Ok, as planned, here is the sequel. Enjoy!
The days seemed to drag and my grasp on reality was questionable lately. It didn't help that I was in conflict with myself. It made adjusting harder than it needed to be. I walked out to my car and sat in the driver's side, just sitting there while I tried to calm myself down. I had another flashback to that other side of me, the animal persona I acquired in the wild. The flashbacks were always vivid and so real that I couldn't keep myself from reacting to them. I knew I made Tori anxious but she shouldn't be worried. I wouldn't fall into that state again. I couldn't. I wouldn't let it happen. I needed to stay focused on the here and now, not what happened before. I had to do it for myself and for Tori. I sighed, slammed the car door shut, and leaned tiredly on the steering wheel. The flashbacks wouldn't go away. God, I was messed up beyond repair wasn't I? Was there no hope for me? Was it a lie to tell Tori I would be okay? No, I would be okay. I didn't want to let her down. She fought so hard to bring me back to my humanity. She was there for me every step of the way. Cat was always there to cheer me up the only way she knew how, nonsense stories and innocent yet questionable inquiries about things I didn't think I should be the one to tell her. Robbie always provided the entertainment as he always did, but now I appreciated his effort. Andre was a great help to Tori like Cat was for me.
He never skipped on reminding me to take care of Tori which often irritated me because I would never think to do any differently, but then added that since Tori was his best friend he felt he needed to extend a hand to me too. We had never been really close but I appreciated any help I could get. And Beck…Beck was there for me also. We might not be together anymore but he didn't give up on me. I made sure to apologize to Beck and show him I still cared for him; it just wasn't like I used to. Tori was my one and only now, as sick as that confession would have made me in the past. I allowed a smile at that. That was me then and this is me now. Even though I displayed an uncontrollable urge to make sure Tori knew she was mine, she still accepted it and even told me how affectionate I was because of it. Like a picky cat rubbing against that one person in the house it loves. I always looked at her like she was a weirdo when she explained those little tendencies but she just shrugged and laughed, telling me it was all true before giving me a sweet kiss on the cheek. I was hopelessly in love with that sunny cornball. I sighed and reached up to pull out the music note necklace she had given me. I leaned back in my seat and held it up in my index finger and thumb. It caught the light from the sun and shined as bright as the day it was given to me. The day everything changed…
Beck and I had another huge argument over the fact that we rarely go out together anymore. I have no clue, even now, how we managed to settle the dispute by planning a camping vacation of sorts. It sounds like a stupid idea but Beck likes the outdoors, and maybe that would make him happy, so I agreed. I know I've been a horribly moody gank to him recently but it's just so frustrating! I still can't believe I'm actually friends with Tori Vega! I hated the chick before but I found the more I got to know her that she isn't as bad as I thought she was. I even tolerated her company now. We started hanging out more and I had to admit to myself that she was someone I don't mind being around more often. Which brings me back to Beck and our argument. I stopped spending time with him to spend time with Vega. Then I acted like I was spending that time on my own rather than with her to cover it up. Why I felt I needed to lie is beyond me. It's not like I'm cheating on him or anything. I laugh at the thought. Me, cheating on Beck with Vega? Sure. She was just an entertaining distraction from the fights and my lonely days at home.
I mean, I know my dad is trying but work always gets in the way. I pull my thoughts away from the direction they were going just as I pull up outside the Vega household. Even after deciding on a trip that I hope helped me and Beck bond, I was here to see Vega, to tell her today was the day I would be heading out. I didn't have to tell her chiz but I felt that I needed to. What the heck is wrong with me? I don't want to think about what it could mean so I just shook my head to clear away the doubt and made my way to the front door. I knock three times and then enter. I'm sure they know I'm the only one to do this by now. I step into the surprisingly quiet house except for the music coming from upstairs. I grin and leisurely make my way up. I lik catching Tori rocking out. It's amusing, and if I had to admit it, a little…cute. I can feel my cheeks warm up slightly at the thought. Geez, what the hell? That thought did not belong there. I set my face in a passive, calm, expression and carefully push open her door. It's pretty easy because it was left ajar.
"Why do I love you? You hate everything about me! Why do you love me?" she sang, her rich voice straining as she recites the lyrics with such strength. I lean in the doorway and watch as she finishes the song, using her brush as a mic. When it finally ends, and the next one comes on, I begin clapping, pushing off the door to step into her room.
"I can tell that came from the heart, Vega," I inform her, placing my hand over my own heart. I laugh when she spins around with a little cry of surprise. A blush stains her tan skin. She looks cute like that, embarrassed and uncertain as she fidgets. I think that's why I mess with her so often, to see her like this. No, wait, what about Beck? I love Beck, right? Right? I do but…damn, I had to get my thoughts away from this dangerous topic.
"Hey Jade. What's up?" she asks, voice loosing that strong tone to be replaced with her sweet but slightly trembling one.
"Nothin' much. Just wanted to swing by and tell you I'll be gone for a while. Thought I should let you know," I reply, moving to take a seat at the end of her bed. I lean back on my hands casually and glance at her. I don't miss the way being around her is so comfortable. It makes seeing her so worthwhile. I can relax for once around her. She doesn't look as comfortable though. She fiddles with her brush in a skittish manner for a whole minute before setting it aside to turn off the music and then walk over to me.
"Oh, um, where are you going?" she asks quietly.
"Beck has this tour guide friend who knows his dad and they planned a trip through some forest or something. Some place I don't know. I'm going 'cause Beck planned it, and if Beck planned it he probably really wants to go. I want us to be able to get past this latest argument so I accepted. Who knows, maybe a few days of just me and him removed from here will do us some good, you know?" I answer, mentally kicking myself for rambling. I always found myself saying more than I intend to when it comes to her. Vega shifts from foot to foot and then nods.
"Sounds like a plan. Have fun," she finally responds, something in her kind brown eyes catching my attention when she finally drags them from the floor to look at me. Her smile seems forced but still present, wanting me to believe nothing is bothering her. But something is. I can practically feel her distress. I roll my eyes and stand to smack her shoulder lightly.
"Ok Vega, spill," I demand, knowing for sure that something's up. Her eyes widen and she stutters but then she gives up trying to say anything more and just rushes to her desk instead. She picks up something and holds it in her fist so I can't see what it is. She smiles shyly and then returns to stand right in front of me.
"Um, I thought, well, I got you something. I had already heard through the grape vine that you and Beck were going on a trip so I thought I should get you something, you know, as a going away present or something. Yeah, um, yeah. Here you go," she mumbles nervously, tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear and holding out her other hand. She opens up her fingers to reveal a silver necklace with a silver music note hanging from it. It's simple but still striking. I feel a strange tug at my heart but adamantly ignore it. I reach out and take the necklace from her hand, my fingers brushing her warm skin. I hold up the accessory so I can see it better. It swings a little and shines beautifully in the sunlight coming in from the window. The sight of it, and the fact that Tori went out of her way to get this for me, makes me feel something I have no name for at the moment. I hold it back in order to stay calm. There's no need to get so emotional over this. What was she doing to me? I hope I don't turn into a complete softy because of her. I hold out the necklace to her, trying to force words out of my mouth before her frown can get any sadder. She must think I'm giving it back.
"Help me put it on?" I finally spit out. She instantly brightens at the words and eagerly does as she's asked. She takes it from me and I turn around. She reaches around to put it in place and then fastens it. I close my eyes and try to keep my thoughts from focusing on her gentle hands brushing against me or her breath on the back of my neck when I move my hair out of the way for her.
"There," she says, signaling that she got it on. I drop my hair in place and turn back around to face her. I hold up the music note in front of me, admiring it. This was literally the physical symbol of my new friendship with this bright girl I thought I would never like. I look past it to see Tori beaming at me. I drop it and reach out to place a hand on her shoulder.
"I like it. Thanks Vega," I tell her, sincerity in every word. Her smile brightens and she throws her arms around me in a quick hug. I barely have time to return it when she pulls away with a nervous laugh. She steps further away so that my hands fall off her. She then launches into a long-winded rant about how much everyone will miss me and Beck when we leave. I tease her about missing me and she blushes but admits to it, adding in that Beck would be missed too of course. That has me thinking for only a second before I guide us to a new topic hastily, unwilling to look too closely into it. We sit on her bed, talking until I have to go. In all honesty, I'll miss Vega. I can't deny that I will.
I came back to the present clutching the necklace hard in my fist. I wish I hadn't tried so hard to keep her away. She was a good friend all this time and I kept pushing her away, afraid of my own feelings. I was vaguely aware that I was starting to shake a little. A growl fell from my lips, the urge to find Tori hitting me hard. The problem was, I suddenly forgot how to drive, I didn't know where I was, I didn't know where she was. I just wanted her, I needed her. I held my head and tried to calm down, successfully bringing myself back into a much clearer mindset after a few seconds of confusion. That's when it all came back to me. Tori was at home, waiting for me. We had planned to spend the day together. I realized I had almost let the feral part of me get a hold of my mind again. Stupid flashbacks always left me open to them. The stress and high strung emotions always made me regress for some reason. I couldn't help but get defensive when they caught me unaware.
I couldn't let that happen though. I lost all clarity and fell into a state that wouldn't go over well should it happen out in public. That possibility always worried me, even if I didn't show it. Should it really happen I would be carted off as insane until I came back into focus and contacted someone to get me. Tori. Right, I had to keep Tori in mind. I took a deep breath and started up the car. Tori had said she accepted the strange traits I obtained out in the wild but I could see it still bothered her when I hit these little snags. She worried for me and I didn't want that. I knew I would be fine someday, but how soon was that? I let out a big sigh and began the short drive to my girlfriend's house. I would just have to fight through it like I've been doing. There was nothing else I could do about it. I parked in front of Tori's house and got out, walking slowly up to the door. I knocked three times and then walked in as always. Trina looked up from her seat in the living room, her phone pressed to her ear.
"Hold on, Tori's freaky girlfriend is here," she stated loudly. She held the phone to her chest and turned to me. I rolled my eyes at her and crossed my arms for the comment but said nothing.
"It's about time you showed up. She's been pacing everywhere waiting for you," she informed me. That flashback probably had me out of it for a few minutes longer than I thought. Tori was such a worry wart though. I hope she didn't worry too much.
"Well, I'm here now," I muttered, making my way to the stairs. Trina watched me go with a frown and then returned to her conversation. I knew Trina cared very much for her sister no matter how much she tried to deny it. The many times she bit off my head for even slightly upsetting her little sister was testament to that. I climbed the stairs quickly and efficiently to walk down the hall in the direction of Tori's room. Her door was open and I could see she was busy looking through some papers distractedly, shifting through each one. She stopped to lay them out on her desk, neglecting the chair that was pushed away to the side. I smiled and carefully entered, using the light footwork I picked up in the wild. I didn't know how I used my abilities because they just seemed to come to me naturally when I needed them. I refrained from using the stalking stance I sometimes resorted to in order to stay quiet. I kept my thoughts focused on Tori, not allowing myself to get lost in the moment. I couldn't fall back into my animal state with Tori present. I knew she was worried about it returning and I didn't want to upset her any further. Then I would make her worried and Trina yelling at me for it. Not a good combination. I couldn't help sneaking up on her though. I just had to. It was fun, and I highly suspected it was because it reminded me of hunting…
I'm running through the undergrowth at top speed, my boots slowing me down. I snarl my irritation and stop to yank them off, tossing them away and continuing. I don't care to find them later, only concentrating on the hunt. That simple decision cost me my prey though. I scream in agitation and throw down the half blade of a pair of scissors I carry with me at all times. They strike the soft ground like a spear. Now I'm going to go another night without food. A shift not too far away has me freezing in place. I crouch down quickly, lifting my head to the wind. I can smell the wet fur of an animal nearby. I grab the half blade and stalk in the direction I of the movements. I come upon my prey from behind, moving slowly so I won't scare it away. It's crouched at the river, drinking. I've watched snakes I came across hunt and tempered my strikes to match theirs.
I watched many other predators, copying their skill. If I wasn't too loud I almost always captured my prey. I tense my muscles, readying to attack, then pounce; a fast movement that even I often missed, but my body knows what to do without much thought. My instincts are strong and control me easily. I collide with the animal, sending us tumbling into the water. I struggle, ignoring the tear of nails on my skin. I growl, just as the animal does. My iron grip holds it by the neck and force it down. My other hand lashes out, the blade sinking deep into flesh and a cry from the animal follows. It yanks away from my hands and tries to run but I throw myself at it to wrestle it to the ground again. I'm ready to use my teeth if I have to. I strike a few more times with the blade until it falls still. The warm, sticky, blood stains my hands but I don't care. I have food to last me a few more days and that was all that matters.
I froze behind Tori, my thoughts having a hard time returning to the moment. All I wanted to do was catch my prey. I struck, launching forward to wrap my arms around her. She let out a startled scream, like the cry of the captured animal. The papers scattered as I wrestled her to the floor and held her down, my teeth finding her vulnerable flesh. I bit at her shoulder and then nipped up her neck until I reached her jaw. I stopped to nibble at that spot before moving on to kiss her hard. When I pulled away to look at her she stared back with wide eyes, flustered and caught off guard. Her breathing was ragged, as was mine. I knew I was giving her that look again, the one that made her nervous and aroused at the same time. Her tense body was another reminder. I looked away from her eyes, telling myself I had control. I was calm. I hadn't lost control. Not yet at least.
"Sorry. I would have gone with a simple 'hello' but your back was turned and I just had to sneak up on you," I muttered, slightly ashamed for some reason. She looked at me with a questionable gaze until I explained myself. Then she let out a small laugh and reached up to pull me into a kiss. This one was much softer and was just a series of gentle brushes of our lips. When we broke apart I sighed. I could spend forever in the loving atmosphere that surrounded Tori.
"Try not to give me a heart attack next time, ok?" she told me, her smile appearing. I nodded and got up, offering her my hand. She took it and I pulled her up to stand next to me. I held onto her hand a little longer and then dropped it to start gathering the papers.
"I hope I didn't interrupt anything," I teased, handing them to her. She took them with a shake of her head.
"No, just looking over college options and job applications. You should start too. You're almost done with your home schooling lessons aren't you?" she answered, setting the papers back on her desk.
"Yeah, I'm almost done. I'm just…I don't know if I'll be able to…" I began, turning away so Tori didn't see the uncertainty in my expression. She heard it in my voice though and that was enough for her to know something was bothering me.
"It's the random fall back into how you were, right? You're not sure when they could pop up and cause problems," she guessed knowingly, laying a hand on my arm. I sighed and pulled her into me, seeking out her scent. She always could keep me calm all on her own. She effortlessly covered all my senses. My nose found her neck, running up to her jaw. I placed a soft kiss to her cheek and then rested my chin on her shoulder.
