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People don't realize that before they were BeckJadeAndreRobbieToriCat, they were BeckJadeAndreCatRobbie. And before that, they were Beck the cool kid. Jade, the sexy outcast with black looks and a blacker tongue. Andre the singer. Robbie the fool.
Then, Cat Valentine stumbled into Hollywood Arts.
No one really understood what to make of the too-bright, scarlet-haired Cat. More importantly, no one knew why she was at Hollywood Arts.
Obviously, the girl could sing, but they'd all had friends who could sing as well, and besides her big voice, Cat didn't seem to be all that special. She couldn't dance, she broke character easily, and she had no instrumental background. So, Hollywood Arts ignored her.
Cat, however was never one to sit alone. Soon, she was bouncing to any table that would accept her.
Jade told her she was an untalented idiot, Cat smiled, (it's ok because I'm not afraid of you) and they became Cat and Jade.
Andre offered to help her out with her music, Cat smiled, (I see you behind the talent) and they became Cat and Andre.
Beck gave her his jacket after some jealous seniors poured drinks on her, Cat thanked him, (you stand out despite acting like them) and they became Cat and Beck.
A red-headed focal point of three stars.
She introduces her friends to each other—Jade and Beck first, because she loves Beck and Jade's her very bestest friend. It's hate at first sight but after a day of insults they're making out and Cat is happy because now they're JadeCatBeck.
She notices that Andre doesn't really have a place to sit soon after that—he's always at the piano or practicing the drums or writing music or something. Cat assumes with everyone else that he's just dedicated, until she one day she realizes that all that alone-time can get lonely.
Jade doesn't like it, but Jade doesn't like anyone that's not Cat and Beck so Cat invites him to sit down anyway. Andre's funny and he and Beck hit it off and after Jade stops snarking about him taking up her precious space they become AndreCatJadeBeck.
At that point Hollywood Arts is taking notice, and she doesn't like this new group. Beck is crushed on, Andre is admired, and even Jade's Ice Queen persona generates respect—but Cat Valentine joining this illustrious group? No-talent, hyperactive, unprofessional Cat who refuses to get shoved into a group like everyone else?
It couldn't be allowed to happen.
Jade is the first to notice something's up, that Cat's clothes always seem to change, that she starts sporting bruises in strange places and that her smile, though undimmed, wasn't quite as vocal as before. She doesn't do anything—she's Jade West, for heaven's sake, she doesn't do caring—until Cat shows up to school one day with half of her hair chopped off.
Andre and Beck are all for beating up the culprit until they find out that it's Sabriana Malev, who is beautiful and popular and most of all female. Jade's all for kicking her skinny ass and then turning on the boys for being wimps but Cat finds out what they're planning and makes them promise not to do anything mean.
Or potentially harming.
Jade yells at her about letting everyone else push her around but Cat doesn't back down. She talks about rainbows and unicorn and sparkling lands, and eventually Jade stops screaming about Sabriana and starts snapping at her to quit being such a baby.
Still, after every period Cat finds that either Andre or Beck or a scowling Jade is there to walk her to her next class.
She meets Robbie when he spots her furiously scrubbing at the black words streaking across her locker. Rex comments that she's a wasting her time but Robbie grabs a towel and tries to help. He ends up spilling the soap-water and Cat squeals but instead of turning on him she beams and asks him if he'd mind getting more.
They're laughing and scrubbing and Robbie is having the best thirty minutes of his life when the bell rings and Jade West storms over to find out why Cat never showed up for Band. She growls at the faded words—still legible, despite their best efforts, large blocked, You Don't Belong Here and Go Home and Untalented.
Robbie nearly wets his pants when the Jade West turns on him like he was the culprit but Cat links arms with her best friend and invites him to sit with them at lunch. Robbie isn't suave or cool or particularly charming, but Rex is all that and after the boys get over the "puppet thing," they become AndreJadeCatBeckRobbie.
Cat's never been happier.
The taunts, pranks, and bullying stop after Cat's birthday. Andre buys her a cake, Beck gives her a bracelet, Robbie tries to sing and Jade hugs her. Cat almost starts crying because it's the closest anyone has come to throwing her a party and she's so happy.
"Andre, you got the number wrong," she giggles, and pulls out a candle. "There!"
There's a silence. Jade clears her throat. "So, you just turned thirteen?"
Cat's head bops up and down, but she's not really paying attention to anything except the ginormous chocolate cake and the bright candles that light it up.
"But it's like, June." Rex is clearly disbelieving and Cat shoots the puppet a hurt look.
"I'm a prodigy."
It's so simply put, and yet those three words give Cat a place in Hollywood Arts. Suddenly, her childish naivety is accepted, her immaturity made allowances for, her overfriendliness smiled at instead of scorned.
