warning: dark material, character death, angst.

It is dark.

The redundant pounding of his heart is the only noise that he hears, pounding and pounding and never ceasing, and he hates it with all of his being. He pinches the bridge of his nose, feeling the pain that slices through his body, and he smiles, because this pain is good. This pain is better than the sadness that sears through his veins, dominates his very being at the moment.

The door opens, and he jerks his head up at once, dread filling him. Frowning, he waits for the words to come out of the doctor's mouth. Please, he pleads, lifting his dark eyes to the black-dotted ceiling. Please, just let her be okay.

The doctor speaks at last, dark words that run together and overflow with sadness, but all he hears are the important parts. "AIDS," they say. "She doesn't have much time left," they say.

His eyes darken, fill with tears, but he doesn't allow himself to cry. He's a strong guy, a good guy, a tough guy, not a weak boy, and he will survive this (even if she won't).

They tell him that he is not allowed to see her just yet. He pictures her, the abnormally strong girl confined to a small, hard hospital bed, sheathed in one of those foreboding hospital gowns. Still, he does not cry. He nods, informs them that he will be back tomorrow, and goes home.

The RV is empty without her. It is as if the inanimate living space knows that she is not there and misses her, nearly as much as he does. Instead of sleeping, he merely tosses and turns, sweat coating every inch of his being. He dreams of the hospital, of that horrible day when they will come to him and tell him that his reason for existing is de– gone. He still cannot so much as bring himself to think the word.

He goes to school the next day despite his reservations, and it is every bit as hard as he had expected. Everywhere he goes, people stare at him with sympathy in their eyes, though he does not want their sympathies. People come up to him, pat him on the back, tell him that they're here for him, but they do not do anything to help her, and if they really, truly cared about him, they would be doing something to help her instead of showering him in false sympathy.

"I'm sorry, man," André tells him, patting him on the back.

"Don't be," he replies, shrugging Andre's hand off his back. "I don't need sympathy. She does. If you really cared about her, about me, you'd be helping out with the cause instead of just telling me you're sorry."

Then he storms off, feeling like a small, petulant child instead of a senior in high school, but he hopes that he somehow got the point across.

Cat comes and sits across from him at lunch, her smile bright as always, and he has to admit that it's a bit of a solace to him because it's so normal and maybe he needs normal right now. "I want to help," she says. "I'll do whatever it takes–"

And he believes her.

He comes back to the hospital, only to be informed that he'll have to wait yet another day to see her. She's in testing, they are sure to tell him; they want to see how long she has left. He doesn't like the way that they phrase it, as if they are completely sure that she hasn't got long left, as if he could wake up one day to have his universe strewn completely out of order and see the light at the end of the tunnel fading away.

Instead of yelling at them like he would like to, he simply nods his head, turning on his heel and walking away. The hospital smells of death. It smells of blood and sickness and sweat and tears, all the smells he would quite like to forget but he has a feeling he will be smelling all the more as time progresses.

Then he hears the sound of a cart rolling down the corridor. He squeezes his eyes shut, unwilling to see who it is, but he can't resist and he ends up opening them just a bit, and it's just the person he had hoped to avoid.

He reaches out a hand, suddenly finding that his once too-long arms are now not quite long enough, and whispers her name – "Jade. Jade. Jade." She doesn't so much as stir, but he swears that he sees the corners of her normally solemn mouth quiver up into a smile.

"She's sleeping," one of the doctors tells him, wearing one of those smiles that adults usually do when they reminisce about their first loves. "Come back tomorrow. We're going to release her then."

Release. The positive connotations of the word fill him with something that he hasn't felt in quite a while, something that has become so foreign to him that it fills him to bursting now. Hope. He hopes. He hopes that soon this nightmare will be over.


He skips school the next time, opting to go see his possibly dying girlfriend instead of sitting through hours of boring classes that won't matter in the end anyway. The doctors have become so accustomed to seeing him there that they let him through, no questions asked. He rushes to her bedside and sees her beautiful face for the first time in weeks.

She is too thin, he thinks, so fragile that if he touches a finger to her he imagines she might break. Weakly, she pushes herself up and gives him a small, thin smile. "Beck. You came."

"Nice to see how much faith you have in me," he laughs, pressing a small kiss to the top of her head. "Of course I came. I'm not an idiot."

"Debatable," she retorts, smacking his arm lightly, too lightly. It feels just like a feather brushing past his strong arm, and he can't help but think that if it hadn't been for this then she would have surely left a bruise. It's sad how much he misses that. He hates it; he hates that she's lost her unimaginable strength. She continues, obviously unaware of his train of thought. "They're finally letting me out of this fiery pit of torture!"

"Jade," he reprimands her, and it hits him then how much he has missed her, how much he will miss her if she... leaves. It has become scary how much seeing her brightens his day, how much his life centers around her, and how boring life will become if she is gone. The days will fade to weeks, the weeks to months, each of them so mundane and tedious that he won't be able to see a way out.

Instead of taking her straight home like he'd promised, he takes her to his RV first (on her suggestion, of course). The RV seems to brighten up as soon as she arrives, despite the fact that she has herself and everyone else convinced that she only nullifies the light. She glances around, eyes brighter than he has ever seen them, and then she sits down slowly on his bed.

"I missed you," he tells her at last, the three words that should be obvious but the ones she needs to hear nonetheless. "It's been strange without you, to say the least."

"Bet Vega's glad for the time off," she mutters into his pillow, her voice cracking in odd places. When she sits up at last, he sees the sadness carved into her porcelain features, outlining the extent of her pain. "You do realize what this means, Beck?"

