A/N: This loosely follows canonical Victorious, set in the future. Cat doesn't speak in non-sequiturs and Trina is a decent human being, more or less. This story contains OCs, flashback(s), and special guest appearances.

For your reading convenience: Singular slash (/) signifies character/POV change between Jade and Tori. Singular period (.) signifies scene change within POV segment.

Inspired by Katie Herzig's song and the story's name sake, "Closest I Get."

Part six of seven.

Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended.


We said the words we knocked on wood

And I'm still here waiting to see what could be

;;

Early January

The dark circles under her eyes are getting harder and harder to conceal. She's exhausted. Her body is struggling to function with the constant sleepless nights and skipped meals. Earlier in the week one of her students asked her if she was sick.

She doesn't want to think she's made a mistake. She doesn't want to regret her decisions because she's done that far too many times already. It's getting old. But she thinks she doesn't know if she can do much of anything else.

.

She wakes up with a nagging feeling in the pit of her stomach. She wants to say it's the unhealthiness of her recent routines, but she can't even fool herself.

She presses the phone to her ear and waits for a voice to pick up from the other line.

"Hey, Jade!"

"How are you always this happy whenever you talk to someone on the phone?"

"I don't know!" Cat says just before giggling. "Anyway, what's up?"

"I think I made a mistake." The phone line goes silent and she wonders if she has to repeat herself.

"About Tori." It's not a question.

"Yeah. Tell me I'm not."

"Oh I can't do that."

"Why not?"

"Because I don't know if you are or if you're not."

She sighs into the phone and slumps in her office chair, swiveling it to hear the slight squeak with each turn.

"I'm miserable. I can't eat, I can't sleep. All I think about is her."

"Isn't that because you're in love with her?"

"Cat-"

"Sorry, sorry. I forgot I wasn't supposed to say the L word around you."

She shakes her head even though she knows that her best friend can't see it. She keeps on spinning in her chair. "It's fine."

"Maybe you should talk to her and tell her you made a mistake. Tori is a very kind and forgiving person, you know," Cat suggests.

"It's a lot more complicated than that. Plus, I was the one who pushed her away. I've hurt her the entire time she's been here. She doesn't deserve any of this."

"Yeah, but you deserve to sleep, too!"

"Not for how much I've hurt her, I don't."

Her slow spinning on her chair comes to a halt when Cat finishes asking her a question.

"So why is it different now?"

She finds that she doesn't know the answer to that question.

/

Tori sips her coffee as she waits for Heather. When she flips through the random pages she printed out of possible apartments, she tries her best not to think about why she's moving in the first place. She considers it a good change, a fresh start. She hopes.

Immersed in reading the different features of each place, she doesn't hear Heather pull up a chair. When Tori tries to grasp for her cup of coffee, she's surprised to feel that it isn't there. When she looks up, Heather's smirking across from her, her cup of coffee in her hands.

"Sneaky."

"You were staring intensely at those papers, I just didn't bother."

Tori takes back her drink before sliding the stack of papers across the table. "I like the second apartment. It's close enough to work and they have a proper gym. It's gated, too."

Heather flips through the papers. "Yeah, they all look good. Ready to go apartment hunting?"

Tori smiles and raises from her seat before walking beside Heather and heading to the first apartment on the list. Heather opens the door for her just before she takes the coffee cup out of her hands; she playfully swats her friend on the arm. Slowing her pace, she watches Heather open her car door and get in.

As Heather offers her a wide smile from the driver's seat before pulling out of the parking lot, Tori can't help but wish that she loved Heather more.

.

While they're inspecting aspects of the showcase unit, Tori tries to picture herself in there, her furniture in the rooms, her sister and her friends visiting. After she exits out one of the bathrooms and walks back to the living space, she finds Heather going through each cupboard.

"What are you doing?"

"When I moved into my apartment, someone left a juicer. And then the apartment I moved into in college, there was a dead rat in a plastic bag. It was rough."

Tori makes a face and pretends to visibly gag. "That's gross."

"Well, let's hope that you don't get a dead rat. But a juicer, though. That would be nice."

While Heather resumes searching through the cupboards, the apartment associate answers a call and excuses himself from the two of them. Tori leans on the bar and watches on as Heather opens all the possible doors and drawers in the kitchen. A small smile appears on her face and she thinks that she can picture herself living here with Heather.

"Heather," she starts. Heather is currently hunched down pulling the drawers in the refrigerator.

"Hm?"

"Why don't we give it another try, you and me?" Tori pulls herself back, her feet planted firmly on the floor. Heather stands back up, but doesn't turn around or even close the refrigerator door. Tori sees the slump on her friend's shoulders and wills herself not to react. She plasters on a smile when Heather pivots around and shuts the refrigerator. She offers Tori a kind smile.

"Because I'm not going to be the other woman, Tori. You and I don't deserve that."

Before Tori can respond, the apartment associate comes back and greets them.

.

"I'm sorry about earlier. I didn't mean to…" Tori says when they reach the parking lot of her apartment.

