Hello fellow jori shippers and/or curious people. I have a present for you. Sorry about the length... I couldn't bear to break it in half. This one's kind of my baby. Any and all reviews are very appreciated. :) Thank you for even reading this far.

She used to wake up every morning in the dark.

No matter the weather – if the sun were shining or if it were covered by the clouds, in the dead of winter or the height of summer, Jade's bedroom was always dark. The great evergreen outside the sole window in the room made sure of that. It had grown to a great height, surpassing the top of the two story house long before Jade had even been thought of, and then, since as long ago as she could remember, the tree outside of Jade's bedroom had slowly died, until all that was left were the jagged branches, scratching at the side of the house every time a particularly strong gust of wind came its way. And after that, last summer, the tree was finally put out of its misery. A truck had pulled up at 10 AM on the dot, parked with one tire up on the curb, and by noon, all that was left of it was the stump, which was dug up and removed the following day. The hole was filled with dirt, grass seed was spread over top of it, and a few weeks later, after decades of slowly growing into one of the tallest living things in the entire neighborhood, the tree was forgotten. Now, the sun shined directly into Jade's window every morning and woke her up early.

There wasn't much to see outside of this window. The house next door was only one story, and the peak of the roof just barely appeared over the top of the window frame. There was only one other tree on the block, a puny little maple that had been uprooted from a tree farm somewhere and planted in the back yard of the old man four doors down, the year that Jade's parents had separated. It wasn't quite tall enough to be visible from the angle she was now at, and so the view outside was hardly anything but the sky, sliced into two pieces by a telephone cable strung through the back yard. The beauty of Los Angeles was all chained to the ground. Its grandeur was lost on the sky. The pollution mixed in with the clouds had turned the sky an unnatural color, a hazy yellow that looked more like a stained carpet than the gateway between Earth and the rest of the universe.

A small flock of birds flew through the sky down the block, so high up that they were just little specks in the shape of a V. Soon enough, they were gone, and the sky was back to its terrible, blindingly bright splendor once again. Jade sighed as the space between her eyes ached, from the bright light she hadn't quite adjusted to since waking up. The worn-out box spring her mother had been promising to replace for the past four years creaked, and a warm body pressed up against her back. An arm crawled over her side and her fingers were taken up in a hand two or three shades darker than hers.

"Good morning." Jade moaned at the sound of Tori's voice interrupting her daydream, and rolled onto her back, pushing the girl away from her.

"Don't say that." Tori sat up with a frown that only made her smudged mascara look even more pathetic. The left side of her face was lit by the bright light from the window, and every stray strand of her messy hair glowed against the dark wall behind her.

"Do you want me to leave?" She looked at Jade so hopefully that it was almost impossible to resist her.

"Yeah. You should," Jade answered, her voice thick with frustration, "and you shouldn't come back. What you really need to do is stay the hell away from me. What would be best is for you to just get the fuck out of my life, because you only make things worse for me. You screwed up everything." Tori's mouth fell open in shock, and her face crumpled into a sad, pitiful, misshapen likeness of the real thing. She went back and forth between shock and heartbreak. She looked as if Jade was literally stepping on her heart. She seemed to feel that way a lot of the time, really.

"But I'm no good at doing what I should…" Jade added a second later, in a completely different, softer tone of voice. "So I guess I can't expect you to be any better." Tori hesitantly reached out and ran her hand up the girl's wrist, her fingers finding their way into the spaces between Jade's once again.

"I wish you wouldn't hate yourself so much." She tried out a soothing tone of voice that almost worked. "You haven't done anything wrong." She received an irritable groan in response, so Tori laid back down beside the grouchy one and wrapped her arms around her. This time Jade didn't bother to fight it.

"I'm not leaving him. I don't know what you want from me."

"I don't want anything from you." Tori's face burrowed into the crook of Jade's neck, her warm cheek pressing against the distressed girl's cold skin. Her freezing toes tickled Jade's leg when she slid a foot between her friend's ankles. "Stop it." Jade hissed, kicking Tori's leg away, though she allowed her to continue lying the way that she was. "What is this then? We're not friends. Even if we were, friends don't…sleep in the same bed three times a week. They don't…cuddle, or..." She shuddered at the sound of the word when she couldn't find a replacement that didn't sound nauseatingly cheesy."Friends don't do this."

"But we do." Tori's voice was tinged with panic now, as if Jade really meant so much to her that the thought of her drifting away physically hurt. Maybe it did. It was hard to think that she could mean so much to anybody, anymore, but it was possible. Jade pulled out of Tori's grasp and removed herself from the bed altogether. She put her back to her guest because her cold heart drew the line at watching the heart of that little girl lying behind her break. She could only imagine how Tori was feeling. Her imagination made her lungs burn.

"I can't cheat on him. This is just…Whatever this is, it goes against everything I believe in. One of my biggest fears is that I'm not good enough…for Beck, and that he'll find somebody else to fill the needs that I'm not capable of filling for him…I just…I'm terrified of that, Tori. What kind of person am I, doing that to him?"

"That's not what I was… So we can't be friends, then?" Jade didn't move an inch, answering her question without so much as a blink. "But, but…" Tori stammered, struggling to find the rest of her vocabulary, hiding somewhere deep inside her brain as her heart contracted, suddenly too small for everything inside of it. "We haven't done anything…you're not…we haven't even done anything!"

"Yes we- This isn't right, Tori. I'm not supposed to like it when you…when you hold me like that…and I shouldn't…you have no right to touch me at all, and maybe we haven't kissed or done anything PG13 rated or, or beyond that, but that doesn't mean that we won't!" Jade shouted at her, finally spinning around to face the girl who was breaking into pieces between her sheets. "I can't do this. Especially not with you."She stood watching Tori for a moment as her own heart vibrated inside of her. There was no denying it. She'd been aching for so long to discover what those quivering lips tasted like. She wanted to know so badly how the rest of Tori felt, and she was well on her way to finding out. It was prohibited knowledge, however, and Jade also knew that she had no choice but to remain in the dark. She had a boyfriend. A boyfriend she knew and loved every inch of. He was exactly what she needed, and there wasn't room for anything else. But try as she may, Jade couldn't completely convince herself of that, when Tori was lying there in her bed for what felt like the hundredth time. There had to be a reason this happened so often.

