Author's Note: Story begins the summer before their senior year. Jade turns 18. This really isn't anything... I don't know. I'm not sure if this has an actual point. I was just in a bit of a mood and this came out. :] Please don't get nitpick-y and tell me that this would never happen in real life. I think that's point.

Story title from the song Beasts by Slow Moving Millie | Playlist: aforementioned song; Like Rock & Roll and Radio by Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs; Blood by The Middle East; and Love and Affection by Joan Armatrading

Please enjoy!

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i could be the alice to your wonderland

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'Let me try to explain it to you... Like in words you actually understand. My dad hates me—and before you go all 'My brother hated a dad once' or something equally stupid—he really truly hates me. Whenever he looks at me, I know he's thinking 'I wish I had another better daughter' because that's the kind of asshole he is, you know? Nothing I do is ever good enough. And for the longest time, that's all I've ever wanted. To be good enough for my dad... And Beck... He... Can't believe I'm crying. Chiz. No, I don't want a freaking tissue! Okay. Anyway. Beck. He just... Out of all the girls here, he chooses me. The girl who can't even get her father to love her. He made me feel precious. Loved. Good enough. And now that he dumped me, it's like I'm back to square one. But... I guess that's why I need to do this, you know? I need to stop trying to get other people to make me feel like I'm good enough and just do it myself.'

'Yeah... That's a really good reason, Jade.'

'Thanks, Cat.'

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Once upon a time, Jade West was just like any other student at Hollywood Arts. Barring the decidedly goth aesthetic, of course. But still, just like any other.

Then she decides that that's just not good enough anymore.

(Was it ever good enough?)

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Before she leaves, she makes it a point to spend the entire day with Cat. They go to the beach, watch the birds soar in the sky and the waves crash into the shore. Cat munches on caramel popcorn and Jade tears out pages of text books she'll never have to use again. By the time the sun sets, Jade feels like she's done her part. Cat will have the closure deserving of a best friend and maybe just this once she won't be a gank and say just one goodbye before she leaves.

'Will you write?' Cat asks while they're parked right outside her house.

Jade raises an eyebrow. 'Are you seriously asking me if I'll write?'

Cat giggles then presses a kiss against the porcelain white of her best friend's cheek. 'Well, do something so I know what to say when people ask about you.' Her bottom lip quivers as she hugs Jade who is suprisingly warm.

'No one's going to ask about me.'

'They will.' Cat sounds so sure of herself that Jade is somewhat convinced.

Somewhat.

(There will always be that part that will remain unconvinced of anyone's ability to care about her.)

'Happy Birthday, Jade!' Cat calls out to her before disappearing behind her front door.

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The day she leaves (runs away from home) the sky is the bluest blue she's ever seen and the sun is so high up that her shadows look especially weird and distorted. She tries not to think about how it's so hot that she's sweating and her hair is clinging to the back of her neck. She has on a pair of too-large sunglasses, her hair is dyed back to a light brown and she's wearing a yellow shirt that she got from Cat. She's going to be smart about this, not drawing too much attention to herself. No one really needs to know where she's going. They'll find out in time. But It feels sad that the last moments she'll have of Los Angeles are the ones she spends standing in line to buy a bus ticket to New York.

It's a long trip that she spends mostly sleeping. She doesn't get irritated by the douche with the too loud rap music blaring from his earphones. She doesn't snap at the crotchety old lady sitting behind her who keeps banging her bag against Jade's head each time she stands. She doesn't do any of the things she normally does because those things got her nothing and right now, Jade's looking for something.

(Anything.)

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[One day.

One day that is days after Jade's parents realize that she's missing and Cat insists that she is perfectly fine, Beck receives a postcard from some town in Texas. It reads Where do happy endings come from anyway? in that all too familiar handwriting of his ex-girlfriend.

He wonders if his shattering heart is anything compared to hers.

Maybe. Maybe not.]

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When she arrives in New York, she is OVERwhelmed. All she has is eight hundred bucks tucked into her left boot and a backpack (half of which is just clean underwear). She spends an entire day walking around, trying to get acquainted with this stranger, this city of lights and sounds with its people walking around with their heads down. Eventually, she happens upon a tiny secondhand bookstore. She walks down one aisle, the tips of her fingers tracing their used spines and the scent of their browned pages makes her close her eyes.

'Looking for something?'

(Yes. Me, she wants to say.)

'A job?'

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[One day.

