What would you do if you had 24 hours to live?
"This doesn't happen."
"Unfortunately, Ms. West, it does." The doctor swept over to the table that contained his assortment of medical records and quickly thumbed through the one closest to him. "Jadelyn West, I'm assuming?"
"Obviously." She could feel her heart thumping inside of her chest. Not for much longer. "But I'm serious. You can't just tell people that they have 24 hours to live."
"The poison has already made its way into your system." His tone was clipped, his eyes dark, and he looked her over quickly. "I know it's hard to believe, but often times that's the way things work. Someone slipped you a poison in your food somehow."
"I don't feel any different," Jade said dangerously, her eyes flashing. "Other than the throat thing, but I thought it was just strep throat or some chiz, not poison – "
"There's the danger of it," the doctor replied flatly. "You don't know it's even killing you, except that your throat is slowly closing up. It's a new poison, introduced here by terrorists, 100% illegal, expensive, and hard to get. It hasn't even really been a danger until now."
"Maybe you should start investigating it, then," Jade hissed. "Or the police officers, whatever. I really don't care. Are you sure there's nothing you can do? No antidote?"
"The police have already launched a full-scale investigation. I alerted them before I came here. And I'm absolutely certain." His tone was flat, deadpan. She winced. "The only antidote exists in Brazil."
"Why didn't you ask them to ship it here before now? Before it became an issue?"
His eyes flashed. "We didn't know it would become an issue. But rest assured that you will be the last victim."
"Well then." She stood up, feeling her legs tremble beneath her. She forced herself to be strong, to not show any kind of weakness, to not blurt out how terrified she was feeling. Instead, she just bit her lip. "If I've only got 24 hours to live, then I'm not staying here."
"Do what you want." The doctor motioned toward the door, his eyes stone-cold and emotionless, unlike any other eyes she'd ever seen, probably glazed over from years of having to deliver the worst of the news. "You might want to come back at the end, though..."
Nodding, she strode through the door and the lobby, stopping only to yell "WHY DON'T YOU CHARGE IT TO MY DEATH INSURANCE?" to the receptionist when she asked Jade for a method of payment.
She didn't start running until she got to the road.
It was odd, she considered, that she had never really taken up running before. The wind in her hair was oddly freeing, and the rhythm of her feet was strangely soothing, unlike anything she'd ever experienced before. Plus, running almost took her mind off of the fact that she would most assuredly be dead in 24 hours, the fact that she'd just been issued a death sentence.
After a few minutes, though, she ran out of breath, and a quick glance told her that she was at a convenience store. With a shrug, she entered the building, deciding that if she was shot, it would only be a quicker death. Nothing wrong with that.
She glanced around quickly as she entered the store. A man was at the counter, going through the drawers in the cash register. Over in the corner, a young girl was picking out a candy with her mother. And then there was a young man, about her age, standing near the packets of gum, but he didn't seem to be picking one out. Instead, he was just standing there, looking as if he was in some sort of trance.
Deciding that there was nothing holding her back (she only lived a few more hours, after all), she marched over to him and stared him straight in the eyes. "Are you actually going to buy something, or just stand there and stare at the gum?"
The boy blinked, as if he was being awoken from his trance. "Yeah. No. I don't know. Wait, sorry, what?"
"You've been standing there staring at nothing for ages," Jade said darkly, putting a hand on her hip. "I was just wondering if you were actually going to buy something or just stand there like a robot."
"Oh." He glanced at the gum rack, as if he was realizing it was there for the first time. "I think I did come in here to buy something, actually."
"Hopefully," Jade retorted in her normal snarky tone. "Otherwise I'd probably think it best to turn you over to the local mental hospital."
"Won't be needed, thanks," he replied crisply. "I just wanted some gum, I think, so I came here. Nothing wrong with that."
"Or you just wanted to escape," she said, her eyes scrutinizing the boy. Long, dark, shaggy hair that obviously had not been cut for some period of time, dark eyes with black circles underneath, indicative of the fact that he had not slept for quite some time, and baggy jeans, definitely not in style – yes, this boy was clearly escaping from something, though obviously she couldn't deduce what.
The boy looked up, clearly startled. "How did you know that?"
"Obvious," Jade said with a slight smirk. "I'm escaping too, don't worry. Jade West, by the way."
He met her gaze at last, his chocolate gaze penetrating hers. At last, he stretched out a hand. "Beck Oliver. Pleasure."
"The pleasure's all mine." Jade shook his hand briefly, marveling at the obvious chivalry of the boy – what guy in the world would actually shake hands with an (admittedly gorgeous) woman? "Now, if you want, we could try and escape together. I'm on the lookout for a nice companion. Either that, or you could stay and stare at the gum counter."
"No thanks." Beck snorted, then gave her a small, fleeting smile. "I don't think I want gum now, so maybe I'll come with you."
"No." She smirked back. "I don't think you do."
Fortunately for Jade, Beck seemed to have an idea of how to navigate the city she'd accidentally entered. He led her down a gravel road that seemed to become gradually more paved as they went on. She marveled at the scenery, and he seemed to marvel at her, half in shock and half confused. At last, he seemed to work up the courage to ask, "So, are you going to tell me what you're running from?"
Instead of answering the question, she countered, "What would you do if you had 24 hours left to live?"
He sighed. From the outside, one might think that the boy would have a strong resolve, what with his greasy hair and leather jacket, but Jade had realized quickly that Beck Oliver wasn't half as tough as he looked. Well, either that, or whatever he was running from had weakened his resolve greatly.
