A/N: Okay, so most of this chapter is a flashback, except for the bits at the beginning and end that aren't in italics. The present time is during the finale and the flashback takes place shortly after 3x08 when Toby tells Spencer that he is going to go looking for answers. Enjoy! Also, thank you so much to everyone who has reviewed this story so far. I super appreciate it.
Disclaimer: I do not own Pretty Little Liars. If I did, Spoby would not break my heart every single effing season.
"Change of plans."
As Toby heard the words leave Mona's lips, he felt the same wave of disgust ripple through his body that he experienced every time Mona spoke to him. Every time she assumed that the two of them were allies, he wanted to scream at her, to proclaim his love for Spencer from the rooftops. But that would have been a very stupid thing to do.
"What's changed?" Toby asked, being careful to keep his voice as impassive as possible.
"We need to frame Paige tonight. Garrett needs to be released from prison if any of this is going to work out the way we want it to. I have Maya's cell phone. Now all you need to do is plant it on Paige and poor little Emily will be wondering how she got it. And her friends will be there to convince her of Paige's crime with their little seeds of suspicion."
Mona snickered derisively at the thought of Emily's heartache and Toby had to physically fight the urge to hit her. He wondered if what he was doing would ever be enough to save Spencer and if he would ever be able to dig himself out of this deep hole that he had landed in. He almost wished he could go back to the beginning, when attempting to convince Mona of his loyalty to her and the A-team had been his biggest problem.
"Now, which patient did you say you were here to visit, sweetheart?" asked the secretary at Radley's Sanitarium, sweeping her eyes over Toby with a friendly smile.
"Mona Vanderwaal," Toby replied after a moment's hesitation, carefully keeping his voice as quiet as possible and pulling his hood even further over his face to avoid being seen by anyone else. He wasn't supposed to be here, or even be in Rosewood for that matter. If everything were to go according to his plans, he couldn't risk anyone noticing him or asking questions.
He was led down a long, white hallway before stopping outside a door, a completely normal looking door which presumably led to a completely normal looking room. But knowing what was behind that door made Toby shudder involuntarily and he had to take a deep breath to collect himself before slowly turning the knob and entering the room; the time for turning back had come and gone. He took a couple of steps forward and let the door close behind him with a resounding thud before allowing his eyes to settle upon the only other person in the room.
Mona was sitting on the edge of her bed, dressed in a white hospital gown and staring vacantly at the wall behind him. Toby continued to move toward her, albeit rather tentatively, but she still didn't glance in his direction. In fact, she didn't appear to even notice that there was another person in the room. Toby couldn't help but wonder if this was all a part of her game. He sincerely hoped it was, for Mona was the only link that he had to what was happening to Spencer and the girls and he needed her to still be involved with it all. Otherwise, he wouldn't have a clue where to look next.
Toby moved so that he was standing directly in Mona's line of vision, his bright blue eyes locking with her empty brown ones. Being this close to her, he felt a surge of emotions course through his body. He felt as though he should hate her completely for everything that she had done to Spencer, Emily, Hanna, and Aria. After all, she had tortured, blackmailed, and nearly killed the love of his life, his best friend, and two girls who he had also come to consider friends, for close to a year. Hell, he should have hated her for everything that she had done to HIM. She was the reason that Spencer had broken up with him and pushed him away, leaving him feeling as though his heart had been stampeded upon. And he certainly couldn't forget that dangerous fall that had landed him in the hospital and very nearly broken his neck. Remembering all of these things, Toby knew that hatred was the only sentiment that he should have felt toward Mona. But here, in this forlorn place, with the gleaming white lights shining down upon her haggard face, he couldn't help but feel a twinge of pity for her.
He remembered the Mona that had existed before Alison had died, although he had been a grade above her and they hadn't had any classes together. He had known her in the way that people tend to recognize each other when they are victims of the same predator, even if only to exchange looks of sympathy in the hallways or breathe sighs of relief when it is another person's turn to be tortured. Toby knew better than anyone what Ali's torment must have done to her because he had experienced it himself and he knew what it had done to him. For so long, he had been a recluse, trusting no one and sleepwalking through school, calling the day a success if he could make it through without being harassed by anyone and simply retreat to his bedroom to blast his headphones for the rest of the night.
He was aware that Mona had endured similar treatment during Alison's reign, due to her clothes and appearance, and Ali's method of bullying people never stopped at a few nasty comments. Once her teeth had sunk into you, she couldn't just relinquish her hold at the first sight of drawn blood. She kept feeding until she had completely drained her prey of everything they had. It didn't matter how much hatred or rebellion or fight they had simmering in their bones; Alison could stamp that out of anyone with the heels of her Prada stilettos and not even break a sweat in the process.
