Hey guys. Sorry for my absence I was trying to spend the last weeks of my vacation with my family. That was a success. I hope you enjoy this chapter.
I don't own Pretty Little Liars. Which is a good thing because apparently I'm like a mix of Shonda Rhimes and Joss Whedon. Don't hate me.
The bus stop in this neighborhood was nice. It was enclosed to protect from the wind, well lit and Spencer had it all to herself at the moment. She sat down on the small bench. It was going to be some time before the next bus.
But she had to get away.
Even though she had been staring at a hole in the ground beneath her feet, she noticed a person walk up to the bus stop. They had been following her since she had left, keeping a few feet behind. It usually would have had her on edge but she had been sure one of them would follow her to make sure she was okay. Like she wasn't capable of getting home safe on her own.
"You know me storming off doesn't work if you follow after me." Spence continued to look down. "Do you always hang out in the shadows like that?"
"I am the night." Paige chuckled and sat next to her on the bench. She didn't laugh. They were both quiet. Paige waiting for her to talk while Spencer was trying to find the words.
"I guess you should have the key back." Spencer balled her hand up, moving it slowly towards her pocket.
Paige studied her before giving her a response. "We wanted you to have it. It's your key."
Spencer didn't like what it meant. Trust. Hope. Family.
Those all scared her.
To trust her was to be disappointed.
To hope ended the same way.
Look what happened with hers. They left her. And her family in prison, she left them. Those were the only outcomes when she was involved. It was only a matter of time history repeated itself.
Spencer held the key in her hands. If Paige knew about the kiss between her and Emily, then Paige would want the key back. She rubbed her thumb along its biting. Semi had explained to her how pick a lock, which she had actually known the basics of before going to prison. She could work at a simple lock with a bobby pin. That had got Semi laughing when she had told her.
Semi shared how she had learned how to pick locks, not because she was a thief by trade. That's not why she was in prison. But because she had been a bored teenager and had wanted a challenge.
"The best things", Semi said, "Get kept behind the best locks." Behind locked doors was where all the secrets were kept. The things people put behind locks were valuable, either because it was something they wanted protected, or something to keep hidden.
Spencer had liked the sound of that so she put it in her skin. She had valuables that needed to be locked away and as long as she stayed quiet, she could keep them protected.
She looked at the keychain that Teddy had picked out. It was in the shape of a heart.
"Your reminder when I'm nots around to give you one."
"Tell Teddy I'm sorry I upset her." Spencer had backed out of the room quickly when she saw Teddy's lip start to quiver. She was destroyed at being the reason she had started to cry.
"Tell her yourself tomorrow?" Paige asked hopefully and Spencer nodded. Emily was the real reason she had freaked out. It wasn't the little girl's fault.
"I don't need a babysitter." The things A had left for her today. Just screwed with her head and made her blow up at Emily.
"I know. I'll talk to Emily. And I didn't tell her about what you told me yesterday morning." Paige said. "But she should know."
"I think I'm gay." Spencer didn't know what she was expecting. Her eyes were still closed and she was afraid to open them least she see the look of realization on Paige's face. Or see Paige's fist aiming for her face. It wouldn't be much of a leap to end up reasoning that Spencer had feelings for Emily. Paige wasn't an idiot.
But when she didn't stumble backwards or hear Paige shouting, she opened her eyes. Paige was standing there, hand balling up and jaw clenching and then loosening. It was as if her tongue was rolling around in her mouth, an attempt to get it all to work.
"Thank you for trusting me enough to share that with me." Paige said slowly. "It must have been terrifying to say out loud. Am I the first person you've told?"
Spencer bit her lip. This was not the reaction she had been expecting. But it was the one she was hoping for. She sighed in relief.
"Yes." There were other people that knew about how she felt about Emily. But she had never admitted those words to anyone. Not even to herself.
Paige squeezed her shoulder. "Well with each person you tell. It gets easier. Coming out is a process. And I have to admit that I am surprised. I mean... You and Toby when we were back in high school. Then that Gavin guy at the cafe. But if that's how you feel then that's how you feel."
"Oh." Spencer paused. She hadn't thought about her ex in what felt like forever, when once upon a time he was the one that was always on her mind. Only ever overshadowed by Emily. "Toby. He was very special to me. And Gavin, I am interested in him. We actually had coffee yesterday. I would like to get to know him more." There was also Wren, but that had only been an infatuation. Just a crush.
Spencer sighed and put a strand of hair behind her ear. She bit her lip. Buying time. "But there was a woman. In prison. We... It wasn't just..."
Spencer didn't know how to form the words.
"Gay for the stay?" Paige offered, her tone light and hinting that she wanted to put Spencer at ease. It worked and Spencer chuckled.
"We were. We were together. And it was..." Spencer smiled. "Wonderful. She was wonderful. To find a person like that in prison was a shock. I don't think I would have lasted without her."
She was being honest. If it weren't for Semi, she would probably be worse than she was now. At least she was holding a job and had an apartment. She could have ended up a mumbling mess out on the streets. Or she'd still be in prison, but she wouldn't have that reason to keep going.
"I would have self destructed in there. But she saved me. Especially after my mom died." Spencer's voice cracked as she rubbed the crook of her right arm. "She stopped me from doing something stupid."
The only time she had been on the receiving end of Semi's anger was when she scored a hit of heroin and got her hands on a syringe. Semi had found her tied off and about to shoot up, the blunt needle already in a vein. Semi had screamed at her asking how she could be so fucking stupid and Spencer had screamed right back that her life was over and there was nothing else.
Semi had talked her down and held her, reassuring her that she was still someone. That she still had a chance at picking up the pieces. So Spencer handed over the syringe. Part of her had known how stupid it was to make the jump from numbing herself for weeks after the funeral with pot then oxy to shooting up heroin. But the other part of her, this small part of her, had been hoping for an overdose. She still had that fear of being so low that she would end up in that dark place again to this day.
"She sounds great. I'm glad you had the chance." Paige looked up the street to watch Teddy, who was skipping back to the two of them. "Is she still...?"
"In prison? Yeah. She'll be there for a really long time." Spencer looked down at her shoes. She felt guilty at being in the world while Semi was still in prison.
"Don't be. My life has always been complicated so I shouldn't expect it to be any other way." Spencer said wryly with a dismissive shrug.
"Should she know?" Spencer looked up at Paige, dangerously close to confessing about the kiss. Paige would change her mind about her then with the truth out.
What would it change if Emily knew?
Nothing. It would change nothing.
While it had been so easy for her to insert herself into her sister's relationships, she could never bring herself to end a marriage. Paige and Emily worked well together and they were happy. She could see how much Emily loved Paige. It was there anytime the two were in a room together, a presence that made Spencer shudder and look away.
And there was Teddy to think about.
So Spencer couldn't have what she wanted. Not this time.
