Relative Perfection

CatBeck, Cat-centric

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give it up, you can't win
cause I know where you've been
such a shame you don't put up a fight

-give it up, elizabeth gillies and ariana grande

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Maybe she's not perfect (she never claimed to be, anyway).

But when she tries to compare herself to Tori (perfect Tori, slim and slender and oh-so-beautiful) her opinion of herself basically falls apart.

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She doesn't know when it begins.

But one second, she's smiling and laughing with her friends, and the next, she's hit what feels like rock bottom.

The smell of food disgusts her, so much that she pushes her plate away. It makes her almost want to throw up. Then there's a voice in the back of her head, nagging at her, telling her that she's not skinny and pretty like Tori and Jade. Maybe that's why all of her boyfriends ditch her for someone else.

What most people don't know is that once upon a time, Beck was hers, all hers. They were happily dating when in swooped Jade West.

To Jade's credit, she honestly didn't try. She never straight-out said that she was jealous of Cat and Beck. But it was evident in her eyes and in her glares, in the strong front that she tried so desperately to keep up.

Cat knows now that she's always been a better actress than Jade West. She can still pretend to be happy, bubbly Cat, even when she's scraping the bottom.

But back then, Beck saw her pain. He had sort of a hero complex, so he swooped in and saved the day, leaving Cat with an apology note and a lollipop. As if a lollipop could solve everything.

After that, it was always Jade-and-Beck and despite the fact that at times she wanted so desperately to break them, she never was able to. They held solid.

Cat didn't.

And now, as she's staring at her food and considering how fat she is, everything seems like a much bigger problem than it actually is. Having the strong desire to run, she stares down at her food.

"You all right, Cat?" André asks, staring at her.

"I'm fine, André!" she replies brightly, smiles dancing in her eyes. "I'm just not really hungry. Anyone want a donut?" she sings, holding it up above the heads of the boys.

Robbie, André, and Beck all lunge for it at once, and as Beck's skin brushes hers she realizes how very much he's screwed her over.

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After that, it's a downhill spiral into something she's never bothered thinking about.

All that plagues her mind is thoughts of you're not good enough, you never have been and she's clinging loosely to the brink of sanity but it seems so far out of her reach.

Food is just a temptress in her line of vision. It tempts her with its delicious smells and good looks, telling her that she should eat, that it'll taste good and satisfy her ravenous hunger.

But she can't. No, she can't. She cannot be the fat one in the group again.

There's this voice in the back of her head, the ever-present voice in times of such temptation. She affectionately names it A Nice Advisor, Ana for short. She resists the temptation to name it something about a rainbow unicorn princess, because she's not so young and naïve anymore. She's matured and she knows what is wrong and what is right.

Loving him after all this time is soso wrong.

Her only solace during this time is the scale in her mother's bathroom. Despite the fact that her parents never do anything for her, mentally, she thanks them profusely for this small provision. Its pretty little numbers tell her what she needs to know- that she's losing weight, and fast. This brings her an immeasurable amount of pleasure.

She drops weight like a mean man drops puppies, and with each pound gone, she feels an immense amount of relief. The numbers drop before her eyes.

Along with not eating, she decides at last that she must exercise as well. Really, she decides, this is a lifestyle change, not just a fast.

None of this is hard, though. The feeling of hunger gives her immense pleasure, and exercise pleases her as well, since most of the time she allows herself to skip around. Sometimes, she'll go running- there is nothing like the feeling of the wind blowing her hair and the empty space for her to think.

No, none of that is hard. The hard part is the constant pretending.

She still eats lunch with Jade, Beck, Tori, André, and Robbie, because they would be suspicious if she didn't. But she finds it so hard to sit with them and watch them eat without a care in the world. She is so jealous of how Tori and Jade can eat so much and stay so freaking skinny. These days, all she wants to do is be skinny.

Every day, she has to come up with yet another excuse for why she isn't eating much (if anything at all). Most of the time, it is something like "I'm not hungry" or "my stomach hurts". Sometimes, she says with a giggle, "I think the unicorns have invaded my stomach!" Then, she'll quickly to move on to some typical Cat saying, "You know, one time my brother…"

She finds it sad that she has to think hard to remember the things that she used to say effortlessly, back when she was young, naïve, and innocent.

She is not that little girl anymore, much to her displeasure.