"I've already forgotten about it," Heather replies with a dismissive hand wave. Tori nods, accepts the kind gesture.

"I'll see you at work tomorrow?"

"Yup."

Tori smiles. "Thanks for coming with me today."

Heather leans forward and offers her a kiss on the cheek. "Anytime."

Tori's smile widens and she resists the urge to pull Heather back. But she knows it's not a good idea; it won't do them any good.

She scrunches her face when Heather looks at her expectantly.

"Um, I have work tonight. So you have to get out of my car."

Embarrassed, Tori jumps from her spot and quickly ushers herself out of her seat. She waves to her friend and doesn't move from her spot until Heather's turned the corner to the street. She takes a step towards the apartment entrance but stops when she sees Jade walk in.

Her heart races and she reminds herself to breathe. She counts ten Mississippis until she's sure that their paths won't cross.

/

Jade's never been more thankful for a weekend than today. After work, she finally gives in and buys some sleeping pills. She's stopped caring about her sleeping pattern. She thinks that the last week has done irreparable damage to it anyway.

She just wants a couple of hours without thinking about the mess that she's made.

.

As she lazily flips through her mail a couple of yards away from her door, she hears voices come from the stairs. She pays them no mind, thinks that they're the neighbors from upstairs. She realizes too late that she can recognize those voices.

"I still think Heather and I are right, you should pick the two bedroom instead of the one."

"Yeah well, I can't make a decision until her friend signs the sublease contract."

Jade turns her head away too late when the sisters reach the floor landing. She tries not to think about their conversation, but hearing the words "sublease" and "bedrooms" forces her to disregard every rational part of her body.

"You're moving out?"

Trina steps forward from her spot beside Tori and places her hands on her waist. Tori grabs hold of her sister's arm. "What's it to you?"

Jade ignores her, keeps her eye contact with the person behind Trina. "Where are you going?"

"Stop talking to her, you don't deserve to talk to her."

"Trina, let it go."

Jade maintains the indifference on her face, but keeps her gaze on Tori.

"No, Tor. This bitch is ruining your life and I'm not going to stand for it."

"What are you going to do, claw me with your fake nails?"

Without a moment's hesitation, Trina lunges forward with a growl and Jade thanks her reflexes for stepping backwards, just out of reach. Tori has somehow miraculously grabbed onto her sister avoiding any physical contact…so far.

"Trina. Go inside. I can handle this," she demands giving her sister the key to the door.

Trina glares at her before turning around and yanking her arms out of Tori's hold. When Trina unlocks the door and steps inside, she leaves the door wide open and keeps a close eye on her. Tori shakes her head when she realizes her sister is still staring them down.

When she closes the door, she stands rigidly tall with her arms crossed. Jade mirrors the stance, even with the handful of envelopes in her hand.

"Yeah, I'm moving out. This living arrangement isn't working out for me."

"Where, uh, where are you going?"

"It doesn't matter."

"Tori-"

She watches as Tori's jaw tenses. "Let's not be anything to each other anymore, right?"

Without another word, Jade is left in the hallway after Tori rushes into her apartment and shutting the door with a bang.

Jade slumps from her spot before dejectedly opening her door. She tries not to cry because it's her fault, all of it. But it doesn't hurt any less.

Middle January

Josie is packing up her music sheets when Jade decides to approach her.

"Hey Josie, who's picking you up today?"

The little girl looks up to her and she reminds herself to smile.

"Aunt Heather."

Jade weighs her options. The last five attempts at calling the other woman hasn't worked in her favor, so she thinks that this may be her last shot at having a proper conversation. She decides that this is for the best. She has nothing else left to lose.

"Can you tell your Aunt Heather that I would like to speak with her when she gets here?"

"Sure!"

"I'll be in my office, so just tell her to head over there okay?"

The young girl nods up at her before taking a seat on the bench by the wall. As Josie sits and reads a book from her bag, Jade struggles to remain her composure in her office, tapping incessantly on her screenplay draft.

When Heather appears by the door with a wide smile and greeting to her niece, Jade resists the urge to jump up from her spot. Instead, she takes a deep breath and pretends to read through some papers. From the corner of her eye, she notices Heather lean down to talk to the younger girl. Jade barely notices Heather look her way.

She doesn't move from her reading position until Heather knocks from the doorway.

"Josie tells me you wanted to talk to me," Heather says, arms crossed. Her face is hard and Jade wonders if this is a good idea.

"Close the door, please." When Heather doesn't move from her spot, she rolls her eyes and walks around her desk so she can push the door closed. Heather moves just in time before the door hits her.

"Why didn't you tell me Tori was moving?"

Heather scoffs. "I don't owe you anything."

"Heather-"

"Why does it matter now? Why do you care about her now? You ignored her and hurt her and I was stuck picking up the pieces."

She sighs and puts some distance between the two of them. She leans back on her desk. "Because I was afraid before."

