Hey guys. Normally I'd have some high energy greeting for you, or an apology for not uploading in so long, but I feel like you all deserve better than that. With everything going on in the world, I guess I'd just wanted to stay away from everything until I felt capable of coming back with a clear mind. I was actually planning on updating last month, but that was cut short when my mom lost her battle with the virus. It's been a rough few weeks and I'd be lying if I said I was okay, but it's starting to get easier. I'm finally starting to feel like myself again... Much love to you all and please stay safe out there. -Victoria (Mercy)


Chapter Twenty-Two

The Best Kind of Medicine

(Jade)

I sit in Mr. Vega's room with Jake, waiting for news on Tori and waiting for Mrs. Vega, Trina, and everyone else to arrive. Mr. Vega was way past upset when I told him what happened, but I really have to give it to him. He's been keeping himself composed, and part of that might be because of Jake. He's taken to Mr. Vega pretty quickly and Jake's been telling him about all his favorite cars, games, movies, cartoons. He's very talkative and very good at distracting you, which is something that Mr. Vega needs right now. Mr. Vega was really good at distracting Jake too. It took him a while to relax after everything that happened tonight and he and I will need to really sit down alone and talk about it, as much as I'd like to avoid thinking about it…

"Jade?!" Mrs. Vega, Trina, and Evan come in and Mrs. Vega grabs my arm. "How is she?! Is she okay?!" I shake my head.

"They haven't said anything yet… I'm sorry…" She lets go of my arm and clenches her fists, looking furious.

"I can't believe this happened… If I ever get my hands on him I'm going to kick your-" I quickly wave my hands in front of her face to get her to stop.

"H-hey! I uh… I haven't introduced you to someone!" I look over my shoulder at my brother and get his attention. "Hey runt, c'mere." Jake comes over and grabs my hand, looking up at me, then Mrs. Vega. "Say hello to Mrs. Vega. This is Tori's mom."

"Hi… I'm Jake." Mrs. Vega, losing her train of thought, waves at Jake and stoops down to his level.

"Nice to meet you, Jake…" She stands back up and leans closer to whisper to me. "Who is this?"

"This is my little brother. As of tonight, he's...going to be living with me…" Holly looks at him then back at me and her face immediately turns red.

"Jade, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to." I stop her, shaking my head and giving her a small smile.

"I get it, trust me." I feel a tug at my sleeve and look down at Jake.

"Jay, I'm hungry…"

"I can take him to the cafeteria and get him something to eat, if you'd like." I look over at Trina, surprised that she'd offer.

"That'd be great actually. Thank you." I turn back to Jake and fix his hair, just combing it back with my fingers. "This is Tori's big sister, okay? She's gonna take you to get a a snack."

"Is she your friend?" I chuckle, and nod, giving Trina a smirk.

"Yep, a good friend of mine." Trina smiles and rolls her eyes, holding her hand out to Jake. He takes it and follows her out. I sigh and sit back down in my chair, leaning back and rubbing the aching spots on my neck, thinking..

"Jade, honey, are you okay?" I nod, running a hand through my hair.

"Yeah… I'm just having a hard time wrapping my head around all this still."

"I know, sweetie…" Mrs. Vega places a hand over mine. "I meant this though…" She gently lifts my head and carefully touches the bruises on my neck. "I can't believe your own father did this to you…" I pull away from Mrs. Vega, looking down at my shoes as I feel my face get hot and my eyes start to sting..

"It's nothing…" Mr. Vega starts to say something but I quickly stand up, grabbing my bag and heading for the door. "I need to get some air. If they get back while I'm gone, just tell them I went outside." They both just nod, and I leave the room, going out to the parking lot once I've exited the hospital.

I sit on the back of my car and pull out a pack of cigarettes, lighting one. I quit back when I first started dating Beck because he didn't like it, but I picked it back up after the first day of not being able to find Tori. It's not exactly the best way for me to handle my stress, but it was the first thing that came to mind. As I try to clear my head, thoughts of Tori's parents come barreling back in. How the fuck am I supposed to talk normally with them? Am I supposed to just act like my father didn't almost kill me and their daughter? If Caroline hadn't knocked him out, he would have strangled me to death and Tori would have died not long after… My thoughts start spiraling when a car pulls up in front of me and the driver honks the horn.

