A/N: and so, I believe I'm back after a long hiatus. I have a really good excuse. The only computer in my place busted itself up, so I had to do the chapter I had written halfway over and wait practically a month just to get a new computer. Good news is, it's a laptop. Therefore, I can write whenever I want now. Yay. World is lovable.

Disclaimer: I don't own Victorious.


II

Somewhere in the Middle

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Tori, My Wifey

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Lose. Loss. Losing. Lost.

These words are commonly associated to defeat – whether one is just about to lose, is losing, has lost or is just plainly, simply lost. Apart from tenses though, the implications of these four words vary by context as well; one can lose something as concrete as a wallet, as abstract as comfort, as common as direction or as basic as oneself.

It isn't an everyday thing for Tori Vega to catch an obnoxious cold, then be forced to sleep on the floor, and – most importantly – lose her mind in the middle of the night. But in Jade West's presence, things just seem to spike to the most complicated situations no matter how simple they seem.

Well. It's not that simple really – tonight, that is.

Tori's right eye finally twitched at about the third thud she heard today. She initially told herself to keep her cool. The first book that fell to the floor must have been an accident, but the second just had to fall right after Jade sniggered.

This is another one of Jade's games. And according to popular belief, every game has to have a winner and the wiener.

Tori grunts as she pushed the two text books away from her already cramp and uncomfortable space. She decides that she isn't going to lose to Jade, at least that's what she told herself until the third book.

This is probably the loudest thud tonight, Tori thought, for it happened to land much closer to her head. Her eyes widened at the hardbound book, which is now barely an inch away from her face. She blinks, trying to "uncross" her eyes from the focus on the edge text, the title.

Tori finds herself gritting her teeth. Earlier, she took sheets with her as her makeshift bed and, at the moment, she is tugging at them a little too tightly to try and keep herself sane.

To seal her attempts to calm down, she breathes in. Although, she must have done it a little too deeper than necessary that she coughs in an instant, shooting out the dust that she almost brought to her lungs.

Even before she could recover, the fourth book immediately stole the third one's record as the "Book with the Loudest Thud". This shouldn't cause that much confusion for it landed right on Tori's head.

The half-Latina grunts as she rubs her head both in pain and irritation. She sits up to find Jade looking straight at her, elbow propped on the pillow, chin resting on her palm and – of course – lips curled into a sneer.

'You,' Tori begins, taking a deep breath and flailing her hands in frustration, 'are impossible!'

'I'm quite aware of that,' Jade answers – then casually scrutinizes her nails.

'Is there anything you want to say?' Tori raises an eyebrow and keeps it up, waiting for Jade to say something, 'Sorry, Tori? Didn't mean it, Vega?'

Instead of saying an apology, Jade yawns and turns her back to Tori. She stretches and sighs contentedly as she settles herself probably a little too comfortably in the sheets and pillows.

The game isn't over. Apart from the materials still on the bed, none of the key players are asleep. Although on the precipice of defeat, Team Tori decides to take a stronger defensive stance from its previous passive one.

Tori's eyes narrow dangerously. She looks from Jade's now motionless form to the remaining books, pencils, papers and markers.

'Not done with your little Angry Tori's game, huh?' Tori mutters rapidly as she stands up and begins pushing the materials off the mattress, down to the foot of her bed. 'Let's see if you'll have any more birds to pelt me with!'

After successfully wiping her bed free of suddenly obnoxious school supplies, Tori huffs, chin proudly raised, hands on hips. She waits for Jade to move, but the other girl doesn't – her back is still turned to her.

Tori, still huffing, slumps back down to her very comfortable bed and soundly lands on her pillow. She hisses at the now pounding pain on her head and right shoulder, regretting that she decided to have her back turned only to have her pain doubled too.

That shoulder she lay on is, without doubt, in pain. But the youngest Vega refused to turn and rub it. The game is still on after all. She can't let Jade win now that the odds stacked up on her side. She holds back another hiss as she discreetly rubbed the side of her head instead.

At this point, Tori already believes that Jade would find a way to annoy her – maybe find something else to "pelt" her with. This is Jade that's being talked about after all.

So she expects it, waiting, assuming, ready.

But she doesn't get it.

Instead, 'Goodnight, Tori,' is what she got.

Tori's mind goes from fuming to blank.

If "loss" meant losing something, then Tori is indeed on the losing side at this point. Just moments before Jade decided to wish her good night, she was trying her best not to lose herself. But she did lose something in this case – her anger has completely dissipated, replaced by raw confusion.

She shifts where she lay, trying to make sense of what Jade had said, making sure she did hear a "goodnight" – thoughts that are immediately answered by the obvious shifting in her bed where Jade lay.

Tori finally turns around to see Jade, who is now at the edge of the bed – peeking, looking at her with an almost unnoticeable smile.

'Goodnight, Tori,' Jade repeats.

Tori, still essentially surprised, nods slowly and awkwardly, 'Goodnight, Jade.'

They stare at each other for nearly a minute, until Jade finally turns away - a gesture mirrored by the girl bunked on the floor.