"What what means?" he mutters absently, fairly sure that he doesn't want to hear it.

"The fact that they're releasing me," she retorts, propping herself up on her elbows and no, he definitely does not want to hear this, but she continues on anyway. "It means that they've given up hope on me. One day, one day soon, I'm going to develop a deadly disease and they're not going to be able to cure it. Then I'll be dead." Her voice is emotionless as always, but he can see the sadness ravaging in her eyes.

"No," he replies at once, his voice shaking. He takes her fragile hand in his, clutching it tightly as if by holding on to her he'll be able to keep her in this world for as long as he can. "No, don't talk like that. You're going to live, you'll see, and then we can spend our lives together..."

"The issue is not that I may not be able to spend my life with you, idiot," she hisses, her fingernails digging into his dark skin. "The issue is that you may not be able to spend your life with me."

Pain shoots through him like a rocket as he realizes the reality of her words. He'd never been able to see a future without her, not really; every time he tried, her words ricocheted back and pierced him in the chest, informing him that he would never be able to get rid of her. Yet here was this horrible infection doing just that. The impossible was coming into fruition.

"Then we'll make the rest of your life as good as we can," he promises at last, squeezing her hand. She bites her lip, tears welling in the corners of her eyes, and whether it's from her pain or his words he does not know. He simply envelopes her in a hug, hoping that he can somehow shield her from the world.

The pain is tangible. Nothing else is.

He does not break, does not shed a tear, until he lies in bed that night and whispers her name under his breath – "Jade, Jade, Jade," – until the name loses all meaning and he realizes that it is just a bunch of letters crammed together but she is so much more.

And he cries.

The hot tears mingle with his sheets, splashing against the pillow in irregular patterns. He can't handle losing her. He can't handle the empty look in her eyes, as if she has forgotten what she is even living for anymore. It's all too much, yet it is still not enough.

It's funny how something like a deadly disease can put things into perspective so quickly. Nothing matters anymore, not the jealousy games they used to play, not the flirting he had going on with Tori, not even the rest of his best friends. All that matters is her and keeping her alive.

"I need you," he mutters into the contours of his soft pillow, focusing on how true the once irrelevant words are. He needs her. Just as the moon needs the stars and the sun needs the clouds, he needs her to help him stay balanced, to help him stay sane, in fact. He needs her to make him giggle during Sikowitz's class, to scare off the blonde bimbos that for some reason consider themselves good enough for him, and to snuggle with him on the cold winter nights.

Over the years they've slowly become one entity, Beck-and-Jade, tied together by a long, binding string, and to cut it would be to cut half of him away. She is a part of him, buried deep in his heart, interwoven with the core of his being, and he simply cannot imagine life without her.

As he falls asleep, he dreams of miracles and happy endings. Never has he wished so hard that dreams could come true.

Jade doesn't like sympathy; that much he knows. Many of the Hollywood Arts students approach her the next day at school, telling her that she will be missed, and she screeches insults back at them, but she doesn't seem to be putting her whole self into it. It's as if she has been put on autopilot. Her moves are already planned out, and she hasn't got any control, not anymore.

She sits sullenly in Sikowitz's class, her thin arms crossed tightly across her chest. To Sikowitz's credit, he is the only teacher that day who does not say anything about Jade's disease, and he can tell by the relieved half-smile on her face that she appreciates it more than she says. Instead, he calls her up to lead an improv, and of course he chooses Tori to be her partner.

Tori doesn't even wince at the insults Jade flings her way. Instead, she just stares at Jade, a faraway look in her eyes as they act out a scene in which Jade is a broken old man. He reads the look in Tori's eyes as some mix of sympathy, despair, and hope. For whatever reason, it encourages him.

"I don't like you, young whippersnapper," Jade's 'character' snaps. "You and your kind are always stirrin' up trouble 'round these parts."

"We're just having fun," Tori responds after a moment, energetic as always. "Living life to the fullest. You can't blame us! We've still got so much time to live!"

She claps a hand after her mouth just after, obviously realizing what she has said. Jade looks murderous, as if she is going to shorten Tori's 'long life' by a considerable amount, but of course the bell chooses that moment to ring. Tori skitters off at once, looking like she is fearing for her life. Beck can understand why.

Jade starts to run after her, like she would have done before, but she stops halfway to the door, her breath coming shorter and shorter. She bends over.

He runs over to her at once, wrapping his arms around her middle lightly, his hands resting at the base of her stomach. Leaning over, he whispers in her ear, "Are you all right, babe?"

"I'm fine," she retorts, pushing his arms away. "I'm always fine; don't you know?" There is a hint of sarcasm to her tone, though, and he is not entirely sure that he likes it. After all, this is the girl that has braved out many a tough situation, and to see her so weak – it kills him inside.

"If you're sure," he whispers, but she is already storming off, determined to show him just how strong she is.

He finds her in the bathroom after last period, mascara dripping down her normally composed face and blotting in the corners of her eyes. She dabs at the tears with a paper towel, looking like her world has just ended. (He supposes it has.)

Upon hearing his footsteps, she jerks around at once, but visibly relaxes once she realizes who it is, saying something along the lines of, "Oh, it's just you." Then she gives a halfway convincing smile. "You're in the girl's bathroom. Real manly, Beck."

"Only for you," he mutters under his breath, leaning over to plant a short kiss on her lips. "What are you doing in here?"