In her thirty-three years of existence, it was something she was faced with time and time again. Being Melissa Hastings's little sister. Being the fish on the prison block. Being a parolee. Being at the mercy of A.
Paige looked away from her. "As your friend. She would want to know. She's on your side. In the end, she's looking out for you. Always has. And she might get overly enthusiastic and do too much, too soon. Like with the key. But she just misses her friend. She misses you."
"Yeah. You are. But not forever." The words of someone that knew what that meant gave her some comfort.
The squeal of a bus's breaks made them both look up.
"I guess this is yours. I hope we'll be seeing you tomorrow. But it's understandable if you need time. We can wait." Paige stood up.
Spencer bit her lip with uncertainty, but she still nodded. No matter what she thought, no matter what she tried, she knew she would keep coming back.
Waiting for her at the door to her apartment was another package. Spencer knew who the sender was. It was the third "gift". She picked it up, noting how soft it was through the packing paper, and with it secure under her arm, she let herself inside.
After spending what felt like forever with the Fields family, Spencer was unnerved by how quiet her small apartment was. She closed the door and locked it behind her. It felt like a mausoleum. Not only was the silence suffocating her deathly, but there was no life in the room. There was no childish laughter. There were no warm voices. There was only a deep loneliness that weighed her down.
She let out a sigh that cut through the stillness and pushed off the door to go deeper into her room. Because that's all that it was. A room. Four walls with a bathroom. Everything she owned in life, all that she had accomplished was in this room. And it wasn't much.
She didn't even own the furniture.
This was her adult life. She had nothing to show for it. If she died tomorrow. If she got hit by a car crossing the street. Then she wasn't leaving behind anything memorable. She had no legacy.
She set the package on the table in front of her and took a seat. She contemplated it. It was wrapped in plain brown packing paper, much like the second "gift" had been. The first had been unwrapped. She had found it outside her door that morning as she was leaving for work.
A teddy bear.
Her first thought was that it belonged to the kid down the hall whose mother shielded him from her whenever they crossed paths with a warning not to talk to her. She had picked the thing up with the intention of returning it to its owner, but noticed the yellow ribbon tied around its neck had a tag with her name on it. With a sick feeling she had looked for a message. But she had only found Love, A written on the back.
She hadn't known what to do with the bear. She couldn't bring herself to throw it away, her need to never waste anything pulsing strongly. But she had worried about it being bugged, so she had brought it to work with her. Her first instinct had been to bring it to Paige.
She'd know what to do.
But she had smothered that thought. She didn't want to come off as needy. She was self-sufficient. She could handle a stuffed animal, which she had left at work on her shelf. Work was where she had gotten her second "gift".
Travis had come back to the kitchen to tell her some "delivery dude" had left a package for her up front. She had been hesitant to open it. Travis had hovered around her expectantly, waiting for her to open the package. So she had, just to get rid of him.
Inside the package, she had found a night-light. This time there had been a message from A, written on a card.
"Since your mommies can't be around every time you have a nightmare."
She had crumpled up the note and hurled it into the trash bin. When she had been about to do the same with the box and the night-light, Travis had stopped her and asked if he could have the night-light. She had let him take it.
"I'm going to go on break, if that's okay?" Spencer asked with a shaky voice.
"No. It's cool. Go ahead. You look like you could use one. Thanks for the night-light though. I don't know what I'm going to do with it, but hey, free night light, right?" Travis chuckled as he put it on his shelf.
She smiled tightly at him as she took her apron off. She almost wanted to ask him if he had anything on him to take the edge off. He had invited her to blaze countless times. Half the time she wanted to say yes just to feel a little numb.
Random drug tests aside, she couldn't go back to that place. She had already lost too much of herself.
"Eli," Spencer grabbed her jacket. "I'm going to go for a walk."
"You could use some company." Eli wiped her hands on a towel and took her apron off. Before Spencer could protest, Eli was nodding at Nina as she got her jacket on.
They went out through the back door. The cold startled her after being in the warmth of the kitchen. She started moving. If Eli wanted to walk with her she was going to have to keep up.
The neighborhood was nice, cozy. Blocks of townhouses and apartments, lined with trees. With everything necessary and important within walking distance: Teddy's school. Emily's hospital. Some nice restaurants and cafes that would know how you liked your steak cooked, your drink order, and your name. They'd ask how your wife was and how your kid was doing. It was the same small talk she made with her regular customers.
Nonfat mocha for Brooke. She was a new mother. She was often in the company of her infant son who had undergone a surgery to close a hole in his heart. She and her husband were so glad to find out they lived close to the hospital with one of the best pediatric surgeons in the city. Wasn't that reassuring as a parent? Spencer had agreed, and she had to admit her son was a cute kid.
Green tea for Richard. He was a nurse at the hospital. He liked to read either from his tablet or trade paperback books. They asked what the other was reading at the moment every other week. Sometimes he would order an Americano to go. For his favorite surgeon.
Dark roast for Mr. Allen. He would do the crossword quietly and have a blueberry muffin. He was a widower. He and his wife never had children. But there was a nice couple in his building with an adorable little girl who he thought of as family. They looked in after him enough. And didn't he see her at the girl's birthday party?
Even though Emily was presently avoiding the shop, she was still there. Her presence went with everyone whose life she had touched. Spencer knew the feeling. But she was walking with a ghost. The shadow of words she never got to confess to Emily.
Emily didn't belong to her.
She belonged to these doctors and nurses she served coffee and baked goods to. These patients. These neighbors. These friends. A wife and a daughter. Emily belonged to the world.
Spencer wasn't a part of the world. She had been removed a long time ago. She had no place out here.
"What's on your mind?"
Eli's voice startled her. She forgot she wasn't alone.
No. She wasn't alone. Eli knew what it was like to be the stranger. To be a walking void because you left half of your self in the before and then lost the rest in prison. Though she was never really whole in the before, giving up pieces of herself for her parents, her sister, her friends. Emily.
"This was the kind of neighborhood I wanted to live in, back when I couldn't wait to get out of Rosewood." Get away from all the bad memories.
"I know what you mean. As soon as I turned 18 I got the hell out of my small town. My small life. They weren't big enough for my big dreams."
"Which were?" Spencer didn't know much about Eli's past.
"See all the world had to offer. Experience everything. I didn't get very far before I ran out of money." Eli gave Spencer a wry grin. "That was, as they would say, when the trouble started."
Eli told a story about how she met a group of people her age that were in the same situation as her, but sold her on a way to make some easy money by selling drugs. She was making enough cash and she didn't even have to spend it to travel. That was taken care of by her boss. She was happy she had gotten to see the Pacific Ocean before it all went wrong. It was a small empire based out of Pittsburgh.
"Oh." Spencer let that bit of information sink in. "Fuck!" She started walking faster.