Toby knew all this about Mona's past and he also knew that she wasn't like him. She couldn't just let it all go and try to move past everything that had happened to her; the abuse had taken its toll on her, turning her head until the only way she could cope was through revenge, but the effect that this revenge had had on her was drastic. The new Mona was a sight to behold, a far cry from the "It-Girl" that she had morphed into the year after Ali's death. Her hair lay limp and greasy around her shoulders, somewhat matted in the places where it curled the most. Her skin was a ghostly pale and she looked emaciated, as though she had been eating nothing but pills for weeks. Her eyes were sunken in her face as she stared at nothing and her breath came in sharp little gasps. The change in her was astounding.
This certainly didn't excuse everything that she had done over the past year, however, and so Toby forced himself to turn off the minuscule part of his brain that wanted to feel a tiny bit sorry for her. If she was truly the one that was still behind what was continuing to happen to his friends, she didn't deserve his pity anyway. She had tortured and hurt Spencer. HIS Spencer. Toby tried to push that thought from his mind because, if he couldn't afford to feel empathy toward Mona, he certainly couldn't afford to think about Spencer right now. She was his vulnerability, his weakness, but she was also the reason he was here and if he was going to be able to protect her in the only way he knew how, he needed to play it right. He willed himself to flip off the switch that connected him to his emotions, his humanity, and stood in front of Mona with a new fire in his eyes.
"Mona," he said softly, looking her right in the eye. "It's Toby. Toby Cavanaugh."
She continued to stare behind him blankly, refusing to respond to his greeting or even look at him.
"Mona," Toby repeated, his tone becoming more forceful. "I know that you can hear me, so please don't pretend that you can't."
When this still did not garner any sort of acknowledgement from her, he sighed deeply and dragged his hands over his face in frustration, deciding he needed to change tactics. After a moment's hesitation, he moved forward and sat next to her on the bed, gently putting his hand on her shoulder. At his touch, Mona flinched very slightly, betraying herself. At her movement, Toby turned her face to his with his other hand, searching her face for a sign that she was listening. She blinked in spite of herself and he watched as her eyes came back into focus, taking him in silently.
"I bet you don't have a lot of visitors who are just here to see how you're doing and hoping you get better," he told her. "That must be hard."
She continued to look at him impassively, but didn't say anything back.
"I know you're probably wondering why I care or why I'm even here," Toby continued, "but you should know that I DO care. I know the kind of torment that Alison inflicted on you while she was alive because she did the same thing to me. I understand how you feel. I know how it is to be an outcast and to think you're alone in the world."
He felt a stab of pain as he referenced his past, a feeling that he quickly tried to subdue. He needed to get a hold of himself. Breathe in. Breathe out. He could do this.
"I know how it is to feel hatred and to want….revenge."
Revenge. The word tasted bitter on his tongue, but it was all part of the charade that he needed to keep up in order to convince Mona that he was on her side.
He didn't break eye contact with Mona as he said it and he noticed a feline look begin to spark in her brown eyes.
"What do you mean by 'revenge'?" she asked quietly, finally speaking to him.
"I'm talking about Alison's friends," he responded darkly. "Emily, Aria, Hanna. Spencer."
The last name caused a lump to form in his throat, but he pressed on, ignoring it.
"Her clique, her inner circle, her coven, if you will. They stood by and watched while Ali very nearly destroyed my entire life and they deserve to pay. I know you've done some things to them, but it isn't enough. It will never be enough to make up for what they did to me."
Mona looked him dead in the eye before answering.
"You're kidding me, right?" she asked, with her old attitude returning to her voice. "What makes you think that I believe you? You're dating Miss Goody Two-Shows and you're friends with the Girl-Kisser. I know everything, remember?"
"Yeah, well what you don't know is what a good actor I can be," Toby responded fiercely. "Why do you think I wanted to get close to them in the first place? Payback. I just wish I had known what you were doing before you got locked up in here. I could have helped you. We could have worked together."
"I don't work with little boys," Mona hissed vehemently. "Which is exactly what you are if you think your words are going to have any sort of effect on me."
"Don't be stupid, Mona," Toby responded, moving even closer to her on the bed. "You need help, you and whoever else is behind this. I can help you. And I'm close with Spencer and Emily, and I'm also the last person in the world that they would suspect. You need someone like me. Let me help."
Mona looked at him for a moment, frowning. "What makes you think I even care about torturing them anymore?" she asked.