"And you're not now? You miraculously gained the courage now?" Heather asks as she shakes her head.

"No," Jade says before crossing her arms. "I'm more afraid now."

"So why does it matter now?"

"I don't know. But I can't deny anymore that I was – I am – in love with her. And I couldn't deal with it, okay? I couldn't."

"Do you know how much you've hurt her? The entire time you've been here has been a rollercoaster of emotions and she's exhausted." Heather has placed her hands on her hips and has taken a step forward. Jade stands from her spot and tries to level with the woman in front of her.

"Don't you think I don't know that?!" Jade yells. When she catches a glimpse of Josie looking up at the two of them, she offers another smile and a wave to the younger girl. She takes a deep breath before opening her mouth again, this time her voice in a harsh whisper. "Don't you think I haven't been exhausted either?"

Heather ignores her question and stares her down. "So if she hadn't told you, if you hadn't known about her leaving, you'd have stayed away and done nothing about this?"

She slumps back down and looks out of her office window, watching Josie flips through her book. She brings her eyes back up at Heather and wonders about the same thing. She wants to believe that sooner than later, her stubbornness and her cowardice runs out and she fights for the girl. But she's been nothing but scared and frightened, so she doubts that if nothing had happened, she would have stayed in her apartment and rotted in her loneliness.

"No. I-I don't know. I may have. But I did find out about it, so what's the difference?"

Heather scoffs and plops on the chair beside her, seemingly exhausted.

"You didn't just break her heart, you know. You broke mine, too."

Jade's head snaps to turn to the other woman.

"But I thought-"

"Just because you learn to accept that someone can never be in love with you doesn't mean it doesn't hurt."

"I'm sorry."

"Whatever."

Heather's earlier hard features have somehow softened. Instead of the anger in her eyes, she just looks exhausted; she looks small sitting on the chair.

Jade looks away, her guilt expanding in her chest.

"You hurt me, her, and your ex-fiancé. If you're really serious about your feelings, you'll think long and hard about what you really want. Because there's too much collateral damage already."

"I can't begin to apologize for how much I hurt you," she starts. "And I can understand if you never want to see me or hear from me again. But I just need to know when she's leaving. Please."

Heather doesn't answer her for some time; they just look at each other, shells of the people they used to be. Jade doesn't want to think about how much damage she's caused, how many people she's hurt. She doesn't want to remind herself that she's a bad person that hurt everything she touches.

When she considers all hope is lost, Heather stands up from her spot. "She moves out at the end of the month."

Heather turns around without another word. She pulls the door back and leaves it wide open, leaves her in a crumpled state of guilt and sadness. Jade watches as Heather approaches Josie with a smile that the young girl reciprocates, holding hands and exiting the room.

It's not until she hears the faint slam of the doors that she lets herself cry. She doesn't know how to do anything else.

.

Hiya, Jade! It's me, Cat, but you already know that because you have caller ID. Um, anyway, I hope you're having a great day. Listen some fun things have come up. Me and the boys are going to be in town at the end of the month. Andre and our new artist, Kelly, scored a gig at this bar downtown. So I'll call you about it again later, but I thought I'd share the good news! Okay well, Robbie just came back with a big can of bibble, so I gotta go! Bye!

.

Jade presses the tip of her phone to her chin as she stands by her bay window.

People seem to figure out how to work out life, but not her. She doesn't know if she's ready, if she ever will, to be honest. But she wants to fix things because this is the first time in a long time that she needs to try harder. Heather's words ring loud in her mind. There's too much collateral damage already.

She sighs and pulls her phone back, scrolls through her contacts. When she gets to the name, her finger hovers over the call button, unsure.

She closes her eyes, presses the button and puts the phone to her ear.

It rings three times before she hears someone's voice.

"Hi, Jade."

"Hi."

Her mind blanks and she has to remind herself that she's the one who called.

"I, uh, how are you?"

There's a pause from the other line and Jade has to think this is the worst idea she's had in a long time. "I'm fine."

She pauses, tries to remember how to speak. When she opens her mouth and clears her throat a couple of times, but nothing really comes out.

"Look, I have things to get done. Is there a reason you called?"

Jade's voice hitches in her throat and she has to hide her surprise.

"Meet me for dinner."

"That's a pretty tall order, Jade."

"I know. I just…please."

She hears a sigh from the other end of the line and she hopes.

"I'll be in the city in a couple of weeks. Let's do it then."

"Okay."

"I gotta go."

"Okay."

Jade doesn't hear a goodbye, just a click. She slowly closes the call on her phone and leans on the wall, still looking out of her window.

She doesn't know if this will change anything, but she's trying. And she hopes that makes a difference.

/

"So are you still set on leaving?"

"Yeah, why wouldn't I be?" Tori asks as she tries to balance her phone between her shoulder and ear while carrying two bags into her office. "I've made all the arrangements and Heather's friend is set to live there."

"I was just checking. It's what older sisters do. It's like what mothers do, but with more snarky comments."

"It's like you've never lived with Mom. Anyway, how are things with you and Gorge?"

