Disclaimer: I do not own PR.
Jerks! All men in the entire universe were jerks! Tori grabbed her board and paddled furiously into the waves. Just because she didn't have "super awesome ninja powers" didn't mean that she was useless. And she'd have those powers too if that damned school would just accept girls. She passed the waves and sat up, letting the swells pass beneath her as she thought. And she was a damn good fighter too, even without ninja training. They didn't have to treat her like dirt just because she'd offered to even up the sparring teams. She glared at the horizon, wishing for a moment that surfing required her to actually hit something. As it was she turned her board and rode the next wave in. It was bigger than she'd thought it was but she was angry enough that she didn't waver, until she lost control and the board seemed to slip from beneath her feet, sending her falling into the ocean. She hit the water so hard that it forced the air from her lungs and for a horrifying moment she thought she might drown. Somehow she managed to right herself and swim to shore. She pulled herself from the waves but quickly fell to her knees on the sand, gasping for breath.
"Tori!" someone called and she wondered who would sound so completely terrified because of her. A strong arm slapped her back as she spat out the sea water she'd inadvertently taken in. "There you go," the man -- it was a man, she realized -- said gently. When she stopped he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and helped her up. Once she was standing the arm around her shoulders stiffened and the man pulled back. "Um," he struggled to get the words out and suddenly sounded like a nervous teenager, "are you okay?"
She turned to look at him and was shocked to see Blake Bradley. His right hand was behind his neck as if he were trying to satisfy an itch and his left kept tapping his pants leg at odd intervals. But the oddest thing of all was his eyes; they were -- kind and unsure and held just a hint of -- fear? Tori took an involuntary step back. Blake had never treated her this way. Always he was cool and confident and completely in control. And never did he look nervous, in fact he did everything in his power to make her so. He seemed to take particular pleasure from tormenting her, more than any of the others. The gentle tug of her surfboard brought her back to reality.
"I'm fine," she said finally, careful to keep her voice hard. Whatever game he was playing she wasn't going to fall for it. She bent down and undid the strap keeping her surfboard from floating away and was just about to tug it up when Blake's hand appeared on the cord. He quickly reeled it in and picked it up for her.
"Let me," he said quickly.
She stood slowly. Normally she would never have let Blake touch her board but something about the way he was looking into her eyes -- she sighed and nodded.
"Whatever you want," she said, throwing her arms to her sides in a hopeless gesture.
Blake's gaze flickered for a moment and she could have sworn she saw confusion and hurt there, but she ignored it as they began walking up the beach to her van. As they did something occurred to her. Where were all the monsters? All she saw were humans. Was this some sort of monster holiday? No, there had been monsters on the beach when she went out. What was going on? She was thinking of the pros and cons of asking Blake, but found that he had loaded the board into the back of the van and climbed into the passenger seat without so much as a "may I?"
"Well?" he said expectantly.
She bit back her anger. She really didn't like this game. She climbed in, slamming the door behind her. He didn't say anything but out of the corner of her eye she could see him jump at the action. She smirked, at least she'd managed to rattle him a little bit. She pulled quickly out of the beach parking lot and onto the main road. She'd drop him off on the roadside closest to the academy. He could walk the rest of the way.
"You know," he said after several minutes, "you really shouldn't go surfing alone."
Her knuckles turned white on the steering wheel but she didn't say anything.
"It's really dangerous out there. You could have gotten seriously hurt today," he added, his voice quieting somewhat.
She barked out a harsh laugh. "As if you'd care."
Blake was silent for a moment and she could feel his gaze on her. "Look at me," he said.
She hunched further over the wheel. He lunged across the seat and grabbed the wheel, turning it quickly to the right. She cried out, slamming her foot down on the brake just in time for them to escape hitting a tree. She breathed deep, but kept her eyes on the lucky oak.
"Tori," Blake said, grabbing her shoulder, "look at me." She wasn't sure if it was the desperation in his voice or the fact that he hadn't forced her to, but she turned and met his fear filled eyes. "Of course I care."
"Since when?" she asked and he pulled back as if she'd struck him. His gaze flickered, trying to rest on anything except her.
"I," he stopped himself and slowly climbed out of the car.
Something told her to stop him, to tell him she was sorry, but she pushed it down. He was the jerk for playing this game with her. She pulled away from the tree and back into traffic, what little of it there was. She didn't know how long she drove, trying to figure things out, before she pulled into the first parking lot she saw. Just her luck, it was the motocross track. She climbed out of the van, deciding she might as well see if any of these boys had talent. All the guys could do was terrorize housewives while wearing multicolored spandex, seeing someone compete at an actual sport would be a welcome respite.
She hadn't even been at the track for five minutes when Cam and Hunter appeared, decked out in motocross gear. She bit back a laugh as they approached her.
"Hey," Hunter said, "we thought you were going to the beach."
"That's what we told Blake," Cam added and there was a slight joking tone to his voice that grated on her nerves.
Tori crossed her arms, deciding to leave the Blake issue. "When did you take up motocross?" she asked, unable to keep the biting humor from her voice.
Cam looked down sheepishly and Hunter shot her a look of confusion and disappointment.
"I know," Cam said, obviously trying to shake off her comment, "I'm not that good, but I think it's important to try even if it doesn't get you anywhere."
"Did sensei tell you that one?"
