The World I Used To Know

Part One – My Heart

Song by Paramore, acoustic version

Note - The prior story, Wake Me Up When September Ends, has been edited along with this story to meet the canon names of Max's parents for continuity purposes. I'm working on doing so for all the other stories but if I have some variation of "Max's father" or "Max's Mother" I am leaving it be.

October 12, 2012

"Uh, hey. I'm Chloe," the bluenette said under the harsh lighting of the otherwise dim room, wincing as she instinctively tugged her beanie down a couple inches. The spotlight bullshit does not help make this any easier.

"Yeah, we know!" someone in the darkness beyond her says, "You said it already!"

"…I'd like to…Goddamnit, I'd like to dedicate this song to my girlfriend who is dealing with, um, serious medical issues right now," Chloe's voice breaking up a bit as she thought of Max. At the mention of medical problems, the crowd hushed as the house guitarist began to play the opening chords.

Nodding with the rhythm of the house band's acoustic guitar, Chloe took her seat on the stool provided and began to sing "My Heart" by Paramore, having to concentrate to prevent her voice from quaking under her own emotions. Fidgeting with her hands to try and give her nerves some outlet, Chloe let the music and a memory of Max from her candlelit bath take hold as she let go. Finish this song up, Chloe. Do it for yourself, and for Max.

"…This heart, it beats, beats for only you…my heart, my heart is yours…," Chloe lets out with a beautiful somberness, her feelings transferring themselves into the words she sang.

Max had been in a catatonic state for a little over a month, and Chloe was at the emotional equivalent of her wits' end. Tired every day, plagued with little or no sleep at all, Chloe felt herself fading away as she watched the girl who'd taken her heart stare off into somewhere Chloe was unable to see. She wanted to drag Max back out of whatever the brunette's was stuck in, find some means of tearing down whatever had triggered the wall in Max's head. Wiping at her eyes, having started to cry halfway into the song, Chloe silently got off the stage without acknowledging anyone in the club and headed out the back door with a cigarette already lit. Fucking hell, Max. Why can't you just, I don't know, wake up or whatever? You lay there and you sit there as cold as a fucking cod. I help your dad take care of you, sure, you don't know what this is like for me. You're somewhere I can't reach or go to and I'm left with what feels like remains or a goddamn echo, dude. It's…It's not fair.

"I'm back, Papa Caulfield," Chloe said, her voice faltering as she saw Max sitting in the living room. The TV wasn't playing, not that it mattered. She doesn't respond to anything and her dad and I are both pretty much done trying to pretend everything is alright. Ryan Caulfield had put up more of brave face than Chloe imagined anyone else could; Chloe had tried to match his strength only to hate herself whenever she fell apart.

Slipping out of her jacket and boots, Chloe took her beanie off and playfully tugged into onto Max's head. She wanted Max to turn her head and look up at Chloe with the smile that typically melted the bluenette; instead, Max just continued to stare forward as though nothing had happened at all. Nothing did happen, at least to her. I wish sometimes the accident…no, that's not fucking right. Goddamnit, Chloe, she is in there somewhere. Wishing the worst to save yourself grief is why Max disappeared for so long. Giving up isn't allowed anymore, no matter how much you might want it. Nodding over at Ryan Caulfield in silent greeting, Chloe scooped Max in her arms and headed toward the bathroom.

"D'you remember when I surprised the hell out of you with all the candles and shit?" Chloe asked a silent Max as she washed the brunette, "The glow on your face was pretty fucking…you were amazing, Max. Are amazing. Can't…Can't you just wake up, Max? Why can't you just come back to me? Blink your eyes, smile – do something!"

"Chloe?" Ryan Caulfield asked, knocking on the door getting Chloe's attention. "You okay?"

"…I'm fine. No, wait," Chloe said, getting up from alongside the tub to open the bathroom door, "I know that this is usually my turf, Mr. Caulfield-"


"…I know this is my gig, but could you do it tonight? I just can't right now."

Not waiting for a response, Chloe slid between the open doorway and Max's father before walking as quickly to the balcony as she could. Pulling out her cigarettes with shaking hands, Chloe swore after dropping her smokes. Bending down, Chloe's knees gave way and she found herself leaning against the railing with tears running down her face.

"I…I need you, Max. I need you hella bad, babe. Please…Please come back to me…," Chloe's voice was barely a whisper as she brought a cigarette to her lips and closed her eyes. I'm an eighteen year-old helping take care of my girlfriend. I should be frolicking with Max through Seattle or some shit like that. Well, maybe not "frolicking". More like barreling through Seattle, heh.

October 13, 2012

"Chloe! Your smoke break was over five minutes ago! Come on, before you get threatened with being fired again," Lizzie said as she waved the punk standing across from the back door of Sonic Boom Records.

