Click. Boom. Sorry this chapter is late. And long. I didn't realize because I was writing this in between studying. Death March is over and came out with many cuts and bruises.
I figure a warning is needed: There is a solo sexy time scene in this chapter. So heads up and thumbs up if you think it's any good. I cannot write smut so thanks to my beta/wife aaajmachine for making sure it wasn't a huge mess.
Paige McCullers is my favorite. If I owned the show there would be more scenes with her hanging out with Hanna because they are the best. And if Paily stopped being a thing, Spemily would happen. But I don't own PLL because everyone has all their body parts and Ezra is alive...
Spencer woke up slowly, feeling wonderful and well rested. It was something she hadn't felt in a long time. She usually had to drag herself out of bed when her alarm went off, after unsuccessfully trying to fall back asleep.
But right now, she felt safe.
The reason why was the arm gently laying across her chest and who it belonged to.
Emily was still asleep. Spencer couldn't help but smile. She was watching the woman while she slept. The rise and fall of her chest. How relaxed her face was, the slight part of her full lips. The strand of hair that fell across her cheek. How soft her skin looked and what it would feel like to touch it. Warm and inviting, like a summer day spent under the sun. She thought of a line from a song that Semi liked to sing. You're just like an angel. Your skin makes me cry.
She gently brushed the strand out of Emily's face and felt a jolt when her fingers brushed her cheek. She worried that Emily would feel the exchange, and wake up. Spencer's own hands were rough from years of hard labor. She wasn't soft. She was damaged. She worried about touching Emily again. But Emily only snuggled closer to her.
It was time to get out of bed and stop dreaming. Nothing had happened between them. Just sleep. But Spencer wasn't having such innocent thoughts. Emily was married and her wife was in the other room. Paige was a good person, compassionate and kind. Someone who deserved Emily.
Holding her breath, Spencer moved Emily's arm as slowly as possible. The other woman didn't wake up and she got out of bed. Dantes popped his head up, and she willed him not to bark.
He got to his feet, and nudged his head against the side of her leg. Spencer smiled at him. Then she put the comforter back over Emily. She grabbed her gym bag before slipping out of the room with Dantes in tow. She shut the door quietly. She planned on getting dressed and leaving the apartment.
Then finding a way to leave all of them.
There had to be a way she could transfer to another county or even another state. How did no one think it was a bad idea to have her near the ex-girlfriend of one of her victims? She could bring that up with Miss Molly Mendes, when she had had her next surprise visit. Or she could ask about it now. She did have the parole officer's number. But she was a little afraid of the woman.
Or she could always just run. Violate parole and go back to prison. Get her old cell back. Get her old life back. Her few friends still had to be there. And Semi would still be there.
That had to be easier than this. And it had to be safer for all of them. To just fade away.
Spencer put her fists up, falling into a defensive stance. Paige was standing in the hallway. She had just come out of Teddy's room. She was dressed up in some form fitting running gear that hugged her athletic body. Spencer's eyes scanned her up and down appreciatively. She swallowed the lump in her throat, and looked away shyly.
It was awkward. She had just woken up next to the woman's wife and now she was checking her out. Not only that, but yesterday...
A lot of things happened yesterday, and it made Spencer feel ashamed.
"I'm going to have to ask you to just keep Teddy out of the house for a little bit. Okay, Karolina? I'll let you know when to bring her home. Thanks. Just call if anything happens alright?" Paige got off the phone.
Caleb was driving the car and Paige was in the backseat with Spencer, whose head was in her lap. Paige had laid her suit jacket on top of her. She smoothed down her hair. "Just get some rest, okay?"
Spencer squeezed her eyes shut, in part to hold back the tears that wouldn't stop falling and so she wouldn't see the scratches she left on Paige's chin. How some of the buttons on her shirt had been ripped off, and one of the sleeves was torn. She wouldn't be able to see how Paige had her right eye clamped closed, because she got dirt in it after having to tackle her to the ground.
She actually hoped she looked worse than Paige, because she felt awful.
They finally got to Paige and Emily's apartment. Paige sat her down in the kitchen and told Caleb to keep an eye on her. That made her face burn with shame. Caleb nodded at her, and gave her space. He just went back to working on her phone.
She wondered why they didn't just come here in the first place. Paige probably had the whole place decked out in anti-spyware or something equally paranoid, so why the drive out in the country? The cloak and dagger stuff had to get old.
Then again when it was the four of them dealing with A, they had their secret meeting in not so private places like the Grille and the girls' bathroom at school. No wonder A knew all their plans.
Spencer looked down at her hands. They were covered in dirt and dry blood. She had hurt Paige again, and the woman wouldn't look at her now. Maybe now she would realize how dangerous she was, why she had been locked up. Maybe now they would give up on her.
Paige came back with her hair tied back, in just a tank top and her work slacks. She was also sporting an eye patch over her right eye.
Spencer went back to staring at her hands. She listened to the sounds of the kitchen. There was a constant hum.
"Alright. Let's get those cleaned up. Can I?" Paige's voice was gentle, but with a tint of worry. When Spencer didn't pull her hand away, Paige took held one of hers and started rinsing it out with saline water over the small sink at the kitchen island. "The perks of being married to a surgeon. Our first aid kit is tricked out."
Once all the dirt and blood was rinsed off and a pebble removed from her palm, Paige started with the antiseptic cream. "Let me know if it hurts."
It did hurt. But Spencer didn't say anything. She just watched Paige's hands, the one that was all flesh and the one that was bionic, black synthetic a harsh contrast next to fair skin. They were nice hands. Graceful and slender, but strong. Intelligent and skilled hands that could grasp a wrench tightly, but also knew every inch of Emily's body and could make her toes curl in ecstasy.
That thought made her jerk her own hand as if it were touching a flame.
"Sorry. Almost done." Paige set the gauze aside. Then she opened up a pack of Tegaderm. "Emily swears by this stuff. Living with me and a six year old makes for a lot of scrapes and cuts. Sometimes I wipe out on my bike. This minimizes the scarring."
What did she care about scarring?
Her hands were a spider web of scars. Defensive wounds and accidents from learning how to hold a knife or work on an engine. There was a scar around her knuckles from punching someone in the mouth and cutting herself on the woman's teeth.
A fight bite. And she hated it.
Because every time she looked at it, it was a reminder of how proud she had been to put someone in the infirmary for weeks instead of ending up there herself. That even though her eye was swollen shut and she had the taste of her own blood in her mouth, she was grinning madly. She had liked the thrill of hurting someone. Years later she still hated herself for it.
How could she be such a monster to take pleasure from someone's pain?
"All set. And these are waterproof so you can hop in the shower. When you're ready."
Spencer still didn't look up, but still could hear Paige cleaning up.
Then she picked up on her having a conversation with Caleb.
