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Three Blind Mice

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Effortless. If Paige had to describe Emily in one word, it would be that. Without even thinking, hands down, no regrets: effortless. Followed perhaps by fearless if she could use a second word. Beautiful would be the third. But when it came down to it, what other word besides effortless could truly encompass all that was Emily Fields? Everything just appeared to come so easily to her. It wasn't just that she returned to the swim team and almost instantly started breaking records. Oh no, it was definitely more than just the swimming. Smart, talented, sweet, and not to mention breathtakingly beautiful; she was one of those people who you wanted to hate but couldn't. How could the world not work out perfectly for her when her hair always cascaded down past her shoulder in just the right way that could leave you speechless as you tried not to stare but failed? She could make old, comfy sweatshirts just as unbelievably sexy as her homecoming dress. Within Paige's admittedly limited experience, she knew Emily could kiss better than anyone. And she had this unique ability that, whenever Emily had kissed Paige, the redhead had felt like she was actually attractive, like she was worth it.

And attractive was the last thing Paige usually felt. Paige was not effortless nor fearless nor granted such perfect cheekbones. Nothing came naturally to her. She couldn't even figure out how to make her boring, pencil-straight hair less severe. Maybe her smile was charming in the right light, but how often did she have reason to smile? She knew she was awkward, perhaps even abrasively so, and had a horrible tendency of trying to compensate for her shortcomings by being overly competitive. And a bully.

But she was so preoccupied with her underlying differentness that made it hard for her to be any other way. She lived under the constant threat of her secret threatening to escape and the constant fear that she couldn't keep it hidden for much longer. Her differentness, it seemed to float dangerously just beneath the edges of her, a clawing at the surface waiting impatiently to inevitably ruining her. And so words always seemed to build up in her mouth, piling upon each other as she fixated over each syllable, as she mentally rehearsed every word, phrase and sentence over and over and over again. Only for them to tumble out all wrong, never like she intended.

And then there was her father, her father's expectations and her father's blame games and guilt trips.

But there was also Emily. Emily who just floated into Paige's life nonchalantly and ruined everything. No matter how much Paige toiled and worked, it seemed like she could never touch the girl and her achievements. No, it certainly was not just the swimming.

Even her name was easy to say—Emily Fields. It just breezed off one's tongue. Not at all like her own. While Paige was inoffensive enough, one's tongue always seemed to get caught on McCullers, a last name perhaps more properly fitting for a farmer or for a minor villain who was not meant to be taken so seriously. Was it the hard C followed by a sound that briefly sounded like one was perhaps punched in the stomach, the 'er' turning more into a sigh of recovery? Or maybe it was Paige overly fixating again. But one way or another, it was less than pleasant to say. Paige had fully planned from an early age to take the last name of whoever was daft enough to marry her. Of course as she got older she began to realize that there were a few massive complications to this plan.

The most glaring being the one that Emily had made Paige all too aware of. After all the other swimmer, whether she realized it or not, never made it easy for Paige even before returning to the pool and threatening Paige's relay anchor spot and her aspirations to be captain. Some part of Paige had probably always known the truth about herself, about her underlying and as yet unnameable difference that made her so anxious. But seeing Emily and Maya together—and looking so happy—only confirmed it for her. It was hard not to stare at the happy couple so confounded as she was over how two girls in high school could make being gay look so easy, breezy, beautiful cover girl. The last thing she believed was that she could ever be as happy as Emily and Maya. Especially not in high school. Especially not with her father.

She knew how he felt about anyone who was stupid enough (or brave enough) to do something different or contrary to how he thought it should go. He even found offense in girls with short hair or boys with long hair, especially if it was in a ponytail or braids. If he knew the truth about his own daughter, it would just be another way that she inferior, another thing for him to have to find blame for. Paige really had to wonder if her father would be able to look her in the face, let alone love her. Would she even be his little girl? Or her mother's? At first, she was so occupied with worry that she barely noticed her growing feelings for her distant teammate.

Regardless, there they were: her feelings, her differentness threatening to finally rise to the surface. She resented Emily for being beautiful and smart, for how Emily's flawless perfection escaped being marred by being gay. How could it be so easy for her? This resentment grew from her gut and spread to the far reaches of her like a weed infecting her fingertips. It swelled up into her mouth where piled up next to all the words she wanted to say but couldn't, shouldn't, wouldn't and nearly choked her. She hated how Emily had made Paige painfully aware of who she was. She hated how Emily made it all look so easy when Paige knew it would never be like that for her. She hated how Emily looked at Maya, how she smiled at her and held her hand down the hallway. Most of all, she hated how Emily made Paige feel, which was nothing like hate at all. But all those feelings Paige kept bottled up inside, and there they dwelled just beneath the surface with everything else that scared Paige about herself.

But then Maya left and Emily returned to the pool and threatened to topple everything. During her break from the pool, the other swimmer had been a distant threat. It was one thing if she made Paige aware of the truth, but it was another to be suddenly everywhere all the time, throwing it in the redhead's face. And she was everywhere, not just in the hallways, but at practice, at meets, in the lane next to her swimming faster. Within weeks of returning to the pool, Emily not only continued to threaten Paige's mental well-being, but the sanctuary she had found in the pool where she didn't have to be anything or anyone but fast. And then her father's anger at her for her less than perfection, her slipping and slacking off. It was all too much.

Paige wasn't proud of it, of any of it. The breast stroke comment, if she allowed herself a moment of honesty, she was speaking more to herself than to Emily. And holding Emily's head under the water? It truly frightened Paige when she had realized what she was doing, what she had done.

She had no idea why she had shown up on Emily's doorstep that night in the rain. Even less of an inkling as to why Emily not only opened the door but didn't shout at her and instead talked to her like she was a human being, like Paige's words were worth listening to. Somehow Emily didn't seem to hate her and it made Paige hate herself more, made her apology sound even weaker.

And Paige remembered how it down poured when she skidded across the wet pavement pedaling back home. And how easy she thought it would be if she fell, if she fell like she had fallen for Emily. And part of her felt more surprised by her realization than the abrupt contact of her skin against the concrete or how the impact reverberated through her muscles before settling into her bones. She doesn't remember walking her bike home. She only realized she was bleeding after locking herself in the bathroom, curled up in a ball, soggy clothes still clinging to her body as she sobbed as quietly as she could.

And somehow, somehow despite all Paige's abusive, overly-competitive, awkward mistakes, she had kissed Emily. Abruptly and horribly before literally running away like she was still grade school. It was utterly embarrassing and this time she remembered how she ran all the way home, stumbling a few times. All Paige wanted to do was forget, to pretend like it never happened. To ignore the butterflies. To save some scrap of dignity she might have left. But Emily kept calling her, texting her. She wouldn't let it alone or let Paige be.

And then the unbelievable: Emily had kissed her. Standing there in the dive bar's parking lot being kissed by the girl who had made everything so difficult for her, it had all felt so right. Maybe even too right. She never wanted to stop kissing Emily Fields in that dark parking lot but she never wanted to deal with the consequences of kissing Emily either. However there were always consequences, especially in high school, and if she honestly dealt with them, her world would change forever. Paige wasn't sure she could handle that quite yet. Or ever.

What was so wrong about wishing to keep their relationship a secret? Why didn't Emily understand? She could love Emily and not love people knowing about it. Coming out wasn't easy and, to be honest, Paige wasn't sure if she wanted to or even if she could. Or should. All those quotes about the truth setting you free were not written by gay teenagers in high school, Paige could almost guarantee that. And Paige had to be realistic. While the students had been more or less respectful of Emily when she had started dating Maya, Paige highly doubted she could expect similar treatment from her peers. Emily was Emily: talented, beautiful, popular, and smart. And Paige, she was still Paige. After admittedly being a bully so often to cover up her own insecurities, Paige hardly doubted she would be spared a taste of her own medicine in the hallways and locker rooms if the dirty truth about her was ever revealed. And that was just at school.

Even effortless Emily had struggled and still struggled with her mother. So what could she expect from her own even less perfect family? She could barely even think about that it frightened her so much. All the pressure to be the perfect daughter, the best at everything, the top of the class, the captain of the team, the anchor of the relay, and what of that? How she could be the perfect daughter if she was kissing someone else's even more perfect daughter? The plan was more than just a GPA in the top percentile, a remarkable college application, and an ivy league education. It was a picture perfect white wedding in June, a house with a picket fence in Rosewood, or a similar suburb that would be close to both her and her husband's high paying, executive jobs. The expected two point five children, both naturally gifted of course, that were neither adopted nor conceived through the help of something akin to a turkey baster. That was the game plan that she had to execute flawlessly, exactingly. Any less than that would be failure and failure was never an option.

And it was this fear of failure that controlled her every action. It drove her to reach the top by any means necessary. It isolated her because her father had made it clear that being a perfect daughter did not include close friends. Friends had the nasty tendency to get in the way after all and distract her. And forget about being gay, Paige was barely allowed to date boys.

So, really, how could Paige meet Samara at the Rosewood Grill? First of all, it was hardly a place for a private and personal conversation. What if someone overheard? Besides she had no actual plans of coming out any time soon so it seemed entirely pointless. She had been so wrapped up in Emily, so desperate to keep her that she had said what she knew Emily wanted to hear, made that promise, hoping to buy time, to keep buying time. Until what? Until Emily understood why she couldn't. She had thought that if she had just showed the intention, a glimmer of a hope of coming out that Emily would understand that she was at least trying. And later, when Emily got to know her more, got to understand her family more, she would realize what Paige was up against and maybe even agree with Paige's hesitation and doubts.

It wasn't her fault that neither Samara nor Emily received the email she had sent earlier that morning canceling their meeting, vaguely citing something had come up and asking for a raincheck. Of course, she had meant to send it sooner but her mother wanted to email their cousins and then her dad kept walking by the family computer so Paige had to keep minimizing windows while pretending to write a paper that didn't exist. If only Paige was allowed internet access on her laptop, but she had lost that privilege when she lost her place as relay anchor.

So she had more or less unintentionally stood Samara up. But Emily hadn't. The whole charade had been a mistake and it all blew up in her face when Samara turned out to be a cute and overly flirtatious blonde. She had once again lost her chance with Emily. And she knew she wasn't going to get another chance unless she actually did come out. In the end, that was not something she was sure she could do, even if it was for Emily.

Spencer couldn't concentrate. Her AP Russian History text book lay open before her but her mind kept returning to the email she had received last night. The inner workings of the long dead czars couldn't compare with the inner meaning of all the emotions that were now stirred to the surface by A's latest barb. It wasn't so much the taunting message as it was the photo attachments of Emily in her window seat kissing Paige McCullers that haunted Spencer so much. More than being shocked or stunned, Spencer had also felt a strange sensation surging through her as if she had been sucker punched in the gut. Judging from A's words, however, Spencer was fairly sure that A was not fully aware of the extent of the pain and confusion they had now caused in the brunette.

First of all, Spencer wanted to when exactly Paige had transformed from bullying homophobe to tonsil hockey partner. While relieved that Paige had apparently stopped terrorizing Emily, Spencer was nowhere near pleased with Paige's apparent newfound role in Emily's life. Emily could do better. So much better.

"Spencer?" Spencer broke out from her revelry to look at Toby. They were sharing the couch in her living room, his arm casually draped over her shoulder as she pretended to study and he presumably actually read his book.

"Hm?" She blinked, trying to return to the real world and push the images of her rather attractive friend out of her head.

"I was just checking to see if you were still with us on planet earth," he smiled innocently. "You haven't turned a page for over ten minutes."

"Oh. Just lost in thought." Spencer bit her lip and rubbed her eyes before giving a meek smile.

"I can see that." As Spencer got to know Toby, she had learned to appreciate how forward Toby was and how his almost minimalist word choices and simple sentence structures was not an indication of his intelligence but seemingly a product of whittling his words down to the bare, truthful essentials. Of course, as blunt as he could be, he still had a way of mystifying his meaning. "Anything good?"

"Not really, just thinking about how crazy it would have been to live in Russia back then," Spencer forced a grin, trying to look innocent from the thoughts that were still buzzing around her brain.

"Probably not any crazier than here."

"Right, just with more fur coats and vodka."

"I'm not sure about the more vodka part. Have you seen some of our neighbor's recycling?" Toby stated with a smile that Spencer had to admit was beyond cute, in fact she would definitely classify it as charming. Attractive even.

Spencer had never once questioned that she liked boys. It was a clear and simple fact. But the pain that jolted through her stomach when she saw those photos of Emily and Paige? If allowed a moment of honesty, she was pretty sure that was jealousy that was now eating her up inside. It had started to make her wonder if her protectiveness over Emily was perhaps more than just a platonic, healthy concern over the sweet one in their group. It was a question that, if Spencer was entirely honest with herself, was not entirely new to her. She had always had a quiet questioning in the back of her mind wondering if she liked girls as much as or maybe even more than boys. However she had also liked boys, had been relatively happy with boys and so had never given girls a serious thought. It was just easier that way after all. Of course, after Emily came out, Spencer had started to wonder more seriously about her attractions, but even so they were thoughts that were pretty easy to push out of one's mind with the overachiever amount of AP courses she was taking, a relentless cyber stalker, and becoming the prime suspect in her friend's murder. But now, this? Her jealousy she could almost feel it on a physical level and it made her wish that Toby wasn't touching her. And that couldn't be entirely platonic, now could it?

Which led to the question of how long had she had she feelings for Emily. As she tried to trace it back, she couldn't find a starting point or a beginning. Whether actually true or not, it seemed as if her deep affection (and attraction) for the other girl had always just been there. After Alison's murder, when Aria moved to Iceland and the rest of group started to drift apart, it was Emily that Spencer had missed the most. Even more than Alison. She found ways to rationalize all this of course. After all Hanna was changing so much as she rose to the new Rosewood "It" girl, but this really wasn't true. If anything, without Alison around constantly putting Hanna down, the blonde was finally coming into her own and finding, or at least faking, confidence. And after losing the weight, it became near impossible for all of Rosewood to miss what a beautiful and charming girl she always was. True, Aria was out of sight, out of mind in Iceland but Spencer still passed by her old house almost every day. And maybe it was easier not thinking about Alison, but she was always in the back of Spencer's mind. Her presence had a way of lurking behind corners, creeping in shadows, an underlying hope of unexpectedly turning up coupled with a growing dismay that she never would. But with Emily it was somehow different.

She missed the other girl the same way she felt jealousy now, on an almost physical level. But why? In the locker room, their lockers were close enough that they served as a constant reminder but by all rights, it shouldn't have affected Spencer any differently than Aria's house. And sure being the only serious athletes in the group, Spencer could reason it gave the two of them a special bond she didn't have with the other girls. But if Spencer was honest, it wasn't just the athletics or the desire coupled with the ability to win that drew her to miss Emily so much. No, the reason dwelled in the core of Emily herself—her smile, how she alternated between sometimes hiding behind her hair and tucking it behind her ear, her softness. How she wore just enough perfume for her scent to linger for a few seconds after passing by. Or how sometimes after swim practice she was paranoid that she smelled like chlorine, even though Emily secretly liked how it smelled.

Even though Spencer missed Emily the most, she consciously allowed the distance to grow between them. Despite always wanting to see Emily, or perhaps because of, the swimmer had started to inspire a strange sort of nervousness and self-consciousness in Spencer. Spending time with her friend forced her to confront, or at least acknowledge these feelings and Spencer had no idea how to deal with that quite yet. So she hid behind her busy and demanding schedule and threw herself into all sorts of projects and deadlines that would keep her safely away from her beautiful friend's butterfly inducing presence.

And once they had become friends again? It was more than just Spencer always subtly trying to find ways to sit next to or, in the very least, across from the other girl. There was no questioning that Spencer was far more protective over Emily than anyone else in their group. And Spencer could only cite shallow excuses as to the reason why. Emily was far stronger than she initially appeared for starters. And Hanna? For all her popularity and sarcastic bravado, she was just as sweet as Emily and arguably just as vulnerable and fragile, if not more. Being the "indie" one of the group did not make Aria any less delicate than her friends nor did her feather accessories act as magical fashion talismans protecting her from the ills of the world. But the bias was there and it was becoming increasingly evident.

And that horrid night in the bell tower? Only hours before it happened she had told Toby that he was her safe place. But who had she called? Even before 911, in the moment of truth, she had dialed Emily when she feared for her life. She did so without pause or hesitation or thought. It was Emily. It was always Emily.

Her mind wandered to small moments with Emily that she cherished. The glow Emily got after swimming. Lying in the sun on Emily's bed helping her with homework. Her drunken refusal to let Spencer open the car door for her. Spencer only now realizing how much she had always wanted to be a gentleman for Emily.

