Author: ThereAreNoLines PM
When Hanna suddenly ends their secret relationship, Spencer is forced to examine every aspect of their past to try and figure out what went wrong, while trying to navigate present heartbreak, and the forces that keep them apart. Spencer/HannaRated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Romance - Spencer H. & Hanna M. - Chapters: 11 - Words: 71,771 - Reviews: 101 - Favs: 60 - Follows: 59 - Updated: 10-03-12 - Published: 09-02-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7347676
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Oh, Spencer, please, forgive me for ripping your heart out." It wasn't much of an imitation, but it was high pitched and irritating and it made Spencer feel a tiny bit better as she violently ripped the sheets off of her bed, in the process of remaking it with the starched ones that Melissa had given her. "I was just trying to protect my skeevy ex-boyfriend from our faceless stalker, why would I ever consider your feelings, I mean, we were just dating." She jerked the white quilt halfway up before she decided she was doe and dropped down onto the bed. "Well, then, fuck you, Hanna." She added, in her normal voice, closing her eyes as she turned against a pillow that – finally – didn't faintly smell of her perfume.
"I can't believe you'd say that to me Spencer!" She lapsed back into the imitation, arm thrown over her eyes dramatically. "I didn't do anything wrong! I'm the victim here! You can't hate me!" She let her arm fall to the side, looking up at her ceiling. "Oh, but I can, and I will." She added, pausing for a second to think of what to say in Hanna's voice next, before she realized how completely and utterly crazy she sounded at that very moment.
"I'm losing my fucking mind." Spencer groaned, pulling the pillow to her face, rolling over onto her stomach, sighing heavily as she fought back laughter, actually amused by how far gone she was. It was laughable, honestly, how much she'd allowed herself to slip down the cliff face of mental stability – not that she'd been that far up there to begin with. If her parents cared an ounce more about her than they actually did, she'd probably be on some kind of psychotropic medication, and spend her days shaking, and staring blankly at walls for extended periods of time.
The awful part was that she didn't know which would be worse.
There was a knock at the door, and Spencer rolled over, letting her eyes fall open. "No, Melissa, I still don't want dinner." She sighed, covering her face, looking over as the door opened anyway. "Melissa, I said – "
"It's not Melissa, you idiot." And it wasn't. It was Aria, wearing her Betsey Johnson-esque lace contraption vintage find of the day, brushing back her dark hair, which wasn't adorned with anything today, instead pulled into a high ponytail, looking every bit as put together as Spencer wasn't. "And…I think there are a few things we need to talk about, Spence…"
Oh God. Anything but that. Anyone but Aria. Her best friend. The person she'd been lying to the most over the past few months, more than her family, even. She was supposed to tell Aria everything that was going on in her life, and instead, she'd told her nothing, pretending like her life was all smooth sailing and late night committee meetings and homework too demanding for sleepovers. She'd been neglecting her in favor of her secret relationship, and now she had to own up to it and the thought of that alone was almost as awful as the past week had been. "I…" Spencer couldn't look at her, letting her head fall to the opposite side of the room. "…I figured. There was no way you couldn't have heard that."
"Yeah, well…" Spencer felt the bed dip as Aria sat down beside her. "You and Hanna were always the loudest out of all of us. You two can yell…well, in this case, you could yell, but…" There was a paused. "Spencer, why didn't you…say anything? I mean, I would never…you know I love you no matter what, right?"
Spencer laughed, rolling over to look at her. "Of course I do." She said. "You're not the problem in the equation, Aria."
"…don't use math puns on me." The other brunette laughed a little, reaching for Spencer's hand, taking it, lacing their fingers. "I just don't understand why you wouldn't tell me." There wasn't any hurt in her voice, Spencer noticed, just genuine confusion…curiosity. She breathed a sigh of relief.
"I was scared." She replied, more honest than she'd been with anyone in a long time. "Not that you wouldn't like me or anything, I mean, of course you would, you love everyone…but something like that? Like me and Hanna? That going public is…a lot more complicated than you'd think."
"But Emily did it." Aria pressed gently.
"How is it different?"
'It's just different, okay, Aria?" Spencer snapped, instantly feeling guilty as Aria fell silent. "…I'm sorry." She said, after a long moment. "This is just…this is really new territory for me, and…you know how I get when I don't know what to do."
Aria squeezed her hand back. "It's okay, Spence." She said, genuine. "I know what it's like to keep something like this hidden. I get it." In that moment, Spencer wished she could go back, and redo everything, trusting her from the beginning…maybe this whole scene could have been avoided. Maybe Aria would have talked some sense into her, or into Hanna, or maybe just would have stopped it all from happening in the first place. Then she wouldn't be in this dark, terrible place, acting out of spite, saying things she didn't mean, or at least didn't mean to say out loud. By shutting out Aria, by shutting out her best friend, she had gone down a path she had never expected of herself. While self-exploration wasn't the worst thing in the world, she had found something in herself she didn't particularly like. Simply by not trusting her best friend to keep her secret.
"I'm sorry." She said again, but this time, apologizing for a great many more things. "Aria, I – "
"I don't think I'm the one you should be apologizing to right now, Spence." Aria interrupted quietly, as Spencer looked over at her. "Em's over at Hanna's right now or else she'd be here yelling at you. You broke her, Spencer, and Emily's just trying to hold her together…that wasn't fair.
Spencer knew. She had known that the instant she'd opened her mouth to Hanna in that classroom. It had always been a part of herself that she'd hated – when she lost control, on the few occasions that she did, anyways, the results were always disastrous and hurtful and, despite her intensity, hurting people who didn't deserve it made her feel terrible. And, as much as she hated to admit it, Hanna hadn't entirely deserved what she'd said.