She stopped and reeled back towards Eli. "Did she set this up? Did I get this job because of her calling in a favor?"
"No. It's not like that. The job was my idea. She just wanted to make sure you were-"
"Being taken care of? Being looked after?"
"No! She just wants to know you're okay." Eli caught up to her. "She was right about you. You're stubborn as hell. A fighter. But she was afraid you would fight the wrong things. Like the people trying to help you."
People were trying to help her. They were trying to get her to live instead of just existing. They wanted to pull her out of the shadows and into the warmth of the sun. But they were doing it by lying to her. She couldn't trust anyone.
Which made her a big hypocrite. She sought to protect the people she loved with the biggest weapon she had in her arsenal. A lie.
"I should have been honest with you from the start. But that's not how you operate. You deal in untruths and secrets. That's your only crime. Lying. Not murder."
Spencer cringed. Her hand hadn't thrown the match, but she had gotten Fitz killed. Her mother had cancer, but she died of a broken heart. She had blood on her hands.
"Someone else killed those girls. And you took the fall." Eli continued.
"Did Semi tell you that?"
"No, I figured that out all on my own." Eli looked at her. "So that's what you called her? Semi?"
"I never thought of her as anything other than Mama Sin. She wasn't the deadly and dangerous lady king when she was with me." Spencer never called her that.
That title was for the prisoners that lived in fear and awe of her. The guards called her Miss Sinclair, because they respected her. And Spencer had slipped once and said her nickname for the woman out loud while trying to half-heartedly turn down her advances. Semi had teased her until she explained the reason behind the nickname. And after Spencer finished with a blush, Semi had laughed, pleased that she hadn't been too busy staring daggers at everyone to notice.
They started heading back towards the shop. "She doesn't say it in her letters, but I know how much she wishes she could hear from you."
Spencer was heartless. She never wrote to anyone on the outside and she never accepted letters, calls or visits from anyone, especially Emily. She had severed ties with all of them. And she had decided to do the same with those she had left behind. It would hurt less if she never looked back.
But she always did. The past was an open wound that never healed, bleeding out until she was finally empty.
Eli had more to say before they got back, and Spencer had chosen to ignore her again. Eli had meant to use the walk as a way to talk of things loath to be overheard. But Spencer didn't want to hear it either. She felt betrayed at being lied to. She didn't know if she could trust the older woman as much as she had before. Her guard was back up.
But Eli knew. Or rather had figured it out. And if Eli could do that, then anyone could.
Let her believe. Believing wasn't the same as knowing. Knowing required proof. There was no evidence to prove her innocence.
Emily was trying. She really was.
The key was a thoughtful gesture. It said, "This is your home too. I want to share with you what is most valuable and important to me. My family. There is nothing to keep hidden because I trust you enough to share everything."
That's what it meant.
And that's why giving a partner a key was such a huge step in a relationship. A dating milestone.
But she and Emily weren't dating. They weren't together. The key wouldn't unlock everything. Some doors would be closed to her forever.
Spencer took the key out of her pocket and set it next to the package. The keychain Teddy had bought her was red and shone bright in the dim light of her apartment. A talisman protecting her from harm as she tore into the brown paper package.
Inside the paper wrapping was a soft yellow baby blanket, the type new parents swaddled their infant in to take them home. Her jaw clenched. She ripped the rest of the wrapping open. There was another card tied to a pacifier.
The message this time, "Sleep tight. -A"
She pushed away from the table in anger. She wouldn't be sleeping tonight. Not because she was going to be plagued by nightmares. But she was wide-awake now, a fire burning through her veins.
There was only one place to burn off all the energy.
With her mother's journals.
She looked at the heart keychain. Something in those journal had almost cost Paige her life. Something in those journals had almost made Emily a single parent. Teddy had almost grown up without knowing both her mothers because losing another woman she loved would have destroyed Emily.
She slipped the key into her front pocket and put the baby blanket into a brown paper bag left over from grocery shopping weeks ago. She put her jacket back on. She still had her shoes on, a pair of ratty white Converse knock-offs that the prison had supplied her with when she had been released. The same pair had inspired Teddy to beg her mother to get her a similar pair of the real deal but in miniature. The girl adored her, and was emulating her yet again. That cut her low. The girl would do better than to have an ex-con as a role model.
The key to the Fields apartment hadn't been the first key she had been entrusted in. Paige had given her a key to the storage unit. Which looking around it now, it was mostly filled with her possessions from before. There were the footlocker trunks that made her think of the ones she had kept her spare uniforms and other things in. There was a camper cot set out with a rolled up sleeping bag on top. That was new. Paige must have left it here for her.
Then there was Paige's motorcycle under the drop cloth, a gorgeous machine. She couldn't help but imagine the freedom it could give. She closed her eyes and pictured riding it across the country on open highways under a forever sky. But then the image shifted and she wasn't riding alone. She was sitting behind the rider, thighs squeezing gently against theirs with little space between them as she had her arms wrapped around her waist in more of an embrace, feeling safe and secure with someone that would never let her fall.
She opened her eyes and shook her head. She came to the storage unit with a purpose. She went over to the filing cabinet. It was made out of a thick and sturdy metal, vertical with three drawers. She took it's key out to get it unlocked. Semi's words came back to her.
The notebooks were valuable so her mother or Paige had put them into this filing cabinet, kept away in a storage unit. Because inside the covers was information that A had wanted to remain hidden. They were willing to kill to protect it
Her mother had died gathering this information, working right up to the very end so it was the most important. That's why it was valuable to her. It was her mother's handwriting, her mother's words, thoughts and feelings.
And it made Spencer feel horrible to read her days in prison through her mother's eyes. Her first year had been rough, but it had to be that much harder for her mother. It was all there in the pages. Every visit. Every fear.
"Spencer was very quiet today. She listened to everything I had to say with minor comment or interruption. I found myself missing her sarcasm, and even her antagonism when we'd get into arguments. I know she's doing it in an attempt to shield me, so I won't worry. But a mother always worries... I'm glad that the scar on her lip doesn't affect her smile. I'm glad she has a reason to smile... I want my baby home. Everyone sees her as cold and unfeeling. But she's my little girl... Every time she hugs me goodbye, it's like she's trying to make it last forever as if holding me tightly will keep the guards away after the last two minutes. And I hope it works too. But after the minutes are up, I have to walk out of that place without her... You always think you have more time. But I'm running out. I can't get Melissa to visit her sister. When I'm gone she'll be the only family Spencer has. Well, she'll have Emily. She's always had Emily.
It was pages and notebooks of that. And dead ends. She read about how soul crushing each time an appeal was rejected. When her mother had come to her with the bad news that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had refused to hear case her mother's voice hadn't wavered when she told her, but inside Veronica had been unraveling.
She's my daughter and I failed her.
