Once Upon a Victory

Chapter 2: Jade West (Snow White)

/

Jade pressed the play button on her voicemail, then scrolled through endless telemarketers until she came to a voicemail from Cat. Immediately, the slightly annoying redhead's voice poured out of her cellphone. "OMG Jade, you'll never believe what just happened, actually probably you won't, but you should! So I met this guy named Robbie, and well, he seemed like, really nice and stuff, but then he turned into a wolf, okay? An actual wolf! It was to protect me, you know, but do you think that maybe he could be my –" The beep sounded, cutting off Cat's incessant chatter, and Jade let out a sigh of relief. This whole fairytale kick of Cat's had gotten out of hand; now she was practically delusional. Seeing boys that turned into wolves – as if!

The next message on her voicemail was from her extremely annoying stepmother. She blabbered on about how she ought to come home and visit her and her father (as if) and how she missed her (yeah freaking right). Her stepmother had been the main instigator in the coalition against letting Jade achieve her dreams, and sometimes Jade thought she'd be just as happy to be rid of Jade, Jade's father, and Jade's younger brother Jeremiah. After all, Jade's father was about as rich as they came. He was the CEO of his own franchise, and besides that he had a quite a good return from the stock market. And if all three of them were to mysteriously vanish – well, suffice it to say that it would not negatively impact Jade's stepmother, Evil Amy, as she liked to call her, at all.

Jade was not inclined to visit her stepmother and her father at all, so she deleted the messages and sighed, leaning back against her bed. It was true that she shared a lot in common with Snow White, but evil as Amy might have been, Jade didn't think she'd go to the extremes that Snow White's stepmother did. Besides, Jade didn't have a prince anyway, and did Snow White even have a little brother? Honestly.

And anyway, she'd have to go see them soon for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, her dad said, was a time for family, and as much as she hated her 'parents', she did care deeply for her younger brother, especially since their mom had died not too long ago. And so she sacrificed her comfort to go spend some time with little Jeremiah, who was basically as cute as little boys got.

A soft thudding on her door pulled her out of her thoughts. Hoping it wasn't Cat, she pushed herself to her feet and pulled open the door, gearing herself up to slam the door in her face if it was Cat on the other side. It wasn't.

"Jade," Beck Oliver greeted, smiling brightly at her.

"Oh, hey, Oliver, what are you doing here?" Jade inquired curiously, raising an eyebrow at the boy as he stepped in. "Actually, how'd you get in? Don't tell me I left the door unlocked."

"That's my secret," Beck said ominously in response. "Anyway, Cat said you were feeling down or angry or something, I only listen to about half of what she says, really, so I brought over a DVD in case you, um, wanted to watch it." He scratched the back of his neck and grinned at her.

Beck had been her next-door neighbor for as long as she could remember, and when she moved into her apartment, he moved to one near her, just down a floor, actually. He was, she supposed, semi-attractive, or at least everyone else thought so, because everywhere he went there were girls falling all over him. He was generally considered to be somewhat of a cool guy, but Jade knew better – she thought he was an absolute dork, albeit one of the few dorks that didn't totally annoy her. His adoptive parents were nearly as rich as her own, moguls, he called them, but their parents honestly didn't get along at all. They had somewhat of a rivalry, not on a scale as big as that of the parents of Romeo and Juliet, but big enough that their parents didn't approve of their friendship.

Jade had never cared, and neither had Beck. He wasn't even their blood, anyway, he'd been adopted when he was young for reasons Jade didn't know (word around town was he'd rescued his now little sister from a raging river), and besides that he had never cared much for money or fame. It was that fact that made him refreshing and interesting to talk to, different than the loads of famous children her parents had subtly 'encouraged' her to talk to. (Not her parents, really, just her dad, and now her annoying stepmother as well.)

"What DVD did you bring?" she inquired, glancing over at him. With a grin, he held up Snow White and the Huntsman. She resisted the urge to facepalm. "Please, tell me you're kidding. I've had enough of fairytales, especially Snow White."

"Because of Cat?" Beck teased, a glint in his dark eyes. "Don't tell me you believe in her latest conspiracy theory, Jade – or should I say, Snow White."

"Hm, if I'm Snow White, then who are you, Prince Charming?" she teased, raising an eyebrow at him in curiosity. It was ludicrous, sort of, thinking of Beck as her prince, but he was, after all, the princely type. He had an odd sort of confidence that emanated from him, and he was, in essence, the perfect gentleman, not overly talkative or rude, but nice to nearly everyone, although he could, at times, be fairly conceited and self-centered – all very prince-like qualities. The only thing that didn't add up was thinking of herself as Snow White, the idiot that took an apple from her evil stepmother, knowing she was being hunted – could anyone be so stupid? Jade was smarter than all that.