"Yeah," I grumbled, finally answering her. Her arms tightened on me, her hand rubbing my back soothingly.
"It'll go away, Jade. I know it will. Just give yourself time. Don't push it," she whispered, continuing to comfort me. She sounded like she was trying to convince me as well as herself. I held onto her, wishing I could do that for her. I knew it was tearing her up to see me fall back a step. I tried so hard to stop it from happening but I couldn't. I couldn't comfort her with the knowledge that it wouldn't happen anymore because we both knew I wasn't getting any closer to making the flashbacks stop. We held each other like that for a few more seconds and then let go. She offered me a reassuring smile then stepped back to put the many papers away properly. I had Tori's whole attention for the rest of the day, as planned. We lounged around her house and talked about everything and nothing. We danced around the topic of my regression though. I think that worried Tori way more than it did me. I didn't quite know why though. I was minutes away from just asking her what caused her to worry so much when Trina interrupted the tranquility. She took a seat on the couch she usually occupied and turned on the TV. We had only come down here once she left, but now she was back, making us both glare at her, but she just shrugged and continued to flip through the channels until her eyes lit up and she squealed.
"Oh my gosh! Here it is! I thought she was lying but it's true!" Trina exclaimed. I exchanged a look with Tori.
"Who did you think was lying?" Tori asked.
"Angie. She said there was a new reality TV show about Ginger Fox, and there is," Trina replied. I rolled my eyes and crossed my arms.
"When is there not some idiotic show about a celebrity?" I mumbled. Tori glanced at me with a ghost of a smile and then turned back to Trina.
"So what's so special about this one?" Tori asked her sister.
"Remember when she went missing for like, a few years or so?" Trina began. Tori and I nodded.
"Well, it turns out she was found two years ago but they kept it on the down low to gather more sympathizers and attention when they announced finding her. Now that they're ready to put her out there again, what better way to do it then through TV?" Trina continued to explain.
"So, when does this get interesting?" I asked in a deadpan. She shushed me and flapped her hand at me, her eyes on the TV. I growled and moved to show her I would do more than talk during her show but Tori gripped my hand to calm me. I grumbled and leaned into her, unable to resist her gentle touch. I sighed and gave into the drama unfolding on the screen. I watched as Ginger Fox finally came on screen, but the strange thing was, she was behind bars at a type of zoo. What the hell were we watching? The three of us remained quiet as we watched her being exploited as the crazy ape woman. She reminded me of…of how I was when I came back. She had been lost in the wild just like me yet she was being used and abused for it. She was even trained to perform. Trained! I would have found this hilarious in the past but instead I found myself sympathizing with her.
I never liked her but I knew how she felt and what she was going through. I didn't realize I was cutting off the circulation in Tori's fingers and hand until she let out a whimper. I released her hand with an apologetic glance at her. I returned my eyes to the TV seconds later. I didn't like what I saw but I couldn't look away. Ginger was angry now and swinging on the tree in her enclosure after being prodded to do a trick. The interviewer asked why no one had taken steps to return her to a normal life. They answered that she was making more money like this than when she had when she was leading a normal life. Where were her family? Why hadn't they stepped in yet? They were her family! No, I had enough of this. I snarled and stood to remove myself from the poor excuse for entertainment. I stomped away and only got as far as a few steps when Tori caught up to me. I rounded on her, my expression so fierce she stepped back.
"How can anyone watch that?" I snapped, jabbing a finger at the TV Trina was still watching with rapt attention. Tori tried to talk but I cut her off. I could feel the angry tears burn my eyes but I refused to let them fall. I wasn't afraid to let Tori see them. I just wanted her to know how angry I was.
"Your sister is watching it and enjoying every minute of it! Doesn't she know what I went through? What you went through?" I demanded furiously. Tori nodded and reached out to me, her movements hesitant. Her hands ran up and down my arms when I didn't react to her advances.
"I…I guess some people just don't understand. I don't like it either, but the ones profiting from this keep them from handling the situation in a way more befitting of her condition. I know the fact that this is being used for entertainment purposes is upsetting to you, but I want you to understand that in no way does that make Trina or anyone else see you any different," she explained. I raised a brow at her, disbelievingly.
"Really?" I asked her, voice hollow. I knew she was defending her sister and had a hard time believing Trina thought that way too.
"Jade, there are people who love you here. You're surrounded by friends and family willing to do anything for you. Ginger doesn't have those kinds of people to rely on like you do. My point being, don't pay attention to stupid things like that. It's not worth getting upset over. You have us and we'll never treat you that way," Tori stated, holding my hands in hers and leaning in to kiss my cheek lovingly. I felt my tense body relax at her words, the fight leaving me.
"Thanks Tor," I whispered, tucking my face in the crook of her neck. I wrapped my arms around her and held her close, clinging to her. She returned the embrace happily.
"Plus, I'm enjoying Ginger Fox's misfortune not yours, Jade. She's way worse than you any day," Trina spoke up suddenly.
"Gee, thanks Trina," I responded, keeping my eyes closed and not bothering to move from my spot.
"Hey, don't get me wrong. I understand exactly what you're going through and what my sister went through for you. I don't take that lightly, believe me," she stated, standing to walk over to us now that the show was on commercial.
"Really, Trina? Really?" I asked her, pulling away from Tori to shoot a glare at her. Trina raised her hands in surrender.
"Really," she repeated certainly. I sighed and took Tori's hand in mine before leveling my gaze on her sister again.
"Fine," I replied, accepting it. Trina smiled and plopped back on the couch to enjoy the show as it came back on to display Ginger Fox swinging on a tire swing while the onlookers threw food in the cage for her to eat. I frowned at it but Tori caught my attention with a nudge to my shoulder, making me look away to focus on her instead. She gestured to return to the living room, a questioning expression on her face. I just shook my head. No matter who it was, I was disgusted by the thought of someone going through what I had and being taken advantage for it. I was grateful to have Tori to take care of me, and right now, that was all I wanted. Tori led me back to her room and we watched a different show while we curled up on her bed. I stayed until dark, leaving Tori on her porch when I eventually had to head home, a slow kiss as a goodbye. I rested my forehead on hers for a moment and then backed away.
"So, I'll see you tomorrow?" I asked her. She nodded.
"Yeah, meet us at the Freezy Queen we always go to," she replied. I gave her a thumbs up over my shoulder as I walked back to my car. Andre had called Tori to spread the news that they were all going out for some frozen yogurt. I had commented that it didn't solve any problems but Tori silenced me and agreed to the outing. She told me it could do me some good so I reluctantly agreed. Truthfully, I just didn't want to lose it in public or hurt someone. That was the last thing I wanted to do. I was still unstable I didn't trust myself.
"Love you, Jade," I heard Tori call to me. Those words were enough to clear away my sudden doubt. I turned around with a small smile.
"Love you too, Tor," I replied. She grinned and waved then turned to go back inside. I ran a hand through my hair and continued on. Tomorrow was going to be a long day. I cruised home and walked into my house on silent feet. My dad was already knocked out on the couch. The TV was still on. I smiled fondly and walked over to turn it off. I put him through just as much. We weren't as close as I would have liked but he stuck with me through all this crap, and for that, I was thankful. I patted his arm and called to him. He opened his eyes and saw me, that West smirk on his face.
"Back from Tori's already? I thought you would have spent the night," he said sleepily. I chuckled and helped him up.
"No, I'll see her tomorrow. I thought I should head home and help my old man find his room," I teased, guiding him through the dark. It didn't hinder me as much as it did him.
"Who are you calling an old man? I'm not that old," he grumbled. I just laughed again. I led him into his room and then left with a good night tossed over my shoulder. I waited for him to return it and then I was heading back to my room. I changed into more comfortable clothes, readied myself for bed, and then fell into it. I kicked away the useless blankets and turned over on my side, wrapping my arms around myself. What I'd give to have Tori with me right now, her body up against mine. I was so used to her spending nights with me or spending nights at her house that the nights we spent apart felt so lonely. I just wanted to have her in my arms, soft, warm, safe Tori. I couldn't believe I fell so hard for her. I couldn't believe I fell for her at all. I closed my eyes and kept my thoughts on Tori until I finally fell asleep.
I woke up to birds chirping and I tensed, briefly lost to the feeling of being out in the wild again. I sat up quickly and relaxed when I glanced around to see I was still in bed, surrounded by the four walls of my room. There were no dirt, no plants, no attacking animals, and no pain. My hand flew to the three scars on my back. I had been caught unaware one morning. Instead of being the hunter I was being hunted. I remember fighting for my life, falling further into a raging animal to survive that particular battle. I kept suffering total memory loss for hours at a time after that, solely leaning on my instincts that never failed to keep me alive. That was the only thing I could trust, the only thing I could rely on. I slipped out of bed and undressed in the bathroom. I studied my scarred body in the mirror and frowned. Tracing over a long scar across my stomach, I followed it onto my back, my thoughts wandering…
A sudden noise jerks me awake, my eyes already searching as I try to clear my sleep heavy head. I hastily get up but stay crouched down on my hands and feet to better stay hidden behind the leaves of my tree. I hurriedly climb down and slide under a log propped up by two boulders to carefully move away from the spot I use daily as a rest stop. I have to stay on the move so that whatever I can feel stalking me at the moment can't find me asleep and vulnerable. I keep my half blade with me at all times, ready to plunge it into anything willing to attack me. I begin pushing through the wide leaves in my path, putting distance between me and the spot I rested at. I freeze as soon as I hear something nearby. I inhale, catching the iron scent of blood. There's a strange scratching sound, and then something brushes my shoulder.
I tense and look to my right to see a tail flicking back and forth. I've been out here long enough to know what has been stalking me. I also know I still might not be strong enough to fight it. I grip my blade tighter and then begin sprinting. A heavy weight drops to the floor a second later, just barely missing me. A wild roar tears through the air as paws pound against the uneven ground to get to me. I take a few turns, duck under as many obstacles as I can, and even scale a tree to get away. I sit on the branch, out of breath but unwilling to make a sound until my danger alarm faded. I scan the ground and keep an ear out as I try catching my breath. A branch scrapes against another, and that's my only warning. I try to jump out of the way but claws already descend on me.
I cry out in pain as the big cat tackles me off my perch. We hit the ground, my fall broken by its body. It hadn't been able to land properly because I held onto it. The short wrestling match has me out powered easily, its claws tearing into me. Thankfully not too deep because my jacket took most of the damage. When it finally tears I waste no time pulling it off me so that I won't be hindered. We part briefly. I'm still crouched and ready despite feeling the fatigue set in. It angrily swats at me, barely catching my side, a cut curling around my front. I stab at its shoulder and it hisses, swinging at me again. I kick it away and try to get up but its powerful claws drag over my back. The pain blinds me and I stumble. I feel its heavy body jump on me, forcing me to the ground under it.
I clumsily grab some dirt and mud, scooping it up to smack directly into its flashing yellow eyes. It screams out a growl and I waste no time striking again. I plunge the blade in its neck, pulling back to do it again. Its body stills and then collapses. I have trouble pushing the dead weight off me but I manage it. I get up on my hands and knees, body throbbing yet shaking all at once. I stay like that, frozen and adrenaline ridden. I can feel warm blood running over my skin. I have to clean up or risk being a walking target. I quickly climb a tree and use the branches to get as far away as possible. Other predators would be attracted to the dead animal and find me wounded. I have to patch myself up and stay in the safety of the trees until I'm able to return to the ground.
That had been the turning point. I remember finding shelter and falling asleep, but after that, nothing. I had lost all sense of self with only flashes of pain in between. Things only started to become clearer the moment I saw her; Tori, who I recognized almost instantly. I took in a shuddering breath and turned away to jump in the shower. I managed to clean myself before it finally hit. I leaned against the cold wall, paralyzed. Many times I felt like I was going to die out there, but I survived. Against all odds I survived. I wiped at my eyes, my hands shaking. I was trying desperately to keep myself together. I could feel the tireless frustration of the animal I knew taking over. The shower seemed like rain on my back. The echoing pipes taking in the water sounded like rain water falling off leaves. I groaned and fell to my hands and knees, backing into the wall to press myself into the corner. I tried to stop the whimper from escaping but it did anyways. I began forgetting what I was doing. I wanted it all to go away. Tori, I would wait for my Tori. I sat there, unable to do much else. I wasn't aware of just how much time got away from me because soon the water had turned off and gentle hands pulled me to my feet. I whimpered again, my hands searching for her, knowing it was her and needing her to be as close to me as possible.
"Shh, Jade, I'm here. I'm here," her soothing voice whispered. She wrapped a towel around me and then held me close. I leaned into her, her familiar scent filling my nose. My Tori, she found me, just as I knew she would. I let the rumbling sound signal my happiness and her arms tightened on me in return. She held me a little longer and then led me out to get dressed. I let her guide me on autopilot until details began resurfacing and I found my way back again. My senses weren't only random emotions and needs anymore. I remembered that we had somewhere to be. Like taking a clear breath for the first time after being under water so long, I gasped and pulled away from her. Tori flinched for some reason and let me go. I gave her a questioning glance but she remained quiet. She looked different somehow.
"We had to meet the others today," I told her. She nodded, not looking at me.
"I'm sorry," I whispered, eyes downcast. Tori sighed tiredly and stood.
"I waited for you there, but when I couldn't wait anymore and started getting worried I came to find you. I guess we could spend the day here instead. You aren't doing well today," she answered softly. I watched as she dropped her shoes by the stairs and then returned to me. It occurred to me that Tori looked exhausted. She had been looking tired for a few days actually. What was going on? I opened my mouth to ask her but she seemed to know what I was going to say because she shook her head. She wasn't ready to answer and I wasn't going to push her. She took my hand and tugged me to the bed. I sat beside her, lost and confused for a different reason.
"Tori? Talk to me, please?" I asked her, laying a hand on hers. She looked down at the gesture, her normally expressive eyes looking eerily blank. Without her saying anything I knew it had to do with me.
"It's nothing. I just had a hard time getting to sleep last night," she replied, flashing me a smile that didn't reach her eyes.
"And the night before that?" I said with a quirk of my brow. She just shrugged indifferently.
"Yeah," she replied quietly. I didn't like the lack of emotion she was displaying. It just didn't feel right and concerned me coming from Tori.
"What about the night before that and the one before that? Do you want me to keep going or should I stop?" I stated, standing up to look down at her. Her eyebrows creased and her eyes looked close to tears but none fell.
