Disclaimer for all chapters: I don't anything, so leave me alone.

This is for every person who got lost somewhere in the shuffle.

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AUTHOR'S NOTE:

Howdy guys. So I finally got some time and some balls and decided to finish this. I have the entire plot planned out and I may or may not be slow with updates- however not as slow as this giant hiatus. Something important you should know is that Jade's mother is no longer in a coma. In fact, she is alive and well in this story. I know some of you really liked that aspect but I had to get rid of itso the characters could grow. As for where she is, well that's soon to come.

Hopefully you'll still be looking out for ol' S&E when I update it.


(.x.)

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Shadows and Echoes

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Jade was not herself. Tori wasn't a stalker or anything, but she had noticed some subtle and not-so-subtle changes with the raven haired girl. Ever since the incident involving The Worst Couple game show and Beck's infamous, "let's play some cards", Jade had become a different person. It astounded Tori to know that she was the only one who had noticed. She was the one who had known Jade for the least amount of time, yet could read the girl so openly if she wanted to. Maybe it was because Tori kind of, sort of had a fascination with Jade West. Her self-confidence and fire inspired Tori to try and do the best she always could. Sometimes, she had, unfortunately, stooped to Jade's level when it came to devious planning and had done things like kissed her boyfriend on her second day of school and held the school Prome on the day her play, Clowns Don't Bounce, was supposed to debut.

Jade had always faltered, then managed to pull herself together and bounce back with more force and determination that before.

Except this time.

Tori didn't know what it was that Beck did to Jade for her to be like this, but she knew that she had to do something about it. She couldn't just stand by and watch her very inspiration crumble before her eyes.

She supposed she felt angry at Beck, and Tori wasn't sure why. She wasn't the one Beck had hurt, in fact, Beck had tried to kiss her twice and it had done nothing more than made Tori curious and then, admittedly, a bit disgusted. Beck used his tongue to speak ill of the very Jade he had claimed to love for three years. He belittled her, as if it would make his lips seem more appealing to Tori. Which by the way, they didn't.

It made Tori realize that she only ever wanted to kiss Beck because Jade kissed Beck for three years and, in a way, she just wanted to see what it was like. Everything Jade did fascinated her, intrigued her so much that Tori often found herself adopting pieces of Jade's characteristics as her own. Her snarky comments to her sister, Trina and sometimes to Robbie; speaking to Cat as if she was no more than an eleven year old; they were all Jade's traits. All she wanted to do was sparkle like Jade did, or to make it shine like Jade's eyes did when she was particularly happy.

It was just her luck that the person she looked up to the most tended to hate her guts most of the time.

But now that there were these differences in Jade, Tori was sure that if she could find Jade again, maybe the blue-eyed girl would finally accept her as a friend.

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"Cat," Tori asked, chewing on a baby carrot after recording a segment for their Crazy Nugget Show. She was in her blue pajamas, sitting in her red sofa with her feet tucked underneath her. When Tori swallowed, Cat's big doe brown eyes were trained on her, "how long have you been friends with Jade?"

"I don't know," Cat shrugged and popped some popcorn into her mouth, "for as long as I can remember. Our moms were in birthing classes together."

"Oh," was all Tori could say.

How the hell was she supposed to top a friendship that originated in the womb?

"Why?"

"Hasn't she been acting strange to you? I know I haven't known Jade as long as you have or anyone else for that matter, but- but don't you think she's different?" Tori rambled and then pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose before turning to catch Cat's eye.

"Jade is always different. Maybe she just needs time? She feels a lot." Tori frowned at Cat's answer but she didn't push the topic. Cat was already uncomfortable; the lowered eyes and fidgeting hands were telltale signs that Cat most certainly knew more than she was letting on, and while Tori wanted to know what the hell was really going on, she knew better than to push the topic. Too many questions made Cat faint.

"Yeah, maybe that's it."

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Jade sometimes forgot her lunch home and she usually never brought money because she was saving up for a typewriter- why, Tori had no idea. Jade had said it added authenticity to her writing and Tori didn't comment. Beck, although he remained silent, had rolled his eyes and Tori could tell he was biting back a comment. Everyone could, it was why Andre had started rambling about his new song and why Robbie engaged Cat in a rather obnoxious conversation with Rex.

"You can have some of mine." Tori offered, pushing her plastic bowl of food towards Jade. The girl in question opened her mouth to retort, but then she changed her mind and pulled out the pickles from Tori's burger along with a few fries before she slowly gathered her things, occasionally shooting Tori a watchful, cautious glare.