"Yeah, yeah. I heard you five minutes ago when you warned me to get back inside the first time," Chloe said, running a hand through her dyed hair before snuffing out her cigarette on the heel of her boot. Back to the grindstone, Chloe Price. Fake-ass smile? Check. Pleasant disposition? Fuck no. Pushing herself off the wall she'd been leaning against, Chloe crossed the small alleyway and stepped back into the music store where she was currently employed. The vinyl and CDs are the only thing here that keep me from going on a fucking killing spree, I swear.

Brightly illuminated from a combination of overhead fluorescents and windows from end to end of the storefront, Chloe's newest endeavor was the most successful of the jobs she had tried since moving to Seattle. One week is better than two days. I feel kinda shitty for getting Max's friends in trouble at that restaurant, getting me a job there only for me to start tossing shit around, but…it was just too much of a mistake. I should have thought about how much it'd hurt to work in the same place that Max had worked at. Every fucking reminder hurts. God, what am I doing? I should be in school.

Blackwell Academy had sent her an email a week after she had come up to Seattle, informing her that she had been taken off the class roster. While understanding of her situation, Principal Wells had made it clear that she would not be graduating unless she returned immediately. When Chloe had opted to stay in Seattle, Wells had emailed her one more time to give his best wishes and hoped she would return the next semester or school year. Even if I come back in January I still won't graduate, dude. Your common sense is right there with your asstastic taste in art – you have none. Chloe felt bad, knowing that she had disappointed her mom in effectively dropping out. Joyce had understood, but she missed Chloe and wanted the best for her daughter.

"Quit looking at the clock, Chloe, or time will freeze and you'll be eternally fucked," Lizzie said as she gestured for Chloe to take the register, "You have all of a couple hours left. You'll live."

"This is fucking corporal punishment," Chloe said to her coworker, voice lowered so that only Lizzie could hear as she came back to her senses from her thoughts on school, "I request a stay of execution."

"At least register duty includes playlist control. Just…no more screamo today, alright? Please?"

"One does not defy she who wields the power," Chloe said, tilting her head so she was staring down at the shorter girl with a foreboding look, "My hella evil genius prevails, Liz."

Leaning against the register as she watched potential customers come in throughout the next two hours, Chloe would snap out of her thoughts momentarily whenever an irritated patron would tap their fingers on the counter. I have to be on my best behavior, Chloe thought, Shame I lost that last week when I started working here, eheheh. Looking at the clock, Chloe let out a deep breath. I literally have five minutes. How the fuck does that happen, time passes only to watch it crawl so damn much? Redonkulous. Chloe heard the door chime go off and turned to see her guests for the weekend arrive in an awkward cluster.

"Come to save me?" Chloe asked, a faint grin on her face at the sight of familiar faces.

"Repent, sinner," Kate said, chuckling as she led the trio of girls over to where Chloe presided over the register, "Hey, Chloe."

"Hey yourself, Kate," Chloe said, accepting Kate's open arms with a hug while looking over at the other girls, "Hey, Rachel. Victoria."

Chloe felt a knot of pain in her chest at the sight of Rachel Amber. She's never going to fucking let up, I swear. What did she expect, for me to stay down in Arcadia Bay while Max wastes away up here? Chloe's and Rachel's friendship had been rocky for the past two weeks, Chloe choosing to deflect from Rachel continuing to bring up the idea of Chloe returning to Arcadia Bay.

"Do you really think that I'm going to just fucking leave Max behind?" Chloe had asked Rachel, the girls sitting in Chloe's truck after Ryan Caulfield had driven back to the brownstone with Max on the brunette's birthday.

The check-up had revealed nothing new, Max still in a stupor and unresponsive to anything around her much to Chloe's heartbreaking disappointment. It had been three weeks since Max's accident, and nearly as much time since Chloe had driven up to Seattle. Starting off only as a visit, Chloe had refused to head back when Joyce had called her. Her mother talking to Max's father, Chloe had been invited to stay in the Caulfields' home as long as she needed. Rachel had not been happy at this turn of events, and didn't have a problem expressing her feelings.

"I just can't believe that you would up and go, Chloe. That's all," Rachel said, her voice a little plaintive, "Max is my friend, too, but so are you. You're dropping everything, Chloe. Everything."

"Rachel, I'm not fucking disappearing. Jesus Christ, you need to fucking chill. What the hell would you do if this were Frank?" Chloe asked, looking over to see Rachel avoid her eyes, "Do you even love him?"

"I…well, that's-"

"How can you sit there and talk about how I might be making a mistake in staying here for my girlfriend, someone I love, when you don't even know how I'm feeling? Rachel, why are you being like this?" Chloe asked, not knowing if it was anger or disappointment she was feeling more. When Rachel didn't answer, Chloe just scoffed before driving them both to the brownstone. Do you even hear yourself, Rach? Maybe Max was right to be jealous of you, Rachel. I've never seen you like this. Did a switch get flipped or something?

