This time when Maddie woke up, she knew something was wrong. It was like the gunshot still rang in her ears.
She lay there in her bed, her heart thumping against her ribs, and she had no idea what to do. Some how, some way, she'd just lived the same damn day twice.
She looked at the bedside table; the papers were still there. When her phone alarm went off, it displayed the same date for the third day in a row.
She didn't know what to do. Her head was spinning.
She had to make sure Chimney was nowhere near her apartment today.
She didn't go to talk to Buck, staying in her bedroom right up until the moment he'd leave, but to her surprise, he was knocking at her bedroom door.
"Hey," he said, poking his head in. "Just wanted to make sure you were up before I left, I've never seen you late before and I could have sworn you worked today."
"I do," Maddie said, startled. "I just...I don't know." This timeline was already different, she'd already changed it...right?
"I thought you were filing today," he said cautiously, pushing himself all the way into the room.
"Oh my god," she said, her whole body shaking. There was a can of LaCroix in his hands. "Get that the fuck out of my room," she said. "Buck, please just go. I can't talk to you."
"What the fuck, Maddie?" He said, his eyes widening. "Okay, I can't leave since you just lost it. What's up?"
"Please," she begged. "Take the LaCroix out of here."
Buck opened his mouth, confused, but then, noticing the terrified look on her face, he held up his hands, backing out, and placing the LaCroix out of sight. "Are you ok?" He asked, stepping back in.
"I had a really bad dream," she muttered. "I'm not going to file today, and I'm not going to see Chimney."
"Because of a dream?" Buck asked. "And wow, I didn't know you'd even planned on seeing Chimney. You were not letting any time go to waste."
His words were the same.
Maddie didn't know what to say. The timeline was showing signs of refusing to shift. The LaCroix, Buck's words.
What was she going to do tonight?
"I just need another day," she said. "I don't know."
Buck nodded. "Maddie, I...I can stay with you today, you know? Do you need anything?"
"No, no, I am just fine," she said, grabbing at her purse, trying to be normal. "I am fine," she repeated. "I'm going to work, see?"
"Yeah," Buck said slowly. "I see."
When Maddie picked up the call, she knew what to expect.
"Listen, Stevie," she said. "Did your dad just bring home a strange small boy?"
"What?" Stevie said. "Yeah. Oh my god. How did you know?"
"How did she know what?"
Fuck. The dad had already picked up. Fuck. Maddie had fucked up.
"That you had grounded him," Maddie ad libbed swiftly. She needed the kids to still be there when she sent Athena. No, fuck that. She was going to go with Athena. Athena had to play by the rules. Maddie didn't. Who cares if she lost her job. She'd save Stevie, and that was more important.
"Oh, yeah," the man replied. "He was telling crazy stories."
"Of course, sir," she said. "You know, kids believe some wild things."
She hung up on the call, and dialed Athena immediately.
"Can you come by the call center as soon as possible?" Maddie asked, without any preamble. "I need your help with something."
"I don't think you understand what just happened," Athena said sternly.
Maddie was sitting on the curb outside of Stevie's house.
"I let you go with me on the condition that you stay in the car," Athena continued. "You had a hunch, and I believed you, but now, I wish I'd listened to the damn call."
"It wasn't a hunch," Maddie said softly.
"What was that?" Athena asked sharply.
"It wasn't a hunch, okay? I know for a fact that Stevie's dad has a kidnapped child in his house, and that Stevie is going to end up dead by tonight if we don't do something." Maddie said the words all in a rush, and she couldn't face Athena, but when she looked up, there was something blank to Athena's expression.
"You have a lot more Buck in you than I thought," Athena muttered.
"And is that a bad thing?" Maddie snapped. She'd never seen this side of Athena. "At least he fucking does shit."
"You are not talking to me like that," Athena said. "Maddie, I have a job to protect, not to mention lives. You just threatened my whole damn livelihood by charging into that house like a bull, not to mention threatened lives. What if Stevie's dad had had a weapon? He could have drawn on either of us, and what the hell was I supposed to do with that?"
"I'm not wrong," Maddie hissed, standing up. "And you cannot treat me like this, like a child."
"You're acting like a damn child," Athena thundered. "Maddie, what you did just there? It was bad. Really bad. Even if Stevie's father is a kidnapper, then we have zero proof, and now he knows we're on to him. What are we supposed to do now? This is not how protocol works, okay? You cannot do things like this."
Maddie knew she'd ruined it all, and she crumpled to the curb, suddenly sobbing so hard she couldn't stand.
"Oh my god," Athena said, crouching down next to her. "Are you okay?"
"No," Maddie sobbed. "I'm not."
She sat in a chair at the police station. She'd told her story so many times, and everyone was looking at her like she was absolutely insane, but there was one, tiny silver lining.
There was police surveillance on Stevie's dad. Maddie had refused to go with Athena until she'd promised up and down that his dad wouldn't be let out of sight.
"Let's get this straight," Athena said softly. "Chimney and you are going to go out tonight, but Doug is going to show up and kill him."
"Yeah," Maddie said hoarsely. "This is the third time I've lived this day."
Athena traded glances with her partner; glances that held zero belief in them. Maddie tried to stay calm. She knew that losing her cool (again) would get them absolutely nowhere.
"I'm not fucking making this up," she finally burst out, unable to take their knowing looks. "I know what happened."
"Listen, Maddie, I think you need some professional help," Athena said softly. "Now, no one blames you for any of what happened. I think it's clear from what happened today, and from your mental state now, that you aren't in your right mind. I'm going to make some calls, okay? You just stay here."
"I can't stay here," Maddie said, standing up. "Doug is out there, waiting to kill Chimney."