But another thing she hated doing was admitting that she was wrong. "Aria, if you knew – "
"I do." Aria said, the same quiet interruption as before. "Hanna told us everything, how A blackmailed her into breaking up with you so Caleb would be safe. It wasn't fair of you to lay into her like that, because each and every one of us would have done the same thing to protect someone we cared about from being hurt…even you. You have done it before, Spencer, with Toby, although I guess not in quite the same way. But she didn't do anything wrong. She was forced into a terrible situation, and she did the only thing she could have, and you made her feel terrible over it, Spencer. I get that your feelings were hurt, really…it was a lose-lose situation. But that was unfair, to expect her to let someone she cared about get hurt or die just to stay with you. I'd leave Ezra in a heartbeat if you were in danger." A squeeze on her hand. "..you know I love you, but you have to apologize. I hate seeing the both of you so miserable."
"..how do you manage to combine the right amount of shame and compassion in the same statement?" Spencer asked, sitting up finally. "It's like you're Dali, but with words. You don't know what hit you until it's over and you've moved onto the next painting."
"So, does that mean you're going to apologize?" Aria asked, as Spencer swung her legs over the edge of her bed, starting to pull her boots back on.
"Of course that means I'm going to apologize." Spencer didn't look up as she carefully laced her boots. "People always say I'm the best at convincing people to do something, but you're, like, a sleeper agent or something."
"Thanks, I guess." Aria said, with a peculiar sort of laugh that trailed off after a moment. "You know, I never told Ezra I saw you." She said, out of nowhere, causing Spencer's head to jerk up.
"Wait, what?" Spencer asked slowly. She knew what she was talking about, she was just hoping Aria didn't.
"That night at the restaurant." And Spencer's stomach sank. "I never said anything. It seemed like…you didn't want to be seen there. And then he started talking about Hanna, and how he'd run into her, and I just…"
"Put three and three together?" Spencer finished for her.
Aria raised an eyebrow. "Two and two, Spencer." She said.
Spencer paused for a second. "Right, sorry. Anyway…did you?" She asked reluctantly.
"Not for awhile. I guess I just didn't get it, or didn't want to get it. I don't know…" She trailed off again as her phone vibrated on Spencer's bed. "…God, I can't even remember a time where I wasn't scared every time I got a text message." She murmured, grabbing her phone, sliding it open to check the message after a minute, Spencer watching her intently.
"Anyone we know?" She finally asked, flooded with relief as she watched Aria's lips curve into a smile. "Oh, it's that someone, okay."
"Yeah…he's got an interview in Philadelphia, at Drexel…just a TA position, but it's Philadelphia. It's only an hour away, I could see him…he's on his way, I have to go meet him." Aria said, grabbing her bag as she stood up.
"Well, tell Ezzie I said hello." Spencer arched an eyebrow, laughing as Aria rolled her eyes. "I'm kidding…I'm happy for you guys." She added, folding her hands in her lap, the statement ending on a melancholy note she hadn't meant to add…hadn't meant to feel, even.
"Hey." Aria stepped back over and kissed the top of her head. "It's going to be okay. And one of these days, I'll be able to be happy for you too."
"Take two seems to be going a bit smoother." Spencer glanced up, her cheeks warming as Hanna's hand slid over hers on top of the table, in full view of everyone around them. It was going smoother – they'd made it past the door and to a table, (a table closer to the bar than she would have liked, but still a table,) without any discussion of why two younger girls were out alone together, and what it might mean for the 'image' of the establishment. Spencer's cautious optimism had bloomed into full contentment, and she was, for once, completely content. "Well, knock on wood, of course." Hanna added, with a bit of a smirk, lightly tapping the knuckles of her other hand on the dark wood of the table.
"For the 'City of Brotherly Love,' Philadelphia sure is hostile." Spencer sighed, shaking her head.
"Yeah, Spence, I think that's a gang thing at this point." Hanna replied, sipping at her thin glass of water with half a lemon wedge jammed halfway down the glass. "You know…'brothas?'" She added, in a tone that made Spencer almost spit with laughter.
"For the love of God, don't ever do that again." Spencer gasped, trying to remain calm. "At least, don't do it in a place where I can't laugh like a hyena."
"Oh, those things from the Lion King?" Hanna suddenly looked worried. "Those are scary."
Spencer furrowed her eyebrows as she looked at her girlfriend, searching for the words. "I…they don't actually….you know what, never mind." She finally settled on, confused and yet endeared by Hanna's overwhelming innocence. She couldn't picture being that blissfully unaware…it had used to seem limiting to her. A handicap, some sort of hindrance. But now, being forced to interact with her, by being forced to see the world through her eyes, Spencer was beginning to realize that a little bit of innocence didn't have to be a bad thing.
"Have I mentioned how adorable I think you are?" Spencer asked, after a minute, propping her chin up in her hands.
Hanna pouted. "Don't…patronize me?" She said, sounding uncertain after a minute's pause.
"No, that was right!" Spencer said, laughing a little. "Mrs. Montgomery is totally going to think you're cheating when she gets that paper we've been working on together."
"What can I say?" Hanna shrugged. "Dating you has been the best thing to happen to my GPA since they stopped showing reruns of Dawson's Creek on SOAP Network and I had nothing better to do than my algebra homework." The blonde grimaced, as if recalling a past torture.
"Okay, I don't even know what that is." Spencer sighed. One would think the differences between the two girls – in reality, they were opposites – would only serve to drive them apart rather than closer together, and certainly not their particular brand of closeness. But, somehow, it hadn't. By being the exact opposite of one another – with Spencer being serious, studious, and sometimes severe, and Hanna's easygoing outlook, flightiness when came to schoolwork, and her lighthearted humor – they managed to soften their own edges, and sharpen their curves, and along the way realized that they weren't so different anyway.
Their differences were also their strongest defense. They were more of an unlikely couple than Spencer and Toby, and that…that had been an odd match. The occasional glance or slip of the tongue, or mutual absence didn't raise alarm because no one would believe that they meant it. No one would believe they meant anything to the other besides friendship, and an often strained one at that. No one would believe that there was more to it than that. People saw the easiest explanation, the most clear cut path. Everything, so far, had worked in their favor.
