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Shell-Shocked

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I. TORI

When Jade showed up on her doorstep crying about a broken kite she found stuck in a bush, she stood by the door as she walked past her and into the living room. When Cat showed up on her doorstep feeling excited about transforming her face to a hideous monster, she told her to set up on the kitchen table. When Andre showed up on her doorstep freaking out about his crush on Jade, she invited him in and offered him a glass of hot cocoa. When Robbie showed up at her doorstep thinking he and Trina were getting pizza before decorating their tree, she waved 'hi' to him and watched as he interacted with her sister. When Beck showed up on her doorstep, she—

"Didn't know what to do," she thought to herself. This was the first time Beck ever showed up on her doorstep without Andre and Robbie (just like the time when she was taking care of Trina), or without Jade (just like every other time he's been to her house).

"Beck, Trina isn't home right now, but you're welcome to stay and wait for her." She joked, knowing about the prank they pulled on Trina while she, Jade and Cat were in San Diego. Even after that, though, her sister was stuck on Beck like a waz to a toilet, and while she did not support her sister's obsession with Beck – or with any other guy she ended up stalking – she found out last week that it was a good way to get under Beck's skin, even for just a split second.

Beck's face faltered momentarily, and she wanted to do a little victory dance. "Don't even joke about that."

She stepped to her side to let him in. "Who said I was joking?" When he didn't respond, she knew her joke did not go over too well. "So, what's up?"

"I need Jade back," he said with such finality in his tone. It didn't escape her that he said 'need' instead of 'want' either.

"But you were the one who broke up with her… or at least, you didn't go after her when she left." She may have agreed with Andre then when he said that all their fighting was making the group uncomfortable, but that didn't mean she wanted them to break up! In fact, as soon as Jade walked out of the door, she could already imagine Beck walking out after her, and them making out after uttering quiet apologies to each other. "Just like last time," she said to herself, remembering their tiff that started with Beck being photographed with Alyssa Vaughn.

"I know, and I was such an idiot for not opening the door, and for letting her walk away. I'm an even bigger idiot for listening to what other people think about our relationship."

The last few weeks, she noticed that Beck said more words in one breath than he used to when he and Jade were together. Robbie mentioned something about Beck losing his cool. Andre mentioned something about Beck having a tendency to ramble now. Cat mentioned something about that one time her brother—no, that's completely irrelevant.

"Look, if you want to get back with Jade, then why don't you just tell her?" Gee, didn't that sound familiar?

"I did, but she said no."

Rewind and freeze. "She what?"

"Jade said no."

Although she and Jade were still only kind of sort of friends, she can see that she still had feelings for Beck, and while she did not necessarily want her to give in so easily to him (because admittedly, it was one of the worst ways he could have broken up with her), she was surprised Jade said no. "So she said no."

"Yes, she said no." Beck looked at her pointedly, and Tori figured she was probably seeing what Robbie saw. "Slammed the door in my face – twice – and poured coffee on my head this morning – not her coffee, of course, but it doesn't matter."

"Oh, so that's why your hair looked…" she paused, trying to find a word to describe Beck's hair without pushing him to his breaking point. "Different. Yea, it looked different in class today."

"No chizz."

"Not to be mean or anything, but why are you telling me this?" She sat on the couch opposite him. "You know I'm not exactly Jade's favorite person. Besides, I'm kind of with Jade on this one. You need to try harder, Beck. I mean, I'm not happy you two are broken up, because honestly, if you two can't make it, then what chance do the rest of us stand?" She watched as he relaxed a bit, and slipped into the Beck they used to think was the only Beck that existed.

"I figured since you helped us get back together last time, maybe you can do it again?"

She narrowed her eyes at him, which ended up as her failed attempt at looking intense. "You're not planning to get Jade a dog, are you?"

"No, of course not."

"Alright, what's the plan?"

.

She thought he was going to assign her with buying flowers and chocolates, or with decorating the RV with dead butterflies and whatever other unusual things Jade liked. However, she found that just like Jade, who made the strangest lines of reasoning ("If you help me, maybe I'll like you."), Beck, too, was prone to such strangeness.

"You want me to kidnap Jade?"

"What? No! I want you to find a way to keep her out of the house after school tomorrow."

"You know, Beck, between this and you dragging her to the janitor's closet while she screamed 'Kidnapper!', I'm not so sure I want to get involved…" This Beck was so much fun to piss off, and she considered it her duty as a girl (who abided by the girl code – whatever may be in it) to do her part in pissing off a kind-of-sort-of-friend's ex-boyfriend.

"Tori, please," he said, running his hand through his hair. "I need you to keep Jade out of her house after school tomorrow."

She almost did not hear Jade calling her name.

"What?"

"What time is Cat's flight landing?"

"Uh…" She pretended to browse the messages in her phone. "Maybe 4, 4:30? You know Cat, she's so sweet, but sometimes I wonder…"

"Whatever," she cut her off, her eyes focused on the road. "She better be there already when we get to the airport."

A few minutes of silence passed, when Tori began to notice the unfamiliar street signs. "Jade, this isn't the way to the airport."

"Yes, it is."

"No, it's not! Why are we going this way?"

"Why are we going this way?" Jade repeated in her 1950s movie star accent. "Look, you know one way to get to the airport, and I know another."

"Oh! Is this the one that passes through the frozen yogurt shop?"

Even though she can't see them clearly, she knew Jade rolled her eyes at her question. "No, this is the one that passes through my house."

"WHAT?"

Jade stepped on the break at the stoplight, and looked at her strangely. "I said, this is the way that passes through my house. What, why do you have that panicked look in your face? And it's not a very good one at that."

The light turned green, and Jade stepped on the gas. "If you think my house looks like a torture museum, I'm going to show you that it's just another thing you're wrong about. See, that's my house right there…"

They slowed down, and Tori felt the car jerked to a stop when Jade spotted Beck's car parked on her driveway, and Beck himself, standing in front of her half-opened front door.

All hell was about to break lose.

