Title: The Faint and the Faking
Length: 10, 330
Summary: A/U Tori is a child star who seeks out a semi-normal life at a prestigious boarding school, where she meets her new roommate, Jade.
The campus, surprisingly, looks exactly like the brochures and website. Tori's walking through with her mother and father, her sister having only having time to drop them at the office before she insisted she had to meet her "model" friends. The oval is surrounded by colonial buildings, ivy crawling up and down the stone walls, but inside the old buildings everything is modern and colorful, with TV screens, artwork, posters and unique looking trophies on display. The office they're currently sitting in is themed, not quite fitting in with either the ultra modern inside or the rigid exterior. It's Victorian, romantic and serene. Tori likes this room.
"Hello!" Comes the high-pitched voice from a woman exiting the principal's office, a mousey-haired brown haired woman following quietly behind. "Mr. and Mrs. Vega, it's so lovely to see you again."
"Helen, we're so glad you could make the time. And the exception to let Tori in mid-semester." Her father hates wearing a suit; she can see him tugging at the stiff collar of his shirt when he thinks nobody is looking. Whenever he's at work at the studio, he's always dressed down. He's one of the few producers who declines invitations to parties simply based on the fact that he'd have to bust out a tie.
"Well, it's not every day that we get a television star coming to study, they're usually heading out," she adds like it's a hilarious joke, but her track record is proven. More successful people than Tori can name have left this school (they named them all on the website), though she can only remember a handful of even semi-known actors.
"I'm really looking forward to my time here," Tori answers automatically, shifting in her jeans. Despite the fact that it's an art school, there is a dress code at the boarding school and she can't help but feel left out as she sees people pass in Hollywood Arts Academy school gear. Though the rule seems lax – a girl walks by with blue hair, her assigned white blouse dyed purple under her dark gray cardigan, also specialized with patches sewn on all over in a seemingly random order.
"Well, we're going to take you to your room and then show you around the campus."
"When do I get my uniform?" Tori blurts as she shifts the duffel bag weighing on her shoulder. Her dad has her suitcase and her mom is holding a box of her things and bag with a new bed set. She doesn't want to make any more of a spectacle of herself than she already is.
"It's already in your room," Helen answers pleasantly, leading her out of the room and back out to the oval. "Now, all the buildings are connected except for a few of the buildings out back which are mostly for musicians to practice in uninterrupted. You sing, right? I remember the Christmas episode of Trigger, you had a lovely voice."
"Yeah, I'm signed up for a few of the singing and music courses. I'm trying to focus on my acting though." She can feel people staring at her as she walks through the throngs of students with her parents.
"Hm, I doubt you'd hear many other SAG winners say that."
"It was the whole cast who won, not me."
The dorms have hallways painted with murals from previous classes, wall tiles decorated by graduating classes. She's on the third floor with the rest of the juniors. Though the school was going to allow her to move in with her sister, Trina was unwilling to give up her room on the top floor and slum it. Tori was secretly very thankful.
Helen unlocks the door at the end of the hall with a little card key and pushes through just as a weird bell echoes throughout the campus. "Now, since you two have a corner room, you have a little more space."
There's a door to her left that's cracked, showing her that the bathroom is in there, and right after the room is a small alcove with a vanity and sink set up - half the counter set up already with different kinds of make up and toiletries. With its headboard set up against the small space between the wall and the window at the far end of the room is her roommate's bed, already made with a dark violet bedspread with swirls of shiny black to match the sheets and pillows.
On her wall, her roommate has a small shelf set up over a dresser, both with a bunch of weird knick knacks littering them – a plastic container holding a pair of scissors displayed on satin, weird sculptures, one being a small brain. There were also books and movies, but Tori didn't see any pictures around, save for movie posters hung up. But her nightstand only had a lamp and a dock for her phone, and the desk next to it looked out the large window, but only had textbooks on its top.
Tori has the same set up on her side of the room, in a different order. She is relieved to drop her bag on her mattress, and Tori quickly follows, rubbing her shoulders.
"So," Helen remarks as she watches Tori's parents drop the things they held, "your roommate is a bit… eclectic, but she's a very accomplished student. She does well in a variety of classes."
"What does she do?" Tori asks as her mother pushes her off the bed so she can start putting the sheets on it.
"Oh, a little bit of everything. Acting, singing, writing, directing. Don't let it overwhelm you, many of our students really hit their stride here and end up excelling in many things before they leave." Helen walks to the window when Tori finds herself taking a closer look at the model brain.
"Outside of our art programs we have a variety of clubs and extracurricular, from regular sports to ribbon twirling."
"Between you and me," a voice from the doorway startles them all and Tori whips around to face the intruder, her hands flying behind her back. She's tall, a little taller than Tori but not by much without the boots, she thinks. Her hair is dark but teamed with a teal streak the same color of her eyes, which are heavy with mascara and eyeliner. She's incredibly intimidating. And pretty. "The ribbon twirling team is something to be avoided."
"Jade! This is your roommate Tori Vega. I'm sure you already know who she is." Tori flushes but Helen and her parents seem to take no mind.
"Big fan," Jade remarks with an amused smirk as she breezes past all of them to drop her books on her desk.
"We were just about to show Tori around the campus, why don't you join us?"
"As fun as that sounds I've got some big stuff going on here. Big stuff." Jade doesn't look at them again as she moves about the room, ridding herself of her dark gray cardigan and smoothing out her hair in front of the vanity.
The tour is weird. Well, the school is weird and the tour just matches it. Helen shows her to her classes first, leading them through the buildings swiftly, her assistant hot on her tail. Tori and her family manage to keep up barely and before long her parents are dropping her back off at her dorm.
"Call us anytime, honey." Her mother squeezes her, blind to the few people passing them by with raised eyebrows as they try to place Tori's face in their minds.
"And remember, you have people lining up to work with you, you can come home any time." Her father hates that she's taking a break, he thinks she has to strike while she's still known by the show's fans.
