Disclaimer: Victorious does not belong to me, however, the murders are all mine.

Mr. Valentine's study was of great interest to his curious daughter. No matter what house they resided in, one room was always kept for this purpose. It was where Cat's father spent the majority of his time when not working. Family dinners had long since ceased. Their resplendent dining table went unused, but for the rare dinner party her mother threw. Her father's arrival at home was a ritual unto itself. Sagging shoulders, made sharp by the cut of his suit jacket, laid bare at its removal. The soft click of the study door, followed by the louder clink of glasses and decanters within. Cat crept in sometimes, to rub the smooth and fine-smelling spines of all his important-looking books. She'd never seen one opened, and the gilt lettering on their uniform spines made determining their subject difficult. Her father used them for art, not purpose. His most useful materials were kept in his desk, in the deep bottom drawer that squealed when you dragged it open. To Cat, these books were like diaries, records of her father's life, of the matters he dealt in. There was one large book, thicker than the other, more battered medical bibles that resided in the drawer, and this Cat consulted most often.

Its words were tiny and cramped as the others were, but these crawling passages were broken up with coloured illustrations. Cat found them curious, these images of muscle laid bare, veins plucked out and highlighted, bones filleted expertly with a pencil. The book was like one teaching the alphabet, A for aorta, B for brain, and Cat studied it with a naive interest. The text didn't interest her. Perhaps, had it been her book to take, she would've devoured every word, known the name for the things she now noticed in people. The shifting of their muscles, the flicker of their arteries, the sharp shapes of their bones. She could pick them out, from under the skin. She could see them as clearly as if they were part of the book, skinned in front of her. As she grew older, her interest diminished slightly, taken up by afterschool classes and homework. She still revisited the book though, as one does an old friend. She'd trace a finger over her favourite illustrations, skim a nail along a sinuous artery. The names felt exotic on her tongue. She stumbled over many of them.

It was this she had studied before her date, as an anxious girl studies a Cosmopolitan magazine on how to please her budding beau. She had chosen the neck, a graceful ring of muscles and arteries and bone. She had lingered over the little hyoid bone, wondering if she'd crushed Alex's, when her hands had wrapped tight around the girl's throat. But that approach wouldn't do for the large and clumsy boy. He was too strong, his neck too thick. Her gaze had turned instead to bright strips that ran either side of the neck. Red and blue. The thick carotid artery and the more slender jugular, nestled in among the thick muscle. Cat had seen enough horror movies to know what happened when you opened them up. A quick and messy death. It was the quick part that appealed to her the most. She'd considered poison, but she didn't know enough about the subject. What chemicals, what dosages, how quickly it would act. It might just send the boy to an endless sleep, and by the time she pried his eyes open they might just be misted glass, opaque. Or it might take hours, loud and painful hours, and it was never pain she sought to cause.

She recalled the illustration as the boy took a cold beer from her hand, cracking it open and tipping it back, Adam's apple bobbing as he swallowed. It was dark, but enough light was cast for Cat to see a faint flicker in the boy's strong neck. A shivering shadow that marked out his pulse. All she had to do was press the blade there, and drag. As easy as bursting a water balloon, and with a similar result. Once it was done, it'd be quick. The trouble was in doing it. Cat shifted uncomfortably, boxcutter like ice in her back pocket, chilling her through. The boy set his beer down, gasping a breath as he lowered the now empty can. Spittle shone on his lips, spread in a wide smile. The ease of it twanged Cat's heart. It was Tori's smile, and while it was what had drawn her to the boy, it was also what repelled her. It was the smile of a friend, not of a victim. She longed for him to be the latter, she needed for him to be. It had been too long, far too long, since she'd pinned her last butterfly. She'd rubbed the sheen off Alex's wings, stroked until the memory was colourless. She needed this bright, beating boy. He wasn't a friend, he just looked like one, Cat reminded herself. And Cat knew by now you could never trust what someone appeared to be. They were just walking lies, continually told until they sounded true.

Cat had long debated with herself over the definition of truth. It was the subject she lingered on most, the most important matter she could think of. Her brain struggled with the concept of what made truth truth, slippery neurons unable to grip the meaning she sought so desperately. In a childish fit of frustration, for a child she still was, she flung the matter away, and focused on what she knew to be true. She remembered the flickering that resided behind her victims' eyes. That was truth, the only truth. It was perhaps the only real truth, and it was absolute. If Cat were to be asked what honesty was, she'd reply that it was in the eyes. That was a truth she told, yet it was a lie all the same, for the people that heard the response didn't grasp her meaning, and went away with an altogether different idea. They construed it as the immature answer of an idealist, when really it was only an answer of anatomy.

