Disclaimer: I do not own, although it would be pretty awesome to. Of course, if I did...some episodes would be re-edited...
A/N: Honestly, I have no idea where this came from. I didn't even know it was going to be Jori until about halfway through. I don't know where my head's been at all lately, but I suspect algebra and a very inspiring someone had something to do with it.
I can't think.
Smoke clogs my thoughts, making me dizzy. There are a dozen people here, maybe one or two more or less and there's some depressing song on the radio, one that's been stuck in my head for months. My eyes are locked on the drink in front of me, my fingers barely touching the cold glass, and I'm fine. No, that's a lie. If I were fine, I wouldn't be sitting here drowning myself in liquid sorrow, unable to think about a damn thing.
I'm not fine.
But that's alright, I'm used to it. This is all familiar, sitting here night after night, surrounded by alcoholics and kids who are losing their innocence to being twenty-one. I remember being there, without a worry about anything except maybe school, but that didn't last long. Hell, I didn't even think I'd make it that far, to my twenty-first birthday, let alone my twenty-second, but I did. I thought I was out of the woods, out of danger of being a major criminal because I had someone who cared. I was on top of the world.
Those days are gone.
I sigh, taking a sip of my drink. It's been two months and two weeks, seventy days. I still remember the door slamming, the glass breaking, and the objects flying…Nothing can make me forget any of that. And honestly, I don't think I deserve to forget. I fucked my life up as well as those close to me, and I can't take any of it back. I've had my share of hooking up in the bar bathroom, nearly every night since I came here. And they all had something in common…I was constantly reminded of the mistake I made, what I destroyed.
It's my fault.
People are leaving, and I glance at the clock for the first time since I've been here. The bar's closing in fifteen minutes. I'm not drunk, I'm not going to stumble out of here like the rest, and I never have. The bartender asked me once why I stay there for so long if I'm only going to drink two drinks over the course of five hours. I have a job. I work for twelve hours a day and spend my free time in a fucking bar. I'm rarely home.
What a life.
I walk two blocks to my apartment complex and push the elevator button to go up. As the doors close, I notice a girl running in my direction, hurrying to catch the lift before it heads up. I recognize her from the bar; she'd been sitting two stools to my right, drinking vodka. I lean forward and catch the door, forcing it to jump open and give her enough room to step into the elevator. The smell of smoke and alcohol is evident, and I know if she isn't drunk, she's almost there. I lean back against the elevator wall and examine the girl. She's familiar, close to the ghost of my memories, but it isn't her. She's just someone else.
She doesn't say no.
When the doors open, I leave her against the elevator wall, breathing heavy and flushed, as I head down the hall to my apartment. She isn't the first I've fucked in an elevator, among others who meant nothing. There's only one that ever meant anything to me…and I ruined her. Isn't that what I wanted though? To ruin her, to embarrass her in front of everyone…That's what I had wanted.
Until it meant something.
It's five in the morning when I leave the bathroom, the last three hours spent staring at the white tile of my shower walls. My mind is foggy, as if smoke had become trapped in my brain, and I don't think as I head for my bedroom down the hall. A knock on the apartment door stops me dead in my tracks and I wonder who could be here so late…or early, since people begin to wake up around this time. Half of my brain hopes it isn't the girl from the elevator, and the other half is yelling at me for even taking advantage of the girl.
She doesn't matter.
The knocking is louder, and I have a feeling that whoever it is isn't going away until I answer the door. I glance toward the other end of the hall, longing for my bed, before I reluctantly cross the living room to the door. My hand is heavy on the doorknob when I turn it, mostly against my will, and I pull the door open slowly. There's no reason for her to be here, when she should never have known where I was in the first place, but there's no mistake of darkened red hair and brown eyes full of conflict.
It's too late.
Before I have a chance to close the door in her face and go to bed, she pushes me out of the way and moves through my apartment, every room while I close the door, and she sits on the couch as if she's invited here. But she wasn't. I don't even know why she's here; she already has what was once mine, and I have nothing to say about it. I messed up… "Do you know how hard it was for me to find you?" Her arms are crossed, and she's become cold. "You're like a fucking ghost."
"Maybe I didn't want to be found. Everyone's better off if I disappeared, especially her." I drop into my recliner next to the couch. "Look, I had to leave. She told me she never wanted to see me again. So I left." I look at her. "Why does it even matter? Why are you here?"