"You served your purpose, Tori. I was depressed and lonely and you helped me feel better, but I'm better now. I'm happier, and I don't need anything else from you. I don't want to be your friend. I don't even like you." Every word that came out of her mouth was a lie, but she could never be Tori's friend. There was no stopping point there for them. The track went from enemies to lovers and there was no rest stop between the two. She'd realized that a long, long time ago. They were slowly getting closer and closer to that second point, despite her best efforts to keep Tori away, and if she didn't jump ship soon, she'd be stuck on the track to a place she couldn't even afford to visit, let alone stay.

"I…" Tori swallowed hard and tried to compose herself. "I get it." She finally spoke, and her voice somehow remained steady. Brushing her hair out of her eyes, Tori climbed out of Jade's bed and made up her side without a word. She grabbed her bag off the floor and pulled it up onto her shoulder. "I don't know why I expected anything else from you."

The bedroom door slammed behind Tori as she went, and while Jade stood by her bed, rooted to the spot, she could hear the third step from the bottom squeak as Tori descended the stairs, and then there was the slight sound of the front door. She was gone. Maybe she would come back. Hopefully she wouldn't. It would be best if she didn't.

After a deep breath or two, Jade gently fixed the sheets on her side of the bed, picked up yesterday's clothes from the floor, folded them, and left them on top of her dresser before she moved downstairs. Her phone lay on the kitchen counter, beside her bag and a couple of school books, where she'd left it all when Tori had shown up at her house the night before. She only had one text message from Beck - he wasn't exactly the type to be bothered enough by an unreturned text to try sending it again. It only said, "What was the name of that movie we watched last weekend?" He was far less concerned than he should be. While his girlfriend had been sleeping in the arms of one of his best friends, he had been worrying about the title of a stupid movie. She almost wished that he would be more suspicious, more jealous, but that just wasn't him.

Jade chose not to respond. He'd surely figured it out on his own anyway. There was no use bothering him now. She shoved her phone into her bag and left it there when she travelled to the living room. Picking through her collection of movies, Jade found the most violent, disgusting horror film she had, placed it in the DVD player, and then cried through the entire thing, curled up on the stiff green couch like a baby.

Maybe it had been a long time coming, but looking back, Jade knew the one event - and the person - that she could lay all the blame on. It had been over two months now. She'd started counting, and when she reached ten, she was standing outside on Tori's patio, alone. Eleven, twelve, thirteen, still just her. With not even a fraction of an idea as to what she was supposed to do next, Jade left, with her broken heart dissolving deep in her stomach. She went home, she took a nap in the bath tub. And then, when the water got too cold, she dried off, pulled on an old Stanford sweatshirt that had belonged to her father back when he still cared, and she crawled into her bed, planning to give herself one night to cry about it.

Two hours later, the doorbell rang. Then it rang again. She ignored it four times before giving in, assuming her mother was back from her weekly night out with her friends, too drunk to remember where she'd put her keys. As she stepped into the pool of light cast by the porch lights, shining through the rippled glass window onto the hardwood floor, Jade recognized the person on the other side. Immediately turning around to disappear upstairs again, she had barely moved two feet before Tori called her out.

"Jade! I know you're in there. I can see you. Open up." She didn't know what else to do, so she listened, only realizing that the sweatshirt she was wearing just barely covered her ass once she'd already opened the door. She tugged at the bottom of it uncomfortably, as Tori walked past her, into the dark foyer.

"You didn't return my texts. I was kind of worried... Are you okay?" She asked cautiously as the door closed. Jade had left Tori's house over three hours ago. It was late, and she still hadn't bothered to remove the makeup that hadn't come off in the bath tub, so it was surely smeared all over her face.

"Of course I'm not."

Tori accepted that. She wasn't her usual self that night. She didn't hatch some stupid plan to try to cheer Jade up. She didn't try to tell her she was "better off" or that "it'll all be okay." She just stayed there with Jade, lying in bed with her arms around the girl while she cried herself to sleep in the company of someone who cared too much.

It hadn't happened again for a few weeks. They'd come to an unspoken agreement that they were going to pretend it never had happened, that Jade had never shown that little taste of weakness. They had plenty of practice with that already.

Nineteen days later, the doorbell rang again. Tori walked right past her when Jade opened the front door, but turned around and buried her face in the girl's neck without a word, seconds later. She cried, and it was something Jade hadn't seen before. She was in awe over this spectacle - too much so to tell her to leave. Tori was the person who helped other people. Everyone showed up on her doorstep when they had a problem, and when she had a problem…she fixed it herself. Jade wasn't sure what kind of things Tori struggled with, because she never talked about the big ones. She would complain nonstop about all the little inconveniences she encountered, but when it came to real problems – the kind of problems the rest of them went to her to fix – Tori kept them to herself. Maybe she had as good a life as she appeared to, and was lucky enough to have never had those sort of issues. Maybe she usually confided in her parents, or her sister. She didn't have a reason to confess to Jade, and she didn't, thankfully. Not once that night did she ever explain why she was in Jade's house. She just curled up beside her in the warm bed in the dark, and found whatever comfort she was looking for just by being there.

It happened again a few days later, though this time it was Jade again. She'd found out about Beck's new girlfriend, and though she hadn't reacted as badly as everyone had expected her to, her already broken heart fell apart once again. She loved him, still. It might just be a forever thing. He was the first person she'd ever truly loved, and that couldn't just go away, no matter how mad she was.

In two weeks, Beck and his new girlfriend broke up. Tori came home with Jade after school under the guise of working on a theater design project, but they both knew they were celebrating. Nobody goes to the trouble to sneak alcohol in for a school project, after all.