This boy, with his gentle eyes and blunt fingers. What lies was he telling, even now? In the licking of his lips, the shifting of his feet. He was a lie waiting to be proven, and Cat longed to make an honest man out of him. He wasn't a friend. That part was a lie. He had Tori's smile, Tori's kindness, but he wasn't her. His lips didn't taste anything like hers, his hands weren't anywhere near as finely made. He was a crude, craven imitation. Cat would cut him to his true shape, she'd see what he was meant to be.

He was not a friend.

He was a victim.

"Hey," His voice was a wet sound, slowed with spit. "What's wrong?" The boy's arms wrapped around her comfortingly, burning hot against her. Cat stiffened as his fingertips skimmed over her back pocket, relaxing as his hand settled on her lower back. She was thankful for his numbness. It not only dulled his senses, it dulled his curiosity as well. If there was one flaw Cat's plans always had, it was not accounting for the human element in them.

Her hands linked behind his neck, cheek pressed to his chest. The thin material of his black shirt reeked of beer, spotted with it. "Nothing. Everything's perfect." She murmured the words, closing her eyes for a moment. She was resolute in what she had to do, in what she wanted to do. Her momentary doubt had dissippated. She already had a Tori among her friends, she didn't need another one, and friend was just a suit this boy wore. 'Friend' was a mask she'd fitted on him herself, and it was a mask with Tori's smile grinning at her.

Still, as her intent solidified in her heart, making it thump and trip over itself with excitement, she felt a strange sort of regret. She took solace in his embrace, a comfort for a trauma that hadn't happened yet. He was a nice boy. He had an open warmth that invited a smile, an innocence that seemed out of step with the stubble beginning to darken his chin. He treated her with a certain sort of care, a burgeoning of feeling. He took the lie that she was for truth. He took it as gospel. Cat felt a certain sorrow about that. That he should have to find out the truth about her just as she found out his truth. She savoured the hug. She savoured his warmth, the animal vitality that pounded through him, exaggerated by the alcohol. She savoured the heat of flesh that would soon grow cold.

She took a deep, shaky breath, heart trembling in her chest. "I've got a surprise for you." The words started as a hoarse whisper, before steadying. She repeated the sentence louder, raising her head off his chest. His hips pushed into her as he swayed, a smile equivalent to laughter on his loose lips.

"You do?" His hands slipped away from her hips. "Is that why you went out to the car?"

Cat's cheeks hurt from smiling, muscles fixed. "Mhm." She licked her lips, eyes flicking down. It was easier to talk when she couldn't see Tori in him, when she couldn't see the friendmask. "But you can't look, 'kay? It's a surprise!"

The boy shook his head groggily, eyes bleary. "I won't look."

"You promise?"

The boy's index finger dragged across his chest. "Cross my heart and hope to die."

Cat's chest felt tight, every inhale just a sip at air. "Close your eyes."

The boy complied, a low rumbling laugh in his throat.

Cat circled around the swaying boy, a hand stroking between his shoulderblades. She viewed the boy with a certain fascination. That it should be this easy, this simple, when the last time was so hard. But then, Alex hadn't really trusted her. She'd had only the fragile trust a child holds for any adult, easily broken when challenged. Perhaps her mother had already started to teach her that strangers were not to be trusted. A lesson Alex had learned too late. This boy... he really did trust her. The thought came to her with a sense of wonder. It wasn't just the alcohol, amplifying any feelings of love and affection, it was the boy himself. He trusted that her feelings matched his, not from a sense of ego, but a natural confidence. It lived in the spine she stroked, the broad shoulders her lips touched against, shaking. Perhaps she had been wrong. Perhaps this boy would've been something great.

Her hand touched over the hard length in her back pocket. She giggled, reaching her other hand to cover the boy's eyes, the boy's fingertips touching the back of her hand before dropping away. "No peeking, 'kay?" She murmured the words, her smile faltering as the boy stooped a little. He was trying to make the job of covering his eyes easier, to lessen the strain of her stretch to reach him. The human element Cat always failed to account for appeared yet again. She hadn't expected him to make it easier. She wondered what it was the boy expected. Food? Some physical act? Some present that had dropped from his lips in passing, that he thought Cat had gathered and granted? Cat felt a faint longing that he'd die in this state of hopeful anticipation. She hoped he wouldn't die like Alex.

