Tenth Touch

Autumn finally came late that year. The leaves were now finding the time to finally turn from bright green to a nice brownish copper color as they weakened and fell to the concrete of Robbie's neighborhood street. He knew it was corny, but the now tan shade of the leaves reminded him of Tori's skin. He found himself becoming distracted as one fell down on his window seat. There was a definite chill in the air, a chill that prevented him from opening the window and interacting with the broken leaves. That, and he really needed to focus on his homework.

The world had finally took its normal balance again - rotating around and around the sun without Ryder anywhere near Tori. Maybe that was a bit dramatic, but that was how Robbie felt. The worry and apprehension had evaporated off of Robbie's chest, now that he knew Ryder would have no special reason to seek Tori out or bother her in any way, the air smelled better, Ryder-free. Ahh.

School life had returned to normal again - with the exception that Robbie was dating Tori. The unflattering shock most of his classmates had was now wearing off now that the norm was Tori hand and hand with Robbie. Though there were occasional murmurs of confusion that went along the lines of:

"But why is she dating him?"

"Doesn't make any sense, isn't Beck Oliver single?"

"Maybe she lost a bet or something?"

"Maybe he's washing her car?"

Robbie tried to tune them out as best he could, and surprisingly, it was easier than he expected. Some people on the Slap were still vouching and cheering him on that things balanced out pretty nicely. Robbie turned his head, watching the corner where Rex was left to sleep.

Rex was becoming less and less noisy with his complaints and insults that it was much easier to ignore him, too. Robbie still took him to school, and nearly anywhere else he went, and still mocked Robbie about his appearance and attitude, but he was getting less of a laugh out of it nowadays. Robbie smirked a bit, it seemed now that everything Robbie was, Tori seemed to like, and now made everything less mean-spirited. The puppet was running out of ammunition.

Life was picking up. Robbie never thought he'd be able to say that for himself. But that was the truth. Only one problem seemed to remain. Robbie's parents would be coming back from Michigan in two days, and that seemed to fill the anxiety that Ryder used to occupy. The grip that Robbie held on his pen became unnecessarily tight as he thought about it.

He'd have to introduce Tori to them.

"Dude, chill, everything will be fine."

Everything was always chill with Beck Oliver, he was the most popular guy in the universe, what did he have to worry about? Robbie bit back his retorts and dug into his macaroni.

"How did her parents take it?" Robbie asked.

"What?" Beck replied, eyebrow raising.

"Jade's parents," Robbie finished, turning his head to look up at Beck's face.

He knew he was going into tough territory; when Jade and Beck broke up the group was sort of meant to pretend they had never dated at all, like all those times they were too busy sucking faces to talk to either of them had never happened. Still, Robbie could see Beck trying to pull an answer from his mouth.

"Well, Jade's dad was. . his usual charming, cookie-offering self." Beck said, and Robbie could tell he was with-holding a sigh. "Jade's mom was sort of relieved, y'know, she was probably terrified of the kind of guy she'd bring home. But, everything went okay."

"What about your parents?" Robbie asked.

Beck's calm expression fell from his face, his eyes widened slightly as he shifted uncomfortably. "Listen, Robbie. Don't worry about it. Everything's going to be okay, this is Tori we're talking about, who doesn't like Tori?"

Robbie had almost forgotten about that; maybe Beck was right, Tori was Tori. Queen Bee. Star of the universe. Goddess of all that was bright and beautiful. What parents wouldn't like her? But Robbie's anxiety didn't really come from the idea of his parents disliking her, it was more about how they would act in front of her. What would his dad say? They never really got along, how embarrassing would it be to bring a girl like Tori Vega around to meet them and they react with the same insulting surprise the rest of Hollywood Arts did?

Robbie heard feet scurrying towards where Beck and himself were seated; Tori, Jade, Andre, and Cat sat around the table at once.

"Robbie!" Tori said, planting a gentle peck on the edge of his nose. Tori said a muffled hello to Beck, which he returned while sneaking a glance at Jade.

Robbie offered Tori a small smile, nudging his salad with his fork.

"Robbie wants to tell you something, Tor," Beck said, smiling.

Tori's head turned from Beck to Robbie, eyes alight with interest. "What, something happen?"

Robbie sent Beck a look that clearly meant I'm going to piss in your bathwater, but didn't reply.

"Yeah, apparently his parents are coming back."

"Oh, that's right! From Michigan?" Tori said, catching on.

"Oh!" Cat said, bouncing up and down in her seat. "One time my brother went to Michigan and he found -"

"Cat." Jade interrupted threateningly, bring her Metal Gears bag to her lap and began searching inside it.

Robbie groaned. "Yeah, it's true. My parents are coming back and -"

"That's great!" Tori squealed, smiling so widely her perfect white teeth began showing through pink lips. "I have to meet them!"

