As a diehard Spoby fan, the Season 3 finale was everything I'd hoped for and more. My reaction was honestly a little embarrassing (as is the number of times I've watched and rewatched since then) but I'm a greedy little fan, and I wanted to see all those other moments the camera panned away from. Thus this not-so-little one shot was born. I do hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
All usual disclaimers apply. I didn't build the Pretty Little Liars sandbox, I just have fun playing in it.
What we had was real.
I've been pretending to work with Mona to keep you safe.
Everything I've done was so I could protect you.
Spencer's heart ached, desperate to believe the words Toby had spoken to her in the diner. From the moment she'd first been forced to confront his betrayal, that had been the one faint ray of hope she'd been terrified to cling to – that maybe, just maybe, he was fighting for her from the inside. That perhaps there was more to his involvement than she knew, some way to explain what she'd seen with her own eyes that didn't leave her heart lying in shreds around her feet. She hadn't been given the chance to question him about his motives, though. She'd discovered his secret. He'd disappeared.
And then she'd found his body in the woods and it had all been too late.
It had killed her to know that she'd never have the answers. She'd never know if he had truly loved her or if she'd been duped during the entire course of their relationship. Had she been so blinded by him that she'd never had the slightest inkling he'd been deceiving her about his intentions from the start? Had he really only used her as a tool for revenge? Had any part of it been real? Or was everything she'd believed in so resolutely a lie?
Only now here he sat in front of her in a dingy motel room, not dead and cold in the woods as she'd believed, but alive and well. Real. Flesh and blood before her. Speaking the very words she would have given anything to hear.
She wanted to cling to her anger. Rage hurt far less than heartbreak. Rage was empowering; the ache in her heart left her vulnerable and exposed. It was a chink in the armor she was fighting so valiantly to keep in place.
But this was Toby. Whatever he'd done, however he'd hurt her, she loved him. Fiercely. Madly. With every last fiber of her being. It was a love so strong that even recent events couldn't shake it. She should hate him, should want nothing more than to push him away, to walk away and never look back. Yet what she should want and what she actually wanted were two completely opposing things.
She took in his posture, elbows on his knees, the raw pain on his face when she reminded him of the agony he'd caused her. She couldn't stand to see that expression in his eyes. No matter what he'd done, his pain cut deeply into her heart like the jagged blade of a knife, twisting cruelly.
Spencer had watched Toby's transformation during the time they'd been together. His self-confidence had grown tremendously since she'd first known him. He didn't back down when challenged anymore. He wasn't afraid to speak his mind or stand up for himself… or for her. He'd lost so much of the vulnerability that had first led to her being so protective of him. She'd loved the new confidence he'd gained, happy to see him come into his own… until that confidence had turned cold.
Of course, Spencer had noticed changes in him, but she hadn't thought anything about it. After all, it was Toby, and she trusted him implicitly. He was one of the only people in her life that she could truly rely on with no questions whatsoever. He'd been her safe place to land no matter what else life, or A, threw at her. He was the one thing in her life that made sense when all else was chaos. Having that foundation crumble beneath her with no warning, no way to brace herself, had utterly devastated her.
Toby had betrayed her trust. He'd broken her heart, left it shattered in his wake. But, when she was completely, painfully honest with herself, how could she justify holding on to her anger that he'd lied to her when she'd been guilty of the exact same thing so many times in the past?
She'd lied over and over to protect him, pushed him away to keep him safe. She'd hurt him with no explanation, kept her secrets and shut him out. And for what purpose? She'd meant to protect him but had actually accomplished just the opposite.
Maybe if she'd been honest from the start, trusted him with the truth of what was happening to her, he wouldn't have felt the need to go to such lengths to find out the answers for himself. He'd hurt her, yes, but she was not without fault herself. If she was to believe what he'd said, then she had to admit she'd played a role in bringing them to this place.
She knew her own motives had always been pure where he was concerned. His safety had meant more to her than her own happiness. In her mind, she'd been placing him first, but how could she expect him to understand that when she'd never told him the truth about the opponent she was facing off against? How could he know the odds that were stacked against them when she'd never told him what was happening and how completely her life was consumed and dictated by A? She would have done anything to keep him safe… even if that meant she lost him.
Was it so completely impossible to think that he would do the same for her?
Was it so impossible to believe that he was telling the truth? That he'd meant only to protect her? That everything he'd done, he'd done for her, because he loved her in exactly the same way she loved him? She would have sacrificed anything for him… could she fault him for doing the same for her?