"What are you really thinking about?" Toby inquired, interrupting Spencer's thoughts once again.

"What do you mean?" Spencer turned her head towards Toby, trying to look innocent. More and more time passed, the arm he had casually draped around her shoulder felt increasingly heavy and wrong but she couldn't find a way of subtly sliding it off.

"No one smiles like that about the Bolshevik Revolutions, not even communists." He had a teasing and playful smile. Boyish.

Spencer tucked her hair behind her ear, instantly thinking of Emily with that gesture. "Just letting my mind wander I suppose." But Spencer couldn't lie to Toby. It seemed utterly cruel to lie to someone like him. She had no idea how she and the rest of the town could have been so convinced that he was ever a murderer. "I saw a picture of Emily kissing someone who wasn't Maya." Spencer frowned a little.

"And this bothers you." It wasn't a question, it was an honest statement of fact.

"It's not that this girl isn't Maya, I think we all know that's over what with Maya now seemingly preferring, for whatever reason, to commune with bears and trees. It's who this new girl is." Spencer exhaled. "It's someone I don't think she should be kissing, that's all. Or really even be friends with. She's been horrible to Emily in the past and…" Spencer searched for the words.

"You're worried about her." Toby spoke with a slight smile on his face, there was something about it that drew Spencer's attention. There was something strange about it that Spencer couldn't quite place.

"Of course I am," Spencer nodded resolutely. "She's my friend and I'm afraid she's making a big mistake. This isn't a case me of misjudging someone too quickly on poor evidence, this girl has actually proven that she's bad news more than once. She's not house trained and she's bitten twice already."

"Alright, that's an interesting mental image," Toby continued to smile, though he looked a bit unsettled. "If that's what you're thinking about, then why were you smiling just then?"

"I…" But for the life of her, Spencer could not figure out how to answer Toby's inquiry.

"Emily making a big mistake isn't the only reason why this new girl bothers you, is it?" While phrased as if it was a question, it was an honest statement of fact. Her eyes, in part to avoid eye contact, still hadn't left his smile and suddenly Spencer figured out what kind of smile it was: it was the smile of someone who was trying not to look sad or hurt. In the silence where Toby waited for her to respond and she said nothing, he withdrew his arm, returning it back to his side. Spencer immediately felt the chill from the lack of contact, but mostly she just felt free. And then, as if in explanation, Toby continued, "You were blushing earlier, back then when you were smiling. I had been hoping it was about me but I think we both know better by now."

"Toby, I…"

"No, I get it. I had feelings for her once too, remember?"

While the rest of the girls were determined to finish their homework, Hanna had long ago diverted to reading the Cosmo magazine she had found in Emily's room. And despite no one joining her, she had proceeded to take one of the quizzes out loud. First with her own answers and then again posing as each one of her friends and trying to guess their answers. Spencer, who was half paying attention to her friend's antics, was surprised that Hanna, who had consistently showed so little insight in English class, could determine Spencer's answers with an alarming accuracy. It wasn't the first time Spencer wondered where Hanna would be in school if the blonde could actually be bothered with schoolwork. But when even this somewhat impressive trick of guessing her friend's answers couldn't gain her friends' attention, which was perhaps less impressive when one realized how long all four of the girls had known each other, Hanna soon grew bored of the game herself.

"You know, wasn't it only a month ago we were all dating someone?" Hanna mused out loud, her eyes still locked on the magazine as she flipped through the pages trying to find something to attract her attention. "And now the only one in a relationship is Aria. Maybe we should all start dating our teachers, they seem to be the most stable ones out there."

"Hey," Aria piped up, defending herself. "I'm not the only one seeing someone. Spencer, what about you and Toby?"

Emily, who had been determinedly trying to finish her algebra on her bed, suddenly looked up with interest. And Spencer, who had been largely but hopefully subtly preoccupied with Emily since arriving, noticed.

"Nothing there to report, it's not happening," Spencer shook her head, her eyes mostly on Emily, waiting to see if the other girl would pipe up. If anything, now would be a perfect opportunity for Emily to share her new romance with Paige.

But when Emily did speak up it was only to ask questions. "What happened Spence? I thought you two were happy. I mean, you seemed happy."

"I found it weird to date someone with a tattoo of the date of Alison's death to commemorate the end of his relationship with his disturbing step sister." Her words were met with wide-eyed surprise that she had actually gone there and Spencer only shook her head. "I'm joking. But seriously, we're just friends. We got close too fast and then with us both being suspects and sharing the hotel room, we just confused it for something more than it was. We can chalk it up to teenage hormones and loneliness." She spoke plainly with a shrug. "It was no real hard feelings, we just realized it wasn't going anywhere and we'd rather have each other's friendship." And hopefully she still had it. "He's a good guy, just not my guy, you know?" Spencer spoke mostly to her algebra book, trying not to look solely at Emily as she spoke.

"If you say so," Hanna shrugged. "Guess I answered that one question wrong for you in the Cosmo quiz. So, you have your eye on anyone else then?"

"Toby and I just broke it off today," Spencer tried to avert her attention back to her algebra book, hoping her long hair would hide the sudden blush threatening to creep back, but as she spoke she accidentally made eye contact with Emily who didn't look away either. For a moment, their eyes were locked in contact before Emily blinked and looked away.

"Well, one of us needs to back on the pony. Spencer, I vote you."

"It's horse, Hanna." Spencer corrected somewhat fondly. As to the rest of her friend's statement, she decided to let it pass.

"Whatever. I want to live vicariously through someone who isn't dating our English teacher. I mean, he is cute and everything but… actually, no, he is pretty cute. I'm fine with living through you, Aria. It's not like he's old and wrinkly yet."

"Hey!" Aria threw her eraser playfully at Hanna.

"Besides there are plenty of dolphins in the sea." Hanna spoke as she dodged the pink missile.

"Hanna," Aria exhaled patiently. "It's fish. There are plenty of fish in the sea."

"I know that," Hanna grinned playfully. "But I like dolphins better so whatever. Besides who would want to date a fish anyway? Isn't it like cold fish or something?"

"It's cold feet," Emily smiled. "You're just doing that on purpose now."

"Actually, Hanna might be right on that one. Cold fish means frigid woman. How does that line go, 'It was thought she was a woman, and was turn'd into a cold fish.'" When everyone looked at Spencer with a confused look, Spencer exhaled with exasperation. "Has no one done the reading from Mr. Fitz's class? Come on, Aria you're in love with the man. It's from The Winter's Tale. We just read it last week."

"Spencer if you didn't hang out with us so much, I'd say you'd have to get a life. Who memorizes Shakespeare?" Hanna rolled her eyes.

Anything Spencer might have replied with was cut short as everyone froze when Aria's phone buzzed.

"It's just Ezra," Aria reported checking her phone, the relief in the room almost palpable.

"We really need to set our phones so they ring differently when someone not in our contacts messages us. I really can't handle a heart attack at every text message," Spencer observed. She wasn't sure how much more of A any of them could handle.

"Might be a good idea," Hanna nodded.

"So, what does Mr. Fitz have to say, anything good?"

"Ezra just got out of his staff meeting," Aria explained as she typed a response. "I think I'm going to finish my homework at his place."

"Isn't that cheating?" Hanna arched her eyebrow. "I mean, he is your teacher."

"It's not like I'm going to do his assignments there. Besides, he's not going to be teaching at Rosewood for much longer and I only have science to finish up for tonight." Aria shrugged casually as she started to gather her things together. "Hanna, can I have my eraser back?"

"Whether it's considered cheating or not is a moot point as I think we all know that Aria isn't going over to work on her homework." Spencer smirked, speaking in the mock-sexy voice she used whenever she teased Aria about her love life. "Unless it's extra credit biology."

"When did this become pick on Aria night?" Aria stood up, bag in hand.

"When you became the only one in a relationship." Hanna informed brightly. Spencer stole a glance at Emily who once again said nothing. "Actually, I should probably leave too. My mom is on this big mother-daughter bonding kick ever since Caleb left. I think she wants to watch a movie tonight or something to cheer me up. But if I show up too late, she'll be grumpy at me for the rest of the night. How does that make any sense?" Hanna stood up, relinquishing her spot on Emily's bed.

After both Aria and Hanna left, Spencer took Hanna's place on Emily's bed so they could share an algebra book. Now next to Emily on the bed, Spencer found herself once again having difficulty concentrating. They worked mostly in silence, Emily every once in a while asking a question, which was probably the one thing keeping Spencer's mind somewhat on track as she stole glances at Emily that were bit more than friendly.

As per a new Pam policy, the door to Emily's room was open and while they never saw her, they heard her continue her one woman mission of packing up for Texas. Luckily Pam had agreed to wait until Emily had finished the current semester before forcing their temporary relocation, which would give Emily more time to find a way to stay behind in Rosewood. In the meantime, Pam was flying down to Texas nearly every other weekend to get everything sorted out for their big arrival just before the winter holidays. It was only after Spencer had more or less finished the last problem that Pam knocked lightly on the doorframe to remind them both that it was a school night. Assuring Pam that she was just on her way out, Spencer slid her laptop into her bag as she sat up.

"I'm sorry to hear about you and Toby," Emily offered as she watched Spencer pack up after Pam had walked back down stairs. The way she said those words it sounded as if she had been wanting to say them for a while.

"Don't be," Spencer smiled as she zipped up her bag. "I'm not."

Emily studied Spencer long and hard before accepting Spencer's answer. "Okay. But if you want to talk about it, I'm here for you all right?"

"It was mutual. If anything, he's probably more heartbroken than I am."


"He brought it up actually, though I think accidentally and… it's nothing really, we just sort of stumbled across the reality that my mind wandered too much when I was with him." Spencer tried to fight the blush coming to her face. Forcing her nervousness aside, Spencer decided to ask about the one thing that had been bothering her all evening. "What about you?"

"What do you mean what about me?" Emily furrowed her brow in confusion.

"I mean, when are planning to tell us?" Spencer looked at Emily, carefully studying her features. "About you."

"Planning on telling you what exactly?" Emily sat up, tucking a strand of hair behind her ears, suddenly looking very uncomfortable. "Spencer you already know that I'm gay."

"About you and Paige." Spencer stated simply and nonchalantly as possible, her eyes never leaving Emily.

There was a long silence before Emily said anything. And when she finally did, her voice was nearly a whisper. "There's nothing to say. It's over. It never really began."

"So you two aren't…?"

"No. To be honest, I don't even want to speak to her at the moment. She wouldn't come out of the closet and I wouldn't go back in. I won't be ashamed of who I am," Emily's face was lined with pained determination.

"Good." Spencer nodded, her tone as resolute as Emily's face was determined. She locked her eyes with Emily's. "You deserve so much better than Paige McCullers." She tried her best not to make a face when she said the redhead's name, though Spencer was sure she had limited success. "She would never be able to treat you well," Spencer insisted, only belatedly trying to explain. "I mean, she tried to drown you, Em."

"Spencer! It's not all just black and white. She was confused about being gay and all the pressure from the swim team and her dad just sort of got to her."

"Please don't make excuses for her. You're better than that. Most people figuring out their sexuality don't go around drowning people, Em. I mean you don't see me developing a violent or abusive streak." The words were out of Spencer's mouth before she even realized what she was saying.

"Why would you? You're not…" Emily started and then stopped. Spencer didn't have to be watching Emily to feel the girl's eye intently studying her, maybe suddenly taking in her military style jacket in a new light—which Spencer was probably the first to admit looked pretty gay when you actually thought about it—before their eyes met. "You're not gay. Are you?"

"I like boys," Spencer started and, only after the slightest pause as her eyes dipping slightly before finding Emily's again, added, "but I like girls too. Well, right now, I like one girl in particular. Quite a lot actually."

"Oh?" Emily spoke, her voice suddenly sounding hoarse, her voice barely audible over the sounds of Pam banging around downstairs.

The rest of the world seemed to go quiet before Spencer leaned in closer towards Emily. When the other girl didn't move away, Spencer kissed her softly on the cheek. Her lips lingering on the other girl's soft skin just long enough to not be entirely platonic, to begin to make Spencer's intentions clear without hopefully crossing a line. In those brief few seconds, Emily sat there frozen, neither moving in nor moving away. While this was perhaps not the best encouragement, Spencer was working on nerves alone and found herself kissing Emily's other cheek, lingering just a bit longer than before.

This time, however, to Spencer's surprise and delight, Emily moved in slightly, almost beckoning, inviting Spencer further. And so, Spencer lowered her attention, almost chastely, to find Emily's lips. Despite how soft they felt against her own, so different in all the right ways from any boy she had ever been with, Spencer pulled away before the kiss could become anything more. She was more than aware of her friendship with Emily and how she was very well putting it all in jeopardy.

"What…?" Emily asked, finding words suddenly difficult to formulate, her face flushed after a few moments of stunned silence. For a second, it appeared as if she would close the distance between their lips again. "Why did you…?"

"Isn't it obvious? This is my full confession: you're the girl that I like. And I hope you know me well enough to realize that I'm not teasing you with this or trying to be cruel. This is how I truly feel about you. And I'm not some confused girl wanting to experiment and try on the bi-curious label for a season because I think it might be fashionable. I really like you, Em. A lot and in a decidedly quite romantic manner," Spencer leaned in again, her heart in her throat, to find Emily's lips one more before her friend could reply. Not only did Emily not pull away, she responded to Spencer's gentle contact by opening her mouth ever so slightly, shyly trying to deep the contact. Spencer marveled at how effortless it felt to kiss Emily, how right it was, how even in that fairly innocent kiss their lips seemed to melt together. But before Spencer would let her teenage hormones run away with her, she pulled away once again, lingering only slightly on Emily's bottom lip.

"That was a good night kiss." And with more bravado than Spencer actually felt, she slipped off the bed, grabbed her bag and walked out. She paused slightly at the door and turned around, "And just so you know, you would never be my secret. You are far too good for that."

Chapter Text

Spencer couldn't remember the last time she was so nervous about going to school. Even attempting to take the SATs in near hurricane conditions seemed less stress inducing. The fact of the matter, though, was it wasn't school that was making Spencer so nervous. It was Emily. And while Emily had been quietly making her nervous for a long time now, it now far surpassed the normal day-to-day butterflies in her stomach. After all, it was one thing to quietly swoon over one's friend, it was another entirely to actually kiss her before fleeing the scene as gracefully as possible. They hadn't talked or texted since and Spencer really did not know if this was a good thing or not. All she knew was that the very prospect of seeing Emily made her so nervous she felt vaguely nauseous.

The truth was Spencer had no idea what to do now that her lips had parted from Emily's. Until it happened, kissing Emily was only something she had planned in her softest dreams. Dreams she hadn't let herself fully acknowledge until seeing that photo of Emily and Paige kissing only days prior. And there was a safety in dreams. Now this was reality. Just because Emily was single did not exactly give the brunette license to go around kissing her, did it? But now that she had, all she wanted to do was kiss Emily again. And again. As often as possible. She wanted to kiss her hello and good night, she wanted to kiss her softly on her forehead if Emily was ever stressed or sad or if Emily ever rested just her head against Spencer's shoulder. She wanted to kiss her passionately and tenderly at the same time, she wanted to know if such a thing was even possible.

She wanted to know if Emily felt the same. Was Emily jittery, smiling softly to herself and blushing slightly just as Spencer was that morning as she fixed her infamously strong coffee? Was Emily just as fixated on the possible ramifications of their kiss on their friendship? But perhaps overall hopeful? Or was Emily simply regretting it, realizing now in the light of day that she had only returned Spencer's affections last night out of some mixture of surprise, confusion, and possible physical, but ultimately platonic, attraction? Was Emily, as she warmed up during her morning swim practice, trying to figure out a way to gently turn down Spencer and salvage their friendship? Or was Emily doing her morning laps and reaching the feared conclusion that maybe a friendship with Spencer was starting to become way too complicated and perhaps not worth it?

As Spencer packed her bag in an empty house, she bit her lip wondering if she had perhaps acted too boldly, if she had indeed pushed Emily away when all she wanted to do was get closer. What if, years down the line, the second deterioration of her friendship with Emily, and maybe even with Hanna and Aria as well, could be traced back to last night when she barely gave herself the moment to breath before brushing her lips so boldly against Emily's.

Part of Spencer wished that they had been drinking or that they had been punch drunk with exhaustion, that Spencer could laugh it off and stall until she she could collect herself and figure it all out. To stop the world from spinning out of her control before she could determine a proper strategy for wooing Emily. Or simply determining if her friend was woo-able or even wished to be woo. In the very least, a sick day was tempting.

