Once Upon a Victory

Chapter 1: Cat Valentine (Little Red)

/

It all started with a book. That, in case you haven't noticed, is how a lot of things get started. Once things are put into print, they are, for all intents and purposes, permanent, and they leave a lasting impact on those fortunate enough to read them. In this case, though, said book severely altered the mind of one young, gullible girl.

"Your skin is really pale," she observed one day, prior to her reading of the book, smiling brightly at the girl next to her.

"Yes, thank you for pointing out the obvious, Caterina," her friend snapped, crossing her arms across her chest. "I'm practically the color of milk, I know. I've heard it all before – though I wouldn't expect you to be the one to poke fun at me for that."

"I'm not," Cat pouted. "But, um – have you ever been told that you're, like, the color of snow?"

"Wow, you're original today," Jade snapped in response. "I guess I'll just go find myself a tanning bed so I can be all perfectly tanned like you!" And with that, the dark-headed girl stomped away from the table they were sitting at in the crowded restaurant, her combat boots clicking against the tile of the floor. With a sigh, Beck glared at Cat before chasing after Jade, just as he always did (it was, Cat thought, a game of cat-and-mouse with the two of them, though it was always Beck chasing after Jade and Jade being totally oblivious to the fact that he had been perpetually in love with her for the past two years).

"What was that all about, Cat?" asked her friend Tori, the fourth member of their 'quartet', as Cat liked to call it, from across the table. Tori's eyes were wide, like a wounded deer's might be, and her hair cascaded in perfect waves past her shoulders. She was beautiful, Cat thought, a regular beauty, though she didn't really see it like everyone else did.

"I dunno," Cat murmured, her head slightly downcast. "Do you ever look at Jade and think of snow?"

"Not really," Tori said decisively, ducking her head down to eat some of the vegetables off of her plate. "No, I don't think so. But I can see how you would make that connection, I suppose; her skin is very much like the color of snow. What do you think of when you look at me?"

"Beauty," Cat told her, biting the corner of her lip. "I mean, you're just very beautiful; sometimes I gotta wonder how you don't see it! What about me?"

"Red," Tori replied, her eyes tracing Cat's tendrils of long, red hair all the way down to the halfway point of Cat's back before they snapped back up to Cat's face. "I think of red."

/

Cat Valentine was not typically the type to go to the library. It was, in fact, Jade's idea; she had merely been dragged along for the ride because no one else was willing to go along and wait while she tutored some boy in the area of science. (It was, surprisingly, entirely of her own volition, and partially a volunteer act at that since she was getting paid very little, something that surprised everyone but Cat. Cat knew about Jade's soft side, and she also knew that Jade didn't like anyone to know about it.)

But during the hour that Jade was tutoring, Cat scoured the children's section of the library (her favorite section, in fact), and at last discovered the book of her dreams – A Collection of Fairytales, it said on the front. What originally caught her attention, though, was the illustration on the front, an illustration that looked surprisingly similar to… Jade?

With a yelp, she tugged the book off of the shelf and dragged it over to her seat (it was surprisingly heavy for a book, and she was but a weak girl). Once she had the book splayed across her lap, she turned it back to look at the cover, but this time, instead of Jade, the image displayed there was Tori.

"What?" Cat whispered, because it couldn't be. Her eyes had to be playing tricks on her or something. But she blinked, and she blinked again, and the image stayed there, transfixed onto the book. With a shriek, she let go, causing the book to clatter to the ground. But still the cover image was sweet little Tori Vega.

She picked it up again slowly, keeping her eyes on Tori's face, and then she realized that Tori – book Tori – was dressed in a yellow dress that seemed atypical of the girl. It looked like something from the medieval times, honestly. With a raised brow, Cat turned to the first page of the book.

Once upon a time, the book began, and it was all downhill from there.

The book spoke of fairytales, of Snow White and her Prince Charming, of Belle and her Beast, of Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, of Cinderella – of fairytales she had heard all throughout her childhood, memorized, but these were different somehow. Perhaps it was the intricate pictures, or the fact that she was so intimate with the people in them – because, although she now recognized that "Jade" was actually Snow White, who looked much like Jade, and "Tori" was actually Belle, who also looked much like Tori, the similarities between the two sets of girls could not be overlooked. And then there was Red, Red Riding Hood – who, with her red hood, looked much like Cat herself. It wasn't just that, though – the stories had no end. Literally. Cinderella did not meet her prince; Snow White was not awoken; Red Riding Hood did not save her grandma – the stories just stopped abruptly. The happily ever after was missing, as if it had somehow been stolen.

