I wake up to the sun on my back.

It's a warm, distinct feeling that I remember experiencing much more often as a kid. I sigh, relishing in the way the warmth gives me an almost soft kind of burn as it settles through my shirt. For a few minutes I hang there, between sleep and consciousness, breathing against my pillow. It's nice and gentle here. My thoughts are still fuzzy from whatever dream I was having and it's these moments where I can really pretend that nothing ever goes wrong, that everything is okay. I give that morning-stretch sigh of pleasure as my legs extend, my arms flexing out from under my chest to spread across the bed and -

There's no one next to me.

It's instant, the way I slam into consciousness. A gasp rips out of me, my body jolting and I'm on my hands and knees, eyes wide open. The sun hitting my sheets makes my pupils scream as they constrict, but it's little compared to the echoing thud of my heart as it pings against my ribs because the sheets next to me are wrinkled and empty. I don't feel like breathing and my head starts to spin as I simply stare at the space she had occupied and, God, I can still smell her.

There are a thousand things I could do. I could reach for my phone right now and call her. I could jump into some clothes and go find her. I could curl up and cry.

The last option probably isn't the best one, but it's the only one my body reacts to. My arms give up, my face landing in the pillow she used. I don't want to breathe here, but it's no use; lavender swims up my nose, fills my lungs, slips into my bloodstream and exits through my heart. The pillow is still warm, like she was here just moments before I woke up. Maybe if I run, maybe if I bolt down the stairs she'll just be about to walk out of the living room ... and then what? What do I do? Stand there and tell her not to go? Watch the wheels roll in her eyes as she rejects me? This isn't a TV show; things aren't scripted, not everything works out in the end for the sake of the audience ... real life doesn't work that way. No, in real life, people get hurt and things go wrong and people that should stay leave all the time. I can feel my eyes starting to burn and even though I tell myself over and over that this is stupid, that I'm acting like an idiot, that I should have never let my heart slip past my ribcage and search for hers in the first place, it still hurts. Everything hurts. I squeeze my eyes shut and press my face into the pillow, breathing her in because it's all I can do here and my eyes are burning, and trying to coax them back doesn't do anything. I'm in too deep now. She changed the rules and neither of us knew how to play anymore, and it's all fun and games until someone's heart shatters into little pieces -

"Hey, are you awake yet?"

I swear I nearly have a stroke when I lift my head and see her standing there. She's leaning on the door frame, one hand on her hip, the other threaded into her hair and holding it back and she's still in my pajamas, the pink sweats and white t-shirt wrinkled from sleep. And, God, she's smiling at me, she's cocked on her hip and she's smiling at me. At least, she is until her eyes shift to examine the fresh tears spilling over the brim of my eyes and then she suddenly straightens.

"Woah, what's wr-"

"Jade." It's all I can say because I thought she had run away again, I thought she had left me here to fend for myself and I always thought I was an independent, strong kind of person and I guess everyone does until they suddenly meet someone that makes them feel safe. I thought all of my walls had fallen down, I thought she was gone, and even though she's standing right in front of me my heart is still pulsing with pain, like I'm dreaming, like she isn't real. "I thought you had, had, I thought -"

"Jesus, Vega." She moves, quickly crossing the room to sit on the edge of the bed and I throw my arms around her if just to reassure my mind that she's real. She's warm and solid under my hands and the smell is even more present with my nose buried in her hair. Her hand is running along the length of my spine, her voice gentle and soft in my ear. And maybe I'm overreacting and maybe this is all totally ridiculous but ... I don't ever want her to leave, as corny and stupid as it sounds.

"I woke up and you weren't, I thought you had walked out and -"

"Sh, Tori. I just went to the bathroom and rinsed out my mouth. I literally woke up, like, five minutes ago."

I'm still clutching her like she'll disappear if I don't. I pull back just far enough to find her lips with mine. I feel her grunt beneath me with surprise and I don't even care, I crawl over her and force her on her back and kiss her and I'm still crying, like my body still thinks she's gone, or maybe I'm just so happy to see that she's actually here. Her hands are in my hair and mine are hooked around her neck and I could kiss her senseless, honestly.

She pulls back with a loud gasp and presses a finger to my lips before I can dive in for more, which is probably a good thing, because the only functioning part of my brain is the section that knows how to kiss and I'm so washed with relief I think I could kiss her for about another year. She sits up, pushing me back but still holding on.

"Okay, I'm here, all right? I'm right here. And I'd love to continue this, but your breath smells like something crawled in your mouth and died."

