A/N: So this is some terribleness to try and power through a combination of major writer's block, depression that school's starting in less than two weeks, and procrastination of said institution's summer assignments (which have not been yet completed).

Sigh. Anybody else hate that summer's over?


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i'm still alive, but i'm barely breathing

~the script

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He tells himself that he's happy when he holds her hand.

Her name's Elizabeth Diamond. Blonde hair. Blue eyes. Long, golden, legs that leads the eye up to a dazzling white smile.

She' s the perfect girl. Beautiful, kind, intelligent. She's sharp enough to poke fun at some of his comments, but sweet enough to agree with the majority of what he says in public. Her family is equally as adoring of him, and her little sister has already declared that he'll be her husband when she grows up.

Fights consist of pouting and tears and the occasional tantrum. Hugs are sweet and innocent and anything but possessive. Kisses taste like strawberries and watermelon bubble gum and her lipstick is baby pink.

In short, she is not Jade.

(In short, their fights are not shouting and screaming and nights spent tossing and turning and raging and breaking and ripping themselves and each other just to feel something close to completion. Embraces are not igniting and burning and they do not blaze a trail of hope across his skin. She does not taste like lilacs and sunlight, and the inside curve of her cheek does not feel as smooth as the hidden silk of a shell.)

And because Jade was bad for him, he reasons to himself, she will be perfect.

So he links his hand with Lizzie's and pretends that he loves the flavor of bubblegum, swallowing his lies as easily as the sickly taste of her kisses. Because it's easier to lie than to remember.

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She always closes her eyes before his lips meet hers.

And it's not for romantic reasons, no, no. It's because with every kiss, every touch, every embrace, she allows herself one moment of weakness and replaces Ryder's broad hands with Beck's lithe fingers.

A despised habit. But a necessary one.

She needs to be touched to feel alive. She needs to know that she is not transparent, and that she can be held, be treasured. She needs to be anchored to earth by the warmth of a human hand, reminding her that she is not stone.

She thought that any touch would do. But only now, after too much water has been thrown under the bridge, over the bridge, blasted straight damn through the bridge, she realizes that only Beck could ever bring her to life.

So she closes her eyes in Ryder's arms and imagines that the hands running across her skin belong to someone else. Because she's just trying to stay alive.

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A/N: ...Don't say I didn't warn you. :)

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