It started getting more frequent after that. There was no real reason for it anymore. Jade was okay. She was finally getting over her heartbreak. By this point, they just chose to spend a lot of time together, outside of school. Things were normal when they were around everyone else. Things were normal when they were alone too, but in a much different way. Their strange relationship had just turned into a way of life. It didn't really seem so unusual to them. That was just how they did things. Even after Beck and Jade eventually decided to get back together, nothing changed between the two girls. Jade would tease and humiliate Tori in school, sometimes even worse than usual. Tori would act - and to some extent, actually feel offended, but then on the nights that Beck didn't sleep over, Jade shared her bed with Tori. Beck didn't stay very often. He said it was because he liked his own bed. Tori stayed because she liked Jade.

It was a little late, Jade thought, to be worrying about cheating. She'd already done it. It wasn't so much a physical affair, but an emotional one. She didn't love Tori, but they both treated each other as if they had such a strong feeling as that in common. They never did anything more than lie in each other's arms, and most of the time it was purely for the comfort that they were seeking from each other, for whatever reason. It wasn't tough to imagine doing more than that though. Jade often thought that she would like to.

And now, it was over. Possibly. It should be over, but it didn't really feel like it was. Deep down, she knew she didn't want it to be. She wanted more, but she'd already taken her fair share.

Monday afternoon Jade sat at one of the Asphalt Café's blue tables with a salad in front of her and her boyfriend beside her. He knew she was in a bad mood, and he'd wordlessly followed her to an empty table without questioning it. They never really talked much anymore. The reason they'd eventually gotten back together was more physical than verbal, but maybe a little psychological too. Now, at their lonely lunch table, Beck glanced over his shoulder at least a dozen times, at the other table where all of his friends sat. It was obvious that he had no idea what to say to Jade, and would much rather be eating with people who would at least talk to him.

"Go sit with them." He seemed surprised to hear her voice, and she realized she hadn't actually spoken to him in over 24 hours.


"Go sit with them. You want to, and I'm really not in the mood to talk anyway." He looked over his shoulder again, and his facial expression suggested he thought he was being tricked. He placed his hand over her smaller one and asked her,

"Are you sure?" Jade ripped her hand away from him before it even occurred to her that she ought to be a little gentler with him. After all they'd just gone through, she wasn't treating him any differently. If she didn't change, they would just go the same way they'd gone all those times before. Maybe that was what she wanted this time. A part of her felt like she was ready to be done, for good. If she was tired of being with Beck, though, then what was she after? What did she want instead? She couldn't just go after Tori and move on with her life like the past three years were distant memories. That wasn't okay, and it never would be. There were rules against it. Tori and Beck were great friends, and Beck loved Jade. Both girls had known that the other was off limits from the very beginning.

"Yes. Go." Following a pause, He simply nodded and stood up. Pressing a tiny kiss to her temple, he grabbed his tray and left the table. A part of her had wanted him to stay. To say "You don't have to talk, I just want to be with you." That wasn't Beck though. He wasn't the type to stick around when he didn't have to. As he walked away, Jade's eyes followed him, and when he sat down beside Andre, Tori looked up. Not at Beck, but behind him, at Jade. They made eye contact for a moment, as everybody else at the table greeted the new arrival. Tori completely ignored him and stared wistfully at his girlfriend instead, as if to say "I could have loved you more than he does." Jade looked back into her salad, like it held the answers. It just told her that Tori was probably right. Life was so unfair.

By the time the bell rang, Jade hadn't even picked up her fork, and though her stomach had been growling ever since second period, she couldn't make herself eat. She dumped the mushy salad into a garbage can on her way inside, and was greeted at her locker by the main root of her misery. He ran his hand down her back and leaned against the locker beside hers, with his face devoid of emotion, as usual.

"Do you want to come to my place after school?" She mumbled something that was far from a yes or no answer. "Jade." She plucked a book from her locker, unsure that it was even the one she needed, and turned to him.

"I'm not in the mood." He smiled for a moment as he misunderstood what she was saying.

"That's not why I asked you-"

"Beck, I just want to be alone today. Please leave me alone." His eyebrows moved together in frustration, and creases formed in his forehead as he pushed his hair back. Jade slammed her locker shut and stuffed her book into her bag. Just as she turned away from him, he reached out and grabbed a hold of her shoulder. She froze in place as his fingers dug into her skin a little too hard.

"What's wrong with you lately?" He wasn't going to let it go. She had hoped that he wouldn't realize anything was wrong. Boys were supposed to be completely oblivious to female problems, and yet here he was, boyfriend of the year, earning his title.

"It's nothing-"

"It's not nothing." He interrupted her with his angry voice. They'd only been back together for a couple weeks, and this looked like the beginning of another knock-down-drag-out fight, once again.

"It's nothing you would understand." The tone of her voice only stoked the fire, but she couldn't help but feel irritated with took off down the hallway, but much to her surprise, he actually let her go.

As she angrily stomped down the corridor, she passed Tori at her locker. They made eye contact for a fraction of a second, before Tori snapped back to her books, like it was a crime to even look and she was dreading her impending punishment now that she'd been caught. Jade moved down the hall and around the corner before she realized she'd left her homework assignment in her locker and turned around to go back and get it. Just as she rounded the corner again, there was Tori again, coming from the other direction. She gasped so loudly that even the sound of her books hitting the ground didn't drown it out. Standing in front of her while she retrieved her things, Jade tried to think of something she could say to the girl.

"Watch where you're going." Those four harsh words were all that came out of her mouth.

"I will." Tori muttered, putting her head down as she scrambled away. Frozen in place, Jade stood in the hallway for a moment, thinking of what she could have said instead. "I miss you" came to mind. "I think I want you more." Maybe it would have been best to just shut her mouth.

A couple of days passed in a similar fashion, but then came the end of the week. Friday had started out bad from the moment Jade woke up with the same headache she'd had when she went to bed, and it had only gotten worse when she arrived at school and Beck picked up their last argument where they'd left off. This time, when Jade took off without explaining what she was so upset about, Beck followed at her heels and yanked her into the janitor's closet.

"Again?" She responded angrily, when he blocked the door and scowled at her.

