Hello, everyone! Goodness, it's been at least three months since I've written or even updated anything, hasn't it? So, I'm hoping this story gets me back into the writing mood so I'm able to finish the next chapters of the two other stories I'm working on. Since summer has started now, they should hopefully be updated soon. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this story! And please stick through it to the end...I swear it's different than my other stories, even if it seems to be going in the same direction.
Warnings: contains the mentioning of rape, more than once
Two weeks after her eighteenth birthday, she takes a pregnancy test.
She's terrified, of course. After all, she's not even out of high school yet, and barely an adult at that. However, she's fortunate enough to have support, and when the final bell rings on that cool October afternoon, a young couple pushes their way against the crowd before disappearing into a single bathroom.
Beck reaches for the light switch and flips it on. Tori is already removing the slender, white stick from its box and taking a seat on the toilet. "God, I can't believe I have to deal with this right now."
He sighs heavily before murmuring, "Just relax. It's going to be all right."
She scoffs in reply. "Right," she snaps. Her voice is already trembling. She looks up at him, and her tear-filled eyes meet his. "Beck, what am I going to do if this is positive?"
He kneels in front of her and gently takes her free hand in his. "Babe, it's going to be okay." He kisses her gently before continuing, "No matter what happens, you will not be alone in this."
With trembling hands, she sets the test on top of its box on the sink. She manages a weak smile as she says, "You shouldn't be tied down to me because of a pregnancy, especially when it isn't even your child." She kisses him gently. "Don't do that to yourself."
Before he can answer, someone knocks on the door. "Is anyone in here?"
He rolls his eyes before calling back, "I'll be out in a minute!" He turns back to Tori. "Are you ready? It's time."
She nods, her heart racing, her stomach sick as she realizes how much is at stake. She picks up the test and forces herself to look down at it. And at that moment, her entire world crashes down.
The room begins to spin around her. She suddenly finds it hard to breathe, and she feels off balance. She reaches out to clutch the edge of the counter, letting the pregnancy test fall to the ground. "Two lines," she whispers. "Oh, my God, there are two lines."
"What does that mean?" he asks. He knows the answer, yet he hopes that somehow by asking the question, it will change it.
Her face has gone pale white by now, and she is obviously fighting to keep her composure. She finally answers, "It means…I'm going to be a mother." She sighs, and the sound is full of sorrow. "A mother to my rapist's child."
Beck sighs heavily before whispering, "Come here."
He takes a seat on the cold tile floor, gently pulling her down with him. He wraps his arms around her and holds her gently as her composure finally breaks, and she begins to cry.
It doesn't take long for the rumors to spread.
Within a matter of hours the next school day, news of her pregnancy spreads throughout the school. Now, thanks to the misunderstood-information highway – Cat and Robbie – half the school believes she is some version of a slut, the type of girl who gets around so much that she doesn't even know who the father of her child is. By the time the rumor makes its way back to her and her friends, the damage is done, and no amount of claiming otherwise can fix it.
She begins skipping class by the end of the second week of finding out, occasionally at first, then regularly over time. Even when she shows up, she rarely stays the entire time, but instead leaves early due to a pregnancy-related illness. She begins to fall behind in her schoolwork and certainly doesn't have the motivation to bother catching up. Ever so slowly, her life seems to be falling apart.
One evening, after a particularly difficult day at school, she lies to her parents, claiming to be spending the night at Cat's house. They believe her, of course. After all, she's never given them a reason to believe otherwise. She quickly throws together an overnight bag before leaving.
It starts to rain just as she pulls up to Beck's place. Quickly, she runs up to the door and lifts her hand to knock. She's surprised when the door opens before her hand makes contact with it. Startled, she looks up and finds herself looking into a familiar, comforting pair of eyes.
"Tori?" Beck says, his face full of confusion. He opens the door further. "Are you all right?"
It's raining harder now, and she can only imagine how she must look to him, with the streaked mascara running down her cheeks, the soaked and matted hair pressed against her face, and the red, blood-shot eyes left from countless nights of little to no sleep. Yet at that moment, as he stands there in front of her, she can't care less.