One day that is days after people begin to forget that Jade left, Cat goes to the beach. She rips out pages from text books she'll probably need later. She takes a pair of scissors and cuts out the tinytinytiny letters and pastes them onto a sheet of black paper.

Dear Jade,

I miss you.

She traces the worn edges of the postcard in her jacket pocket.]

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She's been working in the bookstore for a couple of months now. She's also paying rent on the world's tiniest studio apartment a few blocks away from the store. But it's hers. Like her paycheck is hers. Like the thoughts in her head are hers. Like her heart is (finally) hers. She starts writing again. All the time. Everywhere. On everything. Her drawer is full of receipts, paper napkins and notebooks full of wordswordswords.

Georgia, the store owner and Jade's boss, is the closest thing she's ever had to a parental figure. One that she actually likes. Georgia steers clear of a certain questions ('Why did you run away?' and 'Don't you think it's time to go back?') and asks the ones that Jade appreciates (like 'Maybe we should close up shop early and catch that movie that just came out?' and 'What do you think, Jade?'). Jonah, a co-worker and college student, is like an older brother. That is if Jade had an older brother who had a penchant for cherry-flavored lip balm and boys.

Jonah teaches her about boys, about falling in love and out of love and in again, and about living the moment.

'Because we just live in moments. One after the other. So you have to breathe everything in. Take note of everything. Feel everything and you'll never miss out.'

Georgia teaches her about books, about the power of words, and about life.

'Because we have this tendency to forget that every single word that leaves our mouths affects someone in some way. Even yourself. Sometimes it's your own words than can break you down.'

That's when she decides that the only words that mean anything are those that come from people who actually mean something. She decides that her own words need thinking, that she's been too thoughtless, too reckless with how she uses her words. She decides to be better because she deserves to be better and not because someone asked her to be.

Georgia and Jonah throw her a birthday party when they learn that she wasn't able to celebrate turning eighteen. Georgia makes her a homemade cake of the most sinful chocolate and Jonah blows up black and white balloons. They're her family and for once she feels that it's okay to let down those walls she'd spent so many years building and fortifying.

'My fairy godmothers,' she tells them as they sit in around in the cramped kitchenette at the back of the store.

(Because when you've run away once, it seems silly to put yourself in a situation where you have to do it again.)

'Make a wish then,' Georgia says on a laugh and Jonah winks conspiratorially. 'Maybe we'll grant it.'

'Happiness.' She nods. 'Whatever that may bring me.'

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[One day.

One day that is a couple of weeks after school starts, auditions for a school play are announced. Beck's heart breaks just a tiny bit more when he realizes that they're doing one of her favorite plays. He wonders if it's because they're cruel or they're sympathetic or maybe parts of those feelings go hand-in-hand. He knows how they look at him with pity in his eyes and that makes him hate them a little more than he should.

He tries out for the lead and nails it. Of course.

It's a tragedy, after all.]

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Georgia eventually wears her down and with a little bit of magic (and a little help from Cat), Jade finds herself finishing high school. College is still a goal, she reminds herself, and finishing high school is a bitter pill she that she needs to swallow. It's hard; she doesn't quite fit in. But she does her best because there's no attending college if she doesn't prove that she's worth it. And yes. Yet another vicious cycle. But one worth living out just to see what happens in the end.

(Because she knows that somehow her chances at a happy ending are that much better.)

She almost misses the laid-back vibe back at Los Angeles. It feels like everyone in her school is trying to be different in the exact same way she was trying to be different back at Hollywood Arts. So a week into classes, she finds herself staring at her reflection in the mirror. She fingers her hair, much longer now with the passing of time. She never did have the heart to dye it back to that dark color that used to be so much a part of her. Taking a deep breath, she picks up a pair of shears and does the first snip. Half of her expects the first cut to hurt and it sort of does... Goodbyes are like that, though.

Georgia and Jonah compliment her on her new hairstyle and she smiles as she ties the ends of her ex-boyfriend's plaid shirt at the waist.

(There are some things that are easier to let go than others.)

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[One day.

One day that is a couple of days before Christmas, Beck receives a card in the mail. It's blood red with a glittery Christmas tree in the middle. Merry Christmas, stupid it says inside in that still very familiar handwriting.

A few minutes later and he's knocking on Cat's door. He's going to find out where she is, what she's doing, who she's with... (And where did she put his missing heart?) Cat opens the door with a smile that's the brightest he's seen on her in a while, clutching an envelop very similar to his own.

