When she pulled up, he was sitting on the steps of his RV, his head buried in his hands, looking as though the weight of the world was on his shoulders. She bit her lip, then parked her car, sitting silently at the edge of the driveway.
He looked up at last, his eyes meeting hers. With a sigh, she slipped out of the car and quietly made her way over to him, placing her arm carefully around his shoulders. At last, he spoke. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be," was her response, plain and simple. She glanced over at him, her eyes dark. "It's not your fault."
They sat there for a moment in silence, staring into the distance, each of them lost in their own thoughts. The sun was setting in the distance, creating the perfect romantic atmosphere, but this was lost on both of them.
She spoke again after a few minutes. "You gonna spend the whole summer moping?"
"I'm not moping," he retorted, lifting his head up again and running a hand through his hair.
"We've got the whole summer," she replied, retracting her arm and pushing herself to her feet. "And if you're going to spend it moping, then I'm out." She knew exactly what he was going to say. After all, she was an expert at manipulation, and he was no exception to her games. With a coy smile, she stretched out a hand.
He stared at it for a minute, then his gaze quickly shot up to her face, scrutinizing her – every inch, every detail – until at last his arm stretched forward, almost of its own accord, and his hand grasped hers. He stood quickly to his feet and smiled crookedly at her. "Don't leave."
"I won't," she whispered, leaning forward to press her lips quickly to his before leaning back and taking in every inch of him, everything she had missed. "You act like I could."
"You did," he pointed out, raising an eyebrow.
"You let me."
Stalemate once again. He broke it by kissing her. When he leaned back at last, he whispered, "Can we not talk about it?"
She nodded, and that was how they spent their summer. Not talking about it.
No one had to know.
"I can't believe you brought me to the pond," she griped, standing a fair distance behind him and peering into the murky depths of the water. "There are ducks here. I hate ducks!"
"I know," he said quietly, kneeling down and picking up a rock. "I know." He tossed the rock nimbly, and she watched as it seemingly bounced off of the surface of the water – once, twice, then three times. The water rippled everywhere it touched.
She stepped closer, sliding down beside him. "I always wanted to do that when I was younger," she told him quietly, picking up a smooth rock and turning it over in her hand. "I thought it was the coolest thing ever. It's not."
He laughed, taking the stone from her palm and smiling at it, then throwing it. She watched as it skipped along the surface of the water, finally sinking a few feet from where it'd originally hit. With a frown, she turned back to him. "That was my perfect rock."
"I'll find you another one," he promised, his dark eyes searching the pile of rocks. At last, he held up a shiny brown rock. "How's this one?"
"It looks like a duck," she proclaimed, pulling the rock out of his hand and throwing it angrily into the pond. It didn't bounce, of course; it sunk quickly, and she couldn't help but think of the symbolism behind the whole situation. Maybe she was just meant to sink, just like that.
"Maybe you look like a duck," he teased, breaking her out of her reverie.
She laughed. "Vega does on her Slap page sometimes."
"Rude," he chided her, but he kissed her forehead anyway. When he pulled back, he took her hand, entwining her fingers with his gently. And for a few moments, they sat in perfect silence.
"Beck, do you..." she began, but then she was cut off by a loud noise from the shore. Startled, she glanced over to see a duck, flapping as it ascended out of the pond. She let out a loud scream and jumped to her feet, completely forgetting about what she was saying to Beck. "THAT IS A DUCK."
"Thank you, Catherine Obvious." He laughed, using her hand to pull her up the small hill and away from the duck. "I don't get why you hate ducks so much anyway."
"And you never will," she said with a small smile.
"Now, what were you going to say?" he inquired as they got nearer and nearer to his car.
She pursed her lips. "Nothing. Nothing at all."
"I see Beck's been hanging out with Tori more and more lately."
"I don't see how that's any of your business."
Andre just raised an eyebrow. "Look, you know Tori and I are friends, but you're my homegirl too, and I don't want you to get hurt."
"Beck isn't dating Vega," she said quietly, staring at the ground and sipping her coffee. "Trust me, I know."
"Denial's not good," Andre told her, patting her shoulder, which made her flinch away from him. What did he think he was doing, talking to her like he knew everything? He knew nothing, absolutely nothing. Everyone was so insistent on advising her when in reality they knew nothing at all.
"I'm not in denial," she retorted, gritting her teeth. "I told you, Andre, I don't need your help."
"I'm just saying that Tori's a pretty girl and Beck could be considered a pretty boy," Andre replied calmly, throwing up his hands in defense. "And it's not unheard of for, um, pretty people to... to be attracted to each other. I mean, you broke up with Beck."
"Just shut up," she said, jumping up and throwing her bag over her shoulder. "Don't talk to me anymore."
"I don't like the ocean."
