IMPORTANT AN: Sorry for the short notice about the end of this story, but like I said in the author's note in one of the previous chapters, it's already longer than I had planned for it to be. This has been a two year thing that I've worked on (and abandoned for a while,) and I feel like the original development I wanted Jade to have (because this story has always been about her understanding/fixing her own broken parts & how Tori plays into/affects that development) has been achieved, and I want to leave the two of them in a good place. In the start of something new and hopeful. So I'm sorry if any of you were surprised when I said this would be the last chapter, but it felt like a good place to end it.

Also, sorry about not updating at all during March. Some weird stuff happened.

So, without any further ado, here is the last chapter of this behemoth fucking story :)


They stopped at a food truck on the way back to Tori's, since the fucking tuna balls were an epic failure, and Jade hated that her car smelled like hamburgers and French fries. But Tori got a milkshake and when she kissed Jade goodnight, it was cool and tasted faintly like strawberries. Jade didn't walk her to her door, but did wait for her to get inside safely before leaving. And Tori's grin as she waved from her front step was so fucking adorable and sweet and sincere, that Jade couldn't stop the smile that stretched across her own lips embarrassingly wide.

Tori was hers. Tori was hers, and she loved Jade. It was stupid how happy that made her.

The house was empty, still, when she got back. Jade briefly considered finishing for herself what Tori had started earlier, but decided against it. She changed and climbed into bed, letting the soft smile playing on her lips ease her to sleep. And when she woke up in the morning, she was in such a good mood that she didn't even care about the random dude sitting at her kitchen table. She just thanked the house for having such thick walls and took a cup of coffee up to her room.

She cracked open a notebook and worked on transferring her latest screenplay to her laptop, editing as she typed. Her phone beeped from the floor, still in the pocket of her jeans, but she ignored it as she fleshed out the dialogue of a pivotal scene. A few minutes later though, it went off again, twice in a row, and she pushed away from her desk with a groan.

Her phone alerted her that she had three texts from Cat. She frowned at the screen, wondering what sort of apocalypse was happening as she tapped to open her messages.

I had a dream u were a sandwich that could talk & Tori had 2 eat u 2 get u 2 shut up

wanna see a movie?

8?

Jade's eyes rolled so hard they actually hurt afterwards. Awkward sexual innuendo aside, Jade actually missed Cat a little bit. They hadn't really hung out much lately, and it'd be nice to see her for a bit outside of classes. Her fingers flew across the screen as she sent back Movie is fine, don't ever speak of that dream again and tossed her phone onto the bed. She turned her attention back to her screenplay, running down the clock until she had to get ready to go out.

She got sudden déjà vu when she got to the theater, though, and Cat immediately ran up and clung to her, Tori and Andre chilling out a little ways behind her. "Seriously?" She demanded of the two just casually strolling towards her. "Do you have to load her up on sugar every time?"

Andre pried Cat off her with a grin before leading her inside the theater. And Tori gave her a sly smile, which Jade returned with a scowl. "What did you tell them?"

"Nothing," Tori slipped her hand into Jade's with a little smirk. "Andre's grandma had a crisis, and Cat's brother was doing something with firecrackers, and Trina had a weird reaction to some bath salts, so we all wanted to get out early. You didn't even come up."

Jade's eyes narrowed suspiciously, but she squeezed Tori's hand slightly. "I think I might try to talk to Beck after the movie. If he comes."

"Oh?" Tori's brows lifted curiously. "About what?"

"The growing political unrest spreading across the civilized world," Jade deadpanned before flicking Tori's nose. She didn't know where the action came from, but Tori's nose scrunched up adorably and she chuckled. "I assume the topic of you and I will come up at some point."

"You assume?"

Jade shrugged awkwardly through a small sigh. "He deserves to hear it from me. And besides, the faster he finds out, the faster we can be done with this shit. That way all our friends will know and it can be," she waved a hand dismissively, "over or whatever."

"Yeah. Although it's not all of our friends," Tori pointed out with a small smile. "Robbie still doesn't know."

Jade rolled her eyes. "He doesn't fucking count."

"He's your friend, Jade!" Tori swatted her shoulder.

Jade ripped her hand out of Tori's to shove a finger at her instead. "He is not! And if you ever say that again-"

"You'll what?" Tori laughed, taking a small step backwards, her hands lifting in mock defense. "You'll flick me again?"

Jade took an aggressive step forward, ready to attack, but caught movement in her peripheral. Her head snapped to the side just as the boys in discussion were crossing the street. Robbie looked clueless, as always, waving with a huge grin, but Beck's brows were turned down, his eyes darting between the two girls on the sidewalk. Fuck.

"Good evening, ladies," Robbie said jovially, bending in a small bow.

Jade rolled her eyes and Tori returned the greeting. She could feel Beck fucking staring at her, and Tori quickly dragged Robbie inside to join the others, shooting a small, encouraging smile over her shoulder at Jade. "So, uh," Beck started awkwardly, "what was that?"

"You mean Robbie being his usual loser self?"

Beck sighed, his hand rising to rub the back of his neck. "Look, Jade, I-"

"I don't really want to see this fucking movie," Jade interrupted suddenly, surprising herself as the words left her mouth. Apparently it surprised Beck, as well, because his head tilted curiously. "There's a coffee shop down the block," she offered instead, her gaze staring down the street.

Instead of answering, Beck just nodded and started walking, Jade falling in step beside him. Neither of them talked during the walk, or while they were waiting to order, or for several minutes after they'd already sat down in two large arm chairs across a small table. Just when Jade thought the silence couldn't get any more oppressing, Beck sighed and leaned forward. "So, you're not gonna tell me?"

