Hey Readers. Sorry for the long wait for this chapter. I was traveling and then I was sick for week. But here it is!
Head's up there is sex between Paily this chapter.
Thank you for the follows and reviews.
"Mona." Emily gritted her teeth.
"Thank you so much for visiting me." Mona leaned forward and clasped both her hands in front of her. The smile she had on was an odd combination of amused and deadly, like a cat that was toying with the mouse it caught. The woman sitting across from her was very reminiscent of the Mona she had known freshman year of high school. She was wearing glasses and a sweater vest; all that was missing were the pigtails.
But it was all camouflage. Mona was still a predator. A wolf among lambs. Well, Emily had claws too.
"This isn't a social call." Emily was channeling her cutting superior surgeon voice. When it appeared in the OR or outside a patient's room, it made an erring intern quake in his scrubs and the offending resident to side with her. It also convinced a few attendings to go with her line of treatment. It sounded suspiciously like her Mama Bear voice.
"Oh, come now Emily. I know you're someone who's used to throwing their weight around," She eyed her up and down. "But we have time for a nice chat, don't you think?" Mona said sweetly and it only soured Emily's mood.
"So, let's chat." Emily folded her arms across her chest and sat back against the chair.
"Is this your bedside manner? Your patients must love you."
Hanna put a hand on her lap. "Emily's patients do love her. And so do a lot of hospitals across the country. They're been trying to recruit her for their peds department. But she's staying in Philly."
"Oh. Temple or U Penn?" Mona asked.
"While they did make offers I'm going to stay at St. Luke's." Emily's brows furrowed.
"Staying in one place like that? Some would say that doesn't show," Mona paused to look Emily up and down. "Growth."
"Some would say it shows loyalty." Emily was glaring a hole through Mona, but the other woman seemed to shrug it off. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Hanna shift in her seat uncomfortably.
"Mhh. Loyalty. You know a lot about that, I suppose." Mona smiled, eyes wide. "I mean you got a lot of scholarship offers. USC and Auburn. But you stayed in state. At some program that was beneath you. Big fish in a little pond. Why is that? But I guess you can hide behind fear and call it loyalty."
"You know nothing about loyalty." Emily said steadily.
But Mona continued with her speech, as if Emily hadn't said anything. "That's not like you though. You're fearless. So why stay? You have a wife that would follow you anywhere. And that cute daughter of yours is still young enough to start somewhere new. Unless... it's for someone that can't leave. How is Spencer by the way?"
"Don't talk about her." Emily balled up her hands, straining not to raise her voice.
"Em." Hanna put a steadying hand on her own.
"Hanna told me she was out on parole." Mona cocked her head to the side.
Emily looked at Hanna feeling betrayed. She knew that the blonde was mad at Spencer, but telling someone that had tortured them that the woman was out and within reach was beyond rage. "You told her?"
"I was upset and it slipped." Hanna looked apologetic.
She sighed. Mona probably already knew about Spencer. She had a way of knowing these things.
"There are no secrets between me and Hanna. I'm sure it's the same way between you and Paige." Mona grinned knowingly.
Emily got out of her seat so fast it fell to the floor. She leaned forward against the table, as close as she could get into Mona's face. "Don't!"
"Emily!" Hanna whispered harshly, trying to rein her in.
"Let me guess. Don't talk about Paige either." Mona was smirking.
"Is there a problem here Ms. Vanderwaal?" The man in the polo shirt had come over to them.
"False alarm." Hanna smiled at him as she put a hand on her pregnant belly. "My friend gets excited easily. But no baby yet, Doc." She looked at Emily, pleading with her to play along.
The orderly seemed to believe her and picked up Emily's chair. She looked at him before she sat down. "She's right. I'm a doctor. I can manage this." He must have been familiar with annoyed doctors because he stepped back.
"Thank you, Paul." Mona waved him off, and he smiled at her.
"If you need anything, I'll just be over there." Paul nodded and went back to his seat.
"I'm done playing games." Emily leaned forward with her hands on the table.
"That's not how this works. I may have been taken off the board, but you're still in play." Mona stopped smiling. "You all are."
"You need to tell me who we're up against." Emily looked her dead in the eye.
"Please, Mona." Hanna asked nicely. Somehow Emily had ended up in the role of "bad cop" yet again.
"Chess." Mona nodded towards a chessboard in the corner. "Do you play?"
"No." Emily stated firmly. She didn't know how. It was more of Spencer's thing. She had wanted to teach her and had made promises to, but it ended up just being another thing the two of them never got to do.
They owned a chess set at home, a really nice one. Hand crafted from light and dark rosewood pieces, with a thick board on display in Paige's home office. It had belonged to Paige's father. Paige knew how to play chess. Nick McCullers had taught his daughter, and now Paige was starting to teach hers.
"You should pick it up. No one around here plays a good game. There's no challenge." Mona cocked her head to the side. She put her hands down in her lap and bowed her head. "Spencer and I. We're a lot alike."
"You two are nothing alike." Emily protested.
"More than you think. We're chained by things. And by people." Mona glanced at Hanna so quickly that Emily almost missed it. "A holds that over both of our heads."
If Emily understood Mona correctly, then Spencer did feel the same way and A knew. A was using that against Spencer somehow. Emily felt the bottom drop out and there was nothing to hold on to stop her from falling. Did A use Spencer's feelings to send her to prison?
Mona laughed. "I see you're figuring it out."
Emily spat venom. "What did you do?"
"It's not what I did. It's what Spencer did. For all of you." Mona put her hands on the table, but this time they weren't empty. She was rolling something between her thumb and finger. "The pieces of the puzzle are starting to falling into place. Well here's another piece, Doctor."
Mona placed what she was holding on the table. She spun it so quickly that it headed towards Emily's hand. It stopped spinning slowly and Emily picked it up. It was a blood red chess piece. It was a tall and slender, with a crown on top.
"Miss Vanderwaal." A young woman in a lab coat over a blouse and a pencil skirt came to their table, and Emily slipped the chess piece into her pocket. "I heard you had visitors. Hello again, Mrs. Rivers."
"Doctor Hu. Yes. But they were just leaving." Mona smiled up at the woman brightly. "Emily has a surgery and she's Hanna's ride."
"That's too bad I would have loved to have a chat with them but we need to start your session now if you're going to make it to work on time." Doctor Hu nodded and slipped her hands into her white coat.
"I'm a receptionist at a law firm." Mona beamed at Emily as she got out of her chair.
"Of course." Emily's face was stony. Mona had this act well rehearsed. She had everyone fooled. And it was pissing Emily off.
"Emily, right? I wish you a speedy recovery after your surgery." Doctor Hu said kindly. Emily wondered how long the woman had been out of med school. She wondered how long she had been out of diapers.
Hanna must have sensed how irritated she was so she answered for her. "Oh no. Emily is the surgeon."
"Right. Well happy cutting." Doctor Hu nodded. "We have to get started. Thank you both for dropping by."
"Bye, Hanna. And until next time, Emily Fields." Mona smirked and Emily gritted her teeth. So much for using a fake name.