I'm still not used to funny Jade, so the joke throws me off guard and my laugh sounds like a strangled sob. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to freak out ... or suffocate you with my breath."

I'm also not used to Jade smiling, and my heart flutters when she does. "Not a problem. Go brush your teeth. But you better hurry ..." Her hand is on my thigh suddenly, and I'm on fire, and her fingers are walking up my leg. Her eyes go from alert to hooded so fast I barely notice and then she's leaning toward me and I can see the tip of her tongue between her parted lips. "Before I succumb to fatigue."

Her eyes flash up to hit mine and that's all the push I need to hurl myself out of bed and into the hallway. I fly into the bathroom and scramble for my toothbrush. I brush so hard it's a wonder my gums don't bleed, and then I'm gargling mouthwash like it's the fountain of youth. Before I fling back into the room, I stare into the mirror for just a second - I'm no beauty queen in the morning, and maybe I don't know what she sees when she looks at me but I don't even care, because she's waiting in my bed.

I'm panting when I push back into the room and Jade is topless. And she's not wearing a bra.

It's like Christmas. It's better than Christmas.

My shirt is off before I even reach the bed. I can't even tell who wants this more, because we're both trying to tackle each other, and our lips are hungrily searching for the others. She bites my lower lip and I moan into her mouth and she wins the struggle and ends up on top of me. Which, you know, I'm not complaining, because she picks up this nice little grinding motion like she wants to bury her hips in mine. Her hands are skimming over my breasts and mine are fluttering over hers and she breaks the kiss to lick my neck. My pulse races under her lips and it's like my heart is trying so hard to mold with hers, through the bone and the skin that's separating us and I used to joke with Andre and Cat and Robbie that Jade's heart is black and made of lead but that couldn't be any less true because she's right here, kissing me, and I don't need to hear her pulse to know it's racing just as quickly as mine is. Jade didn't leave and everything would have been easier for her if she had, and if that isn't evidence of a heart, I don't know what is.

I pull the string holding her sweats together. She pulls back, the heat of her mouth escaping me so briefly I barely have time to blink. The sweats are gone and her mouth is on mine again, her fingers urging my hips up so my pants can join hers. Her legs are smooth as they fold against my own and I moan again, pulling her closer. Like two trees that grew too close together, she fills the curves of my body with hers and I've never felt so wound up, so snug, so ... here. My panties are gone, hers leave her with a high pitched, girlish giggle, and I want to see her face again when she's at the height of pleasure, I want to ... I want to make love to her, not in a car and not up against a wall or in a pool, I want to really make love to her in my sheets so she's there even when her body's not. I push up, hooking my hand around the back of her neck as I flip her over. The air rushes out of her as her back meets the mattress and I don't give her the time to breathe, kissing her again, lips soft and warm. The fact that she's delightfully trembling beneath me gives me the confidence to break our lips apart and start my descent. We don't speak, but I can tell by the brief moments our eyes meet that she knows what I'm about to do, that I've never done it before, that my shaking hands are partly because she's naked in front of me and partly because I'm so nervous I suddenly feel like running away.

And then Jade's fingers are in my hair and it's soothing and comforting and I kiss her jawline before my breath fans out across her sternum. She hitches against me as my hands smooth down her breasts, briefly teasing her nipples. Her body rolls upward and I follow the curves of her sides, kissing the flesh of her stomach, her bellybutton. Her thighs are shaking almost as badly as my hands. I hesitate over the patch of dark hair, flicking my eyes up at her again. She's breathing hard, her hands cupping her breasts and it's like she's fighting to keep herself from bucking right into me, and as the silence stretches her head falls back and she moans impatiently, "Tori."

Well, if that isn't motivation.

I taste her, not knowing what to expect, but really it doesn't even register because the sounds Jade is making completely overwhelms everything else. I can smell her and feel her and I brace my hands on her thighs to hold her down. I don't know what time it is, I don't know who else is in the house, but somewhere in the back of my mind I hope no one is in the hallway because Jade isn't exactly being quiet, not that she can help it. A stream of constant moans floods out of her, mixed in with my name, mixed in with God's, and Jesus', and it's mind-blowing, really, and when she comes the muscles around her thighs tighten but I refuse to let them close and she has to bite back a scream. I pant, pushing myself up on my hands and watching her, legs giving spasms, chest heaving.

