It was a quiet Saturday evening. The clouds outside had been gathering since this morning and the storm had finally broken half an hour ago and there seemed to be no end in sight. It wasn’t very often that they got such storms in September, but it was a pleasant break from the unbearable heatwave that had hit them hard the previous week. Hopefully the last of the season.
The sky outside was dark with menacing-looking clouds looming over the city, occasional lightnings would split the heavens open with their bright light as thunder was heard roaring in the distance. The winds were merciless, even a warning had been issued for people to avoid going outside, especially by the beach where the sea levels had risen dangerously.
The rain crashed hard against the windows in the living room. Max wasn’t particularly fond of storms and for good reason. However, she did appreciate the slight drop in temperature. She was still wearing her summer clothes but it didn’t feel like her face would melt off just by lifting her hand to change the page of the book she was reading.
Max sat on the couch with her book with Rachel lying next to her, the model’s legs stretched over the photographer’s lap as she watched Netflix with the volume lowered so the voices from the show could barely be heard, allowing her to listen and enjoy the sound of the rain hitting ruthlessly on the windows. One of them was slightly cracked open, letting the smell of wet soil invade the apartment, a scent which Rachel secretly loved.
The model however, kept casting side glances towards Max now and then, wanting to make sure she was alright and that the storm hadn’t caused her any distress. By the looks of it, the brunette was doing fine although she did appear to be a bit more tense in the shoulders, but other than that she happily read her book while her other hand rested on Rachel’s leg, caressing her absentmindedly. Max’s fingers altered from making small circles against smooth skin to trailing them up and down her leg.
Rachel found herself humming in appreciation and wiggling her toes whenever Max stopped, too concentrated on her book. The brunette paused mid-sentence to peek at the blonde, smiling when Rachel nudged her with her foot indicating that she wanted more and Max was not one to say no to those two pleading hazel eyes that made her feel like she was falling for the model all over again.
It was during a crucial part of the book that Max’s phone vibrated, notifying her that she had a new message. Normally, the photographer would have ignored it until she finished the chapter, not wanting to stop in the middle of it when the main character was about to walk into a trap that had Max mentally screaming at them “IT’S A TRAP!”. But she knew that one of these days, the winners for the photography contest would be announced and would be moving forward to the final stage of the competition.
With curiosity coming out on top, the brunette reluctantly tore her eyes from the pages and placed the bookmark between them before taking her phone and unlocking it to see who the message was from.
Max’s eyes nearly bulged out their sockets while her heart nearly jumped out of its place when she saw that it was from the magazine. The photographer bolted up like a coiled spring, sitting up straight from her languid position, hand clutching her phone hard enough to turn her knuckles white.
“Babe? What’s wrong?” She heard Rachel call out to her with worry written all over her face.
The photographer didn’t seem to have heard her as all other sounds were drowned out by the buzzing in her ears. She stared intensely at her screen, debating if she should open the email or lock her phone, open the window and yeet it out into the storm. Tempting.
No, she could do this! Max took a deep breath as she felt a body next to her shift and come sit closer. With shaky hands she opened her inbox and clicked on the email all the while Rachel studied her carefully.
One second passed. Then another. And then Max’s heart stopped.
“OH MY GOD!” Max shrieked, standing up abruptly, momentarily feeling dizzy as blood rushed to her feet. “I was selected!” She exclaimed, barely believing the words spilling out of her mouth and needing to re-read the email to make sure her eyes weren’t playing tricks on her.
Rachel cried out in excitement, immediately getting up to hug and congratulated Max by pecking her on the lips. It was then that a clatter of something being knocked over was heard from the bathroom and a dishevelled and alarmed Chloe came rushing out, towel roughly thrown over her head as blue coloured water trickled down her temple from the hair dye that still clung to her hair.
“Who’s dying?!” Chloe asked fully on alert as she stumble into the living room, blinking away some drops from her eyes before wiping the water off her face with the end of the towel.
“I was selected!” Max repeated, unable to contain the smile that split her face. “I just received an email from the magazine saying I’m in the top ten.”