"Come on," Toby laughed. "I'm dating Spencer, remember? I see how weird she's been acting, I notice how her face falls whenever she gets a message from whoever the new A is. I know it's not over. I also know that you have to still be involved. You wouldn't give up that easily."
Mona smirked slightly. "You want to help," she said condescendingly. "Just like you helped your sister out of her clothes so many times?"
Toby reeled back from her, hurt flashing through his eyes. He should have expected her to bring that up, but it didn't mean that he was any more prepared for it. He managed to swallow down the vast amount of hatred that he felt for Mona in that moment, forcing himself to take a deep breath and continue on as though she had never made the cruel remark in the first place.
"You need to trust me," he countered. "You need all the help you can get, especially while you're locked up in here. You can't deny that. Whatever these other people on the outside are asking you to do, I can help you with it. Let me be a part of the team."
"Give me one good reason why I should trust you," Mona replied with a snarl.
Toby laughed shortly.
"I can give you a lot more than one," he responded drily. "Like I said before, Ali tormented me in the same way that she did to you. Probably worse, actually."
Toby paused for a moment, collecting his thoughts. "And her friends," he continued, saying that last word as though it were laced with poison, "helped her."
Mona cocked her head to one side to show him that she was listening.
"I know that you know the truth about what really happened the night Jenna was blinded," Toby said quietly. "Ali's friends watched her as she threw those fireworks into my garage and never tried to stop her. Then they all pointed their fingers at me, forcing me to take the blame for what they had done, alienating me from my father and getting me sent away to reform school for an entire year."
Toby took a deep breath, trying to find the energy to continue. It still hurt talking about that night and everything that had happened to him because of it. His relationship with his father had never been great, but the man could barely look him in the eye after the accident. Toby knew, however, that if he hadn't taken the blame for the prank, Ali would have exposed his "relationship" with Jenna, which surely would have gotten him kicked out of his house for good.
"I'm listening," Mona said, urging him to continue.
"My point is," Toby went on, "do you really think that I could forget that so easily? Do you really think that I could FORGIVE that so easily?"
The truth was, he had forgiven all of the girls for the fire a long time ago. While Ali had been alive, they had been nothing but her puppets, and she had tortured them nearly as much as she had everyone else. The girls were victims, too. Toby knew that, which had given him no choice but to forgive. He pushed these thoughts to the back of his mind, but couldn't help remembering one little detail from that night that he hadn't thought about in a while.
"Do you know that Spencer was there when Ali blackmailed me into taking the blame for the fire?" he murmured. "She stood by the side of the street, watching us, not doing anything about it. Her parents probably could have bought her and her friends off without even community service, but she still let me get framed for it, knowing it could destroy my life."
In reality, Spencer had had no idea what was going on. She had assumed that Toby was the sort of person that Alison had always led them to believe he was: a creepy Peeping Tom, who deserved any ramifications that he got. She didn't know him then and he didn't know her. Still, remembering her involvement was painful, mostly because he knew the guilt that she still felt over it. He may have forgiven her a long time ago, but that didn't necessarily mean that Spencer had forgiven herself.
"Forgiving people isn't easy," Mona interjected. "Hanna was my best friend for nearly two years, but I still thought she needed to pay for watching me suffer and for deserting me later. When Aria came back into town, she started hanging out with her old friends again, pretty much forgetting about me. They all deserve everything I did to them," she finished, her eyes glittering with malice.
"I get exactly where you're coming from," Toby told her, even though he really didn't. Revenge had never been a part of his nature; he hadn't wanted to torture anyone, even if they had tortured him first. He had really just wanted to be left alone. But he needed to sympathize with Mona and convince her that they were the same and that she could trust him.
"When I returned from reform school, I thought that I could just go back to living my normal life, but Alison's friends got in the way of that. They accused me of murder, which pretty much ostracized me from everyone in the entire town. Then, in the midst of it all, they found proof that I wasn't truly her killer, but they never stood up for me."
Toby had to blink back tears, his emotion coming from a very real place at this point. "They knew that I didn't kill her, Mona," he stated quite dramatically, "and they still let me go to JAIL. If the evidence hadn't gotten distorted, who knows how long they would have let me stay there? Probably for the rest of my life," he finished, bitingly.
But Spencer wouldn't have let that happen. They had become close at that point and she was searching for answers. She would have eventually found a way to save him, which was just one of the many things that were so great about her. She may have been wrong about him in the beginning, but once she changed her mind about a person, she never looked back. She was determined and fiercely loyal; she would have fought for him, just as he was resolved to do for her. Thinking about Spencer filled him with encouragement and he pushed forward into his next lie.