She'd never wanted to believe anything so terribly in her life. It was almost a physical pain spearing through her chest.
Toby hadn't moved while her internal war raged on. How long had she been lost in her own mind? The span of a few heartbeats or of a lifetime? She couldn't say for certain. She took a good look at his face. The mask he'd worn in the diner was long gone. The cold veneer had melted away. And the man looking back at her now was the one she remembered, the one her heart would recognize anywhere. It was the real Toby. Her Toby. The other half of her soul. His name slipped from her lips like a prayer.
The tears welling in his eyes were her undoing. Her feet carried her toward him without any conscious decision on her part. She knelt in front of him, placing her hands on either side of his face. It wasn't lost on her that the last time she'd touched him, her palm had stung from the blow to his face after she'd found him in her kitchen wearing that black hoodie. Now, she was the one in black.
Instead of striking him, this time, she cupped the sides of his face gently like he might vanish beneath her touch. A single tear slipped from his eyes and slid between her fingers. His cheek pressed into her palm, leaning into her touch like he'd been starved for it; she felt the whisper of his lips at her wrist. She realized belatedly that her own cheeks were damp with tears.
And suddenly every last one of the doubts that had tormented her faded away into oblivion. He loved her, she knew that beyond any shadow of doubt. Her trust in him had never been misplaced. She believed him. She loved him.
And he was here.
The flesh beneath her hands was warm and alive. She could feel his breath caress her skin, the pulse in his neck beating against her fingers. And this wasn't a cruelly vivid dream. It was really him. Just a few mere hours earlier she hadn't believed that this could ever happen again.
His eyes were tormented. His heart had been broken too and it peered back at her through blue eyes bright with tears that he didn't try to hide from her. She stroked his face, feeling the broken pieces of her heart begin to mend themselves together in her chest. For the first time in ages, she could breathe again.
Toby hesitated. His hands unclasped, reaching for her arms as if to draw her nearer, but he waited, allowing her to make the first move. She felt the fine tremor of his fingers as he brought his hands around to her back. She didn't think, didn't question the wisdom of what she was doing as her lips were drawn magnetically to his. His hands rested in the small of her back, over her black hoodie, as his lips took hers gently, caressing them in the way that was so familiar. She melted into him, her fingers tangling in his hair.
In one sense it was as if they'd never been apart, and, strangely, it was that thought that caused her tears to fall. They had been apart, and it had almost destroyed her. During that time, she'd known that she was never again going to feel his arms around her, protecting her from the world. She was never again going to feel his hands on her, touching her like she was incredibly fragile and infinitely precious to him. Never again was he going to kiss her like she was the only person in the world that mattered to him.
And yet that was exactly what he was doing right at that very minute.
The dam shielding her heart swept away under a maelstrom of emotion. She could taste the saltiness of her tears as they escaped faster and faster from her eyes and slipped between their joined lips. A sob constricted her chest, stealing her breath. Despite her efforts to hold it back, that sob was wrenched from her, muffled into his mouth. She collapsed against his chest, unable to stop the quickening flow of tears, the cries torn from deep within her, echoes of the heartbreak that had crippled her for weeks.
Toby's lips parted from hers, drifting to her cheeks, to her eyelids, kissing away her tears as they fell. Strong arms wrapped tightly around her, crushing her closely to him while she fell apart. Spencer pressed her face into the curve of Toby's neck, breathing in the familiar scent of his skin. She was far beyond the point of caring that he was a witness to her utter breakdown.
She wept like she had that night at his door, when she'd begged him to tell her that it was all just a terrible dream. Wept as she had in the woods after she'd found his body, broken and cold and horribly, terrifyingly still. She wept as if to purge away all the pain and the agony of the days and weeks that followed.
She felt herself being lifted from the floor. The arms holding her together loosened enough to sweep under her knees and around her back, cradling her against a firm chest. She felt herself being lowered and panicked at the sudden distance even with his arms still beneath her. She wound her arms tightly around Toby's neck, terrified that he'd vanish into the night like a mist and that she'd wake up alone and cold by herself in her bed. It had happened before. Almost on a nightly basis… on the rare occasions when she'd actually managed to sleep.
She panicked over nothing, however, because Toby had no intentions of letting her go. He laid her down gently on the bed and followed right behind her, tucking her tightly into his body. His arms wrapped tighter still around her as she strangled on the sobs gripping her chest, struggling for breath around them.
"Spencer." Toby's voice was pained, breathless. "I'm sorry… I'm so sorry." He whispered it over and over again into her hair. She could hear the tears thickening his voice, feel them dampening her hair.
