A/N: Hello McHastings readers and lovers. Sorry it's been such a long time since I last updated, grad school is a killer. We pick up right where we left off and we get into some heavy stuff so just a warning for possible triggers. Hopefully I'll be updating more regularly, as often as I can, this one's a little short. Reviews/feedback always help : )

Ignescent Part IV

Spencer slept for hours, late into the afternoon before finally waking to face reality again. Although she was groggy upon opening her eyes, she didn't quite understand how she had made it from the basement to her bed. Turning over she found Paige reading her copy of The Bell Jar. Ironic, she thought to herself. Paige finished reading the page she was on, dog-earing the page and placing it down onto the bedside table. Paige turned to Spencer, searching her face, searching for any hit if Spencer was okay, searching her eyes, grasping at words she could not compose into sentences to comfort this strongly broken girl. Spencer was the first to break their silence "Hey" she whispered, "Hey" responded Paige. If it weren't for the obvious tension in the air Spencer would have preferred to have Paige whisper all sorts of things in her trademark rasp, something she had always found incredibly attractive. She gazed into those chocolate eyes and wished herself away. Spencer rolled closer to Paige and buried herself against her body, eventually forcing her pulse to match Paige's, forced her breaths to slow, fighting back all tears.

"You carried me all the way up here didn't you?" she probed into Paige's skin, aching to get closer than humanly possible, already assuming the answer. All Paige could do was shake her head, not wanting to relive the details of seeing Spencer collapse like the contents of a burning house. Spencer was amazed at Paige's strength, truly amazed, they were basically the same height, but Spencer always felt taller, and was sure her dead weight was awkward on the two flight trip to her bed. Imagining how she must have looked slumped in Paige's arms made her self-conscious and nervous. But as quickly as her nervousness began, she forced it to subside; she needed to face the fact that her safety was violated and privacy very much compromised. It was a feeling that made her stomach turn and feel light headed, it was a feeling that Spencer had grown used to in her life, and continuously consumed her.

"Has the power come back on?" she asked, getting right to the heart of it, talking herself into facing the situation like ripping off a band-aid, the slower it takes, the more it hurts. She had allowed herself, if one could say "allowed", to break down, but she needed to find the truth out about the situation that would consume her thoughts, starting in the basement.

She had always been petrified of the dark basement though, more than irrational fear, it held dark memories of her childhood that she had built herself upon. How a child builds a solid foundation on trauma to base the rest of their adult life, was beyond Spencer. It was like trying to form a foundation on hot, dry sands: impossible. Memories of her earlier life often haunted her in the depths of the night, sometimes during her classes or at lunch, most times when she was unbelievably down and depressed. It was like fuel that added to her smoldering coal in her chest. If she was having a bad day, she knew she had the ability to intensify her pain by just remembering, something that no one should ever have to go through.

It was also something that Spencer denied to herself for so many years, she knew she wouldn't even believe herself, if she acknowledged the truth. Spencer had hidden memories in the back of her mind like discarded garments in the back of a closet, rarely accessed and even more rarely worn.

She was nine the first time she encountered her father's drunken associates from rowdy basement poker games. Driven by curiosity, she woke up to loud laughter and shrills emanating from the basement on more than one occasion but had never collected up enough nerve to leave the safety of her four poster bed. One particular Saturday night she was more bothered by the noise and commotion then she had even been. She was curious. She wanted to find out why her father preferred spending time with anyone but her.

Sneaking downstairs from the second floor in her pajama dress she peaked around corners only to find one of her father's associates slumped on the stairs blocking her way down to the basement, the older man looking dead to the nine year old. His breathing was so shallow that she was sure of her assumption, yet the curiosity always killed the cat, and Spencer needed to know if there was a dead man on her basement steps.

Tiptoeing to the man she recognized as a man that worked with her father, she gently touched his face with her pointer finger to see if she would procure a reaction. And with as much surprise as she could imagine, he opened his eyes and grunted at Spencer. Turning around she quickly dashed back up the stairs until he caught her ankle. In an angry and drunken state he grabbed her, causing her to slip down the stairs, chest hitting hardwood stoop. Carrying her down into the basement he then proceeded to introduce her to the rest of the drunken poker players as "the little snitch" and for what seemed hours held her to his lap while they continued to play and drink. He father laughed along with the rest of the monsters and turned a blind eye when her captor kissed her repeatedly.