"I suppose I'd do everything I'd ever wanted to do," he said at last. "You know, be all extreme and... stuff. Why am I even explaining this to you?"
"Have you got a phone?" she asked abruptly, sticking out one of her hands.
"Yeah," he told her, raising an eyebrow. "Why?"
"I need it."
"What's the magic word?" the guy asked, a slight smirk making its way onto his face. She realized with a start that she was having sort of a healing effect on him, empowering that stubborn part of him that obviously hadn't surfaced for a while. The effect she could have on people was one of her most interesting qualities. However, it was one that would soon cease to exist.
"Please," she said stiffly at last, wiggling her fingers. At last, Beck placed his new Pearphone into her fingers. Glancing down, she quickly studied it, realizing that it was the phone that had only just come out yesterday. This obviously signified that the Beck Oliver kid was definitely fairly rich. Raising an eyebrow, she quickly opened his internet browser, did a quick search, and opened the webpage '25 Crazy Things to Do Before You Die'.
Beck looked confused, but his confusion quickly turned to anger as he peered over her shoulder and saw what she was searching for. "What are you doing?" he hissed in her ear.
"I told you I was looking something up," Jade drawled. "Number one, it says here, get in a car and drive off. Except I suppose that requires knowledge of hotwiring."
"Why are you looking up 25 Crazy Things to Do Before You Die?" He inquired angrily, glaring at her. "You're, what, 22? You've still got a lot of life left in you."
Defiantly placing a hand on her hip, she glared at him. "I'm nineteen, thanks. And I thought that these lists could prove a useful distraction. Clearly I was wrong."
"No." Beck bit his lip, looking a mixture of confused and ashamed. "No, continue on."
"It says we should get on a bus and just see where it takes us." Lowering the phone, Jade glanced at the boy in front of her. "You up for it?"
"Sure," he said passively, running a hand through his hair. "There's a bus stop near here."
And so they began walking again, him in the lead and her trailing silently along behind them. The silence that enveloped them felt oddly comfortable, and Jade found herself thinking that she could do this for the rest of her life.
The first bus that pulled up turned out to be a double-decker, and somehow, Beck ended up with a firm, oddly pleasant grip on her hand as they weaved their way through the crowd. He didn't let go of her hand until they both landed seats on the first row of the upper level. Placing her elbows on her knees, Jade leaned forward. "This is actually a decent view."
"I happen to think it's pretty nice," Beck said with a slight smile.
"You would." She sighed, closing her eyes. "Wonder where this bus goes."
"Maybe to another planet."
"Maybe." She allowed herself to loosen up a bit, her mind to travel. "Maybe we can establish a new colony there or something – you know, if they've got air, so that we don't die."
He nodded. "Yeah, not dying would be nice." There was something odd in his tone though, something that sounded almost like he knew too much, but when she looked at him, he wasn't looking pointedly at her or anything like that. Instead, his gaze was directed off into the distance, as if he was searching for something there. She tried not to read too much into it.
"Do you ever think about how irrelevant we all are?" Jade asked, leaning back against her seat. "There are billions of people on the planet, and then there are tons of other planets and galaxies. We're just irrelevant specks. In the grand scheme of things, we don't matter."
"We matter to the people who care about us," Beck informed her, staring at her. "In the grand scheme of things, we'll live on in their hearts."
"Cheesy," Jade muttered, swinging her combat boots back and forth. She wanted to ask Beck if he would care if she died, but it seemed like too much, too soon. It was easy to forget that she had only known him for a few hours.
"But true," Beck amended, looking a bit like a puppy with his large, brown eyes. Jade just rolled her eyes.
"Let's get off at the next stop," she suggested.
The stop they got off at turned out to be a large, sprawling, empty beach. Jade jerked back immediately after stepping off the bus, her torso colliding with Beck's solid chest. "Let's get back on the bus."
"Can't." Beck motioned down the road. "They've just pulled off."
Jade bit her lip, then sighed. There was no use keeping anything from him. She only had what, 21 hours left to live? "I'm scared of beaches," she confessed with a scowl. "There was this incident with a dolphin, and well, I just hate beaches. I hate a lot of things, actually."
"Just give it a try," Beck suggested, smiling slightly. "You only live once; isn't that what everyone always says? YOLO?"
"Don't say that," Jade commanded at once, but slowly, she began edging toward the water. He was right, after all; she only had a few more hours to live and she might as well make the best of it. She sighed as she stepped onto the sand. "I haven't been on the beach in ages."
"You live in California."
"Clearly." She rolled her eyes. "In case you couldn't tell from my ghost-like skin, it's not exactly my kind of place."
"I'd just assumed that you burned instead of tanning." Beck chuckled, walking to the edge of the ocean and taking off his flip-flops. "I'm gonna go wading. Join me?"
"You do realize that fish pee in the ocean," Jade retorted in a snarky voice. "Not to mention the tons and tons of industrial waste. And fish poop, too. And of course, small children pee in there as well..."
"And it hasn't killed me yet," Beck reminded her.
She let out a shaky breath. None of that could kill her. None of it could harm her. It could, of course, harm Beck, but she could tell already that nothing she could say to him could change his mind. With a frown, she slipped off her shoes and followed him into the water.
"If some creature touches me, it'll be your fault," she said with a dark scowl.
Beck just smiled over at her. "I think I'll take that risk."