But Emily had kissed back. And Emily deserved more than that.

Spencer had stayed up most of the night tossing and turning thoughts around in her mind. Excited, nervous, happy, frightened, bubbly, and anxious. What she needed to know was if Emily was similarly tossing and turning. What she needed was a way to gauge Emily's feelings, a way to prove that she would never regret kissing Emily without ruining their friendship. She needed to be bold but at the same time not risk their friendship.

Still lost in her thoughts, Spencer packed up her bag and, as she went to reach for it, knocked over her coffee. Perhaps nerves were to blame or over-exhaustion for Spencer sending her travel mug full of coffee sailing. Maybe fate stepped in to ensure the top hadn't been screwed on properly. Or maybe hot liquid was now running all over the pristine countertop and dripping onto the floor for no other reason than a moment of adolescent clumsiness. No matter what the cause or reason, while cleaning up the coffee, Spencer finally found the idea she was hoping for.

This was why she was now approaching Emily's locker with two coffees in hand silently praying that she had ordered correctly even though she had heard the other girl order it countless times. While Spencer had no idea if Emily was in a similar need of caffeine—and if this potential need of a coffee was good thing or not—she figured it was a safe but sweet gesture, and potentially a way to avoid an awkward morning after wave or greeting. No matter what happened as consequence to their kissing last night, this morning deserved more than averted eye contact and mumbled greetings. And what better morning awkward prevention method was there than caffeine? Coffee was, after all, the universal gesture of so many things. It was a gesture of kindness, of friendship, of courtship. There were also apology coffee, lets talk about this coffee, lets avoid talking about this coffee, I think you're cute do you want to make out coffee. Come up to my place for a coffee coffee. Just to name a few.

Emily had just closed her locker door but was was distracted by zipping up her schoolbag, or pretending to be, when Spencer approached and leaned up against the locker in front of her.

"Good morning," Spencer smiled, trying to hide the nervousness pounding in her head.

Emily looked up quickly to face the other girl, a blush and a smile on her face, the bag seemingly forgotten as it nearly slipped from her hand. "Spencer. Hey." Emily seemed to duck behind her hair slightly as she pushed it out of her face, her eyes softly examining Spencer.

"Coffee? I thought you might be in need of caffeine," Spencer offered, extending the coffee out towards the other girl.

"Thanks," Emily took the coffee with smiling hesitation laced with gratitude, their fingers brushing up against each other. If it had been any other day, Spencer would have barely thought about it, maybe not even entirely noticed it. But after their kiss, now, suddenly, finger grazing seemed entirely important and worthy of over-analysis. "What's this for?"

"I told you last night." Spencer looked Emily straight in the eyes, trying to be as forward as possible about her feelings without physically showing the other girl in the crowded school hallway. "I care about you, Em, and more than as just a friend. But I also understand if you don't." Spencer exhaled. It was best just to be straightforward, after all? Even, if she allowed herself to a cliche joke, that what she was saying was anything but straight. "This is me courting you. If you want. With your permission."

"So you're serious?" Emily leaned in slightly, her eyes never leaving Spencer.

But before Spencer could respond beyond a shy, nervous smile, she was interrupted by the arrival of Hanna and Aria.

"What's this? You went to the Coffee Haus this morning? Where's our coffee?" Aria spoke as a way of greeting with a slight frown.

"Spencer and I… stayed up late last night studying after you left. Really late." Emily jumped in quickly, her words colliding quickly against each other. "Which is why she's brought me a coffee. I needed the extra caffeine so I asked her to pick me some up while I was at swim practice."

"I can see that," Aria arched an eyebrow. "Though at this point I think you might be a bit over caffeinated already. How many have you had?"

Emily shrugged, calming down slightly. "First one. Just that kind of morning I guess."

"Whatever. See you in class." Aria adjusted her very large feather earring before turning on her heel and walking towards the English classroom.

"I like how she thinks its subtle to get there early so she can find the best place to moon over Mr. Fitz. Totally not obvious," Hanna grinned as she whispered, before also turning and following her friend to class.

After the two had disappeared, Spencer turned to look at Emily, her own eyebrow raised as she tried not to look sad. "Why did you say that?"

"Because I don't even know why you got me the coffee, Spence." Emily exhaled, the small smile however never leaving her face. "This is all so new. That kiss last night took me completely by surprise. In a good way!" Emily exclaimed, obviously wanting to reassure. She then paused and seemed to murmur to herself, "I think." Looking at Spencer, she seemed almost anxious as she continued, "But I'm still figuring it all all. I don't want to get them involved until we actually figure out what this with us is." Emily offered by way of explanation before taking her first sip of the coffee.

"But you're saying that there is a this to figure out," Spencer prodded, trying to hold in her smile and her hopefulness to only some degree of success. "Maybe even an us?" She drew out her question with optimistic hesitation.

Emily once again ducked her head slightly, trying to hide her smile before looking up. "I'm saying that this is all very new and fast so I don't know yet but maybe, yes. But also, thank you for the coffee. It's really sweet."

"In that case, may I carry your books?" Spencer tried to hide her smile, or smirk rather as she couldn't help but let herself hope.

"Carry my books?" Emily smiled in a way that seemed like she was almost laughing, but in a nice way. "Is this the 1950s?"

"I meant what I said about courting you. Now if it's alright with you, hand me your books. I am going to walk you to our first period class." Emily tried to protest weakly but Spencer placed a finger on Emily's soft lips before sliding the other girl's school bag off her shoulder, their eyes never breaking contact the entire time. The urge to then lean in kiss her friend was so overpowering that Spencer had to swallow and bite her lower lip. Putting her friend's bag on her shoulder, Spencer broke away from temptation. "Which will not only be golly gee peachy keen, but a gesture you're going to find infinitely charming. So let's go before we're both late to class. Joint detention is not part of my courtship plans."

What had started out as simply a cup of coffee to brave over the awkwardness inevitably turned into something more. During study break, Spencer, in a moment of boldness, slid her shoe off and ran her foot partway up Emily's calf in order to get her attention. Emily looked up with a priceless expression of surprise. Wordlessly, Spencer held out half of the orange she had just finished peeling moments prior. Emily however continued to stare at her blankly as Spencer, who, with a mischievous smirk, continued running her toe up and down Emily's rather muscular calf underneath the table.

"A German study has found citrus to have the near-immediate affects of making you feel more alert and awake." Spencer explained underneath her cheeky grin. "However, I believe the study was conducted with grapefruits and not navel oranges."

"I prefer oranges, thank you," Emily accepted the gift and ate it slice by slice with a shy smile, every once and a while stealing a glance at Spencer, who had not yet stopped enjoying the sensation of Emily's leg against her stocking toe. And admittedly, neither had Emily. The two spent the rest of the study period coyly making eye contact before shyly looking away, blushing and smiling before their eye would meet again all the while pretending to be productive.

Spencer arrived at Emily's locker on Wednesday morning with two coffees in hand and a 1950's inspired outfit of a sweater vest and saddle shoes complete with what was probably a vintage pink bow tie.

"Thank you. Coffee two days in a row. Is this going to be a regular occurrence?" Emily asked, accepting the coffee with a smile.

"Would you like it to be?" Spencer looked straight into Emily's eyes, trying to hide her vulnerability with straightforwardness before holding out her hand to the other girl.

"Oh," Emily reached towards her bag to find her wallet, mistaking Spencer's gesture entirely.

"Your bag please, mademoiselle." Spencer shook her head when Emily had pulled out her wallet, trying not to cover up the pain she felt over the gesture. "I kindly request the pleasure of walking you to your first period class."

Emily looked at Spencer questioningly as she put away her wallet. "My class is on the other side of the building than yours."

"All the more reason to happily accept my chivalrous invitation before I end up being late for class."

And so Emily agreed, her eyes watchful on Spencer as she tried to grasp the entire situation. She had accepted that Spencer's feelings and intentions towards her were sincere the moment the other girl had kissed her. However somehow it was the moments following that filled Emily with a desperate need to catch up. In a single minute so many things had changed. When Spencer came out to her, there was barely enough time to process Spencer's words beyond their literal meaning, let alone what Spencer's confession meant to Emily's own heart and feelings, before the kiss. And the kiss, Emily had never been kissed like that before. It was soft and sweet and slow, but also trusting and comfortable, and the brunette had pulled away before it moved beyond such innocent affections. Emily enjoyed kissing her, she enjoyed Spencer bringing her coffee and walking her to class. It made her smile, it made her blush. But it also made her once more aware of the eyes in the hallway.

One could hardly be a teenager, especially a gay one, and not be aware of the looks, the eyes in the hallway. It made Emily wonder just how subtle to the outside eye Spencer's gestures were. Or just how subtle Spencer was actually trying to be. On one hand, after Paige, it was refreshing to not meet in secluded locations, to hide. However, Emily had to wonder about Spencer's boldness. Was this just Spencer being Spencer or by carrying Emily books and walking her to class, was Spencer trying to prove something? And to who, to herself or to Emily? Or both? In Emily's albeit limited romantic history with women, no one had ever been so blatant, so bold. So why now, why Spencer? And was this boldness because of her, or because of some need to show how unlike Paige she was? All Emily knew for sure was that if Spencer kept this up, people were bound to notice.

Beyond that she still needed to figure out exactly what she wanted and what she felt for the brunette before everyone got hurt. As much as she liked the romantic gestures, Emily found they made her nervous, questioning Spencer's intentions. And the timing. Emily did not exactly have the best track record in the ways of love and that only made it scarier. Especially as whatever she started with Spencer was bound to have an expiration date that started with Texas.

Spencer was one of her closest friends. There was no denying that Spencer was attractive—Emily had caught herself eyeing her friend quite often. Too often, probably. Nor was it worth denying that Spencer's attractiveness extended far beyond her incredible beauty and sexy voice. Emily saw past the sultry brown eyes, the impeccable outfits and perfect test scores, she knew what lay beyond that intense desire to win. This was why they were friends after all. She was as familiar with Spencer's vulnerability as her ability to make any word sexier just by saying it; she knew Spencer to be devoutly loyal beyond just being smart and witty. But she also knew that Spencer knew how to make her blush, how to keep her up half the night fixated on how soft her lips felt against her own, among other things. Emily knew that she had been jealous when Spencer started spending more time with Toby, when they had started dating, and that Toby was certainly not the root of the jealousy.

In the end, it was not Spencer's feelings Emily had to catch up with, but her own. Thinking about the kiss, and what it meant to be, as Spencer put it, courted so openly only made her head spin. And even if it was a good spin, Emily still needed time to figure it all out. Did she really need a hallway audience as she struggled to determine if what now occupied her mind and heart was friendship paired with physical attraction or if this emotional dizziness was the real thing? And if so, did it actually matter as her mother was hellbent on converting Emily into a rodeo fan?

It wasn't until third period that Emily discovered the CD in her bag. Who knows how long it would have been there unnoticed had she not been rummaging for a working pen causing the still shrink wrapped CD fall onto the lab table. For a second, Emily just stared at it dumbfounded, the need for a pen temporarily forgotten. She knew the CD had toppled, along with her scarf, from her bag. What she did not know was how it got there. It was only after the teacher had gently reminded Emily that class was still in session that Emily returned the disc to her bag. As the class continued, her mind lingered on the CD. There were only a limited number of plausible answers. The first, which sent chills down Emily's spine, was A. But there was no note, no message, no bold indicators that this CD was somehow put in her bag to torture or otherwise humiliate her. The other option, which Emily highly preferred and made her blush, was Spencer. A final option was that it might instead be Paige, who had a tendency to do things a bit more covertly. And this idea made Emily's stomach sink.

At lunch, after Hanna fluttered off to gossip with Mona and Aria thought of yet another question she could ask Mr. Fitz about the reading assignment, Emily placed down her fork and looked at Spencer, choosing her words quietly. "I found a CD in my bag earlier. Is it from you?" The look on Spencer's face immediately said it all. Instant and apparent relief washed across her body as she smiled. "Thank you, Spence. That was really sweet."

"Your welcome. Was it right one?"

"Yes, but how'd you know? I don't even remember mentioning liking this band," Emily said after after a moment. "I didn't realize the new album had been released yet."

"So it was the right one." Spencer smiled victoriously.


"It was released last week," Spencer offered as way of explanation.

"But why did you?" Emily examined her friend carefully. Spencer met her gaze straight on with a small smile and a look that was both stubborn and vulnerable. "Spence, what are you trying to do here? Walking me to class, the coffee, the small presents… Is this for my benefit alone or are you trying to prove something?"

While there were countless answers Spencer could have supplied, for a moment she only smiled. She had seen the band's first album on Emily's desk on Monday night and another live album in her bookshelf. She had wanted to find a way to make Emily smile. "Because I wanted to. I told you already. I know who I am and how I feel about you. This is me courting you. If you want. If not, consider it a just because present from a friend." Spencer stated simply before standing up. "Are you done? Class is going to start in a few minutes."

The next morning, it didn't surprise Emily to find Spencer waiting by her locker with the now standard two cups of coffee in hand. Still amused by the 1950s theme, Emily admired her friend's dress that came complete with cardigan, a silk scarf around her neck and a long chain of pearls wrapped around her wrist. Maybe tomorrow the brunette would be Buddy Holly, Emily could imagine her pulling off a skinny tie quite nicely.

"At one point, it's going to have to be my turn to buy you coffee," Emily grinned as she blew into the top of her steaming beverage. Admittedly, she found herself doing this more in an effort to seem coy than an actual need to cool down her drink.

"Maybe you can do dinner sometime instead," Spencer suggested as she held out her hand for Emily's bag.

Emily slid her bag off her shoulder and handed it Spencer, both aware of the looks this gesture was garnering from her peers and trying not to care. Why was it making her so nervous? Shouldn't she be relieved, happy that someone was brave enough to publicly show her affection? And besides coffee and escorting her to class was hardly blatant PDA after all.

"Who knew that Spencer Hastings was such a gentleman?" Emily smiled as they had begun to walk to Thursday morning algebra, not quite ready to handle the dinner implication just yet. Though if Emily was honest, she liked the sound of it. She liked it as much as she liked how Spencer looked in that dress.

"Is it really that much of a surprise?" Spencer wondered out loud, seeming almost as offended as the time Hanna had told her that most people found her scary and intimidating. As she spoke, she gestured to herself emphatically. "Some might even say that I am gallant. King Arthur called me the other day and wanted his chivalry back."

Rolling her eyes Emily had to admit that Spencer was right. Even in a very feminine dress, there was something very old movie gentleman about Spencer. It was a new side of Spencer that Emily had previously only caught glimpses of. Suddenly Emily felt an urge to reach out and hold the brunette's hand. Not ready for the implications both to Spencer and the public eye, she bit her lip instead as her eyes fixated on the hand in question. Soon, her eyes began to trace the rest of her friend's figure, rising up and lingering in less than platonic ways.

Seeing Emily's sudden overt interest in her physical appearance, Spencer began to feel self conscious, brushing slightly at an imaginary crumb that could have settled on her chest. "What? Is there something on my top?"

"No. You like fine. Pretty actually." Emily held her breath, her eyes still raking over her friend. "Really pretty."

"Like a gentleman pretty?" Spencer grinned cheekily as she felt the heat of a slight blush come to her face.

"Valiantly pretty even."

"Oh, valiant. That's a good SAT word." Spencer grinned.

Now outside their algebra classroom, Emily held back the urge to lean in kiss Spencer. Quickly walking past her friend and finding a seat, Emily made the resolution to take Spencer's hand the next time they walked down the hall together. Spencer took the adjoining seat and handed Emily her bag, their fingers brushing up against each other and lingering.

While the coffee and her feelings for Spencer no longer surprised her, Emily realized that that she could still be surprised by Spencer herself when she found several daisies affixed to her locker. She had returned to her locker to retrieve her rather heavy chemistry text book only to find herself blushing, not only from the gift, but from the attention that it obviously attracted. It seemed as if all the eyes in the hallway were either staring overtly or subtly stealing glances. Emily wondered how many of them had figured out, or assumed that they were from Spencer. Or how many of them had seen her do it. While girls often had close, platonic friendships, these friendships rarely manifested so publicly between two girls when at least one of the girls was an out lesbian. Especially in high school. Especially with flowers involved. And then Emily wondered why she cared so much what they thought.