"I've just been having some nightmares. It's nothing," she insisted, still not meeting my eyes. I growled and began pacing. I forced myself to stay upright and not fall into that stalking gait I took up when I got angry or frustrated. Why was I even getting so worked up? I was angry that Tori was hurting but I was the cause of that, I just knew it. I couldn't very well beat up myself for that could I? I pushed my still damp hair back and held a hand over my face. I heard Tori get up and remove my hand. I knew she would hug me next so I pulled away from her before she could.
"No, don't coddle me. Go home," I told her, turning away.
"I'm trying to help you, Jade," she replied, voice desperate but broken. Tori needed the help now, not me.
"Go home. I don't need it. You're hurting. I can see it. You won't tell me what's bothering you, and that's fine. You'll tell me when you're ready. I'll wait, but I want you to go home. Get some rest. I'll be fine," I responded, keeping my distance. She sighed but nodded. She began walking out with her head down but I stopped her, a hand gripping her wrist. I lifted my other hand to push her chin up, correcting her downcast behavior. She smiled her thanks and I leaned in to kiss her cheek. I let her go and she took the stairs after slipping on her shoes, closing the door softly on the way out. I sighed and sat heavily on the floor. Something was bugging Tori and it had to do with me. She wasn't getting any sleep because of nightmares. Were they caused by something I did?
Were they even about me at all? Whatever they were about she had kept them from me all this time. It was eating away at her, I could see it clearly now. I wish I could do something to get her to talk sooner rather than later but I knew Tori was just as stubborn as me. I had to wait for her to come to me. I spent the rest of the day hoping Tori was at home resting as I told her to do. To keep myself busy I worked on a few of the worksheets I was given that had to be done by the next lesson tomorrow. It was dark by the time I finished. I texted Tori, wishing her a good night and told her I loved her. She replied, but not as quickly as she usually did. I grew a little worried but there was nothing I could do right now so I forced myself to get some sleep.
I woke up clearheaded and ready to face the day. I got dressed and waited for the tutor to show up. When he did we went right into the lesson without waiting. I needed to stay busy so that I didn't lapse into my own thoughts. I promised my dad I would work hard, and I would, so I stayed on track. A few hours later and the tutor left me with more assignments and a new lesson stored away. I got something to eat and then contemplated seeing Tori when there was a knock at my door. I didn't bother answering it because I knew, just by the way the knock sounded, that it was Tori. Why was she back? What did she need? I told her to rest and I meant it. The door opened a moment later and she walked in. She was oddly quiet and emotionless.
She looked a little better than she had before so maybe she managed to get some sleep, but otherwise, I didn't like what I saw. She still looked run down and unlike the happy Tori I knew. It was killing me seeing her like this. I wanted to cheer her up, make her smile. I really hoped she was here to tell me what was going on because maybe then I could help her. She was always there for me, and no matter what was going on with me right now, I wanted her to come first. Tori kept her head held high, something I was happy to see, but she avoided looking at me directly. She walked over silently and took my hand without a word. She pulled me from the couch and I let her take me back to my room. Once we were seated on my bed she cleared her throat.
"I hid them from you so you didn't have to deal with more things. I thought it would be too much for you to juggle your own problems and mine," she muttered like we had never stopped the conversation that was started the day before. Regardless, I had caught on. Without asking I knew she was talking about the nightmares.
"Tori, I want to help you. It doesn't matter what I'm going through. I still want to be there for you. Your problems are my problems and I want to be able to help you solve them, ok?" I replied, leaning in to gently make her look at me. She nodded and I pulled her into a hug which she threw herself into.
"Tell me what's bothering you," I whispered. She looked up at me with tears in her eyes.
"I'm afraid I'll lose you," she responded. My brows creased in confusion.
"I'm right here, Tor. I'm not going anywhere," I replied. She shook her head and pushed away from me to stand.
"No, I mean, the nightmares are about losing you to the feral side forever. It always starts out with us just hanging out in your room. But then, you start forgetting things, you look confused, you run away from me and growl at me when I try to reach out to you. It's like you don't remember me at all," she explained, her voice weak. She hugged herself and all I wanted to do was hold her, reassure her that nothing like that would happen.
"I'll only get better. These flashbacks will pass, I'm sure they will," I told her, needing both me and her to believe those words.
"And if they don't? What if you do get worse, Jade? There's still a chance you could-" she argued, making my frustration grow. It had started with myself, frustrated that I couldn't just get better for Tori's sake. Now it was directed at her and I couldn't stop it.
"I won't fall back to that! I've gotten better! I won't lose to this! I've fought this hard and I won't give you up! I can-" I yelled back, faltering halfway through my rant with a restless snarl. Her worry was clear when she reached out to me. I slapped her hand away and grabbed my head, falling to my knees as I was lost in yet another flashback that took me to the beginning of all this mess…
I stomp ahead of Beck, angry with him again. I thought this trip was supposed to bring us together, but every time we try something we always disagree and a fight break out. He seems so insecure with everything he does for me. He babies me and I don't like it. He's being too clingy. His attention is always on me, like he's pleading with me to stay when I haven't even left. What the hell is his problem? I stop in an area big enough for us to set up camp. This is the third time we have to move and our first time we have to do it without the tour guide. He got picked up for more supplies, leaving us with a tracker so that he can find us again. Beck and I silently set up camp then sat around the fire just as it's getting dark. I see him run a hand over his face and then stand.
"I'm getting tired. Do you wanna turn in?" he asks me. I'm still unhappy with him so I spit out a reply.
"You're tired and you just assume I am too?" I respond, leaning down to grab a twig I could cut up with my scissors. The wind picks up a little, making me tug on my leather jacket. It's great against the nipping wind. There would definitely be rain soon, just as the guide had predicted.
"No, I'm only offering babe," he replies, holding up his hands in surrender.
"Fine, but I'm not tired so just go to bed. I'm staying up a little longer," I tell him, cutting up another twig and then stopping to lean forward on my legs once it was in pieces at my feet. I absentmindedly fiddle with the music note necklace, liking the way it reflects the fire's flames on the silver. It's similar to the reflection of the flames on my scissors. I'm so entranced that I haven't noticed that Beck never left. I hear him scoff and mumble something under his breath. I think I hear Tori's name and it immediately triggers something in me to defend. I don't like him talking about her, especially if it's slander against her. I stand abruptly and stomp over to him.
"What did you say?" I demand, stepping close to him so that I can get in his face.
"Nothing. I'm going to bed," he answers, turning away. I grab his arm and yank him back around before he can enter the tent behind him.
"No, what did you say about Tori?" I command again, the half Latina's name slipping from my mouth unintentionally. I curse internally when a heavy grimace appears on Beck's face.
"Tori? Oh, so that's why you're suddenly interested in what I have to say? Is Tori all you care about now? Why do you need to know anything about Tori?" he retorts, voice strained as he gets in my face now.
"She's my friend. I don't like it when people talk crap about my friends. I don't show it often, but you know that," I respond as evenly as I can. Tori may have been in the front of my thoughts for some time now but I can't let Beck know that. It has to be because of all the time we spend together and I'm really warming up to her. We actually have a friendship now. It's all she ever wanted and I actually like it. Guilt rose in me then, for reasons unknown to me. I feel like I'm somehow betraying Beck, but how can that be? I didn't do anything.
"Yeah, because you two are such good friends. Well, if that's the case then I'm sure you can just forget we even tried to keep this going! I mean, I want to be with you Jade, but all you seem to do is wander off or get lost in your own head when we're together. It's like you don't even see me anymore. I planned this so we could try to renew our relationship but here you are still thinking about someone else!" he shouts angrily. I bristle at his tone.
"Are you accusing me of something? What are you trying to say, Beck?" I growl, waiting for an answer I don't really want to hear. I don't know if I'm ready to hear it. Beck obviously knows something I don't. His behavior is a clear sign that he does. Even when I try to get closer to him it just doesn't feel right and Beck always seems to have this hidden grudge against me. It isn't just me acting out here. He glares at me, his dark brown eyes actually hostile. He's no longer the cool and collected Beck I know.
"Whatever. You can't see it then why bother telling you. You can figure it out on your own," he grumbles, moving to enter the tent. He turns his back on me, leaving me so furious I'm gritting my teeth.
"Fine! You know what, screw you Beck! I will figure it out on my own! I don't need you!" I scream, kicking a pole out of the ground on my way out of the campsite. The tent collapses and I hear him yell in shock. I'm a good distance away when he calls to me.
"Hey, where are you going?" he questions.
"Away from you!" I respond, yelling over my shoulder at him. He doesn't stop me so I continue on. I tell myself I'll walk in a straight line and then just backtrack, following the angry slashes through the trees I create with my scissors along the way. I finally sit down on a rock when I feel I have put enough distance between us. I play with my scissors while my thoughts wander back home to Tori. I groan and hold my face in my hands. Why am I always thinking about her? Beck, you jerk. I wish you were the only one haunting my thoughts, but you aren't. I stand and run, my only goal to get away from this confusion inside of me, run until I pass out from exhaustion and can't think anymore.
When I had to stop for air and rest it dawns on me that I haven't marked the trees as I ran. I figure I've run straight out so I take a breather and then turn around to walk back. Time seems to drag and I can't seem to find the cut up trees I marked or the boulder I used to sit on. I grew desperate and began to panic. What if I can't find my way back? What will I do then? I don't have any form of communication, and even if I had a phone, I doubt I would have any signal. The tracker! I stupidly ran away and the only thing that would insure we would be found was the tracking device. Dammit, and if Beck ran off to find me without it he'll be stuck out here too. I'm such an idiot! I let out a frustrated and frightened scream before falling to my knees and crying. I'm lost. I'm lost in the middle of nowhere, and for once, I'm afraid.
I felt hands tugging, pulling on me. I growled and snapped at them, trying to defend myself from the flashbacks attacking me as well as this unknown person. They pulled away quickly and I pushed off the floor to get away. I was scared. I was mad, angry; no, furious. I knew that at least but nothing else. I didn't want to be touched. I wanted to be left alone. I closed my eyes and huddled in the corner of the room I was in, hoping whoever was here with me would just go away. They didn't. The hands gripped my shoulders again and words met my ears but I couldn't understand them. Why couldn't I understand? I knew I could before, but now I couldn't. It was all so frustrating. I growled threateningly and shot to my feet. I grabbed the offender and slammed them back against the wall. I heard a pained grunt but I didn't care. My steel grip went for the throat, an easy way to win the struggle as I had found out even when I hunted animals. I gripped the soft flesh, the useless words cutting off to be replaced with a gasp of air cutting off as well. I was brought back into awareness by a loud, pleading, cry of pain.
I closed my eyes and shook my head. I opened my eyes to see the girl who was always there to offer me hugs and make me feel better. She was nice, she was safe, and I was attacking her. I let out a scared whimper and released her quickly. She coughed and gasped for air, clutching at her throat as she slid to the floor. I didn't know what to do. I might have hurt her. I crouched down and carefully touched her shoulder but she pushed me away. I could hear her broken sobs, crying as I understood it. It happened when someone was sad. I looked down at my hands and then up to her. I hurt her. How could I hurt her? I knew she wasn't a threat but I was just so scared and angry. I didn't know what came over me but I knew I had to show her I didn't mean it. I opened my mouth to try and force out the strange words I had heard others use but I couldn't find a single one to use. I tried desperately to remember her name but I couldn't remember that either. I let out another whimper and crawled closer to her. She had caught her breath now and was leaning against the wall, staring at me sadly.
I carefully crawled over her outstretched legs so that I could climb in her lap. She closed her eyes and turned away, more tears falling. I reached up to wipe them away carefully and then nuzzled into her neck, hoping she understood that I was sorry. She tried holding back the next sound of pain but it still came. She pushed me away and stood, removing herself from me. I stayed sitting on the floor, knowing what I did was wrong and afraid that she would leave me. I didn't mean to hurt her. I really didn't. I actually liked her visits and I liked her. She strode to the stairs and it was then that I knew she was going to leave. I dashed forward on all fours so that I could move faster. My feet were heavy with these things covering my feet but I was still able to cut her off. She tried to step over me but I deflected her just in time and stood up, standing tall so I could look down on her. It was a silent warning to stay where she was. She took a step back, her eyes revealing her fear. I instantly shrunk, unwilling to scare her into staying. I tried again to talk. I had to get through to her, to tell her how much I needed her to stay.
"T-Tori," I stuttered. That had to be her name. I knew I would get it eventually. It was right there on the tip of my tongue. She let out a shuddering breath before answering me.
"I want to go home. Please, just let me go. I can't-I can't see you like this right now. I want my Jade back. Please," she pleaded, her words suddenly not all that hazy. Was I this Jade she was talking about? Was my name Jade? I didn't know for sure but I had a feeling I was. What did she mean she wanted her Jade? She shook her head and pushed past me but I panicked and grabbed her arm to pull her back. She stumbled and fell back into my arms. I picked her up and relocated her to my bed where I threw her down. She tried to get up but I pinned her down again. I stared at her, unhappy with the tears running down her face. She had to know I was sorry, and she couldn't leave until I made her understand. My fear and panic was getting the best of me. I couldn't let her leave. I didn't know if she would come back. I had to do something to keep her here long enough to apologize.
I leaned in and brushed her nose with mine then rested my forehead on hers. I inhaled, smelling the soft familiarity of her. My hand went to run over the faded mark I had spotted at the crook of her neck. She was mine, but she didn't want to be anywhere near me. A memory of me and her came to me, and before I knew it I copied it in hopes of getting her to calm down. I pressed my lips to hers, earning a shocked sound from her. I held her close as I moved my lips against hers desperately. Her hands slipped from my loose hold to push at me but that just made me pull her closer. My fear was still very much present as I tried to please her but she was only halfheartedly following along. I cupped her face in my hands as I pulled away, my teeth gritting as I held back an emotion I wasn't sure about. I felt so empty and lost. It hurt and made my heart ache. I was afraid to lose her. A sob broke through my lips and I could feel the tears sliding down my face…
I really don't know how many days I've been stuck out here but I feel like I'm not going to make it. I wrote all my fears and hopes into a letter to Vega of all people. I don't know why but I knew I could trust her at least. I came to a certain understanding as I wrote that letter. If I was to survive out here I have to stop handling the situation like a human and start handling it like an animal. I have to listen to my instincts. Right now it was kind of hard to do so with the rain on full blast. I find a crappy place to hide temporarily but I'm still getting wet. I found the old campsite a while back and was able to write the letter using a stray piece of paper and pen. I fold it up, after having a silent moment to reflect, and prepare to put it in my pocket when I spot a zip lock bag caught in a bush. I take it, hoping it'll keep the paper from getting wet or ruined in any other way. I have to make sure it gets back home so I have to take care of it. Whether they find it on my cold lifeless body or some other way, it has to endure. I place it in the only place I'm sure Vega would find it, in the hidden pocket of my jacket. I wrap my arms around my legs and rest my head on my knees to try and stay warm.