They stood there for a moment, taking in the blazing sun and the waves as they lapped at their feet. It was a peaceful scene, Jade thought bitterly. She had imagined herself going out with a bang, not a wave, but she supposed this wasn't really the end. Not yet.
She glanced over at the boy beside her. It was obvious already that he was not the same spaced-out boy she had met just a few hours ago; already, he was shifting, changing, into a more confident, more solid sort of boy. She'd only known him for less than four hours now, and already she was having an effect on him. It was hard to think that she would have to leave him forever in just a few hours.
The watch beside her played an eerie tune, indicating that she had hit five hours since she'd left the hospital. Nineteen hours left. The notion sent a chill down her spine.
"What was that?" Beck murmured, glancing over at her.
"My watch," she mumbled, fumbling with it. It was the first time that she'd ever been grateful to have been wearing a watch – this morning, she'd thought it to be nothing more than a cool, studded accessory, but now it was more of a ticking timebomb, counting down the seconds until she ceased to exist. Perhaps Beck was right; perhaps she would live on in the hearts of those who loved her, but those people were few and hard to come by. She wasn't exactly a lovable person, after all. "I have it set to go off every hour."
"Oh." He sighed, kicking one of his bare feet around absently, but then he froze up beside her.
Jade felt her face go white at once. "What?"
"I think I just stepped on something," Beck said slowly.
Of course, Jade didn't wait for any further elaboration. She scattered out of the water at once, splashing her handsome companion with water as she dashed. Once she was out of the water, she collapsed on the sandy shore, not even bothering to consider the various crabs and other creatures that lived beneath the ground. With a frown, she called, "You can't just say stuff like that!"
Beck paid her no mind. He was bent over, scrutinizing whatever he had stepped on. Then, at once, his face lit up. "Aw, come on, Jade, it's just a baby sea turtle! Maybe they have a nest near here or something."
"Maybe you had better not pick that up," Jade hissed, coughing and sliding back through the sand. "Seriously, Beck, that's nasty. You don't know where it has been. Or if it has pee on it."
"I don't know where you've been," Beck pointed out, scooping up the turtle with his bare hands and grinning. "It's just a little baby; it's really cute. Don't you want to come take a look? Or are you too scared?"
"Of a turtle?" Jade scoffed. "As if. It's just nasty and covered in germs. Nasty animals, turtles."
With a hint of a devious smile, Beck walked out of the water and clambered through the sand up to her, the turtle still resting in his cupped palms. She immediately jumped to her feet, but it was a moment too late – Beck was already in front of her, shoving the turtle just in front of her face. The lousy creature stared at her with beady, terrifying black eyes. With a yelp, she smacked his arm away, but he didn't even flinch. Instead, he just laughed and withdrew the turtle.
"I hate you," she hissed venomously, her eyes still on the small turtle.
Beck just gave another quick laugh, then walked over to the water. With a sigh, he placed the turtle back into the water, which of course satisfied Jade. Then he walked back over to her. "If I take you out to a really late lunch, will you consider not hating me?" he inquired with a smile.
"Maybe," she allotted with a small cough. "But you're paying."
"That is the implication of 'taking you out to lunch'," he pointed out, raising an eyebrow.
"Good." She raised an eyebrow. "Maybe then I'll consider forgiving you."
"So are you going to tell me what you're escaping from?" he asked her once they were settled down at a restaurant, food in front of them and slight smiles on both of their faces.
"No." She stabbed her salad, trying not to meet his eyes. She had a feeling that telling him would mess everything up, and because of it, she decided to keep her secret to herself. That was the point of it being a secret, after all. "You?"
Beck was silent, and then at last, he sighed and ran a hand through his hair. For a moment, he looked just like he did the first time she'd spotted him in the convenience store – lost, and entirely confused. Then he just nodded his head. "Yeah, I guess I will. There's really no point in keeping it a secret. I'm transparent, after all – no secrets."
Jade was more than slightly confused, but she nodded anyway. "What is it, then?"
"I'm escaping because my sister died," Beck said quietly, staring down at his lap. "A few days ago. She was hit by a car. It was all so sudden and I just – I didn't know how to deal. I locked up, I guess you could say. My dad said I'd been acting like a robot, all automatically programmed and stuff. I just didn't know what to do or how to act. So I ended up in the convenience store, completely alone and confused, and so I guess that's why I came with you."
"Don't you have funerals to go to or something?" Jade inquired, feeling entirely taken aback. Of all the possible secrets she had pondered him possibly having, this was the least likely of them all. His sister – somehow, she found herself picturing a miniature version of Beck, all dark hair and eyes and a certain air of mystery about her – was dead, buried in a grave somewhere. That would be her soon enough. Absently, she wondered if Beck would go to her funeral.
"They've already taken place," Beck said darkly, his hand gripping the edge of the table so hard she thought it might snap in half. "All last week. Some of the worst days of my life. I'm living on my own, anyway, so no one would even know if I disappeared."
"I'm sorry," she replied, trying to sound sympathetic. But all she could see was the funeral people lowering the coffin into the ground, then turning to her with dark eyes. You're next.
"You don't have to be," Beck told her with a half-smile. "I didn't tell you for your sympathy."
"Why did you tell me?" she inquired curiously. "I mean, don't you think it's a bit weird to tell me? After all, we've only known each other for a little less than seven hours now." As if on cue, more of the eerie music began to pour out of her watch, signaling that she only had seventeen hours left in her life. She felt like exploding, like telling him all that had happened to her, but she figured that he'd probably just leave her to die on her own, and honestly, she wasn't sure if she could handle that.