"Tell you what?" She didn't really want to tell him. She just wanted him to know, and be fine with it, but she didn't want to do any of the work that came along with that.

Beck set his mug down on the table. "Why you left me for Tori?"

Okay, whoa. Jade had not been expecting that. "No," she said sternly, meeting his eyes for the first time. Tori didn't deserve any blame in this situation, and Jade wanted to make it perfectly clear to him that none of it was anyone's fault. "I did not leave you for anyone. We were having problems before we broke up. We've always had problems."

His hand swiped through his hair as he leaned back in his chair. "I know that. I just…" his shoulders slumped with a sigh. "I have no idea what happened. I just want to understand."

Instead of answering, Jade took a sip of coffee, the caffeine surprisingly settling her nerves. Her fingers steepled around her mug as she studied him. He didn't seem upset, or angry, which was good. But he did seem a little sad. "It's complicated." He rolled his eyes, pushing out of his chair, and she immediately regretted her choice of words. Which just so happened to be the same ones that ended their relationship, in a situation very similar to this one. "No, give me a minute. I'm trying here, Beck."

He looked at her for a moment before sitting back down. He let out a small sigh, nodding in resolve. "Okay. I'm listening."

Jade took another drink and shifted in her seat. "Tori and I kind of," she licked her lips nervously, "have a history." His brows tilted in confusion. "She knew me back when my parents were still together..." Jade took a deep breath, debating just how much to tell him. He knew her parents' marriage had been a fucking mess. Everyone knew that. It still didn't make it any easier to talk about, though. "Her showing up again just brought back a lot of bad memories from when I was a kid."

His head slowly dipped in a nod, and Jade could see the pieces falling into place behind his eyes. Why she'd gotten extra distant and weird when Tori started at Hollywood Arts. Why she'd pulled away from everything so suddenly. Even why she'd treated Tori the way she had. Beck was a smart dude, and Jade waited while he sorted through his thoughts. "Okay," he drawled with a hint of confusion still visible in his features. "So how did you go from that to…" his eyes flickered to the window, one of his palms lifting as they returned to Jade, "this? What even is this between you two?"

God, why did Jade get stuck telling Beck? Why couldn't she have gotten Andre? He probably just shrugged it off with a joke of some sort and then asked to be fed. Or write a song. But Beck…? Beck wanted fucking answers, just like he always did. He wanted her to talk and open up, and she'd been trying to with Tori, but they were totally different people. It was fucking hard with him. "This," she said slowly, "just sort of happened. And it's nice."

His eyes closed for a moment. When they opened again, there was a strange look in them. "Are you two dating?" Jade shrugged with a small nod and Beck's head recoiled a bit. She wasn't sure how to gauge that reaction. "Are you even gay?" Jade rolled her eyes, about to snap at him, but he instantly backtracked. "Sorry. I'm sorry, I didn't mean that." He leaned forward, pressing his palms against his face and Jade let him internally freak out or whatever. If she didn't feel so obligated to explain things to him, and if Tori wouldn't be disappointed in her if she didn't, she would've walked right out then and there.

She'd finished her coffee by the time he finally lifted his head, still hunched over. "So, you and Tori were friends when you were kids, you lost touch or whatever, and then she pops back into your life years later, and the two of you," his wrist rolled, his hand gesturing vaguely as he blew out a puff of air, "just start dating?"

"In the simplest explanation of things," Jade huffed, "yes."

Beck stared at her blankly, before a small smile tugged at the corner of his lips. "And the complicated version?"

A small snort escaped her as she rolled her eyes. "You don't have time for the complicated version."

Beck chuckled, finally straightening up. "I'd say we've got over an hour until the movie finishes. Plenty of time." Jade's eyes snapped to his, trying to judge the smile playing across his lips. "I've always cared about you, Jade, and just because we've broken up doesn't change that. I'd like us to be friends. And friends talk to each other."

Jade didn't really know how to respond to that. He was the only boyfriend she'd ever had, and she didn't know what the standard rules were for associating with an ex after a breakup. She also didn't know how to have friends, really. She had people she tolerated on a good day. People she used to kill time when she was bored. But she was always a little reluctant to call them friends. The only one she'd really ever had was Tori. And there was no way Beck could ever be like her. But… it would be nice, maybe, to like, have someone. After all, Tori had Andre to talk to. And, yeah, Jade had Cat, but that didn't really count. She was like a pet. And Jade did care about Beck, too…

"So," Beck dipped his head to catch her eyes, a ridiculously hopeful smile still on his face. "Can we be friends?"

Jade pushed her empty mug across the table, a familiar smirk curling up the corner of her mouth. "Get me another drink and I'll think about it."

When they finally left the coffee shop, Beck was still confused. He said it was just a lot to wrap his head around, but he seemed okay with the idea of Tori and Jade dating. Or seeing each other. Or whatever it was they were doing. He didn't ask for specifics, for once, and Jade didn't offer him any, as usual. She figured enough time had passed between their breakup and her spending time with Tori that he actually accepted Jade hadn't dumped him because of the other girl. He apologized again outside the theater about that comment, and the gay one, and Jade shrugged it off because it was "No big deal or whatever."

Beck just laughed lightly, his eyes drifting to the large glass doors. "They'll probably want to grab food or something after."

"Most likely," Jade sighed, leaning her shoulder against a lamppost. "They're a bunch of bottomless pits."