.

"What are you doing here?" She stomped to where he was standing on the front porch, and Tori hopelessly trailed behind her. "Were you trying to break into my house?"

"No, no, no, he wasn't trying to break into your house." She said, trying to calm Jade down, although she knew that was Beck's, and not her, forte.

"You've already broken into my house?"

"No, no, no, he hasn't…" Jade looked at her like she was about to rip her guts out when Beck spoke.

"Yes, I have."

Both their heads snapped up to him, and Jade's eyes looked like they wanted to burn a hole into his skull. "What is that tone? Are you daring me to call the cops on you for breaking an entry?"

Tori froze. Jade was right. While she did joke about Beck's kidnapping episode and not wanting to get involved, she did not seriously consider the possibility of the cops being called for what he's done. What if her dad is one of the cops who respond to Jade's complaint? What will her dad say when he sees her on the 'scene of the crime'? What if her dad finds out she had a role to play in this? In Beck breaking an entry into his ex-girlfriend's house?

"Jade, there's no need to get the police involved. I'm sure Beck didn't mean to—"

"Stay out of this, Tori!"

She cowered back. "I'd love to." If only she stayed out of it to begin with.

"Seriously, Beck, what do you think you're doing, breaking into my house? If you needed something, you could've just come back, because clearly, no one was home!" At that, her eyes looked like something clicked. Slowly, Jade turned to Tori, who was mentally slapping herself for getting involved in a crime.

"It wasn't that Cat couldn't reach me, was it? And she didn't call you to ask to be picked up from the airport either, did she?"

Tori bit her lip and nodded slowly. Why was Beck not saying anything? In this crime, she was just an accessory!

"So this was your plan? To get me out of the house while you, what? Ransack my house for your things that you wanted back? You know what, I'll—"

Quack, quack.

They were silenced as a duck walked past them.

"Did that duck just come from your house?" Tori was as confused as Jade was, but for some reason, Beck looked more frustrated than confused.

"Jade, listen," he began, his tone so calm Tori would never have guessed that just yesterday, this Beck was so easily pissed off.

"You have two seconds to explain what a duck was doing in my house."

"I got you a duck."

"You got me a duck."

"You got her a duck?" Tori said louder than she intended, which earned her a glare from Jade.

"I hate ducks."

"I know."

If Jade hated ducks, and Beck knew this, then why did he get her one?

"I'm giving you another five seconds to explain why you got me an animal you know I hate."

"I need more than five secon—"

"Four."

"Jade! Would you just listen to me talk?"

"You never listened to me talk!

Quack, quack.

Jade groaned loudly. "If this duck was your idea, Tori, so help me, I will—"

"The duck was my idea." Thankfully, Beck finally said something useful to Tori for when she gets charged with Beck's crime.

"I know you hate ducks, but I wanted to get you one anyway, because maybe then, when I ask you again if you'd take me back, you'd be so focused on hating the duck that you'd realize you don't really hate me as much as you hate the duck, and that you don't hate me enough to not give me another chance. I really miss you…" He was flustered, and so obviously rambling. Tori figured she was probably seeing what Andre saw.

"Beck."

"And I want you – no, I need you, and I'm sorry for what I did, for what I didn't do, and I love you, and I'm just really, really—"

"Beck!" Jade hollered, and stepped closer to him.

"Jade, I…"

"Shut up and kiss me."

Tori watched as Jade placed her hand on his cheek, and leaned in for the kiss. She didn't miss the jolt of life that seemed to have returned to Beck's eyes before his lips met hers. She would have awwed if she understood what was going on in Beck's head when he got her the duck. From what she had gathered, Jade hated ducks, so he got her one so that she'll love him again. How did that even make sense?

Tori shook her head. It also never made sense to her why Beck and Jade were always apologizing to each other with live animals. Other couples would've preferred them stuffed, or even grilled and ready to be eaten.

When they broke apart, Beck had a small smile playing on his lips. It looked like he wasn't sure yet if this was his cue to break into a full grin. "You love me again."

At this, Jade pressed her lips on the hollow of his throat and smiled against his skin. "Who said I stopped?"

"Wasn't this familiar?" Tori thought to herself. Unlike last time, though, she didn't bother asking either of them for a ride home. She was still no Love Doctor when it came to Beck and Jade (since they're so cliché, but so not cliché at the same time), but at least, she's learning.

---

 

II. BECK

He remembers how he would roll his eyes at students who complained about the lack of options for relationship status on TheSlap. Why not add 'it's complicated' as one of the options, they would suggest. In his mind, though, it was as simple as TheSlap made it to be: either you're in a relationship, or you're not. If your relationship status is anywhere near 'it's complicated', then chances are, you're not in a relationship and just don't want to admit it.

The irony doesn't escape him, then, when the thought of adding more options for relationship status entered his mind. It wasn't that he wanted to announce it on his page or anything, but if TheSlap wanted to capture Beck Oliver's relationship status, it'd have to have 'still sleeping with my ex' as an option.

He wasn't quite sure how it began, although he remembers how Jade's mom took an out-of-town trip with her friends from high school, and brought her brother along. Jade was instructed to stay with her dad while her mom was gone for the week, but of course, given how Jade felt about her dad, and how she felt about people telling her what to do, she didn't pack her bags and fake niceties with her dad's new wife and his yappy little dog. Instead, she stayed at her mom's house alone.

She wasn't the one to tell him all this, of course. The key details, he overheard from her conversation with Cat while waiting in line at the Grub Truck. The rest of the details, he just filled in with what he knew about her and her family life. Besides, aside from the tensed exchange in Cat's mom's boss' house the night of the earthquake, he hasn't said anything to her except "hey", and she hasn't said anything to him except "yeah, hey". ("Don't touch mommy", which was not on the script, does not count.)

This is why when their teacher reminded them of the big project they were supposed to turn in at the end of the month – the one where pairs were decided on at the start of the term – he expected her either to bribe their teacher into letting her switch partners, or to divide all the tasks between them equally so that they can finish the project without having to actually be in the same room with each other.