Her eyes darken, search the ground, and he longs to take her into his arms, to kiss all the pain from her face, but he knows that it won't help anything. He repeats the question, remarkably less aggressive this time, and he waits for a response.

"They were making fun of me and I just didn't feel like dealing any more is all," she shrugs, attempting to pass it off like it's nothing. "I would've punched the daylights out of them but my arm aches."

He stares at her for a moment, eyes blazing, heart pounding. "How could you let them say that to you?" is all that comes out. The mental images burn beneath his eyelids – people making fun of Jade, his Jade, for something that she cannot control. "You should've told me; I would've come down there and beat all of them."

"Don't want you getting suspended," she murmurs, breaking the distance between them to bury her head in his chest. "I might as well quit school anyway. I don't have enough time left to finish, so really, there's no point."

"You don't know that," he contradicts. His heart feels like it is being grated inside of his chest, and all he can do is pull her close, bury his face in her hair, inhale her scent, and wish that the moment could last forever.

It doesn't.

He marches into class the next day, his hand so firmly entwined with hers he can scarcely tell where his ends and where hers begins. Angrily, he drags her up to the front of the classroom, wincing at her sudden fragility. Raising both their arms up, he says, "As you all very well know, this is Jade West, my girlfriend. Yes, she is ill, but does that give you liberty to make fun of her? No. If you've got an issue with her, please, do go through me first. I'll solve your issue for you."

The class quiets as he leads Jade to her seat. After a moment, a spattering of applause comes from over in the corner, and it erupts throughout the room. He swears he sees a rare smile tugging at the edges of her lips as they sit down. She buries her face in her neck, muttering "sap" against his hair. Instead of commenting, he strokes her waves.

Stay here, he commands her in his brain. Don't leave. He doesn't say it out loud, but his hand begins to move with more urgency. Don't leave me.

She glances up at him, face wrung with emotion. I don't want to leave.

After class, Cat catches Jade in a silent hug. Instead of pushing her away like she once might have, Jade keeps a straight face, pats the redhead's back, and says, "You don't need to feel bad for me." It's a thank you coming from her.

Even Tori offers up an apology and a warm smile. Jade simply nods, her eyes dark, and stares off into space.

"I never thought I'd say this," Tori whispers to Beck, "but I miss Jade's insults."

Beck just laughs, a strangled, abnormal laugh, but a laugh nonetheless. It feels strange to laugh, but the half-smile on Jade's lips tells him that she appreciates it.

I love you, he thinks as he stares at her. I love you I love you don't leave me –

"I just want people to act normal," she whispers, leaning back into his chest. "Tell Vega to stop acting like an idiotic, smitten puppy. I don't need her pity or sympathy. I just want some semblance of normal."

The girl in question looks over at Jade and says in a dry tone, "Sorry to offend you."

"Your entire appearance offends me," Jade replies darkly, a smile tugging at the edges of her mouth.

Tori attempts an angry expression, but she ends up erupting into peals of laughter. The look she gives Jade tells him that she knows sort of what he is feeling. Despite the fact that Tori and Jade never got along, Tori will miss her when she is... gone. They all will. He already does.

His arm ghosts across her back, rubbing circles into her shoulders, and she leans into his touch. His hand moves up to rub her hair. She winces, pointing to her head to show him that her headaches, and he moves back down to her back.

"Everything hurts, Beck," she whispers to him halfway through class, her voice so strained he can barely hear it.

"Do you want to leave?" he replies, wondering if she will actually take him up on it. After all, she never has before.

"No, I don't want to leave," she retorts, but she seems to be shaking a bit, much to his dismay. "I'm fine; I really am. I'm not going to leave during class and risk you failing this class."

"Sikowitz won't care," he protests, suddenly amazed. Does she really care for him that much?

Shaking her head, she mutters, "Just shut up and listen."

Suddenly overcome with gratitude, he takes her hand in his and tries to pretend as if he's listening. Just for her. It's all for her.

(Tell me, Jade, if I do everything you ask, will you stay? Just for me?)

He lies in his bed that night, completely and utterly alone. For once, Jade's parents had demanded that she stay the night at home, and he had reluctantly obliged. He hadn't realized that it would be so hard to sleep alone.

The sound of a siren sends a piercing fear through his heart. Siren. What if she's not okay? He panics, grabbing his phone off of his dresser and firing off a quick text. Are you okay?

He lies in silence for a moment. The only noise is the loud pounding of his heart as he waits for a reply. Please be okay, please be okay, just for me, Jade, just for me. Then his phone vibrates.

He wastes no time in snatching it up, checking the sender (Received: Jade West), and opening the message. Dude, I'm fine. Relief. Well, as fine as I can get with this stupid... you know. Did something happen?

No, I just worry, he replies, then he puts his phone back and tries to go back to sleep. The sirens continue to sound all around him, echoing in the back of his mind. It could still be worse, he reminds himself. One day, those sirens will sound, and she will be in the ambulance. One day soon. His head aches to even think about it.

Previously, he had thought that she would live forever, or at least until he was ready to die too. This is far too soon. She is only seventeen; she has her whole life ahead of her. He is too young to be giving up the notion of the family. But how could he possibly start one with anyone else?

Burying his head in his pillow, he wills himself to go to sleep, but it doesn't come easily. The sirens sing him a song, a depressing song, a song of how everything has its time and everything ends. He finds it odd to pray, yet he does it nonetheless. I love her, God, he tells Him. Please, just give her more time, at least. Another chance. I love her.

It's a sad song now, a repetitive one, and at last, he dozes off to sleep, images of hospitals and death and destruction filling his mind.