Spencer had to stop reading. She sat back and clutched the notebook to her chest because she couldn't hold her mother. It was too late to feel safe in her warm embrace. That was her fault.
She wiped at her eye and went back to reading. She had been at this for hours and she hadn't found anything that could help her, nothing that would needed a second look. That first night after Paige had told her about the journals, where she had read until morning, had turned up nothing either. She had started from the beginning with the first entry, going from there. It wasn't that she didn't trust Paige's work, but that she wanted to read each word. To feel each word of joy and sorrow, that was her burden. There were more lows than highs between the covers.
When she finished the journal in her hands, Spencer got off the floor and went to grab another one from the filing cabinet. Another one in her hand, she went to sit on the cot. Her eyes flicked to the date for the initial entry.
There wasn't one.
She flipped through the next pages to see when her mother had been writing in this journal, thinking that the notebook had been misplaced. She stopped on a page that seemed to just be a list. She didn't know what the list of names meant, until she got to Upper Darby.
Spencer had been there before for an away game. Their field hockey team had been good, but they had been better. If she remembered correctly, that had been the game that had gotten a penalty named after Paige.
These had to be a list of towns in the area. She had no idea what connected them and why her mother thought they were significant.
She turned the page.
The next page was blank and so was the next. She hurriedly flipped through the journal, hoping for more. What she found instead was an envelope. Inside was a letter addressed to her from her mother.
My Dearest Spencer,
If you're reading this, then I'm happy to know you're free. But then it means I have to apologize because I didn't have the chance to see it. It means I wasn't able to hug you outside of those walls and I'm sorry for that.
I'm so proud of you. I always have been. And it might not have been obvious to you, but having you for a daughter is one of the best things to have happen in my life. I remember when I held you for the first time. You were enough. You were perfect.
You're not the daughter I raised you to be. You're so much better. You're a strong, beautiful woman that is so caring and selfless. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Because you did the right thing.
You'll be happy, Spencer. I know you will.
With Love Always,
The tears that had been welling up in Spencer's eyes were finally falling. She laid down on the cot, clutching the letter to her chest. She curled up on her side. She choked out a sob. "Mom."
Spencer woke up with a jolt. She was disorientated. The first thing she saw was a square ceiling and four walls closing in on her. She sucked in a breath deeply and sat up. She wasn't back there. She couldn't be back there in that swallowing void. That hungry nothing.
Spencer's eyes sped around the room wildly. She was still in the storage unit, sitting up on the cot. Paige's motorcycle under the drop cloth was a reassuring sight but her mother's letter was what made it all real. She picked it up off the floor where it had fallen while she had been sleeping. She put it back into the envelope and put it back in-between the pages of the journal.
She rubbed her face with her hand. She stood up and checked her phone. There were no new messages, from A or otherwise. But she took a look at the time and swore. She was going to be late for work.
There was just enough time for her to change clothes and catch the necessary buses to get her close to work. She just grabbed a shirt and a hoodie from one of the footlockers and pulled off the shirt she was wearing. She got dressed quickly and put her hair up into a messy ponytail. Once she had her field jacket on, she picked up the paper bag with the baby blanket in one hand and the journal with her mother's letter and the list of towns in the other, making sure it was safe against her chest.
She was fifteen minutes late. She apologized profusely. But Nina just smiled at her, and pointed her towards her apron.
"I'm just glad you're here today." Nina picked up a tray of cupcakes and put them into the oven.
Spencer nodded, knowing what Nina meant. "You're still here."
"Do you need me anywhere?" Spencer asked as she put the paper bag next to the teddy bear on her shelf. She put up her field jacket not letting her mother's journal out of her sight. She had brought it with her at the last minute. She thought it would be safer with her. But in truth, it was probably the other way around. Knowing that her mother's letter was secure in between the pages made her feel less afraid. Combined with Teddy's keychain, it all left her feeling hopeful.
"Just up front, making drink orders. It's about to pick up." Nina started on another batch.
"Sure thing." Spencer put on her apron over her hoodie. She grabbed the journal and slipped it into her apron pocket. It felt a bit uncomfortable when it smacked against her thigh, but it was reassuring to know it was close.
She nodded at Karolina and Solomon, who greeted her in kind. Solomon was at the register, so she would be making drinks with Karolina.
"Sharks?" Karolina had on a playful smirk. Spencer looked at her in confusion. "Your hoodie. "Rosewood High." The young woman read off the back of her hoodie.
"Oh." Spencer didn't know she had grabbed this particular hoodie, a blue, almost black hoodie with her school logo printed on the back. It was one she would wear when she would train sometimes, running through the streets and trails of her hometown. A lot of the high school athletes had them. She wished she had stopped to check. Now she was stuck with it for the rest of the day. Her hand went up to the zipper, but Solomon gave them a drink order for a group of three and she went to work.
The first lull in customers came in the afternoon, when everyone was done with their lunch breaks. She was about to go on hers, just taking a few minutes to eat an actual meal. Travis had come in and she was waiting for Karolina and Solomon to come back from their break.
Spencer was thinking about what she was going to do for lunch. Since she didn't have time to go back to her unit, she hadn't had breakfast and she didn't make herself a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. Buying lunch for three people yesterday had set her back, but it was worth it to see Teddy telling her to try some bulgogi or some chapchae and boss her around when it came to using chopsticks.
They had gone family style, sharing a bit of each dish between the three of them. Spencer could see that the waitress was familiar with Paige and Teddy. She had asked where Emily was and Teddy had answered with a toothy grin that her mommy was saving lives because she was a doctor. Next the girl introduced her as "my Spencer." Spencer knew the waitress as hazelnut latte, but she'd probably want to be called Ness.
Ness the Waitress knew Spencer as well, as "the hot barista at my favorite coffee shop." That had made her give a bashful thank you in return. A little while later, Ness the Waitress had set down a plate of kimbap "on the house" with a wink in her direction. That had gotten her a teasing smile from Paige. Spencer didn't comment. Instead she smiled into the cup of complimentary tea she had brought up to sip at.
The good mood and dose of confidence being flirted with had ended once she got back to work and Travis told her about the package waiting for her.
Spencer sighed. She had spent the rest of yesterday evening alternating between upset and annoyed right up until she blew up at Emily for giving her that key. She should apologize to her for that, explain what upset her.
Solomon and Karolina entered the shop again, laughing. The couple was followed in by Gavin. It looked like the three of them had run into each other on the street. Gavin said something and Karolina nodded in Spencer's direction. The three of them came over.
Solomon went to get his apron but Karolina stopped to whisper in her ear. "Say yes." Then she went into the kitchen, leaving her with Gavin.
"Hey." Gavin smiled at her. "Have you had lunch yet?"
"Not yet. I was about to. Just grab a croissant or something." Spencer gestured towards the baked goods on display. She figured that would be easiest. She would just pay Nina back; all she had on her was enough for her bus ride home.