"I don't want this in my home."
Spencer flinched. It was always such a shock to hear Paige raise her voice. It wasn't as furious as when she had yelled at that cashier because of her, but it still dripped with deadly determination. It was enough to get Spencer to stand up. She was why Paige was upset. She should go.
"Spencer? Sorry I yelled. It wasn't about you." Paige was anguished. The woman reached out to put a hand on her shoulder but Spencer instinctively cowered away. "And I'm sorry I hurt you earlier." Her voice usually so confident and playful, was full of so much disgust directed internally instead of outward towards her.
She couldn't tell Paige she had nothing to apologize for.
Because she was the one that almost got them all killed in a car crash. She was the one that was going to get them all killed eventually, one way or another.
She went to a corner in the kitchen and slipped to the floor. If the other occupants of the room, thought that was weird they didn't say anything.
Dantes came over to her, and flopped down next to her. She glanced at him from the corner of her eyes. She lowered her hand slowly to stroke his back. It had a calming effect on her.
"If the US government is one of your biggest clients then I'm sure you can figure out how to trace a blocked number by now." Paige said frustratedly.
"See I could, with the program I had created five years ago. But A seems to have gotten around that. Throwing it in my face by sending the texts from my own company's offices." Caleb growled.
Spencer tuned them out. She had learned that you couldn't seek A because A found you. And it never ended.
Dantes was licking her fingers. She felt her heart beat slow.
"I think dogs are a good judge of character." Paige was crouching down next to her, a small smile on her face. "He should be afraid of people but he trusts you. And he knows when you're sad."
There was a time where Spencer would have lashed out or been cruel to anyone that saw her like this. Sarcasm and biting wit were the best used weapons in her arsenal. She would have venomously told Paige that she had just given a dog food, and he stuck around. Nothing more, nothing less. She would have told the woman that feeding a stray dog made him prosperous, and he would never bite you.
But people still could.
They had sharp fangs.
But she was tired. And Dantes was a good dog. And Paige had such a lovely smile. She couldn't be vicious to them. They had such goodness in them, and she had none.
When you sell your soul, you have nothing left.
"I'm going to head out. Hanna will start to wonder where I am. Surprised my phone hasn't been ringing nonstop." Caleb spoke.
"But I will keep trying."
"That's all we can do."
"I could talk to Hanna. Ask her about..." She could feel Caleb's eyes on her, but she focused on Dantes.
"You're probably going to have to."
"Call me if you need anything." Caleb was silent. "Bye, Spencer." He sounded like he wanted to say more, to try to be more comforting, but he didn't. He probably didn't know what to say and Spencer was sure nothing he did say could make her feel better. He left.
"Well, Karolina is going to have to drop off Teddy soon. Maybe you'd like to take a shower. Change clothes?" Paige asked kindly.
Spencer wondered briefly how bad she looked. Wild and crazed probably. Filthy and covered in dirt from when Paige had to tackle her to the ground. She had run out of the car in just her shirt, having taken her jacket off because the car's heater was running. If Paige's shirt had been destroyed, hers was in the same state.
She stood up, and Paige was immediately at her side. She grimaced. Not because the woman was offering help, but because she felt sore. Not unlike when she had played field hockey with Paige.
She found herself missing those days actually. Days when it was just a friendly scrimmage and Paige pushed back against her, because she had pushed back first, not because she was sprinting off into the woods to get away from her life. Paige had been aggressive and Spencer had just dismissed it as her having a poor attitude and not playing well with others. The girl had no friends.
But she didn't realize, due to her youthful ignorance, that Paige had a lot going on back then.
Paige was a lot stronger than she'd ever be.
After grabbing some things out of the closet in the hall, Paige showed her to the bathroom in the guest bedroom. The lawyer pulled towels from a cabinet and set them on the toilet. She then fiddled around with the touch screen panel on the wall that everything in the apartment seemed to have. She held her hand under a stream of water.
Spencer caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. Her hair was a mess. It was matted with dirt, just as much as her shirt was. Her skin looked grey and she still had those dark circles under her eyes. She looked empty.
Her hands went to the hem of her soiled shirt and started pulling it over her head. She unbuttoned her ruined jeans, and had them halfway down her thighs when she heard Paige suck in a lot of air.
The woman was staring at her in surprise. Spencer smacked herself mentally and pulled her jeans back up. Normal people didn't just take their clothes off in front of other people. She was so used to showering in front of other women and having no privacy that she didn't realize she was half naked in front of Paige until the other woman called her attention to it.
She felt ashamed.
"Uh, I'll just be outside." Paige looked away. "Shout if you need anything."
Spencer was filled with a sudden panic at being left alone. She wanted Paige to stay. She tried to form the word, but it died in her throat. She let out a frustrated mewl. She grabbed Paige's left hand.
Paige looked down at their hands. Spencer let go quickly. The other woman didn't say anything. She just moved the towels from their perch on the toilet and sat down on the lid. She just put her hand over her eye, more for her benefit than Spencer's. Spencer finished getting undressed. She put all of her clothes into a neat pile.
Spencer carefully stepped into the tub, and reveled in the feeling of warm water touching her skin. The hot water at her apartment didn't last long, and in prison she was lucky if she got the good shower stall in her block.
She stood in the tub, under the spray of water that was the perfect temperature. She didn't know what to do aside from let everything wash over her.
Ezra was dead.
They had never been close beyond their relationship of teacher and pupil. Even though he was dating Aria, they never really crossed paths. Aria would talk to her about Ezra, and Spencer was happy that one of them had something resembling a normal life, but that was all she knew Ezra as. He was something foreign and abstract to her when she was trying to keep everything from falling apart.
She was sad he was dead, but in that withdrawn way people shake their heads ruefully for a second when they read about a death in the newspaper in some far off town. She was more distraught that his death was her fault. And that she had taken Aria's heart.
She had taken away Aria's chance at forever.
That was unforgivable.
Because she knew that if the situation was reversed, if Aria had taken Emily away from her, Spencer would never be able to look at her again.
But it didn't matter. She already knew how it was to live without a heart.
"How you doing in there? Sorry it's just Teddy's shampoo. I need to get to the store. But it makes her hair baby soft, just like Emily's."
Spencer looked around for the shampoo bottle. It was probably better that she used that. She didn't want to have Emily's scent lingering around her. She picked it up and poured out a sparing amount in to her right hand, which wasn't wrapped in a bandage.
She wasn't sure she could lather up, with the state of her hand.
But she tried her best. She once had to shower with a broken hand. She had help then. After weeks, of making due and her hair looking oily, she finally let Semi help her.
It felt nice having someone's fingers massaging her scalp as she sat in a chair with a towel around her neck in the prison's attempt at a salon. She hadn't been touched so gently in so long that had ended up moaning in pleasure, much to her embarrassment and Semi's knowing smirk. She could hear Semi's sultry voice in her head. "And I'm not even trying. If you like that, imagine what I could do between your legs."