He needs her.

As soon as she sees him at school the next day, she launches himself into her arms. With a small smile, he whispers into her hair, "Why the sudden need to hug me? Not that I'm complaining, of course."

She pulls back, scowling. "Look, Beck!" she scowls, holding out one deathly pale arm.

"Yes, you're pale, what else is new?" he teases.

"Oh, shut up, you idiot," she hisses, grabbing one of his hands and pressing it to her cold, damp skin. Wait a second – damp? It is then that he understands. Jade is sweating, something that she never usually does, and this upsets her, probably more than anything else. It is just another sign that Jade has no control over anything in her life anymore.

Without any other words, he pulls her close, whispering "I understand" into her hair and stroking her back. He hates seeing her like this, so inexplicably broken and upset and confused and hurt, so very hurt, because she is the best thing that has ever been his and he loves her a lot, actually.

"I'm sweating, Beck," she says desperately, wiping her forehead off.

"You look bad, Jade," he tells her honestly, pulling away to stare at her. Her pale skin is a deep shade of red, and when he presses his hand to her forehead, he realizes that she is abnormally warm. With a frown, he informs her, "I think that you need to go home."

"No, I don't want to," she growls, scowling. "You can't make me."

"Oh, but I can." He grabs her hand, pulling her off. "You're going home whether you like it or not." Her hand is cold against his warm, strong hand, and as he gives it a small squeeze, he can't help but think that this was never supposed to happen like this. He was never meant to be the one in control. She was never meant to be the one that has to bend to his demands. But it happened, it is happening, and he knows that neither of them - no, scratch that, nobody has any idea how to deal with it.

She falls asleep in his car, her hair falling into her face, cascading down her shoulders. He strokes her hair with one hand as he drives, hoping to lull her into good dreams. With each passing day, it becomes more and more obvious that she hasn't got much time left. Days, months, weeks - he has no idea, but it won't be too much longer. Not unless a miracle happens, and Beck Oliver hates to admit that he doesn't believe in miracles. However, he does believe in her.

Once they get back to his RV, he decides not to wake her and scoops her up into his arms, carrying her like a small baby. She nuzzles her head against her chest in a way that she will only do when she is asleep (he finds that she is more loving in her sleep, and it amuses him). Opening the door, he walks in slowly, hesitantly, and places her on the bed.

"Beck," she says sleepily.

"Shh," he tells her, kissing her forehead softly. "You're okay, Jade; you're okay. You have to be."

She doesn't say anything after that. Her sleep is fitful and painful, nearly as painful for him as it is for her. He realizes how horrible it is to watch the one you love in pain before your eyes and not be able to do a thing about it.

"Everything hurts, Beck," she moans. "Everything hurts."

"You're going to go to the hospital soon, aren't you?" he says to her sleeping form. "I guess I just don't want to give you up just yet. I'm going to miss you more than words can say, Jade. More than I can say. I'm bad with words. I hope that I'm good with you."

After a while of her wild thrashing, he decides that he just can't take it anymore. Without warning, he climbs into the bed, curling up beside Jade and resting his head against her waves of dark hair. She puts her head against his chest and pulls him closer, causing him to grin. He hates sleeping alone, he decides; sleeping with Jade is so much better, even if it is only in the technical sense of the word. "I'm going to miss this," he says casually. "I'm going to miss you."

It is hard for him to show emotion, that much he knows. It is even harder for him to show emotion when he is feeling emotion. Sure, he can fake emotions; that is one of the requirements of being an actor. But when it comes to showing people how he really feels, he is not exactly an expert on that at all. Sometimes he wonders why.

"I love you," he says again, reveling in the power that those three little words bring. They are hardly enough to express the depth of his feelings for her, but it is the only way he knows how to let her know how he is feeling.

He dozes off then, resting his head against hers, and when he wakes up, she is still asleep, her mouth curving up into a small smile. "No more nightmares," he tells her fondly.

When she wakes up, she gets out of the bed at once. "How long have I been sleeping?" she demands, rubbing her eyes.

"A few hours," he informs her nonchalantly. "I do adore your bedhead, Jade. Are you feeling better?"

"Yeah," she replies, grinning at her reflection as she looks in the mirror. "And my bedhead is amazing, isn't it? I look like a fashion model. Heck, I could be a fashion model."

"I'll have to agree there; you are gorgeous," he informs her, and she smirks a little.

"Make me some food," she demands. "I'm hungry. Not eggs, though. Remember what happened last time with the eggs?"

"How could I forget?" he groans. "You're never going to let me forget."

She laughs and the sound is melodic. He wonders how much longer it will last.

Days pass and the time dwindles down. He takes her all around the city, to all of the places they had dreamed of going but never had the chance to go to. His parents allow him time off of school to spend with her, and he is all the more grateful for it. Despite the fact that they have never got along and his parents don't approve of Jade, they still feel some sympathy for her in her time of need.

They go all over the city, tour sets of movies, take pictures of random celebrities, go to the most prestigious restaurants. He never expects a thank you; the delight in her eyes is payment enough. Besides, she shows her appreciation in other ways – kissing and smiles and tight hugs and kind words, all the kind of things that were so sparse before but so rampant now that she knows that she only has a minimal amount of time to spend with him.

It is strange, he decides. It is strange that she should love him as much as he loves her. She is such an amazing girl, so strong and so beautiful, so wonderful in almost every way, and he is just a normal boy. He wants to make the rest of her life as good as he can, he decides, just to show his appreciation.

