Title: The Cost
Disclaimers: I own nothing.
Author's Notes: Okay, so I've been watching PLL for a few months and just as I fall completely in love with Spoby and get caught up on everything, they do this to all of us Spoby fans. This is my first attempt at a PLL fic and I hope it will be all right. And I know this isn't the direction in which the show is going but it's where this story and I are going so I hope you enjoy!
"Love has been the cause
Of all this suffering."
-The Frames, The Cost
Spencer set her phone down on the coffee table and sank back on her couch with a sigh. She had been waiting for her mother and Melissa to get home so the three could drive to New York City where they had planned to spend a rare weekend together. Unfortunately, her mother had just phoned to tell Spencer that she had been called into an emergency meeting with her co-counsel in Pittsburgh where she was going to have to spend the weekend working on an upcoming case. Her mother had apparently already spoken to Melissa who in light of this news had decided to stay in Philly and catch up on her schoolwork and Spencer was suddenly looking at an unexpected free weekend. And with her father at a conference in California until the following Thursday, it was also another weekend alone.
As she sat there on the couch, the idea of spending yet another weekend alone in her big empty house became more and more unappealing to Spencer and she decided another change in plans was definitely in order. Toby was gone for the weekend doing some work in Bucks County but she knew where he hid the spare key to his loft and deciding that hanging out there alone was a hell of a lot better than hanging out at her house, she grabbed her bag and headed over to Toby's.
When she reached the door to her boyfriend's loft, she stretched up on her toes and ran her fingers along the top of the doorframe until they came in contact with the extra key. Smiling triumphantly to herself, she unlocked the door before replacing the key and letting herself in. Closing the door behind her, she stopped, taking a moment to inhale the scents of sawdust and Toby and coffee and home that surrounded her, immediately feeling the stress of the week melt away.
After a moment, she realized that the coffee smell was stronger than it would be were it just wafting up from the coffee shop below and when Spencer made her way into the small kitchen, she saw that there was a still warm pot of coffee sitting on the coffee maker. She couldn't stop the giddy smile that settled on her lips at the realization that Toby's weekend plans seemed to have been cancelled as well. Suddenly, the weekend was looking up. Deciding to surprise him, she headed into his bedroom to await his return.
Dropping her bag onto his bed, she flopped down into the comfortable overstuffed chair by the window, allowing herself a happy sigh at the thought of an unexpected weekend with her boyfriend. With both of their schedules being so incredibly busy lately, their time spent together had been kept to a minimum the past few weeks and Spencer was definitely looking forward to making up for lost time.
Something on the chair was jabbing into her hip and she reached under her to pull out the offending object. The soft cotton had been shoved into the chair in a lump and Spencer shook it out in front of her, barely noticing as something clattered to the floor, her eyes fixed on the item of clothing in front of her.
After all this time and the numerous articles of clothing Spencer had stolen from him, she was pretty familiar with the contents of Toby's wardrobe. She knew for a fact that she had never seen this black hoodie before. The thought that it might be someone else's was quickly quashed as Toby's well loved scent had enveloped her when she'd shaken it out.
She looked to the bedroom floor to see what had fallen and she froze, hoodie still hanging from her hands. An unfamiliar cell phone lay on the floor next to the chair. Cautiously, Spencer reached over the edge of the chair and picked it up. It definitely wasn't Toby's phone but the lack of identifying information on the screen and the necessity of a password made actually accessing whatever was in it or figuring out just whom it did belong to impossible.
A cold prickling feeling ran down the back of Spencer's neck and suddenly on edge, she quickly rose, shoving the phone back in the pocket of the hoodie and dropping the bundle on the chair.
It's just a phone. It's just a sweatshirt, she told herself, trying to push down the unsettled feeling in her stomach. Still, before she knew quite what she was doing, she made her way to Toby's dresser and began methodically going through each drawer.
Nothing was amiss in his dresser or in his closet, which she searched after finishing with the dresser, and as she turned to his desk, she tried to tell herself that she was being ridiculous, that all of the paranoia with A had finally driven her over the edge. This was Toby, her safe place to land, the one person in the world other than the girls that she could always trust to be honest with her. She was seeing danger where there was none.