He just laughed, picking up one of her locks of black hair and twirling it around his tan finger. "I know. I added that to your list of dislikes a long time ago."
"Then why are we in your truck, driving to the ocean?" she inquired, raising an eyebrow over at him. "I mean, besides the fact that you'll get to see me in a swimsuit."
"It seemed like the thing to do," he admitted, running a hand through his hair. "I mean, it's summer. Aren't you supposed to share it with the people you love and do, you know, fun things? Fun, normal things?"
Ignoring most of his question, she nestled her head into the space between his head and his shoulders. "Tell me that you love me."
"I love you," he replied, no hesitation in his voice.
Doubt it. She bit her lip. He stared at her, probably wondering if she would say it back. (She never had, never since the breakup, and they both never really spoke about it. He was probably wondering why she hadn't, couldn't say it, but there were reasons and she couldn't even admit them to herself.)
At last, he parked the car and opened his door, then walked around to the other side to open her door for her like a proper gentleman. At any other time she would've protested, but tonight she was feeling strangely generous, so she slipped her arm through his and let him lead her.
The beach was dark already. It was one of the warm, humid summer nights, and she could feel her hair frizzing as soon as she stepped out of the car. With a sigh, she patted her hair back down. "My hair looks bad."
"I think it looks nice," Beck whispered, pressing a kiss to the side of her temple. She smiled slightly and tilted her head up to kiss him.
"Looks like you're up to something," she said, pulling back to place her hands on her hips. "You gonna explain or what? Cause I'm definitely not staying at the ocean all night. A crab might pinch me."
"Yeah, and then the crab would end up being crab soup," he teased her with a grin. "I think you could take a little crab."
"Just explain already," she grumbled, entwining her hand with his. "I'm not getting any younger."
"You'll see," he replied ominously. His stoic face showed her that he was obviously not going to give in to her demands, and he simply held out a hand to her to help her along. She took it hesitantly, glancing up at him with wide eyes.
"I don't like surprises," she told him, which was probably a rather good sign due to the fact that she did not use the word hate. "Can't you just tell me what it – oh."
Candles lit the beach around them, illuminating the couple with light. She glanced around to see that Beck had set up an entire picnic, which had most likely taken him ages, complete with every food she loved. Her face lit up at once, and any doubts she had fled her mind for that one glorious moment as she turned to see him smiling softly at her, that sappy emotion called love in his eyes.
"You did all of this?" she asked, biting down on her lip. It wasn't that she didn't appreciate it; no, she just wasn't used to people caring this much about her, wanting to make her happy. It was unnerving in the best sort of way.
"Course I did," he replied. "Sit down, babe; we've got a meal to enjoy."
"No, I thought we were going swimming," she replied in her usual deadpan tone, but a smile tugged at the edges of her lips anyway. "Let's eat, Oliver."
He laughed, thrusting a taco at her. "To us."
She rolled her eyes, but picked up a taco anyway and bumped it against Beck's. "To us."
"I thought you broke up with that Oliver boy."
Jade's dad was rarely involved in her life, to say the least, and so it shocked her when those words slipped from his lips. She raised an eyebrow at him, then told him sharply, "I did."
"You've been spending an awful lot of time with him," he observed, glancing at the door. "Wasn't it him out there?"
"It was." She couldn't even explain the complicated relationship that she and Beck shared to her friends, so she had no desire to attempt to explain it to her stuffy old father. "Look, I don't see why this is a problem."
"I didn't say it was." He stared guardedly at her. "But I'm your father, aren't I? I think I have a right to know who you're 'going out with' this week."
"First of all, I don't exactly have a Flavor of the Week. I'm not that kind of girl, and you would know that if only you paid attention," Jade snapped, feeling anger bubble up inside of her – the same kind of anger that tended to dominate her life these days. "And second of all, you lost that right a long time ago when you turned into some kind of stuffy machine." The words were harsh, but completely and utterly true.
"Jade, I – " her father began, probably the beginning of a long lecture about disrespect.
Spinning around on her heel, Jade glared at her dad, her eyes blue fire against her pale face. "Save it," she said at last, her voice cracking, and then she marched up to her room.
She could've sworn she heard him say 'I'm sorry', but then again, that could've just been her delusional mind talking.
"You seem different, Jade. You know, happier."
It was an innocent enough observation, but then again it came from Tori Vega, which was cause enough for Jade to get angry. She glared at Tori, hoping that if she kept it up, maybe her glare would suddenly turn into lasers and she could fry Tori's face off. That would definitely be the highlight of her summer. "What?" she inquired at last. "You think I'm going soft? Because I'd be thrilled to prove you wrong."
Tori looked a bit scared, much to Jade's delight. "No. I just… I guess it's nice."