"Why do you think I even started dating Spencer in the first place?" Toby asked, a smirk growing in the corner of his mouth. "When she showed up on my doorstep for the first time, there was nothing I wanted to do more than throw her off my front porch. But I knew that I had a chance to get even if I could just play it right. I knew that if I could get her to trust me and become my friend, I could mess with her head."
Toby remembered the moment that she had shown up to tutor him as though it were yesterday. He had been surprised to see her and had felt rather guarded, but mostly just curious. She had told him that she believed he was innocent and that she thought they could help each other. They had bantered in French, sharing a few laughs that had meant the world to Toby, for he honestly couldn't remember the last time he had laughed with a friend at that point in time. He hated sharing that memory with Mona and distorting it into something ugly, but he knew he had to continue.
"And then she slowly became more than my friend," Toby said, grinning evilly, a movement that felt completely foreign to his face. "She fell for me and I tried my hardest to convince her that I was falling for her, too. She bought it, of course," he stated smugly, "because it's a year later and here we are."
"Well," Mona responded, smirking slightly, "I must say, I'm impressed. I didn't think you had it in you. But I have to ask. Now that you have her, what are you planning to do with her? As far as I can see, you haven't been anything other than the perfect boyfriend. What exactly are you waiting for?"
"Ali and her friends took everything from me," he replied softly. "But Spencer hasn't given me everything yet. That's what I've been waiting for."
Toby nearly made himself sick with the implication of what he was saying. He hadn't quite thought this all through and so the words that tumbled from his mouth were a desperate man's last attempt at proving himself. It was true that he and Spencer hadn't taken their relationship to next level yet, but that was for both their sakes. She wanted to wait until she was physically prepared; he, on the other hand, had wanted to wait until he was emotionally prepared. His first and last sexual experiences had been anything but loving, and so Toby was just as content as Spencer to take things slowly, but hearing these choices ridiculed on the tip of his very own tongue was almost more than he could bear.
"So that was your plan all along?" Mona asked, grinning patronizingly at him. "Love her and leave her? Pretty amateur."
"I know," Toby replied. "It really wasn't that solid of a plan. That's where you come in. I need your help just as much as you need mine. Don't you get it? Screwing with Spencer's feelings doesn't matter to me anymore. These girls destroyed me and they still don't feel any remorse. They deserve worse."
Toby gulped involuntarily, feeling a chill run through his body as he concluded his statement. "Broken bones instead of broken hearts," he sneered wickedly.
He and Mona stared at each other in silence for a long moment before she finally responded. "I think we can arrange something," she replied. "But you're going to have to do some things first…to prove yourself."
"I can do that," Toby said firmly.
"Come back tomorrow then," Mona told him.
Toby merely nodded before standing up. He took a few steps away from her before turning back and looking at her one more time. She was already in the same pose that she had been in when he had first entered the room, sitting stoically on the bed while her empty eyes gazed at some unknown object in the far-off distance. He left the room and immediately breathed a sigh of relief, pressing his face against the coldness of the wall in the empty corridor. He felt relieved that he had pulled this off, but at the same time he was more afraid than he had ever been in his life. He just needed to find out who else was involved in this game and what they were planning to do next. If he was aware of what was going on, if he was involved in what was going on, maybe he could stop it.
But he couldn't help but shudder as he wondered what exactly Mona would ask him to do in order to prove his loyalty.
"Where did you even get Maya's cell phone anyway?" Toby asked, as Mona placed it into his palm.
"I can't tell you all my secrets, now can I?" she laughed. "Leave something to the imagination."
Toby took a deep breath in order to relax his nerves, willing himself not to throttle her on the spot.
Mona sighed impatiently. "You know, we wouldn't even have to go through all this if the real killer would just fess up. But I guess that's not likely."
Toby stopped in the middle of the room, staring at her.
"What do you mean?" he asked. "You know who the real killer is?"
Mona waved her hand as though she was bored. "I thought you knew by now that I know everything," she sighed. "Poor Emily. I hope Nate doesn't kill her, too. I've grown rather fond of playing with her."
As Mona left the room, Toby felt his heart drop into the pit of his stomach. He knew that Emily was with Nate now; they had gone out of town in order to get away from the chaos of Garret's trial. He had to do something to warn her. If he didn't, he would never be able to forgive himself.
Yes, he thought, as he reached frantically for one of the A-team's many phones. I'm in way too deep.
A/N: So that was a bit longer than the other chapters, wasn't it? Guess I got carried away. If some of you aren't convinced that the A-team would accept Toby that easily, I'm with you on that one. It will all play out in due course. Thank you for reading and please review! Tell me what you liked and where you hope this story will go.