Thousands if not millions of people had black hooded sweatshirts. And no, she didn't recognize the phone, but that didn't mean anything. It could be a phone Toby had gotten strictly for work. Or maybe it belonged to one of his coworkers and he had accidentally picked it up at work one day. Or maybe a coworker had forgotten it and Toby had picked it up for him. Toby was always doing little things like that, looking out for the people around him, she was sure that was all it was, just Toby being a nice guy.
The narrative racing through her brain, however, was not doing the trick and she slowly approached his desk, sitting down in the chair and sliding open the first drawer. The top drawer held pens and pencils, scraps of paper, bills, and a set of keys while the second drawer held an assortment of woodworking tools. The bottom drawer didn't budge and after a second, Spencer realized it was locked. Remembering the set of keys in the top drawer, Spencer pulled them from the drawer, sorting through the keys until she found a likely match and stuck it in the drawer's lock.
Her internal monologue telling her that she was acting crazy and should be ashamed of herself stopped abruptly as she opened the drawer to find a single manila envelope. Trying to still her suddenly shaky hands, Spencer reached into the drawer and pulled out the envelope, setting it on the desk.
Her brain screamed at her to put the envelope back and pretend she had never seen it but she felt as if she were no longer in control of her body as she bent the flap back and slowly turned the envelope upside down, emptying its contents on the desk top. A smaller envelope with familiar handwriting looked back at her and she forced herself to open it, pulling out a letter whose contents she already knew by heart.
She felt her throat close up, her body going numb as her brain refused to process the evidence before her. Since A had come into her life, there had been a number of terrifying, gut churning moments where Spencer's world had felt like it was about to turn upside down. This one left them all in the dust.
On autopilot, she returned the envelope to its original spot and relocked the drawer. Picking up her bag from the bed, she let herself out of the loft, locking the door behind her.
She didn't remember driving home but the next thing she knew, she was sitting on the couch in her living room. Somehow, she managed to get a text message out to her best friends. S.O.S.
It wasn't long before her phone beeped with a message. Aria. I'm with Em, we're on our way.
Spencer had no idea how long she had been sitting there before the back door opened and Aria and Emily came in. "Spencer?" Emily flicked on the overhead light, gasping slightly in surprise when she saw Spencer sitting motionless on the couch.
"Spencer, what is it? What happened?" Emily asked as the girls hurried to her, taking a seat on either side of her on the couch.
Spencer didn't even look at her friends. "Toby."
"What? What happened? Is he okay?" Emily asked, eyes wide.
"A," was all she could get out.
"Spencer, you're scaring me," Aria said, her voice beginning to rise in panic as she grabbed one of Spencer's hands. "What's going on?" Spencer finally turned to face her and Aria caught her breath at the empty look in her friend's eyes. "Spencer?" she asked again, her tone softening. "You can tell us anything, you know that."
Spencer nodded and she finally found her voice again, her voice devoid of any emotion. "Toby is working with A."
Aria gasped, her hand flying up to cover her mouth. Emily's mouth opened slightly but she made no sound as she stared at Spencer in horrified disbelief.
"Are, are you sure?" Aria finally managed to ask.
She explained how she had gone to his loft after her weekend plans had been cancelled and had found a black hoodie and strange cell phone in his bedroom.
"But Spence, lots of people have black hoodies," Aria pointed out reasonably. "And that phone might not even be his. It's probably not what you're thinking."
Spencer shook her head. "He has my letter."
"The letter I buried with Alison," she replied in a whisper.
Emily felt sick to her stomach. This couldn't really be happening, right? Toby was her friend, could he really be responsible for the horror the girls had endured over the past year and a half? Could he really have done such awful things to the girl he had professed to love?
"What did he say?" Aria spoke up, interrupting Emily's train of thought. "When you showed him?"
"He wasn't there," Spencer said. "He's supposed to be away working this weekend but that was a lie, too, I guess."