Ever since then, Tori had started buying larger portions of her food and Jade had started sitting next to her, simply because she wanted the food. She never said thank you, but Tori could tell by the way Jade would sometimes smile hesitantly for a few moments, that she was appreciative of what Tori was doing. Tori noticed these things because she noticed a lot of things about Jade.

It was just something she did. She liked to collect and archive all of Jade's quirks in her mind, for future reference.

She kind of (totally) liked it when Jade sat next to her in lunch, even if she barely touched any of the food Tori would buy. She would frown as Jade would spend all her time with her chin propped up by her hand while her other twirled the pasta in the bowl between them.

Tori would like to know what went on in Jade's mind.

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"How come you don't eat anymore?" Tori asked when they were alone at lunch. Andre was working on a project with Cat, and Robbie and Beck were trying to fix Robbie's old car again. It was always breaking down; it was why he used his bike these days.

"What?" Jade snapped out of whatever dream she was in, and slammed her fork down.

"You just, um, don't eat as much as you used to. Is, is everything fine?"

"I don't have an eating order if that's what you're worrying about." Jade spat out her words in a particularly nasty motion and examined Tori's expression before gathering her things.

"Jade, please- I didn't mean it like that. I'm just worried." Tori stuttered and reached out to grab Jade's arm but the pale girl had backed away.

"You're worried about me?"

Tori nodded.

Jade burst out into a rowdy fit of laughter. She had dropped her things on the table and shook her head in disbelief, a cold smile still on her face. "I think the person you should be worrying about is yourself. I'm strong; I don't need anyone to worry about me."

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"Andre," Tori looked around the hallway and when satisfied that they were alone, she continued, "what was Jade like before I came to Hollywood Arts? Was she always this mean?"

The boy shook his head, sending his dreds flying, stinging his cheeks. Tori could see his confusion etched upon his face, he had scuffed his shoes against the bare hallway before settling his deep, chocolate eyes upon one of his best friends. Technically, Tori wasn't supposed to be asking questions about Jade. Their relationship was already as tense as it could ever possibly get. "What did she say this time?"

"Nothing," Tori gripped her books more tightly in her hands before speaking again, "she seems different and I was wondering if she was always like this? Before I was accepted into Hollywood Arts I mean."

"Jade used to love to paint. In middle school she used to paint Cat a picture once a week and she even did a few for me." Andre spoke softly, as if he was saying something he wasn't supposed to. His gaze suddenly became shifty and he cleared his throat briefly before going, "Why do you care anyway?"

"Jade's our friend, she's also the girl you loved for a while last year. She's been acting differently. She's spacey and I feel like we're losing her." Andre was her best friend, Tori knew she didn't have to hide anything from him. Andre would always listen to her when she rambled or ranted about Trina's new beauty experiments with the kitchen condiments. She knew he would always tell her the truth. It was what she loved the most about him, even if he knew it would hurt someone, Andre never lied. He always tried to be honest otherwise he got wonky in the head.

Tori was an excellent liar. She lied to herself the best, and she suspected that maybe Jade wasn't so different. Maybe Jade was lying to herself as well, and she needed someone to set her straight and help her get back on track.

"I know she's been acting differently, but maybe it's just a phase? Maybe she just needs time?" was Andre's feeble answer. Tori could see the duress on his face, she could tell he was struggling to remain uninvolved in whatever inner turmoil Jade was going through, and Tori supposed he had a point.

"We can't leave her alone when she needs us the most."

"Since when do you care about Jade anyway?" Andre asked exasperatedly, "she's always done horrible things to you. I know she's a nice person but she doesn't show it much, does she? You barely even know her."

"If nobody else is going to be there for her, I'll make sure I will be there. Jade isn't as strong as she would like everyone to believe." It took the Vega girl an extra second to pull herself together. Andre's comments, though true had managed to rub her the wrong way.

"Jade pushes everyone away when they get too close, Tori. Just remember that." She re-adjusted the bag strap on her shoulder before she spared Andre one last knowing glance and stalked away.

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"…and Jade." Sikowitz's booming voice declared and Tori made her way to the front of the classroom, followed by Robbie and Cat. It was only then they realized Jade was still sitting in her chair, absentmindedly studying the tips of her boots. Sikowitz cleared his throat, unaccustomed to this new, nonchalant Jade West and opened his mouth to speak but closed his mouth. Sikowitz usually called Jade out on her abrasive ways, but today he kept his mouth shut and spoke to Jade in a soft voice Tori was sure she had never heard before. "Jade," he said, "come up on stage and do this acting exercise."