"Maybe a little," Beck informed her with a shrug. "But I don't know; I've got this odd feeling that I can trust you. And I usually just go with my instincts."
"Maybe I'm a cold-blooded killer," she sneered.
"Maybe you're not."
She just sighed and glanced down at her lap. "Thanks for the meal. It was pretty good. Better than the prison food my mother makes, at least."
"I'll bet." Beck smiled over at her. "Listen, are you sure you don't want to talk about it?"
"You'll hate me." Her voice was barely audible, she knew, but she couldn't bring herself to be any louder. It was completely and utterly true – if Beck knew, he would despise her for not telling her, for dying so soon after his sister, for befriending him and then leaving him just hours afterward.
"Not true," Beck replied in a coaxing voice, one that almost made her want to tell him. It was odd how he had this effect on her, how he could almost make her want to tell him despite how resigned she was not to, but she couldn't. It just... she didn't want to hurt him, this boy who had already obviously been through so much pain. "I won't ever hate you. I swear."
At last, she looked up at him, stared into his eyes, and before she could stop herself, the words came tumbling out. "I'm going to die."
"Well, of course you are," Beck said. "Everyone is at some point. It's a known fact of life."
"No, you idiot." She ran a hand through her hair, a habit that she had somehow picked up from Beck. "I'm going to die in – well, I guess it would be a little less than seventeen hours."
Beck froze up at once. She saw the haunted look return to his eyes, and again he looked like the boy from the store, completely zoned out. At last, he managed to stammer out, "Th-that's not possible."
"Someone poisoned my food," Jade said with a shrug, trying not to show how truly terrified she felt. "A terrifying, slow-acting poison with few side effects, except that my throat is closing up and soon enough, I won't be able to breathe." She took in a deep breath for emphasis, choking on the air. "The only antidote is in Brazil, and apparently they can't get it here in time. I'm to be the only casualty, though; don't worry. I just... I guess I've got a lot of enemies."
"Jade, I..." Beck took in a deep breath and stared at her, some sort of anger blazing in his eyes, the same anger she'd seen upon reading the article title."I don't hate you, but why didn't you tell me?"
She sighed. "I knew you wouldn't want to stick with me if you knew I was a walking corpse."
"What about your family?" Beck inquired darkly, raising an eyebrow.
"What about them?" she rasped. When he just stared at her in response, she gave another long sigh. "I don't want to hurt them."
"So you thought it was okay to hurt me?" Beck stared at her, all dark eyes and brooding silence, the mysterious boy who she'd quickly become attached to. No. She didn't want to hurt him. Not now.
"I didn't think it through," she admitted, staring at the table. "Don't leave, though. I don't want to spend my last few hours alone." When he didn't look convinced, she added a hasty "Please?"
"Fine." Beck gave a small smile. "I guess it would probably hurt more to leave and know what I was leaving behind. It's just really sad how people can die so young. I feel like I have a responsibility to make your last hours special, you know? So, um, what else did you want to do?"
"If I'm going to be saying goodbye today, I want to look good," Jade replied, her voice determined. "I want to get new streaks in my hair. It'll only take an hour or so, and I mean, you could do something with your hair as well. It's looking greasy."
"My hair is gorgeous," Beck protested, reaching up to pat a lock of his hair.
Jade just smirked. "In your dreams."
When she looked in the mirror, she smiled in satisfaction. Her streaks this time were a lovely shade of purple, the one color she had always craved but never tried. It looked edgy, but surprisingly pretty at the same time. (Also, for some reason, it reminded her of death. She tried not to dwell on that.)
Someone's head slid in beside hers in the mirror, and she craned her head up to look at Beck Oliver. Beck twirled one of her slightly wet curls around his finger. "This is pretty. Not a bad color on you at all."
"And your hair's looking decent now," she said, raising an eyebrow. "Those people are miracle workers, I swear."
"You secretly love my hair," Beck teased, offering her a hand. "Come on; let's get out of here. We don't want to waste any time."
"Yeah, that's true." Jade grimaced. As if on cue, her phone began playing the eerie song again, signifying that she only had 15 hours left. She bit her lip. "Fifteen."
"Not enough." Beck sighed, pulling her to her feet, and the two of them walked out of the parlor. For whatever reason, Jade couldn't take her eyes off of him. He was starting to seem like a new boy, but sometimes he would just stare at her with that all-too-familiar look in his eyes, that look that made her feel more guilt than anything she'd ever experienced. She wasn't really the type to feel guilty about things, so this was all completely new. She didn't want to hurt him.
"What's next on the bucket list, O Great Beck?" Jade asked teasingly, trying to break herself out of the odd reverie she'd fallen into.
"Well, is there anywhere you'd like to visit?" Beck responded, glancing over at her. "You know, to say goodbye? I know that's something I'd like to do, but I mean, I don't know about you..."
"I'd like to say goodbye to my school," Jade said quietly. "I had some all right times there. I was a fairly decent actress, if I do say so myself."
"Where'd you go to school?" Beck inquired, sounding genuinely interested.
"Hollywood Arts," Jade replied absently, picturing the school in her head, with its colorful, individual lockers and hallways full of artsy kids. "You?"
"Northridge," Beck told her with a small laugh. "I was an actor too. School rivalry, huh?"
