A/N: This is incest – don't like it, don't read it. Also, spoilers for 3x14.
rid your bones
my heart is breaking for my sister and the con that she called "love"
some nights ––fun
Now more than ever, the world is unraveling around Spencer. Everyone always lies but lately there's been an excess of deceits and cheats, springing up from places she never knew existed. A small cover up here and there she can process – hell, that's what she's been doing for years and years – but once it's clear Alison blackmailed Aria's dad so he must be involved with her death somehow and her boyfriend has been creeping about in one of those terrible black hoodies, she officially becomes a tragedy, and unresolved feelings for her brother don't even come close to making her current list of things that are going wrong.
She spends approximately two sick days in bed attempting to hide and feel sorry for herself, not answering any texts because it's pointless. The girls say that they understand but she doesn't think anyone can possibly understand the feeling of her heart being ripped from her body piece by piece and coming to terms with the shocking truth that she put her trust in a catalyst of a much bigger game entirely. It is only when they declare a state of emergency, nearly breaking into her house to announce that there's pizza and movies and three best friends who will love her no matter what waiting downstairs that she emerges from the depths of her room, hair unbrushed, pajama-clad, and makeup-less.
For a terrible second, Spencer is overwhelmed by the notion that slapping them and screaming something incoherent about how they would be dealing if it was Ezra or Caleb or Paige implicated in such crimes – but that too is useless, because it is not the same when it comes to the girls' significant others. They are completely innocent, and Toby is not. She doesn't know whether to pity or envy Aria and Hanna and Emily for it, so she begins to cry and they hold her and it doesn't fix anything, not a single thing, and all her inner turmoils go untouched.
Running takes a form of stress relief until she remembers that she used to run with Toby. She takes a break from it for only a single day before starting again in the mornings, after her last class of the afternoon, on the weekends, whenever she can. She is thrilled by the miles of forest trails and unexplored city limits ahead of her, because she finds the only way to get over the bullshit is to leave it behind.
"I'll go with you," Emily offers sympathetically when her parents actually allow her out of the house, but Spencer constantly refuses. She knows she has to be alone when she sprints through all the adversities she's encountered, running past being in Melissa's shadow, Alison dying, Aria lying, Toby apparently being her one true everything, and she welcomes the danger of pushing herself harder and faster considering there's nothing left to fall apart about.
She wants to be rid of hollowness forever, make it a victim of her rather than the other way around. She would give anything to go back in time to fix things, though when faced with the power, how far she would dare to go is certainly conflicting – would she prefer to not meet Toby, not be brought up in Rosewood, or not be born at all?
If she's truthful with herself, the answer is none of the above, because this is the dealing of cards that makes her stronger. She recognizes that no one can be trusted and begins to use it to her own benefit. There is a wildness raging inside her that she can't put a name to, leading her to crave someone else to cross her path even mildly negatively – she wishes for it more, deep down, as the days blur by, because she would not hesitate to set said enemy aflame and watch them burn agonizingly slow just as she did. So she keeps running, because she will find someone to destroy one day not too far off the horizon.
Turning the corner towards her house, she freezes steady, eyes locked on a figure she can't miss. Don't look at me with those sad, sad eyes, she thinks, spotting Jason on his porch and trying to walk past without stopping. She is out of breath, a mess of sweat and dried up tears and blood caked around her ankles and knees and mind and all she can process is, Please don't look at me like that. She doesn't need him, she's convinced herself, since he is just another person to distrust that she happens to share a blood bond with.
"Spencer," he calls out, hundreds of syllables left unsaid after she's pushed him away for weeks on end, "Spencer, wait. We need to talk. Just hear me out once, please."
"Not until you tell me why you keep sneaking around with Mona," she insists, her sneakers still and silent in the grass just like they were when she'd observed them together for the first time, "We can talk when you stop lying and start telling me what she has against you that you're being forced into talking to her! I know there's something, Jason. You wouldn't be doing all of this otherwise. I know –" her voice breaks, "Why can't you just tell me?"
"Because I can't," he answers solemnly, and the sentence is barely spoken before she's bolted again, across the street, door slammed, phone switched off, window curtains drawn with his voice ringing on repeat inside her head – Spencer, I'm sorry. I love you, Spencer. Listen to me, please. Spencer, wait. She desperately yearns to respond to all of the above, but she has searched herself thoroughly and although her bones are straining under the weight of Jason's words and the brief realization that it isn't Toby's betrayal causing her this kind of emptiness, she has absolutely nothing left to say anymore.
She is on her front lawn, tying up her laces and tightening her ponytail in preparation for an evening jog, when she notices and her heart sinks deeper than she believed it ever could. Jason is not alone outside his front door, because there beside him sits Mona, looking increasingly as if she's asking to be slapped by someone who can stare into her seemingly innocent eyes and not get caught up in her web of obfuscation. Naturally, Spencer is drawn closer to the DiLaurentis home to scope the situation out, making no effort to be subtle when she interrupts the conversation at hand by clearing her throat loudly.