The girl's had snapped up, more from feeling everyone's eyes trained on her rather than from hearing Sikowitz's request. She straightened her shirt and ran a hand through her dark locks before she took great strides to the stage. Usually Jade stomped with an exaggerated scowl and a dramatic roll of her eyes. Today, she did nothing.

"Um, what are we doing?" This questioned worried Tori. Firstly because Jade was never one to say things like "um" and secondly, Jade was always on the top of her game. She was never lost in classes, even if she never paid attention or spent her time doodling in her notebooks, she always knew what topic they were doing and she almost always knew the answers to the teacher's questions. She made everything seem effortless, even though Tori dedicated three hours a day to her studies outside of the arts and still never seemed as sure or as intelligent as Jade did.

"You and Robbie are siblings that Tori and I are babysitting." Cat explained, wringing her hands together.

"Oh," another thing to worry Tori. Jade only said "oh" when she was equally annoyed. She said it with fervor and an I-don't-care-what-you-really-have-to-say-so-shut-u p voice. But now, she spoke with almost no feeling at all. Her words were empty enough to be swept up by the wind and blown out of the classroom through the open windows and taken to the other side of town. Jade seemed to be nothing more of a shadow.

"Action," Sikowitz commanded, clapping his hands together.

"Robert, Jadelyn it's time for dinner." Cat spoke easily, patting Robbie on the head as he sat down on a prop on the stage. "It's your favourite, broccoli."

"I hate broccoli." Jade crossed her arms indignantly and pouted.

"Come on Jadelyn, it doesn't taste that bad." Tori placed her hands on Jade's shoulders and rubbed them up and down the way her mother did to her whenever Tori was upset.

"Well, you eat it if it doesn't taste that bad."

"Robert, tell your sister to behave and let's just enjoy some broccoli." Cat had taken a hardass approach and arched her eyebrow.

"No, broccoli isn't my flavour." Robbie shrieked and jumped out of his chair, making it topple over.

After three minutes of Tori and Cat trying to subdue a hysterical Robbie, the bell rang and everyone filled out of class. Jade made a beeline for her bag and had managed to push her way through her classmates and ended up being the first to leave.

"Tori, may I speak to you for a second?" Sikowitz had now crossed his arms and was pulling at his beard, pensively.

"See you at lunch, Tor," Andre said before all of her friends shuffled out of class. Beck gave his teacher and friend an indifferent look as Cat dragged him away, giving him an earful about her brother.

"Does something seem different to you?" Sikowitz paced the floor and had now clasped his hands behind his back.

"Different how?"

"Jade seems different." Sikowitz supplied, never looking up from his unsettling pacing, "I'm not usually one to get involved in my students' personal lives but this change has transformed Jade into one of the students in the back of the class that don't speak. The murmur-ers. I don't know what happened and I am not interested in knowing. Fix her Tori, bring her back. I don't care what you do, just get her back." Tori, unable to find any words, had simply nodded her head dumbly at her teacher who had stopped pacing to give her solemn look, "I find this Jade to be much scarier than the last."

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"The storm's getting worse. I don't think you'll be able to go home tonight, Jade." Tori's mother announced from the kitchen. A loud explosion of thunder sounded, as if to prove her point. Mrs. Vega shot Jade a knowing look before grabbing her bowl of fruit and retreating to her bedroom.

"Great, a night at the Vega household. Just what I wanted." Jade muttered bitterly.

"Come on," Tori pulled a smile, "it's just like a sleepover."

"I hate sleepovers."

"You sleepover by Cat all the time." Tori pointed out, closing her Science textbook.

"She's my friend. You're not." Jade responded flatly and Tori winced.

"It won't be that bad," Jade snorted then pulled a single pretzel from the bowl of chex mix her mother had made for the two of them. "We could play a game."

"We're not children."

"I'm just trying to be nice," Tori spoke, exasperation evident in her every word. The lights flickered on and off and the lightning flashed through the windows. When the thunder sounded, Trina screamed from her bedroom upstairs and Tori rolled her eyes at her sister's antics. "But you aren't making it easier for us to get along."

"Tori," Trina wailed, "Tori come up here. I'm scared."

"Trina's afraid of thunderstorms." Tori supplied to a surly Jade.