It was as if something was pounding at the back of her mind. Could this be her? But how was it possible? Fairytales, Cat knew, did not exist, and should she even speak of this, she would be teased mercilessly. But it seemed plausible, somehow. The book was magical – the cover changed, the pictures on the pages were bright, vibrant, and it seemed as if the pictures were moving somehow. If magic such as that could exist, couldn't she be a fairytale character as well?

Then suddenly her watch was beeping and Jade was walking over to her. "Cat," she said, "ready to go?"

"Um, yeah," Cat told her friend brightly, gathering up the book of fairytales and grinning. "Hang on, though – I want to check out this book."

"Fairytales?" Jade responded, wrinkling up her nose in obvious disdain. "I mean, come on, Cat. Those things were all right when you were five, but you have to know by now that there are no princesses or fairytale lands or happily-ever-afters. There are only girls like you and me and Tori, normal girls."

"I know," Cat complained, "but it's fun to imagine. You should know! I'll only be a minute, anyway."

And so, dreaming of a land far, far away from Los Angeles, Cat skipped up to the counter and placed her book gently on top of it. The lady behind the counter gave her a strange look. "Honey," she said in a tone so quiet it was barely audible, "this isn't a library book."

"Oh," Cat said, glancing down at the book of fairytales. It didn't really seem to belong to anyone, and obviously no one had noticed it was here, so who would notice if it was gone? With a smile, she took it back down off the counter. "Sorry, that's my book. I wasn't thinking! Oh, I'm so silly sometimes!" With a giggle and a wave, she took off after Jade, who glanced at her.

"You checked out your book that quickly?" she inquired, raising an eyebrow.

"Yep," Cat said, shooting a mysterious glance over at her friend. "Some things happen like that, y'know. Just like magic."

/

From then on, Cat spent a lot of her time at home, poring over the book. She read over the story of Red Riding Hood and the Wolf the most, trying to imagine what she would've done in the situation. Probably the same sort of thing. But why was there no ending? How could the story end just like that – grandma still in the belly of the wolf, Red Riding Hood still trying to rescue her? It made no sense. Everything had to end sometime. If it didn't, nothing would ever begin.

It was only on the fifth day of her incessant pondering that Jade and Tori staged an intervention. Both of them stood in front of her, arms crossed, eyebrows cocked, glaring at the book she held tightly against her chest.

"This has gotten out of hand," Jade told her, placing a hand on the book. Tori mirrored her action on the other side. "I know you like fairytales and imagining stuff, but Cat –Caterina – it's a book, Cat. It's only a book. It's not real."

"And what if it is?" Cat replied, clutching the book tighter to her chest so they couldn't take it from her. "You're wrong, both of you! The book is magic, I swear!"

"It's just a normal book, Cat," Jade replied, exchanging a glance with Tori. "There's nothing magical about it, see?" She picked it up and dropped it on the ground. It fell open to its most viewed page, an elaborate drawing of Red Riding Hood.

"Don't you think she looks like me?" Cat pleaded. "Come on, guys – look, really look!"

"I guess," Tori said, biting down on the corner of her lip. "But what do you think this means? Do you think the book is telling you that a wolf is going to come and gobble up your grandmother? Honestly, Cat?"

"No! I mean, I hope not. My grandmother's been really nice, taking care of me and my brother." Cat bit down on her lip. "But Tori – don't you think it's a little bit weird? I mean, the book is magical, I know it! Just watch, the cover changes." She turned the book to the front cover, flipped it, and then flipped it again, beaming as she realized that the cover had, in fact, changed. "See? Didn't you see? Magic, I'm telling you!"

"Cat, the cover didn't change," Tori said patiently, looking bewildered.

"It did," Cat protested, her head spinning – she knew there was a whole world of magic out there, of things beyond human understanding, written off as coincidences or paranormal activity by people who chose not to see what was right in front of them. She'd never thought Jade and Tori were that type. They were blocking the magic, she thought, either that or somehow charmed not to see it. She wasn't crazy, no; she just saw what other people didn't. She was – what was it called – observant, yes. "You're blocking it! You're choosing not to see the magic because you don't believe!"

"What, is this like one of those Peter Pan things?" Jade said with a roll of her eyes. "If we say we don't believe in magic, will you drop down dead?"