"I remember. I'll call you Friday."
She's left alone in the hall, and once again when she enters her room. Jade has disappeared; leaving little trace that she was even in the room. Tori wonders if she's super neat or if this was just in preparation for her new roommate. Either way she's somewhat grateful to not be placed with a slob. Or her sister. She takes her time unpacking her things and setting up pictures and things on her side of the room. Tori didn't bring any of her awards with her, the few she has. She didn't bring much from her former job except a cast picture that she puts slightly out of sight on the top shelf and a crystal figurine of the Eiffel Tower that had been in the set of her room for the run of the show and involved with a storyline in the sixth and final season of Trigger. Her clothes are unpacked and her different sets of her uniform placed in their own drawer.
Tori tries them on, incredibly relieved that everything seems to fit. She has to go down and get shoes to match the uniform, but not everyone seems to so she tries to find a pair that she already has to go with the outfit. Converses seem as good as any. They have given her shirts and extra cardigans, stockings and a jacket, as well as two different ties should she choose to wear them, one black with thin red and white stripes or one red with black and whites stripes. She has to hand it to the school on their ability to provide a varied wardrobe that few seem to follow anyway.
She's looking through the notes they gave her on her classes when Jade returns, the electronic lock on the door much like a hotel, whirring and clicking to announce her return before she even walks through the door.
"Hey," Tori starts, dressed in brand new Hollywood Arts sweatpants she just bought and plain white shirt. "We didn't really get to meet before."
"Oh, I'm sure I can learn all I need to know about you from your Wikipedia page," Jade drawls as she saunters across the room without a glance in Tori's direction. She sits at the end of her mattress and unlaces her boots, tossing them in the space between her bed and her dresser.
"Anyone can edit that. It says my favorite color is red. Only the first in a series of lies." Tori immediately feels like her awkward humor isn't going to cut it with the rigid girl who has moved on to rolling her head back and forth, chin resting on her chest and hair hiding her face. "I'm Tori."
"And I'm Jade, which we established about five hours ago, if you recall."
"It's just… everyone calls me Victoria because that's what my credits were."
"How unfortunate to have to hide being the queen."
"Your name." Jade lazily lifts her head, squinting at Tori as she establishes their first eye contact of the day. "It's latin for 'victory', the name of a Roman goddess, and not to mention several princesses and queens in the royal courts. Queen Victoria ruled in the late eighteen-hundreds, and had ton of kids. She reigned in what was known as the 'Victorian era' as the longest ruling female monarch. Unless Lizzie beats her out. I wouldn't put it past her, she seems like a tough broad."
"Wow." Tori tries to keep herself calm under the constant gaze from the other girl, but she manages to at least maintain eye contact. "This must be a really good school."
Jade makes a face, something that wasn't quite a smile but an amused look on her red lips. "I like it. What is your favorite color?"
The raven-haired girl silently stands up and heads to the vanity, opening a package to retrieve a makeup remover wipe. "That suits you," she breathes as she rids her eyes from the mascara and eyeliner.
"Does it? Good. What's yours?"
"A shiny penny if you can guess." Jade pivots to face her, leaning back against the counter after opening the cupboard to toss the wipe out in the garbage can hidden inside.
"I don't carry money." Tori laughs and relaxes back against her headboard, but she feel Jade looking at her again. "What's your schedule like?"
"Uh… I have Music A20, Physics, P. E., Improv B20, Lunch, English A20, a spare I have to fill, and then History of Film A." Tori tosses her schedule back on the binder she had placed on the floor at the foot of her bed and settles back against her headboard.
"You should sign up for Drama A20 in your spare," Jade chimes after a moment. "It's a good class."
"Are you in it?"
"That sounds good," Tori says honestly. "It'll be nice to know someone in something at least. Every other class choice was based on the fact that my sister isn't in any of the junior levels for an easy credit."
"Trina Vega." Jade nods and pushes off from the counter to walk to her dresser. Tori's gaze immediately drops when she hears drawers being opened.
"So you know of her."
"Unfortunately. What did you do to make her that way?"
Tori laughs as she hears the sound of a bra being undone and tossed in a small hamper. "No one quite knows what's wrong with her. I think my mother drank while she was pregnant. I sure hope she did anyway, it would explain so much."
Jade appears on the end of her bed, dressed in long, form fitting sweatpants and a loose t-shirt with Jim Morrison on the front, shirtless and laying on the stage with the mic in his hands as he sang. There were lyrics on the back, but Tori couldn't make them out without her glasses. Which she was avoiding wearing for whatever stupid reason.
"I shower first, just so you know. But I get up pretty early, so hopefully it won't throw your routine off too much. I also stay up late, so if my light bothers you tough luck."
"I can sleep through anything, don't worry," Tori assures her, laughing at her statements that are said like a lazy command.
"Good for you, sport. I have a paper to write now, so don't bother me until tomorrow morning." She stands from the bed and heads over to her own, her dark hair swishing behind her.
"Will you wake me up after you shower? I wouldn't mind getting an early start."
"Sure, sure. Goodnight, Victoria."
Tori wakes up after Jade shakes her shoulder violently for fifteen seconds (ten of those being after Tori already opens her eyes). She doesn't say much, just turns away, plugs in her hair dryer, and grabs a round brush, her navy towel clashing with her pale skin. Tori stumbles to the shower and by the time she steps back into the room, Jade is already dressed, make up and hair done, twirling a pen between her fingers as she read some article on the internet.
Tori hurries her way through her routine, not dressing until she was sure that her hair was dry enough and Jade was still glued to the laptop.
"Any time today, Vega."
"It's so early, what are you talking about?" Tori mumbles in reply, her fingers fumbling with the buttons on her shirt.
"There's coffee to be had."
"Are you waiting for me?" Tori blurts out, suddenly aware of Jade's demands.
"Was there something not obvious about that?" Jade fires back. "We have Music in a half an hour so hurry up, starlet."