"As if I couldn't tell."

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"Jade, are you okay?" Tori asked later that night when the storm had more or less passed and the two were curled up on her bed, lying next to each other but really thousands of miles apart, oceans and countless landforms between them. She could reach out and hold Jade's hand right now, and Jade wouldn't notice.

"I'm just peachy, thank you for asking." Jade imitated Tori in that Judy Garland voice of hers.

"I don't talk like that," Tori cried weakly. She felt Jade shrug next to her, and shift so her back was now to Tori. "You're so different now and I just, I just want you to know that I'll always be here if you need to talk."

She never got a response so Tori didn't say anything else. When she thought Jade fell asleep, she whispered, "I know something's wrong Jade, but pushing everyone away won't make it better. I know you love Beck, and I know you're hurting but I swear if you let us in, if you give us a chance, we won't disappoint you like he did. You're our friend, we love you." It was much easier to talk to Sleeping Beauty next to her, rather than when Jade was actually awake. "I miss you, please come back."

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The next morning, Tori woke up and Jade was in her kitchen, pushing the eggs Mrs. Vega had made for her, around her ceramic plate. Tori's mother was usually one who made breakfast for herself but Jade had a plate full of food in front of her, so it must have been her mother's doing because Tori couldn't picture Jade cooking.

"Morning."

"Morning sweetheart," Her mother spoke cheerily, "I woke up to this one trying to sneak out." Mrs. Vega nodded her had in Jade's direction who rolled her eyes. "Eat your breakfast, Jade." Jade, not used to orders from an adult, far less from a mother figure, huffed before putting a small forkful of food into her mouth and chewed slowly. "I expect an empty plate when I get back." She gave Jade a sharp look who made a face. Mrs. Vega simply smiled before she carried a plate of breakfast for her husband who was lounging upstairs.

"I always thought nobody could get more annoying than you or your sister, but I was wrong. Your mother is a combination of you two; she's much worse."

"She's just looking out for you." Tori shrugged and stole a slice of toast off of Jade's plate because while her mother had gone out of her way to make breakfast for Jade, she had done nothing for Tori or Trina, her actual daughters. Jade didn't slap her hand away, but rather pushed the plate away from herself, towards Tori who had taken a seat at the kitchen table. They were used to sharing food.

"I don't need anyone looking out for me," Jade spoke firmly.

"Yes you do."

"No, I don't. I don't need anyone."

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"Explain to me why I can't go home?" Jade groaned and collapsed unto Tori's bed.

"There's a flood and my mother isn't letting your drive out there by yourself." Tori said patiently and sat down gently next to Jade, making sure she didn't accidentally sit on Jade's raven hair and make it pull at the roots. Jade had a thing for her hair; simply put, she loved it. She was always fixing it into place and running her hands through it.

"I don't even know why I'm listening to your stupid mother." It was only past midday, but Jade's voice was trailing off and Tori could see her breath even. She was in one of Tori's purple tank tops and yoga pants. It only took her under ten minutes to fall asleep.

Jade was always tried now. She yawned excessively and when Cat pointed it out last week, Jade had snapped at her bitterly and avoided them for the following two days. Her clothes didn't fit anymore, but rather hung loosely from the very curves they used to accentuate. She had deep bags under her eyes and she forgot what classes she was supposed to be in, even though she had long memorized everyone's time tables since the beginning of the school year. Tori knew because Cat sometimes forgot hers and Jade would recite it for her, before dragging the smaller girl to their respective classes.

Jade was sleeping. Sure, she was awake and she was functioning but she was really fast asleep, just like the Sleeping Beauty she was. Tori and the rest of her friends had to now search the dark forest to find her, to find Jade wherever she was having her slumber and wake her up.

"Jade, wake up." Tori commanded weakly.

"No," Jade mumbled, "Just give me some more time."

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"Here Jade, try the beans, they taste amazing." Tori had lifted her fork and Jade cocked her eyebrow and pursed her lips, glaring at the other girl until Tori shrugged and put the forkful of beans into her own petite mouth. When Tori's mother found out that Tori bought extra food for Jade, who now couldn't even remember her books for class, Tori's mother had started cooking- and not only for herself this time.

"Why are you doing this, mom?"

"Why are you doing this?" Her mother countered. "Last I heard, you were barely on speaking terms with, Jade."

"I don't know," Tori shrugged and pushed her glasses up her nose bridge nervously, "she's different and I guess it kind of scares me."