The rain isn't letting up any time soon. The wide leaves over my head are doing nothing to keep me dry, which was okay because the water running over my face keeps my mind off the tears it hides. I'm going to die out here and it's about time I just accept it. I won't go down without a fight though. That just isn't me. I vow, right then and there, that I'll never give up on something worth fighting for. Even if I lost, I still fought for it. I stand abruptly and march through the rain, pulling out my scissors as I go. The first few attempts at hunting doesn't go so well, and I break them in half in the attempt, but I have to try again. The animals are hiding from the rain right now. If I can catch them unaware…well, then I'll have dinner. I hold out my hair and use the blade to cut off a good portion that tangled and blocked my view. I then slide into the helpful crouch I use to move more silently. Yeah, I' beginning to lose myself to this new lifestyle, but it's way better than dying here. Plus, I have confidence that I can get through this. I reach up and run my hand over my shirt where I felt the music note laying just under the fabric. I'll get home somehow or die trying.
I pulled away quickly, releasing Tori from my hold. I backed away from her to collapse against the wall. I had always been a silent crier and now was no different. I looked away from her, ashamed for forcing her against her will. It was wrong of me, but I didn't take that into account when I was like that. When the animal presented itself I only thought about myself. I was selfish and crude. I curled up and hid my face, unable to look anywhere near Tori. I heard her sit up and sigh tiredly. She walked over to me slowly, her steps hesitant.
"Just go," I choked out, trying to keep my voice steady. There was silence and then she spoke.
"I'll be back, Jade. I promise. I won't give up on you," she told me. I didn't respond so she eventually left. As soon as the door shut I allowed a pained sob to tear from my throat. Would this ever end? I laid on my side to curl up into a ball. Before I knew it I had fallen into a fitful sleep. I was nudged awake some time later by a heavy hand on my shoulder. I rolled on my back to glare up at Beck.
"What do you want Beckett? Can't you see I want to be left alone?" I asked him irately yet too tired to put any real force behind the words.
"Yes, I can see that," he replied, a friendly and supportive smile on his face. There was a time I was the one with nightmares, but mine consisted of losing Tori to Beck. I feared she would get tired of trying to help me through this and seek comfort with him. It drove me crazy and caused me to lash out at him more often. When I finally figured out the dreams were most likely a subconscious side effect to still seeing Beck as a threat, I backed off. Tori spent a whole day proving that she loved me and me only. I apologized to them both and then I was able to finally move on. We didn't need more problems added to what we already had. The more I began to find my place in my old life again the more he started looking less like a threat and more like an annoyance that I was just angry at. Then that turned into a close friend type thing when Tori made me realize I couldn't just ignore Beck. He was still an important part of my life. That didn't mean I had to tolerate him all the time though.
"Then leave me alone," I grumbled, turning back around to lay my head on the floor.
"Nope," he disagreed, pulling me to my feet. He struggled a little, because I was dead weight, and I knew the extra muscle I put on, and kept on, made me a little more than heavy for a lanky guy like Beck who didn't really put in hours at the gym.
"Jade, don't be difficult," he told me, slight irritation in his tone. I rolled my eyes and pushed away from him.
"I'm not. I want to be left alone," I repeated, moving to sit on my bed. I ran a hand over the wrinkles Tori put in them. I already missed her and felt ten times worse about the situation, what I had done to her.
"Yeah, I understand that, but I'm not going anywhere until we talk. Tori called me, distraught and worried. She told me to check on you, talk to you, because she couldn't. That's all she told me before she hung up so don't try grilling me about whether she let slip some important information or not," he explained. He was quick to cut me off when I opened my mouth to protest. He knew me too well.
"That's it?" I asked him. He shook his head and walked over to sit next to me.
"No, your dad called me when the tutor called him saying that you didn't answer the door when he showed up. He isn't happy that you missed a lesson. He's going to be even more unhappy when he hears it's because of Tori," Beck continued. I glared at him when he mentioned Tori.
"It wasn't her fault. It's mine. She has nothing to do with it so leave her alone," I growled in defense. I unknowingly began pacing, or stalking as Tori called it. It always helped me relieve the building anxiety or stress. When I realized I was doing it I shot to my feet and turned away, wrapping my arms around my middle.
"If you ever tell Tori I do that I'm biting you again Oliver," I grumbled, mentally kicking myself for doing it in the first place. I had to get a better hold of myself. He held up his hands as he always did when he wanted to show he understood and was conceding. He nodded his head slowly to confirm that he wouldn't say anything.
"Look, she still had something to do with missing your lesson so start talking," he responded. I narrowed my eyes at him.
"Why should I?" I asked him stubbornly.
"Because, Tori asked me to help and I think we both owe her a lot, don't you think?" he replied. I groaned and fell back on my bed, knowing it what he said was the truth. He waited patiently until I finally decided to give in.
"Beck, do you regret what happened?" I asked him quietly. He hummed in thought before falling back next to me. He found my hand and gave it a squeeze.
"I regret letting you walk away from that campsite, but the rest…no. I think we would have eventually fallen apart. We just weren't working. I'm happy to see you happy, and if that means we work better as being friends and you're with someone else, then that's how it'll be," he answered sincerely. I felt like crying again when I heard his answer.
"God Beck, rub salt in my wound why don't you," I grumbled. He laughed and began running his thumb over mine. His boyish chuckle, I missed hearing Beck's light laughter.
"I'm only being honest, Jade. I'm happy being your friend who gets along with you than a constantly arguing couple. And I think you and Tori work like a mysterious puzzle that seems to go together even though it doesn't look like it should," he went on. I laughed once and smacked his shoulder. He flinched and rubbed at it with a fake pout.
"Stop it Beck, you're being a sappy goofball like Vega. It's making me sick," I told him halfheartedly with a frown.
"You like it no matter how much you deny it," he responded confidently. Damn, well yeah I did, but I wasn't going to admit it. I pulled my hand away to cross my arms. Beck knew what that meant and began laughing again.
"So, does this mean you're going to find Tori and work this latest dilemma out or are you going to stay here and sulk?" he questioned, getting up to stare down at me. I sighed and sat up too.
"I don't know if I can. I've been…falling back into it Beck. Certain things keep triggering flashbacks and I can't stop them once they start. I get so mixed up in them I react like I'm back in the wild. I don't know why besides maybe that's my defense mechanism. It scares Tori. I know it does. She thinks I'm going to go back and then get stuck. Honestly, I'm afraid I will too," I confessed. He showed no pity, which I was grateful for, but that didn't stop him from showing empathy. He pulled me into him and I took comfort in his arms in a way I hadn't in a long time.
"You won't go back. I know you won't. I'll fight for you too," he whispered, pressing a kiss to my temple. Those words, I had heard them before. I held onto him and let the latest flashback take over…
I had just finished relaxing in the sun when I heard something approach. I take off without hesitation but it follows me. I'm being chased. It's not an animal, the footfalls are all wrong. They're people and they're after me. They try to communicate with me when I'm briefly cornered, something I can't understand, so I run away again. The noises coming from their mouths are strange. They almost catch me when I thought I outran them and stop by the river for water. One slips in the mud and falls, alerting me. I take off without another look back. I don't want to be caught. I jump a gap and easily grab a branch hanging over it to swing onto the other side. Some make the jump but I hear some shout in pain and anger when they fail. I may not understand what they say but I can still hear their emotions clearly in their tone. One puts on a burst of speed, just enough to get close to me.
A sting alerts me to my leg going numb under me. I begin faltering in my stride, limping and dragging my leg as I try to keep running. I'm slowing down. I almost fall over a hidden branch sticking out of the ground. I catch myself only to be tackled to the ground a moment later. I struggle to get out of the restricting hands. I listen to my instincts and sink my teeth in the person's arm. He cries out and strikes my face to get me off. I hear angry screaming behind him and soon I'm wrestled from him to fall against a thinner body. It feels comfortable at first but then I tense. Something doesn't feel right about this person. I look up into dark brown eyes and suddenly I know; I recognize him, but something tells me I don't like him. I fight to get out of his hold and he tries to talk to me but I continue to fight. A sting to my back follows by another in my neck that instantly renders me defenseless. My body is going numb and my vision is getting blurry.
"Don't worry, Jade. I got you. You're safe. I'll fight for you," he whispers. I don't know what he means but it doesn't matter. I black out after that.
I opened my eyes and found myself in Beck's arms. He held me against him, his breathing light and smile content. I actually felt bad for saying what I needed to but I had to get moving before the anxiety pulsing through me made my instincts to defend myself kick into gear again.
"I have to see her," I told him, pulling away. He smiled sadly but nodded.
"You should," he agreed. I smiled and placed a hand on his cheek.
"Thank you Beck, for being there for both of us. I know it's hard," I stated, looking into those eyes I hated when I was still feral and out of control. Now they just reminded me of better days between us when we were as in love as any two people could ever be. What happened to us?
"No problem, Jade. I would do anything for you," he responded. I kissed his forehead and then stood up, ready to go. He followed me outside, and after hugging me, he got in his car and left. I watched him go and then ran past my car, needing to feel the brisk air and wind rush past me. I hadn't pushed myself to run as fast as I was running now in a long time. It felt good. I slowed down into a jog and then to a walk to catch my breath. I walked the rest of the way, a confident smile on my face. I would make it up to Tori. I would show her we could get through this. I wasn't a lost cause. I began running again when I reached her block. I jogged over the lawn and barged in the door, expecting to see the whole Vega family sitting around. I was disappointed to see no one. I listened for signs of Tori upstairs but all was quiet. I spotted a note on the counter.
It said her parents would be back soon. I almost lost hope but then I noticed it indicated that they had taken Tina out with them. That meant Tori was around here somewhere. I raced up the steps and jumped the last one in my rush. I slowed down when I reached her door and slowly pushed it open. My eyes landed on her slim form stretched out across the bed. I licked my lips nervously and then stepped in. I shut the door behind me quietly. It was getting dark outside. For all I knew her parents were heading home right now which meant Trina interrupting. I wanted to be able to explain myself to her and hope she forgave me all before her annoying older sister showed up. I fell into my crouch in an effort to remain silent. I really couldn't help using the skills I had.
I reached her bed and pushed off my boots before making my way slowly over the soft surface. I reached out and traced her jaw, closing my eyes and letting out a sigh when I finally came into contact with her again. I lied down as close to her as I could and then slipped my arms around her. I tucked my head in the space it always occupied under hers and let my body relax, her calming familiarity like a sedative by itself. She mumbled something under her breath and then her arms pulled me closer. I smiled and closed my eyes. Maybe I could just stay here, sleep in her arms like we always did, and then talk tomorrow. Yeah, that could work. I let myself fall asleep with hope for tomorrow's conversation going well.
The sun coming into the room blinded me, forcing me to wake up. I wasn't expecting sun from my room in the basement. Wait, I hadn't fallen asleep in my room. I was in Tori's room. Suddenly, I was wide awake. I searched the bed to find I was alone. I gripped her sheets, noting that she hadn't put them on me. She knew I didn't like them after the long nights I spent without such things to keep me warm. Like my boots or any footwear really. I preferred them off the minute I was inside. They were too enclosed for me. I was used to running around barefoot. Even though it has been months since I've been back it didn't mean I would return to how I was, or at all. I let my head fall into her pillow, smelling her so close yet she wasn't here. I closed my eyes, a flashback forcing its way into my head…
I regain consciousness tied down to something. I'm on my back and I can't move. That guy with the dark eyes I don't trust sits right next to me. I'm too tired to fight this time so I fall back into blissful sleep. The next time I wake up I'm being pushed into a building that's so white it hurts my eyes. I'm still strapped down, but as soon as we stop in a room and they begin undoing them. I waste no time trying to get out. Multiple pairs of hands restrain me but I snap at them and dig my nails in their skin, drawing blood. I fight them all off until someone stronger wrestles me down. A painful stab to my arm and I'm quickly falling back into the black void again. I wake up dazed and confused this time around. It doesn't feel good at all. I feel sick and uncoordinated. I try moving but my hands are tied down. I can feel that my body is a little hard to move in some areas. Bandages. Sure, they helped, but it still doesn't feel like they're trying to help. I feel like they want me dead. I look around the room to stop on the distracting device on the wall. A…TV, right?
Everything feels familiar but foreign at the same time. I close my eyes and try to focus but it's hard. I'm so thirsty. A soothing voice speaks to me then. I open my eyes to see a kind woman offering me water. I stare at it, unable to show that I want it, but it doesn't matter because she brings it to my lips. I drink the whole thing in one gulp and whine for more. She complies, and only after the third cup do I feel better. She tells me something bu I don't understand. Then she leaves. She better not bring anyone I don't like. She's nice enough but I don't like those people who dragged me in here in the first place. A man carrying a scent that felt familiar to me walks in at that moment. His eyes look on with worry and relief, eyes that seem familiar too. He doesn't make me feel uncomfortable so I allow him to step closer without putting up much reluctance. He lays a hand on my cheek gently despite his tough hands and carefully brushes my hair back. He says something in his deep but trustworthy voice and then turns away in a hurry. He pulls a device out of his pocket on the way. What's that about?
The nurse feeds me after the strange visit. By then I'm comfortable enough to let myself sleep. My days consist of eating, sleeping, and doing what the men in white ask of me. I listen to some but others are rude and I quickly put them in their place. They learn to treat me better so I reluctantly return the favor once they do. They're ultimately trying to help me so I guess I shouldn't be so violent towards them. I can't help fighting when I feel that internal alarm go off. It always warns me of danger without fail so I listen. As time flies by I begin to feel better. My injuries are healed and the annoying tests are over. That night I fall asleep under the watchful eyes of the men who stand outside my door but wake up loosely tied down by my wrists in a small room that feels way more comfortable than where I was before. I feel…safe here. I stay curled up on the floor with my back pressed against something at all times though. Nothing can sneak up on me as long as I stay alert and keep my back against something solid.
I hear voices after some time passes. The new arrivals come down, revealing who they are. I don't bother looking over until I hear the somewhat unsteady and hesitant steps toward me. That's a move no one makes around me. It's always quick and to the point, sometimes forceful. This one is uncertain. I look over to see a girl whose features seem to hit me hard. Why does she make me feel this way? Whatever, she's okay for now. I dart my eyes to the dark eyed guy who I still don't like. I warn him with a growl and then charge at him when he doesn't go away, hitting the end of my restraints. He backs away so at least he got the point but I make sure he stays away with a few more growls of disapproval. The girl stares at me but her gaze doesn't make me uncomfortable for some reason. She feels safe and familiar. I want her attention now more than ever. I want her to notice me. Why, I don't clearly know, but I want it. The dark eyed guy starts talking but I ignore him in favor of keeping my attention on her. She keeps her attention on him though. I hold back an irritated growl and begin pacing. If only I can get free.