Chloe hardly ever heard from the brunette for the past couple of weeks, her last real conversation with Rachel being their argument on Max's birthday. The bluenette wanted to mend whatever was going on between herself and Rachel. Rachel had my back for so long, Chloe thought, and then I bail. I…I'm doing to her what I had bitched to her about for years. I guess I can see where she's coming from, but it's different. The reasons, ugh, she fucking knows why I'm up here!

Chloe leaned over the register further to hold onto Kate with another hug, the only girl or their little group to not hang back at the door. Chloe was thankful for the shy blonde being so compassionate towards her and the situation she was in. Chloe needed friends who were more understanding, what with her and Rachel in a weird place. Kate's always too fucking nice, managing to drag Rachel's odd-ball ass back up here. Little shy-as-fuck angel, why didn't we hang sooner?

Where Rachel had pulled away over the past month, Victoria had surprisingly begun to reach out. Heh, what alternate universe is this where I'm actually happier to see Victoria than a girl I've been friends with for nearly four years? Coming up around the same time that Chloe had when Max had admitted to the hospital, Chloe had shared glares and biting remarks with the blonde as they leaned on opposite sides of the waiting room hallway. As the visits increased, their animosity turned into a begrudging admittance that they both cared about Max. With Chloe solidly in girlfriend territory, Victoria and Chloe had been working on the start to an amenable truce between themselves for Max's sake. Still a totally elitist shit, though. Satan in a fucking cashmere sweater, this one.

"Vic," Chloe said, jerking her chin up in greeting, "I'm assuming that your car has a top-notch security system."

"Why do you ask me that?" Victoria asked, lowering her sunglasses to peer at the bluenette over her smoked lenses, "And it is Victoria. I hate that fucking nickname."

"You have the nicest car on the block, Victoria," Chloe said as she sighed in relief at her shift finally being up. Letting go with a brief happy dance from behind the counter, Chloe began to relax as she now only had to wait for one of the other employees to take her spot at the register. "Are you wanting to get your wheels jacked? If so, all you had to do was give me your keys. Get some high-end kush off of that ride."

"This is why you have almost no friends, Price," Victoria said, rolling her eyes before lifting the sunglasses onto her head. Pinching the bridge of her nose, Victoria stifled a yawn before looking up at the bluenette once more. Are you that fucking stingy that you drove the entire way, Victoria? I mean, the only reason Max had done so was because I had no clue where to go and was in too foul a fucking mood to drive. What's your excuse?

Seeing Lizzie come out from the back to take over, Chloe shot her approaching coworker a sarcastically cheerful smile before running into the employees' break room and clocking out. Grabbing her jacket and beanie from the coat rack, Chloe smoothed out the few crinkles in the brown leather before stepping back out into the store. Spinning her key ring around on a finger, Chloe invited Rachel to join her in the truck with a slightly mortified Kate looking at an irritated Victoria as the other two girls headed through the back door.

"Take a seat, Pete," Chloe said, sliding into the driver's side of her truck before opening the passenger door. Seeing Rachel look at her awkwardly, Chloe rolled her eyes and sighed. "Dude, I don't wanna fight or anything like that. You're here, Rach. Can we have a no yelling policy for this trip?"

"…I'm sorry, Chloe," Rachel said, shaking her head as she climbed in, "I fucking opened my mouth without realizing it had been magically replaced with my ass. I…I just miss you, okay? My best lady bounces to the big city and I'm left in the boonies. I know I put my shit on you, then dumped even more drama while you're just trying to be with your girlfriend. It's just…I think of Max as a friend but you run off with the girl who ran off on you, Chloe. I'm…I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry if you feel like I'm ditching you, Rach, but if you felt one-tenth of how I feel for Max you would hella approve of my decision. If you coming up means we can try and be chill again, I accept or approve of whatever you being here means," Chloe said, looking at Rachel from the corner of her eye as started her truck to head back to her current residence, the Caulfields' brownstone. Home again, home again. Jiggity-fucking-jig. "If not, well, I'll fucking get to that when I fucking get to it."

"Uh, how is she? Max, I mean."

"…No change," Chloe said, her expression darkening along with her mood, "I-It's, well, it can get pretty depressing sometimes. Most of the time. It's like she's locked inside of herself. I tried at first to bring her out of it with photos and music, all the shit I know her nerdy ass loves, but it's like talking to a mannequin that can breathe." My girlfriend is waiting at home, but I'm waiting for her because she's…somewhere else. The worst part, Rachel? The longer I'm here for her, the worse it feels. I love Max, I love her so hella much, but this is almost too much to deal with.

"Well, that is what tomorrow is for," Rachel said, awkwardly putting a hand on Chloe's shoulder as she tried to make up for being so hard on Chloe, "Although I'm still not so sure about going to a park with someone who is, well, like how Max is. What's so special about Whistle Lake?"

"Max, if you don't jump I'm totally going to just shove you in and leave you to fend for yourself!" a 11 year-old Chloe Price cried out teasingly as she stood a few paces away from the cliff's edge where 10 year-old Max Caulfield stood, the water below rippling from the faint breeze as Max clenched and unclenched her hands.