She is hiding behind the mask of the innocent girl she used to be. Had she been anyone else, she is sure that they would have suspected something already. But since she is Caterina Valentine and she is so pure and innocent, they don't suspect a thing. Nobody finds the secrets that she hides so deep beneath the surface.

In a weird kind of way, she's so glad that they don't suspect anything. Nobody has to know, right?

But as time goes on, she thinks at times that she needs someone to help her, someone to reassure her as she quickly wastes away into nothing. She's quickly becoming a skeleton of who she used to be- literally.

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It is a battle that she fights all alone.

Some days, she tries to resist Ana. But Ana fights back harder than any dragon from her old fantasies.

She brings up specific dark memories that Cat has tried so hard to push back into the depths of her mind, memories of times when Cat felt like a bug that had been squished into the rug. Things like when Jade and Tori fought over the main part and no one bothered to even think about the fact that maybe Cat wanted it as well? The time that Cat had to kiss Beck for the movie with Dale Squires, and it felt so right, so perfect, but then it ended and she was forced to remember that it was all just a bit of good acting (and the reminder was Jade's cold hand slapping her face). She holds so many memories like that deep inside of her, and Ana just brings them back up to the surface for everyone to see.

Ana taunts her as well. "If Beck doesn't love you, how can anyone? People will always like Tori and Jade better because they're memorable. Tori's a lovely singer and dancer; she's sweet to everyone she meets. She's pretty and skinny and everything you're not, so boys will always like her better. Then Jade- Jade is mean, but she's like that to everyone and people are going to remember her for it. She can sing, and she can dance. Everyone looks up to her in a reverent kind of way. Not to mention she's hot and thin and she has Beck, which is a feat that you haven't managed to accomplish."

Maybe she had him at some point, but he was never all hers.

The voice finishes with an ending that stings: "What are you known for?"

It motivates her all the more. She can't eat, can't even think when words like that ring in her head.

Maybe she can be known for being the thin and pretty one.

Just maybe she'll finally be known for something positive (instead of being known for being perpetually insane, which she doubts is a positive thing).

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Everything seems to be going just fine at first. She's able to pretend that everything's okay, at least, until Jade pulls her aside in the girls' bathroom. "Cat," she whispers, staring at her with unfathomable eyes. "Don't even try to pretend. Why are you lying? Why are you pretending to be okay when you're really not?"

"What are you talking about?" Cat replies innocently, turning back toward the sink as if she is just merely washing her hands. "I'm perfectly fine, Jade!"

Jade, obviously, saw right through her parade of lies, and dug her fingernails into Cat's shoulders painfully. "Don't play games with me, Valentine. Something's wrong and you're going to admit that, because the little wall you're putting up is irritating me and you know what happens to things that irritates me."

Cat feels her breath catch in her throat, but no, she's not confessing now. She's been keeping her secrets for far too long now to just give up like that. With a frown, she lets out a breath, yelping a bit as Jade's fingernails dig further into her skin. "All right, all right! I'm not perfectly fine. I just… I don't know."

Then tears are streaking down her cheeks, and she's so grateful for them because it means that she doesn't have to talk any more. Jade's staring at her, probably confused- if there's one thing she knows Jade doesn't do, it's sympathy. But then Jade's hand is on her shoulder, in something like a comforting manner, and Cat starts to wonder if maybe (beneath all the rubbish) Jade West has a heart as well.

"Look, Cat," she says in a clipped tone. "You do realize that you don't have to lie? Life isn't a big acting class, you know."

Sniffling, Cat stares at herself in the mirror- all puffy eyes and cheeks, circles painted beneath her eyes from lack of nutrition and sleep. With a frown, she realizes how very much she disagrees with what Jade just said. She does have to lie, because no one should be allowed to see her like this. She doesn't need their sympathies, because she's so far gone that no one can ever find her.

Drying the tears from beneath her eyes, she lies once again. "I… I know. You can tell them all that I'm having a hard time, all right? Because I completely agree with what you just said!"

She doesn't agree. She doesn't agree in the least. But she pretends as if she does, because if she doesn't agree with Jade, bad things happen.

Bad things happen to her anyway, though.

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The next day at school, Beck approaches her. She's not sure what to do- running and hiding seems a little harsh, as does telling him off. She has a feeling that he's just trying to be nice. So she forces a smile onto her face, greeting him warmly in the way she would've before the whole catastrophe began. "Hello, Beck! How are you today?"