I guess it's never not going to surprise me that I can do this to her, that I can reduce strong, bitchy, snappy Jade to ... this. This shuddering mass of limbs. I kiss her stomach again, skim over her breasts until I find her mouth. She kisses me weakly, hands on my cheeks, fingertips brushing under my eye.

"Tori?" Her brow crumbles and she sits up, hands still holding my face, hers creased with concern. "Are you okay?"

My eyes are burning again. I shake my head, though I don't really know if this is the answer to her question or something else. I kiss her, again and again, because I don't want this moment to slip by. I don't want to have to face anything outside of my bedroom door ever again, not without her. And that's just the thing - I don't know what this is. I don't know what this means. Jade's anything but consistent - one moment she's taking me out to dinner, the next she's telling me she loves Beck, and then she's sleeping in my bed.

"I want to know that you're not just gonna - gonna -" My voice is strangled and tense and she's looking at me with such a deep level of concern it tugs my heart into a million directions all at once. "I don't want to be a secret anymore, Jade, and you still have Beck and -"

"Hey." She sits up further, bringing me to her chest. I melt against her, my face in her neck, breathing her in. And she's warm and naked in my bed and for a few, silent seconds I just appreciate that for what it is. "I'm not going anywhere, okay?" She strokes my hair, her voice soft in my ear. She sighs, and I don't have to see her eyes to know they're lowered and her lip is between her teeth before she speaks again. "Before this all started, I was ... Beck and I ..." She goes silent for awhile and there's just the quiet breathing rustling past my hair. I kiss her neck, my arms wrapped tightly around her torso. "I love him. I mean, I did. I mean - it's complicated. We just, we've been together for so long, I think we convinced ourselves that we were the best we could do."

I pull back then, meeting her eyes. She avoids mine, hands smoothing along her legs.

"Beck's not bad, he's just ... all I've known, I guess, and I wasn't supposed to, you know -" She waves vaguely to me and I swallow hard. "When you first got here, I felt all threatened, and at first I thought it was because you were pretty, and then I thought it was your talent, and then I thought you were going to try and steal Beck but ... it wasn't any of those things." She meets my eyes carefully, chewing her lip for a moment before she sighs. "I felt threatened because ... just, like, watching you from a distance, and this sounds creepy, but you were so ... so good to be around, and you're the first person I ever felt bad for making fun of or trying to hurt you and I guess I kind of realized maybe ... maybe Beck isn't ..." She looks at her hands, picking at her nails. "...Maybe he isn't the best I can do."

When she meets my eyes again all thought is pretty much wiped out of me. I just stare at her, this beautiful girl laying naked in my bed and suddenly I know, without a doubt, that this is the Jade she's supposed to be. Not the mean one in the hallway, not Beck's Jade, not the girl that fucks and then walks out. It's this one, a combination of going out to eat and swimming in pools and sleeping in my bed and making love - it's this Jade that I've been looking for and I didn't even know I was searching but I've found her. I've finally found her.

And I have never been more certain about anything in my life more than I am right now. She looks into my eyes and I look into hers and I know that I'm going to fall in love with Jade West.

I kiss her. She rolls me over, and her mouth and hands are exploring all over me and it's not like it was in the beginning, possessive and cruel, and it's not like it was last week, learning and careful - she knows me now, and she knows this body is hers. Her touch is protective, skilled, with the perfect combination of pain and pleasure resting in those fingertips. She rubs her thumb against my clitoris and her other hand is teasing my nipple and I shudder against her, my lips on her collarbone. I whisper her name against her skin and her mouth is on my forehead, kissing me, my cheeks, my lips, and her finger slips inside of me. And we've done this a hundred times it feels like, just like this, with her working her finger inside of me and her lips lost in my hair but this is a new Jade, the Jade I didn't know existed but the one I know has been waiting for me to find. I don't have to wonder what she's thinking because the way her wordless pants break against my ear is more than enough conversation. This is talking. This is explaining. This is discovery.

I come hard, biting her skin to muffle the sound. She smooths my hair from my face, kisses my lips, and pulls the sheets over us.

We're both trembling. My cheek is on her shoulder, her hand is on her back, and we both know what has to be done and what happens from here but for now, it's just this. No longer predator, no longer prey. The lion fell in love with the lamb.

A/N: Thus concludes "Predator".

I really hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it. I'm going to miss this story. And I could honestly drag this out, but I think this ending ... well, I'm rather proud of it if I'm going to be frank with you. I hope it lives up to your expectations.

Review! It would mean so much to me.