"Hey," Beck said with a grin. "If you ever fall into a deep sleep because you ate a bite of an apple, I'll be sure to kiss you and wake you up, all right? I'm sure I'm charming enough." He winked at her, still grinning in his own special cocky-confident way.

"You're an idiot," she groaned, grabbing the DVD from his fingers. "Come on, let's just watch the dumb movie, and I'll be sure to critique every aspect of it, and by that I mean point out every single stupid thing Snow White does. She's basically an idiot in my honest opinion. I'm more of the Evil Queen type – ha, maybe Cat's wrong and I'm the evil stepmother!"

"Right." Beck grinned. "You're the evil stepmother with an evil stepmother. And who would Snow White be then? Tori?"

"No, Tori's Belle or, as Tori oh-so-conceitedly calls herself, Beauty." She gave a small laugh. "Don't you listen to anything Cat says?"

"I think I only hear about every other word that comes out of her mouth," he confessed with a shrug. "Anyway, if this movie is too much for you, we can stick to the Disney version. I'm sure I have it on tape somewhere, and the musical numbers will do you some good."

"No thanks," Jade replied, groaning. "The cliché princess stuff makes me want to vomit even more so than the real life versions, and at least this one might have some action." She rolled her eyes. It was scary to think of herself as the princess type, all girly and proper and – as if! She much preferred being herself, as abrasive and terrifying as she might be.

So, with a grin, Beck put in the DVD, probably delighting in the fact that he was watching a princess movie with the ever-so-tough Jade West. In response, she rolled her eyes placidly – could he possibly get any cheesier? Perhaps every girl in the world desired his love; it would hardly make him any more attractive in her eyes.

The two of them collapsed on her bed, Beck setting a bag of tortilla chips in between them. Jade smiled slightly; it was just like Beck to take care of her. Although her father was rich (and fairly generous as well, at least when it came to her), Jade was very prideful and did not much like to depend on his riches. He paid her tuition, at least, and a few other bills, but Jade was all on her own for the other things. She tutored a little bit here and there, but was only paid minimal wage, and sometimes she gave Cat some money as well, since Cat lived with her elderly grandmother (whose only money came from Social Security checks).

In essence, she thought, it was nice to be taken care of for once. She dug in, not bothering to thank him aside from a small smile she tossed his way – he knew she was thankful, she figured; he knew practically everything there was to know about her. The movie started up, the title rolling across the screen, and Jade braced herself for the worst.

The worst never came. Of course, at times Snow White, the titular character, could be annoying, but that was to be expected, considering Jade's loathing for Kristen Stewart. But she wasn't quite as helpless as Jade had originally thought, and in the end she led an army into battle, something that Jade had thought the Disney Snow White incapable of. Perhaps Jade had more in common than she thought with this Snow White, although she had to admit she still couldn't bring herself to believe Cat. It was all just so insane – a twenty-one year old education student being Snow White? Yeah, right!

"You look like you're deep in thought," Beck told her, a smirk on his face. "Penny for your thoughts?"

"No, but I'll tell you anyway," she responded absently. "It's about the whole fairytale thing again, I suppose. You know, it just seems crazy that Cat could think I'm Snow White. Me? I'm irrelevant! I tried to bust into the entertainment scene and I was just that, a bust, and now I'm a freaking education major despite my disdain for children. How could I be a princess? And anyway, how would I tolerate twelve little men? Honestly, Beck, you really can't believe that…"

"Calm down," Beck whispered, placing his hands on her shoulders to hold her steady. "Look, Jade, I know you've got a soft side, especially for, um, dwarves, because they're fascinating or whatever. Isn't that coincidental? And also, remember how in the Disney Snow White, whenever Snow White sang, all the animals in the forest would respond to her voice because of how beautiful it was? I think you've definitely got that much in common, and then, of course, there's your beauty…" He trailed off, his eyes meeting hers.

And then she was leaning in before she could stop herself, her lips moving closer and closer to his, her eyes never leaving his. There was something intense in his gaze, something unfathomable, and she wanted to know, wanted to find out what it was –

Just before their lips met, though, she froze. Her brain was on overload, and then suddenly in her head she was what she had been missing. There was Beck, though admittedly he didn't look much like Beck, seated on a throne or something that looked a lot like one, having a crown lowered onto his head. There was a smile on his face as he was crowned, and he bowed 'modestly' to the people in front of him as he applauded. The crown itself was intricate, adorned with hundreds of little jewels, interwoven with silver. He looked handsome as he stood and waved to the cheering crowd, and there was a man beside him that looked an awful lot like his… adoptive dad.