"I'm just fine," he replies with a smirk, and he glances around before he stares at her, leaning down to her ear. "I heard from Jade that you're not okay, though. And so, I sort of made you a little present."

"A little present?" she jumps up and down, clapping her hands. "Give it to me, then!"

Absently, as her stomach rumbles once again, she wonders when she became such a good actress. Honestly, she could care less about Beck's present, especially if it was food like she suspected from the scent that was wafting around from behind his back. Her first reaction was to smack it out of his hands, but she figured that would be a little rude. Staring at him, she held out her hands expectantly.

Grinning, he placed a brownie in her outstretched hands. "I knew you liked brownies, because you made them for your idiotic boyfriend that time and you ate some as well. So here, I made you a brownie?"

"Aw, thank you," Cat coos, but she stares at the brownie- at the pile of fresh chocolate- and she wishes it would disappear. It tempts her so badly that she picks it up off of the plate and takes a fresh bite of temptation.

The taste of chocolate floods her mouth and her taste buds, and her first reaction is to spit it out. She hasn't tasted anything so rich in days, weeks, even. Maybe even a month. It makes her feel sort of nauseous, but Beck is there and he is staring at her with big brown eyes, watching her every move. He probably hopes that she will like it or that it will cheer her up.

However many times he has disappointed her, she still doesn't want to disappoint him.

She swallows, the chocolate brownie burning holes in her throat because everyone knows that it's not supposed to be there. She swears she can taste the pure fat as it goes down. But she plasters a smile onto her face, wringing her hands together. "It's delicious, Beck! I didn't know you were such a good cook!"

"Yeah, well, there are a lot of things people don't know about me," Beck gives her a half-smirk, motioning to the brownie. "Are you not going to eat the rest of that?"

"Oh, no, I am," she tells him, hoping that her voice doesn't sound too fake as she bites off another bite of the brownie, her nose curling up at the taste. This is her, giving into temptation, giving into Beck.

The blaring voice in her head will not shut up. "How do you expect to get anywhere in life if you can't resist a stupid little boy? I thought you were stronger than this!"

To make matters worse, the brownie feels so wrong in her empty stomach that she just wants to spit it back out. She stares at Beck for a second, at how euphoric he looks that he's gotten to her or something, and she feels like she's breaking into tiny pieces once again.

"I- it's delicious," she stammers, faking another pretty smile. "Thanks so much for this, Beck. It means a lot to me."

The thing is, for once, she's speaking the truth. Even if the brownie doesn't taste good to her starved mouth, she's sure that it would taste amazing to anyone else. And it does mean a lot that he's even trying with her anymore.

But the food is still unsettling in her stomach and she rushes off to the bathroom, unsure of what to do as she leans over the toilet. No vomit comes, and she sticks her finger down her throat, determined that she's going to get somewhere.

She gags and it feels terrible, but no vomit comes out. Sighing, she sinks to the linoleum floor, tears leaking out of her eyes already. She puts her hands around her knees and lets herself sob.

Absently, she wonders when she got this low- low enough to consider vomiting just to get rid of the fat content in a small brownie. She chokes out a sob, putting her head onto her knees as she sobs. Maybe she's just a failure at life, or maybe she's desperate for control.

Either way, she has a feeling that she's going about this the wrong way.

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She's losing weight and fast. Every time she looks at the scale, the numbers go down and down. She weighs less than she ever thought she would. But still, it's not enough.

When she looks at Tori Vega and Jade West and the various supermodels that lounge around her hometown, all she can think about is how skinny they are and how, in comparison, she's just a pile of fat. She looks in the mirror sometimes. Instead of seeing what she used to see (red velvet cupcake hair, pretty smile, perfectly pale skin, chocolate brown eyes), she sees a fat girl with circles under her eyes and yellow teeth from lack of nutrition.

It's starting to scare her, how bad she looks, but she's not going to give up now, because she's determined. So she just brushes her teeth over and over, puts makeup on the circles under her eyes, and continues to play the part of a normal (albeit slightly mentally unstable) girl because really, there's nothing else she can do at this point.

She's been sucked too far in.

She wakes up hungry and falls asleep hungry. While it's not exactly comfortable, it makes her feel satisfied for whatever reason. Sometimes, she'll indulge herself and eat a few bites- grapes or apples or some sort of fruit- but every time, right after, she runs to the scale. It doesn't matter, though; she's never been able to purge.