Mona stopped walking. "Oh yes. One more thing before you go? Say hello to Paige for me." She held up her left hand as if to wave, but curled down the last three fingers of her hand.
Emily took a step towards Mona, fury flowing through her entire body. Hanna reined her in yet again. "Bye, Mona. Take care of yourself." When Mona and the young doctor were out of the visitor's room, Hanna looked at her. "What is wrong with you?"
"Take care of yourself? You should tell her to watch her back." Emily glared at the doors that Mona had gone through. "And that infant that's treating her. "Happy cutting." Like I'm some kind of butcher." She turned and started walking towards the front desk.
"Doctor Hu is nice. She is an intern between here and Radley, but you have to start somewhere. She coordinates with Wren."
"Mona told you that too?"
"Check the attitude. Okay?" They both stopped in the hallway. One side was made up of windows that let sunlight pour in. There was also a small table with two elegant armchairs as if the walk from the main room to the front desk was too much of a journey.
"This coming from you?" Emily had witnessed Hanna be absolutely brutal to Spencer when the woman was only trying to be friendly. Mona was still messing with them and Emily had only shown restraint. "You've done way worse to Spencer when Mona has hurt all of us."
Hanna bit her lip, and had the good grace to look ashamed. "I'm just looking out for you."
"I'm tired of everyone telling me that." Emily was the one trying to protect all of them. She sighed and ran a hand through her hair. "Sorry. I let her get to me." Mona knew bringing up either Paige or Spencer would rile her up. They were her berserk button. Mona was lucky Hanna was there to hold her back.
"When she said that about Paige, I thought you were going to leap over the table and strangle her."
"If you weren't there I would have." Emily said with regret. She didn't know if she was disappointed because she had come so close to crossing a line or because she hadn't taken that last step.
"You know Mona had nothing to do with what happened to Paige. Or Ezra." Hanna looked up and down the empty hallway, making sure they were alone. "She was up in New York drooling and staring at walls. You saw it with your own eyes."
Emily stared out one of the large windows. She knew Hanna was right. Mona's parents had her transferred from Radley to a better hospital in Saratoga to get her away from toxic Rosewood and away from Spencer, who ended up the scapegoat for Mona's "condition" in addition to everything else. Back then she was never lucid enough to be a credible witness. What she knew couldn't be trusted and apparently she didn't know very much.
That hadn't stopped Emily from leaving Teddy with her parents while Paige was in the hospital and driving the four hours up to Saratoga to shake Mona until all the answers came loose. And who was there to stop her but Dr. Wren Kingston.
"Mona Vanderwaal." Emily stormed up to the front desk.
"I'm sorry?" The middle-aged woman sitting there looked up at her confused.
"I'm here for her." Emily figured that was enough of an explanation. That was easy enough to understand.
"Even if it were visiting hours, I'm afraid Patient Vanderwaal isn't allowed visitors at the moment." The woman stated firmly, but her hand was already on the phone and she was making eye contact with someone over Emily's shoulder.
"Oh, you misunderstood me. That wasn't a request." Emily stepped away from the desk and made her way towards a set of double doors that she knew from experience lead to the rest of the hospital. She also knew these doors needed a security code or ID to get through. She hadn't thought that far ahead.
"Security!" The woman called out behind her.
She heard someone call out behind her, telling her to stop. She was just in front of the doors when they buzzed open. She was surprised for a second to see Wren Kingston walking through. But then... of course he would be here.
"Mona. Where is she?" Emily growled.
The security guard was close enough to make a grab for her. She saw him out of the corner of her eye, hesitant. Wren waved him off. "We're okay here."
"No. We're not. Take me to Mona now." Emily took a step towards Wren and he had the good sense to back up.
"I get that you're upset." Wren tried. He looked flustered, and like he was beginning to regret sending the guard away. "Hanna called to say you were going to show up. She was worried. She also told me about what happened to your wife. My condolences. But Mona wasn't responsible."
Emily felt her jaw clench. Hanna had called ahead. So much for having the element of surprise on her side. They could have covered their tracks and destroyed evidence. She didn't know who they were, but things like that had happened in the past. Videos would go missing and pages from autopsy reports would be stolen.
But Emily looked him dead in the eye. "Is that so?"
"Yes. I shouldn't be telling you this," Wren looked around to make sure they wouldn't be overheard. "Mona's had a relapse. More of a danger to herself than anything. She had to be restrained. But now she's under heavy sedation that I'm administering myself and in seclusion being watched around the clock. So believe me when I say this wasn't Mona."
Emily scoffed. "I don't believe you."
"Then I'll take you to see for yourself." Wren said, his usually amicable tone gone.
Emily knew that if he was going to bend the rules for her, then he was a man that would bend the rules for any one. Including himself.
"That doesn't mean she's innocent." Emily started walking again.
"Emily." Hanna called after her. "Wait up. Still pregnant here."
She stopped. She was taking her irritation out on the wrong person. She just couldn't understand why Hanna was still loyal to someone that had tortured them, when she didn't offer the same thing to Spencer. "What I don't get is how you can still defend her when Spencer didn't hurt you?"
"Mona hurt me. The most out of all of us. Yes. But I'm responsible for that. I'm responsible for her." Hanna closed her eyes in regret.
"Hanna that's not your fault."
"I tell myself that sometimes, but I never believe it. And you do the exact same thing." Hanna sat down in one of the chairs. Emily let her continue talking. "When Spencer confessed, I didn't think for a second that she was A. It was another setup. But then she didn't want our help. She drove us away. She drove you away. And that hurt you. So she's responsible for that. All those hours you spent worrying over her, wondering how she was doing. If she was okay. You wrote her letters. You drove there to visit. But nothing. And every time she rejected you, you threw yourself into the arms of some random girl. A different party every night. Your dorm room was a revolving door our freshman year. I'm surprised you didn't get kicked out. But thank God you had Paige. Your anchor through all that crap. You were so close to the edge. I thought-" Hanna started crying.
Emily felt guilty. Hanna had never told her this. After she lost Maya, she had been reckless. She couldn't even remember some nights while she had been in Haiti. Then what happened with Spencer. She had pulled it together enough her senior year to graduate and get scholarship offers. But once she got to Penn State, the nights after she got turned away or she got a letter back unopened were spent with someone that wanted her and a shots of something that burned her throat. Emily had been so close to losing her eligibility to swim on the team and her scholarship.
That's who saved her. Even when she was at Princeton, Paige looked after her. Phone calls. Emails. Texts. And visits. At the risk of her own first serious girlfriend.
But that relationship hadn't lasted. And when Paige had shown up one night her sophomore year in tears over her break up with Daphne, Emily asked her flavor of the week to leave so she could console her friend. That was the moment she had started seeing Paige as more than a friend that night as she was holding her and telling her that Daphne was a moron and any girl would be lucky to be with her. Emily realized she was the moron, and that she would be lucky to be with Paige.
There was a knocking on the door. Emily groaned and curled tighter around the warm body lying next to her. She could go back to sleep and Hanna could get the door.