Once they were in a relationship, Semi showed her just what she could do with her hands countless occasions. But their first time was special. Semi had been gentle and understanding, since not only was she the first woman Spencer had slept with, but she was also the first person she would sleep with.
It wasn't perfect and it wasn't how she dreamed it would be, but it was amazing and wonderful. When they were together, she could forget that she was in prison. It was possible to forget Emily. She learned how to love.
Semi had held her as she cried. She sang to her and ran her fingers through her hair. She had always fallen asleep easily when someone played with her hair.
She was crying now for the love that she lost and the love she left behind. It wasn't the first time tears had been shed in the shower. It was a way to hide how she was feeling. She finished crying and then she finished her shower.
She stared hard at the shower panel but didn't know how to operate it. Why did everything have to be a robot?
She could figure this out. She squinted at the panel. It looked like the panel for the home sauna her dad wanted to install in their house. He had a pamphlet laid out on a table and he spoke to her excitedly about it. It was actually one of the last conversations they had shared as loving father and devoted daughter.
She pressed a button and the water shut off. She was pleased with herself. Something had finally gone right.
"You done in there?" Paige asked.
Spencer nodded but then realized that the other woman couldn't see her. She pulled the shower curtain back a bit, making sure she was somewhat covered.
Paige turned towards the sound as she slipped her phone in her pocket. "Uh. Let me get you a towel." She stood up and put down one of the towels. The second one, she unfolded and opened up, ready to wrap around Spencer's body. She seemed to realize what she was doing when she blushed and looked at the ceiling. "Sorry. Mom habit. I'll just..." She took a step towards the tub to hand Spencer the towel.
But Spencer was already getting out of the tub. She had one foot out on the bathmat when her other foot caught on the edge of the tub. She was suddenly pitching forward into Paige.
They collided again and they fell to the floor. Spencer was on top this time and the only thing between them was a bath towel and Paige's thin white tank top that she was currently getting wet.
Spencer was mortified as she stared up at Paige's face.
Her chin. Those scratches were there because of her hands. Paige's had to wear an eye patch because of her. Not just because of the fight they had, but because she made the woman underneath her a target.
She expected the woman to be angry. She tensed, ready for the yelling to start. But she was surprised by laughter.
Paige's rich laugh filled the bathroom. "Of course that would happen." There was amusement written all over her face. Then she grew concerned. "Are you okay? That was quite the fall."
Spencer couldn't take it. This woman she had scratched and punched, whom she had gotten blown up and damaged, whose wife she wanted was asking if she was okay. She thought of her first before herself. It was too much.
She started crying again. She dropped her head against Paige's chest, her tears adding to the already damp spot on her shirt. She started crying harder when Paige's arms wrapped around her yet again. But unlike in the woods, Paige didn't say anything.
Spencer had cried so much yesterday, the most she had ever cried in her whole life. Paige was witness to most of her breakdowns. If it wasn't her, it was Emily.
"I can get why you want to leave." Paige approached her. "Maybe she'll be better off. Maybe she'll be safer. But it won't stop her from getting hurt. You leave and you'll take part of her with you. It'll destroy her."
Spencer knew Paige was right. Emily would never give up on her. She moved the strap from her shoulder, and set the bag down. "I'll stay."
"Good." Paige's smile was back and she clapped Spencer on the back. "Now get dressed. We're going for a run."
Spencer forgot how freeing it was to have her feet pounding the ground. She missed it. She hadn't run for pleasure in ages. The physical things in her tiny apartment, the push-ups and crunches cleared her mind, but filled it with numbers. When she stopped counting, every dark thought returned in an explosion behind her eyes.
But running as fast as she could and she left a weight lifted off of her shoulders. It was a freedom she had in prison, to race around the impacted dirt track. She'd work in her laps no matter the weather, through mud or over frozen earth. Because rain or snow, she could feel so light and she could imagine her feet lifting off the ground. She was chasing away the darkness; she wasn't running away from them.
She was racing along side Paige, who had traded her eye patch for some sharp looking Oakley shades. Her legs pumping easily, each step hitting the pavement. Paige had shown her one of her routes through their neighborhood. The sidewalks were theirs at the moment with not too many people out. And the temperature was kinder than the day before.
Now they were on their way back to the apartment. They turned onto Paige's street and it was pretty much a straight shot from the corner they were on.
She cast a side-glance at Paige. She grinned and then pulled ahead. She heard the woman laughing behind her. The entrance to Paige and Emily's building was coming into view. They were sprinting to the finish now. She had a nice lead, but then Paige got ahead of her.
They were both breathing hard. Spencer was leaning forward, her hand against her knees. Paige had her hands on her lower back, and arched it.
"That was-" Paige took a deep breath. "Damn, Bruiser." She was smiling though. Then she raised a hand.
Spencer gave her a high five, and a huge smile right back. Even though she lost, she knew that Paige did a lot of running, while she hadn't run in months. It would take awhile, but she'd get there eventually. She'd beat Paige. She'd win.
They went inside. The doorman greeted them as they made their way to the elevator. Spencer found him polite the couple of times she had shown up to visit Emily and Paige. Her first visit, she had been worried at seeing him there. She was afraid that he'd take one look at her and turn her away.
Or he'd ask to see her ID, and at the moment the only form of ID she had was her inmate ID. If driver's license photos always turned out bad, in the inmate ID photos you either looked scared shitless or like a murdering thug. Spencer's photo fell into the latter, looking entirely like the deranged seductress that the media had painted her as. If the unfortunate photo wasn't enough of a clue, the word "INMATE" was printed right there along with her prison number.
But she had stuttered out her name, and he told her that she was expected and that Teddy's birthday party was already in full swing.
"Mrs. Fields. You have a good run?" The doorman asked. He was dressed in a simple grey double-breasted blazer with red piping and cuffs.
"The best run. This one put me through my paces." Paige cocked her head towards Spencer. "Talk to you later Frank." Paige headed towards the elevator with Spencer trailing behind. "He's a nice old guy. Em brings him coffee sometimes when she's taking a break from reviewing. Him or the other guard, Jerry."
The elevator arrived and they got on, and Paige pressed the button for their floor. Spencer glanced at Paige. It was hard to tell where the woman was looking behind those dark lenses. It was unnerving.
"Something on your mind?" Paige asked.
"Uh. The doorman. Frank. He uh called you Mrs. Fields. I didn't think..." Spencer sputtered. She didn't know why it got to her.
Emily and Paige were married. She knew that. Paige was Emily's wife, a fact she tried to not think about. Paige Fields made her cringe inside. Another nail in the coffin of there ever being an Emily Hastings.