Both girls clad in their one-piece swimsuits, Max and Chloe had snuck off from the campsite where their parents' were currently napping. Early afternoon after a morning of hiking and exploring, the Caulfields and Prices had been exhausted by the seemingly unending source of energy coming from the two girls. Promising to behave and to not go too far, Max and Chloe had snickered after Ryan Caulfield walked back to his tent. Both girls showing each other their crossed fingers, they waited patiently in their tent until the sounds of their parents' snores became audible and headed to the cliff.

"Max, let's go!" Chloe whispered excitedly, handing the Monster energy drink she had snuck in her backpack to Max, the taller girl having drank half of it in a couple gulps, "Time is being wasted with your lack of hooliganry."

"'Hooliganry'? Are you high?" Max asked, a pout on her face as she sipped at the beverage, "Eughh, this is gross. I thought this was supposed to be taste good."

"Ready, First Mate?"


Watching Max's body start to tremble, Chloe frowned as it dawned on her how scared Max probably is. It's not that big a drop, but she's out there all alone, Chloe thought before carefully walking up to join her friend on the edge.

"We'll do it together, Max. You and me, like how real pirate BFFs should be."

"For cereal?" Chloe giggled at the relieved smile on her friend's face.

"Totally. You ready?"

"I am if you are!"

"Now you grow a spine, Max? Eheheh, okay. One…Two…Three!"

"Chloe?" Rachel asked, tapping Chloe on the shoulder, "Hey, you spaced out. I asked what is so special about Whistle Lake?"

"Oh, uh, it's just…memorable," Chloe said, her vulnerability showing for the briefest moment before she put her walls back up. I can't talk even about these things, the good times with me and my SuperMax. That memory is just about me…and her. God, Max. Why did you have to get hurt? Why are you so far away?

Pulling into the parking lot across from the brownstones, Chloe watched Victoria pull alongside with Kate having chosen to sit in the back seat. Some shit never changes. Victoria must still be in uber-shit mode back at Black-Hell. Chloe wondered if someone else had her dorm, her things boxed away and collecting dust back home. Cringing at the idea of coming back whenever she does to a bedroom potentially full of boxes at Joyce's, Chloe ambled out of her truck. Chloe waved the girls over as she looked both ways before crossing the street, extra careful when it came to streets and roads. First Dad, now Max. I am perpetually screwed. Fuck you, too, universe. Chloe had lost her father that way, and now Max was gone in her own fashion.

Ryan and Chloe never talked about it, but Chloe would often wake up in the night to find she had been crying in her sleep. I guess I should be happy that I don't remember my dreams lately. I need to blaze, and I need a drink, Chloe thought to herself as she unlocked the door to her current residence. Max's dad has totally had my fucking back. He even got Mom to break open the small college fund she was holding onto for me. I still have some left, but a fancy art school I will not be paying out of my own pocket anytime soon. I still need to graduate from high school first, fuck. Opening the door, Chloe ushered everyone in before closing the door behind her and locking it.

"Locking the door? Why, you afraid someone will steal your game of life-size Tetris?" Victoria asked, nodding toward all the moving boxes lined up against a living room wall.

"It's for Max's sake, ass," Chloe snapped, her temper fading when the nurse came out of Max's room at the sound of people in the brownstone. "I can take it from here. Sorry for being a little behind on the time. Blame these degenerates."

"Yes, I'm such a sinner," Kate said, smirking as Victoria rolled her eyes with a hand to her face. Rachel just observed all of them quietly. What's going through your head, Rachel? I do want you here, dude, but you can't be all shitty around Max. None of you can. "Can we…Chloe, c-can we see her?"

"Will you all not gasp or cry or anything?" Chloe asked, her head down a little as a forlorn look came across her face, "I-I don't think it is good for her. Or for me. Please?"

"Sure," Victoria said, putting a hand on Chloe's shoulder. The armistice still holds, I guess. Weird as fuck, though, being consoled by the same girl who confessed her liking Max. 'To each their own' and all that. At least she still cares.

"Right this way," Chloe said, pulling off her beanie to run a hand through her shoulder-length blue hair. The layers were still visible, but the black hadn't stayed long. When her roots started to grow, Chloe gave up on the multicolored hair and just re-dyed everything her usual electric blue. "Fuck. I should have asked if she was sleeping."

"Does it matter?" Rachel asked, all three girls looking at her incredulously. Realizing she had said something asinine, she put a hand to her arm in a way that was painfully familiar to Chloe of someone else. "Sorry."