"Put that thing out or I'm kicking your ass." I flush red and flick the cigarette after taking one more pull. Rachel parks her car next to mine and gets out with my mom and Missy. "That's the last thing you need right now, and you know it."

"Sorry…" Mom comes up to me and takes my face in her hands, turning my head and probably looking at the bruising around my throat.

"I'm so sorry you had to go through this..." I shrug and move her hands, not meeting her eyes.

"It could've been worse… Don't worry about it." I sigh. "You guys didn't have to come. I only texted you to let you know we found her. You could have kept sleeping… It's really late."

"Like hell we'd wait. Besides, your friend really wanted to come check on you." Rachel plops an arm on Missy's shoulders and tries to smile but I can tell she's forcing it. "She's not good at sneaking out, that for sure."

"I never snuck out before… I was just going to call a taxi to come here, but your moms found me just when I was leaving." I chuckle and get down off my car.

"Looks like I've got a lot to teach you then. Come on, let's go inside." Missy walks in with me while my parent's stay behind, saying they need to check something.

"Has there been any news?"

"Nothing yet. She was in pretty bad shape when they were putting her in the ambulance…"

"I'm really sorry, Jade…" I stop when she puts a hand on my shoulder, and I look at her. This is a girl that I absolutely loathed. Someone who, although not on purpose, did something that landed Tori in the hospital last time. I do not like being touched, but for some reason, I can't really bring myself to get mad at her. Instead, I actually feel a little better, talking to her…

"It's fine, Missy. At least we got something in common, right? Asshole dads…"

"Yeah, I guess we do…" She smiles and I smile back, grabbing her wrist and leading her to Mr. Vega's room. When we get there, only Trina is in there with Jake and Evan.

"Trina, what is it? Where are your parents?" She looks up and I see a few tears in her eyes.

"They're with Tori. The doctors said she's still out, but we can go in to see her. I let them go alone so we'd be here with your brother when you came back." I let out a sigh of relief and relax, letting go of Missy's arm. If they're letting people in to see her, then she should wake up soon.

"Let's go see her…" I take Jake's hand and follow Trina to the room. Mr. and Mrs. Vega are both outside the door, both looking upset as they talk to the doctor. "Hey.. How is she?" Mr. Vega turns his wheelchair to face us and I can see he looks like he wants to cry.

"Jade…" I tense up and start walking towards the door. "Jade, wait-" He tries to stop me, but I pull away from him and grab the door handle. "Please…"

"I want to see her..." I open the door and throw back the curtain, feeling all the blood drain from my face when I see Tori laying in the bed.

She's pale, with dark circles under her eyes, and she's practically buried under everything they have hooked up to her, including a breathing tube… My whole body is trembling as I walk towards her bed.

"We wanted to tell you before you saw her, so you'd be prepared…" Mr. Vega puts a hand on my back, and I get a sick feeling in my stomach as I reach out to brush her cheek. "She's in a coma, Jade..." I whip around to look at him and see the grief-stricken face that must mirror my own. "The doctor said she'll wake up soon enough, but her body needs to recover..." Her doctor comes over and tries to explain everything to me. I rub my eyes, looking at her doctor while he speaks, but I'm too distracted to fully understand everything he says. Instead, I ask a question that's been on my mind the whole time.

"Why does she need a breathing tube?"

"That's for precaution. She stopped breathing several times when she came in and we didn't get a pulse for almost two minutes. We don't want to risk it happening again. When she wakes up, we'll remove it once we're sure she can breathe fine on her own." No pulse? That means, for those two minutes, she…she was dead… I take a step back and turn away from her, covering my mouth to hide my sobs as tears start spilling down my cheeks. I push past everyone and open the door, only to bump into my mom and Rachel.

"Whoa, slow down!" My mom tries to make me look at her, but I just stare down at the floor. "Jade...Honey…" I don't say anything and try to leave but I'm pulled back into a tight hug. "No, you don't. Come here…" I try to push her away from me, not wanting to be comforted.

"Let me go! I-I can't see her like this!" She doesn't let go, no matter how much I push, and I eventually just stop. I hold my head in my hands and lean against her, sobbing as she just holds me. Mom leads me out of the room while Tori's family stays with her, and she sits me down in a chair while Rachel leaves, coming back with a cup of coffee for me. They don't say anything, they just let me sit there and calm down. When I feel ready to talk, I tell them what's going on with Tori.