"Northridge is for the preps, pretty boy," Jade retorted with a smirk. "I knew there was something off about you. Anyway, I want to go to Hollywood Arts to, y'know, say goodbye."
"I suppose I can stomach it for you," Beck said with a teasing smile. Jade's only response was to smack him on the arm.
Hollywood Arts had barely changed. The lockers were still as creatively designed, and although the halls were empty (it was the summer, after all), Jade could almost imagine she was seventeen again and traipsing down the hallways, sparing venomous glances at any students who dared look at her. Then, of course, her watch went off, bringing her back to reality.
She stomped off down a hallway, Beck silently trailing behind her, and then she slid open the door to a classroom – Sikowitz's old classroom, she remembered fondly. However, her eccentric acting teacher was not in the room. Instead, there was a brown-haired girl who looked all too familiar.
"Jade," the girl exclaimed, looking surprised. "Didn't expect to see you after graduation!"
"Yeah, because I made it obvious that I didn't want to see you," Jade remarked rudely. "Hello, Vega."
Tori Vega just laughed and gave Jade a large grin. "Why are you here, anyway?"
"I... I just wanted to visit the school," Jade mumbled under her breath, hoping that Beck wouldn't give her away, though she had a feeling that he wouldn't. For whatever reason, she was starting to trust him, and she hoped that he wouldn't let her down. "What are you doing here, anyway? Got yourself a little job? Whatever happened to making it shine?"
"I wanted to teach here," Tori retorted, her voice defiant. "I had such a good time here, even with you, that I decided to make it an equally pleasant experience for all of the other potential actors. So they offered me an internship, and I took it." As if noticing Beck was there for the first time, a small smile slid onto Tori's face. "Who's your... um, companion?"
"This is my, um, my friend, Beck Oliver," Jade said darkly, not really sure of what to call him. Sure, they'd only known each other for a few hours, but she considered him to be her friend already. "Beck, this is Vega."
"You can call me Tori," Tori offered brightly.
"Or just Vega," Jade hissed, turning to look at Beck.
Beck just smirked. "Nice to meet you, Tori. I take it you and Jade were friends during school?"
"Friends," Jade spat, giving Beck a death glare. "As if I would be friends with that."
"Jade," Beck said, and that was all he said. His tone, however, conveyed everything she needed to know and everything she needed to hear.
What she said next even surprised herself. She softened a bit, stopped glaring at Tori, and said slowly, "You know, Vega, I didn't hate you as much as I said I did back in school. I don't hate you now either, for the record."
Tori gave her a copyrighted Tori Smile."I don't hate you either," she said happily. Then she opened her arms, obviously wanting a hug.
"No," Jade said simply, and then she turned and walked out the door, Beck at her heels.
"Seems like you had quite the colorful life here," Beck chuckled, giving her one of his trademark grins. "Lemme guess, your locker was black."
"And covered with various types of scissors," Jade responded with a nod and a smirk. "I think it was the best locker in the school. Some people, however, didn't agree, and those people were what I used the scissors for."
To his credit, Beck didn't even look surprised. He just gave a small laugh and shook his head. "You're unbelievable, Jade."
"Just creative," Jade retorted, glancing around. "I guess you're ready to get out of here."
"Whenever you are," Beck responded graciously.
"Go on out; I'll be out there in a minute," Jade commanded, and Beck did just as she said. Without someone by her side, the school suddenly seemed huge and intimidating, just as it used to when she was in school. It was this that had given the girl her unshakable confidence, and for this, she would always be grateful. "Thank you," she whispered into the empty halls before turning and following her friend.
"It feels like the school's changed," Jade mused as the two of them walked away from the school. "Or maybe it's just me."
Hour thirteen found Beck and Jade at a coffee shop, one that Beck told Jade was his 'favorite in the world'. Jade actually thought that the coffee Beck bought her was pretty good, though of course she told him, "This doesn't taste like sink water."
Beck just gave her a puzzled look in return. "Does your coffee normally taste like sink water?"
"No." She took another sip of the coffee. "So, got any other secrets you want to get off your chest? After all, there's no way that I could tell anyone."
"Well, actually..." Beck looked thoughtful, yet embarrassed at the same time. "Do you mind if I tell you something? It's kind of something I don't usually tell people..."
"Shoot," Jade replied with a small frown, wondering what secrets the transparent boy could possibly have, anyway.
"I'm an orphan." Beck gave an embarrassed smile.
"Wait, what?" Jade inquired, giving him a quick once-over. Everything about him screamed rich boy, from his well-done hair, wallet full of money, and expensive clothing to the fact that he preferred taking a taxi around the city (and he was completely able to pay for it). There was absolutely no way that he was a poor little orphan like Aladdin or something (though he did actually look quite a bit like Aladdin).
"I have parents," Beck said sadly, "but they're not my biological parents. I'm adopted."
"Oh." Jade wasn't really sure what to say, so she just finished up with an awkward, "Um, sorry?"
"It's not a bad thing, I guess," Beck told her with a sigh. "It's just that they didn't tell me until I was in the eighth grade. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't look a lot like my parents, but my grandpa and I look fairly similar, so I just assumed that my genes skipped a generation or something. But no, I'm not even related to them at all. My sister, the one who... well, she was their biological kid. I was the odd one, the outcast. When they told me, I got so angry that I moved out."
"You moved out?" Jade inquired, raising her eyebrows. This just made him all the more interesting.
"Into an RV," Beck replied with a shrug. "I just couldn't stay there any longer. I just... I wished they had told me sooner."
