A/N: I've determined that people are much more interested in my character-driven dramas than in my action/science fictional stuff. I'm actually more comfortable with action scenes than characterization, but hey, if I never step outside my comfort zone, I'll never grow as a writer. So, to challenge myself as much as possible, I give you a story centered entirely around my least favorite character, Beck.

I should stress that this isn't intended as a slam at Avan Jogia, who's quite talented. It's more that his part is criminally underwritten. Beck really has no personality or distinguishing characteristics, other than "He's handsome and girls like him". So, being the sadistic person I am, I decided to strip him of those traits and see how he'd react.

As a side note: this story takes place in the same continuity as "House of Cards", but we probably won't be seeing a whole lot of Tori or Trina. It's more that I'm sick of trying to juggle so many different continuities, and wanted to streamline things.

Disclaimer: As ever, don't own.

One more day. One more day, and Beck Oliver, along with the rest of the Hollywood Arts Class of 2013, would be free, diplomas in their hands and the world of adulthood spreading out before them.

It wasn't that Beck hadn't enjoyed his time at HA; the school had allowed him to stretch his creative wings, and he would forever be grateful for that. But since his breakup with Jade nearly a year ago, even his happiest moments were tinged with a certain sorrow.

He had dated, of course, and often. Girls practically threw themselves at him, as they always had. But nothing lasted. There were flashes of pleasure, but they faded quickly, so quickly, the moment that the face of the one girl he truly wanted floated forth from his memory to haunt him.

Things would be different, though, soon enough. He had a full scholarship to Juilliard awaiting him, with all the promise that entailed for future acting stardom. But even better, in some ways, was the fact that he would spend the next four years of his life in New York City. Three thousand miles away from his home, his squabbling parents – and Jade. No more bumping into her in the hallways, exchanging awkward small talk, then fleeing in embarrassment and despair. NYC was the ideal place for those who wanted to immerse themselves in a sea of people and forget about their troubles. Perhaps, among the teeming millions, he would even meet a special someone who would allow him to forget Jade entirely, or at least loosen the shackles of regret he perpetually wore.

Perhaps…but he wasn't entirely sure.

Right now, though, he had other things to worry about – namely his sadistic chemistry teacher, Mrs. Neidermeyer. Every other teacher in school had given the seniors this Friday off, but the Neidermonster (as she was not so affectionately known) insisted that "A day without science is a day wasted!" And so, when he could have been at the beach soaking in the sun, he was instead wearing a lab coat, gloves, and heavy plastic goggles, mixing chemicals beneath a fume hood.

As he carefully picked up a beaker of sulfuric acid, he realized that his lab partner, Amy Sullivan – a bleach-blonde so ditzy that she put Cat to shame – was winking at him.

"What is it?" he said, feeling none too comfortable.

"You look all smart and stuff in that get-up. It suits you."


"You wanna go somewhere once school gets out? Maybe drive around town a little, then grab some dinner? I'm thinking Italian…"

Jade, who was working at the lab station in front of them, tensed up visibly. For one brief moment, she turned to look at him – and even through the goggles, he could detect the jealousy in her eyes.

Jealousy – and a tinge of sorrow.

Beck flinched. "…Listen, Amy, I'm flattered and all, but I've…er…already got plans." Lying had never been his strong suit.

"Yeah? What kind of plans?"


"Hmph!" she snorted contemptuously.

Flustered, he tried to recover his mental balance. What was I doing? Oh, yeah. Gotta dilute the acid.

He fumbled about for the pitcher of water and tipped it over the acid beaker.

And just as the first drops touched the surface of the deadly yellow liquid, Beck remembered the mnemonic that Mrs. Neidermeyer had drilled into her students time and time again:

May his rest be long and placid, he added water to the acid

The other boy did what he oughta, he added acid to the water…

He tried to jerk his hand away, but it was too late.

With a loud hiss, an immense spume of acid shot forth from the beaker and struck him full in the face.

Had it not been for the goggles, he would have been blinded. As it was, he had never known, or even imagined, such pain. It felt as though a thousand needles were being thrust into his cheek, every last one of them burning hot. The vicious acid ran down his neck, seeping beneath his shirt collar and pooling on his shoulder. He cried out – not a human sound so much as a howl of sheer animalistic anguish.

"Get him under the shower! Quick!" Mrs. Neidermeyer cried.

Andre wrapped his powerful arms around Beck's abdomen and dragged him under the shower head as Jade, with shaking fingers, turned on the tap. The chilly water began to pour down on him, a soothing balm. The pain faded; its sharpness was replaced by a dull, pervasive ache.

Through the fog of confusion, he could barely distinguish the various panicked shouts around him:

"Call an ambulance!"

"Oh, God, look at his skin!"

"Move back! Give him air!"

"He looks like he's losing consciousness!"

Out of the fog came one clear, recognizable voice, fighting to tamp down its panic: "It'll be okay, Beck. Just hang on."

"J-Jade?" As soon as he had spoken the word, a new, searing agony pierced his jaw.

"Don't try to talk. Just lie down and relax."

She and Andre helped him onto a makeshift bed of piled up fire blankets. In the distance, a siren wailed, rising in pitch and volume as it sped toward the school.

From his prone position, he could just see his dim reflection in the dull steel of the fume hood above. "No," he whispered. "No, no, no…"

His hand went slowly to his cheek.

"Beck, don't!" cried Jade. "Andre, stop him!"

The pianist seized Beck's wrist just as his fingers made contact with the acid burn that ran the length of the left side of his face.

At Beck's probing touch, flakes of reddened skin came loose and drifted to the floor.

I'm hideous. I'm so hideous…

And Beck Oliver – self-possessed, stoic, unshakable Beck Oliver – began to weep.