"Tori, no! -"

"I'll have to buy a dress!"

"I'll come!" Cat said, raising her hand as if she were in class.

"Don't encourage her!" Robbie chastised, frowning as Tori nodded.

"That's a brilliant idea! Oh! Do they like any food?" Tori asked, clapping her hands together.

"No," Robbie replied firmly. "and -"

"Oh, come on! They must like something!"

"Tori, please, I'm begging -"

"Oh! I'll ask my mom to make ham? Who doesn't like my mom's ham?"

"So good." Andre agreed, massaging his stomach.

"Tori, you cannot bring a - you cannot bring a whole ham to my parent's house!" Robbie screamed after Tori as she brought herself up and began walking away from the cafeteria, murmuring more instructions for herself.

Beck smiled, as he watched Tori go, twirling his fork in the midst of his spaghetti. "She just doesn't get it." he said.

"Sleep with one eye open, Beckett." Robbie said as the bell signaled the end of their lunch.

It was impossible to get time alone with Tori after their classes; Robbie could hardly listen to any of the teachers (and that included Sikowitz, who was fairly hard to ignore in any circumstance, even if he was jay-walking while listening to Believe by Cher.) The final bell rang later that day, and the classes filed out, including Robbie, along with Rex.

"Can't wait for mom and dad to get back, this'll be a laugh," Rex said, laughing derisively.

"They're not your parents, they're mine. And stop. . "

But Rex must have sensed weakness, because he said, "Worried? Yeah, I'd be. They'll probably think you paid her, like in that movie."

You Can't Buy Me Love. Robbie knew that one, he watched it nearly everyday once upon a time. Guy pays girl to go out with him, he gets a little taste of popularity and loses his head, loses the girl, then comes to his senses and gets the girl back. Yeah, it was his favorite. Because he actually convinced himself that it would happen to him one day. But this was nothing like a movie, and as Robbie walked down the sidewalk, only a couple steps from Tori's house, he thought it was slowly slipping into some sort of nightmare.

Robbie knocked four times, straightening himself up on the last step. The door swung open, revealing Tori's mom, she smiled at him weakly. "Hello, Robbie," she said. She had finally remembered his name.

"Miss Vega, is Tori home?" He asked, his eyes snapping to Rex's form, hoping he would stay silent.

"Of course, she's playing the piano," Mrs. Vega replied, pushing the door open farther. Robbie strained his eyes, and heard the muffled sound of piano keys being pressed.

'"You're hot."

Robbie rolled his eyes at his puppet, moving inside the house and avoiding Mrs. Vega's reproachful look. He took a couple steps and saw Tori, glasses placed on her face, fingers dancing across the grand piano.

She noticed him, smiling but remaining silent. Her attention goes back to the piano, now playing a different jingle. "Know this one?" she asked, her eyes meeting his, something mischeivious dancing in her irises.

Robbie listened for a moment, before saying, "Broken Glass!"

"Yep," Tori said, no different than a average squeak. "So," she said, standing up and climbing over the piano bench. "did you come to talk to me about your -?"

"Parents?" Robbie finished, and then nodded half-heartedly. "Yeah, Tori, I -"

"I know you're nervous, Robbie, but this is exciting! I can finally meet them! I've only ever met your grandma -"


Tori paused, giving Robbie a slight pout. "Why aren't you happy? You. . you don't want them to meet me?"

"No, I don't them to meet you," Robbie said, but then sidetracked. "Wait, that made no sense. . ugh, okay, Tori, listen. I just think you have a vision in your head of what they're like, and I just don't think -"

"It's going to be okay, Robbie," Tori said, coming closer and reaching for his forearm, to which she grasped and brought to her glossed lips. "Everything's going to be okay, I'm not delusional. I'm sure something will be weird, but I promise I wont' overreact."

"Tori. . "

"Robbie, trust me." Tori said. She raised her arms and wrapped them around his neck, she leaned in and kiss him fully. The lipgloss tasted like plum and cherry, Robbie couldn't tell for sure. Tori let a hand brush against Robbie's face as they kissed, Robbie let his fingers tangle up in her perfect brown hair, slightly massaging her scalp

Finally Tori released him with a sigh. "Believe me now?" she said, frowning.

Robbie closed his eyes for a second or two, defeated, he said, "Yes."

"Good," Tori said, giving him her famous Tori smile. Then she began pushing him backwards. "Now leave, got to do lots tomorrow!"

"But, Tori -"

"We just had this squabble, Rob, now, I'll - see - you - tomorrow!"

And the door shut, and Robbie realized the air was much colder than when he arrived.

"Ha, just wish I could believe her." Rex said, chuckling with malice.