Neither can he.
She shakes her head slowly in response to his question. "No. No, not really," she says. She sighs. "Can I stay with you tonight?"
"Yeah, absolutely," he says. He steps aside and takes her bag. "Come in. You've got to be freezing."
As he sets her bag down next to the bed, she steps in and quietly closes the door behind her. "I'm sorry to stop in like this," she says. "I just – I really needed to see you." She sighs before continuing, "You're the only one who really knows what I'm going through."
He smiles softly in reply. "You don't have to explain," he says. He gently takes her hand and leads her to the bed, where they lay down together.
She closes her eyes as his strong arms wrap around her and pull her close. He brushes his lips against her forehead before asking, "Do you want to talk about it?"
She's quiet for nearly a full minute before answering. When she does, her voice is soft. Vulnerable. Scared. She doesn't directly answer his question, but instead asks, "Do you ever wish you could just disappear?" She turns over in his arms so she's facing him. "You know, get away from everything and everyone." She shrugs. "All of the drama would go away."
He smiles. "Sometimes," he admits, then sighs. "Especially now."
She sighs. "But that isn't going to happen." She shakes her head sadly. "Sometimes I think the only way this will ever go away is through death."
He reaches up and caresses her cheek, pushing back a strand of stray hair. He kisses her gently on the lips. "You don't mean that," he whispers.
She doesn't answer. She closes her eyes, and instantly, memories of what happened the night of her eighteenth birthday flow through her mind. The memory is so fresh that she can still feel the true fear she felt that night. As her heart begins to race again, her hand guides down to where her child is growing inside of her. A moment later, she feels the distinct kick of her baby.
Something in her snaps, and suddenly, a new set of tears begin to fall. She takes a shaky breath before whispering, "No. No, I don't."
She wakes up in pain.
She ignores it at first. She shifts in Beck's arms and tries to fall back asleep. But the pain is too much, and it's quickly growing in intensity. She knows then that something is very wrong.
Beside her, Beck begins to stir. "What's wrong, babe?" he mumbles, still half asleep.
She shakes her head slowly. "I don't know," she mutters. She winces as she pulls herself to her feet. "But something – something hurts really bad." She clutches at her stomach. "And it's getting worse."
Beck is wide awake by now. He rolls off the bed and reaches for his clothes. "We're going to the hospital," he says. She's in too much pain to argue otherwise.
After getting dressed himself, he helps her into her clothes, then reaches for her shoes. "Sit down and I'll help you with your shoes."
She sinks onto the old, thin mattress. Her heart is pounding in her chest. She closes her eyes, silently praying harder than ever before that her child will be okay.
Beck kneels beside her and slips one arm beneath her legs and another behind her back. "Wrap an arm around my neck. I'm going to carry you to the truck."
A few moments later, she finds herself lying across the backseat of his truck. He pulls on her seatbelt, then gives her one last kiss. "I love you," he whispers. "I love you so much." He sighs. "You're going to be all right."
She prays his words are true.
Her water breaks minutes after arriving at the hospital.
By now, she's completely panicked. She has only recently hit the twenty-four week mark in her pregnancy, and to have the baby now would be much too dangerous. But unfortunately, labor has already started, leaving doctors to desperately try to stop it.
In the labor room, Beck stays by her side the entire time, gently clasping her hand between his. He's scared to death, honestly, but refuses to show it. He knows he has to be strong through this, no matter what. He fixes his face into a very small, very forced smile as he continuously assures her that everything will be all right.
If only it were true.
She gives birth to a beautiful baby girl less than two hours later. Weighing only a pound and a half, the little girl – Melissa – is underdeveloped and very sick. Almost immediately, she's taken away from her mother and rushed to the NICU. Despite her protests, Tori is taken to a room of her own.
"I can't stand this." She struggles to sit up in the stiff hospital bed. "I need to see her. I need to see her now."
Beck sighs and takes a seat beside her bed. "She's not stable yet," he says. "But as soon as she is, I'm sure they'll let you see her." He gently brushes his lips against her forehead. "Can I get you anything?"
She scoffs in reply. "Yeah. A new life."
