This is the FINAL (SUPER LONG) chapter of Before It All Began. Thank you all SO incredibly much for staying with this story so long and continuing to read on and give feedback. I cannot thank you enough. Longer A/N to follow :) But please leave your thoughts in a review if you can! I absolutely adore hearing from you guys! xo
I do not own Pretty Little Liars.
The four girls made a plan after their reviewing of the videos to get Jenna alone the next day at school.
Their opportunity seemed to come on a silver platter when they saw her walking alone down the hall to the vacant music room in between third and fourth period.
The four friends met eyes from their various locations in the hallway and nodded, following the brunette inconspicuously. She looked to be heading in direction to the music room and that was always empty during fourth and fifth period so students could work during their off-classes if they wished.
Jenna was searching through the instruments on the shelf for her flute when the girls entered the room. Hearing their footsteps, she paused what she was doing, straightening up slightly.
"Spencer." the tallest one commented, no one else offering their identity.
But Jenna was smarter than that. She turned around.
Spencer took the reins since she had sort of been the leader of this potentially-disastrous plan and knew that Jenna wasn't her biggest fan. "Aria, Emily… and Hanna." she added after a beat, knowing that the name of Jenna's recent slapper wouldn't promote many cooperative vibes.
Jenna's expression didn't change but her tone grew firmer. "Should I call security?"
Spencer wasn't playing around. "We have what you hired Caleb to find."
"You didn't think it was wrong, but Toby did." Emily chimed in.
"So you've seen it." Jenna concluded.
At the memory of what was contained in those videos, Spencer felt herself grow icier. "Every frame."
"What do you want from me?"
Hanna spoke up this time, causing Spencer to turn in surprise. She expected her to remain quiet since she was still reeling from Caleb's betrayal.
"The truth. Can you handle that?"
Albeit a little dramatic, but effective all the same.
Jenna sighed. "What would you like to know?"
"How about you start by explaining what really happened in the days before Alison's disappearance, this time skipping the lies, because plenty of things don't add up." Spencer told her.
"Look, when I said that Alison came to visit me at the hospital, I was telling you the truth. She didn't come to talk about you, Spencer. That was a lie."
"Then how do we know you're not lying to us now?"
"Look, you knew Alison! You knew… what she was capable of."
They knew better than anyone, but they weren't here to point out the late teenage girl's faults.
"We're listening." Spencer said shortly, not looking to sympathize with the bully.
"It was the day before she went missing, and she was on her way home from Georgia. She had just found the video. She couldn't wait to play it for me…"
Jenna was sitting up in her hospital bed, wishing the pain meds would kick in, when there was a knock on the door.
"Jenna, you have a visitor." the nurse said kindly before leaving them alone.
Jenna straightened up hopefully. Was it Toby? Her parents? Her friends.
"Jenna, Jenna, Jenna. Look at the mess you've gotten yourself into." a familiar taunting tone came.
She would recognize that voice anywhere. Bile rose in her throat.
"Alison." she stated. There were so many things she wanted to scream at the girl but crossing her the last time had got her here in the first place so she kept her tone calm, but there was a definite edge to it. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm on my way home from Georgia and thought I'd stop in to check on you. See how you were holding up. Looks like you still need someone to sort your clothes for you."
Jenna's hands balled into fists at her side. She didn't need the reminder at how dependent she was going to have to be from then on.
Alison, naturally, only grew amused at Jenna's aggressive attitude. "It's too bad, really. Being out in the sun so much gave me a gorgeous tan. It's too bad you can't see it. It really is something."
"WHY are you here?" Jenna asked, her voice rising slightly in anger.
"I thought I'd share something with you… something I think you'd LOVE to hear." Alison said in her faux-sweetness.
Jenna wasn't sure what she was doing but it sounded as though she was clicking away at a computer so she must have brought a laptop with her.
Shortly after, her own voice filled the small room. When she heard Toby's voice, she knew immediately what it was. Someone must have filmed them together. She could hear her voice blackmailing Toby after he pleaded gently with her.
A click of a button signalled Alison pausing the video.
"Where did you get that?" Jenna asked, not offering any defense to the content of the filming. It's not as though she could plead innocent when it was so obvious that she was the villain.
"The guy I like likes to make movies. I thought they were just of me. You think you know people. And then they surprise you. Turns out the boy next door gets off on watching all the girls next door. And darling Jenna isn't the victim. Freak Toby is."
Jenna swallowed. "I'm not proud of that."
She had just wanted Toby to love her. Gentle, sweet Toby. She had forced him into things, hoping he would change his mind and realize that he did want her, but in the end she knew she would never have him the way she wished so if that was all she could get she would take it. But then it too wasn't enough. It wasn't until she was blind in a hospital bed that she truly had time to reflect on how horrific her actions had been to the one she loved.
"I so don't care. I'm going to keep this under lock and key. And if you keep our secret, it will stay there." Alison threatened.
Jenna knew that Toby was taking the fall for what had happened. If she couldn't speak up and defend him, he would be the one punished, not bitch Alison and her stupid friends. The one shining good thing she could do for Toby to try to make up for all the things she had done was just torn away from her. She knew what would happen to her if that video got out. And being blind was already the worst thing she could've imagined.