Jade shows her an easier way to get to their class than Helen did, though it does require them to cut through the oval in the cool morning air. Jade's quiet, everything about her in place – her tie neat, shirt tucked in under her cardigan, stockings and all. Only her boots, piercings and streaks seem to set her apart from Tori's own uniform, but Jade seemed to hold herself in a way that made her seem important than everyone around them. A commanding stare and a set jaw as she waited in line at the small coffee vendor followed by her hurrying into one of the music buildings back entrances and beginning to slowly walk up the stairs.
"Considering the things people get away with, I'm surprised you don't do more to alter your uniform," Tori comments on the first flight, binder and coffee tight to her chest and one hand on the rail.
"I don't mind the regular clothes, to be honest. I do like the school's spirit of dysfunctional unity with their dress code policy though. But shoes are disgusting." On the fourth floor, Jade suddenly tugs Tori into the hallway, walking briskly through the semi-lit halls. It was quiet, only a few teachers setting up – tuning guitars and putting together their lessons. No one paid any attention to the two students fast-walking through the hall. Jade pulls them to a stop in front a door marked the janitor's closet and turns the knob, her hand finally dropping Tori's wrist.
"What are you doing?" Tori asks slowly, following Jade in nonetheless.
"Shh. It's a secret." Jade closes the door behind them and walks over to the ladder built in that didn't seem to ever end as far as Tori could see. She watches in bewilderment as Jade sets her binder and coffee down so she could begin to untuck her blouse from her skirt.
"Okay, really, what are you doing?"
"We're going up on the great glass elevator… ladder. I don't like to leave my binder behind and climbing with a coffee in your hand is hard as it is." She proceeds to slide her binder under her shirt and tuck it back in overtop. With an impatient wave of her hand, she bade Tori to follow suit.
When Tori has, Jade begins climbing. Tori waits a full half-minute before following.
"I thought you were never going to come."
"My dad always said to depend on the kindness of strangers leading you up dark ladders," Tori mumbles, but the small space makes her voice boom.
"It'll be worth it. Didn't you do your own stunts? Repetitive tasks must be a cinch for you. Hopefully that's true because we have to go past a whole floor and then some." Jade's quiet for awhile and the only sound Tori hears is the whirring of the heaters and the clinking of their shoes and rings against the metal steps. The ladder is at least accommodated for people to climb, flat steps that are easy on the hands (even those filled with cups) and wide enough for the feet, a safety rail on either side, and even the occasional dim light. Tori doesn't look up though, not even when she hears Jade stop and a rusty door opening.
"Come on out, Ms. Vega. Your audience awaits."
Tori squints at the bright daylight, stumbling as she steps up onto the flat, gravel roof. Her binder slips out from her shirt as Jade quietly closes the door again, dusting her hands off as she stands. She quirks her head and steps closely around a large heating unit. Tori can make out people on the oval hurrying to class, the bell having rung minutes ago.
"Come on." And again Jade is leading her through a maze of utility shacks and heating ducts to a spot set up against a bunch of cardboard boxes, set up so the people on the oval wouldn't see them while they were free to watch. "You're lucky, I washed the blanket just last week."
The blanket in question is a large fleece blanket folded up a few times and seems to be relatively clean. "So is this a well known fact or…"
"Consider it the perks to being a star," Jade says as she fixes her shirt and drops down on the blanket.
"This is really cool, but can you lay off that? I came here to not be a star."
Jade eyes her as she settles in next to her, their breaths coming out in visible puffs. "Was it really so horrible? Literally every kid here would kill to be in your position."
"Well, they can have it. I like working, but the way they split the seasons up, they had us filming half the year and doing press the rest of it. That and the wonders of tutors on set have left me yearning for at least a semi-substantial education."
"Semi-substantial is right," Jade laughs as she takes a sip of her still warm beverage. "People come here so they can grow up and maybe get your job or your connections. I love it, but this is just gonna put you back in the mix afterwards. If you're lucky."
"I want to go back. But a break would be nice. And regular high school did not work out."
Jade leans back against the cardboard. "You're awfully upfront with people you've known for less than a day."
"Sorry." Tori gives an embarrassed laugh and opens her binder, pulling out one of the neatly sharpened pencils she had prepared so she could doodle on a plain white piece of paper. "You're a surprisingly good listener."
"Surprisingly? You don't know a thing about me."
"Shit, sorry, I meant, like, you just seem so… above everything else. Not in a bad way. Which sounds impossible, but I do mean it in a good way. Why else would you bring me up here?"
Jade sits quietly staring out at the oval for awhile, tapping her black tipped nails against her own binder. "My best friend recently started dating my ex. I needed a break from that. I was kind of relieved when they said I'd finally be getting a roommate."
"How did you get a single anyway? I couldn't even get one and we bribed them."
Jade smirks and leans over, whispering, "Over the past few years some of my roommates have found me to be… kind of intimidating."
"I can't imagine," Tori laughs. "So your best friend and your ex? Unbearable or what?"
"They're not really. And we haven't dated in a long time. But it's just weird because we're all friends. I guess you'll meet them eventually. Or in Improv. It's the best class of the day, by the way. The teacher is… something else."
They spend the next hour on the roof and then climb back down, leaving their coffee cups in one of the many boxes already filled with them. Tori learns exactly five things about Jade in her time with the other girl: she wants to be a screenwriter, her parents are split up, she hates teeth grinders and was glad to hear last night that Tori wasn't one, she only skips enough classes so as not to arouse suspicion, and she genuinely liked The Hunger Games, albeit for different reasons than Tori did.
It's still not easy for Tori to be around Jade, she finds herself taking a breath of relief as the other girl drops her off at her Physics class. She wonders how long it will take for her to be able to be comfortable around Jade. Her class is easy and she finds herself sitting next to a cute blonde girl who flirts with her the entire time, all without mentioning the show once. Tori doesn't mind this particular attention.