"Spencer…Spencer…Spencer!" Hanna's panicked tone caught Spencer's attention finally, jerking her from her thoughts, making her look up to spot Hanna's equally panicked expression. She didn't get a chance to ask why, however, as Hanna pointed her towards the door, practically shaking.
It took her a moment, but Spencer was just as terrified, if not more, when she saw why.
Aria and Ezra were milling about by the doorway, waiting for a table. It took Spencer a second – after all, seeing Aria had never used to be a frightening experience, and Ezra only mildly so, as frightening as any teacher could be to someone like her - but panic leapt up into her throat, only mildly relieved as they were led to a table across the restaurant. They were concealed from them behind a curtain that divided one half of the restaurant from the other, but that provided little comfort.
The secrecy was no longer comforting either. She could no longer find refuge in the fact that no one knew, only terror. The idea of confronting it, of revealing anything, or at least of being forced to by the circumstances...it was enough to make Spencer's stomach turn, and in no way could it be mistaken for food poisoning. "What the hell are they doing here?" The brunette asked, ducking behind the extensive wine list, trying to hide.
"I think they're on a date." Hanna offered unhelpfully, but before Spencer could do more than glare at her, she cut her off. "I think the better question is 'What the hell are we going to do?'"
There was a long pause. "...I'll take the back entrance, you go out by the bar, we'll meet at my car and we'll...find a Denny's or something." Had the circumstances been any different, she would have grumbled over the loss of yet another opportunity to spend a decent evening with her girlfriend. But the sense of urgency was far too great to allow anything so idle. She barely had time to catch a glimpse of a fleeting sympathetic look on Hanna's features before she stood. "No time to wait." And there wasn't, not really, although she had to admit, she was going rather fast as she turned to try and get to the back entrance, her stress and her urgency and her speed all compounding on one another and overwhelming her to the point where she didn't see the waitress in time.
"Spencer!" Hanna gasped in warning, but it was too late. As Spencer turned, she collided with their waitress, who had apparently also been catering to a table of yuppies, and was bringing all twenty of them (or at least it felt like twenty) a glass of red wine.
Spencer closed her eyes. She didn't need to witness it. She could perfectly picture what a multitude of wine glasses crashing to the ground looked like. Not to mention she could feel it too, as they spilled all over her, the chilled liquid staining her dress and probably her skin as it crashed all over her.
So much for not creating a scene.
Spencer kept Aria at her house as long as she could, the dread of confronting her wrongdoing making her feel sick –physically sick; it hung like a weight in her stomach. But there was only so much of Spencer's coffee and nervous chatter that Aria could handle, and soon enough, Spencer was alone with both the dread and the weight of responsibility. The pressure of both forced her to go and start her car and drive away after only about five minutes, unable to sit there and ignore what she ultimately knew she had to do.
But it seemed like no matter how many times she tried to turn into Hanna's driveway, or idled by her house, she couldn't stop, and go in. As uncomfortable as she was just sitting there and staring at the window to Hanna's room, the place she used to be the happiest, used to be herself in every form possible, the idea of going back up there and facing all that had transpired between them terrified her. And terror was far more overwhelming than just discomfort.
She took the turn away from Hanna's house on two wheels once she finally made the decision to run, eager to get away from that, from the idea of facing her demons. It had never been something Spencer was good at, be it inborn or a product of her upbringing, deep, personal confrontation was something she avoided when it could be helped. Especially with people as important to her as Hanna was.
She loved Hanna. There was no denying it, she realized, as she drove aimlessly through Rosewood, looking for a place to land where she could breathe, where she could think. She was in love with Hanna Marin, her complete opposite in everything from but gender, which was another problem in and of itself. Her family would be less than pleased, the Rosewood community would surely shun her, everything would be different in an instant if anyone found out she was…
Well, what the hell was she? Spencer leaned back in her seat as she pulled into a parking spot on Main Street. There had been Hanna – and, regrettably, Sage – but there had also been Ian and Alex and Wren and Toby, and she couldn't cancel that out, especially not Toby, who she really had loved, despite everything that had happened between them. She had been so sure about Toby, steady for once in her life, safe. At times, safer than she'd felt with even Hanna.
She leaned her now aching head against the steering wheel, shrieking in frustration. She hated this. She hated constantly being caught in this vicious cycle of confusion and self-loathing. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't escape it…she couldn't break free. She had spent so much of her time and energy to sharply defining herself in the parameters set by her family, her school, and her society that not being able to at least vaguely call herself something was agonizing.
Before she could burst out crying in her car in another spectacular display of her receding sanity, Spencer wrenched the door open, getting out of the car, and began walking. Feeling the pavement under her feet, something solid and steady to ground her once more was a major relief. Not near the grounding she needed, or had felt with Hanna, but it was something, and more than the dizzying spin in open space since she'd fallen off that axis. She wasn't completely unused to chaos – after all, A had had them running in circles for over a year now, and being constantly on and off with Toby hadn't helped much in that respect – but this chaos was so far beyond any that she'd known it was almost comical.
So comical, in fact, that Spencer didn't even realize she was laughing until she physically had to brace herself against the wall to support herself. God, she really was losing it.
"Spencer…Spencer…Spencer." She didn't register the someone saying her name until a hand clamped down hard onto her shoulder and she jolted, taken out of her laughing state, glancing over until her dark eyes met guarded pale blue ones she had once known so well.
"Toby!" She gasped, scrambling away from him as if his touch had burned her, while in reality, it had actually felt rather nice, she realized as she looked back up at him, the remnants of the feeling radiating through her, warm and soft like sunlight. She didn't want to think about what that meant, however, so she tried to forget. "This is a surprise."