"I'm so sorry, sweetheart…"

"Why did he do it, Mom?" I set the cup down and look at her. "Like, I kind of get why he did it, but… All this to hurt me? I don't understand… I was so happy when he said he would help... I really thought he was changing…"

"Your father was a selfish man, Jade. He only cared about himself and appearances. When I told your father that I was bisexual, it wasn't that I stopped loving him. It was me sharing something with him that I'd discovered about myself, because I loved him. He didn't want to hear about it because to him, it ruined the perfect family look we had. You were only a year old, and we both had well-paying jobs as well as the respect of our higher ups. He thought it would all vanish if word got out that I wasn't straight. I'm not going to say I fought with him about it. I gave in because I just wanted him to be happy and for you to grow up in a stable home with both of your parents. Then it all changed."

"What changed?" I ask her, jumping when Rachel plops herself down on my other side.

"She met someone who was cooler, and more fun, and way sexier." My mom slaps her arm and tries not to laugh.

"Shush." She shakes her head, looking back at me. "But she's right. I met someone who enjoyed spending time with me, and didn't care if we looked out of place. Your father absolutely hated my new friend, and if I'm being honest, that made me like her more."

"He hated the fact that your mom spent more time with me than she did him. And since you were still too little to be far from her, you always came along with us when we went somewhere. Even before your mom and I started dating, we were already like a little family..." Rachel sighs, rubbing my back as she looks at Mom. I think about it and it clicks.

"He thought I would ruin his new family if I was Bi… So, by trying to get me to be straight, he would get his perfect family back… That's why he tried to kill Tori...and me. He knew how much I loved her, and he knew I would never stop. He thought I'd be better off dead…" I shouldn't be upset. Everything that happened tonight just reaffirmed everything I knew about him. So why didn't I see this coming? Why was I so quick to trust him? I should have known something was wrong the moment he agreed to help me. I can't remember the last good thing he's done for me that wasn't part of some plan to destroy everything and everyone I loved. "Maybe he's right…" Mom turns me to look at her and I flinch back at the fire in her eyes.

"Don't you ever think like that. You know it isn't true." I pull away from both of them and stand up.

"Are you sure? Think about it. Everything bad that's ever happened has been because of me. You stayed with Dad because of me, the few girlfriends I had who weren't paid by Dad got scared off by him, I practically took all my anger out on Tori before we were dating, and when we do start dating, she almost gets killed by my father!" I stop and back up, turning away from them so they don't see me cry. "Look, I can't deal with this right now…" I start to leave, but I'm pulled back into my mom's arms.

"You're not going anywhere…" She pulls me closer to her and I feel tears dropping on my cheek. "The last time you said that, I found you on your bathroom floor…" My heart thumps against my chest as I think back to the year before last. I'd swallowed half a bottle of my meds and grabbed the sharpest razor I could find…

"I-"

"No!" I jump but she doesn't loosen her grip. "I almost lost you then and I could have lost you tonight. I don't know what I'd do if you were gone so don't you dare say that man was right…" I slowly bring my arms and hug her back. I was so focused on myself, that I didn't stop to think how this was affecting her…

"Mom… I'm sorry…" I lean closer and hug her tighter. "I don't know how to deal with all of the crap he put us through, what he did to me… I…I think I need to start seeing Monica again…"

"Anything you think will help; we'll do. Just please, no more giving up…"

"I promise…" She kisses me on the forehead before pulling away.

"I love you, Jade…"

"I love you too, Mom…" She lets go of me and I'm grabbed again in a vice-like hug. I fight a chuckle and return the embrace. "Love you too, Momma…" Rachel doesn't let go right away and we stay like this for a moment before she backs up and dries her eyes.

"Sorry… I couldn't help myself."

"I know." I smile and dry my own eyes before the last of my tears fall. "I really should get back to Tori… I want to be there when she wakes up."

"You go on ahead. We'll be there in a few minutes." Mom gives me one last hug before giving me a nudge towards the room. I walk up to the door and take a deep breath, going in.

Tori looks the same as when I left and everyone in the room looks at me as I walk in. I say nothing as I avoid the awkward glances and sit beside her bed, taking one of her hands in mine. I don't care how long it takes, just let her wake up...