She finds herself face-to-face with a smirking Jade in front of the locker rooms, a short girl with hair the color of candy apples leaning on the wall next to her.
"You could have told me you had more classes with me."
"You never asked. Tori this is Cat."
"Hey, hey!" Cat exclaims excitedly as she tugs on Tori's arm. "I loved your show so, so, so much, you were so great and the dress you wore to the Emmys this year was crazy beautiful."
"Yeah, nice and subtle, Cat," Jade sighs as she pulls the redhead off Tori and through the door to the locker room. "What's your number, Tori? Three something?"
"Three-oh-seven," Tori reads from the post-it in her binder. Jade leads her to it and in pure Vanna White style shows Tori her locker before walking off to hers and Cat's. Tori finds the school gym clothes she and her parents had put in there the day before, along with deodorant, body spray, and a red Hollywood Arts towel.
Despite knowing that anyone in the room that had seen the show will have seen most of her body by now, Tori still feels as self-conscious as she had on set filming those scenes as she changes. She only calms down by the time her hair is up in a ponytail and her laces are tied. She meets with Jade and Cat and walks out to the pitch with them, the latter chattering constantly as they huddle together on the cold October morning.
"Have you ever played field hockey?" Jade asks after Tori introduces herself to the teacher, her own hair up and tucked back with a hairband.
"Never. I played basketball on the show. They wanted an excuse for more shower and locker room scenes." She holds the weird stick and spins it in her hand. "I played soccer when I was younger. I take it that it's nothing like that."
"Not really. It's… hockey… on a field. I don't know how to describe it, really. They'll probably put you in goal, that's the same in every sport."
As Jade predicts, Tori is given a set of goalie equipment and a yellow bib. Cat gets one as well, and even though Jade remains without one, she stays behind to help them get the equipment on Tori.
"What are the chances people are gonna wanna beam me just because I was on a show?"
"Probably pretty good," Jade winks and smacks her on top of the helmet before running off to be with her teammates.
Cat ends up as a defender and as the goals are set up she talks a lot, which Tori is somewhat grateful for a time because she only requires a yes or no answer to her questions. They're random, and evolve into ranging from what it was like to kiss the guy who played her piano tutor to what the food was like backstage. As much as she likes Cat, Tori is happy to hear the whistle.
The game is simple enough to understand and extremely painful. She collides with fives girls by the end of match and gets about a dozen sharp shots to the padding on her chest and shins. Tori does manage to catch a few goals, enough that they barely win due to their great offense, but she notes that the sharp attacker scoring all the points on her is Jade, who smirks triumphantly every time.
Tori finds herself limply walking from the equipment shed, Jade and Cat waiting for her on the bleachers.
"Hey, I didn't hit you once. I just scored on you a lot." Jade removes her hair from her ponytail, her headband already hanging around her neck.
The rest of her day goes by more easily, with Improv taking the cake. The teacher is just as Jade describes and Tori gets to meet her friends. Beck, the cute boy who maybe could have used a haircut, André the music lover who easily warms to Tori, and Robbie, who was nervous and actually walked around with a puppet on his arm. Tori likes Robbie more than the puppet.
They had lunch together on an outside patio coming off the cafeteria, on stone benches that seemed to be older than the constitution. Tori sat next to Jade, who was more biting and loud around her friends, but mostly talked with André, who insisted that she better not miss Music the next morning so he could do a project with her. Apparently he had seen a YouTube clip of her singing some songs with her former boyfriend's band.
Tori took special note of Cat and Beck who were huddled together in the corner, Beck laughing at each of Cat's weird anecdotes. Jade didn't seem to pay any particular attention but she had seemed to use Tori to block the two from her view.
Her first night of homework is particularly brutal, mostly because she has to look through the textbook to reference every other word in the questions on her sheet.
"Just use the internet like a normal human," Jade intones from her set up on her bed, sitting in the middle of her mattress with her back to the wall, pillows set up behind her.
"I actually want to catch up, not just get the questions right."
Jade sighs loudly behind her and Tori hears her laptop being set down. In a second Jade is leaning over her shoulder, hair and neck heady with different scents. She reads the question quickly.
"The first motion picture showed at the White House was a film about the KKK, depicting them as heroes against African-American men who were white actors in blackface. Next."
"Who was the president?"
Jade's eyebrows furrow. "Damn."
"See, this wondrous book will tell me the answer. After thirty pages of reading." Tori turns her head a little to look over at Jade who smirks in reply. "Okay, you win. She never even said when this was due."
"Miss Francon gives precisely one assignment a week, all due the following Monday. You're fine." Jade stands then and returns to her bed.
Tori pivots in her chair to follow her with her eyes. "What are you watching on there?"
"Porn," Jade drawls as she readjusts what looks to be like very expensive headphones.
"The good stuff?" Tori shouts but Jade just raises her hand and makes a twirling motion with her index finger until Tori turns around. Jade is straightforward if nothing else.
The next time anyone speaks, it's ten o'clock and Jade and Tori are in mirrored positions with their laptops as they sit back against the headboard. Tori looks up when she sees Jade finally take off her headphones.
"You were a cute kid," she comments casually, closing her laptop and stretching across her nightstand to place her laptop on her desk.
Tori gives a small laugh, a surprised smile on her face. "You were watching my show."
"Just finished season one," Jade admits as she settles back on her bed, a notebook pulled from her binder at her side. She opens it and begins writing.
"So what did you think?"
"Very strong first season."
"Good. I'm glad you think so."
"Are you?" Jade's eyes are back on her and Tori feels herself being scrutinized. She didn't get Jade.
"Well, I like the idea of my roommate not hating me for what I did."
"I never said that."
Tori stares blankly at her. "You hate me."
"I'm incredibly resentful of the choice you made when you came here. But that doesn't mean you should feel bad about it."
"What are you talking about?"
"I told you," Jade's eyes drop to her notebook again, "almost every person here would kill you for the shot you had."