"Nice," Jade echoed, twisting a curl around her finger till her circulation was cut off. "I hate that word."
Tori just laughed. "I figured. Hey, and, um, I don't know if you've noticed, but…"
"Spit it out," Jade interrupted.
"I think Beck's still in love with you," Tori blurted out. The statement was so ludicrous that Jade nearly burst into laughter, but she pursed her lips quickly, realizing that it was actually a valid observation for someone who was unaware of their reconciliation.
"And why do you think that?" Jade retorted, trying to look casual – anything she did could blow their cover, and that would hardly be beneficial to either of them.
"Just the way he looks at you," Tori muttered quietly, glancing down at her lap. "And, well, the way he talks about you. It's oddly adorable, but… it's like he's totally smitten." She glanced up at Jade, her eyes innocent and wide. "Would you ever consider getting back together with him?"
That was a question she wasn't prepared to answer. She frowned, glancing from Tori to her lap and then back up again, and then shook her head. "I don't know, really. Maybe. It's kind of… it's complicated."
"Do you love him?" Tori inquired, and Jade didn't even stop to question Tori's intentions. After the whole fiasco with the Platinum Music Awards, Jade knew that the girl's intentions were pure, regardless of how annoying she could be.
"Yes," she answered with the utmost of certainty. Yes, she loved him.
"Then what's complicated about it?" Tori sounded oddly Cat-like, which wasn't doing anything to alleviate Jade's annoyance. Yet she had to admit that the girl actually had a point. What was so complicated about Beck and Jade that they couldn't admit it to everyone else? She remembered their discussion, how it'd all made sense way back then, how they had both agreed that other people's opinions had led to their demise last time. It seemed kind of stupid now, but Jade wouldn't admit that to Tori.
"Nothing." Jade blew a curl out of her face and huffed in annoyance. "Look, I just… I can't explain it, okay? Just leave me alone."
She stood up, throwing her bag over her shoulder and giving Tori a small wave in farewell. Before she left, she ordered another coffee and threw her cup in the garbage. Even as she left, though, she could hear Tori's voice in her head, an incessant song of "What's complicated about it?"
Everything, she replied in her head. Everything is complicated.
"I can't believe that you want to watch this stupid show."
"Drake & Josh is quality," Beck defended, squeezing her shoulder lightly before getting up to put the DVD in the player. Jade decided not to dignify that with a response, and instead waited until he sat back down to bury her head in his shoulder.
Absently, Beck leaned over and stroked her hair. His head was suddenly close to her ear as he whispered, "You okay? You seem kind of quiet."
"I'm fine," she replied, closing her eyes and wishing that he would stop terrorizing her with questions.
"Jade, I can tell when there's something wrong with you," Beck said darkly, brushing her hair back with his fingertips. "And there's definitely something up now."
"I don't want to talk about it," she grit out at last. "Let's just watch the stupid TV show."
He sighed, pulling her close to him and most likely deciding that it was best just to leave the subject alone. He of all people knew that Jade only talked when she wanted to talk, and there was really no use in trying to force her into anything. She just frowned, burying her head into his shoulder and trying to wipe her mind of the negative stuff that threatened to consume her.
"Love you," he muttered quietly, kissing the top of her head.
She was silent, of course. No matter how many times he said it, she was still unable to say it back. It was as if it was getting harder instead of easier, and it was getting even harder to believe. Sure, Tori wasn't a threat, but there were loads of gorgeous girls in the world who were even prettier and more talented than Tori could ever hope to be. How could Jade measure up to those girls?
Not to mention there was something that bothered her about the whole 'secretly dating' thing. It was a mutual decision, though, which made her annoyance illogical, but she still couldn't help wondering if he was ashamed of her or if he was seeing other girls on the side.
Saying she loved him was vulnerability. Guys like Beck could tell everyone in the world that they loved them, and it still wouldn't mean anything. Beck, she was sure, could say it to anyone in the world and they wouldn't be surprised. Yet Jade was the type that when she said she loved someone, she meant it with all of her being. It meant something; it opened her up, made her vulnerable, made her easy to hurt, and that was a power that she didn't want him to have. After all, he'd hurt her before. What was stopping him from hurting her now?
Still, she didn't tell him any of this. That would leave her even more vulnerable than those three words would. She kicked back instead, laughing each time Megan (who seemed oddly familiar) did something to hurt Drake & Josh and feeling satisfied with Beck's reaction (he'd pull her closer and smile down at her, like he was lucky to have her).
"You're so weird," he muttered affectionately into her hair.
"Look who's talking, Mr. I-Have-All-200-Seasons-of-Drake-&-Josh," she retorted, rolling her eyes.
"You love it," he said with a smile.
I do, she wanted to say. Way too much. Instead she abruptly turned her attention back to the television screen, biting her lip to keep her feelings from spilling out all over the place. You're not that vulnerable, Jade.