Jade is obviously among those people who found winning of great importance. But tonight, she actually admits losing the game as she sighs and thinks over her choice to just give-up and say the word that she had been itching to say since she stepped into the Vega household.

And that word isn't goodnight.

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Tam Jerry is about thirty-five years old. But during her years of living (not that she's dead), never had she felt that she was really victorious. Sure, there were a couple of times that she felt happiness by essence, but NEVER did she actually feel that she was happy.

Maybe because she thought she had lost battles countless times.

One of these battles was the game of luck.

Earlier this week, she met the oddest pair composed of a bubbly redhead and a taller, tanner halfy. The duo stopped at her section of the department store and scrutinized one particular dress design.

One of the girls promised herself to come back for the dress, but Tam was worried she wouldn't find any more of the dress design if they didn't buy it soon. After all, the dress was eight dresses from selling out.

Tam sighs – only with her lips parted as slightly as she could. She is a saleslady, she isn't meant to look uninviting.

'Good day. How may I help you?'

She smiles at a teenage girl she hopes is a customer, but for the eighth time this day, the youngster turns to the corner that led to the women's section.

Now, she sighs a little too obviously.

She had been feeling pretty off since the day after she met the aforementioned duo. She had planned to sell the dress she tucked in a box under one of the display tables to the Latina half of the pair. To her misfortune, she was assigned to man the eyewear section for nearly a week, making her miss a chance to probably hand over the dress she reserved.

She impatiently fidgets with her hands behind her back and stretches her toes underneath the tips of her shoes.

'And why should I be listening to you again?'

Tam's head whips to the left where the voice came from. That voice is either unmistakably familiar or she is just being unnecessarily hopeful.

In an instant, the saleslady's eyes brightened. It is the girl from last time – only she is with someone different – nope, not the redhead.

'Because I know better, Vega,' says the girl she hadn't seen before.

'You know,' the half-Latina sighs, exasperated 'I could've just done this myself. No one forced you to come with me! I didn't even ask!'

'I came here because I want to,' the other girl replies casually as she practically drags the familiar one toward the eyewear section.

Tam is definitely happy right now.

'A non-hideous frame for this one,' the paler, taller girl points her thumb to her right, where the more familiar girl stood.

Tam ends up blinking several times.

'I want to pick a shirt that won't make you hideous!'

'But Tammy.'

'Shush.'

About five years ago, no matter how she hated doing things for other people, her late husband made her different, made her lose to a humbler version of her. But she hated losing nonetheless, so she would treat him ill if she had to do good things for him.

'Did you hear me?' the paler half of the couple asks again.

'Yes.' Tam's formerly flashy smile slowly softens in her sudden nostalgia. 'Do you want me to pick for Miss…'

'Her name's Tori.'

'Tori,' Tam smiles at Tori, takes the time to scan her features and brought her attention to the selection of frames underneath the glass table before her. 'That's a nice name. Is it Victoria?'

'Yes, it is,' Tori returns Tam's smile. 'Thank you—'

'—and I'm Jade,' the other girl says rather suddenly, almost in an interfering manner.

Maybe others would find this weird, but Tam could have reached for that part of her chest just above her heart – there's a heavy feeling growing there.

'Here's the white shirt for the gentleman.'

'You can call me John,' Tam's husband said sweetly at the short blonde girl handing him a white, long-sleeved shirt.

'I'm the wife, Tam! I think I'll take it from here,' Tam practically seizes the shirt from the saleslady's hands and even raised an eyebrow at her. 'This is the shirt? Thank you.'

Jealousy isn't a difficult thing to notice, of course, unless you are the one experiencing it. Most of the time, people would find themselves too proud to admit that they actually longed for the attention of someone. This is one thing Tam wished she had lost, banished and suppressed before her husband died.

Because she hadn't, she lost so much more than she could have not.

Tam sighs, trying to get rid of the bubbling pain in her heart. She opened her eyes a little more to let the threatening steaming in her eyes dissipate. Of course, at the moment, scanning the eyewear is just timely.

'I think red, thin and subtle will look good on her,' Tam manages to say without breaking. She picks out a deep red frame from the lot. It is thick around the holders but very thin around the rims. The emotionally wounded saleslady almost wonders if she picked it out to represent the irony of her life. 'This would look excellent on her.'

Tam notices Jade shift her weight from one foot to the other and raise both her chin and an eyebrow. She hands the pair of glasses to Tori anyway and points the long mirror standing a few feet from them.

'Mirror's over there, Tori.'

Tori walks over to the mirror, spectacles in hand. Jade slightly turns a foot to follow when Tam grabs her around the wrist.

'I have something with me that will make her happy,' Tam finally says. 'It's not for free but you can buy it for her.'

'I am paying for it?' Jade asks, emphasizing "I".

'Are you paying for this, hon?' John asked as he looked at his reflection.

'Are you kidding?' Tam said casually, almost shaking her head and rolling her eyes. 'Of course not.'

'But I thought—'

'I'm going to stop you right there, hon,' Tam interfered, emphasizing "hon". 'That was called jealousy if you don't do your research.'

'You'll make your wife really happy,' Tam insists.

Jade's eyes widen, her expression almost breaking into smirk. 'Wife?'