Her hand slipped away from the boxcutter in her pocket, moving instead to the boy's lower back. This wasn't the final part of her plan yet. The boy moved clumsily, prompted by her prodding, her hand bumping his face at the uneven movement. A touch from him, a light plucking, removed her hand, and his own moved to cover his face. His voice was almost an imitation of hers, light and laughing. "No peeking!"

Her own laughter was a whisper, a ghost of his.

She propelled him to a cheap plastic chair, legs scraping as the boy's calves bumped against it. He sat down unsteadily, a tortured crack sounding from the worn plastic.

"When do I get to open my eyes?" He spoke from between his hands.

"Soon." Cat gave his hair a soft pat, before easing his hands down. "But not yet, 'kay?"

His hands drummed impatiently on his knees as Cat stood behind him, a tight feeling clenching in her chest. It was a mixture of excitement and nausea, a giddiness close to hysteria. She was an addict about to get her fix. She surveyed the boy, trying to find what way would gain her the biggest hit.

Her right hand found the boxcutter in her pocket, pulling it out. The steel was slightly warm, heated by her body. The triangular blade glinted as she slid it out. Her other hand found the boy's chin, tilted his head back. He resisted for a moment, eyebrows furrowing, before his trust and affection overcame his better judgement. The angle was awkward, noses bumping, but Cat's lips found his, a smile fixed onto them, a substitute for the laughter she could no longer give. He returned the kiss with an eager enthusiasm, lips trying to follow hers as she pulled back. She'd used the time to move the blade to his neck, almost tickling it. With his throat taut and straining, she drew the boxcutter across swiftly, dragging as deep as she could.

The skin split easily beneath the still-sharp blade, wound gaping. The blood was immediate. A thick spurt spattered the boy's twitching hands, the sound like rain on the plastic sheeting. It gushed with every beat of the boy's pumping heart. Even now, he was helping her. Cat dropped the leaden boxcutter, hand hot with the boy's blood. Another paint splatter in the abandoned house. The boy uttered a low, whimpering groan, hands fluttering to his neck. Cat grabbed a length of the plastic sheeting, the end ragged about her knees. It wouldn't do to get too much blood on her. She edged around the bleeding boy, curiosity on her face. Confusion was on his, hands held in front of him, gloved with his blood. He made an attempt to stand, only succeeding in spilling himself from the chair, plastic splintering at his spastic movement. A wet cough expelled itself from him, his breath a bubbling wheeze. His limbs trembled, the most that they could do now. Cat eased herself near him, laying the plastic sheet down gingerly on the spreading pool of blood that gushed from him. She lowered herself to her knees, leaning over the boy to push his shoulder, rolling the shuddering boy onto his back.

Her name stuttered on his lips, unintelligible, eyes rolling back in his head. Blood foamed on his mouth, chest heaving with the effort to breathe. Blood spurted strongly from one side of his neck, to a beat Cat could almost count. Her blade had sliced deep on that side, severed the thick artery. The end of her cut had been shallower. A nick not a slice. Blood streamed from that wound steadily, a thread compared to the rope that stemmed from the other side. Her hands found one of his, resting limply on his stomach. Her fingers entwined with his gently. His fingers seemed more blunt than ever, unable to perform more than a slight twitch. Cat watched his face intently, leaning forward, breath held. The boy's face was drained of colour by now, a chalky white, but for the crimson bloom of his lips. His breathing was slower, a heaving effort that rattled in his throat, ending in a wet cough more often than not. Cat released his limp hand as the boy's eyes fluttered shut, her fingers finding his cheek. They left behind a streak of the boy's bright blood. She called his name softly, the sound and her touch rousing him. It was with an effort that he opened his eyes, gaze drifting until it found her. He focused with difficulty, the effort betrayed by a slight furrowing of his eyebrows.

"Look at me." She whispered, leaning in closer.

The boy moaned, eyelids fluttering again. Cat drummed her fingertips on his cheek, stirring him yet again. The blood oozed more slowly from his throat now. His heart was failing. The boy's gaze drifted, almost dreamily. He squinted slightly, as if trying to catch sight of something half-seen, something far distant but rapidly approaching. Cat watched, rapt, teeth sunk deep into her lip, as if she feared to make a sound. It was coming.

The boy's chest shuddered suddenly, blood spraying his lips as he coughed weakly. The breath gurgled in his throat, almost a sob. And there. There it was, formless, behind his eyes. Cat could see him, all of him, and how had she ever thought him ordinary? He was shining, and golden. She saw what he would've become. A fleeting regret settled on her brow for a moment, a regret that death was still necessary for her to be able to see this. To see in death what should've been in life. This boy, this shadow of Tori, wasn't like her at all. How could she ever have thought that? This boy was much more than he ever seemed to be.

