OK guys, this is my first Virals fanfic, and though I've read the first 2 books (cant wait for code, woop woop!) I last read them like a year and a half ago, so please help me if I make mistakes.

Also, I'm counting on everyone reading this to have read the books, so I'm gonna do heaps of description in some places and barely any in others – deal with it. Please R + R, thx. Happy reading!

Also, this is a Ben+Tory story, so there is some fluffiness - don't say that you haven't been warned! and also, I know I suck at writing relationship breakup thingies, so just bear with me and lay off on the hate, k? enjoy (:

The flares were getting to be a really big problem – a really big, painful problem. And tonight I have a cotillion dance to go to with Jason. Oh hell.

I check my phone for new messages as I pass the last pocket of signal, rounding the corner of a sand dune, the Bunker coming into view. It had been me and the boys' hang out since we had found while looking for a fly-away Frisbee. I slip through the low entrance, wishing I had worn short shorts instead of skinny jeans, converse and a tank top.

I try to ignore the skip that my heart does as I see Ben leaning up against the far wall, arms crossed, eyes dark and mysterious (as usual) as he watches Hi and Shelton, who are sitting on the floor, playing Snap! with an incomplete deck of cards. The boys all turn to look at me as I stumble gracelessly through the opening, Ben's eyebrows lifting as a half-smirk lifts his lips, making my already pink cheeks go red with embarrassment. Great. I plonk myself down next to Hi and Shelton, absentmindedly grabbing the deck, shuffling it through my fingers.

"So guys, what's our plan of action?" I ask, looking at them. Hi grins maniacally and I almost regret asking them for help on the Flare Problem. Hi clasps his hands in front of him and laughs evilly for a few moments before me and Ben loose our patience and thwack him on the shoulder.

"Okay, okay", he raises his hands in a peace gesture, before clearing his throat dramatically – I'm close to hitting him again.

"Me, Shelton and Ben are going undercover as waiters at the dance!" he blurts out, unable to contain his excitement at playing 007 for a night. I groan and fall back from my cross legged position so I'm lying on my back. I hear chuckles around me as they laugh at my reaction.

I can get where their coming from though – if I flare they can get me out of there quickly and provide distraction. But then I think of Ben's antisocial issues, Hi's bad sense of humour, and Shelton's nerdiness. I groan again, saying as I do, "I'm screw-"

SNAP.

My words are cut off as I feel the flare racing through my veins, liquid fire, liquid pain, straight to my head. I scream and curl up in a fetal position, my hands clutching at my head, which feels like it's splitting into two. I can vaguely feel the boys rush to my side, hear them calling my name as I writhe on the ground, screaming in agony. I curl up tighter as I feel strong arms cradle me, holding me as gently as a new born baby, but as solid as the earth beneath me. Ben.

SNUP.

I feel the flare fade, leaving me weak and shaky as tears of pain roll down my face, which I bury in Ben's neck, my arms going around him, whimpering. Despite the pain I like where I am – in Ben's arms, feeling like I'm closed off from the rest of the world, enclosed in his security. (I told you there would be fluffiness! No hate please)

The last of the flare fades as I stiffly unclasp my hands from the back of Ben's shirt. He slowly and gently sets me on the ground as I try to get my breathing under control. The boys hover anxiously around me, unsure of what to do. "Water", I manage to croak, and Hi jumps up, rummaging in his school bag for his drink bottle. I grab it, greedily sculling the whole bottle. The boys all look freaked and really concerned.

"That bad, huh?" Ben says, trying to make light of a dark situation. I look him straight in the eye and answer honestly, "Worse."

%%%

Me, Hi and Shelton all laugh as Tory falls backwards, muttering that she's screwed. But then she screams, clutching her head and curling up as she screams, again and again. The screaming – it's the worst noise I've ever heard, filled with agony, and it's 100, no 1000 times worse knowing that Tory is in such pain as to make such make a noise. Me and the boys rush to her, calling her name, trying to snap her out of the flare She screams louder, writhing on the floor.

Oh shit.

I kneel beside her and do the first thing that comes to mind – I pick her up and cradle her, calling her name softly. It feels right – natural, like she belongs in my arms. Her screams stop after several long minutes, turning to whimpers and sobs as she turns her face into my neck, wrapping her arms around me. I feel the tension drain from her body and I know that the flare's gone. I gently place her on the floor, me and the boys gathering round her. Hi and Shelton look concerned, like mother hens, and I would have almost laughed, if in any other situation.

"Water", she croaks as she wipes the lingering tears off her face. Hi hands her his and she grabs it, sculling the whole thing in a matter of seconds.

"That bad, huh?" I say. She looks straight in my eyes and says levelly, "worse."

I don't doubt her for a second.

She sits there for a few minutes more, regaining her breath and her strength. She stands, handing Hi back his bottle as me and the boys watch her like hawks, in case she flares again.

"I better get home, I need to feed Coop. Thanks for the drink Hi, see you guys tonight."

Without another word, and without looking at me she ducks through the Bunker door, disappearing into the afternoon air, but not before I notice the light blush spreading across her cheeks. She's embarrassed – embarrassed of me. I don't notice that I'm staring after her until I notice that Hi and Shelton are staring at me. I know their going to make a big deal about the whole cradling-Tory-while-she's-in-pain-and-flaring thing so I just stand and wave goodbye before they can comment, ducking low to get through the Bunker door.

I hope Tory doesn't flare tonight – we're all screwed if she does. An image comes unbidden to mind – Tory in a ball gown, screaming in pain on the ground while scientists with big needles converge on her, like vultures to a carcass. Eughhh, vultures and needles.

I send a silent prayer to anyone who might be listening.

Please, keep Tory safe.