"Fine." she replied evenly, giving up. She would not cry in front of Alison DiLaurentis.
"I thought you'd see it my way." Alison sneered. She packed up her laptop and her footsteps indicated she was heading to the door. "Oh, and Jenna? If you ever come back to Rosewood, I'll bury you."
Jenna didn't put it past her for a second.
Jenna summarized the events of the memory for them.
"She was on her way home from Georgia?" Spencer repeated.
"That's what she said. And then she made some joke about her tan. Too bad I couldn't see it." Jenna said, trying to come off casual but ending up sounding hurt to even her own ears.
"Did she tell you anything else?"
"It was a short visit. Look, I've given you what you've asked for. What are you going to give me?" Jenna demanded. She was not playing nice with these girls for fun.
"We'll make sure the video stays in a safe place." Spencer promised.
"Okay." Jenna said, feeling like it wasn't a fair deal but she knew it was the best she could do. She headed toward the door despite the fact that she had been the one who wanted to be in there. She didn't much feel like making music anymore.
She paused at the door. "We've all made mistakes. Remember, I'm still paying for yours." she said as a final farewell, disappearing into the hall.
Hanna rolled her eyes. "Sick."
"For all we know, she wrote that story." Aria said.
"And we still don't know how Ali got the video." Emily added.
Spencer wasn't so sure. "Yes we do. That video was Alison's insurance policy, and she cashed it in the day that she got it."
"Which means she was with Ian when she found it." Aria said, understanding where she was going with it.
"And she couldn't wait to play that video for Jenna. God, do you remember how happy Ali was when she came back from that trip? I think it's because for her The Jenna Thing was over." Spencer expressed.
"Nice of her to share the safety net with us." Hanna commented irritably.
"Wait for it, girls, wait for it." Emily said suddenly and they all looked at her in surprise.
"Wait for what?" Spencer asked.
"That's what Ali said when we met her at the taxi. Maybe that's what we were waiting for."
"Do you remember at Alison's funeral, when we were all wondering why Jenna was there? If she's telling the truth, Jenna came back because she could." Aria explained.
"And Ali's the one who got buried." Hanna said.
Since the girls had enough reason to believe that Alison had been with Ian the day of her disappearance and that he was the videographer, they decided to take drastic measures.
Spencer had bought a prepaid phone with cash, with an anonymous number that wasn't registered, and texted Ian about having Ali's video. They knew if he responded, he was guilty, and that they wanted him to think that it was all just about the money exchanged for the flash drive. But if he agreed to meet and brought the money, they would take a little video of their own and take it, the flash drive and the prepaid phone into the police and finally get people to see who he really was.
It was a chilling feeling when they saw Ian's surprised, troubled reaction to receiving the text from across the cafeteria. They had suspected him for so long but somehow having it confirmed made them feel numb.
Ian eventually texted back, asking what they wanted, and Hanna took control and demanded he bring ten grand to Willow Park, alone, at nine that night.
Mona ended up interrupting the response to Hanna's ultimatum and the girls all scattered. They couldn't converse with the fashionista when their heads and hearts were so full already.
It had to be true—Ian had killed Alison.
Spencer had called Toby after school, explaining what they had done and what the plan now was. He wanted to come, to help in some way, and Spencer reluctantly asked him to keep Jenna busy. They wanted to know if she was a part of this or not and Toby was the only one who could keep his eye on her without being suspicious.
Spencer didn't want him to be near Jenna, especially not after watching those videos and seeing how much pain she had put him through, but Toby reassured her that he would be fine. He'd suggest they have a family descriptive-video movie night or something and she no doubt would lap it right up.
Although she didn't like it, she knew it was necessary and was incredibly grateful that Toby was able to put her needs above his own so willingly.
In exchange for his service, Toby insisted on seeing her, in his gentle, polite manner. Spencer was a sucker for time with him as it was so he could've just mentioned it offhandedly and she would've agreed.
She invited him over, warning him that she really had to do some homework so he'd probably be bored.
He reassured her he'd bring a book to keep himself entertained, that he just wanted to spend quality time with his girlfriend before she went off to save the world, and she giggled and agreed.
Shortly after their phone conversation, Toby walked up the Hastings driveway to see Spencer sitting on the back porch waiting for him.
She leapt to her feet immediately when she spotted him, looking thrilled that he had arrived.
He was glad she was so enthusiastic. He worried that he had come off too clingy when he asked to see her regardless of her homework commitments, but now he knew that worry was wasted.
"Hey handsome." she greeted happily, closing the distance between them and pulling him into a gentle kiss.
He had seen both cars in the driveway, signalling that her parents were home, so he was rather surprised by her PDA. But he was definitely not complaining. He tugged her closer, kissing her softly in return.
"Hello beautiful." he replied, running his eyes over her face to check for any hidden stress. He could see a small bit of tension in her eyes, but it was faint and he figured she was sincerely this happy and that was satisfying enough for him.
"Where are we going to hang out? Downstairs?" He hoped he wouldn't have a run-in with her parents. He was incredibly intimidated (read: terrified) to meet them.