What he didn't expect was for her to be waiting for him after class, looking at him with a straight face as she tells him: "My house, 5 o' clock. We're getting this project done tonight."

What happened from the time he walked into her living room at 5:15 is all a blur to him, to be honest. When he's at school, all he remembers of that night are a pen and rolling, and he's not even sure what or who was doing the latter. When he's alone at his RV, though, he remembers a lot more. He remembers how she was sitting on the couch, while he was cross-legged on the carpet. They were both facing the television set, which she had turned to mute moments after he arrived.

She was furiously writing on her giant notebook when her pen slipped and rolled on the floor beside him. He was too engrossed with his own writing that he did not notice the pen at first, or her struggle to reach for it without moving from her spot on the couch. When he turned his head to face her, he remembers his breath being hitched in his throat – her face was only inches away from his, and he can clearly see her blue eyes focused on the carpet, and her teeth grazing over her lower lip.

The pen stopped rolling when it hit his thigh, and the next thing he knows, he's got her pinned to the wall on their way up the staircase, not bothering to take note of who slipped their tongue in the other's mouth first, or why they even took the trouble making their way to her room and locking the door. It wasn't like anyone else was home, and it wasn't like they haven't been caught before either.

.

It came as no surprise to either of them that they did not get the project done that night, or on any night then after. He still came over to her house everyday at 5 o' clock, running his alibi over and over in his head from the time he started his car, to the time he pulled into her driveway. "We have to finish the project," he told himself, even if he's not quite certain whom the alibi was for anyway.

During the first few times, he delivered his alibi to the best of his abilities – that is, whatever part of it he's able to choke out before she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him deeply. Every time, the words that were able to escape from his lips get fewer and fewer. "Jade, we have to finish the proj—" became "Jade, we have to fi—", until it became "Jade, we—". By his fifth visit, he didn't even bother delivering his alibi. He just wrapped his arms around her waist and attached his lips to hers.

She never invited him to stay for the night, but she never kicked him out either. On the night of the rolling pen incident, as he now referred to it, he fell asleep right after they had sex (In his defense, there was a scientific explanation for this.), and because he didn't wake up naked in a frozen wasteland, he figured it wouldn't be such a bad idea if he stayed over on the nights then after.

This didn't mean, however, that he wakes up in the morning with his arms around her. In fact, no matter how early he thinks he wakes up, she's never in the house anymore. After the second or third night, he remembers finding a note on her bedside table saying something about having food in the kitchen. Yes, there was food, but there was no Jade.

They don't say anything to each other either, and outside of her house, he never gets to do so much as putting his hand over hers. He wasn't too comfortable with the arrangement, but he didn't want to say anything to her about it. They weren't talking, and he wasn't about to break (whatever it was between) them when they're already broken (up).

This is why it surprised him when Jade showed up at his RV one day; it was 4 o' clock, and still too early for him to be making his way to her house.

"Jade, what are you—"

Just like his alibi, he never got to reach the end of his question as she threw her arms around his neck and pressed her body flush against his. "My mom's back," she said before placing her hands on either side of his face and pressing a kiss to his lips. It was only on the morning after that he realized those were the first words she said to him since they started whatever it was they were doing.

.

Since her mom came back from her trip and her brother has made himself a permanent fixture on their living room couch, he and Jade resumed their activities in his RV. He didn't bother with his alibi anymore, but she's still never there when he woke up. They didn't actively avoid being in close proximity of each other while in school anymore, but they still never talked much.

This is why it surprised him when she walked up to him after Sikowitz's class (they were standing so close to each other), and asked him if he wanted to drop by Jet Brew before going back to his place (he said yes, and to him, that counts as talking). It surprised him even more when he hurriedly told Andre that he and Jade were working on their project together (the alibi was back), and when he woke up at around 5 in the morning, she was sitting on his bed with her back against the headboard (it was the morning after, and she was still there).

.

He reaches for her and rolls her over on top of him. For a brief moment, their gazes meet – lids low, eyes clouded. She leans in to kiss him on the lips, and he runs his hand down her naked body. He takes his time kissing her, exploring the shape and texture of her lips as if this was the first time they've kissed. When the tip of her tongue brushes against his, he feels his body harden. With a low moan grumbling in his throat, he pulls his mouth from hers. She wastes no time placing light kisses on his shoulder and spreading her fingers wide on his abs.

"I still love you, you know…" He doesn't regret any of the words that somehow made their way out of his mouth without being thoroughly processed by his brain, but as soon as he feels her tense above him, he figures there is some sort of remorseful feeling that should overcome him in a second.

It doesn't come, and he feels a strong urge to share with her this particular discovery.

"Jade…"

"No." She is on her feet in a second, groaning in frustration as she searches for her discarded clothing.

"What's wrong, babe?" Again, that last word somehow made its way out of his mouth without being processed by his brain, and no remorseful feeling overcomes him.

She glares at him. "What's wrong? Are you really asking me what's wrong, babe?"

He sits up, and watches her pick up her skirt as he replies. "Yes, I'm asking you what's wrong. We've been seeing each other for weeks now, and I love you." When she doesn't interrupt him, he takes it as a sign to continue. "This isn't just something we have to get out of our system before we go our separate ways. We don't have to go our separate ways, Jade. At least, I don't want us to…"

"Seeing each other!" She cries petulantly. "We've been sleeping with each other, Beck! That's not the same thing!"

He flops off the bed and begins to help her look for her clothes. "Didn't you hear the last part of what I just said? I love you. I don't want this to be a series of random hook ups, because you and I both know we're anything but random. I want to get to call you babe. I want to sit next to you in class, at the Asphalt Café… I want us to drive to and from school together, and for me to be able to hold your hand and say I lo—"

"Well, you can't!"

"Why not?"

"Because!" By this time, they were both screaming at the top of their lungs, not caring that it's barely 6 o' clock and still a little dark out. "Because I'm not your girlfriend anymore. You made sure of that when you let me leave Vega's house alone."