A week and a half goes by more easily than Tori had anticipated. Though people still stared at her a little, interest had plummeted when she spent her first weekend on the oval reading in plain sight for all to see. She took about four-dozen pictures and even discussed plots in depth with a few students. After the stigma wore off the students seemed less interested and by late Sunday afternoon she was reading in peace.
Tori really liked to be outside. They had filmed in New York, so Central Park was all she really knew about greenery. Even when she wasn't filming, she was in LA with her family, when they were there. Her mother lived with her on set but her father remained in LA, combined with Trina at Hollywood Arts in Northern California left them with little time together as a unit.
She and Trina had been forced to submit to a Sunday dinner together every week by order of their parents. They sat in the back of the cafeteria, Trina with her back to the corner of the room so she could see without being seen and Tori totally unaware of a number of people her sister mentioned in her barrage of gossip. Then the eldest daughter turned the subject on how it was smart of her to get in with Jade because she was super popular since she scared pretty much everybody, and she was still on top after her break up, despite the odds. Tori is left feeling dizzy and in need of quiet, which Jade provided in plenty. Sometimes it was content-angry, sometimes it was happy-angry, and occasionally she brought up a conversation without needing to be goaded by Tori.
Tori feels accomplished by the end of her first week, sitting only somewhat accosted by the staring masses passing by or settling in. André is tuning a guitar she had her parents sent over for her music class.
"I can't believe you can do that by ear."
"Natural talents come in many varieties," he replies. "How long have you played?"
"A few years. Even fewer with the piano, but I know the basics at the very least."
"What did you do in your free time?" André asks as he hands the instrument back to her, revealing the notebook and pencil in his lap. "You must have had some talents that you didn't acquire just for the sake of reality on television."
Tori laughs and strums a few bars of a song she doesn't remember the name of, biting her lip as she thinks of an answer. "I watched a lot of television. I thought I had watched a lot of classic films, but apparently Marilyn and Audrey don't cut it by this school's standards. I liked to sing. Read. Um… oh, I know archery!" She forgot about the lessons she took between the long break between seasons four and five.
"That's… interesting. Why archery?"
"I don't know. I always had a thing for Robin Hood, I guess," she muses.
"The man. Ass."
André laughs and taps his pencil rhythmically against the metal spiral binding. "That's pretty cool. Have to admit, I don't mind watching Jennifer Lawrence kill people with a bow."
"No one does. Jennifer Lawrence makes everything she does interesting." Tori leans over, her jean shorts surely getting stained from the ground beneath them because of it. "I met her once. At the Golden Globes. She was super nice."
"I am so jealous of you. You have no idea. The most famous person I've met was Tootie from The Facts of Life. She gave an incredibly uninspiring speech." André shifts so he can kick off his flip-flops. "So what's it like living with Jade?"
"Pretty okay. Why?"
"She's kind of a legend. I'm sure you can imagine why." He smiles at her in his warm way, eyes shining when he pulled his hair like he had this day. "Don't get me wrong, I love her, but she's not exactly a gentle flower."
"She's not. But she's smart and funny. I honestly don't know much about her though."
"Jade is… intimidating. But she's also pretty and talented. She works really hard on her projects and it shows. Gorgeous voice. Disturbing but great playwright. Word on the street is that she went through a girl phase after Beck, but no one's ever confirmed it. Any witnesses have clearly been dealt with. I can tell you that she is a very good kisser."
Tori gasps and throws a handful of grass at him. "You didn't."
"I did," he laughs, brushing the dirt and grass off his notebook. "It was a little while before her and Beck hooked up last year. Not a big deal."
"And now Beck and Cat… that seems like an odder couple than Beck and Jade."
"I know, he really did a one-eighty after the break up. I'm pretty sure Jade knows, but he and Cat started hanging out weeks before they announced they were anything."
"Are Jade and Cat really close?" Tori asks as she flexes her fingers on the neck of the guitar. She needs to toughen up her fingers again.
"Jade's not really close with anyone, really. I think Jade and Cat became friends by default of partners being sorted out by last names. The two of them and Robbie and me were in a lot of classes freshman year, and in our sophomore year Jade started dating Beck. That was how this weird little group came to be. Play that chord again," Robbie insists and Tori obeys until he leans over and adjusts one of the tuning keys, "There."
"I don't get it, she's been totally cool with me. I mean, she's not super forthcoming, but she's been really nice." Tori fiddles with the strap as André's eyebrows rise.
"She must like you."
"You say that like it's something weird and perverse." Strap adjusted, she has no excuse but to meet André's gaze again. "She's taking me to a party off-campus after this month's showcase."
"I already played last month or I'd be forcing you to play a song with me. Stupid rules."
"Yeah, well, I'm not sure I'll be comfortable around these people until they've seen me flat on my face drunk anyway, so you're off the hook for a few days." Tori pauses. "What exactly are the rules about going off campus? Where do we go?"
"Well a lot of the kids and teachers live in the town about twenty minutes away. You must have gone through it. Some of them have super rich parents who keep a residence for visits but never stay in it, and some people just have normal people parents who live in town. Like Jade."
"Jade's family lives in town?" Tori blurts. She literally could not recall one mention of Jade's family in her near two weeks time of living with the girl.
"Yeah. Her parents are split up and her father travels a lot, but both of them have places in town. Little brother too." André gives her a reassuring look. "Don't feel like you've been left out. I didn't find out for a year, until she had a cast party at her dad's place. Now she is someone you want drunk, she is a very happy drunk."
"I'll keep that in mind. Are you coming tomorrow?"
"I've been thinking about it. Let me catch a ride with you guys and I will – I hate taking the shuttle. Robbie won't go and I think Cat is performing so her and Beck will probably be all over her if they end up coming. You'll have to be with me on offense when it comes to getting Jade drunk enough to not get pissy about it."