"Hey Tor… Sorry I left. I'm here now…"


Almost 2 weeks have gone by since I found Tori. She hasn't woken up yet, but at the prodding of my parents and therapist, I've started going back to school. I really didn't want to, but the biggest thing for me was making sure I took proper notes in the classes Tori and I had together and making sure I had someone taking notes in her other classes or getting any extra work that can be put aside for her. I know she's going to wake up and I'll be damned if I graduate and she doesn't… Honestly, being at school has been a good distraction. Mornings aren't so bad, I'm too busy getting my brother ready for school to be left alone with my thoughts, but once I'd drop him off, I was stuck with what to do next. The nurses get irritated with me, always being glued to Tori's side, and I wanted to do something productive that would help her when she woke up. At least she didn't have to worry about facing my father in court… He pleaded guilty.. Didn't even bother trying to deny it, though I doubt that would have done much. The judge gave me full custody of my brother, with monitoring from a counselor to be sure I can take care of him, and my father and his wife both got time in prison. Because she had a hand in all kidnappings, she got 40 years, with the possibility of parole. Would have been 80 if she hadn't helped the police so much. It's no light sentence, but better than my father's… My father got capital punishment... There's no exact date yet, and I'm not really sure I even want to be there, but part of me feels like I have to, to be sure he sees justice for what he did to me, Tori, and the other girls he'd hurt in his attempt to fix me. Tori wasn't the only one he'd kidnapped… He'd taken 5 of my past girlfriends and manipulated them into turning their backs on me, bribing them for their silence. He'd also taken one of my first girlfriends who I'd had an on and off relationship with. I'd always thought she'd ran off, but there was the note she'd left me, saying she'd been paid by my dad to dump me and was leaving town. It was all a lie. He'd forced her to write it… She'd lost her life to him while I thought she'd left me for money... I was so angry…

I slam my textbook shut and shake my head, clearing out the bad thoughts. No more dwelling… It wouldn't bring her back anyway… I stand up just as the final bell rings and I pack up all my things, leaving. Time to go wait for Jake to get out of school and then we'll go check on Tori. I bump into Helen and show her that I've been working hard to catch up on all the work I'd missed. They weren't as mad as I'd thought they'd be. Don't get me wrong, they were upset that I'd missed so many days just when I was catching up before, but they've been more than understanding, considering the circumstances. When Helen gives me the go ahead, I put my books in my locker and go out to my car, only to find someone leaning against it.

"Either get off the car or become my new hood ornament."

"I knew this was your car… Hey, Jay. It's been awhile…" I almost drop my bag when the person turns around. I'd recognize those gray eyes and dirty blonde hair anywhere...

"Alex…" Before I'd even met Tori, I'd fallen really hard for Alexis. Knowing my father paid her off really hurt more than the others did… I grip my bag tight and look away from her. "What are you doing here?..."

"Honestly? I came to see you…and I came to say I'm sorry. I heard what happened with your dad. How are you doing?" I fiddle with my keys and sigh, leaning back on the car.

"How do you think I'm doing? My dad put my girlfriend in the hospital, almost killed me, and now I get to go around, acting normal for the sake of my brother while I figure out how to explain to him that he'll never see both of his parents again. He might get to see his mom someday, but our dad is on death row, not that I would have let him anywhere near my brother." I stop when I realize I've said too much. More than she needs to know. I shake my head and move from the car, brushing my clothes off. "I don't know why I'm telling you all of this. I need to go…"

"Hey…" She grabs my hand and I feel a hundred different emotions swirling through me. "Before you go, I want you to have something…" She lets go of my hand and I look down, seeing a faded piece of paper left behind. I open it and find a check for 20 grand, signed by my father…

"You never cashed it? Alex, this was two years ago. Why didn't you keep the money?" She can't get the money now. All of my father's assets and the whole estate are set to be given to me by the court when...he's no longer around.

"I never wanted the money…"

"Then why…?"

"I wanted him to leave you alone. I was so tired of seeing how he treated you when we were together. I took the deal to get him off your back, but I never wanted the money. I doubt he even noticed that the money was still there." She never kept it, for me?

"Why would you do that?" She steps closer and kisses my cheek before hugging me.

"Because I loved you, you moron." She pulls away and blushes, tucking some hair behind her ear. "I should go. Don't want to keep you too long." She pulls out her keys and starts to walk away.