"No!" Cat cried. "But you have to believe me, okay? It's just… I know it's true! Those pictures aren't a coincidence, guys! Or… I mean… girls…."

"What are you saying? Do you think you're Red Riding Hood?" Jade asked, her voice biting, her tone dark. "If you're Red Riding Hood, then who are Tori and I? Lemme guess – I'm Snow freaking White, the helpless little princess that needed her stupid Prince to come save her. Well, let me tell you something. I won't be waiting around on any darn guy to come save me. And who do you suppose my prince is, anyway? Some extraordinarily brave prince that will swoop in and save me? No."

Cat felt the air leave her at once. She was scared out of her wits, that much was true; Jade rarely ever got truly angry with her, and when she did, it was a scary sight to behold. It was odd, she thought, how Jade was getting so angry about something she considered to be only a fairytale – was that normal? Certainly it couldn't be. But why, then, was she so angry? Biting her lip, she managed a feeble, "Snow White didn't wait on her prince. She did what she did to save his life, Jade."

"Yeah, right!" Jade managed a bitter laugh. "And so what, you're agreeing that I'm so hopelessly in love with some boy that I'd practically sacrifice my life to save him! Cat, I don't even have a boyfriend! Can't you realize how ludicrous this sounds? And what about Tori! Who is she, freaking Goldilocks?"

"Hey!" Tori protested, fingering a lock of her dark brown hair and looking quite offended for reasons Cat couldn't really comprehend.

"You might not now," Cat said, trying to keep her voice level, "but one day you will, Jade, you'll see! You'll have that special someone in your life! And Tori… come see for yourself! Look at the illustrations in this book; don't they look familiar? C'mon, guys, you gotta admit, if this is a coincidence, it's a pretty freaky one!"

"It's exactly that – just a coincidence," Jade said, but she peered over the edge of the book anyway. "So what, now Tori's Belle? Are you saying I'm not pretty enough to be her?"

"She just looks like her, that's all!" Cat squeaked, peering down at the illustration.

"I do, don't I?" Tori mused. "But that's still crazy, Cat. We're not fairytale characters! We're just normal girls, okay? We're twenty-one, for goodness' sake – there's no way we're freaking Snow White, Red Riding Hood, and Belle. It's not possible."

"For once, I agree with Vega," Jade told her. "Fairytales, magic, true love – all that crap doesn't exist, Cat. You've got to give it up. This isn't freaking healthy. You can't honestly – you can't really believe that we're all fairytale characters. You have taken insanity – come on, Cat, Tori and I are taking you out. Maybe some fresh air will do that brain of yours some good."

"I swear my hair dye didn't do anything to my brain!" yelped Cat – but she was pulled out the door anyway and dragged to Nozu, where the two girls drilled the idea that fairytales did not exist and that she was practically delusional into her head.

Maybe it was possible that this was all a trick of the mind, that the moving pictures were only in her own head, that the similarity between the girls and their fairytale counterparts was merely a coincidence – but no. Cat knew what she had seen. This was not some trick of the mind; this was the truth, and she was going to convince Jade and Tori (or was it Snow and Belle) the only way she knew possible.

By somehow returning the memories of all of them.

/

"Grandma," Cat asked her grandmother, looking up from the book of fairytales. "Do you believe in true love and magic and well, fairytales?"

"Of course, darling," her grandmother said, smiling down at the small, overly energetic redhead. "Your grandfather and I had something like that once upon a time, you know. Before…" She knew what her grandmother was about to say. Her grandfather had died long ago; Cat had never even met him. With a smile, she climbed up into her grandma's lap.

"Tell me about him," she demanded innocently, burying her head into her grandma's shoulder. "I wish I could've met him; he sounds like such a lovely man."

"He was, Caterina," her grandmother confirmed, stroking her long tendrils of red hair. "He loved me and your mother more than anything in the world." Hearing about her mother nearly broke her (her mother had died years ago in a car accident along with her husband, leaving Cat and her brother as orphans), but Cat mustered up her courage and continued to listen. "He wasn't rich, of course, but he had a fairly decent job, and he worked as hard as he could to support all of us. I never thought I would find love, you know, but true love finds you when you least expect it."

Cat nodded, feeling oddly warm – so it was real, then. True love was real. And if true love could be real, why couldn't magic? Jade was wrong; Tori was wrong. This wasn't some stupid coincidence. This was the real deal.