They're AndreBeckCatJadeRobbie, and Cat's happy.
Tori Vega arrives in stars and talent and nearly shatters them. Suddenly JadeandBeck is in danger and Cat cries at the way she's pulled so thin that she's afraid of snapping. She loves Tori, who's funny and friendly and beautiful, but Jade is her best friend. She can feel her heart splitting as the days go by.
Somehow, they manage to survive.
JadeandBeck stay together, and Cat smiles because that's how it was always meant to be—but then she meets Danny, who's handsome and funny and Tori's ex-boyfriend.
Her heart soars when Tori tells her she's ok with them dating, and breaks when she catches Danny, (her Danny), kissing Tori.
A small piece of her begins to die then, because even after she sees the truth in Tori's apology, she never sees the same apology in Danny. They break up, and he tells her that she's just too young, too childish, too Cat.
It's the first time she's truly wanted to be different.
"Why do boys treat me differently? Am I weird?"
Jade doesn't even glance up from her magazine. If she did, she might see the intensity hid beneath the deceptively calm question. She might have reconsidered her blunt, almost too-honest answer. She might have realized what Cat was truly asking.
But Jade didn't look up, and her brusque "yes" took less time than Cat had to truly understand its impact.
When the normally perky girl doesn't answer, Jade finally looks up with a frown. "You're weird because you're Cat. People who treat you like shit do it because you ask stupid questions and laugh randomly. You're a freaking kid." She means to be kind, to assure Cat that despite this, she's loved, but it's too late.
Another piece of Cat died when Jade said "yes."
"Andre, am I a kid?"
"Hell, yeah, Little Red." Andre shoots Cat a grin before ruffling her hair, "You're tiny. I don't know how you manage to squeeze that voice into you."
Cat's smile didn't meet her eyes. Andre would never pat Jade's head, or Tori's—not like the way he was touching her. Still, he was Andre and he knew almost everything. She swallowed. "Am I pretty?"
There's no awkward silence, no blushing, no stammers or questions of why she's asking. Andre merely smiles and returns to his music. "Course you are, Cat. You're the cutest thing I've ever seen—and that includes the time my grandma's kitten got stuck in her shoe."
Cat makes a noise in her throat, but when Andre glances up, she's squealing over some random thing on the wall. He chuckles and goes back to composing, unaware that not two feet in front of him, Cat is fighting back tears.
You could have just said "no."
"Beck, I want to sign up for the new musical. Can you help me practice?"
He looks surprised, (Cat never competed with JadeandTori). "Are you trying out for the lead?"
Beck notices something in the way Cat's bangs are shading her eyes, the way she's standing—like a wounded bird not sure if she can still fly—and pauses. "Cat?"
Her head comes up and it's the same old, perky, hyper Cat who beams at him. "Just kidding! Jade should play Steamboat Suzy, or Tori!"
He doesn't reply, even though Cat wantsneedshopes he will.
Why aren't you telling me I could be just as good?
Robbie strikes the final blow.
Ironically, she didn't ask him anything. They had study hall together, and their teacher went on a long rampage on how each of them should be working harder on perfecting their skills. "After all," she said, "You all want to get into the Gold Classes senior year, don't you?"
Cat smiles at Robbie, who's furiously scribbling down notes. "I can't wait until we're all there. I heard the classes are amazing—"
The look on his face stops her cold. Robbie glances awkwardly at her. "Uh, Cat?"
"What?" Why are you staring at me?
"You know you have to audition, right? The tests are actually kind of hard."
She blinks. "How do you know?" Why didn't anyone tell me?
"Silkowitz had a class on how to prepare your portfolio." He hesitated, "I guess your invite got lost in the mail or something."
Yeah, or something.
The last day of their junior year is beautiful. School lets out early and tears flow as friends part ways. Jade and Beck promise to keep in touch and then sneak away to make out behind the flagpole. Tori, Andre, and Robbie laugh and talk about senior year.
Cat laughs with them, running off on random tangents, twirling like a fairy princess.
There's a brochure in her pocket with the name of the most difficult training camp she could find. A train ticket to Nevada.
She holds on to Cat until the last moment, when she gets off the train at Musical Boot Camp and her cabin leader orders her to wash the dye out of her hair or cut it all off.
She cuts it all off.
The red fans like blood and ribbons on the wooden floor.
They're perfect the summer of their junior year—Prince Beck with the Jade the Ice Queen, talented Andre, funny Robbie, and sparkling, star Tori Vega. And then there's Cat, who goes away that summer and disappears forever, leaving only Caterina behind.
Author's Note: Will probably not be a one-shot.