"Tori!" Dustin's unusually cheery voice forced her to turn. She was in his muddy arms before she knew what was going on. "What are you doing here?"
She pushed him away with a disgusted grunt. "What are you doing?" she cried, her anger stemming more from her confusion than anything else. "I know you like dirt but that doesn't mean the rest of us do!"
"Sorry," Dustin said, his tone almost convincing her that he was truly apologetic. "I ate it in the final turn and went straight into a mud hole. I was just so surprised to see you, I guess I didn't think."
Tori looked between the boys. Dustin was looking sheepishly at his shoes while Hunter and Cam were giving her the angry looks she was more accustomed to.
"Fine," she said finally, throwing up her arms, "you all want to act crazy, go right ahead." And she stormed away, leaving three very confused rangers in her wake. She could just hear Cam saying something about calling sensei when she slammed her door. She threw the car into reverse and turned around, she needed the beach.
The beach had always calmed her, always given her balance when she could find it nowhere else. She sat on her beach blanket, listening to the seagulls, the breaking surf, the children playing. It was perfect -- except it wasn't helping her any. She still didn't understand Blake's behavior or the boys' sudden interest in motocross, and where had all the monsters gone? She laid back and closed her eyes, deciding to go over all of the day's events in as much detail as possible. There were moments when she could have sworn Blake was genuinely concerned for her well-being. And had he been flirting when he'd picked up her board and walked her to her van? No, no way. She shook her head violently but she couldn't quite dismiss the idea. And then the monsters. She opened her eyes and looked left over the beach. Where were they? And why was no one else concerned? She refused to move onto the events at the track before she'd dealt with that and before she stopped thinking about that idiot Blake Bradley. She stood and hurried back to her van. She'd surf for a while and maybe the answers would come to her.
It was much like last time. The wave was bigger than she'd thought and she was lucky to make it to shore. But this time there was no Blake to help her to her feet or carry her board. She was pleasantly surprised to see that the monsters were back, as if they'd never left even. That fact intersected with her van, which was parked ten spaces over and two rows back from where she'd left it, and the news report on the radio that told her the guys had been taken in by the mayor after a big battle a little over an hour ago. That wasn't possible. Less than an hour ago she'd been talking to Hunter, Cam, and Dustin.
She sat up suddenly, a long forgotten memory surfacing. Dustin had tried explaining alternate realities to her once but she'd been far too annoyed by his condescending attitude to listen properly. Could that be what this was? No, there was not nearly enough evidence for that. But then why would that one conversation suddenly jump to the front of her mind? Tori had never believed in coincidence, always telling the guys that everything happened for a reason. She bit her lip, wondering if it was possible. Had she somehow fallen into some alternate reality where the guys were nice and monsters didn't exist and Blake was -- She stumbled at that thought. What was Blake there? If it hadn't been Blake who had done those things for her, if it had been any other guy, frankly if it had been any of the other guys, she would have been flattered. And his hurt look in the van -- she sighed deeply, wondering what had happened because she'd obviously scratched a wound there. She hoped she hadn't broken anything beyond repair.
She sat in her van through the night, going over the events of the day and considering them in this new light. She thought about her life up to this point and the life that other Tori must have had and she thought about her future. When the first surfers started showing up she realized how much time she'd lost and quickly drove to the police station. She'd never actually been inside, but the boys had -- a lot, at least before they got their ninja powers. The guard was surprised at her request but let her see him anyway. She was taken into a small room with only a table and two chairs. A mirror on the wall allowed them to be watched.
"Well," Blake said snidely and she was shocked that she'd ever confused that other Blake with this one, "look who it is. Come to say you're sorry for betraying us?"
Tori narrowed her eyes. "I didn't betray you, that was someone else."
He started to laugh at her but she cut him off.
"I have a question for you, Blake, and I want you to answer it before I leave." She put special emphasis on the last word and his eyes widened some.
"What do you mean 'leave'?" he asked hesitantly.
"I'm leaving Blue Bay Harbor but I need to know something first." It was true, after all she'd learned about herself in the past twenty-four hours, she was certain she couldn't stay in this town anymore.
His eyes widened further but he quickly got control. "What?" he asked, feigning a casual attitude.
"You've always been such a jerk to me, even more than the others. You go out of your way every chance you get to bother me. You'll spend hours needling me just for the tiniest rise."
"So, I've been thinking, you're really a spoiled kid, Blake. You've never had to listen to any serious authority until now." She crossed her arms. "I think the way you treat me is just the way Davey Smith treated me in the fifth grade and I want to know if I'm right." She paused, seeing the confusion in his eyes. "Do you like me?"
She almost laughed at the look of shock on his face, he was like a deer caught in the headlights. She smiled.
"That's all I needed to know."
As she sauntered away he grabbed for her wrist. "Wait!"
She turned back but kept her gaze neutral.
"Where are you going?"
"I don't know yet." She sighed. "Somewhere where the guy who has a crush on me has the guts to pull my car off the road just to make sure I know he cares."
His face fell and she could feel him watching her as she walked away.
When she slid into the driver's seat of her car, she gripped the steering wheel hard just to know that there was something tangible left in the world. She didn't know if Blake would come after her or if she even cared, but she'd had to know. As she passed the city limit sign she hoped that the other Tori's experience had been as valuable as hers had been.
AN: You should always review one-shots, otherwise how will I know how many of you made it to the bottom and how many of you stopped after two words?