As the knocking continued she remembered her roommate was back in Rosewood for the weekend visiting her mom. This made her groan louder. She was awake now and couldn't pretend no one was at the door. It would be rude not to greet the crazy asshole and see what could possibly be so important at 4 in the morning.
If it was one of the dicks from down the hall, someone was going to get punched.
She untangled herself from the girl she had brought home. Claire. Her hazy mind supplied the name. They had flirted a couple of times around campus and she just happened to be at the same party Emily went to so she could forget about the growing number of unopened letters in the back of her closet.
She spent a minute searching for her shirt in the dark. She found her shirt where it had landed during her rush to get Claire into bed. She snatched it up and pulled it over her head as she went into the living room.
The person on the other side of the front door had relented in knocking and Emily hoped they were still there so she could berate them for interrupting her sleep.
Emily checked to see who was at the door through the peephole. The person she found standing there made all the anger and irritation leave her body. She unlocked the door and pulled back the security chain.
"Paige?" Her friend was in the hall, shoulders slumped and arms embraced around herself. She looked utterly defeated with red-rimmed eyes. Almost like that night when Paige had shown up on her porch to apologize. All that was missing was Paige being soaked to the bone and her bike. The self-loathing though, that was present.
"Em. Did I wake you? Of course I did." Paige squeezed her eyes shut and winced. "Stupid."
"Oh sweetie, no." Emily pulled her inside and shut the door behind them. She made sure it was locked before taking Paige into her arms. "You waking me up when you're upset is not stupid. Never stupid. Now tell me what happened."
"I messed up." Paige wrapped her arms tight around Emily, like an anchor that stopping her from drifting over the edge. She was shivering, but Emily suspected that it had more to do with what was wrong than the fact that the other girl wasn't wearing a jacket.
Emily gently led Paige to the couch and sat them down. "What's wrong?" She took the other girl's hands into her own. They were freezing.
"I am. I'm what's wrong. Wrong for Daphne." Paige sniffled. "She broke up with me."
Saying those words out loud caused a look of agony to overtake Paige's face as her eyes glistened with tears. Emily's heart broke for Paige. She knew that Daphne meant the world to her friend. While she was happy for her, Emily never really liked Daphne for Paige. But she made Paige ecstatic and she deserved to feel that.
Emily was about to explode into a rant on what a bitch Daphne was went the sound of a throat being cleared cut her off.
Claire was standing in the doorway to her bedroom, just wrapped in the bed sheet from Emily's bed. "Emily?"
Emily grimaced. With Paige showing up she had forgotten that the thin, brunette was over. Paige looked at Claire and then back at her. Her half dressed state and mussed up hair were a dead give away to what activity the two of them have been engaged in hours before Paige had arrived.
"Oh." Paige shot up off the couch. "You have company over. I'm sorry. I should go."
"No, Paige. Claire was just leaving." Emily shot the other girl a pleading look. In all their conversations together, Claire had never given any indication that she didn't understand what a hookup meant. No strings attached and a little fun. Emily did have a reputation around campus, so the other girl shouldn't have expectations.
"Uh... yeah." Claire gave her a weak smile before backtracking into the bedroom.
A few minutes later, Claire had on her dress and holding her pumps as she made her way to the door. She paused with her hand on the door handle. Emily wondered what the problem was. She caught Claire's eye. The other girl mouthed the words "Call me," before slipping out.
Emily ran a hand through her hair. She hoped Paige hadn't witnessed that. She turned back to her friend.
"Sorry." Paige was still standing. She had ducked her head and was staring at the floor.
Emily stood up and pulled her back down on the couch. "Look at me."
She continued talking once Paige looked up at her. "You didn't do anything wrong. You're amazing. And if Daphne could walk away from you, then she's an idiot. In fact, anyone would be stupid to not want to be with you. You're perfect."
Paige let out a bitter bark of a laugh. "Right."
"No, you are. You're understanding. You're patient. And caring. Selfless." Emily listed everything Paige was. Everything she loved about her. She would drop everything and come running if Emily ever need her. She put others before herself. Paige's brown eyes were full of emotion and they were so easy to get lost in. Paige's hands were just as expressive, lively and animated when she spoke, and so comforting when Emily needed to be held after Spencer turned her away. "You're everything."
Paige ducked her head bashfully and a strand of hair fell across her face with that shy little grin of hers that Emily loved so much.
"And you're adorable." Emily was glad she finally a smile out the other girl. She leaned forward and put that strand of hair back behind Paige's ear. "Anyone would be lucky to have you."
That was when Emily realized that she was lucky to have Paige, sitting across from each other and their knees touching. She was stupid not to want Paige, who was everything she wanted.
She wanted Paige.
From that moment on, Emily had seen Paige in a different light. They had started dating again sometime later after Emily had pursued Paige. They had made their long distance relationship work, which lead to them both going to school in the same city then sharing a bed in their first apartment. It was Emily that had proposed and just like that they were married and starting a family.
Yet she hadn't stopped thinking about Spencer though. The girl would enter her mind sometimes when a certain song came on, a movie played or there was just a hint of something in the air, like a caress on her skin. In those fifteen years, she still saw Spencer as that girl, her friend that was always defending her and the one she fell for. All the same reasons she fell for Paige.
"I know how you feel about Spencer. I was the first person you told and I was ready for you to be happy again after Maya." Hanna gave her a pained expression. "But that wasn't what Spencer did. She made you worse until Paige saved you. And now that Spencer's back you're starting again. That kiss... You're not a teenager anymore. You're married and you're a mother. There's no room to be so reckless."
Emily was taken aback. Hanna, of all people, was telling her to grow up. She had never heard her friend sound so disappointed with her being the cause. She wasn't the only one that thought she was making a mess of things.
She knew the blonde was right. She had complicated things between her and Spencer. The other woman was still nervous around her and the only times the two of them had been alone together, Spencer had been sobbing. She only seemed to be at peace when she was asleep. Calm and relaxed right there in her arms.
Emily wished Spencer could be like that when she was awake. That she could finally have her freedom. It was one of the reasons why she needed to put an end to A. Once and for all.
"Spencer needs me. I will never turn my back on someone that needs me. She's my friend." Emily's brow furrowed defiantly and she spoke defensively.
"I get it. But your friend is all she can be." Hanna said.
Emily looked away guiltily. "Let's go. I still have a scheduled surgery."
"I hope you know what you're doing, Em." Hanna sighed.
Emily wanted to say that she knew exactly what she was doing, but that wasn't the truth. She had no idea what she was doing. She didn't really have a plan, and was making things up as she went along. She was saved from having to say otherwise by her phone ringing.
Paige was calling.
"Hey Babe." Emily greeted her wife.
"So someone is clean and dressed after making a mess in a kitchen. And she wants to tell you all about it." Paige sounded amused. In the background, Emily could hear Teddy giggling as her wife handed their daughter the phone.
"Hi Mommy!" Teddy was always so cheerful, and the perfect example of endless child excitement for everything. Even if it was just talking to her mother on the phone. Emily knew here would be a time where she would be the last person her daughter would want to talk to so for she was going to take advantage of every opportunity while she still could.