He only smiles faintly in response.
She is finally allowed to see her daughter late that afternoon. Beck helps her into a wheelchair, and together, they leave Tori's room.
Clad in light green scrubs, the young couple carefully makes their way around the aisles of incubators that are set up throughout the room. As they pass each child, their heart breaks a little more as they realize many of these babies may never leave the hospital alive.
"Where did they say she is?"
Tori reaches up to wipe at her eyes before softly answering, "Over there, by the window."
Beck turns to the right, following her directions. A moment later, they stop in front of an incubator that contains a tiny baby girl.
She's beautiful. Her dark hair brings out her bright blue eyes. Tubes and wires run from her fragile, tiny body to one thing or another. Very slowly, Melissa turns her head and looks at her mother for the first time.
The sight of her brings tears to Tori's eyes. "She's so tiny," she says. "But she's – she's perfect."
"She's gorgeous," Beck murmurs.
As Melissa begins to fuss, Tori reaches out toward her daughter, but stops short, too scared to even touch the fragile child.
"The nurse said you can touch her," Beck says. He squats down beside Tori and kisses her gently on the cheek. "Go ahead. It's okay."
She sighs, hesitates, then reaches out once again. She reaches through the incubator and places her index finger in Melissa's hand.
She doesn't get a reaction from her daughter at first. But after a few moments, she watches as Melissa's fingers begin to close; they're so tiny that they barely completely wrap around Tori's own. Again, her blue eyes meet her mother's brown ones.
Tori can't hold back the tears any longer. She begins to cry harder than ever before.
A pair of comforting arms find her, and she leans into Beck's embrace. He kisses her and whispers, "It's okay, babe. It's okay." He squeezes her hand. "Try to talk to her. She needs to hear your voice."
She turns back to her daughter. She takes a deep breath before softly speaking to her. "Hey, baby. It's Mommy." She reaches up with her free hand and wipes away a stray tear before continuing, "Hang in there, Melissa. I know you can. Don't give up."
Tori grimaces, obviously annoyed by the interruption. She breaks her gaze from her daughter to look up at the newcomer. "Yes?"
The nurse looks sympathetically at her. "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid your time here is up. You're welcome to come back in a few hours to check on her." She starts for the incubator.
Tori nods. "Yes. Yes, of course." Very carefully, she eases her finger out of her daughter's grip. She glances at Beck, whose eyes seem to be glued on the child. "Are you ready, babe?"
He nods wordlessly and stands. He takes his place behind the wheelchair and the two prepare to leave. But before they do, Tori looks back at her daughter one last time and whispers one last thing.
"I will always love you."
Melissa dies in her mother's arms later that night.
Tori watches as her daughter's eyes close for the last time. She listens as her raspy breathing slows, then eventually stops. And in the silence that follows, anyone near can almost swear they hear the sound of the new mother's heart breaking.
She doesn't sleep that night. She can't. Beck stays up with her and tries his best to soothe her, though he knows nothing in the world can possibly mend her broken heart. Finally, he just holds her as she cries, wishing more than anything that this was nothing more than a nightmare that would soon come to an end.
Three weeks after her daughter's death, Tori returns to school.
Pulling up to Hollywood Arts that morning, she feels like a foreigner. As Beck steps out of the driver's seat and goes around to the opposite side of the car to open her door, she can't help but notice the curious students around them. And when she finally steps out of the car, she certainly can't ignore the gaping looks she receives from her classmates.
She swallows hard. This certainly won't be easy.
Beck's hand slips into hers. "Ready?" he asks.
Her heart is racing. She hesitates, then nods. "Yeah," she answers. "I am." She takes a deep breath, and together, the young couple make their way inside.
It isn't any better once they're inside. When she opens her locker, several notes that have been crammed beneath the crack between the door and the locker below it fall to the ground. She's not entirely surprised that a majority of them are nothing more than written abuse.
"Ignore them," Beck says. He scoops the letters up and dumps them into a nearby trashcan. "You know what they're saying isn't true. Don't let them get to you."
"Easy for you to say." She slams her locker shut. "You're not the one being called a slut." She starts to walk away. "I don't have to deal with this. I'm going home."