"Alexis, wait." I dig through my bag as she turns back around. I pull out one of my old tattered notebooks, opening it. Inside is a very gently preserved piece of paper. It's a sketch she'd made of us when we dated. I hold it up for her to see and I see her eyes tear up. "I...I kept this… It didn't feel right to get rid of it..." I give her a small smile, putting the picture away. "Just don't tell my girlfriend. She might get a little jealous and she's surprisingly scary when she gets jealous." She just smiles and shakes her head.

"I really missed you, Jade… I know you're seeing someone else, but… do you think we could still be friends?" She quickly puts her hands up and backs up a bit. "I totally understand if you don't want to, I just thought it would be nice if we could talk again, maybe have a cup of coffee and catch up?"

"I'd like that actually… Here, give me your phone." She gives it to me without hesitation, and to my surprise, her password is still the same. I change my old number to the one I switched to after we broke up and give the phone back to her. "Call me anytime…" She takes it and gives me another hug, one I return this time.

"Thanks Jay… It was good to see you." We part ways and I get into my car after she gets into hers. I just kind of sit there for a moment, trying to figure out if that really happened. I snap out of it when I get a text message and see that it's from an unknown number.

-Thank you-

I smile and save the number in my contacts before leaving to go pick up my brother.

I'm usually early picking him up, but since I ran into Alex, I pull up just as the doors open. There's a flood of kids as they all run to their parent's cars or to their bikes. Jake comes out next, carrying a huge box with a teacher following him with some bags. I jump out to help him since the box looks a little heavy.

"Hey punk." I set the box on the ground and give him a hug. "What's this?" I pull away and start to open the box.

"It's gifts from the teachers and my friends!" Inside the box is a whole bunch of toys and games, books and even some movies. "Those are from my friends. They all brought stuff in for me!" I think back to his room when I was packing stuff up for him. He didn't have many toys… Maybe an action figure or two, but that was it…

"That was really nice of them… Did you say thank you?"

"I did!" He jumps up and starts going to the box, wanting to play with something already. His teacher steps up and shows me the bags.

"These are from the staff members. We weren't too sure about some of his sizes, but they should be just fine, perhaps a little big, but he'll grow into them." I look into the bags and find brand new clothes, a bunch of shirts, pants, socks, and underwear, and 3 new pairs of shoes. All stuff he really needed because I couldn't grab much when we left.

"I don't even know what to say…" The teacher puts a hand on my shoulder.

"Don't even worry about it. Jacob is such a good boy and we know how difficult everything has been for you. This is just our way of making sure he has everything he could possibly need so it puts less strain on you."

"I can't tell you how much I appreciate this… Thank you.." She helps me load everything into the car and I get Jake buckled up before getting into the car as well. "Alright, we'll grab something to eat and then I'll take you to my mom's house, okay?"

"Are you gonna see Tori?" I nod, stopping at a red light and looking for my wallet.

"Yeah, I'm gonna go check on her. See how she's doing, if anything changed."

"Can I come?" I look at him through the rear mirror and raise an eyebrow. It's not that he doesn't like going to see Tori with me, but he gets bored so easily and I hate seeing him mope around for something to do. At least at my mom's house, the dogs are there and Mom and Rachel are good at keeping him busy.

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah, I wanna be with you." Just hearing that makes my heart swell. After going so long with limited contact with my brother, I've loved having him with me so much.

"Alright, you can come. Put some of those toys in your backpack so you don't get bored." He reaches into the toy box next to him and starts stuffing as many as he can. "And no taking your homework out to make room." It gets quiet in the back before I hear papers being slid back in the bag. I just chuckle and keep driving. I stop at a deli and pick up two sandwiches, some juice, soda, and chips before we head towards the hospital.

Tori's the same as usual, not awake, but everything else seems fine. No change is better than bad change… I pull the small table to my chair by her bed and sit Jake in my lap so we can eat. He eats every bite and I give him half of my sandwich when he's done with his own food. When we finish eating, I set him up so he can do his homework while I make sure Tori's comfortable and cared for. I know she doesn't really know what's going on around her, but I'd at least like to make sure she feels alright when she wakes up. I grab a fresh washcloth from the cabinet and wet it, cleaning around her face and neck. I'm careful not to bump and wires or the breathing tube while I take care of her. Brushing her hair is a little tricky, but I manage well enough and fix it, so she looks nice. I finish up with some Chapstick to keep her lips from getting dry.

"You better appreciate this when you wake up, Vega. I don't do this for anyone."

"But you wash my face and give me Chapstick too, Jadey." Jake looks up from his homework and grins at me.