Nothing's going to change.
She frowns. "I'm here for Tori." Of course she would send Cat to find me. She doesn't want to face me herself because there's the chance that…Honestly, I don't know. I wouldn't know what to do if I saw her again, considering I'm the one who screwed up. I would have no right to yell at her, or hit her, or even kiss her. I lost that when I made my decision to do something stupid. Cat sighs. "She didn't ask me to come here, Jade. She doesn't even know I'm here."
"If she doesn't know you're here and didn't send you, then how are you here for her? I'm sure she's doing absolutely fine now that I'm out of her life, Cat. God only knows how sorry I am for what I did, but I can't take it back. She should hate me. I can't deny that. So please. Just go away and leave me alone and don't remind me how much I've fucked up. I already know." But my heart wants to know how she is and if she really is fine because I'm not. I need to know that she's living her life and not killing herself like I am.
Everyone would be better off.
Cat shook her head. "She's not fine. She puts on this fucking act, but I can see right through it and I'm sure everyone else can too. She's absolutely miserable, and it has nothing to do with what you did to her. Everyone's forgotten about that and she's moved on from it. No, what hurts her is you. You're not fucking there with her and it's like she's not even there anymore." She frowns. "I…I've tried to make her happy." I stare at her. She was with Tori after I left…probably still is with her. "It's been two and a half months, Jade. Please come back before she does something reckless, and we'll both regret it."
What do I do?
Cat loves her. I've always known that, and yet I jumped the fence and got to Tori before Cat could. But I noticed Cat backed off after the first year of Tori being mine, and she even seemed happy. Tori and I were happy. And then I had to go and fucking humiliate her in front of the entire school when she found out I was fucking Beck behind her back. Beck thought Tori and I had broken up. He hasn't spoken to me since. I never talked to Andre or Robbie after I left either. I didn't want to be found. I moved to another state even. It's not important where.
I couldn't be near her.
"I have to be at work in less than four hours, which I'll be doing with no sleep at this rate…I can't just leave." She stands and disappears down the hall to my bedroom, returning in minutes with my cell phone in her hand. She's known me for years, knows where I keep things even though she's never been here before. She familiarized herself with the apartment in the first three minutes after she stepped foot in my apartment.
Why did she pick me?
I call work and tell them I'm unable to show up. I have the week off, seven days to either fix something or close it forever. And this is something I absolutely can't fuck up now. I'm dressed and packed with a single bag, taking long enough for Cat to become impatient and drag me downstairs to her car in the parking lot. She's going to keep an eye on me and make sure that I don't disappear this time, and I feel like a prisoner being sentenced to death…Walking down death row to my death never felt more relevant.
Enjoy the silence before the Hell.
It takes two days to reach Los Angeles, only with Cat driving, and we stopped only once to sleep. I can't help but admire Cat's house when she pulls into the driveway, and I realize that Tori must be here too. If they were together…If they are together…They would be living together, regardless. Tori never wanted to live alone.
She doesn't want me here.
I follow Cat inside and take note of how normal the inside of the house looks, considering Cat's personality. Then again, she's been mature this entire trip…No one would ever know what she was like in high school at this point. "Tori! Tori, I'm back," she calls up the stairs, but there's no noise, no sound at all. And now I'm afraid that we're too late to stop her from doing something that would hurt us both. Fortunately, footsteps are loud on the stairs and the half-Latina girl appears on the landing, her eyes trained on me like a Doberman.
My heart stops.
The room has become ice, frozen still and tense with such a fog that could be cut with a knife. This isn't going to end well. I may as well turn around and find my way home, far away from her, but I can't. I'm rooted to the spot, and she isn't moving. Cat nudges me forward, but I can't do it. I'd sooner fall over dead than let Tori know how weak I am right now, and I'm scared that she can see it. I know she can. And that's the worst part. "Why are you here, Jade?"
So it begins.
I glance at Cat, who's backing out of the room, and she only shakes her head. She's going to leave us alone and one of us will end up murdered and stuffed under the stairs like dirt under a rug. That is…If she doesn't roll me in the rug first. I'm planning her murder of me…I really must be messed up. I shrug, ready to fight to the death. "Cat brought me here. She…She said I needed to be here, that you were…"
I can't even finish.