Shaking her head, too tired for any bitter response, Chloe led them all down the hall and into the bedroom. Opening the door a bit more, Chloe left the single floor lamp in Max's room on as the sole illumination. The room itself hadn't changed much, save for the marks Chloe had made. Her laptop now sitting on the futon across from Max's bed, Chloe and Ryan Caulfield had bought and assembled it the day she arrived from Arcadia Bay. Her trademark graffiti scattered about the walls, the personal manifestos and mantras she had in her bedroom back at Joyce's had been supplanted with lines of poetry from authors she liked as well as her own pieces.

"I dream, I cry…You breathe, A lie…," Kate murmured, reading a line of Chloe's while tracing along the wall with her hand, "Wow, Chloe. Dark, but good. Oh…oh, no…"

The little blonde put a hand to her mouth as she joined Rachel and Victoria in silence at the display before them. Max was lying in bed, her eyes closed in an eerie slumber. She seemed frail to Chloe and the visitors. She eats, but has to be helped. I help her do all the things required to exist, but nothing that is really living, was what came to Chloe's mind as she took in the tragic form of her freckled girlfriend. Dressed in her sleep clothes, Max's brunette hair rolled off past her shoulders a few inches as she appeared blank to Chloe, devoid of what made her so endearing and loveable. Becoming defensive as they all entered, Chloe motioned the others to stay where they were before moving over to Max's bed. My sleeping angel. My nerdy Wonder Girl, Chloe thought as she brushed a strand of hair from Max's static face. Are you watching me from deep in there, Max? Can you feel my fingers, my hand? I have to believe you are still there, that this will end.

"Do the doctors have anything new to report?" Victoria asked, her voice quiet with a faint whine as she fought back the urge to cry. Looking back, Chloe watched Kate put a comforting hand on Victoria's shoulder and was even further surprised by Victoria taking it with a weak smile. Wait. Did something happen that I don't…ugh, I don't fucking care. Not really. Snooping and getting into other people's shit was your game, Max. Not mine. I'm not that social…or anti-social…whatever…, Chloe thought as she waved them over. Watching them approach hesitantly, cautiously, Chloe sat at Max's bedside and took the brunette's still hand in her own. Chloe was glad that Max was asleep; sleeping Max was better than how Max was when she was awake. Eyes vacant and looking straight ahead, Chloe found the experience unnerving sometimes because she could swear that she caught glimpses of Max looking at her. I wish that were the case, but the doctors said that the eyes might wander from time to time. No time for hallucinations, Chloe. Especially when they don't come at the expense of some epic hashish.

"I'm guessing you've tried to snap her out of…of this," Rachel said, leaning over the bed to give Max a kiss on the forehead, "Of course you have, heh. Like you'd ever not try anything for her."

Chloe didn't know how to take Rachel's comment, but saw Victoria roll her eyes while Kate carefully sat at the edge of Max's bed across from the bluenette. I give less and less of a fuck what your goddamn problem is Rachel, and I'm trying to care because you're my friend. If Max comes between us, though, I'll choose Max. I can't believe you could be so selfish, dude, thinking that I'd just always be around.

"She has her days, I guess," Chloe said, a faint smirk on her face, "I try to get her ass up and out of this funk. I call her Maxine, play her favorite songs and movies, but I mostly just talk to her when I'm here. Which is whenever I'm not working or de-stressing."

"Is Mr. Caulfield moving?" Kate asked, her voice quiet and guarded as she watched Chloe tenderly look after Max, "Just looks like it, what with all those boxes…"

"Portland. He, uh, he got a new assignment in Portland," Chloe said with a shaky breath, "H-He…He told me that their original plan, him and Max, was to move back to Arcadia Bay this month. She was planning on surprising me, I guess. Hey, can we step out onto the balcony? I need a cigarette hella bad."

Chloe walked past the girls before any of them could stop her, heading straight for the balcony. Sliding the door a little too hard, Chloe jumped at the noise before muttering a curse at herself. It's hella quiet here, now. No music unless I'm playing it, no movies or TV unless I'm watching it. I only do those things when I'm trying to get something out of Max, some sign of life that doesn't include just fucking breathing. Wiping at her face with the back of her hand, Chloe pulled a cigarette out and lit the tobacco. Images of Max living in Arcadia Bay again, attending Blackwell with Chloe popped up in the bluenette's mind with a hurtful clarity, the level of detail in Chloe's imagination too much for the girl to take as she numbly lifted the cigarette to her lips. Taking a long drag, Chloe shut her eyes as the acrid smoke entered through her mouth only to come out her nostrils a few seconds later. This…this could be my last weekend with Max for a while. Jesus, Max, why can't you just wake up?!

Ryan Caulfield had been apologetic when he'd informed Chloe that she would need to head back to Arcadia Bay soon. She hadn't told anyone, of course. Chloe originally had no desire to return anymore as her entire being had become focused entirely with Max. I also know this isn't fucking healthy, Chloe mused as she heard Victoria come out to join her, I work and come back to the brownstone for Max. That's pretty much it, save for my weekly trips to the dives in this city. Venting my bullshit on stage like some uber emo. I haven't even blazed or gotten my drink on since I came up here. That had been the first of Ryan's requests when he explained to Chloe that she could stay with him and Max.