"Not really, if you'd been paying attention." Toby said, raising an eyebrow. Then and only then did Spencer realize that there was a white apron tied around his waist, and the logo of the Apple-Rose Grille was embroidered on his dark green polo shirt. He wrung a white dish cloth in his hands as he looked at her. "Are you okay? You seem a little…"
"Crazy?" Spencer ended the sentence for him. There was no other way she could have appeared, bursting out into hysterics in the middle of the day, in the middle of town.
"…I wouldn't have used that word, but yes." Toby said. Spencer looked down at the ground and smiled a little, shaking her head. She wouldn't pretend that didn't hurt a little, but she knew it was true – she really was crazy. "Come on…I've still got ten minutes before I have to go back…I'll walk with you."
"You don't have to do that." Spencer shook her head, wrapping her arms around her chest. He really didn't have to. He didn't owe her anything, not after the way things had ended between them. The threat of A had been too much, and there were still things she couldn't tell Toby, which, in the end, only served to break them up – but he was safe, and so was she, at least for the moment, so that was more important than their relationship being safe. Even so, she realized as he took her arm anyway and steered her down the sidewalk, that didn't mean she didn't regret it.
"What's up with you, Spencer?" She glanced over as he spoke, watching him carefully. He seemed genuine – not that he had ever seemed less than that during her time with him – like he still cared. "You seem different, and…well, not exactly in a good way. I don't mean to be rude, but…I'm kind of worried."
Spencer shrugged, pulling her arm away from his for the moment, wrapping her limbs around her chest again as she matched his slow, measured steps. "It's…been a rough week I'm not going to lie." She shook her head, looking everywhere but at him, unable to stand how gentle and concerned his gaze was. "Just…things. Drama. Nothing that's…unfamiliar."
"What kind of drama?" Toby asked. "I mean, with you I never know." She wasn't looking at him, but she knew he was shaking his head at past memories. "Let me guess….family issues?"
"Actually, not this time." Spencer had to force down another laugh. "Part of it, definitely, but not the source."
The next thing out of Toby's mouth, however, was something she never expected, or had ever wanted to hear someone say, especially not her ex-boyfriend of all people. "So…something must be wrong with you and Hanna."
Spencer stopped short on the sidewalk, finally turning to stare at him, trying to control the panic flooding into her expression. She could feel herself failing, her eyes going slightly wider than normal, her mouth dropping open just slightly. She was trying so hard to hold onto this shred of secrecy, one of the many that were slipping out of her grasp. And she was failing.
"What?" She finally got out, her voice lapsing into a higher register as she pressed her palm against her chest. "Where did you get that idea? I – "
Toby pressed two fingers to her lips to quiet her, staring down at her with his solemn, mysterious blue eyes. "I know, Spencer. It's not that hard to figure out. I mean…you look at her like you used to look at me."
Spencer tried to force her dry throat to swallow, staring back at him unblinkingly, trying to find a way out of it. Trying to hold onto at least one element within her control. But as the seconds ticked by, she realized that this was yet one more thing she had to release into the universe. One more shred of secrecy that had to be sacrificed. "Yeah." She finally whispered, as Toby removed his fingers from her lips. "We're having trouble. She broke up with me for reasons I can't understand, and I went and said some horrible things to her, and now we're at an impasse, and it's my move…and you know how much I hate those."
Toby's expression was inscrutable – she couldn't tell how he felt one way or another, and that bothered her. She needed to know how he felt. About her. About her and Hanna. Whether she liked it or not, his opinion was still important to her. "Sounds like you need to apologize."
"I do." She nodded, looking back down at the sidewalk. "I know. I just…I got so angry at her. I felt like she'd…completely written me off, or something, it's…it's complicated." She shook her head. "I just…I was angry."
"Anger is passionate." Toby said. "It shows you care…I don't remember you ever being that angry with me." The statement was loaded, and it hung heavy in the air between them for an instant before Toby spoke again. "I have to get back to work, but you should come sit with me at the bar and wait until I get off shift." As she lifted her eyes, he smiled, and somehow, it put her a little bit at ease. "I'll make you your favorite, on the house. Give you some time to think about what you're going to say."
For the first time in days, Spencer smiled. Genuinely smiled. "I'd like that."
"Thanks." Spencer sighed, as the bathroom attendant handed her another towel, putting her up at four white washcloths that were now stained a light shade of pink as she sponged the wine off of herself. Her dark eyes flickered to the clock over and over again, timing herself, heart racing faster than the second hand. She couldn't be in there that long, they had to get out of there – she just didn't want to come home smelling like wine and have one more thing for her parents to yell at her about.
Finally, she sighed resignedly, looking over at the attendant. "I don't mean to be a bother, but could you…turn around or something?" She watched as the blank-faced attendant carefully turned before she wriggled out of her dress. Her skin instantly broke out to goosebumps in the chilled air as she held the dress under the cold running faucet, eyes trained on the stream of water, waiting for it to run clear, so intensely focused that she didn't hear the door open.
"Spencer?" Not only was she figuratively frozen, she was literally frozen, staring at her sopping wet dress in the sink as she tried wildly to think of some excuse as to why she of all people would be standing in some rather indecent lingerie in the women's bathroom of an upscale restaurant an hour away from town.
"Hey Aria." She finally say, pushing her hair out of her face as she turned towards her fried, wearing what she hoped was a convincing smile. "Had a little mishap in the dining room."
"I…can see that…" Aria said haltingly as she stepped closer. "Ah…you probably know why I'm here…so why are you here?"
"College interview." Spencer said the first thing that came to mind. "My dad set me up with this guy from Stanford. I don't have any intention of going, don't worry, but I still wanted to make a good impression, and…well, you can see how that went. Jackass spilled his Cabernet on me."
Spencer watched Aria's expression carefully, holding her breath. "Wow, what a jerk." She said, and Spencer relaxed slightly, taking the dress out of the sink, ringing it out, grimacing when she saw some pink still in the water. "Are you okay? Do you need help?"