The expression of hurt on his face almost made her regret her decisions.
Cat called her up one day. She wanted the whole gang to come see a movie. Jade's automatic reaction was to veto it, especially since Beck was obviously going to be there and she found it incredibly awkward being near him and having to pretend like she didn't love him anymore. But of course, Cat was Cat and Cat begged until Jade gave in and said yes.
She texted Beck immediately after agreeing. You going tonight?
Yeah, are you? His response came within a minute, which gave her an odd sense of relief.
Yeah, she responded. Can we pretend like we're, uh, friends or something? It's awkward acting like I hate you.
That's fine, babe was his answer, and then a few seconds later, another text arrived in her inbox. Why? Because you love me so much? ;)
On second thought, maybe the whole hating each other thing doesn't sound so bad was what she typed back, then sent with a half-smile, because teasing him was one of her favorite things to do, and she was acutely aware of the fact that it went both ways.
Love you too, he answered, and she smiled despite herself but didn't reply. Instead, she got ready and headed over to Cat's house, hoping that her brother wouldn't be there (because seriously, the freak had a crush on her and being with Beck was awkward enough without unnecessary added factors).
Cat squealed when she opens the door. "Jade! I didn't think you'd come."
"Yeah, lucky you," Jade responded, slipping in the door. Everyone was already there, much to her displeasure, and Beck gave her one of his typical secretive smiles, but then turned back to listen to whatever the heck Andre was saying. With a huff, Jade walked over to the couch and flopped down on it.
"Well, hi Jade," Tori greeted her, her incessant politeness shining through.
"Yeah, hey." Jade rolled her eyes. "What movie are we watching? If it's anything to do with unicorns, I swear I'll pull out all of my hair."
Beck laughed, and immediately all eyes in the room were on him. He just raised an eyebrow in response. Jade was aware of the fact that last time they'd seen Beck and Jade together, the two of them had been pronouncing their hatred for each other. (Oh, how things had changed.)
"Nothing with unicorns," Cat promised at last, breaking the awkward silence. "I think it's called Extraordinary Voyage."
"Maybe the ship will sink," Jade remarked. "Now that would be an extraordinary voyage." Nervous chuckles came from around the room, and Jade huffed impatiently. "Stop with this stupid awkwardness. We're all friends, right? Except, well, Vega and I."
"Even you and Beck?" Robbie inquired, and then he slapped his hand over his mouth, as if he hadn't meant to say it. Jade had a feeling that it was on everyone's mind.
"Yes," Jade insisted at last, fixing her ex-boyfriend, current secret lover with a steely gaze. "Even Beck and I." A small smile made its way onto her face. She hopes no one caught it. "Anyway, Cat, hurry up and start the movie. I'm not getting any younger here."
Cat yelped and leapt up, putting the movie into the DVD player. Jade was shoved in between Beck and Cat on the couch, which was admittedly a very awkward place to be. Beside her, Robbie was feeding Cat popcorn, and it kind of made her want to vomit.
To Beck, she muttered, "Look at Cat and Robbie."
Beck made a disgusted noise and then shuddered. "It's rather disgusting how into each other they are."
"Yeah, and Robbie's too chicken to ask her out, so they'll be like this for ages," Jade murmured in response. "I mean, there's no way to give them a push."
"You could threaten Robbie into asking Cat out already," Beck suggested. "Whip out your scissors and all." The small, fond smile on his face tells her that he's not entirely opposed to it.
"That would make Robbie pee his pants," Jade retorted, and then they both chuckled because both of them knew it was true. It was then that they stopped whispering and glanced around to find that the other four were staring at them in awe.
"When you said that you guys were friends, I didn't think you meant that you were actually friends," Andre said in wonder.
"That's what the word means, idiot," Jade grumbled. "Yeah, Oliver and I are on good terms again."
"Are you back together?" Cat asked, her brown eyes wide.
"No, obviously not," Jade lied, biting the edge of her lip. "Just watch the stupid movie already before I sink this ship and turn it off."
Thankfully, everyone returned their attention to the movie, and Jade moved over a little bit towards Cat. She made a conscious effort the rest of the movie to avoid getting near Beck or even making eye contact with him, but despite her efforts, Tori Vega cornered her before she could leave. "Since when are you and Beck so buddy-buddy?"
"Since we decided that we were going to be grown-ups about this whole breakup situation," Jade said briskly, glancing around and trying to decide the best way to get out of Cat's house.
"Yeah, I thought you told me that you couldn't be just friends with Beck," Tori retorted, suspicion coating her tone.
"I've grown up, Vega." Jade's tone was flat and ominous, but her words were not entirely true.
"So you promise that there's nothing going on between you and Beck?" Tori asked, her eyes wide in innocence, like she would believe anything that Jade said.