"How about I take you to lunch? My treat." Gavin cocked her head to the side, grinning.
"I-" Spencer paused. She wanted to spend time with him, but she wasn't sure. She didn't want to feel like she was just using the man. Not for a meal, but as a distraction. A placeholder.
"Come on. You'll hurt my feelings if you say no." His grey eyes were so inviting, reassuring.
Karolina's instructions became easy to follow. "Yes."
"Just let me grab my jacket." Spencer bit her lip bashfully. She nodded at Travis who was at the register. There were no customers at the moment so gave her a smirk and a thumbs up. Spencer glared back at her co-worker, but chuckled as she shook her head, taking his teasing in stride. When she was at the kitchen door, Solomon came out and he held the door open for her.
Karolina was waiting for her with her field jacket. She had a huge grin spread across her face. "You said yes!"
"I did." Spencer felt nervous. The times she had met with Gavin she hadn't been alone. She had been with Paige and Emily or with Dantes. And while the second time had been one on one, the two of them had just had coffee at the shop. Those were all security blankets. Spencer's jaw clenched and her thoughts went to A's presents on her shelf.
That was the push she needed. She had to do this. Just to prove that she could.
Spencer took off her apron and felt the weight of the journal in its pocket. She clutched it to her chest. She glanced up at Karolina. She pleaded with every inch of her being. "Can you hold on to this for me while I'm gone? I was my mother's."
"Yeah." Karolina spoke softly. She looked touched that Spencer was entrusting her with something. She took the journal and slipped it into her apron pocket, as she handed Spencer her jacket. "I won't let it out of my sight."
From the way that the young woman was looking at her, Spencer believed her. "Thanks."
"Spencer, sweetie?" Nina who had been watching their exchange spoke up from her station. "Do try to have fun."
"Because you asked so nicely, I will." Spencer smiled and put on her jacket. She waved goodbye to Karolina and Nina then left the kitchen. Her hands in her pockets, Spencer stopped in front of Gavin.
"All set?" When Spencer nodded, Gavin lead her to the door. "I know this great place where the Moroccan Chicken is to die for."
Spencer was enjoying her meal. Paige had been right when she said the Grilled Chicken Breast Moroccan was good. It tasted amazing. She had decided to try it since Gavin had brought her to same restaurant that Paige had for the first meeting. This time though she and Gavin were seating in the main dining room. But the two of them pretty much had the place to themselves at the moment.
It was easy, the flow of conversation between them. Safe topics like favorite authors and bands. Spencer was happy to hear that Kid Cudi was still making music.
"So I've been meaning to ask about your hoodie. So you're from Rosewood?" Gavin took a sip of his soda.
Spencer tensed. She set her fork down. "Yes."
Gavin stayed silent for several beats of her heart. The way he was contemplating her made her feel like he was picking her apart, layer by layer. She tried not to squirm but the question had made her uncomfortable.
"I want to be honest with you Spencer. But first I want to say that I met you before I got this assignment." Spencer felt sick as Gavin continued. "I'm doing this story-"
"Let me guess. About Rosewood." Spencer's lips narrowed to a thin line.
"Yes." Gavin said firmly, but not unkindly. "My source gave me your name."
"I don't want to talk about Rosewood." Spencer cut him off so as to not prolong her agony. She knew that something like a criminal history couldn't be kept a secret, but she liked having a few people that wouldn't judge her. She wanted someone that didn't know her past. She had wanted to start fresh. She wanted that with someone. She thought maybe that could be Gavin. It seemed everyone would find out about what she was sooner or later. Denial had lead her to believe that it would be later.
But a relationship built on lies didn't stand for very long.
"This could be a chance to tell your side of the story." Gavin pleaded.
"I wanted people dead and that's how they ended up. That's my side of the story." Spencer raised her voice, as she leaned forward. "Go ahead and quote me on that."
Gavin at least had the decency to look ashamed. Spencer stood up. "You must be a great reporter. The story comes first no matter how many people get used, or hurt, in the process."
Spencer left the table without looking back at Gavin. She threw on her jacket and kept her head up. She clenched her jaw and breathed heavily through her nose. She was so angry she was close to crying.
In truth, she was trying so hard to keep the tears back. Because if she started crying, she wouldn't stop. Each tear would be a person she couldn't trust, and she'd end up drowning in the flood.
Every lie a teardrop.
And most of those lies would be hers.
When she got back to the shop, Spencer sought out Karolina. She wanted to get her mother's journal back. She wanted to feel safe.
"Hey! How did it-" Karolina's smile transformed into confusion at see Spencer's stormy expression. "What happened?"
"I don't want to talk about it." Spencer covered her face with her hands. "I mean... I'm not ready to talk about it."
"Okay." Karolina was sympathetic, standing close enough to give support without crowding her.
"I mean." Spencer scrunched up her face in anguish, as she looked up at the ceiling to keep the tears back. "He was only after one thing." She realized what that would sound like to the young woman. "A story. About what I did in Rosewood."
"That fucker!" Karolina's shout made Travis, Solomon and most of the customers look over at the two of them. Spencer stared down at her shoes, ashamed. Karolina took Spencer's hand in her own and gave it a squeeze. "Look. This isn't your fault. He isn't worth your time. There are better guys out there."
"Maybe I should just stick to women from now on." Spencer murmured.
"You could. You'll find the right person for you." Karolina said, understanding that Spencer wasn't joking.
Spencer felt she could come out to the young woman. "Karolina, I'm..." Spencer didn't know what she was exactly. She had told Paige she was gay. But that didn't feel right. She was attracted to women and men. That meant she was bisexual. Didn't it?
"Spencer, whoever you're attracted to is okay with me." Karolina put her hands on Spencer's shoulders. "You're my friend, okay?"
"Yeah." Spencer smiled softly as she wiped at the corner of her eye. Karolina rubbed a hand down her biceps. It was true. Spencer was comfortable with the young woman. The two of them were friends.
"Here." Karolina pulled out her mother's journal and returned it to Spencer. "I have to go pick up Teddy from school. But call me if you need anything. And I'll come running."
It was Spencer that initiated the hug, but Karolina bone-crushingly returned it. "Take care. And. Um. Say hi to Teddy for me?"
Karolina pulled out of the hug. "I will. Bye Spencer."
Solomon came over with Karolina's coat. She put it on. The couple walked outside where they shared a quick goodbye kiss. Spencer slipped into the kitchen to exchange her field jacket for her apron. As soon as she got the apron on, she made sure that the envelope and the letter were she left it. When she saw the envelope, she sighed in relief and slipped it in the apron pocket.
"How was your lunch date?" Nina grinned at her. She was putting a batch of cookies on a cooling rack. Eli was listening in, even if it looked like she was concentrating on icing a cake with chocolate frosting.