"I keep asking him to just call me Paige." The lawyer gave her a sad smile. "But you didn't mean that did you? I guess it's kinda surprising that I would go by Paige Fields. But honestly I couldn't see myself not taking Emily's name. Who wouldn't want to be a Fields? They're a great loving family, and I strive for that when it comes to raising Teddy. I thought Fields always sounded softer than McCullers. More nurturing. So when it comes to family matters like bank accounts and parent teacher conferences, it's Fields. But when it comes to work and cases, it's McCullers since my parents gave me that competitive drive, and it has a hard sound it that I like to think strikes fear into the opposing counsel. If that makes sense?"
Spencer nodded. "It. It does."
While her pre-prison country club self always knew she'd keep her name when she was a powerful attorney, and that she would have loved for Emily to go by Hastings in those minutes between confessing out loud that she wanted a life with her and A's text offering her a deal, she thought about how she would rather be a Fields.
Spencer Fields. Paige was right. It did sound nice. Fields was warm and healing. It sounded like spring.
Not like Hastings, which was old money and privilege. It was cutthroat and unkind. A name to live up to and an image to uphold. And since she shattered that image, she'd been cast out.
"My name just makes me think about how my father disowned me." Spencer said with a shrug. She used to have so much pride in her name. Hastings. It commanded respect. But she didn't feel like Spencer Hastings any more. She wasn't on the honor roll or academic decathlon president. She wasn't the youngest daughter. She wasn't the model convict that didn't cause the guards trouble.
Paige frowned. She opened her mouth to say something the same time the elevator doors opened. She held the elevator doors open and let Spencer get out before her. Once they were both in the hallway, she started speaking. "Clean slate. You can have one."
Spencer let out a bitter laugh. "If it were that easy."
"Okay so your past is always behind you." Paige waved her hand. "But you're still there, locked in by who you were in high school and who you were in prison. And who you thought you were supposed to be. You don't realize that that you have the key. You can get out. You can walk out the door and through the gates to this future. And maybe you do go out the door, and think it's too bright outside and retreat. That's okay. Just don't deadbolt yourself inside and hide in the shadows. Because you're free Spencer. If only you let yourself take that first step."
The two of them were quiet as they stood in front of the door. Paige was sincere and she meant every word with every heave of her chest. She knew Paige was right. She was free to leave. She was the one that kept herself caged. The shackles around her wrists and ankles weren't there. It was all in her head. She just had to break free. It could be as easy just moving forward.
To just keep going.
Spencer crossed her arms and smirked. "Is this an example of that hard sound you bring in front of the opposing council?"
"Yeah. I always bring it. I'm a closer." Paige cocked her head to the side, accepting the ribbing good-naturedly.
"I'll keep that in mind." Spencer leaned against the wall as she waited for Paige to realize she needed to unlock the door so they could get inside.
"Oh." Paige ducked her head sheepishly. She took her keys out of her pocket and got the front door open. "So what name?"
Again Paige let Spencer go in first.
"What name would you choose to go by?"
"Well. I like Spencer."
"I like Spencer too. And you do look like a Spencer." Paige said as they went into the kitchen. She went to a cabinet and pulled out two glasses. She set them down at the kitchen island. "Sit." Spencer did as she was told and Paige went to the fridge and took out a pitcher of water. She poured water into both glasses. "How about Lyons? Spencer Lyons."
"Spencer Tigers." Spencer chuckled.
"Spencer And Bears." They both said before breaking into laughter. She and Paige definitely had the same sense of humor. The Wizard of Oz was still on the brain after watching it with Teddy last night. The young girl had really enjoyed it. But kept asking about things that were from Wicked, the movie based on the musical based on the book based on the movie they had watched.
"My mom's maiden name was Quinn." Spencer said sadly. Her mom had changed it back after the divorce.
"Yeah." Paige's tone matched hers "You could change it legally. I can look into the actual procedure. I don't think there would be any problem. After notifying... the victims' families."
"Or Sinclair." Spencer was struck with a thought. "I always liked that name." It was a good name. She took a sip of water. "Or I could always stick with Hastings and try to redeem it. Make it less bloodthirsty. And yeah. As long as I'm not trying to commit fraud or get out of parole or out of paying the DiLaurentis and St. Germain families, I could change it."
"Well, whatever you decide. You can consider yourself a Fields." Paige nodded. "You're stuck with us."
They were both quiet for a beat.
"I should go check up on Teddy and Dantes." Paige pushed through the door, and like that she was alone.
She wondered if Paige understood the meaning of what she said. She had meant that she wasn't alone. They were her family. But Paige didn't know she coveted her family. Paige didn't know how jealous she was that Emily wore her ring and that Teddy called her "Mama." It screwed with her head. But she had to take steps away from the things she couldn't have.
Maybe she'd get somewhere she needed to be. She could be Emily's friend again. She could be Paige's friend. And she could be Aunt Spencer. She could make things right with Hanna. And she could make it up to Aria.
"Still asleep. Dantes was watching over her so I relieved him of guard dog duty." Paige came back into the kitchen with the chocolate pitbull trotting after her. She had washed the sweat from her face and had her eye patch back in place. She had a towel on her shoulder and another folded towel in her hand.
"Good boy." Spencer beamed, as she accepted the towel from Paige. She put in around her neck. Then she went to crouch down next to Dantes and pet him on the head. She whispered to him. "Keep them safe."
Dantes shook his head and his ears flopped. Spencer laughed. Paige set down a bowl of water for him. He plodded over to his bowl and drank. The two women watched him.
"You should walk him later." Paige said.
"Can Teddy come?" Spencer asked. She knew how much the little girl wanted to walk Dantes with her the last time she was over.
"Uh. Sure." Paige said slowly. "Once she wakes up. Weather is supposed to be warmer for the rest of the day. We'll just get her bundled up. What are your plans for today?"
"Working at the shop. And that's pretty much it." Spencer looked down at her shoes.
"If you're not sick of us yet want to join Tedge and I for lunch? You're more than welcome. Em will be at the hospital all day." Paige said.
"I don't know." Spencer chewed on her bottom lip as she eyed her sneakers. They were pretty beat up and worn. They were okay to run in. She didn't have to worry about blisters if she kept running in them.
"Whatever you choose. We're probably going to stop by for a visit, so brace yourself for a tackle hug at some point during the day. Constant vigilance!" Paige chuckled, as she sat at the kitchen island. Spencer joined her. "Banana?" She thrust a banana in her face.
"Okay, Mad Eye." Spencer smirked and took the fruit. She paused in the middle of peeling it when Paige raised an eyebrow. "What? I can't give you a nickname?"
"Just never took you for someone that read Harry Potter." Paige was smiling and it was hard not to join her. "Like after infancy you just jumped into Victor Hugo, Vonnegut and Goethe."