"Adoption isn't a bad thing," Jade said after a minute. "I think if I had to have a kid, I'd adopt. Just the idea of, you know, actually having a baby makes me want to vomit all over Vega's star-studded sparkly boots."
Beck chuckled. "So I'm not the only one who noticed them?"
"No," Jade replied with a cough. "They were hard not to notice." Then she sighed. "You know, Beck, being adopted isn't a bad thing."
"I know," Beck said with a frown. "I just – they kept it a secret, Jade. Like it was a bad thing. Like they were ashamed. Like they shouldn't have even adopted me in the first place."
"Beck." She huffed, wondering if he would listen to her if she tried to reason with him. "I'm sure they didn't mean it like that, they just – "
"Look, I don't want to talk about it," Beck interrupted her. "Let's talk about something else. Like that guy at the counter. He looks like he's into you."
"Yeah, he's not my type," Jade remarked darkly. "Not that I've really got a type at this moment in time."
But Beck turned out to be right. The boy slipped her number in with the receipt. Beck took one look at it, ripped it up, and threw it in the trashcan. When Jade gave him a curious look, Beck just said, "You're right. He's not really your type."
When the clock played the eerie tone to alert her that she only had twelve hours left, it was starting to get dark. She gave a loud groan. "Halfway done, Beck. Only twelve hours left." Her throat was starting to feel tighter by the minute, not that she would tell Beck. Soon she would cease breathing all together.
The amount of pain on his face was unbelievable, but he sighed anyway and patted her hair softly. "It's going to be okay, Jade." It was a blatant lie, that much she knew, but it didn't stop her from being slightly comforted.
"Can I see your sister's grave?" she asked softly. Part of her curiosity was the fact that she was the type of girl who actually liked going to graveyards at night, but the other part was that she just wanted to see. It would provide some sort of closure.
Beck gave her a startled glance, but nodded his head anyway. "I guess. Why?"
"It – I don't know," Jade stated, feeling slightly annoyed for no rational reason. "I just think it seems like the thing to do. I can't explain it."
By the time they got to the grave, though, Jade's watch played the eerie tone that alerted them to the fact that she was now at eleven. Jade sighed and bent down on her knees, her hands tracing the letters of the stone-cold grave. Beside her, Beck shone a flashlight so that she could read the words inscribed on the grave – Marie Oliver.
She sunk down into the ground, trying not to think of her own name being transcribed into the grave, and then after a while of this she realized how selfish she was being. Glancing up, she noticed that Beck Oliver was shaking beside her. The lump in her throat widened, and she stood up to put an arm around him. "We can leave if you want to," she whispered into Beck's ear.
"No," Beck said with a frown. "You were right. I needed to come. But do... would you mind if I was alone for just a minute?"
She nodded silently, understanding completely, and walked off to give him his space. The graveyard suddenly seemed changed – every grave was a person, every person had a story, just like her. Soon she would just be among the sea of graves in the graveyard. She bent down and scraped off a layer of dust off of one of the graves, tracing the letters that made up the person's name. Anna Reynolds.She had only been twenty when she had died, not much older than Jade herself. The thought made her body quake as well. The fear was there, as strong as ever.
Then suddenly Beck was behind her, his hand on her shoulder. She stared at him, fear still racing through her veins, and all of a sudden she flung herself at him, burying her head in his shoulder. He wrapped his arms around her, holding her close. She was completely hyperaware of the fact that she had only known him for half a day, but she didn't care. They were Beck and Jade, after all, and she had a feeling that they weren't meant to follow conventional methods.
"Is everything okay?" Beck muttered into her hair, his voice a bit shaky.
"Fine." Jade pulled away. "I just... don't tell anyone this or I'll kill you, but I think I'm scared."
"Who would I tell?" Beck asked with a laugh, wiping the last remnants of tears away from his dark eyes. But then his face suddenly turned serious. "Jade, I think you need to go see your family. Just tell them you love them one last time, if anything. And you need to do it now, because they'll be asleep in an hour or two."
"I know, I know," Jade said slowly. And she did. She knew that it would cause them more pain if they didn't get the chance to tell her goodbye.
Beck, who had picked up his car from his house in order to drive them to the graveyard, drove them over to the house. Her watch chimed as they pulled up. Ten hours left. She tried to swallow the tears that were threatening to come to her eyes.
"Tell them everything you need them to know," Beck encouraged. "You live on your own; you don't have to make any excuses about where you are. It's all going to be okay, Jade. I swear."
"I don't know what to say," Jade replied, wiping at her eyes angrily.
"Just say that you love them. That's enough," Beck responded simply. She knew it was coming from his own personal experience, and so she believed him.
And so she found herself walking up to the door and rapping softly, hoping that they were asleep, but at the same time, hoping she'd get to see them one last time. Once her mom opened the door, she gave her mom a nervous, watery smile.
"Jade?" her mom asked, raising an eyebrow. "What's going on?"
"I just wanted to see you guys," Jade said, slipping by her mom and into the house. "I don't know; it felt like I needed to stop by and... is Jeremiah in the bed yet?"
"I'm not a baby," Jeremiah protested, stepping in front of their mom with an indignant expression. "Of course I'm still awake."
"Oh. Good." Jade smiled awkwardly, then leaned down and ruffled her brother's hair. "I just... I wanted you guys to know that I love you. A lot. I don't say that a lot, and I know I'm a lot to handle, but it's true. And that I hope you'll never forget about me."