"Did we make the right decision, getting back together?" He was calm again when he asked, though the intense stare he was directing at Jade made her stomach churn.

"I don't know. You tell me." His face fell when he realized that was her way of saying no.

"Then why did you decide you still wanted to be with me?"

"Because I love you." She answered right away, without hesitation. "I do. I swear. Just...I've forgotten why. I don't know if it's because I'm just supposed to love you, because you're my first…or because it's just something I've done for so long. I do love you…but maybe just because I don't want to try anything else…" Much to her surprise, he nodded, his face flooded with relief.

"I guess I was thinking the same thing." She didn't know what to say, so she didn't say anything. The trash can behind her slid a couple inches as Jade leaned against it. She felt something like love, but also sorrow at the same time. Definitely relief. Stupidity, for even bothering to try to fix this relationship that neither of them wanted to be in anymore.

"So are we done? For good?" He was much more awkward about it than she was. He looked beyond uncomfortable, leaning up against the door and rolling his sleeves up, only to let them down and start over again.

"Do you want to think about it first?" He shrugged, and that was enough. "Okay. Then we're done." He nodded, she mirrored him. He didn't move away from the door.

"Jade." Her name sounded different now, coming from his lips. He wasn't mad, or upset at all. It was unreal. They'd broken up a few times before, but never on these terms. She wondered how long this feeling was going to last. "Do you think…" A smile broke out on his face before he could finish. This was quickly turning into the strangest five minutes of both of their lives. "I realize this is going to sound extremely cheesy and stupid…but do you think we could just...love each other as friends instead?" Her mouth curved upward at his question. It did sound cheesy and stupid. "It's just, we know each other too well to be strangers."

"That is one of the cheesiest, most clichéd things I've ever heard come out of your mouth." She told him with a laugh. "But I…I guess I would be okay with that. We can be friends." She surprised even herself with her answer. Why wasn't she mad? Why wasn't he mad?

"Friends." He looked just as shocked that she'd agreed to it, and didn't seem to have anything else to say.

"Yeah." They both stood completely still in the most awkward silence, until Beck finally broke it with another smile - the second one since they'd broken up already.

"So, my friend, I've got a lot to tell you. I broke up with my girlfriend today." She looked at him as if to say "don't push it," but at the same time, she couldn't help but smile.

"I know exactly how you feel."

They skipped the rest of the class period, talking in the janitor's closet as friends, for the first time in a long time. She didn't want to at first, but once they started talking, it felt normal. Honestly, it was kind of reminiscent of the first several months of their relationship, when they were just getting to know each other. The conversation started out light. They joked around and talked about the bizarre things Sikowitz had done in class before lunch, and he told her about the stupid things Cat had said to him that morning, about how much he was dreading his midterms. Then, the conversation turned to the girl he'd dated before they got back together. He told Jade about how she had reminded him of her, except she snorted when she laughed, and she ate like a pig, and even the tamest of horror movies gave her nightmares. She was deathly allergic to – and afraid of – bees, and really, she wasn't anything like Jade at all. He'd never actually liked her anyway.

Jade told Beck about the play she'd gone to see all by herself on Friday, and how much she had hated it. She told him about how the monthly check from her father was late, causing her mother to have to spend the money she'd been saving for a supposed mother-daughter vacation on the month's groceries. She told him about how much she secretly missed her little brother, who she hadn't seen in nearly three months. And then, when Beck insisted that she tell him what had been bothering her all week, she felt like she could say it now, for some reason, so she told him about the first time she'd questioned her sexuality, before she had even met him. Then she told him about the second time, when she had finally come to terms with it – two years ago. She didn't tell him that it was because of Tori, but he could probably figure that out on his own. Beck told her he'd had a feeling she "swung both ways" for a long time. He said it was funny that she hated nearly everybody, but was attracted to people of both genders. She smacked him for that comment but he only laughed. He said it had never bothered him. It didn't matter to him who she was attracted to, as long as he was at the top of the list. He always knew that she loved him, and his trust in her was not misplaced. She felt like he was wrong, but she didn't tell him that.

Beck was funnier when they were just friends. It was the weirdest thing, lying flat on her back in the janitor's closet beside her first love, talking to him as his friend, and not as the girlfriend she'd been an hour earlier. Telling him so many things she'd never felt comfortable talking about before convinced Jade that they were better off this way. Eventually she would be completely, entirely happy with being nothing but his friend. The taste of it that she'd just gotten wasn't as bitter as she'd imagined it would be. Things would be alright.

The bell rang when the second class period was over, and they shared one last kiss before going their separate ways. Only when Jade sat down at her desk in her next class did she start to feel any sense of loss at all. She was mad, and she was upset, but her feeling of closure and relief sped up the grieving process significantly. She didn't even cry this time.

The next few days were awkward, but soon, Beck and Jade were acting like such good friends that nobody even realized they'd broken up. Everyone would have expected her to be angry, taking it out on anyone that even dared to talk to her. He was supposed to be more withdrawn, walking around scowling and ignoring everyone. In a normal situation, she wouldn't be sitting beside him at lunch. She would refuse to talk to him at all, at least for a couple of days. Jade didn't do any of that. She was pretending that things were better than they really were, but that wouldn't be permanent. She had a good feeling about their relationship. Jade was happier than usual, and that was all that anybody noticed.

She was missing the one thing that could make this last break heal more quickly, however. Tori was more than giving Jade her space. She was hardly around anymore, even at school. Time spent together as a group was becoming increasingly rare, and Jade felt like it was partly her fault. She'd cracked the group right down the middle, treating Tori the way she had. It was Tori's house they always hung out at. It was the restaurants she had heard about that they would all eat at. Jade couldn't remember what they'd ever done with their lives before Tori came to Hollywood Arts, but it had to have been incredibly boring.

Two weeks passed this way, and then three. Nobody noticed that Beck wasn't holding Jade's hand, or kissing her whenever he had the chance. They didn't notice when cheerleaders would flirt with him and Jade would only scowl for a moment, and then get over it. They weren't pretending like they were still together – if someone had asked, they would have told the truth. Nobody did ask though, and if anybody took notice at all, they never said a word, which somehow made it so much easier.