Beck looks at her for a moment. She is standing in only her underwear and her short skirt that's yet to be properly fastened at the side. He closes the gap between them, and takes her hands in his own. "I'm sorry for not opening the door. I'm sorry for not running after you. I'm sorry for not begging on my knees for you the next day, and the many days after that."

He presses his forehead against hers before adding: "What I'm not sorry about, Jade – babe – is what we've been doing these past few weeks, and me saying I love you, because I do. I really do."

His lips catches hers – their movements so perfectly choreographed to know just the right pressure, just the right speed, and just the right sensuality. He has kissed many girls before, after, and even while he was with Jade – including Cat, Tori, and dare he say it, Trina – but Jade West is the only person in the world with whom he could kiss like this.

He feels her stiffen at first, but after a while, he feels her slide into the kiss. Her tongue meets his, and not long after, his hands leave hers and snakes between her legs. He expects her to hiss, to moan. What he doesn't expect is to hear a loud smack reverberating across the walls of his RV, and to feel a stinging sensation on his cheek.

She is breathing hard. He should have known better than to declare his love for her, and then proceed to start a dirty fight.

"You love me? Watch me as I walk out that door, ignoring you, and you'll realize once again, that it's not worth running after me or knocking on my door the next day," she says snidely. "I wish your RV walls would literally crumble down while you're in here, sound asleep." She stomps on his foot as if to punctuate her wish, hurriedly pulling her shirt over her head.

.

It's 5 o' clock, on the dot, when he shows up at her front door not even a day later. "Jade."

He sees her brows shoot up in surprise as she opens the door and finds herself standing a few feet away from him. Her mother's car was not in the driveway, and neither was her brother's bike. Jade is in her mother's house alone, and Beck is standing on her porch.

When she doesn't slam the door in his face, a sheepish grin threatens to break into his lips. "We have to finish the project," he says, all the words finally out of his mouth. The next thing he knows, he's kissing her, and suddenly, things are nowhere near complicated anymore.

He makes a mental note of changing his relationship status on TheSlap.

---

 

III. ROBBIE

It was a Sunday night, and he and Beck were doing homework over video chat. They were supposed to write an eight-page monologue that focused on the theme 'discovery', and after half an hour of throwing ideas around, they had barely anything accomplished.

"Alright. So far, we have half of a half of a half of a half of our homework done!"

He saw Beck roll his eyes at his attempt to be funny. Man, he wished his grandma didn't find Rex and hide him away from him. He would have known how to lighten the mood.

"So, half a page."

"Including the directions for the assignment, well, yea."

Beck ran a hand through his hair. "What do we have for the monologue?"

"Well…" He looked over to the right side of the screen, where he volunteered to type their script. "We decided that our main character is a man in his late teens or early twenties. He has a normal family – father, mother, no siblings – but he does not live with them. He's not married, but he doesn't have a girlfriend either."

Beck sighed, a habit he seemed to have picked up since they started with their video chat. Robbie knew he was not the most charismatic of project partners, but he was 80% positive Beck's sighs had nothing to do with him. "Not to pry or anything, but what happened with you? You said we were meeting at 8 PM, but you only came online at a little past 9."

"Sorry, man, I just…"

A notification popped up in both of their screens. "VideoChat Request: ScissorLuv," Robbie read out loud.

"It's Jade," Beck said.

Robbie knew Beck and Jade were not on very friendly terms with one another, but since they had started having short but civil conversations two weeks ago, he didn't even care to notice the slight edge in Beck's voice as he said her name.

"Let's see what she wants." Before he completed that statement and Beck could react to it, he had already clicked 'accept'. A small window with Jade's face popped up.

Never one to bother with curt introductions, Jade proceeded with her questions for Beck. "Where have you been?"

"At home."

"So you just drove home as fast as you can after what you did." He may have missed the slight edge in Beck's voice moments ago, but he definitely did not miss the accusatory tone in Jade's.

"I'm doing homework with Robbie."

"I bet you are."

"I am. We are." He ran a hand through his hair, and Robbie figured he might as well count the times he did this if Beck and Jade were just going to ignore him. One (since Jade joined their video chat).

"Is there something you want to say to me?"

"Jade, can we not talk about this right now?"

"What were you doing at the restaurant?" It seemed Jade was hell bent on ignoring both him, and Beck's attempt at avoiding their conversation. "And don't tell me you were there on a date. You didn't arrive with one, and you sure didn't leave with one, seeing as you're doing homework with Robbie."

Robbie made a face, but did not dare say anything.

"How about we talk about this tomorrow?"

"How about you start answering my questions now?"

Beck ran a hand through his hair. Two. "Robbie's still in the video chat," he said, finally acknowledging him.

"Who cares?"

When Beck didn't reply immediately, Robbie took it as his cue to somehow redirect Jade's attention. "I'm confused."

She glared at him, but it was quickly replaced by a grin – an evil grin, Rex would say. "You're confused? Well, let me enlighten you, Shapiro."

His eyes flew to his contact list on the left, taking note of the people who were online that he could call for help if Jade ever found a way to murder him through video chat.

"Beck here was at this restaurant not too long ago. This restaurant happens to be the very same one my date had brought me to."

If his hands didn't feel frozen on either side of his laptop, he would have slapped one on his forehead. Of course Beck was all sighing and running his hands through his hair that night! It was the night of Jade's date! Cat had been talking about it since last Thursday, and although Jade refused to comment on it, it did seem like the idea did not disgust her completely.

"My date was going well, in case you were wondering," she continued with her story, and he saw Beck run his hand through his hair again. Three. "That was, until Beck decided it was not enough that he was stalking my slap page, where I announced when and where my date was, and following me on my date. No, Beck decided it was in everyone's best interest if he acted all wonky in the head and pulled an empty seat to our table for two."