"That's because you hate washing your face and you bite your lips too much. If I didn't do it, you'd be unrecognizable in about 3 hours."

"And because you love me."

"Yes, and because I love you."

"That's why you do it for Tori, right? Cause you love her too."

"Yeah, yeah. You keep doing your homework, Mr. Smarty-pants." I point to his papers, smirking. He just giggles and goes back to his work. I shake my head and sit down beside Tori, stroking her hair. "You gotta wake up soon, Tor. You'd definitely get a kick out of my little bro." I chuckle before sighing, getting a bit more serious. "Besides, your mutt misses you, your sister is driving me crazy, and your parents need you too." Her dad was ready to kill mine. Guess he doesn't have to worry about that… "I need to see those beautiful eyes of yours, but if you want to rest a little longer, you can. You've been through so much, but you never gave up… I'm so proud of you…" I bring her good hand up to my face and kiss it, sighing as I hold it to my cheek. I stay like this for a few minutes before a nurse comes in to check on her and attach a new bag to her feeding tube. I watch for a moment, waiting to see if I can be of help, but she's fine so I move back over to my chair. Jake finishes his homework and I go over it with him before sitting him on my lap with my phone to watch cartoons together. I lean the chair back and get comfortable. We'll stay for a little bit longer, then we'll head home…


(Tori)

Something's wrong… Everything's going hazy around me and I don't know why. I feel like I'm trapped in a dream and I've been wandering around for a while now. I don't know where to go, but sometimes I hear Jade's voice… I try to follow it, but it disappears too quickly. I feel tired but I can't sleep. Now it's as if it's all falling apart. There's a tunnel so I follow it, running towards the end. The closer I get, the more sounds I hear. I couldn't hear anything but Jade before, but now I hear beeping and footsteps. Are they my own? I keep following the tunnel to the end and everything here just fades away….

My eyes flutter open and I almost instantly panic at the feeling of something in my throat. I try to sit up, but my whole body feels stiff and weak. What's going on…? I blink away the blurriness and move my head to look around, stopping when I see Jade and a little kid sitting in a chair. Jade is sleeping but the boy is awake, looking at a phone. I try to raise my left hand to get his attention, but it feels heavy. There's something holding it down… I make small noises in my throat and that gets him. He looks up from the phone and seems surprised. He puts the phone down and gets down from the chair, coming up to the bed.

"Hi…" He seems nervous but I lift up my right hand, having better results, and wave to him. I look at Jade and point to her and he seems to understand. He goes up to Jade and shakes her arm. She groans a bit but doesn't wake up. The boy climbs onto her lap and puts his hands on her shoulders, shaking her again. That does the trick and Jade stirs, rubbing her eyes and grumbling.

"Alright, alright, I'm up… What is it?" The boy gets down from her lap and points to me.

"Look…" Jade follows his hand and we make eye contact. Her eyes get huge and she moves him off her lap before getting up, shaking. She takes my hand in hers and I can feel just how much she's trembling.

"T-Tori…?" I can't say anything because of whatever is in my throat, but I squeeze her hand. She jumps and almost lets go of my hand but tightens her grip and places her other hand on my head. "You're awake… Oh my god…" She takes her hand off my head and I watch her push a button on the bed. A few seconds later, a voice comes out of the speaker.

"Ms. Vega, is that you?" Jade corrects them, giving them her name and tells them to come to my room because I've woken up. That's the second time I've heard that. How long have I been out? Several nurses come rushing into the room and they all seem just as shocked as Jade. "You really are awake! Oh, Dr. Gilbert will be so happy to hear…" The first nurse comes over and asks Jade to step aside as she looks me over. "Tori, do you think you'd be able to breath if we removed this tube?" I follow her hand and get a somewhat obscured view of a tube leading to my mouth. A breathing tube? What happened… I look at the nurse and nod, wanting it out if it means I can talk and ask the dozen questions that are crossing my mind. She lowers the top on the bed so that I'm laying flat and starts unhooking the tube. "This isn't going to hurt, but it is going to feel very uncomfortable. Just try to relax your chest." I close my eyes and try not to tense up as she gently pulls out the tube. I gag a little bit as it comes out and squeeze the ever-loving crap out of Jade's hand. "There we go… Easy now.." The last of the tube is out and I take a deep breath, disliking the weird feeling in my chest and throat. I wince and cough a few times, clearing my chest.