"No, I'm okay." Spencer said, shivering as she slid the soaking wet dress on, wrapping her clammy arms around herself as she trembled slightly. "You go back to your date, I'm…I have to get back to that stupid table anyway. Bastard's probably drunk off his ass, but I have to please Daddy." She rolled her eyes as if she actually meant it – and in a way, she did. "You know how it is."
Aria gave her a sympathetic nod, moving to the mirror, pulling out her make-up bag. "Good luck on the rest of your interview, Spence. Even though you don't need it. You could have a whole case of wine spilled on you, and still be fabulous."
"Thanks, Aria." Spencer said softly, slipping out of the bathroom, her heart slamming against her ribcage, praying that her lie was good enough to keep her and Hanna from getting caught…
Hanna paced around by the bar, trying to seem inconspicuous, waiting for Spencer to reemerge from the bathroom sans wine stains so they could go their separate ways in order to meet up again. She would have left altogether – in fact, she had tried – but there were a couple of sketchy guys lounging across the street from here they'd parked Spencer's car, so here she was. Braving a minefield instead of an execution squad.
"Hanna?" Fuck. She'd just stepped on a mine. More specifically, she'd stepped on a mine that had a penchant for books about metaphorical mockingbirds.
"Mr. Fitz!" Hanna turned suddenly, plastering on a cheerful smile, as cheerful as she could manage under the circumstance, placing her palms flat against the bar. "Well, this is a surprise."
"It certainly is." Ezra cleared his throat – he knew the girls all knew, Hanna was sure of this. So why he maintained his distanced, 'adult' persona didn't really make sense for her. "Um…I hate to be that guy, but aren't you a little young to be…here?"
Obviously he meant the bar. "Oh, no…no, I'm just…waiting for a date." She said, brightening up. "He said he'd meet me here, and I'm just...wondering where the hell he is."
"Oh." If Ezra doubted this explanation, he didn't show it, and Hanna allowed herself to relax for a brief moment. "I see. Well…how's your schoolwork going?"
"About the same. You know. Senior year is sort of a fluff year, so nothing too hard or anything. I do miss your English class though." Hanna wrung her hands, pausing only for a moment before she spoke again, trying to throw him off his guard enough so that he would forget how out of the ordinary her presence here would be. "Is Aria here with you?"
Ezra's eyes widened and Hanna tried not to smile, hoping her goal had been realized. The man cleared his throat, before gesturing behind him with an outstretched thumb. "Ah, she's…bathroom." He got out.
It took Hanna a second. "B-bathroom?" She stuttered, gripping the edge of the bar behind her. No, no, no. She couldn't, as hard as she tried to, quell her panic and she pushed past him, looking for a way out. "I, um…I think I got stood up, I have to go." She said quickly, reaching back to grab her clutch, her only relief the fact that Ezra didn't stop her.
Two hours, four cups of coffee and a grilled cheese sandwich later, Spencer and Toby linked arms outside the grill as he walked her to her car. It was just getting dark out, the air chilly, the streets mostly except for them and a few indiscriminate figures up ahead. "You're a real lifesaver, Toby." She said, glancing up at him. She meant it. If he hadn't kept her occupied, she wasn't sure what she would have done to avoid going back to Hanna's.
"You mean I'm just a really good distraction." Toby laughed a little, tugging her closer. It was amazing how easily they fell back into old habits.
"No, I mean it." Spencer said, stopping as she leaned back against the silver SUV, reaching out to brush the unfortunately stiff fabric of his green polo shirt, her eyes unashamedly meeting his, finally realizing he held no ill will to her, and despite what she had thought, they were in a good place. "I liked spending time with you, Toby. We should do it more often."
"You mean it?" Toby asked, mild surprise coloring his gaze, pulling a nod from her. "I'd like that." He said gently, and Spencer realized her had taken a step closer, barely leaving space between them to breathe. It felt familiar, it had happened a hundred times before, in the not so distant past, and she knew what was coming. And she was okay with it, for the most part, trying to ignore the tight, uncomfortable feeling growing in her chest as Toby kissed her.
For a few seconds, she was able to ignore it, and it felt like it used to, her hands curling into the fabric of his shirt, however unpleasant it felt against her skin, her leg wrapped around one of his as he pressed her back against the cold exterior of her car. His fingertips pressed into the bare skin of her shoulders, carefully balanced against her as he kissed her.
It was exactly as she remembered it. His lips moving against hers just the same, his fingers racing the same patterns, his hands applying the same gentle pressure to hold her as they kissed. She still brought her hand up to fist in his hair the way she always had, and he still moved a hand up to cup her cheek, and pulled her closer, until they were a tangle of limbs and lips and Spencer wasn't sure how she could find her way out.
No, nothing had changed. Nothing but her, she realized, and her trying to force herself into something that shouldn't have to be forced at all. It was a realization that was nothing less than heartbreaking, and she couldn't make herself turn away from him for another few seconds, but she did. "I can't." She gasped, breathing hard, her stomach twisting in uncomfortable knots as she tried to get out from under his grasp. Hands that had once clutched at him now gently tried to push him away, and legs that were once tangled tried to disentangle, and it was all one big pull away from him that it left her physically exhausted. Like she'd just unplugged herself from her energy source.
He gazed at her again, in that inscrutable way that made her wish he'd get angry or kick something, as scary as that would be. Just so she would know how he was feeling. "I think you need to go to Hanna." He finally said, and that moment, out of all of them, made her realize how much she still cared for Toby Cavanaugh, and how much she still needed him in her life, even if it was a different way than before.
"You know me better than I know myself." She said softly, looking up at him, standing on her toes to give him a peck on the cheek. "You're…beyond belief, Toby Cavanaugh."
"I hope you mean in a good way." Toby said, with a hint of smile that finally reached his eyes, instantly causing Spencer to relax as she reached behind her for the door handle.
"Not many guys would tell their ex-girlfriends to go back to their ex-girlfriends." Spencer said gently as she opened her door. "I mean it in the best possible way."