The drinking game they're currently is incredibly complicated. If you have pick a four all the girls drink, a six for the boys, the queen has something to do with putting your thumb on the table and not be the last one, among many other complicated rules. Jade is quick-witted though, always catching people off guard and drawing good cards from the pile on the table. Everyone is quick to punish her however – whenever a two was drawn the holder had to give two shots to anyone at the table and Jade was always targeted.
She took the drinks so well in stride, composed but joyful that Tori was surprised to find out just how drunk she really was not ten minutes after having gotten up from the table to leave. Jade's arm is linked with hers and her head resting against Tori's as they walk along the damp, leaf-ridden sidewalks.
"Where am I even going? Can't we just call a cab? I'll cover it."
"Nah, you gotta learn the tricks of the trade, Victoria," Jade says precisely, eloquent while she stumbles. "The shuttle goes until two in the morning. Around the town and to the school and back. It was voted on by the PTA and seen as so progressive. Come on, there's a stop on the next block."
They arrive at the bus stop – a large shining black sign with bright red lettering simply stating that it was indeed a bus stop. Tori shivers because she didn't think to wear a jacket when they had sprung for the cab to town, but Jade is warm against her - one arm looped under Tori's so her hand was clasped on Tori's bicep, with Jade now having brought her other hand coming up to cover that one.
Tori doesn't know what to do with her hands and she can't help the occasional tremble. "How long until the bus comes?"
"Anywhere from one minute to half an hour. One second, I have an app on my phone. Did you bring your school ID?"
"I gave it to you." Tori promptly has her wallet shoved at her as Jade continues the search for her phone.
"Three minutes," Jade announces when she successfully opens the app. "Hopefully it's early."
The bus is, and Tori can see how easily recognizable it is for a Hollywood Arts bus – midsized, painted purple with warm, cushioned interiors. Jade stills leans on her heavily in the seat, eyes closed and leaving Tori with no choice but to lean back or choose the cold glass window.
"You know, you're the first roommate I haven't hated in a long time."
"You do hate me, remember? Everyone does."
"Well, besides that," Jade mumbles as she blindly puts her phone back in her purse, holding her hand out for Tori's wallet. Tori gives it to her. "Next time you visit LA, I want some star perks. Free perfume and sunglasses."
"I'll make you a deal. I'll bring back the swag baskets I get if I ever choose to go to an event if you tell me about your family."
Jade is quiet for a long time, so quiet that Tori thinks she's fallen asleep. They make two more stops, picking up three different groups of kids, but Jade remains silent. She rises automatically when the bus stops in front of the school, startling Tori in the seat.
It's not until they're well across the quiet oval that Jade speaks. "My mom's just a normal mom. She has a job as a secretary at my brother's school. She spends most of her time with him. My dad works. He has an apartment in Hollywood no one's supposed to know about." She yawns and fumbles to slide her card key on the outer door to the dormitories, and then again in the elevator to go to their floor. "That's basically it. I have an aunt who was on Broadway for awhile. She goes on tours and stuff now, so I see her sometimes. She's my favorite."
"André said you have a great voice. You must get it from her." The walk down the hallway once they reach their floor is excruciating and Tori has to wrestle the keycard away from Jade so she can open the door in one go.
Jade has her shirt off before the door is closed behind them and Tori jumps into the bathroom, both out of embarrassment of still having not seen her roommate change and because of the many beers that seemed to be kicking her in the bladder. When she finishes Jade is mostly dressed, sitting on the edge of her bed and struggling to pull up her sweatpants.
"I do like to sing. I don't like to think of it as my only career choice. Broadway is different though… singing, dancing, acting, directing, writing – you can do everything there." Jade stops as her voice begins to ramble a bit, her sweatpants successfully on. She begins again when she's settled under her sheets. "But who knows. I'm surprised you didn't make it to Broadway since you filmed there."
"I had a few offers," Tori replies honestly as she pulls on a long shirt. "But it always clashed with something. I would have liked it, I think. I like it here. What would be your dream role?"
Jade sighs, her eyes closed and face relaxed. "Something in Chicago, I think."
"You'd be great." Tori climbs into her own bed and turns off the last light in the room. "If what I hear about you is true."
Jade hums but gives no more reply, clearly asleep in less than a minute. Tori smiles. André – who was left with a redhead at the party – was totally right; drunk Jade was the way to go. She, however, did not look forward to hungover Jade.
Tori isn't actually surprised to see Jade already awake when she cracks her eyes open, her counterpart in the same serene position she fell into and Tori with the covers wrapped up in her legs.
"You look like a ragdoll when you sleep."
"I don't know if that's good or bad. What time is it?"
"Eleven. It's good by the way."
Jade turns so her back is to Tori and the light filtering from their curtains. Tori at least feels she has enough energy to drag herself to the shower, rinsing her mouth constantly with the water spraying down as the sick taste kept creeping back onto her tongue.
She gets ready slowly, throwing on a hat over her semi-wet hair and leaving the room all while Jade remains turned toward the wall. She walks the campus alone, the crowd thinner than it usually is. She stops by the cafeteria and takes some things to go, though she doesn't dare go back to her room until she stops at the coffee vendor.
When she returns to her room Jade is up, with her hair wet, and her pajamas changed into a different set. She's sitting back against her headboard, neck rolled back and eyes shut, even when Tori makes her way towards her.
"I brought coffee. And toast and eggs-"
"No eggs. They make me sick all on their own as it is."
"Well," Tori begins as she slid on the end of the mattress, putting the trays between them, "good. I like eggs, I'll eat yours. There's muffins in the bag."
Jade goes for the coffee first and a lone piece of toast before settling back.
"Thanks for the food, Jenny."
Tori laughs at the mention of her character's name and grabs one of the plastic forks. "We should watch that today. I can be your living, breathing commentary."
They do just that, after the remnants of their breakfast has been thrown out (in a hallway garbage can because Jade was not kidding about the egg thing) and their muffins saved for later. They grab Tori's extra pillow and blanket and use it to pad the wall behind them as they sat hip-to-hip n the middle of Jade's bed, her laptop set up between them.