Her hands fisted into his jacket, clinging to him like he was her life raft, the only thing keeping her from being swept away to drown. She rode out the tidal wave of grief, letting it run its course.
Finally, after a long while, the tears dried up, leaving her sniffling pitifully into Toby's chest. His hands, rubbed up and down the length of her back, stroked soothing circles against her shoulder blades. She felt whisper soft kisses pressed into her hair, against her forehead. His work-roughened fingertips brushed the remnants of tears from her cheeks, his lips following closely behind.
"You were never supposed to get hurt. That was the last thing I ever wanted." The voice was so quiet, she almost wondered if it was the product of her overwrought imagination telling her exactly what she wanted to hear. "Spencer, I'm so sorry." Contrition colored every word. He sounded just as broken as she felt. "What can I do? Please tell me."
"Just hold me." Her words were barely audible even to her. "Don't let me go."
His hand cupped the back of her head, lips pressed against her temple. He laid his cheek against the top of her head and just held her as she'd asked. They lay in silence for a long time. For at least a few minutes, Spencer didn't want to think, she only wanted to lay there with him and pretend that nothing had changed… that nothing outside the circle of his arms existed. He seemed content enough to do just that.
"Toby, if I ask you something will you tell me the truth?" she asked at length.
He nodded, his cheek rubbing against her temple. "Ask me anything. I'll tell you whatever you want to know."
"Were you ever going to tell me?" She was almost afraid of his answer, but she felt she needed it nonetheless.
He didn't respond at first, seeming to weigh his words carefully. "I don't know," he admitted finally. "I went into this knowing if you found out I could lose you, and I didn't know if you'd ever be able to forgive me for what I'd done. But I was losing you anyway. All the secrets and the lies were driving us apart, and I couldn't just stand by and do nothing while the most important part of my life was taken from me by this thing I couldn't even understand.
"I knew enough already so that it wasn't too hard to figure out where to start digging, and, considering my history with Alison, it was easy to convince Mona that I had enough reasons of my own to want payback. But once I started, it just spiraled out of control from there. It didn't take long at all before I was in over my head, going a direction that I never intended to go. I thought I could get on the inside of this thing, whatever it was, figure out who was targeting you and shut it down before you got hurt again." He shook his head in derision. "It didn't work out so well obviously," he said drily. "This is so much more complex than I ever dreamed."
"Now you know why I kept telling you to leave it alone," she muttered into his chest. "You'd already been hurt enough by Alison... by Jenna... by us. I didn't want you to become A's target too. It was too dangerous. Every time I pushed you away, I was trying to protect you."
"I didn't want to be protected, Spencer," he said stubbornly. "Especially if that meant getting left in the dark about what was happening to you... what was happening to us. I wanted you to trust me enough to let me in and tell me the whole truth, not just parts of it, not shutting me down when I got too close to what you didn't want me to find out. I wanted you to let me help you. We make a really good team. Don't you think we're better off – that we're stronger – together than we are apart."
"Obviously, since I lost my mind and became a complete mental case without you," she snarked bitterly.
He flinched at the reminder, his response pricking her conscience. "Honestly, I didn't do much better without you," he admitted. "I'd thought pretending not to love you was the hardest thing I'd ever do, but leaving when you believed the worst of me made that feel like a cakewalk in comparison. I hated myself for doing that to you. I still do."
"At least you didn't find my body in the woods and spend days thinking I was dead. At least you knew I was still alive." The words spewed angrily from her mouth.
"You're right," he whispered remorsefully. "Spencer, I'll never be able to make up for the way I've hurt you. I know that. You have every right to hate me for the rest of your life. And if that's what you want, I wouldn't blame you for it."
His complete acceptance of her anger deflated any meager fight she'd managed to summon. "I don't hate you," she admitted. "Believe me, there's a part of me that would like to. Losing you… I didn't want to keep going. I've been discouraged so many times, I've been overwhelmed and scared… but I've never wanted to just give up and check out like that before. I've always had something to keep fighting for… some reason to keep going even when it didn't seem like there was never going to be a way out.
"But when I believed you were dead, I just thought, this was it, there was nothing else A could take away from me. Nothing else that could hurt as badly as that did. A had won… so what reason was there to keep trying to fight when I'd already lost. It was over, and I was okay with that."
"Spencer…" Toby's voice hitched. She could feel the breath catch in his throat. She didn't give him time to say anything, though. He was only going to apologize again, and she didn't want to hear it. He'd already apologized countless times when she'd spent her tears against his chest earlier.