Toby paused for a long second, watching as Spencer climbed into her car, shutting her door for her, leaning in through the open window. "I just want you to be happy. Even if it's not with me."
Spencer watched him for a moment, leaning out the window and kissing him lightly. "If it weren't her, it would be you." She whispered, pulling away, resting her hands on the steering wheel as she watched him.
There was a warmth in his eyes, but also a sadness. "I don't think it ever will be." He said, patting the side of her car as if to send her off. "But thanks anyway, Spencer." And Spencer, not knowing what to say to that, drove away, her eyes locked onto the blue ones in her rearview mirror until she could no longer see them.
She'd be lying if she said the encounter with Toby hadn't shaken her. He had gotten under her skin, that much was clear, so much so that she missed the turn off onto Hanna's street twice before she finally made it down, gripping the wheel with shaking hands. Part of her wanted to go back to him – the other part knew she couldn't. And maybe the part that wanted to, too, underneath. The kiss that had felt so forced and strained told her enough about why she couldn't.
Somehow, the realization that she was very likely gay was less shocking than it should have been.
But as underwhelming as it was, she was still caught off guard, and was still rolling it over and over in her head, caught up in it to the point where she almost didn't notice as the front door to Hanna's opened and shut. It wasn't until she heard the heavy footfalls on the porch that she realized what had happened, and she looked up to find Caleb, pausing on the last step as they locked eyes.
And by the way he glared at her, she knew that he knew exactly what had happened.
"God." Hanna said, giving Spencer a once over as she walked up to the car, where Hanna was securely locked inside, having rolled down a window to get some air only moments before. "You look like a drowned – "
"If you end that sentence with 'rat,' we're breaking up." Spencer cut her off, sliding into the car as she shivered, trying to turn the key with her trembling fingers.
"I was going to say…you know what, never mind." Hanna said hurriedly. "Please tell me there were two different ladies' rooms, and you didn't run into Aria."
"…there was only one ladies' room and I ran into Aria while I was half naked." Spencer said, rolling her eyes in Hanna's direction. "I think I came up with a pretty good excuse, though, I don't think she suspected a thing." She said, as she finally got the car started, putting it in reverse. "Hey, I think there's a diner around the – "
"Spencer!" Hanna cut her off, whipping her hair out of her face to look at her. "Red alert. Code blue. Why are those things the same, they're not even the same color – the point is, we've got a problem!" Hanna said, clearly out of sorts, her hands making spastic movements with her words. "Ezra saw me. They know we were both here. If they put three and three together – "
"Two and two, Hanna!" Spencer snapped, cutting her off in her panic. "And they might. God, we are so screwed!" This word was said with such vehemence that Spencer slammed on the gas pedal out of fear and resignation and sheer frustration. It had been raining, so it could have been that, or perhaps an oil slick from a junker that had gone before them, but all of a sudden, the wheels lost their traction and failed to catch on the wet road as it went into an uncontrollable tailspin.
There was screaming – Spencer wasn't sure who was screaming more; Hanna, herself, or the tires as they screeched against the pavement, trying to find traction. She let go of the wheel, shaking, giving up trying to get control and just riding it out, praying that the car wouldn't slam into a building or a person or another car. For the first few seconds it was literally painful to just give up the wheel and hope for the best. Resisting the urge to jerk it one way or another and try to guide it out of the tailspin – even though she knew it would ultimately make it worse – was difficult beyond belief.
But in the tailspin, in the chaos, in the spin of their axis and into open, wild space, Spencer found Hanna's hand. And suddenly, the overwhelming need to try and fight their chaotic, uncontrollable spinning off, in both the back alley turn off to a Philadelphian eatery and in the world of their slowly crumbling veil of secrecy, wasn't that overwhelming at all.
And yes, the car stopped spinning, but the world would never stop being against them. As Spencer looked over at Hanna through tears of relief, she realized that she'd been doing it all wrong – kicking out at everything that grabbed onto her, and digging in her heels, and jerking the steering wheel, all when she knew that it would make no difference – all it did was make her feel like she was a little bit more in control, but it didn't give her any actual control over her situation, and it never would.
So Aria and Ezra might figure it out? There were worse people who they could have run into. She was seriously questioning her previously well-defined sexuality? She was only human. It was allowed. And while she wasn't entirely ready to just dance around in the rain or whatever other kind of display of spontaneity there was, for the moment, as long as she could hold Hanna's hand, and have that one little thing to ground her…no matter how bad things got around her, around them, she'd always have something holding her back from self-imposed destruction.
It took a second for the shock to wear off, and Spencer closed her eyes for a second as she laid back against the chair, trying to focus on Hanna, the one thing that tethered her down, when she felt a sting and heard a slapping noise. "What the hell?" Hanna snapped, her voice at least an octave higher. "What were you thinking? You know how I feel about cars! You could have – I could have – "
Spencer cut her off by pulling her over for a kiss, which only lasted for a few seconds before Hanna pushed her away. "Spencer Hastings, what has gotten into you? Or entire…thing is falling apart, and we almost just – "
"It's okay." She pressed her fingers to her lips to quiet her.
"But – "
"Trust me." Spencer whispered, lips against her forehead. "Everything's going to be okay."
Before Spencer could even breathe, Caleb was at her car window, rapping on it with a very unpleasant expression on his features, wrapping on the window with his knuckles so sharply that he almost punched her in the face when she rolled the window down finally. (Although she suspected that it wouldn't have been an accident if he had.)
"What do you want?" She asked carefully, in the very slim offchance that she was just blocking him in or some other mild grievance instead of the obvious one. "I'm sort of busy."
"What are you, stalking her now?" Caleb asked. It was no secret that the two weren't fond of each other, even before the whole debacle over Hanna's affections. She had always found him to be too dark, too enmeshed in his shady past to ever be trusted wholly, and he found her pretentious and snobby – at least, that was what she thought. In reality, his image of her was probably a lot worse. Not that she blamed him.