Tori hears her sister sigh wistfully on the other line. She tries not to roll her eyes, amusement on her face. "That good, huh?"

"He's perfect. And he understands me on a level that no one else has."

"What, your Justin Bieber obsession?" Tori tries not to snicker, but fails to hide it.

"Har har," Trina says. "He understands me because he feels the way I do but about Demi Lovato."

"What a match made in pop music heaven."

"You watch your mouth there, sister. I might pick your best friend over you for being my maid of honor."

Tori gasps. "Are you telling me he proposed to you?!"

"Calm it down, sister, he hasn't popped the question. But, you know, we've been talking about it."

"I'm happy for you. Who knew you'd probably get married before me."

"Uh, I did. Are you kidding? I'm a total catch, don't even deny it." Tori can picture her sister inspecting her nails, the indignation a source of amusement. "How are you holding up?"

"I'm fine. But hey, I'm at work so I gotta go."

"Tor, this ain't healthy, babe, you need to talk about it."

"Oh my boss is here worktimegottagoloveyoubye!" she says, rushing her words before clicking on the End button. She'll have to apologize for hanging up the way she did later, but for now, she feels relieved for having to dodge another conversation.

.

"Why the long face?" Heather asks from behind the bar, wiping down the counters.

"I'm being assigned a partnership project with our sister bar," she says as she leans over the bar and takes a cup. She gestures for Heather to fill it with water.

"So why the long face?" Heather asks again.

She shrugs. "I don't know. The project is to get relative unknown artists to perform at the bar in like a live show type of thing at the end of the month. But that's when I'm moving out, so it just means more work."

"Why didn't you just turn Palmer down? Can't Laura do the work instead?"

"No way. That woman is getting married on Valentine's Day. No way is she going to try and give herself more work." Tori shakes her head before asking for a refill.

"Well, this might be good for you. Probably not more work, but a change of pace or something. Get your mind off of things. Besides, the moving thing isn't like an urgent thing. Theresa's pretty flexible about moving in."

"Yeah, you're right."

Heather splashes her with some of the water and Tori's disbelief turns into a fit of giggles. "Of course I am."

.

"Tori Vega speaking," she says when she picks up her phone whilst shuffling her papers for a pen.

"Hi, my name's Louise Delaney and I work for BRAC Records."

"All right, what can I help you with?"

"I'm calling on behalf of two of your performing acts for the live show at the Bartenders bar?"

"Oh, right, yes. Can you list their names for me again?"

"Sure, Kelly Edwards and Andre Harris."

Tori pauses. She doesn't think she heard right. "I'm sorry, you said Kelly Edwards and Andrew Harris?"

"No, there's no W. Andre."

"Right."

Tori continues to finalize the details with Louise trying to avoid distracting herself with the idea that this Andre Harris could be the same Andre Harris from high school. There had to be plenty of Andre Harrises that lived in California.

"Okay, we look forward to seeing you soon. Thank you."

"Thank you," she states belatedly, long after Louise hangs up the phone.

.

She wants to confirm her suspicions. So when she looks the BRAC records online, it takes her a moment to get her breathing back to normal. The website's About page shows a group photo of her old best friends staring back at her with wide smiles. It warms her heart to see them so happy, still together.

She calls Louise back and asks for Andre's personal contact information. She stares at the number for a while before picking up her phone and dialing the number. It's been years since she's spoken to her best friends last, so it takes her awhile to work the nerve up to call him.

When she hears the phone ring, she forces herself not to hang up the phone.

"Andre Harris speaking."

"Andre, it's Tori Vega."

Late January

The rest of the week Tori struggles to contain her excitement about seeing her old best friends after all these years.

"I've missed them so much. Andre and I ended up talking on the phone for three hours when he called me back after work. I've forgotten how funny he is."

Heather's smiling at her as she takes a bite of her bagel. "That's great I'm so glad that you and your old best friends are reuniting. When are they coming?"

"Next week. Andre and one of their signed artists are going to be singing at the live show."

Heather points at her with a smirk on her face. "See, I told you that this would turn out well."

"Let's not get carried away," Tori says, rolling her eyes. For once in the last few weeks, she's excited about something. Busying herself with work and the move has given her a sense of purpose and takes away time from thinking about Jade.

Right now, it's all she can ask for.

/

Hi Jade, hi! We're in town and staying at a hotel downtown. We're having brunch at that restaurant you took me to a couple of times – I forget the name – around 11:30. Anyway, it's going to be me, Andre, Robbie, Kelly, Louise, Beck and Tori. Call me back if you can make it!

Jade stares at her phone. She aches when the last two names echo in her mind. She thinks that this is a deserved punishment for how much hurt she's caused.

She deletes the message before she opens her office door to two of her students waiting patiently.

/

It's the first morning that Tori wakes up excited. She welcomes the bubbling excitement that morning even after strings of sleepless nights in the last handful of weeks. She doesn't bother sneaking out of her own apartment for fear of any interactions with her neighbor.