"They're home but they're both working away. My mom's in the sun room and my dad's in his office. You and I will be in my bedroom. Door open, of course." she added, rolling her eyes but smiling as she led him by the hand inside and upstairs.
Toby had never had the pleasure of being in Spencer's room before. He hadn't even been to the upper level of her house.
But her room was very her. It was feminine and definitely showed her wealth, what with the large space, furniture and canopy bed, but it also had a desk in the corner piled with work, a bookshelf with well-read novels bursting from every crevice, and her awards and accomplishments littering the walls.
Toby let his eyes roam over her book titles, her achievements, and felt reminded at how very lucky he was to have someone like Spencer in his life. She was broadly intelligent, highly ambitious, and no doubt had an amazing life mapped out for herself. He felt blessed that she wanted him to be a part of it, especially since they were so different.
"What are you thinking about?" Spencer asked teasingly, wrapping her arms around his waist from behind him, noticing he was lost in thought.
"You. What else is new?" he teased back, letting his hands rest on top of hers to hold her in place while she laid her chin on his shoulder.
She giggled and slid herself around so she was in front of him, looking up at him with her dark chocolate eyes. She smiled lovingly at him.
"You make it really hard not to engage in a super-secret make-out session with you right now… My parents are all the way downstairs… and your lips are so very close…" she murmured, pressing closer, her mouth an inch from his now.
Toby swallowed. It was a completely bad idea. He really didn't want her parents to come check on them and have his first meeting with them be him on top of Spencer on her bed, his hands no doubt touching her all over, because he knew full well how little control he had over his body's reactions to hers. Something about her even drove his motor neurons into a frenzy. And as much as he loved her heart and soul, he couldn't deny his attraction to her. And, well, he was a teenage boy in love. It was safe to say that getting carried away was in the cards.
"In that case, before I do something stupid and ruin our future hangouts in your bedroom while you're still under the care of your parents, I'm going to sit in that red chair over there and you can do your homework on this side of the room, deal?"
Spencer sighed disappointedly, but knew he was right. "Okay. I really do have a lot to get done, but I'm glad you came over."
He smiled. "I'm glad you invited me."
He pressed a playful kiss to the tip of her nose and released her from his unknowing grasp. Point proven that his body did its own movement without any indications from him. His hands, some point apparently, had risen to waist to hold her in place.
Toby pulled out his book Dharma Bums and thumbed to his last place with the help from his bookmark.
He found his place on the page as Spencer got her school work set up on her bed and laid down on her stomach to work on it.
Normally, Toby could be sucked into a story and be completely unaware of his surroundings. But having Spencer out of the corner of his eye, biting her lip in concentration and looking eleven-tenths of adorable, he found it a little distracting.
He tried to focus his eyes on his book, but he found himself rereading the same paragraph about a dozen times and not taking much of it in.
Spencer didn't seem nearly as distracted, but he swore he caught her glancing his way a few times when he was pretending to be reading.
After almost a half hour of the back-and-forth glances, Toby finally spoke up amusedly when he saw her staring at him for an extra-long beat.
"Are you sure this is how you want to spend the afternoon?"
She had been biting her lip almost seductively when she was watching him and he had a feeling her mind was drifting to other places that it shouldn't be going in her family home.
"I like having you here." she told him.
"Because it makes a statement to your family?" he asked, a part of him having wondered if that was a small motivator in inviting him when her parents were home. He knew he had been the one to insist, but that didn't mean there was no benefit to her.
After the night of the carnival, Toby had been ecstatic at the way she had boldly strolled over to him and kissed him in front of everyone. But doubt had a way of poking at him and questioning if it was more about her choosing him or about saying no finally to her family.
"No. Because I like having you here." she told him slowly, sincerity etched in every faucet, and Toby knew the doubt he had was stupid. He had to stop worrying so much.
"I like being here." he replied. "Do you want to talk about tonight? About what might happen?"
He had noticed over the half-hour-ish he had been over that the stress that he hadn't found so easily earlier had been surfacing more the more time passed. Intuition told him that tonight was more on her mind than whatever homework she was working on.
"I think I'm kind of all talked out, you know?" she replied, focusing her eyes back to her paper and reaching a hand up to rub her shoulder absent-mindedly.
Toby knew that was the stress weighing down on her and got an idea.
"Come here. Come over here." he instructed gently, smiling at his plan.
She couldn't imagine what he could want. He looked pretty pleased with himself though so Spencer rolled off of the bed and went over.
Toby got up and pushed the chair on an angle towards the window. He opened the glass barrier, sitting down and gesturing her to join. The seat he obviously wanted her to take was his lap so Spencer lowered herself gingerly into his arms, the pair of them immediately winding around her waist.
Spencer couldn't help but smile up at him, the sun beating in on them warmly as a gentle breeze blew through her stuffy room. She much preferred this to what she was doing before, and it seemed Toby did too.
She cuddled into his shoulder, watching the wind pick up leaves and petals and swirl them through the air, feeling a sense of safety and contentment settle over her. Something about Toby had always managed to calm her system, even when everything was running on high. She felt her brain finally slow down and shut off, listening only to Toby's breathing and the occasional flipping of a page, before she drifted off into an unexpected slumber.
