends. “Look straight forward. I have some things to show you, and, yes, they aren’t very pretty.” She pointed towards a dark wall in the distance and it started to glow. The horrifying scene both Max and Chloe had witnessed started to play. The photographer put her hands to her mouth, bracing for what she knew she was about to see. Her lover placed both hands behind her neck with her elbows pointed inward. The scene played out exactly like they had previously seen. Max gasped and buried her face and head in the older girl’s chest, as Chloe squeezed her shoulders in horror.
“Max, I know it’s tough, but you have to keep watching.” Rachel’s voice seemed to reflect genuine concern, but with a concentrated edge. The freckled girl wiped her face and sat back up facing the scene. Like a movie theater projection, the scene began to play again. This time it was slightly different.
“This change happens when Chloe jumps alone. You see that look on her face… riiiiight… there?” The ghostly girl pointed forward as the scene paused. “That little eyeroll is the moment she takes over. Less than a second later, the gunshot takes place. Every single time Chloe jumps alone, she is too late. She never takes over early enough to make any changes. One time she screamed the word ‘no’ but was still not early enough.” Rachel waved her hand and the scene vanished in a puff of smoke.
Pointing forward, a new scene began to play. “This is what happens when you both are able to jump. See, the same eyeroll. This time Max’s eyes change too. With both jumping, it plays out three main different ways. I won’t show you all three but I will tell you what happens. One, your daughter is shot like normal. Two, Max jumps in front and is shot instead, and with her positioning, she’s in the closest line of sight to the bullet. Two seconds is just enough to position in front of your daughter. Last, all three of you are consecutively shot in the head. Also, this seems to be a relatively fixed time jump. There is always a one to three second window at this exact spot.”
“You said you won’t show us all three, but are you gonna show us anymore?”
“I’m glad you asked, Max. I’m telling you, Chloe, in another timeline, she’d be mine. Anyway, this is the one single time something different happens that I’ve seen. Before I intervened, I didn’t see this possibility play out. The good news is your daughter is saved.”
“Fuck, Rach, that’s amazing news!”
“The bad news is… well… to put it bluntly… she’s saved because she never existed.” A new scene played and showed a very sad Chloe all alone eating cereal in a low-end apartment in front of a TV. With another wave of her hand, another scene showed a very lonely Max eating a frozen dinner by herself in her room in her parent’s house.
“Wait,” the freckled girl spoke up. “So, you’re telling us that the only way to save her is to never have her in the first place? That’s so fucking sick. Goddammit!” Chloe had snaked her arm around her lover’s shoulders and neck and firmly tightened her grip.
“The only path I’ve seen where your daughter is safe and Max doesn’t die…” the ghostly girl’s voice caught for a second, “…is when you move away and never see each other again.”
“FUCK THAT!” Chloe’s heart dropped. She shot up and off the couch and started running around yelling and screaming at the top of her lungs. Max balled up in the corner and started rocking back and forth.
“Girls,” Rachel said without any response. Then she yelled, “GIRLS!” Catching their attentions, the engaged couple looked over from their respective spots. “All three of us know you two are going to be together forever, so being apart is not an option.”
Max turned towards her friend and Chloe walked back over. The bluenette helped her partner off the couch and pulled her in for a hug. The girls held onto each other tightly.
“We could just never have a daughter,” Chloe suggested. “I don’t understand why we would need to be apart in the first place. If having her would damn her to a bullet in the goddamn brain, maybe it makes sense not to have her.”
“If you stay together, and we all know you’re going to, you WILL have your daughter. There’s no way around it. You’ll understand very soon.” Here, let’s try something else. I’ve been working on what I can and can’t do in the dreamspace, and mainly I can see past and present… and potential futures. But I want you to try something. Find your powers together and see what happens.”
“Like right here, right now?” the taller girl asked.
“Wait, Rachel,” Max chimed in. “I don’t know if that’s such a good idea. I haven’t tried the rewind yet, and she couldn’t find her fast-forward before. But say we do both find them, the last time we used them together, we ripped a hole is space. Are you sure we should do this?”
“No. But I know things are different because time doesn’t exist here. Let’s just try it. I’m fairly sure the worst thing that can happen is you will wake up, then I’ll just bring you back next time you’re asleep.”
The duo looked at each other and nodded. Chloe noticed Max stick out her arm and close her eyes, and she followed suit. Scanning past the endless fields of grey, she quickly located the syrupy meshed spot. It was as clear as it had ever been before. “Damn, Max. I can see it. It’s right here.”
“Yeah, me too, Chlo,” she responded. “On the count of three, we press down, but not too hard. Let’s go easy.”
“Sounds good, love.”
“1… 2… 3…”
Two spiraling beams of energy pulsed out from each girl, twisting and dancing around each other, eventually converging forward in the distance. Mild panic shot through Chloe’s mind and she plugged the pulse. When she opened her eyes, she noticed Max looking back at her. “Whoa.”
“Damn, ladies, that was fucking brilliant! Look, I think your powers did something over there.” Rachel was pointing towards a floating hole where the powers had entwined. The couple walked over towards the spot, while their friend stayed behind. As they approached, the blue-haired girl noticed the size and shape of the hole. It was much bigger than the first one they had created back in Max’s room that day, and appeared to be much larger than a tire, and more elliptical in shape. The edges didn’t appear to be the same as they were with the portal. It seemed more like a viewing area, more like just a window.
“A wedding?” Max questioned, while looking inside. “Oh, damn, that’s OUR wedding!”
“Holy shit, Maxi, you look… goddamn, so beautiful!” Max reached over and grabbed Chloe’s hand as they peered through the window and spied on themselves at the alter getting married.
“I’m not sure we should be looking at this, but I can’t look away. We look so happy, babe.” The freckled girl gasped as if realizing something important. “Chlo, do you know what I think this means? I think we are looking at future number one hundred and one. You said it yourself, how can we have our wedding and truly enjoy it with our daughter’s fate hanging in the balance. This is the future we get to have if we save her. I just know it. Look how happy we are.”
Not glancing away for even a second, the girls stared into the opening and fell in love with what they saw. Chloe could have sworn her future self looked in their direction and winked at the peering couple. Suddenly, the room and the dream began fading from view. As the dream grew dimmer, the girls turned and tangled their lips together.
“I’m in love with you, Max. There’s nothing we can’t do together.”
“You’re my perfect person, Chlo. We got this.”