"Baby, how do you feel?" Jade holds my cheek and I lean into her hand, closing my eyes.

"Tired..." She strokes my hair and I feel her lips on my forehead.

"Don't go to sleep just yet… I just got you back…" I open my eyes and look up at her.

"Jade… What happened to me…?" She averts her eyes and seems to turn red.

"Um… What do you remember?" I look up at the ceiling and try to think.

"I remember your dad grabbing me and stabbing me with something. It made me dizzy…"

"He injected you with insulin. It made your blood sugar drop really low and made you sick… What else do you remember?"

"Your dad… He was holding you and…" I look back to her and stare at her neck. I reach my good hand up and move the collar of her shirt, seeing yellowing marks around her throat. "He almost…" I stop, swallowing hard as I feel my eyes start stinging and my breathing quicken. "He almost…"

"Shhh shhh…. Hey, it's okay… I'm alright, I promise.." She hugs me to her, and I hug back, holding back sobs. "I'm just glad you're awake…" I pull back and look her in the eyes.

"You guys keep saying that. How long have I been asleep?"

"You haven't just been sleeping, Tori…not really... You've been in a coma for a little over a week."

"Wh-what!?" I push Jade away and try to sit up, but she and a nurse hold me down.

"Easy, Tori. Don't move so fast. Relax."

"Relax?! Jade, you just told me I've been in a coma for a week! How on Earth do you expect me to just relax?! I need to call my parents! My sister!" She puts her hands on my shoulders and holds me firmly still.

"You're scaring my brother. Stop it." We stare at each other for a moment before I nod and try to calm myself. I look over at the little boy, sitting in the chair and watching us, nervously.

"I...I'm sorry…" Jade takes a deep breath and sighs, letting go of me.

"I get it. You're upset. But this isn't going to help. You're in no condition to be getting out of this bed right now."

"Ms. West, could you hold her still for a moment longer?" A nurse motions to my face and Jade nods, holding my head still as the nurse peels off some tape near my nose.

"Hold still, Tor. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly." I do what she says, breathing in as deep as I can manage. As soon as I start to let it out, there's some tugging at my nose and I try really hard not to move as the nurse pulls out another long tube from my nose. When it's gone, I try to rub at my nose, but Jade stops me.

"What was that?" I pinch the sides of my nose, trying to get rid of the weird feeling. Jade lets me this time and grabs a washcloth, wetting it.

"It was an NG tube. It's how they were getting nutrients in you while you were out."

"I guess… It felt weird…" I lay still as she washes my face and a different nurse comes over, saying she needs to draw blood. I've never liked needles, but seeing her pull one out makes me more uncomfortable than usual… She brings it towards my IV line and all I see is Mr. West coming at me with the pen needle he'd attacked me with before. I pull my arm away and close my eyes, leaning towards Jade. She puts an arm around my shoulders and holds me, whispering.

"It's okay… You're safe…" I nod and take deep breaths, trying not to shake too much as the nurse draws blood. When the nurse is done, Jade rubs my back and kisses my forehead. "Good girl… I'm gonna let you go for a minute so I can call your parents, okay?" I nod and start to pull away. The nurse who drew the blood waves it off as she packs everything up.

"Oh Hun, don't worry about it. Jolene already made the call. They should be here soon."

"Thanks…" Jade still pulls away from me and I watch her as she grabs a small pitcher and a cup, pouring some water. "Here. Drink something." I take the cup and drink it all, feeling better. I didn't notice how dry my throat was…

"Thank you…" The boy, Jade's brother, comes over and grabs her hand.

"Jadey… I'm hungry…" Jade looks at the clock and sighs.

"It is getting close to dinner time. I'll go and get us something to eat, okay? What do you want?"

"Pizza!" He jumps up and down and Jade just laughs, calming him down.

"Alright, come on. Tori, we'll be right back."

"Can I stay here and play with my toys?" Jade hesitates, looking at me.

"I don't know, Jake. Tori really should rest and there's no one else here to watch you." I shake my head and try to sit up, feeling more of the stiffness pass as I move more.

"I can keep an eye on him. It's fine." She still seems unsure but relents.

"Alright. I'll be quick. Please, don't push yourself too much. Like the nurse said, your parents should be here soon." She hugs her brother and kisses my cheek before grabbing her keys and leaving. Jake sits down and plays with his toys for a little bit before getting bored and taking a book out of his backpack. He starts to read but seems to get frustrated, so he pushes a chair close to the bed and holds up the book.