Toby played with her hair, not noticing at first that she had fallen asleep since he could finally read his book without distraction. He continued to twirl the ends around his fingertips, revelling in the feel of her body warmth seeping into his. He very much liked having her in his lap this way and he could practically feel all the stress exude from her pores as she dreamed on.
An unfortunate beep sounded after a while, causing Spencer to stir, and he felt his heart grow heavy as she made to get up.
She touched his hand that was laying on the armrest gently with her own, his fingers curling up to twine with hers, but she had already moved away and they just grasped at air.
It made his heart heavy to lose her from his arms. He closed his book, knowing from her stance that their peaceful time was over.
"Ugh. It's from Melissa. Ian never showed up at the church. She needs a ride." Spencer said irritably.
Toby rose from his chair and walked over. "I'll keep Jenna busy like you asked me to, but I wish I was going with you tonight." he said honestly.
He worried. If Ian was as dangerous as they believed him to be, that meant he was capable of hurting Spencer and Toby didn't know what he'd do if he ever lost her. And if Ian laid a hand on her? Toby couldn't guarantee that his reform school skills wouldn't be tested, even if it meant he'd get thrown back in there faster than you could flip a coin.
"Hey, you're helping me by finding out if she's a part of this or not." Spencer promised, touching his arm comfortingly.
Spencer stepped closer, looking up at him through her doe lashes. "Look, I've never had a safe place to land, but now I feel like I do, so, I want you to stay safe." she explained bashfully.
It was no wonder what she was saying. Toby felt his heart burst from his chest and fly away. He knew his own feelings for her but it was always such a blessing to hear hers out loud.
"If you need anything tonight, I'll be there for you." he promised.
Come hell or high water, he'd do whatever she needed.
Spencer smiled. "I love knowing that."
She leaned up slowly, waiting patiently for him to cross the space to unite their lips, and he didn't take long to catch on.
Her lips moved tenderly against his own and he felt himself sigh as they broke apart.
He smiled back at her, his bashful too, and even though they had said their I love yous before and had made love on a few occasions, something about that kiss and that conversation seemed to move him in a similar manner.
Maybe it was because he felt like they just said their vows to each other and sealed the deal with a kiss.
And as Toby said his final goodbye to her downstairs before heading home, he really hoped that one day he could experience it as more than just a fantasy.
Spencer wasn't impressed with the fact that she had interrupt her date with Toby to be the one to pick up Melissa from the church, but she also needed to work on being nicer to Melissa, especially if she found out the truth about her husband like they all soon would.
It also didn't help that Spencer had forgotten to use her filter when referring to Melissa and Ian's baby earlier that day, saying it may not even be born human, and Melissa had been extremely offended. Their mother called Spencer cruel. And the truth was, in a way, Spencer was excited about the baby. Maybe it would be a way for her and Melissa to get closer. Maybe it would be a way to pull her family back. But with Ian hanging around? Spencer just couldn't get as enthusiastic.
Spencer pulled up out front and Melissa made a beeline to the car, hopping in.
"Hey." Spencer said, watching her in concern, seeing how stressed she looked. Ian hadn't shown up to get her but she seemed extra panicked. She probably was worried something happened to him.
Spencer figured he was probably at the bank, withdrawing ten grand to get his precious videos back.
"Still no word from Ian?"
"No!" Melissa finally burst out. "It's not like him. I don't like it."
"Well have you talked to him today? Maybe he got held up doing something or forgot?"
"Yeah, I talked to him this afternoon. He was taking care of the contractor and then heading straight for the church. Something's wrong, I can feel it."
She looked like she was near hyperventilating and that wouldn't help anything.
"Calm down, okay?"
She was thrashing through her purse like Ian was trapped in it.
"Ugh. I can't find my phone."
Spencer tried to be patient but Melissa was basically ignoring her and not really doing anything except aggravating her too. "Do you want me to call your number?
"Damn it! I left it at the church."
Interesting use of language for the sentence topic, but Spencer couldn't smile in amusement when Melissa was so distraught. Pregnancy hormones seemed awful. Spencer made a mental note to talk to Toby about them waiting a while before settling down and having kids. She was in no hurry for that kind of mess of emotions. Hers were bad enough as they were.
"Melissa, you have to relax. Please. This cannot be good for the baby."
"Spoken like a sister who actually cares." Melissa retaliated, softer than she probably meant to.
"I care, okay?"
Melissa looked at her long and serious. "I wish I could believe you." the older one finally said sadly, shaking her head.
Spencer exhaled evenly. "Do you want me to go back to the church?"
But before Spencer could contemplate turning around, the car coming from the other lane didn't stop at the red light and suddenly careened into Melissa's side of the car.
After being medically examined, exchanging insurance cards with the other car, and answering the police's questions, Spencer was finally free to wait for Melissa's release. Because she was pregnant, she had to be examined more thoroughly to check if the baby was okay.
Melissa hadn't said a word since the accident, and Spencer was terrified that something was really wrong. What if Melissa lost the baby? She couldn't imagine what that would do to her. Would she blame Spencer since she was the driver? Had she just signed a one-way ticket to banishment by playing a part in such a horrific event?
