Beck doesn't really know why he likes Cat Valentine.

It's not like they've ever had an actual conversation with words and intelligence and mutual agreement, no. Their conversations are more or less of Cat babbling animatedly about the latest teddy bear shaped purse or some new brand of cupcake or some bacon flavored lip gloss some freshman Mike had given to her (he had briefly wondered why she was carrying around a cast iron skillet full of bacon grease, but it was Cat) or showing off some weird necklace alarm or bracelet alarm or earring alarm or waterbottle alarm (the last one hadn't been funny; she had stored lemonade in there with a sugar percentage level of about one thousand percent and he went around the rest of the school day followed by a swarm of flies, mosquitoes, and Cat) and some days they don't even talk because she's laughing or singing or bouncing around on moon shoes (he found out that she was taking gym) and usually she's leaping about like some magical meadow fairy or whatever so if he wanted to talk to her, he would have to actually exert physical energy in the mornings, afternoons, and school days.

But he likes her. There is something about Cat Valentine and her bright velvet hair and her sparkling eyes and shortness that makes him want to hold her hand or kiss her cheek or generally be the type of gushy person Jade would cut up, verbally, physically, and mentally. He doesn't always feel like that, like that sugarplum and gumdrop-esque type of mood but if he's around her for more than an hour he realizes that yes, if people were fairies at Hollywood Arts he would be the Head King fairy master or whatever Cat had told him that one rainy afternoon at their lunch table after she had spilled her lime green slushie all over Jade's new pants and he had to grab the scissors out of Jade's hand before they reached Cat's hair. Well, actually she had told him that in the nurse's office where he was holding up about a ton of gauze and cotton balls to his bleeding hand. She had been slurping away at a new slushie (cherry red) he had bought her while they were walking to the nurse's office, and after the nurse had gone back to eating her burrito she suddenly took the straw out of her mouth and blurted those words.

But that's a story reserved for a later time.

Anyway, that's Cat. Cat Valentine, the hyperactive giggly little girl that everyone either adores or puts up with.

He remembers the first time he saw her literally upset. It had been after his AP Chemistry test and his head had been spinning around with orbitals and reducers and that stupid depressing song about morphine. He had rounded the corner and suddenly realized that someone small, shaking, and very wet was clinging to his midsection.

"B-B-Beck!" she burrowed her face into his chest. "I'm s-s-s-so COLD!"

He felt her small arms enclose around his waist, her cold, shivering body enclosing the space between them.

"Aw, what happened? Did you have to walk to school?" he asked, ignoring the wetness seeping through his clothes.

"Y-yeah, b-because my d-dad, m-m-my d-d-dad he had to w-work on this really really hard building p-project and my mom had to take my b-brother t-t-to see his doctor and I d-d-didn't set my alarm and then I forgot my chemistry book b-but the house was locked so I walked all the way b-b-back!"

She ended her muffled speech with a tighter hug around his body, water dripping down from her hair to the floor.

Then she burst out crying.

"Cat?" Letting his books fall to the ground, he tentatively put his arms around her. "Are you okay? What's wrong?"

She didn't respond, but continued crying, shaking her head repeatedly.

After what felt like two AP Chemistry tests later, she unlatched herself from him and sniffled, rubbing her face with her sleeves.

"Do you want to…um, talk about it?" he asked awkwardly, trying to wring out his shirt.

She brightened a little.

"…With Tori?" he finished hastily, gathering his books from the floor. Her face fell, but she nodded. While he was trying to find something mildly comforting to tell her, she looked at him for a split second, searching his face, and took off towards Seikowitz's room. He stood there, trying to process what had happened when the bell rang, startling him out of his confused thoughts and into Calculus.

Anyway. That had been the only time he had seen her upset. Afterwards when the group was all sitting on the staircase eating lunch (it was raining and Jade hated the "moist way she felt") Cat had been bubbly once more. She sat in between Beck and Tori, chatting happily about tie dying rabbits for an upcoming Easter inspired skit while Tori and Beck exchanged a weird eyebrow conversation (he got lost after she wiggled her eyebrows like an inchworm) about Cat's seemingly bipolar behavior.