Beck grinned, and then it turned into a bit of a grimace. "I think I might pass."

Jade's eyebrows lifted and she asked coolly, "any particular reason?" She knew exactly why, but wanted to see if he'd actually say it.

"I'm not gonna lie," he offered with a small shrug. "It's a little weird and I just need a couple days to wrap my head around it." Jade gave him a slight nod of understanding, and he took a small step closer to her. "You seem really happy."

Jade resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "Don't get all sappy on me."

"I'm being serious," he said lightly as Jade folded her arms across her stomach. "You've been different lately. It hurts a little that it's not because of me, but it's still good to see."

Jade's throat constricted. He was such a sentimental bastard. So was Tori, and it was all turning her into a giant mush inside. She averted her gaze just as a crowd of people started streaming out of the theater. Beck cleared his throat and stepped away just as their group came outside.

"There you are!" Andre called as Cat loped along beside him. "We were wondering where you guys went."

"We decided getting a nice cup of coffee was a better use of our time," Beck joked as Andre pulled him into some sort of bro-hug.

"Right on, man." Andre clapped him on the back before releasing him.

"We were thinking of getting a bite to eat," Tori offered with a quick, curious smile in Jade's direction before looking to Beck. "You wanna come with?"

"I have to pass." His voice was a little heavy, but his smile was sincere and apologetic and Jade couldn't help but think that maybe he really would be okay with everything, given a little time. Maybe they really could be friends. "I've still got a paper to write for science."

"No worries," Andre offered. "I can give Robbie a ride."

Jade kept leaning on the pole, watching, as Beck said his goodbyes. He even hugged Tori, lingering for a moment to whisper something in her ear. She gave him a small smile and a nod and he threw a hand up to Jade. She lifted her chin in response and he strolled away.

"So," Cat clasped her hands in front of her, "Karaoke Dokie for burgers and buffalo nuggets?"

Everyone agreed, and Tori took a small step towards Jade, turning to face Andre. "You guys go ahead, we'll catch up."

Cat giggled, shooting an annoyingly suggestive wink at Jade, and Andre just ushered them all off down the street with a chuckled, "See ya, chica."

When Tori turned back around, Jade's eyes were already waiting to meet hers, a light smile playing on her lips. Tori tugged at Jade's arms, forcing her to unfold them, and then her fingers were gently running down Jade's arms to lace between hers. "How was it?"

"Fine," Jade answered honestly, giving Tori's hands a quick squeeze. "He needs some time to process, but I think he's actually okay with it." She quirked an eyebrow. "What did he say to you?"

Tori beamed, dropping their hands as she stepped into her. Her arms wrapped around Jade's neck. "He told me to take care of you, which was really sweet."

"I'm not a child," Jade protested, even though her arms wrapped around Tori's waist, holding her close. "I don't need to be taken care of."

Tori kissed her softly, a small smile forming when she pulled away. "Everyone needs to be taken care of, Jade. That's what love is."

Jade's eyes narrowed uncertainly, her arms tightening around Tori's waist. "And that's what this is, right? Love?"

Instead of answering, Tori just beamed, surging forward to kiss her again.

They didn't end up going to Karaoke fucking Dokie. Jade got Tori home at a respectable time, but it was still pretty late, and Tori's hair may or may not have needed some fixing before she was deemed presentable by the girl who had messed it up. And Jade just smiled as Tori waved, yet again, from her front step.

They agreed to meet for lunch the next day, and the second Jade was in eyesight, Tori was waving her phone in the air, demanding they exchange numbers because somehow they still hadn't fucking done that. Jade entered her number into Tori's phone and saved it under 'Drop Dead Gorgeous', laughing when she saw Tori had saved her number in Jade's phone as 'Hot Mamacita'. They hung out for most of the day, just enjoying each other's company as they wandered down a few streets, stopping into random stores. And Jade reluctantly dropped Tori off back at home so she could have dinner with her family.

At school Monday morning, Jade greeted Tori with a kiss, and Beck gave them both small, but sincere smiles. Robbie fainted, because he was really that fucking clueless, and Andre and Cat just gave them both sly little smirks. Which Jade dismissed with a roll of her eyes and an annoyed huff.

They hung out after school at Tori's house, and neither of them got much homework done.

Tuesday they went out to dinner, on a proper date, and Tori beamed across the table the entire fucking time. Jade didn't even try to hide her own smile. Wednesday they all went to Andre's grandma's house to capture some sort of wild animal that turned out to be a mop in the closet. So he took everyone out for ice cream as an apology. Tori got home pretty late, because she had been teasing Jade the entire night with suggestive comments and coy little looks, and Jade had to pay her back for it. She didn't even fix her hair for her, so Tori looked like a mess when she climbed out of the car, slightly out of breath with the buttons on her plaid shirt all messed up. Thursday they actually worked on homework after school, but not for long. And Jade left Tori's house to the sound of her whining about how much makeup she'd need to cover the hickey Jade had given her.

Friday… well, Friday was a weird day. Tori wasn't there in the morning, and when she showed up halfway through Sikowitz's class, with a half-assed excuse and an insincere apology, she looked kinda haggard and tired, and not at all like herself. Jade frowned as Tori slumped into the chair next to her. She held her palm up, and Tori stared at it for a moment before slipping her fingers between Jade's. And Jade pretended like the moment of hesitation didn't bother her.