"I read Harry Potter. Everyone read Harry Potter.And I uh, had the time to reread it." Spencer cast her head down.
"I read the first book to Teddy. I'm sure she didn't get most of the nuances."
Dantes barked. Spencer looked over at him, but Paige was turned toward the door. Emily was standing there, hand on the swinging door. Spencer's mood instantly lifted at seeing her. She found herself filled to the brim by the warmth and comfort the woman had given her just by staying with her during the night. She then noticed what had been concealed by the dark and by a comforter. Emily was wearing blue shorts that showed off the skin of her gorgeous thighs and a grey shirt that gave the hint of her curves. Spencer had a better appreciation of how stunning Emily could look in something so simple. She realized that Emily was glancing at her curiously and also that her jaw was opened and to cover this up she shoved the banana into her mouth and took a huge bite.
Emily headed towards what Spencer guessed was a coffee maker. It was sleek and shiny, another machine with a touch screen to operate it. Another robot. It seemed like everything in the kitchen had one. The fridge. The stove. The dishwasher. Maybe even the kitchen sink.
"You guys went for a run?" Emily asked, as she poured herself a cup of coffee. She put in some sugar, and Spencer counted eat spoonful. One. Two. So much more sweeter than the way she herself drank her coffee. But that was Emily.
She took another bite of her banana.
"Yeah." Paige nodded towards her. "Spencer is almost as fast as me." Her tone was teasing.
And Spencer felt the need to fire back quickly. But of course her mouth was still full with banana. "Almost had you," came tumbling from the corner of her mouth.
Emily smiled but she looked queasy. Spencer swallowed her banana and felt ashamed for talking with her mouth full. It was a disgusting habit she couldn't blame on prison, since she had it going in. When she got impatient and needed to quickly move on to the next task, or when something just needed to be said, the words came out before she could swallow either her meal or her words.
Her mouth had been the source of a lot of trouble early on. She said the wrong thing to the wrong person and got a scar on her lip to remind her. She would need to be quiet. She forgot her lessons.
She shook her head.
That wasn't right. No punishment was coming her way. Emily wouldn't do that.
Still the tip of her tongue rolled over where her lip had been torn when she couldn't keep her mouth shut. She recoiled as if she was feeling the blow again. She took a deep breath. And another and tried to focus on the present.
"Tempting offer." Emily was smirking at Paige, her pointer finger against her soft cheek. "But like I said I need to take a quick shower and get to work."
She left the kitchen. Paige leaned against the counter, a smile still lingering on her face. "That woman will be the death of me."
"Me too." Spencer whispered.
Paige turned to her, and was quiet for a moment. "What about you?" Spencer held her breath, sure that she had been found out. "You have time for breakfast? We have the fixing for omelettes or pancakes. Or waffles."
Spencer nodded, breathing again. "Uh. Yeah. My shift starts at 9."
"Good. Plenty of time. After you... shower you can help me with breakfast."
They fell quiet again. The shower yesterday was awkward for her. All the crying was awkward for her, and having Paige see her so vulnerable was something she didn't know how to address. Then there was Emily. She woke up with the woman's arm around her. It had been the most peaceful night of sleep she had in a long while. Emily could keep the nightmares at bay.
But that realization was not freeing.
How could she take a step forward if this was what she was chained to?
Her eyes flicked over to Paige; afraid she could see what was on Spencer's mind. The other woman looked deep in thought as well as she washed out the mug Emily had used. Her focus went back to Paige's hands. She was moving a sponge in meditation, like she was trying to divine answers.
Emily came back into the kitchen, dressed in jeans and a pink salmon cardigan, a duster coat draped over her arm. Spencer caught her eyes for a second, but then Emily went over to Paige and gave her a chaste kiss on the lips. Paige pulled Emily against her. Their bodies pressed together and the kiss went on for longer than Spencer could bare.
Spencer looked hard at the bowl of fruit on the kitchen island. She started counting each fruit. Paige and Emily had kissed in front of her before. But this one kiss made her gut buzz and her chest burn. Her hands tingled.
"Uh. I'll see you tonight." Emily sounded flustered.
"Yeah?" Paige's voice was low and husky, full of desire. "I put your shopping bags up in our closet by the way. I didn't peek. But I can't wait for my surprise."
Emily smacked her wife's arm playfully. "Well, you're going to have to wait a bit longer. Your surprise needs more planning."
"Bye. Have fun with Teddy." Emily laughed. "Spencer?"
Hearing her name, Spencer ducked her head. She swallowed the lump in her throat. Her hands went to her lap and waited on what Emily was going to say next.
"Bye." She was worried. And why wouldn't she be? Spencer had a breakdown in the woods, burst into tears on top of Emily while they were both on the living room floor, and then had a nightmare and needed to be held like a child. Not to mention she had cried all over Paige twice.
"Bye." Spencer said suddenly feeling confused, not looking up at her. She didn't know if she could look at her at the moment.
"Bye, Em." Paige said goodbye one more time, but didn't go in for a kiss. She saw from the corner of her eye that the lawyer had squeezed Emily's hand instead.
Spencer heard the front door close. Paige took her seat at the kitchen island. "Sorry about that."
"If that all was a little much?" Paige looked apologetic. "I get kinda hungry and horny after a workout."
"Oh." Spencer pursed her lips. Paige was being sincere about this, making her feel even worse. "No. I understand completely. I mean Emily is... And you're... No. You two are married. It's great that you both still can't keep your hands off of each other." She was fumbling over her words. "I'm going to take that shower now." She stood up.
"Do you need help?" Paige asked, her eye going wide. Spencer thought she must have sounded insane.
"No!" Spencer said quickly. She took a calming breath as she put her hand on the door. "No. I can manage on my own."
Paige still looked concerned. Thoughts of yesterday causing the blood to rush to Spencer's cheeks. So she tried harder. "Please?"
"You know what? I could use a shower too." Paige stood up.
"Uh." Spencer sputtered. Paige gave her a weird look as she pushed through the kitchen door ahead of her.
"The towels are in the cabinet by the sink." Paige headed down the hall. "Let me set it up for you."
Spencer watched her go. She shook her head to clear it and went to grab her bag to put it back in the guest room.
She pulled out some clothes. She didn't think she could pull off her old style even if the clothes were still in fashion. So she had picked up some jeans and slacks to go with the most toned down of button ups and shirts with patterns on them. She had a lot of shirts with birds on them. Now she had tattoos of some. The thought made her smile wryly.
Paige walked out of the bathroom. "All set." Spencer just nodded and Paige left.
She picked out black slacks and a plain white t-shirt, planning to just throw a sweater over it. She went to the bathroom, and the lights turned on automatically. She set her clothes on the sink and grabbed a towel from the cabinet. It was fluffy and baby blue. She held it against her face. Then she set it on the lid of the toilet where she could easily reach it.