Nothing is going to ruin her day.

.

By the time she gets to the restaurant, the group has already been seated and giving out their drink orders. She doesn't say a word, just steps into the space quietly until Cat sees her first.

"Tori!"

Before long, her old best friends greet her with warm hugs and bright smiles. After their small reunion, she's introduced to the other parts of the group who offer her the same kind of greetings as her friends. She's been reserved the seat in the middle between Cat and Andre.

It's the happiest that Tori feels in a long time and she can't erase the wide grin on her face.

.

"So where have you been, Tori?" Robbie asks before he takes a sip of his water.

"Around," she offers with a shrug.

"Oh come on. You disappear after high school and you just say, 'Around'?" Beck asks from across the table.

She shrugs again, but she tries to come up with a proper response. "I don't know, to be honest. I don't remember. I've just kind of tried to live a quiet life for a while. And now here we are."

Andre laughs. "You? A quiet life? I find that hard to believe. For y'all that don't know. Tori caused a lot of trouble in high school."

She swats his arm. "I did not! Trouble just always seemed to follow me around like a puppy."

By the time their food arrived at the table, Tori's friends have gone around and told various stories about her. She remembers how good it felt to be around them. She reminds herself that she can't let them out of her life again.

Just after they reach a small lull in their conversations as they eat, Robbie remarks on something that forces Tori to snap her head at his direction.

"This is just like having the old gang back. Too bad Jade's not here, then the group would be complete." He resumes his eating seemingly oblivious to the rest of his friends looking at one another. When Tori catches Beck's eyes, she tries her best to casually look away.

"Doesn't she live around here?" Robbie continues after he takes another sip of his drink. "Do you guys ever hang out?"

Tori clears her throat. When she opens her mouth to speak, she's surprised that Cat beat her to it.

"Jade's working so she's not around. And I don't think she and Tori hang out too much, right Tori?"

She nods her head eagerly. "Yeah, um, we have very busy schedules." She offers Cat a small smile before going back to her food. The awkwardness doesn't settle for too long when Kelly and Louise start talking about the show for the next day.

.

While half of the group takes their bathroom break, Tori jumps in surprise when Andre taps her on the arm.

"What was that thing earlier?"

"What thing?" she asks as she plays with the precipitation of her glass.

"You know what. That thing with Jade."

She shrugs and feigns ignorance. She doesn't try to look him in the eye, though. "I don't know what you're talking about."

Andre puts a hand on her. She looks at his hand before looking up at his face. "You know, we're not stupid. We know you have a history with Jade in high school."

"What?"

"Yeah. We'd always been suspicious back then, but when Jade ran out on Beck at city hall last year, he told us about it."

Tori's eyes widen. "Oh my god, does he think that I was the one that ruined his relationship with her?"

Andre laughs. "Nah. It's not like that. He doesn't blame you for anything."

"Good," she says, visibly sighing in relief.

"Look, it makes sense that y'all got a past because when you came up in conversation a few months back when she visited back home, you were a sore subject. We didn't talk about you at all. Which was a damn shame 'cause I wanted to know how you were doin'."

"Andre," she starts. "Thanks. But she is a sore subject and I'd rather we didn't talk about it."

"Hey, it ain't a big deal. We don't have to talk about anything you don't wanna talk about. But now that we're all reunited, know that I got your back."

She smiles at him, grateful for the same kindness he's always extended towards her. She doesn't get to verbalize her thanks because the rest of the group has returned from the bathroom.

.

They congregate on the sidewalk and talk about the next couple of days. Andre and Kelly remind the group that they have to get things in order. The rest of the group disperses until Tori finds that it's just her and Beck.

"I guess it's just us," she says awkwardly, uncertain how the awkwardness has so quickly filled the space between them.

"Come on, Tori. Let's go for a walk."

She can't find a legitimate reason to say no, so she huffs before catching up to him. She doubts this will lead to anything good, but she knows that after such a perfect meal with her old friends, reality is bound to set sooner or later.

.

The silence between them is in a limbo. For however stressed Tori feels walking beside him, he seems to express the complete opposite. He's Beck. He's always been calm and cool about everything.

"No one is following us," he says with a smirk on his face, eyes trained ahead of them. She looks up at him surprised.

"What?"

"We've been walking all of two minutes and you're looking around like someone's after us."

Tori bites her lip and inwardly reprimands herself. "Sorry, I just…"

"We used to be friends too, you know," he says finally looking at her and meeting her eyes. "Before you and I became Jade's exes."

Her eyes widen in panic. She almost stumbles on her own feet. "How did-"

He laughs a little. "How did I know?"

Dumbly, she nods.

"You spend a third of your life with someone you can read better than any book, you learn a thing or two."

"Oh."

"So I know about the two of you."

"I'm sorry," she says, looking up earnestly. She is sorry. She forgets that there were other people that have been hurt in this complicated relationship.