“Babe! That’s amazing! Congrats!” Chloe said as she hastily made her way to Max, after having properly tied the towel around her head to avoid making a mess. The punk wrapped her arms around the brunette’s slim waist and littered her face with kisses.
“Oh no…” Max whispered when Chloe let her go, realization sinking in like an anchor thrown at sea.
“What oh no?” Rachel asked, confused.
“This means I have to take ten new photographs and then display them. In a gallery. In front of people. Lots of people.” Dread crept in as Max’s brain went into overdrive. “Maybe… Maybe I could rewind just this once. And not enter the competition. Like that I won’t have to talk to complete strangers and I avoid public humiliation!” Max was babbling. Her eyes locked on a small indent on the wall across from her as she slowly descend into the chaos inside her mind.
“That was a joke, right?” Chloe inquired as she cast a worried look at Rachel, not sure if Max was being serious or not.
“Of course it was. Right Max?” Rachel prompted and placed her hand on the brunette’s shoulder to give it a reassuring squeeze. “Love breathe in for a second. This is wonderful news! You deserve this. Enjoy the moment.”
Max followed Rachel’s advice and took a deep breath. She felt scared, excited and happy all at once. “I actually did it!” She finally said with more confidence as she relaxed and flung herself on Chloe and Rachel, bringing them in for a hug which they gladly returned.
“Super Max strikes again!” Chloe smiled at her, feeling immensely proud of her girlfriend.
“Oh I have to call my parents and tell them!” Max let go of them so she could scroll through her contacts.
“I’m sure they will be thrilled. Oh, and say hi to them for us.” Rachel said before turning to Chloe “How is the dying going?” She eyed the punk up and down, taking in the smudges of blue on her neck and the tufts of hair sticking out of the towel.
“If I manage to remove these dried chunks without losing hair, I’d say it’s going perfect.” Chloe took the tip of a lock between her fingers and frowned at it. “Will you still love me if I go bold?”
Rachel gave her an apprehensive look without answering.
“You were supposed to say: Yes babe, I will love you no matter what because you’re hella cool.“ Chloe huffed when the blonde just stood there, unamused.
“Is there anything else you’d like me to say while we’re at it?” Rachel folded her arms and swayed her hip to the side in that sassy way of hers.
A mischievous glint flickered past Chloe’s eyes. “How about: I am forever grateful to you for giving me the best orgasms of my life.”
Rachel opened her mouth to oppose but found she had nothing better to say. “You know what? I can’t object to that…”. Before she could step forward and kiss the punk who was grinning and enjoying her victory, a sharp cry was heard from the bathroom.
“Oh what the hell?!” Max apparently had ended the call with her parents and as she had been pacing around the apartment while talking, she had passed in front of the bathroom, the door still open from the time Chloe had ran out to see what all the commotion was about.
The inside resembled a murder scene; the white bathtub and tiles were splattered with blue dye from when Chloe was in the middle of rinsing her hair and by now the colour had dried and set in while different shampoo and conditioner bottles were scattered on the floor, most likely the source of the noise they had heard earlier.
“It looks like Grumpy Bear from the Care Bears exploded in our bathtub!” Max said as she took in the crime scene while Chloe came to stand next to her. “We aren’t getting back are deposit, are we?”
“Chill dude, I’ve down this hundreds of times. It just needs a little elbow grease.” Chloe reassured Max who looked at her skeptically.
“I’m just messing with you! Enjoy cleaning though!” She smiled innocently before planting a kiss on Chloe’s cheek and leaving her to finish washing up.
Soon enough, Max was back in her spot on the couch next to Rachel who altered for lying down across the couch and this time rested her head on Max’s thighs.
“Ta-dah!” Chloe came out of the bathroom after a while, hair freshly dyed back to a beautiful azure blue.
“Niccce” Max said while taking in the sight, feeling her stomach flutter when the punk shot her a wide grin with a wink. The photographer was truly starting to believe that blue was the warmest colour.
Rachel smiled affectionately at Chloe, her mind bringing forth the memory of the first time Chloe had taken that extra step and dyed her whole hair blue. Revealing the final result to Rachel who had been lying on Chloe’s bed, waiting for the punk to showcase her new look.