"Hi Baby Girl. How are you?"
Hanna was watching her with a disapproving look. She was lying to her family. They thought she was at the hospital. Instead she was off playing detective. Paige wouldn't like that she was talking to someone that had tortured them. Paige wouldn't like that she was lying. Emily didn't know what would hurt her wife more. That she had kissed Spencer or that she had kept it for her.
"We made pancakes with Spencer. They were yummy." Teddy hummed and the she was quiet for a beat. "I miss you."
"Sorry I wasn't there when you woke up."
"It's okay. I still love you. You gots to save lives and fix owies."
"I'll be there when you guys make pancakes next time."
"Spencer's a good helper. She even sang the song!"
"She did?" Emily smiled softly and wished she could have be there to witness that for herself. "That was sweet of her. What are you guys going to do now?"
"Um. We're gonna walk Dantes."
"Your mama and Spencer are going to take you out?" Emily was curious. Paige and Spencer were spending a lot of time together. Her friend was still uncomfortable around her. Paige could make anyone feel at ease. She just had to flash her charming smile and it was all over. You felt safe and protected that moment on.
"Make sure you put your coat on. It's too cold for tiny persons."
Teddy giggled. "I know, Mommy. And I'm going to wear my hat, too." The line fell silent as if the little girl was pondering something. "How bout Dantes? He gots no coat!"
"He does have a coat, but not like us. He has his fur. But it might not be enough." Emily explained.
Teddy gasped. "Oh no! Poor Dantes."
Emily almost laughed at how serious her daughter sounded, like it was the worst thing in the world. "Well" Emily drew the word out. "Good thing I bought him a sweater."
"Yes. Let me talk to your mama."
"Okay, mommy. I love you. Muah."
Emily smiled at her daughter. The girl was so loving. Just like her mother.
"Hi." Emily gushed and her heart swelled. A warmth spread across her cheeks. Paige could still make her feel like when they had first started dating, back when she had pulled her up on stage to sing in a rustic bar. "Teddy said you were talking Dantes for a walk."
"Yes. Spencer asked if Teddy could come when she brought Dantes on his walk." Paige said slowly.
Emily pursed her lips. Spencer was still asking for permission to do things. It was such a jarring thing to witness. Spencer had never been so submissive. She had always been so sure of herself, so confident. Emily had admired that trait in her.
Emily made no comment on it.
"Well, I told Teddy she needed to wear her coat. Make sure she has her mittens and a hat. And you too. Bundle up. I'm serious. And Spencer as well." Emily added. Spencer in spite of everything still had her pride. Emily wondered if that ratty, old field jacket kept her warm. She wanted to buy Spencer a better coat. "Since I don't want Dantes left out, I bought him something to keep him warm."
"Did you now?" Paige sounded amused.
Emily could hear Paige smirking over the phone. She had been the one hesitant about taken Dantes into their home. Now she was buying him sweaters so he would be warm and look cute.
"Yes I did. Sweaters."
"Wow. Pleural." Paige teased.
"I bought them yesterday after I bought your surprise. Which I still haven't decided when to give you or if I should give it to you at all." Emily teased right back. Hanna rolled her eyes.
"Okay. You win."
Emily heard Paige walk to the closet and then listened to her rummage through the bags. "These are adorable."
She had picked out four. There were solid blue, maroon, and grey ones. The green one was striped. She thought those colors would look great with his chocolate brown coat. Dante's was a really handsome dog.
"You do realize you're a dork for buying these?"
"Shutting my mouth."
"Let's see how the blue one looks." She liked that particular shade of blue. It reminded her of the ocean during a storm.
"You want me to send pictures?"
"But of course."
"Well I left Dantes with Spencer in the kitchen."
"How is she?" Emily asked. Hanna crossed her arms and shook her head.
Paige paused. "Pretty good. Considering what happened."
"Should she be alone?"
"Emily." Her wife sighed. "Don't treat her like she's going to break."
"I don't do that."
"Just go to her."
"Alright... Teddy, don't run inside." Paige must have been making her way to the kitchen from the bedroom.
"Your daughter running again?" Emily smirked.
"When she does something bad, she's my daughter. But when she's adorable and cute, she's yours." Paige muttered.
"You're adorable and cute too but you run inside the apartment all the time. You just ran down the hall last week." Emily teased.
"I thought we were going to have some fun." Paige suggested.
"Until you slipped and bruised yourself all over." Emily laughed at the memory. "Great example for our daughter."
"Yeah, well." The squeak and swoosh of the door opening and closing came over the phone. She heard Teddy's melodious voice followed by what had to be Spencer's husky one asking a question.
Paige answered her with an amused "Really."
"Are you with Spencer? Are you guys making fun of the sweaters?" Emily pouted.
Hanna heaved herself out of the chair. She shook her head and started walking towards the front desk as if she couldn't stand to be witness to this any longer.
"Yeah. That was Spencer." Paige answered.
"Well then hurry up and get the sweater on."
"We're about to put it on him."
"Don't forget to take pictures and send it them to me. And ask Spencer what she thinks of them." Emily rushed out in order to catch up with Hanna.
"I'll send you a picture."
"Can't wait to see it. I got to go. But call me back later? I want to talk about what happened with you since we didn't get a chance this morning." Emily started walking faster to the front desk. She wanted to make sure Paige was okay with her spending the night with Spencer after never making it to bed in the first place.
"Alright. Call you back." Paige hung up.
Emily put away her phone. She took her visitor's ID off and handed it back to the woman. Hanna had already turned hers already.
"Thank you." The woman took the small badge back. Then she set the visitor's log in front of her. "Now you just need to sign out Miss Adler."
Emily looked up at the clock and wrote the time down. She scribbled down a signature for her fake name. She was glad that the woman wasn't a Sherlock Holmes fan. She set the pen down and smiled at the woman. "Thank you."
"You all have a nice day."
"You too." Emily nodded and stepped away. Hanna was already pushing through the door. She jogged after her friend.
The blonde stopped and turned to glare at her. "I'm sorry. I thought you were in a hurry to get to your surgery."
Emily sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. "Look I'll tell Paige I went to see Mona."
"Are you really? Or is it going to get filed right next to "Kissing Spencer" under "Things I'm Going to Keep from Paige?" Hanna threw her hands up. She then put her hands on her hips. "Why did you come here Emily?"
At first Emily had come here was out of irritation at Paige and Spencer playing detective in order to protect her. But Spencer's breakdown in her arms and then her nightmare, all that fear and terror. She needed to put a stop to all of it.
"For Spencer?" Hanna asked.
"If you could see past your anger for her, you'd see how much she was hurting. How afraid she was. How damaged she was. Is." Emily's brow furrowed and Hanna looked away.
"Let's just get you back to the city." Hanna walked to her car and Emily did the same.
Her phone went off. She had just gotten a message. Both of them tensed. Emily took her phone out.
"It's just Paige." Emily relaxed but Hanna sighed. She ignored her and looked at the picture she had received.