Impatiently, Jade sighed. Part of her longed to tell Tori the truth, to tell everyone the truth, but most of her screamed that it was a bad idea. So she shook her head. "There's nothing going on between me and Beck, promise."
Tori smiled at her and let her leave at last. From Cat's house, she drove straight to Beck's house and attacked his lips with hers.
Guilt flooded her, not for the first time.
"Jade West, it is 2 AM."
She folded her arms across her chest at her dad's words, giving him a sharp glare. "I'm aware of the time, thank you very much."
"You know, I was actually worried about you," her dad snarled. "And I guess it turns out that you were at your little boyfriend's house or something. Or ex-boyfriend, last I heard."
"You don't know anything about me or him," she said in response, slinging her bag down onto one of the chairs and glaring fiercely at him. "You know, if you'd actually shown some emotion toward me besides revulsion in the past sixteen years or so, then I would actually believe you cared. As it is…" She fixed him with a dark glare. "I'm not sure I believe you."
Then she stormed off up the stairs. As she walked, she heard her dad call, "We're not done talking about this!" and she yelled "I think we are!" in response. She swore she heard her brother, little Jeremiah, slip out of his room, but then again that could just be her delusional mind talking. With that, she drifted off to sleep.
Her dreams that night were full of nightmares, most of them centering around her father and her secret boyfriend. It proved to be an incredibly long night.
Jade was at the coffee shop when she got the call.
It was a blocked number, so her first reflex was to ignore it – after all, from time to time, she would get prank calls from freshmen who thought it was the funniest thing in the world to mess around with her. But for whatever reason, she chose to answer it. "Hello?"
"There's been an accident," came a deep voice. "We were told to contact you. You're Jade West? Your father is John West?"
"Yeah," she replied, twirling a piece of her hair around her finger nervously. "That's me. What happened to my father?"
"He was in an accident," the voice repeated.
"Is he alright?" Jade hissed, her grip on the phone tightening. "Where is he?"
"He's at St. George's; I assume you know where that is," said the voice. "And it's a rather serious accident, I'm afraid."
She hung up then, not wanting to hear anymore.
The coffee shop was just down the road from her house, so she'd walked there. She had a feeling that she was too messed up to drive, so she called Beck, her fingers shaking as she did so. "Beck?" she said when he answered. "Could you, um, come pick up Jem and me?"
"Yeah, babe," Beck said at once. "What's wrong? Is everything okay?"
"I'll explain when you get here," she said, and she hung up. Then she slipped up to her brother's room and knocked on the door softly before slipping in. "Jem, dad's in the hospital. We've got to go, now."
Jeremiah shot up, his face conveying his complete and utter shock. At last he stuttered out, "Jade, is he going to be okay?"
"I don't know," Jade said, her voice cracking halfway through the sentence. "I don't know, Jem. Anyway, Beck's coming to get us, so get up and get dressed."
Fifteen minutes later, Beck Oliver pulled up. Jade slipped into the front seat beside him, sure her grim expression was giving away the fact that something was dreadfully wrong.
"What's going on?" Beck whispered, his face uncomfortably close to her ear.
"My dad was in the hospital," she replied, her voice cracking again. She didn't want to cry – she couldn't. Crying would only make her weak. "Can you – can you drive us to St. George's?"
"Of course," he said softly. He took one of his hands off the wheel and entwined his fingers with hers, giving it a tight squeeze. It was a small amount of comfort, but it did help – sort of like Beck was the only thing that tied her to her sanity.
The car ride was tense and silent. Once they got there, all three of them piled out. Jade glanced over at Beck, her eyes dark. "You don't have to stay, Beck."
"I know I don't have to, but I want to," Beck told her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and pulling her close. "I can leave if you want me to, though."
She shook her head silently, then started walking toward the door, detaching herself from Beck. Beck and Jeremiah followed close behind, both of them as deadly silent as she was. She inquired about her father and they told her that he was on floor 4, in the ICU. With a frown, she nodded and then went over to the elevator.
Once they got to the room, the doctor told them family only, which seemed to be fine with Beck. Beck collapsed in a chair outside the door as Jeremiah and Jade slipped in.
He wasn't awake, that much was obvious. Jade was pretty sure she should've asked for the full extent of the damage before going in, because this shocked her. She made a small noise of revulsion. His face was bruised up, his eyes were closed, and there were casts on much of his body. The doctor sighed behind her. "He's in a coma. He won't wake up. He might be able to hear you, though."
Tears flooded her eyes as she walked over to her father's body. "I'm sorry," she whispered, the only thing she could think of to say, and then she dashed out of the room, leaving Jeremiah behind. Beck immediately jumped up and wrapped her in his arms. Immediately, she burst into tears.