“So, how did your parents react to the big news?” Chloe asked as she sat sideways on the armchair that was placed on the side of the couch. Her legs propped on the arm rest and hanging over the edge.
“Oh they went full ParentMode, meaning they are already looking to book tickets to come over for an exhibition I don’t even know when will take place.” Max mused, recalling how excited both Vanessa and Ryan had sounded before bombarding her with questions about all the how’s and when’s.
“They could stay with us. We have plenty of space.” Rachel offered and returned the smile Max was sporting her.
“Mmm I’ll tell them, but I doubt they will. Knowing my dad, this would be the perfect opportunity to book a nice hotel and spoil my mom silly.” Max said while caressing golden locks of hair splayed across her legs.
“Go Ryan!” Chloe wiggled her eyebrows playfully while wolf-whistling.
“Chloe, No!” Max shot her a warning look. She did not want to have those kind of images in her head.
The rest of the evening passed uneventfully, that is until the storm outside became even stronger than what was predicted. Max and Rachel had resumed their previous activities before the photographer had gotten the news while Chloe had gone to fetch her sketch book and now was sitting again on the armchair, drawing a lighthouse standing on the edge of a precipice, with big waves crashing against the rocks beneath it. She didn’t know exactly why she was drawing this particular image; it had just popped in her mind and now she had to put it down on paper to purge it out of her head otherwise it would not leave her alone.
It was then that a strong gust of wind blasted the cracked window open, making a few papers that where on the coffee table fly up in the air whilst the deafening sound of thunder was heard above them as if the skies had split open.
Max had been engulfed in her book and so her heart nearly tore through her chest like a Chestburster when she heard the rumbling. Sure, she had lived through many storms even after the events of that horrid first timeline but this one had a terrifyingly strong resemblance to the first one.
Max suddenly became aware that she had trouble calming down, her heart rate had picked up pace and her eyes darted erratically around the apartment before looking out the open window to where the trees were swaying left and right at the mercy of the cruel winds.
“Motherfucker!” Chloe swore as she shot up from her seat, rushing to close the window before even more rain came in. “Storm’s a bitch. I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen one this strong.”
Rachel sat up as well when she felt Max’s whole body stiffen underneath her, hazel eyes examining her partner who seemed to be a bit paler than usual, pupils slightly dilated and breathing coming out laboured.
“Max, love, are you okay?” Rachel asked concerned as she placed her arm on the brunette’s shoulder.
“Y-yeah.” The photographer forced out a smile. It frustrated her to no end that such calamitous events still made her heart catapult to her throat while anxiety sunk its sharp claws into her weary mind.
Rachel eyed her dubiously. By now the blonde had learned all of Max’s little idiosyncrasies; the dent on her cheek indicating she was biting down on her gum, the way her focus tuned in on one spot or the tension in her shoulders as she forced them to remain still while struggling to take in deep breathes.
“Chlo.” Rachel addressed the punk who was looking outside the window.
“Yeah?” Chloe turned to see Rachel gesturing at Max who didn’t seem to pay them any attention and was blankly staring at the TV in front of her.
The photographer felt the familiar thrum of a headache approaching and the tingling sensation on the tip of her fingers; a tell-tale sign of whenever she used her powers. She wasn’t even actively thinking about them, yet her body seemed to be in battle mode, ready to activate them on a moment’s notice.
Max looked down at her hand, curling her fingers as if to shake off the feeling.
“Oh.” Was all Chloe said when she observed her girlfriend and immediately understood that something was off just as Rachel suspected.
The punk came and kneeled in front of the brunette. With one hand she held Max’s forearm while she brought the other one up to cup the photographer’s cheek, she briefly glanced at Rachel who had her arm around Max’s waist protectively. Pale blue met hazel as the reason of Max’s panicked state dawned on them.
“Max, hey look at me.” Chloe said in a soothing voice, trying to abate the uneasiness in Max’s eyes.
The brunette slowly dragged her eyes off her hands and bore them into a pair of pale blues.