'You're not going to tell me, are you?'

Cat shakes her head. 'You don't get to do this, Beck. You don't get to break her heart and then—'

'I love her.'

She actually giggles. 'Oh silly Beck... That's not how you love a person. You don't let them go.'

But that's exactly what love is. Letting go. Holding yourself back.

Does no one understand that but him?]

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Jade kisses a guy.

This Ben person who starts hanging around the store but doesn't really buy anything. She doesn't know much about him, only that he's in one of Jonah's classes and he so obviously has a crush on her. He looks at her with his curious green eyes and he bites his lower lip when she says something particularly scathing. He is persistent and he always comes back no matter how many times she rolls her eyes, stomps her foot or shoves him out the door.

Finally, on the first day of the year, while she's preoccupied with the portfolio she'd sent in a week ago for her college application, he catches her in the corner of the store alone. Before she can say or do anything, his lips are on hers. She realizes that she doesn't remember the last time she was kissed, that she's forgotten that boys feel different, taste different. This one tastes bittersweet with a hint of cigarettes.

(Beck tasted like toothpaste and love.)

The tears that fall across her cheeks are fat and warm. She pushes away from him and broken sob gets caught in her throat as she races for the bathroom. Locking herself in, her hands quickly find her toothbrush and her gums bleed as she brushes away.

The next day Ben apologies for his transgression and Jade waves him away with nothing but a slight frown. But inside she thanks him for the knowledge that she will always love that boy with the silly bed hair and beautiful smile.

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[One day.

One day that is a week before Valentine's day, Cat announces that she's going to New York for her final audition with the Manhattan School of Music.

'Final audition?' Tori echoes. 'When were the other auditions, Cat? Didn't know you even wanted to go to college.'

'Didn't know you could even get into college,' Rex quips and is immediately admonished by Robbie.

And sometimes Cat can see why Jade hates people. Because people always look at Cat like she's crazy, like she doesn't know what she's talking about, like she's stupid. And while Jade looks at her that way, she also looks at everyone that way.

Cat merely shrugs her shoulders and plops down at the table with her lunch, ignoring Tori's cheerful smile, Andre's indifferent shrug, and Robbie's little apologetic smile. But Beck's eyes study her intently and she tries her best to avoid him. But he sees right through her and later takes her by the wrist, leading her to the janitor's closet.

'New York. That's where she is, right?'

She shakes her head vehemently, though she's chanting secretsecretsecret inside her head.

'Don't think I don't remember that pact you and Jade made once upon a time about attending college in the same city.' Beck runs an agitated hand through his hair. 'I should have known... I saw you talking to Sikowitz about something and... It was about Jade, wasn't it?'

Cat gapes because it was about Jade. About how Jade got her college acceptance letter—the application that Sikowitz wrote a recommendation for. She closes her eyes and pretends this isn't happening. This isn't happening. I'm under my bed...

Sorry, Jade.]

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To say that Jade's surprised to see both Cat and Beck at her doorstep is an understatement. It's short-lived, however, when Cat hurls her tiny body against hers, her arms tight around Jade's middle.

'Jade! What happened to you hair?'

Jade tries her best to extricate herself from the 'What the hell do you think you're doing here? Not you, Cat,' she quickly adds when she sees her best friend's mouth fall open, ready to state her purpose.

Beck merely smiles at her and pushes his way into her apartment, dropping his duffel bag at her feet. He scratches the stubble along his jaw as he surveys her place with an infuriatingly discerning eye. 'So this is the castle?' There isn't a trace of sarcasm in his voice and Jade relaxes a bit.

'So you wanna answer my question?'

He shrugs. 'I'll take the couch.'

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Georgia and Jonah take to Cat immediately. To Beck they offer their coldest shoulder, but that's mostly because they only know him as the guy who broke Jade's heart. Beck takes it all in stride, however, and appears to be perfectly content to just be there. He sits at the table and doesn't seem to mind that he's being ignored. He walks with them but doesn't get bothered by the fact that no one wants to walk next to him. He is the epitome of galant; he opens doors and pulls out seats only to receive fake smiles for a reward.

But that's okay.

It's okay and it shouldn't be.

Because Jade feels her heart's confusion. All the time. She watches him from her seat and sees his slight smile. She catches at subtle glances that he throws at her and the way he worries his bottom lip when she talks about her new school. She needs for him not to care. She needs for him not to be here. Because she loves him so much and she's afraid that she won't be able to let him go. She just might hop on that plane with him and that's exactly the opposite of what she needs to do.