"Different how?" Her mother prompted and gently nudged her in the side.

"She's hollow."

"I don't eat beans." Jade said tightly.

"You don't eat at all." Andre muttered and ignored Cat's gasp and the way Jade gripped her drink too tightly. "Don't look at me like that. You're a stick and I'm not afraid of you anymore. Nobody here is, we're worried about you. If you wanted to scare us; well that's what you're doing. You win, so just drop the act and start eating again."

"This isn't an act." Jade hissed, slamming her drink down.

"That's not what I meant," Andre sighed heavily while Robbie slowly put Rex inside his school bag. Beck never looked up from his burrito and Cat's eyes started to water. "We're just worried about you."

"Save us the time and spare me the lifetime speech, okay?" Jade snapped then gathered her books before she stalked away, shoving a freshman out of the way. For a moment, she was back and then her flame flickered and danced until Beck sighed his cold, heavy breath and Jade went out as if she was nothing more than a mere candle that Beck, the birthday boy, had blown out. Now she was lost in the dark, staying as quiet as she could so that Tori, Cat and Andre wouldn't find her.

Jade sat by herself now and since she was still saving up for her typewriter, the most she had was a cup of coffee for the day. That lasted less than two days, because Tori had plopped herself in the seat opposite Jade in such a dramatic matter that she hoped it would distract her from the fact that Jade didn't really consider them friends. The girl had looked up from her sketchbook- one that Tori had never seen before, then slammed it shut and shoved it into her bag.

Tori grinned nervously and Jade rolled her eyes. As much as she didn't want Tori Vega sitting with her during lunch, she despised being alone even more.

Sometimes, Cat would sit with them, but she was never very good with choosing sides and Jade never held it against her. Cat could barely make a proper decision for what she wanted for breakfast. Jade never took it personally.

Okay, she did.

Cat was her best friend. Hell, their mothers were best friends and yet Cat chose Beck over her.

It said a lot, didn't it?

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"Jade, you never speak anymore."

"Jade, you never eat anymore."

"Jade, you never smile anymore."

"Jade, you never hang out with us anymore."

"Jade, you're not yourself."

"Jade, you're not with us anymore."

"Jade, you're not still in love with Beck anymore, are you?"

"Jade, where did you go?"

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"Jade," Cat exclaimed suddenly, grabbing her friend's hands, "It's eleven-eleven; make a wish." The girl in question closed her blue emeralds and Tori tried her best to read her lips, but failed to do so. "What did you wish for?"

"If I told you, it would never come true."

"You always say that," Cat huffed playfully and crossed her arms. Jade never responded, but rather trained her gaze on the pitch of the Asphalt Café floor instead. The familiar pang of jealousy jolted Tori from her thoughts. "Since you never tell me what you wish for, does that mean they all come true?" Cat asked innocently, "each and every one of them?" Jade slowly turned her head to face her smaller, wide-eyed friend and her face muscles pulled into an unfamiliar pattern. Jade gave Cat a sad smile.

"No, they never do," she said. Her small smile never disappeared.

Cat never asked Jade to make a wish again after that.

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"Jade," Beck said approaching the girl before Sikowitz's class, "how have you been?"

Jade stiffened and Tori found herself instantly inching closer. On instinct, she had grabbed Jade's arm and squeezed it; when she realized what she was doing, she dropped Jade's arm immediately, like she had just burnt her hand on a particularly hot pan her mother was using to make one of her amazing morning omelets. Jade never reacted to Tori's touch and Tori wasn't sure if she was relieved or disappointed.

"Skip the pleasantries, Beck." Jade crossed her arms and Tori could have sworn she saw the fire in those baby blues once more. "What do you want?"

Beck glanced at Tori, making it clear he wanted to talk to Jade alone, but Tori pretended she didn't see his pointed looks. If Jade wanted her to leave, then she would. Tori had stepped back, but she was still close enough to the former couple to hear their conversation.

"We've been broken up for over three months now." Beck said slowly and rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. Tori wondered if Jade loved when he did that- if she swooned like all the other girls.

"Nice observation."

"I noticed you weren't doing well." Beck willed himself to speak. He wasn't as ignorant or as indifferent as everyone else would like to think, he knew Jade was hurting. She was so fragile, so much more delicate than their friends or anyone else could ever imagine, and he usually had to tiptoe around her and her heart. Eventually he had grown tired of tiptoeing and in the process managed to crush her heart instead. Beck never realized what he was doing and he wondered if Jade did. She liked extreme emotions, usually that of pain or anger. She said they made her feel alive.