Then one day at school, they have a presentation about eating disorders. There's some fat, balding man leading it, and at first she thinks that she has nothing to worry about. But as the presentation goes on and the word flashes across the screen- anorexia- she thinks that maybe she has something to worry about.

It classifies the disorder as having an obsession with your weight that you obsess over so often that it leads to you eating less or not enough. Basically, it means starving yourself.

Her mouth drops oven and all of a sudden she feels as if everyone's eyes are on her. She wants to scream, to cry out that no, she isn't anorexic, this is completely normal, but somehow, deep inside, she knows it's not normal, not in the theleast.

As he starts to call out the symptoms of anorexia, she slumps down in her seat because oh man, she has every single one of them.

She doesn't know what to do, how to feel, because honestly, she never thought that this could lead to her death, this early.

Maybe then, though, people will finally notice her.

She continues with her pattern of not eating and her life starts to slip away with every pound she loses. All she can think is how wrong it is, but really, she thinks that she's forgotten what right is by this point.

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They're at lunch when it happens.

One minute, she's perfectly fine (except for her roaring stomach, but that has become normal at this point). She's laughing and joking with her friends, and everything is as close to normal as it has been in the last few weeks. One minute, life is almost as good as she remembers it.

Then the next minute, the clock ticks and bam, she's weakened. It's almost as if someone has punched her in the stomach. Her whole body heats up from head to toe, and she feels a layer of sweat above her brow. Her stomach feels like a gaping hole, empty and waiting to be filled, and oh gosh, she can't do this, she really can't.

Groaning, she sits down at the table, feeling worse than ever before. The hunger is finally getting to her, she supposes, and dots are popping up in front of her eyes.

"Are you all right, there?" Tori asks, looking concerned.

When she doesn't respond, Beck waves a hand in front of her face. "Cat?"

But it's too late. The black dots multiply, creating a pattern in front of her eyes, and they're blocking out her vision. Feeling so very weak, she whimpers out, "Help me."

Then everything's gone and she feels herself slipping away before her very eyes. There's nothing to do but let it consume her, because honestly, she's too far gone.

Somehow, she can still hear their voices: "Cat, Cat! Oh my gosh, Cat, is she all right?"

There's a pause before someone else speaks. "She has a pulse… I think she's just fainted. She seems really hungry or something…"

"She's freakishly skinny," Jade jumps in, her tone harsh and condescending as always and Cat hates it so much.

Then their voices fade into the background, leaving her in a whirl of confusion. She cannot see and she cannot hear, and for what feels like only a second, she dozes off.

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When she finally opens her eyes once again, she's laying on something soft. Terrified, she bolts up, her brown eyes wide, and looks around the room, at the posters for good health. Her first thought is that she's in a hospital, but no, they would've brought her to the closest hospital, wouldn't they? She doesn't recognize this place at all.

She sits up slowly, clutching her head. "What's going on?"

Tori gives her a soft smile. "You fainted on us."

"Are you all right?" Beck asks, and for the first time, she sees pure and earnest concern painted over his face. It makes her feel almost guilty, but no, she shouldn't be feeling guilty. He ended it with her, and she never did anything to him.

"I'm fine now!" she chirps happily, jumping up as if to show that she's perfectly fine. But then her head spins, dots with colors, and she sits right back down again. "Oh, maybe I should give myself a little time… I keep seeing bright colors!" she giggles awkwardly, knowing that they're all staring at her and she has to pretend as if she's happy and perfect and just as she used to be. They already suspect something, she can tell by their thin comments, but she's honestly not ready to tell them, and she doesn't know if she'll ever be ready to tell them.

"It's never a good thing, seeing bright colors," Jade tells her, bringing her finger up to her lips and then back down. "It means that… well, you're going to faint again." There's a hint of sneering in her tone, and Cat doesn't like it.

"Like the time you fainted in sixth grade?" Cat giggles, and it's so unlike her but at this point, nothing she does surprises her.

Jade's mouth falls open and her eyes widen, probably shocked that Cat even worked up the nerve to say something so mean to the Queen of Ice. "Excuse me?"

"Oh, sorry!" Cat apologizes quickly, and Jade sinks back against the wall. For a moment, everything is unicorns and rainbows again.

That is, until Tori breaks through the clouds and says sharply, "Can you guys clear out for a moment? I want to talk to Cat." She offers them a big smile and, just like that, they all clear out. Cat assumes that it is because Tori is skinny and pretty so everyone does whatever she wants them to do.