It was a picture of Spencer, grinning wide at Teddy hugging Dantes, who was did look handsome in the blue sweater. Her daughter was wearing the knit bear hat she had made for her, round brown ears sticking up. Dantes's pink tongue was just the slightest bit out. It was a perfect picture made all the more heartwarming because of Spencer's smile.
It felt like Emily would never see that smile again. It was wonderful to know that the woman could still find joy in the little things. In her eyes, Emily could see the spark she thought had gone out. She knew now that that light had just been dimmed. Spencer's entire face was just lit up. So bright.
Emily couldn't help but smile too.
She sent a quick message to Paige. "Can't talk yet. I'll just call you. Thanks so much for the pic. So happy to see Spencer smile. I love you."
"Paige must have sent you a steamy text. I hope that's what's got you smiling so hard." Hanna said from the backseat.
Emily rolled her eyes. "Is that all you think about?"
"I'm having sex so I don't need to think about it." Hanna said confidently.
"She sent me a pic. And no. Not that kind of pic." Emily started the engine. She looked in the rearview mirror and backed out of the parking space. She watched as Hanna went into her bad and took out her phone. "Can I please take a look Em? Since you asked so nicely Hanna, of course you can."
"Pfft." Hanna rolled her eyes. "You know I was going to look. Even if it was for your eyes only. Paige has an amazing body."
"What! This isn't news to anyone with eyes. Your wife is hot." Hanna sat back and looked at the picture. She was quiet for so long that Emily tensed up. "She doesn't look like crap when she smiles."
"Is that you being nice?"
"I'm making an effort." Hanna put her phone back into her purse.
Emily pulled out of the parking lot. She sighed. She guessed it was a start. When Hanna was mad at a friend, it didn't last very long. She had after all came early to make things right between them.
Which Emily screwed up again. Spencer was the one person Hanna would not forgive, but Emily still pushed it. She remembered how Spencer and Hanna would butt heads back in high school. She knew Hanna did half of the things she did to rile Spencer up. She knew Spencer well enough that she enjoyed correcting the blonde. The teasing between the two was always playful. It was when they weren't talking to each other that was the problem.
The longest they had gone without talking to each other before this fifteen year long silence was when Spencer enlisted Caleb to help them with A's phone. But that was quickly resolved between them.
Now though the fighting was meant to wound. And it was one sided. Spencer had just stood there and took each insult as if she deserved each word. A lash upon her back.
"You should apologize to her."
"She should apologize first." Hanna slumped against the back seat and put her seatbelt on.
"She has." Emily pulled up to a red light and turned back to look at Hanna. "She apologizes for everything. Things that aren't her fault. And things she didn't do. She didn't kill Alison or Maya."
"I know. But she hasn't told us why she let everyone think she did." Hanna looked out the window.
Emily had a feeling why. She bowed her head and her shoulders hunched down. "For us. She did it for us."
Hanna's response was just as worn and dejected. "That's what I'm afraid of."
The surgery Emily had scrubbed in on had been the easiest part of her day so far. It was a standard hip replacement with Dr. Mendoza. She could do it in her sleep.
Surgery was easier to understand than why people did the things that they did.
She knew Spencer once.
It was just like her to take all the weight onto her shoulders. When she thought she was right, that was it. There was nothing else to be done but her own plan of action. She didn't ask for help. She hadn't then and she wouldn't now.
But she needed it.
Emily made her way to her usual spot in the atrium. She took her phone out. She finally had time to talk to Paige.
But Emily stopped to look at her phone's wallpaper.
It was the photo of Spencer, Teddy and Dantes that Paige had sent. Seeing the scene filled her with joy. It was a moment of captured innocence and Emily wanted a frequent reminder that Spencer could smile.
With a smile of her own, Emily called Paige.
"Hey." Paige's greeting wasn't her usual cheerful self.
"What's wrong?" Emily was filled with concern.
"Nothing. Just a headache." Paige replied.
"Are you sure?" Emily asked.
"Yeah, I already took something for it." Paige answered.
"If you're sure."
"I am. How are you?" Paige seemed livelier.
"Just finished a hip replacement. I won't bore you with it." Emily joked. She was rewarded with a chuckle from Paige.
"I'm sure the octogenarian is grateful for the better mobility."
"Yeah. Her husband hugged me when I told him the procedure went well." Emily leaned against the wall. She put her hand in the pocket of her coat and felt the pack of cigarettes just to make sure they were there.
"That's going to be us someday. In our eighties and going strong. Rocking my new hip when we dance at our grandkid's wedding." Paige laughed.
"That would be nice." Emily bit her lip. It's what she hoped for.
They were both quiet as if Paige was imagining their future together. But Emily was hesitant to. She wasn't as sure about their future. And that made her feel guilty.
She reached for her pack of cigarettes.
"You know what else would be nice? If tonight you show me my surprise." Paige's voice was sultry, almost a growl.
"I can drop Teddy off at my mom's. Or Caleb told me he and Hanna wouldn't mind having her over for a night. I think he's freaking out about becoming a daddy in a couple of weeks. But they do love having her over. What do you think?"
"Hanna made me the same offer yesterday while we were shopping."
"I'll let Caleb know. And I guess I should be thanking Hanna as well."
"Like she needs another ego boost." Emily didn't know if she was joking. Her morning with Hanna had gone so badly and not all of that could be blamed on Mona. She was annoyed with the blonde but angrier with herself. Hanna was dead wrong about Spencer but she was right about the kiss.
"She doesn't need any help in that department."
"So how was your walk? Did you guys eat lunch already?" Emily didn't ask the question she desperately wanted to know the answer to. How was Spencer?
"The walk was good. We dropped Spencer off. I had some coffee and Teddy had hot chocolate. Then we got lunch at Sura when Spencer went on break. We're just chilling at home now."
"How did lunch go?" Emily asked slowly.
"I thought Spencer wasn't going to come at first but Teddy is very persuasive. But she did have a condition. That she paid for lunch."
"Paige!" Emily admonished her wife.
"Emily, I get why you're mad. But look at it from her point of view. She's just wants to thank us for the last couple of days. So I let her. She doesn't want to feel useless. She wants to feel independent. She was dependent for fifteen years, being told what to do and everything being provided to her in some way."
"Exactly. She doesn't know how to take care of herself. She doesn't have anything."
"She has us. Unless you do things to make her feel like a child. And then she walks."
Paige was right. She was mothering Spencer and taking away her chance to decide for herself. She hated when that was done to her, but she was doing the exact same thing to Spencer.
"How do I show that I trust her?" Emily asked. "Because I do trust her."
Paige was quiet as she gathered her thoughts. "Be patient. That's always the first thing. Let her make her own decisions. Her opinions matter. Encourage her. Give her space when she needs it. That's what I try to do."
"You're so good at this. And I'm just making things worse."
"I don't have some magic key with all the answers. I just treat her the way I want to be treated. You had no trouble with me when I was going through something similar. Remember? Just do what you did for me." Paige was reassuring as always.