"Just… just tell me again that we were real," she pleaded, tears welling in her eyes again. "Tell me that I wasn't just seeing what I wanted to see all this time."
His hand left its resting place against her back, fingers lifting up to cup her chin. He gently nudged her face up from his shoulder until she met his gaze. His eyes were still red and bloodshot from his tears, but they were intent and sincere, looking so deep into hers that she would almost swear that he could see all the way through her.
"Spencer, I never lied about loving you. Ever. From that first night in the motel when you got so pissed after I beat you at Scrabble, I knew that you were going to be someone very special to me." A sad kind of smile lit his eyes at the memory. "That was real, Spencer, just like everything after that was real. You are everything to me… you're my whole world. Whether you believe anything else I've ever told you, please believe me when I say that. I love you… so much. I always have."
She believed him, she really did, deep down. She just needed to hear him say it, needed the reassurance of his words. Not speaking, she lifted her face, pressing a kiss to his chin. His fingers traced the line of her jaw; she felt the ghost of a kiss on her lips. He tucked her face back into his neck as silence descended over them again. Toby was the one to break it the next time, much later.
"Spencer?" he asked hesitantly. She could hear the faint tremor of fear in his voice. "Do you think there's any chance you'll ever be able to forgive me? I mean really forgive me? Is there any way I'll ever be able to earn your trust again? I know I don't deserve it, but I will do whatever it takes."
She didn't answer right away. Any resentment she'd harbored towards him was quickly melting away. It was hard to hold on to it when he was cradling her so tenderly against him, when she could so clearly see the torment behind his own eyes. He'd made a difficult decision, one she understood now more than ever. And it wasn't as if he'd escaped unscathed.
There were only two options before her… she could stay bitter, refuse to forgive and lose him all over again. Or she could forgive him, they could find their way through this and hopefully work to salvage their relationship. The ball was in her court. The serve was hers.
Ultimately, she loved him, desperately and with all her heart. That trumped any anger she felt toward him.
This time she was the one to lift her head and find his eyes. She could read the hesitance there, the fear that her answer might just break him. But she knew that he would accept her decision either way. The choice was hers and hers alone. Tenderness welled up in her heart and she knew without a doubt what that answer was.
"I forgive you."
His face transformed in relief at those three words. He looked like she felt… like a suffocating weight had been lifted from his chest. "Thank you," he whispered thickly, kissing her forehead soundly. "Thank you." Spencer could feel the smile on his lips.
In all reality, she had to forgive him for working with Mona. She had made that same decision, too. And by now, if her plan had worked, Hanna surely would have seen the picture she'd sent to her phone.
Hanna would have been with Malcolm all evening, and Spencer knew he would be able to identify her as the one who'd taken him. She knew Hanna, knew that was the reason she'd agreed to babysit Malcolm in the first place, to try to coax some answers from him. And as soon as Hanna figured out the clue Spencer had left, the others would know too. She could only hope with every fiber of her being that they'd give her the chance to explain and forgive her for the choice she'd made. How could she possibly deny Toby forgiveness for the same wrongs she'd soon be seeking pardon for herself?
She'd meant it when she'd said she was tired of being a victim. Nothing they'd done before had worked. It was time to take another approach, to come at this from the inside. And now there were two of them there. A united front from within and without. More so than ever it seemed possible that an end to the madness was finally within their reach.
Eventually, she glanced over at the clock. It was well past midnight, and she had a long drive to get home. Spencer sighed heavily, nuzzling closer to Toby. She didn't want to get up; she was far more comfortable than she'd been in a long time. This hadn't been her intention when she'd followed him back to the motel. She'd only been seeking answers, not an overnight tryst. And she didn't want to assume anything where he was concerned.
"It's getting late," she said begrudgingly. The idea of leaving the warm circle of his arms and returning to the night was almost more than she could bear.
"Don't go," Toby whispered entreatingly against her temple. "Stay with me. I've missed you so much."
Spencer nodded in relief, needing no more coaxing than that. She'd only just gotten him back, leaving him so soon was the last thing she wanted. Morning would arrive long before she was ready to face it, but, for now, they had the entire night together.
Toby kissed her forehead softly and gently disentangled their limbs. Her eyes followed him as he crossed the room to the small duffel bag he had stashed in one of the bureau drawers. From inside, he pulled a set of pajamas and held them up to her. "Top or bottom?" he questioned. His voice was still scratchy from his earlier tears, but she heard the hint of teasing in his voice, a reminder of before… before their world had crashed and burned around them.