Then she got out of her running clothes. She pulled off the teal top and the thermal layer she had under it. Next came the sports bra. Then the leggings, different from the sweats she would have worn normally. When she finished undressing, she stepped into the tub and stared at the touch screen.
It wasn't lit up like yesterday.
But when she touched it hesitantly, it lit up and a stream of water started flowing. It startled her, but then she relaxed when the warm water flowed over her shoulders and back. She let out a moan. So much for that cold shower.
Paige's hands looked like they could be rough, but also gentle. They reminded her of Semi's hands. Soft, but calluses that couldn't be avoided. Long slender fingers. They were so loving. A warm caress that quickly turned into an electrifying touch, that started a jolt down in her core that sent tingles across every inch of her body. That made her toes curl and her eyes roll back.
She missed Semi. She missed those hands. She closed her eyes and tried to feel them on her again. Fingertips to skin. A ghost she needed to be haunted by.
Her own hand snaked down in between her legs, in between her folds. With her middle finger, she traced gentle circles against her clit. She added her index finger, making her movements harder and faster. She angled her hand to avoid the bandage on her palm.
She moaned, "Semi. Please."
Spencer could picture Semi's face. There would be a smirk on it by now. Her brown eyes would be twinkling. She'd pressed into her so that Spencer would be pinned to the wall. And that would be what was holding her up after Semi made her come and her knees gave out. That was until she got the stamina built up in her muscles.
Semi would whisper in her ear, her voice husky and dripping with lust, everything she was going to do her body. She would bite her earlobe and then kiss her throat, before moving up to her mouth.
Spencer's head went back as she exhaled hard and licked her lips. The water washed down her back. Her other hand went up to her breast. She cupped it and she could feel Semi teasing her nipple, pinching it hard. Then when it was nice and sore, Semi would soothe it with her tongue.
Semi would start on her clit; two fingers and then she'd be inside her. Even through the water, she could feel how slick and wet the memory was making her. Spencer moved her fingers and thrusted her fingers deeply. She canted her hips. Her abs clenched and she felt herself tighten around her fingers. Ripples of soft, silky muscles fluttered against her digits.
She was so close to orgasm, but she couldn't quite get there. She bit her lip in frustration. She pressed harder and thought of Emily. Emily in those shorts, and Emily in bed next to her. The night they could have spent together. Waking up next to Emily after being together, tangled limbs, skin to skin.
Emily would be brighter than the sun. And Spencer wouldn't be able to look directly at her, but Emily would take care of her. There would be a smile, and it would wash away her insecurities about being next to a goddess.
Spencer would try to get the words out. "Please... I need you." But she wouldn't have to. Emily would silence her fears with a kiss and she'd tell her, "I know."
Emily's lips, soft as she remembered, would kiss a trail down her neck and between her breasts. Spencer would dig her nails into Emily's shoulders when her teeth graze just below her belly button. Her hips would buck and Emily would get the message. "Em." She moaned. The water was hitting her in the face so she reached out and moved the showerhead. She held it in her hand, and considered the water hitting her thigh.
She moved the showerhead upwards and let the spray of water hit her sensitive clit. Her abs clenched again. She took a wider stance and held the showerhead between her thighs. She whimpered. "Em, please." She was close. She rocked her hips against the spray, gasping at the sensation. Then she held the spray steady against her clit, as long as she could bear.
Her body tensed as she climaxed. Her mouth dropped open in a silent cry. Her body quaked for a bit until her stomach relaxed. Still, she had to catch her breath. It felt like a weight had been lifted off her chest. Or like something had been ignited inside. There was a spark.
She smiled softly and started to hum.
She washed her hair and soaped up her body. After rinsing off, she grabbed the towel and dried her body off, then dried off her hair. She worried about how her hair looked. Wild and untamed. She had left her brush in the bedroom. But compared to yesterday she looked better.
A good night's sleep next to Emily, that run with Paige, and that much needed release in the shower. It was like it peeled a couple of years off. Not much, but it still made her smile. And the smile only helped. She could look past the crinkling at the corners of her eyes and the strands of grey. She could even look past her broken nose and the scar on her lip. She felt confident for once.
Today could be a good day.
She hoped she could make her mood last.
She brushed her hair up into a partial ponytail, and went into the kitchen. Paige was pulling out a carton of eggs from the fridge. She was dressed casually, jeans and a red and white long sleeve baseball tee all under an apron. Spencer found it interesting that Paige could pull off expensive suits, but was so down to earth around the house. She could separate work from home.
That was good for Teddy. Spencer's parents never had time for her unless she was needed at the country club to complete the picture of the perfect family. Her mom and dad dressed for status and image over comfort.
"Hey... You look happy." Paige measured out flour.
"Yeah. That shower was just what I needed."
"The massage setting on that shower head really gets rid of the tension." Paige pulled out a mixing bowl with a smirk.
"So uh... what are we making?"
"Funny shape chocolate chip pancakes. With some hash browns and turkey bacon. So wash up." Paige threw an apron at her and she caught it before it hit her in the face. She looked at it questioningly. "Trust me. When our little sous chef is involved, things get messy." The door to the kitchen pushed open. "And that's her now."
Teddy came in rubbing her eye sleepily and holding Heddy the owl by the wing. But seeing Spencer woke the girl up instantly.
The girl ran up and attached herself to Spencer's leg. "You're still here!"
Teddy beamed up at her, and she knew she could never leave this kid. She could never leave that smile and those eyes. Because they never left her.
"Of course, Cub."
"Hey. Where's my good morning hug? I might get grumpy without it." Paige pouted, her hands on her hip. Spencer thought she looked ridiculous making that face with her eye patch on.
"Nornin', Mama!" Teddy ran over to her mother, who picked the girl up and smothered her in kisses. She started giggling and Spencer's heart swelled. Paige sat the girl down on the counter. "Where's Mommy?"
"Your mom is off saving lives, but she'll be home later to kiss you good night."
Teddy looked glum. "Okay."
"I know I'm not as awesome as your mom, but I am here." Spencer finished putting on the apron. "And she told me you are really good at making pancakes. So if you want I can be your assistant. What do you say?"
"You're going to help make pancakes?" Teddy asked.
"Yep. I have my apron on, don't I?"
"Yay!" Teddy bounced up and down, clapping her hands together. She paused. "Hope you're a better cook than Mommy."
Spencer gave a bemused look at Paige, who was trying to stifle her laughter.
Paige explained, "Emily just burns things half the time. She melted a rice cooker once. But she's not that bad. Doesn't stop me from teasing her though. Your mom made pancakes just fine last time, Tedge."
"Yeah. She can cook pancakes okay. But not as good as you, Mama."
"Its the same recipe. I taught it to her. And we'll teach it to Spencer now."