Robbie's eyes widened slightly. He looked up to Beck for so many things – his jeans fitting him great, him being cool without even trying, and him getting girls' attention without doing so much as looking at their direction. But Beck Oliver, stalking a girl's slap page, following her in her date, and interrupting it? Granted that the girl was Jade West, whose past, present and future he thought would always be tied with Beck's, this was a side of him he's never seen before. "And then what happened?"

"What happened was Beck decided that my date wanted to play twenty questions instead of eating. So I, needing some time to get over my murderous intent, left them alone for two minutes. When I came back, I discovered that Beck also decided that my date needed to go home with a black eye instead of, maybe, a kiss on the cheek from his date!"

"You have no idea what he said while you were gone." Beck finally said, and Robbie could almost hear him gritting his teeth.

"What did he say, Beck? That now that you and I are not together, I'm finally both hot and available?" She put air quotes around 'hot and available', so it was probably a direct quotation.

"He's not good for you, Jade."

"Not good for me," she sneered, then rolled her eyes at him. "How do you know what's good for me?"

"He thought, no, he thinks of you as some sort of prize he can show off to his friends the next day. Jade West, hot and now available. Best night of my life." Towards the end, Beck's voice was a little lower, and he figured it was how Jade's date sounded like.

"Pft. Green's not a good color on you, Beck."

"I'm not jealous."

"So says the guy who pulled a chair to where my date and I were having dinner!"

"I was just looking out for you, okay?"

"Why do you care? I'm not your girlfriend anymore!"

By this time, he assumed they had forgotten he was in the video chat as well. He did not make a move to leave, though, as his hands still felt frozen on either side of his laptop. At the back of his mind, he was also thinking that something big might happen that night, and he didn't want to be that idiot who left before things started to get interesting (not that they weren't interesting already).

"Can't friends look out for friends?"

"We are not friends."

"I say we are."

"Well, I say we aren't. Besides, even if we were, friends don't go acting all wonky and upset when their friend goes out on a date."

"I was not acting wonky."

"Yes, you were! You had this smile on your lips that looked so forced, I thought your face would break."

"No, I didn't."

"You can deny it all you want, Beck, but for someone who claims to be my friend, you really exhibited unfriendly behavior tonight."

He sighed, and ran his hand through his hair. Four. "Maybe I don't want to be your friend, Jade."

"If you don't want to be my friend, then why did you say we were friends to begin with?" She looked like she was about to rip out her colored extensions, or at least throw something – a pair of scissors – at her computer screen. "I don't understand you."

"And I don't understand you. You make me so mad, Jade."

Both he and Jade stopped and stared at Beck, who currently had his head in his hands.

"What are you getting at, Beck?"

A moment of silence passed between them, and Robbie's eyes went back and forth the ex-couple.

"I can't stand not being your friend, Jade, but I can't stand being your friend either."

He watched as he lifted his hand, then put it back down. (False alarm.)

"I can't be just your friend."

At this, both guys saw how her jaw tightened, and Beck ran his hand through his hair. Five.

A small laugh escaped through Beck's lips, and Robbie wasn't sure if he would describe it as sad, angry, bitter, hopeful, or maybe even a combination of all four.

"I would've kissed you right about now," he let out a heavy sigh, and Robbie turned all his attention to catch every detail of Jade's reaction.

She swallowed. Turned her head slightly to her side. Pursed her lips. Looked down, then said: "Well, you can't." He felt his heart sink for his friend. "Because we're on video chat." Jade shrugged, and just like that, his heart resurfaced from the bottom of the ocean of vicarious heartbreak.

Beck ran a hand through his hair – six – and had a teasing smile on his face. "But your date?"

"Punched him in his good eye. I heard everything he said, you know…"

Beck shook his head, and he looked thoroughly amused. "I'm coming over," he said, signing out of their video chat immediately. Jade followed suit. Before her camera was completely turned off, though, he saw a ghost of a smile forming on her lips, which was a rare sight for Robbie.

Suddenly, his hands didn't feel frozen anymore. "I guess I'm writing this script on my own."

(They got an A on their homework, and despite Beck's protests against including his name – "I bailed on you when we were writing the script." – Robbie insisted that he played a big role in it – "You inspired the whole thing, actually, which made it very easy to write." Their script was about a robot who discovers emotions, kind of like Cat's story about a giraffe who learns to love.)

Chapter Text

IV. ANDRE

The last time he had worked with Jade on a song, it took less than two minutes for him to go from being terrified of her, to falling in love with her. It freaked him out not only because she was Jade – who, in Tori's words, was a mean, vicious person with deep psychological problems – but also because she was Beck's. Jade was Beck's best friend, girlfriend, future wife, and future mother of his children.

She may be Andre's friend, but she was Beck's everything. In fact, anyone who bothered enough to look past the glaring and the eye rolling could tell that Beck was Jade's, too, and, as cheesy as it sounded, they were going to be together forever.

How could he even begin to imagine coming between them?

Not even 365 days later, however, Beck and Jade have officially broken up. Taking his feelings for Jade into consideration, was she now, or will she ever be, fair game?

"Are you done with the second verse yet?"

Her voice snapped him out of his thoughts. He and Jade have been working on a song for the new school production for two nights now, and already, he was finding it more and more difficult to be productive writing lyrics around her.

"No, not yet."

"Well, you need to hurry up. This is due on Friday."

"I know, I know."

They both jumped from their seats as Jade's PearPhone went off, sending a loud song into the room. She took one look at the screen, and then proceeded to bury the phone deep in her bag.

"You're not going to get that?"

His question earned him an eye roll. "No chizz."

Before he could come up with a clever response (which, admittedly, he has been having a hard time doing when around her, too), she stood up and headed for the door. "I'm going to get a soda."

"Get me one?"

"No," she answered before closing the door behind her.

Andre leaned back on his chair and began humming possible chord progressions, when his own PearPhone went off.

It was Beck.

"Are you still in school with Jade?"