Emily remembered how Paige was after the bomb, after she lost her eye and part of her hand. Her wife had been depressed and so unsure of herself, but Emily didn't treat her like she was incapable of doing things on her own. Paige had gone from being afraid of holding her own daughter to competing in triathlons. She was now in the best shape of her life.
Having something outside herself to focus on helped. Paige had her and Teddy. Spencer could have that, too. She had Dantes. She had Nina and everyone at the shop. She had Paige and Teddy. Spencer had her.
"A key. How about if we gave her a key to our apartment? So she won't have to wait on us. She can come and go whenever she wants to take Dantes for walks while we're at work. You know what I mean?" Emily asked.
She thought it was a good idea. It would show Spencer that she was trusted. And that she was welcomed. That she was part of the family.
"I don't know, Em."
"Why not?" Emily wasn't hurt. She wanted to know why Paige thought it was a bad idea.
"I like it." Paige sounded hesitant to speak, as if she was choosing her words carefully.
Emily decided to help her along. "But?"
"But it could go either way. She might see it as a nice heartwarming gift or she might freak out. I really hope it's the former rather than the latter."
"Me too. Could you," Emily adjusted her phone. "Could you go and get a copy made?"
"If that's what you really want. Teddy has wanted to get some white Chucks. She won't stop until she has all the colors. Plus, I need to pick up my eye later anyway. It should be ready by then. Do you want anything else?" Paige asked.
"No. I picked up everything yesterday." Emily said softly.
"Including my surprise." Paige rasped out, voice laced with desire.
"Yes, including your surprise. You didn't forget that." Emily laughed.
"Who could forget? I'll take care of everything. You just bring your sexy self."
"Drop by the hospital before you drop Teddy off? I should be free around six. I want to see her." Emily looked at her watch. "I really need to get back. I love you."
"Okay. We'll drop by. And love you too. Save some lives Superstar."
"Bye. Stay safe." Emily hung her phone up and slipped it back into her pocket.
When Emily finally got through the front door after sending a text that she was almost home, she had been surprised by Paige waiting for her in the living room with a glass of champagne for each of them. Once she had finished her glass, Paige took it from her and set on the end table next to her own. Emily caressed her wife's cheek, admiring the look of the new eye.
Then Paige captured her lips for a searing kiss, the first in many on the way to the bedroom. She pulled Paige's shirt off and they fell onto the bed with her on top. Paige pulled her down to kiss her jaw, her neck. Emily moaned before she remembered what she had planned for Paige.
But she was sorry to have to put an end to it. She playfully shoved Paige back onto the bed.
Paige let out a frustrated growl.
Emily laughed and caressed her cheek. "Patience. We'll get to that. If you're good. But first I'm going to go put on something a little more sexy."
She grabbed the shopping bag with the lingerie from the spot on the dresser where Paige had thoughtfully left it. Getting an idea, she put the bag down and opened a drawer. She pulled out the scarf she was looking for. She threw it at Paige.
"Is this necessary? I only just have the one left."
"Do you want your surprise or not?" Emily playfully scolded.
Paige eagerly tied the scarf around her eyes. She sat on the edge of the bed in just her jeans and bra, a huge grin on her face. Emily allowed her eyes to rake over Paige's abs and chest. She was glad her wife was more confident now and had no trouble baring her scars, the faded ones from her youth and the ones from the explosion that almost took her life.
She went into the bathroom where she put on the bustiere and panties, followed by the garters and stockings. The heels would come after she put on some makeup.
Then she put on eyeliner and lip-gloss. She decided to put her hair up into a chignon so that she'd be able to let it all down and prolong the show for Paige. When she finished up she went to their closet and pulled out one of Paige's button ups that she bought from the menswear section, big on her wife but just the right size on her for her intentions. Baby blue, all curve hugging and stopping just above her thigh. She put it on and chose to leave the top buttons undone as a preview. Then she got on her heels.
For a finishing touch Emily grabbed one of Paige's hats, a black fedora, seemingly left out innocently but she knew otherwise. Paige had a thing for her in fedoras, cemented by the Halloween when they had dressed up as Batwoman and The Question. That had been a fun night.
Emily picked up a universal remote that controlled a lot of the things in the house like air conditioning and the lights. What she wanted was not to turn off the lights, since the idea was to show her body off, but just to dim the lights a bit to set the mood. She also picked out a song to dance to but doesn't play it yet. Instead she set it up to play later when she needed it to be. Voice activated after the first thing she wanted to say to Paige, starting everything off.
Emily stood with her hands on her hips, feet apart. In an authoritative voice, she commanded "Stand up. Take off your pants."
Paige did as she was told with the grin on her face only getting bigger. She unbuttoned her jeans and took them off in a rush. Once she stepped out of them, she kicked them off to the side. Paige was now wearing fewer clothes than she was, just down to her bra and boy shorts. Her muscled, athletic body on display.
"Now, the blindfold."
The blindfold came off.
Paige's jaw dropped.
Emily chuckled at the reaction, proud that she had that effect, and took gliding steps towards her wife. Paige stood frozen in place, only watching her advance with hungry eyes. When Emily was inches away, she smirked and put two fingers beneath Paige's jaw and eased it close. Then she gave Paige a shove and she fell back onto the bed.
"You do remember the rules, don't you, Babe? You can look." Emily leaned in, "But you can't touch." She snatched the scarf from Paige's hand and wrapped it around her neck. "Even though I know how much you really want to."
She strode slowly back to a spot out of Paige's reach. "Room. Play."
The sounds of Beyonce's voice came over the room's sound system. She started gyrating her hips sensually in time with the tinkling of the piano. Her fingers went to the first button and they came undone. They went to the next button, but instead of undoing them she raked her hands down her thighs, dropping low to the ground.
She popped back up, hands trailing across her hips, her waist. She skipped over her breasts. She played with the brim of the fedora, and pulled it down a bit but never breaking eye contact with Paige.
Never break eye contact with Paige.
It was another rule. One she was glad she chose to follow or else she would have missed out on Paige devouring her with her eyes, watching her every move. She took the fedora off with a flourish and flung it towards Paige.
She could tell her wife was frustrated that it was the hat she removed from her person and not the offending shirt that concealed what she wanted to see. What she wanted to touch, to taste. What she thought of as hers. Paige growled and it spurned her on better than applause.
Because Emily knew that she held the power.
So she undid two more buttons as she undulated and danced with her hands above her head. After a few seconds, she puts one leg in front of the other undoing a button with each step. She can see Paige gulp and then lick her lips. Her legs are clenched tight, as if holding back her arousal.
The shirt was unbuttoned but not off completely. It hung off Emily's shoulders, showing off the bustiere underneath, but still draping her breasts. She then threw the shirt off. Next to come off were the heels.
She moved to stand over Paige and put her hands on her shoulders, the scarf still there. She lifted her foot and places it next to Paige's thigh. She lunged a bit forward so the inside of her own thigh ended up rubbing Paige's bicep. She rolled the stocking down her leg slowly, then set her thumbs under the garter and removed it. The other one came off in a similar fashion.
The torture of having her so close got to Paige and her hands leapt from her lap, seeking out Emily's waist. She stepped back shaking her head. She let her hair down and shook it out with her fingers.