"I honestly don't see how that's any of your business." Spencer said, leaning out the window slightly, hanging onto her nerve as tightly as she possibly could, standing her ground. After everything that had happened to her, a jealous ex-boyfriend was way down on the list of things that intimidated her – even if Caleb did have a certain fear-instilling quality to him that appealed to the most basic sense of her femininity.
There was a long minute where they just stared at each other, a minute where Spencer was expecting something to happen – yelling, hitting, other violent and jealously-motivated actions. She was prepared for it, so much so that she was almost disappointed that nothing happened. Nothing other than him suddenly leaning in her open window, that was.
"Look." He said, in a way that let Spencer know he meant business. "I don't like you. And you don't like me, and I don't think we really have to discuss the reasons out loud." He sighed, pushing some of his longer hair back out of his face. "Hanna's in there, and she's…she's more hurt than she ever was with me, and if you're here to fix that, you'd better go and do that." His demeanor steeled up even further and he leaned in a little closer. "And if you ever hurt her like that again, I will come all the back here and make you sorry for it."
This, Spencer didn't doubt.
Before she could say anything back to him, however, Caleb already had his bag over his shoulder and was walking off into the sunset – literally. She hadn't realized it was that late, not until she watched him leave, blending into the rapidly darkening sky. She sat in her car for a moment, steadying herself. So what if Caleb had been there, in Hanna's house? Clearly, they weren't together, he had made that very clear. Spencer tried so hard not to live in the crazy jealous place, but she couldn't help it sometimes – and now was one of those times. So she sat in her car, with dusk falling around her, and watched to make sure Caleb was truly gone – for good, hopefully – before she slipped out of the car and carefully made her way up the stairs to Hanna's.
She found the front door unlocked , a decision she found unwise, with A running around, although at this point, she was sure she was just about as welcome as the masked wonder bitch and the twelve cellphones stuffed in her oversized black hoodie. She carefully closed the door behind herself and made her way to the kitchen quietly, where she could hear Hanna moving about, slamming cupboard and banging pans – she wasn't happy, but Spencer already knew that. "You know, you really shouldn't let your guests leave your front door open." She said, as she wound around the corner into the kitchen.
Whatever Hanna was holding was immediately tossed in the air, the pan crashing to the ground. "Spencer!" She hissed, as she came to her senses, staring at the brunette with what looked like a mixture of fury and apprehension. "What the hell are you doing here? You gave me a fricking heart attack."
"Well, you really shouldn't be leaving your doors unlocked." Spencer replied, taking a few steps closer. "You know…gotta keep the riff raff out."
Hanna turned again, clearly in no mood for word play. "If you're going to start on me and Caleb again, you can walk your ass back out that door." She snapped, throwing a dirty dish into the sink with such vehemence that the soapy, murky water splashed the wall. "Back out where you belong, with the rest of the riff raff."
"…I won't pretend like I didn't deserve that." Spencer said, after a minute. She would pretend, however, that it didn't hurt. After what she did, she had no right to outwardly express the sting Hanna had caused. "Hanna, can we…can we talk?"
"I tried to get you to talk." Hanna wasn't looking at her as she busied herself with more dishes, each falling into the sink with an empty metallic thunk. "Look what happened. If you think I'm going to get into that again, you aren't as smart as everyone says you are. Besides," She added, with a pointed glare. "I'm busy."
"…then let me help." Spencer said, trying not to dwell too much on what Hanna was saying, moving over to the counter, sinking her hands into the murky depths of the sink, soap suds swirling on the surface around her wrists as she felt around the bottom for something to wash. She ignored Hanna's protests, not even registering the words she was speaking until she felt something sharp slice deep into the palm of her left hand.
An almost inhuman yelp of pain sounded from the back of her throat as she jerked her hand out of the sink, splashing herself with the now slightly pink tinted water, (later reminding her of the red wine washing out of her dark blue dress.) For a moment, she just stared at the blood welling in in the gash on her hand, her rapid heartbeat pounding in her ears, beginning to drown out the sound of Hanna throwing drawers open in search of first aid and the water still running and everything else.
She had cheated death already once and had spent the last year and a half being constantly tormented, but the sight of blood, particularly her own, still made her sick to her stomach.
"Spencer!" She barely heard Hanna as she snapped at her, only looking away as Hanna wrapped a dishtowel around her injured hand, wincing as she applied pressure to the cut, pressing her thumbs down against her palm. "Jesus. Are you okay?" Before she could even nod, Hanna went on. "You are such an idiot, I was trying to tell you that the sink was full of knives. Were you just ignoring me?"
"Well…yeah." Spencer said, as she found her voice, albeit cracked. "I just…I needed to find a way to get you to actually talk to me, or at least be within three feet of me without spitting acid like a hydra."
"Hydras don't spit acid." Hanna said absentmindedly, as she pulled the stained towel away from Spencer's hand to check it, unaware that Spencer was staring at her, open mouthed. "Their breath is poisonous or something…what?" She finally asked, looking over at her. "Did I get blood on me or something?"
"…you just corrected me, and you were right." Spencer said, blinking a couple of times. "I don't know what's stranger, the fact that I was wrong, or that fact that you knew I was wrong."
Hanna looked at her with a raised eyebrow as she pressed the towel to the cut again. "And you're trying to be endearing? I think you're wrong about that too." She reached over to the counter, picking up a roll of gauze. "Now hold still."
"It's working, isn't it?" Spencer had to look away from her as she began to wrap her hand, wincing at the feel of the rough gauze against her skin. "I mean…we're talking."
"I'm bandaging a wound that's partially my fault and making polite conversation." Hanna said, sounding as though she was concentrating more on the former rather than the latter. "Don't get it confused with something else."
"Why was Caleb here?" Spencer asked, instantly regretting it. That, of all things, shouldn't have been the first thing on her mind. She could tell that Hanna agreed by the way the bandages were suddenly, uncomfortably tight. "I'm not asking from the crazy, jealous place." She got out before Hanna could speak. "I just…I was wondering. I didn't know you guys still talked."