'I'm sorry,' Tam shakes her head in embarrassment. 'I thought you were—'

'No, no—' Jade is definitely smirking now. 'Will you help me pay for it if it would really make my wife happy? 'Cause you know, I didn't bring much with me today. It will be kind of embarrassing.'

"Wife" was almost unnecessarily emphasized then.

'No—definitely not a problem, I mean!' Tam felt that pain in her chest rise to a less-painful part of her. 'I can help you. No matter how much.'

'Thank you,' Jade put on a pout and a very thankful expression on her face that would've counted as disgusting if it were Tori she spoke with.

Tam always hated losing to other people, even in the simplest arguments and bickering-games, but right this moment, she knew she had lost to something and the feeling compared to nothing in the world – she finally lost to that nicer part of her without John being there and she felt happy.

Maybe John would be smiling at her right now, and not the kind of smile that Jade had on right this very moment.

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'It's just insane, don't you think?'

Tori had been rambling about how coincidence was the most amazing thing that happened to her life earlier this morning. Jade could care less. She kept a straight face at the girl as she dipped a fry in her milkshake, imitating what Tori was doing as she babbled on.

'Not bad,' Jade says as her head bobs lightly in approval. 'Who taught you this?'

Tori sighs and shakes her head as she finally noticed that Jade wasn't really into the conversation. Well, it wasn't a conversation per se; she was the only one talking after all.

Earlier, they made rounds around the department store after Jade got her hands on the dress that Tori wanted badly and handed it to the Latina, who almost jumped about after that. Of course, Jade didn't mention anything about how she managed to get the dress.

'My grandfather did,' Tori answers as she dips another fry in her own milkshake and chows. 'He taught showed me when I was eight, I think.'

Eating at Shakey Joe's was Tori's thanks, and here they were. Certainly, Jade sneered when she was brought into the diner-inspired part of the mall but because this was Tori bringing her in an establishment like this, there are always "but's" that not even her could touch.

'Interesting,' in a Tori perspective, that would sound sarcastic, but Jade doesn't mean to sometimes.

'Ugh,' Tori groans and finally decides to look elsewhere.

And "elsewhere" is a woman, who happened to be the saleslady at the eyewear store earlier. She had a smile-smirk on as she looked their way.

Tori's eyebrows raise both in confusion and discomfort. Her head tilts closer to Jade and whispers, 'Jade, I think there's someone smiling at us.'

'It's creepy,' she adds in a hushed tone that was anything but discreet. It was voiceless, because eighty percent was just air than words.

Jade raises her head to see Tam now walking over to them.

'Now she's walking to us,' Tori, again, adds – in the same tone she used earlier.

'You think I can't see that?' Jade says. She wouldn't deny that she is beginning to feel a hint of panic somewhere in her chest.

'Hi,' Tam greets as she stood across the table from them. 'I'm Tam. From earlier?'

'Oh!' Tori playfully slaps her own forehead. 'Yeah, why? What is it?'

'Nothing really,' Tam answers, 'I was on my way to get lunch and I saw you two. It's a really happy thing, you two.'

'Uh.' Tori's brows knitted in confusion, while Jade's rose in alarm.

'Anyway, I'll be going now,' Tam offers them a warmer smile this time. 'You should keep each other happy and don't forget that the best thing you'll ever have is each other.'

'I'm not getting—' Tori nearly laughed to show how confusing things were getting for her, when Jade, whose eyes briefly widened in panic, suddenly kisses her on the cheek.

'—getting the ketchup,' Jade finishes the sentence. 'You're not getting the ketchup, right Tor—I mean—wifey?'

Knitted brows and a twitching right eye is what Jade gets in response.

Jade forces out a smile that only made her look like she is showing her teeth. 'I'll get it for you then. And you were going somewhere, right Tam? You don't want your lunch break to go by now, right?'

'Ah! Yeah,' Tam answers in a "silly me" tone and turns and walks out Shakey Joe's chuckling.

Jade chuckles with the saleslady – even after she got out of the establishment.

Moments of silence. Jade refused to look Tori's way. Then,

'Wife?' Tori asks sharply.

'You know, emotional women, discounts,' Jade says like Tori should have known these.

Tori kept her stare—glare.

'Wifey?' She adds, still sounding the same way she sounded with "wife".

Jade shrugs her shoulders. She picks up a fry, dips it in the shake closest to Tori and holds it a few inches from Tori's mouth.

'Say "ah", Wifey,' she smirks.

Tori's eye twitches again. She slaps the fry out of Jade's hand.

They held each other's stare for a couple more minutes. Tori may be fuming and Jade may be trying to get into the half-Latina's nerves, but they both learned two facts about losing in this very moment – that losing staring games is actually very easy to do, and second, something as cheesy as getting lost in someone's eyes may be possible.

Slowly, Tori's stern expression broke into a smirk and a minute later, they both began laughing.

Something had to be done; else they'd both lose to very unfamiliar grounds.

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A/N: BOO! I'm back. I'm really sorry again for this late update. From reader to reviewer, I love you all and I hope you like this update. I promise I'll try my best to do better on the next update. This is sort of an escalation point.