One day, Cat hopes that she can be that skinny and pretty as well.

She waits for Tori to talk first, to break the awkward silence that's escalating between them. Finally, Tori inhales deeply as she stares at Cat. "Cat, is something wrong? Actually, no, that's not the question. I know that something's wrong. I just wanted to tell you… to let you know that I'm always here for you. If you need to talk or something, well, you know. I'm here, because the words best friends aren't meaningless, are they?"

"I'm fine," Cat grits her teeth together, crossing her arms. "But thanks, Tori." She says it sincerely, because she knows that Tori is innocent and she genuinely does care about Cat. Too bad Cat has made up her mind that she is going to let no one in, and Tori Vega is definitely someone.

Tori gives her one last desperate, pleading look, before her hand comes to rest on Cat's now bony shoulder. She squeezes it quickly. "Maybe you should stop pretending."

But then, in a flash, Tori is gone, and the ghost of her hand lingers on Cat's shoulder. She wonders how she's supposed to get better now- she doesn't know, she doesn't think that she knows anything for certain anymore.

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The next time she looks in the mirror, she thinks that she's a ghost of who she used to be.

Her skin possesses a yellow tint that was never there before, and her heart is fluttering out of control. The dark circles under her eyes are a symbol that she hardly sleeps anymore. Everything about her appearance has changed, and as she fingers her dark red hair, she thinks of the good old days when red velvet cupcakes were a treat rather than a temptation and her hair didn't make her feel sad.

She supposes that since everything else about her has changed, it shouldn't be a big deal to change her hair as well.

So she ends up in an unfamiliar beauty shop, wincing as some guy wraps foil around her hair. It takes a while, but once he is done, her wet hair falls to her shoulders, no sign of red velvet in her hair at all.

She turns her head quickly from the mirror, stuffing some money into the guy's hand and storming out the door, determined that she's not going to cry or anything ridiculous like that. Once she finally arrives back home, she falls asleep for a few hours (she's unbelievably tired) and then, when she wakes up, the sheets are stained but her hair is dry.

As she peers into the mirror, she does not see Cat Valentine, the girl with smiles like sunshine and hair like cupcakes. She sees a cheap replacement for her, with dark brown hair, sunken eyes, and this girl is skinny- not thin, like she'd always wanted to be, but freakishly skinny. Anorexic skinny.

It is at this point that she realizes that maybe, just maybe, she has a bit of a problem.

And maybe it's time for her to throw aside her stubborn tendencies and go get help.

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The problem is, she realizes later, she's not exactly sure how to go about getting help.

She looks it up online one afternoon, when she's tired and annoyed with the world, but all she can find are sites that threaten to drag her down further. Photos of thin girls (thinner than her, even), perfect girls, diets, anything to discourage her from trying to get help. Quickly, she shuts her laptop, and the pictures vanish with a flash. Breathing heavily, she determines that no, she must get help and she mustn't go any deeper into the stuff she's already gotten herself so deep into.

Then she's jumping up, and oh, the dots are returning, rapid and piercing. They poke at her skull, and oh, she cries out in pain, but there's no one around to hear it. She feels the disease, her mental condition, consuming her from the inside out and guess what?

There's nothing she can do about it anymore.

She screams and she kicks but then she's laying flat, her eyes closed, barely breathing. Then, her consciousness fades away until she can no longer see or hear anything around her.

She is somewhat at peace, and it almost feels nice.

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It takes her longer this time to open her eyes, but when she does, she finds herself in a bed that is not her own. Once she works up the strength, she peels her eyes open and peers at the room through bleary eyes. Everything is moving at once. She doesn't know what to think, so she finally forces herself to mutter, "Where am I?"

Once she forces her eyes open, though, she realizes that it's a stupid question. The walls of the hospital are as dreary and bleak as she remembers them to be. Her first question that she has the strong desire to ask is why am I in the hospital? She's not sick, she tells herself repeatedly. There is nothing wrong with her.

But then the walls start to close in around her and she's nearly screaming again. Finally, a voice breaks through the pain. "Cat, you're in the hospital."

"There's nothing wrong with me," she manages to choke out. "I don't want to be here! Get me out of here!" Her limbs are flailing around beyond her control.

Someone's hand encloses itself around her own, and she recognizes the warmth nearly immediately as Beck's. Relaxing, she asks in a calmer tone, "What exactly do they imagine is wrong with me?"