As quickly as it had come, that flicker receded. The light stole from his eyes, a television switched off, reduced to a single point, and then gone. Cat watched for a moment longer, breath burning in her lungs. There was nothing.

She sat back, a wave of euphoria sweeping over her. The room seemed brighter, the air crisper. The boy had died beautiful. He'd died pure. There seemed no greater crime to Cat than an instant death, no greater injustice than a death unseen. She'd carry the memory of that boy, of who that boy really was, with her for as long as she lived. And maybe, maybe when she died, someone would glimpse him in her. Maybe they'd see every truth she'd learnt, flickering behind her eyes. She wondered if she'd be able to see it herself, to hold a mirror to herself at the last, and see who she really was.

After a time, she began to clean up. She did this numbly, automatically, eyes unseeing. The boy's burning truth smouldered in her, glorious. She stepped gingerly over the boy's limp body, stooping to pick up the bloody boxcutter. Blood speckled her top. She'd prepared for this eventuality. She stripped quickly, using the material to wipe clean the boxcutter. Its weight seemed almost unbearable in her hands now. Its purpose had been served.

She wrapped her top around the cold length, walking tentatively through the dark house to where the bathroom had been so ambitiously planned. She dropped the boxcutter into one of the holes driven into the ground, where a pipe ran to join a system it would never use.

She found her handbag among the empty cans of beer, from where she'd steered the now-still boy. An empty paintcan served as a makeshift bin, a squirt of lighter fluid and the spark of a lighter taking care of the soiled top. Her shorts weren't untouched, but they were salvageable. The blood was almost invisible on the dark denim.

Cat had an extra top nestled in her bag. She replaced the lighter fluid and the lighter carefully. Some time into her task she had realised she was humming. Some song she'd heard lilting on the radio, when the boy had driven her here. She'd have to look it up once she got home. The boy himself required little attention. She left him with a soft apology, for the creature he had really been and now never would be.

She took a moment outside the house, the soft noise of insects the only sound in the abandoned streets. The skeletons of other houses surrounded her, dark and silent. A great graveyard full of people that would never occupy it. It seemed a fitting place, to her. A dead boy in a dead house.

The boy's car was easily disposed of. She drove it with some small difficulty. She knew how to drive, but the opportunity to do so didn't arise often. She left it in a neighbourhood that would find it much more useful disassembled. A lonely bus trip, and she was close enough to home to walk the rest of the distance. Her plan had gone off without a hitch. He'd been everything she hoped for. More, even. She hadn't dreamt such magnificence dwelt in the boy.

Why then, when she crept into her room, house silent, did tears begin to form? Why, as she showered, did she find herself shaking, dry sobs in her throat? Why did that hand, that right hand of hers, never seem quite clean. She scrubbed at her nails viciously, trying to scour every trace away. All she could see was red. His blood seemed spattered on every surface. The white tiles of her bathroom, the garish pink of her quilt. She became convinced that at some point, his blood had stained her very eyeballs. It was like watching dust motes swim in the air, almost unseen, but niggling. She could see it even when she closed her eyes, a bloody night sky in her head. She hadn't planned for this.

Sleep was hard come by. She'd lay in bed, blankets tucked around him, and thought of him. Of all he had been and never known. Of the light she'd seen in his eyes, clear and pure, like molten gold. It was something indescribable, something no language, Cat was sure, would ever be able to find the words for. No words could evoke the feeling, the searing joy, that truth burned into her. And this was why Cat had drawn that line, why she'd put her friends out of bounds. Because if she did kill them, she wouldn't feel a moment of regret. That truth was worth anything, it was worth everything.

Still, as she slipped into sleep, her lips shaped his name.


A/N: Usually this is the place where I'd make some witty bon mot, but I'm sleepy. If you're dearly missing my rambling anecdotes about misunderstandings with animals and being in states of partial undress, make sure to grab my new book - '1001 Stories That Never Were'. It's packed full of things that never happened, never will happen, but that I insist did happen. Although it's not for people under 18. My author's photo is a little risque, by which I mean highly illegal. In some countries it's actually considered a weapon.

Also this isn't a real book. The book is another thing that never was. I'm sorry for leading you on.

But if you review now, you might just make it into my new new book - '1001 Reviews that i got on stuff yeah cool'. It's universally lauded.

Because winters are cold and that book burns for a good three hours. The actual book itself is not... most of it's just 'Update!'.