He stroked her hair quietly, letting her cry into his shirt. Jeremiah walked out a minute later and stood there, looking shocked, confused, and upset, much to Jade's dismay. Beck just shook his head and kissed the top of Jade's head gently, then whispered, "It's going to be okay."
Jade knew that it probably wasn't true, but it was nice to hear anyway.
For four days, she stayed in her room, ignoring all calls. Her once-a-day reprieve was when she took Jeremiah to the hospital. Sometimes, she would go into the room and tell him things, tell him about how she and Beck got together, about how she didn't really hate him, about how the thing she had always wanted in life had been his love, and that was why she had depended on Beck so much. He never showed any sign of improving, though.
On Day 5, she checked her phone. There were 30 missed calls and voicemails – 12 from Beck, 5 from Cat, 3 from Tori, 3 from Andre, 2 from Robbie, and 5 others from various people. She quickly called Beck back.
"Jade." He breathed a sigh of relief as soon as he answered. "Baby, are you okay? I've been calling you, and you didn't answer, so I was worried…"
"I'm fine," was her stoic response.
"Jade…" he replied, his voice weak with concern. "We're coming over."
Before she had a chance to question who all was included in this whole we thing, Beck hung up. She sat there for a moment, holding her phone in her hand, unmoving, unblinking. Then the door to her house was bursting open, and she guessed it had to have been more than a minute. (At this point, her concept of time was incredibly twisted.)
"Jade," Beck breathed, and then he walked over and kissed her, relief coating his kiss. After a minute, he pulled away. "The others are coming too; they've all been so worried." He plopped down on her couch.
She was about to ask who exactly the 'others' were, but then the door opened again and Cat and Robbie spilled in, followed closely by Tori and Andre. Each of them gave her a hug, even the ever-awkward Robbie, and then they all settled down on her couch.
"How's your dad?" Andre ventured tentatively.
"Nothing new," Jade said with a sigh. "No progress whatsoever. If anything, they say, it's getting worse." He's going to die soon, she added silently.
"I'm sorry," Tori told her at last.
"Not like it's your fault, Vega," Jade muttered.
"We brought ice cream," Robbie volunteered at last. She just nodded, implying that she wanted some of the ice cream, because after all, it had always been her comfort food. Thankfully, no one so far had questioned why Beck was being so nice to her. That was one question she didn't want to have to deal with right now.
"Thanks," she told him at last, glancing around the room at the others. Everyone was staring at her, like they were expecting her to blow up at any second, but instead she just frowned in defeat.
"Um, Jade…" Tori said hesitantly. "I'm, um, I'm really sorry about your dad and everything. I… we brought some happy movies and stuff. You know, The Princess and the Frog, chiz like that. And we figured that if you wanted to…"
"Sure, we'll watch them," Jade told her, trying not to let on that she would much rather be alone with Beck than have all these people here, but she supposed they figured that since she didn't have Beck anymore, she would need them. As if.
Sometime during the movie, Jade's head fell onto Beck's shoulder. He probably didn't think anything of it, because his hand automatically flew up to stroke her hair. No one noticed, or if they did, they didn't comment.
Beck discreetly kissed the top of her head again, and for a moment in time, everything was all right.
Jade's dad died three days later.
She got the call when she was at Beck's RV. Immediately, she hung up the phone and burst into tears. Beck held her, stroking her hair, and the fact that maybe he actually did love her, maybe he cared about her more than she thought was plausible. He wiped away the tears that were streaming down her face and asked, "Did he...?"
She nodded, grateful that he hadn't finished the question because with those words came an air of finality. "We should probably get Jem."
Beck nodded and grabbed her hand, giving it a quick squeeze as he grabbed his keys and walked to his truck. They drove quickly to Jade's house and parked outside of it.
Jade walked in first. Her younger brother was perched on the couch, shoving Cheetos into his mouth and watching Batman like he was five again instead of thirteen. He turned around at the sound of Jade's footsteps and for a moment, she couldn't bring herself to say it. She bit her lip. "Jem, Dad's gone."
"Gone like out of the hospital?" Jeremiah asked brightly, his face shining.
"No," she said quietly, glancing down. There were loads of things in this world that Jade West could not handle, and seeing Jeremiah's face when he figured it out was one of them. "Gone like gone forever."
The expression of heartbreak that quickly dawned on his face was horrifying, and Jade felt herself start crying again. This time, Jeremiah came and wrapped his arms around his older sister, crying quietly into her chest.
She didn't want to think about what was to come. It was too much; it was all too much.
The funeral was a few days later. Before that, people dropped by the house to express their condolences. Tori, Robbie, Andre, and Cat came all at once to her house, Cat toting an Easter Basket filled with candy, mainly chocolates.