"It was awful." Spencer admitted. She sniffled. "He wasn't who I thought he was."
"I'm sorry." Nina frowned. She went over to the fridge and took out a carton of milk. She poured some into a mug. She put three fresh cookies on a plate and then brought it all over to Spencer. "Here. Buttercreams."
Spencer's eyes became blurry. It was similar to what her mother would do to comfort her in prison. "My mom used to do this. She couldn't bring in buttercreams when she visited. But she'd buy Oreos and apple juice from the vending machines for me. Like she did when I was a kid." She picked up one of the cookies and took a bite. She closed her eyes, savoring the taste. "Buttercreams are my favorite."
"I know." Nina smiled. "Finish those up and then get back to work."
"Sure thing, Boss."
Hours later Spencer was clearing tables. The task had grown on her, just as washing dishes had. Usually a was a time for clear reflection, but her head was still cloudy from the situation with Gavin with nothing else to focus on. She needed a distraction. Soon someone came in shouting her name.
"Spencer!" Teddy shouted as she ran towards her. Spencer sat down her bussing tray as the little girl approached, dressed in a purple coat and green knit cap. But Teddy stopped short in front of her, giving her an uncertain and hesitant look instead of the usual hug.
The sight of the little girl ducking her head, shying away from her, crushed Spencer's heart. It made her feel worthless. But Teddy came. She was there waiting, offering a second chance. Hope wasn't lost.
"Hey, Cub." Spencer greeted, smiling warmly.
Teddy gave her a small smile and then gave her a hug. Spencer ran a hand over the girl's head, brushing her forehead. She felt a little warm to her touch. She murmured out a small hi.
"Hey, Spencer." Karolina came up to them. She looked flustered, buzzing out of her skin. It was out of character for the young woman that always took everything in stride.
Spencer frowned. "What's wrong?"
"I have a family emergency. I need to see my mom." Karolina bit her lip.
"I'm sorry to hear that. Is there anything I can do to help?" Spencer knew that a little could help a lot. She had been there before and knew how it felt, worrying about her mother.
Karolina asked slowly. "Could you look after Teddy?"
"I wouldn't ask unless it was really important. Teddy loves you. And Emily and Paige trust you. There's no one else I'd ask to do this. And with what happened earlier..." Karolina ran a hand through her hair.
Spencer laughed awkwardly, hoping that it sounded more convincing to Karolina than it did to her own ears. Things were still strained between her and Emily. And the thing with Gavin made her feel awful. But her issues could take a backseat for now. "I'll watch Teddy. Go. Be with your mom. I'll let... I'll let Emily know what happened."
"Thank you." Karolina said as she handed over the girl's backpack. "Bye, Teddy."
"Bye, Lina." Teddy said quietly, her little face pressed into the outside of Spencer's leg.
Karolina gave Spencer one last look of gratitude before rushing out of the cafe.
"So Cub, what do you want to drink with your snack?" Spencer asked gently. Teddy was uncharacteristically silent and didn't answer. "I'll get you the usual hot chocolate, sound good?"
When Teddy nodded, Spencer took the little girl by her hand and balanced the bussing tray on her hip. She bit her lip. Teddy would usually be talking her ear off by now, but she had only said less than five words since arrived. At the counter she asked Frida to make a cup of hot chocolate for Teddy then she went to put up the bussing tray in the kitchen and get cleaned up.
"Hello, Miss Teddy. How are you today?" Nina greeted happily.
"Throat hurts." Teddy croaked out. Spencer frowned.
"Karolina had a family emergency. And she left Teddy with me. But I think I should take her home." Spencer pulled Teddy closer to her.
"You go right ahead. That child is sick."
"Can you take her for a bit while I get ready? I ordered her a hot chocolate. Is that okay?"
"It'll make her throat feel better." Nina nodded. "Come on, Miss Teddy. We'll go get that cup of hot chocolate while Spencer collects her things."
Taking the journal out of her apron pocket, Spencer placed it on her shelf, far from the teddy bear and baby blanket from A. She put her apron up then got her jacket on. She put the bear inside the paper bag with the blanket. She didn't want to put the journal inside, but she had to. She needed to show everything to Paige. And she might have to carry Teddy home, so the journal when into the paper bag. She rolled it closed and gripped it tightly. She left the kitchen.
Nina and Eli were sitting at a table with Teddy. The cup of hot chocolate sat steaming in front of her. Nina had an arm around the little girl, who was resting her head in her arms on the table.
Spencer went over to Teddy. "Let's go home, Cub."
Once the little girl nodded, she picked her up in her arms. Teddy rested her head on her shoulder. Spencer could feel her warm breath against her neck. She placed a small kiss on the girl's forehead.
"Here." Eli held out some bills to her. Spencer stared at her; still not sure how she felt about the older woman. "For a cab. You don't plan on walking all the way there do you?"
Spencer actually had intended to do that. She juggled the paper bag to her other hand so she could take the cab fare. She slipped it into her pocket. "Right. I'll pay-"
"Nope." Eli held a hand up. "Just get the kid home and in bed. You rest up too."
"Okay." Spencer held Teddy tighter. She said goodbye to everyone. Eli helped the two of them into a cab. Spencer gave the driver the address. She rubbed Teddy's back. She closed her eyes, hoping she could do this. The tiny human in her arms was depending on her. Taking care of her sick daughter probably wasn't what Emily had in mind when she gave Spencer the key to their apartment.
Spencer had called Paige's phone, but it was busy. She was cursing herself for not having Emily's number. She didn't know what she was trying to prove by not having it on her phone. She wanted to show that she needn't need Emily and that was biting her in the ass now.
She had called Nina, who reassured her that Teddy most likely had the flu. If she monitored the girl's fever and made sure she got plenty of rest and fluids, Teddy would be fine until one of her mothers came home. It was Nina that had gotten through to Emily. Or rather to one of the OR nurses acting as a go-between, who informed her that once Emily could get out of the surgery, she'd be home.
Right now, she and Teddy were cuddled up on the couch watching a bizarre cartoon with a human boy, a talking shape shifting dog and a large amount of princesses. A few episodes in she figured out it was called Adventure Time. She found herself enjoying it.
She was proud of herself for getting the TV on and the movies queued up with a little help from Travis, who had texted her instructions. She had no idea what kind of movies Teddy would want to watch so decided she couldn't go wrong with some classics. After enjoying a couple Disney movies, a menu had popped up and suggested an episode of the cartoon. Teddy had said that she and her mama would watch it, that it was Paige's favorite cartoon. Feeling bad that Teddy had gotten stuck with her as a caregiver, Spencer selected the cartoon.
"I really like Princess Bubblegum and Marceline." Spencer liked their bickering but loving relationship. And they were both snarky. "Who's your favorite, Cub?"