"Jade?" a ringing voice calls to me. It's soft and kind, full of light. At that moment, coming from her mouth, I know she's talking to me. I give her my full attention, my eyes studying her from top to bottom. She's nothing like a threat, not even close. She draws me in curiously and I find myself taking the steps necessary to close the distance between us. I'm still cautious enough to stay crouched down defensively in case I'm wrong. I stop a little bit away to test her scent. It's just as soft on the senses as the rest of her. She actually smells very welcoming. I notice the way she stands and decide I should level my eyes with hers to show I'm listening. I push off the floor to attempt it. I haven't stood up like this in a while and I'm a bit unsteady. She seems to feel threatened by me now so I continue on carefully. No nervous creature should be taken lightly. I suck in some more of her scent, letting it relax me. My eyes fall closed but I tilt my head to listen out for any danger.
"Jade, can you understand me?" her voice chimes again, strong despite how she acts. I frown, trying to unscramble the words. Why can't I understand all of the time and not every once in a while? It's so annoying. I make a sound unintentionally while I continue to process the information but it still isn't coming to me. I let out a frustrated breath and open my eyes to look into hers. I beg with everything I have, hoping she'll understand that I'm trying but there isn't much I can do. I need her to understand me. I finally find someone who I know I can trust but I can't show her what I need. She suddenly steps closer, surprising me enough to back away. As soon as she stops trying to get so close I begin following her unafraid lead to close the distance again. I scrutinize every angle of her face, trying to catch a single hint of a trick or a trap but there's none. I decide to get even closer.
I have to know her on a more personal level. She's interesting in a way I haven't come across for a long time. I lean in and brush my nose against her neck, inhaling as I travel up to her jaw. She's addicting, I conclude. But, who is she? I still don't know but I feel like I should. I sound my approval of her, trying to let her know I like her. I trust her. I reach up and run my fingers over her face curiously, wondering why she interests me so much. The feel of her skin under my touch makes me also conclude that she's pleasing to all senses so far. I catch her gaze again, and the look in her bright eyes seems to strike sudden recognition in me. I've seen those caring light brown eyes somewhere before, looking at me with so much emotion. I just know it. A name comes to me but it remains out of reach. I try to sound out the name but all that comes out is a faltering sound that resembles nothing she can understand, I'm sure. I growl and clench my hands into fists.
No use getting frustrated, but it doesn't change how much I want to let her know that I recognize her. Her soft hand rests on my arm, putting me at ease almost instantly. She's a breath of fresh air and I want more. A shout from the guy I don't like broke us apart suddenly. He runs toward us and all I can think to do is keep her safe. I push her away from him and grab him to throw him back forcefully into the wall. He slides to the floor, staying down. I snarl at him as further warning and quickly move to guard the girl I took extreme interest in. No one will hurt her as long as I'm here. Heavy footsteps alert me to someone else approaching. I grab the girl so I can carry her away from danger. When I set her down she screams something in warning. I quickly use my body as a shield and hope nothing hurts her. Two stings to my back and I'm fighting to keep my eyes open. The last thing I see is her worried face and then I'm out, hoping I'll be able to see her again.
My eyes snapped open as the flashback faded out to bring me back to the present. I sat up abruptly, on edge from the last bit of the flashback. I froze and forced myself to relax. I looked up and there she was, standing at the edge of the bed. She looked like a deer caught in headlights. I stayed where I was, unwilling to make a move toward her. I wanted her to come to me when she wanted to. She seemed to thaw out as her hands began fidgeting with the hem of her shirt.
"I would have woken you up but I thought you should get some sleep while I made us breakfast. My parents stayed out after dinner to attend another audition run with Trina. I didn't want to go with them so I stayed," she muttered. I offered her a small, appreciative smile at the sound of breakfast and then nodded.
"Ok," I replied simply. She nodded once and then turned away. Hell no, it couldn't stay this awkward. I jumped from the bed and ran to catch her before she could walk out.
"Tori," I called to her, keeping my voice even yet quiet. She stopped and turned to look at me. I was surprised to see the tears glistening in her eyes already.
"What's wrong?" I asked her, urging her back into my arms. She let me hold her, leaning into me. She opened her mouth to say something but then she closed it and shook her head. She pulled away and made it as far as the hall before I caught up to her. I trapped her against the wall so she couldn't get away again.
"Tori, please talk to me. I want to know everything that's bothering you. I want to help you, make you happy. Please," I begged her, gripping her hands in mine desperately. I unthinkingly leaned in and found that comfortable spot under her jaw. I kissed her there softly but she clenched her hands in mine.
"Don't, please," she gasped. I pulled away to look at her questionably.
"Tell me what's wrong so I won't keep making mistakes then," I responded. She let out a long, heavy sigh but nodded.
"Ok," she submitted. I nodded and led her back into her room. I let her go and put distance between us. She could choose how far or close the distance would be on her own. I didn't want to make her uncomfortable. I waited patiently for her to say something but it was getting hard. Patience was never my strong point. I let out a growl and turned away. Tori flinched at the sound but stayed quiet. I ran a hand over my face and then spun back around. It was time to take things into my own hands then.
"Look, I came here to hear what you had to say. Now that I'm here you aren't even saying anything. I want to apologize and hope you forgive me for whatever it is that's upsetting you but I don't know what that is. I'm trying Tori, but you still stay quiet. You can tell me anything. I'm here for you. But of course, if you don't want to say anything at all, I guess I'll go. I won't force you," I told her seriously. She looked away and that was the last straw. I stomped to the door and moved to open it, needing to get some air before my control slipped. I was just about to grab the door handle when Tori yanked me back. I turned to snarl at her but her needy lips found mine. My snarl died in my throat to be replaced by a moan. She caught me off guard and broke through my defenses easily. What was she up to now? She forced me towards her bed, pushing me on my back. I lost contact with her lips but they found mine again in no time. Her body draped over mine, one hand holding her up and the other finding its way down my stomach. I pulled away from her hungry lips to breathe.
"What are you playing at Vega?" I asked her suspiciously. She captured my lips in a teasingly slow kiss before pulling away to answer.
"I'm sorry," she panted quietly.
"For what?" I asked her. Why the hell was she apologizing?
"For running from you instead of staying to fight. You were trying so hard and I walked out on you. I failed. I wasn't there for you. I just got so tired and worn down without sleep. Seeing you lose yourself again and again both in my dreams and during the day wore me down. I almost lost hope. I kept seeing you fall back into that state and thought, all Jade asked of me was to return her humanity and here I am not keeping that promise. It scared me," she finally explained. I cupped her face in my hands and kissed her, trying my best to be as passionate as I could, make her understand I was thankful and knew she tried her best. When we parted she stared at me sadly. She moved to avert her eyes but I made her look at me.
"You tried and you succeeded. You did, and that's all I asked for. These little bumps in the road are nothing compared to how I was before. You did it Tori, no matter what. Don't think you failed me because without you I would still be tied up in my room under top security. You gave me my life back and don't let anyone tell you differently. That includes yourself," I told her firmly, keeping her gaze on me.
"Really?" she whispered.
"Yes, really. I think as soon as you realize that, your nightmares will go away. I'm fine. I'll get over this. I'm here and I'll continue to be here, with you. Do you understand?" I told her, drilling it into her head. She nodded and took up my favorite spot on her but doing the same to me. I held her, staying quiet and just allowing her to relax. I wasn't surprised when her breathing evened out. She was asleep. It was about time too. She needed it. She was stressing herself out, getting no sleep because of the nightmares, and worrying about me while she was awake. She better have been eating properly at least. I let Tori sleep and even dozed in and out several times but we both jumped when my shattering glass ringtone cut through the silence. I held it to my ear to hear my dad demanding why I kept missing my lessons. I groaned and told him I would add two more days on to catch up. The conversation ended with his grumble of agreement. I threw my phone to the side of us and returned my hands to Tori's back.
"Your dad?" she asked knowingly.
"Yeah," I replied simply.
"You missed your lesson," she observed, glancing over at her clock. I nodded.
"Yep," I responded unabashedly.
"Jade," she whined, dragging out my name. I laughed and rolled us over so I was on top of her.
"I'm glad you're feeling better. I missed your annoying whining," I told her truthfully. She smiled, almost as bright as normal. It was getting there.
"I do feel better. All I need now is some food and a full night of sleep. The only problem is I can't seem to just unwind," she commented. I allowed my usual smirk to grace my lips as I touched my nose to hers.
"I can help you with that," I offered suggestively.
"Jade," she reprimanded me, slapping my shoulder. I growled playfully and nipped at her bottom lip before taking it into my mouth. I let it go and gave her one more lingering kiss then pulled away to get up.
"Get your head out of the gutter, Vega. I meant holding you in my arms so you'll feel safe and comfortable. It sucks sleeping alone," I explained, pouting a little at the end. I had to admit, she wasn't fooled. She sat up and looked at me with a raised brow.
"Yeah, you were totally just going to sleep. I highly doubt that," she teased back. I chuckled and pulled her off her bed by the hand.
"I was, now let's get you something to eat," I responded. She let me lead her down to the kitchen where she had the pancakes and eggs covered under a plate. They were cold but both of us were hungry enough to throw them in the microwave for a minute or two and then dig in. We worked as a team to clean up the dishes and then sat back against the headboard of Tori's bed, holding hands.
"I haven't had breakfast in the afternoon in so long," she commented.
"I haven't had breakfast in a long time period," I remarked.
"You haven't been eating breakfast?" she asked me incredulously.
"Well, I don't call a quick bowl of cereal breakfast. That was nothing compared to what I ate now. My dad and I aren't big morning people so we don't really care to make anything. Even when he isn't in a rush out the door he would rather just grab a coffee and head out. I'm the same way," I explained. Tori leaned into my side with a sound of acceptance.
"Ok, so you and your dad fell back into routine then?" she asked. I nodded and ran my hand through her hair.
"Yes, everything is back to normal," I answered.
"But-" she began but I pulled her into a silencing kiss.
"Everything is back to normal, ok?" I growled in her ear. I felt her shiver and laughed. I ran a finger along her chin and then pushed it up so her head tilted at an angle. I trailed kisses down her neck until she agreed.
"'Kay," she finally said with a sigh.
"Good," I replied with a smile. I pulled away and dug through her pajama drawer for something more comfortable to wear. If we were going to stay in I wanted something to lounge in.
"I can hear Trina complaining," I told her, listening for the older Vega sibling indeed making a fuss over something as she stomped through the house. Looks like the rest of the Vega clan was back. Tori let out an exasperated breath and rolled her eyes.
"I can guarantee your parents are doing the same thing," I added with a smirk. She laughed and jumped off her bed. I heard her walking somewhere behind me as I tossed off my shirt and unbuttoned my pants. Her heated hands suddenly slid around my waist from behind, making me shudder and stop what I was doing. I was always so attuned to her touch I reacted almost immediately.
"I don't think they would appreciate walking in on this," I whispered, my senses going crazy at her deliberate touch sliding over my skin.
"Don't worry, I locked the door," she replied, answering right next to my ear. My breathing picked up and so did my heart rate.
"Yeah? What happened to just sleeping then?" I asked her. She laughed, a confident sound.
"Are we going to bed right now?" she answered with another question, her fingers slowly trailing up my body.
"Well, right now, we sort of are," I panted, my back arching when she passed over my bra then back down, slipping away from me suddenly. I groaned and turned around to complain when her lips met mine. Her tongue traced my lips tauntingly but disappeared when I opened my mouth to her. I pulled away to raise a brow.
"I always knew you were a tease, Vega," I told her. She smiled smugly and dodged my clinging hands to strut back to her bed. I stalked after her, intent on getting my hands on her again but stopped when she shot me her sexy smirk.
"That look always gets to me," she purred, climbing on her bed slowly. My look? What about that look she just gave me? My eyes landed on her ass as it swayed when she crawled to the end of the bed. I groaned and began to advance again.
"Your own smirk is flawlessly seductive you know," I accused, making sure to exaggerate my walk. Her eyes flicked down and then back up.
"Thanks," she replied, a grin in place. I stopped in front of her at the edge of the bed. She was on her knees, her hands running up my arms to stop at my face. Our eyes locked and held.
"I'm sorry for putting you through so much crap Tor. I should have never asked that of you in the first place," I mumbled. She shook her head and leaned in to rest her head on my shoulder.
"No, I just gave in. I won't let you down again. We can get through this. Like you said, it's just a bump in the road. Plus, I would do anything for you Jade," she replied, drawing me closer. A genuine smile alighted on my lips and then she was kissing it away. I pushed her back on the bed and straddled her waist. I began a trail down to her shoulder, nipping and licking as I went. I bit her gently, lovingly. I dragged my tongue over her skin instead, not feeling that strong urge to mark her unblemished skin. Maybe I could get over this animal side of me after all. I felt Tori relax. She had been waiting for it, expecting it.
"No biting today? Are you feeling ok?" she taunted. I just shook my head and leaned in to kiss her softly.
"It's because I'm feeling better that I won't bite. I'll be gentle," I promised.
"What if I want it rough?" she inquired. The expression on her face was so provocative I was breathing heavily again. How the hell did she learn to copy my smirk so well? I should be making her speechless right now. I bared my teeth and bit into her shoulder. She sucked in a breath and I began to wonder if it was too hard but then I felt her body straining to remain against the bed. I released her and licked over the tender skin.
"Someone likes a little punishment with her pleasure," I muttered against her neck. I couldn't keep my nose from seeking out the warm scent that was Tori. She tilted her head back to give me more room.
"It's not punishment if I like it," she mumbled. Her sneaky hands found their way over my back to continue lower, her hands squeezing sensitive flesh. I pressed into her, her touch sliding even lower to skim the back of my thighs.
"You're more dangerous than I am," I commented playfully.
"How so?" she asked, looking me in the eyes again.
"You play hard to get, Miss Sweet Sally Peaches. You haven't put out for anyone until I came along and you act like you haven't done a thing, but underneath it all, you're just as much an animal as I am," I explained, my voice turning husky. She laughed heartily and pulled me closer but stopped me a centimeter from meeting her lips.
"Only with you, West," she responded. Her voice dropped into a heated, sultry tone. She had me turned on and aching. I wanted her now. She was just too good at working me up. I molded my lips to hers desperately, my hands quick to strip her of her clothes. I was about to remove her bra when there was a knock at the door. I pulled away from her lips so she could answer.
"Yeah?" she called out, slightly breathless but pulling off an even enough tone. I looked at her, impressed. She only stuck her tongue out at me. I snapped at it and she pulled it back in her mouth with a pout.
