Max stepped out onto the Blackwell rooftop, taking a deep breath of the early October air. Her eyes flicked upwards, not a cloud in the sky, and despite the dim lighting for the courtyard below, the stars glimmered against the purple haze.
She couldn’t help but smile softly as she turned her attention to the star right before her.
Rachel smiled up at her from her sleeping bag, a pillow poking out from under her flowing hair. “Hey yourself. Nice of you to finally join me.”
Max bit down on her lip as nervousness flashed through her. I still can’t believe I’m actually going through with this. “I’ve always liked to see the stars, but…”
“But you prefer your sleep?” Rachel teased without any hint of malice, her easy smile helping Max relax.
Max clutched at the strap of her bag for a moment, feeling the tension ebb.
“N-no. Well, I mean, I don’t normally stay up.”
“Oh, I know, Chloe moaned about it all the time. ‘Max fell asleep when we were watching this movie, Max fell asleep when we tried to stay up for New Years.’”
Max stiffened as she tried not to think about how long their mutual friend had been missing. Rachel shook her head.
“Sorry, that was stupid. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“No, no, it’s fine, it’s crazy to think that it’s been over a month of us looking and just… nothing.”
“We’ll find her.” Rachel soothed as she patted the sleeping bag next to her. “Sometimes I forget I’m not the only one who lost her.”
Max sat down next to Rachel, trying to keep calm despite their closeness. “She’s out there, somewhere. She’s probably looking at the same stars we are now.”
“She always was a fighter.” Rachel sighed. “But talking about Chloe isn’t why I asked you to join me.”
Doing her best to relax as she lay next to Rachel, Max could probably guess at the answer. “Because you like the stars?”
That earned her a warm, breathy laugh that brought heat to her cheeks. “You’ve got me there. I’m totally the crazy astrology chick. But no, I just wanted to talk.”
“People get… real when they’re staring at the cosmos, you know? Not that you’re fake or anything, you’re probably the realest person at Blackwell.”
“Thanks. That, uh, means a lot coming from you.” Max did her best to keep any nervous waver from her voice, not quite sure where Rachel was going with this.
“Don’t let Vicky get you down, she’s just insecure.” Rachel shrugged and muttered. “Like a lot of us.”
“What have you got to be insecure about? You’re perfect.”
Rachel sighed and cupped her hands behind her head. “That’s just a mask. I wanted you up here because I want, no, need to be real with you.”
“You can always be real with me, Rach.”
A wistful smile played over Rachel’s face and Max’s hands itched for her camera. “That’s one thing you two had in common. I don’t have to pretend with you.”
“What do you mean?”
“I fucked up Max. I fucked up hard.”
Max rolled onto her side and propped herself up on her elbow, her eyebrows shooting up as she studied her friend’s face in the dark. “What happened Rach?”
“I was fucking Frank. It was stupid bullshit and I only did it a couple of times so he’d lay off Chloe but I still fucking did it.” Rachel shook her head and a few tears rolled down the side of her face. She grimaced as she continued, her voice tight with emotion. “I don’t know if she found out or not but I’m so fucking mad at myself that I never got to tell her myself. I’m such a coward.”
It took a few seconds for the new information to process while Rachel kept speaking, seemingly reading Max’s mind. “He’s not involved with the Chloe stuff I mean. I’d know.”
“Are you… still seeing him?” Max asked, trying to fight off the feelings of… jealousy ? She was never any good at labelling what she felt.
“What? God, no. It was creepy then and it sure as shit is now. I regret every second of it. sometimes I have to shower, just to get the image of him out of my head.”
“That… does explain why he’s always so weird around you.”
With a sigh Rachel sat up and buried her head in her hands. “You must hate me.”
“No! I don’t hate you, I couldn’t. Everyone makes mistakes, even you.” Max rested a hand on Rachel’s shoulder and sat up too.
“That’s the thing Max, I’m not allowed to. that’s why I’m up here, away from the bullshit.” Rachel shook her head. “Sorry, this got way more dark than I wanted it to.”
“It’s cool, sometimes you just need to get stuff out.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Rachel nods a few times. “Did I tell you about what Chloe did for me, the night I found out about my mom?”
“You don’t really talk much about that stuff.” Max tried to keep the disappointment out of her voice.
“It was… hard. But she was there for me. I’m sure she was there for you a lot.”
“Yeah… that’s, um, putting it kind of mildly.” Max agreed as she edged a bit closer to Rachel, wrapping her arm around her shoulders. Rachel leaned into her as she looked up at the sky and Max could swear she saw a few tears slip free in the gloom.
“I used to have one of those little star projectors in my room, but she went and stuck it on our emergency flashlight so it was super bright. We talked and she tried to comfort me. I told her some stupid sappy bullshit about the stars being dead, which they’re not I just thought it sounded deep. She corrected me about it a few days later. But like, every time I look up at them now…”
“They remind you of her.”
“Yeah, and how much I need to hold onto the people I care about.” Max felt a flutter through her chest as Rachel turned her head to make eye contact with her. “I guess what I’m trying to say in a really stupid way is that I care about you and I don’t want to lose you too.”
“You’re not going to.” Max tried to reassure her, her voice soft as Rachel leaned into her more.
“I… fuck.” Rachel closed her eyes and shook her head. “I’m still such a coward, I’m trying to say it and my hands are shaking. I’m so scared.”
“What? Since when are you scared?”
“I’m scared when I’ve got something worth losing.” Rachel replied, her voice uncharacteristically fragile. “I’m scared of… this. You, me, us .”
A jolt of electricity ran up Max’s spine at the words. “Us?” She rolls the word over in her mouth, it feels so weird to say it, and yet…
“Yes, us . I just, I fuck up everything and I don’t want to fuck this up too. You’re so god damn special Max, it only took me a couple of fucking days to see what kept Chloe talking about you even years later. You’re just…”
“ I’m special? Jesus, Rachel, have you met you?”
Rachel stiffened for a moment and sighed. “You’re just saying that like everyone else does. Look, I just…”
“I’m so not just saying that.”
The way Rachel looked at her for a moment, completely vulnerable and full of hope, sealed the deal on the craziness Max had hoped would happen. “I can prove it.”
Rachel’s eyebrows shot up. “You can?”
“Yeah.” Max breathed as her heart pounded a strong staccato beat. She lowered Rachel back down onto the sleeping bag before shifting herself over top of Rachel. Even in the twilight haze she could see how wide Rachel’s eyes were and she can’t help but feel a thrill of satisfaction in her chest that she’s doing this to Rachel freaking Amber .She couldn’t help but smirk as she lay down on top of Rachel, her fingers lightly tilting up Rachel’s chin as her thumb ran over her lips. Satisfaction blossomed in Max’s chest as Rachel shivered underneath her but gave a slight nod.
Max lowered herself into the kiss, Rachel’s eyes fluttering closed in the moment before contact. And when they met, Max finally got why that first kiss is always such a huge moment in films. Her body rushed with intensity as she felt her lips against hers, just slightly parted and so inviting. She pressed further and Rachel didn’t hesitate to return it all and more. Before long Rachel’s hands were combing through Max’s hair and very pleasing noises were emanating from her throat as their tongues locked Max allowed Rachel to guide her along, this was her first kiss after all, but she knew what she wanted and good god was Rachel giving it to her.
When they finally pull apart Max is seeing more stars than just those above them, but Rachel doesn’t give her a breather as she surged up for more, her hands not leaving Max’s hair as their lips met again. When they finally parted, flushed and breathless, Max could only smirk harder.