"Don't be. She never cheated on me with you, so I can't blame you for her never loving me as much as I loved her. You didn't cheat, right?"

"Oh god, no!" she replies quickly, shaking her head. "No, no. Never."

They walk in relative silence, the awkward tension that Tori felt just earlier somehow having dissipated with each step.

"So is she why you disappeared after high school?"

She sighs. "Yeah."

He shakes his head and offers her a tight smile. "I'm sorry she's too big a coward with you."

"How did you-"

"Cat."

"What?"

"I knew about it from Cat. When you get her talking, especially with all that bibble, she'll never stop talking."

"Right."

They stop by a small park, taking a break on one of the benches. They're people watching, their heads moving around and following the movements of strangers around them. While Beck follows a set of bikers on the road pass them by, Tori watches him.

"So how are you? I mean, since the, um, since you two broke up."

He shrugs, his hands still in his pockets. "It takes a while getting used to missing your best friend. But I do okay. You give yourself something to focus on and you let that be your new normal."

"I'm sorry she wasn't the one."

He laughs a little. She wonders if that's his way of coping about the sadness in his life. If you can't cry about it, may as well laugh.

"She could have been. But she and I got too comfortable. We were all we knew," he says as he turns to face her. "She was fearless with me because I think a part of her knew it wasn't going to last."

She scrunches her face. "That doesn't make any sense."

"Well, that's Jade for you. She's probably afraid of her own shadow with you, isn't she?"

"That's not possible. She's avoiding me like the plague."

"Did she tell you that you two were better off apart?"

"Yeah, she do the same with you?"

"Yeah. But with me, I could tell she meant it. I believed her when she said it."

Tori looks away. They stay on the bench for a couple more minutes until Beck, good and reliable Beck, gave them an out. He left her there, excused himself so he can help Andre and Kelly set up for tomorrow. She let him go, offers a small smile and a promise of seeing him tomorrow.

When he disappears back from the direction that they came, she can't help but think about what he said moments before. As hard as she tried, Tori can't shake off the nagging feeling in her chest.

Because when Jade told her they were better off apart, she didn't believe her.

/

Jade stares at the bar entrance before deciding to go in. She's there to support her friends. After Cat and Andre's incessant nagging for her to come watch them perform, she realizes that she has to be mature about this. She's out there to support her friends. If a certain someone happens to be there, she's going to be mature about it.

She spots Cat and Robbie at one of the tables near the stage; a small grin appears on her face as she makes a beeline for her friends. It's not until she spots Tori approaching the same table that stops her dead in her tracks.

She's rooted in her place in the middle of the bar. Suddenly the bar is closing in on her and she struggles to breathe properly. She turns around and tries to retreat only to run into a group of people, causing a small ruckus around her. As a couple berates her to watch where she's going, she looks back and meets a pair of eyes that sends her running faster out of the door and into the streets.

When she reaches the sidewalk, she gulps in a lungful of air. It takes her a couple of seconds to regain her proper breathing. She takes one last look at the door before walking away and going home. She can't be there anymore. She can't.

/

"Hey, what's up?" Andre asks when Tori's standing by them staring at the door. She looks at him with a confused expression.

"I think I saw Jade," she says before focusing her attention at the door again. Andre follows her line of vision, but finds nothing, no one.

"Well, she's obviously not here." Before she can properly reply, he's already walked past her and towards the stage.

"Yeah," she says softly. "She's not here."

/

Jade hesitates before opening the door to the restaurant. She doesn't think she's ready for it, but she figures that it's now or never and she has nothing else left to lose, really.

She offers a polite smile to the hostess before giving her name. They head towards the back of the restaurant. She thanks the hostess as she stands awkwardly in front of the occupied table and fiddles with the strap of her bag. She hesitates a little before sitting.

"I didn't think you'd meet me."

She waits for a response and tries not to squirm when the person before her isn't as forthcoming.

She watches until the glass of water is placed gingerly back on the table.

"I didn't either, to be honest." Long, thin fingers play with the precipitation of the glass, a tick that Jade can never erase from her memory, even if she tried.

"What made you change your mind?"

Beck shrugs in his seat. "Curiosity. It'd been a while. Almost a year, right?"

Jade wants to answer, but they're interrupted with their waitress appearing to take their orders.

"Thought I would see you last night."

"I, uh, fell asleep. I was so tired, I slept through it." She thinks it's pointless to lie to the one person that knows her best. But she's unsure of how much she can handle tonight.

"I thought maybe you didn't want to see me," he says, seeming to play along.

"No, no. That's not it, I promise." He nods, takes a sip of his water.

"So is it about Tori?"

Her eyes widen in horror and she fights to return to neutral. She ignores his question and continues on the conversation.

"So how are you?"

"Fine."

The awkwardness permeates and the confidence she had earlier about doing the right thing is dwindling. As each second pass by, the more she convinces herself that this is a mistake.

"You can just explain to me what we're doing here, Jade. It doesn't have to be like this."

She sighs and straightens herself up in her seat. "I never explained myself. For leaving, I mean."

