Title: The Cost
Disclaimers: I own nothing
Author's Notes: Thank you all so much for reading, reviewing, favoriting, or following. I really, really appreciate it more than I can say. Now again, I know this isn't where the show is going as far as the Toby is A storyline but it's where I wanted to take it and I hope you enjoy. Thank you for reading!
"There's some days
I can't get out of bed 'cause
When I'm awake I'm reminded
Of what it's like without you.
But every other second passes
And I'm expected to be some paragon of strength
Well let's hope I make it through this week."
- Inspection 12, Again
Emily and Paige were waiting for them at Hanna's house and Spencer realized that Aria or Hanna must have texted them to tell that about her run in with Toby. Not up for recounting what had happened a second time, she left the others to fill the couple in while she shut herself in Hanna's bedroom. And while her concerned friends discussed the situation and tried to figure out how to best handle things and help her, Spencer lay on Hanna's bed, her motionless body in stark contrast to the chaotic thoughts racing through her head, her mind unable to stop and focus on any one particular thought for more than a few seconds.
It was all true, she finally admitted to herself. He hadn't denied her accusations, only told her she didn't understand while her world had crumbled down around her. What was there to understand? He had betrayed her, had shown her that she didn't really know him at all.
It would have been easier if he hadn't been the sweet, wonderful Toby that she'd fallen in love with, if he had been different somehow, she thought as tears began to pool in her eyes. But he had looked at her with those beautiful blue eyes she had gazed into a thousand times before and he had told her that he loved her and remembering that somehow made her already shattered heart break all over again.
She had allowed herself to be so vulnerable with him, letting him see her completely naked in more ways than one as she shared things with him she had never told anyone, not even her best friends. But all of those personal things she had told him, he had only been collecting them, storing them up to use against her, she realized now.
How? Her mind kept asking. How was it possible that this had happened, that what she had thought was a beautiful, devoted, loving relationship had all been a lie?
All of those nights he had held her, keeping away the demons and the darkness and the nightmares. How was it possible that in fact he was the nightmare? How had she not seen what was right in front of her? She hadn't been lying when she'd told him he was a hell of an actor. He had played his part in all of this perfectly; she had never suspected a thing.
There had been a time when she had believed all of the rumors about Toby, a time she, too, had believed he had murdered one of her best friends. That had all changed the first time she ever saw him cry. Cold-blooded murderers didn't cry alone in deserted alleyways just because people insulted them or because little children ran away rather than cross their path. She had been so sure of that. But apparently she had been wrong because now it seemed that that vulnerable, broken persona had just been an act, one more lie on his part.
Unbidden, her mind flashed back to a conversation she had once had with her late brother in law about Toby, long before she had even really known the blue eyed boy.
"Don't tell me you're falling for that silent martyr crap," Ian said disgustedly. "You can't believe a thing that creep says."
"Well, Toby Cavanaugh hasn't cornered the market on lying."
How had Ian of all people been right and Spencer herself so very, very wrong? Because Spencer had fallen for it. And for Toby. And in the end, the one she had loved beyond reason, the one she had honestly thought she would end up spending her life with, the one she had trusted, had turned out the be the biggest liar of them all.
Her friends understood that she was hurting and that she wanted some time to herself but they also refused to allow her to isolate herself completely. At various points over the next two days they tried to get her to eat and to talk about what had happened. When her phone began ringing and then beeping with text messages and voicemails, Hanna plucked the phone from Spencer's bag, informing her that Caleb would take care of it.
And while Spencer honestly did appreciate the care and concern of her friends, all she really wanted was to be left alone to attempt to figure things out.
When her mother texted Spencer early Sunday afternoon to tell her she would be home from Pittsburgh that evening, Spencer was finally able to convince her friends to let her return to her own home. Despite their initial protests, Aria had driven her home where Spencer had immediately retreated to her bedroom, finally on her own once more.
Not that being in her room was particularly easy, given all of the items it contained that reminded Spencer of Toby. Numerous photos, both framed and stuck on mirrors and corkboards, cards he had given her for holidays or sent her while he was out of town for extended periods of time on a job, and the shirts she had stolen from him during their time together decorated her room. And then there was the rocking chair.