If everyone knew, then it was inevitable that Aria and Hanna would find out and they deserved to find out in a better way. But find out what exactly? That she and Spencer had kissed, that Spencer was buying her coffee and Emily was enjoying the attention, but perhaps it was too much attention? That Emily was still confused, still moving to Texas, still moved incredibly by the gestures. It wasn't worth saying anything until there was truly something to say.

Pretending not to care that the entire hallway was looking at her with rapt attention, Emily finished making her way to her locker. Once there, she had no idea what to do with the blossoms. If she left them there Spencer might take it the wrong way. And all day people would walk by and see them on her locker. However, if she removed them from her locker, what would she do with them? Carrying them around would only cause them to get beaten up, especially at chemistry, while simultaneously garnering her more attention. But the idea of putting the daisies inside her locker where they would only just wilt in the suffocating darkness seemed absolutely appalling to Emily. Her friends found her moments later, still unsure of what to do with her beautiful gift. The only thing that had changed was that she was now holding her heavy chemistry book.

"Well that's romantic, who are they from?" Aria inquired, admiring the daisies.

"Romantic? How are daisies romantic? I thought that was roses." Hanna frowned, examining the flowers, perhaps looking for a note of some sort that wasn't there to be found.

"Daisies signify loyalty in love," Spencer explained, her eyes never leaving Emily's. "In a matter of fact, I think it could be considered an almost gentlemanly flower."

"Whatever," Hanna rolled her eyes. "I prefer roses, but I guess lesbians do it differently. So, who are they from, a secret admirer?"

Spencer opened her mouth to speak, only to be interrupted by Emily's explanation. "It's a team spirit thing I think." Emily regretted her words as pain immediately and visibly flashed across Spencer's face.

"Really?" Aria examined Emily quizzically. "Spencer did you get anything like this for field hockey?"

"No. I haven't. But I also haven't checked my locker for a while," Spencer shrugged in an attempt to shrug off the emotions riding to the surface. As she spoke, her eyes traced where the floor met the lockers.

"They're not really a team spirit thing, but they're a bit… complicated. They're really sweet and I'm happy I got them, I'm just not sure if I want to talk about it yet. Don't want to jinx it," Emily tried to backtrack, her eyes on Spencer. "Look, we're going to be late for class."

"Aren't you going to take your flowers with you?" Spencer asked as Emily turned to walk away, trying to hide the vulnerability in her voice.

"I don't want them to get beaten up, I have chemistry next. Besides, I like the idea of having something to come back to that is going to make me smile. You know how much I like daisies. They're one of my favorites."

"So, come on Em, spill. Are they from a secret admirer?" Hanna insisted as they turned the corner.

"It's not really a secret," Emily shrugged, her eyes never leaving Spencer's.

"It is to me," Hanna pouted.

Friday morning was Spencer's turn to be surprised. When she arrived at Emily's locker, a coffee in each hand, she was greeted by Emily who, in exchange for her morning coffee, handed Spencer a banana.

"A banana?" Spencer took the exceedingly phallic fruit with a confused expression on her face. What was Emily trying to say to her exactly?

"Fruit is a healthy start to the day. Bananas are good for muscle cramps, like the ones you get behind your shoulders after field hockey. Think of it as a good luck token for your game tomorrow," Emily smiled innocently, happy to be on the giving end for once of whatever wonderful situation she now found herself in with Spencer. "Thanks for the flowers by the way. I put them in a vase on my bed stand. They were lovely to wake up to this morning."

"You're welcome," Spencer finally found her voice as she reached out to take Emily's bag. "English class?"

The two walked silently for a while before Spencer turned to Emily. "Do you want to have dinner this weekend?"

"What?" Emily, who had been spacing off and trying not to obsess over what was happening between her and Spencer. Last night she had come to decision to go with the flow, to see where it headed. While they hadn't kissed since that night, Spencer's actions and how the other girl looked at her seemed to indicate that this wasn't from lack of wanting. Emily realized it was not from a lacking on her own end as well but maybe Spencer did not realize that yet. Hence the banana. Which she only now realized was a rather phallic fruit.

"Dinner. I wanted to know if you had plans on Saturday and if you'd like to have dinner. I know it's last minute but…" Emily could hear the anxiety creep into Spencer's voice and it made her heart skip a beat. The brunette could be strong and intense, but she was never good at hiding her softness underneath. It's what drew Emily to Spencer. It's partly why she kissed back that night, why Emily wanted to kiss back again if presented the opportunity.

"Oh my god, did you hear?" Hanna announced her sudden appearance.

"Hear what, Hanna?" Spencer asked, moving her eyes from Emily's to the floor in hopes that Hanna wouldn't gleam the hope and nervousness in her eyes.

"Jennifer Stewart's water bra popped during geometry, something to do with a protractor, I'm not sure exactly how… Some kid got it on video with his phone and just posted it. I think it might go viral."

"Sometimes I think that the high school experience only got worse with the invention of smart phones," Spencer shook her head at Hanna's mischievous glee.

"What? I think it's funny." Hanna defended her sense of humor. "Besides, it's not like Jennifer is ever going to win nice person of the year award. She totally deserves it. Karma or whatever."

Despite having taken to avidly avoiding Emily, Paige was regrettably discovering that this was a near impossible task. Swim practice alone caused complications. Whenever they found themselves in the same room, it was painful and awkward, with both sides being polite but distant, mutually avoiding whenever possible. Never mind that Emily's locker was near one of Paige's classes, one of Emily's countless talents now seemed to include appearing whenever and wherever Paige least expected. It wasn't just that Emily seemed to be wherever Paige looked, it was that her finger print could be found in almost all of Paige's thoughts. There was a trace of Emily everywhere she looked whether she was actually there or not.

But now the daily torture of being Paige McCullers also included Spencer Hastings. The two girls had never been friends and even while on field hockey they never really got along. She knew Spencer was a largely responsible for renaming a penalty after her. At the time, Paige had taken it as a compliment, a sign that she was at least deemed worthy enough for that. So while they had never been pals, she never found them to be enemies. Until this week when the brown haired amazon had taken to outright giving her the death glare whenever their paths crossed. At first Paige convinced herself that she was just being paranoid and projecting. That was before others became aware of the overachiever's sudden open hostilities.

On Wednesday during lunch, Spencer had walked past with her lunch tray and a drive by evil eye that was clearly directed at her. Sean advised Paige in all utter seriousness that, "Whatever you did to piss her off, I'd either apologize or put in for a transfer. She is intense and scary and clearly not a big fan of you."

Paige had smiled weakly when she replied, "It's nothing, really."

But she was pretty sure it was way beyond the categorization of nothing and this made Paige's heart rate quicken and her stomach sink. Spencer knew about her and Emily, with a glare like that she had to. And so, even now, Emily was still tearing her asunder. What right did she have to out her to Spencer? Did that mean that Aria and Hanna knew as well? And if Hanna knew, did Mona? Paige could barely breathe because once Mona knew everyone would know. But no one had said or done anything to her yet beyond Spencer's glares. So, at least for now, only Spencer knew. Even so, Paige fumed inwardly that Emily would tell anyone. But more importantly, below that indignation, was the wish to have someone to talk to, someone who would understand, someone who would have her back. It was still Paige against the world.

Paige didn't put all it all together, just how much Spencer understood and how much she had Emily's back, not at first. Not until Friday morning when it became abundantly clear that Spencer had far more than just Emily's back. She had her hands, her lips, and probably all the other body parts as well because Spencer Hastings clearly had Emily's heart. And this Paige knew with unwavering certainty. It was in how their fingertips just barely grazed, but lingered, as they exchanged coffee for fruit. It was not the first time she witnessed a similar occurrence between the two, but it was the first time it made Paige nauseous.

In fact, Paige had barely paid it any mind when she saw it earlier in the week. Coffee between friends was hardly anything to bat an eye at. Besides, after Emily had ignored all her calls and texts for a few weeks, Paige's main concern on Tuesday was not on the intricacies of Emily's relationship with Spencer, which wasn't even on Paige's radar, but rather on how to walk past as quickly as possible without drawing attention to her flight. But by Friday, Paige knew the coffee was far more than 'they're just really close friends' and the death glares had to be summed up by more than just her 'Spencer is an overly-protective and intense friend' assumption.

Mind you it wasn't so much the deja vu coffee exchange that brought about this epiphany as it was the daisies taped to Emily's locker the day before—an incredibly romantic gesture that Paige wished she had not only thought of first but also had the guts to actually carry out had she been smart enough to think of it. All day Paige tormented herself with wondering who had done it. At first she had simply assumed that it was the overly flirtatious Samara, but she quickly realized that this assumption made no sense. Samara, after all, did not even go to Rosewood. It was highly unlikely that she had come to Rosewood during school hours and somehow figured out which locker was Emily's in order to tape the flowers there. It was far more likely that someone in their school had done it. But were there really that many lesbians in Rosewood?

Then Spencer handed Emily a coffee the next morning, their fingers grazed, their eyes lingered on each other. It hit Paige like a slap across the face, a sucker punch in the gut, like skidding across the pavement on a raining night and it stung like nothing Paige had experienced before. She didn't need to see Emily blush or hear her thank Spencer for the flowers and she really wish she hadn't. She was standing frozen in the hallway openly staring, long enough to see Spencer take Emily's bag like a perfect gentleman that Paige was too scared to be before the red head finally turned on her heel and left at a brisk pace in the opposite direction.

This was when Paige realized that she no longer stood a chance with Emily, that she probably never stood a chance with her. Not really, not ever. Closeted or not, there was no way she could ever compete with Spencer Hastings. There simply was no comparison. Spencer was one of the beautiful, the brilliant, and the talented. She could make grocery lists sexy just by reading them out loud. She and Emily glided amongst the Rosewood elite and Paige had always been a fool, a mere mortal, a townsperson in the chorus.

This was also when Paige decided that the overly flirtatious Samara was possibly not as noxious as she appeared either. Or rather, Samara was far less threatening and obnoxious because she was also nothing compared to Spencer. But more than than that, this was when Paige realized that she wanted what Emily had, and she didn't mean Spencer. She wanted to tape daisies to a girl's locker. She wanted a nice brunette to walk her to class. She wanted to be happy, or at least have a chance at it. And to do that, she needed to start being honest. With herself first. Then with others if she could. There had to be baby steps that Paige could do; maybe she wouldn't have to tell her parents right away. Somehow she needed to find that balance between happy and safe. And maybe, just maybe Samara knew something that could help her get there.

Maybe it was a reason to give Samara that call after all and maybe they could talk. That is, if the blonde was still interested in meeting with her. If Paige hadn't messed that up as well.

Spencer leaned forward against the sink in the girl's bathroom and exhaled loudly before shaking her head. Her stomach had been a shipwreck of nerves even before she had asked Emily on a date and, in part due to Hanna's timely interruption, had yet to hear an answer back. Now the day was almost over and since there was a field hockey meeting during lunch and practice after school, she didn't know when she would see Emily. Of course she could always text, but she was far too scared that the answer would be no to actually hit send on the myriad of drafts she had started to compose. Now she had excused herself from class for the sole excuse to have a few moments alone to apparently stare at herself in the mirror.

"Focus, Spencer," she shook her head.

When she heard the door open, she quickly leaned in closer to the mirror to feign checking up on her make up. She was mocking the motion of fixing her eye make up with her pinky, preparing to leave in just a second when she realized it was Emily.

"Your make up looks flawless as always," Emily offered as a greeting, smiling and standing rather close to Spencer.

Spencer smiled in return and turned to look at the other girl and suddenly becoming dizzy from the proximity of Emily. To lean in and kiss her at this moment would have been so easy. It took all her willpower to not do so.

"Cutting class?" Emily asked, her eyebrow lifted.

"Bathroom pass. Are you?" Spencer more breathed the words than spoke them.

"My classroom's right across the hall. I saw you head in here," Emily confessed.


"I couldn't pay attention." Emily continued her confession, taking another step closer to the brunette.

"Neither could I." The other girl was standing so close Spencer was sure Emily felt the words fall upon her face in a breathless whisper. In fact, the only thing she could pay attention to, besides how loud her heart was now beating, was how close Emily's body was to hers. Suddenly Spencer was thankful she had accepted that mint from Aria in the previous period.

Emily, barely waiting for Spencer to finish her sentence, crossed the smallest of distances between them and kissed Spencer lightly on the lips. Spencer followed her friend's retreating lips, cupping her cheek tenderly, guiding Emily's mouth back to hers and capturing her for a series of soft, quick kisses. Each one slightly longer than the next. When the two finally separated, Spencer smiled so wide it felt like she was nearly laughing. Emily leaned her forehead against Spencer's, running her hand through the brunette's hair, rubbing a strand between her index finger and thumb.

"I have to get back to class," Emily spoke after a moment, her own smile just as wide as Spencer's. "I just wanted to tell you in person that I'm looking forward to Saturday."

Spencer showed up five minutes late at Emily's doorstep. It seemed ridiculous when they lived so close but she had initially arrived ten minutes early but didn't want to seem over eager. So she drove around the block, filled up her tank, decided against buying a pack of gum and left only to return a few seconds later to buy a pack of mints, hit every red light possible and got stuck behind some grandma driving what seemed like three miles per hour. So now she was standing at Emily's doorstep smiling nervously at Pam Fields like it was the first time they had never met and Emily still wasn't ready. Girls.

"Emily, Spencer's here!" Pam's voice projected upstairs, not quite yelling but making her voice fill the house just the same, before turning her attention back to Spencer. "So you're going out," Pam stepped aside and let Spencer inside. Spencer's eyes widened in surprise, more stunned than speechless, as she crossed the threshold. "I think it's nice, the way your friendship has grown."

"You do?" The brunette swallowed. While she knew Pam had worked on becoming more understanding, she wasn't expecting this, the smile, the friendly, the utter lack of a 'what are your intentions with my daughter' unnerving stare. She could also barely believe that Pam knew when, as far as Spencer could tell, Hanna and Aria didn't.

"It's nice how close all of you are after everything that happened. She used to be so nervous and upset when she thought you were growing apart. I think Emily really missed you three. Speaking of, where are Hanna and Aria?"

"Oh, we're meeting them there?" Spencer exhaled, finally realizing the situation, inwardly sighing with relief that she hadn't said anything to ruin whatever Emily had said to her mom.

"It's nice of you to give her a ride. Be careful you don't let the other girls distract you from the road." Pam continued, her focus already shifting back to the boxes.

"Well, you know me, a careful driver who cares about the environment," Spencer followed the woman wishing for the life of her she could figure something to do with her hands. Or remember how to talk without sounding like the winner of the most awkward award. Pam seemed a lot less scary last week. "Besides, it's really no bother. I prefer having someone to talk with while I drive. Prevents me from dancing behind the wheel. At stop signs, of course, I'd never actually dance while driving." Spencer shook her head. When had she ever really danced while driving anyway? Sometimes she was known to bop the steering wheel to the beat, but who didn't now and then? It was hardly considered dancing. "So, you seem to be accumulating quite the box collection." The house seemed under siege by boxes of various sizes which multiplied like bunnies. Every time Spencer came to visit, Emily's house seemed less and less like a home.

"Moving, it's always more involved than you think. Stuff just always has a way to accumulate, you know?"

Spencer nodded even though she didn't quite know and silently wondered where Emily was and what was taking her so long. "I guess. But it's only temporary. I mean, it's only for a year, right?"

Pam nodded absently as she picked at the contents of an unopened box before her. Perhaps it was how Pam moved, but Spencer felt anything but reassured.

"Spencer," Emily said as a way of greeting. "Sorry, I was looking for my lipgloss. Shall we?"

When the brunette turned around, she tried her best not to look like an impressed and speechless boyfriend seeing his girlfriend on prom night. "We shall. Have a good night Mrs. Fields." She held back an urge to say something along the lines of what they always say in chick flicks like I'll have her home by eleven or don't worry, I'll take good care of her.

"Good night girls, have fun. And Emily?"

"Yes Mom?"

"Let me know if you decide to spend the night, okay?"

At hearing this, both girl's eyes widened. Spencer looked down at the ground and Emily swallowed. "Will do, Mom." However both reactions were missed as Pam was once again distracted by a different, half-packed cardboard box.

It was only when they were at the restaurant sitting at a table for two that Emily finally made the observation out loud, "No Hanna and Aria. So this is really a date."

"Do you want it to be a date?" Spencer asked softly.

Emily looked down at the menu. "Like I said earlier, this is all so new to me."

"It's new to me too," Spencer started, she could hear the vulnerability creeping into her voice. "Not in a confused way. I'm fairly comfortable with where I lie on the Kinsey scale."

"And where do you lie on the Kinsey scale exactly?" Emily, having kissed the girl twice now was quite curious on that point, leaned across the table.