"Thanks, Grandma," Cat whispered, pressing a light kiss to her grandma's cheek. "You've been really helpful." And then, with some hesitation, "Do you think that I'll ever find true love?"

"I know you will," Cat's grandma informs her, patting her granddaughter on the head. "Cat, you're a lovely, sweet, beautiful girl. If anyone finds true love, it'll be you. You just don't need to wait around for it, all right? It will find you."

"Okay," Cat whispered, twirling around. It was sort of nice, she thought, discovering you were a fairytale character. Besides, her story had only just begun.

/

"Hey, Little Red."

Cat nearly jumped a mile upon hearing the words, and she spun around – who knew? How could they? Had someone regained their memory? But no, it was just the town black sheep, a boy named Andre Harris that she had befriended when the whole town had turned against him. They all thought that he was a murderer, but Cat knew better. He was a nice boy; she had taken a liking to him immediately and so he watched after her like a big brother. But it was still kind of odd that he called her Little Red – did he know?

"Why do you call me that?" Cat inquired, beaming at him. "I mean, not that I don't like it, really I do, but just how did you come up with it?"

"Well you're little, and your hair's red," Andre chuckled, seeming amused by her sudden curiosity rather than angry, much to Cat's relief. "It wasn't that hard."

"Oh," Cat said, wondering if there was more to it than that – there had to be, right? And this just added to the pile of 'coincidences' that were pointing toward her actually being Little Red Riding Hood. It had a nice ring to it anyway, she thought. "Well, hey, Andre."

"Would you believe I got chased out of town by an angry mob today?" Andre grumbled, sinking down beside her. "They were all yelling about how I should be imprisoned, in jail, but I haven't even done anything. Someone framed me, you know."

"Who would want to frame you?" Cat asked innocently, smiling over at her friend. Andre was so nice, so kind – he would never say an ill word to anyone, she thought. He was respectful of girls, kind to his parents, and extremely talented, along with all of those things. How could anyone want to hurt him? Furthermore, how could they believe him to be a murderer? He was one of the nicest guys she had ever met and the funniest, as well.

"More people than you'd think," Andre replied grimly. "I was sort of popular back in high school, you know – and it wasn't that I was mean, but just that I was popular, and that, in itself, made people hold an inherent dislike for me. I shouldn't be surprised that this happened, really."

"It's not your fault," Cat replied in consolation. "People are just really mean sometimes. Evil, I guess you could say! But really Andre, I don't think you deserved this at all. And if it's any consolation – I believe you, and I will always believe you."

Cat wasn't certain of how Andre fit into her new fairytale world, though. He could very well be the huntsman that saved Little Red Riding Hood, only she wasn't sure about how the whole isolation and false accusations fit into that. Maybe if she looked again, she could find a character that looked like him. Maybe she just hadn't been looking closely enough.

"I kinda think it is my fault, Little Red," Andre told her quietly. "I mean, not directly, maybe, but some sort of weird karma, y'know? Because I was really conceited in high school, and maybe not as caring as I could have been. Maybe you're wrong; maybe I deserve this."

"No one deserves this," Cat said strongly. "You didn't do it, Andre! I know."

He looked over at her and wrapped a strong arm around her shoulders, drawing her close. Anyone that saw them probably would have thought that he was her boyfriend, her prince, her knight in shining armor – but Cat knew better. He was like her brother, for all intents and purposes, though they honestly didn't look a lot alike. She didn't think of him that way at all.

"Thanks, Little Red," he whispered into her hair. "You're my solace."

/

On her way home, she took a detour down an abandoned alley. Somehow it wasn't the smartest plan, really, especially since it was becoming dark, but her encounter with Andre had put her in high spirits, and she wasn't really the type to think things through anyway.

Once she was about halfway down the alley, it occurred to her how creepy it was. Shadows were cast over the alley by unknown objects, and she pulled her coat tighter over her body in an attempt to conceal her from the world. Murderers, she thought, were known to hang out in places like this, actual murderers, not Andre – or maybe she should be more concerned about the wolves. She gave a humorless chuckle as she walked on. After all, there would be no turning back now.

"Hey, little girl," a voice cried out, and she gave a frightened yelp, burying her face in her coat. The footsteps came even nearer. "Oh, don't worry; it's not me you should be afraid of. I'm trying to help you, actually – what are you doing in this alleyway at this time of night?"

"I was just trying to get home," Cat whimpered, staring at the ground. "I know where I'm going and everything; I just thought this way would be a lot quicker."