Tori wasn't at her locker before lunch, and she didn't show up at their usual table, and Jade went straight for the janitor's closet, where Tori was curled up against a fucking trash can. So Jade rolled her eyes and slipped her jacket off her shoulders, draping it over the sleeping girl. And then she sat on the floor next to her and closed her own eyes, even though she wasn't tired. The bell startled them both awake, and before Jade could even ask her what was wrong, Tori tossed her jacket back with a tight smile and fucking ruffled Jade's god damned hair before leaving.

If Jade didn't love Tori so much, she would have dragged the girl straight back into the closet and murdered her for that action. But, as it was, she did, so she didn't. She just seethed quietly, determined to get to get an explanation before the day was done. Tori ignored all the notes Jade tried to pass her in screenwriting, and for the first time ever, Jade left that class with an empty page in her notebook.

So at the end of the day, Jade stormed over to Tori's locker and slammed it shut so hard that half the occupants of the hallway skittered away out of fear. Tori just sighed heavily and opened it again, only for Jade to slam it shut immediately. They seriously did that five more times before Jade screeched, "What the fuck is going on, Vega?"

"It's nothing," Tori said with a strained smile.

And Jade saw right through it. "Bullshit! What's going on?"

Tori's entire body sighed, sagging as her arms folded across her stomach and she shuffled her feet a little. "You know how my parents are," one of her shoulders lifted in a small shrug. "They care about me, but they're really protective. They know something's going on, and they kind of cornered me about it last night, so I didn't get much sleep."

Jade's eyes narrowed. "Cornered you?"

Tori's eyes shifted back to Jade's hand splayed on her closed locker. "They have these dating rules, and they know I'm lying to them about seeing someone, but it's fine."

"Dating rules," Jade repeated with a small gulp. She knew how the Vegas were, alright. "Lemme guess. They have to meet anyone you're interested in before you're allowed to date them."

Tori gave her a small nod. "But, it's fine. I know you aren't ready for that, and I'm not gonna pressure you about it. It's fine."

But it wasn't fine. Tori was lying to her parents for Jade's sake. To protect Jade from her own issues and emotions. And it was clearly affecting her. "Hey." Jade's hands reached out and settled on Tori's hips. "It's gonna be fine." Tori still looked like a wreck, though, so Jade pulled her a little closer, and Tori's hands dropped to land on her arms. "What are you doing later?"

"Family dinner." Tori gave her a small smile. "Kinda have to be home."

"Okay," Jade gave her a sincere smile, a plan already forming in her mind. "Have fun and I'll see you tomorrow? We can hang out or something."

Tori gave her a quick kiss that was interrupted by Trina's noise of disgust as she flounced by. "C'mon, Tor. That pot pie's not gonna eat itself."

Jade squeezed her hips with a small smile before letting her go. "Don't worry about your parents. It'll be fine."

Tori didn't look the slightest bit reassured, or calmed, but Jade took a deep breath and watched her walk away. She tried to get some work done when she got home, since she'd been slacking all week, but she couldn't focus. Her nerves were on edge and a strange pressure had formed in her chest, so she just cranked her music up and did everything she could imagine to try and siphon some of the anxious energy she had. Nothing really worked, and she ended up almost poking her own eye out while trying to do her makeup. She threw on some tights, a skirt, and a long sleeved shirt. Casual, but definitely presentable, even though the combat boots ruined any attempt at 'nice'.

She stood at the bottom of the stairs, staring at her front door for, like, five solid minutes, trying to talk herself into actually leaving her house. The only thing that got her feet moving was remembering what a fucking mess Tori had been all day. She doubted if Tori had ever outright lied to her parents before, and Jade hated that she was giving her cause to. So even though she was determined to try and fix the situation, it didn't mean she wasn't nervous as fucking hell to do it.

She drove past the Vega house three times before finally gathering the courage to actually stop the car. And then she stared at it for several minutes. She didn't even glance at her old house, which really should have given her some confidence in just how much progress she'd made with all this shit, but she was too fucking nervous to think about anything except what might happen if she went and knocked on the door.

Jade stiffened when she saw a figure walking down the driveway. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously as the silhouette slowly turned into… gross. Wrong Vega. Trina popped open the mailbox, removed a few letters, and Jade thought she was in the clear when suddenly Trina turned directly towards her car and sort of threw her hands up in the air. Like she was saying 'Well?' Jade rolled her eyes and shoved her keys into her purse, dragging it out of the car behind her. "What?" she growled as Trina started tapping her foot.

"I could see your car from my window for the past twenty minutes. I know you and Tori are…" she flipped her hair over her shoulder, "whatever you are, but you're approaching an Edward Cullen level of creepy just sitting out here in the dark."

That was actually a good insult, not that Jade would ever admit it out loud. She rolled her eyes, shouldering her bag with a sigh as she slammed her door closed. "Yeah, well, I lost track of time while pushing pins into the voodoo doll I carry around of you."

Trina glared like she wouldn't put it past Jade to do something like that. She eventually just shrugged, flapping the mail at Jade as she turned back to the house. "Whatever. Door's unlocked, Freaky Friday."

"You should put on a little more makeup. I can still see some of your ugly," Jade smirked as Trina threw a rude gesture over her shoulder. As odd as it was, that little encounter actually managed to calm her down. She'd always had a fondness for trading blows with the Older Vega, both verbal and physical, and it seemed like the familiar action had helped somewhat. Jade took another minute to gather her bearings before heading up the driveway.