He typed 'yes' and hit send before trying to figure out what Beck could possibly want with Jade at this time of night. While it was true that Beck and Jade have started talking again, now that they're broken up, Beck didn't drive her to or from school anymore. Besides, if the photos in the Buzzfinger homepage were any indication, Beck was too busy dealing with the gossip surrounding him and Alyssa Vaughn to even think about his ex-girlfriend.

"Hey man."

His eyes shifted to the owner of the voice. It was Beck, and he didn't look too happy.

"You know Jade stole my car keys?"

Before he could come up with an appropriate response (His reaction time was getting worse and worse, wasn't it?), in comes Jade with a can of soda in her hand.

"Beck."

"Jade."

This was how their conversations usually started now, and although he preferred this to them screaming at each other, it still made everyone feel awkward at times.

"Why are you still in school?"

"I don't know, Jade. Maybe it's because I can't start my car without my keys."

She dawdled to a seat on the far end of the room. "Why didn't you ask Alyssa Vaughn to give you a ride, then?"

"What does she have to do with anything?"

Fingering the rim of her can of soda, she drew a long breath before responding. "You're in trouble, so you ask your girlfriend for help. I'm sure she'll be more than happy to be of assistance."

"Are we having that fight again?"

The pause that followed was a sign that he expected a reply from her. However, Jade appeared to be all too fascinated with the nutrition facts of her drink to bother replying.

"Listen, Alyssa Vaughn is just a friend."

"Yea, a friend who's been telling everyone that you're her boyfriend."

Andre made a face. If what Beck was saying was true, and he and Alyssa Vaughn were really just friends, then Beck really needed to learn how to say no and be less friendly with other girls.

"Whatever, it doesn't matter," Jade trailed off, taking a sip of her drink. "Let me just get your car keys so you can call your not-girlfriend Alyssa Vaughn, and you two can drive off into the sunrise together."

"It's 'drive off into the sunset'," Andre corrected her.

She shot him a look he knew was meant for him to pee his pants, that is, if he were Sinjin. "It's night time; the sunrise is closer."

As Jade dug into her bag and fumbled for Beck's keys, Andre turned to look at Beck, who had remained standing this entire time. He and Beck have been best friends for a while now, which was why it was not difficult for him to see the hidden tenderness in the depth of his gaze on Jade, despite the frustrated tone he had used when arguing with her.

Jade looked away from inside her bag, and for a moment, inadvertently caught Beck's gaze. Andre watched as Beck's eyes immediately flew to the clock on the opposite wall.

"Cat. She has your keys."

He registered the slight panic in her voice, and wondered if Jade genuinely felt bad about stealing Beck's car keys.

"Why would Cat have them?"

"I didn't have my bag with me then, so I asked her to keep them."

"Why didn't you just put them in your pocket?" He asked, yet again making himself a target for Jade's glare.

She groaned in frustration. "I didn't want Beck's keys on my person."

Andre wanted to laugh. It was not too long ago that they always had something of the other on their person, whether it was a ring, a bracelet, or in Jade's case, one of Beck's shirts. Now she didn't even want Beck's keys in her pocket?

She threw her empty soda can on the trash bin beside her before she spoke. "I told you; just call that gorgeous socialite not-girlfriend of yours. Maybe she'll send a private jet."

"I told you," he echoed her words, "Alyssa Vaughn is just a friend. Besides, how are you getting home?"

He was driving her, of course. She only agreed to help him with the song on the condition that he drove her to and from school for the entire week. He admits, he half-expected her to demand a cup of coffee every morning, until the realization dawned on him that he did not, and may never have the privilege of getting her coffee. That was (and will forever be) Beck's thing.

He sighed. "Hey, why don't I just drive the two of you home?"

.

The entire walk from the classroom to his car was a struggle. Beck and Jade argued about everything: who gets to sit in passenger's seat—

"I call shotgun."

"What are you, five?"

"It doesn't matter. I call shotgun."

"No, I'm sitting in front, and if this means I have to out-shotgun you, then so be it."

"You can't out-shotgun a person."

"Who cares?"

—whose house he drives to first—

"If you wanted to have a choice on when you were going to be dropped off, then maybe you should have called your not-girlfriend Alyssa Vaughn."

"Why do you keep on repeating 'not-girlfriend'? She is not my girlfriend."

—and which radio station they should listen to!

"Just listen to this, you'll like it."

"Stop it with these Canadian bands!"

He hasn't even pulled out of the school parking lot, and already, he was exhausted. Beck and Jade were acting very strange, even for Beck and Jade, and he couldn't quite put a finger on it.

He kept stealing glances at them through his rear view mirror. They were both sitting in the backseat because his grandma's laundry bags were strewn on the passenger's side. He had made the decision to drive to Jade's house first, as there was some road construction on the way to Beck's. They all sat in silence, too, as he turned off the radio when Jade threatened to snip off Beck's ears. (He didn't know good music, she reasoned.)

It didn't surprise him that it was Jade's voice that broke the silence. "So, you and Alyssa Vaughn…"

"Are just friends," Beck continued for her.

The conversation between them now was different from how it was earlier. It appeared to Andre that they spoke more slowly, breathed more easily, and, perhaps, thought more clearly about what they were going to say next. Granted that they were talking about Alyssa Vaughn, who, whether she realized it or not, seemed to bring out the best and worst in Beck and Jade, at least he didn't feel like he was taking care of a pair of six-year-olds.

"It was on the Buzzfinger homepage last night that you're her new boyfriend, though."

"I'm not."

He glanced at them and saw her nodding once. "I see."

"Besides, I've already told Alyssa I wasn't interested…" He trailed off, but Andre knew he wanted nothing more but to continue. For a second, though, he wasn't sure if he wanted Beck to continue. After all, if Jade was not Beck's anymore, then she could be his, right?

Seeing the look of anticipation in Jade's eyes, his heart fell. Even when Beck and Jade have officially broken up, has Jade really ever stopped being Beck's, and has Beck really ever stopped being Jade's?

As Andre turned the corner to Jade's street, he has decided he wanted nothing more than for his best friend and his best friend's girl to be happy together, as they should be.