Athena breathed in, as if she was counting inside her head. "Honey, from your story you said Doug only comes because you ask Chimney on a date, right? Since you didn't do that, it'll all be fine. Please, sit down."
Maddie sank back down, Athena's words almost mollifying her. Maybe the older woman had a point, but even as she tried to believe it, she remembered Buck's LaCroix can. Even when Maddie hadn't been involved, even when she'd done things differently, there was a part of the timeline that had still held.
So as soon as Athena had her back turned, Maddie took her chance; she swiped up on her phone and disabled her location to everyone. For good measure, she turned her phone off as well, before grabbing her purse and running from the station. She heard shouts, she knew that Athena would be running after her, but some mixture of utter terror and adrenaline carried her down the LA streets, deeper and deeper into the city until Athena was far behind.
She called an Uber. She'd always been terrified to take one before now, but on this day from hell when she was afraid of everything, she was also somehow afraid of nothing. Maddie felt her resolve slipping, however, as the car pulled up. She had no idea where she could go. Athena would look at her house first. She'd probably already told the entire 118 that Maddie had had a mental break.
Maddie had blocked every single number in her contacts list the instant she turned her phone on again. She needed complete silence, and she couldn't let the sound of Chimney's voice dissuade her.
She needed to do this right, but the one thing that she couldn't figure out? How to draw Doug out, how to get him to her place. She couldn't figure out how he knew in the first place, it really made no sense. Even if he'd come to LA to find her, why tonight of all nights? How could he know about her and Chimney? About their date? Was it chance?
If it was chance, then he'd still show up at her apartment, wouldn't he?
But then why did he have a gun and knife? How was he already prepared?
Her whole head hurt, and she wanted to just sit and cry, she was so fucking confused. And Stevie. Would he still be okay?
She had no idea.
She drove around in the Uber until the fare got so high she knew she had to get out. She had him stop at the local library closest to her apartment; she'd spent some of her days off there, just wandering the stacks.
Now she went to the computers, since her phone was getting low on battery, and she didn't want it to die; besides, she didn't entirely trust that her location wouldn't be accessible anyway, and she'd turned it off again.
Her fingers flew over the keys, googling time loops, googling Doug's name, and trying to figure out what the hell she was going to do.
At the end of two hours, she wasn't any closer than she had been. Googling time loop had only brought up results related to that damn movie Groundhog Day. She'd never liked that movie.
There was something to it, however. He was stuck until he got it right.
Maddie wondered how long she'd be stuck before she got it right.
She walked down the street, and she still wasn't any closer to knowing what she was going to do.
There wasn't a cop car outside of her apartment, and that heartened her. Most likely Buck and Athena would be waiting inside for her anyway, hands on their hips. Most likely the cop car was just hiding.
But at least it meant that Doug would show up...right? If the car wasn't visible?
She stood at the end of the block, just watching. Normal passerby walked past where Maddie stood. She looked so hard at all of them, yet none were Doug.
She didn't know what to do. It was already almost seven.
She turned around, and almost jumped out of her skin. Chimney stood there.
"Hey, I thought I'd find you here," he said, hands up gently. "Are you okay, Maddie?"
"Are you alone?" She asked desperately, slamming her body against the wall behind her to flatten it from view. "Are you alone?" She repeated.
"Yes," he said, keeping a careful distance. "Maddie, Athena filled us in on what's going on."
"That I lost my fucking mind?" She asked, and Chimney shook her head.
"No, Maddie," he said, and the kindness in his voice utterly broke her. "She had you're having an episode, but that doesn't mean you've lost your mind."
Maddie didn't have time to try and figure out what Athena meant by episode. "I can't do this right now," she mumbled. "I'm busy."
"I know," he said. "Watching out for Doug, right?"
She stilled. "Yeah," she said, looking straight at Chimney and seeing him for the first time. "Chim, I-"
"You don't have to say anything," Chimney said, his voice still so gentle, so caring. "Athena filled us in, okay?"
She nodded, feeling her eyes fill with tears. "Chim," she whimpered, and stumbled forward.
He caught her.
She sobbed in his arms, until the tears were all gone, and Chimney was just there, holding her, stroking her hair.
"I can't let you die," she gasped out between hiccuping sobs. "I can't."
"I'm not going to," he assured her. "I promise."
"What about the kid?" Maddie asked. "Stevie?"
"They're still watching the dad," Chimney said. "Can we go inside now?"
She looked at her phone. It was long past seven now. Doug hadn't shown up.
Maybe this time she'd broken it. Stevie was fine. Chimney was fine.
She nodded at Chimney, and then his phone was buzzing. She saw the word "Jason" as he started to pick up, wondering who that was. She'd never heard it mentioned before.
"Sorry," Chimney said, ignoring the call. "He's a friend. I told him what was happening, he's been a real support system for me these past few months."
Maddie didn't know what to make of that, but she figured for right now, she had bigger things to worry about. Mainly, not getting committed to an asylum.
Chimney wrapped his jacket around her shoulders. "Let's go inside, okay?" He said, gently rubbing her shoulder.
"Yeah," she said.
The rest was all a blur. A tall figure approached them, hood low over his face. Chimney called out a name: Jason.
Maddie called out a different name: Doug.
She didn't know what was happening, but she knew one thing: she'd failed again. She tried to grab at Chimney's arm, she tried to make him leave, she screamed so loud she was sure that the whole fucking city had heard, but Doug raised a gun, and though he'd pointed it at Chimney, Maddie dived in front of it.
The last thing she heard, before everything went dark, was Chimney calling her name...and then a second gunshot.