Spencer sat in the chairs near Melissa's room, her thoughts so jumbled up that she wasn't even thinking about the fact that she was supposed to be meeting her friends at the park to confront Ian.
Her only concerns about Ian were what his reaction would be when he heard the news. HE would probably blame her for the situation and she already saw how badly things could go if you took something away from him that he wanted. Spencer didn't fancy becoming his next victim.
A familiar face made Spencer rise to her feet.
"Oh, Spencer." her mother expressed, grateful to see her daughter in such good shape. She didn't even seem to have much beating up done.
"She's stable, but they're monitoring the baby." Spencer said immediately.
"Monitoring for what?"
"They say it's too early to tell how significant the trauma was." she replied in a small voice, scared that her mother would throw a fit at her for driving recklessly or something.
She managed to surprise her. "And are you okay?"
"The car came out of nowhere." Spencer replied, her bottom lip trembling, still feeling in shock whenever she thought back to it. It seemed surreal what had happened but the bruises forming under her clothes alerted her that it was far from a hallucination.
"Oh, honey, it wasn't your fault." Veronica promised, pulling her into a warm hug. Spencer cried into her shoulder, not realizing how badly she really did need her mom right then. As much as they had had their differences, she knew deep down her mom did love her. She just wasn't always the best at showing it.
Spencer finally got a hold of herself and pulled back.
"Melissa's been so stressed about Ian not showing up. I think it's making things worse." Spencer shared quietly, not wanting her sister, who was lying in a bed several feet away, to overhear.
"We have to find Ian. I've left him two messages. She's not going to calm down until we find him. Maybe he went to the church." Veronica suggested.
"She left her phone there anyway. It's only a couple of blocks, I'll go check."
Spencer headed towards the exit, but her mom's voice stopped her.
"Spencer? About what I said this morning? Melissa knows you love her."
Spencer nodded, wishing she could believe her, but her and Melissa's conversation before the crash was still heavy in her mind.
"Yeah." she replied to the police officer asking as her mother left to go see Melissa.
"We recovered this from the vehicle." he told her, passing her her purse.
She had almost forgotten that she had left that in there.
She immediately sifted through to locate her phone and pulled it out to messages and calls from Aria.
Where are you?
I'm worried, call me.
She apparently had called five times too and there was a voicemail. Spencer immediately dialed her number as she exited the hospital.
"Spencer, where are you?" Aria said as a way of greeting.
"I was driving Melissa home and we got in a car accident. Nothing too serious but they're monitoring Melissa's baby. I've been at the hospital and didn't get my purse out of the car until now, I'm so sorry. Do you want me to come now? Are you guys okay?"
Spencer could practically hear her huge eyes turn into saucer-size.
"No, stay with Melissa. We're safe."
"Okay. I'm heading to the church since Melissa left her phone there. Call me after you guys are done."
"Bye." Spencer finished, hanging up her phone,
Upon hanging up, she noticed she had a new message from Toby.
I haven't heard from you... is everything okay? Please let me know you're safe. I'm worried.
Spencer held down the one on her speed dial and it went straight through to him.
"Spence? Are you okay? Did you catch Ian?" he asked quickly.
"Um... not exactly. The girls are there now. I.. I had a delay."
Toby didn't like the sound of that. "A delay?"
Spencer knew that sharing the information would only make him more stressed but she had promised they would be honest with each other and she knew it wasn't fair to allude that everything was perfectly fine. "When I was driving Melissa home from the church, we... kind of got T-boned in an intersection."
Spencer had never heard him so panicked. She heard rustling on the other end of the phone.
"I'm coming to see you."
She realized the noise must have been him throwing on a coat.
"Toby, no, I'm fine! I don't even have a scratch on me! Melissa is fine too, but she's still at the hospital to monitor the baby."
"Is the baby going to be okay?" he asked, calmer now, his voice softening, and the rustling ceased.
"It's too early to tell how significant the trauma is." Spencer replied, repeating the doctor's words.
He sighed. "Where are you now? Still at the hospital? Do you want me to come get you? Or bring you something?"
"No, I'm okay. I'm just going to the church to find Melissa's phone. We still haven't managed to get a hold of Ian. We left him messages about the accident but Melissa isn't going to calm down until we find him and it's not helping things with the baby at all. Hopefully he left her a voice mail or something. I'm just walking there now."
Spencer chuckled. "Toby, I'll be fine. I was driving Melissa home from an appointment with Reverend Ackard. He's probably still there. He might even have Melissa's phone tucked safely alone. I'll only be a few minutes."
"Spencer... I worry about you, walking alone in this town in the dark." he admitted.
"I'll be fine, love. I'll call you when I'm finally home and up to speed on everything, okay?"
"Okay. Be safe. I love you."
"I love you too." Spencer promised, finally ending the call and continuing her trek.
It didn't take long to get to the church thankfully, and no one responded to her when she called out for the Reverend or anybody else. She knew she should feel safe there, it being a church and all, and she felt silly being so paranoid. But with all the shady things that had been going on and A still lurking around, she couldn't help but constantly check over her shoulder.