"We're back. Are you doing ok honey?" her mom's voice asked through the door.
"I'm good now mom. Thanks for checking. I'm just getting ready to go out. I think I should plan a day out with Jade. She needs to get out of the house," Tori replied, smirking at me. I looked at her like she was crazy to stop our time together. What was wrong with her?
"Oh, ok, have fun!" her mom responded. We waited a full minute and then Tori pushed me off when I tried to resume.
"Aw man Vega, please," I moaned, crawling into her lap to hold a hand to her cheek and nuzzle at her neck again. My other hand snaked around to her back, trailing my fingers down her spine. I laid on the affection thick but she still shook her head.
"Fix my bra while you're back there," she replied. I grumbled but did as she asked. I removed myself from her and gathered my clothes. I kept the frown on my face the whole time we got dressed. Tori took my hand and practically dragged my downstairs. I was curious to know what had her so excited to leave but I didn't ask. We greeted her family and then gave out farewells minutes later.
"You walked over here?" Tori asked when she saw my car was missing.
"I needed it," I replied simply. She walked to her car instead and unlocked it. I followed her in and she pulled out. Tori's driving always made me question her skill as a driver but I still trusted her. That instinct within me did not like it at first and made me want to just jump out, but now I was used to it. Tori's quick movements seemed risky and uncoordinated but she was more than in control when she drove. It was sure and agile, safe as safe could get. She didn't do anything that could result in a crash now that I thought about it. I sat back and closed my eyes, waiting until we reached our destination. When we stopped and I opened my eyes I was a little confused as to why we were at my house. She parked next to my car and got out, waiting for me when I hadn't followed.
"Coming?" she asked with a deliberate smirk. I shot out of the car and walked ahead of her to unlock the door. Once we were inside and heading for my room I finally asked.
"Why are we here?" I wondered. She took the stairs quickly and stopped in the middle of the room to glance at me over her shoulder.
"Is your dad home?" she answered with another question. No, he was always at work. She knew this, so why did she ask? I rolled my eyes but answered with a shake of my head.
"Good," she responded, kicking off her shoes and pulling off her shirt. It seemed I underestimated her again. I watched as she continued to leisurely peel off each article of clothing. She dropped them on the floor one by one. I walked up to her perfectly tan, unbearably gorgeous, bare body. I slid my hands around her waist and linked them behind her. I pulled her flush against me and claimed her mouth hungrily. She caught my bottom lip in her teeth and I groaned, my hold on her tightening. She let it go but invaded my mouth with her tongue instead. She forced me into submission easily and I let her guide me backwards to my bed. She had me pinned down now, her touch remained teasing and fleeting. I whimpered when she suddenly placed her hand exactly where I wanted her. She rubbed against me once and then moved away.
"Oh god Tori," I moaned, desperate for more. She only smiled and started undressing me. I helped her accordingly until we were both bare. Even then she was just stroking and barely touching me. The stress on my body was killing me. I let out a frustrated breath and pushed her over so I could be in control. I tasted every inch of her skin, leaving marks on her shoulder, her stomach, her thigh, scattered but all meaning one thing. She was mine; my Tori. Loss of control at this time must have been what she was looking for because her moans and cries of pleasure obviously showed just how much she was enjoying herself.
I took advantage, ravaging her, taking her fast and hard like the animal she said I was. Once she was satisfied I wasn't too far behind. She treated me the same way which was a complete turn on to see her like that. She made sure to mark me several times along my legs and torso while she was at it. We were wrapped in each other's arms afterwards. I kept my eyes closed and relaxed, just feeling her trace the various scars I had obtained. She told me before she liked to feel the contrast between the damaged skin and the smooth undamaged skin. She also tried to imagine the nature of each one and how it came to be but she always shuddered a few times at her own thoughts. I chuckled and leaned in to kiss her head.
"Why think about it? You're only scaring yourself," I told her, knowing what she was doing.
"I don't know. I guess it's kinda…interesting," she finished uncertainly. I shrugged and let my hands smooth over her back.
"Were you ever scared of me?" I asked her curiously. It was a thought I often had. She looked up at me with a sad smile.
"I'll take that as a yes," I assumed.
"It was hard not to, Jade. I mean, you can scare people on a normal basis, but like that, I had no idea when or if you would literally snap. Not to mention you're strong enough to toss people around like rag dolls," she commented.
"That's understandable. I guess I can live with that," I replied with a shrug. I felt her finger trace over my tattoo and then swipe across it, mimicking the scar that cut through it.
"Let's go out somewhere," she suggested randomly.
"Where?" I questioned with a raised brow.
"Anywhere. I just want to go out, take you somewhere out of the house," she replied nonchalantly.
"Another walk? Aw, I don't wanna," I complained, whining extra and turning away from her to lay on my side. The movement made her turn with me since she held on. She giggled and snuggled close to me again before replying.
"Come on. It'll be fun," she encouraged me. I rolled my eyes but kissed her nose and then sat up.
"Fine, let's get going before it gets too late," I finally agreed. She cheered and got dressed. We got ready to go out and then drove around bouncing ideas off each other. Eventually we settled on going to the movies. We got tickets to the closest show time available. We sat through the comedy while I gave my occasional negative but creative comments. Tori silenced me every time with a kiss which did nothing to silence me. I never tired of her playful nature even when she got too energetic. I couldn't get enough of her. The day was going pretty well until we were heading home. We were leisurely walking down the street back to the car when some dude who wasn't looking where he was going while on his bike almost crashed into Tori. I didn't think, only reacted. I used a nearby tree's branch to get to her faster, catching her around the waist and swinging to safety. The guy on the bike passed without a look back but a guy and a girl that were around our age stopped to stare. The guy leaned in to whisper something, making the girl giggle. Tori was still dazed from the close call but she still gripped my hand and tried to get me to walk. I reluctantly allowed her to drag me away.
"Thank you, Jade," Tori said suddenly, drawing my attention to her. I smiled halfheartedly, still nervous over being seen acting out. Tori didn't seem to mind but it was bothering me. I hated when I became insecure. I couldn't let it affect me though. I didn't know if my defenses would spring up unnecessarily.
"No problem, Tori. You know I wouldn't let anything happen to you. And that jerk-" I replied, cut off mid-sentence when the two from earlier caught up to us.
"Hey, hey ape chick, could you get us tickets to see your pal Ginger?" the guy questioned, his laughter barely held back. His idiotic grin and the girl's giggling behind her hand set me on edge. I might sympathize with Ginger Fox but that didn't give them the right to call me-no, I wouldn't let them get away with calling me that. They want to see feral? I'll show them feral. A low growl started up and I took a step but Tori held onto me. I had studied more than the ape's behaviors in the wild. I could be as fierce as the leopard I had fought too.
"What did you call me?" I snarled, dragging Tori as I advanced on him.
"Could you please leave us alone? We don't want any trouble," Tori spoke up.
"Of course not. We were just wondering if she knew any tricks. I assume you're the trainer right? Have you taught her to be more human?" the girl continued to taunt. I resisted the urge to break her annoying face. I hope they didn't think I was anything like Ginger Fox on that demeaning new reality TV show. If they did then they were sorely mistaken.
"No, I'm not her trainer. I don't own her. She's my-" Tori tried to say but the guy guffawed and pointed at us.
"Wait, you two are together?" he asked incredulously. He nudged the girl at his side like he just heard a joke.
"It's Ginger Fox all over again babe. Look, she's just a well-trained servant for her," he said to his apparent girlfriend. She laughed, making my body tense in fury. Ok, that's it. They might be able to get away with bullying me but no one talks to Tori that way. I untangled myself from Tori's hold on me to get in the guy's face. I let myself regress only slightly, baring my teeth at him. Something in my expression must have registered with him because this time he backed away, holding up his hands.
"It was nothing but a joke, sorry. That was a pretty cool move, honestly," he amended quickly. The girl hid behind him, nodding along with what he said.
"Jade, please," Tori pleaded, tugging at my arm, but I didn't want to listen. I removed her hands and grabbed the guy by his shirt to drag him closer to me. If I couldn't beat the living daylights out of them then I'd make them regret opening their big fat mouths. I hated offensive wazzbags like them.
"Walk away now or I won't think twice about taking my scissors and shoving them-" I began to threaten but Tori gripped the edge of the back of my shirt desperately, effectively cutting me off. The guy in my grip nodded and I shoved him back. He stumbled over his feet and fell. The girl looked freaked out as she helped him up. They walked away quickly, looking back only once before scurrying away. I watched them go and then took off for the car. I was breathing heavily and my mind was racing. My surroundings began blurring, becoming unfamiliar. I let out a sound that showed my distress. It made Tori grab my hand and hurry me along. We both fell into the back seat. I sought for her embrace and got it immediately. She held me close and I focused on her heartbeat thumping in my ear. Tori began singing and her hand began rubbing my back, soothing me. I couldn't hold back the whimper that escaped. I wanted to hurt them so much. I wanted to beat them with my bare fists. Rage like that should have already been taken care of. I couldn't let myself get carried away but it was hard to resist…
I climb back into my tree, finding the curved and worn smooth crook between the branches I began sleeping in. I found it relatively early after that first rainstorm hit. I'm determined to survive or die trying, literally. I already embraced my fate and accepted the slowly strengthening animal within that allows me to survive so far. I've spent many nights up in this tree, trying my hardest not to forget the home I really belong to, but I'm still slipping away. I see flashes of faces and places that are familiar but nothing more. Mostly, I see a girl; beautiful tan skin, open and understanding brown eyes, a bright smile, and a soft voice. I find myself missing her all the time. I want to see her again. It's because of her that I cling to the necklace I wear and sing songs that keep her voice alive in my head. I remember the few moments of affection between us in times of clarity, like right now, but that's all I can dredge up. No more no less. I want all that dearly. If I see her again I won't hesitate to show her how I really feel about her. I sigh and pull out the necklace I cherish. I hold it up in the moonlight and then clasp it in my fist.
"Here I am. Once again. Feeling lost, but now and then. I breathe it in to let it go. And you don't know where you are now, or what it would come to if only somebody could hear. When you figure out how, you're lost in the moment, you disappear…" I sang softly, the words drifting to me like a long lost dream. The wind picks up and I shiver. I miss her. I miss my home. At least I remember her words. They make me feel safe enough. I lean back into the tree and let my hand trace over the gashes in the bark. When I found this tree I had to fight an angry bird with huge claws. It cut up my arms but I managed to scare it away for good. It left a permanent mark on the tree as well as my arms. I still won though. Stupid bird. I yawn and lean back into the tree. I tuck the necklace into my shirt and close my eyes. I hope for more dreams of her so that I can face another day of survival. After all, she's the only thing keeping me going now.
I opened my eyes to see the inside of Tori's car. I was still in her arms, and for once, the flashback didn't leave me panicky and defenseless. I felt calm and focused. I tightened my hold on Tori and buried my nose in her shirt. The smell of her was so comforting.
"Jade? Are you ok now?" she asked me hesitantly. I nodded, not trusting my voice yet. I just wanted to bask in the safety of her presence. We stayed like that a few minutes more until I felt I could put some distance between us.
"I'm fine. Thanks Tor," I whispered, squeezing her hand in mine. She smiled, relieved, but soon it fell to be replaced with uncertainty.
"Um, I was thinking, well, I was wondering if you would like to revisit the place you got lost to try and find closure. You know, just come to terms with everything. I'll go with you of course. I really don't want you going on your own," she suggested haltingly. I stared at her, a mix of surprise and questionable. I was also a little angry but I didn't let it gain any power. How would that help?
"Why?" I asked her quietly, wanting to know what she had in mind. She looked away and fidgeted with my hand before looking back at me, determination in her gaze.
"We can make it a good place. You know, make new memories there, together. I think it'll help," she explained. Huh, that did sound like it would work, but I was reluctant to go because I was unsure how I would react. Would I completely give in to my feral side again or would her plan pull through? There was only one way to find out.
"Ok," I whispered, a little scared if I was honest, but I was willing to try anything if I had Tori by my side.
"Yeah?" she questioned carefully. I nodded and rested my head on her shoulder.
"Yeah, let's go," I replied. She wrapped me in her arms and kissed my forehead.
"Ok. Don't worry Jade, I'll be there for you every step of the way," she told me. I wanted to deny that I would need it but I stayed quiet. Tori knew me inside and out. She could feel my uncertainty even though I haven't said anything. I knew she would be there for me because she never failed me so far. We stayed that way, talking idly about the movie just to defuse the slight tension and then we were on our way home. Tori pulled up at my house and looked at me. I didn't want to go just yet and was halfway to asking her to stay with me but she spoke first.
"Um, we should probably stop by the doctor's before we go," she spoke up, slightly uncertain. She had shut off the car but her left hand remained on the wheel. Her right nervously rubbed over her other arm. Her eyes avoided mine.
"The doctor? Why?" I asked her, my eyes narrowed at her suspiciously. She sighed and dropped her hands in her lap.
"It's for you. I scheduled visits every so often back when I was taking care of you because…well, um," she stuttered, glancing at me and then away when my glare remained on her.
"Why?" I asked her, curious and a little upset. She knew I hated going to the hospital. It was made worse when I didn't understand that I was being helped not harmed.
"Well, back when I was taking care of you I decided to try and see what other foods you would like so I attempted to make sushi. The thing was, I don't think I prepared it right because you got sick. I called the hospital and had you go in. You didn't really like being touched by people you didn't know so it was a little hard, but I was desperate. I almost called up a vet in hopes that they would check on you if you kept causing problems. But we got through it. It turned out you had food poisoning. The doctor they assigned to you helped me rid it from your system and since then he's been checking on you whenever I needed help. To this day I still feel bad every time I hear anyone talk about going to Nozu or eating sushi at all. I'm so sorry, Jade. I really was just trying to help," she explained. I sighed and closed my eyes, knowing that I would forgive her. She had done her best, and because of her, I was cured. I couldn't stay mad at her even if I wanted to. I might have disliked it but it was necessary. Otherwise she wouldn't have forced me.
"Thank you, Tori," I told her, laying a hand on her thigh. She met my eyes and smiled.
"I see why you kept avoiding going to Nozu now. I wish you had poisoned Ryder with your nonexistent cooking skills all those years back though. That would have been hilarious," I continued. She chuckled and placed her hand over mine.
"So, you'll go?" she asked hopefully. My smile dropped from my face and dragged the one off hers with it.
"No, cancel it," I responded seriously.
"But Jade, it's just in case!" she disagreed.
"There is no way in hell I'm going to the hospital if it isn't completely necessary," I argued.
"But he's been so nice and helpful. He's the only one who gave you a chance when no one else would. Just one last check up," she pointed out. I crossed my arms and shook my head. Tori shook my shoulder once, begging me with her big brown eyes I refused to look at because I knew I would give in.