"Well, unlike you, some of us are actually able to be friends with our exes." Hanna sighed, her voice considerably more tense than before. Spencer almost mentioned Toby, and what had transpired no more than twenty minutes prior, but at the last second, remembering the kiss, thought better of it. "And even though it's none of your business…" Hanna went on, pausing as she taped up Spencer's hand. "His birth mom's husband got a fancy new job in Canada, and he's going to go with them. Vancouver, so…that's really far away from Rosewood, and he wanted to come and say goodbye." Hanna released her hand, and Spencer was finally able to look over and meet Hanna's gaze.
"Thanks." She said softly, tracing the tape and gauze with the fingertips on her uninjured hand. "Vancouver, huh? That is pretty far…"
"Don't." Hanna snapped forcefully, folding her arms over her chest. "I know where you're going with that thought, and you need to stop right there."
Caleb being vulnerable to A was the only reason we broke up. Now he's not. "But – " Spencer caught herself, remembering the tailspin in Philadelphia, forcing herself to stop jerking the metaphorical steering wheel and just go with it. "No, no…you're right." Spencer sighed. "I…I came here to apologize, and…so far, I've done everything but that." She stepped forward, folding her hands as best as she could. "This morning, I was…hurt, and upset…and I just lost it. None of that should have been said." The mere memory of it was beginning to make her stomach creep up into her throat, her cheeks burning with shame. "You were…completely justified in what you did, even if I don't necessarily agree with the method you did it in. And I shouldn't have yelled at you like that…said those things." Spencer swallowed hard, her eyes dropping from Hanna's as they began to fill with tears she wished desperately would go away. "And I could never hate you." She gasped, or rather was forced to, as her voice broke. "And I am so, so sorry…I know that probably can't fix anything I've done, but…God, Hanna…" She swiped at her eyes, trying to breathe. "I'm sorry." And with those words, she poured all of her transgressions over the past few days into them – Sage and Toby, and the horrible things she'd said, not only to Hanna, but to her mother. All of the lies she'd told – to her family, to Aria, to herself. "…I'm sorry."
"You're….you're bleeding through." Hanna spoke haltingly, and Spencer looked up at her at once, confused at her reaction, trying not to seem too hurt until she looked at her bandaged hand and realized that she was indeed bleeding through the gauze. "Here, go…go sit out on the patio. I'll re-wrap it, it wasn't that tight…" Hanna ushered her over to the clear glass table that sat out on the patio, laying the very bewildered Spencer's hand out as she carefully worked at it.
There was silence as Spencer tried to wipe at her eyes with her free hand, watching as Hanna worked very carefully at her hand, oddly silent. Finally, just when she'd resigned herself to the fact that Hanna had heard her apology, but didn't care, the blonde whispered. "Tu me manques."
"What?" Spencer looked up to meet Hanna's clear blue eyes, pulling her hand back to her chest.
"You left your French book here." Hanna said softly, only holding her gaze for a moment before pulling hers down, fixing on some unseen point in the glass of the table. "Ad I was flipping through the index one day because I was going to write a nasty note in it and have Emily give it back to you, but…tu me manques. That means – "
"I miss you." Spencer finished for her, her voice tremulous, weak, trying not to put too much strength into what she was saying, or too much stock into what Hanna was saying – she was far too battered for that kind of hope. "…it means 'I miss you.'" Hanna nodded, opening her mouth to speak, but Spencer stopped her again, carefully resting her injured hand on the clear table. "But…the literal translation of that is…'you are missing from me.' Like…you're were a vital part of me, and now that you're gone, it's…it's left this void."
A brief silence, and then Hanna moved her hand over to Spencer's, carefully placing her hand over the gauze, tracing the edge of the gauze, the tips of her nails brushing against her skin. "…are you just trying to explain that to me?" She asked, lifting her eyes again, meeting hers unwaveringly this time, and despite herself, Spencer was hopeful, in the smallest sense of the term. "…or do you mean that?"
Spencer leaned forward without even realizing she was doing it. "I mean in in every possible way." She whispered, flipping her hand over and gripping Hanna's as best as she could with the gauze covering her hand, trying to tell her just how much she meant it. "Do you remember that night, in Philadelphia? When we almost got caught in that car accident? That's how I've felt without you…like I'm in a tailspin…like I'm not even being held down by gravity. Do you know how terrifying that is for me? To feel like I'm out of control? And…and then, when I'm with you…everything is still falling apart, but…I have you, well…I had you." She quickly corrected herself. "And suddenly, it wasn't so terrifying."
Suddenly, swiftly, everything happened at once. Hanna's chair scraped against the concrete patio as she practically leapt into Spencer's lap, her knees gripping her hips tightly as she breached the vast distance between them and kissed her, hands cupping the back of her neck, fingertips twisting into her hair, completely catching Spencer by surprise – for once, she didn't mind it in the slightest. She didn't care that Hanna's mom could walk in at any moment, or that the door was probably still unlocked, or that Hanna had put her through the ringer, and she'd reciprocated in kind. She didn't care that Aria and Emily and Melissa and Toby all knew, and this would somehow, eventually, lead to even more deductions and awkward reveals – that the secrecy would finally and ultimately slip from their hands.
She didn't care because those hands were on Hanna's hips, and the lips that had somehow managed to restrain the ocean of secrets were otherwise occupied, and her head ached like she was dizzy, but in such a perfect way that this was tailspin she didn't mind one bit.
A/N: Heyyyy. I'm so sorry this took so long to update. I've been lazy, I won't make excuses. A bit of writer's block and whatnot, plus summer just makes me lazy in general. I won't promise more regular updates, but I'll try, and I promise I'll be finishing this story eventually. (Because it's NOT over yet.) I also have ideas for a few more so look out for those ;)