"No pot or alcohol, Chloe," Ryan Caulfield had said with a sternness that surprised the bluenette, "I know how Max was…is, and I can guess pretty accurately that you're about the same. If you're going to help me with her, however, the cigarettes in your pocket have to be the furthest you'll go. I need you lucid for her sake, Chloe."

I'm fucking trying, dude. It had been a hard month for the blue-haired punk; Chloe had barely fought away the urge her first three days to light up and drink whatever she could find to dull the pain of seeing Max look so empty every day. Max's father had come home a week into her stay to find Chloe sitting on the kitchen counter with all the alcohol in the place lined up next to her along with Max's stash of marijuana.

"C-Can we just not have this shit here, Mr. Caulfield?" Chloe had asked, her voice quiet and broken, "I…I'm tripping and freaking on what I might do, y'know?"

Ryan Caulfield had agreed immediately and they proceeded to empty and toss every bottle and all of Max's pot into a large trash bag. Chloe had taken it out and thrown it into the dumpster. Sobbing, Chloe had leaned against the garbage receptacle and cried over how much she missed her girlfriend. Max Caulfield was upstairs, but she was also nowhere to be found. The doctors had explained it to Chloe, she knew what was going on, but the reality of what she chose to live with outweighed the cut-and-dry medical diagnosis. You say one thing, motherfuckers, but I've lived with this every day for a month. Fuck you.

"How are you holding up?" Chloe heard Victoria ask. Coughing a bit, Chloe snuffed out the cigarette on the balcony railing before depositing the butt in Max's flower pot ashtray. "You look like shit."

"Heh. I totally look how I feel, then," Chloe chuckled dryly at the bleakness of Victoria's observation and how true it rang, "I'm fucking depressed. She's…she's not getting any worse or any better. It's all just…I'm thinking of going back to Arcadia Bay when Mr. Caulfield heads to Portland with Max. I-I need a break."

"…Figures," Victoria said, the muttering barely audible to Chloe. When the fuck will you understand that I love her, Victoria, but that this is insanely fucking hard? Do you want to be in my shoes right now? You couldn't handle my boots, much less what it takes to stay in them right now.

"I'm not giving up on Max, dude, and you need to give the bitchy shit a rest. I'm fucking dying here, Victoria. I'm fading as much as she is and every day with her like this hurts like fucking Hell," Chloe snapped, glaring at Victoria as the blonde met her look for a moment before slumping her shoulders.

"…Max and I used to hang out at my parent's gallery," Victoria said quietly, almost to herself, "School would let out and we would sometimes take the subway. I wanted to take a taxi, not like I don't have the money, but Max would be so fucking stubborn. You know how she is. 'It's like another world down there, Vic, something cold and crowded. A dystopia beneath our feet.' Fucking dystopia is right. Subway's a shithole. Still, she finds the best shots in the worst of situations…"

"You didn't say 'found'," Chloe said, her voice as equally quiet, "You didn't use past tense."

"I'm like you. I won't give up on her," Victoria said, blowing a smoke ring of her own, "You want to know what I think? I think you're angry at her, at yourself, and at everybody. I think you're fucking holding it in and holding on to it. You want to fight with everybody right now, Max included. You're not wearing that ring she gave you, so something is going through that chemically-damaged brain of yours."

Chloe opened her mouth to speak but only bile seemed to sit inside of her. She wanted to lash out at the blonde, and at everyone else inside. Even Max. Max, the girl who's asleep both when she's awake and when she isn't. The girl who brought me here twice, once by her hand and once on my own. Jesus fuck, Max! Why aren't you here with me now?! We're living under the same roof and all I want to do now is run. Run from here and from you, avoid everything. Chloe wanted to scream, wanted to tear the bedroom up and let her walls come down like they had whenever Max was near. The Max in the bedroom was not her Max, though, but a shell of the girl she'd fallen in love with: a container, a vessel.

"I need this fucking break more than anybody," Chloe said, lighting up another cigarette as she watched Seattle's skyline begin to darken with the encroaching sunset.

"You didn't fucking answer me, Chloe," Victoria said, leaning against the railing to look Chloe in the eye, "Where is the ring Max gave you?"

"It's right fucking here, Goddamnit," Chloe mumbled with a scowl as she dragged a chain out from under her top, "See? It's just…I already have enough reminders. Fuck this group therapy shit. I'm out."

Snuffing out the cigarette she had just lit before flicking it into the air, Chloe headed back inside, the one place she didn't want to leave and didn't want to be.