By dinner time they're more than halfway through season four and Tori has spilled almost every bit of behind the scenes information she knows in breaks they take during the episode. She's relieved they stopped where they did because her dreaded loss of virginity scene that had garnered so much attention during sweeps, that she had officially been recognized among the media masses, is coming up.
"Your boyfriend was gay wasn't he?"
Tori sputters at the sudden question that seems more like a statement. Her boyfriend had been hers on and off-screen, and was indeed gay, though Tori obviously hadn't known that at the time.
"How the hell can you tell that?"
Jade shrugs and sets her laptop aside, moving to stand. "I have a good gaydar."
"Well he is. But it's a secret. It was a secret all through the filming and our relationship and I'm pretty sure I was the last to know."
"PR is a bitch, I'm sure." Jade stretches and pushes back the hair from her pale face before stepping forward and peeking out the blinds. "Did you sleep with him?"
"And you couldn't tell?" The dark haired girl turns to face her.
"He was my first guy ever. I just thought it was always that awkward." She still talks to Henry, they were best friends for almost seven years, but when he came out it was incredibly bittersweet. Mostly because Tori had actually thought they were in a real relationship. "Really, how could you tell?"
"I don't know. He's an alright actor and everything but… I don't know. He seemed to okay with you touching him, but not touching you. Which is the exact opposite of the mindset of most teenage boys, on or off camera." Jade turns to her with a smirk on her face. "So did you rebound off him to see if it was really always that awkward?"
Tori laughs and looks down at her lap. "Yes. It was definitely better with someone who was at least semi-interested in me. I wish I could be one of those slutty teenage stars who sleep with whoever, but unfortunately I still know what shame is."
It's Jade's turn to laugh, loudly and genuinely and it makes Tori smile wider. "Put on something more appropriate, I want something home-cooked tonight."
They don't make it to town until after six, Jade insisting on paying for the taxi because she had been too impatient to wait for the shuttle. They pull up to a small Victorian-style house, complete with a large wraparound deck and dark blue shutters. Jade walks right through the opened front door and Tori quickly follows, feeling weird by how normal this house seems compared to one of its inhabitants.
"Mom?" She calls as she kicks off her shoes and drops her bag on the floor in a space that seemed designated for just that thing. Jade impatiently pulls the fumbling Tori into a bright open kitchen, where a small table is set up at the breakfast nook. Already seated were two people.
"Jade! I wasn't sure you were going to come tonight, we were just about to begin." A brunette with a few key features that placed her clearly as her daughter's mother – the cheeks, the eyebrows, and the chin specifically. "And you brought… Jenny de Luca with you."
"Tori Vega," Tori waves her hand. "It's so nice to meet you."
"And you." Jade's mother is already preparing plates for them, lasagna and garlic bread, and Jade herself has dropped to a spot at the table. "How do you even know Jade? Are you speaking at the school?"
"We're roommates, actually. I just started this month." Tori awkwardly moves through the kitchen to take the last empty seat, a plate being put down in front of her the second she settles in. "Thank you for having me. I'm not intruding am I?"
"No, of course not. Jade, introduce your brother."
"Tori, this is my brother." Jade waves her fork in the general direction of the small, chestnut haired boy sitting at the end of the small table.
Tori laughs unexpectedly at the exchange, earning her the attention of the table. She blushes but brushes it off by turning to look at the boy on her right.
"Hi. I'm Tori."
"I'm Jason. I've seen you on TV."
"That's because Tori was in a very successful show. What was it like working with Bobby Cannavale? He's so handsome." Jade's mother is up from the table before Tori can respond, heading to the refrigerator. "What would you two like to drink?"
"Mom, Tori doesn't want to talk about the show. Water is fine."
"Same. And it was great. He was really nice off camera. He invited cast members home for dinner with his family all the time, I ended up becoming really close with his son." Tori smiles as she accepts the glass of water and glances over at Jade, who is eating her meal with little attention paid elsewhere. "Are you artistic at all? Or does Jade get it from her dad?"
"The only thing Jade gets from her father are those boobs – the women in his family are stacked-"
"No one knows where she came up with all that talent. Guess it's all her own."
Jade glowers at the compliment, Tori suspects because she's unable to think of something to say back, so Tori diverts her attention to Jason.
"What about you, little man? Any hobbies."
"I like sports but I'm not good at them so I watch them." Much like Jade, Jason speaks clearly and drolly, which Tori would have thought was impossible before she came in contact with the West family.
"Well, I'm pretty good at basketball, maybe we should play sometime."
"You should try out for the school's team, Tori," Jade's mother says from her other side, "Their school teams are actually quite good."
"You're saying 'actually' because it's an art school, aren't you?" Jade intones, ripping a chunk of bread off to eat.
"I might, thanks for letting me know." Nothing is more normal than a school sport. Tori likes that.
"Jade's on the volleyball team," Jason adds.
"I didn't know that."
"You never asked," Jade replies as she takes a sip of her water. The rest of the meal goes on without much fanfare. Jade's mother is so weirdly normal and level-headed and motherly. For some reason Tori expected something that mirrored her daughter more.
After dinner Jade leads Tori up the stairs to a door at the end of the hallway the reveals even more stairs, leading up to Jade's attic room. It's decorated with posters that hang from the revealed beams on wires set up on tracks. Tori immediately turns to a framed poster for the musical Skip, a signed program taking up one corner and a picture of a young Jade with the show's lead.
"You got to meet Jennifer Balfour?" Tori asks, nail tapping against the picture. "My mom took me to see the show once, but we couldn't get backstage."
"She prefers 'Aunt Jen', but maybe that's just for me to use."
"You're kidding. She's your aunt? Oh my god, I'm so jealous of your existence." Tori took in the other items in the room, the other picture frames containing playbills and posters of things that were written or starring Jade. That combined with a few select movie posters had the small loft-like space feeling like a gallery rather than a bedroom. "And your room kicks ass."