She really hoped she could find Melissa's phone quickly and get the hell out of there.
Spencer decided to save time and got down flat on her belly to check underneath all the pews at one time. She couldn't see anything resembling a phone. Maybe on the other side of the aisle?
But when she got up and turned around she came face-to-face with Ian.
"Lose something?" he teased.
But there was something different in the manner he had said it. Maybe it was because she knew he made those videos and killed Alison to get them back now, but there was something more sinister about his tone, his face, his demeanor. Spencer felt the hairs stand up on the back of her neck—a sympathetic nervous system signal that she was in danger.
"Melissa left her phone here. We've been trying to call you." Spencer explained normally, trying to look as neutral as possible. She had a feeling something serious was up. She wasn't looking to provoke him any more than he already was.
But Ian seemed to prefer story time to responding. "Yeah, you know, I got the strangest text message today. The number was blocked but I can reply to it."
He clicked a button, send no doubt, and smirked when inside her purse started ringing. Spencer felt frozen. He was clearly pissed, no matter how eerily calm he was coming off.
"Yeah, asking for money. That was clever. Your friends waiting for me?"
Spencer took a step back when he moved closer.
"Look, there's been an accident."
"Yeah, I know, I got the messages. I've just been waiting for you to leave the hospital."
Spencer's flight-or-fight instincts were definitely kicking in now. And all of them were screaming at her to run.
Ian kept stepping closer to her, the look in his eyes changing to something almost manic. She felt her breath catch in her throat. He's here to hurt you. He's here to kill you.
"Yeah, Melissa would want me to take care of this. She'll understand." Ian was saying, almost to himself.
Spencer felt her brain overcome the panic and help her concentrate. She couldn't outrun him when he was so close. She needed to distract him.
She pulled out the video flash drive and held it up. "You gonna take care of me like you took care of Alison? Huh, is that why you killed her? Because she found your home movies?" she asked defiantly then lowered her voice to a taunting whisper. "Do you want some popcorn to go with that?"
She threw the drive into the far corner of the altar, causing Ian to snarl before chasing after them while she ran the other way as fast as she could.
Breaking into the Reverend's office, Spencer couldn't find an alternate exit. The only way out of the church was blocked by Ian. But if she could get him to chase her and then outsmart him and get back to the door…
She opened the nearest door and raced up the bell tower, pulling out her phone to speed dial Emily while she went. The phone continued ringing as she desperately searched for a safe haven to hide in. She peeked over the edge of the railing to see if Ian had followed her. There were multiple doors in that office. Hopefully he'd try the wrong ones, or, even better, leave the church once he had the videos in his possession.
"No, come on, come on." she begged, shaking the chain of a locked staircase, hoping the lock would just magically come loose.
She had to keep going up, hoping for another route. Spotting an elevator cage, she felt elated. That could work! Ian could race up the stairs and she could beat him below by taking the elevator…
But when she pulled open the cage, Ian stepped out towards her and she backed up with a screech, accidentally dropping her phone.
She tried to run away but he grabbed her aggressively. She raised her hands to try to pry his off of her and they scuffled.
She had no idea that Emily had finally answered her phone and had her on speaker in the car with the other girls.
"I gave you the videos, what more do you want! My mom knows I'm here, she knows I'm in the church." she shouted, wrestling with him.
She couldn't hear their cries out for her—the phone was too far away and too quiet.
"You picked the perfect place for your suicide." Ian told her, knocking her to the ground. He hovered over her. "You didn't mean to hurt Alison, huh? It was an accident. You pushed her and she fell."
"Is that what happened?" she asked, grunting when Ian lifted her and threw her at the wall.
"She just… she hit her head and she never woke up." he continued on in the same out-of-body way as before, walking slowly closer and grabbing at the front of her jacket.
"Alison died of suffocation." she reminded him, confused on if this was really a confession. He seemed delusional, sure, but if he really killed Alison, wouldn't he know without flaw how she died?
He pushed her against the bell tower railing, the fragile old wood cracking at the force.
Oh god they were so high up. She had gone up at least eight flights of stairs. If he pushed her down that hole, there was no coming back from it.
"The letter I wrote on your computer won't answer all the questions but it will answer enough. The guilt was just too much for you." he explained, almost lovingly, nodding at his plan.
Spencer screamed as the railing broke clean, trying to grab onto anything and digging her feet into the wood as if it might help keep her from slipping. "Please. If you love my sister you won't do this." she begged, tears falling now.
She was going to die. She wasn't going to see her friends again. She wouldn't see Toby again. It was all over.
"I'm doing this because I love her."
She finally lost her footing. She screamed, clutching onto Ian desperately.
"Let go of me!" he shouted, getting pulled closer to the edge.
"Please don't! No! Please!" Spencer pleaded, sobbing now as he pushed her harder, feeling herself slipping more and more and knowing she was moments away from falling all those feet to the cold, hard ground. She might live—but she'd be so badly injured it wouldn't be much of a life.
Ian's face suddenly changed and he looked past her. "What are you doing here?" he asked in surprise.
Before Spencer could contemplate who the hell had arrived, Ian was knocked aggressively over the edge and yelled out in fear.