October 14, 2012

Two vehicles parked about three miles away from Whistle Lake, the remaining distance coverable only by foot. Victoria's luxury car and Ryan Caulfield's SUV sat alongside one another under a cluster of trees as the group began to collect their essentials for the day. Carrying most of their perishables and equipment in backpacks and via straps slung over their shoulders, Chloe and the girls followed Ryan as he slowly pushed Max along in her wheelchair. Chloe smirked at the odd-looking contraption, all-terrain tires on a hospital-issue frame. At least you're riding in style, Max. Also getting to avoid this hella long-ass hike, so kudos on avoiding the bullshitery that is your Dad's idea of fun. Needs something cool, though, like rockets or hover shit like Back to the Future. Snickering to herself, Chloe felt someone nudge her and looked over to see Kate watching her.

"Sorry. It's just," Chloe said, chuckling, "Max and her wheelchair. Thing's so tricked out. All it needs is some rockets or whatever. She gets to avoid all the heavy work while we slog away."

"I think she has an excuse," Kate said, teasing Chloe with a mocking grin, "Quitter."

"Dude, I am so hardcore you don't even fucking realize. This isn't my first trip here," Chloe replied before hollering toward Max's dad, "Isn't that right, Mr. Caulfield?"

"What?" Ryan Caulfield asked, his attention on the path and his eerily silent daughter.

"I've been here before with my parents and you Caulfielders!"

"When you were a kid, sure!" Ryan shouted back with a laugh, "But only the once, Chloe!"

"Traitor!" Chloe retorted with a huff, stifling a smile. Why am I hiding my smiling? Am I supposed to be nothing but somber and shitty? I'm here, somewhere amazeballs, and it's a stroll down memory lane. Me, Max, with her folks and mine on a forest adventure! Hella yes! Shrugging, Chloe resituated her backpack and continued down the trail with the other three girls shortly behind.

Chloe watched as the campsite from her and Max's childhood came and went as they passed by. Only heading up here for the day, they had all opted to hang out at the lakefront. Setting her backpack and other gear down with a feeling of relief, Chloe gulped down half her bottle of water as the other girls made for the water. Sitting with Max and Ryan Caulfield for the time being, Chloe brought her knees to her chin as she just relaxed and took in the crisp air and smell of wild foliage. It'd be pretty fucking epic if there was a hidden pot farm out here. An acreage of Kush, waiting to be plundered. Heh, like a pirate.

"Not going to join your friends?" Ryan asked as he began to set up the compact electric grill he'd brought along, "You should try and have some fun, Chloe."

"I know, I know," Chloe grumbled, "I just…is it okay if I have some time to Max alone, Mr. Caulfield?"

"Ryan, Chloe, and yes. Of course you can have time with her. Just keep an eye out for Max, okay? Never know when she'll just push herself out of that chair and not let you go."

Chloe's smile was strained as Mr. Caulfield took his small grill and set up a little further from where their gear was stacked. Reaching a hand into her pocket, Chloe pulled out a small box and opened it. Inside, a smaller version of the band Max had given her rested in place. Hands trembling, Chloe opened and closed her fists until the tremors subsided. She needed Max to have this, even if the brunette was unable to comprehend what was going on around her. Unzipping Max's hoodie so that her collarbone was exposed, Chloe pulled out the length of black cord from her bullet necklace and slipped the ring onto it before tying the jewelry around Max's neck. Ensuring the knot was secure with a tug, Chloe found herself only a few inches from Max face.

"Why…Why can't you just wake up, Max?" Chloe asked the catatonic girl sitting directly in front of her, "You left me here, again, and the worst part is that I'm reminded of us every day. I shouldn't be mad, I know, but you're right fucking here and I can't reach you anymore. I've tried and tried, like your dad, but I'm spent. I can't do this day-to-day shit anymore. I can't, Max. You'll be in Portland soon, and I'll come up on the weekends and shit to see how you are. I'm not…I'm not leaving you, but I can't stay with you anymore. Not with you like this."

Chloe got up to move but wheeled around to look at Max again, the other girl's blank face only making the bluenette angry.

"This is fucking bullshit, Max. You bail on me for four years and just when we get each other back you disappear again. First my dad, then you, and now you again? Why the fuck did you have to try and drive on to Seattle? Why couldn't you have just turned around and come home to me?" Chloe cried as she grabbed at Max's hoodie and lifted the limp girl up a few inches. "This isn't goddamn fair, Max! You should be living it up with me, not watching the fucking world go by while you're trapped in your own head! I love you so goddamn much, Max, and I miss you. I need you, Max, so please wake up. Wake the fuck up!"

Hearing Ryan Caulfield call out to her the instant she stopped shouting, a worried but stern look on his face, Chloe's let Max go and stormed off through the treeline. I can't do this anymore, Max. I love you but I can't watch you just turn into a shell. Crying as she went deeper into the forest, Chloe heard Kate call after her and turned to see the blonde girl come running in her one-piece swimsuit and sarong.

"Chloe, wait up!" Kate shouted after her, but Chloe ignored the pleading and began to run deeper into the woods.

"Go the fuck away, Kate!" Chloe shouted, turning to look in surprise as Kate began to close the distance between them. Holy shit! Either I'm hella slow or she's faster than she looks. Probably both. "Just let me fucking brood in peace!"