Jade pulls back the curtains she has draped at the end of the room, revealing her bed behind the thick red velvet. The mattress is on the floor, but the way the plush pillows are set up, it makes it seem more like a large couch than an actual bed. Tori finds herself remaining by the steps, looking out the picture window onto the dark street. Jade's desk is set up nearby, its top bare of everything except a notepad and a pencil.
"Your room must be pretty killer. Ever make it on Cribs?"
Tori can't see her, but she's sure Jade is smirking. "No. My rooms have been the same since I turned eight. I've been too lazy to change anything."
"Come over here." Tori immediately turns on foot at the command and walks towards Jade, the curtains closing behind her. Jade slips past them again and drops onto the bed, looking up out the large window facing her backyard. "Sit down, dumbass."
"So mean." She does so anyway, copying Jade's position and almost gasping at the view. The country sky is blanketed in stars, shining brighter than Tori could ever remember seeing them. "Sometimes I forget the downsides to the city."
Jade turns so she's on her stomach, head resting comfortably on a pillow. "Do you miss having a boyfriend?"
A shrug. "Sometimes."
"I heard a rumor about you."
"Oh?" Jade's eyebrow raises and she looks genuinely intrigued.
"Word on the street is that you went through a girl phase." Tori laughs a little due to the near-bursting embarrassment she feels as she turns her head to meet Jade's eyes.
Tori laughs again and looks back up at the ceiling, hands nervously fiddling with the end of her shirt. "I went through one after Henry. I think."
"You think?" Jade snorts, propping her head up on her hand. "There really isn't a variable there."
"I mean I hooked up with a girl. I can't tell you who, she's doing movies now." She knows she's pink up to her ears now but she can't look at Jade again.
Jade clears her throat, her face still looking amused. "Did you like it?"
"Um… I didn't hate it – the other person being a girl part. But she wasn't really… much of a giver…" Tori rubs her eyes, laughing once again. "But it was fine."
"God, your love life sounds so depressing. You must have lived vicariously through Jenny."
"You know, it never really bothered me. I just always figured I wasn't a relationship person or whatever." She actually feels a little relieved saying this out loud for the first. Jade's smirking at her in a way that's making the hair on her skin rise. "What?"
"Nothing, it's just… you might as well be a virgin, judging by how involved you seem to have been in your past endeavors." Jade sits up and rolls over to the end of the bed, where a side table drawer without legs is positioned. She turns back to Tori with her fists held out. "Which one?"
Tori reaches over and presses her index finger to Jade's right hand. The pale fingers turn and open, revealing a tightly wrapped joint. "Weird. Every body always gets cigarette." She tosses the aforementioned item back towards the end table before standing up to open the latch on the window. "We're staying here tonight."
"I figured." Tori stands up and wobbly walks off the mattress to meet Jade, taking the joint out of her hand.
"What's the hardest thing you've ever done?" Jade asks as she breathes her smoke out the open window.
"To be honest? I smoked crack once. By accident at a cast party. I don't know what I thought it was, but I definitely didn't know it was crack." Jade guffaws and Tori pushes her shoulder, taking another hit before passing the joint back. "I was fifteen, leave me alone. Henry took care of me, thankfully. It was the first time our relationship was rumored in the tabloids because he was seen dropping me off at my hotel."
"Oh, to be young and famous." Jade hums something while she thinks of her next question. "Have you ever had sex while you were high?" When Tori shakes her head Jade laughs and passes it back. "It's great."
"How many people have you had sex with?" Tori pauses, squinting. "If you don't mind me asking, that is."
Jade continues to hum and shakes her head when Tori tries to give her the next hit. "Three."
Tori nods and shrugs. "Two. Not that far ahead of me, are you?"
"I think me enjoying the sex I've had kind of tips it in my favor."
"Fine, fine, you win." She leans forward, to the small ashtray that was shoved between a corner of the roof and the ledge it sat on. Tori closes the window and stood in front of Jade, feeling her fingers give a small spasm. "I'm really tired."
Jade laughs and reaches under her shirt, unsnapping her bra with one hand and pulling the straps over her arms so she could toss it away. She does away with her skirt and stockings next, left in her underwear and a t-shirt.
"Pick a spot, Hollywood." Jade drops to the mattress and pulls one of the many spread out blankets over her.
Tori eventually follows suits – her fingers have more trouble with the button on her jeans than reasonably necessary. She dives under a blanket and sorts through the pillows until she finds one that she likes. Jade's still smirking that smirk at her when she settles down.
"What?" Tori stresses, unable to stop the chuckle the follows her word.
"Nothing, I just feel bad for you."
"Because you've clearly never gotten off."
"Is this really what teenage girls talk about? I kind of thought that we were pushing it with that." Tori brings the blanket up to her nose in a lame attempt to hide behind it. "Just because no one else has ever done it to me-"
"Have you ever gotten yourself off?"
"No." Jade outright laughs once again, and Tori feels a small sense of accomplishment over it. "Everyone makes it out to be like you're some scary vampire, you know that? But you've been nothing but cool to me."
"Maybe I'm just luring you in to make you my next victim," Jade adds dryly.
Tori laughs and looks down. "It's hot. The self-confidence thing. I get why it scares some people, but come on. It's totally hot."
"Well, now that I have a Hollywood starlet's approval, I can finally live my life." Tori smiles and meets her eyes briefly before returning them to the empty space between their two bodies. "Guess the demure thing is your angle, huh?"
"Is it working?"
Jade throws a pillow at her and then turns onto her back, stretched out under the open light from the window.
Tori smiles and curls herself into the large pillow she's holding onto. "Goodnight, Jade."
They stayed up talking for five more hours, repeating their goodnights at every lull in the conversation and then laughing when a new topic sentence was thought of. When Tori wakes up they seem to have dipped into the middle, her nose now level with Jade's shoulder. She's never enjoyed a Monday morning more.