“Just listen to my voice. You’re okay. We all are. I can’t begin to image what this feels like for you but just please tell me if you’re alright.”
“I-I don’t know. My head hurts. And this feeling… It’s like…” She trailed off, trying to force her mind to focus on the warm hand on her cheek and the other one wrapped around her. Max leaned further into Rachel’s arms while still looking at Chloe. They were both there. They were both safe.
“Come here, we got you.” Rachel said as she moved to be able to wrap both arms around Max and allow the brunette to rest on her.
“I will go make you some tea, unless you want me to add something a bit stronger in it.” Chloe lightly joked and was relieved when Max chuckled as she eased into Rachel’s arms.
“Plain will do.”
Chloe got up to prepare the tea but as she was about to leave, Max’s hand flew out and grabbed her by the T-shirt, stopping the punk midway who looked down at the brunette.
“I love you.” Max said in a small voice but charged with emotion before forcing herself to let go of her grip. Chloe wasn’t going anywhere far she consoled herself.
“I love you too Max.” Chloe smiled at her, bending to plant a soft kiss on her forehead before going to the kitchen to prepare the tea.
“And I love you. Thanks for calming me down.” The brunette tilted her head to lock eyes with Rachel.
“You don’t have to thank me love. I love you too.” The blonde pecked Max on the lips before the brunette hid her face in the nook of Rachel’s neck, breathing in her scent which seemed to assuage Max’s uneasiness.
“Two steaming cups coming right up.” Chloe came over after a couple of minutes with two cups, walking carefully so as to not spill the chamomile and placed them on the coasters on the coffee table in front of the two women.
“You didn’t want one?” Rachel asked.
“Nah, you know I hate this shit. How do you guys even drink it?!” The punk said from where she had returned to the kitchen to grab her mug.
“I highly doubt that.”
“What are you having?” Max sat up to take her cup and make space for Chloe to come sit next to her.
“Baileys with some hot chocolate.”
“Why am I not surprised.” The photographer shook her head before taking a sip of her beverage. Ah yes, scolding hot. Perfect.
“You didn’t finish it, right babe?” Rachel cast a warning look to the punk.
“No?” Chloe gave her best award-winning smile, hoping it would mitigate the situation.
It seemed to work because the blonde huffed out a small laugh, finding it hard to even pretend annoyance when Chloe was looking at her like that.
“What do you wanna watch Max?” Chloe grabbed the remote, ready to switch to whatever Max told her to.
“Nothing really, you can put Rachel’s show. I just want to sit here with both of you for a while.” Max smiled when Rachel kissed her head.
“Okay so horny and self-absorbed sophomores it is then.” Chloe teased and a sense of accomplishment rose in her chest when she saw that she had made Max laugh.
“Don’t think I haven’t noticed you pausing your sketches whenever I put on Riverdale…” Rachel gave the punk a pointed look.
“Slander!” Chloe protested, a deep crease forming on her brow as she shot daggers at the blonde.
“Come on Chlo admit you secretly like the show! You always come out of your room whenever Rachel decides to watch it.” Max pipped in from her spot in Rachel’s arms.
“That’s just a coincidence.”
“There are no coincidences, only the illusion of coincidences.” Max quoted a beloved movie.
“Nerd.” Chloe poked the brunette’s side and leaned in to seal their lips together in a tender kiss, feeling Max smile into it before sitting back up and hitting the play button.
By the time it was time to go to bed, Max could barely keep her eyes open. All the excitement and stress from the storm had exhausted her. All three washed up and changed into their comfy pyjama’s which in the lingering heat meant T-shirts and extremely short sorts that they might as well not be wearing. Even though the three of them tended to sleep in Rachel’s room since she had the biggest bed, during heatwaves it wasn’t uncommon that the girls sometimes slept separately, especially on extremely hot nights where any kind of skin-to-skin contact equalled immediate discomfort. Tonight however, the temperature had dropped to tolerable degrees that allowed them to all crawl on the model’s bed. Neither Chloe nor Rachel wanted to leave Max alone for the night. And so the brunette found herself in between her two girlfriends, both their arms resting over her torso, making her feel protected from the storm that raged on well into the night.