He dismisses her with a hand wave. "I got it. I wasn't meant for you."

"It wasn't like that."

"I know. But regardless of how you think about it, it ends up being the same."

She stares at him and gets her first good look at his appearance since she last saw him. His hair is cut shorter and he's gotten a bit darker. The circles under his eyes are more prominent than she lasts remembers. She can't help the guilt rising in realizing that she's probably the cause of it.

.

Somehow, around the time their food arrives, the conversation turned to safer topics like work and family. She doesn't push her luck and goes along with it; she doesn't want to talk anymore about the drama in her life.

"How have you been?" Jade asked.

"Good. Andre and Kelly had a great performance last night that they're getting booked for another gig next month."

"That's really good to hear. I'm glad that the company is doing well."

"Yeah. What about you? How have you been?"

"I'm fine. Working full time as a voice instructor to a bunch of children."

"That's surprising. I thought you hate children."

"Yeah, well, my life is just one big surprise after another. But these ones have talent, so I hate them less." Jade plays with the corner of the table. "Are you dating now?"

Beck offers her a small smile. "Nothing serious. Immersing yourself back into the single life is hard work. But I'm having fun and things are good, if that's what you're asking."

She nods before offering a small smile of her own. "I'm glad to hear that. I really am."

"What about you?"

Jade shakes her head and looks away. "It's complicated."

"When isn't it?"

They laugh and it's easy again. Jade can remember why she loves him as much as she does, why they fell in love in the first place. It reminds her of the times when they worked well.

They proceed to talk about other menial, boring things to fill up the time they have together. A time that Jade sometimes wishes she can have back, if only to seek comfort in the good things that she had.

.

"So you know about me and Tori?" she asks, finally, after their plates were cleared in front of them.

"Cat let out bits and pieces. But after I talked with Tori yesterday, it's not hard to put it all together."

"Nothing happened between us while we were together."

He doesn't say anything, just stares at the empty spot where his plate was moments ago. She watches as he raises his arm to call for the waiter. Jade's heart plummets to her stomach and sits up from her spot.

"Beck-" she starts but he moves his hand to stop her.

"We're going to need a lot of alcohol for this."

He orders a round of shots and a couple of beers and Jade finds herself easing back into her seat, a small window of relief passing through her. She smiles despite herself.

.

"It never crossed my mind that she'd be the one you'd go after. I thought you hated her."

She weighs her options and realizes that she can't do any more lying. Not when all of it did her a whole load of nothing. She waves his words away, like they're not tethered with his own emotions. "A fine line and all that."

He tugs at an ear before leaning back in his chair. He takes a sip of his beer and looks at her. "Well," he starts. "You can't really do much better than Tori. She keeps you honest."

She scoffs before taking a swig of her drink. "What does that mean?"

He places his napkin on the table and looks at her, his demeanor changing. "You tell me. We're here, aren't we? The Jade I know wouldn't have done this."

She takes another swig at her beer and mulls over his words. There had to have been some truth in that. Maybe that's part of the reason that she didn't expect him to show up in the first place. He'd always been the one to approach her, never the other way around. And now, now Jade's fighting past demons she didn't know she could.

"Maybe she is."

"Maybe she is. And you know what, I think that's a good thing Jade. You deserve someone who can keep you honest with yourself."

"Beck, I'm sorr-"

"Nope," he says, raising his hand again. "Don't. Not yet."

.

When they finish and Jade's paid for their meals, upon his insistence that it's the least she can do, they hang around the parking lot.

"Why are you being so good about all of this, Beck? I hurt you."

"I sold all of your furniture from the apartment. And then I spent all of that money on women and booze."

She scrunches her face, unsure of what he's saying.

"I've dealt with this breakup. I'm not over it, but I've dealt with it. And by the looks of things, I sound like I'm better off."

She nods, tries not to tear up at his words, at how he's healing but she's buried under bigger emotions.

"When are you guys leaving?"

"Tomorrow, around noon, after lunch. Are we going to see you there?"

She hesitates a little, runs the tip of her shoes on the dirt of the parking lot. "I don't think so."

He nods and crosses his arms.

"But maybe the next time you guys are in town."

"I'll let them know."

She pulls her door open and sits in her car. She can feel Beck watching her closely from outside. When she starts the ignition, she opens the window down.

"Thanks for coming by tonight, Beck."

"Yeah."

She bites her lip. "Do you think we can be friends again someday?"

He offers her a genuine smile. "Well, we'd broken up a dozen times before and got through it. So maybe."

The smile on her lips matches the one in her eyes. When she drives away, she can see him standing in the parking lot watching after her. Her life is still a mess and it'll be a while before the two of them can ever recover from this part of their relationship. But she thinks that there's hope. And that means more to her than anything.

.

When she gets to her apartment, she gets a good look at Tori's door. Her bout of courage is temporary, and she knows it, but she thinks that it's worth a shot.

If Tori's not there, then she'll go home and just deal with things later.