Teddy sat up. The little girl gave Spencer an apologetic look and then proceeded to throw up what little she had in her stomach. "Sorry," Teddy whimpered.
The girl's pajama top had been soiled, and some had gotten on Spencer. She gritted her teeth. She had dealt with bigger messes in prison, but it was just her luck that once she took off her Rosewood hoodie she'd get covered in vomit.
"I want my Mommy." Teddy started crying.
"Hey, it's okay, Cub. She'll be home soon." Spencer said in what she hoped was a soothing voice. "Let's get cleaned up."
She brought Teddy to her bedroom. She got a set of fresh pajamas and brought her to the bathroom. She got Teddy undressed and cleaned her with a warm washcloth. The dirty pajamas went into the sink filling with water and the new pajamas went on Teddy. Once Teddy was all set on the couch watching Monster Inc., Spencer cleaned up the bit of vomitus that got on the floor.
Done with the task, she took off her own soiled shirt, added it to the pajamas in the sink to rinse. When she was finished, she had no choice but to throw on her Rosewood hoodie before joining Teddy on the couch. She pulled Teddy into her side, and watched the movie.
After the credits played, Teddy murmured that she wanted to watch Nemo. It figured the little girl would love that movie. She was the daughter of two swimmers after all.
"Do you feel like eating, Cub?" Spencer asked in the hopes the question would wake up Teddy's appetite and she'd have some food before they started on Finding Nemo.
"Mama makes chicken doodles." Teddy coughed then she closed her eyes, the effort to talk taking a lot out of her.
"I'll see what I can do." Spencer bit her lip. "Stay here with Heddy and Dantes." She stood up and made sure Teddy was comfortable on the couch with a pillow and blanket.
Spencer didn't like how the lights in a room would automatically turn on when she'd walk inside. It always startled her no matter how many times she told herself the lights were on a motion sensor. There was no guard hitting a switch to catch her in the act and she wasn't doing anything wrong.
That wasn't right. She was doing something wrong. Things with Emily were wrong. She was all wrong. There was a ringing reminder in her head that never let her forget.
After opening a few cabinets, Spencer found a can of chicken noodle soup. She hoped Teddy didn't mind that it wasn't made from scratch but it was better than nothing. She set the can on the counter as she realized she was going to have a hard time with the stove.
It had a touch screen similar to the one in the shower. But when she pressed her finger to the screen, nothing happened. It didn't make a sound. It didn't light up. Spencer frowned and hunched her shoulders as she leaned against the counter.
"Teddy wanted soup. I wanted to make her soup." Spencer choked out. "But I couldn't get the stove to turn on. I didn't know how."
"It's alright. Even I have trouble with it sometimes." Emily joked and stepped up to the stove. "It's on a child lock mode. For Teddy."
"Oh." She looked up at Emily. The woman look rushed, still dressed in her scrubs. "Teddy's on the couch."
"Yeah, I saw. She's asleep." Emily was studying her intently. Spencer suddenly found the can of soup very interesting. "Thank you for watching her after Karolina had to go see to her mom. She wasn't too much trouble, I hope."
"Not at all. We just curled up on the couch and watched movies. Some Adventure Time."
"That's Paige's doing. She loves that cartoon. We'd watch it all the time senior year. She made a vow to introduce it to her children. And she did. She keeps her promises." Emily had on a wistful smile.
"She did throw up. But I cleaned her up." Spencer felt the need to clarify. Emily had gotten mad at her before when she had screwed up with Teddy. She didn't want to face that again. She didn't want to be accused of hurting Teddy. "Not in the tub or anything. With a damp wash cloth. I changed her pajamas. Then it was back to the couch. She's just been really tired."
"Spencer. You did exactly what Paige and I would do." Emily's voice was firm but reassuring.
"It's a good thing you gave me a key. I don't know what I would have done. She wouldn't have been comfortable anywhere else." Spencer rubbed her right arm. She looked up at Emily, who was still watching her. "I'm sorry I freaked out about the key."
"That's my fault. It was too soon." Emily leaned her back against the counter. She hugged her arms to her chest. Spencer wished she could be the one holding Emily, offering a comforting embrace.
"Maybe. But I shouldn't have blown up like I did." Spencer bit her lip.
"I just want you to have place where you feel safe. I know you can take care of yourself. But that doesn't mean you have to be by yourself." Emily's eyes were misty.
Spencer had Emily wrapped in her arms in an instant. "Don't cry. Not over me."
Emily pulled her in closer. They had been apart for so long and that was Spencer's doing. The pushing and the running away were for Emily's protection as much as her own. The walls were up so she wouldn't crumble. So she wouldn't get hurt.
Because even though it would be so easy to bridge the distance between them, it would hurt to bring her lips up to Emily's. It would hurt to have their bodies pressed together. It would hurt to leave a trail of kisses from Emily's jaw down to her collarbone. It would hurt to taste her skin.
Skin that was marked by another. If she hadn't seen the hickey Paige had left, Spencer might have gone ahead and given into the urge. A moment of ecstasy and then an eternity of guilt.
She closed her eyes, and let her head drop against Emily's shoulder. She let out a contented sigh. She did feel safe here.
And that made it hard to trust herself.
Spencer pulled back from Emily, but still held onto her shoulders. "You shouldn't have to protect me. You already take care of so many. Paige and Teddy. Your patients."
"No. I do Spencer. Because no one else seems to be taking care of you. And because you've been protecting all of us."
Her eyes widened. She jumped back from Emily, as if she was burned. "Don't. Just don't. Please." Her shoulders slumped.
Emily's brows furrowed, but not in anger. Emily was hurt. "So it's true."
It wasn't a question.
"I can't." Spencer turned away.
"Or you won't. Don't shut me out. And don't lie to me." Emily pleaded. The tears were back in her eyes.
Spencer was falling. Everything she had built so carefully was crashing down around her. Nothing could stand. She was the architect and her lies were collapsing, and taking her with them. There was nothing to grab onto. The ground was rushing up to meet her.
"I'm not ready." Spencer choked out. Her throat felt raw. Her head was pounding and her eyes were stinging.
"Okay, Spence. I'll be here waiting until you are." Emily cupped her cheek and Spencer shivered. Emily frowned. "You're burning up."
Spencer nuzzled into her hand before jerking away. "I'm fine. Teddy's the one you should go to."
Emily sighed. "Go sit in the living room. I'll make you both some soup. And be in with some cough syrup."
"But-" Spencer started to protest but she swallowed it when Emily shot her a look that told her not to argue. She wondered if this was the look she gave Teddy when the girl was being unruly or if this was how she silenced other doctors and parents of patients that were being pains in the ass. She grumbled out an okay.
Spencer went back to the living room where Teddy was asleep on the couch. Dantes looked up at her from his spot next to the little girl. He jumped off and padded over to her. Spencer sat down in the armchair, and Dantes settled at her feet. She decided to go back to watching Adventure Time.