Jason shakes his head at her. It's a tiny movement, one that Mona could never catch because she doesn't know him like Spencer knows him – she has memorized the lines where he starts and ends, learned to differentiate between the gestures he gives to indicate sorrow or joy, hope or despair, even when he doesn't speak at all.
"Hi Spencer," Mona greets, her smile overly sweet, "It's really late to go for a run, isn't it?"
"You can go now," Spencer snaps back, skipping formalities as quickly as she can, "I'm here to talk to Jason about something, and frankly you're not invited to listen in."
"You should've thought about that before you invited yourself to listen to our conversation," the other girl quips, and Jason is quiet – too quiet – and Spencer is beyond the point of return regardless, so when she bounds up the steps confidently and hits Mona across the face, she doesn't regret it even a little bit, especially not when Jason grabs her arm to prevent her from doing more damage.
"Get out of here, Mona," she adds icily, struggling to escape her brother's grasp because she has to at least make an attempt to pretend, "And don't come back."
"Please, Spencer," Jason whispers, only loud enough that she can hear as his breath tickles the skin under her ear, "Calm down."
Mona stares at them, her cheek growing a shade of red that won't be mistaken by anyone who asks as anything other than a good slap. "Everyone falls off their pedestal sooner or later," she backtracks from the porch, glancing over her shoulder at Jason a suspicious number of times that leads Spencer to conclude she deserves to be hit another once or twice, "You'll learn to live with it."
Spencer nearly lunges forward again but Jason holds her back, and she eases up slightly when Mona is out of sight. He loosens his grip on her and she spins around, upset for no particular reason because no reason in the universe would sound right on her lips.
"How can you not care?" she demands manically, wanting to shake him when he avoids her eyes, "Mona is walking all over you and giving me sass and you don't have anything to say about it? She's using you, Jason, and I don't know exactly for what but I'm trying to figure it out so I can save you from it and you don't care. Look at me! How can you not care when I care about you?"
"I care," he interjects, looking at her finally with the saddest smile she's ever seen, "I care too much. That's the problem."
And there it is, every time, wired the same with identical impulses coursing through their veins that they can't escape. One of them runs and one of them hides in plain sight but neither can evade the laws of genetics and instinct.
He hugs her, then, and it should be unexpected and unwelcome after all the space she's put between them, but it's not. It should be akin to the safe yet unhelpful comfort of hugging the girls, she contemplates with her fingers fisted in his shirt as she lets out sobs that threaten to wake the dead from their graves, pain flowing from every nerve in her body that is enough to last him and her combined a lifetime of misery, but it's not.
"I know," he murmurs hesitantly into her hair, "I know."
"When was the last time you ate?" comes a voice from the den the following Saturday as she directs her feet to the kitchen to make eggs and toast for two. She can sense his presence behind her suddenly, and her eyes fill up but she drowns down everything but bottled up animosity – How could you do this to me? – torn between kneeing him where it'll hurt and laughing at the absurdity of his fake concern.
You look awful, she imagines him adding when things were alright, What's wrong, Spencer? What's bothering you that you won't even eat? Silence surrounds her until the walls threaten to cave in if she doesn't speak up for herself, so instead of running, she turns around to face him.
"How the hell did you get into my house?" she shoots back, mildly entertaining the idea of stabbing him with the nearest knife that lays conveniently within her reach on the counter. Her eyes flick up to his right eye, which is blue and bruised, forgetting for a split second that she shouldn't want to reach up and ask if it hurts. She hates him but the role she has to play remains fresh, and she prays to some unknown god that she won't slip up in the midst of nostalgia and memories of what never was what it seemed.
"I'm out on bail, Spencer. Melissa let me in –" of course she did, Spencer fumes as she subtly lays two fingers on the knife, her name sounding a million shades of wrong on his tongue, "– I wanted to talk to you." He puts a hand on her shoulder, and she flinches away.
"Hands off, Toby," she says furiously, making a mental note to talk to her mother about how habeas corpus can be applied to fugitives under arrest when there's significantly incriminating evidence against them, "There's nothing to talk about. You need to leave."
"Hear me out –" he begins, and she cuts him off by picking up the knife and yielding it dangerously close to his face.
"Don't even try." Before she can move forward to forcefully kick him out, however, there are footsteps coming down the stairs and she involuntarily breathes a sigh of relief.
Jason's lack of a shirt is noticeable on its own and Spencer's gaze lingers a few moments too long. Toby's eyes follow Jason as he stands between him and Spencer, maintaining nonchalance though she knows a lot better – it's so obvious in the firm line of his jaw, stare unwavering and arms crossed that he doesn't care what he might end up doing today, and Spencer puts the knife down and wishes her heart wouldn't beat so fast at the fact that no one knows him to his utter core like she does.
"Just stay," she'd pleaded the previous night after a long-winded conversation in her room about whether he was in over his head regarding the search for Alison's killer, and so he had, albeit reluctantly when it came to them sharing a bed. Upon waking up that morning to his arm draped over her waist and the soft rise and fall of his chest so nearby it made her soul ache, it became less of a mistake and more of a new reality that she could actually hold on to.