Jade had to smile a little bit. After all, chocolate has always been her favorite kind of candy, and it's oddly sweet that they'd remembered that. She took the basket of candy and set it down on her dresser. "Uh, thanks, guys."
"You know where you're going to stay?" Andre asked, sounding kind of concerned.
"Probably at my mom's house," Jade replied, biting down on her lip. Her mom was AWOL most of the time, and she'd usually only stayed with her mom one weekend every month. Now, it seemed she had no other choice. Softly, Beck squeezed her shoulder, and she jerked around in surprise. She hadn't even seen him come in.
"Your mom?" he whispered quietly into her ear, his lips nearly brushing it. She winced at his touch, then nodded her head silently.
"I've got no other choice." Her voice was flat, slightly angry.
It was as if Beck was struggling, trying to weigh his options, and then all of a sudden he just gave up. He leaned down, kissing her quickly on the lips, more as a way of comfort than anything else, she assumed. Everyone else let out quiet little gasps, though Jade was sure that under different circumstances, they would have all freaked out completely.
She silently kissed him on the cheek as Cat yelped, "You guys are back together?"
"Have been for a while," Beck muttered, sitting down beside Jade and wrapping his arm around her. Her head fell absently onto his shoulder. "Didn't want to tell anyone because we thought it'd ruin the relationship again."
"You changed your mind?" Andre questioned, glancing from Beck to Jade.
"Things change, man," Beck said, stroking her hair absently. "It's not like I'm ashamed." Then, in a much lower tone, he told them all with the utmost of confidence, "I love her, and I can't stand seeing her like this." Jade was unsure if she was supposed to have heard that, but she did anyway, and her heart swelled in the oddest of ways.
"Yeah," Robbie replied, glancing over at her. "Yeah, we all care about her a lot. We're so sorry, Jade."
Normally she would have said something snappy like 'Yeah, sorry won't make it better', but she was just too exhausted to argue, so she snuggled her head closer into Beck's shoulder and nodded, acknowledging that she appreciated it.
"We're taking you out to dinner next week," Tori told her in a determined tone. "All of us. Consider it a gift or something like that."
She nodded again, wondering why they all suddenly cared so much. Pity, she assumed, but she'd have thought that they'd rejoice if something bad happened to her. Beck kissed her cheek again softly. "They care about you an awful lot, Jade. We all do."
She glanced down, her heart still swimming with regret. Jade West knew that she was a bad person. She just didn't know how to fix it.
If there was one thing she knew about people, it was that they left eventually. Everyone did. Jade had had this happen time after time, friends and boyfriends and her mother and now, apparently, her father. So she wasn't exactly expecting her friends to show up at her dad's funeral. She wasn't even expecting Beck to show up. But all of them came, dressed stylishly in black (except Robbie, of course), and looking entirely solemn.
"Jade," Beck said, walking forward and taking her hand. "We, um, I wasn't sure if you wanted all of us to come, but…"
"It's fine," Jade promised at last with a tiny smile. "Thanks for coming, guys." She redirected them to a row, but kept Beck with her, holding his hand tightly. She frowned slightly at him. "Do you think you could..."
"Of course," was Beck's immediate response. He walked over to the front row with Jade, slipping an arm around her back as she sat down and pulling her close, which made her feel oddly safe (even though Jeremiah made a vomiting motion at them).
The funeral was not a big affair. Jade's grandparents were in charge of the majority of it, but she wasn't especially close to either of them, so she really hadn't had much of a say in what went on. They hadn't even asked her to speak. Some of his associates spoke about him, impersonal things that weren't entirely accurate, and then some of his stuffy siblings as well. She sighed, hoping that this would just be all over soon.
The coffin sat threateningly in the front of the room, and Jade thought it was odd, how they could have a service like this with a freaking dead body in the room. It wasn't as if she hadn't seen dead people before, but that didn't make it any less strange, especially when it was her own father.
Her grandparents had opted not to do a viewing, claiming that her father's body was all mauled from the accident and that no one wanted to remember him that way. They were having a private burial after the funeral, though, and Jade wondered if she'd be allowed to bring Beck – he'd definitely stand out in her white-as-snow family. That, she decided, would help to cheer her up.
The service ended with one last song, and then she had to go up to the front so that everyone could express their condolences. Jade didn't really care about most of the people. Her friends all gave her hugs, and Beck kissed her on the lips – much to the disdain of her stuck-up family. Random old people told her they were so sorry for her loss, and people she didn't even know hugged her. It made her uncomfortable in an odd sort of way.
Jade didn't cry until they got to the gravesite and her father's coffin was lowered into the grave. Then she turned into Beck's chest so that none of her family could see her and let a few stray tears trail down her face.
Crying would not help her in the least.