Part of her wanted to curl up in the beautiful handcrafted chair and pretend Toby was holding her again while another part wanted to take her field hockey stick to it until it was nothing but kindling for the fireplace. In the end, she decided to move it to the guest room along with the box full of mementos of her time with Toby until she could think clearly again.
She spent most of her time lying on her bed and staring at the ceiling, caught in a state somewhere between sleep and wakefulness. When she was awake, her confused, pained thoughts immediately went to Toby, still running in so many circles and asking so many questions, she couldn't think straight. Sleep only brought more dreams and nightmares, though. And whether it was remembering happier times with Toby or seeing him committing deeds as A, she invariably woke herself up gasping or crying. It had occurred so many times over the weekend alone, she had finally given up trying to sleep, not wanting to disturb her friends any more than she was sure she already had. She was exhausted – not that she could really find it in herself to care – and as dawn approached on Monday morning, she turned to the small bottle in her bedside table.
Dr. Sullivan had prescribed Spencer the sleeping pills due to the brunette's insomnia following the night Mona had almost killed her. Toby had helped Spencer deal with the trauma following her ordeal, sneaking into her room after her parents had gone to bed and holding her until she fell asleep every night, but when he was away on jobs, it had been nearly impossible for her to sleep and Dr. Sullivan had gently suggested that perhaps she would benefit from a low dose sleeping pill.
Admitting to herself that she needed the pills had been hard enough – Spencer had certainly never let anyone else know that she had them. But she knew from experience that taking one would allow her to sleep deeply enough to keep the nightmares away and she reluctantly swallowed a pill, praying for at least a brief respite from her painful reality.
The sleeping pill did the trick and she slept deeply and dreamlessly. Due to the late hour at which she had taken it, she also slept right through her Monday morning classes. Not that she had been planning on going to school anyway.
Despite what anyone else might believe, the girls and Caleb had no doubt that Mona was still very much a member of the A team. And while dealing with her post-Radley presence hadn't exactly been a picnic before, the thought of facing her knowing smirk and snippy comments after everything that had happened with Toby was more than Spencer thought she could handle.
Fortunately, her mother was too busy to ask her any questions about anything. While Veronica might have been physically present in the house, she was in the middle of a case and aside from a few hurried hellos and goodbyes, she and Spencer had not really spoken since she had gotten back from Pittsburgh. In fact, Spencer was fairly certain her mother wasn't even aware there was anything wrong in her youngest daughter's world. She certainly gave no indication she knew Spencer hadn't been to school all week.
Her friends, however, were all too aware of this and were determined to help bring Spencer back to the land of the living.
On Wednesday, the three girls showed up early in the morning, all but dragging her out of bed and telling her to shower and get dressed because she was coming back to school, Hanna declaring that she would "beat Mona's ass" with her three inch Tory Burches if she even dared to look at Spencer. Spencer didn't have the energy to fight them and she showered, forgoing makeup and dragging her still wet hair back in a ponytail before putting on the outfit that Hanna handed her.
When she got to school, she merely took up space in her classes, sitting silently at her desk, neither raising her hand nor even bothering to take notes as the words of her teachers buzzed meaninglessly around the edge of her consciousness. Her friends were in full on protective mode and one of the girls or Paige or Caleb was with her at all times throughout the school day, practically guiding her from one class to the next and making sure Mona got nowhere near her at any point.
She passed the rest of the week in a daze and on Friday afternoon, she went to Andrew and told him she was quitting Academic Decathlon. He was disappointed but he reluctantly accepted her resignation. "Is it because of Mona?" he asked. "I'm sure we could talk to the administration and see about getting her removed. God knows there are extenuating circumstances at play here with what she did to you."
"You have no idea," Spencer muttered before composing herself. "No, it's just something I have to do. I'm really sorry, Andrew."
After school, Emily gave Spencer a ride home on her way to her afternoon shift at the Brew. Spencer didn't say a word during the entire drive and when Emily parked in front of the Hastings' house, she turned to face her silent friend.
