A/N: I can't give anything away yet but all I'm gonna say is please don't be mad at me for the end of this one...


"Spencer!"

I dive forward and head full-speed back to where I last saw her, breathing heavily not only with the effort, but because my heart's going haywire in my chest. Spencer wouldn't mess with me like this; I know she wouldn't.

"Spencer!" I try again, looking around frantically. A few bubbles surfacing in the water to my right catch my eye, and I swim over to them as fast as I can, ducking underwater and trying to open my eyes. It burns a little, and the water's murky anyway. I can't see anything, so I stick an arm out and feel around for a moment, nearly gasping when my fingers feel hair.

I kick my feet and swim down deeper until my hand finds her arm, ignoring the way my lungs are starting to burn as I turn up towards the surface and pump my feet harder, pulling Spencer up with me.

I'm exhausted when I reach the surface, but I only allow myself one quick intake of air before I take Spencer into my arms and swim back towards the beach as fast as I can.

Her eyes are closed and her mouth is open when I collapse on my hands and knees next to her, frantically searching her neck and wrist for a pulse. It's there, and it's strong, too, so I take a moment to calm down while I move her hair out of her face. "Spencer?" I'm just about to try a few chest compressions when her eyelids move briefly, and then her eyes flutter open.

She coughs a few times and spits out several mouthfuls of water, and I immediately find her hand with mine, squeezing lightly and rubbing the back of it with my thumb. She takes a few long breaths, then gives me a shaky smile. "Ow."

"That's not funny," I respond instantly, sitting up straight all of a sudden and pulling my hand away from hers. "In fact, I don't know what that was. You…you could've died." It doesn't sink in until the words are actually out of my mouth, and I suddenly feel a little light-headed. "Oh God, you could be dead right now, Spence."

"Hey," she says lightly, resting her hand on my thigh to get my attention. "I could be, but I'm not, okay? You saved me."

"B-but…" I stutter out, not sure what to say. "What…I mean, we were having fun and then I turned around and you…what happened?"

She furrows her eyebrows, then shrugs. "I don't know. I just remember being really tired and then…here we are."

"Spencer, this is a huge deal," I insist, wondering why she's taking this so lightly. She just seems so…apathetic. It's actually scaring me almost as much as what just happened.

She sighs, her chest rising and falling with more deep breaths. "Well, the way I see it…people are going to die whenever their time comes. It's nothing to freak out about. Obviously, my time hasn't come yet." She reaches up and strokes my cheek with her hand. "But thank you for saving me."

I blink a few times, then pull away from her, shooting her an incredulous look. "Are you crazy? That kind of attitude's going to get you nowhere, and it doesn't sound like you at all. You're supposed to say something about not wasting your life and savoring every moment or something." I pause, biting my lip. "Right?"

She opens her mouth, looking surprised, and then a smile spreads across her face. "You are learning something from me, after all."

I take a moment to catch my breath, still reeling from all of this. "Please tell me that after almost drowning, you didn't still just manage to trick me into saying that."

Her smile widens even further, until her nose even crinkles a little. "I'll get you when you least expect it, Ashley Davies." She lets out another short cough, then struggles to sit up. "But really…" She stares into my wide eyes, then cups my cheek again. "Thank you for saving my life. I don't know what I'd do without you." She leans forward and wraps her arms around me, resting her chin on my shoulder, and after a moment, I return the embrace, finally letting myself relax a little after she kisses me on the cheek. Although my cheek kind of starts to burn a little afterwards.

"I'm never letting you get in the ocean again," I mumble. She chuckles, then coughs again.

"Yeah. I guess there's a method to my parents' madness, after all."

I let out a short sigh. "Let's go home, Spence."

When we're in my car, I can't stop touching her, and judging by the expression on her face, she can tell.

I'm driving home with one hand on the steering wheel and the other on her hand. It's getting dark out and the plan is to use my hairdryer to dry off Spencer's clothes, then to drive her over to our school, where she supposedly stayed to make up some essay she missed one day. The essay's fake, but the missed day is real. Spencer misses school a lot because she has a crappy immune system, according to her. My theory is that she skips to do more charity work. Either way, this excuse makes perfect sense and her family will suspect nothing.

Glen's supposed to pick her up from the school in another hour or so, which gives us plenty of time to get her dried off, although I'm not too intent on letting her out of my sight after what happened at the ocean. I feel like if I let go of her, she'll disappear. And I don't know what I'd do if she did. I haven't realized until now how dependent I am on Spencer. I actually might need her in my life at this point.