"Um… Tori? Can you help me read my new book?" I stop fiddling with the bandages on my hand and take the book, nodding.

"Yeah, come here." I move the hand that's wrapped up and let him sit on the bed beside me. Jake holds one side of the book while I hold the other and we read together for a little while before my parents arrive. They're a bit rougher with the hugs than Jade was, but I try to give as good as I get. Jake stays on the bed with me and my parents sit by me as we talk. Dad looks better than when I last remember seeing him. Now he's healing up and getting around with a cane.

After a lot of questions, and with my mom keeping Jake distracted, Dad explains everything that happened while I was out.

"Isn't there any way to get his mom less time?" I whisper to my dad while looking over at Jake while Mom reads a book to him. "I know she's not completely innocent, but she did help me…and saved Jade from her dad… He was forcing her to do everything, probably using her son as leverage..."

"I think her sentence is as good as it's gonna get, Princess… Regardless of what she did to help, she was still an accomplice and kept it secret for a long time."

"I guess…" I shake my head and sigh. I still can't believe Mr. West actually killed someone… How must Jade be feeling about that?... How does she feel about his sentence? … My nurse comes in and checks my vitals before asking me if I'd like to try eating something. I can have some soup to start and then more solid food if I manage to keep it down. I take the soup and she even says she'll bring me some ice or something cold to soothe my throat. The breathing tube left it feeling dry and scratchy, no matter how much water I drink.

Jade comes back with 2 pizzas and some bags, setting them down.

"Hey, I figured you guys would be here by the time I got back. Picked up an extra pizza so you can eat too." Dad stands up and helps her put things on plates while Mom tells her she didn't have to. "Don't even worry about it. You know Jake will tear up at least half a pizza by himself anyway." She sits him at the small rolling table and gives him a plate of pizza and a bottle of juice, opening it for him. She grabs her own plate of food and tries to sit in the chair beside me, but I make room and make her sit on the bed with me. She sits and I lean against her as soon as she's comfortable.

"I missed this… I missed you…" I feel a soft brushing on my hair, and I look up at her. She kisses my forehead and wraps her arm around me.

"I missed you too, beautiful… I'm just glad to have you back."

"My dad got me caught up on everything… We have a lot to talk about when it's just us…" She sets her plate down and sighs, rubbing my back.

"I know.. Later, okay?" I nod, resting my cheek on her shoulder.

"Okay…" We talk a bit while she eats, and the nurse comes back with a full tray of things.

"Don't force yourself to eat it all but try and eat what you can. I put a few extra things on there for you, in case you wanted to try them." She sets a small bowl of vanilla ice cream in front of me. "This should help your throat feel better. There's a pitcher of crushed ice too. Try the ice cream first before it melts and when you're done with that, the soup should be cooled down. Let me know if there's anything else you need or if there's anything wrong." I look at the tray, a little overwhelmed, and pick up my spoon. I try a bite of ice cream and she's right. The cold ice cream really does feel so much better on my throat. It almost numbs it and before I know it, I've finished the whole bowl. The soup is still a little hot so Jade puts some of my ice into the cups to cool them more and I sip at them one at a time until they're all gone too.

"How are you feeling? Need anything?" She rubs my back as I finish the last of the soup and I set the cup down, sighing. I'll save the jello for later. I feel so full from the soup now.

"I feel a lot better now that I've eaten something… I still feel exhausted though. Is that normal?" I lean against her and push the table to the side, stretching my legs a bit.

"You were out for two weeks, Babe. It'll take you a bit to get back to 100%, but just give it time and rest as much as you can. God knows you deserve the rest right now." She pulls the blanket up higher and covers me before holding me. "I should take my brother home soon. We have school in the morning, but I'll stay here until you fall asleep, okay?"

"I'm shocked. Last time I was in the hospital, you skipped school until I went home."

"Helen will literally drag me back to school if I start skipping classes again." She smirks and runs her fingers through my hair. "Go on, get some sleep. I'll be back tomorrow, I promise."

"Be safe, okay?..." I give her a small squeeze and close my eyes, nuzzling her arm as I start to fall asleep. My parents both promise to be here when I wake up again and I even get a small hug from Jake before I slip into unconsciousness.