Beck quickly grabs her arm. "Listen," he says. "You've been through a lot over the past several months. I can understand that. But, babe, you're stronger than this." He sighs. "If you can make it through the trauma left behind from a rape and the loss of a daughter, you can certainly make it through this." He meets her eyes steadily. "Please stay here, at least for today."
For a long moment, she's quiet, and he hopes that she's considering it. But to his great disappointment, she answers, "No." She picks up her book bag. "I don't think you realize the hell I've been through the past few months. I don't care how strong you think I am; I'm sick of this fight against the world, because I'm obviously losing." She shakes her head. "I'm not graduating anyway, so what's the point?" She gives him a quick kiss. "I'll see you later tonight, all right?"
He tries to hide his disappointment. "Right." He steps back. "I love you."
She only smiles in response.
She spends the rest of the afternoon in bed, feigning an illness. In the darkness of her room, she finds herself staring blankly up at the ceiling, her thoughts wandering aimlessly.
Memories flood her mind. She sees the face of her rapist first, followed by an image of her daughter, so tiny and ill, left dying in a hospital.
She hears the students' taunts at Hollywood Arts, and sees their judging glares. She hates how they've impacted her life, but knows that she can never bring herself to set foot in the school again.
She hates how her life has turned out. But even more than that, she hates the man who caused it all – the cold-hearted, selfish man who picked her out of a crowd of hundreds to take advantage of that evening.
She hates it all.
Her heart heavy, she finally closes her eyes.
She realizes then what she has to do.
She has a date that night at Beck's place, but doesn't show up.
Beck doesn't think much of it at first. After all, she had been upset at school, not only at her classmates, but also at him. He has to admit that he isn't entirely surprised that she hadn't shown up.
But then, someone knocks on his door. It's Andre.
"Hey," Beck says. "What are – "
"Where have you been?" Andre interrupts him. He steps inside. "And why aren't you answering your phone? I've been trying to get hold of you for an hour."
"My phone went dead," he answers. "Why? What's wrong?"
Andre sighs heavily before answering, "A highway patrolman found Tori's car a while ago. She drove it through a guardrail."
Beck's faces goes completely pale white. "Oh, my God. Is she okay?"
Andre shakes his head in response. "She's missing."
By the time Beck and Andre arrive at the site, the entire bridge is blocked off, as is a majority of the road leading to it. Beck parks his truck half a mile away, behind a long string of other spectators. The two then get out of the car and follow the crowd, hoping to get a closer look at the accident.
"I can't believe this." Beck runs a trembling hand through his hair. "I know she was upset, but she hardly seemed suicidal."
"Don't jump to conclusions," Andre advises. He pushes his way through the crowd. "Maybe it was an accident. Maybe she lost control of her car, or…" he trails off and stops still as his eyes fall on the tragic scene. "Oh, my God."
A moment later, Beck sees it. In front of him, the guardrail is twisted and dangling over the bridge, barely attached. Hundreds of feet below, a small, black car lays overturned and submerged in the water. Stray pieces of metal and parts from the car float away from the scene as rescue workers frantically try to remove the mangled car from the raging water.
"No," Beck whispers. Slowly, he pushes through the crowd to go even closer to the scene. "No, she can't be – she has to be – " he sighs and finally stops as he reaches the front of the crowd. "She wouldn't."
Around him, anxious voices continue to fill the air, but he blocks them out. Instead, he lets his gaze fall on the car below. His heart aches as he realizes he had played a part of his own in causing this tragedy.
Andre places a comforting hand on his friend's shoulder. His face is grim and his voice full of sorrow as he says, "She did."
Beck goes to the Vegas' home early the next morning. David answers the door.
Over the past few years, Beck had seen David Vega in many different forms as he took on the role of both father and cop. But now, Beck can't help but notice that the man standing before him isn't even a ghost of the man he once knew. That man was gone, now replaced by a grieving, raging father.
"Can I help you?" David asks. His voice is hoarse, his tone impatient.
Beck clears his throat before saying, "I just – I wanted to know if you've heard anything since last night. Have the police – "
"You could have called to ask that," David spats. He glares. "But no, we haven't heard anything." He starts to close the door.