"I'm bisexual," Spencer stated plainly. "I wouldn't have kissed you if I hadn't been certain."

The waiter approached and Spencer patiently explained that they hadn't even looked at the menus yet. After he walked away, both girls diligently opened their menus. Spencer scanned the page with half interest. "I am certain," Spencer continued a few moments later. "I know that this is not some phase or experiment. I'm not saying I'm bi because I'm too afraid to say that I'm gay or that I really like guys but have a friend crush and want to be trendy. I like girls, but I like boys too. Or you could you say it the other way around. It doesn't matter. But right now, as far as I'm concerned, the only place I fall on the Kinsey scale is you." Spencer bit her lip. "I know in the bathroom, but I don't want to… if you don't want to. Your friendship is too important to me so if you're not interested then we can just forget it all happened. Just tabula rasa the whole matter. Poof and be just friends again." If such a thing was possible.

Emily reached her hand across the table, steadying Spencer's fingers as they picked nervously at the corner of her menu, trying to coax the brunette into making eye contact. When Spencer finally did look up, Emily was smiling. "You're really cute when you're nervous, you know that?"

"So does that mean that this is a date?" Spencer asked, tentatively smiling, a cheeky twinkle encroaching the corner of her mouth.

"Yes. That means this is a date." Emily exhaled. "It also means that the kiss came out of nowhere and you're one of my closest friends, Spence. And it's all so complicated with everything, with A, with Texas. And it's hard to sort it all out, you know? I don't know if we're going to have time to sort it all out before I move. But I also like kissing you and sitting across from you at this table tonight."

"There is a lot of confirm and deny in that sentence," Spencer murmured to her water glass.

"No, it's all confirm. It's all meant to be confirm. I like you, Spence, I like you a lot."

Spencer swallowed, partly out of relief, as Emily squeezed her hand. "I like you too."

"I know."

"This is a pretty good date so far, don't you think?"

"We haven't even ordered yet."

"Off to a great start. At least we know we both like each other."

After that, they were able to return to their menus and actually read the offerings. From there it was like any other time the two spent time together: effortless and natural. Making the other smile and laugh came naturally. There were no real awkward pauses or getting to know you conversations that Spencer imagined happened on most first dates. Sitting there across from Emily just felt right. With a moment of boldness, Spencer slipped off her heel and sought out Emily's foot underneath the table. And while she should not have been surprised, she was when Emily responded by trailing her free foot up Spencer's calf, Spencer could hardly believe what was happening. Here she was playing footsie with Emily Fields at a table for two on Saturday night. The rightness of it all was intoxicating.

When the bill came, Spencer whisked it away before Emily had a chance.

"I thought you said that I could get dinner," Emily protested.

"I guess I'm too gallant to let the girl pay on the first date," Spencer smiled as she handed her card to the waiter. "Besides, I asked you to dinner. It'd be rude to ask you to pay. Maybe next time?"

"I'd like that. I'm sure Hanna's read some Cosmo article about how the modern lesbian couple takes turns paying."

"Is that what we are, a couple?" Spencer spoke shyly after a moment.

Before Emily could respond, the waiter returned with the credit card receipts. Silently, afraid to speak, Spencer wrote in a tip and signed the end of the check.

"Shall we?" Emily smiled standing up, holding her hand out to Spencer.

They walked out of the restaurant hand in hand.

"Thanks for dinner," Emily smiled, swinging their hands slightly. She liked how Spencer's hand felt in hers, how their fingers intertwined. Perhaps because she spent a large portion of her time in a chlorinated pool, Emily had always marveled at how soft other girl's skin was.

When they got to Spencer's car, Spencer opened the car door for Emily. Emily ducked her head slightly before crossing the distance between their two bodies and kissing Spencer. Unlike their first kiss which was soft, tentative and shy, or the quick, shallow, lingering kisses in the bathroom, Emily gave Spencer no chance for innocence. No chance for Spencer to misunderstand Emily's feelings for her. Emily clasped her hand through Spencer's brown hair, holding her there while she opened her mouth, beckoning the brunette in. And receiving the most forward invitation she had received from Emily, Spencer complied, swallowing up the distance between their bodies even more, using her free hand to find Emily's hips to guide her even closer. By the time the short embrace ended, both girls were smiling widely. They smiled so widely it was impossible to kiss without smiling a little less. Spencer bit her bottom lip subconsciously as she caught her breath, her eyes never leaving Emily's.

"We should get into the car before I kiss you again," Emily smiled coyly.

"Is that such a bad thing? If anything, you just inspired me to stay outside longer."

Emily exhaled. "And as much as I like, well really like kissing you right now, I'd rather not figure us out and what this all means in a parking lot."

And so Spencer stepped aside, her hands dropping as she let Emily get into the passenger seat in the car. Once she was in the driver's seat, the brunette found the courage to say what she had been trying to say all night.

"I think I know a place where we could figure us out away from distractions and murder suspicions and cyber stalkers." When Emily's eyebrows peaked in interest, Spencer continued. "Next weekend is Aria's anniversary with Mr. Fitz and they're going away for the weekend." This was by no means new information. Aria had been going on about it near incessantly whenever they were alone together in a space she deemed private enough to talk about her less-than-conventional relationship.

"Please tell me you're not suggesting Mr. Fitz's apartment." Emily nearly groaned.

Spencer could feel her face distort slightly with the thought. "I'm not even going to humor that with a response. No, Aria's using my parents house in Buck's County as a cover for going away. So I at least have to go. I was originally going to go alone and get ahead on my work but I thought that it might be better if… maybe you could come?" Spencer couldn't deny the vulnerability that had crept into her words and fully taken residence in her voice by the time she finished speaking.

"What about Hanna, wouldn't it be weird if we went without her?"

"Her Dad's in town this weekend," Spencer reminded Emily.

Emily opened her mouth, but Spencer continued. "Emily, this isn't about keeping us a secret or hiding away in some remote place. I am more than willing to shout from the rooftops my feelings for you, but I don't know if that's something you're ready for. There is just so much going on in Rosewood right now. It'd be nice to just, I don't know, spend next weekend with you and just focus on you and us. To just get away from it all and relax."

Emily nodded, for a while silent, before responding, "Yeah, I think I'd like that."

Chapter Text

Friday took both a year and a second to arrive, it felt like anything but the six days it actually took. Six days, not even a whole week since Spencer had asked Emily to her family's lake house in Buck's County, and it was Friday already. Time has that funny way of dragging on while slipping past unnoticed. One minute it was there, all the time in the world, and then it was all gone as if it had never been there in the first place. Always one is left wondering what happened to it all. A clock or a calendar, both faulty attempts at measuring and counting time as it slips by. How many coffees had Spencer greeted Emily with in six days, how many mornings had she walked Emily to class? Five. How many times had Emily wanted to reach out and hold the brunette's hand and hadn't; how many looks had they caught themselves giving, receiving, exchanging? Countless. How many times had they had been alone by themselves since their date? None, unless one counted a few minutes stolen here or there. There were daily practices, family dinners, homework that only grew as the semester inched along all getting in the way. Not to mention a shyness, a nervousness.

But finally, suddenly, it was Friday. The bell to the last period had rung and Emily was opening the door to the backseat of Spencer's car with her weekend bag in hand. Aria was already sitting in the front seat smiling like a child at Disney World, her own bag stowed at her feet. Spencer instantly stopped drumming her fingers against the steering wheel, her whole face lighting up as Emily slid into the backseat and smiled.

"Hey Em," she turned around. For the briefest of seconds, her eyes seemed to take in all of Emily. It was something Spencer had been doing more recently or maybe it was just something Emily was more aware of now. Aria, however, seemed oblivious to this exchange and the sudden sexual tension that had entered the car as she greeted Emily.

"Thank you guys so much for doing this," Aria looked at Emily in the rear view mirror as she spoke. "I know a weekend in Buck's County isn't exactly torture, but still it's really sweet and means a lot that you're doing it for me. So thank you."

"Seriously, Aria, it's a good excuse for us to get out dodge for a while and relax," Spencer replied as if Aria had been thanking her profusely and repeatedly for a while. "Besides, it's not like we're being banished."

"Yeah and it'll be nice to have some space to breathe and just figure some things out," Emily smiled, trying not to look too obviously at Spencer as she spoke. "Are you excited for your weekend with Mr. Fitz?"

"Ezra, please," Aria sighed, exasperated that her friends still refused to call her boyfriend by his first name. "And please don't tell me that by figure some things out you mean that you're going to spend the entire time doing homework and worrying about A. We all need a few days off."

"No, of course not. We promise to relax and enjoy ourselves," Emily smiled.

"Coffee for the road?" Spencer asked as she turned around the corner and the Rosewood Grill came into view.

"Yes, please," Emily nodded.

"I wouldn't say no," Aria agreed. "I woke up way too early finish packing. I don't know how either of you do early practices."

"You get used to it," Emily shrugged, trying to keep her attention outside the window instead of entirely locked on Spencer.

"What did you pack?" Spencer arched her eyebrow up, interested but also teasingly, dropping her voice as she added. "Something sexy?"

Despite her attempts, Emily found herself once again catching Spencer's eye in the mirror, missing Aria's blush entirely as she wondered if Spencer herself had packed something sexy and if she should have. But no, they were going to figure out whatever this was that was quickly forming between them, what all these feelings and attractions meant. But Emily knew what these feelings and attractions meant and if she was honest, she knew what she wanted to do about them and this often lead to situations that could potentially involve sexy outfits. But Emily wasn't sure if she was ready for sexy outfits. Though part of her couldn't help but admit that she wouldn't mind seeing Spencer in one. Maybe not this weekend, but at some point. When she was ready. When they both were. When. If.

Walking in to the Rosewood Grill, the idea of Spencer in lingerie quickly melted as she felt her stomach drop slightly at the sight of Paige sitting a table in a far corner by herself. It seemed almost if the redhead had chosen the most secluded table possible in the popular restaurant. Emily quickly averted her eyes to avoid making eye contact, failing to notice the second, currently unclaimed water glass on the table.

"I think I left my wallet in the car. I'm gonna go back and check." Emily tried to sound as casual as possible, as she pointed to the door behind them.

"Do you want me to get you a coffee?" Spencer asked, momentarily confused until her eyes found Paige.

"Could you? You know how I like it. I'll pay you back in the car." Emily nodded before turning on her heel and headed back to the car, full well knowing that she was being a coward.

Back in the car, Spencer handed Emily her steaming drink and once again refused payment.

"Did you find it?" Aria asked, closing the car door behind her.

Emily looked at her friend confused, arching an eyebrow up slightly.

"Your wallet," Aria prompted.

"Oh yeah." Emily nodded. "Sorry. Yeah, it was right here in my bag. I was just trying to make sure I didn't forget anything else. " Emily nodded, suddenly not sure if she remembered to pack pajamas or not. Please, let her have remembered to pack pajamas.

Fortified with caffeine, Aria proceeded to give directions to Ezra's apartment. After a few minutes of following Aria's instructions and catching Emily's eyes in the rear view mirror at the stop signs and red lights, Spencer was informed that, "Anywhere here's fine."

Spencer pulled her car over in a nearby parking spot, only half-attempting to pull all the way up to the curve. "So which one is it?"

"Which one is what?" Aria blinked at Spencer as she started to reach for the door.

"Ezra's apartment," Spencer looked at Aria like she was a little slow. "Which building is it?"


"Why are you being so weird?" Spencer's brow furrowed. "I don't want to stalk you two anything. I'm just curious. And frankly, with all that's going on, it might be good to know where one of my closest friends spends most of her time."

"You can't see it from here." Aria responded after a big exhale.


"It's the next block over?" Aria's words were more a hesitant question than anything else.

"But you said stop here…" Spencer spoke slowly, questioningly.

"Look, Ezra doesn't know that you know yet. So if you drop me off close to his apartment and he sees…" Aria sighed. "It's just easier this way for now."

"You know this is ridiculous, right?" Spencer shook her head. "He starts at Hollis soon. As your close friends, he has to know that you're going to have to tell us sometime. Secrets don't do any of us any favors. We keep learning that the hard way, repeatedly. I just want to know when are we going to know what we already know so we can stop sneaking around about this?"

"Soon, I promise. It's just a sensitive subject right now."

"Well when you do tell him that you told us, please also let him know that we're in full support of you," Emily chimed in. "We're happy for you. We just want to know when we can be officially happy for you."

"Are you sure I really can't drive you closer to his place?" Spencer pushed, frowning slightly.

"Spencer, I'm sure. If you want, I can text you the address later but really, it's fine. I'll tell him. Soon. I promise," Aria nodded, using her best reassuring voice, as she gathered up her stuff and opened the car door. "Alright, well thank you again."

"Enjoy yourself, you two deserve it." Spencer smiled.

"You guys have a fun time too." As Aria spoke, Emily got out of the backseat. Once they were both outside of the car, the two moved in for a brief hug. "Try not to spend the whole time doing homework or doing SAT prep, okay?"

"I'll try to make sure Spencer has some fun, I promise." Emily smiled as she returned the hug before getting into the front seat.

Once Aria had turned the corner and they were alone, Spencer leaned in and gave Emily a quick kiss on the lips, "Hello there, beautiful."

"Hi," Emily smiled back, tempted to kiss Spencer again, only longer and harder this time. "Oh, this is for you," Emily dug into her bag and pulled out a CD that had "Spencer's Road Trip Mix" written across it. There were many things Spencer enjoyed, perhaps even loved about Emily. The names, or lack thereof, of Emily's mix CDs probably wasn't one of them, but it was still something Spencer found rather endearing. She had several mixes from Emily over the years and this was probably the most creatively titled one yet.

"Thank you," Spencer smiled.

After putting the CD in the player, Spencer put the car back in drive. Despite the recent and somewhat sudden shift in their relationship, the two girls were still just as comfortable together as ever before. In some ways, maybe even more so now underneath the thin dusting of shyness. As Rosewood quickly disappeared from the rear view mirror, Spencer's hand sometimes not so accidentally brushed up against Emily's leg when she shifted. Somewhere along the drive, Emily's hand bravely crossed the no man's zone and rested softly on Spencer's thigh. While they spent most of the car ride talking and laughing, there was no hint of uncomfortableness when there were long moments of silence. Often miles would go by with both girls comfortable in their own thoughts looking out the window.

Though she tried to pretend otherwise, Paige had almost immediately noticed when Emily entered the Rosewood Grill with Spencer and Aria. Likewise, she couldn't help but witness Emily's swift exit and could pretty well guess the reason. It only caused Paige to frown further, clearly deepening the anxiousness already written clearly across her face. It was only as Spencer and Aria were walking out that Samara returned from the bathroom. The blonde's eyes followed Paige's just in time to catch the parting glare Spencer tossed over her shoulder.

"Is everything okay?" Samara looked at Paige questioningly. "That girl doesn't seem to like you very much."

"As everyone keeps seeming to point out," Paige winced slightly as she spoke. "She's Emily's new girlfriend, I think."

"Her new girlfriend?" Samara seemed slightly taken aback. "I didn't realize she was seeing anyone."

"We're not really talking at the moment but as far as I can tell, it's fairly recent," Paige shrugged, trying to seem a lot more okay with it than she really was. It wasn't like she had a choice one way or the other. As she spoke, the waitress arrived, laying their food and two coffees down in front of them. After she left, Samara's examining eyes returned to Paige.

"So, you said you wanted to talk. Is that why?"

"No, not really. I… I wanted to talk about… about maybe coming out." As she spoke, Paige gripped her cup with both hands avidly staring at it until she spoken and only then did she tentatively looked up.

"For Emily?" Samara lifted her eyebrows, the judgement already clearly forming while another part of her couldn't help but feel for the girl in front of her. Another, smaller, quieter part couldn't help but find the scared look Paige was giving her to be somewhat adorable, in its own way.

"No. That's over. I mean, it never really began. How could it when I couldn't even… can't even…" Paige shook her head, finding her footing a bit more as she spoke. "No I want to do it for me. I can't keep living like this. I just… I just can't."

Emily sat lazily at the kitchen counter chopping carrots for the salad. She had been to the Hasting's lake house in Buck's County several times before, but this was the first time it was just her and Spencer. It was quieter and more peaceful than Emily remembered in comparison to all the slumber parties. Spencer had her back to Emily as she was occupied with whatever pasta dish she was concocting from the groceries that they had picked up on the way. While Emily had been relegated to salad duty, she had spent most of her time in the kitchen subtly, and then not so subtly, admiring Spencer's bum as it bounced ever so slightly to the music as she cooked. It was incredibly adorable especially as Emily was convinced Spencer had no idea she was doing it.