Halfway through the episode, Teddy whimpered and then woke up with a cry. She sat up. Spencer went to her while the little girl held her arms out. Spencer picked her up, and placed her in her lap.
The girl rested her head against her chest. She started coughing. Spencer could feel the vibrations wrack the small body against her own.
"Mommy?" she whimpered.
"No. It's Spencer, but your Mommy is home making us soup."
"Okay." Teddy settled back against her chest. The girl was quiet for a while. "You sound the same."
"I do?" Spencer smiled. She had no idea what the girl was talking about, but she was glad the girl was talking about anything. "So what do I sound like?"
"Your heart sounds like Mommy's." Teddy whispered. "It sounds nice. Mommy holds me when I'm sick and Mama makes soup. So I get better fast."
Spencer was going to answer, when she coughed. She ended up apologizing to the little girl too.
"Did I make you sick?" Teddy frowned.
"No you didn't." Spencer rubbed her back to reassure her. "We probably were exposed to the pathogen- uh germ making us sick at the same time." That was the likely answer. She didn't know who or what they caught it from.
Emily came into the living room carrying a tray loaded with bowl of soup and glasses of orange juice. "Here we go." She set the tray on the coffee table and then glanced up at the pair of them. "Oh." She was watching Teddy sit in Spencer's lap in such a way that she had to look away.
"Sorry. She woke up crying." Spencer could feel Emily's eyes on her as she stared down at the carpet. The couch cushion shifted under Emily's weight as she took a seat next to her.
"Don't apologize." Emily took her free hand into her own. She ran her thumb over her scarred and scabbed up knuckles. Spencer had the feeling that if Teddy wasn't in the room, Emily would have brought her hand up to her lips and kissed them.
Teddy wiggled around in her lap and transferred herself over to her mother's lap. "This one just loves being held." Emily kissed her daughter's forehead. "How are you feeling, Baby Girl?"
"Sick. Can me and Spencer have soup? And watch Nemo now?" Teddy tipped her head back to look up at her mother.
"Of course. But first," Emily maneuvered herself to grab a bottle of syrup. "You need to take some medicine."
"Don't wanna." Teddy clapped a hand over her mouth.
"Teddy, we go through this every time. But you take the medicine and then you feel better after. Don't you?"
"You said if I got shot I wouldn't get sick. It hurt but I got sick." Teddy pouted.
"Are you sure you're sick?" Emily muttered as she put a hand to her forehead in exasperation. To Spencer she said, "She means the flu shot."
"Well, Cub, how about I go first?" Spencer tried.
"Okay," Teddy said slowly.
Emily gave her an appreciative smile, and poured some of the syrup into a medication cup. Spencer downed it all in one go. She managed not to make a face at the taste. "Fifteen years and it still tastes like that."
That earned her Emily's laughter. Spencer reveled in the sound. She watched her face light up. How did she go so long without Emily's laugh in her life?
"Your turn, Baby Girl." Emily poured out half the amount of what Spencer had taken into the cup. She held it out to Teddy, who looked up at Spencer.
She nodded at the little girl. Teddy took the cup and followed Spencer's example of downing all of the medicine in one go.
"Bleh," Teddy stuck her tongue out. "Gross."
"Here." Emily traded the small medicine cup for the tumbler of orange juice. Teddy took a few sips. "I think that calls for Finding Nemo."
Spencer put the movie on. They had their soup and when they were finished, she placed the blanket over their laps. They settled in for the rest of the movie. And another after that, during which Teddy fell asleep between the two of them.
It was one of those family moments Spencer had promised to herself when she was younger and had only existed in her daydreams for the last fifteen years.
The front door opened and in daydreams was where those moments would have to stay.
Paige came into the living room, brown leather satchel in hand and loosening the red scarf around her neck with the other. Her hand seemed to pause at her throat when she saw them sitting on the couch, her fingers in a struggle. She set her satchel on the armchair, freeing up her hand.
"Hey," Paige greeted. Spencer watched as the black prosthetic fingers worked with flesh ones to get her scarf off before looking away. "How is she?"
"She's good. She has a fever and a cough so I gave her some medicine for that. Which is why she's knocked out. And Spencer said that she threw up earlier, but got her cleaned up."
Spencer felt Paige coming to stand behind them, an action that made her tense. Paige leaned forward against the back of the couch, right by her ear. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched her brush back some of Teddy's hair out of her face. "Poor Tedge."
"Thank you, Spencer. For being here for her when neither of us could." Paige patted her on the shoulder.
"Spence is sick too. The flu. It's going around." Emily added.
Paige was quiet too long before speaking. "You know that means you'll be staying here right?"
Spencer faced her. The woman was grinning, which made her feel relieved. After the gifts from A and the day she had, she was too tired to spend the night alone. She wanted to stay, but she wasn't going to ask.
"Yeah." Spencer breathed out. "I figured."
"Paige will lend you some clothes to sleep in. You'll end up swimming in mine." Emily looked pleased at her reply.
"Let me carry Teddy to bed and then I'll get on that." Paige nodded as she shrugged her coat off and hung it on the back of the armchair.
Emily stood up to gather up their bowls and glasses. Spencer did the same to offer her help, but Emily stilled in her clean up.
"A Sharks hoodie. I haven't seen one of those in a while. Not since..." Emily was frowning. "Where did you get that?"
"It's mine. I pulled it out of the storage unit this morning because I needed a change of clothes for work." Spencer didn't look at either of them. Her voice sounded weak and scratchy, but there were things that needed to be said.
"You spent the night there," Paige said with no surprise.
"Yes." Spencer admitted. "Thanks for the cot by the way."
Paige always seemed to know what she was planning to do. The lawyer knew all her moves before she made them, sometimes two or three moves ahead. "I figured I couldn't stop you from staying there. I was thinking of putting a desk in there, but I went with the cot. Maybe you'd take the hint and actually use it."
"Wait!" Emily looked at Teddy and then lowered her voice. "Just wait. You knew about this? Then again, why am I so surprised? Of course you do."
"Emily. Please don't be mad at Paige." Spencer stepped in to defend Paige. "She was just doing what I asked her. And what my mom asked her to do." She looked at Paige, who nodded for her to continue. "I know you hate being kept in the dark. It's not fair to you. And it's patronizing."
"My mom kept journals while I was in prison where she wrote down everything. Including information she got while investigating my case. She went over everything." Spencer smiled. She got her tenacity from her mother. "So I've been reading them to..."
"To be close to her again." Emily understood.
A photo, a letter, and the journals were her all she had left of her mother. They were a poor substitute for the real thing but she was grateful to have them. Her mother had left her the journals for a reason.
Spencer stood up straighter. While her mother could not free her before her death, she could clear her name in her honor. "Yes. And to finish what she started."