"I'm perfectly fine." Jade's words were a physical attack. They told Beck to take a step back and get the hell away from her, but Beck was never one to fall for Jade's threats. He was always pushing the limits and boundaries, willing to see how far Jade would go- how much she was willing to sacrifice for him. How much he really meant to her.

"No, you're not." Beck inched closer and ignored Tori's glare. He didn't know why she of all people was stuck to Jade's side like that. Jade was never a particularly a good friend to Tori and Beck had made sure to point this out to the younger Vega girl, but it did nothing to stop Tori from rejecting Beck Oliver and his gorgeous mane of hair.

Tori and Beck weren't so different; they both cared about Jade too much. It was a selfless sort of love for a girl too lost in her own world to realize just how much she meant to everyone.

"Just because we're not together anymore, doesn't mean I don't care about you." Beck had grabbed her hand and Jade almost physically recoiled at the physical contact. Their laced fingers burnt an angry pattern on her skin. Beck took her silence to his advantage and gave Jade a quick peck on the cheek when he thought nobody was looking. "If you ever need to talk, you know I'll always be here for you."

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"What's your favourite colour?" Tori asked Jade one Wednesday afternoon. The sky was overcast with grey clouds that weren't large enough to contain rain. Everything was cold and humid. It gave the day a gloomy feel to it. The colours seemed dull, everyone's words lulled into sorrowful lullabies and conversations were replaced with distant looks and heavy sighs. Lucky for Tori, she was used to this kind of behavior with Jade. Originally, she had thought that eating with Jade, letting her wallow in her thoughts was the right thing to do, but it had gotten her nowhere.

Tori was no closer to finding Jade than she was before.

She didn't expect an answer, but she had widened her eyes and inched closer to the pale girl and never took her eyes off of those long eyelashes of Jade's until said girl shifted uncomfortably in her seat, "Royal blue."

A wide grin shadowed Tori's face and she didn't miss a beat, "Mine is purple. Blue and purple go good together, you know."

"What are you gay now or something?" Jade snorted and twirled the thick ring around her finger. It had a silver skull that would grin evilly at Tori whenever it made a full circle around Jade's thin, elegant finger.

Tori's shoulders hunched and she dropped her fork. Her mouth went dry and her head was spinning. She wasn't gay- at least she didn't think so, but apparently a lot of people did. She could hear their voices, the sneers and the jabs. She could see her defaced locker, her notebooks ripped to shreds inside of it. She could hear their taunting laughter as she dropped her school bag and tentatively reached forward to examine her locker. Someone has accidentally slammed into her and she fell against the lockers, before falling to her knees.

"Relax, Vega. It was a joke." Jade never caught Tori's eye and kept her eyes focused on the tray of food in front of her as Tori snapped out of whatever memory she was re-living and stammered out an excuse before she scurried away.

Jade was good at many things, music, acting, dancing wasn't her forte but she could still sway her hips in time with the beat, she could also paint a pretty picture or two if was in a particularly good mood but one thing she was excellent in, was chasing people away.

She had done it to her parents, her brother, Cat and Andre when she got her first boyfriend, Beck and then finally Tori. Jade was used to it. Usually when they ran, they never came back. After a few weeks or so, they would drop by to clear their conscious. Their visits would grow less frequent and soon enough she would forget things; the sound of their laugh, what they were allergic to, their parents' names.

She was used to this cycle, so when Tori ran, Jade wore a knowing smile that hurt to pull together. Her chest ached and her vision clouded. Her skin thrummed with a familiar sadness and her heartbeat slowed down to accompany the sorrowful tune her body was intent on producing. She sucked in a shaky breath and rapped her fingers against the table; anything to distract herself from the silence.

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"What's your favourite food?" Tori asked the next day and Jade jolted awake, because Tori wasn't supposed to come back this soon. Jade eyed the Latina as she produced another bowl of food for Jade, filled with mashed potatoes and broccoli. "my mom wants to know what you like so she can make it for you. She even started packing lunch for you separately." Tori opened Jade's significantly smaller bowl of food, placing the blue cover next to her own. Tori reached over and grabbed a fork, placing it in Jade's right hand before giving her an encouraging nod and digging into her own bowl of food.

"Why?" Jade asked when Tori had shoveled mashed potatoes down her mouth.