Despite the distraction, the salad was soon ready and Emily was left solely to her thoughts as she admired her friend. Finally not willing to handle the distance, she approached Spencer and rested her hand in the small of Spencer's back to get her attention. "Anything else I can help with?"

"Maybe something to drink?" Spencer turned out from the stove towards Emily, considering.

"Sure, what do you have?"

"We forgot to buy juice or soda or anything. So I guess it's water or coffee really. Or my parents usually keep the wine in that big cabinet in the main dining room."

"Maybe water for now," Emily nodded after some quiet deliberation.

"We can buy some juice or soda in the morning," Spencer agreed.

After dinner the two girls relocated to the master bedroom to watch the movies they had rented. It was not lost on either girl that they were almost actively avoiding the one conversation they both wanted so desperately to have. There had been starts and halts, telling looks and the clearing of throats that made it seem as if it was about to be broached. And then instead, eyes would avert or a large swallow of water would be taken followed by a strange moment of silence that neither girl ever felt quite up to filling yet. The movies had been a mostly conscious move, a move towards what neither girl exactly knew but it seemed safer to have a planned activity. But even the act of lying side by side on the bed in pajamas had been achieved under the new strain of all the words not being said.

Changing into pajamas had been a new and strange experience. Over the years, they had grown into an assumed comfort of their bodies in front of each other. But now something akin to the self-consciousness from years before had returned a thin layer of shyness to their actions. Spencer had excused herself to the bathroom while Emily quickly changed with a nervous energy. Spencer knocked before coming in, remaining outside until Emily realized that Spencer was waiting for a verbal go ahead to re-enter. Sleeping arrangements, usually barely given a thought, had not yet been discussed and both girls seemed to circle around the issue without ever settling on the courage to bring it up.

They started the opening credits sitting a safe, if not slightly awkward, distance apart. But as the film progressed, Spencer's hand reached out across the divide to find Emily's, their fingers interlocking instantly. Emily caught Spencer's eye and smiled, their attention slow to return to the film. Sometime in between the first scene and the last, the stolen glances evolved in such a way that Emily found herself cradled up against Spencer's body, their fingers still interlocked across the brunette's lap.

In all the honesty, the movie served only as a mild distraction from the sexual tension and unsaid words. So when Emily leaned across Spencer to place her empty glass down on the bedside table, it was only the briefest hesitation before she moved in to capture the brunettes lip's. Spencer responded readily, as she tried to put her own glass down and somehow successfully managed to not spill.

Once her hand was free, Spencer cupped Emily's cheek. And perhaps it was the fact that they were truly alone for the first time with no real distractions and maybe their teenage hormones were not entirely innocent of blame either. Emily had never been kissed like Spencer was kissing her at that very moment, hungry and passionate, but also somehow caring and gentle despite its intensity. How could something so comfortable and almost even safe feel so incredibly new and exciting? And scary. Guided by Spencer's touch, Emily moved closer, shifting so she was not just sitting on the brunette's lap but straddling her, the movie long forgotten playing in the background.

Emily turned her attention down Spencer's neck, kissing, at times grazing her teeth across the soft expanse of skin before her. Spencer swallowed, trying to control her own breathing and failing. When Emily returned to Spencer's lips, Spencer welcomed her in, her hands growing bolder in their explorations of her friend's body. Adjusting slightly to move in closer to Emily, the brunette heard something fall to the ground.

"Shit," Spencer broke away with a jolt, her voice breathier than she expected, a wide smile and almost laughing. "It's just a glass." As if she had expected more than gravity induced water stains, as if she had secretly expected some form of hell to break loose just as she was finally having what she only just realized she had desired and craved for so long.

Both girls turned to inspect the glass lying on it's side spilling the last of its contents onto the expensive and probably imported but still slightly drab bedroom carpet. For a moment with their lips still only inches apart Spencer wondered if she even cared about the growing water stain. "We should probably clean that up."

"Yeah," Emily agreed, but made no move from her position on top of Spencer. "We should."

"At least it's only water," Spencer observed sagely. In the background, she could hear the characters in the movie. "The beheading potential over this is probably slightly diminished because of that."

Emily captured Spencer's lips again but briefly before pulling away. "Come on."

But outside the linen closet, Spencer only led Emily up against the door before returning to their interrupted embrace. She dropped the towel she was holding to loop one thumb in Emily's shorts, marveling at the softness of the skin between her friend's hip bone and the hem of her underwear. Beckoned by Emily's hand on her hips, Spencer moved in even closer and up against Emily's thigh that had slipped up and in between her legs.

Her other hand roamed upwards, pausing slightly at the hem of Emily's shirt before bolding gliding over the fabric to cup Emily's breast. Almost by instinct, she found Emily's nipple and began stroking it with her thumb. Emily's eyes fluttered open as her body arched closer into the touch, a sound of pure pleasure slipped past her lips and into Spencer's mouth suddenly bringing both girls back into reality. Emily pulled away slightly, resting her forehead up against Spencer's.

"This is all so fast," Emily bit her lip, her eyes locked on Spencer's, but showed no desire to actually slow down. If anything, she almost seemed to bring the brunette closer toying with the desire to kiss her again.

"We should go clean up," Spencer nodded, frowning slightly.

"We should," Emily agreed.

Neither moved, seemingly locked in that moment, unable to either separate or move closer together.

"All I want to do is kiss you," Emily confessed after what felt like several minutes of silence.

It was some time before the two girls made it back into the bedroom and had set about sopping up what they could. It was some time longer yet that the two fell asleep, the time in between waking and sleeping filled with soft voices in the dark and suddenly even softer kisses, as if aware that they were sharing in bed and of all the implications.

Ingrained from years of early morning swim practices, it was barely past six a.m. when Emily opened her eyes. She felt Spencer's warm, still-slumbering body curled up against hers, spooning her so closely that Emily could feel the girl's breath softly against her neck. The other girl held Emily loosely but even in her sleep still seeming to show no intention of letting go. It made Emily smile as she shifted slightly, instinctually nestling closer up against her friend.

Emily allowed her eyes to adjust to the small rectangle of light on the carpet and, like so many weekend mornings before, was willing herself to fall back asleep when she came to the quiet realization. There, lying in the darkness, in her friend's arms, their fingers laced together lazily, it struck her how right it felt, how natural. How this was exactly where she wanted to be. It was in that moment when Emily truly realized, fully accepted that it, whatever it was, was not, as Emily had secretly feared, just some physical attraction or some rebound from Paige or Maya, or even Alison. There was something special about waking up in Spencer's arms and feeling her breath against her neck that made Emily wish that this was something she could wake up to every morning.

Knowing what she wanted, she said the words out loud to the morning light, afraid that if she did not say it then she would not have the courage by the time Spencer awoke. First she spoke it as a whisper so as not to wake Spencer and then she repeated it a little louder, a little braver because she liked how it sounded. Girlfriend. She wanted to be Spencer Hasting's girlfriend. Even that sounded right. Spencer mumbles something quietly and instead of waking the brunette up, Emily let herself drift back to sleep. It was the weekend, she could sleep in after all.

Emily peered over her coffee cup across the Scrabble board at Spencer. Outside the rain beat patiently down the window. Spencer hadn't spoken for several moments, clearly devising her next move that no doubt would somehow contain a triple word score. Once again Emily's eyes flickered between her letters and the words already formed the board and a sense of mild hopeless washed over her. It was no use. Her available letters, consisting mostly of vowels and the letter B, were crap unless onomatopoeias were suddenly allowed. And Spencer always won at Scrabble anyway.

"How long have you known?" Emily blurted out, finally deciding to give voice to the thoughts that had been gnawing at her since that night Spencer first kissed her.

"Hm?" Spencer looked up as she picked up the first tile of her next word, preparing to place it on the board.

"How long have you known that you were bi?" Emily repeated herself more clearly.

Spencer placed the tile back down, for a moment choosing silence seemingly to gather her thoughts before finally speaking. "I think my first crush was on Ms. Forsythe in fifth grade. But I don't think it really ever occurred to me until recently what I was feeling meant."

"You were a bit of a teacher's pet that year," Emily observed, smiling slightly at the memory. "But what I don't get was why you didn't talk to me about it, especially after I came out. I mean, if you've known for a while or been thinking about it for a while, why is the first time I hear about it is when you kissed me? It could have helped…" Emily trailed off, wondering what it could have helped. Both of them probably. She remembered how alone, how scared she felt. Even now, being one of the few out students at Rosewood, even with her friends, was lonely. Was it the same for Spencer?

Spencer shrugged for a moment. "I guess I didn't want to cheapen what you were going through. I didn't want to lessen it with me waving my hand going 'Me too! Me too!' Or have you think that I was patronizing you or trying to be trendy. I guess I wanted to be more sure? And my feelings for you, I don't think I was ready to deal with them until recently. They're a big part of it, too, aren't they? Me admitting that I'm bi meant that I had also had to admit that I have feelings for you. Big feelings. More than just close friends feelings. And that can change, well, almost everything." She tried not to speak primarily to her nervous fingers as she heard the vulnerability sneak into her voice.

"So what changed? Why now?" Emily continued to examine the brunette carefully.

"It's weird. I don't know why but I can't think of a time I didn't like you. Maybe that's why it took me so long to realize it." Spencer spoke simply, her eyes looking straight at Emily. "And when I did… I didn't plan it. It just happened. I just kissed you with no forethought. Just realizing that I wanted to, that I needed to kiss you."

"So what made you realize it?" Emily felt her heart quicken and her face flush, and part of her just wanted to stop there. To just take what Spencer said and enjoy it for what it was. But some other part of her had to know.

"A sent me an email actually." Spencer exhaled. "Of you and Paige kissing."

"Of me and Paige? There's another photograph?" Emily pressed her eyes closed, seemingly holding her breath for a moment. "When?"

"You were in your room together." Spencer shifted uncomfortably, her eyes straying towards the floor. "A sent it a little before Toby and I broke up. I was jealous in ways that was more than just friendly. It sort of cemented a lot of things for me. Before I thought if I never talked about it, if there was no proof, no evidence and I just kept it inside it would never be something A could use against me. But it doesn't matter how careful we are, Em. We aren't afforded the luxury of secrets, are we? And you're too important to me. I wanted to be honest, completely honest about how I feel." Spencer exhaled, her face becoming resolute. "And I have been."

Spencer stood up and crossed over to Emily's side of the scrabble board and sitting down on the couch. "I understand that in some ways, I'm new at this. So I get why you're asking all these questions. But I've been entirely honest with you up until now and I would have never said or done anything if I wasn't absolutely sure. And I can keep repeating myself if it helps, but at this point I don't think those are the questions we need to be asking."

"And what questions should we be asking?" Emily swallowed, both suddenly too scared to look at Spencer and almost entirely unable to look away.

Spencer searched out Emily's eyes, imploring and hopefully. "What you want. What we both want now that you know how I feel."

"I'm scared, Spence. I'm so incredibly scared. You mean so much to me and I can't afford to lose you. Not after Alison and Maya. And A's always there. What if A does something to get between us, to tear us apart?" Emily's eyes started to water.

"Then we don't hide. We have to be completely honest with each other." Spencer half smiled nervously. "And come up with a signal for if A is manipulating us. Like touching our nose or sneezing twice."

"Touching our nose?" Emily's eyebrow arched up, half amused.

"Yeah, like this," Spencer ran her finger down the bridge of her own nose and then repeating the action on Emily's. "You won't lose me."

"You can't promise that," Emily shook her head slowly.

"Okay. Then I don't want to be lost," Spencer reached out, her fingers gently grazing Emily's cheek. "And I want you."

Emily placed her finger on Spencer's lips. "I know. It changes everything now."

"Now what?" Spencer practically whispered, her lips moving across Emily's finger, for a moment unable to stop herself from kissing and lightly sucking her friend's index finger.. "Now that you know or…?"

"Now this." Emily crossed the distance between their faces, moving her finger aside to cup Spencer's face as she kissed her friend softly. "I want to be with you, but everything is different now. Not just A but Hanna and Aria and Texas."

"So what are you saying?" Spencer's eyes searched Emily's face, her heart pounding in her throat. "I'm hearing yes and no in the same sentence here."

"It's a yes. It's also an acknowledgement that it's going to be complicated." Emily leaned in and kissed Spencer. Again and again, each kiss lingering a little longer, daring a little more until Emily licked Spencer's bottom lip and Spencer suddenly pulled away. Confused, Emily looked at her questioningly, suddenly doubting everything her friend just told her and everything that had just passed.

"Is… everything okay?"

"I know this is kind of weird, but I feel really awkward kissing you like this on my Nana's couch," Spencer looked embarrassed.

"Are you serious?" Emily arched an eyebrow, caught in disbelief.

"It's my Nana's couch," Spencer replied, her face and her tone clearly showing Emily that she was indeed serious.

"So, if I were to stand up and lead you over to this chair, would it be okay for me to sit on your lap and make out with you there?" Emily's eyes flickered across the room, a mischievous smile across her face.

"We just picked out those chairs from Crate & Barrel a year or so ago." Spencer nodded thoughtfully. "They're not terribly comfy though."

Emily stood up and held out her hand. "Well come on then."

"So Ms Forsyth was really your first crush?" Emily arched her eyebrow up at Spencer. The rain had yet to let up and it was starting to get dark. Leaving the forgotten game of Scrabble behind, the two girls had migrated into the kitchen to start cooking dinner.

"Yeah, she had nice cardigans. Who was yours?"

"Alison," Emily looked down. Fidgeting slightly, she looked up trying to find a way to change the subject. "I would have never guessed Ms Forsyth. I would have thought Elias Prichard."

"We were six and I think I broke up with him because he stole my red crayon," Spencer rolled her eyes. "Everyone has a boyfriend in first or second grade. Even you."

"Well I had a boyfriend until less than a year ago, doesn't say a lot," Emily frowned. "So what other crushes have you had besides Ms Forsyth? Joe Keating?"

"God no. We were thirteen and he had braces. Besides I think I was more interested in his movie collection. Did you ever go to his house? I swear, he owns more movies than Netflix. Which is actually a bit troubling now that I think about it…"

"Ok. What about Max Price?"

Spencer screwed up her face. "What about Max Price?"

"Didn't you have that a crush on him that spring before…" Before Alison died.

"On Max Price? I mean, the boy is cute and, like Ms Forsyth, looks good in a cardigan but even I think he's a bit of an overachiever," Spencer frowned. "He might be my only real competition for valedictorian, but that doesn't really make him attractive to me surprising as it may sound."

"Really? Alison said that you had a big crush on him but you didn't want anyone else to know."

"Alison?" Spencer's furrowed brow returned. "That doesn't make any sense. I mean, I don't think I ever mentioned Max unless in some passing comment about academic standings." For a moment, both girls were silent. "Wait when did she tell you this?"

"I don't know, a while ago." Emily sighed before suddenly something started to click. "Maybe while we were reading Great Expectations?"

"That seems weird, doesn't it? I mean, lying to you about some guy I apparently had a crush just before you two…"

"Do you think she knew about you and she was just…? I mean, if Toby could figure it out, I'm sure Alison could have easily."

"I mean, even Toby didn't seem that surprised, he practically brought it up himself, and he wasn't around me, or you, nearly as much as she was… I wouldn't put it past her to try to manipulate the situation to her advantage."

"Yeah, but to what advantage?" Emily sighed and pressed her eyes. "Every time I try to think about any of this, of Alison or A… it just never makes any sense. It feels like there are all these pieces missing. Are we ever actually going to know, well, anything about what happened or what's actually going on in our own lives?"

Spencer opened her mouth to respond and closed it, before shaking her head and shrugging. "I don't know. I hope so. We can't keep living like this forever."

The rain continued to beat down on rooftop in a soothing rhythm that had long since become white noise. That night they did not even go through the motions of putting on a movie. The girls turned their backs to each other as they shyly changed into their pajamas in the same room. Spencer found herself peeking over her shoulder at Emily's bare back. The brunette's eyes remained locked on the other girl as Emily slide a comfy shirt back over her athletic frame. When Emily turned around, their eyes connected and Emily tipped her head to side, smiling in a quiet amusement. Spencer, for her part, blushed at not only being caught in the act of peeping but also that she was still topless herself, holding yesterday's shirt over her chest.

"I'm still getting used to you looking at me like that," Emily whispered shyly as Spencer quickly reverted her attention to finding her own shirt to sleep in.

"Like what?" Spencer tried to sound nonchalant, but feelingly slightly like a dirty old man, as she finally turned back around, once again fully clothed.