School started two weeks later. It seemed a lot different now, bigger somehow, and although it was her senior year, Jade wasn't as excited as everyone else, especially now that talk was spreading about her renewed relationship with Beck. Some meathead in the hall sniggered as she walked by, whispering, "That girl's hot; no wonder Beck's dating her."
That was tame compared to the comments from the girls, though. Most of them whispered something along the lines of "Can't believe Beck's dating her again. She's stuck-up, evil, cruel, and she doesn't deserve him. Beck's better off with someone like me."
Beck would normally just tighten his grip around her shoulders and glare at them, but apparently one day it got to be too bad because he went off on the girls. With a scowl on his face, he hissed, "Look, you don't know anything about Jade or my relationship with her, so it'd be nice if you can just shut up about her for once. She's one of the best people I know and I love her."
"Yeah," Tori agreed, and when everyone looked at her oddly, she rolled her eyes. "I mean, Jade's kinda scary and sometimes she can be like, kinda mean, but she's my friend and she's been through a lot, so leave her alone. If you wanna pick on someone, pick on me."
"Yeah, leave Jadey alone!" Cat piped up. "She's my bestest friend and she's really awesome."
Jade felt her cheeks turning pink. She hiked her bag up over her shoulder and glanced down, like she always did when people complimented her, and walked off. Beck caught up with her in no time, and she frowned at him. "I appreciate it, but I don't need you to fight my battles."
"Just one less thing you have to worry about," he replied with a shrug. "I'm your boyfriend, babe; it's my job."
"I feel like everyone's pitying me," Jade grumbled, ignoring him. "I don't need pity. I'm strong."
"Everyone needs pity once in a while," he pointed out. "And you have every right to it. Jade, it's okay to be upset when one of your parents dies."
"I know. I just don't like being weak, Beck," she replied weakly.
"And I don't like you staying with your mom."
"She's not so bad," Jade protested. "I mean, when she's home."
Beck just shook his head in disapproval. "You know, it's weird cause you're like, the strongest person I know and you can get through anything, but I worry about you a lot. More than you know." She felt a chill run through her body, because maybe she was wrong all along. Maybe he didn't want anyone but her.
He kissed her gently, and when he pulled away, she asked in a low tone, "Beck, have you ever wanted anyone else while you're with me?"
This seemed to genuinely shock him, which Jade felt was a good sign. He then shook his head. "No. Of course not. There was – is nobody else but you."
Then he kissed her again, and she finally felt secure.
Something else Jade had figured out through all of this mess was that it was important to let people know what they meant to you, especially those that were important to you, and she figured it was about time that she told Beck what he meant to her. So when Beck took her out for dinner alone, she figured it was the perfect opportunity.
Most of their meal was spent making small talk and smiling, nothing that Jade felt would warrant an I love you from her. They talked about the coming year and college plans, and Jade detailed all the universities she'd applied to during their short-lived breakup. She was surprised to find that they'd actually applied to a lot of the same universities, and she didn't know why she hadn't thought of this before, since they were considering some of the same majors.
"It'd be kinda nice," Beck said with a teasing smile. "Going to college with you."
"Yeah, it might not be half-bad," Jade retorted with a grin. "I'm just ready to go to college already, get this portion of my life over with. I'm just ready to get away from everything, I think."
"I know, me too," Beck agreed, staring over at her. "You know, after this, I have a surprise for you."
"Guess I'll give you the benefit of the doubt on that one," she told him. "I mean, your last surprise wasn't too bad."
"Wasn't too bad?" Beck said, playing like he was shocked.
As it turned out, this surprise was not as elaborate, but amazing all the same. Somehow he'd managed to locate a spot where nearly every star in the sky seemed to be close enough to touch. She sprawled out under the stars, her eyes wide. "This is actually amazing."
"Isn't it?" Beck grinned. "I read some article saying that all of us live too fast and that we sometimes forget to enjoy nature, so I thought this was appropriate."
"I hate nature, usually," she told him, "but this is… this is nice."
"Yeah, I know." He glanced over at her, one of those stares that was full of love, one of those stares that made her heart pound out of control. "I love you."
She hesitated a second, then with a wavering voice, she replied, "I love you too."
The smile that lit up his face was as bright as the stars that shone above, and he reached over to take her hand. He squeezed it as he said, "I know."
She felt herself relax at once, feeling oddly secure. Even so, she felt one sentence repeating over and over in her head, a result of her odd vulnerability.
Please don't leave.
A/N: So, this is for Laura (lowlaury) because she kinda insisted I finish it for like, a sister fic to hers (which is called Got a Secret and awesome so you guys should read it). It really does suck, I'm sorry, and it was really quite angsty but I hope you guys liked it anyway.
I kinda love the idea of secretly dating!Bade. Anyway.
Please read and review, and don't fave without reviewing!