"Why what?" Tori struggled to speak with her mouth full of food and Jade gave her a disgusted look to which Tori swallowed, her cheeks burning red.

"Why does your mother care?"

"I don't know," Tori admitted, "But she likes you enough to cook for you. My mother never cooks for anyone but herself, so I'm not complaining. Now eat your food."

Jade was used to hearing orders. She heard them, the cold words slicing through the thick, tense atmosphere. The glares that usually accompanied them did nothing to unnerve her and the waving hands and shrieking, hysterical voices were things she was used to hearing, even as a young child. But when Tori gave orders, she spoke in a gentle voice, her lips turned up into a small smile and her eyes would crinkle ever so slightly at the edges.

Somehow, they managed to coax Jade into doing whatever it was that Tori wanted her to do, so Jade found herself raising a small forkful of potatoes to her mouth. Tori smiled encouragingly and Jade almost didn't want to disappoint her, so she forced herself to eat as much as she could, never pausing to speak, fearing that she would break her momentum and stop altogether. She listened to Tori complain about Trina's antics, forcing a smirk as she struggled with such a simple task such as finishing a child sized bowl of food.

"I like pasta." Jade said when she could no longer stomach anymore food. Tori never forced her to finish the bowl, but rather smiled proudly at Jade, as if she had just completed some unmanageable feat. She continued to smile at Jade in that creepy way until Jade cleared her throat and snapped her fingers in front of Tori's face irritably.

"Okay, well you know what to expect tomorrow." Before they departed, Tori to Math and Jade to History, Tori had given Jade's hand a reassuring squeeze, much like the one Beck always used to give her when they were still BeckandJade. It made Jade's chest ache, like there was some invisible force pressing down on her chest, making it hard for her to breathe, but it also calmed her down a bit and gave her some sort of strength to walk to class, her mind empty of second guesses and nasty accusations.

.

That weekend, Tori's mother had invited Jade over for dinner. Tori's dad was taking Trina to an audition three towns away and Tori and her mother had the house to themselves. Jade initially refused, with a bitter laugh but when Tori wouldn't shut up about it, Jade finally gave in just so she could get go through a day without Tori trying to seduce her with images of pasta and garlic bread.

"So Jade, how are things?" Tori's mother asked when Jade had spooned herself a small plateful of pasta.

"Fine," came the uncomfortable reply. Jade was unaccustomed to all this attention. Usually when she wanted to be noticed, she would command everyone's attention and when she wanted to lounge in the shadows for a while, she would do that too. She could disappear as easily as a chameleon. But now, she was under constant Vega scrutiny. Two Vegas were a hundred times worse than one- even if they did have good food.

"You're going to have to eat more than that, honey." Mrs. Vega responded merrily.

Tori didn't know why her mother had taken such a personal investment in Jade West. Her mother never gave her any attention like that, not when she came home, dry tears streaked across her face. She never cooked for her, or asked her how things were. Tori was her daughter but she, together with Trina, had always been invisible to their parents. Trina had reacted by dedicating her best efforts to gain their interest, even if for a fleeting second, by engaging them in outlandish conversations and by her obnoxious antics. Trina wanted to be seen and heard all the time, every time. Their parents made her that way.

Jade frowned deeply as Mrs. Vega reached over the table and tumbled more pasta until Jade's plate. "That's more like it." She said, before settling in her seat once more. Jade, to her credit, glared at the plate of food in front of her before wordlessly stabbing the spaghetti with her fork. "So, tell me how life has been treating you?"

Tori looked away from her mother and found Jade pushing back her seat after her fork fell unto her plate, clattering as it did so. "Why do you even care?" Jade's words were filled with venom that Tori did her best to dodge. "The two of you need to get off my back. I'm not your daughter and I'm not your friend. Just leave me alone." Jade grabbed her jacket off the coat rack and stomped, her boots thudding against the Vega's fine wood flooring, before she slammed the door shut.

"Go after her, Tori." Mrs. Vega never looked up from her plate pull of pasta, "Make sure she's not alone."

"Why do you even care, mom? You don't even know Jade." Tori threw her napkin down at the table, "you never did any of these things for me but Jade comes along and you treat her like the child you never had."

"Sometimes, people need the attention. Your friend Jade needs someone and I want you to be that person." Her mother had finished twirling the spaghetti and was raising it to her lips, "now go after her."

.

"Jade, wait." Tori had to run to catch up to the other girl, she was out of breath and running in her bedroom slippers, but she only slowed when she fell into step with Jade and her combat boots. "Please stop running."