The only person who was truly acting any differently out of the entire group was Tori. She was quiet a lot. She never spoke to Jade unless she had to, and she seemed to disappear between classes. She was rarely ever at her locker anymore. Tori wasn't acting sullen enough to warrant anyone to worry about her, but they certainly did notice. Jade did, at least. She wanted to comfort her, actually. It wasn't a very Jade-like thing to do, but who was she anymore? Who's to say that wanting to give Tori a hug was so out of character for her? People change all the time. Tori happened to have turned Jade into a much better person than she'd ever wanted to be, and now she watched Tori drowning in the misery that could likely all be attributed to Jade herself, and deep down she wanted to do something about it. But she didn't. She couldn't, not yet. Tori was not supposed to be her friend, and definitely not more than that, which was really all that she could be, aside from nothing at all.

Every once in a while, when she needed time to herself, Jade would eat lunch alone. It wasn't a big deal, she did it all the time. When she was still with Beck, they would claim a table for themselves at least once a week. Most of the time they didn't even talk. Sometimes, they just needed time away from the group. Jade could only take so much, and when she started losing it, Beck would pay for it.

On a Thursday, about two weeks after she and Beck had broken up, Jade bought herself a slice of pizza from the Grub Truck and took a seat between Cat and Andre at the group's usual table. Just as she lifted the pizza to her mouth, she realized that Tori was missing from the table. She was sitting alone, three tables away, and Jade had a perfect view of her, from the spot where she was sitting. Tori stirred something in a bowl but didn't take a bite, and stared miserably into her pearphone.

"What's with her?" Jade found herself asking before she could shut her mouth. Beck stared at her over the edge of his soda, but it was Andre who answered.

"Just one of those days…" He mumbled, but Jade knew he had a lot to say. Andre had to know, to some extent. He was Tori's best friend, after all.

"Robbie dropped Rex in Tori's soup." Cat chirped, playing with the straw in her cup as she happily explained to Jade what had happened while she'd been in line at the Grub Truck.

"It was an accident!" Robbie protested, although nobody had accused him of doing it on purpose.

"Tell that to my shorts. They smell like chicken." Rex grumbled in response. Robbie glared at his puppet, but said no more.

"Tori freaked out." Cat added uncomfortably, squirming in her seat as the girl in question finally glanced over at the table, where Jade was sitting with her eyes still aimed in her direction. They stared at each other for a moment, before Tori returned her attention to her food.

"She threw Rex on the ground." Robbie explained, sounding rather irritated by it. Jade paid no attention.

"I'm used to getting abused by the Wicked Witch West here, but not Glinda. I thought we had something!" Rex's complaints were ignored, much to his chagrin, and the group continued to eat in near silence. Jade was still watching Tori, waiting for her to make eye contact again, but she didn't. She kept messing with her phone, and Jade found herself wondering who Tori was texting. It wasn't like it was any of her business who Tori talked to, but she felt a small pinch of jealousy anyway. A few minutes later, Trina came from wherever it was that she went when she wasn't irritating everybody, and sat down at Tori's table, blocking Jade's view. Still, she kept watching for a moment longer, part of her hoping that Trina would get up and leave again. She didn't, so Jade returned her attention to her pizza and her ex-boyfriend, who had been watching her the whole time.

When the one month marker passed, and Beck and Jade had officially been broken up for thirty-one entire days, they went to dinner to celebrate. He wasn't so crazy about the idea, but she felt it was oddly appropriate to celebrate the end of a relationship that had gone out on such good terms. They'd spent an entire month on their own, without depending on anyone. They'd each been their own person for thirty-one days. Seven hundred and forty-four hours.

Jade chose the type of food, but Beck picked the restaurant. She met him there at six o'clock, and they sat down at a table in the front of the building, by the window. He stared at her for nearly five minutes while she skimmed over the menu, but didn't say anything. There was still something very awkward about their relationship – that wasn't about to change any time soon. They were fine in a group, but alone, it was different. They didn't spend a whole lot of time together one on one, thankfully. That would have made breaking up much more difficult. This meal was the first time they'd truly been alone together for more than ten minutes since they'd broken up.

Once they had finally ordered, Beck and Jade started to talk, and things felt a little more normal. Just like that day in the janitor's closet, their conversation started out light, but quickly turned to things that people in their situation typically didn't share with each other. It felt like the right thing to do though, and so Beck brought up his suspicion that his parents were going to get divorced, and although Jade knew very little about the proper way to cope with parents separating, she listened, and that was good enough. She told him about how her dad had missed another check, and her mother was starting to look for a second job to make up for it. She started tearing up just a little when she talked about how it had now been four months since she'd seen her brother, and she'd missed his seventh birthday. The kid had always driven her crazy, but they shared a father – he was family, and she loved him, even if she didn't show it. Beck said that he would take the two of them to the aquarium some time, if the little boy was still as entranced by aquatic life as he had been the last time Beck had seen him. Jade turned him down despite wanting very badly to take him up on his offer.

She found it strange that they could know each other so well and no longer be in love that way. She did still love him. She always would. She'd loved him as her boyfriend before, as the love of her life and the future father of her children, if she ever decided to torture herself and have any. Now, she loved him as one of her best friends, - her one best friend - the only person who knew her better than she knew herself. The person who would someday babysit those annoying little children that she may or may not have, free of charge. And maybe she did still love him that first way, just a little bit.

Jade was an actress. She could easily pretend around Beck that she no longer had any feelings for him, that those feelings she'd held onto for three entire years were completely gone. He was probably doing the same thing. Eventually, they wouldn't need to act around each other anymore. It was sure to happen. They were already moving on, and they had been for a while, honestly.