"I'm not exactly ready to be anyone else's boyfriend when," Beck paused, and Andre resisted the urge to step on the brakes and refuse to drive until he finished this thought.

"…when I'm still in love with you."

He could have sworn he heard both of them breathe a sigh of relief: Beck, for finally being able to say it, and Jade, for finally being able to hear it.

"Say you love me," she said softly.

"I thought I just did."

Jade smiled at him, shifting in her seat to lean closer to Beck. "Say it again."

"I love you," Beck said, which didn't surprise Andre. After all, Beck and Jade were going to be together forever. How could he even begin to imagine coming between them?

 

---

 

V. JADE

She had figured long ago – even before they started dating – that Beck Oliver was a habit that was hard to break.

It had been two months since that poker night at Tori's house neither of them was invited to, and she still hasn't collected her things from his RV. It had almost been two months since she stopped wearing their matching necklace to school, but she still wore it at home, and she sure as hell still wore his shirts to sleep.

Smoking, drinking, and doing drugs? Meet Beck Oliver.

It was cold comfort to think that for Beck, maybe she was a bad habit that was hard to break, too.

Every night for the past two weeks, she would take a peek out of her bedroom window and find a black car parked in front of her neighbor's driveway. She could see neither the car's plate number nor the person in the driver's seat, but she'd know that car anywhere. It was the car she got into for more times than she cared to remember, the car she got off from whether it was late at night or early in the morning, and the car she almost lost her virginity in. This car, Beck Oliver's, she had been seeing parked in front of her neighbor's driveway, every night for the past two weeks.

It was ironic that now more than ever, she can sleep at night without having to wonder if Beck was fooling around with some cheerleader, or having dinner dates with Trina Vega.

.

"Let me explain this to you one more time: We," she said, gesturing to her and Beck, "are not a couple."

She had been trying to explain to everyone (and by everyone, she meant Cat), that Valentine's Day happens only once a year, and today was not it. Apparently, though, this restaurant Cat's parents had brought her to decided that it would be a great idea if the day of love didn't just come once a year. Every fourteenth day of the month should be Valentine's Day, their promo said, and Cat had taken it upon herself to celebrate it.

"I'm Cat Valentine, it's Valentine's Day, and I want to celebrate with my friends!"

The restaurant owner pulled her and Beck closer together, and snapped a picture or two. Cat was right beside her, acting like one of those cymbal-clapping monkeys. Tori, Andre, and Robbie each cracked their own version of a nervous smile, but didn't comment about the absurdity of their current situation.

"Congratulations! You and your boyfriend win a special and very romantic dinner date tonight!"

She groaned. Did this lady not hear a word she had said? Was she not speaking clearly or loudly enough? Was she not speaking English?

"Excuse me, but didn't your flyers say those who want to enter the contest need to be in their couple shirts?" It was Robbie who had finally backed her up. He really was less useless when he didn't have his hand shoved into that puppet of his.

"Yes, but—"

"Look, lady," she began, her patience running dry. "One, we didn't want to enter your stupid contest. Two, couple shirts are stupid, and three, this stupid boy and I are not in a relationship!"

"Oh, so now I'm stupid?"

He speaks!

"It's alright, it's alright," the older woman placated them. "This lover's quarrel? Nothing a romantic dinner date can't fix!"

Again, was she not speaking English?

Jade was ready to punch someone in the face when Tori spoke up. "But Beck and Jade aren't wearing couple shirts. Doesn't that go against the contest rules or something?"

The restaurant owner started explaining something about a short meeting she had with her staff when they came in – a string of nonsense Jade ignored. She was too busy plotting the easiest route to the door, and wondering what would happen if she made a run for it and—

"—but they're wearing matching necklaces, which is even better!"

Jade froze. It was only halfway through their Valentine's lunch that she realized she had forgotten to take off her necklace when she left the house. She didn't worry too much about it, though, as her hair was long and her top was not low-cut. No one would notice, right?

Wrong, and of all people to notice her necklace, it was this restaurant owner who, on top of wearing yellow hooped earrings (She hated the color yellow.), had the propensity for sticking her nose in other people's businesses. Besides, what did she mean matching necklaces? There was no way Beck was still wearing his, right?

It took her longer than the expected fraction of a second to muster up the courage to sneak a glance at Beck, who had both his hands in his pockets, and his eyes focused on his shoes like they were the most interesting things in the world. She focused her own eyes around his neck, and found herself staring at the one thing she didn't expect to see.

Again, there was no way Beck was still wearing his necklace, right?

Wrong.

Smoking, drinking, and doing drugs? Meet Jade West, apparently.

.

"You know you didn't have to come."

Jade scoffed. "You don't tell me what I know or don't know."

She wasn't even sure why she came that night. She could blame it on Cat's ridiculous idea of what Valentine's Day entails ("Aren't you supposed to give the Valentines a present? I'm a Valentine! This can be your present to me!"), or on Tori's pitiful attempt at being her friend ("We know you miss him, Jade, and maybe this will give you a sense of closure."). However, not only would that be giving either of them too much credit, but it would also mean that she was pushed into doing something she didn't want to do – a bad habit most people had, that she didn't.

She was cutting a piece of meat when he broke her out of her thoughts: "You look beautiful tonight."

Again, she scoffed. "Good to know I look ugly every other night." She didn't raise her head to meet his eyes, but she could tell he was rolling them. She wanted to be reminded of the times she and Beck bantered back and forth, where the teasing came from both sides, and it was done in good fun. It was frustrating, then, that she was reminded of the argument they had in the janitor's closet, the one that was cut short by Cat's fainting. That wasn't banter; their words were meant to cut like knives.

She heard him groan. "That's not what I said."

"Whatever."

.

They ate the rest of their meal in silence, until a server brought out the dessert tray and asked if they wanted coffee or tea.

"She would like coffee, two sugars."

At the mention of how she liked her coffee, a frown formed on her lips. He did not just order in her behalf. "You don't tell him what I would or wouldn't like."