"Jade…you've gone before. He knows you well enough and understands why you're there," she tried once more in a soft voice.
"No, not anymore," I snapped back. She pulled away and sat back in her seat stiffly. I glanced over to see her face set in a very unhappy frown.
"Fine, if you don't go I won't tell you where I hid your favorite scissors," she challenged. I whipped my head to the left to look at her with annoyed irritation.
"Yeah right. You wouldn't dare," I replied. She shrugged casually and ran a hand over the wheel absentmindedly, her eyes following her hand's movements.
"I already did. I knew you would be difficult so I planned ahead," she shot back. I growled and launched from the car to barge into my house and checked to see if what she said was true. I searched my whole room but I couldn't find them. She was telling the truth. Tori sat on the last step of the stairs, watching me with a smirk that looked at home on my face. I really was a bad influence on her. I had no choice but to give up and allow her to take me to the hospital. Tori cheered and spent the night with me as a reward. I only grumbled under my breath. So, the next morning we stopped by the hospital as planned. It went by fast and only involved a few sideways glances from curious people. A glare from me made them mind their own business. I went in and the doctor greeted me kindly then moved on to look me over. I was healthy and ready to go. Tori and I spent the rest of the day planning for the trip as well as packing. I wanted to go as soon as possible. The next day was spent with the gang and then the day after was the set date. It was time to face my past and settle this for good.
We met up with the same tour guide Beck and I had. He greeted us somewhat hesitantly. I glared at him and took his hand in mine, shaking it roughly and adding pressure. When he pulled away he shook his hand with a grimace. I didn't really blame him, and it wasn't his fault, but I still didn't want him to think I was okay with what happened either. He seemed uncomfortable enough anyways so I would leave him alone for now. Just as I had with Beck, we took a Jeep through the crude roads cutting through the dense plant life. We set up exactly where we had before at our request. I had to start from square one after all. We disembarked and set up camp quickly. By the time we finished it was dark. The guide turned in but Tori and I stayed up sitting by the fire.
"I can't believe we're doing this. I can't believe your parents agreed. I can't believe my dad agreed after the hell he gave me for missing the last of my lessons. Do you think this will really help?" I spoke up, keeping my voice down. The moment we stepped out and began traversing the wild but familiar landscape I had to force myself to remain on two feet. I wanted to examine everything the way I did the last time I was here. I had to admit I was on edge and wanted to find my tree to hide in again. I was tense and waiting for a flashback to hit or the animal in me to return. Tori noticed and took it upon herself to keep me calm. I barely relaxed a few minutes ago. I had to keep telling myself there was no danger, yet.
"I can't believe it either but its good we're here," Tori replied, still glancing around like something would pop out and attack. Animals weren't that direct so she had nothing to worry about. She wasn't helping when she did that though. Her uncertainty made me want to protect her from the dangers I knew were very much present at all times.
"Let's get some sleep and deal with this tomorrow when it's light out," I told her, standing to stretch. She nodded and took my offered hand. I put out the fire and then we got dressed in our tent. We curled up next to each other for the night, keeping in contact at all times. With Tori here I felt ten times better about making this decision. It seemed liked my body was still in tune with the wild because I woke up early and alert. I sat up quickly and checked for any threats before I was able to relax. I looked down to see Tori groaning and stretching out.
"What happened?" she asked sleepily. A long yawn made me chuckle. I brushed a strand of hair from her face. I was calm again at the sound of her voice, the previous day's events coming back to me and reminding me I wasn't alone.
"Nothing. Good morning," I greeted her. She smiled, closing her eyes at my touch.
"Morning," she responded. I pulled away and got up to peek outside. I looked around cautiously before allowing Tori to go out. She let me go through the motions without a word, understanding as she always did that it was just something I had to do. I set up the fire again and then we returned to the tent to change. We came back out ready to eat and then prepared to explore. The guide joined us, and while we ate, I kept thinking about the fact that this was already turning out better than the last time I was here with Beck. When we told the gang they were supportive, even Beck. I was happy to see he no longer looked sad anymore. He just offered me my torn leather jacket as a good luck charm. He had kept it all this time. I took it and made sure to hug him before I left. Before heading out, we each had bathroom breaks. I stopped Tori before she took her turn. She gave me her attention, her expression questioning.
"I should warn you. If you see these plants right here…" I began, tugging her over to point to one as an example.
"Do not go anywhere near it, ok? You'll regret it," I warned her. She laughed and I frowned, crossing my arms at her reaction.
"Wow, what happened to the tough Jade West?" she teased. I growled and punched her arm.
"Shut up, Vega," I grumbled. She rubbed her arm but her smile remained. When we were all ready we began walking. I stayed quiet for the most part, just looking around. I jumped at almost every sound, catching both Tori and the guide's attention every time. I wandered over to a fallen tree and ran my hand over it. A decent sized lizard ran past, and without thinking, I shot out a hand to catch it. Tori jumped at the quick movement and looked at the wiggling creature in my hand curiously. It tried to bite me but I had it restrained in a way that it couldn't do much. I had been bitten one too many times already. I stared at it, remembering a time when lizards and other small creatures were all I could catch…
I think a week has passed by now. I'm not really sure. The days are starting to run together. I'm starving now. I found a few trustworthy fruits and a water source but I'm dying for something heartier. I have to catch something. I'm not at all disgusted by this. On the contrary, I try every time I can and fail. I even broke my pair of scissors by trying to spear a lizard. I missed and the blade buried in the trunk of a tree. I broke it trying to get it out. I groan when my stomach gave another pitiful grumble. Damn, I need to find something fast or I was a goner. A rustle of leaves and small scratching nails alerts me to another lizard. I sneak towards it as it slows to a stop on a fallen tree. I crouch and shuffle even closer. My eyes lock on the small creature. The minute it turns away I jump at it. My hand slams down over its body and it instantly flips around to bite into my knuckle. I hiss out a sound of pain but keep my hold on it. I close my eyes and pressed my thumb against its head until I hear a crack. I open my hand to see its motionless body in my hand. Sorry, but I have to eat. I start a fire, and the next thing I know, I'm eating the lizard. It doesn't taste too good but it feels good. I sigh and sit back after putting out the fire. I look up at the orange sky, noting that darkness would soon be here. I get up and look for a place to sleep. I have to find a way to enhance my hunting skills if I'm going to survive out here. Maybe the local wild life can teach me. It's worth a shot.
I opened my eyes to the present when the very much alive lizard I clutched in my hand tried to get loose again. I glanced down at it and then over to Tori who was watching me. I opened my hand to let the reptile scurry away. It darted into the undergrowth and was gone in seconds. Tori continued to stare at me and I knew she was waiting for an explanation.
"I ate one of those once," I commented simply. She blanched and glanced in the direction the lizard went then patted my shoulder.
"Good for you," she finally said, the disgust clear in her voice. I laughed and began our walk again. The guide tagged along but gave us space to travel on our own. The further out we went the more nervous the guide got and the more confident I seemed to get. I was actually happy when we stumbled across the very tree that kept me safe every night out here. It was strange to see that it still looked the same as it always had. I smiled fondly and wandered over to place my hand on the trunk. Tears burned my eyes but I forced them back. No need to get sentimental over a damn tree; but it was my safe haven here where I did all my thinking and hid from predators. It was like my temporary home. Tori came up to stand by me. She placed her hand over mine.
"I always returned to sleep in this tree every night," I shared. She looked at me then up to the tall tree. I took her hand in mine and grabbed the lowest branch.
"You wanna try your hand at climbing?" I asked her, slightly playful. She laughed but nodded.
"I'm not the most coordinated person, but sure," she replied.
"Oh, don't I know it," I responded knowingly. She rolled her eyes and it was my turn to laugh. I dropped her hand to hang from the branch with two hands.
"You know you love me," I told her. She nodded and leaned in to kiss me.
"I do," she whispered. I grinned and dropped to the ground so she could go up first. She jumped for the branch and missed, making me laugh. She punched my arm and then tried again. She caught it this time and tried to pull up but sagged with a sigh.
"Having trouble Vega?" I continued to taunt. She just stuck her tongue at me. I leaned in and caught it before she could pull it back in. My actions surprised her, making her let go of the branch. I counted on it happening and was ready. I caught her in my arms and continued the kiss, letting her tongue swipe over mine slowly. The kiss ended naturally, pasting genuine smiles on both our faces.
"Let me help you," I offered. I let her go and she jumped up again. I boosted her the rest of the way and then followed her effortlessly. It was slow going with Tori carefully trying to maneuver the branches. I helped her the whole way, pointing out the crook I was looking for. She climbed up and I squeezed in next to her. She smiled and laid back on me.
"So, this is where you slept?" she asked, her gaze scanning the leafy canopy above us.
"Yep," I replied. Unlike her, my eyes were studying her face, watching her expression change with everything she saw.
"Not bad," she said, looking around. I only nodded. We silently watched the sky grow dark. Being here with Tori really did help me see this place in a different light. It wasn't so scary and threatening. It actually felt like a place I could relax in. I inhaled and let it out in one big breath. Tori turned her head to see me from her resting spot on my shoulder.
"You ok now?" she questioned quietly. Her hands found mine around her middle and began stroking. She would drift up my arm occasionally, making me shiver.
"Yeah, I'm always better when I have you," I replied, turning my head to look at her. We were so close like this. The fading light of the day made her eyes mesmerizing. I lifted a hand to her cheek and slowly leaned in to brush her lips with mine.
"Thank you for everything, Tori," I whispered. She smiled and then cuddled closer to me. The sensation of having her so close made a smile spread on my face too.
"I love you," she stated.
"I love you too," I responded. We stayed up in the tree until the guide called to us. It was getting dark and he wanted to head back to camp.
"Throw me the tracker and get us in the morning!" I called back. He looked up at me with wide eyes and tried to dissuade me but I just glared at him. Even at this distance he knew not to question me. He nodded reservedly and tossed up the tracker. I caught it easily and passed it to Tori who tucked it away in her pocket. The guide looked up at us once more then shook his head and began his way back.
"What do you think of a night sleeping in a tree?" I asked Tori.
"Different," she answered calmly but with interest.
"Do you move a lot in your sleep?" I asked next. She shrugged.
"I was told I do but I haven't noticed," she replied uncertainly.
"Yeah, I haven't either. Well, I don't think I need to warn you of the dangers of that now do I?" I responded with a quirk of my brow.
"Nope," she agreed, her arms tightening on me like she would fall at that very moment. I laughed and held on to her too.
"You aren't going anywhere. I've got you," I reassured her. She grinned sweetly and kissed the edge of my jaw.
"I know. I've got you too," she said confidently.
"And I won't ever let you go. You're stuck with me Vega," I told her, putting an edge to my voice in order to mimic the way I talked to her in the past. Tori rose a brow but soon a laugh burst from her.
"I wouldn't have it any other way," she said. I smiled and leaned back into the tree, getting comfortable in the crook that was just as familiar as all the other nights I spent in it. Only now, it was better with Tori as my blanket. Tori sat up to tug off her small backpack and I watched as she unzipped it to pull something out. It was my torn leather jacket. She smiled at me and then pulled it on after hanging up the backpack on a sturdy branch nearby. She laid back down so that her body draped over mine and I wrapped her in my arms once more. With Tori's slow deep breathing in my ear and warm body on mine I fell asleep easily.
The bright sun broke through the wide leafed canopy overhead and glared down onto us. It was hot, almost burning. Tori groaned and shifted, her arms remaining tight on my body even in sleep. I cracked open my eyes and glared back at the sun, shading my eyes with my left hand while holding onto Tori with my right. I yawned and stretched out the best I could, waking Tori up fully now. Her body stretched out over mine, garnering a few pops from her protesting joints. She slipped a little in the process and let out a squeak of shock but I quickly held onto her with both arms around her middle.
"I gotcha," I mumbled. She laughed nervously and sat up, blocking out the sun from burning my eyes out of my skull. I sighed and reached up to brush back a strand of hair in her face.
"Thanks," she replied with a smile almost as bright as the sun behind her.
"No, thank you. The sun was murdering me," I told her. She chuckled and then glanced around.
"Whoa, I can't believe I slept in a tree," she commented in amazement.
"This is how I slept every night," I responded. Her stomach decided to growl at that moment, making her jump and look around before landing on me.
"What? It wasn't me, and it wasn't some animal. That was all you, Tor," I stated playfully, poking her stomach. She caught my hand before I could do it again.
"Oh, yeah, I am pretty hungry," she said, a blush coloring her cheeks. I nodded and sat up, smiling at her reaction. Tori's legs hastily clung to my waist so that she was sitting in my lap. I looked at her with a raised brow.
"Well, warn me next time. I don't want to fall to my death," she grumbled.
"You won't fall to your death you baby," I retorted. She stuck her tongue out and I snapped at it, making her pull it back in quickly.
"Hold your tongue before something happens to it," I threatened, not meaning it in a bad way at all. I leaned in so that my nose brushed hers. She closed her eyes and let out a hum of approval.
"And that would be?" she asked. I smirked and pressed my lips to hers as an answer. My tongue found hers and forced it into submission. She groaned into my mouth, pulling a moan from me in return. My hands fell to circle her waist and hers buried in my hair, pulling me closer. Her hips pressed into me involuntarily, making my grip on her tighten. We broke the kiss to breathe but Tori didn't stop. She went for my neck, her teeth nipping and her tongue running over my sensitive skin. I tipped my head back and sucked in a deep breath.
"We should get back to camp. We could continue this there and see who can keep quiet the longest," I suggested breathlessly, but my smirk held strong. She pulled away to lock eyes with me. They were clouded with desire and love. She nodded and then swooped in for one last kiss that had my head spinning. She nipped at my lip before pulling away.
"Let's go," she whispered. She put away the jacket and then pulled on the backpack. It took a little maneuvering to climb down on the branch below but we did it. I held Tori close and instructed her to hold onto me. It was safer and faster if I got us down. I jumped from branch to branch and caught the last one to swing onto the ground. She let go and slid down my body to stand on her own once we reached solid ground. She looked at me with wide, amazed yet curious, eyes.
"I sometimes had to carry the animals I hunted up into the tree to hide from predators. I couldn't eat until I knew it was safe to come back down," I explained, answering her silent question. She glanced up at the tree and then back to me.
"I think it's missing something," she commented, walking forward to lay a hand on the smooth bark. I walked over and unzipped her bag. She let out a sound of protest but I dug through until I found what I knew she had all along.
"Here they are," I stated, holding up my favorite pair of scissors. Tori looked at the ground but I just laughed and pushed her head back up so I could kiss her.