"Cavanaugh," Jason says icily, "Your right eye is looking lonely. Do you want the left to be black, too?"
"Don't push it, Jason," Toby retorts in an undertone that makes Spencer feel that the knife could still come to good use. He tries to make eye contact with her, and she ignores the gesture, standing straight and tall behind Jason – her brother who happened to punch Toby sometime recently without her knowledge of it. It's too surreal to be true, but Toby leaves not a minute later and it must be true, she thinks, making sure to call Rosewood prison that night with a decent impersonation of Mrs. Hastings to inquire when Toby Cavanaugh will be behind bars again.
The text she receives immediately after is inevitable, but she still has to bite back a scream.
Sleeping with your brother and expecting it to stay a secret, Spencer? Not the smartest thing you've done this year.
Third period biology the week leading up to midterms, and she's tired. A strange anxiousness overcomes her and she asks to be excused, making her way to the school parking lot. It's as if her car starts and drives and pulls into Jason's driveway of its own accord. There are things happening around her, like Aria's Ezra and Maggie problems and Hanna's Mona and Lucas dilemmas and Emily's parents practically being dictators, and she tunes it all out. Something annoying at the back of her brain that may or may not be her conscience nags that she is selfish and a horrible friend, but she can't help it.
"You should consider getting a job," she walks into his house without knocking, smiling ever so slightly as he meets her half-way from the living room, "Or something to get you out of town for a while. You'll go crazy if you keep staying for long periods of time."
"Who'll look after you when I'm gone?" he asks, subdued and quiet, and she's wrong and he's right, because she's the one who would go crazy without him around. Neither of them say it. "Shouldn't you be in class?"
"I guess," she shrugs, "I can't. It's too much all at once. Aria and Hanna and Emily have their own issues and I haven't told anyone about us and at the same time everyone knows about Toby –"
"Stop thinking about Toby," he commands, and though she detests him and what he did to her, it's so difficult not to, "That's all in your past, Spencer. Take it from someone who knows – thinking about it over and over won't change anything. You're just hurting yourself."
She pauses, takes his hand, and nods. "I want –" she starts, but he ends the thought before she's even begun.
"It's impossible," he says, and yet their fingers are intertwined and he hasn't made any objection to the topic of us, "That's causing you extra stress. Don't think about it."
"But I want you to be happy. You deserve it, Jason."
"It would make me happy if you relaxed and stopped thinking about things that you shouldn't be thinking about twenty-four seven."
"Sorry," she sighs, the warmness of his hand providing a security that's been foreign for quite some time, "I'm sorry."
He offers her coffee to break the tension and she agrees, her phone simultaneously vibrating in her jean pocket. She stays rooted in place, throwing a quick, "I'll be there in a sec," to her brother in the kitchen, and once she reads the text she wishes she hadn't even woken up that morning.
"Can I ask you something?" she ventures towards the coffee pot, focusing her attention on it and how Jason is her brother and he cares about her and he loves her because that's the way they are. Jason could never hurt her, she reminds herself, but people will try to sabotage their relationship because it's hard to get to either of them when they have each other to lean on. That's why the ghost of the text sitting in her pocket is asking her to question the motives of the DiLaurentis clan in greater detail – nothing more, nothing less.
"Of course," he says expectantly, giving her a curious look, "What is it? You look really pale. Are you okay?"
"Why were you there?" she inquires in a rush, disregarding her doubts to take a careful look at him, "On Halloween. Why were you on that train? You never told me, and I think I know what Mona has on you. You promised to never lie to me. So why this? Why now?"
"Spencer," he sounds hollow, extremely similar to her, "There's a reason I can't tell you."
There is an itch beginning to form on her insides, like she will never be whole again. "What reason?"
"You'll be in danger if I tell you," he replies hopelessly, leaning forward to console her somehow, "Please just trust me."
She takes a few steps back – one too many for him to truly believe that he can fix this. "Promise me you didn't know," she pleads suddenly, "About Toby. About everything."
She hears nothing but the droning of the coffee that no one will drink. And then – "I was trying to protect you."
"Well, you obviously didn't try hard enough," she bites back the tears behind her eyes and it's a futile effort because the sanctuary she's built for herself has tumbled down around them in mere seconds, "You were the only one I thought I could trust, Jason! Why would you do this? You didn't think that protecting me would include filling me in on how my boyfriend was the psychopath that has been hell-bent on destroying my life for the past two and a half years? Did that thought not even cross your mind?"
He opens his mouth to respond, but she's already gone. He catches her long prior to the door shutting, features worn down by age and grief and anger over unnecessary messes he's gotten himself into.
"Stop running," he says slowly, arm blocking her exit route, "I can explain everything, but only if you stop. How long will you run, Spencer? Are you going to run from this, too? From me?"
"Yes," she lies, not bothering to wipe away the stream of tears on her cheeks, "Running from you is the only thing in my control."
"You can run from me forever," he tells her before he lets her go, "But you can never outrun yourself."
A/N: All I have to say for myself is that I cried at least three times while writing this. Don't even look at me.
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