She stared at the front door, debating whether or not she should just walk right in, but she wasn't a kid anymore, and she really doubted that action was acceptable now. So she lifted her head, straightened her back, and knocked. There was some rustling, and footsteps, and a very loud groan from someone that sounded suspiciously like Trina. Jade could just picture the fucking Vega Clan arguing over who got stuck answering the door. Jade was just about to knock again when it opened, and suddenly she really didn't know what the fuck she was doing. She didn't know what the fuck she was thinking when she'd decided to do this. She just… didn't fucking know anything.

Holly's head tilted, her eyes studying Jade curiously. "Yes? Can I help you?"

Jade tried to speak, but her throat was tight, so she cleared it and swiped a hand through her hair quickly. "Uh, is Tori home? I have…" Holly's eyes sparkled with almost recognition, the confused crease in her brow deepening and Jade lost her nerve. She shoved a hand into her purse and pulled out the first thing she felt, "this thing for an assignment we're supposed to do." Unfortunately, what she'd taken out of her bag seemed to be a flyer for a Chinese restaurant she'd pulled off her windshield one day, and Holly's eyes narrowed.

"Jade?" Tori's head popped up from behind the kitchen counter, and David and Trina paused in their slap fight, each of them with a hand on the television remote, to stare at the door. David's momentary distraction allowed Trina to yank the controller away, and she just sank back into the sofa while all of the other Vegas stared at Jade.

"West?!"

Jade flinched at the sheer volume of Holly's voice right in front of her face. "Yeah, that's me," she mumbled, shoving the traitorous flyer back in her bag.

Tori was running towards them and Holly's eyes just steadily grew wider. She was pushing her mother gently out of the way and then easing the door shut as she steered Jade to the small bench on the front porch. "Jade? What are you doing here? Why are-"

"Vega," Jade shushed Tori with a single finger pressed to her lips. Even just seeing Tori reminded Jade why she was there, and she felt her confidence coming back full force. "I never meant to put you in a position where you'd have to lie to your parents." Tori's eyebrows flew up her forehead, but Jade just pressed on. "You were a fucking mess today, and it was really unattractive, so I'm here to alleviate your guilt and meet them." She dropped her hand with a small shrug. "Again, I guess, since they already know me."

Tori's eyes flickered between each of Jade's. "You're sure? If you're not ready, it's okay."

Jade threw a hand out towards the house. "Do you really think your parents would let me leave now? C'mon, Tori, they're probably dying inside to know what the fuck is going on."

A smile slowly spread across Tori's face, and she flung her arms around Jade's neck. Jade rolled her eyes, but hugged her back. She'd grown so accustomed to these random and intense Vega hugs lately that her body just reacted on instinct, holding Tori until she got the affection out of her system. "You have no idea how much I appreciate this, Jade."

Jade patted her back with a sigh. "Well, you can show me all the gratitude you want when we're alone. I accept payment in the form of coffee and sexual favors."

Tori laughed and pulled away, pushing at Jade's shoulders playfully. She beamed for a moment before grabbing Jade's hand and leading her back inside. Holly was sitting next to David now, and their hushed whispers stopped as soon as their youngest daughter was back in the room. Trina continued to stare blankly at the tv, and Jade's hand tensed a little in Tori's. "Mom, Dad," Tori started with a small smile, "you remember Jade, right?"

Jade didn't miss the way David's eyes narrowed slightly when they landed on their joined hands. But Holly shot her a heartfelt, if slightly confused, smile. "Of course, honey. How have you been, Jade?"

"Oh, you know, alive."

Trina snorted and David flicked her ear quickly, causing her to gasp at him. "Dad!"

"We have a guest, be polite."

"She is not a guest," Trina scoffed. "And you should punish Tori for ever inviting that vampire back into the house."

Holly immediately stood up, blocking Trina from view. "You'll have to excuse her, Jade. She missed her nap this afternoon."

"Say no more," Jade held up her free hand. "I understand how cranky toddlers can get when they're tired."

Holly and David chuckled lightly, while Trina made an offended noise behind them. Holly quickly stepped forward, wrapping an arm around Jade's shoulders. "Please, come in. Have a seat and I'll get you something to drink."

Jade sat as far as possible from the glaring Trina and placed her purse on the floor by her feet just as Tori plopped down next to her with a dopey smile.

"Here you go," Holly handed her a glass, and Jade's heart swelled a little bit when she saw the contents. The Vegas had always kept a fresh carton of mango juice in the fridge for her, and it seemed like they'd continued to buy it, even after she'd stopped spending time there. It was a little thing, but… her own mother usually didn't buy enough groceries for both of them, like she forgot there was even a second person living in the house, but Holly fucking Vega still remembered, years later, how much she liked mangos.

"Thanks," she said with genuine appreciation as she took a small sip.

"Of course," Holly replied, sitting back down next to her husband. "Have you eaten yet? The family pot pie should be ready soon if you want to stay for dinner."

Trina squeaked like that was the single most offensive thing she'd ever heard in her life. "You're letting her eat the family pot pie?"

And Jade grinned as three other Vegas responded with "She's eaten it before."

Tori beamed at her, and Jade couldn't help but smile in return. Family pot pie, huh? She could get on board with that. "Sure."

"Great. Trina, set an extra place at the table." Holly patted her oldest daughter's knee and Trina's head fell back with a loud groan.

"Why?" she whined.

"Because it's your turn." David nudged her off the sofa. "Go or Jade gets your piece of the pie."

Everyone just sat on the sofas, stifling laughter as Trina glared and groaned and trudged and made a show of setting a place for Jade at the table, like she had just been tasked with building the Great fucking Pyramids all by herself.

David grimaced apologetically in embarrassment, and Holly just continued with her confused smiling. "So, Jade, how, um, how did you and Tori," she motioned between the two girls as Jade sipped her juice, "uh, get back in touch?"