"And the song too!" Teddy wiggled around on top of the counter.
"Yes. And the song."
"The song?" Spencer was confused.
"You have to sing the song or the pancakes won't taste as yummy. Mama made it up."
"Let's hear it then."
"Pancakes are a treat. Fun to make and eat." Teddy started singing. When she realized she was singing alone, she gave Paige a look. "Come on, Mama. Sing with me. Pancakes can't be beat. They taste yummy sweet. Pancakes."
Spencer was the one grinning and trying to hold back her laughter. "Taste yummy sweet? Don't let that eye patch fool you, Paige McCullers is a marshmallow."
"Hey! I'm still hardcore. You try saying no to that adorable face!" Paige put flour into a bowl, and then pulled out a hand mixer and pointed at Teddy with it. "Kryptonite."
The little girl grinned, as if she knew exactly what being tiny and precious would let her get away with.
"She really looks like Emily."
"But Emily only uses her powers for good. And not evil. This one is going to be a lot of trouble when she starts dating." Paige pulled out a tiny apron and helped Teddy put it on. She set Teddy back down on the ground.
"Boys are gross."
"I hope you continue to feel that way until forever." Paige said glumly.
"I can't wait to see how you are when she does bring a date home."
"Ha. Emily is going to be so much more worse than me." Paige measured out more ingredients.
Teddy got pushed a stepping stool close to the kitchen island. "I wanna mix it."
Paige handed her the hand mixer. "Brace yourself."
The three of them got the pancakes made with minimal mess. Spencer played "What does this pancake look like to you?" with Teddy with the guesses of "India", "a turtle", "a crown," and "a rook" to name a few. And the little girl surprised her with knowing what a rook was.
After they finished breakfast, Spencer asked if she could clean up the kitchen while Paige got Teddy cleaned up. Paige hesitated for a beat, before consenting. She was glad that Paige wasn't going to treat her like she was broken or incapable of a task she had actually grown to appreciate.
Dishwashing was another way to keep her hands occupied. It was easy enough that she could mediated, with the repetitive motions. It was calming somehow, and there was satisfaction in the accomplishment of having done something with her hands. While soaping and rinsing the dishes, and scrubbing off the kitchen island wouldn't be seen as being in the same league as sculpting or playing a piece on the piano, something had been created.
The opposite of the destruction her hands could bring.
Teddy came back into kitchen excitedly wearing a purple sweater and a brown knit hat with round ears on top. "Okay! I'm ready. I got to wear my rainbow sockies. See!" The little girl tugged on the legs of her jeans, lifting up the cuffs to reveal rainbow socks. "Do you like them?"
"I love them. And your hat. Is that a bear hat? Did your mom make you that?"
"Mommy could buy you some. And we can be twinsies." Teddy let go of her jeans and jumped up and down. "And yep! It's a bear hat. I gots a tiger and a wolf one. But not a lion one."
"You're just full of energy this morning." Spencer grinned.
"Yesh! Where's Dantes! He should get ready too!" Teddy said in a pout. "I get sad because he might get cold."
Hearing his name Dantes plodded over to them. He nudged Teddy and she hugged him around his neck. "But Mommy said she bought him sweaters."
"Really." Paige came back into the kitchen with her phone up to her ear and a small sweater in the other. "Yeah. That was Spencer... We're about to put it on him... I'll send you a picture... Alright. Call you back." She held the sweater out to her.
Spencer took the sweater. It was a soft material, but she couldn't tell what it was made of. It was a shade of blue mixed with grey that made her think of the beach on a winter morning. She hadn't been to a beach in so long. She couldn't remember the last time she had seen the ocean. Felt the sand between her toes or watched the sunrise over the ocean.
Maybe someday she could.
For now she was stuck in the city.
"Come here, Dantes." Spencer crouched down and held her hand out to the chocolate colored dog. He padded over, his pink tongue panting in and out. He put his chin on her knee, and then plopped down to sit in front of her. She bunched up the sweater and pulled it over his head, and then got his legs through. "There ya go. Good boy."
Teddy came over and ran her hand over his head. "He's so cute!"
Dantes licked the girl's hand, and she giggled. Spencer smiled at both of them.
"Yes. I got it." Paige grinned. Spencer looked up at her confused. Paige showed her the screen of her phone. It showed a picture of Spencer grinning at Teddy and Dantes warmly, eyes shining and teeth exposed. The pitbull had his eyes closed, loving the attention he was getting. And the little girl was beaming up at Spencer. "Who's the marshmallow now?"
"Okay. You caught me. Now take one for Emily. So she can see how good he looks." Spencer got Dantes's leash ready while Paige snapped pictures of Dantes and Teddy together.
When the photo shoot was done, Spencer got his leash on then gave it to Teddy. "Let me grab my sweater. I'm the only one not wearing one. Tell Emily the color looks good on him."
When Spencer came back wearing a green sweater with a stripe across the chest, Paige had her leather jacket over her grey hoodie and Teddy was in her purple coat. It wasn't hard to guess what the girl's favorite color was. Paige had her field jacket ready for her. "Emily loved the photos."
"That's good. Teddy and Dantes are twice the amount of adorable." Spencer got her jacket on and zip up. The four of them went out into the hall. Teddy ran ahead of them with Dantes trotting quickly to keep up.
"Yeah. And that one with you in it. She liked that one."
Spencer stopped walking. She felt a panic rise in her chest. "You sent that to her?"
"Em is worried about you. And she's happy to see you smiling. To know you're doing okay." Paige put her hand on Spencer's shoulder, and she relaxed. Emily would want to know she was better, especially after what happened.
"About last night," Spencer let the words trickle out. "And yesterday with everything. I'm sorry."
"It's understandable." Paige said slowly. "I had nightmares, too. I would wake up with cold sweats. But then I'd wake up and see that Emily was okay. That she was there holding me. It got worse before it got better. Talking to someone really helped. I could give you their number."
"Like I can afford it."
"And I don't want you two to spring for it. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it."
"There's this support group. I do some pro-bono work for them from time to time."
"What. For ex-cons. Like AA? Meetings in church basements and stale sugar cookies?"
"Look I know why you keep refusing support. Or help in any form. I get it. I do. I didn't want to see anyone at first. I could work it all out on my own. Until I couldn't. I wanted to leave. I thought Emily and Teddy would be better off without me. They'd be safer. But I realized I had to get better for them."
"I'll try. I mean Eli has been trying to get me to go with her."
"Alright. And it's not a church basement. They have their own building. It used to be a firehouse. They offer information on housing and employment. Health care. Childcare. Emily coordinates with them for the hospital. Morales House."
"Yeah, I know." Spencer had been given their information when she left Muncy. But she had thrown it away. She already had a job and a place to stay all lined up all on her own back then, so she didn't need them. She hadn't wanted anyone's help. Especially a group whose purpose was to help out women that had been in prison.