It felt good to be getting over it, but she wanted what she'd had with Beck again. Not right at that moment, but eventually, with somebody new. She already missed having a person there at night to hold her while she slept, someone to kiss her when she was upset and when she wasn't. Someone to get annoyed with her when her jealousy made itself prevalent, someone to fool around with whenever she was in the mood for it. Someone that thought she was wonderful, even when she didn't. It wasn't Beck that she wanted that with anymore though. When she thought about it now, the person in her mind was obviously Tori. She couldn't even try to lie to herself. She wanted Tori, and honestly, she had for a long time. And she could have had her – she almost had.

"Tori's been acting kind of strange lately." Beck read her silence correctly, bringing up the subject as he drank the last of his soda and looked around for a waiter to ask for a refill. None of the restaurant's employees were anywhere nearby, so he set the glass back down on the table and turned his attention back to Jade.

"Yeah, it's been pretty quiet without her asking stupid questions or yapping about whatever idiot she's got a crush on now." Beck choked back some laughter and stared down at his plate while he composed himself. Jade only stared at him, confused by his reaction.

"Jade, come on." He finally said with a straight face. "You and I both know that you're the idiot she's crushing on."

"I'm an idiot? Really? You're gonna say that out loud?" She glared at him out of habit, though she was turning bright red from embarrassment. He took a bite of his dinner and then pointed his fork at her, swallowing before he added,

"I'm not that oblivious. Everybody knows. The poor girl's been falling for you for a long time. You never had any reason to worry about Tori and me. She wanted you."

"I know." Jade confessed with a deep sigh. "It's kind of my fault, too. She used to be so much fun to mess with, and now…" She trailed off when she realized she didn't know how to end that sentence. And now, what?

"I guess it's better to have your girlfriend leave you for another girl, instead of another guy. Not much I could've really done to prevent it…expect maybe get a sex change." She looked up at him in both shock, confusion, and amusement. "You have my permission." He summarized with a quick nod. "Go for it."

"Are you serious? You want me to…you want me to go after Tori? Are you on crack? What have you been smoking?"

He stared down into his food and pressed his lips together, hard, while he tried not to laugh again. Jade was still looking at him with her wide eyes and her arched eyebrows, as if she really suspected he wasn't in the right state of mind at the moment.

"I know, it's only been a month and society says I'm supposed to be jealous of anyone who gives you any kind of attention…and then Tori's my friend too, and that's supposed to be bad…but you know what? Screw society. Do what makes you happy. Unless what makes you happy is like…murder, or other kinds of illegal..."

"You met someone, didn't you?" She guessed perfectly. He sighed in defeat and set his silverware down on his plate. His hands fell to his lap, and he leaned closer, speaking quietly, as if anyone who could overhear them would even care about what he was saying.

"I might have…" He paused, his face going blank. "Is that okay? It's been a whole month, and obviously you've got someone else in mind…"

"What's her name? How'd you meet her?" Before Jealous Jade could list her thousand and one questions, Beck interrupted.

"Her name is Joanna, she's my cousin David's neighbor… She's homeschooled, she was born in Ireland but she's PuertoRican, she loves action movies, hates romantic comedies, and she enjoys reading, dancing, and bungee jumping." Jade didn't look impressed. "I've known her for a couple years but I went over to David's last week and she gave me her number, so we've kind of been talking..." He squinted, trying to decide if Jade was upset or not.

"Is she pretty?" Jade watched his face as he started to regret telling her about his newest love interest. She wanted to laugh at the fear in his stomach, and the embarrassment in his eyes, but she patiently waited for him to answer.

"Obviously, I only date pretty girls." He teased, trying to get her to smile. She didn't, and launched into more questions instead.

"So she's homeschooled? And she's not a socially inept freak?"

"Jade." Beck only rolled his eyes. He wanted to laugh, she could tell, but he wanted to look like the better person even more.

"What's her last name?"

"You're not going to cyber stalk her." She sighed in defeat, but gave him one last questioning look. He ended that right away. "You're not going to stalk her offline either."

While Beck grew more and more irritated with her, Jade's jealousy wore off and she laid off the questions, moving back into the safe territory of small talk. The rest of their dinner wasn't exactly interesting, but it passed the time and neither one of them left the restaurant angry, which was an improvement over most of the dates they had gone on while they were still together. They paid separately and walked out together in near silence, until they got to their cars and Beck made Jade promise not to sabotage any of his future relationships, especially this one. She told him she wanted to meet the girl and he refused, but she eventually promised not to scare her off. He then agreed to let her meet Joanna before the rest of the group did, which satisfied her enough to give him her permission and let him leave. Just as she climbed into the driver's seat of her mother's car, Jade reminded Beck that if he were to date this girl, this night would be the last time they would be able to spend time together, like this. Her jealousy was usually rather extreme, but she knew that no girl would be comfortable with her boyfriend being close friends with his ex. Beck only thanked her for the advice and climbed into his car, rolling down the window as he started the engine in order to yell one last thing at her.

"But like I said, you have my permission…so go apologize for whatever it was you did to her. She'll forgive you."

"I still think you're on something!" Jade shouted back at him over the sound of the two motors running. He drove away while she laughed at his strange behavior, but she stayed a while longer, thinking about what he'd said. A part of her wanted to listen to him. If Beck was okay with it, she wasn't really overstepping her boundaries anymore. She had his permission. She could basically do whatever she wanted to with Tori and only the people whose opinions didn't matter would judge her for it. She could date anybody at all. He was moving on, and it was her turn to do it now. He expected her to. The thing was, she wasn't entirely sure that she was ready for that. It had only been a month, after all, but then again, even though they'd resurrected their relationship once again, that last stretch had been a meaningless one. They'd been getting over each other, even while they were still together. Three months, then, was how long it had really been. That was the only possible reason Jade could come up with as to why she wasn't foaming at the mouth from the news of Beck's latest romantic interest. It also explained how he felt like he could tell her about his new girl already – and how he was okay with her feelings for Tori. It was the strangest breakup she'd ever experienced, or even heard of, for that matter, but she liked it. To be honest, it felt good to be Beck's friend, and she was going to miss having a close relationship with him once another girl came into the picture. It would certainly be more difficult to accept that it was truly over when that happened.

