3.

What are you up to?

-Jade West

Tori reads the text with her lips trapped between her teeth. It's Tuesday afternoon, the dreaded History exam is the next morning and she has barely studied.

Sunday she woke up with her very first hangover. Thankfully she had listened to Jade and put some water and painkillers on her nightstand. She gulped down the whole water bottle, sent a quick text to Jade, swearing she was never drinking again and crawled back to bed to sleep it off.

That first text opened another door to their relationship and all through Sunday night and Monday, her phone had been chirping with new messages that kept distracting her from her study time. Okay, so she texted back, but she can't help it if the girl manages to rile her up even via text. It would start as a random comment about whatever tickled Jade's fancy at the moment– Tori is learning the surprising broad range of interests of the girl– that would soon become back and forth bickering until Tori realized hours had gone by.

She shakes her head resolutely and texts back.

No, Jade. I'm studying. Whatever plan to distract me you had today, is going to have to wait.

She hits send and waits, hoping it's going to be enough to shut her up because she knows that if Jade keeps insisting, she'll give in. She'll always give in to her.

Don't get your Hello Kitty panties in a bunch, Vega, I was actually going to ask you if you wanted to study together.

-Jade West

Oh, Tori thinks. That's… nice of her. Suspiciously so.

Are you serious? Because some help would be nice, but I actually plan to study. No funny business.

The reply comes immediately.

No funny business. Be there in 10.

-Jade West

Tori's eyes widen. She starts waving her hands around frantically before putting her PearPhone down and running to her bathroom to check her appearance. Just because they are going to study doesn't mean she doesn't want to look nice. She brushes her hair, puts on some lip-gloss, smoothes her t-shirt down, and checks how her ass looks in her sweats in the mirror, for some unknown reason. Her eyes then fix on her chest and she almost curses out loud when she realizes she's not wearing a bra.

In her haste, Tori stubs her toe on the door frame on her way out of the bathroom.

"Shhh-oot" she says instead of the curse that wants to leave her mouth. Trina, who was on her way to the bathroom herself, watches her unimpressed as she limps towards her bedroom.

"God, was it that hard to give me a sister who wasn't a weirdo?" She asks to the ceiling exasperated.

Tori puts on her nicest bra, again, for some unknown reason, and throws on a new t-shirt even though the other one was clean too. Her room is not terribly messy but she still freaks out as she throws the few scattered clothes in the laundry basket, and remakes her bed.

By the time she's done, her mom is opening the door downstairs. She hears Jade explaining the reason of her visit and Holly sending her up. In a last minute decision, Tori grabs the teddy bear on her bed and throws it into her closet.

"I'm so sorry Lieutenant Teddy, but if Jade sees you, I'll never hear the end of it."

There's a knock on her door and Tori spins on her heels, with a deer-caught-in-headlights expression. Jade looks at her strangely and she chuckles awkwardly.

"Uh, come in."

"Who were you talking to?"

"No one!" Tori squeaks.

"Alright…" Jade makes a bee-line to Tori's bed and sits with her bag at her feet. She rummages through it for a moment and takes out her History book and her notes. Tori stays still, entranced with the strange sight that is Jade West, with her dark jeans and red vest and blood red boots, sitting on her purple and green comforter. It's a bit unnerving, knowing Jade has been here already, going through her stuff and doing God knows what, and a lot exciting, even with the idea that all they are going to do is study.

Jade turns to her slowly and frowns. "Are you gonna study standing up?"

Tori shakes her head and takes a sit at her desk chair. She grabs her notes and clears her throat. "Okay, so where should we start? Well, obviously the beginning, that's a stupid question." She looks up and Jade is smirking at her. "What?"

"Nothing. I just wasn't aware that you wore glasses."

Tori fidgets with them before taking them off with a shrug. "Just when I'm home. I mean, I can live without them but…" She rolls her eyes with a blush. "I know I look like a dork," Tori jokes as she puts them on again.

Jade snorts. "You are a dork, a pair of glasses can't change that."

"Har-har." Tori deadpans.

"But, I mean, some people might say glasses can make you look, you know, interesting or attractive or whatever so… I wouldn't worry too much," Jade says almost too casually.

"Some people?" Tori can barely believe it but Jade's skin reddens on her cheeks the tiniest bit.

"That's what I heard, I wouldn't know." Jade coughs. "So, History?"

...

Jade turns out to be a History geek. Well, okay, not quite, but to Tori, anyone with the faintest idea is a History geek. So that night after Jade leaves, rejecting the offer of staying for dinner– claiming it's one of the rare nights where her mom is home and she wants Jade there– Tori stands outside her front door, thanking Jade for her help.

"What? I can be helpful some times too," Jade shrugs, her smirk teasing. Tori's body sways a little closer.

"Well I… thank you, you've been doing a lot for me lately and I just, I wish I could repay you."

"Are you talking about-"

"The dating, yeah. I mean, this is helping me a lot; all we've done. I just want you to know that I really appreciate it and that if there's anything I can help with, anything you need, just-"

"I'm not doing it because-" Jade stops abruptly, pursing her lips. Her body has gotten all tense and her eyebrows all pointy and Tori doesn't know why. "Sure, whatever. Look, I have to go."

