So sorry it took me a bajillion years to update. I hope you enjoy this McHastings, you vivacious rainbow of joy!
Spencer pulled into a spot and exited the car with a fluidity of motion that would be expected from a fictional spy, not a law intern. She was in the hospital, finding the floor in minutes.
Crisis was ingrained in Spencer now, and she maneuvered through by muscle memory. Compared to Ali, then 'A,' then Ali, everyday disasters were simple: aggressively defend and protect the things you love. Think later.
It wasn't until she arrived on the Cardio floor, standing twenty feet away from Paige embracing her mother that the what, when, where, and who of the matter dawned on Spencer. Paige, who had seemed frail in the car, was bold now, her back straight as she hugged her mom. She was speaking soothing words to the woman; she was making eye contact and making her smile. It was something to behold.
Spencer decided that she'd come this far, she had to go greet them. She had to interact with Paige's mom for the first time since she started having sex with her daughter. Spencer tried to shake the thought out of her head.
"Hi," Spencer said, waving awkwardly on her approach. She should leave, but she couldn't bring herself to do so. She felt like there was an invisible rope attaching her to Paige and the slipknot end tightened around her painfully if she wandered too far.
"Hey," Paige practically whispered, with just a flash of vulnerability.
"Spencer!" Paige's mom broke through any tension by embracing the girl. "Thank you for bringing my daughter." She led them to her plot of the waiting room. "He's in surgery now. He will be in there for most of the night... 6 hours."
"He'll do great, mom," Paige reassured as her mother began to falter.
"Yes. So we might as well get comfortable," Mrs McCullers said as she settled into the waiting room couch. Spencer plopped down as well and Paige sat between them. Instinctively, Spencer's arm reached around the girl's waist and to Spencer's total surprise, Paige leaned into it, sitting sideways against Spencer with a knee on the couch so that she could continue discussing details with her mother. Paige's mom didn't seem to think twice about it and Spencer eased, pulling Paige a little tighter, placing a reassuring kiss on her shoulder when her mom told them how her dad had collapsed in the kitchen. Paige sighed into Spencer. Spencer couldn't put the feeling into words, she just knew she wanted it to last. Spencer felt her phone vibrating in her pocket. She ignored it. It was going to die pretty soon anyway.
Three hours later, Spencer was watching Ninja Warrior play out silently on the waiting room screen. Mrs. McCullers had gone to find a book from the gift shop and Paige was asleep against Spencer's chest.
It was no surprise, given the steady stream of beer and swimming she'd engaged in at the swimmers' party.
Spencer had always been wary of public displays of affection, even with Toby. But there was something about Paige... Spencer had to have her, had to have a hand on her waist, or the crook of her elbow. Spencer wanted to feel claimed by Paige. She wanted everyone in the room to know that she was her's. It was as if their bodies were two barely overlapping circles. You. Me. Our hands. Spencer drew it in her head. "And the circumference of my circle left wanting," she whispered.
"Huh?" Paige shuffled sleepily. Spencer blushed. She hadn't meant to say that outloud nor did she want Paige to wake up. Her only consolation was that Paige seemed very out of it.
"I like you," Spencer whispered.
Paige smiled a very sleepy, goofy smile, "I like you, too," she said, cuddling further into the girl.
"Now go back to sleep," Spencer commanded. Paige nodded and complied.
The attending had been checking in on them regularly. Things seemed to be going well, although they had a few initial delays. He was going to be out at 6 AM.
"So, did we win tonight?" Paige's dad's asked, voice scratchy and gruff. That was the question he used to ask her on the rare occurrence of missing a swim meet. By 'we,' he never meant the team, he always meant Paige. She'd always struggle to bite back a sneer or a sarcastic comeback when he asked that question.
This time Paige smiled. He looked weak and beyond exhausted. But he was going to live. "Yeah, dad. I think we did," she said before moving towards him. She placed a kiss on his head. He looked pale and clammy. But it was better than the first one, Paige thought.
Paige's dad was in and out of sleep the rest of the day. Spencer drove Paige and her mom home in shifts for them to rest and shower. Around 4, she actually knocked on the recovery room door. She opened it to find the family all awake and talking. "Spence!" Paige exclaimed, "I didn't think you were coming back."
"Well," Spencer said in a tone between awkward and wry, "you told me it was game night. I brought Uno," she explained. It had seemed like such a good idea in the car. Now, Spencer was worrying that she should have given them family time.