She definitely wasn't ready for a new relationship yet, Jade decided as she finally let her foot off the brake pedal. This wasn't just some exaggerated TV show where she could move on in a matter of one episode. She would need two, maybe three episodes. She could get over it fast. Jade wasn't the type of person to go home and cry about the end of a relationship for four months, posting passive aggressive comments and depressing song lyrics online while he moved on with his life. She could get over it, and she would. She'd already made so much progress. She was proud of herself, she'd been doing so well. Only once had she cried about it, and strangely enough, she hardly ever felt angry anymore. She was civil toward everyone, and truthfully, acting happier made her feel a little better. It was easier to ignore all the things that pissed her off when she wasn't going around focusing on hating the whole world.

Somewhere between the restaurant's parking lot and her house, Jade had changed her mind about where she was going. She parked her mother's car in Tori's driveway and sat there for a while. She just wanted to rub it in Tori's face, to prove to her that she wasn't all the bad things that Tori thought she was. Jade could be better than that. She was better than that, but then Tori knew that. Tori didn't think she was all those bad things. Tori had seen something in Jade that she'd liked from the very beginning. Ignoring everything on the exterior, she had faith in Jade, and she always had, even when the girl hadn't deserved it. It was disgusting, how good of a person Tori could be, and even more revolting how she had changed Jade so much already.

She hadn't had any sort of plan in mind when she'd driven to the Vega home, so when Jade finally got out of the car and walked up to the patio, she had no idea what she was going to say. What if Tori's mom answered the door? Or her dad? He was a cop, after all. Maybe Tori had told her parents everything. Maybe they knew all about how Jade had been stringing her along, making her feel like they had something until it was no longer in her best interests to have Tori around, at which point she'd dumped her. She'd more than dumped her. She'd dropped her into the trash like she was spoiled meat. Cops could get away with a lot more than most people. If Tori had told her dad what was wrong…

Then Jade realized that she was freaking out over nothing. Mr. and Mrs. Vega weren't a threat. Tori's parents made Tori. Being an annoying, gullible pushover was probably embedded in the whole family's DNA. Besides, it was highly likely that they weren't even around. The two of them were both out of town nearly all the time, it seemed. The worst thing that could be behind that door was Trina, or maybe Tori, depending on what kind of reception she was willing to give, after what had happened.

Finally, she rang the doorbell, but nobody answered. Not wanting to be one of those idiots who rang doorbells twenty times when obviously nobody was coming, Jade took it as a sign and turned around to return to her car, ready to go home and forget all about Tori. Halfway there, she stopped. She wouldn't give up that easily – she couldn't give up like that. It was either now, or the next day, or a week from then. As much as she hated it, Tori was more than just an afterthought. Something was going to happen with her eventually, so back at the door Jade reached for the doorbell one more time. She grabbed the door handle instead. It was unlocked, of course. The Vega family was just asking to get robbed.

The inside of Tori's house smelled just like she did, only with a hint of something that smelled like potatoes, this time. It looked empty, but the kitchen light was on. There were three seconds left on the microwave, which irritated Jade to the point that she almost went and cleared it. Restraining herself, she moved instead into the living room and began to study the picture frames on the fireplace mantle while she thought about whether or not it was a good idea to go upstairs. Either somebody was in the house, or the Vega family was an even bigger pack of morons than she thought, and they left their house unlocked and the lights on when they left for the night.

Baby Tori filled all the frames. Trina ruined all but one, unfortunately, but that was to be expected. They looked a lot more alike as children, Jade thought as she observed each one. It was easy to imagine that Trina was adopted, but the pictures proved the relation. Jade found herself getting incredibly jealous of Tori the longer she stood there. Her parents had been too busy fighting when she was a child to bother with taking a lot of pictures, and the few that they did have were either undeveloped or tucked away in a photo album in the attic or the basement, where nobody ever looked at them. The bad memories overshadowed the good ones, and very few of those decent memories had been caught on film, so there wasn't even visual proof that her childhood hadn't been a total disaster.

There were so many pictures of Tori and Trina in the Vega home. It wasn't just the fireplace mantle – the hallway upstairs, Jade vaguely remembered from the one time she'd been up there, was covered in a conglomeration of family photos. There was only one photo of Jade visible in her mother's house – a large, professional one of the two of them hanging in a frame above the couch in the living room. It was the tackiest thing, really. Some play programs were stuck to the refrigerator, along with an academic award certificate, but other than that, there was very little proof that Jade had ever lived in the house – that anyone had ever lived in the house. Her mother was a freakishly clean person. The only part of the entire home that looked lived in was Jade's bedroom.

It wasn't much better at her father's house. The last time she'd been asked to visit him, the refrigerator had been covered in pictures of her little brother, her latest stepmother's dog, various unimportant relatives, and event invitations. Jade's freshman year school picture was half-hidden under a calendar stuck to the fridge, and that was it. She wasn't welcome there anymore, even in photograph form. Jade had come to Tori's house for a reason, though, she reminded herself. It wasn't the time to get upset over her father's obvious favoritism.

Something creaked overhead, and Jade realized how long she'd been lingering in the darkened first level of Tori's home. She moved to the stairs and began to climb them, quietly, just in case she changed her mind before she got to the top. All she really wanted to do was apologize. She could have done that over the phone. She should have. Instead, she reached the second floor, looked down the hallway, and saw light leaking out from underneath Tori's bedroom door. With an incredible feeling of relief, Jade crossed the hallway and put her hand on the doorknob. It was there that she knew what she was really hoping for.

In her mind, Jade flung that door open, nearly giving Tori a heart attack, but the girl quickly forgave her for that and soon forgave her for everything else as well. The way she imagined it, Jade would start to apologize, but she wouldn't have to finish because Tori would cut her off with a hug, or maybe a kiss – hopefully a kiss – and then Tori would let Jade stay the night in the mysterious wonder that was her bedroom – her bedroom that Jade had only seen once. They would sleep in each other's arms and Jade would wake up in the morning to vomit continuously because of the cheesiness of it all, but she would secretly love it.