Jade blinked hurriedly, trying to get the image out of her head, and then her vision cleared enough for her to see Beck staring at her, looking worried. "Jade, is everything all right?"

"Yeah, sorry, but I, um, think you need to go," she said quickly, placing a gentle hand on his chest. "Thanks for the movie and the chips, and I really am sorry about this. There's just some… stuff I need to clear up." As she looked at him, at his perpetually perfect hair and the smile curving at the edges of his lips, all she could picture was the boy from her vision, a crown on his head, and she had to wonder if maybe Cat wasn't so far off after all.

"Oh, well, okay," he said with a forced smile. "Not gonna force myself on you but… I'll see you later, right?" He grinned hopefully at her, planting a quick (friendly, right?) kiss on her cheek and exiting, leaving her by herself to think.

Her vision, she thought, was the weirdest part of this whole thing; it hadn't seemed like her imagination, but rather like a flashback, like something she'd seen before. But it was weird – she had never seen Beck getting crowned before, not that she could remember. Why would he be crowned? Sure his parents were rich, but they were hardly royalty. It just didn't add up, unless…

She rolled her eyes, thinking that to even be giving Cat's ridiculous ideas a second thought, she must be insane. It had been a delusion – just that, a delusion. Not some flashback, not some divine interference, but just a delusion, sprung from her unconscious mind.

But still she could not help thinking that it had seemed so very real, so very detailed. Could it have possibly been just a delusion?

/

She loaded her last bag into the trunk of her admittedly very run-down car, sighing as she shoved the last one in and mustering up all of her strength to force the bags far down into the trunk. She slammed the door to her trunk close, sighing in relief as she headed around to the front of the car; it was, she knew, going to be a very long day. Dealing with her stepmother was always exhausting, but she did try – if not for her father, for her little brother.

She hopped into the car and started up her engine, sighing again as she headed down the road, this time out of dread. It wasn't a long drive, really; she hadn't opted to live far away from her first home, though she couldn't imagine why. It was like there was always something tying her to that place. Yet she hated it, loathed it with every inch of her body – never wished to live there again. It held too many bad memories.

As soon as she pulled up at the house, she realized with some trepidation that there was to be no welcoming committee. Only her younger brother, a blur of dark brown hair, tan skin, and big blue eyes (despite the fact that he'd been adopted as a baby, they, coincidentally, looked a lot alike), ran down the porch steps to greet her, embracing her tightly. "Jade," he mumbled into her shirt, "I've missed you."

"I've missed you too, kid," she said with a laugh, pressing a gentle kiss to his cheek. "How is everything and, um, everyone? Is Evil Amy still…?"

"Yes, and she's only gotten worse!" Jeremiah exclaimed eagerly, his blue eyes alight as if this was something he'd been hoping to talk about for ages. "I have a theory, Jade; you have to let me tell you! Because you see, I found this book in the library and –"

"Hang on, Jem, let me get inside and put my stuff down before you attack me with another of your conspiracy theories," Jade told him with a chuckle, ruffling his brown curls. He had always been the more adorable of the two; with his wide-eyed gaze and brown curls he could get away with practically anything he wanted, and even though he was eleven now he still looked childlike. Much to Jade's dismay, though, most of his attention was focused on the latest conspiracy theory, whether it be aliens coming to earth or McDonalds controlling people's brains, and although he was very smart, Jade felt he was wasting much of his attention on such pointless things.

With a nod, he followed her in, clutching her hand tightly as if to protect her somehow. It was then that Evil Amy descended the grand staircase, her dark hair flowing behind her and her dark eyes framed with black eyeliner, making her look all the more intimidating. Jade straightened up, holding little Jeremiah's hand a little tighter and looking her evil stepmother, as she liked to call her, directly in the eye.

"Jade, how nice it is to see you," Evil Amy greeted her in a clipped tone. It was always like this; Evil Amy hardly paid her any attention after the initial greeting, though. True to form, Evil Amy turned to Jeremiah. "Jem, won't you take Jade up to her room? She must be exhausted after her journey."

Jade wasn't sure how a twenty-minute car ride translated to an exhausted journey, but she accepted the invitation to escape her stepmother anyway. Jeremiah had always been Amy's favorite child; that much she never bothered to hide. Jade didn't blame her for that much, anyway; she had never been the easiest person to deal with. (Other things, she did not hesitate to blame her for.)