And not just 'cause I still think she's cute.

So much for that wall I supposedly had.

"Hey, Spence?" I finally ask.

"Yeah?"

"Are you scared to die?"

This is depressing. I don't know why we're still talking about it, or why I even want to know. But I ask anyway.

"A little. But hopefully I'll go to Heaven."

I raise an eyebrow. "You believe in all that?" Right. Of course she does; she goes to church every Sunday.

"I think I do," she replies with a shrug.

I shoot her a knowing smirk. "So that's why you do all that charity work; so you can get into Heaven! Aha!"

She sticks her tongue out at me. "That's totally not why I do it."

"Then why?" I question for what feels like the hundredth time.

She just smiles at me. "I'll tell you one day."

"When?"

"I don't know. When I feel like it."

"Promise?"

"Yup."

"Okay." I nod at her, shutting my car off because we're in my driveway now. "Time to get you out of these wet clothes."

She fakes a gasp. Wait, no…it's real. "You totally just hit on me with a line from The O.C."

"That was from The O.C.?" I question. She raises an eyebrow at me. "I mean, I wasn't hitting on you. Psh."

She smirks and gets out of the car, and I hurry after her, stopping next to her when we get to my front door. I look down at my own semi-wet outfit, then over at Spencer's, eventually raising my eyes to hers. "You sure you'll be okay?" I finally ask.

"Don't worry," she replies gently, stepping in closer to me. She gives me a long hug and I feel my cheeks heat up. "I feel fine now. Great, even."

"You don't need, like, professional help or anything?"

She giggles. "Not for this."

"That's my line," I say quietly, reaching for her hand and lacing our fingers together. She just stands there with a silly grin on her face, just inches away from my own, and for a second, I swear her eyes fall to my lips. But then they jump back up to mine and she steps away, letting go of my hand. My eyes find my feet.

"So I guess we should go inside. If we don't get back to the school in time and my parents find out about this, they'll kill me. And my brothers will kill you."

"They glare at me a lot in school," I mumble as I unlock the front door with the spare key under the mat.

"They think you took my virginity," Spencer informs me. I don't know why that statement makes me suppress a shudder. And not the unpleasant kind of shudder, either. "Because my parents started questioning me about you after you left that one morning and I didn't want them thinking I was a slut so I told them you were the first one. I don't think my dad believed me, since he saw our little show in my bedroom and I'm obviously an amazing actress, but with a little more convincing everyone else in my family did. So, for the most part, they think I'm not a virgin and I lost it to you."

"So…I'm guessing I won't exactly make a good family friend at this point?" I question.

"I'm afraid not. But at the time I didn't think you'd be hanging around me anymore anyway."

"Wait," I say suddenly, looking over at her. "If your brothers think we slept together…why aren't they telling people at school about me?"

"Well, they don't have any real proof unless they say you slept with me, and that would involve outing me, which they don't want to do. So your secret's safe as long as mine is."

"Cool," I say as we arrive in my bathroom. I grab my hairdryer out of a cabinet and plug it into the wall. There's an awkward silence as I look down at Spencer's clothes. Then I clear my throat. "Right, so…I'll leave so you can, you know."

She blushes, then nods, turning away from me and flipping the switch on the hairdryer while I leave the bathroom and close the door behind myself.

I sit down on my bed and grab my phone, glad I left it at home today. I have a missed call from my mom, and a text from Aiden asking if I'm busy tonight. I roll my eyes and flip my phone closed, setting it down on my nightstand and then lying back and staring up at my ceiling.

I wonder if Spencer needs any towels. There aren't any in the bathroom; I remember using the last one when I took a shower last night. I should go get her another.

I get off my bed and hurry downstairs. The maid is nowhere to be found but I trust that she's done the laundry.

Sure enough, when I get to the laundry room, there's a large pile of towels amongst the piles of clean clothes. I grab a towel off the top and head upstairs, where I can still hear the hairdryer running, then knock on the bathroom door, but I guess she can't hear me over the hairdryer. "Spence?" I knock again, louder, then sigh when I don't get an answer and just push the door open instead. I peek inside. "Hey, Spence, I thought you might need a-"

Spencer spins around, still wearing a bra and underwear, but her eyes are wide and her mouth is open. I interrupt myself to gasp.

Her upper body is covered in bruises.