"Wait! There's something else," Beck says.
"Well, what is it?"
He's quiet a moment as he desperately tries to think of an excuse to stay, even for a few minutes. He needs to get into Tori's room, he knows, but…how can he do so without being seen?
David is quickly growing impatient. Just as he is about to close the door, Beck blurts out the first thing that comes to his mind. "I left something in Tori's room."
David glares in response, but to Beck's relief, he opens the door further. "Make it quick."
Wasting no time, Beck squeezes past the man and disappears upstairs. He goes into Tori's room, then closes the door quietly behind him. Immediately, he begins to search the entire room.
Tick, tick, tick, tick. Seconds turn into minutes. His time is running out, he knows, but he hasn't found what he's looking for. "Come on, come on, something has to be here," he mutters. He yanks out a desk drawer and rummages through its contents.
Suddenly, he hears the sound of footsteps coming first up the stairs, then down the hallway. His time has run out.
Very quickly, he tries his best to make the room look as it had before he had arrived. He barely manages to slam the desk drawer shut before the door swings open and David steps into the room.
"It's been long enough," he says. He glares down at Beck, who is still crouched down on the floor in front of the desk. "If you haven't found what you're looking for by now, then it's not here." He nods toward the door. "It's time to go."
Beck only nods in response. "Yes, sir." He stands. "Thank you for at least letting me in to look."
"You're welcome. Now get out."
Beck fights the urge to glare back at the other man's hostility.
He can only blame the grief.
He buys a train ticket later that night.
The train leaves at midnight, and he just barely makes it through the terminal in time to catch it. He's the last person to board. He shows his ticket to the conductor, then searches for a seat.
He walks the aisle slowly, his eyes searching every passenger as he passes by. He finally comes to a stop near the back of the train, in front of a pair of seats on the right side of the train. A woman is sitting there, alone, staring out the window. Her small duffle bag sits on the floor in front of her.
He clears his throat to get her attention. "Mind if I sit with you?"
Startled, she nearly jumps out of her chair at the sound of his voice. She quickly turns her head to meets his eyes steadily. Her face visibly pales. "Um…no. No, not at all."
As he takes a seat beside her, she sighs and shifts her body so she is facing the front. She doesn't look at him as she asks, "How did you find me?"
Beck smiles in response. "Babe, I've known you for several years now. You're hardly the type of person to drive your car off a bridge just because your life has gone to hell."
Despite everything, she releases a short laugh. "All right, but that doesn't explain how you found me on this train."
He nods in agreement. "No, it doesn't." He reaches into his pants pocket and removes a crumpled piece of paper. "But this does."
She takes the slip of paper from him. She glances at it, then rolls her eyes. "A receipt for a train ticket," she says. She shakes her head. "I can't believe I left this behind." Then, she looks at him, panicked. "Does anyone else know?"
"No." He shoves the piece of paper back into his pocket, then slips his arm around her waist, pulling her close. "Everyone else seems to be assuming you're dead."
She sighs in relief. "Good."
For a while, the two fall silent, and the only other sound is that of the train's wheels against the old tracks. Tori rests her head gently on her boyfriend's shoulder and returns her gaze toward the window. Up above, hundreds of stars shine back at her in the midst of a glowing full moon. The sight is beautiful.
Beck finally breaks the silence. He asks, "Why did you do all of this? You really just planned to run away to New York to make everything all right again?"
She laces her fingers through his own. Gently, she kisses him before saying, "Can't we disappear, if only for this one night? Can't we pretend none of this ever happened, and our lives had never changed?"
He falls silent again as his thoughts begin to race. As she turns her gaze back to the stars, he considers the notion of running away, of taking this train all the way to New York, just as Tori had once intended to do herself. He considers it all and realizes what can truly come out of completely starting over. But would it be worth it in the end?
Beck plants a kiss on her forehead. "We can't do this, babe," he finally whispers. "We can't run away forever."
She looks back at him, then, and her eyes are full of sorrow. She gives him a sad smile. Very softly, she says, "I know."