"Maybe you need to talk to him," Emily said gently.
Spencer shook her head again. "I can't, I can't." Her voice broke and Emily wrapped her arm around Spencer's shoulders, pulling her against her side as her friend took a shuddering breath and attempted to compose herself.
"Are your parents home this weekend? Or Melissa?" Spencer's older sister probably wouldn't be much of a comfort but Emily couldn't stand the thought of Spencer being alone after her world had just been so thoroughly shattered.
Spencer shook her head. "Just me," she replied, her gaze fixed on her feet.
Aria and Emily exchanged a look before Aria picked up her phone. "We're going to Hanna's for the weekend," she decided, punching in their blonde friend's number before Spencer could object.
"Hanna, we're coming over," Aria informed their friend when she picked up. "We'll explain when we get there." Hanging up the phone, she rose and turned back to Emily and Spencer on the couch. "I'm going to grab a few things for you for the weekend, okay, Spence?" Aria asked.
Still staring at the floor, Spencer nodded and after sharing another quick glance with Emily, Aria hurried upstairs to Spencer's bedroom.
The room was silent for a few moments, Aria's actions upstairs the only sound in the large house, until Spencer finally spoke.
"How, Em?" she whispered.
"I know," Emily said, tightening the arm that was wrapped around Spencer and rubbing her arm soothingly. How could they both have been so wrong about a guy they had thought they'd known so well?
"Was any of it ever real?"
Emily felt her heart break for her friend at the plaintive question and she held Spencer tighter, trying to offer her suffering friend what comfort she could.
Aria returned moments later with an overnight bag and wordlessly, the three girls piled into Emily's car and headed over to Hanna's.
Hanna must have heard the car because she opened the door before the girls had even reached her front porch. "I'm so sorry, I left my phone upstairs. We just needed really needed some time off from A for a night," she added quietly. Seeing Spencer blanch at her last statement, Hanna's eyebrows furrowed in concern. "What's going on? Are you okay, Spence?"
Emily held up a hand, signaling to Hanna to hold off on the questions for the moment as she led Spencer inside. The group made their way to the living room where Emily seated Spencer on the couch before sitting down next to her. Aria perched on the arm of the couch and Hanna and Caleb sat down in the oversized chair across from them.
"Okay, now can someone tell me what's going on?" Hanna asked impatiently.
Emily and Aria exchanged a look and Aria opened her mouth to speak but Spencer beat her to it. "Toby is part of the A team," she said, her voice barely above a whisper.
Hanna's eyes widened and she gripped Caleb's arm. "What? That can't, no, that's not possible. He wouldn't do that. He loves you, Spence."
Seeing the distraught expression on Spencer's face, Caleb decided to intervene. "Can you tell us what happened, Spencer?" he asked, his voice gentler than the girls were used to hearing it.
Fighting to keep her voice steady, Spencer once again explained how she had gone over to Toby's loft, not expecting him to be home, and had discovered the strange hoodie and cellphone. "And when I looked in his desk, I found the letter I buried with Ali," she finished quietly.
Emily sighed. "I know it looks bad, Spencer, but what if A did this? I still think you should talk to him, give him a chance to explain."
"What? No way!" Hanna objected, her disbelief in Toby's guilt clearly having done a complete 180. "What's to explain? He has her letter, Em. He's on the A team, it's not safe for her to go talk to him. Who knows how long this has been going on? He could have had something to do with Garrett! Or even Ali."
Emily paled as Spencer lurched to her feet, covering her hand with her mouth as she raced from the room.
"Hanna!" Aria scolded as she jumped up and hurried after her friend, the others following closely behind.
"What? It's not like I was the only one thinking it," Hanna defended herself as they stopped outside the downstairs bathroom.
Joining her in the bathroom, Emily held Spencer's hair back, securing it with a hair tie from her wrist and rubbing gentle circles on her friend's back. As Spencer emptied the contents of her stomach into the toilet, the four friends exchanged worried looks. What the hell were they going to do now?