"Like you want to kiss me," Emily took a few steps forward, crossing the distance between their bodies.

Spencer swallowed. "And not like a dirty old man?"

"That too," Emily grinned shyly.

"Can I?" Spencer tentatively reached up and cupped Emily's face. Suddenly finding herself in a bedroom standing so close to the object of her affection, she found herself feeling extremely shy.

"Can you what?" Emily raised an eyebrow.

"Kiss you?"

In answer, Emily leaned in and captured Spencer's lips for her own. At this point, Spencer knew what to expect from Emily's lips. It wasn't as if the mystery was gone. It was just all the small details one starts to know, Spencer was just beginning to discover them. And not just how to avoid their teeth or noses colliding, or what angle to hold her head. No, those were the basics. It was the smaller, subtler details, how much tongue, that Emily enjoyed it when she would lightly bite or suck on her lower lips. And with this knowledge, Spencer became hungrier, more adventurous.

Spencer simultaneously tried to pull Emily closer while leading the girl backwards towards the bed. And while the two girls eventually arrived at where Spencer hoped to be, it was not the smoothest transition but Spencer did not feel at all judged for it. Having successfully guided her friend onto the bed, she directed her attention down Emily's neck, lingering here or there but trying not leave any marks. Traveling further down, Spencer pushed the fabric of Emily's t-shirt further up, exposing the swimmer's stomach. She paused to marvel for a moment before returning her full attention to laying a trail of kisses down Emily's torso.

"Spencer…" Emily spoke softly, shifting slightly.

Spencer looked up, noticing a change in Emily.

"Spencer, can I tell you something?" Emily spoke softly, her cheeks slightly flushed.

Spencer sat up slightly and nodded, suddenly very nervous. "You can tell me something, anything. You know that, Em."

"I'm a virgin," Emily smiled in that shy, uncomfortable way she did sometimes. "And not just a girl-virgin, an all around, never done it before virgin."

"But I thought you and Ben…" Spencer frowned slightly.

Emily shook her head.

Spencer shifted her body so that instead of straddling her friend, they were lying side by side. "So am I," she confessed.

For a moment, they just stared at each other. Emily reached out and played with a strand of Spencer's hair.

"I think I want to stay one a little bit longer," Emily spoke after a moment. "If that's okay with you."

"Of course it is," Spencer frowned. "Why wouldn't it be…?"

Emily shrugged self-consciously.

"There's been a lot of newness. Maybe we've hit our newness quota for the weekend. Not that I don't want to have sex with you, I do." Spencer added quickly. "I think maybe we should just… take it one day at a time. How does that sound?"

Emily smiled. "That sounds wonderful. Amazing even."

"Good," Spencer beamed, before her face became serious again. "Emily, the last thing I would ever want to do is pressure you for sex. You mean way too much to me for that. When and if that day ever comes, it'll be something that we do together because we're both ready for it. But for right now, I think I just want to hold you and listen to the rain."

It was a lazy Sunday. The sun had finally come out and they had just finished cleaning up from breakfast and soon they would have to drive back to Rosewood. Lounging around on the back patio and only half pretending to do homework, neither girl seemed in any rush to leave their new, quiet sanctuary. Emily had settled on a outdoor chaise thumbing through a Time magazine for a project on differing perspectives on contemporary issues and Spencer sat nearby on a chair with a furrowed brow of concentration directed at a rather heavy book.

"Hey Spence," Emily broke the comfortable silence.

"Hm?" Spencer looked up, fighting the urge to bite on her pencil.

"Can I show you something?" Emily indicated to her magazine.

"Of course, what is Em?"

"You have to come over here to see it," Emily explained as if she was stating the obvious.

And when Spencer got up, Emily slide over to give Spencer room next to her on the chaise and indicated for the brunette to join her. When Spencer sat down beside her, Emily placed her arm around Spencer who instantly moved into the touch. She was no stranger to Emily's body but the new proximity that they had discovered still left Spencer reeling a bit. Her free hand instinctually settled on Emily's thigh.

"So what is it that you have to show me?" Spencer asked, her eyes locked on Emily's.

Emily shrugged and smiled playfully, putting down her magazine on the ground. "Nothing."

"So that was just a clever ruse to get me to join you?" Spencer smiled. "You know you could have just asked."

"Didn't seem as fun," Emily offered, wrapping her other arm around Spencer. "So when do we tell Hanna and Aria that we're girlfriends?" Emily asked as nonchalantly as her voice would allow while she pickled at a invisible loose thread on Spencer's pants.

"Girlfriends, is that what we are?"

"If you want," Emily looked up.

"I want," Spencer could barely contain her smile as she brushed her nose up against Emily's. "I want so much." Any and all further discussion was temporarily put on hold as Spencer lay claim to Emily's mouth, her hand soon returning to where it left off the night before with Emily's breast, while the swimmer made her own explorations.

Only to be interrupted a few minutes later by Emily's phone beeping to signify the arrival of a text message causing both girls to freeze temporarily.

"I don't care," Emily breathed.

"What if it's important?" Spencer inquired through lidded eyes, not quite sure why she was playing devil's advocate.

"You're right here and if it's A or my mom I don't want to know about it right now."

"It could be Hanna or Aria…" Spencer frowned.

"Fine," Emily gave in with an exaggerated exhale and reached for her phone, "But you don't go anywhere."

"I'll stay right here baby."

"Baby?" Emily arched up an eyebrow.

"We've been girlfriends for what, five minutes? I'm still working on the pet names."

"Definitely not baby." Emily smiled, as she looked down at her phone and opened up the message. "You were right, it's Hanna. She wants to know where are we and if we want to watch a movie with her later tonight after Aria gets back so we can hear about her romantic weekend with Ezra."

"Tell her we can do it at my house. I think my parents are still away in Philadelphia with Melissa doing retail therapy." Spencer kissed Emily softly on her temple. "After Aria's finished, we should probably also tell them about our own romantic weekend."

"So soon?" Emily pondered for a second.

"Em, it's not like we have luxury of taking our time. I would much rather it be from us than from A. The pre-emptive truth, in this case, might just be the way forward." Spencer nodded gravely. "However, I'd like to see it more as spreading the joy."

It was a relatively short drive home to Rosewood. In many ways, too short. In the back of their minds and on the edge of their conversations was the realization that it was back to reality. Back to the day to day stress of high school, of practice, of A. It was a reality that frankly was only getting scarier and spiraling further out of their control.

Resting her hand on Spencer's thigh as the brunette drove, Emily called and explained to her mom that she would be spending the night at Spencer's with the rest of the girls. Despite their still somewhat strained relationship, getting permission to do so was almost entirely effortless. As long as she was with Spencer, Hanna and Aria, her mother mostly trusted that it would all be fine. Emily idly wondered how much longer that would last when her newfound relationship with Spencer came to light. In some ways, Emily saw no point in hiding it from her mother—she hated hiding, lying and secrets, all the more now that any secret was guaranteed a short expiration date before it was unearthed and used against her. She was already haunted by the thought that A would send another anonymous letter that would cause Emily to lose all the love and trust she had just regained with her parents. But in telling her mom, Emily risked not only that but a potential loss of freedom. But Emily did not want to think about that quite yet. First, they would tell Hanna and Aria and move forward from there.

For the time being, Emily kept her fears to herself as the distance between their car and Rosewood dwindled. A creeping anxiety, that Emily had barely noticed had left her, began settling back into her stomach. By the time they reached the town limits, the anxiety had nestled deep within her bones, seeping and becoming deeply enmeshed within every fiber of her being. In a strange, tragic way it felt like home.

True to Spencer's assumption, the brunette's house was still empty. Putting down their bags, Spencer grabbed two sodas from the fridge before leading her girlfriend to the back porch while they waited for their friends to arrive. Despite having planned on remaining a civilized distance apart so that they could finish their homework, the best intentions are not always an accurate foretelling of the future. All too soon text books lay sprawled on the ground forgotten.

Chapter Text

It was an unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon, which served as inspiration for Hanna and Aria to treat themselves with ice cream just before heading over to Spencer's house. Aria was bubbling over with excitement from her weekend. It seemingly took all her strength and willpower to not tell Hanna everything right at that very moment. She wanted to wait so they could all hear the full deluge of stories from her weekend involving romance, chocolate and Ezra Fitz. However, by the time she ordered her chocolate milkshake she had already succumbed to the overpowering urge to let slip at least a few tidbits here and there for Hanna.

Amidst the giggles and excitement, they decided against trying to second guess Spencer's somewhat picky taste in movies. After all, as Hanna pointed out, it'd probably make more sense to just find one on Netflix when they were all together. So, ice cream in hand, the pair headed straight to Spencer's.

Aria quietly finished her milkshake while she rang the doorbell. But despite the fact that Spencer's car was parked in the driveway and the lights were on, no one answered the door.

"That's strange." Aria mused before digging her phone out of her massive purse and dialing Spencer's number. After her call was left unanswered, she frowned. "She's not answering. Let me try Emily." She shook her head a moment later when Emily's voice mail picked up before deciding to ring the doorbell another time.

"Do you think everything is alright?" Hanna furrowed her brow slightly, taking a more aggressively impatient stance by both knocking and ringing the doorbell repeatedly. When not satisfied with the unresponsive result, she tried to push etiquette aside and simple open the door. Despite her persistence, however, the handle did not budge. "It's locked."

"I'm sure it's fine," Aria, still buzzed from her romantic weekend, was not willing to accept something that could possibly ruin her bubble just yet. "Look, I'm sure they're upstairs and left their phones downstairs. The music's probably turned up or something. Let's give them a minute and try again."

Hanna shrugged before turning and walking off the porch. "You wait then."

"Hanna, where are you going?" Aria called off after her friend who was headed to the side of the Hastings House.

"I don't like that they're not answering. I'm going to see if they're okay," Hanna spoke as if she was stating something painfully obvious. "Come on, I know where they hide a spare in the back. Look, they're obviously here. So there has to be a reason why they're not answering."

"Hanna!" Aria protested but Hanna, armed with her melting ice cream cone, kept walking and so Aria, suddenly not enjoying the idea of waiting on the porch by herself, was forced to follow her.

When Hanna turned the corner around the Hasting House and the back porch came into full view, it became suddenly quite clear why neither Spencer nor Emily had answered their phones. In fact, it appeared to Hanna that the two girls had quite a compelling, if not entirely surprising and unforeseen, reason for ignoring the world around them. The fact was that the only thing Spencer seemed to be paying attention to was Emily's neck and this was with rapt attention. And Emily, with eyes closed, seemed entirely lost in the moment as she tucked her hand in Spencer's back pocket, drawing the brunette closer.

The first of Hanna's many reactions to unexpectedly witnessing two of her friends passionately making out with each other was to stare, mouth open. The second and third reaction, while consisting of some visual and emotional processing, still mostly consisted of staring with her mouth opened. Aria, not far behind and somewhat distracted by thoughts of Ezra, failed to notice that Hanna had suddenly stopped moving. So, at first, Aria was only shocked by was the cold sensation of walking straight into the blonde's ice cream cone.

"Oh my god Hanna!" Aria growled, jumping back and inspecting her shirt.

Suddenly overtaken with the irrational fear that Spencer and Emily might see them, Hanna whipped around quickly to cover Aria's mouth, dropping her ice cream cone in the process. Aria, completely stunned by this odd turn of events, was quickly dragged out of what Hanna took to be Spencer and Emily's line of vision. Though perhaps for no reason. Spencer and Emily were far too involved with each other and Aria, still catching up to what was happening, was more focused on how Hanna, who had nearly dropped the ice cream on her new shoes, was suddenly acting strange.

"What?" Aria whispered after Hanna, gesturing for Aria to be quiet, finally removed her hand covering the brunette's mouth.

Hanna motioned back towards where they came, lifting her eyebrows as she spoke. "Spencer and Emily. . ."

"Oh my god," Aria's eyes went wide as she finally turned her attention to the Hastings' back porch. "They're making out."

Hanna nodded sincerely, joining Aria in peering around the corner. "Hardcore."

"What do we do?"

For a moment, neither girl knew how to address this question beyond continuing to stare. An act that was growing increasingly awkward. Despite how tenderly and sweetly they seemed to be kissing each other, Emily's hand was starting to slip partway underneath Spencer's shirt. The prospect of watching their friend's hand going any higher acted as a bucket of cold water on the two unintentional voyeurs, and they took a few steps back out of seeing range.

"Well, I'm not interrupting them, that's for sure." Hanna stated simply.

"Yeah. I mean… They were kissing." Aria nodded blankly, still needing to state the obvious as she processed what they had just seen. "A lot."

"I don't know what you and Ezra do but that seemed like a little more than just kissing." Hanna paused, the image of Emily seemingly about to fondle Spencer's breast seemed to be clearly engraved into her mind. "We should do something," Hanna suggested, trying to get the image out of her head and not quite sure what the appropriate reaction was. "Do they have 'yay lesbians' presents? Or 'we accidentally saw you making out' hallmark cards?"

"What we should do is get me a new shirt," Aria pointed out grumpily, her cold, ice cream stained torso not forgotten.

"Whatever, with all those patterns on your shirt you can't even tell. I mean, how do they even get all those colors onto one shirt anyway? It's like your shirt's ADHD and took lots and lots of drugs," Hanna waved her hand. "But dude, Spencer and Emily were… are… I'm not gay or anything, but it was kind of hot. I mean, as far as these things go."

"How long do you think they've been…?" Aria wondered out loud, deciding, for now, to ignore Hanna's less than amusing description of her now soiled shirt.

"I mean, I didn't even know Spencer was… We should go or do something. It really doesn't feel okay to be here right now."

"And get me a new shirt." Aria gestured to her freezing, dripping torso. "It's starting to drip onto my pants."

"Maybe we should go and pick out a movie at the rental place. Give them time to, uh… you know, wrap things up?"

"Fine, but after I change. It does sort of explain all those coffees Spence has been bringing Emily," Aria pointed out thoughtfully.

"Hey, do you think those daisies were from Spencer? I mean, she did know what they meant. I just sort of took it for Spencer being, you know, Spencer. But maybe she knew all that because she picked them out."

"I don't know. What I want to know is why they haven't told us…"

When Hanna and Aria returned over an hour later, Aria was wearing an entirely different outfit and Hanna had several movie selections in her bag. The blonde was now seriously regretting her almost total lack of input at that movie selections. Far too overwhelmed by what she had just witnessed, Hanna had mostly followed silently behind Aria, who was verbally processing her frustrations that Spencer and Emily hadn't told them. Aria seemingly only paused to briefly examine the back of the movie, usually deeming the film unworthy and replacing it back on the shelf within seconds. Hanna, who was doing her own processing by avoiding thinking about it as much as possible, had essentially left Aria to make all the movie selections herself. Unfortunately she had forgotten about Aria's often less than subtle movie selections. Not to mention that the movie clerk had looked at the two of them strangely before smiling in a way that still made Hanna feel greatly in need of a shower.

This time when they returned to Spencer's house and Aria rang the doorbell, Spencer answered the door in a surprisingly rather timely fashion. In fact, with barely a hair out of place, Spencer did not look at all like she had been otherwise engaged. She did, though, seem a bit more bubblier than usual and gave both girls a huge hug before ushering them inside. Emily hung back a little giving both her friends a little wave and a sweet smile.

"Oh my god Aria, how was your weekend? And Hanna with your dad?" Spencer inquired, stepping aside to let her friends in. "There is so much to talk about!"

"It was good," Hanna responded as she walked into the kitchen. She tried to subtly watch Spencer and Emily for signs, to see if there were any clues of their previous make out session. They shared the couch and sat close together, but no different than how Hanna was currently sitting next to Aria. "He took me out to dinner, we ate fried food. He wants me to come visit his new family," Hanna frowned slightly and shrugged, rolling an apple she had liberated from the fruit bowl back and forth between her hands.

"But that's good right?" Spencer nodded, trying to take in all her friend's words despite her ever growing nervousness. Talking about coming out to her friends was one thing, actually being on the brink of doing it became a whole other matter entirely. "I mean, it's better than the alternative of him not wanting to share his new life with you."

"Yeah, it totally is," Aria responded in a tone that Spencer found to be strangely pointed. But pointed at what? Spencer tried to calm herself down. She was clearly being paranoid.

Hanna merely shrugged in response.

"So, how was your weekend with Mr. Fitz?" Spencer prodded Aria. "Come on, spill. I'm surprised you're not bubbling over with the details already." If Aria wasn't, Spencer certainly felt that way. But she and Emily had decided to wait until after Aria told them about her weekend with Mr. Fitz first. It seemed only fair and polite some how.