She felt dirty for days and months afterwards, years of anger had built up within her hollow shell. Her pain shook her muscles, the contraction of blood and tissue, and ached within her bones. She resented the fact that he never once attempted to protect his youngest daughter, that he was able to call those men his friends and often invited them back to the house for years after. She fought for so long to forget the ways he had made her feel. She hated herself more for being so curious, for wanted to know more, for thinking she was older and more sophisticated then she was.

And while a storm of gale force winds played across Spencer's eyes all Paige could do was sit and watch. Paige knew that Spencer had gone through something without even knowing what. For years she practiced controlling her own emotions, as to not invite unwanted company probing into her head, and she knew well enough that Spencer was playing the same games with her. And although she felt pangs of sadness for the beautiful girl lying next to her, she knew they both needed time.

Today would not be the day to share with Paige, but she felt that she could obviously trust her, trust her with her life and her shed tears. Paige felt different than anyone she had been with, not just because she was a woman, but because she had trusted Spencer enough to bare her scars, to accept Spencer as she was, never ripping into her for answers that she didn't even know the answers to. Paige was different from anyone she knew, in the way she touched her, in the way she made her feel safe, the way she bore her soul without words, the way she searched her face with those dark brown eyes that held so much of her together.

Rolling even closer to Paige, Spencer outstretched her arms and allowed Paige to engulf her body with in a warm embrace. Wearing only Paige's button up and Paige only wearing a t-shirt, Spencer aligned her body so that their hearts were parallel to each other. She was fighting off the demons in her head and was grappling to the only thing that made her feel safe again. Paige kissed the top of Spencer's head as she found a pocket of space between the mattress and Paige's shoulder. She could have laid there forever just listening to her breathing and her pulse, until Paige's stomach interrupted the moment with a loud growl.

It had been hours since their attempted breakfast and Paige hadn't noticed exactly how hungry she had become until that moment. Rousing from her snuggle spot Spencer motioned to the doorway, "I guess we should eat something before we starve huh?" Nodding at the girl's suggestion, Paige untangled their limbs and made her way to Spencer's closet, it was going to be chilly since they hadn't turned the heat on since before they had gotten home last night. It was weird but Paige had already begun to think of Spencer's bedroom as home. Unknown to her, the only place that Spencer was feeling home was in her arms.

Grabbing a sweater for Spencer and a Shark's hoodie for herself, Paige dressed the two of them. Making their way down to the kitchen this time less exciting as it had been in the morning, but was more full of purpose and need. Leading Spencer downstairs by holding just pinkies, Paige sat her down on the couch and proceeded to start a fire on the fire place, and then began working on breakfast which was now being served at two thirty in the afternoon.

Spencer laid on the couch and let Paige take care of her. Wrapping herself in a blanket she watched the auburn hair girl prepare tea, scrambled eggs and bacon on the gas stove. Getting lost in the moment, she forgot about everything that was going on and drifted to watching the snow fall. The smell of bacon and eggs filled the kitchen and for the first time Spencer was as hungry as Paige. Setting the island, Spencer joined Paige in the kitchen.

The two ate in a comfortable silence and then decided that they should maybe venture outside to shovel the driveway. Afternoon breakfast was enjoyable and Spencer cleaned up the dishes while Paige threw a few more logs into the fire place. The room was beginning to warm up and just as Spencer made her way from the dishwasher to the couch, Paige jumped up with a wild look in her eyes. "Alright Hastings, let's get geared up. We've got an adventure to go on." she explained. Much to her dismay Spencer would have liked to snuggle on the couch all afternoon and into the evening, next to the girl she was falling hard for, but she understood that she couldn't torture the ever active swimmer with immobility any longer.

"What do you have in mind?" queried Spencer with a half smirk on her mouth. "You'll see, but we're going to have to bundle up first."