Cat and Andre and Robbie and even Tori pitch in sometimes. They all throw her a party, much to her chagrin. Her face heats up as soon as she walks in, but once she discovers that they have chocolate pie, all of her grumpiness is gone. (She does shove Robbie's face into the cherry pie, though. Beck is sure to take pictures. It's a priceless moment, really.)

No one gives her presents, since they know that soon enough, she'll have no need for them. Instead, they provide her with the best thing possible – memories. Despite the fact that she had often claimed to hate each and every one of them, she seems more than willing to spend her time with them now, and that is enough for him.

"Thank you," she says at the end of her party. "But don't get used to hearing me say that. That's a general thank you for everything. Now I won't have to say it again."

Everyone laughs, and then they all hug her. He notices that they are careful with her, as if they are trying not to break her. He winces as he thinks about what that means.

They all go home not long after that, each and every one of them, and Jade tells him to drop him off at her house. "My family wants to spend time with me now, the idiots," she snorts, rolling her eyes. "They don't want to associate with me until they realize that I've only got a bit of time left."

He feels a bit uncomfortable with the arrangement, but he relents anyway (how can he deny her anything?) and drops her off at his house. For once, he slips into a deep, satisfied sleep as soon as he climbs into the bed. That is, until his phone vibrates beside his bed.

The screen lights up with one new text message from Jade. Quickly, he snatches it up and reads it.

Hospital. Now.

He has no time to think. He rushes out the door at the speed of light. I'm coming, Jade.

The lights blur around him as he hops into his car and speeds off. The car does not seem to be going fast enough. He pushes down on the pedal, tears up the roads to get to her. He has no idea what's going on, but he knows she needs him and that is enough for him.

It takes far too long (at least, in his eyes), but he arrives at the hospital. He tears through doors, passes by a multitude of nurses who attempt to stop him, but he still gets through. He runs to the elevator, pushes the button for her floor (he has it memorized from her first little stay in the hospital) and wills the elevator to move quickly.

Once he gets up to her floor, he dashes down the hallway, not even caring about the people that stare at him and point and giggle, as if a boy desperate to see his possibly dying girlfriend is some sort of anomaly. (Is he an anomaly? He is not sure; he does not care.) At last, he arrives at her door. He pushes it open quickly, hoping that what he sees will be a good thing. Something to reassure him. He really needs reassurance right now.

No, she is in the bed, her head lulled to the side. Her mom stands beside her, holding the girl's hand. "Beck," the lady says with a sad smile. "Beck, she asks for you. I texted you. I'm glad you came."

Are you now? is what he wants to say, but he resists. He has never gotten along with Jade's parents, but for something important like this, he can make the sacrifice.

She is asleep, he decides after a moment,and it would be best to leave her that way. Grabbing a chair from the corner, he pulls it up and sits down beside Jade's mother. He takes her other hand and squeezes it. "I'm here, Jade. I'm here."

"I have to go now," Jade's mother says apologetically. "I told her father that I would pick up some groceries. Since she's been in the hospital, well, in and out of the hospital, since she got sick, we've been living on the bare minimum." She gives him a small smile. "You'll stay with her, won't you?"

"Of course," he promises, staring down at her barren figure, wishing that everything would go back to the way it used to be, that she would sit up and suddenly be filled with life. Of course, he loves her nonetheless, but sometimes it is hard to deal with and he doesn't want her to die, doesn't want to lose her. It may be a selfish wish, but it is his only wish at the moment, and is that so selfish?

Her mom gets up and leaves. He sits there for hours at her side, holding her hand as if his life depends on it, a small smile upon his face. "I love you," he whispers, promises, pressing his lips to her forehead. She is not cold, not now; her forehead is burning up. He realizes then that he has no idea what is going on - what had happened that had put her back in the hospital? She had been out for so long; there was no reason to put her back in there again, not unless something had changed.

Hours pass by and at last she opens her eyes. She gives him a small, thin smile and tells him the dreaded word: "Pneumonia."

"You're kidding," he says, his tone dead and unfeeling. "No, no... you've got to be kidding."

"No," she tells him, and just this word alone is enough to send her into a coughing fit. "No, I'm not kidding, and my immune system..."

"You can't fight it off." The words are basically a death sentence. She can't fight off the disease; it will consume her and her body until she is no longer alive. She is going to die, and he is going to be left alone.

"I want to, Beck," she tells him through coughs, her throat sounding hoarse and rough and tired. "I want to, but my body doesn't know how. I don't want to leave you. I want to stay with you."

I want to stay with you too, he tells her in his mind, but the words don't come out the way he wants them to. He wants to stay with her, to hold her, for her to be with him forever, but it occurs to him then that it is not possible. This disease - it is going to kill her. Killing is forever, he realizes, once she is dead he will never see her again, not ever. She will never come back. He will never be able to hold her hand like he is right now. He will never be able to stroke her face, to kiss her forehead, to see her and know that maybe his life will make sense. It will all be over.

"I'm going to miss you a lot," he tells her, his voice choked, and he decides that is not the best way to phrase it. "I love you," he tries again, but he has said it so much that it is probably not a shock for her, not anymore.

"I love you too," she smirks. "I guess that the bright side of this is that I get to spend the rest of my life with you, right?"

"Yes," he replies, too choked with emotion to manage a response. He won't cry; Beck Oliver does not cry, and never in front of Jade. But he wants to. He wants to cry, to sob, to press his face into her hair, but he refrains. No, Beck Oliver does not cry. "Yes, you can spend the rest of your life with me."