Everyone looks nervously at each other. The tension in the air is unimaginable, thickening the darkness in the room. She knows in that moment that they know, that they've figured it out or something. Her throat goes dry as Jade speaks up (she's always been the most brash of all of them). "They told us that you have an eating disorder. That something involving your mind or your emotions has driven you to freaking starve yourself. Is that what you thought would solve all of your problems?"

Tears flood her eyes because oh gosh, they know and she doesn't know what to say. She looks across the room- from Jade to Beck to Tori to André to Robbie- and she sees the pure hurt on their faces, as if somehow by hurting herself, she's hurting all of them as well. She finds herself choking once again. "I- I don't know-" she stammers.

"Look, Caterina Valentine," Jade hisses, crossing her arms tightly across her chest as she glares at her friend. "I don't know why you think you can screw around with all of us, but—"

"Jade," André cuts her off, grabbing her hand. "Look, we're going to go outside for a bit. You need to calm down because you're not helping at all, do you realize?"

He storms outside, dragging Jade with him, and all the rest of them trail after him, staring at Cat as if she's a fragile doll that might break at any moment.

All of them except Beck.

He's still right beside her, holding her hand, and she suddenly remembers about his hero complex. She's now the damsel in distress, so he's going to try and save her now. She doesn't need saving, though.

"Cat," he whispers, his warm hand trailing hers, enclosing hers in a burst of warmth. "I don't know why. I'm not sure I want to know. But guess what? Maybe everything seems bad, but it's going to get better."

"I like your advice, did you know?" she whispers, but her eyes are fixated on his and really, had he always been this handsome?

"I know," he whispers. The corners of his mouth are turning up into a smile, and he asks her, "Do you remember that time we kissed? For the movie?"

"Yes, I do, actually," she replies hesitantly, trying to remember that time- when she'd been happy and they'd been smiling as his lips met hers. It's one of the many painful memories that she's tried so hard to keep out, but now, as he's sitting here holding her hand, she lets it flood back. "Why?"

"Because I think I liked it," he replies, and then he's kissing her. She doesn't understand why he's bringing this up or doing this now, when she's sick and clothed in a hospital gown, imprisoned in a prison of her own insanity. But she pulls him closer, wanting him all to herself for once. Once he pulls away, he offers her a sheepish smile. "Sorry about that."

She wants to scream at him- he's screwed her over for years and years and all she gets is a sorry about that? Feeling the intense urge to hit him but not having the physical strength, she just mutters, "I hate you so much, Beck Oliver," and rolls over in her bed, going back to sleep.

With a quiet chuckle that annoys her more than any other, he leaves her alone, to her own personal darkness.

They should know better by now than to leave her alone.

There's a mirror that sits by her bed. Grinning sweetly, she hits it against the front of her bed and watches as the glass shatters to the floor, breaking into tiny shards. As she scoops up one of the shards, she thinks absently that maybe she's only just getting herself into more trouble.

No big deal, she replies to her brain, flipping the shard around in her hands before she presses it violently to her arm and pulls it up. If they aren't going to let her continue with whatever she's been doing, at least she has this.

Ruby red blood plops up on her arm, staining her perfectly dark tanned skin. She watches as they slide down her arm, leaving trails on her skin and her robe. Then she picks up the shard and slides it down her arm again, wincing at the pain but smiling as even more blood leaks from the cuts in her skin.

Then the combination of the sight (and smell) of blood (as much as Jade loves it, she hates it) and exhaustion and lack of food/nutrition gets to her. Before she can even think about what's happening, her eyes are closing.

She falls asleep with the shard of blood-stained glass tucked safely between her fingers.

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When she awakes once again, she realizes that some people are back in her room. Her arm feels wet and sticky, and though she has not the motivation to move, she can hear the incessant chatter of the two people who apparently think that they belong in her hospital room.

"What happened to her arm?" someone says in a soft voice.

"You don't see the glass in her hand?" the second voice, a hard voice she's never heard before and never wants to hear again, demands. "Isn't it obvious? Self-harm, what she's been doing all along. She's been destroying herself all along."

"No," the voice falters. "She- Cat wouldn't do that to herself. Would she?"

That's what she's been expecting to hear. Oh, Cat wouldn't do that. Sweet, innocent Cat would never harm herself. But obviously she's not the same Cat that they knew anymore, because she would and she has done everything they never expected that she would.