Jade is already leaving when Tori recovers from the emotional whiplash. "Okay, see you tomorrow…" Tori calls pitifully after her, but Jade is already inside her car. She gets back inside and leans against the door, pouting at the floor.

"Everything alright, kiddo?" Her dad asks as he sets the table.

"Yeah," she replies weakly.

But it's not. Tori has never seen Jade react like that, it's almost like she was… hurt? The last thing Tori wants is to hurt Jade, after everything she's doing for her, but for the life of her, she can't think of what she's done wrong.

...

Wednesday is weird. She expected Jade to give her the cold shoulder or something worse based on her reaction the night before, but Jade doesn't seem to be purposely ignoring her, she's just as relaxed and disinterested in everything as always.

"So?" Jade asks after the test.

Tori is pleasantly surprised that the girl is talking to her, so she answers with a big smile. "I don't know. Good? I think it went okay, I never know with these things. We'll see, I guess. How about you?"

Jade shrugs one shoulder. "Alright." She keeps staring at Tori, as if she's pondering something. "Wanna go to the beach?"

Tori does a double take. "The beach? Now? We still have one class left."

"Yeah, Sikowitz's," Jade points out as if it's self-explanatory.

But Tori is so glad Jade is not mad at her for whatever it is she did yesterday that she can't find it in herself to care about what Sikowitz will say if he doesn't see them in class. Actually, he probably won't notice.

Tori gets a text as they drive to the beach.

Where are you? Are you with Jade?

-Andre

Yeah, we're going to the beach. Why? Has Sikowitz asked about us?

Pff no. He remembered he left the oven on and cancelled the class. Cat wanted to go for ice-cream but I see you're already BUSY…

-Andre

Tori blushes at the tone she can hear through Andre's text. She's wondering if she should answer him when she gets another text.

Why didn't you tell me that you and Jade are girlfriend and girlfriend?

-Cat

"Oh my God," Tori mumbles as she buries her head in her hands.

"What?"

"Cat just asked me why haven't I told her about us."

Jade doesn't answer for a while and Tori ponders what to tell the redhead.

"Why haven't you?" Jade asks out of the blue.

"Uh," Tori blinks, "I don't know… I told Andre."

Jade nods, although she could be bobbing her head to the music, Tori's not sure. She pulls her eyes back to her phone and fires off a quick texts.

I'm sorry, I didn't think about it. It's just for the audition though, remember what we talked at lunch the other day?

Oh… I thought it was like, you liked her and Jade found something she doesn't hate.

-Cat

Tori glances at Jade out of the corner of her eye. The girl has one hand on the steering wheel and the other is leaning on the window frame. The window is rolled down and the wind is fluttering her black hair everywhere but Jade's marble-like features remain unperturbed.

I *like* Jade. And… I guess she doesn't hate me? It's just… it's complicated. Just don't say anything to her, okay?

Kay kay! I think you'd make a cute couple

-Cat

Tori sighs. Oh, to be Cat and live the simple life, without a care in the world.

...

What Tori expected to be a terrible day, turns out to be great. She and Jade take a walk along the beach, stopping so Tori can pick up every single cute seashell she finds, to which Jade answer with a groan and an eye-roll, every time. That is, until Tori finds what seems to be the skull of some sea creature. After that, Jade doesn't complain anymore, inspecting the new piece of her collection instead.

After a mild altercation in which a kid hits Jade in the head with a beach ball and the gothic girl bursts it with a pair of scissors that Tori swears she materializes out of freaking nowhere, they buy some lunch at a hotdog stand and sit in front of the water to eat. Before Tori knows it, they are engaged in their usual bickering.

"I'm just saying, you can't go destroying other people's property just because they annoy you."

"It was a stupid beach ball," Jade answers dryly.

"That kid was terrified!"

Jade chuckles, her eyes fixed on the horizon. "Oh, he better be."

"He didn't mean to hit you. Don't you even feel a little sorry for him?"

"I don't like kids," Jade answers with finality.

Tori scoffs. "Is there anything you like?"

Jade's eyes finally leave the water and fix on her instead. She gives Tori a slow once-over, before looking back at the sea, her expression remaining impassive. Tori's left to figure out what that look meant, her skin burning, although she's not sure if it's because of the sun or the blazing intensity of Jade's eyes.

"I could tell you," Jade finally says, "but then I'd have to kill you."

Tori manages a small chuckle. "What? You like something embarrassing like… Spongebob Squarepants?" She says randomly.

Jade raises an eyebrow. "Spongebob is actually an okay guy."

Tori lets out a surprised laugh. "Really? I can't imagine you watching it," she teases, thinking she finally has something to poke fun at Jade with.

"I never said I watch it, Vega." Jade snaps. "At least I don't have a teddy bear named Lieutenant Teddy. Really, what were you thinking?"

Tori splutters, her ears turning bright red. "How- you- I was ten!" She defends, her voice so high, a passerby's dog barks alerted.