Jade's mother stared at her with a worried expression on her face. "Of course we'll never forget about you, Jade. What – why would you even say that? Is everything okay?"
"I can't tell you," Jade confessed, biting her lip. Tears were already pooling in her eyes. "I can't tell you, okay, so don't ask. Just don't. But just know that I love you."
"We love you too," Jeremiah piped up. "But I don't see how – "
"Your big sister will always be here," Jade whispered, her pale fingertips trailing along the side of her brother's face. "Yeah, sorry I can't explain everything now, but I know that you'll understand soon. I'm really sorry. I love you both."
"Jade, we love you too, but – " her mother began.
Once again, Jade cut her off. "Trust me, it's better this way. Just let me go. Do it." And with that, she turned and left her mom and brother in the doorway, fighting tears as she walked back to the car. She told herself not to cry, and that was all it took.
"Your mom and brother?" Beck inquired as she sat down beside him in his car.
"Yeah." Jade sighed. "Look, I know it's probably a lot to ask, but do you think you could keep an eye on them for a little while after I'm gone?"
"I'll try," Beck promised. "And that's really not too much to ask. I know I'd hope the same if... well, if I was going to die. A lot of people have been taking care of me lately."
Jade barked out a laugh. "How's that working out for you?"
"I think I like your kind of help better," Beck replied with a hint of a smile. She tilted her head down to hide her grin.
By the time her watch rang for nine, Beck and Jade were laid out under the stars. She was calling her dad's number again and again, but he never picked up. At last, Jade sighed and slammed down her phone. "Fine. You know what? I give up."
"You and your dad don't get along?" Beck inquired, glancing over at her phone.
"He hates me," Jade said, giving another exaggerated sigh, which made it even harder to breathe. (Great.) "He hates everything I'm about, I guess, not really me. He hates my hair and my streaks and my piercings, and my acting, and how I chose an artsy college instead of one of his law schools. Guess that none of that matters now."
Beck just gave a slight nod, and then turned on his side to face her. "Jade? I have a question."
"Well, don't just lie there, ask it," she shot back.
"You said someone poisoned your food," Beck said slowly. "Someone. Aren't you curious about who did it? Aren't you going to try to get revenge or, I dunno, something?"
With a frown, Jade turned over so that she was looking at him too. "You know, last year, I would've done that. I would've gone after the person, figured out who they were, and demanded that someone put them in prison. But what good would that have done? I would still die, and of course, I'd die with so many regrets of things I never got to do. I decided to be reasonable, and that's all."
"Oh." Beck glanced over at her. "It would be hard to figure out, anyway."
"I know. They'll get what's coming to them, anyway," Jade said darkly. "Murderers have to live with that regret for the rest of their lives. If they regret it, that is."
"They should," Beck remarked with a sigh.
After that, they were silent for a while, just watching the stars. Sometime during that silence, Beck obviously fell asleep, because when Jade turned over, he was conked out. Frowning, Jade reached over and brushed his hair out of his face, liking the feel of her skin against his. She decided it was creepy, though, and turned over on her side to watch the stars. It was odd how everything seemed so much more interesting when she was dying.
Beck woke up at the sound of the alarm, signaling that Jade had 7 hours left. (He slept through the 8-hour alarm.) With a scowl, he hissed, "Why didn't you wake me up?"
"You looked exhausted," Jade said carefully. "I didn't want to wake you."
"This is important to me, Jade," Beck informed her, stretching out. "I have all the time in the world to sleep, but I've only got the next few hours with you."
With a frown, she rolled over and placed her head on his chest, snuggling close into his side. "Is this better?" she mumbled into his chest. "We can sleep for an hour or so and wake up at the next alarm."
"Are you sure you want to?" Beck mumbled into Jade's hair. "I mean, you've only got seven hours left; are you sure you want to waste them?"
"I want to know what this feels like," Jade hissed. "Don't question me. I want to know what it feels like to sleep peacefully, if just for a few hours."
Thankfully, Beck didn't question her, and they slept peacefully for a while. For the first time in a long time, Jade had no nightmares. In fact, she had no dreams at all. It seemed like only minutes before Beck was shaking her awake.
"It's been two hours," he informed her, pulling her to her feet. The sun was about to rise in the horizon; that much was obvious by the streams of light in the sky. "You have five hours left."
Jade nodded. "Take me to the hospital at hour one, all right?" she requested. "I don't want to die in a field. Who knows? Maybe they'll have found a cure."
"Maybe," Beck allotted. For the first time, Jade allowed herself to imagine a future with this boy – a boy who, 19 hours ago, she had found in a convenience store, looking completely zoned out. She allowed herself to move closer to him and put her head on his shoulder. Thankfully, he didn't protest. Instead, he smiled over at her. "You're such a strong girl, Jade. I don't know of anyone that would take this as well as you have."
"There are so many things I'm not going to get to do," Jade said, biting down on her lip. "You know, though, I've always wanted to be a criminal."
"Oh, no." Beck shook his head. "You are not spending your last few hours in jail."
"I didn't say I wanted to get caught," Jade finished carefully.
And so, forty-five minutes later, the two of them ended up at a bank, both of them toting ski masks on their faces and obviously fake guns in their pockets. They burst through the door, holding out their fake guns, and ran up to the cashier.
"Give me all your money," Jade demanded, and then she pulled the trigger. A little flag popped out that said 'Have a nice day', and Jade just smirked.