She smiled wearily at the memory of the first night they'd spent together, innocent as it had been, in another run-down little motel. He'd asked her the same question then, and she'd frozen, for a split second unsure if he'd been making a joke or if he'd actually expected an answer from her. Things hadn't exactly been easy for them then either, but if she'd had any idea that first night where the year ahead would take them…
Still smiling a little to herself, Spencer sat up and took the top he offered to her. The insanity of it was, even knowing what she did, after everything she'd gone through, she wouldn't take any of it back if she could.
"You want the bathroom first?" he asked, breaking into her reverie.
Spencer shook her head. "No, you go ahead."
Toby placed his hand over her cheek, brushing his lips over her forehead. "I'll be back."
Spencer sat on the side of the bed while he disappeared into the bathroom, eyes staring blankly ahead. It was very nearly impossible to pin down exactly what she was feeling at that moment. Her thoughts and feelings were caught up in a whirling, conflicting vortex inside her. She was exhausted and, at the same time, energized. She was relieved… pensive… wistful… almost unsettled. She was determined… focused... driven. She was angry, not with Toby, not anymore, but furious that they'd been forced into this corner to begin with. She was uncertain of so much and yet absolutely certain of him.
Toby finished in the bathroom and gestured that it was all hers. Spencer shut the door behind her and took a deep breath, leaning her body against the sink. She was almost afraid to look at the reflection staring back at her in the mirror. Her eyes were puffy and bloodshot still, her nose red. She was a mess. But, red though they were, her eyes had life in them again. In a way, it was bizarre to see herself there. She'd almost gotten used to the dull-eyed stranger that had looked back at her for so many weeks.
Glancing away, Spencer turned on the faucet and splashed her face. The cold water felt so good on her flushed skin. With the tips of her fingers, she blotted up the smeared mascara from under her eyes.
She was only too happy to shed the dark clothes she'd worn to meet Toby in the diner, especially the black hoodie that represented everything that she so deeply despised. Seeing herself in it was still shocking. It was just so wrong. Briefly she wondered if the sight would ever not make her stomach clench in revulsion, and then just as quickly she hoped her stint on the A Team wouldn't be long enough for her to grow accustomed to the sight.
In place of the hoodie, she slipped Toby's shirt over her head. His scent clung to the soft fabric like an embrace. Taking down her hair, running her fingers through the long strands, anticipation tingled in the pit of her stomach, at the thought that he was just on the other side of the door, waiting for her. And it was just the two of them. All night. No interruptions. Heat bloomed under her skin as she finished getting herself ready for bed. In the mirror, she could see that her face was indeed still flushed, but for an entirely different reason now.
When she stepped out of the bathroom, Toby was perched on the edge of the bed. He'd already turned down the blankets. On his face, she could still clearly see regret and remorse lingering. There was vulnerability in his eyes that called to every protective instinct she had. Any last haunting doubts she might have had melted away as she crossed the distance that separated them. Whatever they'd face in the morning could wait. For that night, there was only each other. He loved her. She loved him. That hadn't changed. And that was all she needed to know.
The heat of his hands at her waist burned through the thin fabric of her shirt. The skin beneath her fingertips was warm, smooth… vital. Lips met softly at first and then hungrily, desperately, as mind and flesh fought to catch up to what neither of them had dared hope for – that they'd ever have the chance to be with each other this way again.
The arm against her back lowered her gently to lay on the mattress. Spencer welcomed the warm weight of him as he settled over her, reveled in it. Their breath came in short bursts as kisses grew harder, hungrier, as hands raced over heated skin, frantic to touch and be touched.
Quickly, she became frustrated at the fabric between them, even as little as there was. She tried to lift up enough to pull off the shirt that separated her from him, but she couldn't quite manage being pinned as she was beneath him. To her relief, he took the hint, lifting up just enough to reach between them, finding the hem and pulling it over her head.
Her hands reached for him immediately, pulling him back down to her as soon as the offending garment was gone. She moaned blissfully when skin met skin. That was better, but it still wasn't enough. Her fingers tangled into his hair, arms and legs wrapped around his, anything to bring him closer and then closer still. And even that wasn't enough. It was never enough.
She wanted more, wanted to be so completely consumed by him that the rest of the world became a distant, vaguely unpleasant memory. Until nothing else existed but them. With her impatient help, the last few items of clothing were cast aside, tossed carelessly onto the floor or the foot of the bed, Spencer didn't care.
