Melissa comes back from Philadelphia moody and several pounds lighter. Spencer barely sees her for days, just catching glimpses across the driveway in the morning before she heads for school, or in the kitchen when Spencer goes downstairs for a snack. It's always her back to Spencer, and there's barely a grunt of acknowledgment when Spencer says 'hi,' or 'good morning,' or 'I'm going to make myself a sandwich; do you want one?'
Sometimes she can't tell what's harder: giving Melissa space or reaching out to her. She's been burned so many times already, through fault not always her own, and it hurts enough to know she's going to be met with no response if she says something. The idea of doing it looks a lot like masochism at this point.
But watching Melissa walk out every time Spencer walks into a room is somehow even more frustrating than the glares and insulting remarks Melissa used to welcome her with a year ago. It's even more frustrating when she remembers that this time it's not her fault, and if she could only make Melissa listen, if she could only tell her what's going on—
But she can't. Because Melissa won't stay quiet and still long enough to let her, and because after what happened with Dr. Sullivan, any harmless explanation Spencer could come up with would be a lie. And lies—white lies, lies of omission, lies Spencer told because she thought she had to—are what got them here in the first place.
It's been six days since Melissa came back when her mom arrives home early from work and sits down to lunch with Spencer. They eat in silence for a while, and then Spencer says, low because a part of her is afraid she's not allowed to ask the question, and Melissa will hear it and things will get worse, "What happened to Melissa's baby?"
Her mom just looks at her for a moment, her eyes slightly wider. "You don't know?" she asks, but it's not accusatory—if anything, her mom looks a little guilty. "I thought you knew." Spencer shrugs, says nothing; listens instead. Her mom tells her what happened concisely and quickly, but not carelessly. She's honest and straightforward. Spencer appreciates that. "Did something happen between you girls?" There's an again she chokes back; Spencer can hear it clear as if her mom had actually said it.
She shrugs, shakes her head, puts on an unaffected tone to say, "She probably doesn't want to talk about it."
In all honesty, neither does Spencer. If she could just put the whole Ian business behind her, and A, and Garrett and Jenna—if they could just forget about it and be allowed to grieve their losses, that would be fantastic. But it's not happening, not for a while, and Spencer doesn't know how to make the process go faster—doesn't know how to get to the bottom of things with law enforcement on her back and a police officer dropping in every other week with a warrant for this or that.
She shouldn't have to be cooperative when she's not even guilty. She is, of course, because she can't afford to look any worse. She cooperates with the police, and she cooperates with Melissa's quest for never talking to her again, and she hates every second of it.
Two weeks after Melissa comes home, it's Aria's house that gets a visit from Wilder, late in the afternoon. Spencer's there with an arm over Aria's shoulders and well-placed glare towards Wilder; he can't write down a glare as suspicious behavior, and he already hates them anyway. Sometimes, very short times, for a second or two, Spencer's thankful Wilder picked up their case, because at least she doesn't have to put on an optimistic, helpful act for him. At this juncture, there's very little chance of changing his mind on them, for better or for worse.
He finds nothing, again, and tells them to be careful, again, and Spencer wants to run him over with a car, or maybe something less illegal, like ask him why the hell he talks to them like he's some shady PI with no resources or jurisdiction over anything.
Her shoulders slump the second she sets foot inside her house, exhaustion setting and showing deep in her bones. She briefly considers taking a shower, but she's genuinely concerned she may pass out there, and that would just make things more difficult for everyone.
She drags herself upstairs instead, carelessly tossing her bag and keys in the direction of the couch, toeing her shoes off on the landing halfway up the staircase. She washes her make-up off as well as she can without any willingness to be thorough, forgoes face creams and rubs her skin dry with a towel until it's tender around her nose and red over her cheeks.
There's some homework due tomorrow she hasn't gone over yet, and she sits on her bed with it, thankful it's all technical stuff, Maths and Chemistry problems—things she doesn't have to think about in depth or talk about inspiringly.
She's putting it all away to get ready for bed when she hears a knock on her open bedroom door and a soft, "Hey."
Melissa's standing there, looking like she's not just passing by on her way elsewhere, and Spencer stares for a second, just—surprised. She doesn't know why she's so surprised. Melissa does live here, even if she spends most of her time in the barn; there haven't been any outright declarations of war on either of their parts since she came back from Philadelphia. Of course, for that sort of thing to happen, they would have had to talk to each other at some point—a possibility Melissa's steered clear of.
"I thought you weren't speaking to me," Spencer says calmly, and sits on her bed again. She hopes Melissa takes it in the spirit it was offered; Spencer's not trying to be confrontational at all. She's too tired to resent Melissa's behavior. It's so time-consuming. Besides, she can't throw stones when it comes to trusting your family members above all.