She had wanted distance, not a reminder. She had enough of those when she looked in the mirror.
Or every time she closed her eyes and tried to sleep.
"Loud noises. When a door slams or some old car backfires. My heart races and I can't breathe. Those are my triggers." Paige shared.
"It's people yelling for me if you haven't figured it out."
"You should tell her. I know we both try to shelter her, but she's seen bad things too. The worst things. And in that funny and fucked up way, she doesn't talk to me about most of her patients trying to shield me."
"She won't understand."
"Maybe she won't understand, but she won't judge."
"Hurry up! You guys are so slow." Teddy shouted at them from by the elevator.
"We're coming! You're just too fast for us." Paige told her daughter. She turned back to her. "Look. Like I said, whatever you decide."
Spencer just nodded.
The two of them made it to the elevator where Teddy had her arms folded across her chest, brows furrowed together not unlike her mother.
"Oh God. She has that face down. Is that genetic or did Emily teach it to her?" Spencer asked Paige. The elevator showed up and they got on.
"It's not fair. Really." Paige exhaled. "Teddy, I was talking to Spencer. What did we say about being patient?"
"Um. Mommy is always losing it when I do something bad?"
Paige chuckled. "No. Patience is a strength. You can wait for something while nurturing it. Then in the end you get something better than if you had rushed. But I get it. Patience is like a tiny muscle that you have to work out."
"Oh. Then Mommy needs to work out."
Spencer couldn't help but laugh. Teddy looked confused at why her two adults were laughing at her. "What? Mommy says she's always losing her patience. So she needs to work her muscle out. You both has a lot of muscles."
"Your mommy is the strongest woman I know, Cub. She has a lot of patience. Especially since she's married to your mama and has a daughter with lightning running through her veins."
"Okay." Teddy giggled. "But you're strong too, Spencer. Not just cuz you gots muscles. You have a lot of heart. Like the Tin Man got his heart. He had it the whole time! He just needed a reminder. Here." She wrapped her arms around Spencer's legs.
"Is this my reminder?" Spencer was choked up.
The elevator doors opened up on the ground floor. Teddy let go of Spencer's legs but went to hold her hand.
"So we'll walk around for a bit at the park and then walk Spencer to work. Grab some hot chocolate. Sound good, Tedge?" Paige asked as they walked through the lobby.
"Aww. Spencer can't hang out with us?"
"Maybe we can all have lunch?" Spencer said. Paige was right about not being able to say no to that face.
"Um. Can we get Korean food?"
"Sure. Hey, Jerry." Paige greeted the doorman. Sure enough it was a different man standing there. "Frank off already?"
"Mrs. Fields. And Little Fields! Good morning to you both. Frank had to get to his kid's school so I came in early." Jerry greeted and then looked at Spencer with an air of curiosity mixed with suspicion. "Good morning to you too, Ma'am."
"Mr. Jerry. This is my Spencer. And this is my Dantes."
"Hello," Spencer murmured as she looked away from him. She didn't like the way he was looking at her. It reminded her too much of some of the COs at Muncy.
"Catch you later, Jerry." Paige didn't stop for small talk like she had with the other doorman. She took Dantes's leash and then held Teddy's left hand. She led them out of the lobby.
Once they were out on the sidewalk, Paige let Teddy walk a little ahead of them. "Don't run off okay. I need to talk to Spencer some more." The little girl skipped ahead a bit. She stopped to pick up a stick. In a whisper, Paige asked, "Are you alright?"
"I just don't like how he was judging me with his eyes. Made me uncomfortable."
"Does that happen a lot?"
"Have you seen me? I don't exactly blend in."
"What because of your scar? Don't play that game with me because I'll win. Eye patch."
"I mean. You look respectable. Polished. This glow. Everyone looks at you and they can tell you're someone. Even when you're not in a suit, you look professional. And me I look like I've been in some scrapes. I have been." She had felt so good this morning. "My nose. My hair. My clothes. I look years older than you and Emily. I look like a thug. I look exactly like I've been where I've been for the last 15 years. An ex-con."
"That's not what gives it away." Paige said. She looked ahead to made sure Teddy wasn't too far away. Spencer couldn't look at Paige so she watched Teddy as well. The girl had stopped to look back at both of them, having heard Spencer raising her voice. She was chewing on her bottom lip, looking back at them as if debating as if she had to return to them and comfort someone.
"It's how you carry yourself. And it's in your eyes. It's more like this otherness about you. Like you have been through something. That you survived. If I didn't know you, I would have thought you were a veteran. Teddy did before she overhead Hanna. She asked Emily if you were, and these were her exact words, "a soldier like Pop Pop because sometimes they're both sad and I want to hug them til they smile." And I guess Teddy was right in a way. You didn't fight like Wayne did but you are in a war. And there will be battles lost, but there's the battles you'll win. Your scars. My scars. They mean we're survivors. Not victims."
Spencer knew Paige wasn't just talking about the scars she got from the letter bomb. There had been a conversation between the two of them. Well more so that Paige talked, and Spencer listened. She listened because the woman had shared with her moments from her past.
Spencer had been mad at first. It was like Paige was volunteering information in order to get Spencer to do the same. She knew the trap, had seen it inside. It was hard to trust people for Spencer even before prison, and being inside made it worse. And the one person she wanted to lash out at and be suspicious of was Paige.
But the conversation had only been about Paige and Alison. What Alison made Paige do to herself. What Paige had almost done.
And it made Spencer sick when she thought about how Paige had gone through all that when she was young and alone. Alison had made sure Paige had no one. And she didn't even know. She probably wouldn't have done anything if she had. She hadn't stopped Alison when she tormented Mona. Not when she threw Toby under the bus. And she sure as hell didn't stop Alison when she would tease Emily.
She had only seen what she wanted to. Whatever got her ahead, and Alison had helped with that.
She was certainly on top now.
But Paige, in spite of everything, was still Paige. She came through all of that and was still the person she was. Honorable and just. Altruistic. Some kind of white knight saving the day that put other people before herself. Emily was in good hands.
"And the scars you can't see? The ones you're trying to keep hidden. That's what you should tell someone about."
And Teddy was lucky to have her and Emily as parents. She was going to turn out well with them as examples as strong women. The experience they could share with her. The lessons they would give her.
But someone had to teach Teddy about the dark side of patience. There would be moments where you'd wait too long and you'd have missed out on the best thing. There was a balance. She knew that springing into action is what got her here, but waiting to move got her here just the same.
There was a fine line between patience and suffering. Seconds and years would pass then it would no longer be patience. It would be insanity.
Waiting could save you. But there were times where you'd have to close your eyes and leap.
She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She prayed that someone would catch her.
"I think I'm gay."