Like their clothes, the layers of lies and deceit that had built up between them had been stripped away, leaving them more exposed than they'd ever been before. It would have been… probably should have been terrifying to be so utterly exposed to another person. But she trusted him. With everything she had. They'd been torn down to their very foundation only to be built back up again. Hopefully this time stronger, reinforced, able to withstand any storm that came at them in the future.
This was right. This was how it was supposed to be. Just the two of them, nothing at all between them. As close as two separate people could be… open… intimate.
Spencer's hips lifted, legs twining around Toby's, inviting him to come closer still, an invitation that he accepted without hesitation. She moaned softly at the welcome intrusion of his body into hers. His mouth was open, breath hot on her throat as he trailed a line of kisses up to her jaw.
"I love you," he whispered huskily into her ear. "Spencer, I love you so much." Again and again he whispered it like a mantra… against her throat, her jaw, her temple… into her mouth when he covered it with his once again.
Everything was reduced to sensation. Spencer wanted to tell him that she loved him too, but oddly for her, forming words was all but impossible. Instead she told him with her hands as they raked frantically over the taut muscles of his back, she told him with her body as she gave him everything she could possibly give. She told him with her kisses, pressed against his shoulders, his neck, his mouth.
He was all around her, his weight, his warmth, his scent. He was inside her, filling her, one with her. Spencer strained against him, her mind taking a back seat to her body's feverish demands. Heat built and built, expanding from a place deep inside her until it finally burst, coursing through every last nerve ending in her body. Biting back a cry, she clung to Toby as she rode out the waves sweeping over and around and through her. For the second time that night, her body was out of her control, only instead of grief this time it was raw and elemental pleasure. Through the haze that clouded her vision, she noted that Toby's hands gripped the sheets beside her head, his knuckles white, as he followed right behind her.
His body wrung every last iota of pleasure from hers until they collapsed together, panting and exhausted. She nuzzled her face into his shoulder when he rolled over just enough to allow her room to breathe. He lifted her face and found her lips lazily, languidly, with his. She sighed contentedly into his mouth. If she could have frozen that moment in time and stayed right there forever, safe and blissfully content in his embrace, she would have done it in a heartbeat.
Slowly this time, as if they had all the time in the world, mouths probed, hands roamed, limbs tangled together. There was no rush, no hurry, only them until the slow, lazy caresses fanned the flames of desire that had dimmed for a short while. His hand traced the length of her leg, hooking it over his hip as they joined their bodies again.
Hours passed and finally exhaustion weighted her limbs. They lay facing each other, passion dying down to embers warming between them. Toby took her hand, playing with her fingers. Sleep tugged at her eyelids, but she fought it off, reluctant to give in just yet. When she woke up, it would be morning and she'd have to leave him again. Stubbornly she clung to wakefulness, refusing to surrender to sleep. For once, reality was better than her dreams. So much better.
A smile played across Toby's face as he watched her battle with sleep. She was losing the fight and she knew it.
"Come here," he said tenderly. She let his hands gently guide her onto her other side. He brought their pillows closer together and settled her back against his chest, keeping his body curved tightly around hers. He clasped her hand in his and threaded his fingers through hers. "Sleep, Spencer," he murmured softly, pressing his lips to her shoulder blade, the base of her neck, and then to the crown of her head.
Even as he pulled the sheet up around them, she could feel her eyes closing in sleep. She settled into the mattress, settled against him, comfortably, a quiet sigh passing her lips. As she drifted off, she called his name.
"Yeah?" he mumbled, sounding as exhausted as she felt.
"I love you."
His arms pulled her closer, fingers giving hers a comforting squeeze. "I love you, too."
That was the last thing she heard before her body finally surrendered to sleep.
Spencer was dreaming, she was sure of it. Consciousness tugged at the corners of her mind, but she pushed it willfully away. She was warm and content, something she hadn't had the luxury of in so long, even in her dreams. For weeks, nightmares had pervaded any restless sleep she'd managed, and when she woke it was only to trade one nightmare for another that was equally, if not still more, horrifying.
For the moment, she felt safe and protected, and she wasn't ready to give that up just yet. Life would intrude with its cold reality soon enough, but for now she only wanted to stay exactly where she was.
Try as she might, though, wakefulness pushed through the fog of sleep. The reality waiting for her was so very far from the one she expected, however. Warm breath filtered through her hair. Strong arms held her securely. A comforting heat radiated from the body beside her. Beneath her cheek and her fingertips, she felt smooth, warm skin and the slow, steady thrum of a heartbeat.
Where was she? And was she absolutely certain she was awake?
