a/n: okay so i'm now four days behind and going to try desperately to catch up! i'm sorry, this week suddenly got incredibly busy and wow i hope this won't happen again.
this one is for bianca (nyanca on tumblr) for day four who requested spencer/toby and i utterly did my best, i swear, but spencer/toby is not at all my forte and spencer/jason crept in around the edges i'm really sorry i just otp
winter queens don't dream of summer
Some days, dangerous days, Spencer has Toby's face above her but it looks far too much like someone else's. She loves him, she loves him, she loves him and she'll tell herself that again and again and again because it's the only real option here.
(She loves him but his nose is too big against her neck, his fingers too short on her hips, his voice all wrong when it murmurs her name.)
It's sort of like playing a part, except she's half really feeling it and the whole thing is so horribly confusing that it's easier to cling to rationality. Toby is good, Toby is kind, Toby loves her and he will always love her and he is the only choice. So basically sometimes she's pretending she loves him and the other half of the time she actually loves him and there are these moments when she gets caught between the two feelings and she has to press the heels of her hands against her eyes until stars bloom across the backs of her eyelids.
"I love you," she tells him, often enough that he asks if she's okay, and she laughs and ducks her head and replies, of course, of course, I'm always okay. She's Spencer and she's always okay and having dreams where she's in bed with a boy who's only him half of the time is okay, too. It's okay. She's okay.
By the third anniversary of Ali's death, Spencer feels a hundred years old. She stands at the grave with Toby's arm around her shoulders and the weight of it feels like suffocation. Not the sweet kind, either, not like his arm, his hands on her throat, feather-light, planet-heavy, demanding, demanding.
("You're not okay, Spencer! You're not okay, stop saying that, you're not, God, stop saying it! You're not fine and you're not okay, you're not." "I'm fine, Jason, I'm okay. I'm fine.")
But she links her fingers with Toby's because she loves him and she's okay and her life is going to get better, before long.
Aria figures it out first. She turns up on Spencer's doorstep, fists hard against the front door.
"It's Toby, Spence! Spencer, you have to believe me, it's Toby, I saw him, you know he went to see Mona, we saw him, and the records, and Wren said, and then I saw him. I saw him, Spencer! Spencer!"
By the time Aria gets in, Spencer is curled up against the kitchen counter with the breath so hard in her chest it feels like it'll kill her, a black hoody tight in bleeding hands.
"I know," she gasps in between sobs, "I know. I'm okay."
Aria runs for help and three guesses who the nearest person is—in one, congratulations.
"Calm down," he tells her, and the tone is fierce enough to make her listen. A hand finds her heartbeat, long-fingered, digging in just a little too sharply. "Breathe, Spencer."
She tries. His hand on her heart, his thighs under her spine, his arms around her like freedom. She loves Toby but Toby has betrayed her worse than she could imagine and today feels like a dangerous day. All her days may be dangerous now. So she finds his eyes with her own and fixes them there, breathing calming, oxygen feeling less like cyanide in her lungs.
"I wish," she says, but his finger rushes to her lips before she can finish.
"Never say it, Spencer," he orders in a whisper, head craning back to see who's standing nearby, "Don't say it, please."
"But—" she begins, and he just shakes his head and draws her head into his chest and cradles her there like holding her long enough will turn time around.
The girls sleep with her that night, all four of them crammed into the one bed, end-over-end like puppies in a basket. Spencer can feel Aria's breath against her hair and Hanna's arm over her midriff and she feels so many things she wonders that she can think at all.
Toby, Toby, Toby. First loves are the hardest, her mother has always said. Harder still when you love them and they love you but they betray you all the same.
"It's like Romeo and Juliet," Hanna says the next morning over coffee, the three of them wearing expressions like somebody's just died, but Hanna determined nonetheless to try to make Spencer feel better, "He didn't really want to be involved but he had to be. Kind of romantic. Twisted obviously. But still."
"Hanna," Aria replies, wearing an expression so incredulous Spencer almost feels like laughing, wow, "Have you even read Romeo and Juliet?"
Hanna makes a face and Spencer can feel the smile rising, what, how, "Well, I watched the film with Leonardo DiCaprio in. Sort of. I fell asleep halfway through."
And that is that. Spencer bursts out laughing, half hysterically, and the others have to take half an hour to calm her down again. In the end, what does it is him coming in to check up and pressing three fingers to her cheek, face serious.
"Calm down, Spencer."
("Wow," Aria whispers to her later that afternoon, when they're in bed watching 27 Dresses, Hanna's sort of film, "I wish I had a brother like that."
Spencer would laugh again if she didn't feel so sick.)
"Let Toby go," he says to her a month later. They are in his bedroom, somewhere she gravitates nowadays without really thinking about it. That's probably wrong but it's okay because if it's wrong to start with it can't get worse, unlike everything else in the world.
"I can't," she whispers, face down, hair hanging between them. "I love him, Jason."
"Then stop," he orders, firmly enough to be a trifle intimidating, "He tried to kill you, Spencer."
"I know," she murmurs, pressing her fists to her forehead, "But if I stop loving him then I have to think about how I feel about you and that isn't okay. Not even a little bit."
"I'm your brother, Spencer," he replies, after a long enough silence that Spencer has begun to contemplate jumping out of the window. She smiles where he can't see it and then rolls over, elbow bumping against his, and sighs deeply.
Toby goes to jail, no defence offered. He catches Spencer's eyes across the courtroom and mouths, "I'm sorry. I love you."
Spencer is so caught between mouthing it back and turning away that before she has time to do either he is gone and she is staring at the backs of security guards. She is still standing there when Jason's fingers find her cheeks, brushing the tears there roughly away, and then he slings an arm around and draws her away gently.
"I don't know what to do," she bursts out as soon as they are in his car, and he just sighs and draws her into his arms as messy sobs erupt from somewhere deep inside her, expression desperate. "What are you supposed to do in this sort of situation?"
"Breathe, Spencer," he says firmly, "That's what you do. Breathe. Hope it gets better."
"How can it?" she murmurs into the thin fabric of his t-shirt. He doesn't answer, and Spencer sobs harder at the feeling of his lips against the top of her head. What guide is there for dealing with things like this?
"I'm okay," she says finally, pushing herself away, brushing angrily at her cheeks and not looking at him as she straightens her clothes and pats her hair down, Spencer In Control.
"Good," he says as he switches the car on, wrapping an arm around the back of her seat to reverse, "Because I'm not."
She looks at him then, and he looks at her, and she can feel the air beginning to drown her lungs again. So she twists her head awkwardly to press a kiss to his knuckles, letting her cheek rest there, feeling his gaze hot against the back of her head.
"Let's just go," she whispers, "Right now. Anywhere. You and me. Far away from here."
There is silence from the driver's seat.
And then, "I've always wanted to go to Paris."
Spencer smiles against the back of his hand, kisses his fingers, pushes Toby as far down as he'll go.
a/n: oh god i'm so sorry this sucked so completely ahhh