Emily tugged on the ends of the scarf, a motion that pulled Paige's head forward and put her face inches away from her breasts. Paige gazed up into her eyes and the mix of desire and desperation almost had her putting an end to the teasing. But there was one more layer to unwrap and the song wasn't finished playing yet.
She went back to dancing with passion, knowing the wait was driving Paige into a frenzy. She strutted back over to her, and placed a hand on each of Paige's knees to spread her legs apart. There was no resistance. Paige groaned as she started dancing between her legs.
Emily's hands went to undo the bustiere. Once the clasps were unhooked, she held it in place by cupping her breasts with her hands. She took the bustiere off. She arched her back. Paige was actually keening now. Begging for release.
But Emily danced away again, out of reach.
One leg in front of the other with her side towards Paige, Emily lifted her heel. She slid her hands into her panties, her palms against her hips. She lifted them up and away from her skin. She continued to slide her hands and panties down her body. As her hands moved down, her body followed. Once they were past her knees, they fell down to her feet. She stepped out of them one foot at a time.
The song faded out, but this time it was her who wasn't finished playing yet. She wanted Paige to come to her. All she was wearing was a challenging smirk and moving her hips seductively, touching and caressing herself.
"Enough!" Paige growled as she stood up and claimed her. The kiss was more intense than the one in the living room, consuming. Paige caught her bottom lip between her teeth and she whimpered.
Emily had lit a fuse earlier. Now came the bang.
Because a candle left neglected and unchecked became an inferno when not doused out right away.
Hands that weren't allowed to touch earlier were quickly trying to make up for it. Paige's hands roamed over Emily's breasts and then grabbed her ass. Then Paige picked her up and tossed her onto the bed. Paige took off her clothes before joining her, practically ripping off her bra and boy shorts.
Paige's mouth was back at her throat. There was nothing gentle about it. A hand went to Emily's nipple, where it was rolled slowly at first and then pinched hard. Emily let out a gasp. Paige's thigh pressed into her and she couldn't stop herself from grinding her hips asking for more.
Paige didn't tease. She knew exactly what Emily wanted and went straight to work. It was if she had a point to prove. Her hand snaked down between them and palmed Emily's mound. Her fingers entered her folds slickly. Paige rubbed circles into her clit with her thumb, as two fingers were thrusted inside her.
Emily shuddered. The look on Paige's face was one of determination. But there was something else there. Something predatory. Possessive.
It surprised her. The usual expression Paige wore was one that said, "I can't believe you're with me. I can't believe you're mine." Now each thrust inside was "You're with me. You're mine."
It gave Emily such a rush. That she could bring her wife to such a state of lust. Paige was relentless in her ravaging.
What a lovely way to burn.
When Emily woke up, Paige was still in bed with her. Paige was awake, and seemed to have been for a while. Emily snuggled in closer to her. She felt Paige starting to stroke her hair tenderly. She just wanted this moment where nothing else existed. Especially her guilt.
But there were responsibilities. Work where there were patients and aftercare. A long list of things to tell Paige. Spencer.
She balked. Spencer wasn't a responsibility. Not some duty or obligation to complete. She was a friend to nurture.
But that was wrong too. Her feelings for Spencer were confusing and she hid them in a box labeled "friendship", content to not open it up because she believed in her skills of compartmentalization. If she did stop to check what was inside she would find something else.
There she was trying to savor the moment and get lost in it, feel Paige's skin against hers. But she was thinking about someone else.
Paige pulled the blanket up around their shoulders. Emily shifted and sat up.
"Sorry. You were shivering." Paige apologized. "Go back to sleep."
"I was awake." Emily rasped out. Paige knew she was, but wasn't going to say she knew. Emily studied her just as Paige had done before.
Paige had scratch marks starting on her shoulder and Emily imagines more on her back. Then she remembered how she actually had bit Paige there first and the scratch marks came from when Paige's tongue was inside her. She ran a hand over her wife's deltoid.
"Those? Don't worry about them." Paige said proudly, like they're a gold star sticker. "I can hide them under a shirt. But this," Her fingertips brushed her neck like a whisper. "Is going to be a bit harder to hide. Sorry."
Emily remembered the predatory look from last night and just a hint of it remained in Paige's eye. The hunter. The provider. But Emily laughed playfully as she swatted at Paige's hand. "You're not sorry." Her voice was teasing.
"Nope, I'm not." Paige smirked.
"We can just stay in bed and I won't have to worry about it." Emily said, trying to restore the moment like she hadn't been thinking about Spencer. "Call in sick. Hanna and Caleb can have Teddy for a few hours more."
"I always am." Emily grinned. She cocked her head up and kissed Paige.
The phone rang. Emily flopped back to the bed in frustration. That had to be her mom.
Paige chuckled as she crawled out of bed. "I'll go get started on breakfast." She threw on a pair of sweats, grabbed her shirt from last night and slipped out of the room.
Emily took the phone off its cradle on the bedside table, answering it. "Hello."
"Good morning, Emily. I was hoping to catch you before you left for the hospital." Her mother's voice came over the phone.
"Good morning, Mom." Emily pulled the blanket up.
"Just calling to see if you got Thanksgiving off. I hope we'll be seeing you this year." Pam said.
"Yes Mom. But I'll be pulling a 36 hour shift that ends that morning."
"That's good. Better than you not coming at all. Paige's mom will be coming as well so I'll have more help in the kitchen. Her green bean casserole last year was great."
Emily groaned. With her mom and mother-in-law cooking and Paige helping out, the food was definitely going to taste amazing. The turkey wasn't the only thing that was going to be stuffed. "I hope she makes her pecan pie."
Pam laughed. "Of course. She knows how much you love it."
"Mom?" Emily asked. "Would it be okay if we invited someone?"
"You mean Spencer."
"Yes. She has no one to spend the holiday with." Emily wondered what her mother was thinking. She had seen the lack of distance between her and Spencer at Teddy's birthday party. There had been a look of disappointment.
"If she accepts, then I'll set a place for her." It was a very diplomatic answer that didn't give anything away. But Emily knew her mother enough to know that even though she was giving her daughter what she wanted she wasn't pleased with her.
"Thank you." Emily said, not in the mood to argue that it was an innocent and friendly gesture.
"I hope you know what you're doing, Emily."
First Hanna, then her mother. Why was everyone telling her that?
"I have to go Mom." She hung up just as her mother finished saying goodbye.
Emily got dressed in something warm because that phone call made her stressed and she needed a cigarette. She went to the living room for her coat, which had her lighter and cigarettes in the pocket. She put her hand inside. The pack of cigarettes is there but there is no lighter. She checked the other pocket and found only the chess piece Mona gave her.
"There you are. Breakfast is ready." Paige walked over to her. Emily must have been concentrating on the piece so hard because asked what it was.
Emily showed it to her. "A chess piece. One of the back ones. I don't know which."
"It's the most powerful piece on the board. The queen." Paige looked at it with a grin, as if remembering a particularly good move. But then frowned in realization. "This isn't from our set. Where did you get it? Did A-?"