In reality, Jade stood with her hand on the doorknob for at least a full minute, before she slowly pushed it open. Tori was lying on her back in her bed, across from the doorway, dressed in her pajamas with her hair loosely tied back. She was wearing glasses, reading from a book that she held just inches from her face while she sat with her back against the headboard, her knees pulled up to her chest, and a mug of some steaming beverage placed on top of the small white table beside her, on which there was a small lamp that was responsible for the dim lighting in the room.

"You look kind of nice in glasses." Jade commented nervously as Tori reluctantly set her book down beside her drink. She didn't seem the least bit amused and only stared at Jade with a blank look on her face for a while.

"Beck told me that you guys broke up." Tori commented, assuming that was the reason Jade was there. Before, that would have been the perfect excuse. A breakup was just the right kind of emotional trauma to warrant making up with the owner of those comforting arms, crossed over Tori's chest as she stared disapprovingly at her uninvited visitor.

"Yeah." Jade answered softly, wondering if maybe Tori would just allow her to curl up in bed with her without anyone having to tell the truth quite yet. She really didn't want to admit out loud that she liked Tori that much – that honestly she loved just lying there with her, not doing a thing. She would love to do more than that, but it would be enough to just lie there again.

"I'm sorry about that, but you can't just come to me every time something goes wrong and expect me to just give you a hug and make everything better, and then forget about it the next day. I have to expect more than that." Tori's face was like stone, but it was obvious how hard she was trying to stand her ground, to refuse the person who had hurt her so much. She blinked and her face relaxed for just a second, but it didn't last.

"I know, I- That's not why I'm here. I guess…" Jade tried to think of something a little more intelligent to say, but words started to fail her. "I was kind of… I've… I treated you like dirt. I'm sorry." Tori's lips parted and her face softened a little, but she stayed silent. "And I'm really sorry I can't come up with a better way to apologize to you right now. I'm just, I kind of… Tori…" Finally, the girl smiled a little and started to get up from her bed. She left her glasses on top of the night stand and stepped closer, scratching behind her ear and wrinkling her nose. She didn't dare look up at Jade yet.

"I knew you had a heart in there somewhere." When she finally made eye contact, Tori's face was colored red.

"You say that like it's a good thing."

"It can be." She cleared her throat and glanced out the window, at Jade's car sitting in the driveway. "So, how are you doing with everything? What's wrong?" Jade had hoped that her apology would prove to Tori that her trespassing had nothing to do with Beck, but she'd been wrong. Tori still didn't believe her just yet. It hurt to even think about apologizing again, and the thought of explaining exactly what she wanted was nauseating, but she had to speak sooner or later.

"I'm fine. Beck and I are friends, actually. It's the weirdest thing…but it works somehow." Tori nodded, licked her lips, and didn't say a thing. "I'm just here to see you. I don't have any kind of ulterior motive. I'm not trying to hurt you any more than I already have…" With every word, Jade wished Tori would stop her, say something, but she didn't. "Every single thing I said to you was a lie, and I really regret it, honestly. I just didn't want to admit that I actually…really like you. That I really did need you… Not just temporarily, whenever I felt sad or lonely or just needy… I want you around a lot longer than that."

Finally, Tori's temporarily hardened shell broke and she smiled, a real, genuine smile. She turned around again though, a few seconds later, and returned to her bed, where she straightened her sheets for a moment to avoid saying anything. Jade watched her bite on her lip and squeeze her eyes shut. She was bargaining with herself, and somehow, the crazy side that liked – loved, really – Jade won.

"You want to stay?" She only received a nod in response, and a smile. Jade dropped her bag on top of Tori's dresser and pulled her shirt over her head, stripping down to the black camisole she had on underneath it. Before Tori had a chance to say anything, Jade slipped out of her tight black jeans and left them on the floor, diving under the covers without even looking at Tori. She laid in the middle, stretching her arms and legs out and taking up as much space as she possibly could. One deep breath later, Jade opened her eyes and saw Tori standing at the end of the bed, staring at her. She moved over slightly, a few inches toward Tori's half of the bed, giving her just enough space to slide in on the foreign side, and she did.

"I still don't understand what you're expecting from me." Tori said quietly as she settled into the space beside Jade. She apprehensively slid her hand into her visitor's, relaxing when her gesture was accepted and Jade squeezed it.

"Nothing right now. In the future…whatever you're willing to give me, I guess." Tori's mouth curved into a wide grin beside her, and Jade wanted to laugh and groan at the same time. "Don't talk. You'll just say something horrible, and this is bad enough." With a laugh, Tori rolled her eyes and sat up.

"Goodnight." She whispered, leaning over Jade to turn off her lamp. Struggling with finding the switch, she jabbed her elbow into Jade's side when she moved all of her weight onto her one arm and reached underneath the lampshade.

"Goodnight." Jadee reluctantly replied when she realized that it really had turned into one.

The lights finally went out, but she could still feel Tori hovering above her, even when the girl's overreaching arm moved back to her other side. A moment later, Tori's minty breath was in her face, and then her hand. Something – a thumb - poked Jade in the eye, and she hissed under her breath,

"What are you doing?" Tori's fingers found Jade's left ear, and then felt around her nose. They finally moved down to her lips, and then disappeared.

"Trying to find your mouth." She said, "It's dark. Give me a break." and then Tori's lips covered hers. A hand brushed her hair back as Jade adjusted to the feeling of the kiss. Tori seemed surprised that Jade hadn't pushed her off, and hesitated, at which point Jade slid a hand across the back of Tori's neck and pulled her closer in the dark. As soon as it had started, it ended, and Tori pulled away completely. She settled deep into the space beside Jade.

"I know you don't want anything right now," she whispered, "but that's a preview of what you can expect, if you stick around this time."

"Hmm…" Jade hummed, rolling onto her side. "What a tough decision." She slid her hand across Tori's hip in the dark, and their foreheads touched for a moment. She was happy - genuinely so. It wasn't a common thing for her, unfortunately. At any point in her life, Jade could pick out a thousand bad things, but now she'd found one good one. "You have no idea what you're getting yourself into."