After all of those confusing shenanigans, Beck realizes that this brings him up to today. The week before Christmas Break.

As he walks to his locker, Beck thinks about his friends. Beck doesn't really know why he likes Cat. They haven't had deep, meaningful conversations about life or life after high school, but he knows that Cat's his friend in some weird way.

"Hi, Becky!" she chirps cheerfully from her locker, shutting it deftly before the cotton candy spills out. She skips happily towards him as he sets his books down into his locker. "What's up in the high blue sky, tee hee!"

"Nothing much." He's pretty much resigned about his new name of the year. It used to be his name only on Wednesdays and holidays before Tori, Andre, and Jade (especially Jade) told Cat that his secret name was Becky.

"Okay, that's good because I have something really big to give to you! It's really fancy and big and important and most of all, fun!"

Ignoring his inner doubts, he smiles at her. "Really? What is it?"

"A…" she giggles as she unzips her backpack and unfurls it with a flourish. "A talking penguin!" she laughs loudly. "A talking penguin! Can you believe it?"

He stares at the penguin. It's a bright, lurid shade of pink with bright green sunglasses and a stupidly joyous expression on its face. "It's…"

She squeezes the penguin's stomach and familiar voices begin to rap about…well, Beck can't exactly make out the words but he finds himself grinning like a maniac.

"Great! I knew you'd absolutely LOVE it!" she squeals, pressing the penguin into his hands. "Now, I gotta go scat! Hee hee, scat." She zips down the hallway, humming a tune suspiciously like the Meow Mix jingle. "Oh, by the way, Merry ChristmaHannuKwanzika Becky!" she calls over her shoulder, knocking over Mike the freshman and his tray of bacon.

Beck grins.

He squeezes the stomach once more.

"Ay, yo, yo! Allllll you party people out there in the hizzle tonight, Ima tell you all about what happened when Joseph 'n Mary did something quite all right, they gave birth to a baby, a beautiful baby and his name was-OW! HEY, JADE! BRING REX BACK! NO! DON'T PUT HIM IN THE-! …And you put him our spaghetti sauce."

"Aw, Jade, c'mon!"

"Shut up, Tori!"

"That was our dinner!"

"Well tough noodles! Blame it on weirdo McFrizz head over here for coming up with this stupid birthday present!"

"Hey, I think it's a splendid idea! Right guys?"


"You guys are supposed to say, 'Oh yes, Mr. R-Dizzle, this was the best idea ever!' Plus nobody else thought of anything!"

"Well, actually…"

"Aw, c'mon! Don't tell me you guys went shopping and bought him something totally unhip or something!"

"Robbie. It was for the best."

"Andre, my man! Why?"

"It's because you don't know anything about being cool!"

"Well! Well, I never!"

"Don't tell me this comes as a surprise to you."


"Hey, Beck. This is Tori."

"And Cat!"

"Yes. And Cat. Right now Rex and the rest of us were supposed to be rapping about the birth of Jesus and how Jesus turned out to be you or something, but I think we'll just tell you that your gift is in the back pocket of the penguin."

"It's in the zippered back pocket! I thought of the present! With Tori and Jade and everyone else, too."

"Yes, Cat came up with it. And the pocket is zippered. Anyway, Merry Christmas!"

"Yeah, Merry ChristmaHannuKwanzika Becky!"

Beck turns the penguin around and spots the zippered back pocket. As he unzips the pocket, he thinks of Cat and how silly she can be. As he gets out the wrapped gift box, he thinks about Cat and how weird she can be.

When he unwraps the gift, he thinks about Cat clinging to him like he was her only hope. He thinks about Jade, Andre, Robbie, and Tori's sad attempts at rapping. He thinks about lime green slushies and chocolate cupcakes and scissors.

As he stares at the furry frame surrounding the picture of his friends dressed as Beck clones, he laughs and thinks about being the Head King Fairy Master of Hollywood Arts.