"My weekend with Ezra was good." Aria shrugged, holding back the details to the best of her ability out of spite. "Wonderful, actually."

"Wonderful actually, that's all we get? You go on a romantic weekend with your illicit teacher boyfriend and you have, what, less than ten words to say about it?" Spencer looked surprised before frowning slightly with disappointment. "What's going on with you two? I feel like a parent grilling you about your day at school. Hanna, you haven't seen your dad in a long time, something had to have happened besides eating fried food that's worth mentioning. And Aria, I would hope in the very least two full sentences. What's going on here?"

Hanna shrugged, still eyeing the two girls suspiciously. "Hope you don't mind but we got the movies already. Well, Aria got them. I only carried them here because my bag's bigger." She took the movies out of her bag and slid them across the table, not impervious to Aria's glare. "What? It's true. You picked them out. I hadn't even heard of the kids one."

Spencer reached across the table, her eyes becoming wide as she read the titles, passing each to Emily after reading each loud. "The Black SwanThe Kids Are Alright? Disc one ofThe L Word? First of all, there is no way we can watch all these tonight and secondly am I the only one picking up on a theme here?"

As Spencer spoke, she turned her head in just the right way for Hanna to notice that small clue she had been searching for, evidence to prove that she and Aria had not just experienced a joint hallucination. "Spencer, is that a hickey on your neck?"

"What?" Spencer's eyes bug, her hand clamping down instantly on her neck. She shot an accusing look at Emily, who, after quickly examining Spencer's neck, made a slight facial shrug, part guilty part mischievous. It was so slight that if Hanna hadn't been looking for it, she might not have noticed it.

"Spence. You have a hickey on your neck." Hanna insisted.

"It's on the other side," Emily tapped her own neck to illustrate, smiling smugly as she did so, "and a little lower."

"Nice one," Hanna rolled her eyes. "Real classy. What were you doing, Em, marking you territory?" Before either Spencer or Emily do anything but express their surprise with their facial expressions, Hanna continued on. "What? You don't need to be CSI Miami. You were together all weekend. So you either both have secret lovers in Bucks County, because Emily you have one too, or you're each other's secret lovers. Occult razor or whatever."

"It's Occam's Razor," Aria corrected. "Also we saw you two kissing early."

"We were going to tell you," Spencer started, her tone apologetic, imploring.

"Today actually." Emily joined in. "We just wanted to hear about your weekends first."

"So there's something to tell?" Aria's eyes widened. Some part of her had half tried to convince herself that it was this sexual experimentation that you always hear about girls having. That Spencer was curious or even questioning and Emily was just being a really good, understanding friend. The other option was too mind blowing.

Spencer nodded, reaching out to take Emily's hand. They had just witnessed them making out after all and did they really take Spencer to be that cruel as to be merely experimenting with Emily?

"You weren't the only one to have a romantic weekend," Emily added, enclosing her fingers around Spencer's.

"Oh my god, did you two…" Hanna raised her eyebrows insinuatingly.

"What, no!" Both girls turned beat red and denied.

"We just used the time to sort out our feelings for each other," Spencer explained. "And we wanted you to be the first to know that, well, we're not just friends anymore."

"So, while you were away did you… or has this been going on for awhile?" Hanna furrowed her brow. She hadn't expected them to be dating and she tried to look back in her memory to find any signs. "Like how does this work? You've been friends for years."

"No, I mean we had kissed before that. Or rather, I had kissed her, if we want to get technical." Spencer continued.

"I kissed back," Emily defended herself, deciding against bringing up kissing Spencer in the girl's bathroom at school for now.

"Spencer, I didn't even know you were gay." As Aria spoke, she realized she was most hurt by that.

"I'm not." Spencer replied simply. When both Aria and Hanna stared at her, she continued. "I'm bi."

"Why didn't you tell us that? I mean, after Emily, you had to know that it'd be fine to tell us… It's not like we care, but you kept this secret from us and I don't know why." Aria continued

"I suppose it never really came up before?" Spencer shrugged guiltily. And then defensively, she added. "Look, it wasn't like we received the memo of your relationship with Ezra in a timely fashion either, Aria. We all keep secrets for our own reasons. Emily and I, we just happened this week. My sexual preferences didn't really seem that important until now. And with A around, I guess I didn't want to give out any extra ammo to use against me. Considering everything, I wanted to keep under the radar unless necessary."

As the conversation continued around her, Aria made a silent and slightly melodramatic realization that nothing would ever be same again. In some ways it was far more earth shattering than losing her virginity. While she didn't want to downplay the massive scale of the event, at the moment what happened on Saturday night really only affected her and Ezra. Two of her friends dating affected her entire friend circle, a friend circle that was her entire safety net as they were among the few people she could fully trust at the moment.

While the friendship between her, Hanna, Spencer and Emily was always growing, adjusting and changing, it was usually only in small, minute ways that one noticed as much as one noticed the hour hand slowing circling around the clock. However there were some changes that happened so loudly they couldn't be ignored. Alison's disappearance and death, more than a year later still haunted them. Plagued them. Stalked, harassed and tortured them. It was more than just suddenly and brutally losing a friend in a way that had yet to be satisfactorily explained. Deep down, they all knew that it would always be there, the loss of Alison, perhaps even more than just Alison herself. It transcended their drifting apart afterwards or their coming back together. The loss of Alison manifested in an all new, prolonged traumatization that showed no sign of stopping: A. Arguably perhaps the stalking, harassment and growing violence in their lives would never have started had it not been for Alison's murder.

While perhaps nowhere on the same level, Spencer and Emily dating had the possibility of forever altering the make up of their friends circle. From this point forward, the relationships between all four girls would be undeniably woven with this new string. Even if heaven forbid the two girls would break up—especially if they did. If they broke up, would they all still stay friends or would Hanna and Aria be forced to chose sides? And if all they stayed friends after, would there always be that awkwardness, that hesitation of that one time back in high school when they dated? Words, sentences and thoughts left unspoken but would linger awkwardly in the corner at dinner parties when they were all in their thirties? Whether or not they stayed together or broke up, would Spencer and Emily drift off into coupledom with Aria and Hanna orbiting further and further away?

This realization, this fear caused Aria to go silent. She smiled, happy for her friends if they were happy. But scared, perhaps selfishly, if they were only happy for now. She kept quiet on her thoughts. At least not for now. As the conversation continued around her, some part of her was already mentally writing and re-writing her latest journal entry.

Paige leaned awkwardly against the wall outside trying not to look or feel awkward. The music from inside seeped out onto the street as a dull drone of the bass yet signaling a liveliness indoors. Inviting as it was, she did not dare venture in by herself. Despite having purposefully shown up ten minutes late, she was still left waiting. To kill time, she played with her phone before slipping it back in her pocket, not wanting to look anxious about being possibly stood up. The thought crossed her mind more than once that she was going to be left standing here out of some form of twisted girl revenge. But no, Samara had texted her a few minutes ago that she was only a few minutes away. So where was she? While it had alluded her before, Paige now realized why people took up smoking. It had something to do with waiting, with time. It gave someone a reason to be standing alone outside like a fool. One was not waiting anxiously with a nervous pit growing in their stomach with the encroaching fear of being stood up. No, one was merely outside enjoying the evening with a nice, cancerous cigarette. Was there a non-carcinogenic form of cigarettes?

"Sorry I'm late, the traffic was awful," Samara smiled, coming up to Paige from behind and nearly causing the redhead to jump.

"It's okay," Paige forced a smile, only part of her nerves now gone that the blonde had finally arrived. "I was enjoying the weather."

"It's looks like it's going to rain and you're nearly shivering," Samara raised an eyebrow.

"It's refreshing," Paige shrugged defensively. Nervously.

"Okay, I'm going to try something here. I'm not late because of traffic. I'm late because I couldn't decide on what earrings to wear," Samara smiled warmly. "I'm still having second guesses about the pair I'm wearing now."

"Honestly?" Paige raised her eyebrows.


"I think your earrings are nice," Paige offered. "And I wasn't enjoying the weather. I was afraid you had stood me up and I didn't want to go in by myself."

"Good, now that we have that taken care of," Samara continued to smile at Paige as she hooked her arms into the other girl's and motioned towards the building with her head. "Shall we?"

Paige took a deep breath and nodded. "Yes."

"Are you sure?" Samara examined her closely. "I mean, you talked about wanting baby steps. This step is more like a toddler step I admit."

"No, I can do this," Paige spoke with resolve.

Samara led Paige up the few concrete steps and opened the door. "Welcome to the Bucks County Youth Center's monthly gay teen night. It's far enough away so you probably won't run into anyone you know and if you do, it's at a gay event so you'll probably be safe. Just don't claim that I'm your cousin and you're just here to support me." Paige arched her eyebrow up at hearing this, not sure whether to laugh or not. "It's happened to me before," Samara offered as a way of explanation. "It was not fun. I'm not out to repeat the experience."

Paige followed Samara inside despite her every urge to turn and bolt back to her car. Samara was right, it was far enough away and probably wouldn't hurt to see gay people her own age that didn't fall under the heading of Emily Fields and her girlfriends.

The music was playing loud, but seemingly not too loud for conversation, and the lights were only slightly dimmed. In a way it seemed like every other awkward high school dance Paige had previously forced herself to attend. There was a few small groups of people dancing on the mostly empty dance floor with crowds along the edge mingling with each other, sometimes kicking a few of the balloons around. The only real difference from a normal high school dance was that it was a room full of mostly gay people. What a thrilling idea! Knowing it was one thing but realizing and seeing it was another experience entirely. Every couple that was dancing was either two boys or two girls. They were walking around holding hands, kissing and finding dark corners. Needless to say, Paige just stood there staring while trying not to stare at the two girls in the nearby corner making out.

"Okay, maybe a bit of a culture shock," Samara observed, almost smiling to herself. "Here, you take a seat. I'll be back with sodas." Samara lead Paige to a few empty chairs before cutting over towards the punch bowl and concessions table. When she returned with two drinks in hand, Paige was still mostly staring.

"This is all so…" Paige noted as she accepted the cola offering from the blonde.

"It is, isn't it?" Samara claimed a chair next to Paige, trying to speak so her voice would carry over the music. "You know, I think it's really brave what you're doing here."

"What?" Paige furrowed her brow.

"I said," Samara spoke up louder before shaking her head and moving in closer. Her lips only inches from Paige's ear, she repeated herself, "I said it's really brave of you to come here and do this."

"Thanks," Paige looked at Samara in an almost self-defeating manner, but also surprised at how close Samara's face was to her and what it was doing to her. Teenage hormones. "But I'm not really doing anything."

"You're not running out the door for starters. Coming out can be scary and you're taking the first steps," Samara smiled, suddenly tucking a strand of hair behind Paige's ear. "It's good for you to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and a whole community waiting for you."

"It gets better?" Paige offered, quoting all the videos going around the internet. As she spoke the words more or less in the blonde's ear, she found her eyes meeting Samara's and holding the contact for a moment. However in the corner of her eye, she spotted a blond head that she recognized. She quickly turned her head and averted her eyes. Confused, Samara turned around to try to see what Paige saw.

"See someone you know?"

"Yeah, a boy I went on a date with once. Pretty recently actually." Paige started, before she started to laugh. "I went on a date with him because I wanted to be, well because I wanted to seem straight."

"Which one is he?" Samara squinted into the crowd.

"Over there, by the punch bowl," Paige indicated with her head slightly, not wanting to do anything to would call attention.

"The one in the button up that looks like a pastor's son?"

"He is a minister's son actually I think," Paige nearly laughed at this.

"Oh." Samara's mouth made a circle and then smiled and giggled. "Well that explains it then. You going to say hi?"

Paige shook her head. "Baby steps. I don't think either of us want to run into people we know."

After the rest of the Hastings family returned home on Wednesday, Spencer found herself at the country club having dinner the following evening. Melissa waited until after the empty plates of appetizers had been cleared from the table before suggesting a game of high low, which was the last thing Spencer had been expecting. Melissa only suggested the game when she was convinced she would win and after Ian's death and the near miscarriage of their child, this seemed like the last game she would wish to play.

Melissa went first, as was custom, offering up that one of the papers she had written (before her incredibly short and tragic marriage) was not only being published in a highly respected business journal, but caught the eye of a upcoming boutique investment firm and they had offered her a position upon graduation. Both of Spencer's parents quickly followed with the normal achievements of landing a difficult client or winning yet another a landmark trial or high settlement case. Spencer barely paid attention as she desperately tried to come up with something. Normally before family dinners she had at least one or two things prepared, but now she was caught completely off guard and her entire family was looking at her expectantly, waiting.

"Spencer, if you don't have anything to add, you can pass," her father suggested in an almost kindly but altogether slightly patronizing tone.

"I fell in love," Spencer felt her heart pounding in her ears as she spoke the first thing that came to mind. "I started seeing someone and I'm in love. We're in love."

"You're in love?" Peter lifted his eyebrow up in disbelief, wondering how he had truly raised a child who thought an emotion was an adequate achievement for a game such as high low. Especially as a teenager. You didn't know what love was until you were married and it was too late as far as Peter Hastings was concerned.

"You just started seeing him and you're in love? Don't you think it's a bit soon?" Veronica questioned, trying to be motherly. Or maybe just debunking Spencer's entry. "Do we know him?"

"It's not another towel boy is it?" Melissa quipped.

"No. It's not another towel boy. It's Emily. I'm dating Emily."

Peter, who had been taking a sip of his Cabernet when Spencer starting speaking, placed his glass down quietly. Expecting him to say something, Spencer tensed up, preparing for the worst. She had run through the scenario hundreds of times to different results and she held her breath to see which one it would turn out to be. But her father just shook his head as he smirked, which is what he usually did when he felt like he had won a particular round of high low. It took Spencer a moment to realize that he was judging her comment merely as a submission to the game and had found it entirely inadequate.

"Is that why you kept messing with my boyfriends, to prove your straightness?" Melissa's eyes narrowed, as if preparing to move in for the kill.

"Spencer, whether you're gay or not is one thing, but it's not a valid submission for high low. You just have to find a way to compete with Melissa on your own grounds. If you don't have anything to add, you can just say pass." Veronica explained, hoping to avoid another replaying of how Spencer had ruined Melissa's first engagement.

"She's the one who started high low," Spencer protested, crossing her arms across her chest, suddenly very much like the child they were treating her to be. "Isn't love supposed to conquer all?"

"You know that's not how the game works. So I take it that you're taking a pass?" Melissa smiled.

Spencer sighed and reached for her drink, wishing it was alcoholic. "Fine. I made the high honor roll again and I'm a few points ahead of Max Price. If I keep this up, my spot as valedictorian is practically guaranteed. Are we all happy now? I'm still dating Emily."

Emily had just finished her problem sets for Chemistry and was about to go to bed when she received Spencer's text message. And even though Spencer had seen Emily a million times before in various pajamas, Emily still changed into a nicer pair. She toyed with the idea of getting dressed again, but she was afraid her mother might find that suspicious. Emily rarely ever changed back into clothes whenever a friend had visited so late. She had just finished running her hands through her hair when she heard Pam open the door for Spencer and greet her warmly and directing her upstairs to Emily's room.

Once upstairs, Spencer closed the door behind her and and moved in for a quick kiss. Keeping their faces together, Spencer smiled widely barely able to contain the smile on her features.

"I did it," she gently squeezed Emily as she spoke for emphasis. "I did it."

"That's great Spencer. What did you do?" Emily furrowed her brow slightly, confused.

"I told them, I told my parents about me, about us," Spencer smiled, ducking in for another quick kiss.

"That's a good thing, right? What'd they say?" Emily asked, nervous despite her girlfriend's elated mood. Girlfriend. Emily was still getting used to thinking of Spencer like that. And yet, she wasn't. It was only when she stopped and really thought about it did she actually notice how new and sparkly the title still was.

"Mostly they were annoyed because they thought I said we were dating so as to steal the attention away from Melissa," Spencer shrugged her face in subtle amusement. "But the important thing is that they were fine with it. They didn't condone it or anything. I mean, it wasn't a Hallmark family moment but as far as it goes with the House of Hastings, I believe it went fairly well."

"I'm so happy for you Spence," Emily beamed. But in the back of her mind, she became aware of the knot in her stomach. While the Hastings were not always the most proactive parents, it was now only a matter of time before her parents found out about her new relationship. It was up to Emily now to tell them first. And Emily realized how much she wanted to tell them. She was happy with Spencer, proud of their relationship.