Melissa takes a couple of steps into the room, leaving the door ajar. She stands near Spencer's nightstand and touches her thumb to the forest-shaped clock behind Spencer's real one. It stopped working years ago, but she's always liked having it there, something to counteract the sleek, cold look of her alarm clock.
It has no particular connection to Melissa, except that they both got one when Spencer was eight. It's not the only thing they each got one of, back then. There's a pair of flats in the back of her closet Spencer wishes she could still wear. What Melissa's doing—more than anything else, it looks like lingering. Like she managed to get here and now she's not sure what to say.
"How are you?" Spencer says.
Melissa finally stops touching the clock and looks at her. She presses her lips into a thin, hesitant line, and then says, "I'm doing okay." The room is silent enough that, when Melissa sits down next to her and exhales, her breath is audible. She seems to reach for Spencer, but changes her mind halfway, picking at a loose thread in the comforter instead, looking at her hand with a frown before facing Spencer. "Did Mom tell you about—" Her eyes flicker down again, for just a moment, enough for Spencer to know it's not a question she wants to finish asking.
"Yeah," Spencer says.
"I'm sorry I let you worry."
Spencer shrugs, just one shoulder rolling slightly forward. "It's okay. It's not exactly hard to understand," she says, and the words aren't all out when Melissa's hand moves to Spencer's knee, low thigh. Spencer has to make an effort not to shift back or flinch. It's—it's not that she minds, but the suddenness of it throws her off, the way Melissa's not close enough for the angle of her arm to be comfortable, the way she's reaching and looking up at Spencer.
"I don't hate you," Melissa says. She sounds a little desperate; it makes Spencer's throat close up. She knows Melissa's been through a lot lately, but it's so soon. It's too soon. "I've let you think that for so long, and I'm—I'm sorry. I've had a lot of time to think. It's just not worth it."
It's not a smile that comes over Spencer's lips, but there's amusement in the way they curl, resigned in a place where nothing else fits. "Hating me?"
"I guess," Melissa says, shrugging, but her cheeks are still high, compact, and her mouth looks small even when she bites her lip, even when she moves closer and touches Spencer's face with her hand.
Spencer glances toward it, not catching much more than the blurry, white edge of Melissa's thumb nail. She closes her eyes to get rid of the stretching feeling from trying to see where her sight won't reach, and she's barely blinked again when Melissa kisses her.
It's not an accident. It's not a kiss on the cheek gone wrong or some awkward version of a hug; it's Melissa's mouth on hers, firm and insistent through her reluctance, and Spencer would love to say she pushes Melissa off, or even waits still until Melissa breaks away of her own accord and stops speaking to her for another three months, but that's not what happens.
What happens is Spencer clutches Melissa's elbow and opens her mouth, props herself up with a fist on the mattress until her feet are hovering several inches from the floor and she's hovering over Melissa, halfway between sitting and kneeling. She's afraid she's going to spook Melissa like this, with the way Spencer's taking and pushing for more, but Melissa doesn't leave, Melissa doesn't stop her. Her eyes are closed and the hand that was on Spencer's thigh is now on her waist, halfway under her tank top, moving higher.
Spencer makes a noise low in her throat when it brushes her ribcage and Melissa's thumb grazes the underside of her breast, and it's herself Spencer scares—it's Spencer who pulls back, and she's barely quick enough to stop herself from stumbling back. When she settles, she's breathing embarrassingly loud, her mouth half open and her eyes glassy, trained on Melissa. Melissa's looking back at her, still leaning forward, her knuckles brushing Spencer's shin, and what strikes Spencer first, after the rush of unanswerable where did that come from?-type questions is—well, not over, but quieter—what strikes Spencer is that she feels watched, everything she's feeling on display, but she doesn't want to hide, and Melissa's not trying to get away either.
She waits for mortification to set in, all the same, but it doesn't happen. Neither of them is going to tell anyone, and they have no legs to stand on if they try to accuse each other of anything. She can't remember the last time they had the same argument at the same time, let alone were on the same page. The last time one of them reached out and it went somewhere.
It figures it would take something this—this out of the realm of possibility to get them there.
She feels the mattress rise beneath her before she notices Melissa's moving to go, and she reaches for Melissa's arm, catches under the edge of her sleeve. "We don't have to talk about this."
"No," Melissa breathes, and Spencer expects a 'but,' or a 'we do,' but neither comes. Instead, Melissa licks her lips, blinking rapidly, and leans into Spencer. Her fingertips curl around the strap of Spencer's tank, her knuckles idling stroking skin, and Spencer's chest rises on her next breath. She bites her lip, fighting to keep her eyes open, and Melissa—Melissa rubs her thumb over a corner of Spencer's mouth.
The tip of it comes off the light pinkish shade of her lipstick.
"You must be tired; you should get some sleep," Melissa says, in the same breath she pulls back. All Spencer can do is nod, nod and watch Melissa walk out and close the door behind her—softly so it won't slam, softly so Spencer won't have to snap out of this haze until morning.