"I'm fine without you, Jade. Whatever Cat said is a damned lie, and I've never been happier." And it's the worst lie I've ever heard, taking note of the dried tearstains on her cheeks, that undeniable empty sorrow in her eyes. She's absolutely miserable, and if she thinks she can fool anyone, she's a horrible actress. "I told you I never wanted to see you again. Why would you ever come back?" And I know she's not going to let me apologize. I don't even open my mouth to speak. "You know something, Jade?" I can't take this anymore. I can't look at her. I can't listen to her voice. I just…I can't.
I have to leave.
"Look, I'm sorry I ever came here. It's not like I had a choice, alright? I know you don't want me here, and I'm fucking sorry that I…I'm sorry I did what I did. You didn't deserve that, and Beck didn't either, and I'm sorry. I fucked up more than anything, and I know it already. I'm tired of being reminded about that. I made the biggest mistake of my life, hurting you like I did, and I wish I could take it back, but I can't. So please…if you just…Don't say anything. I'm leaving. I'll disappear, just like you want me to."
I'll just disappear, like I did before.
"That isn't fair, Jade." It's almost a whisper, but I still hear it clearly. "It's not fair. You can't apologize and say you'll disappear." She's close to tears, I can see them in her eyes. I don't understand her, not completely. Five years, and it's still like trying to read an encyclopedia of medical terms. "This isn't how it's supposed to be. You're not supposed to…"
I'm tired of trying. I've never been good with words, especially with her. So I'm going to do this the only way I know how to. I cross the foyer and climb the steps wordlessly, cupping her face and kissing her with every ounce of emotion I kept hidden for two and a half months, seventy painful days. And I don't care if she's with Cat or not. Cat wouldn't have brought me here if she didn't want me to be with Tori...She loves Tori and she's giving me this chance to fix things. I don't even know how long we've been standing here but she isn't pushing me away, and she's not yelling at me to go away. That has to be a good thing, right?
Make it stop hurting.
I finally do pull away, though. She's crying, and I don't know what to say to her now because I've probably just messed up everything, and there won't be any way to fix it. And I can't do this to her. I can't pretend that nothing happened, that we're perfectly fine. But I can't walk away. I can't walk away from her and do the right thing by staying out of her life. That would kill me. But the look she's giving me…it's too late. I let go of her and take a step back. "I…I love you, Tori…"
Run away and never return.
But I can't move. I'm stuck in this never ending silence, and I can't escape. It's time to face my end. She doesn't slap me. No…she fucking punches me. Okay, so I deserve it, but fuck…the girl's got an arm. "You're so fucking stupid sometimes, Jade." And? She kisses me. I'm so confused at this point I may as well have been hit across the face with a medical encyclopedia… "Why couldn't you have just stayed away?"
I tried to.
"I didn't want to come here, Tori. Cat brought me here. I told you that." She wants me to leave. She wants me to…Wait…she doesn't want me to disappear. Does she? "Whatever you want me to do, Tori…I'll do it. Even if it means that you never want to see me again, I'll leave and you can be happy." Yeah, tell her that. What am I, a moron?
Yeah…I'm a moron.
"You should." She's going to throw five years of our lives away. "You should leave because it's what's best for both of us." She wants me to go away. "But I…I can't take it anymore." What? "I tried living without you, Jade, and it's almost killed me." What the hell does she want from me? "I can't be with you." Confused. "I'm with Cat. I…I love Cat." That's a damn lie. "I'm sorry."
There's about a dozen people in this bar. The smoke is heavy, and the smell of alcohol is strong, but I'm used to it. I leave an hour before the bar closes, walking home to my apartment alone. I've spent the past four hours thinking about my life and what I've done with it, and I honestly can't think of one good thing I've ever done, except that I left Los Angeles. I take the elevator up to my floor, enjoying the silence, and I wonder what Tori's doing now.
I unlock the door to my apartment and slip inside silently, locking the door behind me. Three hours pass before I step out of the shower and head down the hall to my bedroom. There's no knock on the door this time, no Cat to drive me for two days to a city I didn't even want to return to, but that's all over now. Tori said goodbye, and I'm just going to have to accept that. I slip between the sheets and roll toward the bigger half of my bed. Wrapping my arms around the girl in my bed, I pull her to me and kiss her forehead. "I love you, Tori."
She said goodbye, but it wasn't to me.