"She goes to Hollywood Arts," Tori answered immediately. "We've kind of been hanging out again ever since I started there." Jade's eyebrow lifted because that was a bit of a stretch. Tori just shrugged lightly, and Jade nodded in understanding. It wasn't a lie, and it was easier than the whole truth.

David studied their guest seriously. "You would go to that school."

Holly slapped his shoulder. "He just means that you were always very talented, even as a child. Do you still sing?"

"Yeah, she does," Tori grinned goofily and she bumped her knee against Jade's.

"I can answer for myself, Vega," Jade snapped, although there was no malice in it. Tori mimed zipping her lips and Jade rolled her eyes before looking at Tori's parents. "I still sing, but most of my focus is on writing and cinema studies. I want to make films once I graduate."

Holly cooed in excitement and scooted forward a little. "What kind? I love a good tragedy. One that really tugs at your heartstrings, you know?"

Jade leaned forward, a totally serious look in her eye. "I love killing people." David's head tilted in slightly concerned confusion, while Tori's palm smacked into her forehead, but Jade just plowed on. "A well placed, really good death scene can completely change the tone of a film."

"I totally agree!" Holly nodded, standing up quickly to sit on the other side of her husband, closer to Jade. "Have you seen The Charlatans yet?"

"Oh my god yes!" Jade unceremoniously shoved Tori back into the sofa and climbed over her so she and Holly were just a few inches apart on the sofas. "It's brilliant! You spend the whole movie thinking that the wife is gonna die, but then bam!"

"It's the husband instead!" Holly threw her hands up with a grin. "I cried for an hour afterwards."

"It's true," David nodded solemnly. "Worst date night ever."

Jade didn't point out that she had been cackling with delight in the back of the theater, because it probably wouldn't get her on Holly's good side, but she nodded all the same. "It was a really great twist and totally made up for the ridiculously cliché thing with the neighbor."

"Oh, that was so boring, wasn't it?" Holly's eyebrows drew together distastefully. "I don't know how people can romanticize infidelity like that."

Jade just drank some more mango juice, because infidelity was still a topic that struck a little too close to home. Being with Tori's parents again was reminding her of all the good times she'd had in the house, but still. She spent so much time there to escape her own parents and, y'know, her dad was a heartless, cheating bastard that broke up his own marriage. "It's so great," she said instead, "to find someone who appreciates good filmmaking. You have impeccable taste, Mrs. Vega." She tilted her glass in a small toast.

"Hear that, honey?" Holly sat up proudly and nudged her elbow into David's ribs. "I have impeccable taste." She threw a hand out to rest on Jade's knee. "Sweetie, you can date our daughter as much as you'd like."

"Holly," David gestured between his daughter and Jade, "you still owe me twenty bucks about this whole thing."

"We made that bet a decade ago," she replied with a huff. "You can't hold me to it."

"Trina!" Tori shouted quickly as Jade chuckled next to her. "Is the pot pie ready yet?"

And Trina's bored voice responded, "It's actually a little bit on fire."

Jade laughed as the three other Vegas all leapt to their feet and rushed to the kitchen. She finished her juice and followed a moment later, watching the chaos as Holly and Tori tried to extinguish dinner while David reprimanded Trina for not putting out the fire.

One the pot pie was salvaged, things actually went really well. They didn't ask about her parents even once, but they wanted to know pretty much everything about how school was going for her, and once Tori mentioned that Jade had actually written plays that had been performed, the questions and praise never stopped coming. Trina left to go to sleep as soon as she'd finished eating, so the night got even better. Plus, Tori's hand was on her knee underneath the table for the entire thing, which made it even easier to handle, and Jade found herself wondering why she'd been dreading the event so much. Holly dished up ice cream for dessert, and when Tori casually mentioned that Jade was the reason she'd gotten into the drawing class, Holly immediately got up to get Jade a second helping.

"That almost makes up for you two not telling us sooner," David said, his voice light but his face serious. It had been a long time since she'd talked with him, and Jade wasn't sure if he was joking or actually mad.

Tori rolled her eyes, her hand squeezing Jade's thigh reassuringly. Okay, joke then. "I'm sorry about that. I just wasn't sure how you would react."

"It's fine," Holly said sweetly, giving both girls a big smile.

"It, um," Jade's hand found the one resting on her leg, and Tori immediately turned her palm up, entwining their fingers. "It's actually my fault," Jade said slowly. She didn't have to give them the entire truth, but it might not hurt to let some of it out. "I was just really nervous about seeing the two of you again after so long. And I kind of asked Tori," Jade dragged her gaze from Tori's parents to the aforementioned girl, whose eyes were lit up with so much fucking love that Jade couldn't help but grin as she finished, "to keep us a secret which was really unfair of me to do and I'm sorry about that."

Tori was trying really fucking hard not to fling herself at Jade. Her entire body was tense with the effort it took to restrain herself since they were still sitting at the kitchen table. David cleared his throat and started gathering up empty dishes, and Holly was humming some noise of affection in her throat as she followed her husband to the sink.

But the girls only had eyes for each other. And Tori opened her mouth, but before she could say anything, Jade cocked a brow. "Just remember," her voice lowered to a sultry whisper, "coffee or sexual favors."

Tori jumped out of her seat like she'd been shocked. "Can I go over to Jade's for a little bit?" Tori glanced from her parents to Jade, her eyebrows lifting. "We have that thing to finish for Sikowitz."