"That," Paige's dad said, "Is a perfect game for game night," he smiled at Spencer. Paige was beaming at Spencer now, but she'd soon be scowling, having made the mistake of sitting between Spencer and Mr. McCullers.
Over the course of the evening and morning of her father's surgery, Paige accumulated emotions that she didn't have the space or time to project. Worry. Sadness. A little self-pity and a heap of affection. For her mother, of course. But there was this surge, this overflow of feeling when her eyes landed on Spencer.
Paige felt like her head was a sponge saturated with both the good and the bad tears that hadn't been shed. Emotional sponge is not a good way to play Uno, she berated herself, trying to mold her face into merely a playful pout instead of a total breakdown when Spencer and her groggy father started to gang up on her.
"Draw two, AND skip your turn," Spencer was saying.
Paige responded with a hmph. Between those two, she hadn't had a turn if four rounds. Spencer noticed something more about her expression and put a hand on her back and a kiss on her cheek. It took Paige by surprise. A good surprise. A great one, even. She looked over, hoping her dad hadn't noticed.
"That girl is brutal," he was saying to her mom. He had a smirk on his face that told her that he had seen that exchange. "This is what happens when you bring a Hastings to game night, kid," he added.
"You're sure you don't want some alone time?" Paige asked as Spencer was leading her up the stairs. It was late on Sunday and Paige had been sent away by her parents to get a good night's rest.
Spencer stopped in the hallway to mockingly think it over. Paige barely had the energy to swat at the girl's arm. "Nope," Spencer finally concluded. "I can't think of anything better to do," Spencer said, with a crooked smile, running a finger up Paige's arm. She turned around once she got to her door and grabbed the other girl by her jacket.
Paige laughed and kissed Spencer's neck. "Thanks," she whispered there. "And I'm sorry... about the stuff I said... at your house," she added softer.
Spencer leaned to kiss her lips, "God, me too," she mumbled against them. Paige kissed her back, hard and Spencer let her hands wander up the back of Paige's neck and into her hair. Paige let out a slight moan and pulled Spencer's hips closer to her own when Spencer scratched there. Paige pushed her against the door to better kiss her and Spencer balanced herself with one hand on Paige's jacket and the other on the doorknob.
"Mm- mh," Spencer fell back as the door opened, breaking their kiss. "I swear to God I locked that door," she said, pulling Paige into the room. And I turned off all the lights, she thought.
Paige was about to lean in to finish that kiss when her eyes went wide looking at something behind Spencer.
"Spencer! Where the hell have you been!" A woman's voice exclaimed, "we've been texting and calling and we even talked to your parents!" the girl yelled. Spencer's jaw dropped.
"Emily?" Spencer said, surprised. "How-"
"I have your key! Why haven't you been picking up your phone?!" Emily asked, looking from Spencer to Paige and then Spencer again, her anger seemingly mounting.
"I was helping-"
"Paige texted the swim team about her dad," Emily exclaimed, arm rocketing out to point to the girl before falling flat with realization. "Wait. Why is she here?" Emily snapped at Spencer again, ignoring Paige. Emily stood, contemplating. She noticed their silence. She noticed Spencer's hand that remained tightly gripping Paige's jacket. "Oh," she said. "Oh," she shook her head. Then Emily grabbed her bag off the couch and rushed to her keys on table. "God.. I'm going, Spencer," she said, eyes falling hard on the girl. "And sorry about your dad, Paige," she added a little softer as she brushed past them and out the door.
It took Paige a few moments to react. "I.. I should go," she kept saying. She never meant to do this. She never wanted to come between a friendship, let alone one this strong.
"No," Spencer said sternly in reply.
"Spence, you have to-," Paige pointed to the empty hallway.
"Get in bed and I'll be back in a few," Spencer said.
"Spencer, I don't think I should stay here," Paige responded.
Paige looked exhausted. Even knowing that Paige could take care of herself, Spencer still didn't want to leave her. She knew it was her own fault that they didn't catch a break. She let her phone die and now there was... this. She took a breath. "Listen. Go to bed," she kissed the girl, it was strong but steady and even though Spencer needed to feel this as much as Paige did, she hoped it was reassuring. There was that feeling again... that one tugging at her when she'd first thought those words... "This is not your problem, okay? I'll handle it. You need sleep." Spencer kissed her again hand reaching for her cheek, and again until she could feel Paige's resolve dissolve. Then she took off down the hall to find Emily.