The bell started ringing loudly above her, hammering from the pulling on the ropes that was Ian's body.
A figure in a black hoodie disappeared down the stairs as Spencer pulled herself back up onto even ground, clinging to the post of the railing.
After a beat, she could hear Emily, Aria and Hanna all screaming her name, calling out to her, but she was in too much of a state of shock to respond. She was still trying to remember how to breathe. She nearly lost her life. Ian had tried to kill her. He would've succeeded too if it hadn't been for that black-hooded stranger.
Emily crouched down next to her as soon as she got close enough, Aria following, and Hanna bringing up the rear as they all crowded around her.
"Oh my god." Hanna whispered, the three finally spotting Ian's body swinging below, his neck clearly broken.
"Hey, look, you did what you had to do, okay?" Aria told Spencer seriously, petting her hair soothingly.
Spencer shook her head, tears still escaping. "No I didn't. Someone else did." she whispered shakily.
"No, Spence, there was nobody else here." Hanna promised. They probably thought she was having post-traumatic shock hallucinations or something.
"Maybe he fell." Emily suggested gently.
"All I saw was a black hoodie."
"A?" Emily asked the others more than Spencer in surprise.
Spencer was shaking badly now. "Ian killed Alison and then he tried to kill me." she cried.
"No. Hey. Spence. He's dead, okay? It's over. It's over, okay?" Aria told her firmly, throwing herself into a hug.
"It's okay. It's okay." the other two cooed, squeezing her reassuringly.
The other girls wrapped their arms around their fragile friend as Spencer caught her breath.
Shortly after they finally made their way down the stairs and into the open area of the church, the police had arrived. The other girls took the reins on how everything went down, Spencer quietly filling in the bits they hadn't overheard, and they were released to head to the station for their official statements.
The girls all linked arms, Spencer in the middle for the extra support she still needed because of her wobbly legs, and walked out of the church. A crowd had now gathered and their parents were showing up thanks to the texts some of them sent in-between turns of talking to the police.
"Stop right there." Barry, a police officer, said before they could get far. They turned around. "Is this some kind of a joke?
"What do you mean?"
"There's nobody in there. Come with me." he instructed.
The girls were shell-shocked. It wasn't as though Ian could get up and walk away…
They followed him inside and went to the scene of the crime, looking up the tower and letting their mouths fall open.
The ropes were empty. Ian's body was gone.
How was that possible?
After claiming desperately that they were in fact telling the truth, the girls headed back outside. Naturally, the gossip had already spread and everyone in the crowd was whispering about them, wondering why they lied.
Before they could completely cross the parking lot, the familiar, eerie simultaneous ringing of their phones sounded, signalling a new text message.
They all looked at each other in dread, knowing there was only one person that did that. The one person who came to mind when they saw Ian's body wasn't in the bell tower. The only person who could be that twisted.
A wasn't done with them yet.
The four girls looked down to read the message.
"Oh my god." Aria said aloud.
"Does this mean…" Emily asked slowly, already knowing the answer.
"It's not over until I say it is." Spencer read.
Hanna continued. "Sleep tight."
"While you still can, bitches. –A." they all finished together.
Toby quickened his pace on the sidewalk, checking behind him every time the wind blew or a twig snapped. He felt like he was being watched, haunted, like someone was hunting him. It felt like every whisper in the night was screeching I know what you did.
His entire body didn't feel like it was attached. He didn't know if he even had feelings inside him anymore – he felt separated from his physical encasement.
His phone beeped and he nearly had a coronary. Fumbling clumsily into his sweater pocket, he pulled out the device and read the new message.
I'm safe. Tonight has been absolute madness. I need to see you in person as soon as I can but I'm on my way to the police station right now. Things didn't go as planned. No matter what happens, know that I love you. I'll let you know when I can meet up but I'm not sure how soon that will be. Thank you for everything tonight.
Her sweet message, especially the last bit at the end, ended up making him feel worse rather than better. She was safe at least; that was what mattered. He couldn't imagine how she was feeling right now and it meant the world to him that she had put her emotions aside to let him know she was all right.
What he needed now to calm his nerves was to remember how much they had been through already. Spencer had gone from defending him in the hallway to some bullies to choosing him over her family and the rest of the town at the festival. She would rather claim him as hers than have a better guarantee at her innocence. She had lost her virginity to him, forgiven him for all the lies he told her, and was everything and more that he could dream of. He knew without a doubt that she was the one.
But now that tonight had happened, how much would change? Would he lose her forever?
Toby arrived home, heading straight to the bathroom to wash his hands. He knew he'd have to burn the sweater he was wearing to be safe.
He scrubbed at his rough skin, over and over again, trying to make the hallucinated red drain down into the sink. Nothing seemed to be working.
Toby bowed his head as the tears began falling to mingle with the soapy water.
He hadn't been lying when he said earlier he would do anything for her. His act tonight was out of pure love and protective instincts. And given the chance, he would do it again if it meant that she would be safe.
