A/N: So, this is a little darker than my usual stuff, but I hope you'll enjoy it. And, of course, "Victorious" and its characters aren't mine.
It kills me not to know this
But I've all but just forgotten
What the color of her eyes were
And her scars or how she got them
"Savior," Rising Against
This time when Jade's missing, no one mentions the janitor's closet. The light's off in there, the door closed, the one remaining trash can blissfully intact.
No one asks Beck. He's got an answer, the same answer as everyone else, but it's the kind of answer that sounds a lot like an excuse.
He corrals Cat outside Sikowitz's classroom. "Any news?" he asks, touching the redhead's shoulder gently.
"She doesn't want to see you," Cat says, her eyes somewhere else.
"Ask again, will you?"
"Maybe," Cat replies, and then she pushes past him, surprisingly strong for a 90-pound unicorn enthusiast.
Lane's been in their classes lately, paying more attention, listening in on conversations and driving everyone crazy. He's been asking the tough questions, but he's also been more of a softy lately, paying special attention to Tori and Cat. Not in a patronizing way – they'd catch onto that in a moment's notice – but generally making himself more available to talk. To listen.
But Tori and Cat aren't talking much, even to each other. There's some sort of dissonance, a disconnect, something that was snapped in them last Thursday and has all the hallmarks of something that will never be repaired. Cat's grumpier, jumpier, quicker to yell out "What's that supposed to mean?" Tori's more focused on her schoolwork than ever before, as though throwing herself into the minutiae of history and geometry will fill her head with thoughts that don't scare her quite as much.
It isn't working. None of it is.
Beck hears people talking. He's not stupid. He knows that in a school as small and as insular as Hollywood Arts, everyone knows everybody else's business. In addition to talented dancers, singers, artists, and actors, Hollywood Arts produces world-class gossips.
But he's tired of hearing how it was all his fault. It couldn't be all his fault – ever. The fight had taken a disastrous turn, but it was just that – a fight. A goddamn fight. And he hadn't fallen to pieces. Don't give him that crap about how guys were stronger than girls. Not when the girl was Jade.
He's sick of the looks, the whispered discussions in the hallway, of Lane following behind him to ask if he's all right, if there's something he'd like to talk about.
No. There's nothing he wants to talk about. In fact, if he never hears another word about this ever again, it will be too soon.
He's tired of being the villain.
He's not the villain.
In the middle of improv Cat starts crying and can't stop. Sikowitz suddenly looks like somebody's told him love beads went out of fashion forty years ago, and turns helplessly to Tori.
"C'mon, Cat," Tori says, and leads the sobbing girl off the stage, out into the hallway, out onto the parking lot. Somehow she gets Cat to sit, and then she sits next to her, her arm around her crying friend. "It's okay," she says, a bit hesitantly, knowing it's untrue. Things are definitely not okay.
"I want things to be like they were," Cat sobs.
"Me too, sweetie. Me too."
In group therapy, which Jade privately thinks is the biggest waste of her time since call-in game shows on late-night TV, the chirpy therapist challenges the girls to write down words they feel describe others in the group. It's all the two-faced, backstabbing fun of high school with all the trappings of a hospital setting, and Jade refuses to participate.
Jade writes "COWARD" in big black letters on her index cards, and lines them up in front of her on the table. Everywhere she looks that word follows her – coward, coward, coward.
She closes her eyes and goes somewhere else, anywhere else, wishing she was deaf to the chirpy therapist's questions: "Who is the coward, Jade?" And she thinks, Exactly.
Who is the coward?
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