"What are you thinking, Spence?" Emily asked softly, gently attempting to draw her out of her reticent state.
Spencer grimaced, blinking back sudden tears and swallowing before she spoke. "I wish none of it had ever happened, Em. I just feel so stupid," she admitted in a whisper.
"Oh, Spence," Emily said, her eyes understanding. "It's never stupid to fall in love."
"It is when it's all a lie."
Emily had seen the way Spencer and Toby had been together, how Spencer had looked calmer and happier than Emily had ever seen her look when she was with him, how Toby had looked so serenely blissful when Spencer was in his arms. Even a complete stranger looking at the couple could clearly see just how deeply in love the two were and Emily was having an extremely hard time wrapping her mind around the idea that it had been a lie on Toby's part. She also knew, however, that this was not what Spencer needed to hear right now so she kept quiet as Spencer unhooked her seatbelt.
"If you need anything, we're all here for you," she said instead. "It doesn't matter what time, we'll be here if you need us."
"Okay, yeah," Spencer said distractedly, grabbing her bag from the floor. She opened the car door before stopping and turning back to Emily. "Thanks, Em," she said quietly.
Emily smiled gently. "Anytime, Spence, you know that. We love you."
Spencer smiled for possibly the first time that week as she leaned over and hugged Emily. "I love you guys, too."
The girls parted and Spencer exited the car, making her way up the front path to her house. Once her friend had entered the house and closed the door behind her, Emily pulled away from the Hastings' house and headed to the coffee shop. Stopped at a red light, she released a heavy sigh, her mind still on her heartbroken friend. Were their lives always going to be like this? Having to be afraid to let people in, never knowing whom they could trust? Right now, the only ones the girls knew they could trust for sure were each other and Paige and Caleb. And while Emily and Hanna could still trust their own families, Spencer and Aria didn't even have that anymore.
For perhaps the 8,000th time since Alison had disappeared and everything with A had begun, Emily wished she could turn back time to when the biggest things the friends had had to worry about were clothes and homework, back to a time when they hadn't jumped at every shadow and text message. Back before their lives had gotten so incredibly, impossibly complicated.
Toby slumped on his couch staring at the cellphone in his hand. According to its log, he had called Spencer 20 times since Saturday and left more text messages than he could count. At some point on Sunday, his number had been blocked on Spencer's phone – he supposed he had Caleb to thank for that. Still, he tried her number at least once a day on the off chance that his number might have been unblocked and she might actually pick up.
His most recent attempt, however, had not been any more successful than his previous ones and he continued staring at the phone for another moment before he set it on the side table and dropped his head in his hands. How had things ended up this way? He wished she would just talk to him, let him try to explain. He knew she may very well still not forgive him but he had to at least try to make her understand why he had done this. Going on this way, with her not understanding, hating and fearing him, was killing him.
His dispirited thoughts were interrupted by a sharp knock on his door and for a moment he couldn't move as he stared wide eyed at the door. Had Spencer gotten one of his messages? Had she finally decided to give him a chance to explain? He picked up his phone as if it might contain the answers he sought but the screen remained stubbornly blank. His brain finally reconnected to his actions and he leapt from the couch, shoving his phone into his pocket and hurrying over to the door as his heart pounded wildly in his chest.
His spirits, however, plummeted once more when he opened the door to find Mona standing there.
"What?" he asked gruffly, hoping she couldn't see the turbulent emotions in his eyes.
"Well hello to you, too," Mona chirped as she walked past him into the apartment. Toby closed the door with perhaps a little more force than necessary before turning to face Mona who was now perched on one of his kitchen chairs.
"When were you going to tell me that you broke up with Miss Perfect?" she asked as he approached her. "I wasn't sure at first," she continued, seemingly unbothered by his silence, "since it wasn't part of the plan, but it didn't take too long to figure out when you know what to look for. Poor little Spencer's just heartbroken," she sneered, a cruel smile curving her lips upward.
Never in his life – not even when Jenna's torment of him had been at its worst – had Toby ever even considered hitting a female. The urge to smack the smile off of Mona's face, however, was overwhelming and he bit the inside of his cheek until he tasted blood to avoid reacting.