As the two siblings ascended the staircase, Amy made sure to call to them, "Be sure to be down for dinner at seven-thirty sharp, dearies!" Jade gave a nod, and then quickly walked up the rest of the stairs, Jeremiah trailing closely behind her. Once they reached the top, she sighed.

"So Amy's still basically the evil stepmother no one's ever wanted?" Jade inquired as Jeremiah opened the door to her room for her.

Jeremiah gave a small, sad shrug. "Of course, not like she'd ever change really. Anyway, put your stuff down, get unpacked. I gotta go to the bathroom, but then I wanna tell you about my latest theory! It has to do with you and Amy too; I think you'll enjoy it!" And then, like a little mouse, he scampered out of her room, leaving her to her own thoughts again.

She shook her head and grabbed the clothes out of her suitcase, piling them in the drawers. If she was lucky, she wouldn't even have to stay the night; however, she knew that her stepmom would insist on it, and like a whipped puppy, her dad would agree. She did not understand her father's love for the insipid woman in the least, but she had to tolerate her – there was no other way.

Footsteps sounded as her brother bounded back to her room, clutching a slightly familiar leather-bound book. Jade stared at it in wonder; it looked much like the one Cat had been holding for days upon days. But it couldn't be, surely her little brother couldn't have come up with the same theory Cat had.

"Come over here!" Jeremiah exclaimed, seeming more excited and animated than she had ever seen him. "I know this is going to sound crazy, okay, but see, this is a magical book, and…" He grinned, flipping to the first page. "And just look here, okay? There's you – you're Snow White, of course, and doesn't she look just like you? And the stepmom, she looks just like Amy, and just as evil too! And of course the father! Can't you see, Jade?"

Jade tried not to roll her eyes. "Come on, Jem. You honestly believe that I'm Snow White? I mean, you know my personality, everything about me… how could I possibly be that prim little princess?"

"If you'd read the story you'd know that Snow White wasn't a prim little princess!" Jeremiah exclaimed. "I mean honestly, Jade, she led her people into battle and fought because they held her prince in captivity. In fact, I think she was probably the baddest princess of them all!"

"Baddest isn't a word," she said with a chuckle, tweaking the young boy's nose, "but I'm glad you think me capable of all that. Just one question – say I am Snow White, say Amy's the Evil Queen, and all of this is true… how did I get here?"

"The forces of evil, of course. They wanted to put us in a world without magic!" Jeremiah exploded, his mouth turned up in a grin, probably thinking she was finally on her way to believing. "Come on, Jade! You've got to admit this is all kind of scary."

"It just seems so impossible, Jem," she muttered, falling back onto her bed. "I mean, come on. I'm not a fairytale character! I'm a girl who went after her dream and fell flat on her face. I don't even have a Prince Charming!"

"What about Beck?" Jeremiah asked quietly. Jade knew that Beck and her brother got along well; they had also grown up next door to each other and Beck had become like Jeremiah's older brother during that period of time. Jeremiah, she knew, really looked up to Beck. But it was still startling to hear him imply that there could be a romantic aspect to their relationship. "He's a really good guy, Jade, and I think – I know he loves you a whole lot, plus you gotta admit that he looks like the Charming in the book! You can't just write him off like that!"

"I can," Jade told him, and then she groaned. "Look, Jem, I know you're really into this conspiracy theory or whatever, that it interests you, but you've gotta admit there's some flaws in your logic. Like our dad's not dead and evil as Evil Amy is, I don't think she'd kill our dad or try to kill any of us, okay? Just…" She sighed, rubbing her temple. "I don't know, Jem. You've gotta admit it's kind of ridiculous."

"I'm not crazy," Jeremiah shouted frantically behind her. "Jade, don't listen to Evil Amy or Dad; you have to believe me! I'm not crazy!" She shut the door behind her, muting his shouts. Of course she felt a little guilty, but he had to realize how ludicrous this whole thing was.

/

By the time dinner rolled around, Jeremiah had all but forgiven Jade, and was back to his normal effervescent self. He chattered incessantly about much safer topics, such as the latest football game and how his soccer team had beaten their biggest rival, shying away from the controversial stuff that had gotten both of them so worked up before. He was interrupted only by Amy, who told him to speak less and eat more like a gentleman. (Jade bit her lip to keep herself from scoffing – as if Amy was a lady anyway, how could she tell Jeremiah off for that?)

At last, she turned her attention to Jade. "So Jade, what have you been doing with your life after leaving us?" It was meant, she knew, to embarrass her, but things like this rarely embarrassed Jade.