So she tells him. 'Please go home, Beck.'

Cat is at her audition and they're walking through the park. It's kind of touristy but Jade hasn't really done it again since that first day she arrived. She stops walking but Beck continues on without her, as if not having heard her.

'Didn't you hear me?'

Beck turns around to face her but continues walking, backwards this time. 'Yeah, I did.'

'And?' She crosses her arms over her chest.

He shrugs. 'I'll only be here for a couple more days. What's a couple of days gonna hurt, Jade?'

(Me, she wants to say.)

She doesn't answer and just walks after him.

'I still love you, you know.' The way he says it is like he's commenting on the weather. Like the sky is blue. It's looking a little cloudy today. 'I don't think I'll ever not love you...'

'Then why did you break up with me?' she finds herself asking. 'What did I do?'

He finally stops walking. 'Because... one day I stopped being enough for you. I stopped making you happy.'

'What?'

'Tell me, Jade... Aren't you happier now?'

.

(She is.)

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The night before they're set to leave, they decide to make the best of it. Half in farewell and half in celebration that Cat is as good as in as an incoming freshman at MSM. They have dinner at a Moroccan restaurant where Cat practically faints at the idea of sitting on the floor while eating ('Like a picnic, Jade!') and they all splurge on tickets to see a Broadway show, then get coffee at a nearby cafe as they relive their high.

Cat goes on and on and on about her favorite parts, singing the lyrics she knows by heart, clasping a hand to her chest and closing her eyes. Jade looks on and she can feel the beginnings of a smile on her face as she watches her best friend's enthusiasm shine from inside her. Cat's in a different world now. Well, she's always been but this time, Jade thinks that she can share it some of it with her.

They want the night to stretch on forever so they start walking and walking and it feels like they'll never stop until Cat's eyes begin to droop and a team effort is required as she is pushed onto Beck's back to be carried. They're walking down the sidewalk and Jade can feel his eyes on her like they have been the entire night.

'You're beautiful in this light,' he tells her softly and his words are like delicate fingers on a switch. Suddenly her heart floods with too many emotions that she almost chokes on them.

She rolls her eyes when she feels some semblance of calm and touches her hair self-consciously. 'By the light of a streetlamp? How cheesy.'

'No no...' He smiles the smile of a person who just told a joke that no one gets. 'The New York lights. Seeing you here, seeing how you've been doing... You're so beautiful. You always were but now, you're just...' He shrugs lightly. 'Radiant, I guess.'

She bites her lip. Hard. Maybe then the tears won't fall.

'So you shouldn't worry,' he continues on no longer looking at her, his eyes now trained on the pavement. 'I'm not going to try to convince you to come home. I get it. You found your happy ending.'

She takes a deep breath and slips her hand into his. Still a perfect fit.

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[One day.

One day that is about a week after he arrives in New York, Beck stands in the middle of the busy airport, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. He looks on as Jade and Cat say their goodbyes. One cries pretty little tears while the other brushes them away. He feels like a bit of a jerk for being jealous of such an intimate moment then automatically pushes such thoughts from his mind.

Once they're done, they face him expectantly and he takes the few steps toward Jade until they're separated by mere inches.

He leans down to whisper in her ear. 'I'm going to kiss you now.' Then he does before she can protest. She tastes different. A little less broken dreams and a little more hopefulness—it's more addictive than anything he's ever wrapped his tongue around.

Between Cat's surprised squeals, he tucks a strand of hair behind Jade's ear and tweaks her nose as she remains mute.

'I'll come back,' he tells her. 'Wait for me, don't wait for me... It doesn't matter. I'm coming back here whether you like it or not.'

He knows she'll try her best not to wait. But only because she's still Jade West. She still won't do what people tell her.]

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'Once upon a time, there was a girl who ran away from home to find herself a happy ending. Along the way she made new friends, but none of them better than her very best friend—Don't roll your eyes, Jade!—and managed to finish high school and get into college. Then Prince Charming comes and he turns out to not be as crappy as everyone thought he was and—'

'I think I like it better when Jade tells the story.'

'Don't be such a crabby Cathy, Beck. Besides, Jade's letting me tell the story this time.'

'You two are such children sometimes. Fast forward to the end, Cat.'

'And she lives happily ever after.'