Her hand clutches the shard of glass tighter, probably cutting her palm all over, but at this point, she doesn't care in the least.

"She would, obviously," the deadpan voice continues. The scratching of a pen on paper continues as the man keeps talking. "This is her first time cutting, though, probably because starving herself has been taken away from her at the moment."

The boy's voice (she now registers that the boy speaking is Beck, and that hurts like a dagger to the heart) breaks as he keeps talking. "What are you going to do? You can't… you can't just leave her like this. She'll kill herself eventually."

"There's not much we can do for her here," the man (probably a doctor) responds, then the sound of scribbling stops and is followed by the sound of ripping paper. "But we're honestly considering taking her to a mental hospital. They'll be able to help her mind and this mindset that's driven her to do such desperate things."

A mental hospital. The words pierce her mind like a bullet. She's mentally unstable, oh, they've finally figured it out, and now they're sending her to an asylum. She wants to cry out, to tell her that she's not crazy and that her brain works just fine, but her mouth doesn't want to work and she doesn't really want to talk to Beck anyway. Mentally, she whimpers. She does not want to go to an asylum. She can still think almost clearly, even if the strange buzzing in her head sometimes blocks out her thoughts, but she assumes that it's from hunger.

The silence is broken once again by Beck's hopeful voice. "You think so?"

"I'm fairly sure," the doctor responds. A pen clicks, and then he speaks again. "It's worked for most of our patients. At the very least, they'll force her to eat and keep her away from anything- like this mirror- that she can harm herself with." His hands pick up the mirror and then pry the piece of glass out of her hands. She wants to tell him that she needs it, but then he'll just think her even more insane so she loosens her hand and tells the piece of glass farewell (in her mind, of course, no use adding more ammunition to the already roaring flames).

"That- that's good," Beck releases a breath, and he sounds almost relieved. "I mean… I don't want her to be able to hurt herself anymore." He sounds almost sincere and it stings at her again.

"She won't," the doctor replies, and then there is a snap of a clipboard, some footsteps, and a door closing. She assumes that means that he is finally gone.

Then more footsteps indicate that Beck is making his way over to her. Something warm soothes her stinging, bloody arm. Surprised, she pries one eye halfway open to see Beck kneeling down beside her, washing the blood off of her arm with a warm washcloth.

This is not what she expected from him at all. He's supposed to be an idiot, a boy that leads girls along only to dump them when they least expect it. But here he is, cleaning off her wounds.

She has to keep reminding herself that it is only because of his hero complex.

Then she can feel his lips, ghosting across her forehead before he stands up and walks out of the door, leaving her alone once again.

This time, she doesn't feel like doing anything desperate. She just goes back to sleep.

.

She is released from the hospital one day before she is to be admitted to the 'institution' for as long as she needs to be there. Glumly, she returns home to find all of them waiting there for her, looking like the supportive friends that they might've been a few months ago, before this whole mess began. But no, she will not whine, because what good will whining do her?

Sighing, she pulls out a suitcase and unzips it. "I suppose you've all heard, then."

"I'm going to miss you," Tori tells her, frowning as she stretches out her arms for a hug.

Cat obliges, and as she hugs her once (and maybe still) best friend, all she can think about is how thin she is. Really, she needs to get over this obsession- she can't constantly be thinking about food and weight and how thin people are. So she just pulls away, offering Tori a small smile.

"How long are you going to be gone?" André asks, his hand finding its way onto her shoulder awkwardly.

"Until they decide that they've fixed me!" she replies, and while her tone is bright, the sarcasm of her words beats down onto everyone.

"They don't need to fix you," Jade steps in, wearing a leather jacket, makeup piled upon her face. "They just want to improve upon what's already there. At least, in their foolish opinions." She folds her arms across her chest, looking angrier than ever, and steps as far as away from Beck as humanly possible in Cat's tiny room, close to André. Cat has her own ideas about what has happened, but in order to save herself, she doesn't voice it.

"I need to pack!" she voices, trying to keep her voice cheery but utterly failing. Turning, she shoves a handful of t-shirts into her suitcase, but she turns around, they're all still there. "I need to pack, guys! You can all go home, if you want to."

"I don't want to go home," Robbie looks depressed. "I can help you, if you'd like."

They all voice similar versions of Robbie's plea. As she looks around, from determined face to determined face, she wonders if this is true friendship, and if it is, why she hadn't seen it a long time ago.