"To death shall us part," she quotes, the corners of her mouth quirking up into a smile, and despite the fact that it isn't really funny he laughs. She laughs too, melodious despite her clogged throat, and he is overcome with the urge to kiss her.

As if she is there with him in his mind, she tells him sharply, "Don't kiss me, you idiot. Do you want to get sick too?"

"Yes," he pronounces, and despite her wordy protests he leans over and kisses her on the mouth. Once they both pull away, panting for breath, he tells her, "If I only have a limited amount of time with you, I want to sneak in all the kisses I can."

"Let's sneak in some more," she says with a small grin and she kisses him again.

He does not go home that night. He cannot stand the thought of leaving her alone in a dark hospital at night, so he sleeps in the chair by her bed. With a frown, she protests that he must be uncomfortable, but he just shakes his head and mumbles something about how he is just fine and she needs to sleep so she shouldn't worry about him. The frown on her face tells him that she is still not happy with the arrangement, but she goes back to sleep nonetheless.

The doctor comes into the room in the morning. Upon seeing Beck, his face tightens. "You're her boyfriend, yes? Beck Oliver?"

"That would be me," Beck confirms. "What's going on? She has pneumonia, she said?"

"Yes, and a rare form of it at that," the doctor says with a sigh. "We have no clue how she might have contracted it – probably those days at school, exposed to all of those germs – but we have no idea how to treat it."

"Which means you have no way of keeping her alive," he replies dryly, the reality of the situation sinking in. "She's as good as dead now."

"We're sorry," the doctor tells Beck, his voice sympathetic, and all Beck can think is 'no, you're really not'.

It takes him a moment, but suddenly unbelievable anger is searing through his veins and it's all he can do not to leap at the doctor and rip out his throat. "She's my girlfriend," he growls. "More than that, she's mine. She's the best thing that's ever been mine and you're just going to let me lose her because all of you incompetent doctors don't know how to fix her? Don't you have anything that you can do?"

"We're sorry, Beck," the doctor repeats, a frown upon his face. "We have no treatments for this disease. We can give her painkillers to ease the pain, but there is honestly no way that we can come up with a treatment in time."

The anger stops searing and reality sinks in once again. Shaking his head, he says quietly, "You're right. I'm sorry. Please do give her painkillers, though. Anything to help her."

"I know it has to be hard." The doctor smiles sympathetically. "I really do wish there was something we could do."

I wish that too, he thinks, taking her hand. Anything for her.

She wakes up again later that afternoon and scowls at Beck. "Why aren't you at school, loser?"

"I didn't want to leave you," he confesses. "I have permission from my mom and the school, anyway, so it's all good. It's all fine."

"No, it's not," she retorts, sitting up. He can see the immense amount of pain and effort involved in that simple movement, and it hurts him as well. "I don't want you skipping school and failing your classes to watch me die."

It is blunt, but it is the truth. He winces, and her face softens. "I'm sorry," she amends apologetically. "I know you're doing this because you're a great guy and you love me. The thing is that... I love you too and I don't want you hurting yourself just to help me. Go to school; have a normal life. In the long run, school will matter more than me."

"School will never matter more than you," he promises, but his voice falters.

"Shut up," she hisses harshly. "I don't need your pity, Beck."

"I don't need you acting like a brat, either," he growls. Her face fills with pain at once, and he groans, dropping to his knees beside her. "I know it must be hard, Jade, but I just want to care for you. I'm trying to help, Jade, but you have to let me."

"I need you," she chokes out, seizing his face between her strong hands and jerking him to her. His lips collide with hers, fast and wonderful. She jerks away after just a moment, though. "I'm – I'm sor... ugh, I don't want you to get sick."

"I don't mind," he tells her, holding her face between his hands. "I need you too."

"Right, but I don't have to live without you, not ever." A hint of a smile makes its way onto her pale, flaming face, but it fades as she finishes. "You're the one who has to live without me."

"Yeah." He winces at how final it sounds, and then again at the fact that he cannot find any words to describe how he is feeling. 'Yeah' seems like such a bad word to use.

Fortunately, she doesn't seem to notice. "Do me a favor?" she asks politely, way too polite for someone like her. It seems suspicious, but he replies 'of course' nonetheless, because he can't deny her anything and he probably never will.

She takes a moment, glances around the room, then looks back at him. Her eyes are big, emotionless, red from lack of sleep, and they actually pierce straight into his being. After a moment, she speaks at last. "Make sure no one forgets me."

"I should think that's a given," he reassures her, half-smiling, half-frowning, as calm and composed as ever even during this tough time. But on the inside, he is a storm – furious, tumultuous, destructive – and he doesn't want to deal.

"Thanks," she mumbles, obviously drifting back to sleep. He pats the top of her head and hopes that she won't die in her sleep.

When she sleeps, she is the most beautiful thing he has ever seen.

(He doesn't leave.)

"You know," she tells him thoughtfully one day, "the doctor said one day he could just put me out of my pain now, before all of this happened."

"And you told him no?" he questions, surprised. He would have thought Jade would just have opted out of all of this, died before all of the pain set in, but obviously not. He wonders why.

"Obviously." Jade rolls her eyes. "I told him that I wasn't ready to die just yet. And... and it would hurt you. Wouldn't it?"

"Obviously," he repeats, leaning forward to kiss her. She doesn't hold back.

He realizes that day that Jade West is one of the strongest people he has ever had the pleasure of meeting, loving, dating.