After forcing himself to count to ten and remember what was important in this situation, Toby shrugged. "I was just done with it," he said, trying to keep his tone noncommittal. "After awhile, you get tired of having to spend so much time around someone you despise." He winced internally, almost choking on the words, but he forced himself to continue. "And she was starting to ask too many questions. You know her, always snooping around. She might have found something out if I kept her around any longer."
"Well, then you should have been more careful," Mona said snidely. "Still, I can't argue with the results. She didn't even come to school at the beginning of the week and her hair looks like it's forgotten what conditioner is. And today, she actually quit the Academic Decathlon. Spencer Hastings!" she added gleefully. Toby's hands clenched into fists behind his back, his fingernails jabbing into his palms as Mona continued.
"I wish I could have seen it. I'll bet she cried and begged. 'Please, Toby,'" she mocked. "'Please don't leave me, I love you!'" She smiled, clearly relishing the mental image, and Toby could feel the blood beginning to collect in his palms as his nails dug savagely into the flesh there.
He shrugged. "Not really," he said, trying to affect a bored tone. "You know how well she lies. Mostly she just seemed angry."
Mona's smile dropped slightly before returning full force. "Well, however you did it, it's a thing of beauty. I think you broke her," she replied delightedly. Toby's stomach twisted violently but he fought to keep his face blank as Mona looked over at him, a calculating look on her suddenly stern face.
"Still, you know she doesn't like it when you don't follow her orders."
"Well then I should talk to her," Toby responded.
Mona waved a hand dismissively. "You know I'm the only one she speaks to directly. I'll tell her what you told me." She stood abruptly and walked to the door. "I'll be in touch. Nice work," she added, before closing the door behind her.
Toby locked the door behind Mona, his hands shaking as the rage he had forced down during her visit made its way to the surface and with a grunt that was equal parts anger, frustration, and sorrow, he drove his right fist through the wall next to his bedroom door.
After a moment, he got his breathing back under control and slowly pulled his hand out of the newly made hole in the wall. Blood dripped from his knuckles down the back of his hand as he flexed his finger experimentally and he made his way into the bathroom to clean up.
As he flexed his fingers again, he acknowledged that he was lucky he hadn't broken his fingers or hand, which would have really pissed his boss off. Still, he wasn't the least bit sorry for his actions. The hole in the wall would be easy enough to fix and he actually relished the stinging sensation as he ran the cold water over his torn knuckles and palms. The impulsive action and its accompanying injury had been enough to take his mind off of the aching in his chest for almost five whole seconds, longer than he had been able to stop thinking about it since his confrontation with Spencer in the alley.
After drying off his hands and wrapping a layer of gauze around his knuckles, he turned off the lights in the loft and went into his bedroom. He pulled his phone from his pocket, looking at it a moment before tossing it onto his desk. Now that Mona, and by association the head A, knew about the break up, he would have to stop trying to contact Spencer. He couldn't risk putting her in even more danger just because he wanted to explain himself to her. He hated himself for causing her so much pain but it was better that than risking something even worse happening to her because of his actions.
He stripped down to his boxers before sitting down on the edge of his bed and picking up the framed picture that sat on his bedside table. It was a simple black and white photograph that Aria had taken one day when the seven of them had been hanging out at Spencer's parents' lake house the past summer and he felt his heart clench as he gazed at the image. Spencer was cradled in his arms, her own arms wrapped around his neck as he walked along the lake's shore. Their foreheads were pressed against each other's, their noses brushing, and the look of adoration between them was unmistakable. Toby brushed his fingers gently across the frame for a moment before he sighed, opening the drawer in the bedside table and sticking the picture inside.
Shutting off the light, he laid back on the bed, praying sleep would find him soon. Meeting Spencer and falling in love with her had been the greatest thing that had ever happened to him and though he desperately wished things could be different, he also knew her well being had to come first. The way he would have to go about it may have changed but his goal remained the same, he reminded himself as he closed his eyes. Keep Spencer safe.