They help her pack things and stare at her room, as if they aren't going to be seeing her for a very long time. It looks empty, though she's only removed a few of her things. Zipping her suitcase, she sighs. "I suppose that's everything."

"I'm going to miss you," André mutters, running a hand through his hair, and then he gives her one of his infamous bear-hugs. One by one, they all step up to do the same, tell her how they'll miss her and then give her a hug before they leave the room, casting one last glance back at her.

Beck is the last, and she expects that. As he walks up, he stares at her, placing his hands on her bony shoulders. "I… do you still hate me?"

Yes, she wants to say. Yes, yes, yes. But the bile rising up in the back of her throat knows what she wants to say- no, she doesn't hate him. She's still Caterina Valentine somewhere deep down there, and Cat hates nobody. Finally, she just stares at him out of unfathomable eyes. "I never did. But you screwed me over, Beck Oliver." Her words come out as something like a whisper, and she stares at the ground. "You hurt me. You're always trying to play the hero, you idiot, and you don't realize that sometimes people don't need saving."

Then he's staring at her with those eyes that never fail to make her melt, and before she knows it, they're kissing. She doesn't know who initiated it or who breaks apart first, all she knows is that for a fraction of a second he's the only person in the world who matters.

Then it's over in a flash, and Cat and Beck fades away into the background as she stares at him, her breath coming hard and fast now.

"I broke up with Jade," he says conversationally, in that way that one would talk to a friend at a coffee shop.

"Nice to know," she replies with a smile.

"I'm going to miss you," he tells her, reaching down to kiss the top of her head.

Then he pulls away with a soft smile, and all she can see is him as he walks out of her room.

Whether it's the beginning of one of her less dysfunctional relationships or the middle of his hero stage, she doesn't actually know.

.

The hospital helps her in ways she never expected it would. The doctors don't treat her like a crazy person, as someone on the verge of suicide, but as another patient in their hospital.

She makes a friend named Deanna, a tiny girl who the doctors inform her had anorexia as well. While Deanna's wrists are not scarred, it is clear that she is scarred within her, maybe deeper than Cat ever was. They talk about life and obsession.

Sometimes, Cat thinks that Deanna is one of her only comforts in the storm.

But then, the doctors deliver her a letter. From the hearts on the front, they assume it's a love letter. Secretly, she assumes the same.

For once, she is actually right.

Dear Cat, it reads.

I hope this letter reaches you all right. I didn't know how to address it or anything, whoops.

Just letting you know that we all miss you (I miss you more than they do, just so you know and everything). The creepy doctors told us that you're improving greatly and I think that's awesome and all. I can't wait till you get out, though. We'll have to go bowling sometime or some crap like that. You know you want to.

And also, I think I might love you. Only don't tell anyone, cause I'm still thinking it over and all. (Oh, and don't worry about Jade- she's all happy with André or whatever.)

Not just because you starve yourself or whatever. Just thinking about it all made me consider and agh, I'm just really sorry for screwing you over. I shouldn't have; I was stupid. I probably still am. I hope you can think about forgiving me.

At the bottom, he's crossed out: and maybe making out with me again

And below that, he's scrawled, love, Beck.

It's not the most romantic of letters, but it's so Beck that it puts a small smile upon her face.

She doesn't know how to respond, so she tucks it into her dresser drawer and saves it for later. But all that runs through her head is that she might love him as well, and since he's screwed her over so any times, that sort of scares her. But oh well, he's apologized so she might as well let it all go, right?

She hopes so, at least.

.

It's raining when he comes to visit her.

They tell her that she's been doing well, so she can have a visitor. She almost bounces with excitement when she sees his face, and as he kisses her, she almost forgets where she is.

Maybe it's not the end of her problems, but it's definitely the beginning of the end.

And maybe she's not perfect, and she's certainly not perfect with him. But he makes her feel like she's on top of the world and darling, who is she to deny that?

.

A/N: This is officially my darkest fic ever.

There are no words for how nervous I am about publishing this. I mean, it's just scary to even think about. I've struggled with some of the things involved, though I've never gone this far… I just don't even know. This was hard to write and probably harder to publish, but I'm going to suck it up and do it anyway.

I'd just like to publish this as a way to reach out, to tell people that are struggling with such disorders that I love them and stuff. Even if I don't know this.

Thanks loads to Ella (EllaBethh) for looking this over for me.

Please review and don't favorite without reviewing. Thank you!