"Jade, you need to chill."

She snapped. "Or else what, you're not going to talk to me for the rest of the day? For the rest of my life?"

"Jade—"

"How is that any different from the way things are now?" She raised the volume of her voice, and emphasized her words with violent gestures, completely ignoring the looks the other diners were giving them.

"I never said—"

"Oh, Beck's not talking to me anymore. How, oh how, am I ever going to get over this?"

He raised his voice to match hers and slammed his hand on the table. "Well, how have you?"

For the second time that day, Jade froze. She watched as Beck ran a hand through his hair and let out a heavy sigh. How has she what? Gotten over him? How on earth was she supposed to give an answer to that kind of question?

At that moment, she knew she had to divert his attention elsewhere – trip a server, throw her bread roll on the elderly couple next table, scream bloody murder, anything!

"Jade." She felt him reach for her hand from across the table. "Why can't we just have a nice time together?"

Why? She can name a million reasons why, beginning with 'because we're not together anymore'. Honestly, though, how can he expect a response from her when he had begun running his thumb in small, circular motions across the back of her hand?

She could only stare at him as he slightly leaned his head back to finish the glass of water he held with his free hand. Her eyes roamed from the point of his nose, down to his neck, and finally resting on the piece of jewelry that got them this dinner date in the first place.

At that, something was rearranging itself in her mind. "Take me home," she said, pulling her hand away from his.

.

The drive to her house was as quiet as most of their night so far. With no server to trip, no bread roll to throw, and no one to panic when she screamed bloody murder, Jade didn't trust herself to speak.

The only sound that filled the silence was the engine running, but that disappeared as soon as Beck pulled the car to a stop.

It felt like an entire minute had passed before either of them said anything.

"Good night, Jade," he said, with that eerily familiar tone in his voice, the one he used when he had wanted to ask her what he had done wrong but decided against it.

She could think of a million things he had done wrong, but since he didn't ask, there was no need for her to give an answer.

"Night, Beck." She moved to open the car door, but as her hands reached the metal handle, a single thought overwhelmed her. Beck Oliver may be a bad habit that was hard to break, but did she really see him worth breaking?

She murmured his name, looking away from him as she processed the gravity of her next move. "Would you be staying here until I go to sleep?"

She may not be facing him, but the slight edge in his voice let her know that he was taken aback by her question. "Maybe."

She expected him to say no, to deny that he ever spent his nights in his car while parked in front of her neighbor's driveway – but he didn't, and Jade wrestled with the possibility that maybe, just maybe, Beck thought she was a bad habit he didn't see worth breaking either.

"You know, you can wait here until I switch off my bedroom lights," she began steadily, "or you can come in, be the one to switch them off, and stay for the night."

She turned to face him, as she didn't want to miss his reaction. Beck's straight face faltered momentarily, and if she were Cat or Tori, her heart must have jumped out of her chest when she noticed the smile tugging at his lips.

"You don't tell me what I can or can't do."

A small smile graced her own lips. Smoking, drinking, and doing drugs? Meet Beck and Jade.

 

---

 

VI. CAT

Cat had been looking for Jade for the past twenty minutes, and not once did she find a student or teacher at Hollywood Arts who had a clue where she was.

That was, until she bumped into Sinjin.

Tori had explained to her once that Sinjin and Jade had a rather unusual relationship. They were not enemies, per se, as Sinjin insists he will never hate Jade, but they were definitely not friends either. Robbie added that Jade ignored him for the most part, and went on about how Jade ignored a lot of people. Andre cut him off by asking everyone to stop trying to make it seem like their relationship was normal. Sinjin was Jade's most loyal stalker, and that was that. That said, though, he was the best person to ask about Jade's whereabouts.

"Sinjin, do you know where Jade is?"

It had occurred to Cat that perhaps it was a mistake to phrase the question that way, because almost automatically, Sinjin shook his head no.

Of course, she didn't believe him. What part of Jade's most loyal stalker did he not understand?

"Sinjin, would you please tell me where Jade is?"

She took a step closer to him and put a hand on his arm. Just like last time, however, Sinjin shook his head no.

"Is Jade hurt?"

Again, Sinjin shook his head no, and then his eyes widened upon realizing his mistake.

He knew where Jade was, and he knew she wasn't hurt.

With full conviction and much effort (as Sinjin was much taller than she), Cat grabbed two fistfuls of his shirt and pulled his face closer to hers. "Tell me where Jade is!"

"Never!"

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing!"

Moving her hands to his shoulders, she shook him forcefully. His glasses were almost falling off, and he looked like he was about to pee his pants. Cat knew she could catch more flies with honey than with vinegar – so said that princess movie she forced Jade to watch with her the other day – but the vinegar approach worked for Jade all the time, didn't it?

"Tell me where Jade is!" She was about to slip into her 'you have three seconds to talk routine' when:

"She's in the janitor's closet!"

Of course, Jade would be in the janitor's closet, probably cutting up a garbage can or painting the walls black.

.

She made a beeline for the janitor's closet, running in her mind the movie titles she can suggest to Jade for when she comes over her house that night. Their options were quite limited, she found, as Jade refused to watch anything with talking animals.

As soon as she opened the door, her brows shot up to her hairline. There Jade was, in the janitor's closet, having a closet party with one Beck Oliver.

Both of her arms were around his neck, and they were kissing each other so hungrily, she'd think they were trying to swallow the other. Jade ran a hand through Beck's hair, and Cat watched as he pressed his knee between Jade's legs. He had one of his hands on her lower back, and another hand, wait – where was Beck's other hand?

She gasped loudly, and Beck and Jade instantly broke apart. She noted the goofy smile on Beck's face (like the cat that just swallowed the canary – giggle – swallowed) and the scowl on Jade's.

Before she could say 'hi' or announce her reasons for crashing their closet party, Jade grabbed Beck's wrist and dragged him out of the janitor's closet.

"We're leaving now."

It looked like she wouldn't have to come over Jade's house that night. Yea, she could take a hint.