"I'm not running, I'm walking. How stupid are you?" was Jade's hostile answer.

"That's not what I meant." Tori grabbed Jade's arm roughly and pulled her to a stop. She was so weak now, so skinny that it was easy to do. "And you know it. I'm not letting you go until you tell me what's wrong."

"What's wrong is that you're squeezing my hand and it will most likely bruise tomorrow. Now let go."

"No, I dare you to try and get away. Go ahead, fight back, do something; anything." Tori was shouting now, and she shook Jade as hard as she could, "I could break you into little pieces right now, and you wouldn't be able to do a single thing." Tori finally pulled away when she realized Jade had frozen inside of herself. Her body had tensed and her breathing grew labored. "You're too weak to fight."

It was like the roles were reversed, Tori was the one spitting accusations down Jade's throat and Jade was defenseless against them. It was for Jade's own good; that was what Tori told herself. She was fed up of this Jade who was too weak to fight back, too tired to stay away and always lost in her thoughts, so much that she never kept a conversation going. She was misplaced; gone; she had disappeared. She was hardly a representation of who she used to be, and Tori, for the life of her, was holding unto this Jade, digging her nails into whatever remained because she didn't want to lose that too.

"I am tired of fighting." Jade avoided her gaze and Tori could see from her slumped shoulders and the way she was playing with her cuticles that Jade wasn't particularly keen on admitting these things to herself, far less to Tori. Her voice wavered and the fact that Jade was approaching Tori, her armor laid down, stunned Tori more than she would like.

"You're tired of everything and I hate it." Tori channeled her surprised into something Jade would react to; anger. This new Jade didn't feed on confrontation as much as the old Jade- the real one did. She kept quiet, and avoided it when she could.

"I'm sorry."

"Why are you apologizing? You did nothing wrong!" Tori shrieked then brought a tired hand to rub her eyes. "We miss you and we want you back." When Tori wanted to be like Jade, when she wanted to be strong and opinionated, she never knew it meant that Jade would lose her self-confidence, that she would misplace the very essence that made her Jade West. Tori didn't know she would get lost in that dark place inside her mind, she didn't know Jade would replace her self-assurance with second guesses and glazed over glares.

"I've been here every day. I've never left." Jade struggled against Tori's grip and made a sour face when she couldn't pull out of Tori's grasp.

"Don't lie to me, Jade. I deserve more than that. I'm only trying to be here for you, I deserve the truth." Tori Vega was never one to get angry easily, but this new weak Jade annoyed her to new lengths. Jade had no reason to second guess herself, she was strong and powerful. She had more talent in her hand that would take the rest of the world years to acquire.

"I never told you to be here for me. I don't want you to be here for me."

It had to be a lie, Tori mused. Someone so lonely could never be happy on her own.

"You think you can chase us out of your life- chase me, but I'm not going anywhere, Jade. I care about you, Cat does, Andre, Beck, my mom, Sikowitz and even Robbie and Rex. Whatever you're going through, it will be much easier if you let us in." Tori squared her shoulders and took a step closer to Jade. She wasn't ready to assume this role, she wasn't ready to be able to help Jade clean up the mess she made, the mess Beck made, the mess someone made, but she was willing to try. Tori wasn't sure if she could fill the footprints Jade had defined in the sand, but she had to try. She had to be strong, she had to help Jade. She would lift her up, and carry Jade on her back if it meant getting Jade to solid ground.

"It will be easier if you let me go home."

"I'm not letting you go, Jade. Just tell me what's wrong."

"I don't know what's fucking wrong, Tori. If I knew, I would have fixed it by now, but I don't know why I'm like this." Jade had never planned to turn out this way, everything she did was precise and deliberate. It had happened gradually, but she was bursting at the seams. The Jade West everyone had admired was now a mere memory and this new Jade was weaker than Cat. It all came down to her acting; every day Jade pretended she was still the person she was and hoped nobody would notice. She prayed that this wouldn't happen- this confrontation thing. This wasn't Disney Channel, she didn't need anyone to try and fix her because she wasn't broken.

She was just…

Jade spun around on her heels and ran away. She was always running away from them and hiding in behind the layers of mistrust and the cobwebs of lies she fed herself. She was always trying to stay away from them.

.

.

.

Sometimes when I close my eyes, I pretend I'm alright

But it's never enough.

.

.

.

(.x.)


Edited. Hella yeah.