Days pass by, and the days fade into a week. She lives on, pushes on, much to his relief. He doesn't leave her side, and he finds that more and more, he doesn't want to. That is, until the school calls his parents and says that Beck needs to come in or risk failing the eleventh grade, which does not seem like a good plan to anyone.

"You've got to go to school," Jade commands, her face showing her feelings on the matter. Obviously she doesn't want him to leave, but she knows that he has to and she is okay with that.

"What if something happens while I'm not here?" Beck chokes out, feeling a bit apprehensive about leaving her. (A bit? A lot.) "What if..."

"Relax, nothing's going to happen," she mumbles, but her voice is choked and her throat sounds rough and scratchy and his heart pounds a little bit faster than it should. "I'll be fine, Beck, just go already."

Finally, he just nods, knowing that he really does have to leave or else he'll be late for class and he can't fail eighth grade. "Call me if you need me, all right? I'll keep my phone on because I honestly couldn't care less about the school rules if you're..." Dying, he wants to say, but he can't finish the sentence.

"Of course, you idiot, just go," she retorts, narrowing her eyes. As he begins to reluctantly walk out the door, she yells, "Beck, wait!" He turns around, curious as to what she has to say. Her face softens. "Thanks for everything. I love you."

"I love you too," he says as he leaves, and the pain begins as soon as he walks through the doors of the school.

Everyone is asking about her now. Everyone asks how she is doing, and it is the worst thing he has ever done, having to tell them that she is too close to death and that her chance of survival is low. Once Andre, Tori, Cat, and Robbie hear, they leave him alone about it, but no one else seems to care. It kind of stings.

His heart pounds throughout the whole day as he passes from class to class. He finds it hard to concentrate on anything but is she dead is she alive what if she dies and I'm not there what if she dies alone. It gets a bit irritating, really, but his teachers don't glare at him when he gets questions wrong. Instead, they just stare at him with sympathy.

It gets a bit irritating, really, because they all remind him of her, of the fact that he can't be there with her, and it's sort of like a dagger turning in his heart – why can't I just leave already how many classes left ugh why is this clock so slow – but he doesn't say anything.

Tori squeezes his tense hand during one of his classes. He smiles gratefully but otherwise doesn't speak.

After school, he dashes out the door as soon as the bell rings. He hops in his car and drives straight to the hospital as fast as he can, please let her be okay please let her be okay.

Once again, he doesn't even stop to check in. He figures that the nurses, however annoyed they may be with him for not checking in, will know that he is hardly a killer or a robber. He's not sure what criminal would bother breaking into a hospital, anyway.

With bated breath, he bursts into the room. She smiles up at him, obviously amused. "Somebody was worried about me."

"Did you really expect any different?" he retorts, but he smiles nonetheless. "I'm glad that..." That nothing happened, he wants to finish, but he feels like it would be a little bit awkward.

"Come here, you," she smirks, and she pulls him down for a kiss. He doesn't protest.

He does, however, notice the warmth emanating from her forehead, how weak her hands have grown to be, and how very thin she is now. He notices that a few minutes after they pull away, she vomits into the trashcan and then coughs for quite a few minutes straight. Frowning, he just stands behind her and strokes her back, wishing there was something he could do, but he's not a doctor and he has no medical knowledge whatsoever.

He gets the call during Sikowitz's class, of course. Everyone stares at him and a few people yell after him, wishing him good luck. It's not exactly a 'good luck' situation, but he nods and accepts their well-wishes nonetheless.

The door opens and he stares at her, takes in her weak appearance and her closed eyes. He can hear her breathing – labored, quick – as if it hurts her a lot to breathe. Quickly, he stands beside her and takes her hand. "Is it – did they say –"

"It's the end, Beck," she chokes out, her voice so mangled that he can barely make out the words. "It's over; it's all over."

Pain sears through his body, and he glances over at her. "I love you," he tells her, his voice nearly as choked as hers. "Please, don't leave."

"It's not like I can help it," she manages, half a smile on her face. She coughs again, deeper, and clutches at her chest, a frown on her face. "I... I can't keep doing this, Beck; I've tried to be strong and..."

"And you're tired," he finishes her sentence with a frown on his face. "I get it, Jade, I get it..."

"I love you, Beck," she murmurs, one of her shaky hands coming to rest upon his. "Thanks so much for everything. Don't mourn me too much, okay? Obviously I don't want you to forget me, but I don't want you to be miserable, not forever."

"I wish we had forever," he replies, his voice cracking. "I thought we would have forever."

She nods, her eyes closing. It is then that he panics, his voice rising. "No, Jade, no, don't leave, no, you can't leave me. Listen to me, Jade, this isn't the end, it can't be, I love you and I need you and NO – "

"I love you," she mumbles sleepily, and he kisses her, because maybe if he transfers some of his breath to her lungs it'll give her a little longer, just a few days, just a little while. She can't leave him; she can't die on him; she can't just slip away before his eyes. It is then that he realizes how very incompetent he is. He can't even save her; he can't do anything

"Don't leave," he pleads again. "I need you."

There is only silence.

In desperation, he presses the panic button, causing the sirens in the room to blare around them. Nurses burst in, doctors, and they all run over to Jade's bedside. He watches as they try to revive her, and he holds her hand, trying to give her some connection to their world, his world, him. He needs her a lot more than he would care to admit, or at least, more than he would have cared to admit before any of this happened. He chokes out a sob, perhaps the first time he has shown emotion in ages, in years, but he doesn't care really because she can't be gone, she can't

"We're sorry," one of the doctors says in a monotone that doesn't really sound sorry at all. "There is nothing we can do."