Thoroughly confused, she blinked her eyes open. Her pinched reflection gazed back at her from deep blue eyes still slightly glassy and unfocused from sleep. A drowsy smile overtook the face next to hers.
"Good morning," Toby breathed in a sleep roughened voice, brushing a tender kiss to her forehead.
In a flood of memories, the events of the day before came rushing back. The diner, the motel, their talk, the tears… hers and his. Their reunion, the night they'd spent tangled in each other's arms. It was real. It wasn't some cruel delusion that her subconscious mind had forced upon her. It had all been very, very real.
Toby was lying right beside her. He loved her. He'd told her that he'd done what he had to protect her, and, still with the morning light, she believed him in exactly the same way she loved him… with her whole heart, nothing held in reserve.
She didn't reply to him with words, instead smiled broadly up at him, and tipped her face back to close the slight distance between their lips. He responded to her kiss eagerly, brushing back her sleep matted hair with tender fingertips. Spencer wove her arms around his waist, rolling to lay on her back, bringing him with her. Her hands roved over his back, his arms, his waist, any part of him she could reach as he lay over her, his kiss stealing her senses again.
She needed, she craved, the same sweet oblivion she'd found in his arms the night before – before the rest of the world barged in again. She canted her hips toward him in invitation and let herself be eagerly swept away in the feelings and sensations he drew from her with his touch and the movements of his body.
When their passion subsided, he tucked her tenderly into his side again, his fingertips tracing absent patterns on her spine. "Good morning," she finally whispered in a very late reply, an impish smile playing at the corners of her mouth. The rough stubble on the underside of his jaw scratched at her lips as she planted a kiss there.
The dim light of very early morning drifted in through the blinds. She'd slept for only a handful of hours but she felt more rested than she had in a very long time. She supposed that was what hope did to a person. Hope and purpose. And love.
"Hi," Toby chuckled deep in his chest. "Did you sleep all right?"
"Mmhmm," she murmured, enjoying the vibrations of his voice against her ear. "You?"
He nodded in assent, taking her lips with his once more. They were being unapologetically greedy, taking every opportunity to kiss, to touch, making up not only for lost time but for all the times in the future they'd been certain they'd never have. Neither of them could get enough.
She settled against him once he released her lips, feeling his heart beating steadily against her cheek. The only sound in the small motel room was that of their breathing. Again, futilely, she wished that they could stay in this bubble of serenity, just the two of them forever.
"Toby?" she spoke, hating to break the comfortable silence.
"Hmm?" he murmured into her hair.
She tilted back her head to find his eyes. "Do you remember when I asked you what it was like to run away."
A smile wrinkled the corners of his eyes at the remembrance. His chuckle rumbled against her cheek. "Of course I remember."
"And you told me if I ever had the urge to run away to call you first."
"Yeah?" A hint of confusion laced his voice now, uncertain where she was going with this stroll down memory lane.
"I'm thinking about it now," she admitted in little more than a whisper.
His arms tightened around her slight frame, drawing her closer still. "We're not running, Spencer." All amusement was gone from his voice. He paused, seeming to weigh his words. "I know you. You wouldn't be able to live with yourself if you ran now and let A win. And what kind of life would that be? You'd always be looking over your shoulder, waiting for the next blow to fall. You'd never be at peace no matter where you went because you'd know that it was never truly over."
She sighed heavily. "I know." And she did know. He was right. But, still, it was a very tempting thought – to leave now. To run away with him and leave everything else behind.
She could see it… the two of them in their own little house somewhere, maybe even a house that Toby built for them himself. She could see them making a life together. See herself falling asleep in his arms every night as she had the night before, waking up to his kiss every morning. Having coffee together at their kitchen table. Cooking dinner together. Doing even the most normal, mundane things without the shadow of A hanging over them seemed a beautiful dream that was just out of reach.
"We won't run," Toby repeated, his voice determined. "We're going to stay and fight. We're going to burn this thing down from the inside. We're going to finish this, Spence, once and for all. And when it's over, we can leave Rosewood for good and never look back if that's what we want.
"But you're going to graduate. You're going to walk across that stage with your friends and get your diploma. You're going to be accepted into the college of your dreams and get your degree. You're going to have a future, Spencer. A isn't going to take that away from you. I won't let that happen. We can end this, Spence." His voice was low and intent. "We're so close."
"Toby, I want you to promise me something." She propped herself up on his chest to look at him. She needed to see his eyes. Needed him to see her.
"Anything," he answered without hesitation. "Name it."