Jade's whole frame shakes with laughter and really, Tori should have known better than thinking she could ever have the upper hand with this girl. Somehow, when Jade doubles over laughing, leaning on her for support, she doesn't care that much.

...

The next day, Tori doesn't know what unnerves her more: Andre's questioning gaze– and okay, she should update him son– Cat's exaggerated winks whenever she's in a five feet radius of Jade, or Jade's ridiculously low shirt which, okay, it doesn't unnerve Tori as much as it does distract her.

And it's not like she usually doesn't take a peek, because she does, a lot. But God, she's pretty sure her eyes have been glued to that point all morning and someone is going to notice.

Stupid Jade with her stupid low shirts and her stupid, perfect, round-

"Hey, Tori." A voice stops her as she makes her way to her locker. And thank God for that. Tori doesn't even know what her thoughts are doing anymore.

"Hey, uh, Dylan right?" She asks the guy. He's a year above her and she's talked to him a handful of times, mostly about music. She knows that he plays the electric guitar and that he's not the sharpest tool in the shed.

"Yeah, that's me." He has an easy smile, a cute face. She had thought of the possibility of asking him out once, but it disappeared as soon as he asked how was it that Beck spoke English so well if he was from Canada.

"What's up? Haven't talked to you in a while."

"Well, I have some amazing news," he says excited, "I'm in a band!" He starts playing air-guitar and Tori's eyebrows raise to her hairline.

"You are?"

"Yeah, well, so far it's only me though." He doesn't seem too bothered by the idea that one person is hardly a band. "But I already have a possible drummer."

"That's awesome, I wish you all the luck," she says genuinely.

"Thanks, but uh, I actually wanted to ask you, because I know you're like, a super good singer and stuff…" he trails off, and she smiles gratefully for the compliment. "Tori Vega," he says seriously and Tori's smile falls, "would you be our lead singer?"

"What?"

"We can totally call the band something like, Tori and The Machine or The Toris, yeah?"

"Ah, Dylan, that… that sounds nice but, I don't know…" She rakes her brain, trying to find an excuse to let him down gently. "I have school to think about and I'm really, really busy right now. I would be a lousy band member, believe me."

"Oh…" he frowns, like Tori just showed him a really hard Math problem. "Well… think about it at least, yeah?"

"Sure," she lies shamelessly. Jade would be proud.

"Cool, cool. I'm gonna go to class now, 'cause you know, last time I totally forgot where it was and I was like, super late so… see you around?"

"Yeah, see ya!" Tori sends him the most sincere smile she can manage, but as soon as he turns the corner, she lets out a breath. "Phew."

When she resumes her walk to her locker, she sees Jade leaning back next to it, one knee bent up, her arms crossed and a not very friendly frown on her lips and forehead. Tori approaches happily but Jade keeps her eyes to the front.

"Hey," Tori greets. "You waiting for me?"

Jade doesn't answer, she just purses her lips harder.

Confused, Tori turns to her locker and starts putting her books away, stealing glances at the moody girl.

"So, do you want to do someth-"

"Who was that?" Jade finally says, turning fiery blue eyes towards her.

"Who was who?" Tori asks lost.

"That guy." She nods at the place she was talking with Dylan before.

"That?" Tori points with her thumb. "Uh, his name is Dylan and… he's a junior. That's as much as I know about him."

Jade turns her whole body this time and regards her with a cocked eyebrow and an expression that is half disinterested, half accusatory. "What were you talking about?"

"Nothing." Tori says quickly, like she's defending herself. Then she realizes, she really doesn't have anything to defend herself from. "He asked me if I wanted to sing in his band, but I said no."

"Oh," Jade says, drawing out the vocal. "So, that's what they call it now."

Tori wants to follow, she really wants, but she doesn't know what Jade is talking about. "What?"

"Do you like him?"

Tori laughs. "No," she says between chuckles, "why would I- wait." She sobers up abruptly. "Are you- are you jealous?"

Jade looks like she wants to say yes for a second, but then she chuckles and gives Tori an eye-roll. "Don't flatter yourself, Vega. I'm just asking because, audition or not, you're still dating me. And I don't like sharing."

There's a part of Tori, her most hopeful part, that doesn't want to believe that; a part that thinks that there has to be more to it. All the kisses, all the looks and the touches, this possessivenes, they have to mean something to Jade. There has to be a reason why she agreed to this in the first place. And when they're together, when they're alone, faces close and breaths mingling, she looks into Jade's eyes and sees tenderness, vulnerability. She refuses to believe it's nothing. Still, Tori swallows hard, pushing all her questions down her throat. "Okay."

"Okay," Jade shrugs easily. Like she wasn't a raging bull seconds ago.

"Uhm, do you want to, maybe, perhaps, skip this class?" She asks as a blush covers her cheeks. It's still nerve-wracking to look forward to a make-out session with Jade, even if they'd done it before.

And Tori, once again, can't help but let the hope flicker inside her when Jade's eyes shine with excitement, even if only for one fleeting second.