"I know you, Tori," I told her confidently. She rolled her eyes and I laughed, flicking open the blades. I imagined what I would carve into the wood and then set to work. I didn't want it to be too big but it still had to be moderate in size and wouldn't have fit up where I wanted it to be. The crook I slept in was the last of the thick branches. Any above were too thin so I would carve it here instead. I stood back to get a better look at my art as a whole when I finished. Tori gasped and stepped forward to run her hand over the fresh carving.
"You're such a sap Jade," she teased, looking at me over her shoulder. I loved when she did that.
"No I'm not," I denied, knowing I only did things like this for her and only her.
"Yes you are. But its ok, I love it," she replied. I walked over and placed my hand over hers. We looked at our initials and the heart surrounding it. Our hands fit perfectly inside together. Tori leaned in and captured my lips in a sweet but addicting kiss. She pulled away and took my hand to interlace our fingers. I slipped my scissors back in her bag and then let her drag me under the shade of the tall tree. We took a seat to await the guide who didn't take long to find us. We followed him silently back to the campsite, simply enjoying each other's presence while looking around idly. I couldn't stop thinking that this was how the trip with Beck should have gone, but it didn't. It went all wrong in the worst ways possible. Not all of it was bad though. It brought me to the realization that I cared for Tori far more than I was willing to realize. Regardless of the happiness it brought us it also hurt Beck. I shook my head and pulled my thoughts away from the failed relationship.
The silence between us was still pierced with intermittent animal calls but now it was dead silent. My senses went haywire, a warning I knew to fear. I perked my ears and looked around. I was tense and my grip on Tori's hand alerted her to my behavior. She looked at me questionably and then froze when she realized the lack of sound too. The guide stopped when we had and retraced his steps to question us. I silenced him but it was too late. The undergrowth was alive with scurrying animals running away. This was followed by the sudden appearance of a big cat. A leopard. It burst from cover and tackled the guide. He screamed and tried getting a hand on the gun at his waist but it already sunk its teeth in his throat. Tori had cried out in shock, alerting the wild cat to our presence. It looked over, jaws bloody and panting. Its yellow eyes locked on us. I struggled to stay clearheaded. The flashbacks of fighting a similar leopard striking me again. It stalked forward on silent paws and I crouched in front of Tori protectively. I pushed her back and followed her the closer it got.
"Climb a tree," I commanded urgently. She nodded and ran for the nearest tree. The leopard darted after her. I timed a tackle as it passed, bringing it to the ground with a crash of dead leaves flying everywhere. The leopard snarled and twisted around to kick me off. I slammed into the trunk of a tree and slid to the ground. My back ached and a moderate cut stung on my thigh. I forced myself back to my feet. I watched as the leopard caught Tori by the leg just as she grabbed hold of a branch. Its claw barely skimmed her leg but still shredded her pants and cut into her skin. I saw her cringe but she held on and pulled herself up. The leopard's tail flicked back and forth, its eyes on her. It crouched and readied to spring but I was already charging at it. The sight of Tori hurt and in danger triggered a rage in me I allowed to take control.
I screamed and fell into my feral crouch just as I reached the determined cat. I pounced, slamming into it and throwing us to the ground. My hands found its neck, keeping its fangs from doing damage and trying to suffocate it at the same time. Its claws tore into my side once and the back legs found purchase on my stomach. I felt its muscles contract and knew I would either be thrown off or ripped apart but I held on anyway. A flying rock struck the big cat's head. It roared and lost its footing, the claws digging into my hip instead but throwing me off too. I fell and skid across the ground to stop on my side. I clutched my arm when I tried to push up. I must have hit a hidden rock because it was bruised and bleeding. My clothes were torn and soaking with blood. Tori suddenly appeared at my side and yanked me up.
"What are you doing down here? I told you to-" I snarled, gasping and holding a hand over the gash in my side. Tori looked frantic and terrified but she was also determined to stay with me.
"I won't leave you," she replied determinedly. I glanced down at her leg, noting she leaned on her good leg. She was breathing heavily, most likely trying to ignore the pain. The leopard was stalking forward again and I knew it would be a waste of time to tell Tori to run so I retrieved my scissors from her bag and faced my opponent. Its eye was a bloody mess, courtesy of Tori's well aimed throw. I pushed her away so that she had her back pressed to a tree behind us. I crouched and let out a warning growl, letting myself rely on my primal instincts once more. The leopard replied with a rolling snarl that showed its fangs. It began a lazy serpentine route and I monitored its every movement. I crawled forward, eyes never leaving its cold gaze. The leopard continued forward and I snarled once more and readied my weapon. We both froze for a second and then we launched at each other. I ducked a swipe and rolled away from another. I darted for the nearest tree and used the low branch to swing up and onto the next low branch. It followed, swiping at me but missing.
I jumped over it and landed on its back, digging my free hand into its fur to steady myself while stabbing into its side with my scissors. It cried out and flipped me off its body. I hit the ground hard. I was dazed but I still got to my feet. The leopard threw me to the ground again and snapped at my throat but I jammed the blades into its shoulder, missing the neck but still doing damage. It reared back, missing my face with a wild swipe that nicked my shoulder as I quickly rolled away as soon as I could. It hissed at me and I responded with an angry hiss of my own, staying low in my crouch. The leopard growled and stared at me a few seconds more but I didn't back down. Finally it thought better of attacking and darted away into the refuge of the surrounding plants. I was breathing heavily but stayed alert until I felt it was gone. The smaller wildlife scurried through the area again so I knew it was safe once more. I sighed and let myself collapse to my knees tiredly. A soft hand met my back hesitantly. I tensed, my muscles bunching under the touch. I swallowed a growl, knowing it was Tori. It occurred to me I hadn't lost control. I stayed clearheaded yet I was using the skills I had learned in this very forest.
"Jade?" her soothing voice questioned. I closed my eyes and calmed my breathing before answering.
"I'm fine," I answered. Her hand seemed to relax on me and the sensation spread over me too. I let myself relax as she knelt next to me, pulling me into her arms. The press of her body on mine created a tinge of pain but I didn't care. I clung to her, craving the contact, warmth, and comfort of her embrace.
"Are you ok?" I asked her, cupping her face in my hands gently. Blood smeared under my fingers, my own blood and possibly the leopard's, I reminded myself, but she just looked at me with as much concern as I directed at her.
"As long as you are," she replied, glancing down at the gashes that would become newly added scars. It never ended did it? I sighed and brought her closer to rest my forehead on hers.
"I'm ok I guess. I'm ignoring the pain with the help of adrenaline but that won't last long. Let's get a hold of the tracking thing from the guide and get back to camp. We need to send out a signal for help," I responded, my tone regaining its strength. Tori nodded and tried her best to help me up even though I could see her leg was giving her trouble. I held my side where the most painful of the injuries was located, and dragged myself over to the dead guide. I swallowed and took a deep breath to steady myself. My emotions were a wreck and seeing someone I knew who was alive one minute and dead the next made me uncomfortable in a very disturbing way. As I approached the body Tori hung back, unable to follow. I crouched and reached out to shut his eyes then pried the main tracking device that picked up on the others from his cold hand. This would lead us back to camp. I stood and looked over to see Tori as green as the plants around us.
"You hanging on over there?" I questioned her. She nodded distractedly, her eyes flicking to the dead guide and then hastily relocating to me. I raised the tracker and then gestured for her to follow me. She limped over and took my hand.
"Shouldn't we…" she began but her sentence faded. I shook my head.
"We can't be out here too long while we're injured. He'll slow us down," I told her, my voice somber. She nodded eventually and squeezed my hand in hers. I returned it. I followed the device and soon we were back at camp. Tori heated up some food while I rinsed at the nearby river. She joined me to clean her leg and then I bandaged it while she bandaged my injuries. Afterwards, we sat around the fire to eat and send out the signal. The silence was heavy but I couldn't bring myself to break it. I had been through and seen a lot during my time here. The flashbacks made sure I remembered most of it even though I wanted to forget. That had to be the first time Tori had ever been in such a dangerous and life threatening situation. We had both seen someone mauled to death, someone we knew. I set aside my empty plate and scooted closer to Tori.
"Hey, you sure you're ok?" I asked her carefully. She had barely touched her food and her blank expression worried me. I took the plate from her and set it aside so I could pull her into my arms. She tucked her head in the crook of my neck and let out a scared sob. Her tears ran over my skin and soaked my shirt but I continued to hold her. It was finally hitting her and it was hitting her hard. I was reminded of the many times I just sat and cried out here. I was so scared. I had never been so scared in my life. Now it was Tori's turn to witness the same thing I did. I figured trying to eat was a no go so I scooped her up and set her in our tent. I reassured her that I would be back then I made sure to clean up everything so that no food remained in the open. I didn't want other animals showing up, harmless or not. I returned to our tent and laid down. Tori instantly pressed into my side, seeking comfort which I readily gave. I wrapped around her, making sure every inch of us touched. She let out a long sigh, and finally, her body relaxed. I still kept up my soft strokes down her arm. I didn't stop until she fell asleep. I stayed up, thoughts running through my head. I had remained focused. I hadn't regressed. The urgency and danger Tori was in kept me from losing it. Was I cured then? I didn't know, but this was the closest I've ever felt to myself in so long that it amazed me.
I didn't think coming back here would help but it did. Tori flinched in her sleep and elbowed me in the side. I held in any sound of pain and let it out slowly in a drawn out but quiet hiss of exhaled air. I brushed a hand over Tori's face and began singing. Her fidgeting slowed to a stop. There, now she could get some proper sleep. I closed my eyes and tried to at least doze, but it was hard. I was uncomfortable with my injuries and antsy as hell. I carefully released Tori and made my way out of the tent. I stepped out and scanned the surroundings. I spotted a tree that looked to be an easy climb. I scaled it and perched on a high branch. I let my thoughts wander wherever they wanted to go. I thought of the failed camping trip with Beck, my time living here in the wilderness, Tori saving me, learning to live where I belonged again, all the time spent with Tori, and then returning here to the place that started it all. I leaned back on the trunk of the tree and gazed out at the slowly setting sun. I didn't move until darkness fell and Tori emerged from the tent. I climbed down effortlessly and dropped to the ground, stumbling on impact. Tori rushed to catch me before I fell, making her almost fall with me. I wrapped her in my arms and nuzzled her neck, placing a soft kiss to her pulse point.
"Feeling better?" I questioned her. She hummed positively, her hands drifting up and down my back.
"When I woke up and you weren't there I panicked a little," she admitted. I pulled back to look her straight in the eyes.
"I'm right here Tori. I'm not going anywhere," I replied. She allowed a small smile and then fell back into my arms.
"That was nothing compared to seeing you fight for your life. I thought, this was it, I would lose you forever and all I could do was watch. I couldn't let that happen so I decided to find a way to help. Even after it ran away I thought I was going to die of a heart attack!" she exclaimed, pushing me away suddenly with a punch to my arm. I frowned and rubbed at it. My body did not need more abuse.
"I'm sorry. I just…I had to protect you," I replied brokenly, weakly, and I hated it. She made me feel vulnerable yet strong. I love her so much I would put my life on the line in a heartbeat to keep her safe. Her anger seemed to die out at my words and then she was crying again. I gathered her back in my arms.
"I know. I'm-I'm just so scared to lose you, Jade," she replied, mumbling through her tears.
"And I'm scared to lose you too, Tori," I responded sincerely. A few tears of my own escaped but I let them fall. I embraced it. I was afraid of being alone. I needed Tori to lean on. I needed and appreciated her love as well as everything she had done for me. She saved me in more ways than one. I couldn't possibly pay her back for all that except offer her everything I could, including my love for her. Standing here, holding Tori, I haven't felt this vulnerable since I accepted how much I needed and wanted her. It was the first time I told her she was mine and no one else's as I was hers. I wouldn't want anyone else. We received a confirmation of our signal over the radio sometime later. We would have to sleep another night here as they wouldn't be here until tomorrow. We spent the rest of the day in the tent to stay out of the heat and enjoy the close proximity. By the time night fell we were ready to sleep, anxious to get back home. I kept Tori close, protective as ever in this environment. I finally fell asleep once Tori was comfortable. By morning my internal alarm seemed to wake me up bright and early again. I groaned and squeezed Tori to me. She grumbled but woke up too.
"Why?" she groaned, dragging out the word. I chuckled and released her.
"If I have to wake up early you have to also," I responded. She glared sleepily, a cute expression.
"Well that's not going to work. I'm going back to sleep," she mumbled, rolling back on her side. I poked her in the rib and she flinched.
"Come on, Tor. We'll probably be picked up soon anyway. They won't make the mistake of leaving us out here after what happened before. We don't have a guide and we're both hurt. At least walk around with me. I'm feeling a little cramped," I pleaded, leaning in to nuzzle her jaw. She hummed in irritation but I could hear her giving in.
"Please," I murmured, my lips by her ear. She shivered and I smirked. I pulled her closer to me and slipped my hand under her shirt to brush over her stomach. My other hand gripped her chin so that I could look at her when I begged.
"You cheater," she responded, expression still a little reluctant but her eyes softening.
"I know," I replied with a smile, leaning in to kiss her chastely.
"Come on, let's get dressed and eat then we can take a quick stroll down to the river to freshen up and be back in time to go home," I announced, happy that I got her up. She sat up and glared at me but I just offered her a hand up. She took it and I hauled her to her feet.
"I hope you know I'm only agreeing to get up because I love you," Tori complained, though I knew it was all an act. Her pout and crossed arms made me grin.
"I know. And I love you for it," I replied, embracing her. She returned it with her bright and cheery smile on her face. We basked in the warm protection and comfort of each other's arms and then decided to walk out to the river and freshen up. Once we were dressed and had something to eat we began packing up. Tori grew a little skittish around the guide's tent when we had to put it away. I knew it reminded her of seeing him brutally mauled all over again so I told her to relax while I handled that. Once everything was packed we only had to wait a few more minutes and then the retrieval crew arrived. We reported the loss and what had happened then we were taken back to the plane that would take us home.
Even after the death of our guide I couldn't help but accept that this trip did help me find myself. I could control that side of me now. Almost loosing Tori in a more permanent way than I lost Beck forced my two sides to work together. I felt good, sane, cured. I couldn't wait to return home to live out my life with Tori. I glanced at her to see she readily smiled back. I slipped my arm around her and gripped her hand in mine, our fingers interlacing. She leaned into my side, a perfect fit as always. Her head rested on my shoulder. We would be okay. I knew we would. We had each other, and we always would. I had overcome the animal within me and now I could use it to my advantage to keep Tori safely in my arms. I wouldn't let her down like I had Beck. Tori would always be mine as I would always hers. Nothing could ever come between us again. I would make sure of it.