"I need you to promise me there'll be no more secrets. No more lies between us. Not anymore. We're in this together now, and we need to protect each other by being honest. We can't afford to give Mona, or Red Coat, or whoever the hell is behind all of this any leverage to drive us apart. Not again. It almost killed me to lose you," her throat closed, the memories choking her. "Toby, I'm not strong enough to handle that a second time."
A shadow passed over his eyes at her reminder. They'd talked, she'd forgiven him, but one night didn't make it all go away. Whether either of them liked it or not, ramifications from their decisions would still haunt them for a long time to come. What was done, no matter the justification, could never be undone.
"I'm right here, Spencer," he assured her. "You're not going to lose me. And I promise… no more secrets."
"No more secrets," she echoed resolutely. The promise went as much for her as it did for him. Their deception had almost cost them each other. It was something neither would ever forget.
Probably because of her intense desire to cling to their stolen night together, time slipped through her fingers like sand in an hourglass. Finally, Toby spoke the words she'd been dreading.
"We have to get moving," he said with a sad, resigned sigh.
She groaned, pressing her face into the curve of his neck. "I know."
Slowly, and very reluctantly, he separated their arms and legs, disentangling their bodies. An immediate chill rushed over her at his absence. She felt cold down to her very bones without his warmth next to her.
"Come on," he said, taking both her hands in his and urging her from the bed. He kept his grasp on her hand as he led her to the bathroom. Held on to her still while they waited for the water in the shower to warm up.
She let him guide her until the warmth of the water was in front of her and the warmth of his body was behind her. Her head leaned back against his shoulder as he washed her body with gentle hands. He reached around her for the small bottle of shampoo and massaged her scalp, lathering her hair. She couldn't quite stop the small moan that escaped her lips at his ministrations. He guided her around to face him, placing her under the warm spray to rinse away the suds. Her hair, nearly black from the water, clung to his hands in wispy tendrils.
Next it was her turn. Her turn to wash him, to tease him, to – she hoped – make him feel as good as he'd made her feel. It must have worked because, before she knew it, she was backed up against the shower wall while he lifted her enough to wrap her legs around his waist.
The fleeting thought crossed her mind, they didn't have much longer left. Really only a matter of minutes. How was she supposed to leave him again?
Toby reached down to turn the water off, making sure she was firmly on her feet before he let her go. A sinking feeling coiled in the pit of her stomach as he reached for a towel and began blotting the water from her body and her hair. The steam on the mirror cleared little by little, revealing pieces of their reflection as she grabbed a second towel and took her time drying him off too.
As much as she wanted to prolong it, eventually she had to let him go. She tied her wet hair up in the band she'd left on the counter the night before and reluctantly put her clothes back on. Toby's scent still lingered on her skin. It was comforting.
When Toby saw the shirt she'd put on over her jeans, a mischievous smile quirked his mouth. "You do know that's mine, right." It wasn't really a question. She had more than a few of his shirts in her possession. Wearing them was a poor substitute for having his arms around her, but if she couldn't have the real thing, even a poor substitute was better than nothing.
"Is that a problem?" she asked just as playfully, glancing up at him through her eyelashes.
He just chuckled, shaking his head.
The brief moment of levity passed as she gathered up her things to leave. He opened his arms to her and she crossed the room in three quick strides, burrowing into them.
"I'll see you tonight," he promised, squeezing her tightly. "We're going to finish this, Spencer. Together."
She nodded, forcing herself to sound much braver than she felt. "You said it yourself, we make a good team. We can do this."
"Good luck today. With the girls."
"Thanks," she said, trying to repress the sick feeling she got in her stomach when she thought about the confrontation in store for her later that day.
"They'll understand," he soothed her, running his hands up and down her arms. He understood her anxiety, even without her saying a word.
"I hope so."
"They will. Trust me."
"I do trust you," she said, stretching up onto her toes to kiss him one last time. He met her kiss with another of his own. And then one more.
Regretfully, she tore herself away from his arms, grabbing her hoodie. She knew if she didn't leave then, it was just going to become that much harder to leave him at all.
"I'll see you tonight," she said, hitting the key fob to unlock her car. "Stay safe."
Toby stood leaning on the door jamb while she cranked up the car. When she glanced back, he was still there, hands in his pockets, watching her as she drove away. She missed him already, missed the closeness they'd shared the night before. She missed the feeling of his body next to hers. She could only hope that the sneaking around and stealing moments would be over soon.
They were going to end this, the two of them, once and for all. Toby had said it best, they were stronger together than they were apart, and, for better or for worse, they weren't fighting on their own anymore. They were in this together. They were a team. And they weren't going to let anything stop them this time.