Jade smirked, standing up as well. "Yeah, it's a really important scene we're supposed to have ready by Monday."

"I don't know," David said warily, looking to his wife. "It's getting late. Besides, didn't Jade come over here to bring you the assignment?"

Holly batted his arm and grinned at their daughter. "It's fine, sweetie. Just be home by curfew."

"Thanks, mom!" Tori hugged her mother and then practically attacked her father with a massive one as well. He just grumbled something but fought back a smile as he patted Tori's back.

Holly turned to Jade, and before she even knew what was happening, she was being pulled into a hug with Mrs. Vega. Something that hadn't happened for a very long fucking time. And Jade didn't seem to mind. She even hugged her back for a moment. "It was good to see you again, Jade," she said sincerely as she pulled back, her hands holding onto Jade's shoulders for a moment. "You're welcome back any time."

"Except for sleepovers," David said sternly. "You can hang out downstairs, or with Tori's door open, but there's no more blanket fort building or camping out or anything where we can't keep an eye on you two."

Tori groaned in embarrassment, but Jade just chuckled. "You got it. I'll keep my hands to myself."

"Glad to hear it. Tori's too young to be defiled, even if it is by-"

"Okay, bye!" Tori grabbed Jade's wrist and dragged her out of the house before her father could finish what was sure to be a hilariously embarrassing sentence. Jade was barely even able to wrap fumbling fingers around the strap of her purse Tori was so desperate to get out of there. "You better not have been serious," she said darkly as she finally released Jade's arm when they reached the sidewalk.

"Your dad has guns, Tori." Jade quirked a brow. "I'm not getting on his bad side any time soon."

"He's not that scary," Tori huffed and rolled her eyes. "So, where do you wanna go?"

Jade's eyes flickered to her car, then back to Tori. "I thought we were going to my house?"

Tori's head tilted, her expression impossible to read. "I just said that to get us out of there. We don't have to."

"It's where your parents think we're going," Jade's shoulder jerked in a shrug, "so we might as well." Tori studied her for a minute, and Jade just lifted her eyebrows. "We going or what?" Tori's lips curled in a smile and she threw herself at Jade again. "Okay, seriously, what is up with you?"

"I'm just so happy and proud of you." Tori was swaying both of their bodies side to side in her excitement and Jade, as gently as possible, fucking shoved her away. It didn't even put a dent in Tori's beaming smile. "You're so amazing."

She rolled her eyes, the warmth of a blush creeping up her cheeks. "Yeah, well, I've been trying to be the person you seem to think I'm capable of being."

Tori shook her head, her smile turning sweet and kind. "You don't have to try, Jade. I see you for you, and you're fucking incredible."

Jade couldn't even bring herself to reprimand Tori for the language. She just reached out, taking Tori's hand in hers with a smirk. "Then maybe I've just finally started seeing myself the way you do."

They went back to Jade's empty house, and the moment they set foot in Jade's room, Tori burst into tears, trying to insist that they were happy tears when Jade started freaking out. But Jade was just puzzled and uncertain, because crying is a bad thing, but Tori was beaming behind tear-soaked eyes. "Seriously," Jade forced a laugh, nerves making her hands a little unsteady as they cupped Tori's face, before her expression turned deadly serious. "You're not having some sort of breakdown right?"

Tori shook her head with a grin, still crying, and kissed Jade. Almost desperately. "Your room!" Tori managed to choke out between broken sobs and frantic kisses. And Jade's head slumped comically. That was why she was freaking the fuck out? She really should've known.

"Jesus, Vega, it's just a fucking room! No need to cry over it."

Tori swatted her arm. "But it's your room."

"Yeah, I know that," Jade smirked as her thumbs gently wiped the wetness from Tori's cheeks, "seeing as I live in it."

Tori's sobs had quieted, and no fresh tears were coming from her eyes, although they were still glistening like she might burst again at any moment. Jade slowly dropped her hands, wary that the crying might start up again. "Thank you," Tori gasped before flinging herself at Jade, her arms wrapping tightly around her neck.

Jade held her for a moment, before patting her back, trying to put some space between them. "Look, it's," she gave up on ending the hug because Tori was not budging and just held her to keep her from fucking crying again, "it's not a big deal, okay? It's just a room and this is just a house."

"But it's yours!"

"Technically the house is my birth-giver's," Jade corrected with a slight roll of her eyes. "Nothing is mine, except for my car." Tori's face nuzzled in her neck and Jade couldn't help but add, "And you."

"Always me," Tori murmured in response.

"Yeah." Jade rubbed her back soothingly. "So there's no need to cry, okay?"

Tori sniffed and pulled back with a small chuckle. "They were happy tears. It's okay to have happy tears."

"Any kind of tears are not okay," Jade grumbled, finally breaking their embrace. She kicked off her boots and padded over to her bed, launching herself onto it and landing on her back.

"Where's your mom?" Tori asked as she took a small step towards Jade's desk.

"Who the fuck knows," Jade scoffed. "She'll probably pour herself into bed around dawn, like usual." Tori's eyes darted between Jade and various things on the walls and shelves. Jade rolled her eyes playfully and flicked a hand in the air. "Try not to break anything during your exploration."

Tori leapt into the air with excitement and set off to examine all of Jade's things. And Jade just folded her arms behind her head, resting on her pillow and smiling to herself as Tori's attention drifted from one object to the next. She started at the desk next to the door, her eyes scanning the large poster hanging above it. "Seriously?" Tori questioned with a small laugh, looking over her shoulder.