"When did-" Paige stopped talking. "You went to see her."
"Without me?" Emily knew what Paige meant was without her.
Emily bristled. "Hanna was with me."
"You brought along our extremely pregnant friend with you on this interrogation? That's great back up! Were you going to tell me?"
"Yes, even though you and Spencer play at being Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson without a word to me about anything."
"Because there is nothing for me to tell you." Paige slumped her shoulders. "We actually haven't found anything. " She looks sheepish. "You probably know more than us at this point. But what I do know, what I am hiding is for her to reveal. I don't want to break her trust."
"Yeah." The fight left Emily. "She should at least be able to trust one of us."
"What did Mona tell you?"
"A bunch of cryptic bullshit." Emily vented in frustration.
"So the usual."
"She made digs at my weight and just said what we already know. That A is still here. Playing with us. Then she gave me this." She handed the queen piece to Paige. "I'm sure she could have said more but some fresh out of school doctor lead her away."
"Hope she doesn't get HarleyQuinn'ed by Mona. Maybe that's how you get recruited into the A team." Paige joked.
Emily thought about it. Dr. Hu wouldn't have reason to join the A team, although it was apparent she disliked Emily due to the soft spot she had for one of her patients. Mona did have a way with words. A doctor could easily fall for her charms.
"Maybe this is the clue." Paige held up the chess piece. "Like I said it's the most powerful piece because it can move anywhere."
"That sounds like a threat. A is everywhere. The Red Queen."
"Maybe Spencer would like to figure out what it means. She plays chess as well." Paige took her hand and brought her to the kitchen. She pulled out a seat for her and Emily sat down. There were two plates with poached eggs on top of toast with avocado slices and turkey bacon on the side. "In any case, I think we should eat breakfast and not think about A another second longer this morning."
There was also a small box on the kitchen island. It could fit in the palm of her hand. She picked it up. "What's this?"
"That is what you asked me to have made yesterday." Paige set two cups of coffee down on the kitchen island.
Emily took the lid off. Inside was the key to their apartment that she had wanted made for Spencer. It was on a metal ring attached to a simple flat thin piece of metal shaped like a heart. It was a keychain that would catch the eye of a child and she didn't have to guess who picked it out. She wondered why Teddy picked it out.
Paige explained. "Teddy really liked The Wizard of Oz. She told Spencer that she was like The Tin Man on our walk yesterday."
Emily frowned. That had been what A called Spencer when she had gotten lost while watching Teddy and Dantes.
"That doesn't mean heartless, Em. Our daughter did good. The Tin Woodsman always had a heart. A big one. She told Spencer she just needed a reminder and then gave her a hug. So this," Paige pointed at the heart. "Is a reminder as well. Teddy saw it in the key shop and wanted to get it."
Emily beamed with pride. Their daughter did good.
After her shift ended, Emily went straight home. It was late, but she had told Paige to ask Spencer to come by after she finished up at Nina's. She hoped Spencer would show up.
She shut the door behind her and took off her jacket, the pack of cigarettes inside the pocket. Her hiding place for them when she's home. She never did find her lighter. Instead of taking it as a sign from the universe to quit once and for all, she just bought another one.
There was no one in the living room.
"We're in the office." Paige called out.
Emily walked to the office. She stood in the doorway. Paige and Spencer had a game of chess going. Spencer was controlling the dark pieces and Paige was playing the light pieces. Teddy was sitting in her mother's lap. Dantes was curled up underneath Spencer's chair.
"Hi." Emily greeted everyone.
"Mommy! Mama and Spencer are playing chess! And teaching me too." Teddy wiggled out of Paige's lap to hug her.
"Oh really?" Emily brushed Teddy's hair back and nodded over at chess set. Paige was sitting up straighter than usual, missing was her easy going slouch, but smiled at her. Spencer was as expected, tense and eyes downcast after shooting her a quick glance. You'll learn lots. Spencer is a great teacher."
"They're both super good."
"I bet." Emily went over to Paige, and gave her a chaste kiss on the cheek. Teddy bounded over to Spencer's side. "Did you already eat?"
"Yeah. Grilled lemon chicken breasts. Hope that's okay?" Paige answered.
"Of course. I didn't expect for you to wait for me."
"I saved you a plate. I'll heat it up." Paige stood up. She looked at Spencer hesitantly. "I guess I'll have to beat you some other day."
"Yeah. Some other time." Spencer didn't look up from the chessboard. She had no witty retort.
Emily frowned at Paige. Had something happened? Paige shook her head. It was one of those things she couldn't tell Emily. Something that was Spencer's to tell.
"I guess I should go. Paige, thank you for dinner and the game. Teddy, thank you for the company and the cuteness. Emily, good night." Spencer gestured upwards with her head.
"Spencer, we... Paige asked you over to tonight so we could give you something." Emily intercepted her. "The three of us." She signaled to her wife.
Paige walked over to the desk and opened a drawer. She took out the small box Emily had seen that morning. It was now tied with a yellow ribbon. That had to be Teddy's idea; something like a present should have a bow. She gave it to Spencer.
Spencer looked at them, but her eyes settled on her. Emily gave an encouraging smile in return. Shaky hands untied the ribbon. She put the lid of the box under the bottom half and held it in her hand.
"A key?" Spencer took it out of the box and held it up uncertainly.
"To our apartment." Emily explained. "I- We thought that since you'll be coming around more now, that you should have a copy. You can come and go whenever you like, even when we're not around. Makes it easier to walk Dantes and visit him. And us. Think of this as your home."
Teddy cheered. "I sawed the heart keychain and thought of you. It can be your reminder when I'm nots around to give you one."
Paige had been quiet through this whole exchange. But she gave Emily's hand a hopeful squeeze.
"Just don't lose it okay?" Emily joked.
But she was patting herself on the back and celebrating too soon. The small, but grateful smile Spencer was giving her quickly turned into a grimace.
"I'm not a child!" Spencer snarled. "I know what could happen if the key fell into the wrong hands. Don't treat me like a baby, Emily, because I don't need a mother. I can take care of myself." She stormed out of the room.
Emily stood there in stunned silence. She didn't know how that went so wrong. The sounds of Teddy whimpering brought her out of her in action. "Oh, Baby Girl. Don't cry. Spencer is... upset. Not mad. You didn't do anything wrong."
That was all her.
She looked over at Paige, who seems just as surprised at Spencer's outburst. Her wife said Spencer could react badly to the key, but it was obvious Paige had thought there was only a small chance of that happening.
"Paige. Can you go after her? Make sure she gets home okay?"
Paige only nodded and stepped out of the office. She picked her daughter up and wrapped her in her arms. Teddy sniffled into her shoulder.
Emily went to put Teddy to bed. She and Paige needed to explain to her why Spencer had been smiling one minute and shouting the next. She thought of words that would start to explain PTSD to child who had just witnessed a favorite adult explode after getting a present from them.
Emily hummed soothingly. She heard a crunch under her shoe. The small box and ribbon are what she stepped on. She felt a small amount of hope at the sight.
The box was empty.