Nothing we can do.

The room starts to fade, the things around him fade to black, and the room starts to spin. He doesn't recall blacking out; he only remembers hearing the flatline and then nothing after that.

He wakes up smelling something strong under his nose. Drowsily, he asks, "Where am I? Where's... Jade?"

"We're sorry, Beck, but she's gone," says an understanding voice. His dad? Why would his father be there? Heck, why would his father care about Jade's voice?

He feels warm lips press against his forehead (his mom, perhaps?) but he can't bother opening his eyes, because opening his eyes would be facing reality and no, he is not prepared to deal with that pain, not at all. Instead, he just drifts off to sleep, hoping that maybe this will all have just been a bad dream. Please, he pleads, let it be a dream, I can't live without her, I don't know how.

"Beck," someone says but he disregards it and dozes back off to sleep. I can't deal. I'm so, so tired.

They ask him to speak at the funeral. It's one of the most ludicrous things Beck has ever heard. He can't even think about her without choking up; how would he be able to speak about her? With a frown, he just shakes his head. "I love her, I'd love to talk about her, but I can't." He doesn't like displaying his emotions, and certainly not to people he doesn't know, not to people that don't know her like he does. No one knew her like he did, like he does, and he can't imagine speaking about her so soon after his death.

They just nod their heads in understanding, but Beck knows that they don't understand. No one does.

"I know that you're upset by all of this, but you have to eat," Tori says. Beck doesn't care.

"Beck, Jade wouldn't want you to mourn her," Cat tells him with an upset frown. Jade would.

"Look, man, I know it seems bad now, but eventually this will pass, I promise," Andre tells him reassuringly. It won't.

"I'm sorry, Beck," is all Robbie says. Robbie isn't.

He goes to the funeral anyway, not enjoying the fact that no one seems as upset as he is. It all seems so dark, so morbid, just as she'd have wanted it. He doesn't like it quite so much, though. His eyes water and he hates it because it is so hard for him to show his emotions. This is a completely different situation, though.

"It's okay to cry," Tori tells him, patting him on the back. He doesn't want her sympathy, not really. He just wants Jade back.

It's so hard to have Jade-and-Beck when one-half of them is missing.

It isn't until now that he realizes how integral she had been in his life. She was omnipresent, the yin to his yang, completing him, and now he is too nice, too agreeable, too boring, too flat, and he doesn't like it, not at all. With a frown, he accepts everyone's sympathies, all the while wishing Jade was there to tell them that she doesn't want or appreciate their sympathy, she just wants to get better. He wishes that he was strong enough to tell them that. Instead, he just nods.

It is too hard for him to look at her corpse (he can barely bring himself to think the word), so he just leaves and sits outside under a tree, like some sort of freaky loner. The wind ruffles the leaves, the sun shines. Everything is perfectly normal. Everything except the fact that Jade is not with him and he is all alone, all by himself, a half of a whole. He is everything yet he is nothing. She is everything yet she is gone.

(He is alone.)

At first, he doesn't want to go to the grave, but Tori insists that he accompany them. It seems like they're trivializing it, making it like the worst thing to ever happen to him is worthy of a little 'trip with friends', an outing, a fun day at the beach. (That reminds him of the time that he went to the beach with the rest of their little gang. Jade was there. Jade isn't there anymore.)

It is too much, he thinks as he looks at the grave. It is way too much. Her name is there, carved into stone – Jade West. Not Jadelyn West, much to his delight, but just the way she had wanted it. Jade West. He is glad that they are doing as she requested, but he doesn't want to see the grave – no, it's too much – her body lays beneath the fresh ground –

No. No, he can't think about it.

"It looks so morbid," Robbie whispers.

"Graves usually do," Tori replies, managing a half-smile. She is the only one who is smiling. Everyone else looks sad, upset, confused, and he hates it. He really does. He hates that she made them feel this way. He is angry, really, because she left him, but he knows somehow that it wasn't her fault.

They all take their time saying things to her grave, all of them, one at a time, and he dreads for the time that it will be his turn. With a frown, he listens to their words – heartfelt, yet still not enough. Not enough. Nothing is ever enough.

At last, they all clear off, leaving him to talk to the grave.

"I love you," he says at once, the one thing that should be obvious but still needs to be said. "You tried to pretend like you weren't human sometimes, but I can tell you one thing – you were the most human woman I ever met. You were so complex, so confusing, yet I tolerated you because I could, because I wanted to, because I loved you. I love you. Just do one thing for me, Jade. Don't be dead. Come back. Don't give up for me. Please."

On that note, he turns and walks away. The tears start falling down his face and for once, he doesn't bother stopping them.

He doesn't ever forget, not really. It's like he is on autopilot most of the time. All of his moves have been mapped out for him. He carves her name into his headboard, the letters spelling out something so far beyond his reach, and he cries sometimes because he just wants to forget. He feels guilty, then, remembering her last request.

Don't forget me.

He doesn't. He can't. He won't.

He finds that it is difficult being half of a whole when the other half is gone, but he manages.

It is dark.

A/N: Wow this is long and angsty and idek, I started writing this because I read Alone on the Water which made me feel all the feelings. And then the whole The Worst Couple escapade happened, so I felt like I had to punish Beck somehow, and idk, this came out of it. I hope it didn't make you too depressed, lol. It was just meant to be a long, venting session and idk. Ugh.

Please read and review and don't favorite without reviewing! (Also, feel free to tell me your feelings about The Worst Couple in your review. I'd love to hear all your feelings.)