Jade shrugged, an awkward movement given her position, as Tori turned back to the poster titled 'Top 200 Misspelled Words'. "As frighteningly brilliant as I am, even I need a reminder every once in a while."

Tori's shoulders shook with silent laughter as her fingers traced over various little trinkets littered across her desk. Finger away, Jade thought as Tori moved on to the bookshelf. It apparently bored her, though, because she moved on rather quickly. Understandable, given that most of the books were reference material. Dictionaries, thesauruses, manuals on proper formatting. Boring to most people, but vital for Jade. Tori stared for a long time at a large shadow box that sat on top of her dresser. Jade shifted her head a little to the side, her brows drawing together curiously the longer Tori looked at it.

"I remember," Tori said slowly, lifting a hand to touch the glass, "when you kept one. And it had died by the time we woke up. Why the butterflies, though?"

"The firefly looked lonely all by itself, so I started collecting other things, too. And there's only one butterfly," Jade corrected gently. "The others are all moths."

Tori wheeled around, her eyes wide in shock. "Even the rainbow one?"

Jade grinned, because that was the one she liked best. "It's the Madagascan Sunset moth."

"But," Tori's head whipped back to the box before her eyes darted to Jade again. "But I thought moths were just, like, brown things? Ugly and," she made a weird flying gesture with her hands, "creepy."

"You should know better than to judge a book by its cover." Jade shot her a quick wink.

Tori's mouth turned down in a playful frown. "When did you become such an expert on bugs?"

"I'm not," Jade smiled, moving her arms so she could fold her hands across her stomach. "I just got curious one day about why fireflies glow, and it kinda led to researching other insects when I got bored of being alone in an empty house."

"Oh." A shadow of sadness flickered across Tori's eyes, but she quickly shook it away and stepped closer to the bed, a smile settling across her features. "So why do they glow?"

Jade smirked. She didn't want to ruin the magic for Tori by telling her the truth, so she just winked again. "It's magic. No scientific explanation at all."

Tori rolled her eyes, gently slapping Jade's foot. "Tell me."

"Nope."

Tori tried a pout, and a whine, and even puppy dog eyes, but nothing cracked Jade's resolve. She flat out refused to answer. "I can just find out for myself," Tori said threateningly.

"Then you'll have to do that, because I'm not telling."

Tori huffed and turned her head away, losing herself in thought for a moment while Jade just chuckled. But the laughter died in her throat the moment Tori looked at her again. Because her eyes were narrowed, and a smirk was pulling up her lips, and her eyebrow was lifted in a way that had Jade gulping. "I could make you tell me." It really should be illegal for Tori to ever speak in that tone of voice, so rich and seductive it bordered on dangerous.

Jade licked her lips, her own brow cocking in response. "And how do you propose to do that?"

Tori leaned forward, her palms resting on either side of Jade's legs. And good god damn, Jade knew they had agreed to just do whatever came naturally, but she had no idea Tori was capable of crawling up her body like a fucking jungle cat. If she had known, she probably would have made an addendum banning Tori from ever doing it, just because there was no way she'd be able to control herself if Tori kept looking at her like she was about to be eaten alive. Jade felt her chest rising and falling rapidly, her breath coming in shallower, rougher little pants as Tori's lips hovered over hers.

"Tell me," Tori breathed.

And there was no way in hell Jade was going to tell her now, because it was guaranteed to kill the mood. Instead, she just smirked, steadily holding Tori's hungry gaze. "Make me."

Jade's heart slammed against her ribs as Tori's lips pressed, hard, against hers. It was slow, and smoldering, and Jade's hands slipped under Tori's shirt, sliding up her back and holding on for dear life. The body in her arms felt heavy with the weight of memory and time. Their history was a tangible thing that existed between them. It hummed and glowed and Jade welcomed its presence. Because she'd never liked hugs, or cuddling, or the pressure of a body against hers, but that weight in her arms belonged to Tori. And that made all the difference. It always had.

"Is this okay?" Tori murmured, her lips brushing across Jade's neck, pressing light kisses over every inch of pale skin she could.

Jade's eyes remained closed, her fingers digging into Tori's back. The only response she could give was a whispered, "It's perfect."

She told Jade she was beautiful. She told her she loved her. Tori showed her she loved her, her hands and lips slowly prying open the iron grip Jade had kept over herself. And Jade returned every kiss and caress, finally letting go of her control. She let herself get lost in the weight and the warmth of Tori and everything that meant. They'd come so far, on their own and together, and it was exactly how Jade had always imagined it. Loving Tori, and being loved by her, was the only wish Jade had ever made. And it came true as that hum, that glow that existed between them burst into life, like a summer night coming alive under a blanket of stars.

It was beautiful. And it was right. And it was Tori.

Who was everything Jade had ever wanted.


AN: Well, that's the end, everyone. I just want to thank each and every single one of you who have stuck with this story through all the terribly inconsistent updates. Thank you to everyone who has reviewed or favorited, and thank you to those who never have, but kept reading anyway. I know there's A LOT of you, so you get a special little mention, too.

This has been a really hard story to write, for several reasons, but I've managed to actually work through some of my own shit doing it. So thank you for every single review encouraging me to continue, because they really were the reason why I finished this. It's going to kill me to have to mark this as 'Complete'.

Y'all are too awesome for words :)

(And just to save y'all from having to Google it, fireflies glow as part of a mating thing. Which I feel like Tori would think is gross.)

((Stay awesome because you are all majestic, glorious people!))

(((The parentheses are going overboard, but feel free to leave a review if the fancy strikes you, you beautiful creatures.)))