"You running away isn't going to change what you'll be coming back to!" Chloe heard Kate shout. Groaning in irritation, Chloe stopped and turned to face Kate as the other girl finished catching up, "Chloe…I know that it hurts, but Max needs all of us right now and you need us, too. Don't run away. Please."

Kate's words echoed in Chloe's mind, the double meaning behind the mentioning of running away obvious to both girls. Chloe didn't want to run; she honestly wanted to just stay at Max's side as long as she could. The pain was just too much for the bluenette, though, and she had been shouldering her emotions alone for the past month. Leaning against a tree, Chloe took a deep breath to try and calm herself down. The tears that had been streaming down her face since she'd let go of Max had left her eyes bloodshot and puffy.

"I never wanted this," Chloe said with a weary voice.

"I know," Kate said as she pulled Chloe into a compassionate hug, "I know, Chloe. None of us did, but it's hardest on you because you love her so much. Keep that love going, Chloe, and it'll get you through this."

"I-I really do l-love her," Chloe's sobs choked the words out of her before she sniffled and pulled back, "Heh, look at me and my snotty, crying ass. Guess I have to hand my punk card in, huh? No street cred can save me from this."

"Well, we're in the middle of nowhere so I think we're good," Kate said, smiling warmly at Chloe as the bluenette continued to calm down, "Your secret is safe with me."

Taking Kate's hand, Chloe allowed herself to be led back to where Ryan Caulfield stood watch over his eerily silent daughter. Seeing the worried look on his face, Chloe felt her chest seize as he came over and hugged her.

"Don't go doing that again, okay?" Ryan Caulfield said before pulling himself away, "I know…I know it's been hard, Chloe."

"Yeah…," Chloe said apologetically, "I'm sorry, Mr. Caulfied. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean-"

"Chloe," Kate said, her hushed voice going unnoticed until she grabbed at Chloe's jacket, "Chloe. Look."

Chloe looked over Ryan Caulfield's shoulder to see Max shakily standing next to her chair. No fucking way was the first thing to pop into Chloe's head. This isn't real. I'm fucking hallucinating or some shit and she's still in the goddamn chair. Wiping at her eyes, still bloodshot and raw from crying, Chloe looked over again and stared as Max looked back at her with tearful eyes. Weakly lifting her arm, Max held up the cord and ring Chloe had just left her.

"…Chloe…," Max said weakly, her lip trembling, and Chloe thought she would either passed out right where she stood or sprint over to her love. Legs week, ignoring the looks of shock on Victoria's and Rachel's faces as they came up to see what was going on, Chloe feebly walked over to where Max was leaning against the wheelchair before falling to her knees at Max's feet.

"Please don't be a dream," Chloe's voice not much more than a whisper as she looked down to the ground, "Please, please, don't be a dream." Chloe watched as the feet in front of her became knees and thighs as Max knelt down in front of her, hands on the bluenette's shoulders as Max used her for support in kneeling down.

"…Chloe…am I really here?" Max asked, her voice shaking, "My…I…I don't, oh God, my mom. My mom, Chloe, she's…"

"I'm so sorry, Max," Chloe said as she wrapped Max up in a fierce hug, squeezing the brunette with every bit of fleeting strength she could as Max cried, "You've been gone so long and I'm so fucking sorry."

Max's words kept being cut off by choking sobs as a moment of time from September sent her reeling. Chloe held onto the brunette and rocked her until the sobbing quieted down until Max was silent once more. Terrified of Max having slipped back into her catatonia, Chloe pulled back to see a pained smile on Max's face as she kissed Chloe with tear-stained lips.

"Am I dreaming?" Chloe asked, leaning her forehead against Max's as the brunette gave her a weak grin and closed her eyes, "Are we all still in the car and this is all in my fucking head?"

"I-I'm not a dream, Chloe," Max shakily replied as they began to cry once more in each other's arms.

Author's Note


Long time, no see. Well, at least by how much I used to upload it is, eheheh.

I'm still wrecked by Dark Room. Yes, I know, it's been a week. When you see two deaths from a character you love echo real life events you witnessed first-hand, however, it impacts you a LOT so please bear with me. I will update when I am able – I'm working on getting back into this and all I can do is ask for patience and understanding.

I will probably alternate between this story and fluffy one-shots or two-parters. I'm trying to get back into Fighters but all the angst and drama is only making things worse – what I had written of Chapter 8 was pretty dark so that story is still on hold. Sorry to those of you waiting, but I need more recovery time before I delve into darker stuff once more.

This is the first chapter in what I hope will be a four-part story that alternates in perspective. This first entry is Chloe, but the second will be Max with it switching between them one more time before concluding this installment.

Read, review, and I'll see you for the next chapter.

Hope you're all doing better, Cinnamon Rolls, and I want to thank you all again for your kind words both here and on my Tumblr :)