She sat up a little straighter before answering. "I've been going to school to be a teacher, actually."

"Really? And how did you decide to do that?" Amy asked, raising one of her perfectly waxed eyebrows.

For a second, Jade sat in silence. It was odd – she couldn't remember why she had decided to become a teacher. She could remember the classes, long ones that seemed to stretch on forever, and she could vaguely remember stuff before that – playing with Beck at a young age, becoming friends with Cat, grudgingly accepting Tori – but her reasoning for her choices, none of that was really clear. It was as if the choices had been made by someone else, like the memories had been implanted into her brain. But no, that was ludicrous.

"I guess it just seemed like the right thing to do," Jade replied nervously. "I mean, teaching kids is a hard job, but someone's got to do it, and I'm exactly that no-nonsense type to keep them under control." Had that really been her reasoning? How could she not remember?

Rolling her eyes, Amy turned back to her husband, who was about to take a sip out of his glass of wine. "NO!" When everyone turned to look at her in alarm, she laughed quietly. "I mean, that's mine, lovely husband. This one is yours." She pushed another glass of wine towards her husband.

"Oh," said Jade's father, seeming confused but obviously not wanting to cause any trouble. He took a sip of the wine Amy had pushed toward him. "Well, this isn't bad," he said with a nod. "Thanks, honey."

Disgusted and confused, Jade took a sip of her drink (non-alcoholic, she noticed, even though she was twenty-one), sighing as her family reluctantly slipped back into normal conversation (well, what would have been normal conversation, had they been any other family). She was still slightly suspicious, though; her stepmother was quite obviously up to something. It was just that she couldn't figure out what it was quite yet.

/

After kissing her brother gently on the forehead and tucking him in, Jade slipped away to her room and dressed herself in her silkiest pajamas, an odd sort of comfort on a day such as this. She retired to her room and slipped under the covers, ready for a night of relaxation and escaping from her problems.

That, though, was when she heard the scream.

Alarmed, she jumped out of her bed and skittered down the stairs to her father and stepmother's bedroom. She could hear weeping even before she entered the room, and once she walked in she saw her stepmother, head in her hands, tears flowing from between her fingers. Quietly, she inquired, "What is going on?"

Wordlessly, Amy pointed to the bed. Jade crept over to it to find her father asleep there – or was he? She pressed her fingers to her forehead to find he was ice cold, and no matter how many times she touched him, talked to him, squeezed him, he would not respond. It was evident now that he was – he was dead. She could hardly bring herself to think the words. Shaking, she inquired, "How did this happen?"

"He must have had a heart attack or something," Amy sobbed. "I don't know; I awoke to find him like this – unresponsive, cold…"

"Dead," Jade cut in. "Aren't you going to call the hospital – you know, for an autopsy? So we can find out what actually killed him?" She was still shaking, partly from fear and sadness, partly from anger. It was starting to become evident to her what had happened.

"There's no need for that, Jade," her stepmother said, sounding much calmer now. "There's nothing to be done, after all. He's gone, and I'm so very sorry…" She broke down into tears again. "Jade, I don't know what we're going to do; I'm sorry…"

"I'm so sure you are," Jade hissed, acid coating her voice. "Except you're not really, are you, because now you're all but privy to his fortune, and once I've been disposed of you'll have his entire fortune, won't you! I can assure you that I won't let that happen, Amy. You might be rid of my father, but you'll never be rid of me, because I will fight to the last."

Suddenly something happened. Amy got to her feet and glared daggers at Jade, her voice sounding very odd as she responded, "You've always been a feisty one, haven't you, Snow? But I assure you – soon I will be the fairest and richest in the land, with a son who loves me, and I will be rid of you, pretty princess. So go on your way!" Just as soon as it had happened, Amy sunk back down and resumed crying.

Jade was shocked – had she just called her Snow? Scared, she ran up to her room and buried herself in her covers, choking down sobs as she did so. She didn't want to see Jeremiah's reaction when he found out, didn't want to deal with any of what was to come. But one thing was still very clear in her brain – something was going on here, something that was practically inexplicable, and only one person could truly explain this whole situation to her.

With still-shaking fingers she dialed a number, and on the third ring the person picked up. Trying to keep her voice level, Jade said, "Hey, Cat, it's Jade. Tell me again about this curse?"

/

A/N: I don't think Snow White's dad actually dies, but he's going to in this fic. This chapter isn't my best really but I hope you enjoy it anyway. And there was some Bade too? Please read and review, thanks.