Once he heard she was going to the church, alone, he had a bad feeling. Something drew him there, whether it be a need to see her after hearing of her accident, despite her reassuring that she was perfectly fine, or a telepathic sense that she needed him, and he found himself inside, running like the wind. Her desperate pleas would be forever etched in his mind.
He wondered if he could ever tell her the truth. But he knew where lying had gotten them before, and they promised to always be honest with each other from then on.
Toby went into his bedroom and laid on his bed, still fully dressed, and stared at the ceiling. The night's events tumbled over and over in his mind, all that had happened. It felt so surreal, like it happened in a different life, a different dimension. He couldn't have experienced that for real.
He wasn't sure how much time had passed, where he lay on the bed with his thoughts swirling madly, but a beep came from his phone and he found he had a new message.
Finally home. Need to see you. Please.
Toby was out of the door faster than lightning.
When Toby arrived at the Hastings manor, it was pitch dark. He realized it must have been later than he thought. Her family was no doubt in bed or not home based on the lifelessness displayed.
Since Spencer had been the one to invite him, he was surprised that there were no lights on or any signal that she was waiting up for him. Maybe she was upstairs?
He went to text her to let her know he was there but he realized rather quickly that he left his phone at home in his haste.
Toby slipped to the side door and tried the knob. It was unlocked.
Sheesh, did she ever lock her doors? For a family so rich, you'd think they'd have more respect for security. Instead they acted like it was the 1950s.
Walking cautiously into the kitchen, Toby feared running into one of her parents and looking like he was a burglar breaking in. He tried to remain as quiet as possible.
A scuffling sound from the other end of the island caught his attention and he finally spotted Spencer crouching behind it, a butcher knife in hand, terror in her eyes.
Once she recognized that it was him, her tears flooded down her cheeks and she scrambled to her feet, launching herself at him to wrap her arms around his neck.
Toby immediately snaked his arms around her, hugging her closely, snuggling into her skin. She was safe. She was right there. She was okay.
"I wasn't sure if you were coming, I'm sorry I looked like I was trying to kill you." she sobbed into his neck. If she wasn't so upset, he probably would've laughed at the phrase.
He realized that he hadn't actually messaged her back to tell him he was coming over. He just had dropped everything and ran.
"I had to see you." he murmured lovingly, squeezing her around the middle and petting her hair soothingly. "Oh Spence..."
"Shh, just hold me. You're the only one who can really make me feel safe." she whispered, calming down slightly as she leaned into his embrace.
Toby nodded, not letting her go in the slightest, and wondered if she would still feel that way if she could see the figurative blood on his hands.
Spencer may have kept loving him when he was a false fugitive, but he wondered how she would feel dating a true murderer.
But after everything that had happened since their entrance into each other's lives, the thing he was most sure of was how much their love really could conquer.
So that's the end! I've been bouncing back and forth on whether or not to write a sequel to this story, but I've been thinking no. I may change my mind in the future, but I think I'd be better off saying goodbye to this at least for a while. I may write a sequel in the future, which is why I ended it the way I did, but right now I just don't have the time to give.
I am so utterly grateful to each of you who have read this story, however long you stayed. This is officially my most reviewed story on fanfiction and since I joined this site four years ago I had a pipe dream that one day I would be one of those writers who was blessed with over 500 reviews and you guys made that happen so THANK YOU for helping me cross something off my bucket list! I have loved writing this story for so many reasons and it has definitely been my most challenging of my entire writing career.
BACK TO THE STORY: If it wasn't obvious, Toby is the one who pushed Ian. It was always my plan for this story, from the beginning, to have it finish off with that 'twist' which is one of the many reasons why I put them through such hell. So that they could be stronger than ever and get past it. I still am hoping that Toby will be the one on the show because of him doing it to protect Spencer but as of right now we have no confirmation of who actually pushed him. In my story, Toby just pushed him to save Spencer and left. He had no part in moving the body. I just wanted to clarify in case I do not in fact write a sequel. You all are free to let your imaginations run free and judge what would happen if and when Toby reveals to Spencer the truth (reminder: true love conquers all ;) ). I don't know if it has been confirmed or not on the show, but it seemed as if Ian did not in fact DIE in the bell tower, but later when someone shoots him. I'm not entirely sure obviously, but for all those who no doubt are upset that I made Toby a 'killer' keep in mind that he isn't really? He just thinks he is because he doesn't know that Ian left the bell tower alive.
If you ever want to discuss this story or my other work or have any questions or comments, feel free to review or PM me :) I will get back to you as soon as I can and am always happy to hear from you guys!
NEXT FROM ME: I have started collecting ideas for a third installment in my Friend Zone/Fast Cars and Freedom series. I will be starting writing it out now that I have completed this story. I know it's been a long wait and I'll try not to make it too much longer but I want to write it out in full before I start posting rather than like what happened with this story where my life got in the way and you had to wait ages for updates. I just hate not updating regularly because I know when you're into a story how frustrating it can be. I'm a reader who reads books all in one sitting so waiting for updates sucks.
Thank you each so so very much for your interest, your feedback, your enthusiasm, your loyalty. You are all a blessing and writing for you all has been a privilege. I know it's been a long road, but I hope you all have enjoyed the road as much as I have. Best wishes to you all.