She gives the door three solid knocks before stepping back, her hands on her waist with her eyes cast down to the ground.

She admonishes herself for not thinking about the possibility that Tori is there.

Tori's standing in front of her, surprise apparent at finding Jade at her doorstep. Tori's wearing sweatpants and a tee shirt, her hair in a messy bun wearing her glasses. Jade thinks it's idiotic that she's thinking about how beautiful Tori looks because she knows it's not the time.

Tori's smile that initially greeted her has transformed into a jaw-clenched straight line and Jade forgets why she's standing there in the first place.

"Stay," Jade says. It's not the first word that she thinks to say, but it's the first word that comes out of her mouth. Tori glares at her, crossing her arms.

"Excuse me?"

"Don't move. Stay." She's horrified with each word that comes out of her mouth because this isn't how she wants this conversation to go. But she can't seem to stop.

"You don't get to tell me what to do."

"I'm sorry, but don't go. Stay here. Don't move."

Tori shakes her head before walking back to her apartment and closing the door. But Jade's by the door blocking it.

"I'm the last person you want to talk to and I get it, but don't go. Stay here."

"Get away from the door, Jade."

"Tori listen to me. I've made the biggest mistake of my life by pushing you away and I know that-"

"Get away from the door," Tori says with more force, interrupting Jade.

"I know that you won't forgive me for a long time, but you leaving isn't going to fix this." She places her body by the door and puts her hand on the doorsill to give her some leverage.

"Jade, get away from the door so help me," she warns.

"Take the risk, Tori. Take it and stay here."

"Take the risk?! Take the damn risk?! You were the biggest risk I took, Jade! But that blew in my face. It blew in my face back in high school and it blew in my face on New Year's when you decided to fuck that random girl instead of talk to me!"

"I didn't sleep with her. She ended up leaving my apartment an hour after she got here because all I did was talk about you and cry about how big of a coward I was!"

Tori looks away, but her force on the door has slackened somewhat. Jade hopes that this is progress.

"Why are you doing this now?"

"I know I haven't been the greatest person around here but I know that I love you. I've loved you since we were seventeen. I've been an idiot this whole time."

"How do I know you won't mess this up?"

Tori's willingness to continue this conversation energizes her.

"You don't. But that's the point of taking chances and taking risks, because the payoff is that I will be here for you. Finally. Like I should have been years ago."

Tori shakes her head and straightens herself by her door, her hand back on the knob. "I don't think I can do this back and forth anymore."

"Then stay. There's no more back and forth. There's just this and there's just us. That's all I want."

"I don't care about what you want anymore. You hurt me and I'm not going to stick around for that."

"Tori, please."

"Get your hand off the door or I'm calling the police."

"Tori, wait."

"No. Get your hand off the door."

"Can you just-"

"No! You didn't want Beck to love you. You didn't want me to love you. Well congratulations Jade, no one loves you."

Jade stares at her, tears threatening to drop.

"Please just listen-" she attempts again, but Tori cuts her off.

"No, I'm done. I'm leaving this apartment and moving, where to doesn't concern you. So just please, let me go."

"I can't do that."

"Jade, let me go."

"No."

"Jade."

The way Tori looks at her, angry and pleading all at the same time moves Jade to let go and step away, raising her hands in defeat. Tori stares at her one last time before slams the door shut.

/

Tori doesn't move from her spot. She can hear the faint rustling from Jade in the hallway. She wants to open the door and find Jade in the hallway who's still waiting for her, but she talks herself out of it. She has to stay strong, she has to.

In the silence of her apartment, she hears her phone buzzing from the living room. Sometime after the phone stops buzzing, she hears a beep; it's a voicemail. Her phone goes off again. This time she presses her ear to the wooden slab behind her. She faintly hears a voice that she realizes is her own, a recording of her voicemail.

Hi, you've reached Tori Vega. Sorry I can't come to the phone right now. But if you leave your name, number and a brief message, I'll get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks!

Jade's voice is raspier than she recalls. When she presses further into the door, she can hear Jade's raspy voice echo in the hallway.

"Tori, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I love you."

She hears another beep and before long, she hears the buzzing again.

"Tori, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I love you."

By the fourth time that Jade calls her, Tori doesn't stand around the door, can't bear to listen to anymore. She buries herself under her blankets and her pillows wishing that this is all over. Everything is a mess and she doesn't know how to fix any of it.

Tori, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I love you.


A/N: Biggest apologies for not uploading for over a month. It's unforgivable, I know. But I hope that you're still here to watch this story wrap up. I lost a lot of motivation to write this story; I was unhappy with how it turned out before and with the show getting cancelled and everything, I just kind of stopped caring. But I'm back now and gutted this chapter for a fourth time, so we're good to go. Like I said, biggest apologies.

Hopefully I see you all next weekend for the final part. It would mean the world to me. Fanmix download and the pdf for this story will be available after next weekend, for those that may still be interested.

Let me know how this goes and I'll see you all soon (I promise!).