"Probably it would," the voice agreed, "but this isn't exactly the sort of place a pretty girl like yourself should be walking around alone. Mind if I accompany you home? I promise you I'm not a murderer or anything of the sort. My name's Robbie."

"Oh," Cat said brightly. "Hi, Robbie, I'm Cat." As he stepped out of the shadows, she realized that he really didn't look like a murderer either. He had a head of floppy raven curls and chocolaty eyes that gave him an innocent demeanor. He seemed like a typical goofy guy, not too much older than herself. So she nodded. "Yeah, I think I would like that – only are you sure you can protect me?"

"I'm pretty sure, my darling Cat," Robbie said with a laugh.

"Good," Cat told him, satisfied. "Anyway, what are you doing around a place like this? It doesn't, um, seem like the kind of place a guy like you would hang out."

"A guy like me?" Robbie chuckled. "What's that supposed to mean? I suppose with my glasses and all I look a bit funny, but trust me when I say that I'm pretty dangerous these days. Dangerous, as in unstable, all right? Dangerous as in after tonight you'll probably never see me again. I'm walking with you because it's the right thing to do, because I don't want to see a pretty young girl get hurt."

"What makes you think I can't stick up for myself?" Cat answered him with a pout. "And anyway, I don't think you seem very dangerous. I think you're only just scared of me, which is really kinda ironic."

"Well, for starters, you're dressed in pink from head to toe, and I'm not scared of you! I swear on my life, which really isn't worth very much, that I'm dangerous. Just warning you now." He glanced over at her, his expression solemn, which sort of scared her. Perhaps he was one of the unlikely murderers they showed on television, the type that had been like, bullied all of their life and then went and killed a bunch of people in retaliation. But Cat had never met him before, of that she was certain. In a big city like her own, it wasn't likely that she'd even ever seen him before.

Cat was gearing up to reply when a third set of footsteps echoed down the alley. From between clamped teeth, Robbie whispered, "Get behind me." Scared out of her wits, Cat did as he said.

"Shapiro," a voice said from the darkness. "What are you doing out at this time of night?"

"Helping a lost girl get home," Robbie answered crossly. "And you? I don't suppose you have any excuse for your prowling. It's rather creepy, if I do say so myself."

"That is my aim," the man said, drawing nearer and causing Cat to draw closer to Robbie. "Aw, come on, I just want to see the pretty little girl."

"Stay away or else," Robbie warned, sounding incredibly angry – rather odd for someone she hardly knew, but it wasn't like she was complaining.

"Or else what?" the man sneered. "Are you going to chop me up, Shapiro? Fight me? You know, I'd like to see that, actually." He took another step closer; the sound of metal echoed against the cold cement. Cat felt herself shiver.

"You know what I'm capable of." The statement hung in the air like a warning, like a threat.

"Maybe I don't believe you," was the man's response.

And then it happened. One second Robbie was standing immovably in front of her, like a shield, and then the next he was flying through the air, his clothes ripping off, fur pooling around him so that she couldn't see anything. And then he was on the ground, growling, baring his sharp, terrifying teeth. The – the being standing in front of her was no longer innocent little Robbie Shapiro, but a terrifying, ragged wolf, eyes shining and growl coming from the back of its throat.

"Nice doggie," the man in front of her taunted. "Pretty pooch – " but he could not continue, because Robbie, in wolf form, jumped on top of him, pinning him to the ground. He motioned with his head for Cat to keep going, and that she did, running as fast as her legs could take him, the image of Robbie transforming into the wolf still haunting her. If he was the wolf, and she was Red Riding Hood, where did that leave them?

But no. He had been kind to her, and his violent actions had been only in defense of her. He had not even tried to hurt her. She could not bring herself to think of him negatively, not after what he had done for her.

Breathlessly, she arrived at her house at last. With a frown, she seated herself on the step so she could catch her breath and consider what had transpired. She had met the wolf at last, but he had not been what she was expecting.

No, definitely not – not at all.

In fact, the big bad wolf, as she liked to think of him, seemed much more like her knight in shining armor, like her prince.

.

A/N: This story, in itself, goes along with my weirdo pal Emily's video, called Once Upon a Victorious | Take Me to Wonderland. If I link it, it won't show up, but anyway this is for you, Emily! Love you babe xxx 3.

This is only the first chapter; next up is Jade. If you guys have any predictions, let me know in a review! But I've got a lot planned so I hope you enjoy it.

Please read and review and don't fave without reviewing!