"We're cowboys," Beck amended, striking a pose.
The cashier just stared at them, obviously bewildered and probably wondering if they were insane. Jade just glared at her. "So, are we getting your money or not?"
"No..." the cashier said slowly. "I'm afraid that if you want to rob us, you're going to have to use real guns."
"This is a real gun!" Jade protested, but then she started coughing. Her throat was starting to feel thick and slimy, like the poison was really taking effect, slowly killing her from the inside out. She bit her lip and choked down the coughs. "Can't you see that, Miss?" she wheezed.
"My gun is real!" Beck said, pulling out his Nerf gun and pointing it at her. "Now, unless you want this bullet stuck to your forehead, I suggest you give us your money."
The lady just burst out laughing, and, like they'd all been cued, so did the other customers. Beck just saluted all of them.
"Have a nice day, lady, and don't call the coppers!" Beck called. Then, completely in sync, he and Jade ran for the doorway.
Once they got a good distance away from the bank, the two of them collapsed on a bench, laughing so hard that neither of them could breathe. They buried their masks underneath the bench, and Jade wheezed a few more times before she was able to speak.
"Hopefully she didn't call the coppers," Jade got out.
"I thought that was a creative word," Beck defended, giving her a small smile that quickly turned into a worried look. "Are you sure you're okay? Is there no medicine that could help?"
"I guess we could look," Jade said with a shrug, and so they drove to the local pharmacy and bought a few cough medicines. Jade took one of them, and it sort of soothed her throat, but she could still feel it slowly closing up. She sighed.
"Better?" Beck asked curiously, pushing a piece of dark hair out of her eyes.
"A little," Jade told him. "Nothing will be able to cure me, though. You know that."
"I know." Beck gave her a rueful smile. "I just didn't want to stop trying."
It was then, as her watch rang to signal that she had four more hours, that Jade got her next brilliant idea. "Let's do a flash mob," she said wickedly.
"Flash mob?" Beck repeated, a confused look on his face.
"You know," she said in irritation, "when you just walk up to a crowd of people and randomly start singing. I mean, I've got my voice back for a bit; let's go for it."
After a few minutes of argumentative banter, Jade finally got him to agree, and so he drove them to the city square and they got out. The song that they had agreed on was 'Wouldn't Change a Thing', and Jade realized as she started to belt out the first few lines that he had never heard her sing before. (Of course, this was to be expected, as she'd only known him for about 20 hours now, but that didn't mean that her singing would shock him any less.)
The look on his face was that of shock and disbelief and awe, the reaction she had hoped for, but as he began to sing, she realized he wasn't half bad either. And man, did their voices sound good together.
The crowd really seemed to like it – they got into it, clapping in time with the music and dancing. Jade and Beck did an intricate dance of their own, both of them clapping, laughing, and grinning. It was a perfect way to spend some of her last hours, Jade decided.
By the time they were done with the song, though, Jade was exhausted. Beck drove them back to the abandoned park they'd been hiding out in, and Jade's watch played the melancholic song. Three.
"I figured we'd spend two more hours here and then head on over to the hospital," Beck muttered, glancing over at her. "I just... it's going to be hard."
"Don't forget me," Jade commanded suddenly. "I... I just want to know that someone will remember me."
"I will," Beck promised. "I'll remember you forever."
And with that, she was kissing him, taking his face between her hands. Normally, she would've waited for him to kiss her, but this was no time for waiting and awkwardness; this was a time for action. He kissed her back, of course, just as roughly. Once she pulled away, she gave him a small smile. "Thanks. Seriously. I mean it."
"No, thank you," Beck said, cupping her face in one hand. "You've been of more help than any other 'counselor', than any of my friends, and... I'll never forget you. I swear."
They kissed again, and all Jade could think was that she never wanted to let go.
Two hours passed far too fast, and before she knew it, she was in a hospital bed, being poked by doctors. They were poking at her throat, which she could feel closing up, and trying to get her to breathe, but it was hard. Far too hard. Beck was there, above her hospital bed, and she thought she heard her mom saying something, but that could just be an illusion. She could feel Beck's hand on hers, though, strong and steady. Stay, she thought selfishly. He didn't leave.
The doctors were pumping medicine through her veins, trying to save her, but as one doctor said, they didn't have the antidote so there was really nothing they could do. Too late, someone said. She's not going to make it.
She knew that much. She was exhausted already from trying to breathe, from trying to keep living, when all she wanted to do was slip into oblivion. Keep trying, she urged herself, because Jade West did not give up. She had to keep fighting, keep fighting –
With all of her strength, she forced her eyes to open, to look at Beck. Beck leaned down and quickly pressed a kiss to her forehead, comforting, loving, and she let out a small sigh. No, no, don't...
She couldn't breathe. There was no air in her lungs. She was choking, sputtering, coughing, spasming –
The alarm on her wristwatch sounded. Zero. She closed her eyes.
A/N: This is a mess of OOC-ness and bad writing but IDK I just wanted to write my bbs before TGP so yeah, here we go, guys. Hope you liked it. Please review.
And yes, I know that there's no poison like that. I am aware. I made it up, lol, just like half of Victorious is made up? :) Basically her throat was closing up bit by bit, hence the choking/coughing/sore throat.
Please review and don't fave without reviewing.
Oh yeah, and this is for Bade Prompts, since the whole bit about the hair streaks was in there for the prompt 'changing of the streaks in jade's hair'. That was a bit of a hard one to do, so erm, yeah...